Thursday, December 1, 2011

Eight thoughts on Nanowrimo, 2011

I've been doing Nanowrimo for three years now, and although that's not exactly the longest time in the world, I think I can safely say that I'm pretty well aware of my own patterns over the course of November.

For one, I always begin the month with a fabulous, ambitious, glowing idea of what it is I'm going to accomplish. I have dreams, hopes, aspirations! I imagine myself churning out the most amazing novel that's ever been written. I imagine writing a brilliant novel that is not only enjoyable to read but intellectually stimulating as well; my own personal treatise, arguing for whatever it is that has caught me up this year.

By the end of the month I'm sitting bleary-eyed before my computer screen, making up random collections of words in order to claim that final prize - the little purple bar above my username that proclaims WINNER! Gone are the dreams of literary brilliance, of masterful thematic exploration and in-depth analysis of modern society. Instead, I just want to quietly hobble over the finish line and sit in the corner mumbling softly to myself, massaging the fingers that are still sore from typing those last 10 000 words.

And yet I return year after year. I'm not going to spend time wondering why I do this - I guess it's just who I am.

But I do want to spend a few moments pondering what it is I've learned from this year's Nanowrimo experience. So here it is, a brief look at some of the things I've learnt about myself and about writing in general, all in one month:

Friday, November 4, 2011

Destined for Each Other? Nanowrimo 2011

I'm back, and I bring my Nanowrimo novel with me! Yes, I've decided I'm going to do Nanowrimo again this year, and hopefully keep up my two-year winning streak. I'm a little bit late in posting this, as I've been frantically finishing my coursework this past week, but now that uni's over I can focus more on writing.

So, here it is: my novel and a short excerpt. I had a horrible time writing the synopsis. For some strange reason I had a very clear idea of the way the plot was supposed to go, but the minute I tried to put it down on paper, I couldn't do it. I thought the idea behind me novel was so simple, but apparently I was wrong.

Anyway, this is an idea I got in November or December last year, after reading Lauren Kate's Fallen. I think what originally frustrated me was the love-plot that the novel focused on. In essence, a girl dies and is reborn over and over, and an angel who's in love with her keeps seeking her out to make her magically remember that they're soulmates.

This got me thinking about the whole 'destined for each other' thing. I've always been rather unconvinced by the 'soulmates' idea that seems to be so popular in fiction and film, and lately it's started to really actively annoy me.

It struck me as pretty unfair that you should be born over and over again and yet get no choice as to who you're forced to fall in love with. If all that ties you to one person is the memory of a romance in a past life, is it not rather tyrannical to insist that you have to love them in the next life too?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fun With Charts, Part Two: My Reading In Perspective

I was going to give this post a title something along the lines of, 'See? Playing Charts Can be Used for Good!' but I didn't think it had that certain something. I've been playing around with Excel and thought I would use my newfound powers for good rather than evil.
As I've said before, I'm the sort of person who likes keeping a record of every single book I've read. So when I was searching for some kind of data to test my mad new Excel skills on, I thought I may as well chart my reading progress throughout the year. I mean, technically, it's almost the middle of the year, so why not, right?

(By the way - Sarah Enni does some amazing things with graphs and charts at her blog, which I can never hope to live up to. But if you're interested in YA fiction, there's brilliant graphs for you right there. :)

Anyway, I believe it's good to have some variety in your reading; try new things, broaden your horizons, that sort of thing. The only problem is, of course, that at times I can be very cautious about my reading. I can go whole weeks without trying anything new or exciting, and I inevitably go back to my favourite authors for comfort. Not that this is a bad thing, of course. I also believe if you love a book you should be allowed to re-read it at your own leisure, and without being judged for constantly reading 'the same old thing'. Still, however, I thought making up a few funky graphs would make it a lot more exciting and colourful to keep up with what I'm currently reading.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fun With Charts, Part One: the Power of Pies

I have to admit that I was always one of those people to whom the mysteries of Microsoft Excel were... well, exceedingly mysterious. But the power of procrastination does wonderful things. So this morning, while I was (unsuccessfully) trying to study for a dangerously close exam, I suddenly thought to myself, "By golly! I sure don't know how to use Microsoft Excel! Perhaps I should go and teach myself. That would be a productive and intelligent use of my time!"

