Sunday, December 18, 2011

Speculative Fiction Links: News and Inspiration

Posted by Jennifer Baylor at The Writing Cocoon.  
Filed under "The Sunday Paper: SFF Links"

I've compiled a short list of links that I've found here and there. Mostly, the following are articles on things I find inspiring when trying to come up with story ideas or for world building, but there are articles and posts with reading lists and writing tips, too. I hope you enjoy them!

Lists to Ponder:

NPR's list of the best of 2011 in sci-fi & fantasy literature. Whilst I've been busily reading, I've not read a single book on this list, but they are all going on the reading list.

I've been contemplating my spaceship for a scifi novella idea. Here's a Top-Ten list of sci-fi spaceships from movies you may find fun and inspiring.

The Future, It is here:

The student chemistry lab of the future may be on-line. No more Bunsen Burners? I'm curious as to how the labs would be carried out. This gives me interesting thoughts for scifi stories. 

Pills to improve your memory - they're a step closer to reality.

In other medical miracles with scifi writing possibilities: Grow your own cartilage, now available.

For The Writer:

Jane Friedman gives us the "12 Must-Read Articles From 2011," here. Interesting stuff on writing, freelance writing, social media, and publishing. I'm working my way through the articles, but there seems to be a lot of good information for the interested writer.

This book, a sort-of science text book for the sci-fi fan, looks interesting. Here's an excerpt of an interview with the authors, for more insight into the book.

I subscribed to Daily Science Fiction, and I'm really enjoying the stories. Give it a try - a fresh sci-fi story delivered daily to your inbox.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Plan of Attack: 2012 Writing Plan

Posted by Jennifer Baylor at The Writing Cocoon.  
Filed under "Write1Sub1"

 I've been staring at a blank screen for some time, trying to write this post. The goals for 2012 are not the problem; I know exactly what I would like to accomplish. It is the plan itself that is holding me back. You see, in 2011 I had plenty of writing goals, but I accomplished much less than I had hoped for. Still, I wrote more in 2011 than I have in years, so that is progress. But, how do I make 2012 more productive?

Here are the main goals (and the goals specifically for this challenge):
  1. Finish WIP#1 TLCS
  2. Finish 1st Draft of WIP#2 DR
  3. Participate in W1/S1: 2 times per month
The plan:

Create and Maintain a consistent writing routine. Now, this has been a struggle for me this year. I started with a simple goal to sit at my writing desk once per day, then tried detailed daily schedules. But the detailed daily schedule was too much. Next I tried a more general weekly goal lists with no daily schedule.That worked a little better, but I'm still failing at consistency.

I'm going to experiment with starting my day a little earlier and with some guided meditation, followed by yoga practice. I'm not a morning person, and my logic is that the meditation and yoga will help me focus and wake up, basically get the blood flowing. Then, I want to get in one hour of writing before noon, then two hours of writing later in the afternoon.

Each week, I will make a list of the writing I want to accomplish. I'm not going to put in a word count goal just yet. I'm a fast writer; if I can just get into the routine of writing every day, the word count will come. The goal is to write 5 days per week, Monday through Friday. I'd like to add a sixth day, but I feel I need to work on building the habit, first.

Practice writing skills daily. My writing skills are rusty, and I've been reading whatever I can find on building up my store of writing tools. I've come across much useful material, but about a month ago I found the book I've been looking for: How to Be a Writer: Building Your Creative Skills through Practice and Play by Barbara Baig. I'm really enjoying the exercises, tools and tips. This will be my "manual" for building my daily "practice" sessions (writing that won't be included in my daily word count).

Join a writing group and/or find a crit partner. I've toyed with this idea, looked online for local writing groups, but I just haven't found one that inspired me to leave my solitary writing cave and give it a go. It is time to get out there and give them a try. There are two or three in my area. I think it is important that I start getting some of my writing "out there" and receive feedback. I'm just not sure about these local groups - if they will be a good fit for me. I think I'd prefer a crit partner, someone I could exchange writing with on a regular basis. We'll see.

In 2012, if I can create and maintain the above plan, regardless of exact word count produced, I will consider the year successful. However, I don't see any reason why I can't accomplish the specific writing goals if I stick to the plan.

Absolute Write Novel Writing Challenge Blog Chain: 

For more information about the challenge, click here.
For more information about the blog chain, click here.

Izz: Post up! Make with teh clickety!
Aggy B.:
Opinionated Ant:

Monday, November 21, 2011

NaNoWriMo - Day 21

I wish I could say I'm wearing super Wrist Bands of Power, but, I'm not. I took a week off the computer - I had to. There was one day where I wrote nine-hundred words, but I couldn't sleep that night because of the resulting wrist pain. I couldn't even stand to use the keyboard long enough to check email, which gave me an unscheduled Internet holiday.  There was actual heat rising from my wrists.

What did I do instead of writing last week? I've done completed some longhand writing. I've read a couple of books. There's even been some research accomplished.

But, the sad truth, for NaNoWriMo anyway, is that I'm very behind in word count. I'm not too down about it. Really. In fact, the time off of the computer, sat on the sofa with a notebook and pen, has given me some time to think through the project. I've been playing with mind-mapping in my notebook - which I think I like.

I've also been thinking about writing more short stories. Several times on this blog I've mentioned wanting to participate in a little something called Write 1/Submit 1, and I'm almost sorry I didn't concentrate more on that as a first challenge rather than a second novel. Which led me to thinking about making a novella out of this year's NaNoWriMo. There are a few contests that take novella length fiction, and I can always make it into a novel later. I know novellas aren't the most popular of formats in modern publishing, but modern publishing is changing every day it seems. A novella just seems like an easier beast to wrangle while working on my first novel and other short story projects.

We'll see.

I'm grappling with whether or not to attempt a NaNo comeback this year. Do I try to accomplish an obscene number of words in the next nine days? Will my wrists fall off? Are these wrist bands actually magical? Will I, won't I?

How about you guys? Anyone having a NaNo meltdown? I know some of you are probably already finished - you bastards (I kid, I kid!). I read somewhere that only 1 in 5 people "win" NaNo. Don't know if that is true, but if you're one of those people, then congrats. It's a great feeling, isn't it? What about the rest of you who are still typing for NaNoWriMo glory? Anyone planning some epic all-nighters?

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Double Clawed Writer- A NaNoWriMo Update

Posted by Jennifer Baylor at The Writing Cocoon.  
Filed under "The Mental Game"

The last three days have been rough, and my body is following my mind in revolting against the challenge. It’s been a real test of my willpower to turn on the computer today.

First, my enthusiasm began to wane. Not my enthusiasm for my novel or the story - quite the opposite - but my enthusiasm for the NaNoWriMo challenge itself. I’m starting to get a feel for the story and the plot; ideas come to me faster than I can type, but I’m experiencing an inner rebellion about the time and word count constraints of NaNo. In short, I’m not feeling it. I don’t want to push through to the prescribed word count, paying no heed to the quality of the words, for the express purpose of arriving at the designated word count goal. I don’t want to prevent myself from going back to the first chapter and rewriting it because chapter four changed everything, simply because editing and rewriting are Na-NO's.

Then, there are my hands. Despite my finding and using these very helpful stretches for my arms and wrists - I’ve been in a considerable amount of pain the last few days.  Saturday I woke up and knew I couldn’t put hand to keyboard. I took some NSAID tablets, gave my forearms a massage and stayed off the computer all day long. It didn’t seem to make much of a difference. I couldn’t sleep Saturday night because my forearms and wrists ached so much that they kept me awake, tossing and turning.

