S R Silcox - Author

Blog updated every Sunday - more often than not.

Page 13 of 14

Renovation Relaxation

So this is the old kitchen that we ripped out last couple of weekends (The major reason for my latest procrastination). The cupboard in the left corner we assume was not original, as it came out in about 10 minutes. The cupboards on the right were made from tongue-and-groove and HUGE nails, so took about 2 hours to knock out. It was so worth it though. Because we went from this crappy old thing, to this…….

 And this….

It’s so much more functional than before, and we have so much more storage and bench space. In fact, we have so much space to put everything, we’re not entirely sure where everything should be going.

To finish it off, we now have to decide on the splash-backs. Tiles or zenolite? White or throw in some colour? Big tiles or little tiles? Stainless steel behind the stove? More decisions! Hopefully we’ll have it finished by Christmas….

What do you think? Should we go with tiles or something more fancy? Stay with neutrals or throw in some colour?

All Animals Are Equal (Some are more equal than others)

There’s been a huge hoohah on the net over the last few days about gay marriage being back on the agenda here in Australia thanks to New York passing their marriage laws. State Labor parties are also pushing Federal Labor to amend the Marriage Act to include gay marriage, or at least to change their policy regarding it at the next Federal Labor conference. A lot of articles have been written for and against gay marriage, and I’ve read a lot of them over the past few days, as well as the huge number of comments that these articles tend to attract.
I  have been equally saddened, angered, frustrated and dumb-founded at some of the blatant bigotry, naive indifference, and sheer ignorance at some of those comments. I have been heartened, though, at some of the comments made by people (not just gays) arguing for gay marriage. Basically, as I see it, these are the main arguments or concerns people against gay marriage have and make, along with my (hopefully brief) thoughts on each:

That’s the way it’s always been
(Also known as “That’s what the Marriage Act says, so ner” and “It’s our word, get your own”)

I really don’t care if it’s called “marriage” or “civil union”, as long as it confers the same rights to my wife (yes, wife) and I as my sister and her husband. But let’s be totally honest here. When a couple decides to take that extra step in their relationship and make that commitment in front of their family and friends, it’s called a “marriage” – a coming together of two people. No different to what my wife and I want to do, legally. Our friends and family call my wife exactly that, and when asked of our relationship status, they all refer to us as being married. It’s the socially accepted term for that relationship, so why change the term? Definitions change, especially when they’re legal or social, which is what we’re arguing about here. Besides, would you like to tell people you’re “civilly unioned”?

Homosexuals are a minority – why change the law for a minority?
(Also known as “There are more important issues to deal with” and “Let’s have a referendum and let the majority decide once and for all.” Sometimes disguises itself as “I know gay people and they don’t even want to get married”)

There is no doubt that the GLBTI community is a small one compared, say, to Christians, Muslims, and AFL supporters. In fact, there’s probably more people who watch synchronised swimming than are (openly) in the GLBTI community. Depending on which study you read, we range from .000001% of the population to around 10-15%. Let’s just split the difference and say we number around the 7% mark. It really is irrelevant. Laws are made for everyone, not just the majority. There are plenty of minority groups in society who have been discriminated against in the past, and who are no longer because laws were changed to stop this. When you restrict a group of people from accessing certain rights and responsibilities because of sex, age, race, religion or sexuality – or simply because they’re a minority – that’s discrimination. And it’s certainly no reason to NOT change the law.
As for the “I know gay people” line, I’d like to thank all those people for speaking on my behalf. I could also say I know lots of unemployed people and they all rort the system, but is that really true of all unemployed people? (On second thoughts, maybe a bad example…)
Just because I “know people” doesn’t make it true across the board, and it also doesn’t give me permission to speak on their behalf. I know heterosexual people who don’t want to get married – but guess what? They have that choice. I don’t. Don’t assume something just because you “know people”.

