Tag Archives: nanowrimo

Writers! A Place to Keep Your Plot Bunnies

Image: Bunny, a Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivative-Works (2.0) image from aigle_dore's photostream

Image: Bunny, a Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivative-Works (2.0) image from aigle_dore’s photostream

If you’re a writer, and you’re anything like me, you’ll be working on a scene for one piece when – POW! – a plot bunny pops into your head. Suddenly, you’re stuck trying to decide whether to press forward with what you’re supposed to be working on, or start writing down the new idea before it bounces away. The other morning, I was noodling around in Google Docs when I hit on an idea: what if there was an easily-searchable database where I could store those ideas until I was ready to use them? By reviewing the ideas periodically, I could keep my inspiration topped off and make sure that significant moments I wanted to include didn’t get left behind as the story surged forwards. Plus, since the answers fall into a Google Sheets (think Excel spreadsheet) document, they’re sort-able and easy to search! Obviously, not every idea is going to make it into the final draft, but at least when I’m staring at a blank scene I’ll have somewhere to look for ideas I’ve already had. Anyways, I thought other writers might like using this form as a tool. Here’s how: 1. Click “Edit form”Capture 2.Go to File -> Make A Copy (As I understand it, this will both give you access to editing the document AND make it’s own back-end spreadsheet for you to access.)Screenshot 2014-07-17 11.04.43 3. Save it to your Google Drive. (Change the name however you’d like.) Screenshot 2014-07-17 11.25.14 My advice is to copy the form to your own google drive, edit the fields and questions to suit your project, and go from there. Use it to organize ideas for a single narrative arc, or add another field and track all your plot bunnies for every project! Happy writing! PS – if there are any additions you think the basic template needs, or anything that isn’t clear from the above, let me know, and I’ll be happy to modify this blog to reflect them when I have time.

When the brain says “I Don’t Wanna!”

Coming out of NaNoWriMo and launching straight into writing a play for a company in the UK has meant that I haven’t had quite as much time to put my thoughts in order as I’d have liked to regarding NaNoWriMo and the process I engaged in around it.

Here was the process:

  1. Meetings with my co-writer to plan out the basic beats of each of our stories
  2. Outlined them separately
  3. Wrote drafts separately with occasional touching of bases to make sure some kind of vague continuity was being established
  4. Wrote possibly the worst climax and finale of any story I’ve ever written ever but soldiered through it because First Draft and also reasons.
  5. Eventual edit-fest

Of course, I don’t normally write a 50K novel draft in a month, and this meant a lot of other things fell by the wayside or didn’t get the attention I’d liked to have given them. I was fairly isolated over the course of the month, and towards the end of November and beginning of December that isolation started taking a real toll. Some of the decisions that had to be made as I worked towards the end of the draft were hard, with repercussions that echo down the road, and it was hard to make those kinds of calls when both me and my cowriter were so busy trying to juggle our word commitments and our life commitments every day. And I slipped on a lot of the stuff I try to keep balanced: my mental health in particular has been rough for the last few weeks, and that’s been something I’ve become more and more aware of. Happily, I now have a strategy in place to try and improve things over the next couple of weeks.

All that said, overall, I think NaNoWriMo was a positive experience for me. The novel I have now, the one that didn’t exist thirty days ago, aside from it’s holy-god-that-needs-a-rewrite conclusion, is one that I’m more or less happy with. There were challenges in character development and I was really hard on myself to make this a plot-driven, rather than primarily character-driven story – typically I get very wrapped up in characters and less wrapped up in making sure things happen, because characters are fun and interesting and offer plenty of ground to explore, while things happening is kind of, you know, how one makes a plot.

So, Hook, Line & Sinker – which may actually wind up being its real title, because as I got closer to the end and figured out the answer to the question, “What did they all fall for?” – because that’s the other half of that saying, ykno? – and wrapped it all up with a bow.