Sunday I got out the wrist braces and took another day off from the keyboard. I took the computer-free time to do some mind-mapping, brainstorming and note-taking on my story…all with pen and my new notebook dedicated to this novel. I worked on editing my printed WiP1 manuscript. Writing with a pen didn’t feel bad at all…making me ponder the madness of writing out longhand some of my story.

Today, I’m braving the keyboard again. I’ve set a timer to go off every half hour for a stretching and walking break. These braces make typing difficult, but they do alleviate the strain and even the discomfort. Out went the horrible iMac mouse and in I plugged the bamboo tablet. The pen feels more natural in my hand, no pain.

I don’t know how this NaNoWriMo challenge will end this November. I don’t doubt that I’ll finish my draft, but I’m not sure of the time frame of 30 days. I’ll keep forging (I typed "foraging" at first, but that seems to fit, too) ahead. On the upside, some great ideas are coming to me, and the plot is developing. I’m getting the hang of fleshing out the scenes and connecting them to form my story. It isn’t something I can easily describe, other than to say that things are starting to click. I have hope for my WiP1, and I think WiP2 will turn out to be a pretty good first draft, at least, better than WiP1's first draft. Plot holes be damned, full speed ahead! Or, full turtle speed ahead.

How goes it for everyone else? Anyone doing the AW Novel Challenge along with NaNo? Anyone else feeling the heat rising off of their inflamed wrists and tendons?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

From the trenches: NaNoWriMo Day 9

Posted by Jennifer B at The Writing Cocoon.


You, hey you! *Peeks head up and looks from side-to-side*
*Whispering* I’ve been down here, keeping out of sight. When you are waist deep in plot bunnies, you really got to keep your head down. I mean…those things have teeth. I’m going to have to keep this short and sweet, can’t be caught out in the open when the novel is running amok, characters and ideas swarming, threatening to overwhelm our position, here.
I’m current on word count, but I'm not on track to finish the 70k word goal I set for myself. Not really worried about that now…just got to get out of this alive. I’m waffling between POVs, character names, and struggling with a desire to drop everything and go get some research ammunition. Plus, I’m leaving the beginning and entering the middle - the story world.
Holy shit. I had no idea what a mess this part of the battlefield was going to be. I’m taking advantage of this short cease fire on the storyline to go back and write out a synopsis of my novel…just feels like the thing to do to help me plot out the next few scenes. The middle is a vast wasteland, filled with mines. Got to be a bit more careful with mapping out a path if I’m going to get through in one coherent piece.
As for the WiP1, well, she’s been blown apart in the rewrite, and it’s a mess. I mean, guts and parts strewn all over the place. I’ve got no idea how to put this humpty dumpty back together again, so I’m also rewriting the synopsis of that novel. The only option after that is to wade in and start shooting plot bunnies, ask questions later. We’ll all get through this if we keep our heads down and fingers on the keyboard, well, at least the MC will. Don’t know about some of her friends…

*Rockets whistle through the air* Shit! Looks like another idea just hit me. I’m going to go lock it down, see if I can gather up some of these stray thoughts and use ‘em for ammo to get out of the middle of WiP 2.
*Still whispering, grabs helmet and rifle* And, yes, I’m getting a little stir-crazy over here. It’s been really dark, and I haven't talked to a living human today, and I’m still wearing my pj’s and my bathrobe. Damn the Rules, full speed ahead!

For some tips on blowing your synopsis out of the water, check out the awesome arsenal available over here.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

SF&F Writing Ingredients - Deus ex Machina

Posted by Jennifer B. at The Writing Cocoon.

I can't deny it, NaNoWriMo has taken over my writing life. What this means is that, unfortunately, WiP1 is languishing this week, and I promised to stop ignoring my firstborn.

But, I'm having a bit of a problem with the ending. I like it, but I'm the writer, so my liking it doesn't guarantee that it doesn't suck. What I'm afraid of is this: I think I may have a bit of a deus ex machina going on at the end, and it's bothering me.

What's a deus ex machina? So glad you asked, 'cause I've been doing some research to try and determine if I've got one, and I'd like to share it with someone, and get another opinion:

Deus ex Machina (literary term)

If someone reads your work and tells you that they've found a deus ex machina in your plot, they're not paying you a compliment, my friend.

Definition: A deus ex machina, literally "god out of the machine," is a plot device where an impossible situation or problem is suddenly resolved by the introduction or intervention of a new character, event, ability, etc., that departs in some way from the internal logic of your story.

Let me give you an example: You've written a story, and you've really put your character through their paces. It's the end and your MC (main character) is up the proverbial creek without a paddle. MC, after a long chase scene, is backed up against a one-thousand foot cliff, with man-eating crocodiles waiting at the bottom. The enemy is before them, MC has dropped his only weapon, and the Villain has given his Villain Speech. There is nothing left for MC to do but die. But wait! Even though you've written an adventure story set in the Outback, with zero fantastical elements, MC suddenly spots an object in the sky. Its a spaceship from Mars and your main character has just been caught in its tractor beam. Hooray, your character has been rescued from certain death!

The problem is, if you've written 250 pages of a typical western-type novel, and on page 251, you have your MC suddenly rescued by Martians before you wrap up the plot on page 252, your reader is going to use your novel as toilet paper on their next camping trip. (Props to the film, The Life of Brian for the spaceship as deus ex machina. Click here for a top ten list of film deus ex machina.)

Why it doesn't it work? Okay, this example was extreme, but in general, the deus ex machina is an unsatisfying solution because it rips the reader right out of the story and the world the writer built. The reader played along, bought into the writer's premise, and the writer repays them how? By using a cheap plot device instead of doing the hard work and writing a plausible solution that respects the internal logic of the story. So, if Martians are going to rescue the MC, they damned well better be part of the larger story.

In short, write a serious deus ex machina into your story, especially the ending, and you will get a lot of groans, contempt, and gnashing of teeth. I'm trying to avoid that. 

Avoiding the dreaded DEM: Going back to our example above, if MC is able to confront the Villain, mono e mono, at last, and disarm him, thus turning the tide of the fight and winning, that is much more satisfying as an ending. Perhaps MC (a disgraced former Marshall) has been practicing (and we've seen this throughout the novel) hand-to-hand combat. Maybe he boxes at night for cash. He's able to take on the Villain without his gun. Or, perhaps he notices that the Villain is about to back into an old mine shaft, (which we aren't surprised at the existence of because, earlier on, a character discovered that they were in abandoned mine territory when they nearly fall to their death through a shaft), and he uses his wits to maneuver the Villain towards the hole.

Back to my dilemma: I looked around on-line and came up with a movie ending that kind of has the type of deus ex machina that my ending has. Gloriously, the example is from the movie Star Wars, Episode IV.

This is one of those that some consider a deus ex machina (I've seen it argued), but I think that Lucas handles it well and avoids the DEM.  In case you don't have it memorized, at the end of our film, just as Luke is about to be blasted from the tunnel leading to the Death Star's exhaust port, Han Solo comes flying in at the last minute to blast Darth Vader's two wing men, one of which catapults into Darth Vader's ship, sending him careening off into space. Luke is then able to go ahead and make the shot into the port, which starts the chain reaction that...well, you know how it ends.