Homosexuality is a lifestyle choice
(Also known as “Homos are promiscuous and can’t maintain long-term relationships”)

I’m not really sure where this myth comes from – maybe people equate Mardi Gras with lots of sex and drugs, and therefore all gays must be like this all the time. I actually laugh when I see this one in a comment thread. My response? Glass houses and stones anyone? Promiscuity is not restricted to gays, and we’re not having any more one-night stands and non-relationship sex than your average heterosexual. Don’t believe me? Go out to a night club on a Friday or Saturday night and check out the number of straight people going home with someone different each night. This really is a mute point as far as I’m concerned, because someone (regardless of sexuality) who has a different sexual partner each night is hardly the type of person who would think marriage would be a great idea anyway.
There are plenty of people who, for whatever reason, can’t seem to find the “right one” and have trouble maintaining a long-term, healthy relationship, but this is not dependant on your sexuality.
A lifestyle choice is deciding to live on the coast, or to work from home, or to stop work completely and live a self-sustainable life on a hobby farm in a country town. Being gay is not a lifestyle choice. The only “choice”, if there is one, is whether to stay in the closet and live a lie, or be happy and confident in who you are, and live your truth. I could have married a man (I was engaged when I was much younger) but this would have been a huge mistake. I was never really happy until I met my current partner seven years ago. We are a normal couple, doing normal couple-y things. I really am no different to anyone else when it comes to my relationship, except my partner is a woman.

Religious reasons
(Also disguised as “The gay agenda is to convert innocent children and vulnerable adults to their cause”)

I understand where people of and with faith are coming from here. Honestly, I do. But the point is, I don’t go around expecting you to change your life to fit in with my ideals, so why should you expect me to do the same? And before anyone howls me down and says this is exactly what allowing gay marriage would do, think about it this way. Have you ever seen a gay group going from door-to-door, handing out rainbow-coloured pamphlets asking you to come to their gay club, Mardi Gras or Pride event? No? What about gay groups “teaching” in schools? No? Look, I have nothing against religious groups knocking on doors or teaching RE/RI in schools. In fact, more power to them – it takes a lot of guts. But please don’t confuse the “gay agenda” with “conversion”. As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one particular group of people doing the converting and it certainly ain’t me and my rainbow friends.
The other myth being circulated is that churches will have to perform gay marriage ceremonies. This is a total nonsense. Churches and religions already have leeway set within the law to actively discriminate against things that go against their teachings. And that’s ok. I don’t expect them to change. What I would like, though, is instead of those of faith thinking that this is going to affect them, realise that most of us have nothing against you – we just don’t have the same beliefs as you, that’s all. Nothing more, nothing less.
I don’t want recognition of my relationship from God, just the government who is happy to take my taxes, but not give me the same rights as my hetero friends and family.

What happens in the event of a relationship breakdown?
(Also known as “Won’t somebody think of the children” and “Children have no choice to be born/brought up in these relationships”)

Firstly, thanks to the change in de facto laws, we now have access to the family court. So there’s nothing different between the breakdown of a hetero relationship and a gay relationship – except there may be more arguments over who gets the soft furnishings.
As for children and their choices – tell me what child gets the choice (ever!) to be born into ANY relationship or family – whether that be heterosexual or homosexual? Do children get the choice to be born to wealthy parents as opposed to those on skid row? What about those kids who much prefer parents who are more interested in sport rather than academia? See how silly this one is?
I understand concerns about children growing up with two mums or two dads, and perhaps there not being enough influence of the other sex, but this one depends entirely on your view of family. My wife and I are not having children, but if we did, those kids would have plenty of male role models. They’d have two grandfathers, 4 uncles and plenty of extended family and friends to boot. As for teasing and bullying, well that’s going to happen anyway, and often is borne of kids not understanding that different doesn’t necessarily mean bad. It’s up to us, as the adults, to teach our kids this point. Bullying is always going to be around, and that’s a sad fact. The only thing we can do is equip our kids with enough confidence in who they are to overcome it.

It will invalidate or de-value heterosexual marriage

Does the guy up the street who beats his wife invalidate your marriage? What about the woman at work who’s getting married for the third time? The only ones who can add value to your marriage are you and your wife/husband. And the only ones who can de-value it are you and your wife/husband. Someone completely unknown to you cheating on their wife/husband in no way affects your marriage – unless of course you’re the one doing the cheating or being cheated on. That’s a whole different story. My point is, when you walk down the street and see a couple holding hands, you have no idea whether they’re married or not, whether they have children or not, or whether they’re friends with benefits. And it has nothing to do with you either. None of those scenarios have any impact on how you see your marriage.
The real truth of the matter is, “we” gays want marriage because of the stability it represents, both to us as couples and to our friends and families. My wife and I had our “Big C” (commitment ceremony or non-legal marriage) two years ago. My wife didn’t think she’d feel any different, as she knew it wouldn’t overly change the strong relationship we already have. However, even though it wasn’t legal, we did feel different – stronger, two parts of something bigger than ourselves individually. Now if only the government would recognise that too.

