Tag Archives: writing

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.

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.

The last post before NaNo.

So here I am. I have pencils. I have paper. I have Post-Its. I have time set aside each day. I have a basic plot. And this is all I have.

I’m so flying by the seat of my pants here. I’m not even going to pretend anymore. This shit is scary. Due to the scary, I figured that I should post a few more things to make myself feel better before I go about plotting my ass off for the remainder of the night.

  1. Do not worry about not making the daily word goal. There will be days that you’ll write more and days that you’ll write less because that is how you write. The goal is the overall 50,000, not what you do each day.
  2. It does not have to be perfect. It doesn’t even have to be good. Rough drafts are rough for a reason and you’re just getting the ideas down so that you can further smooth them out in editing. The general outline of the novel should be there, but odds are that it will change drastically from this draft anyway. Don’t sweat it.
  3. Don’t forget to eat and drink. You always do that. You can’t write if your brain can’t do the work. Have plenty of water, eat regularly, snack as needed.
  4. And for the Eld’s sake, make some of the snacking healthy. Bite sized fruit (grapes and tomatoes) and baked crackers (CHEEZ-ITS) are good in addition to the ice cream and chocolate and hard candy, okay?
  5. Reward yourself. This week’s reward is a bit of Ben & Jerry’s. Next week? Maybe some homemade cheesecake bites.
  6. Look at your word count only once per day, at the very end of the 24 hours. 11:59 PM is Word Count Update Time.
  7. You will get woefully behind on your shows. Deal with it. Either stay off of Tumblr for a month or heed the spoilers warnings.
  8. Turn off the internal editor. Right now. Editor off. NOW. Write with abandon. Free yourself from constant thoughts of ‘could I do this better?’ Yes, probably, but no one cares right now because it’s a first fucking draft and it’s supposed to be awful.
  9. Have fun. Plot, scheme, save the day, the world, or just yourself. Live a little, write a lot. Do it for yourself. You know you need to do this. Winning would be awesome, but not necessary. Just do it for the lulz.
  10. Work hard. Do. While it should be fun, it will be hard work. It will be stressful and trying and you will probably cry at least once. You will think that it is too hard. Keep going. Don’t let your brain stop you this time.
  11. Don’t let anyone stop you. You deserve one month of indulgence in this. Take it. Use it. Make yourself proud for the first time in years.

And it is now just over an hour before things start. Can I do this? Hell yes. The hell you think I am, a wuss? I can knock this shit out better than Dean Winchester can hunt supernatural baddies.

Let’s write a book, kiddies.

Serious Animation

I watched Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood this week, finally, for the first time. Behind doesn’t even begin to describe my current status as an anime fan. If this is a taste of what I’ve been missing in the last few years, though, I’m going to be making a lot more time for watching.

I previously posted this on Tumblr:

So I’m watching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood for the first time. I can’t get over how much darker it is. Everything really hits you in the guts. It’s what good storytelling should be, and the original series pales when compared to this one.

I thought that knowing some of what went on in the beginning might save me some tears, but…yeah. Hughes dies? RIVER ON MY FACE. Never fucking fails.

This reminds me how much better the Japanese are at thought-provoking storytelling in animation than anyone else. They’re not constrained by this “animation is for kids” bullshit that a lot of people seem to subscribe to. Animation is such a limitless creative medium for storytelling. It should be used more often.

I had watched just under half by then. Now? I still can’t get over how good this is. And that bold passage? That’s what I’d like to talk about.

FMA:B is a HUGE accomplishment. The author and animators and every voice actor that worked on that series should be proud. I laughed. I cried. I screamed “YES!” and “NO!” at the TV. You marvel at the sadness of Edward and Alphonse attempting to transmute their mother and losing almost everything in the process, and you think that it can’t get much worse than that and it does. It gets more heart-wrenching and cruel and amazing as it goes onIt doesn’t pull punches. Every little twist hits you right where it hurts and it doesn’t stop when you can’t take anymore. Each time someone dies it pulls on your heart a little, and most of them do not go gentle. They go hard and bloody and messy. They go down fighting.

Why don’t animators other than the Japanese use this medium to its fullest potential? Fuck if I know. Animation is amazing. The potential for storytelling is almost endless. The creative freedom that it gives you is staggering. Why isn’t it used more often?

I think that people are just scared, to be quite honest. I think that the whole ‘animation is kid’s stuff’ mentality runs deep, and I think that a lot of big wigs think that we’d rather have live actors. Like…take Avatar: The Last Airbender.  When I first heard that there was going to be a movie, I was excited. I thought, “Ooh, maybe we’ll get to see Zuko’s journey to find his mother. That would be awesome!” Of course, that was before I found out that it would be live action. My first reaction was, “WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU DO THAT?” Is animation not enough for the big screen?

When we finally watched it (on DVD, because I couldn’t bring myself to actually see it in theaters), I couldn’t even make it all the way through. It just…lost everything that was good about the series.

Don’t get me wrong. There have been decent live action adaptions of cartoons. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies weren’t bad if you were a kid at the time they came out. But on the whole? Yeah, there are some things that should stay animated for the sake of things. Avatar is one of them. And comics? I can actually say that I liked most of the comic book movies that have come out in the last, oh, 30 years, but I wouldn’t mind seeing more animated ones.

I think that writers, directors, and producers need to stamp out this way of thinking. There is no reason why American animation can’t raise itself to the standard that Japanese animation has held to for so many years. All we need is good stories and people with minds open enough to try it out.

You know what I think would be amazing animated? The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. If you’ve seen the graphic novels, you’ll know why. It would solve a lot of production problems. It would solve casting issues. It would be something the likes of which America hasn’t seen from anyone on American soil. There’s no reason why it can’t be done. And yet, if pitched, it would probably get shot down.

Ugh, it just frustrates me. The world’s most versatile medium is wasted on children’s shows and comedy.