Sunday, November 30, 2014

NaNoWriMo as a writing technique

"Punk Flutist", a work in progress.

This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend, the end
the Doors 

Yes, National Novel Writing Month is over once more, and I'm happy to say I managed to finish in time this year too. Not as euphoric about it as last year, but still rather pleased with the result. It's not as badly written as last year though, since I followed a few simple rules.

Firstly, NaNoWriMo can be rather hectic, if you don't see it for what it is: A way to learn how to turn that inner editor off while working on a first draft. I have a very strong editor myself, so I find it quite difficult. If you write frantically for a month you will most certainly not get a finished story out of NaNoWriMo, but you will at least have a good idea.

I know lots of people who write their novels during NaNoWriMo; not that strange really. You get that kick in the right direction that only a challenge can bring. I for one can't say no to a challenge, so I'm pretty pleased that I'm not a man living during the 1700's - I really suck at fencing with rapiers.

This is why I wanted to talk about NaNoWriMo as a writing technique. 

This is for us who only get to the other side of the road block if there's a challenge to it. If we're stuck somewhere in the middle and just can't get further without writing something extremely silly. Like a shaving scene that we probably don't need at all. Yes, I have one of those. I had no idea what to write, so I crammed it in there. Fur is shaving with a straight razor and not doing a very good job either. It was fun to write, but the entire scene is just as valuable as a hot dog with sauerkraut - a stomache filler - and it will be cut (even though I think it's actually quite good) in January.

The first challenge is therefore to write as fast as possible without editing. We've already done this, so now let's go deeper into the marshes of challenges. It's even better if you have a couple of friends with you on these, then you can't skip the challanges and keep on staring at an empty document. The forums at NaNoWriMo are full of ideas for a creative kick-start, and just to take a few:
  • Dares. I dare you to add a Corkscrew of Destiny, or even better: The Travelling Shovel of Death. The thing is, you'll have to make it sound right to work. This is a great way to jump over that road block you were about to crash into earlier.
  • Word Sprints. I do these every day, more or less. It's an easy way to get in shape if you're not there quite yet. Here's a way to make a Word Sprint, and here's my result on that challenge.
  • Word Wars. You need to have a writing buddy here, otherwise you won't really have anyone to fight. It's all about getting more words written than the opponent in the same amount of time.
  • Crawls. Write 2000 words in a day. Or similar. You'll get more time, but also a smaller goal for the day. I use crawls and write at least 2000 words a day. If I'm not procrastinating.

Just because November is over, there's no reason to stop writing. I still have at least 25 000 words to write before I reach the end of my story, and after that I'll return to editing the novel I started writing last year. And as usual, I'll start every writing session with a word sprint, then seal the deal for the day with a crawl.

Now, do as Fur says and get back to work.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Saturday Scenes

A snippet of text. It's a bit out of context, I know. This part was something I wrote yesterday during editing, since I noticed that the scene needed something more. Today I'm going to have another look at it and do some more work on the wordflow and stuff.

Fur again, and as always he's in a bit of trouble. He really has a tendency to walk right into it. If you want to know more about Fur, here's an interview with him, and most of my Sunday Scribbles are about him. An example from the scene I'm editing at the moment here.

And, as usual: sorry for the bad translation.

This is Fur. My scanner won't work, so I had to take a picture of my drawing. Sorry for bad resolution.