Overall, I can understand some of the points against gay marriage – though truthfully, really only the religious arguments. And while I do think it will be inevitable that the laws will get changed to allow us the priviledge of legally walking down the aisle, I think there is still a long way to go.
We are all human, and we all have the same wants and needs. Some of us are just that little bit different. That doesn’t make us bad – it just makes us different, that’s all. I love my wife, and she loves me. As far as we’re concerned, we’re married, whether it’s legal or not. And we will do it all again when it does become legal, even if that means we’re both old and decrepit and can only manage to rustle up our witnesses from off the street because all our friends and family are gone. Until then, I will continue to love my wife, and honour her as I promised in my “Big C” vows in front of our friends and family (even if that is out of threat of harm from her friends – just kidding guys – really!)
My big hope is that one day, people will no longer look at my wife and I holding hands when we walk down the street and see us as a curiosity, but as the sweet, loving, committed couple we are.

As always, I would love to know your thoughts. This is a big issue for so many people. “Yes” or “no”? “Marriage” or “civil union”? Share your thoughts below.

Procrastination #2

I’m not entirely sure how I stumbled on this site – most likely when I was “researching” – but it’s a doozy. And because it had me in absolute stitches, laughing out loud like a mad woman when I was trying to be quiet while the kitchen guys were installing my new kitchen, I wanted to share it with you, so you too can enjoy being looked at like you’re nuts while laughing hysterically at a computer screen.

Warning: only click on the following link when you have time to procrastinate. You could lose hours on this (hours I say!).

Damn You Autocorrect

What’s your favourite? And have you suffered from autocorrect syndrome yourself? Just quietly, my favourites are the ones where the other person tries to pay out the original gaff, but the words don’t come out right either, making it one all-round confusing but funny-as-hell conversation. Enjoy!

Finally, my craziness makes sense…

Every now and then I feel like my brain is empty (see my previous post for details of that awful affliction). But most of the time, I feel like my brain is in compete chaos. Ideas, stories and characters jostle to be heard and sometimes it’s a fight to the death. I have been feeling pretty bad about not being able to concentrate on just one thing – feeling a little scatterbrained to be honest, starting work on one idea in the morning, only to be working on something completely different by the end of the day. Then I read this post over at the Kill Zone blog about Isaac Asimov, and it all made perfect sense. The story says that he worked on multiple projects at a time, and had several typewriters on the go at once, each with a different story in them, so he could work on whatever it was that took his fancy. When he was stuck on one, he got up, sat down at another typewriter and kept going on something different.
This appeals to me for a few reasons, but not least of which because it sounds just like me. I have several stories on the go at once, all in different stages of production. I find I can focus on finishing one WIP only once I am past the half-way-ish mark of the manuscript. Before that though, the plot is still percolating in my brain, and sometimes, when I’ve been working on, say, my children’s fantasy for a few hours, my main character for my new YA novel will pop into my head with a new scene, so I must write it down before my brain gets a chance to filter it out. If I get on a roll with that one I just keep going with it until it peters out, and I go on to something else. I try not to jump around too much though, and try to spend a few hours or few thousand words on each project before skipping out and cheating with something different.
Several of my Support Crew think I’m totally crazy for working like this, and tell me that perhaps the reason I struggle with finishing any of my WIP is because I have too much on my plate. But the truth is, I am slowly working my way to the finish line with each of my WIPs, and as long as I’m going forward with something, I’m not treading water with anything.
It also allows me to not put too much pressure on myself to get something done, and so far I have managed to stave off writer’s block pretty well using the Asimov method. I think writing is kind of like cooking – once you know the basics you work by feel. So once I get to the stage where I feel like a ms is starting to take off, I run with it. I know when I get on that roll and I can be cooped up for hours, days even, taking advantage of it. But I can just as easily be sitting on the lounge listening to music or watching a movie with a notepad beside me writing down plot-points or character traits or other notes about totally random WIP as I they pop into my head.
Sometimes, I feel like I have so many ideas running around in my brain, that if I don’t get them down onto paper, they’ll be lost forever – or they’ve annoyed me so much that I’ll feel guilty working on my current WIP while trying to both ignore the new idea and not forget it. Sometimes I just think “hang it” and don’t work on anything at all. I like to take a break from it all every now and then, especially when some distractions are just oo hard to get away from – like getting in a brand new kitchen, as is happening right this minute.
I like working like that though. I enjoy working like that. And it’s probably the reason why doing NaNoWriMo this year will be such a big test for me. I’m not sure how I will go trying to concentrate on just one story for a whole 30 days. I guess I will just work around my preferred style, and keep a notebook by my side to dip in and out of other WIP if I feel I’m getting a little stale on my NaNo novel. And maybe only take notes on other WIP instead of getting in too deep with scenes and only after a set word count.
I think the lesson is that no matter what anyone tells you, you eventually find your own way. Writing has been such a solitary, secret and personal thing for so long now that I need to just trust my instincts – even when people with the best of intentions tell me I’m stark raving mad for trying to concentrate on more than one thing at a time.