Now, Han does come in at the last minute, just when it looks like all hope is lost for our hero, but this situation doesn't feel like a true deus ex machina to me. Here's why: its been set up for us throughout the film, it is part of Han's character development. In fact, right before Luke sets off for his fateful flight, he has a confrontation with Han, who is packing up his reward and heading out of town instead of joining the attack on the Death Star. Luke takes a parting shot at Han's cowardice and we see Han flinch. The barb has found its mark and it starts to eat at Han. We, the viewer, can't believe our lovable scoundrel is about to turn and run from this fight. So, when Han DOES swoop in to help our character save the day, we are not thrown for a loop, but instead, we are relieved. Han's not a asshat after all. The scene makes sense in the greater context of the story. We're not really even all that surprised; we knew he would come through!

The problem, the reason that some consider it a deus ex machina (and the reason I'm waffling on my own ending), is that the hero himself did not solve the problem. You want the hero to be able to save his own arse and have the tools needed to do so.

In my novel, a second character is needed/used in my MC's final triumph in the Climax. In a nutshell, the MC is able, in an extreme situation, to transfer power from her dying mentor (the actual mechanism is too complicated to explain in this over-long post) and use that power to wipe out the bad guys and survive until morning. 

At first it seemed brilliant, but that's because it solved all my plot problems. Now I'm thinking: my MC spent the second half of the novel chasing down a way to realize her magical powers and in the second-to-last scene she (more-or-less) absorbs it from a dying mentor? You see my problem? Can I make this plausible by planting the seed for this outcome in the rewrite of the earlier chapters? I'm waffling between planting the seeds and keeping the current ending OR rewriting the ending. I may even write an alternate ending to test on different readers.

To sum up: A deus ex machina is usually a weakness in the plot. The character is unable to resolve his own problems, and the writer steps in and rescues him from the plot with some improbable and/or inconsistent plot device. In general, it is considered a sign of weakness in the writing, so it should be avoided.

Where do we get this term? The term, deus ex machina, comes to us from ancient Greece. In ancient Greek tragedies, men playing gods were lowered onto the stage by cranes. The god would be introduced to the play by machine (the crane), at a moment when all was lost or seemingly insurmountable, and resolve the plot.

Sources and Further Reading:
Deus ex machina entry, Wikipedia
Cartoon on LOTR deus ex machina
More examples from literature and cinema
TV Tropes

Friday, November 4, 2011

Are we having fun yet? Or, Where's the fun and other writerly spinning.

Posted by Jennifer Baylor at The Writing Cocoon.  
Filed under "NaNoWriMo"

NaNoWriMo- if you've been following me in November, you know it's been a rough start for me. Today, I'm just creeping over one-thousand words, and it is well after noon. I've been in front of the computer for hours, since eight this morning.

And, it isn't even the word count that is bothering me. It's the tension, anxiety, and dread that plague me every time I put fingertips to keyboard. What gives? I thought writing was something I enjoyed.

I mean, I love this story, love my characters, especially my supporting cast - they're so lively and fun, I really want to spend time with them. I can't wait to see how it all plays out, then I sit down in front of the computer, and all this other junk washes over me. I think I have performance anxiety, and the blank page is my stage.

Let's face it, writing is frakking hard work, and lots of it. It's an endless pursuit, too, one for which it takes a lot of stamina. One story finishes, but then there's always someone else peeking around the corner, waving their fingers at me, beckoning me to come see what they're up to. But once I try to capture the images stalking my synapses, it gets all clumsy in my hands. The images fall apart and dialogue gets stiff and I'm wondering how the hell I'm going to make it through to the middle, much less the end of this novel. What happened to the fun? How can I keep myself going, continue to put forth all this effort, without any joy?

It reminds me of my decision, many years ago, to take on the cello. Ah yeah, it was going to be so cool to be able to play a musical instrument, but you know what, they stuck that hunk of wood and string into my arms and the only sounds I brought forth made my cats run and hide. There was a lot of work between picking up that instrument for the first time and being able to bring forth some decent music. Did I get this neurotic over the cello? I really can't remember.

I've got to hold on to the fun, the playfulness of my story, and to the love of telling a story, or I'm doomed. Yesterday I talked about my inability to let go of the inner critic, and I definitely think that is part of it, but today I'm realizing that I'm forgetting to enjoy my story and the process.

Enjoy the journey. Shit. I'm so bad at that...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NaNoWriMo Day 2 - Is this writing sh@t?

Posted by Jennifer Baylor at The Writing Cocoon.  
Filed under "NaNoWriMo"

A slight infraction of one of my own NaNo rules occurred the night of Day 1, as I stayed up way too late catching up on the NaNo Internet chatter. I paid for it on Day 2, when I awoke at the crack of dawn from a nightmare where my husband was dead, and I was in LOVE with a young Charlie Sheen, not to mention, my father was alive, and I  was having a way-too-serious conversation with him.

It took me a minute, upon awakening, to determine that I was sitting next to my very-much-alive husband, and that my father and I had never had that particular talk. Not a great way to start the morning, lovesick over Charlie and trying to convince yourself that your father is, in fact, still dead.

But, that's a writing hangover for you...

Yesterday's writing happened at an even slower pace than Day 1. I still clocked in over 2k words, but I'm having a difficult time getting through the beginning.

The reason for this is three-fold: a) I can't find the off-switch to the inner editor,  b) I can't seem to beat-to-death the little writing demon that keeps telling me that my writing is crap, and c) the beginning is kind of boring me (not a good sign).

I know I shouldn't be hung up on this. Like I said on Day 1, the writing is better, there's no doubt in my mind that I've made some improvements in the last year. Many hours have been spent in studying writing blogs, websites, and books. I've edited my own first novel, noticing where I go sideways and backwards and diagonal, even. I've started to do a little critiquing for other writers on-line, and that has helped considerably. Plus, I just know, as I'm writing, that the structure and handling is simply...better.

Good news, right? But I think that this new knowledge and experience may be hindering me in achieving the aim of NaNo, which is pure word volume. I'm thinking too much instead of following the story and my plot diagram (Yes, I broke down and made a diagram. Yes, it's helping). I'm tightening up, restricting the flow, blocking the know, THINKING too much.

So, let's take a look at my goals for week 1, shall we?
  • Write a minimum of 2500 words each day; Close: 2600 Day 1 and 2100 Day 2.
  • Each night, sketch out the scenes to write the following day; I've actually been doing this - and thank the maker, 'cause it has been a life saver for productivity.
  • Get some fresh air and exercise, each day; I've actually practiced yoga and taken a walk outside, each day. It makes a big difference. Let's see if I keep it up.
  • Continue to edit my WIP1, finishing the edits by the end of week 1. Nope. I actually sat down to do it last night, but I was just too brain tired. Nightmares about Charlie Sheen and dead fathers will do that. 
Not too shabby for a start. I've not broken too many of my rules, yet, but the NaNo is young. Wait a minute. Damn. I'm breaking a rule right now: blogging when I should be NaNo'ing.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Jennifer's Rules for Surviving NaNo...

