Monthly Archives: November 2013

A Writer’s Arsenal.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about my writing lately. I’m actually coming along really well now. I’m about to sit down for more writing, but I thought I’d do something fun before I started: write down what I’m using to write right now.

  • Ticonderoga pencils. Just those. Really. Cannot be any other type. Need to buy the local store the rest of the way out of them, actually. Good erasers, dark, smooth lead, and the perfect weight. I hope to go through a lot of them in the next year.
  • A basic, latex-free PaperMate Pink Pearl eraser. They erase clean and last a long, long time.
  • A funky oval-shaped Wescott eraser that I got for $.50 because they were on clearance. Why not? Also erases really clean.
  • Mead composition books, college ruled. Real sewn binding. Last forever. Cheap. Effective. I’m using these for free writing right now. I figured out a few days ago that keeping a paper writing journal actually makes me write more than keeping a journal totally online.
  • Mead binder. Again with the lasting forever thing. Contains…
  • Mead filler paper, college ruled. I do my drafts this way. Why? Because that way I can move things around as I need, which I can’t do with a notebook. Harder to take with me if I go somewhere, but that’s not really a problem because I have a…
  • Smaller Mead 5-Star notebook. Writing while on the go. And for this, I keep a…
  • Papermate Logo II mechanical pencil. .7mm. Burgundy. Twist up eraser, so I don’t feel the need to carry a spare. It’s my favorite of the mechanicals, and I bought it years ago.
  • Super-sticky Post-Its. To remind me of things. To remind others of things. To make fun little story boards on the wall behind my desk. I love Post-Its, probably a bit too much.
  • Pepsi Throwback, raspberry lemonade, and plenty of water. Some tea. Some coffee. Occasional hot chocolate.
  • Goldfish crackers, Life Savers hard candies, grapes, apples, carrots.
  • Open Office. I am not fancy. I may switch to Scrivener if I start writing a lot. I don’t really know. Since I prefer to write my first draft longhand on paper, I have less of a need for specific programs. My notes are in the composition books and on the Post-Its, and the draft goes in the binder. Once it’s done and revisions have started, I’ll use Open Office to get it all down electronically. My favorite font is Cambria 12. Woot.

I think that’s about it.

I’d be curious to know what others find important to their writing life. Do you find yourself being picky about certain supplies? Do you use something odd or unique in your process?


Big Green Rage Monster.

That…basically sums me up today. I have a short fuse, and you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

So I’m working on this piece. It involves two characters, and the entirety of the story is basically the interaction between them. The male character is a young veteran who walks with a cane due to war injuries, and the female character is a young girl who was raped and is in shock, remembering bits and pieces of what happens as she speaks to him. I want the interaction between them to be real; something that would actually happen if these two people met in this circumstance.

I have never been raped, and I have never been a war vet. It’s one of those times when I don’t want to get this shit wrong, you know? And I’m angry at this idea, because it’s giving me things that I don’t really know about. But it won’t get out of my head.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I know enough about war and what happens in it, but I don’t know it first hand. I know rape, and I’ve seen women who survived it, but hearing stories and reading memories and writing a realistic portrayal of a rape victim are two different things and I guess…I’m scared. And being scared to write makes me angry. This is a piece that is going to need really honest constructive criticism to work, and I’m afraid I won’t be able to find someone who can give me that to make it what it should be.

I guess I do have to write it first.

But this is the issue I have when I’m writing. Instead of just doing it, I get caught up in whether I’m going to be able to write a character right, or if I’m going to be too descriptive of a comparatively minimal scene, or if my dialogue seems fake, or whether I can actually accurately depict an event. It sucks, but it’s really hard to turn off. I think that writing about it helps, but at the same time it’s time that could be spent writing the damn story in the first place and then having all my fears proven wrong because they almost always are.

I think a lot of people have this issue. I wonder sometimes how many really good writers are paralyzed by anger and fear in this way, so much so that we never know they exist. This is what makes me angry, really. The fact that anxiety and fear can hold you back from so much. Breaking free of it is always harder than it should be. I think that’s because what you need is someone who can actually be honest with you and what you get is people who will pat you on the back, say you’re doing a good job, and then tell you to keep going.