They stopped in front of a heavy door made of steel. It opened inwards and the whining from the handle echoed. The room on the other side of it was dim and smelled weird - metallic and slightly bitter - but there was at least one large window along the entire wall towards Gallows Glory. The window was reinforced with bars and Fur didn’t like the view. On the five legged mare, two men in uniform were working, crouching for the rain. One of them on a ladder and the other one on the ground, arranging a noose that Fur more than ever wanted to forget.
"By gods, give me strength," he whimpered through a hard bite. Again he felt how his forehead became shiny with sweat while the hairs on his arms stood up. The next second the cramps forced him to double over with his arms around his belly. Without slowing down the guards grabbed harder of his arms and lifted more than led him further into the room. The beat of their boots against the floor remained unchanged, apart from the scraping of Furs soles when his legs moved without him helping.
"Gods?" Fur heard the word repeated through the haze of pain at the same time as the door slammed behind him. A woman's voice. "There are no gods, honey."
Fur raised his head, panting. Avoided to look out through the rain towards the gallows in the square. Where did the voice come from? It was not until she moved that he noticed her, a tall wallflower dressed in grey from top to toe. The silk in her dress rustled against the floor when she moved.
"No, not for me," replied Fur without releasing the woman from his gaze. She could have been cute - In her youth - a straight nose and a pair of almond-shaped eyes. There was something though that made ​​him stiffen of discomfort. There was something though. Fur could not put his finger on what it was; not until he realized that she had the same look in her eyes as pickpockets in the streets. Both estranged and aware, almost like she was observing the world through a window. It did not match her ​​proud posture; just as little as the wrinkles in the corners of her mouth straining her face to a bitter mask. Of course, she could have been like that since childhood, but he doubted that. She moved just as tall as the young ladies Wilgor, but with her hands clasped so tightly against her bodice that her fingers seemed to want to strangle each other. Fur forgot to breathe for a second. Strangling. Why even think of that word? He looked away and tried to focus on something else. Nerthal in the sunset. The light from the sun as it sank below the smog and gave the underside of the smoke a beautiful orange glow. The reflections in the shattered window glass.
"No, not for you," the woman agreed, and Fur did what he could to avoid looking at her as she took hold of his chin and studied his face. "How old are you?"
Fur glanced sideways against a desk cluttered with papers. The wallpaper of leather had black rings after the ink bottle and the pen leaned against the rim of the can with the tip in ink. Dangerously close to the edge stood a tea mug. That despicable kind of mug with an ugly face on it - intended to be funny. It wore traces of coffee and had probably not been cleaned between refills. Oh, if it just could fall to the floor and crash into smithereens.
"I asked you a question."
"Thirty-two. I'm thirty-two." Fur continued to avoid her gaze. The other side of the room was furnished with a long sideboard; over that, glass cabinets. The cupboards were full of large brown sealed glass bottles, each one neatly parked with its adhesive label turned outwards. On the table beneath were more glass containers filled with liquids and over a small burner hung a round-bottomed flask from which a glass tube led a liquid to another container.
"Hm. I would have bet that he was younger, "murmured the woman, as if to herself. "He's too old."
Fur looked up and met her gaze. "Too old?" He stammered, but never uttered the rest of his question: too old for what? Hardly to die. She had brown eyes with yellow flecks. A pair of eyes that ought to laugh.
"In years maybe, but with his knowledge," replied the man with the lantern where he was standing just to the side of Fur.
"Knowledge?" The woman proceeded to examine him as if he were a piece of unfit meat at the butcher’s.
"Believe me, he is the right man."
The woman dropped Furs chin and turned around. "Well, if he's the best you can sift out."

Hope you didn't get a headache, have nice Saturday!

#saturdayscenes is a weekly event at G+. Please, tag along and try it out!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The wrting challenge, part 2

I felt like I had to post my own result from this challenge , I would love to read yours! If you decide to do it, why not post a link to your blog or homepage here then I get a chance to see that too ;)

The five word sentence I got was I asked you a question, and the following story is just written from what I came to think of when I read that sentence out loud.

Here's my submission:

I asked you a question

The boot flew through the room and smacked me in the face with the force of a battle droid with newly oiled cogs. I spun around on my heels and fell backwards towards the hardwood floor, landed on my nose. The pain ran through my face, all of it in an instant. Total blackness, and in the distance millions of stars - through that a voice.
“I asked you a question.”
Her voice, but muffled; as if she was talking with a sock in her mouth. Why would she do that, the taste would be awful.
My face felt warm. I wasn’t sure if my eyes were open or not, but the stars were about to fade away. Everything tasted metal. How metal wasn’t that? Ouch.
“Yeah”, I murmured, “that’s a good question.” My hand against my face as I tried to sit up.
“Is that supposed to be an answer?” She was closer now, I could feel her breath just by my ear. The hairs in my neck saluted her in fear as the cold sweat ran down my spine. I shuddered. Too cold to just wear a T-shirt.
“No, of course not”, I answered hastily, “just give me time.”
“Time? You think time grows on trees?” She laughed. “You’ve had your share of time, stolen enough from me to make me wonder what I’ll have to do to get it back.” Her fingers buried themselves in the sides of my neck. The pain made me scream and her fingers made me think of scarecrows. Sticks. Even though I still only saw darkness, I still knew the facial expression to that voice, that skinless face with all those perfect pearly whites. The hood she wore would never hide that grin.
“I don’t have your time”, I sniffled, “I’m so sorry, please!”
“Please? You have no idea what you’ve lost.” She was furious, I could hear it. The only other time I heard her voice like this was when she lost a game of chess. The only time she did that too. “Time’s up, buddy.”