My brain is mush…

So I was going to post on something totally mundane, like how I hate when people who are obviously friends or family or, shock horror, the author posing to be someone else, give 5-star reviews to a book that sucks. And I mean really sucks. But I don’t want to whinge today.
Plus, I’m struggling at the moment with my writing, so what better way to sort out my shit than to tell the world about it (or the 5 people who actually follow this blog).
My last blog was on procrastinating, and while I have been doing some more of that over the last week or so, I’ve actually been so bad that I’ve been procrastinating on my procrastination. Sitting down to my laptop, opening up my web browser, and then shutting it back down again because I couldn’t even be bothered to do any research.
To be honest, I feel like I’m all out of ideas. My brain is so full at the moment, I feel like it’s empty. Like I went to bed with stuff in my head, and it all leaked out while I was sleeping.
I’ve read over all the stuff I’ve evr started, even going back to stuff I wrote nearly ten years ago – that was really painful to read let me tell you. I mean, I’ve been avoiding it for so long because I knew it was crap, but man, I had no idea how bad it was! On the flip-side, at least I know I’ve improved. So, that made me a little happier. But even going over everything I have ever written in order to try to spark some sort of idea, any idea, I still came up blank.
Now, some Well-Meaning People would tell me to suck it up and just write – write something, anything, just to get over this little speed bump, and then once your brain is back in gear, pick something you actually want to be working on again and get stuck in.
Well, Well-Meaning People, I don’t mean to be rude, but you suck it up this time, cos I have a better idea. One that is far more fun, at least a little productive (though not necessarily for my writing, but meh), and is oh so destructive.
My wife and I have been slowly renovating our little house, and we have finally come to the point when we get our brand spanking new kitchen. Therefore, the old green and orange shocker needs to go – this weekend. My plan then, to work out my shit, is complete and utter destruction. Well, maybe not complete, but possibly utter. Anyway, this old kitchen needs to go, and I have a sledge-hammer with my name on it. And every time I swing that baby at that old crappy kitchen, I’ll be imagining it’s one of my neurotic characters who won’t do as they’re told or those who have fallen blindly into one of my gaping plot holes, never to be seen again. And I’ll be cursing my dead-ends and loose-ends, and when I’m finished with them, I’m going to kick my muse’s butt good and proper. Skip out on me at short notice, will she!
Then, after the old kitchen is gone and the space in the kitchen is a totally blank canvas, and the decks of my over-taxed brain are cleared, I’ll have a break – albeit a very brief one. I’m taking a week’s holiday (starting tomorrow), so after the kitchen is in mid-week, I’ll sit back down at my laptop, and hopefully coax my muse back with some quiet self-reflection and maybe a little chocolate (she’s a sucker for Smarties). As for the characters, well, if they’ve managed to survive my rampage, then they’ll be stronger for it, and I may, may, find a part for them in one of my novels.

Happy long weekend everyone.

Procrastination: Things I do to avoid writing #1

What I tell my wife – “I’m plot-planning” or “I’m doing some characterisation”
What I’m actually doing – hitting the Seventh Sanctum site and other random generators, generating names for taverns, pirate ships and magical artifacts.

Actually, there are some really cool generators on there that have turned out some great things I’ve modified to fit some of my plots and characters. It’s so easy to lose time randomly generating names and things, and also great fun. Try it for yourself – but only when you have time to procrastinate.

I went one whole step better today in my procrastination, and made my own manual random generator. I printed out a whole bunch of different character traits on paper, cut them out, folded them up and put them in a shoe box. The idea is that I come up with a character name (probably from an online generator or randomly picking a page in my baby name book), and then pick three traits for my new character and go from there. I have a couple of wild cards in the box called “Specials”. If I get that trait, I get to pick from the Special Traits box, which includes such things as has super powers, has an addiction, is famous, is pregnant, is dead among others. I’ll add to it as I come up with more interesting things with which to terrorise my unsuspecting characters with.