So I’m going to write this thing, and then I’m going to find an honest, trustworthy person to give it a read-through and tell me what I can do better. And then I’m going to revise it and find another honest, trustworthy person and do it all again. I like this story. Fuck if I’m going to let my own anxiety and fear keep me from writing it anymore.

Oh, and somehow “Tom Hiddleston Meets Cookie Monster” comes up as related to this in the box below. That made me laugh out loud for about 3 minutes.

On NaNoWriMo and Quality of Writing.

I’ve been reading some blogs that have said, in various ways, that NaNoWriMo encourages bad writing. And they’d be right. However, it’s perfectly fine. And I’m going to tell you why.

National Novel Writing Month does not encourage the writing of a publishable novel in a month. It never has. That would be insane.

  1. It would be insane. This deserves to be repeated. I’m pretty sure that even the most seasoned writer would have trouble coming up with anything more than a first draft in a month. There are exceptions to any rule, but the majority of authors have lives outside of writing just like any other human being who has a job.
  2. No one in their right mind thinks that a first draft is publishable. Well, maybe some fan fiction authors. Anyway, see number one. If someone does actually try to submit what they wrote during NaNo to a publisher without editing, they’re in for a rude awakening. I’m pretty sure no one has any illusions as to the quality of their work coming directly out of the month.
  3. 50,000 words is rarely enough for anything but young adult fiction. Adult fiction tends to be longer if it isn’t in the romance or mystery genres, and young adult fiction is breaking the short book mold more and more. I mean sometimes it’s to excellent effect and sometimes the result is mediocre, but that’s true with everything.
  4. People are encouraged to write however they damn well please, whether that be working on one project or a number of projects, and as long as they meet the word goal they win. Just completely ignore the word ‘novel’ in the title. It’s really only meant to give an idea of the scope of the writing, not that an actual novel has to be completed. You’re writing enough words that it could, if it was good enough and not complete dreck, be a novel. That’s the accomplishment.
  5. It’s meant to give people a concrete, but not insane, goal. 50,000 words in a month isn’t really that insane. Seeing the goal and watching themselves meeting it is exciting and makes people want to write. Sometimes I wish that it was all about setting your own word goal, but I think that 50,000 words is a challenge that most people can do if they put their minds to it.
  6. NaNoWriMo allows people to do this at the same time, building relationships between writers and an encouraging community. Sure, the community could do with a lot more constructive criticism and a lot less meaningless back-patting, but it’s not that hard to find the type of community you need. There are plenty of people who do it for fun, but there are also plenty of people who do it very seriously every year. Ignore the people who aren’t doing your particular flavor of NaNo and just fucking write already.
  7. People being ridiculous hurts no one. It’s funny. Taking yourself too seriously as a writer is likely to stifle your creativity. Live a little. Write badly. It’s really the only way to learn to write well.
  8. There is absolutely, positively nothing wrong with failing. Don’t make word count? Who the hell cares, you wrote ALL MONTH LONG. Good job. You get a gold star anyway. It’s not the winning that’s important, really, it’s the doing it.

So here’s the bottom line: NaNoWriMo does more good for writers than bad. Quit focusing on the ‘novel’ part of the title and, instead, focus on the ‘writing’ part. Once you’ve done so, feel free to go be negative somewhere else. Lots of young people do NaNoWriMo. Let’s not discourage our young people from writing, even if they do it badly.

Writing Wednesday 55: Blurred (Genre) Lines

This is the most awesome explanation of the blurring of genre lines I’ve ever seen.


Some thoughts about a popular young-adult series and the way it “breaks the rules” of the genre got me to thinking about whether there are even any rules to genres. And in some cases it’s clear there are rules. If you write a book where two people fall in love but end up never getting together and being broken hearted, don’t try to call that a romance and send it to a romance publisher. If you write a novel where a crime is committed but no-one ever solves it, I don’t think you could sell it as a mystery novel. If your main character is 65 and there’s no character under 20 who even makes an appearance in your book, it probably won’t sell as YA.

That said, lines between genres are often blurrier than we think, and many very successful books are hard to categorize. So, I talk about…

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How I met my husband: a response.

This is a response to this blog post. You may want to read that first.

I was going to leave this as a comment, but I decided that it was getting a little long and that it deserved a post of its own. I’ve also been neglecting my writing lately, so I’m not really all that sorry about throwing two posts up today. If I can’t get through NaNoWriMo and win, the least I can do is get through NaBloPoMo.

