Waiting…

So, it’s about 11 pm on Friday, October 31, and I’m bored. I’m staying up to start writing at midnight, but I’ve spent all day getting ready for midnight, so now I don’t have much to do. 

So here’s my set up. I’m writing on Scrivener Gold, which is basically the free beta version of Scrivener that was rolled out for NaNoWriMo… 2006? No, 2005. I volunteered as a beta tester then, and in return got the beta version free. It works so well that I’ve never actually bought the “real” Scrivener, though someday I will, because it looks like it’s everything wonderful about Scrivener Gold, but even better. 

I love Scrivener, by the way, and if you have a Mac, I highly recommend it. Highly. 

I’ve set up a document for each potential scene, with a short description of it typed up on the “index card” for that document. Because I’m trying to write two parallel storylines, this gives me a lot of freedom to re-order my scenes, while still having my outline down in an easy to access way. I totally copied this method of working from Holly Lisle’s Create a Plot Clinic, by the way. (You’ll notice that I really admire Holly Lisle’s methods, and refer to her articles and writing e-books a lot. If you haven’t read the free offerings on her website, do it. Now.)

I generally like paper index cards, and probably wouldn’t have done all this work in Scrivener, except that all I had were 4×6 cards, and I’m used to plotting on 3×5 cards–the 4x6s just took up too much space. I couldn’t get used to them. But now that I have this set up, I really like it.

I usually write in fullscreen mode, because otherwise I get way too distracted. I change the color scheme of fullscreen fairly often, but currently I have pale orange text on a dark reddish-brown screen. 

I have a Dexter Moon folder for playlists on iTunes–one for Marie, which has some fun, girly pop music, one for Dex that’s a bit moodier, a couple of playlists with some songs that fit the general tone of the novel (in heavy rotation is Tina Dico‘s Sacre Coeur, and Christopher Dallman‘s Mistake) plus a Genius playlist based on Emily Well‘s song Symphony 6: Fair Thee Well & the Requiem Mix. 

I also have lots of water, Halloween candy, and my Skittlebug curled up next to me. (She’s my kitten, who’s about to turn one, sometime this month.) I’m ready for NaNoWriMo, baby.

22 minutes ’til midnight.

Sigh.

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The birth of Dexter Moon.

I fell asleep last night thinking about the first few scenes of my novel (unfortunately, I’ve forgotten all the really cool stuff I remember coming up with–mostly one-off lines of dialogue, I think), and woke up this morning utterly convinced that today was the first day of NaNoWriMo, and I that I needed to get up and start writing, now.

Sadly, it’s still day-before-NaNoWriMo, and thus, all my writing impulses have been thwarted.

My 2008 NaNovel is entitled Dexter Moon, which also happened to be the title of my 2007 NaNovel. The two have nothing to do with each except for that, however. My 2007 NaNovel ended up changing in form and tone quite a bit after I came up with the title and a main character one cold (ish) night at the Fort Lauderdale beach. If I ever do anything more with that novel, it’ll likely end up being a short story or novella titled Betty Spark. But I loved the title, and loved the name, and just really wanted to write that novel, as well. In some ways, perhaps, it’s another way of holding onto my mother, who also really liked the title and the name.

(The name Dexter Moon, by the way, was directly inspired by Dexter Flowers, an author who contributed to an anthology Baby Remember My Name, which I read just before beginning NaNoWriMo last year. I loved her piece, but I especially loved her name, and I would have stolen it verbatim if I could’ve, although I think I actually love Dexter Moon a tiny bit more. I think it works better as a title, at any rate.)

This year’s Dexter Moon also comes from a visit to the beach, though in this case it was a vacation on an island off the coast of South Carolina. I started playing around with an idea of a woman who somehow starts to see ghosts, and who needs desperately to move out of her ex’s apartment. It’s a story that’s intended to be sort of darkly humorous, which fit the title. I saw a woman who looked like a Dexter in a car next to ours as we were driving back, and figured I was pretty much set. 