This is all I managed to write in five minutes ;)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Writing Challenge!

NaNoWriMo is coming to an end and I am just about to validate my text. This year I had a rough time writing without editing. About half way through I realized something:

  • If you decide to edit, do that in another document than the one you're writing in. That way you won't feel as insecure about the crappy first draft you've managed to squeeze out of your poor brain. 
  • If you don't find the perfect word you want for a certain thing, descibe the word. With any luck, you know what word you were looking for when you edit later. On the plus side - you got some extra words for the NaNo-word count.
  • Don't change anything. If you realize that your scene would be much better off in another way, just write the new way too - more words and something to look at when you edit.
That half way mark gave me a nice boost, so I've actually managed to write my 50 k words in shorter time than ever.

So. To celebrate this, I decided it was time for a writing challenge!

Tag along, it'll be fun :D
You do it like this:

  • Turn your timer on, make it go off in 30 seconds. 
  • Start anywhere you like in your unedited first draft.
  • Scroll through your draft, make sure your marker follows you - or use a finger on the screen. When the alarm goes off, your marker - or finger - must stop. You now have a sentence, right?
  • The first five words of this sentence will be your title.
  • Use the timer again. Set the alarm to go off in five minutes. You have a title, so just start writing!
If you join in, post your result in your blog and link to it here, I'd love to see what you've coe up with!

Happy writing!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

About time and it's worth

Yes, this is a rant. Why? Because I'm working myself towards a depressive state, so I should just get this junk out of the system. Hopefully this rant will make me feel less depressed and I can go back to normal.

This week I really didn't have any time for writing. Work, eat, sleep, that's what my week has consisted of, and during the weekend I've been too tired to do anything. OK, I've been playing with my daughter, but I find that more important than writing, when I haven't had enough time for that either during the week.

So, the rant. About the worth of time. I value my time highly, which is why I've chosen to do a job that I find interesting and inspiring. I'm a teacher. There's nothing compared to that "Eureka!"-glint in a child's eyes when something is figured out. What I've come to realise is that more and more work has been added to the things I have to do during a day. Not just me, all of us I'd presume. Yes, the pay check is a little fatter now compared to what it was ten yers ago, but as I look at how our economy is sloping, I realise that I now get less paid a month for more work.

So, no my bitter half asks: Why is it so important to discuss how little women are paid compared to men, when we all are paid less for our work now than before? And to put some whipped cream on that with a cherry on top: I asume we all have gotten better at what we do for a living over the years, doesn't experience count either anymore?

Ah, that felt great. Thanks for listening.

And here's a white king for my chess board.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Structure and NaNoWriMo

I agree. Those words doesn't really seem to fit well together. The thing is, that structure is what has made NaNoWriMo (a link to my page over there btw) work quite well and without stress this year, at least for me. Eh, let's be honest. Structure is what I need to be able work at all, so why ot during NaNoWriMo? In the beginning of November I thought everything went so slow, but for some reason the pace was surprisingly high. I noticed that by coincidence when I updated my word count every day at NaNoWriMo. This made me think, of course. What have I done dfferently?

Every year I have a well worked out plan, or that is at least what I think. I know pretty much what I will write about, but on the way I find other routes that drive me staight into a huge road block. Usually. I make very detailed Character sheets, have built up a world that I not only know by heart but have so much written research on that only this could make a thrilogy. Of course you think this would be enough, but it wasn't. Last year was a fight to reach the 50 000 word goal. Last year was the first time I reached that far, and I'll tell you why soon.

