NaNoWriMo2020!

To write 50,000 words in a month or not write 50,000 words in a month?

To stay up into the small hours of the morning on most weekends, typing a furious descent to madness, or to stay healthy, get a proper(ish) amount of sleep, and be psychologically well-balanced or at least without another item of excess stress?

It really isn’t a question.

I’m doing it. NaNoWriMo Round 3.

As an explanation, I am, quite certainly, when it comes to writing

  • Mad
  • Obsessed
  • In love
  • Addicted

…not in any particular order. And this year I really had no idea what I’d be writing. Zilch plan.

My creative-writing brain’s solution? Stay up until 2:30 a.m. creating a glorious steampunk (or is it medievalpunk–technically Renaissance-punk, but I wasn’t actually aware that was a thing) fantasy story plan that I absolutely cannot refuse.

But before that…I really couldn’t answer even to myself if I’d be doing it. And trust me, I know NaNo isn’t everyone’s thing. One of my writing buddies has been patiently nagged to do it for the last two years and just can’t with life. I get it. If I were really a level-headed person, I’d be looking at how crazy my little world already is and laugh at the whole idea.

…right.

I’ve always been more a Jabberwocky than Alice in Wonderland kind of girl…you get the point. We’re quite mad here. Photo from clker.com

I think NaNo is made for people like me. People who crave the challenge (and maybe a smidge of suffering). A reason to write. An adventure. A game to play you might very well lose.

Anyway, now it feels a little bit like a countdown to Christmas morning. I know, it’s a weird mixture of excitement and dread that goes into NaNo, but the truth is, as soon as I had my horribly messy plan, I couldn’t actually wait for it to start. I wanted to write it. I wanted it to be NaNo already.

I can almost feel the gasps of horror from the other writers who haven’t finished stockpiling their caffeine or polishing their outlines. I think eventually they might forgive the moment of weakness. That’s the other thing about NaNo–no matter what genre, what style, what life struggles we have, this challenge brings us all together, and makes allies out of people that have never met.

It’s a beautiful moment when you get to see that.

So with six days and counting, good luck to all the Wrimos out there, and a very peaceful November to all those who aren’t involved.

May we all find stories worthy of a dragon’s hoard.

Not a clue about NaNoWriMo? Join the madness online! We have plot bunnies and sporks! https://nanowrimo.org/.

Not a Rejection!!/Writing Award

Confetti and cake time! Writers of the Future has awarded me a Silver Honorable Mention!

You might remember “Rejection Slip,” a post about my last Writers of the Future entry. A flat-out refusal of a story that I loved.

Things are looking up.

The Silver Honorable Mention isn’t an official award. I won’t be published in the anthology. But out of 181 countries, story upon story upon story, writers who know what they’re doing and have seen every plot in the business (twice), read mine and saw something they liked.

I can be satisfied with that.

Until I write them something they can’t refuse.

I still scream incoherently every time I open one of the WOTF emails with good news. I reserve that, as my singular right. You know, on the list of things we “crazy writers” do.

So now that it’s officially been announced on the WOTF website, I’ve had my victory ice cream and life is ready to move on…

I’m debating National Novel Writing Month. For the third year running.

The case is this: I want to do it. Per usual, I don’t have time to do it. I’ve learned not to be bothered by that.

The problem?

I have no plan. None. And only 9 days to come up with one. Because, you know, I’ve squandered the rest of October with unavoidable responsibilities and arguing with characters about peanut butter.

Yeah. You read that right. Peanut butter. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

So can I do this?

Wish me luck. Because I know myself well enough by now to guess that if I can find the slightest spark of inspiration, I’ll give it my best shot.

Blog Post 101!/Writing Characters

Bring out the creamcakes everyone! 101 posts on BookmarkedOne!

I realize celebrating no. 100 would have been more appropriate. Shame about that. I didn’t realize until after I’d posted it. And no. 100 turned out to be “Here’s to the Silent Void“…a great deal angstier (is that a word?) and sadder a post than I usually make.

Sorry about that. Writing has its slumps. And while I’d rather just make you smile, I’d rather be honest more. I firmly believe everyone should have a place (occasionally) to scream.

Anyway.

Today being 101, I’m going to cherish the occasion by telling you about my characters–and all the trouble I’m in this week.

I do realize, of course, that I write…unconventionally. It’s not exactly method acting, but there’s a lot of emotion that goes on. If I’m writing something from first person, I step inside that character as if I’m the one living the story. I feel what they feel.

As for other characters? Well, I pop them in the hood of my jacket and carry them around with me as I go about my day like a few plush dolls.

No, but seriously.

