So many ideas

I'm near the end of the first full day of this year's Readercon, and I have learned/heard about/been reminded of so many cool things. The last thing I went to was a slideshow on fantasy maps, during which I decided that the next draft of my NaNoWriMo novel from last year is going to be a stand-alone, incredibly detailed map. Or, if not stand-alone, an atlas, with detailed keys.

I went to the Interstitial Arts Foundation Town Hall Meeting, and unexpectedly stumbled onto an opening for editor of the IAF Tumblr -- I won't be alone, but I'm going to get to start contributing significantly to the Interstitial Arts Foundation, which I've wanted to do since my first Readercon. The tumblr is called interstitialarts. There isn't really anything there yet, but soon.

Soon.

I'm going to head back out and do more cool stuff now. I might blog some more this weekend, just because there's going to be so much awesome stuff to blog about. If not, tty Monday.

New years stuff

I thought I had already written this post. I'm not really doing resolutions, because they're doomed to fail, but it's close to impossible to not get caught up in the spirit of rebirth and reform that everyone starts talking about for a week and a half this time of year.  I don't think it's a good idea to make resolutions, but I think it might not be a bad idea to revisit my current goals and see what needs to change.

Writing fiction

I'm extremely behind on Critters, the online critique group I joined this past semester.  I'm also extremely behind on writing short stories in general.  After finishing a 50,000 word first draft in November for NaNoWriMo, I didn't write anything for the whole of December.  A couple days ago I knocked out two drafts of a 1,500 word short story, so that's a start.  But I should be working on application stories for Clarion, and right now I don't have anything.

I'm also behind on keeping my stories out for submission.  I mean, there's one I want to throw into the bottomless pit of doom, but the other two I think are worth looking at, and they haven't been in front of enough editors, as far as I'm concerned.  So, I'll do that today.[1. I took a break from working on this blog post to go and do that, so the two stories I currently feel comfortable having out for submission are with editors.]

Personal pursuits

I haven't been updating here as often, and I think I'm pretty okay with that.  For right now, I'm not going to put up any new rules, I'm just going to try and write on weekdays and aim for about 500 words.

I'm really enjoying cross-stitch!  I am experimenting on a big piece of light brown cloth with various map elements and terrain types.  It's a pretty big piece, and I think I'm going to try and fill it up with thumbnails then get a new one and start working on a real map.  I'll post photos later -- right now I don't have any handy.

I am open to suggestions for what I should map; right now, I'm thinking the map of Tortall, the LoTR map of Middle Earth, or part or all of the map from my NaNoWriMo novel.

Work

I start an internship in a couple of weeks.

Eep.

Health

I need to shower more.  I haven't been doing that enough.  Apart from that, I'm not really committing to anything health-related right now, because I'm pretty confident that I wouldn't be able to keep up with it, and I don't need another thing to fail at just now.

Social life

I've actually been seeing my friends lately!  It's crazy -- we call each other up and go places and spend time in the same room and everything!  I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I have Dominion -- not that I think my friends are using me for my game, they all have more money than me and could go buy it themselves if that were the case.  But I think it's easier to plan to hang out when there's a clear, structured activity to do.

I won NaNoWriMo!

Okay, so I promised this post for a couple of hours earlier.  But better to be a day late on this than a day late on WriMo, right?  (They were not conflicting.  I was just busy today.) I won!

2013.11.29

Check out all the spots on there where it says winner!

In the end, I'm pretty happy with the novel.  It will need rewriting to be serviceable -- the major plot begins developing about two thirds of the way through -- but that puts me at the same place I was at after the first draft of my first novel, and in this case I'm even better off because I have a well-developed setting and a diverse cast!

I just went and checked what I promised I'd write about today:

first thing next week, a nice, long post about what NaNoWriMo was like — all my feelings, all my struggles, some sort of explanation for the horrible dip in week 3, comparisons between what this one was like versus my other novels, and so on.

Honestly, WriMo was so much easier than every past experience I've had writing novels.  I promised an explanation for the dip, so here it is:  I ran out of steam.  I got there, and every day I sat down and I was only able to conjure about 200 words.

I experienced some emotionally stressful things that week, and my schedule was crammed, so it didn't help that I was writing between 2 and 3 a.m., getting sentences down between actually falling asleep in my chair during the lulls in the music I was listening to.

(WriMo music credits:  Cory Johnson's Legend of Zelda Remix, Fifths of Seven, Disasterpeace's FEZ album, The Final Fantasy VII soundtrack, Mike Rugnetta. Thanks.)