Posted by Jennifer Baylor at The Writing Cocoon.  
Filed under "NaNoWriMo

My personal rules for surviving NaNoWriMo, gleaned from the experience of just one NaNo (Yeah, I catch on quick):
  1. Do not stay up all night writing. Once you've switched day and night, there's no coming back to sanity, my dear.
  2. Before you even think of spending hours on forums and blogs, write your damned word count.
  3. When you've had two pots of coffee, it's time to switch to decaf (and drink some water, for the love of Jupiter).
  4. Anything the cat "types" by running across the keyboard is fair game in NaNo word count.
  5. Save, then save again. Then email a copy to yourself. They put it on your USB drive. Then, and only then, are you safe from calamities such as cats who erase documents (see #4 above). Some things you have to learn the hard way.
  6. Drinking alcohol while writing is acceptable WriMo behaviour. 
  7. Try to change out of your pajamas, if not daily, then at least a few times per week. I keep a pair of sweats crumpled on the floor next to my bed for easy, pre-coffee dressing. 
  8. Taking a break for fresh air and exercise is not only a good idea, but it is an all-out necessity. This will prevent your poor spouse from finding you, sitting in a pink bathrobe in the middle of your office floor, crying and laughing while throwing index cards into the air. Plus I read somewhere, something about your brain needing oxygen and exercise increases oxygen, right? Really, take a break already.
  9. Eating ten bags of microwave popcorn is just asking for trouble. Similar advice could be given about overindulging in just about anything. Try not to snack your brains out.
  10. Do not stare at a blank screen/page for hours. This accomplishes nothing. Put fingers to keyboard and write, even if it is gibberish.
  11. At the end of the day/night/whatever, take ten minutes to sketch out the first two scenes you plan to write the next day/night/whatever. Even though you have two claws instead of hands and your eyes are angry red orbs of fire and your spine is bent and crooked making you resemble the old crone in your story...take ten more minutes to prepare. 'Cause tomorrow you'll still have claws and red eyeballs and a hump, but you won't have to think about what you need to write.
  12. For the love of all that is good, DON'T FALL BEHIND IN YOUR DAILY WORD COUNT. If you do, the likelihood of the above rules coming into play increases 10,000%. In fact, pad the word count whenever possible.

NaNo Day 1 Overload

Posted by Jennifer Baylor at The Writing Cocoon.  
Filed under "NaNoWriMo

I think I may have overdone it today. I didn't even get to my Day 1 goal of five-thousand words, but I still feel spent. All of this anticipation and anxiety and planning for this day, and I'm at the end of it feeling a bit rough and wrung out.

Writing is hard work.

I thought I was better prepared for NaNoWriMo this year ("And, I am" says the voice in my head), but the beginning of this novel is just not coming to me. This shouldn't be a surprise as TLCS's (WIP #1) beginning didn't come together until after I'd written the whole damned thing. Still, despite having a story idea that I love, with characters I'm excited to get to know, I just feel very blah about the whole thing right now.

Is it the NaNoWriMo blues? Is there such a thing?

I'm having this sort of déjà vu feeling. I keep flashing on my university graduation and my wedding day, two days that were a long time in the making and then over-and-done in a flash. It's unsettling to the system when you've planned and plotted over weeks and months for One tiny day, then -poof- the day has past you by.

I don't know, I guess I'm just feeling melancholy today. I see my characters so vividly in my head, feel their hopes and fears, then I write it all out on paper and it seems so...trite, flat, monochrome. I want to hit delete and make the below-average words disappear.

Don't worry, I won't actually delete a single word. I can't - I've got a word count goal to hit.  And, NaNoWriMo is all about word count, which is the first hurdle to good writing. I've been down this road before; I know I can produce the word count.

Good writing is the next layer, it's about weaving hundreds of threads together to make a whole, and I'm still mastering the techniques. I have to keep telling myself that the technique will come with time and writing/word count.

Despite my bad attitude tonight, I can already see that my writing is better this year. I have learned things - techniques and skills - and they are influencing my writing. Maybe it still isn't great or even good writing, but there's progress.

On that note, time to step away from the keyboard and get some sleep. Good night, my fellow Writers and WriMo's!

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Write 1/ Submit 1 Novel Challenge

Posted by Jennifer B. at The Writing Cocoon.   
There's been so much going on today, I almost forgot about another challenge that I'm joining on November 1: The Write 1/Sub 1 Novel Challenge over at the AW Water Cooler forum.

The challenge coincides with the start of NaNoWriMo (to give those participating an opportunity to include their NaNo novel in the challenge), but writers at any stage in the novel writing process are welcome to join. Just reply to the thread with your timeline and goal and you will be part of the crew. That's it, it's that easy. Your timeline can be whatever you need: six months or sixteen months or more. Same with the goal: choose to write one new novel, finish an old novel or complete multiple novels.

The basic idea grew out of the support writers found in the Write 1/Submit 1 Challenge (forum and blog), where writers are challenged to write one short story and submit one short story, every week for a year. There have been some very inspiring results, and I've been toying with joining the challenge for some time. So, check out the Write1/Sub1 forum for an idea of the kind of support and check-ins you can expect with the Novel Challenge.

For my personal 12 month Novel Challenge, I've set the following goals:
  1. November: Write 70k word first draft of new novel for NaNoWriMo (WIP2)
  2. December: Finish rewrite(2nd draft) of WIP1
  3. January/February: Work on 3rd draft of WIP1
  4. March: Send out WIP1 to readers
  5. May/June: Complete final draft of WIP1
  6. July: Submit WIP1; Begin revision of WIP2
  7. October: Have WIP2 submission-ready. 
  8. November: NaNoWriMo 2012!
These goals are fluid, as I don't really know how long I will need to take a novel through each draft (or how many drafts the novel may require). I'm expecting WIP1 to be rewrite intensive (it has been so far), because it was my first novel, and I wrote it for last year's NaNoWriMO with no preparation.

The bottom line: 2 novels to submission-ready status in 12 months. I think this is ambitious, but doable.

I'm going to post updates here, as well as in the forum. Anyone else joining in at the AW Novel Challenge?

NaNoWriMo - Thus it Begins...

Well, it’s finally here: National Novel Writing Month. It starts in T-minus ten hours. Holy crap.

This weekend was a bust (preparation-wise) for me as I was driving around the Scottish countryside drinking Scotch with my husband and his pals. I most definitely did not plan this trip (the theme or the timing). Therefore, I am now officially behind in my NaNoWriMo plans, and NaNo hasn't even started. Today begins the panic.

As I sit here, still in my pink, thermal robe I have the following as a NaNo Preparation Plan, divided into two parts:
  • Writing-related Tasks 
    • Finish pre-writing tasks for NaNoWriMo (Surprisingly, DONE);
    • Clean/organize writing desk (meh, it's looked worse);
    • Create word count sheet (Someone has saved me from myself, here);
    • Finish editing of WIP1 (Still about 200 pages to go - hey I edited 15 pages whilst traveling this weekend, drunk off of Scotch);
    • Write two blog posts in advance (I've written the titles of the posts, does that count?).
  • Non-writing Tasks, meant to keep me and my husband sane - or at least fed. 
    • Clean house (gah!);
    • Empty fridge and dead freezer (Almost. Dead freezer is defrosting);
    • Stock fridge and freezer (Not even the coffee is stocked, and I'm running low);
    • Take suspicious food from dead freezer to the tip (This I HAVE to do as it is melting and stinky and my cat keeps trying to dig the food out of the trash. Ugh);
    • Attend volleyball practice tonight (Already thinking of skipping. There goes one of my goals);
    • Call boiler repairman and pray he can finally fix this damned thing (No heat, no hot water, part of the reason I'm still wearing a pink, fluffy robe).
 As you can clearly see, I’m in a bit of a time crunch.