And then I started thinking about boarding schools, and how much fun it would be to set a story in a boarding school. Not that I’ve ever been to boarding school, but I had a couple of friends in college who had, and it always intrigued me. 

I have this idea that in order to write a good, interesting, unique novel, you really need two good ideas that fit together in an unusual way. Holly Lisle would call it a twist, but it’s not that, exactly. For example, my 2006 novel came about because of these two ideas: a race of werewolves that are almost entirely female, and a woman who’s driving across the country because she can’t stand staying in one place. The idea of a race of female werewolves in itself was interesting, but it didn’t really lead itself to conflict. However, throw it in as background to a cross-country road trip, and I had a story that’s unlike anything else that’s been done. I think, anyways. 

So here were my two ideas: Dexter Moon, seeing ghosts, trying to make money so she could move out on her own, and another girl in a boarding school somewhere, who was also seeing ghosts. It’s when I fit them together, and decided that they would have the same name (thus keeping the title of the book…) that it really turned into something special.

Happy Day-Before-NaNoWriMo! (err…)

It’s past midnight… And that means that it’s the day before NaNoWriMo starts!!

Also known as Halloween, in certain parts of the world. 

I don’t exactly remember when Halloween turned into the day before NaNoWriMo, but I think it was in my first couple of years of college, before I had ever even won once. It’s been that ever since, although there are times that I also celebrate Halloween. I do enjoy giving out candy, and costumes are fun, though mine tend to be too cerebral most of the time, and no one gets them. Ah well. 

I first participated in NaNoWriMo as a senior in highschool in 2001, the first year it really became a “thing”. It’s a point of pride for me that my user number for the site is extremely low, (443) though that’s a totally geeky thing to be aware of. (I myself am only aware of it because a couple of years ago, I constantly warred with a buddy, and we had one of those word war widgets going that required our user names. Okay, I know this isn’t helping. Anyway.)

Back then, I primarily thought of myself as a writer. By that I mean, if you asked me to describe myself, “writer” would be one of the first words out of my mouth. I constantly wrote–in class, with friends, on the bus, late at night. I spent my Friday nights writing. No, really. I would write until dawn sometimes, and then take a walk and see the world through hazy eyes, before crawling into bed. Very early on a Saturday morning is still one of my favorite times to be awake.

Since then, I’ve changed. I’ve stopped writing nearly as much, generally because other things come along and take over my interest. Art is the big one. Knitting, spinning. For the last year it was roller derby, and last October was one of the few times in the last 8 years that October 31st meant “Halloween” to me first, “Day-Before-NaNoWriMo” second. 

But I keep coming back for NaNoWriMo. I love the community, the excitement.  It’s a time that I can recapture that love of writing. 

When I was in 7th grade, I was sure that my biggest accomplishment in my life was to be a writer. A published author. An incredibly successful published author, along the lines of J.K. Rowling (though that was pre-Harry Potter). Now, I’m not so sure about that. There’s an awful lot else out there that I want to do.

I haven’t given up hope of being published someday, but if all I ever do is write a novel a year during National Novel Writing Month, reveling in the joy of writing and the fun of being with other writers, I think that will make my teenage self happy.

More on cell phone noveling

Okay, so I got a comment on my post yesterday from Stan Soper, the founder of another cell phone noveling site, TextNovel. In the interest of thoroughness, or possibly just Pre-NaNoWriMo boredom, I decided to check it out, and add it to my list of “ways to write a novel on a cell phone” (How many characters does that description take up?)

TextNovel is a site that seems a bit more mainstream-friendly than QuillPill. As Stan pointed out, there’s no character limit on how much you can write at a time. This allows for longer passages, and that, plus certain features that they offer–dividing stories into chapters, categorizing stories according to genre–make the written offerings seem far more traditional stories. They having a ranking system that puts the highest ranked stories on the front page, as well as editor’s picks, making it easier to find stories that might appeal to you. 