I’ve never been the party type. Or, well, not the ‘get drunk and swing from the chandelier” type. My parties tended to be more along the lines of good food, a movie, and table top games. You know, total geek. I also lived in a small town with no car and not a whole lot of people my age around. It was hard to actually meet new people at all, let alone people to date.

I was jobless and my dad told me to apply to the factory that he’d worked at for half his life. I figured that I had to get some cash so that I could, you know, live, so I did. I got the job (because factories aren’t exactly picky, really) and started shortly after. I get to the line and meet the people I work with and totally hit it off with the guy across the line from me.

We’re both gamers, we like the same kind of music, we’re both reasonably intelligent and working at the factory because it’s all we could do at the time. We like the same kind of books, though he reads much less than I do, and we’re both big technology buffs.

He asked me out on a Thursday, just short of two weeks after I started. Picked me up on Saturday night. We went to Perkins for dinner (because fancy restaurants are few and far between around here) and we went to see Robots. We then drove home, made out on his couch, and I didn’t go home until the next day. We went out lots over the next few weeks, had some ups and downs, and then I was spending more time with him than without him. And now, 8 years later, we’re still together with two small fries and a house.

He did ask my dad if he could date me, as it turned out, because they occasionally saw each other working, but it also turns out that my dad had been thinking of introducing us anyway.

I think that sometimes people think too hard about why they’re doing something instead of enjoying what they’re doing. I mean, I know I do. I did with my husband for quite a while. When I just sat back and enjoyed the ride, things went a lot better. And it helped that I could tell people that we met over the line at a washer and dryer factory because we were both talking about Final Fantasy VIII.

The moral of this stupid story: the best person for you could show up in the weirdest places at the weirdest times. Until then date, don’t sweat whether you’re doing something right or wrong, and do what you feel is right.

And now I’m blogging instead of writing.

I talked to my husband about writing last night. He was sitting at his computer watching Charmed and I had just told him my feelings regarding Bridegroom. I’ve been trying to discuss more of these things with him lately. It’s important to a marriage, don’t you know. Due to how passionate I can get about certain things like civil rights and artistic pursuits, I tend to do most of the talking while he tries his best to listen and not fall asleep. I’m quite thankful for him, for the record.

So I finally get around to telling him that there isn’t just one story that I have floating around in my head. It’s more like four novella to novel length stories and a few shorter pieces. I tell him about one of the shorter pieces, and we both have a laugh over how ridiculous but awesome it would be. I tell him about one of the longer pieces and about my fears about misrepresenting what the characters went through, but how I am absolutely in love with the characters I’ve created. I told him of my fear of not doing those characters justice, and writing things of a sensitive nature, even in a fictional world. I told him of the fact that I might have one more year as a stay at home mom and that if I could use that year to write, maybe I could get one or more of these things done and shop them around a bit.

I really expected to be told I was crazy. He knew I was doing NaNo, but he didn’t really know most it. I really expected him to tell me that I was stressing myself too much and that I should drop NaNo and focus on something else for a while. Get myself together.

He actually told me that I should do the writing, as much as possible, try to win NaNo, and try to get some things published.

So I’ve had a think for the last few hours. I took a quick nap and dreamed about the alley in which the two main characters of the longer piece meet in front of. And then I had to face a few facts.

I’m not really going to be able to write 50,000 words of one thing in a month. 50,000 words is no problem. I can hit upwards of three thousand in a day if I really want to. I jump around, though, working on various projects, posting blog entries, posting comments on other blogs, taking notes on new things I want to write. I cannot be a monogamous writer. And, so, I’m going to have to be a rebel. I’m okay with that.

If I’m going to accomplish anything I want to, I have to consider it a job. I’m going to try for four hours a day in my own head, writing my characters and doing my thing, after the kids go to bed. I’m going to finally make notes, outline the worlds, and pull 50,000 combined words out of my proverbial ass.

I also think that I’m going to have to admit that I’m scared that I don’t have what it takes to win. I have two small kids. I’m tired almost all the time. My depression and my anxiety aren’t under control. All of this is likely to creep into my writing. I guess that’s what editing is for, though.