Despite this rather long-ish list, I am making progress as compared to last year. NaNo 2010 saw me deciding ON November 1 to join…with zero writing preparation, an empty cupboard, dirty house and a buried writing desk. Hey, at least this year, I have my novel’s ideas and characters sort of sketched out. Like I said, progress, right?

Bah, who am I kidding? Somehow, I always let this happen. I have the best of intentions, but I’m very easily distracted. And, I hate lists and plans. Love to make ‘em, hate to follow ‘em. Faced with a plan, I start to feel like a trapped animal, all twitchy and desperate to escape. Don’t know why I bother to make the plans and lists in the first place, really.

On that note, here’s my NaNoWriMo 2011 Plan for Week One:
  • Go to bed early on October 31. Staying up till midnight leads to staying up till the wee hours of the morn. This is a path to madness as I will eventually switch my days and nights, becoming a vampire who writes pure, incomprehensible, drivel while wearing a pink, thermal bathrobe and drinking cold coffee until dawn;
  • Wake up early on November 1 and write until 10am, at which time I will take a break and GO TO YOGA CLASS. (see my goals, ha ha);
  • Write at least 5,000 words on Day 1;
  • Write a minimum of 2500 words each day;
  • Each night, sketch out the scenes to write the following day;
  • Get some fresh air and exercise, each day;
  • Continue to edit my WIP1, finishing the edits by the end of week 1.
That's it. That's the "plan" for week one of NaNoWriMo. I have some overall goals for NaNoWriMo, and they are as follows:
  • Write a complete, 70k word, rough draft of WIP2;
  • Finish editing WIP1;
  • Finish rewriting first 1/4 of WIP1;
  • Get daily exercise and fresh air;
  • Go to at least one NaNo write-in;
  • Don't binge on caffeine and sugar.
Now it is T-minus-nine hours till NaNo. Got to go take a cold shower and take down the list.

Posted by Jennifer B. at The Writing Cocoon.  

Monday, October 24, 2011

SF&F Ingredients

One of the ideas I've been kicking around is a facts and trivia post, where I share with you some bit of science fiction or fantasy related (some items may be loosely related) research that I've come across. 

It could be facts, quotes or trivia about literature, mythology, movies, tropes, themes, games, art, superheros, history, an author, etc.  Can't decide if it is going to be a short, daily post or a weekly post, but we'll see how it goes.

Right now, I'm reading a lot from The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, which I wrote more about here, so there may be a few from entries from this tome that I share.

Without further ado, here's today's entry:


From The Encyclopedia of Fantasy by John Clute and John Grant:
Term coined by J.R.R. Tolkien in his essay "On Fairy-Stories" (1947) as an opposite of "Tragedy" to argue that the uplifting effect of FAIRYTALES - and thus of FANTASY in general - is the highest of its three functions (Recovery, Escape and Consolation).

noun, rare
a sudden and favourable resolution of events in a story; a happy ending.

Mid 20th century: said to have been coined by Tolkien

From the Tolkien Gateway, an excerpt from one of Tolkien's letters (makes me nostalgic for letters): 

"I coined the word 'eucatastrophe': the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce). And I was there led to the view that it produces its peculiar effect because it is a sudden glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in material cause and effect, the chain of death, feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of joint had suddenly snapped back. It perceives – if the story has literary 'truth' on the second plane (....) – that this is indeed how things really do work in the Great World for which our nature is made. And I concluded by saying that the Resurrection was the greatest 'eucatastrophe' possible in the greatest Fairy Story – and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love."
Letter 89


Read more about it: 
The Tolkien Gateway

Posted by Jennifer B. at The Writing Cocoon.  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Linkage for the SF&F Fan/Writer's Soul (and NaNoWriMo, too)

Posted by Jennifer Baylor at The Writing Cocoon.  
Filed under "The Sunday Paper: SFF Links"

At long last, my Battlestar Galactica induced malaise may have a cure on the horizon. A reboot BSG movie, that's fracking awesome. And, to go ahead and start preparing myself for disappointment now, here's a guide to "The Four Stages of Reboot Grief." The article is about game reboots, but I think it could apply to movies, too.

We are all one step closer to owning a flying car (the comments are pretty entertaining, as well).

Still need a costume for Halloween? Here's a few "obscure and nerdy" suggestions.

Happy Birthday, Carrie Fisher!

Science for your science fiction: nanotechnology (is it safe?) and touch screens.

'Cause women and girls are gamers, too. Hell, yeah! More reason to love, FF, too.

Thanks to SF Signal for a guide to navigating NPR's Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy books. And here's the interactive version.

Forget scientists, science fiction writers are the architects of the future. Check out this list of words that originated in science fiction, here.

Linkage For NaNoWriMo:

Doubting your ability to pull this off? Don't think you're a "real writer?" I love this article by Moira Allen.

Here are a couple of sites I'm using in my preparation for NaNoWriMo: The Plot Whisperer and The Character Therapist have some useful information for plotting and character sketching needs.

Chuck Wendig presents 25 Things You Should Know About NaNoWriMo.

Here's a fun list of tips from a few years ago, aptly titled NaNoWriMo Tips and Tricks or SHUT IT AND WRITE IT!

And, finally, if you're like me and developed a terrible case of "double claw" during last year's NaNo typing frenzy, for the love of all that is good, set up a comfortable work station. Check here and here for tips and advice (including stretches).

Need more linkage? Check out my Resources page.

Posted by Jennifer B. at The Writing Cocoon

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saturday Snapshot

Great North Run 2011: Newcastle, UK
This year was supposed to be a year full of triumphant returns for me: a return to writing and a return to running. Unfortunately, though I managed to snag a spot to race in the Great North Run, I was waylaid by injury and forced to the sidelines.

Honestly, I didn't even want to go, but now I'm glad I did. We spent the weekend in Newcastle (fantastic city to spend a get-away weekend, btw), sight-seeing, eating in Chinatown and cheering on the runners of the Great North Run.

This shot is of the elite men - just after crossing the Tyne Bridge. I have to admit, I was glad I went and participated, even if only as a spectator. What a fun event. They really go all-out, and the atmosphere is fantastic and uplifting. The finish line by the sea was perfect - beautiful coastline as the backdrop with sunny skies and a performance by the Red Arrows.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone!

If you want to participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme, brought to you by Alyce at At Home with Books, here are the only requirements (from her site):

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

The photos are fun, inspirational and even educational, at times. Great group to participate with in a meme.

Posted by Jennifer B. at The Writing Cocoon.  