And then it was time to move into writing what I’m currently referring to as Ingenius, because that’s the name of the theater company I’m writing it for, and because I don’t have a clue what the title ought to be.  Ideally, this is going to be a one-hour play about women in space and it will also be funny. I’m really, really excited because it seems to be rolling along pretty well, the lessons of NaNoWriMo carrying me through the process of writing again. I made an informal promise to the director to have a draft ready by the end of the month, and a friend of mine who is basically literally a rocket scientist and has worked on lots of space missions agreed that she’d read what I have in January.

January. Oh man, I can’t wait till January.  When all my drafts are finished and I have three weeks before the edit-fest on Hook, Line & Sinker begins.

At that point, one of the things I want to do is sit down and work out what the hell is going on with my AI Anthology. You may remember reading about this on this blog for a while. I have most of the stories started and in various stages of complete-draft-ness, and need to buckle down, because while I’m sure it won’t be ready for robot week this year, I do want it to be ready for next year’s Christmas.

Oh, that’s another thing. Other than the post I put on John Scalzi’s blog, I’ve lost the will to market this Holiday season.  I work in advertising and marketing by day, and this is our busy season because retail, and so I just. Don’t. Have it. In me.

And that’s okay.  Next year, I’ll set aside some time to get my marketing up to snuff, but I feel like having the AI Anthology out and also getting Hook, Line & Sinker and its companion book to print is going to be a big part of having something  worth marketing hard next year.

linux-christmas1But for now, I’m going to forgive myself for not having the will to write press releases, blog advertisements, guest blogs and more, and get on with the business of finishing my play and enjoying the holidays. If you want to invite me to do any of those things, or talk about my work on your podcast, or otherwise help you get the word out about my stuff, that’s ace, just let me know – but this choo-choo train won’t be self-powered on that front again till the new year. And that’s okay.

Na More, Na Less, NaNoWriMo

IDL TIFF fileI’m more or less finished with my first NaNoWriMo. Over the weekend, I came to the end of the story I’d started out to tell (even if I hadn’t realized what it was when I started, and even if it was quite different to what me and Sare talked about during our brainstorming back in August and September.

And oh my goodness, does it need work.

But it’s there – start to finish, opening to closing image, and that there are places in the middle where vast tracts of words are going to get swept out of the way, that’s okay. The original goal for this project was 30K, after all.

Next up is editing. Since I technically still have a few days left in November, I’m working on taking stock of my book as a whole, but the majority of the editing step is scheduled to take place in late January and beyond.

Actually, that’s not quite true. The next thing I have scheduled is a draft of a play for Ingenius Theatre Company, a sci fi piece about women in space. I’ve been thinking about it for a while now and will probably start writing an actual draft soon. That’s the other thing I’m using my “found days” for. Getting ready for a month of playwriting. I’m glad I had NaNoWriMo as a sort of template for process, because it gives me a better idea of how to approach figuring out a set of fairly complex ideas in my head.

But the next you’ll probably hear about my NaNo Novel will probably come a ways down the line. 🙂

Thank you to Sheilah and Matt for their help in keeping new content coming while I was working on the novel.

And PS – I just found out that Hot Mess: speculative fiction about climate change was nominated for Best Anthology in an indie publishing award that ran over the summer.

Today I’m a Cat In a Hurricane (Blog, NaNoWriMo 2013)

This NaNo thing is hard.

I write every day, so it’s not just the act of sitting and churning out 1600 words (give or take) a day that’s proving to be rough. It’s the doing it all on the same project, and retaining faith in that project as I go on, and doing so despite all the other things going on in life, that are turning out to be the month’s real challenges.

I never thought this would be the hard part. I write every day: blog posts, short stories, full-length plays — and in between those, dozens of ideas for new onws – and I’ve gone through long, arduous projects that made me want to scream or kick them or abandon them and run away. But there’s something about living with a nascent idea of a book, day in and day out, for a month (shut up, it’s only been ten days, I know, shut up) that’s a very different animal from what I’m used to. I have an outline to work from and I know that it’s just a matter of sitting down, every day, doing the words, and eventually I’ll come to the end of the month and the end of the book and then holy crap I’ll have a whole book and – well, all those lovely things that come after.

