Thursday, October 29, 2009

Quick Note and a Warning!

Hey everybody! Just thought I'd jot off a quick post to say:

1) I'm off to Texas this weekend to kick off NaNoWriMo in epic style with people I met on the internet (don't worry. They're cool. :-))

2) Two days till noveling season!! Posts will be sporadic, brief, and filled with word counts.

Consider yourselves warned.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Where Do Ideas Come From, Anyway?

Since I only have today, tomorrow, and Thursday to outline for NaNo (heading to Texas for an epic kick-off on Friday, so can't outline then!), I figured it was a perfect time to procrastinate and write a new post instead. :-)

I'm sitting here with my window open, sipping black currant tea (which is hands down the greatest invention since sliced bread; I'm thinking it's the nectar of the gods), and pondering the mysteries of the universe. Or something.

At any rate, I thought I'd take this moment to talk about inspiration.

Inspiration is weird. Ideas can come from absolutely anywhere, which is why having a notebook and pen glued to one's self at all times is imperitave. I get inspired by all kinds of things, normal stuff like books and movies and music and paintings, and weird stuff like bathroom floors and the way the sky looks and patterns on plates.

The Whale and the Tree, for example, was inspired by a whole jumble of random things: a single frame from The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants movie that for some reason made me think of mermaids, the atmosphere and mood of Keane's then-newly-released-album Under the Iron Sea, a serving plate emblazoned with an esoteric shape that looked (to me) like a yellow whale, the idea of using myths in the novel ala Megan Whalen Turner's (completely fabulous) The Thief...

The main idea for The Fire in the Glass was sparked, I must admit, by watching Star Wars episode three (the one where I-can't-act teenage Darth Vader turns into I'm-just-a-torso-in-a-scary-suit actual Darth Vader). It was that fiery planet at the end that did it. I started wondering if people could actually live on a world seething with lava, and why they would be there in the first place, and how they would escape... Everything spun out of control from there.

Last year's novel, The Silver Crane, was inspired by a random conversation about cupbearers. I started wondering about cupbearers, and what it would be like to be one, and if they chose their job or if it was chosen for them, and...

This year's novel was born when a friend told me that one of my characters from Fire in the Glass ought to have her own adventures. As it turns out, she's not the main character, but she's gonna be in it a lot, and I decided to give her a Pegasus, because Pegasuses (Pegasi?) are undeniably cool.

So there you have it, a strange and perilous glimpse at the inner workings of my mind.

What inspires you?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Who's Been Outlining? This Gal!!

So I've actually been outlining, and I'm getting super excited about my novel. Go figure. :-)

I gave up wrestling with my ending (for now) and have started Step Eight of the Snowflake Method, which is the one, the only, the invaluable List O' Scenes. This is absolutely the most useful step of the Snowflake, in my opinion, as it's where you get to take grand sweeping statements (like, for instance, "They fall in love") and figure out specific scenes that put your beautifully vague ideas into a format you can actually use. This saves SUCH a lot of headache time during the actual writing of the first draft. I love knowing exactly what's coming next so I can just focus on the scene I'm writing and not worry about it.

Of course sometimes your characters/plot/storyline/whatever decide to do their own thing regardless of the outline, but it generally turns out all right anyway. I often have a hard time getting my characters to talk about what they're supposed to (I have no idea why, but if I leave two characters alone for an extended period of time they tend to wind up discussing Deep Philosophical Truths), but eventually I force them to behave. Well, usually.

But anyways. Where was I?

Oh yeah, Step Eight. I'm currently in the middle of outlining scenes for Chapter Six of The Last Garden. It's all about mermaids, and evil Worms, so basically it's gonna rock. ;-)

I have sixteen-ish chapters planned, which leads me to this Very Exciting Hope:

I really think I can write the entire novel during NaNoWriMo. It's a pretty straightforward storyline (well, as straightforward as you can get when your plot revolves around ten different worlds), and only follows a few characters. Last year I had multiple storylines, six main-ish characters, and lots of (badly written) political drama. The year before it took me the entirety of November and 100,000 words just to get my two main characters into the same universe so they could meet each other.

So it's really looking good.

I think.

Successfully puting off outlining to write this blog,

also known as
Guardian of the Doors between Worlds

Sunday, October 18, 2009

No. 51

Well, it was an interesting week.

On Tuesday I went to pick up Sacred Scars (sequel to Skin Hunger) from the library, and when it wasn't on the holds shelf, I realized with a rapidly sinking heart that I might have waited too long to get it. So I approached the librarian at the desk and inquired after it—she looked up my card, saw that a different hold (Enna Burning; I've had it on hold for months now and it's yet to appear) was still active, and told me as much. I explained to her that, no, it was a different book I was after. She produced a Binder of Lists, and informed me that I was indeed too late to get it, and that it had been sent back. She looked at me and said, in a Very Superior Tone: "It waited a while but it could only wait so long."

I felt myself to be summarily snubbed. I went afterwards to Target, where I managed to misplace my wallet in the parking lot for half an hour. That was fun.

Then I sent out two new query letters, as I'd begun to despair ever hearing back from the full.

On Wednesday, I was attacked with a strange malady of Nausea Induced by Violently Spinning World, and had to stay home from teaching, alternately laying in bed moaning and reading Octavian Nothing.

(Which, on a side note, I finished, and liked a lot, though it was sad and disturbing and a bit unsettling in places. It was excellently written, with an intriguing story, characters, and very interesting viewpoint on the Revolutionary War. I highly recommend it if you can handle some disturbing concepts/scenes.)