Friday, October 21, 2011

NaNoWriMo and WIP Updates

First off, to any new visitors and followers who’ve recently stopped by from the AW Water Cooler NaNo forum and the NaNoWriMo forums - hello and welcome! I’ve always loved the autumn season and NaNoWriMo just gives me a new reason to be excited as the leaves fall from the trees and I unpack my sweaters/jumpers.
Speaking of new readers and NaNo - I’ve added a Google+ widget, so if you would like to be added to my NaNoWriMo or AW Water Cooler circles, please feel free to add me and drop me a line. I did promised myself, no added social networking until WIP is rewritten, but you know what they say of “the best laid plans…” Yesterday I tossed that promise to the floor, and I went ahead and filled out my Google+ profile for NaNoWriMo. In my defense, it did seem like a fun way to up the social factor of NaNo. When I’m writing, bleary eyed, at 2am, my husband tends to frown on being awakened for discussions on suicidal plot bunnies. Maybe the Google+ NaNoWriMo circle can save my marriage.
I’ve been reviewing my notes for my NaNo novel, Divergent Realms. I absolutely love the ideas and my characters, but I’ve really only completed the character sketches for my MC and her sidekick. I’ve also completed days 1- 5 of the Plot Whisperers daily steps for PlotWriMo. This stuff is all very high-level, and every time I open the documents, I start to rearrange and shift things. Completed a little prewriting, too, where I wrote out a few vivid scenes to help me get my head around some of these ideas. Just ten days until November 1, and I am torn between working hard on finishing up some more character sketches and research and…just going with what I’ve got.
One reason I’m leaning towards leaving WIP2 where it is until NaNo: I’m finally making progress on WIP1’s rewrite. Yes, peeps, I finally finished my new Chapter 1. Rewriting is a hard slog, no doubt about it. Thinking the worst was over after I typed “The End” was dead wrong.
I follow Chuck Wendig’s blog, and he gave some excellent, easily digestible writing advice. One line in particular gave me a little comfort:
“Know that the book will be born during rewrites. When you break its carapace and find the true beast beneath the old ruined skin.”

I’m sure I’ve read something similar (at least in spirit) before, but I think I sort of skimmed over the words and thought to myself, “Sure, sure. That makes sense.” But I didn’t really understand what I was being told then. Now, knee deep in my first novel rewrite, I’m a believer.

So, new Chapter 1 for WIP1 = complete. I think I’m going to revise it before moving on to the next chapter. I don’t know how much of WIP1’s rewrite I can finish before November 1, but I’ve got to channel this momentum while it’s there.

I know there have to be others out there attempting to juggle multiple projects for November - let's hear it...what is your NaNoWriMo schedule?

Posted by Jennifer B. at The Writing Cocoon

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Of Plotting and Pantsing

Posted by Jennifer B. at The Writing Cocoon.  

To plot, or not to plot: that is the question. When I wrote my first draft for my current WIP back in NaNoWriMo 2010, I had a vision of a long cherished story idea, a few vague character ideas and not much else. Outlines? I haven’t written a proper outline for a paper since I graduated from high school. It was by-the-seat-of-my-pants (or pantser) writing from beginning to end.

I went on to finish my first draft, reaching just over 97,000 words. After that, I admit it, I sort of coasted on the joy of having completed a novel. It took a couple of months after I typed that final word to get down to creating a revision plan. Problem was, I had no idea how to go about editing the manuscript. Where to start, what to do?

I started with some plot analysis, with tips from the Plot Whisperer. She has a handy month-long daily task plan for analyzing your plot in your NaNoWriMo novel. I made my way through the tasks, and now I have a lot of notes, a white board covered with plot diagrams and random note cards strewn about my desk and floor (just found another note card under the file cabinet - have no idea what I was thinking when I wrote it). It is true that I have a better idea of how my story can support the themes of my story as well as how it follows the universal story arc.

I have character sketches downloaded from various Web sites, but they can be pretty exhaustive/exhausting. Don’t even get me started on my world building sheet - it is dozens of pages long, and I’m not close to being finished. I thought I’d geek-out in filling in these forms, but the lists are making me listless. My hand starts to itch, and I have the vague notion I should gnaw my hand off at the wrist to escape.

So, now what? I have virtual reams of virtual paper filled with notes and plot outlines, what the frack do I do next? How do I incorporate all this fracking back story - what the hell do I do with facts such as: my character likes strawberry ice cream or her first pets were a family of talking, hairy spiders?

I talked this out with my significant other, last night. You wanna know his suggestion? It was (more or less) this: “Stop researching. Stop editing. Just start the rewriting, already.”

Gods and goddesses, I hate how he’s always right.

Which brings me to NaNoWriMo 2011. All that plotting that I did for my last NaNo novel, I was going to do that for this year's NaNo, but you know, BEFORE I wrote the story. I have "prewriting" done in the form of character sketches and notes, some plot outline bare bones, but I am loathe to do any more preparation.

I thought I would enjoy completing world building, plotting and outlining before I started to write, but I think I may hate it. I may be a pantser. JeffO thinks we need a new name - 'cause "pantser" is truly terrible. He couldn't be more right. The Character Therapist did a little survey to determine if our personalities precondition us to plotting or pantsing. She may be on to something...

What do you think? Plotting? Pantsing? Plot analysis is why the Editor or Critter was invented? Analysis is sexy? Plotting makes your head spin? Is advanced plotting and world building an absolute necessity for scifi/fantasy writers?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011



November is closing in fast, bringing about the annual, insanity-fueled writing event that is National Novel Writing Month. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, National Novel Writing Month (or NaNo) was an event I only participated in as a spectator until last year, when I finally screwed up the courage and joined in and “won.”

People tend to either love or hate NaNo - and it isn’t for everyone - but I credit this annual call to unfettered writing for getting me back on the road to becoming an author. It helped me break through a wall that I thought insurmountable, and I now have a complete first draft of a novel.

But, should I participate again this year?

My first draft of my novel is a bit of a mess. According to my handy (and carefully crafted) writing schedule, I should be done with my rewrite by now, thus freeing me up to participate in this year’s mad month of novel writing. I’m not finished - not even close.

Then there is the issue that the first draft IS such a mess, which prompted my decision for a full rewrite. Is that because I wrote it in the frenzy of NaNo? Or, is it because it was the first writing of length that I had attempted in over ten years?  Is a badly written first draft better than no draft - especially in light of the fact that I have still failed to rewrite my first NaNo progeny? Will I ever finish my first novel if I start a second? Will the world really end in 2012?

Look people, I’m going to go ahead and confess that I’ve decided to go forward with this year’s test to writing sanity. I’ve reactivated my account at the NaNo site - I’m in. Is it a good idea? Who knows? I’m still having the above debate in my head. But, what I do know is this: I need a fix. I’ve been floundering the last two months, and I need the rush that only a hit of success can bring. I NEEDS it.

Until November, I’m going to work as hard as I can on my rewrite - try to at least get the beginning finished. Maybe I’ll even continue to work on it, perhaps a chapter a week, during NaNo. It could happen. NaNo could get my adrenaline going, and I could become a word machine. After all, it happened once before. I finished NaNo last year with just over 56,000 words. It was magic, and right now, I need some magic.

Anyone else joining in NaNoWriMo this year? Do you plan to work on another project at the same time (or is that just certifiable?)

Posted by Jennifer B. at The Writing Cocoon.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Blog Award & Ten Things

Just back from two weeks of travel, and I find I've been tagged and given a blog award. Becky from Beckah-Rah has kindly bestowed upon my blog the Blog on Fire Award (Thank you, Becky!). I haven't really felt so "on fire" lately, so perhaps this award will rekindle my motivation and light a fire under my arse (sorry, I couldn't resist the cliches).

Then, JeffO over at The Doubting Writer tagged me in a Ten Things tag after sharing some very interesting facts about himself. Thanks for the mention, Jeff.

I'm hoping that Jeff and Becky will forgive me if I sort of combine the requirements of the award with the tag (both require that I share a list of facts about myself). I'll be hard pressed to match either of their lists, in interest or in entertainment value - go check out their lists if you haven't already.