And, indeed, that's exactly what I did. Because after all, what's more important than learning to create meaningful visual representations of data? The only problem was, of course, that I didn't actually have any data.

But I didn't let that stop me, oh no! Luckily I'm the sort of person who records every single book they read in a little notebook, and so pulling out my handy notebook I got to work. The problem was, once I made one graph, it just wasn't enough. I was spookily reminded of that episode of How I Met Your Mother when Marshall becomes addicted to making charts. My favourite, which I will never forget, being of course the Cecilia chart. Pure genius.

RTW: Elevator Tales

Wednesdays are 'blog carnival' days over at YA Highway, where readers respond to questions posted by the YA Highway team. Today's question is:

You're re-reading one of your favs when someone asks the dreaded question: "What's that book about?" Give us your best off-the-cuff blurb of any book, any genre, and have your readers try to guess the title in the comments!
This is a great challenge as I often find I have trouble explaining things. (Also I find it weird when people talk to me on the lift, as if we're on the set of some sort of late-nineties romantic comedy and the old lady with the crazy hair, the tuna-fish smell and the shopping bags is about to tell me something profound and life-changing that twenty years later I'll be telling to my own kids when I tell them the story of my whirlwind romance with their father.) I'm the sort of person who, when asked to define a word, tells you to go and get a dictionary so that either a) I cover my own ignorance and shame at not knowing the answer, or b) I can cloak my own incompetence in a display of intellectual superiority.

So anyway, here goes:

"Okay. Um. So it's the story of Armageddon, right, but there's this angel and this demon who are both trying to stop Armageddon from happening for different reasons, but they unwittingly lose the Antichrist and he grows up as a normal little English boy. And it's all framed by the prophecies of this sixteenth-century witch who predicted the whole thing happening. And her great-great-great-something granddaughter is also trying to stop it happening with the help of a twentieth-century witchfinder. It's absolutely hilarious."

Any guesses? ;)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

RTW: Goals and Rewards

Wednesdays are 'blog carnival' days over at YA Highway, where readers respond to questions posted by the YA Highway team. Today's question is:

How do you reward yourself when you meet your writing goals? Answer for big goals (i.e. I will buy a Lear jet when I get published) and/or small goals (I eat an entire pint of Ben and Jerry's in one sitting when I finish each chapter).

I realise I've been MIA for a few weeks, and just when I was starting to get into the habit of posting regularly. Sadly, my assessments tend to come round in horrifying unexpected cycles, huddling together like baby bears afraid of the cold. So I've been struggling to keep a hold of my sanity as I rush towards the end of semester. Hopefully I'll make it out alive, but at the moment it's touch and go.

I thought I'd keep up with YA Highway's RTW though, so here's my response to this week's question.

I had a surge of creativity about a week ago, sat down and wrote for four hours straight three days on end. For me, this is a record as I haven't really worked out a system for my writing yet. Of course, sometimes it's just hard to sit down and write. Which makes setting goals and rewards a tempting thing. Sadly, I've never been the person to do such things. So I've decided for today's RTW to post a plan I'd like to put into action rather than one I'm actually following.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Review: The Heart of Midlothian

So I took a little break from the Internet - and, in fact, the computer! - over the Easter break (something my Script Frenzy script is now punishing me for) and spent a bit of time reading a bunch of books I've been meaning to finish for a long, long time. One of these was The Heart of Midlothian, by Sir Walter Scott, which has been sitting on my night desk for about three months. No kidding. But I finally finished it and I wanted to post a review on it, seeing as I haven't posted for a while. Plus the fact that I finally finished the book made me want to celebrate a bit. I thought it was a waste to read the book for three months and then just put it back on my shelf. So, with that in mind....

How far would you go to save a sister's life? Would you tell a lie? How much would you sacrifice?

The Heart of Midlothian is a simple story which probably could have been several times shorter than it actually was; it essentially centres around a young woman called Jeanie Deans, whose half-sister is accused of child-murder and sentenced to death. Jeanie, unable to lie in a court of law to save her sister's life (a point which didn't quite sit with me, but more on that later), heads down the long road to London to try and get a pardon for her sister from the King.