Wednesday evening commenced, also the Weekend of Housesitting for Crazy Dogs, which consisted muchly of laying on the couch watching Stargate SG-1 on Hulu (I'm, er, partway through the second season now).

Then came Thursday and Friday, during which I taught piano lessons, housesat, ate ice cream, worked on my outline a liiiiiittttle bit, and watched Stargate. On Saturday, I popped home for a while and received a Large White Envelope in the mail with F & W Publications written on the return address. For about thirty seconds, I entertained wild notions of a multi-million dollar book deal from that errant full, and then I opened it to news almost as good:

My short story, The Painter and the Sky, won an Honorable Mention in the Writer's Digest annual writing competition! For proof, I direct you here. I'm number fifty-one on the list, which means, I suppose, that there were fifty stories esteemed more highly than mine, but, conversely, that there were forty-nine esteemed lower. ;-) Or it could mean nothing at all. Whatever. The point is, out of 13,557 entries (in ten different categories) in a national contest, I got an honorable mention!!! :-) :-) :-)

And that was my week!

Off to outline my novel *cough* watch Stargate *cough*,

Joanna, the Yellow Dart Smith
also known as
Genre Short Story Honorable Mention Winner No. 51

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Sordid Tale

Once upon a time, there lived a young woman who procrastinated working on her NaNoWriMo outline, even though November was just a few weeks away.

On Thursday, before lessons, she procrastinated by reading about mermaids and the National Archives on the interwebs at Paradise Bakery after writing only a few sentences. (Mmmmmmm cookies!!)

On Friday, before lessons, she procrastinated by reading Octavian Nothing whilst getting her tire fixed, then shopping (at Walmart!! She never shops at Walmart!). In the evening, she procrastinated by eating pizza and watching Seinfeld with friends. (Mmmmmmmm pizza!)

On Saturday, she procrastinated by getting up at four in the morning to take her sister to the airport, then returning to said sister's apartment and zonking out until noon-thirty. At which point she procrastinated by drinking tea, watching a movie, showering, and cooking eggs. Which effectively wasted the entire day, because after that she went to a bachelorette party and ate WAFFLES. (Mmmmmm waffles!)

On Sunday, inbetween church services, she procrastinated by going shopping and buying a fabulous hat, and when she finally returned home circa nine in the evening, she procrastinated by watching three episodes of Stargate SG-1 on Hulu and chatting on Facebook until she passed out from exhaustion.

Right now, she is procrastinating by writing this blog.

Things are looking very grim for that outline.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Most Boring Post Ever

Happy Wednesday, peeps!

Not a whole lot going on over here in Joanna-land, I fear. Been outlining The Last Garden (and keep finding plot holes—argh!!), enjoying the suddenly gorgeous weather (SO gorgeous), and trying not to think too much about the full still floating out in agent-land. **sigh**

In other news, I finished A Coalition of Lions yesterday and liked it pretty well, though I didn't find it quite as haunting or compelling as The Winter Prince. I'm still eager to read the third book, though.

And that's about it. NaNo lifts off in twenty-four days!

I'm off to make some tea and enjoy the clouds. :-)

Friday, October 2, 2009

NaNo is Coming! NaNo is Coming!

It's October, and you know what that means? Less than a month till National Novel Writing Month begins! The site's been relaunched. It's all fresh and shiny and waiting to inspire thousands of crazy people all over the world to write a novel in a mere thirty days. Feel the power. Eeeeeeee!!

So to celebrate, I thought I'd give a low-down of my NaNoWriMo experiences thus far:

My first NaNo. Ah, the memories! Wasn't sure at all if I could a) write a novel in a month, or b) write a novel in first person that was a mixture of fantasy and very-badly researched historical fiction. :-) I committed to writing 2,000 words a day to give myself a buffer zone, and when, lo and behold I hit the glorious 50,000 word mark with part of the month still left to go, I decided to see if I could buckle down and get to the actual end of the novel. I finished The Rose Queen on the 30th of November with 84,495 words. Yikes!

Year two. The fear: could I really do this again? The answer: yes. I was way excited about my crazy story idea and went in armed with a detailed outline. That helped. On November 30th I had 104,009 words and the completed first draft of The Whale and the Tree. Did I mention I get a little obsessive and competitive when it comes to word count? Um, cause I do.

Year three, and my first year participating in the NaNoWriMo Viddler group (which rocks). I gave up trying to deny the fact that I was going to go way over 50k, and started typing like a fiend. By the end of the month, I had 103,888 words, but only half of a novel (my main characters had only, erm, just met). It took me until the end of March to finish the monster that is The Fire in the Glass, which eventually clocked in at 209k.

Year four. I kicked it off in Tucson (a drab little town a couple hours south of Phoenix. Sorry people who live there, but it's true) with fellow writers I met through the Viddler group, and proceeded to once more lose myself in the delicious heady rush of noveling at high speed. On November 30th I had 112,253 words and another unfinished novel. I completed the first draft of The Silver Crane at the end of March with just under 193k.

Year five. The goal? Actually finish the novel during November. Wish me luck with that. :-P 

So those are my NaNos in a nutshell. I cannot gush enough about what a fantastic experience NaNoWriMo is. I've met fabulous people, written a proverbial ton of words, and drunk lots of tea whilst staring out windows. What isn't to love about that??

Off to get lunch and make me a donation and buy me a t-shirt,