Unlike most participants, I’m not even in this alone. I have my trusted friend & project collaborator, Sare Liz Gordy working with me – well, parallel to me, on the second book in the series we’ve planned – so unlike plenty of other people who have taken on NaNo this month, I have someone to bounce ideas off of, talk things over with, and generally remind me that this pile of words I’m steadily piecing together is worth it and will work when it’s done and all those other things we writers like to know as we sew the firings of our neurons into the tapestry of a story. (Shut up, shut up, leave me alone, all my clever metaphors are going into the book.)

And then there’s the Brain Chemistry. Caps, because it’s my brain, you know? And at some point between Friday and today, my brain chemistry went wonky, and right now, I hate everything. Not just the clothes I yank out of my closet in pathetically mismatched combinations, not just the fact that the leak over my apartment radiator is still dripping and the intercom speaker still doesn’t work, but everything. A coworker and I sat at lunch together today, talking about this, and he suggested if I wasn’t getting joy from what I was doing then maybe I ought to pull the plug. And I realized that the problem with making an assessment – any assessment based on liking anything – when I’m having the Brain Chemistry is that until things right themselves it’s not going to be a rational decision. (Which is NOT to say that at any point the idea of quitting NaNo has been one that’s come to mind, just that my friend asked why I didn’t and I had to explain why not.) Picture a cat, soaking wet in a hurricane, clinging with all its claws to a telephone pole while the wind rattles and howls around it. Right now, le chat c’est moi.

And anyways, when I’m capable of liking something I like this story a lot. Right now, I think the code for my mental “like” button is going through some kind of DDOS attack, so I have to just keep working blind until tech support can come in and debug whatever’s going wrong. (Leave me alone, all my good metaphors are going into the NaNo.)

So I get home from work and sit on the edge of my bed for a minute just to catch my breath, and the next thing I know I’ve been napping for three hours and I have to figure out something to do for dinner because when I feel like this eating healthy is one of the best things I can do for myself, and I use my cast-iron skillet to fry a piece of bacon and a whole bunch of vegetables I picked up in Chinatown and I sit at my computer and I stare at the Drive document that holds the outline I’ve put together, and I fire up Open Office and I take a deep breath and I stare and then I jump in.

Even if I don’t make the full quotient of words for today, at least I know I’m still going. Having something to sit down and chip away at is exhausting – Sare aptly compared writing these books to running a marathon, and ten days out of thirty in, I’m at a pace that’s more or less comfortable and I like what the characters are doing and the turns the tale is taking – but keeping it up is hard work.

I don’t mind working hard, I just mind working stupid,” a friend of mine says, and at least I know that I’m working smart: an outline, a plan, a support structure, a clear goal. So that’s okay. I’ll just keep going, a cat in a hurricane with my claws dug into a telephone pole, hanging on for dear life and wondering where the hell did I put my pen and can I swat at the keyboard without flying off into the wind.

I’ll get there. It’ll take about twenty more days, but I’ll get there, and I’ll look back and read this and wonder what made it seem so hard.

Until then, I’m off to write another bunch of words. I’ll forgive myself if I only hit five hundred today – that’s the whole point of working ahead of oneself, when one can – because anything is still progress, and progress of some kind is what counts.

When you search for "cat in a hurricane" on Google, this is the first cat picture that comes up.

For those who came expecting cats: when you search for “cat in a hurricane” on Google, this is the first cat picture that comes up. Today, I am this cat.

Getting Things Done: Projects, Guest Posts & Doorbells

blogpicFor the last six months, my doorbell hasn’t been working. Those of you who don’t live in apartment buildings may not immediately realize what a pain that is, and how much it’s impacted my life here in New York City. I don’t remember the last time I ordered delivery, because without a functioning buzzer I have to explain how the guy bringing my pizza and lo mein (and, not or, don’t judge me) that he has to call me from downstairs then stand there and wait while I come down to let him in and…it’s just too aggravating. Also, I’m trying to eat healthy.

But I digress. Today, my super showed up to try and fix the intercom for my apartment. Which means I’m sitting around waiting while he works; now he’s replaced the speaker in my room but it looks like the issues go further than that.

