The Old Astronomer

December 17th, 2014

Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

– “The Old Astronomer” by Sarah Williams

NaNoWriMo 2014

November 20th, 2014

I’m a winner!

 

Just validated my word count, and it feels oh so good to have a machine tell me I’ve won! I find this especially ironic, given that the main robot in my novel is often the announcer of truths. I am quite pleased by this accomplishment, especially having reached 50,000 words in sixteen days.

Night of Writing Dangerously

Night of Writing Dangerously

Officially, I won at the Night of Writing Dangerously, a NaNoWriMo fundraising gala held in San Francisco. I got to ring a bell and wear a crown and announce my accomplishment to all of twitter! It was wonderful to be a part of such a public celebration of writing.

Too often, we writers are the only source of our own validation. That is a huge bummer. While I don’t need someone telling me I’m the Greatest Writer of All Time, I do need other people to remind me that what I do is work. It is hard work; it is worthy work. This is same sort of validation I look for when trying to break my dog of eating everything in sight. It’s a reminder that while we may not all experience the same difficulties in life, the life you are living is valid.

So celebrating my win surrounded by 300+ other writers was excellent validation. And motivation! My manuscript is much too short to sell, clocking in at under 55,000 words. I’m already hard at work editing and hope to have it out to betas soon. In the meantime, though, I am proud of my blitz two weeks of writing, and excited to have raised so much for the NaNoWriMo Young Writer’s Program!

Executive Director Grant Faulkner & I

Executive Director Grant Faulkner & I

The Dawn Patrol Crawl

November 17th, 2014

One of the best parts about NaNoWriMo is the community. I’ve been very active on the NaNo forums this year. By challenging myself, I’ve written more this month than any other, since grad school. I’ve also challenged others with this writing crawl, which is designed to help focus your mind. Whether you’re doing this crawl first thing at 6 a.m. or last thing at 2 a.m., hopefully it will help center you. If you’re curious about the title and inspiration, check out this clip from The Jungle Book. Glhf!

 

  • Hup Two Three Four : Can you hear those elephant feet? Wake up with a quick 100 word sprint.
  • Keep It Up Two Three Four : Great job! Keep it flowing with a 250 word sprint.
  • A Parade! : Lift your arms, stretch your legs and make sure you have plenty of water/coffee/tea. Move a little extra on your way to fill your mug.
  • Oh No, The Dawn Patrol Again : They show up every day, but it’s never at exactly the same time. Go to random.org and get a random number between 100 – 1000. Sprint!
  • Company, Sound Off! : Switch up your playlist. Try something new on Pandora or Spotify. Change the tempo of what you’ve been writing to. If it’s late, try something more chill. If it’s early, pump that bass.
  • Ho, The Aim of Our Patrol : is to write! Challenge yourself to stay focused for an entire 10 minute sprint.
  • Is a Question Rather Droll : Take five deep breaths. On a piece of paper or a new document, write down the main question you think your novel is asking. This can be the theme, plot, character motivation, etc. Don’t think too hard and as soon as you write it down, put the question away. This should be the quickest part of the crawl.
  • For to March and Drill : Take your total word count for this crawl thusfar. Halve it, and sprint to that number.
  • Over Field and Hill : That new playlist not working for you? Feeling a little cramped? Do like the elephants do and reverse. You can change your playlist, jog around the room, pet the dog. Whatever it is, take a moment or two to get silly, get loose. Wake up the last sleepy parts of your mind and body.
  • Is a NaNoWriMo Goal : March through a 15 minute sprint.
  • Halt! : You made it! Colonel Hathi approves. Now that you’ve focused your thoughts, it’s time to update your writing goals for today. Or perhaps you’d like to motivate yourself with a carrot (but beware the stick).

 

If you continue writing today past this crawl, peak at your Question Rather Droll. Let this guide your writing, let the question permeate every scene.

Hope you enjoyed marching to The Dawn Patrol!

#WriteStrong

November 5th, 2014

Psst!

I wrote a guest post, about being healthy at conventions (and while on the road).

You can check it out here. Thanks to J R Vogt for his inspiration Write Strong series.

Ready for Fall

October 9th, 2014

This summer just goes on and on and on. It has been consistently above 90 for the last several weeks, and I am tired of the heat. Life must be pretty good, though, if that’s what has me down these days! And truth be told, the weather is the perfect setting for wrapping up my romance novel. I’ll be just about ready to tackle the next one as the weather turns.

Tree in Paso Robles

Tree in Paso Robles (Sept 2014)

Of course, it may stay like this forever. Who knows? That would bum me out, though, since I love so many things about fall. The cooler weather, the shortening days, the liberal use of pumpkin, nutmeg and star anise. I’m going to make some port poached pears tonight, the heat be damned.

Writing Resources

July 24th, 2014

I’m in the middle of not one, but two, different projects right now. One is a YA scifi/fantasy crossover with a lot of world building and complex geopolitical elements. The other is a romance novel, and as I haven’t attempted a romance novel before, it’s proving to be full of challenges. So, I’ve struggled.

Lucky, there’s always help (and a whole lot of not help, but that’s a post for another day) to be found on the internet.

ilys is a kickstarter project. You enter your word count, and it takes you to a dark, nearly blank page with a large text box. You can only see one letter at a time as you type, forcing you to turn off your inner editor. It does take me a few minutes to settle into it, to accept spelling errors and just push forward. But I’ve made tremendous progress when I enter small word counts, 250-1000, with this app. And it’s a lot better than similar apps, which will threaten the writer with noises and even the deletion of words. Meep!

Hemingway is my new best editor friend. It is essentially the 10% Solution, in program form. It will review your writing for complex sentences, adverbs, passive voice and more. It even gives you target grade levels. This feature may be completely unhelpful if you’re writing literary adult fiction, but I found it quite useful. I even plugged in this post, et voila, much improved.

