This is a sad followup to the other post by a similar name, in which I talk about two great fanfic writers that I know who have completely internalized the art of the simile. Sadly, one of them has just passed away. Her name was Nik. She had a heart attack on the 2nd of December, and went into a coma. Diagnosis was never good, she was brain dead from lack of oxygen, but they kept her on life support until they pulled the plug on the 9th. She breathed on her own for a bit, they moved her into hospice, and then on the 13th, she finally passed away.
Archive for the 'Novel Notes' Category
So, on November 24 of this year, I unplugged my cable. And how’s it going, you ask?
I’m still struggling with not being able to just sit down and find something mindless to watch, but, I think the end results will be worth it. While I miss the History Channel like crazy, I do not miss the reality shows that were getting stupider and stupider. The Amazing Race seemed like it might be fun, but really. I get enough of that kind of reality when I’m late for a plane. Sometimes I do sit down, and spin through my ginormous collection of about, oh 15 selections, and YES, sometimes I’ll watch something for five minutes before realizing I have no idea what it is or what it’s about. And then I’ll turn the TV off. It’s a hard habit to break.
Here’s what I’ve found that’s cool though. Last Sunday, I cooked. Now, I do that a lot acutally, cook on Sunday to make rice and stuff for the rest of the week, but normally, I’m thinking, well, I’ll get down to the TV (which is in the basement) and get all ready and…and then I remember. I’m on MY schedule now. I don’t have to rush. I’ve got tons of DVDs and movies I can instantly watch on Netflix. I have books to read - I’m way over my head with stuff I can do, without having to race to match the network’s schedule. Isn’t that nice?
I go to bed now when I’m tired and when it’s time, NOT when the show is over.
I’ve stopped looking at the clock while writing because it doesn’t matter what time it is.
I’ve cleaned out three closets (yes, three) with the extra time I’ve found.
I wrote an article reviewing The Watchmen comic book/graphic novel, and was finally able to finish it up. I’ve started a new project about fanfic and fanwriters for PRG. I’m trying to determine whether I want to focus on a) writing more fanfic, b) writing more articles, c) writing on that novel of mine, d) making songvids. I’m pretty sure that I’d have time for ALL of these if I was more disciplined with my time.
I barely look at the TV anymore. I’m sure it feels lonely.
So there I was, one day last week (not Thursday), goofing around. I was on the couch, clicker in hand, surfing, desperately surfing for something to distract me. The TV offered up nothing, and an hour later, I found myself watching commercials. I checked the clock. It was 8:30, and I’d accomplished nothing. Done nothing, cleaned nothing, organized nothing, and most important of all, written nothing.
What a waste.
So I called my friend Amalthia (the one who now lives in Alaska) and I talked to her about this for a bit. The TV was, we agreed, a mind suck, especially with all the commercials. I decided to take the plunge and vowed that I would disconnect myself from cable.
I even called the guy at the cable office on Friday, a nice man by the name of Mark, and he understood what I was going through. But here, he said, let me offer you a deal.
Here it comes, I thought.
But it wasn’t too bad. Here was the deal. For $15 a month I could get Basic Cable, which would come directly from the wall to my TV. This would provide me with local channels only, but seeing as that included the two channels I regularly watch “Supernatural” and ”Ghost Whisperer” on, I was good with that. What puzzled me was that the last time I wanted to downgrade, they never mentioned this particular option, so for the last two years, I’ve been paying $55 for the “Basic Starter Package,” which contains over a hundred channels (though not the one that has the ”Dog Whisperer” on it, sadly), and STILL nothing was on. I guess the cable company wanted to let me down slowly.
Then, Mark offers me a six-month special of 8 mg download speed for my computer at $32.95 a month. I took it. I’m not stupid. (After six months it goes up.)
Because now I’m paying 15 plus 32.95, which is, um, 47.95, which is what I’m paying for computer/internet service now. And in six months, when they up the price of the speed, I can just cut off the cable altogether.