So, here goes, a list of unknown facts about yours truly:
  1. This one was inspired by Jeff's pumpkin paddling: I once made a boat out of nothing but cardboard and Elmer's glue and raced it against others in my High School swimming pool.
  2. I've loved steak tartare (raw minced beef) since I first tried it in Paris. When I ordered it in my terrible French, the waitress asked me three times if I really understood what it was (twice in French, and once in English - she really didn't believe I knew what I was ordering).
  3. I completed one semester of a professional baking course at a culinary school. 
  4. I was once so broke that I lived out of my car for two months.
  5. I've worked as a flight attendant.
  6. I've had purple hair. 
  7. I'm a poor swimmer - never properly learned to swim - and I'm afraid of the water. I prefer to do my "swimming" in the shallow end of the pool. 
  8. I used to play the cello.
  9. My swearing would make a sailor blush. Perhaps not my best quality.
  10. I enjoy studying different languages. I'd love to live in different countries in order to soak up their languages.

Now, I must list some of my favorite blogs:
  1. Carolyn Arnold
  2. Marian Perera
  3. Tavia, Char and Anninyn at In Case of Survival
  4. Rachel McClellan

In other blog news, I am finally done with travel for a while. Well, for at least a month. Here's hoping that some uninterrupted home time will allow me to get back to blogging on a regular basis.

Posted by Jennifer B. at The Writing Cocoon.  

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Beast...Now Just a Large Cat

"The Beast" is beginning to look less formidable. I managed to jump right into September's AW Water Cooler Flash Fiction Fortnight challenge and have managed to complete two stories, thus far. The stories were, perhaps, not my best nor most inspired writing, but at least I am writing again.

This weekend forced another break in my writing routine as I decided to suck it up and journey to Newcastle to watch the Great North Run - AKA, my-triumphant-return-to-running-that-wasn't. It turned out to be a good decision, watching the race. Newcastle is a fun and picturesque city, the run was inspirational, and I had two days of Chinatown's cuisine. Plus, I simply need to get out more. Winter's dark is around the corner, waiting with its friend cabin-fever. Good to get out and about and all that.

Today, I returned home and to my writing schedule. I'm still not quite one-hundred percent on that front, but today's plan is to complete one more flash fiction for the challenge, and at long last, to dive back into the first revision of my novel. My thought process is: get back to BIC every day this week, then look at revising my written, weekly plan and implementing it for October.

I'm "off" now, to get some writing done. Today's prompt is "sabotage in a darts tournament." That's going to take some thought.

Posted by Jennifer Baylor at The Writing Cocoon.  
Filed under "The Writer's Desk"

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Beast

I walked past my office yesterday, on my way to make breakfast, and tried to rush by, averting my eyes from the sight of my empty desk chair. In the kitchen, I poured my coffee and headed back up stairs. At the top, there was a decision to be made: turn right to the living room and sofa or turn left to the office and the unknown. The sofa won.

This has been going on for weeks. In order to get from one room to the next in my flat (ANY room, it seems), you have to walk past the office. One day, on my way to the loo, I peeked inside the office instead of quickly shuffling past the door. It was like a time capsule in there - everything left exactly as it was the last time I sat down to write. I did a little hopping from one foot to the other- maybe my feet wanted to cross the damned threshold at last. But, it turned out I really just needed to pee, and I turned back towards the loo.

Once I passed by with a snack in my hand and stopped and stared into my office for several minutes. My white board still had the color-coded plot diagram for my novel.  My writing “manuals” were piled precariously on the window ledge by the desk. The drapes were drawn around the writing “manuals," changing the dim sunlight to a faded yellow that reminded me of old newspaper. Everything had a light layer of grey dust. With a shudder, I moved on and away.

A few times, I tried to punch through the barrier to my office and thought I had succeeded when I wrote my previous post. For one afternoon, I was able to return to my desk chair and face the computer screen at long last. But then, after that…nothing.

I developed a faint “butterflies-in-the-gut” sensation, and it crept up on me, growing day-by-day. It’s almost constant now. Sleeping was hard to face, and often, my husband had to drag me to bed so that I didn’t stay up all night doing nothing. I lived with the constant worry that there was something I’d forgotten - something I was supposed to do or somewhere I was supposed to be. I was bored, restless, and irritable. Sometime last week, I became convinced that I could hear the soft, interminable tick-tock of the little red robin clock in the office echo throughout the flat. I started to feel nauseated. When I walked by my office, my skin would crawl.

I think it’s my novel - it’s haunting me. I left it there, abandoned and cold, suffering from neglect. In that darkness and quiet, it turned into some sort of monster, a beast I had to slay, and I was weak and a coward. I couldn’t face it. The longer I avoided it, the nastier it became.

Today I paced outside the office, wringing my hands. It’s in there, I thought, and I have to go in there and face it.  

Posted by Jennifer Baylor at The Writing Cocoon.  
Filed under "The Mental Game"

Friday, August 26, 2011

When things fall apart...

Posted by Jennifer B. at The Writing Cocoon.  

I don’t know how to explain the last three weeks succinctly, and I have to start with a bit of an explanation, but I’ll give it a go.

 In my self-destructive late twenties, I gave up a lot of things, for various reasons, that were important to me. Most significantly, I gave up running and writing. It was a fairly soul-crushing period of my life.
Four years ago I gave up my well-paying corporate career to move to a new country and start a new life. Like a fool, I honestly believed that would be enough for everything to fall into place and that it would be easy to figure out a direction for my life. Not even remotely true. I waffled about for a good two years, unable to break free of my fears and doubts.

 Two years ago, I laced up my old running shoes and started to run again. It felt good. It felt like a new beginning, and it felt like a return to home, a return to me. One year ago, I opened up a Word doc and started writing for the first time in years, and I ended up writing a book.

Then, the hurdles came. Yeah, I should have seen it coming - should have known better. I mean, that’s life, right? Parents and grandparents died, injuries mounted, family pressures skyrocketed, and doubt kept knocking at my door. But, for the first time in over a decade, after each setback, I would regroup and forge ahead. I started to make progress.

I finished a first draft of a novel and my running steadily improved. I signed up for a half-marathon, my first race since 2005. I began to plan for the rewrite of my first draft. They were both supposed to happen in September.

The parallels in my running and writing seemed natural and logical to me. I was on a journey and both paths led back to me being true to myself. Both made me stronger and gave me energy. I built up this symbolic relationship between the two things. It may seem hokey - I’m finding it hard not to laugh at myself- but when I was running, I thought to myself, if I can make it through this mile, then I can do anything or once I finish this mile, I will never have to run it again, there will be a new mile. It seemed to reflect what was happening in my writing.

Then I threw out my sacroiliac joint handling heavy luggage on vacation - the same dysfunctional joint that ended my running in the first place. This time, though, things were different - worse. I could barely walk. Weeks went by and I improved enough to try out first, a few short runs, then a long run. But, that didn’t last long and disaster struck after a 3 mile run - I couldn’t walk the next day. Then came the ruling from my PT - no running for at least 3 months, maybe 6. That meant no Great North Run. I was devastated.

Now, I’ve tried to keep things in perspective, really I have. I’ve been watching my sister struggle through a permanent, debilitating injury. I will recover…some day. It isn’t the end of the world. If you are a runner, you will suffer injuries. But 6 months? Really? I’m going to have to go through that crappy beginning running faze again? It felt like the Universe was slapping me in the face.

