Archive | June, 2012

My June Camp NaNoWriMo is DONE!

27 Jun

88,370 words, completed first draft. DONE DONE DONE. I’m pretty excited!

One of these things is not like the other. Oh wait, yes it is.

25 Jun

I have lately been very discouraged at the fiction that seems to be incredibly popular, esp with women of all ages. (And by all ages, I mean inappropriately young ages… which makes me annoyed and start yelling “what are their mothers thinking letting them read this crap?!”) But already I digress… Even a cursory exploration of the “Popular” tab on Pinterest will lead you to covers for the following books/series (I’m going to say books from now on, but I know that 3 of the 4 are series, so just live with it) and multiple comments about how great, fabulous, wonderful, best book ever, changed my life, etc.  And I honestly wonder if it’s a joke, but I’m afraid it’s not. Which is what makes me really discouraged, frustrated and sad. So here they are:

1. Redeeming Love

This is a Christian romance novel. I have read, on Pinterest, that it is “second only to the Bible.” I kid you not. Second only to the Bible. OK. I read this book when I was asked by an agent to write a Christian historical romance, because I’d never read one. My college age daughter had this, given to her by a friend who said how wonderful, fabuous, amazing it was. (For the record, I’m happy to report that she thought it was terrible.) She said, “I have this book you can read, but it’s really bad…” Well heck, it’s romance, I didn’t expect, well, a book second only to the Bible, so sure, why not. I read it in a day while visiting her, and she kept seeing my expression and saying, “I told you! And you can stop reading any time, it’s just the same thing over and over.”

First, let me assure you that it is not second only to the Bible. It’s not even 2000th only to the Bible. It’s poorly written (by which I mean I felt zero emotional connection to this book except disgust until – literally – page 464 of the 465 pages), but the worst part is that it is graphically about child rape, child prostitution, and child trafficking. Oh and adult rape and adult prostitution. Now theoretically it’s the story of Hosea (from the Bible), who God told to marry a prostitute, and then keep going back to get her when she kept returning to prostitution. So I get the connection. But it’s graphically about those things, especially the child-sex part, and it is disgusting, disturbing, and wretched. And the fact that Michael Hosea (how’s that for a clever character name?) loves his former prostitute wife anyway, and the fact that he prays, does not in any way, shape or form make up for the grossness of the book. Not to mention that Michael is perfect. Absolutely perfect. And consequently not at all believable.

My daughter says that Redeeming Love proves that, these days, all you have to do to sell a book as Christian is put the word “God” or a prayer in there every couple of chapters. Because honestly, if you have any spiritual sensitivity at all, you won’t get past the first few chapters of this book before your spirit starts screaming “NO NO NO NO NO!” And then you have bad dreams. And get to work on purging it from your mind because it is doing actual harm to your spirit.

For full disclosure, I am a Christian. I watch R rated movies, drink scotch, think sex is an amazing gift from God, and live my life in freedom. So I’m in no way, shape or form a prude, a legalist, or “religious.”

2. The Hunger Games, etc.

I read these to see what all the hubub was about. I still don’t know. I read all three, and my take away was basically that it was disturbing, gross, graphic and completely lacking in likable, sypathetic characters (except 2, and they kill both of them off, so my point still stands). My teenage son didn’t want to read the books but he did want to see the movie, so I went with him (and I’m happy to report that he didn’t like it). I was horrified to find that there was much discussion online about the suitability of dropping off tweens to see this movie in groups. Um, what? Seriously? On what planet do we send an 11 year old with a group of friends to watch a bunch of people HER OWN AGE killing each other for sport? Did I miss the time warp back to ancient Rome? I had someone tell me it wasn’t violent… And I asked him what part of cyborg-ish engineered dogs eating someone alive, a teenager throwing a spear through a 12 year old’s stomach at close range, blood splashing all over the place as a dozen kids slash each other to pieces to get a backpack… which part of those (and many other equally lovely scenes) wasn’t violent? OK, fine, you want to go see it, go. If you insist on giving in to your tween’s demand to see it because “everyone else is”, then go WITH HER. Talk about it.