On Saturday, I did chores, like I do, with the music going full blast, the scrub bucket out, and me singing along with my tunes. I was done by about 11 and the cable office was to close at 1 p.m. I looked at the clock, having been thinking all morning that there was NO way I was going to be able to finish and make it there in time and that the WHOLE plan was going to have to wait till, um, next weekend. Or forever.
Truth is, I just didn’t want to do it. I was hooked, addicted, attached to the teat, and I didn’t want to let go! But I took a deep breath and unhooked everything like Mark told me, and raced down to the cable office expecting to find (as I usually did) a line of angry people protesting their bills. Or, at the very least, a long line. I found neither. It was just me and three lovely ladies behind the counter. They were more than happy to help me, didn’t mind that the box I was returning was covered with dust, and promised me that my bill would be pro-rated and that my lower rate would start right away.
I went to the grocery store and then to home. Dinner was a lovely meal, but I kept thinking, what’s on, what’s on? And had the feeling that I needed to hurry for some reason. So when I went downstairs, I couldn’t help but check. Yep, I still had 100 channels and then some, so I sat down, for no reason at all, and began to surf. Nothing, nothing, nothing. There was nothing on. Really and truly. I turned off the TV and went to my computer, thinking of the 8 mg download speed that was now (or soon to be) mine.
Except my computer is seven years old, and some kind tech guy loaded XP on it, except the computer wasn’t designed for that. It’s always run a little clunky, and now, it’s like a snail. I open a web browser and honest to god, I sit there for a whole minute, sometimes more, waiting for it to draw a page that surely, surely it’s cached long ere this.
It’s not that I do much with it. Mostly I write, and download cool stuff, but what I use it for is to look stuff up. When I’m writing, and I have an idea, I want to look it up, like, yesterday. Trouble is, for the past year, I’ll have something I need to know, open the browser, and then have to sit there while the thing chugs and churns, and all the while my brilliant ideas are getting away from me! So I need a new computer. That’s next weekend.
As for Sunday, I slept in, made myself some tea (Irish Breakfast is my favorite), and then sat down at the computer to write up this week’s review for Supernatural. Long about noon, I got stuck on one part of the review (as in, how to describe the sex scene without coming across as totally pornographic), and sat down on the couch, grabbed up the little clicker that was just for the TV, and turned it on. Scrolled, and within short order discovered that, yep, I only had local channels and guess what? There was NOTHING on! At least as I surfed, I wasn’t wasting my time going through 100 plus channels, I only had 10 or so. Mostly football, so I wasn’t missing a thing. Oddly, I still have the sci-fi channel, so well done, me!
I think it will take me some time to get used to the whole TV-less living. On the one hand, I will have no mind candy to disctact me. On the other hand, I do not have some metal box dictating my daily schedule. I don’t have to work around what’s on TV because nothing is. Ever. Except Thursdays at 9 pm (Supernatural) and Fridays at 7 pm (Ghost Whisperer).
All I can say is thank God for Netflix. (Which I decided after all to keep, since they’ve got this nifty new “instant” watch feature, with lots of things from my orignal queue!)
Last Saturday was the day. I promised myself all week that Saturday was the day…and it was. I’d managed to keep the WHOLE of Saturday free and got some new college-lined paper, made sure I had my special pen (a $25 Watermen fountain pen), my clipboard, a printout of the pages I’ve produced thus far, my almost intelligible notes, and away I went to Amante’s. In the rain.
Yeah, it was raining, taking Colorado ’s 90 degree mid-August temperatures down to the mid-fifties, dropping snow on the mountains, and making a sweatshirt and socks a good idea. It’s warming up again now, as it does, but for several days it was cold enough for the heat to kick on. (I like to write my notes and outlines by hand because I’m old fashioned that way. Plus, I find the process to be slower and allows me to proceed in a more thoughtful manner, which I feel produces better results. When I get on the computer, yeah, I can type like the wind, but it’s only if I’ve done the prep work beforehand.)