The thing is, I had to finish in a month.  There was no time for agonizing months of one-sentence-a-night just-so-I-haven't-really-quit writing.  I had to skip that.  In fact, I had to skip that and make up for having done it already.

Near the end, there are a lot of scenes that take place in totally under-developed settings, or vivid settings that contain no meaningful events, whatsoever.  There's a whole aborted story that totally belongs there, that I had to skip because I couldn't figure out what happened.

I'm looking forward to digging back into this setting again (which still needs a name), but the next thing I'm planning on doing is actually digging back into one of my other novels:  I'm cannibalizing the robots novel for the central premise:  Facebook spambot profiles, designed to perfectly emulate online friends so they can subtly plug products, achieve sentience and have to deal with both bucking their corporate creators and the extraordinary prejudice they risk in coming out to their friends as a spambot.

After that, I'm probably going to come back to my WriMo novel and similarly cannibalize one particular plot point that emerged right near the end:  a magic canal that cuts through the Elven forest, connecting the northern and southern seas, that desperately wants to be functional, but is constantly sabotaged by the elves that live there.  I think I'll probably directly throw in my cast, and basically rewrite the chapter, because I feel  like it will work on its own.

Now that I've finished, though, the only thing I really need to figure out is my reward.  Here are the options I'm kicking around:

  • Tom Milsom's new album, Organs (edit 2015-05-06: removing links to Tom Milsom on my blog, because I remembered they existed, and because he's a sexual predator and I don't want to support his music.)
  • A subscription to Locus Magazine
  • Taking responsibility for my earlier indulgence and calling the copy of "Raising Steam" I ordered from the UK my reward

Anybody got any opinions?

More WriMo updates

You may have noticed that I've been missing a lot of updates here lately. It's 5 days until the end of NaNoWriMo, and I've got another 10,000 words to write.  It's going okay, but I've got some pretty big leaps to get over before I'll feel 100% confident.  Since I've got a lot to do in a short amount of time, and a lot of other stuff going on in my life around that time, I have to be okay with some slipping, and this blog is one of the places where that's going to happen.

I promise, first thing next week, a nice, long post about what NaNoWriMo was like -- all my feelings, all my struggles, some sort of explanation for the horrible dip in week 3, comparisons between what this one was like versus my other novels, and so on.

In the meantime, I'm still trying to get a post up here every day, but I'm sorry if I mostly fail.

Just some WriMo updates

Not much of a blog post today because I fell behind on NaNoWriMo this weekend.  It turns out the ice wastes weren't as interesting as I had hoped, and I think I treated the ice giants a lot more problematically than I needed to.  Those chapters are going to be a major location for rearranging later -- I think I need to rebuild the motivation of my ice giant character, Visyth, entirely. For another detail that's going to have to wait for the second draft for full-scale implementation, I've got a pretty good idea of what more established races to make my two thus-far unassigned groups, the islandfolk and the spirefolk.

I don't want to call the islandfolk mermaids, because I think their living on boats and islands, rather than in the water, is too big a departure from the mythology of mermaids -- who are literally biologically structured to live in the water.  (Though, there are also several examples of monstrous versions of races, and mermaids might make a good counterpart for islandfolk in that regard. --I don't mean that there are races that are inherently monstrous, but that there are particular ways in which individual groups push magic too far.  For example, vampires are elves that have pursued immortality beyond the threshold of moral decency, and use magics that steal life from others to keep themselves functioning.)

On the other hand, water spirits seem like a good source.  The examples I like most are Nixie and Selkies, both of which are pretty damn close to mermaids.  Transformation magic may have to figure into the islandfolk to bring them closer to a reasonably fantastical form, and avoid them just being 'human.'  (I really want to avoid making anyone just the normal humans, against whom the other races would thereafter automatically seem to be deviations.)

For spirefolk, there are lots of examples of winged or birdlike mythological creatures.  Alkonost look good, based on their Wikipedia page they seem like the lore would fit into spirefolk culture.  I also like the idea of the spirefolk being compared to or called angels -- being flying humanoid mythological creatures, it would fit really well if so many people on earth didn't think they were real.  I may also borrow Valkyrie for some small group of spirefolk.

I will definitely need to research more about all of these groups before committing to any of them, as it's important to me that I'm not blatantly stomping all over a mythological tradition I don't understand or appreciate.  (I'm trying to stay mostly away from non-european mythology for that reason, since at least I come from a cultural line of descent from Europe.)