Any other writing resources I’m missing out on?

The Nebula Awards Weekend

May 28th, 2014

For the past two years, the Nebula Awards weekend has been hosted in San Jose. I went last year on a whim and had an absolutely wonderful time. It definitely set the tone for this year, which was busier, more difficult to navigate, but equally engaging.

Despite being one of the more geographically diverse cons, in that the nominees come from all over, I spent both Nebula weekends mostly with local writers. Funny how sometimes it takes an awards banquet to bring people together! Last year I stuck close to Rahul Kanakia, who I miss dearly, and this year I caught up with my local group, including Vincent Jorgensen and Amy Sundberg. I also had the chance to spend lots of time with Dr. Lawrence M. Schoen and his wife, Valerie. I know him even better now than I did after spending two weeks with him at Taos Toolbox in 2010.

Myself, Lawrence, and Amy

Myself, Lawrence, and Amy

And that’s really what I enjoy about the Nebs: while it’s certainly a fantastic opportunity to network, everyone is so open and friendly and excited. It truly felt that we were all a part of the same tribe, and that we were collectively honoring some of the best and brightest among us. The glow of the writer community brightened especially in the evenings. I made new friends, shook hands with some very well known writers, and smiled so much my jaw ached.

As always, there are things that could have been improved. Sunil Patel began a conversation on Facebook which has been summarized neatly by Juliette Wade at her blog. I wasn’t at the “Writing About Other Cultures” panel. I admire Sunil and Juliette for sharing their experience. I hope we continue to talk and reflect on diversity, that we find ways to improve our panels, our writing, ourselves. Next year, the 50th Nebulas Awards ceremony will be held in Chicago. I’m hoping to attend.

But before that, I have many other workshops and cons to attend this summer. Next up: a trip to Philadelphia for a writing workshop with some of my dearest writer friends.

Progress!

May 1st, 2014

I’m back at home, hunkered down in my cool, dark house. It’s been in the 90s in the bay area the past few days and while that heat isn’t breaking any records, it sure seems unusual to me. It’s going to be one hot May!

Virginia was in full bloom

Virginia was in full bloom

I also cannot believe how quickly this year has flown by. I began the year in Tahiti, and have since made several visits to the east coast, and attended a writer’s workshop in Vegas. Whew! This past weekend I got to celebrate the wedding of our good friends from college, who had been in our wedding party way back in 2011. It was an absolute blast. I laughed, cried, danced and got to hug so many people that I care about. To add to the success of the weekend, I wrote some words!

1,500 words, pounded out in one blitzed session. By Saturday morning I was ready to write, and knowing I only had computer access for a little while, I crammed all of my thoughts into a few scenes. They are not perfect, but they are progress. I am now even more excited for my next trip, a workshop in Philadelphia at the end of May. I’ve chosen the writing track there, so I will have plenty of dedicated time to stare at my computer and trying to wrangle Iron into submission. I suspect I will need at least another month to get a working draft of this book. Sigh.

Awesome wedding favors!

Awesome wedding favors!

For now, though, I am going to enjoy the warm fuzzies that come with having seen my Holmes friends.

Try, Try Again?

April 16th, 2014
I read one of my favorite poems, e. e. cummings' "i carry your heart", during the ceremony

I read one of my favorite poems, e. e. cummings’ “i carry your heart”, during the ceremony

So, 3,000 words in one weekend is not that ambitious for me when I am at home, adhering to my usual routine.

Turns out, it was impossible to get even a word out during my blitzed trip to Philadelphia. I had the time, including twelve hours of plane flights and one late morning. But I couldn’t commit. On the plane, I fretted, like I usually do during long flights. I gave up and watched several movies (including “Her” which I really enjoyed, mostly because the dialogue was excellent). At the bed and breakfast estate, I snuggled into the oversized quilt, opened up my laptop, and could not find my character’s voice. I roughed out some details for the next scene, but I did not actually move the prose forward.

This is quite like my experience with past trips. I had the intention to write, but could not convert it to action. Luckily, I get to try all over again in a week when I head to D.C. for another wedding. I have some ideas on how to improve the outcome. First, I will not think of the long flights as time to write. I am already stressed enough about being on the plane; adding more pressure will likely lead to failure (especially given that I have not written anything worth keeping on an airplane in years – so why keep trying?). Second, I will actually block out times that – barring anything extraordinary – I will have time to write.

Last, I will not set a word count goal. At home, I need a word count goal to keep my progress steady. Having a time goal means my word count per day plummets. However, I find it significantly less stressful to have a time goal. Thus, while traveling I will spend an hour or two or three with my laptop and just see where that time takes me. Even if my daily word count average suffers, any amount of words would be more  than I achieved in Philly.

Here’s to another fun wedding and (hopefully) more writing success in D.C.!

Travel and Writing

April 3rd, 2014

Despite my best attempts to cling to my little doggies, I travel. A lot. For weddings, for workshops, for conventions, to see family. This weekend my husband and I are blitzing a trip to see our friends get married outside of Philly. The flight out will be the sixth flight I’ve taken in 2014.

This is decidedly not Philadelphia. Le sigh.

This is decidedly not Philadelphia. Le sigh.

I don’t often write while I’m away from home. When I’m officially on vacation, that’s fine. We all need a break. But when I’m attending weddings or conventions, I always bring my laptop along with the intention to write. I’ve assumed that just having access to a computer will encourage me to set fingers to keyboard. Turns out, that never happens.

So for this trip I’m trying something new. I have a word count goal of 3,000 words, which is well below my usual goals for three days of writing. Got to start small, right? And I am very eager to finish this draft of Iron.

What about you? How do you motivate yourself to do work while traveling?