I ordered a latte, which for those of you who don’t know, is ½ espresso and ½ steamed milk. I eventually had two of the damned things and haven’t slept since. (It’s now Friday.) Next time, yeah, get the latte, but only order one, at least that’s what I tell myself now. But, with coffee, all things are possible, so this is what I got done:
I made a complete list of all locations and characters, which isn’t busy work when you consider that this is Victorian London, and there are a maze of streets to keep track of.
I separated the list of characters from the list of locations. I plan to make a map at some point of the locations, their relationship to each other, the time it would take to walk from one point to another. I already know what each spot looks like, so I’m good there.
I wrote out what I needed to know about each character, and then made a second list with dead characters on one list and living characters on another. Then I grouped them, because not all of them abide in the same location.
I discovered that I had given multiple names to the same minor characters. While I’m sure I’m the ONLY writer who has ever done this, at least I spotted it and it’s an easy fix.
I figured out, and wrote down, at which point J and O become friends, when they start working together instead of against each other. J decides it first, and then O. That also helped me get a grip on the characters, who were getting out of hand. I still need to work on the attributes of the two main characters, everyone else I pretty much have down.
Then, as I got to my second latte, I wrote out the outline by writing a list of plot points. Then I expanded on this by creating a second list, adding in those relevant actions or points where characters were introduced. Then, finally, I created my final outline. I gave each scene a space of half a page, and while this might work out to be a chapter per scene, I think some of the scenes got rather long and might be several chapters because, really, they are more than one scene.
I have determined, finally, that this will be a single POV story, because while I enjoy J’s observations, I wasn’t really digging trying to write about his backstory. (His backstory includes shearing sheep, you see, and I did NOT want to go there.) I love him, I adore him, but this is not his story. He’ll get his say, though, and he’s got plenty of opinions; there’ll be no dearth of J. Anyway, since I’ve determined this, one of my next steps is to extricate scenes written from J’s POV and either rewrite them, work them into J’s dialog, or integrate them into O’s scenes. Well, since this is O’s story, they are ALL O’s scenes, but you see what I mean.
I need to make a map of my locations.
I need to find and change the characters who have multiple names.
I need to work on my notes, which are messy at best. I tend to write down questions I have about the story, and then, forgetting I’ve written that down, write it down again on a different piece of paper. Hence, I have pages and pages of the same information in different formats. I need to condense this information.
Funny thing is, I did all this work, which took eight hours, without hardly looking at my printout of the novel itself. I had gone through it originally to make my character/location list at first, but then, after that, it was all in my head, which I found to be quite strange. I mean, it’s not that I don’t have to look at it again, which I do, but I realized that I’d been walking around with the entire outline in my damn head for a while now, and it just took a little gumption, a nice rainy day, and two lattes to bring it out into the open. Plus, at 100,000 words the thing is officially a novel, and, much to my surprise, the draft is 75% written. Yeah, there’s stuff to add, but a lot of the structure is there, and if you’ve got something to hang your story on, you’re most of the way home. This was most gratifying to find out. I anticipate that with everything in place I should be able to finish the draft by December 31st. The draft, mind you. After that, there’s rewrites and I need to find an agent….oh boy!
So I’m having a rough week, considering my temp job, in which I do secretarial type stuff for a smudgy little man who cozies up to his superiors while stopping to take time to throw everyone who works for him under the bus when the opportunity arrives. It’s like waiting for not one shoe to drop, but a whole boxful. (Or for them to get thrown at you as you slip screaming under the black wheels of the RTD #205.)
They’ve got “summer hours” where I work, which means that anyone who’s someone can leave at 11 am on Friday. I mean, why come in to work at all? Mostly you hear people talking about how they’ve got 2 hours to go, or 1 hour to go, counting down the time till Freedom arrives. The way I see it, if that’s the way they’re looking at it, then they have the wrong job.