What’s the best way to get to know someone? Conversation. Dinner dates. Slumber parties. Sitting together at lunch.

That’s how I get to know the people I’m writing about. I walk down the street, half muddled in whatever story I’m writing and think, “Oh, xyz character would sit there, on that bench, because it’s shady and he likes to feel the chill.” And since I write fantasy, it can be a lot of fun. Watching them be baffled, you know.

I take personality quizzes as my characters sometimes. And laugh at how wrong the results often are. Because I know.

I know exactly what they’d eat for dessert. Their favorite pop culture icons. What they’d say to a snide comment. Preferred styles of music. I know J’s the best to watch scary movies with. V has the best taste in clothes. G is the type (after coffee) who will always drop everything to give you a crushing hug.

I know it all. Because I asked, and they told me. Nice as you please. Bagels in the bargain.

You thought this was a joke, didn’t you? I think I saved this image from the NaNoWriMo forums…great thanks to whoever the original and undetectable creator is.

Problem? None of this helps with plot.

And I mean at all. I sit down to write, and it goes something like this.

Me: “So what are we doing today? Dragon-hunting? How are your lives?”

Characters: *awkward silence*

Me: …guys?

Asking them what they’d do if they were here isn’t helpful. Because really, climbing 23 feet up a sycamore tree or setting someone’s kitchen on fire trying to make toffee is not plot. Not if you ask me.

Which leads us to now…

Jokingly, I said to a friend, “I feel like I need to just sit down my characters and have them do roleplay games. D&D. That kind of thing. Maybe then we’ll have some idea of plot.”

A word of warning, ye writers young, don’t do this. Not only does the friend want to read a story of it now…

J, one of the characters currently residing in the back of my head, appears to have overheard. Is now so excited about the idea as to be compared to a Golden Retriever puppy. Wants to know who else is coming. If we’re going dice shopping. Or minifigs. Appears not to care in the slightest that this was designed as an exercise and we still have no plot.

Well, maybe someday I’ll figure it out, right? At least I’ve got good company.

Here’s to the Silent Void

Here’s to the silent void we send all our stories into.

Here’s to the hope they come out well.

Here’s to the waiting, the listening the watching, the wondering if it was real.

Here’s to the dark nights we all spend alone over black keys, crying into nothing about people we’ve never seen.

Here’s to the caffeine, the deadlines, the “making-ends-meet” that all fade away as if they never were the moment the words come.

Here’s to the voices in our heads. The ones that tell us write, even when it seems mad. The ones that never shut up, even when we tell them to.

Here’s to the unpublished, the rebels who dare to believe that the beautiful is possible even when the most miserable, depressing, and practical reality spits in our face.

Here’s to those of us who haven’t got a shred of proof that everything’s going to come out alright in the end, and here’s to those of us who don’t care to have it. Those who don’t dream, but plan, and plot, and whisper the possibilities in each other’s ears like revolution.

Here’s to dancing in the rain. To telling lies just because they fall a certain way from your tongue. To forgetting. To singing to the sky. Here’s to the swords we fight with, just to keep one single silver moment alive.

Here’s to never paying the slightest attention to “what can’t be done.” Because we believe in the promise we made that one day, it will.

Here’s to building the world of fairy stars and colored smoke. The one we believe in. The one we love.

Here’s to making it more than lifeless ink.

Here’s to writing the one word that lives inside them all–

Alive.

Book Release Thrill: The Captive Kingdom

I’m usually a very quiet person at home. But there are three things that make me yelp with excitement and alert my neighbors that some small creature might have been hugged to death.

  • Getting exceptionally good results from a writing contest
  • Getting a performance gig I really, really wanted
  • New Book

Pity about the squeal. Ruins good stealth campaigns.

But, as I wasn’t in the act of stealing cookies at 10:00 in the morning or other more nefarious activities, I’ll begrudge this moment of weakness. Why?

In case you haven’t heard:

Jennifer Nielsen’s The Captive Kingdom, book 4 in The Ascendance Trilogy is out today!

If that doesn’t deserve a squeal of delight, I don’t know what does.

I’ve mentioned before that I consider myself a Book Hunter as much as a reader. If there’s a book I want to read, I’m willing to pursue a copy if it takes the patience of years. The Little Prince, for example. I’m learning German to read Inkheart 4 so I don’t have to wait an extra year for the translation. And believe me when I say there are few more delicious feelings than thinking a book hunt is over, that a series has ended, that we all must say goodbye–

and hearing the author is returning one more time.

As if that wasn’t good enough, Jennifer Nielsen is planning a book 5 next year!

It’s going to be a good day.