While I’m talking about all of this, I may as well confess something: this will be the first time I’ve tried to finish any piece of writing in over a decade. My mother cleaned my desk one day when I was 12 or 13 and threw out papers she thought were nothing because they were out of order and dog-eared from being shoved in the drawer, but in reality it was a majority of the writing I had done as a young girl. I think, to this day, that she only wanted to help me get rid of junk, but it broke our relationship a little and it broke my will to write. I never really wrote anything after that until a creative writing class in high school, where I finished a very short piece just before I dropped out. Of course, after that I had a mild mental break and things just kind of went downhill from there, as they are wont to do.

Anyway, I think I need to somehow stop looking at all these things as obstacles and try to make use of some of the shit I feel. One of the stories I want to write deals with rape and the (violent) death of the attacker. Another has a scene in which a woman goes to visit her partner in a mental hospital. I need to do these things for myself. I care about the characters I have in my head and what they’re going through. They need to be heard. Maybe if I think of myself as a surrogate for fictional people I can get past my own body and brain and wade more fully into theirs.

I don’t really know what’s going to happen tonight. I’m going to sit down with my composition book and write in it for a while, just letting things come to me as I go. I have 13 Ticonderoga pencils sharpened to perfect points, a wacky-shaped eraser for when I screw up, Post-Its to use to storyboard, and several planned hours of non-stop sleep-deprived writing. Something has to come out of that, right? I’d think so.

I just watched “Bridegroom”.

I should probably preface this with the fact that there’s likely to be a lot of angry swearing in this post. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been so angry in my entire life. If you haven’t seen this documentary, you should watch it. If you are against marriage for gay people, you should really watch this. If this documentary doesn’t, at the very least, make you question your stance against equal marriage, then I have to really wonder whether you’re actually human.

I have to say that the man who died would only be a year older than me, maybe only a few months. That really got to me, I think, because it made me think of my own mortality and that I really need to hold on to the love I have now. Anything could happen to me tomorrow and I don’t want to have regrets about anything that has happened in my life.

More than that, though, I have to stand up and fight for these rights. Even though it sickens me to think that they are things I have to fight for, and even though my own state legalized marriage for all quite some time ago, I can’t just put down my banner and be done until everyone has the right to be married. Do you know why?  Because of the exact situation that this documentary brings to light.

Shane and Tom were together for a pretty long period of time. In fact, if Tom hadn’t died, they would have been together for pretty close to the same amount of time my husband and I have been together. For the record, that’s 8 years. And you know what? They have every fucking right to celebrate those years as I do. But, moreover, I think that a lot of people need to watch this to realize what the lack of marriage rights does to same sex couples.

How would you like to be kept from your partner’s bedside as they lay dying? How would you like to be barred from the funeral of the person you so deeply love? How would you like it if their family was able to go through every little bit of your life together and take what they wanted because you have no legal right to it? How would you like it if you had no legal right to choose where your partner was buried? How would you like to have loved someone for years only to be swept under the carpet like unwanted dust because you had the audacity to be of the same sex?

And, see, it happens. This documentary proves it, but it isn’t the first time and it isn’t the last time it will happen unless we recognize that same sex couples love no differently than opposite sex ones. Religion is not a good enough reason to deny someone the right to marry,

And you know what makes me angriest? I pass as straight because I’m married to a man. Here’s the thing, though: I’m a bisexual woman and I’ve known that since I was in my early teens. I have a terrible amount of privilege in this. I don’t have to try and fight. I found the love of my life, and because he’s a man I will get no flack thrown at me. I think, though, that’s why I need to fight just as hard as anyone else. I’m not special. The love of my life just has the tab that fits in my slot. Somehow, this is the most important part of marriage. Can someone tell me why that is and why that shouldn’t be changed without spouting bible verses? If not, then I think it’s time we changed things, don’t you?

Marriage should be about love, not about the gender of the people being married. And no one should have to go through what this man did just because they aren’t the right sex in someone’s eyes.

I cry for this man tonight, and the man he loved and lost way too fucking soon. I cry for all the others who go through this shit and are never heard. I check my privilege and vow to fight for your right to marry and not have this shit happen to you ever again. I vow to be more vocal, and to try to reach out in my community to get other people to be more vocal as well. You shouldn’t have to fight for this, but because you do I will stand and fight with you. I couldn’t face myself if I did otherwise, and I don’t know how others can stand to deny you these rights.

I’m just so fucking angry right now.