So today I was randomly generating some test characters, just to grease the wheels, and came up with the following:

  • Jenny, accountant, 36 – innocent, attentive, (special) has super powers – sounds like she works for H&R Block
  • Henry, waiter, 22 – determined, impolite, (special) gay – like most of the waiters I’ve encountered
  • Manuel, truck driver, 46 – mischievous, imaginative, (special) dead – being mischievous and imaginative may be the reason he ended up dead   
  • Clementine, student, 16 – decisive, sullen, (special) engaged – teenagers, huh?
  • Delores, star ship captain, 48 – charming, restless, (special) invisible – great to spy on your crew and make sure no-one mutinies

Can’t say I’d find a use for any of these characters in my novels as yet, but you never know. Enough procrastinating for one day. I’m off to randomly generate a Ninja for the YA novel I’m working on. Then maybe a pub for my underage characters to get busted in.

NaNoWriMo Prep: My Super Writer Disguise

I’ve found it! Who would’ve thought that a trip to Noosa and shopping on Hastings Street with The Girls would turn up the first element in my Super Writer Disguise? It, for those wondering, is a fedora hat. I’ve always been one for caps – my soccer team can attest to the fact that I don’t leave home without it, and that they know I’m getting serious when I turn it backwards. But I’ve never been one of those stylish people who wear cool hats of any description when leaving the house. Apart from “hat days”, which in my house usually means I’m sporting a terrifically pointy “Alfalfa” do, or I’ve slept the whole night on one side of my head, resulting in a side-mounted flat-top that would make MC Hammer jealous.
So anyway, I was waiting for The Girls outside a shop, and on a bit of a whim I put on a fedora and turned to my wife and asked “Do I look like a writer now?” After giggling a little (which could really have meant it looked like crap), and saying that it actually didn’t look too bad, one of our friends came out of the shop and said “Oh yeah, that looks so cool!” (Thanks for clearing up the crap/cool thing Kirst!). The only problem – it was way too big for my small head.
From then on, every time we went into a shop that happened to also sell hats of any type or description, I found my head being fitted with all manner of headwear. I particularly like the beanie with fluffy ears and tassles that made me look like I was trying a little too hard to disguise myself as sheep. Not really conducive to writing though. There was also one of those trooper hats, you know the ones with the furry side flaps you see on American guys in the movies? It also had inbuilt headphones for your ipod, but no matter how warm that hat would have kept my head, I draw the line at looking like a dork from American Pie.
There were rastafarian hats, joker hats, bucket hats and sombreros. No matter how hard we looked, though there were plenty of fedora-style hats around Hastings Street, I just could not find one to fit my head. I am now on the hunt for one online, though I keep coming up with the same problem. “Small/medium” means too big for my head, and “one size fits most” – well, my head obviously isn’t in the “most” category. I have tried finding kid-sized fedoras, but don’t wish to be wearing one imprinted with flowers or sparkly things. I just want a cool, (not black) adult-style fedora hat that sits on my 54cm brain box without slipping down over my eyes. Is that so hard to ask? Apparently so.

Hmm. Maybe I should just look for a cape and wear my undies on the outside??

Bad Book, Good Book. How readers have the power to keep good writers writing.

Bad books – we’ve all read them. We’ve all complained about them – especially the bit about having spent good money on something that turned out to be crap. But how to avoid them? Sorry to say, but it’s almost impossible. Bad books are going to be out there no matter whether they’re self-published, or manage find their way through the gatekeepers of Big Publishing. The reason for that is that bad books are subjective. What I think is total and utter crap, someone else might think is the best thing since sliced bread.
From a writer’s perspective, reading bad books can be just as good as reading good books. Good books show me how TO write, whereas bad books show me how NOT to write. They’re like my train tracks for my writing – bad books on the left, good books on the right, and if I can at least stay right of the left (hopefully as close to the middle as possible) and keep moving to the right, I know I’m doing ok.
With the advent of e-books and cheaper and easier ways to self-publish, bad books may start to become more common. There is an upside to this though – the reader has more choice and more power than ever to decide what will be published. Theoretically, writers of bad books will suffer from bad sales and bad reviews and will either stop publishing all together, or strive to get better. Good writers won’t suffer too much, though it will still be hard to get novels out there and selling well. As readers, we can help good writers keep writing by doing the following simple things:

  • Keep buying good books – You know when you laugh at something a kid does, and they do it again, just to get the attention? The same principle works for writers. Buying books encourages writers to keep writing.
  • Review the books you like, as well as the ones you don’t – It’s important to do this tactfully though. Don’t just write “it was crap – hated it from start to finish”. It’s important to state your reasons. For example, “I found myself not caring about the characters” or “the plot was too far-fetched”. These types of comments allow the author to (hopefully) improve his/her next work, and an undecided reader to decide if they might like the book.
  • Pass good books on, and/or recommend them to your friends – Share the love. Most writers write because they have stories they want to share. You’ll do your bit by sharing their stories with people you think will enjoy them as much as you did.
  • Check out book review websites – There’s plenty on the net now so google “[book title] review” and I guarantee you’ll find heaps of reviews, both good and bad for whatever you’re thinking of buying (check the bad as well as the good for a balanced view)
  • Take a chance on a new author every now and then – There are some great finds out there, you only just have to look. Don’t just stick to the authors Big Publishing tells you are good (because they’ve published them and spent bazillions on their marketing). Best way to find these gems? Google “indie book review blogs” and check out some review sites. (I’ll feature my favourite review blogs at a later date.) Also check out Smashwords, who specialise in ebook publishing – popular with new authors, these guys upload ebooks to amazon, B&N and other online bookstores.

The best thing I’ve found so far to cut down on buying bad books? Amazon’s “sampler” feature for e-books and “search inside” feature for print books (though not all books have the search inside feature). Sampler and Search Inside give you a look at what the actual book will look like, with an excerpt from the text. To use the Sampler option, you need a kindle, or you can download the free pc kindle app from Amazon. A lot of ebooks also have the option of buying the print version (most of the big names do this), though some indie authors offer one or the other. Just search for whatever book you’re after in the ebook section of Amazon, and click on the “Send sample now” button, and the sample will be downloaded to your pc. You can read it and decide if you want to buy the print book if it’s available (or you can buy the ebook straight from your kindle app).
Search Inside works in much the same way. It gives you an idea of what the print book will look like, including an excerpt of the text. You can read the excerpt on screen and decide if you like it or not.
The single best thing about Amazon though, I think, is the “Also Bought” feature, showing what other books people bought, who’ve previously bought the book you’re looking at. I like to click through these, reading excerpts as I go, and making a note of the ones that interest me for future reference (read: when I get my monthly book allowance and can actually buy something rather than book-stalk).

In the end, a book will get published by whatever means a writer deems necessary to get that work to the masses, regardless whether it’s good or bad. It’s up to us, as writers, to put out the very best we can to keep readers coming back for more.
And it’s up to us, as readers, to encourage the very best writers to keep producing more of the work we want to read.

Why I WILL be doing NaNoWriMo this year

This is a post I stumbled upon through the twitterverse about the author’s opinions on the myths of NaNoWriMo, and why she won’t be participating. While there are a few blog posts now debunking her debunking of these myths, I wanted to add my two cents worth as a NaNo virgin, looking forward to my first attempt at the NaNo marathon. So, read this first to get some context, and come back and read my post in reply.

Thanks for coming back.

So Ania’s “myths” consist of the following basic points about NaNo that she takes to task. Nanowrimo will:

  • Motivate me to sit down and write
  • Give me a great way to get involved in the writing community
  • Force me to write the first draft in a specific time
  • Give me prestigious awards when I achieve my goal
  • Give me a publishable novel by the end of it.
  • Make novel-writing fun

I see no bad points about any of these that Ania makes – though I suppose it depends on your perspective. The following points I make because I’ve actually read the book “No Plot? No Problem” by Chris Baty (as I’ve said in a previous post) so I have a little knowledge on the background and the purpose of NaNoWriMo. And it was only after reading that book, and checking out the online forums and community that I decided that I would compete this year. I’ll tackle the above points in order.