In the odd event you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out my reviews of The False Prince (actually my first BookmarkedOne review…feel old now?) and The Runaway King here, and then embrace the irrepressible urge to go buy your own! Not that I’m getting endorsed for saying this. I’m not. I just think they’re good books.

And you should trust me. I have refined tastes.

So until I can get my grubby claws on books 3 and 4 of the Ascendance series, squeal in delight and post a review,

Happy reading!

Writing Update: September 27, 2020

Writing Status? Unblocked. Beautifully unblocked.

It’s terribly inconvenient. I realize I only say that because of how happy I am that my characters are talking to me again. But they always seem to choose the most inopportune times–before deadlines, when I don’t have paper, at 2:23 a.m. Sometimes they strike the lucky golden number of all three.

I’ve been up past midnight more than I should admit the last two weeks because my fingers won’t stop flicking over the keys.

So what am I working on?

Urban high fantasy. It’s about 9,000-odd words at the moment. Currently I’m dodging the backstory/this-is-how-my-super-complicated-magic-system-works dump and reminding myself that just because I’ve spent months hanging out with these characters in various other short stories, I still have to explain to the reader who they are.

Also plot. I have only half a plot.

Am I the only one who really struggles with villains? I can’t seem to make them scary enough. Maybe it’s just because I’ve read so many they all feel predictable. I don’t know. If anybody knows good ways to build a villain that’s just plain despicable, please, please share the tips. I already can make sympathetic villains. I make too many of those…

Reading Update?

Getting ready to read Dune. For the first time. A loved one loaned me a trade paperback copy bought at a thrift store. You know, the one with so much orange on the cover and pages that can no longer technically be called white and the musty smell that says read me, read me, climb inside, I have so many things to show you.

It’s now blatantly obvious I am a fan of battered old books.

And just so we’re on the same page…I did finish reading the Harry Potter series this summer. I am planning on finishing my Harry Potter Project by doing book blogs on each of them.

You’ve probably noticed I haven’t made a peep about it since July. I often find that the more involved I become with a book, the more difficult it is for me to filter all the things about it into a simple blog post. I keep thinking I’ll forget something beautiful I should have mentioned, that I come off to harsh on the flaws. And don’t even think about the headache of rating it in stars.

That being said, I’m going to do it. I can’t let this become like The Name of the Wind review that is still half-finished because the series tore my heart out and ate it. I finished Potter, and the reviews will come.

Just probably not until after my characters stop poking me awake at night. Stay tuned.

A Very Happy Baggins Birthday

September 22, everyone! Happy birthday to our favorite hobbits, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. Here’s to the hope that you spent the day the way a true hobbit should–with good food, plenty of it, better music, the best of friends, and no socks or shoes. Or, you know, failing that, reading one of the best fantasy novels of all time.

Yeah. My love for The Lord of the Rings has not faded yet. I hope it never will.

How did I celebrate?

Well. Pretty quietly, if you must know. Didn’t forget about it. Had some apple cake. And I had my first solo violin performance since…May? Is that right? Not because of the hobbity day, but I did cheer up a little on realizing the dates were the same.

As for a good book, my writing life has been driving me entirely bonkers the last two or three days. I sat down to get some work done Saturday afternoon…and ended up with 3566 words of a new fantasy story.

I’m not sure whether to cry from frustration or be completely satisfied with myself.

The story, for its part, is still sitting on the front of my brain. Bouncing up and down a little. You know, like a toddler that wants attention. Which is odd, since it is dark and miserable enough that I sometimes feel like shouting just for thinking about it too long.

Hazard of the profession. I feel what my characters feel.

So it’s nice to set that aside for an afternoon in favor of a book someone else has written. To remember the story that started with a sentence scribbled on an edge of a student’s paper while grading. To forget about all the things that make life too loud and too much of a headache. To get a cup of tea or cocoa, or a small glass of red wine, if you are so inclined, and curl up somewhere warm and snug and comfortable. Because somewhere, somewhere,

In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.

And that is the best and happiest thing of all.

…of course this post wouldn’t be complete without an adorable picture of Frodo and Sam. Credit to harmonia3784 on DeviantArt (sweeping bow to unbelievable artistic talent).

On Daring to Write…despite all the voices in my head telling me not to…

I think everyone has a small grimy goblin sitting in the back of their head saying all the things we shouldn’t dare to do.

Well. At least, that’s the way it seems.

Mine is particularly vocal. And I hate it with a passion that is not to be denied.

Most people would say caution is a good thing. Knowing what you are and what you can safely do. No bumps, broken bones, or accidents. You avoid saying the wrong thing if you say nothing at all.