Anyway, to the point of this little diatribe. Unsupervised, at promptly 11:45, I whisked myself away to my favorite coffee shop, Amante, on North Broadway, where I ordered a new (for me) drink, a Granita, to smother my woes with some iced half and half, coffee, sugar, and whipped cream. It was pretty good, and I had a nice outdoor seat in the shade, and a view of the foothills where there were a number of paragliders easing over the rocks and trees, riding on the same breeze that tossed my umbrella.
But woe is me. I’ve got a shit job and no prospects of a new one, no matter how many places I apply to or interview for. Interviews especially come dear because I have to take part of the day or the whole day, and that costs me because temp people don’t get vacation, holidays, or sick pay, so when I’m not at work, I’m not earning a dime. Doesn’t that suck? It does. Especially considering the cush job I USED to have before layoffs last August. I had cush work, work where I knew exactly what I was doing and how to do it well, a GREAT boss, four weeks of vacation (I KNOW, right?), and tons of benefits. And it’s not that I had any choice in them laying me off (we had 40% cuts in staff), but I wanted it, so I’m responsible for it – wanting it, putting it out to the Universe and learning to live with the consequences.
Which brings me back to my coffee today, that I sipped through a straw under my umbrella, my notebook in front of me, twirling my favorite pen in my hands (It’s a Dr. Pilot Grip, purple with blue ink), with nobody in particular expecting me back at work any time soon. In spite of this, I was miserable, sitting there, couldn’t think of a thing to write, couldn’t come up with any interesting takes on the next Supernatural review, couldn’t bestir any energy to work on fanfic, and especially couldn’t manage to find the time, the all important time, to work on the novel. It’s like I’m all tapped out, and part of that is because I feel I should be done with a lot of that (esp the novel) long ere this.
As I watched the paragliders I bemoaned my fate, wondering what the hell I had given up for wings. (See above list of the great things about cush job.) What did I give up for wings, what did I give up for wings? Oh, it was a beautiful day, truly, with that blue, blue sky of August cutting over the mountains, little puffy clouds that might turn into a thunderstorm later, people passing by on bikes and with strollers, a little gaggle of two mothers and three children with gelatos sitting nearby, just as pleasant as you please, and all I could think about was what I had lost.
But, as you may or may not know, with coffee, all things are possible, and I had a sudden little somersault feeling in my brain (which is always rather uncomfortable when it happens), where I realized that in spite of my current sense that I was in exactly the wrong place and job, that I did, indeed have wings. That it wasn’t about what I had given up, but the fact that I had WINGS.
First off, although I do not have that cush job (See above list of the great things about cush job.), I also do not have the limitations of it, I do not have the metaphorical leash tying me to that particular cubicle, and the promise of retirement in so many years, of being a certain type of person/worker in order to get those four weeks and those nice benefits. Instead, I can have anything. Anything at all. I can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone. “Wings” is a metaphor for the boundless possibilities of life and everything good that comes with it, so instead of giving everything up for nothing, I’ve given up just a little tiny bit of a world in exchange for a much bigger one.
It terrifies me, my life, with the open-ended scope of it. Instead of a schedule of vacation and deadlines and a specific decided-upon environment, the world, as they say, is my oyster. I’m the kind of person who feels rather comfortable with schedules and deadlines and end dates and being within a certain kind of framework. To not have any of that…what am I supposed to do now? Anything. Anywhere. I guess I should be brave and realize that the question “What did I give up for wings?” now becomes “Now that I have wings, where shall I fly?”
Anyone got a map?
So I’m at work, right. It’s a so so job where I’m more secretary than anything, and god bless secretaries and all the work they do, but I can’t stand it. Moreover, I’m horrible at it, because I don’t like the feeling of being at the boss’s beck and call. I’m a tech writer damnit, and I am used to being considered professional and mature enough to determine my own daily schedule. At any rate, that’s not as important as the talk I had with a coworker, a wonderful and talented woman who is also underpaid and underutilized.