  1. Motivation – It’s bloody hard to be a writer, especially when you have a busy life outside of it. It’s also hard to be a full-time writer, because it’s so easy to procrastinate when you have no-one to kick your butt whenever it’s planted in front of the TV. The motivation from NaNo comes from two main places. The first being other NaNo-ers themselves, as you race each other to get to the magic 50,000 word mark. The other, if you’ve prepared correctly, are all the people you’ve told you’re a shoe-in to write a novel in 30 days. If you pick the right people, they’ll all collectively kick your butt back into your office or wherever it is you write from to hit your word count. Some of us need a little extra motivation. From my own experience, I can sit daydreaming for hours of the novel I know I want to write, and even plot-plan to the Nth degree, without actually writing the damn thing. Having someone hanging over your shoulder asking for the next chapter, and the next, and what are you doing with that character really gets you cracking. Either that, or you die with embarassment at not having achieved anywhere near what you said you would.
  2. Getting involved in the writing community – It’s not actually the “writing” community NaNo is spruiking, it’s the NaNo community – like-minded people meeting in one place to share their mutual interests. That is, afterall, what a community is about. Yes, there are plenty of other “communities” out there to be involved in if you’re a writer, and NaNo can be a jumping off point for those NaNo-ers who realise that they may actually have a talent. I’m not actually involved in any writing community as yet – though I do site- and blog-stalk some of my favourites, with a view to eventually start posting comments.
  3. Forcing me to write a first draft in a specific amount of time – Well, that’s kind of the point. If not now, when? is the question NaNo asks. Most people say “when I have the time, I’ll write a novel”. Most people, however, never find the time. NaNo just provides the excuse for those “one day” writers to sit down and have a go. The first draft is always the hardest thing to write, and NaNo is all about just getting the words down, no matter how crap it is. If you’re anything like me, your inner critic steps in as soon as you type the wrong word in the second sentence, and your motivation and plot goes leaking out of your head, while your critic argues with your muse. The major point of NaNo is to just write, and accept that the first draft is just that – not a masterpiece, but the beginnings of the structure of the great novel you’re building. Or a load of crap, to only be seen by the insides of your garbage bin or shredder. Either way, you’ve gotten 50,000 words of something out of your system.
  4. Give me prestigious awards when I finish – Well, no, not really. And if you read the NaNo website, you’ll realise that the prestige is only with regards to your own ego and boasting to all and sundry about how you kicked ass and wrote 50,000 words in a month, and oh, that’s about the size of a (small) novel, did you know? The thing I want most out of NaNo is to be able to prove to myself that I can finish something I start – that’s prestige enough for me. And for those people who say 50,000 words doesn’t constitute a novel, I say who cares? While I know publishers have guidelines, I prefer to write the story in as many words as it needs, and then edit fom there. As for cheaters, well, there’ll always be people happy to take credit for something they haven’t really achieved at all. I know that won’t be me, and knowing that there may be some people who “win” who did it the easy way in no way takes anything away from my hard work.
  5. Having a publishable novel at the end of November – Look, no matter whether people write their novel in November, or take twenty years to get it done, there’ll always be aspiring writers who think their first draft is the best thing to ever be written. And there’s a way to make sure us, as readers, never have to read their dribble – it’s called Big Publishing. As ebook self-pub is taking off big time, the gatekeepers of bad writing will become the readers themselves. Most people go into NaNo realising what they’re writing will need heavy editing if they hope to one day be published – or, to be thrown in the bin. And those who don’t would be writing their crap and trying to get it published regardless. They just have an excuse to churn out 50,000 words a lot quicker than they would have done otherwise.
  6. Making novel-writing fun – Now this depends on your attitude. As I said earlier, it’s bloody hard to sit down for the duration and finish writing a novel that you were so excited about at the start. No matter how long you take, it’s a war of attrition. NaNo attempts to take away the critic, so you can get from start to finish without all that hand-wringing and self-doubt. Just punch out the words over 30 days and see what you have at the finish – then let your critic go nuts. But hey, you might just have some fun doing it in the mean time. Or, you might hate yourself and what you write but you’d probably do that anyway, so NaNo just confines it to 30 days. Then, after the dust has settled, you can get over it and say you’re never going to do it again. Besides, I’m guessing it’s hard not to have fun if you’re writing while wearing a stupid hat, or a cape, or whatever writing totem you’ve decided on.

Overall, love it or hate it, NaNo is a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I think it empowers people to achieve something so far out of left field that it will translate to other areas of their life. Me? I’m a writer, so the proof will be in the manuscript. It’s a psychological thing for me, and a confidence thing. Proof to myself that I can write that many words in one manuscript, rather than over the twenty or so I have starting to pile up on my hard drive. It’s less about allowing yourself to write crap, and more about understanding that while most of the stuff you write might be crap, there’ll possibly be some gems to be found if you dig a little deeper – gems you can pull out of the rubble and craft into something beautiful, but only after the NaNo dust has settled.
Plus, I get a really legitimate excuse to shut myself off from the world for a whole 30 days and indulge in my passion without feeling bad about it.

