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.