This year, I learned from other writers about Dan Wells and his story structure. Here are five clips about his tecnique:

And this last one, part 5 of 5, that won't be embedded for some reason.

This way to work made me really think. I have several paralell stories, so of course this ment several plot points. For one of the characters I even had to go through the whole program twice. So, why did I have to think? I mean, I know my characters, know what I want to write and certainly know what will happen. Don't we all? Well, why I had to think was because this way of planning really makes you see every small part of your story, makes you look at it through a magnifying glass. You have a chance to make those miniature flaws right before you write them. believe me, I found a bunch of them.

And as I promised: What I learnt last year.

The thing I learnt last year was that I needed to be sure what I wanted to write during a session before I started writing. I got this tip from a writer who has been an aid at NaNoWriMo for several years: Rachel Aaron. She shares freely of what she knows in her blog, but has also written a book on the matter:

If you don't have the energy to read it all, haven't got the time to discover when you're most productive, there's a lite edition here below. This is a very easy tecnique to get started, easy to make sure you force yourself through that annoying road block.

  1. Put a timer on for five minutes. Start to write ABOUT what you'd like to write during your session. How characters are supposed to react to the situation you are writing about, how they might look and so on.
  2. Annnd your five minutes are up! Time to start writing that thing you wanted to write. Since you now know where you are going, this will be an easy path. If you get stuck, just take another five minutes to get back on track.
  3. If this doesn't work I usually turn to drawing. This last one is optional, but I find it easier to write about scenes when I see them in front of me.

Combining these two things worked out perfectly for me. I've even had time to play around with other things:

I think this might be what Fur would look like as a zombie *laughing hysterically*, I had to play with some textures in Photoshop. In this case I used bark.

Super heroes are always fun, this picture is a submission to a challenge I entered over at deviantArt.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

NaNoWriMo and the Hiccups

We could start with the hiccups. In retrospect, they are rather fun.

I decided to leave home for the weekend, you know, to get settled for NaNoWriMo, get some alone time and at the same time meet up with a friend. So I booked a flight to London, paid for the tickets and the nice hotel room, packed and got ready to leave.

The first hiccup was done at home, but I didn't notice that until I got to the airport. My passport. I had left it at home on the dining room table.

Oh, no worries, there was another flight just hours later, I rebooked the flght and went home for my passport. Why, you may ask, why didn't you just get a preliminary one? Well, I live in Sweden, but I was about to fly from Oslo in Norway and things like that takes time. It would be easier for me to just return home to get my passport and return - I live pretty much just on the other side of the border. 

So, got back home, packed the passport and returned to the airport just in time for my flight. And that's when I realised that I now had forgotten my wallet at the dining room table. Yeah, it turned out to be my lucky day. I hadn't prepaid the taxi from the airport to the hotel, so how would I manage this now? Costly business, since I was going for an hour ride.

Luckily, the friend that I was going to visit - I should mention that she and I had never met in person before - lent me the cash for the cab. I am so grateful for this and still a bit in chock - only a saint or an angel does that to a total stranger. Well, she is a total sweetheart, so no need to argue about that. She helped me with everything and planned a really nice weekend for me.

Anyway. While the battery on my cell phone was running low, my brother helped me out, finding a Western Unon where I could get money transfered from Sweden to England fast and easy the next day. The problem was, I needed to get from where my hotel was - Apsley - to London for that.

At the hotel, Holiday Inn in Hemel Hempstead/Apsley they helped me to find a Western Union a bit closer though. At a walking distance.

The next day, my friend showed up at eight and we headed out. I was a buffon to think this would be done in a jiffy, but very persistant that I wanted the money before breakfast so that I could repay her. It started out as a really nice walk. Hemel Hempstead is a nice town, old houses mixed with new ones, and in the middle of it all there's a canal with paths on both sides to stroll along, while looking at canal boats. One of the boats were named "The Plot", so of course I had to take a whole bunch of pictures of it.