Holdfast: a new speculative fiction magazine. Also, weird time and effort stuff, redux

Today seems like it fits in nicely as one of a three part series forming the beginning of this week.  (Fingers crossed that tomorrow and Friday are normal and I'm not shaping up for a five-episode functionality roller-coaster.)  In the inverse of yesterday, I went to bed at midnight, and woke up a little past 3am.  I tried for about two hours to go back to sleep, then gave up and went to my office. There, in no particular order, I watched two episodes of Supernatural, caught up on my webcomics, wrote 93 WriMo words, and read about half of the content on this cool new online speculative fiction journal, Holdfast, which will be the topic of almost all of this post.

Holdfast (the interesting part.  Read this bit!)

 

They're going to focus on a different theme in spec fic every issue -- this issue's theme is "Speculating about speculative women," and my favorite content came from two of their to-be-regular pieces, "A letter to..." and "Unbelievers," respectively a letter from a fan to someone important to them in spec fic, and a pair of reviews of a book, by the journal's editors and an outside critic with a history of skepticism towards speculative fiction.

The letter was to Tamora Pierce, who writes books about girls who are heroes in the world of Tortal.  She might write about other stuff, too, I'm not sure.  I know about that part because her books were very important to my partner in her childhood, so we've been reading them together lately.  They are awesome.  So far we've read all four Song of the Lioness books, and are on the third Wild Magic book.

The Unbelievers was about a book called Tender Morsels, which I haven't read, and the eponymous critic (whose real name is Eric Randolph this issue) was not impressed.  I thought it was pretty cool that this feature led in with a fail, it makes me excited about the hypothetical future in which they make a convert.  (Hopefully with a book I already know and love!)

I've added all four of the Nonfiction articles form this issue saved to my Pocket, but I haven't had time to read any of them yet.

I can't tell if there is, or if there's going to be, any way to link to past issues, but right now there's only one issue up, and there doesn't seem to be a permalink to the Issue 1 portal.  So maybe they don't plan on keeping a running archive?  Just in case, check out all the great content!  Quick!

Back to my life

I seriously considered not going to school today.  I just wanted to go to sleep by the time the sun had come up, but there were too many important things:  the GSA officer meeting, an appointment with my academic adviser, Bio lab... so I dragged myself in, and I'm pretty glad I did.  For all that school was exhausting, it's also an important part of my life and being there and seeing people is rejuvenating.

After school, after about an hour-long break at home, I went to work, where at the end of the night I experienced the opposite problem I had yesterday:  I got cocky, overestimated the speed with which I'd be able to handle a much smaller pile of books, and ended up taking an hour doing what I thought would only take a half hour.  Maybe it was just a more difficult pile, maybe it was my exhaustion, or maybe it was the lack of panicked urgency.

I'm not sure how WriMo's going to go tonight.  I intend to be in bed at midnight, no matter what, and I've still only got those 93 words written, and I don't really know what happens next.

Oh well.  Wish me luck.  (Please.  I'm begging you.)

Just some updates, the weird dynamics of time and effort

Today's post is going to be short and insubstantial. Yesterday was a really bad WriMo day -- I only wrote about 1000 words, and most of that wasn't until like 3am, before which point I only wrote about 300.  I had a day full of free time and managed to use basically all of it procrastinating.

Today, I overslept horribly (because I was up past 3am last night), so I only had about an hour and a half of time to do anything before I had to leave for work.  I ended up writing over 1600 words.  I didn't quite recoup my full lead, but it was a good day.

Similarly, at work today I opened way too many boxes of books, trying to get as much as I could done, and ended up having more stuff to sort than I thought I could manage in my last hour of work.  Maybe I got lucky with the sortability of the books I had, or maybe the fear of insufficient time pushed me harder than I could have pushed myself otherwise, but I got the sorting done inside a half hour.

This seems similar to, but not the same as, the popular but flawed belief that procrastinating makes you a better worker because the pressure accelerates your ability to produce content or complete tasks.  I don't actually subscribe to that view, although that doesn't mean I don't procrastinate.

I don't have anywhere to go with this.  I just thought it was worth pointing out that I noticed.  (And, also, because of my poor time management yesterday, since I overslept, I didn't have a proper length of time to devote to blogging today.)

WriMo update

I appear to have forgotten to blog yesterday.  Oops. I'm at 12,270 words so far in NaNoWriMo, about 500 words above par for today.  (Though I haven't entered today's wordcount, yet -- which I also haven't finished writing.)