During the conversation, I was telling her about my SPN articles, and how much I enjoyed them, how much I enjoyed talking with fans about them. Then she goes, what about that novel? I said what? (On account of I never remembered telling her.) And she said, two weeks ago you were talking about redoing the outline for that, what happened to the outline, did you work on it? Well, I lied and said that yes I had even though, no I hadn’t, because while I really appreciated her interest and her asking, I couldn’t bring myself to admit that I’d actually not working on it at all - that I’d taken a Saturday afternoon to read through it, but lazily did no acutal work. (I was at my favorite coffee shop, Amantes, on north Broadway.)
Then, I’m getting my hair cut yesterday by a lovely woman named Christine, who recently realized that she can’t cut hair forever and has started radiology school and is going to be an X-ray technichian. I’m more pleased for her than I can say, as long as she continues to cut my hair every six weeks, because frankly, she can cut it any way she wants and I never ever have to blow dry it to make it look nice. So, while sucking on my frappichino, I’m talking to her a million miles a minute about my plans and schemes (because, as you know, with coffee, all things are possible), and she goes, well, what about that novel? And I did remember telling her, and started talking about the outline I wanted to work on, so she goes, you’re going to do that outline then? And I said yes, I will. And she goes, so don’t worry about it then because you said you’d do it and you will - but I want to see it the next time you come in here. Okay.
So then today, Sunday, I call my sister Caren like I do because on Sundays I work on my reviews, and she’s my beta. She reads them and gives me her reaction, assures me that they don’t suck, and begs me to make them funnier next time, because she dearly loves to laugh. And then she goes, so how’s the novel? (I’d already lied to her about the outline because while I’d read through the many, many words of crap, I couldn’t bring myself to do any actual work on it.)
It’s about this time that I about broke a gasket, and snapped that everybody needed to leave me alone now, because otherwise I would feel obligated to THEM to write the thing, and not following my own heart. She asked me what happened, and I told her about ALL these people (including my friend Danuta, who likes to call up from time to time to remind me that I could be working on my novel) asking about the damn thing. And she said, “Well, mabye the universe is trying to tell you something,” and I said, “Well maybe it should realize that I’m getting it loud and CLEAR!”
It makes me tired to think about, because the problem is not that I don’t know how the plot’s going to go, because I do, down to the last scene. I might be a little afraid of my subject matter, but that keeps the writing exciting, so that’s okay. The problem is, and this is what I keep telling THEM as well as myself, is that the characters have taken over. I’m not sure why they’re acting the way they are, or how they are supposed to relate to each other, and once I got them started on their journey, they went AWOL on me.
That part is true, but the fact of the matter is that I’m overwhelmed. Just completely OUT of my depth about the entire thing. I’m not sure of my audience, I don’t understand the characters and what they want, I don’t have a handle on the material. It’s like one of those papers you used to do in college the night before the damn thing is due, remember those? You stayed up till 3 am typing your heart out, exhausted and not caring anymore. That’s how this novel feels.
I got a good chunk of it done before I got this temp job in March, and the writing isn’t bad, it’s just that the scenes go all over the place. They’re not heading in the same direction, and the bad guy, I’ll just tell you his name, Mr. McCready, is too bad, too soon. He shows his hand early, which is fine, but things get out of hand because I can’t decide how mean he should really get.
So my plan is this. I’m going to (yes) take the printout that I have to work and make a list of what I need to do. This isn’t makework or distraction, the list has helped me before, and it will do so again. Then I’m going to do a little sketch on each of my main characters, list the minor ones, and then I’m going to take a look at my rising and falling drama. THEN I’m going to rewrite the outline from the begining, so that I’ll have something to show Christine and everyone in six weeks. After that, it’s a peice of cake, right? RIGHT?