A technological note here: for all that I’m fascinated by this new form, I’m actually probably NOT QuillPill’s ideal user as, I think (based on what I saw, and I could be wrong), it requires a mobile browser if you want to write your story from your cell phone. Originally, I had the idea that you could simply send a text message, and it would post to your account. Exploring the QuillPill site a bit more, I think that was a misconception on my part. However, TextNovel allows exactly that. You can also post by sending an e-mail, or of course, on the site itself. 

So that’s one of the major appeals of cell phone noveling that TextNovel makes more accessible to a larger population. 

However, I think that QuillPill’s more structured format (140 characters at a time, 10 passages to a page, and clearly delineating each passage) better sets off the literary experimentation that drew me to this form in the first place. 

So, in conclusion? I think that the two different sites will appeal to different people. I personally plan on signing up for TextNovel, and will probably use it, at least during NaNoWriMo, as a way to write on the go.  But I’m also going to play around with my QuillPill membership, once I get in, and see where it can take me. 

And lastly, here are some of the stories that I enjoyed from TextNovel: Bridge, Very Last Leaf of the Caravan, The Living Dead.

Can you write 50,000 words… on your cell phone?

I read a story in the New York Times a few months ago about “cell phone novels,” a new-ish phenomenon in Japan. In short, these are stories, (apparently many novel-length) written bit by bit on a cell phone, published to website in serialized form as the author writes it. It intrigued me at the time, but because, well, it was a Japanese phenomenon, I wasn’t sure what these cell phone novels actually looked like.

Now it’s coming to the U.S., and thanks to spending way too much time on the NaNoWriMo forums, I’ve had a chance to spend some time exploring a couple of websites that offer their services to aspiring cell-phone novelists. 

The first is MobaMingle, which is one of NaNoWriMo’s sponsors–it appears you need to sign up to actually read any of the stories, so I have to admit, I haven’t spent much time on it.

However, with a little judicious googling, I found another site, Quillpill. It seems it’s still in beta, and there’s a waitlist to join, but you don’t have to join to read the written offerings. (They’re called “books” on the site, however the ones I read weren’t generally novel-length, but more like short stories, or even flash fiction.) Each segment of text is limited to 140 characters, the same limit as on Twitter, and if you click on a book to read it, the segments are presented in the order they were written, 10 to a page. You can easily click to read the next page, and though I would have preferred to have more on a page (I read fast, so anything that requires me to click frequently I find a touch annoying), the layout is easy to use.

I can’t quite get the idea of this out of my head. There’s something rather beautiful about having each segment of text, each thought, carefully set apart from all the others. It gives each line a weight that it doesn’t quite have when you’re looking at a solid block of text on a page of a book. 

This might not be a comparison that many people would make but it made me think of the little photocopied hand-made zines that I loved for a while as a teenager. Although this is sleek and even futuristic, and those zines were unapologetically hand-made, there’s just something about the small format, the sense that the words have come straight from the writer’s mind and hand to your eyes, the immediacy of it.

I’ll admit, I added my name to the waitlist. I don’t know how much I’ll use it, but I want to play with this new format. Plus, there are added capabilities for reading as a registered member–you can add books to a personal bookshelf, and “bookmark” books you’re reading, so that you can go straight to the last place you stopped. 

Here’s a couple of books that I read and enjoyed: Contract Quota, Chemical Dress Eliza, Truth and Tidbits (not fiction.)

And what really amazes me… a couple of books that will be written during NaNoWriMo: Here Under Stars, Of Clouds

Finally, though this post is getting longer than I’d planned, a quick link to a story about the Twitter Writing Contest. Unlike the idea behind QuillPill, this is fiction in 140 characters, much like the classic, stories in six words

But c’mon now… who wants to limit themself to just six words, when you can write 50,000 in a month!

In Memory Of…

Yesterday was a rough day for me. I spent a lot of time on the NaNoWriMo site, and for some reason, I kept clicking on a particular name in my “writing buddies” list. This particular name has only one buddy–me–and nothing at all under “Novel Info”. Under “Author Info”, it lists her as an official participant, but with zero posts, and nothing at all under her NaNoWriMo history, though she actually joined October 29, 2006, and participated that year, though she did not win. 