Although we had an address and everything sorted out - we thought - there was no Western Union as far as the eye could see. The hours passed as we walked back and forth to find the place. 
But, awe and Wonder, we finally did! Fixed all the papers and stuff, and then I realised I had forgotten my passport - again! This time at the hotel room. My friend started to look rather annoyed by now, and I can imagine why. Having a visitor that promptly want to do weird stuff before breakfast would be irritating enough for me to start swearing - I think. She's stoic though, but calls for a cab this time. We return to the hotel and get the passport, then return to the Western Union office. Now you think nothing can go wrong. Riiight.

My dad lives in Gothenburg, it's not a large city, but large enough to have at least one (nah, there's a bunch) Forex office. He's my dad, so of course he helped me out, even though this would destroy his entireday, lending me the cash I had planned to bring with me. He sent it, but listen to this: The name on my passport didn't match the name on the transfer. Nobody told him that he needed all my middle names (I have two) on this stupid piece of paper. My dad had already gotten back home and had to return to the Forex office to get this sorted. OK, so by now I'm utterly restless and irritated, but trying not to show this to my friend. You know, you only have one chance for first impressions, and by now my impression was more or less sawn off by it's feet and tossed to the piranhas. So, trying something I'm utterly bad at usually, and definately not good at when I'm in this mood: polite chitchat. Sweating like h*** too, since it turns out to be a rather lovely day and I'm all dressed up in wool since I'm used to Swedish weather. Yeah, you would get nervous in that situation, wouldn't you? "Do I smell? What to say?", You know, all those normal questions that are asked inside your head when you're meeting someone for the first time.

Dad gets it sorted and I'm pleased, and then we have another problem. The clerk at Forex in Sweden had now spellt my dad's name wrong. All of them, really. SIGH! Another call back to Sweden to sort this out. Hastily, since I really don't want to hold on to that money any more, I toss the bills at my friend and we are off for breakfast. Finally. At eleven o' clock.

After this farse though, I've had a lovely couple of days, but I'm not going to write about that now, because this post was all about NaNoWriMo and Hiccups. 

National Novel Writing Month! Yay! Started today, because it's the first of November! I managed to get 4359 words written; the crappiest words ever, but anyway :D Started to edit some of it this evening, and even made a quick translate. Here's an excerpt, and as I said - QUICK translate:

       The fingers on his left hand curled the piece of paper in his pocket to a narrow tube and unfurled it again without him thinking about it. Fur had already gone through several emotional stages this day; fear, excitement, anxiety, and now bitter regret, so why would he be bothered with what his hands were doing?
       Nerthal at dusk. He'd sure miss her. Was there anything more beautiful? She was like a superannuated old whore; during the day nothing you looked at twice, but in the evening when the light was more in her favour, she was breathtakingly beautiful. Maybe it helped that Fur was slightly drunk. After having thrown up what little had been left in his stomach, he had found a small shady pub on the same square and negotiated with the barkeep to get two glasses of aquavit. It would probably not have been worth the coins; Fur could taste the hooch even though the vast amount of wormwood tried to hide it behind a bitter curtain. The searing heat that spread through his throat, into the stomach and then out through his body was just what he needed though. One glass for the heat, another one for courage. Sure, he promised to come back, on his honor as a gentleman. He would repay his debt as soon as he found his purse. The fact that he managed to convince the barkeep - despite the flattened hat, dirty coat and horrible stench - made Fur slightly impressed with himself.
       The one for the heat had helped. Courage was a bit more difficult. On shaky legs Fur headed home. He could already sense the taste of Mrs. Parsley’s strong tea and the smell of her freshly baked rolls with melting butter and cheese, feel the warmth of the fireplace in the parlor at Truscullus boulevard. Home. Fur sneaked between houses, through the gardens, climbed over them where he didn’t dare to walk. That small piece of paper. It burned through the fabric of his coat pocket and as many times as he'd read it, he knew by now every single word by heart:

Admiral Thur.
5 Captain’s Street at midnight.
Come alone.

Following the text, there was a symbol, something resembling an eye.
Fur shuddered. The history was back to bite him in the neck, and he had not yet noticed the irony of it all.

Oh, and I made a provisional book cover too, just for the fun of it. Wouldn't Fur as a chess piece fit kind of well in a story where he's pretty much played like a pawn? Yeah, it's an old picture, I know ;)