Caution is not particularly helpful when trying to write. In this post alone, I’ve probably deleted as many lines as I’ve left typed. Why is it that I have to feel I’ll break if my characters fall? Is it because I think I really am flying with them as the pages dance by?

Or is it from all the criticism I hear of books that seemed alright, but somehow gained, I don’t know–an antifandom? of people who hate the story to its core. What about the books that are simply ignored? Not good enough to warrant a second look? What about the books, so delicate, so innocuous, that bring so many subtle, terrible things to life, poison minds, and send the good things in the world crashing to the ground?

All because of the smallest little words?

Books can do that. It isn’t even all they can do.

It’s quite paralyzing, really.

So I don’t write. For all the little reasons. I say tomorrow will be better and set my titanic drafts aside. Procrastinate. Later. It’s just a waste of time to sit with fingers poised over black keys, not typing a single word. It really is.

I don’t try to give writing advice. I don’t know if what I do works for anyone else because I’m only myself. But I know what I have to do when this happens.

Lie to myself. At first. Don’t misunderstand. Writing is all about telling yourself stories, after all.

So I don’t write. I indulge the bad TV-chocolate-hot tea-good book-new movie-no blogging-unhealthy lifestyle habit. And behind the lie, the rest of my brain is still awake, watching for the slightest glimmer of something in my ordinary life that might spark an adventure. A story.

I have to remember how much writing feels like flying before I can forget about the fall. I have to remember that I still am head over heels in love with what I do before I can take that first step into empty air and make something new.

And then I can forget about who might one day be watching my every word. I can sit down at my laptop, take a deep breath, imagine where I’m going,

and just

write.

Scribbling Habits…and writerly downfalls…

Have you ever wanted to google your characters?

I write a lot from research, as many other writers do. If I’m working on a story, it’s normal for me to pop over to a search engine to ask what are the names of Italian masquerade masks? Victorian era poisons? What do said poisons smell like? Welsh word for lost? Current housing prices in New York? Extant circuses? Tempestarii?

Today I was thinking about a character I’ve spent an obsessively long time working on. And as I was working (on something entirely unrelated, of course), I thought When was his birthday again? I know it’s coming up. When did I say…but then, it’s not as if I can type into Google and expect them to have any idea what I’m talking about.

As if.

If the book were wildly popular and had a fandom to keep track of all these things for me, that would be something…but that implies that it’s also published.

Again, as if.

I think part of the reason this idea is so irritatingly attractive is because my organizational skills quite frankly, stink. I mollify myself with the idea that in a 1300+ page fantasy draft, everyone’s would.

Somewhere in that mass of letters I might have left myself a clue. But it’s just as possible it’s one of those things that is floating around in my head, that has been patiently waiting for me to stop reading other people’s books, working, blogging, procrastinating, and hiding in anxious terror as I debate whether or not it’s the right word.

Because it’s so endlessly annoying to write a scene you know is perfect, has all the emotional pulls, and it just isn’t your day and the prose doesn’t flow.

So until I find my nerve and finish that story and it gets another hundred pages tacked on…

Would someone brilliant mind very much inventing a writing app so we can all google our characters?

Someday-Never

Everyone has a Neverland. That’s what J.M. Barrie seems to say.

He says a lot of other things that people have henpecked bloody over the years. That’s not the point.

Everyone has something, somewhere, someone, they keep close when they shut their eyes. And, so it would seem, it’s only by forgetting, by refusing to admit this secret wonderful exists that the world has gone dull and grey.

Perhaps it’s just a fancy.

It’s true for me. I’m a writer. I don’t have to close my eyes to see a secret world of beautiful things. I carry it with me like a soft sweater on my shoulders no one sees. It’s there. Dark blue, in case you were wondering about the color. Although some days it takes on a purple shade.

It’s one of the things that makes me different from the rest of the world.

I don’t give up on stupid ideas. I don’t see the slightest reason why they shouldn’t be real.

I don’t find anything strange about regularly climbing on top of roofs. About spending a year in a balloon. Sailing alone across the sea. About, after you’ve had a perfectly happy career, ditching everything to join the circus.

In fact, I find I’d rather want to.

Sometimes I think I’m quite alone. Days when I go for a walk in the rain and everyone I pass gives an odd look at the hair dripping in my eyes. When I’ve asked the wrong question or said the wrong thing.

So I’m asking.

I have a list of someday-nevers running in my head. Things I’d do if I only had a pinch of nerve and half a chance. And I think I’m not the only one.

So tell me. Did you want to learn to juggle? Did you dream to see the world? Open a florist’s shop? Sing opera? Rule the world?

What adventure do you have that just needs a pinch of luck?

What is your Neverland?

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