About baldini

Location: Oasadena CA

Age:51

Favorite novels: To Kill A Mockingbird, Miss lonelyhearts, Confederandcy of Dunces, Scavenger Reef, History of Love,

Favorite music: none — random nighttime noises

Non-noveling interests: astrology, camping,

There is no picture there, although there was one once, her bald head shining. I look at the typos, and know they’re there because she had trouble seeing the screen, that for her, typing had become difficult and painful. I know all those books, know them because she loved them, because she told me about them, because when times were rough or times were good, we could talk books, and astrology, camping, and more. We could talk about anything. 

I know that the categories in her profile that are empty are because she’s not here anymore, and there is no one to fill them, or to fill all the other spaces in the world that she once occupied. 

I doubt that when she was looking back on her life in her last few weeks as she was slipping away from us this summer, she thought much about NaNoWriMo. She participated for me, because I loved it so much, because I looked forward to it every year, because I talked to her about it, about my characters, about writing on tiny slips of paper in the metro, and while racing against people in timed challenges online or in person. As I did with so much of my life, I shared it with her, and in this case, she was able to join me in something I loved. 

Although she only participated herself the once, this will be the first year I write without her. She’s always been there before, to talk about characterization, to provide answers to questions, to read first drafts, or at least, the part of them I let other people see. And perhaps that’s why I keep going back: to affirm that some part of her still exists in this part of my life. 

I write this year in memory of my mother, Elizabeth Dawn Stierman, aka “baldini.”

Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo 2008

 

The cover of my 2008 NaNovel, Dexter Moon

The cover of my 2008 NaNovel, Dexter Moon

 

I’m getting ready for NaNoWriMo 2008. I’ve discovered, in my couple of years doing AugNoWriMo, that I really love having a place to keep track of my thoughts and include snippets. So that’s what this is.  And just to get things started here, this is something I wrote for a thread on personal (physical) NaNoWriMo journeys, that ended up being really interesting to me after I finished writing it.

—–

2001, high school senior, written on my desktop “Ursula” (though I don’t think I’d named it yet), in Los Angeles, while in the middle of college applications and my senior project, a paper on the creative process of writing.

2002, my first year of college, (Massachusetts) the timing was awful–my laptop (Beatrice) was having major issues, so I handwrote about 3,000 words in a composition book before giving up.

2003, sophomore year, I wrote about 30K (maybe a bit less) and was already running behind by Thanksgiving break, which I spent with a friend in CT, and didn’t write a single word the entire time–but for some reason, I always associate that NaNoWriMo with that visit. Got back to school, and wasn’t able to pick it up again.

2004, was living with relatives in northern VA and commuting into Washington DC for an internship–I handwrote every morning on the metro, and for the first time, actually won NaNoWriMo, although it was with a horrible confused mess of a draft that I’ve refused to even look at ever since.

2005, back at school, wrote something, but I don’t remember anything else about it–I didn’t get very far.

2006, I’d graduated, and found a job in Florida, which started in October–I took my cross-country drive as the background for a story about werewolves and various other mythical creatures. I didn’t know ANYbody in Florida, so I spent all my time warring against an online buddy, and everyday spoke to my mom who had heard me talk about NaNoWriMo for years and finally decided to participate herself. That’s one of my really precious memories of her now, actually. (She just passed away a couple of months ago.) My second win, and I crossed the finish line in a coffeeshop at a write-in, which was the way I met the first people I knew in Florida.

2007, I was crazy busy, had just joined a roller derby league, which was taking up all my time, but for some reason, I jumped in to ML for my region when no one else stepped up. I organized a couple of write-ins a week, and pretty much ONLY wrote during those write-ins, giving up on the idea of winning in favor of just making it through to the end of November. 🙂

2008, I’m back in Northern Virginia, living with relatives again, looking for a job, and hoping for my third win.