NaNoWriMo Prep: Magical Tools and the Secret Writing Identity

It has been said that writers are a breed apart. Some of us who are actually good at their craft are akin to super heroes – wrestling sub-plots like out-of-control fire hoses, lassoing themes before they gallop off into the dark recesses of Never To Return Land, and gently guiding their hero around the spot where the piano’s going to fall even if they whinge about missing their morning coffee, all in order to write the best story they can. Well, not all of us are like that. We can, however, pretend we’re Super Writer, and NaNoWriMo proves to be the perfect Super Writer platform. Lots of Super Writers gathering together in a virtual world racing each other and the clock in their quest to wrangle, lasso and eventually, chain 50,000 words to the pages of their Great NaNoWriMo Novel.
So how can this be done? How can you sneak in the side door of Super Writer-dom undetected by the real Super Writers? By acquiring a few simple tools, and of course, a simple yet cunning Super Writer disguise.

  1. First, you’ll need a Magic Pen – don’t be fooled by the promises of those cheap ball-points. Yes they may be cheap and get the job done, but do they offer up the extra goodies you’ll need for your quest? Things like smooth-flowing ink and being well-weighted in your hand. Do you have to shake the bejeesus out of it just to get it started in the morning and hence lose a whole paragraph from your mind? Do you think best by “pen-clicking”, like I do? You’ll need a retractable (and a place to work away from people who are annoyed by your incessant clicking). Try everything in the stationery shop – your Pen of Wonders will reveal itself to you, but you may have to gently coax it out – make it realise you’re its writing soul mate and it will do great things for you.
  2. To go with your Magic Pen you’ll of course need a notebook – yes, you’ll be doing the majority of your NaNo-ing on your laptop/computer (see 3 below) but for all those times you’re at work or shopping or otherwise staring into space, you’ll need a notebook to jot down your ideas and side-stories as they come to you. Don’t ever trust your brain to remember that great one-liner you discover for your hero to say to the villain at the end of your book – your brain is too busy thinking about the washing that needs to be done, the pile of dishes on the sink and other more important things. Your notebook should be sturdy, yet light, so you can carry it around with you. Spiral-bounds are probably not the best for this quest, as the pages tend to tear out. You’ll need something solid; something that says “I carry the workings of a great novel inside”.
  3. Word Processing Device – this will usually take the form of a laptop, pc or netbook, but some people like the feel of banging the keys of an old typewriter – makes them feel more writerly apparently. Me, I have a laptop and a netbook – I like to hedge my bets. Regardless of what you like to type on, you’ll need to upload your final document at the end of November for word count verification so you’ll need an internet connection and a computer at some point.
  4. Reference Book – for formatting purposes. You can just as easily google manuscript formatting, or buy something like The Elements of Style. The guys at NaNoWriMo though suggest you have on hand one of your favourite novels. This will give you an idea of what the printed word should look like – how paragraphs run, where indents should be, how dialogue is treated. Don’t forget though, this isn’t a beauty contest, so just concentrate on getting the words on the page. You can get critical of your formatting if you want to edit your novel later into a more presentable format – if you think it’s good enough to go out on its own and seek publication.
  5. Music – I’ve read that every book has a theme song, or at least some sort of musical score to go with it. I’ve not really found that to be the case myself, but I have found that scenes have popped into my head while listening to a piece of music so there may be something in this theory. To test this one out this year, I’ll work out what type of novel I want to write and fit the music to it. For example, want to write about a Jackaroo out the Back Of Burke? Keith Urban and his ilk are probably your best bet. Is your setting in the 90’s when you were going through Uni? Some hardcore clubbing music might be the way to go. It’s totally up to your own tastes – try a few on for size and see what gets the juices flowing.
  6. Writing Totem aka your Super Writer Disguise – this is my absolute favourite idea, and as such I will be using the next couple of months to track down the perfect one. This should be more than just some fluffy dice hanging from your computer screen. It should be something that tells you, and the rest of the world, that you are in Super Writer Mode and serve as your Do Not Disturb Sign. These can take the form of hats, gloves, tweed jackets with elbow patches, capes and costumes. Me? I’m leaning towards a moustache at the moment, though I have been testing the Backward Cap Totem for the last week. I also like the idea of a cape – or maybe a combination of a few of them might work – maybe a handle-bar moustache and a fedora? I’ll keep you posted on this one.

There are a few other things you’ll need – snacks, drinks, rewards, and to find a couple of writing hideaways, but I’ll deal with these in another post. For the moment, I’m off to spend some quality time at the stationery shop to track down my Magic Pen and notebook, and a quick trip to the costume shop to see what dastardly Super Writer disguise fits my needs.

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