I have this friend. I’ll just call her Nik, though that’s not her real name. She writes fanfic, or at least she used to. Now she just writes for her work, and says that most of the time it’s incredibly boring. I don’t know why she doesn’t write fanfic anymore, she says she just can’t find anything to say. And maybe that’s because while she was writing it, she was so brilliant, she burned herself out. She was the kind of writer I aspired to be, and in fact, we had a kind of synergy going, and she says I inspired her as well, because she would write something and then I would riff off of that, and then she would riff, and the whole thing was so electric and bright, it’s a wonder we didn’t burn ourselves to ash. Read the rest of this entry »
So I went to Cafe Sol in Boulder, expecting better than what I got. I’m not saying the coffee wasn’t good because it was, though the poppy seed cake had a hair in it. The tables were pushed up at the edges of the room, it was on the chilly side, and the conversations were BOR-ing. There were two women to the left of me. One of them was getting signed up for Share A Car or something, where you buy a part of a car, or lease it or something, kind of like renting on a permanent basis. Oh man. The rules to doing this went on forever.
The two women on the right of me bitched on and on about how the coffee shop overcharged them. Turned out there was a ghostly charge for some juice, and the coffee shop happily gave them their money back. Yes, cash instead of putting the charge back on their card, and oh, how they moaned about that!
I couldn’t write a thing. It was not a good atmosphere. The Cafe Sol was a bust, sadly.
So yesterday, I blitzed on the job hunting, and went downtown Boulder to check out a place I’d applied for. Pretty cool building, so I’d be happy with that job. Then I wandered down the street to a local coffee shop there. Amante’s Cafe or something. It was snowing, so it was a very artistic walk. The coffee shop was a bustling little bistro with English soccer on the TV and a loud Welsh announcer, so not the ideal place to “linger and chat” as the advert advised. So I couldn’t really write write, although the two gents sitting next to me were having a very INTERESTING conversation about power games and mind control (he had a freakish boss, apparently) and how he’d just lost his job that day, and how he was kind of glad to be out of that abusive relationship, where it had gotten to the point where every time he met or saw his boss his whole body would tighten up and he would start shaking.
I’m taking notes like mad, right? It’s good stuff, to hear it come out of someone’s mouth like this. Might be good if I needed notes on a story about mind games. Then his friend asked him, why didn’t you leave earlier than this? Why didn’t you speak up? So the guy goes, get this, “I’ve always been rather negative about those stories where I hear of abused women, wives, you know, who are in a relationship where the guy beats them, her husband, and I’m like, leave, woman, what’s your problem? Just leave. Until now. Now I understand why they can’t leave, they can’t speak up. They blame themselves. They’re ashamed. Like I blamed myself. I was like, you start blaming yourself. How do I fix this? You start having a certain kind of response. His mere presence set me off. I never understood it. As for talking about it? Forget it. I felt…stupid for being that scared. Now I know.”
Can you imagine having that kind of revelation?
PS The coffee was great and so was the chocolate croissant
So I tried a little experiement. I call it the Coffee Shop experiment. In it, I go to a coffee shop to write. It’s gotta be a local one, not a chain, and it should have good solid tables for all the words I’m going to be creating on it. I acutually did this yesterday, but I’m posting the word count today, just to keep track. I went to a place I think is called Ziggi’s but don’t quote me on that one. I did not bring my laptop, even though they have wifi, instead I brought a fountain pen and a stack of paper. Romantic, right? The ink didn’t get everywhere like it sometimes does, but my hand sure ached. I’m more used to writing on the computer these days.
So I didn’t write a lot, only 821 words, none of them blistering, but I did write. Since I did job hunting stuff this morning, and blitzed on that, tomorrow I’ll go to the coffee shop again and try it out. Again. This time I’ll bring my character list, because, crap, I forgot their names. These are secondary characters and I think they are pissed at me for not really knowing who they are because they are all blending together in one pasty faced lump.