Getting things done is a process. You make a plan, you reach out for help, you encounter setbacks, you overcome them. You accomplish things.

For me, the next few months are going to be all about accomplishing things. Two things, to be exact, with a third thing looming on the horizon.

Which brings me to kind of an exciting announcement: I’m going to be lining up some guest posts over the next couple months. So far I have a friend who’ll be sending in a theater review for Evil Dead: The Musical (about to open in Toronto) and another who’s going to be doing some in-depth looks at the redeeming features of less-than-Oscar-worthy films.

I made a plan: to write two first drafts – for two very different pieces – in two months. I’ve reached out to friends who’ll be helping me keep rlbrody.com ticking over with new blog posts while I’m hard at work. So far, all the setbacks on the creative projects in question have been structural and overcome with liberal application of my fancy MFA in Dramatic Writing and a few tools I picked up along the way to where I am now.

Hopefully, in two months, I’ll have accomplished my plan.

Wish me luck – more luck than my super, at least, who just announced that while the speaker in my apartment has now been replaced, it’s still not working because of an issue with the buzzer downstairs.

On second thought, wish my super luck on the doorbell issue, too. Getting food delivered in the next couple months will definitely help me accomplish my goals.

Hey, Seattle – Here I Come! #GeekGirlCon

IMG_20131017_213750

Tomorrow, I’ll be winging my way across the country to Geek Girl Con 2013 in Seattle, WA. Which means that tonight, I’ve been getting ready to travel.

So far I’ve thrown clothes into my bag, pulled them out of my bag, freaked out about not having a headshot, had my roommate offer to help me take a headshot, done my hair and makeup, taken a headshot, removed the makeup (the hair got to stay), piled up printouts of the projects I want to work on on the plane, read panel information, set aside “comfy travelling clothes,” talked to the friends I’ll be staying with about our plans for non-Con time and realized there’s not really anything in the house that I feel like eating for dinner.

I checked the forecast and am excited about Seattle’s ambient temperatures. In case you didn’t know, I’m a cold-weather-loving human being. Can’t stand the heat. I’m so excited about having a weekend of sub-70s temperature I can hardly stand it. My hair is also excited because it hates humidity. My skin is ALSO excited because on top of hating humidity, it’s still recovering from my Epic Sunburn and wants to be somewhere cool and not terribly sunny.

My brain is excited, because it gets six hours (give or take) of flying time each way, which means time wherein I cannot watch TV or surf the internet, and because on top of the very exciting project that SareLiz announced today on her blog (OMG DID I TELL YOU I HAVE AN EPIC EPIC NEW PROJECT KICKING OFF WITH A NANOWRIMO ATTEMPT AND I HAVE NEVER ATTEMPTED NANOWRIMO BEFORE?).

(I also have a really exciting feministy science fiction space play to work on as well, and I finally got my hooks into the story on that one properly earlier this morning when a line floated through my head: “If it looks like a lifeless cesspool and it gives the atmospheric readings of a lifeless cesspool, we’re obviously going to think it’s a lifeless cesspool.” I don’t know what it is about that line but it’s cracking me up. Then again, I have slightly more context on it than anyone reading this, with the possible exception of the piece’s director, who may or may not have a look at this page when it pops up on his Facebook feed, so if you’re not currently cracking up, don’t worry because by the time I’m done with this play you will be. No really, more on this another time. Back to Seattle and the con.)

Here are my goals for Geek Girl Con:

– Have an awesome time
– Soak up every amazing minute of panels, interactions and experiences at the con.
– Keep my phone more or less charged throughout the day (haha…yeah, I’m definitely funny.)
– Buy more coffee from the awesome coffee place my friend took me last time I visited.
– Hang with friends and let my freak flag fly. 😀

And maybe write a blog or two. But we’ll just have to wait and see how that works out. Kind of like the headshot – I sent Jamie over at BGN three different ones to pick from.

 

Tune in Sunday at 4pm PST/7pm EST for the Black Girl Nerds podcast, where I’ll be hanging with other con-goers and host Jamie, giving the rundown on the whole experience.