I've also started participating for real in the NaNoWriMo online community!  By which I mean I asked for help with my plot on the forums, and I got some awesome responses.  Excerpts below the fold.

Altogether, I'm really happy with how my WriMo novel is going, and so far I haven't lost steam or felt like my plot was slipping out from under me.  I will report back soon!  And I will try to write a normal blog post tomorrow.

My problem was about a damsel in distress narrative.  Here are a few of my posts about the nature of my issue:

I'm trying to write a setting that contains as few problematic or harmful tropes as possible, and it just occurred to me that the sub-plot that's currently going on is a damsel in distress story.  I'm just going to keep plowing forward for now, because I don't want to scrap 2000 words that I can fix in the second draft instead, but I would like to have a conversation about it, to get some other folks' thoughts.

  • The character in distress is an elf, who prior to now has been the most helpful member of the group.
  • She was kidnapped when they arrived at her now-vampire-swarmed home city, for reasons that have to do with her own backstory, not any of the other cast's.
  • The other characters have to go in and rescue her, but once they find her she plays a central role in her own actual rescue.  (Like, she probably-but-not-definitely needed their help, but they definitely were hopeless without her.)

I'm not sure whether to view this as a successful, or potentially successful, re-imagining of the damsel in distress trope, or whether I should keep an eye towards scrapping it entirely and writing a different subplot here for the next draft.

I'd really appreciate some input.

When it came to the actual rescue, the rest of the group's role was basically just occupying the minions and giving her a window of surprise and opportunity.  She fought the main bad guy totally on her own, and was successful due to her own pre-existing and unique knowledge of the enemy.  & her success discouraged the minions, who were close to successfully wearing the party down.

[...]

The main cast of my story includes two women (one of whom is the viewpoint character), two men, and two different kinds of nongendered characters -- a monk from a religion that de-emphasizes gender, and a troll: troll culture in my setting treats gender as a choice that most, but not all, people make somewhere in their teens.

And here's an abridged version my favorite response from the whole thread:

omfgcate:

[...]

Here are some ideas:

  1. Damsel is kidnapped (this is problematic) but manages to get herself out of trouble on her own (problem solved) while her comrades try to save her. You say that your character probably couldn't get out on her own--work with the .09% chance that she could.
  2. Damsel is kidnapped [...] but is a key player in her own rescue, and is intelligent enough to figure out her friends' plan on her own.
  3. Switching the characters that are kidnapped while you write the rough draft--so instead of your female character getting kidnapped, you could substitute in a male character, [...] That would require changing up your backstory a little, from what you said, but it might be worth it. Men are RARELY Damsels in Distress because patriarchal societies don't like seeing men dehumanized.

Things I would watch out for:

  1. Overly sexualizing her while she is kidnapped, especially if her captors are male. But female captors can also be sexually abusive, so just don't do that.
  2. Overly victimizing her.
  3. General sexist things--threatening rape or sexual assault, for example. Just because it could happen in real life doesn't mean it's necessary to potentially traumatize a reader, let alone your character.

I hope these tips helped!

WriMo rules

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow.  As of tomorrow, I am taking on the commitment to write about 2000 words every day for 30 days.  That means I'm going to have to cut myself some slack here, because I will need my writing energy available. So, here are the new, special, November Blogging Rules, in effect as of tomorrow:

  • There is no minimum word count on the blog.  One ten-word post is enough.
  • If I'm struggling through plot issues and need to do some meta-writing about my WriMo novel, I'll do it here -- both for solidarity, and because my thoughts come out clearer when I know I expect other people to read them.
  • I'll also keep up with my emotional state as it relates to WriMo on here, also for solidarity.
  • No blogging at all until I've done at least 100 words in my WriMo novel for that day.  This one is to remind me to get writing done in little chunks when I can, and not neglect the spare five minutes between classes or extra writing I can do if I get out of bed just a little earlier or watch one fewer episode of Supernatural.
  • I will continue to try to blog every weekday, but if I have to miss one, I'm not going to beat myself up over it.

I've added a new category for NaNoWriMo posts, but I don't have time right now to go back and add all my earlier relevant posts to it and may not remember to do that later.  Sorry.

[warning]Warning:  As of tomorrow, and for the next month, this is basically a NaNoWriMo blog.  I <3 all my readers and hope you stick around, but if you're here for my political rants or my taste in links, I think it's only fair to let you know you'll probably be disappointed until December.[/warning]