To make it worse, I had done something truly stupid. I had promised myself that, after the successful completion of my first race in years, I would finally face making a giant decision in my personal life. No pressure, eh?

The real and symbolic losses wrapped up in my inability to continue my running hit me hard - and at a time when I was facing the next big step in my writing. I became a little weepy. Then I became a lot weepy. And did I drown myself in my writing work? Well, for a little while, but then I sort of overdid it right before my 6 month rest prognosis, and when the final blow was struck with that unwelcomed news, I couldn’t face the uphill climb of a rewrite. I couldn’t face my computer screen at all. A kind of mental fatigue set in at the thought of all of the hard work before me. I just logged out and didn’t log back in until…today.

This week has been a little better. I’ve resigned myself to my new, non-impact cardio, extreme-rehab exercise routine. I’m going to get back to running, it just isn’t going to be in the time frame I want.

As for writing, the schedule is being reworked, again, and I’m incorporating more non-writing types of creative work in my day. I’ve dusted off my sewing machine and finished a few languishing quilt projects. Yesterday, I picked up a brochure on drawing lessons. I read somewhere a while back that it was important to have non-writing creative outlets, and now I believe it to be true. It has been nice to accomplish something creative, while giving my brain a break from words.

Today I return to my rewrite prep. I’ve got to finish a few exercises from the Plot Whisperer’s PlotWriMo, then I will start the edit of the first draft. Next week I hope to rejoin the flash fiction writing challenges over at the AW Writing Cooler, something I had been enjoying immensely.

That’s where I’m at. One step forward, two steps back. I know this dance well.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Linkage - The Monday Edition

Posted by Jennifer Baylor at The Writing Cocoon.  
Filed under "The Sunday Paper: SFF Links"

I meant to post this yesterday, but wasn't feeling too well. I think too much time spent staring at the computer is overloading my eyeballs as I've been hit with some pretty serious headaches the last three days. Anyway, here is my weekly round-up of news posts, with a small twist. Instead of giving you links to general book-ish articles and posts, I'm going to stick to the ones I find specifically on sf&f related news.
Space travel:  It's what we all dream of, right? Here's an article from the LA Times about DARPA's quest to find those who will pave the way to Interstellar travel. So, if you've figured it out, time to put in for your seed money for the R&D.

Genre- Don't label me:  Now that the Booker list is out, this article from The Independent gives us a look at the list's genre composition and how the genre labels can limit our experience in reading. We humans sure like our labels.

Science Fiction Movie: I've seen a few articles on this film, and now I want to see it. Looks like something I'd really like and I've been feeling a bit SciFi starved of late. Here's a review of the film from Pegasus News.

Gaming: If you’re behind on your Final Fantasy gaming (like me), a new reason to finish prior editions: Square Enix has confirmed the release timeline for FFXIII-2. The problem is, if I allow myself to plug in the PS3, no writing will get done.

Kindle Fantasy & SciFi Magazine:  Confusion over Amazon’s new SciFi magazine, cleared up here. Amazon has made available a free science fiction magazine for Kindle. You can subscribe to a free digest edition or pay for a subscription to the full edition.

Vote for your favorite Science Fiction & Fantasy novels:  I did, and it was difficult to choose. You can vote for your top choices or just peruse the finalist list of 100 novels to update your reading list. This list will help you fill any gaps in your classic sf&f reading.

For fun:  Rainn Wilson, actor and “science fiction and fantasy nerd,” gives us his top ten sf&f - complete with nice pictures of the front and back covers from his bookshelf. The covers are awesome.

Undressing a Victorian Lady:  Okay, so this isn't sf&f, but I linked it, anyway.  Never know when you're going to write a Victorian space opera, right? How to Undress A Victorian Lady from the Wall Street Journal.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Snapshot Saturday

London: Hyde Park

It is Snapshot Saturday! This week I thought I'd post a few pictures of sculptures from around London. I love sculptures, but there is something about seeing them in public places, or outside of museums in general, that makes me very happy. Of course, the sculptures were commissioned for specific places and purposes, but I still think that seeing the pieces in their "natural" settings like this makes them so much more...spectacular, personal, moving, thought provoking, etc. I guess I'm a bit of a romantic.

Kensington Gardens, London: The Albert Memorial
 Looking at Alyce's pictures of Hawaii reminded me of my husband (Hawaii is where he proposed). That, in turn, reminded me of Prince Albert's memorial in London and the romance between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. What a great story about love and marriage (granted, I may be romanticizing again!).

London: William of Orange
 I just love this statue of William of Orange. His clothing is fantastic and something about the way he's posed - I just loved the way the statue brought to life another era.

London: British Museum, Greek Sculptures
The British Museum is a favorite of mine. I've been many times, and I'm sure I'll be back.

This is Alyce's Snapshot Saturday. To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky at Alyce's blog. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

Posted by Jennifer B. at The Writing Cocoon.  

Liebster Blog Award

I started this blog with the idea that it would be a fun way to explore this secret dream of mine - my dream of being a writer. It was meant to be a journal to record the process and my thoughts. I also thought it was a good first step toward putting my writing out there, into the Universe, and making it seem real. After a few posts and finding blogs by other writers, another possibility opened up for the blog: it could be a way to connect with other writers.

That's all well and good, but after two-and-a-half months of posting, you do start to wonder  does my blogging resonate with anyone out there? Then something really nice happens! You stumble out of bed and shuffle to the computer with a cup of coffee on a gray Saturday morning to find a new comment on your blog bestowing upon you, your first blog award. Or, at least, that's what's happened to me today.

JeffO over at The Doubting Writer has very kindly nominated me for my first blog award. JeffO started his blog about the same time as I started mine.  I first found him over at the AW Water Cooler. I read some of his forum threads and his first blog posts, and I knew I'd found someone at a similar stage in this journey. His was the first blog I followed and he the first follower here.

The goal of the Liebster is to showcase up and coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers. The rules:

  1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who bestowed the award on you
  2. Reveal your top five picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog
  3. Copy and paste the award on your blog
  4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love
  5. Have bloggity-blog fun!

Now, I'm with Jeff in feeling a bit shy about joining in on blog tags, and this is my first, but it did make me smile, so it wasn't all that painful, after all. 

I have three picks to pass on the Liebster award and here they are:

Starving Novelist - A blog by Sara Burr, a fellow writer and science fiction fan. She's been blogging for less than a year, but I love the quality and insight of her posts. There is a lot of good information, analysis of writing craft and tips, delivered in a clear, conversational style.

Carolyn Arnold - Carolyn is another writer who started her blog this year. She's a very busy woman; she's written seven novels in four years! She writes about many things "writing", including the path to becoming a writer and its pitfalls. She is also very active in supporting fellow writers, spotlighting self-published writers in her Independent Voice posts.

Beckah-Rah - Becky Regalado is a horror and fantasy writer with a blog less than a year old. She blogs on a variety of topics, but with her own (entertainingly sartirical) slant. A funny read, she keeps you rooting for her (and you're own writing dreams) with her honest posts about writing and publishing. I also enjoyed reading the short fiction she's written (linked on her blog) and look forward to more.

Go check out these three blogs!

Posted by Jennifer B. at The Writing Cocoon.