There is, at least, some redeeming value in these books if you can get past the gore, and that’s the anti-big government, anti-Hollywood expose. But those lessons aren’t worth the self absorbed characters, the complete lack of any spirituality at all (positive or negative), the ever increasing grossness of the ways the Capitol thinks of to kill people, and people think of to kill each other, and the sputter-to-a-stop-because-I’m-done-now ending.

3. Twilight

Badly written? Check. Absusive male? Check. Woman willing to do anything to make abusive man love her? Check.

What’s the deal with the glorification of rape these days? Since when have we decided that guys who are manipulative, creepy, stalkers are the kind we would do anything for. And since when is it ok to tell our precious daughters this? Would you actually say this to your daughter? If she came home and did a Bella, and gushed all about Edward and his creepy stalkerness, would you say, “Wow, he sounds great, and he’s rich!” I sincerely, truly, hope not. Really. Because it’s really pretty scary to think that this whole generation of young women are so in love with Edward, and think Bella is so lucky. Really.

4. 50 Shades of Grey

And this is my biggest concern. Because this crap is insanely popular, supposedly women all over the country want their husbands to be like Christian Grey, and the sex is “rejuvinating” marriages. OK, do you get that this is BDSM? And not, actually, consensual BDSM, because Ana says Christian “hits” and “beats” her, and she’s always trying to find a way to get away from him. He is a seriously, and I mean seriously, creepy stalker. For goodness sake, he buys kidnapping supplies from Ana the first time he comes to her work! He threatens to rape her in public, multiple times. He gets mad when people call her – get that, not when she calls people, but when they, outside of her control, call her. He controls her food. He keeps showing up at places he has no business knowing about, and taking control of her. The things he wants to do to her… OK, if you’re into BDSM, that’s your thing. I don’t get it, but if it’s safe and consensual, whatever. In 50 Shades of Grey, it is neither. You keep expecting him to just kill her and get it over with. He is a creepy, sick, bad, bad person. And yet, THIS is apparently the kind of relationship that millions of women around the country want with their husbands. I feel like I’ve been dropped into an alternative universe.

A couple of major issue, but more minor than the above, are that the book is really badly written and it is plagarized, for all intents and purposes. E.L. James used to post fan fiction using the name Snowqueens Icedragon. She posted the 50 Shades stuff as Twilight fan fiction, using the Twilight characters. Then she changed the names and published it as “original”. Why the heck she hasn’t been sued by Stephanie Meyer or her publisher, I have no idea. Fan fic is fine. Lots of people enjoy it, and most fan fic writers are doing it because they love the characters and know them well. But you can’t publish fan fiction as original work. It’s just not done. It’s not ethical, and theoretically it’s not legal.

So there’s my rant. But it’s not just that all of these (except The Hunger Games, I’ll give Suzanne Collins that) are badly written. That doesn’t effect me, my own ability to write or craft a tale, or to publish. But it does effect my ability to live in this society. It makes me question my fellow human beings and what in the heck is going on when these kinds of books, with these kinds of stories and these kinds of themes are the ones making millions. I am all for capitalism. Go make millions! That’s wonderful. But millions on this crap… wow. That’s really all I can say. Wow.

 

Camp NaNoWriMo – over 70,000 words!

22 Jun

I crossed 70k today, and I am a happy camper (literally!)! This wasn’t one of those days where the words flowed and I wrote my 3500 in an hour or two. This was the day when I got a hundred emails, my kids wanted to talk to me, I had the munchies, it was sunny and I was enjoying the view in my sunroom, I was daydreaming about the beach, I checked the news every thirty minutes in case some catastrophic world event happened and I didn’t know about it instantaneously… And, of course, it was possible that all of my Facebook friends had glad Friday tidings that I needed to know about asap. Seriously, this is what happened.

But I did get my 3400+ words written in about three hours, and just updated my Camp NaNoWriMo word count. I also found, much to my surprise, that someone in my cabin had posted yesterday. Since it had been 10 days since anyone but me had, I hadn’t even checked yesterday. Go figure! We still have a cabin that’s dead as a doornail, and if the camp is depending on us for any camp-like activities, everyone else is going to be sorely disappointed. But it was nice to know that someone was still hanging in there, anyway.

So the best things about Camp NaNo?

  • A deadline hanging over my head
  • Watching people meet their goals
  • Reading all the encouragement someone gets if they start a “desperate writer” thread – we are all cheering for each other, even with the summer camp more relaxed feel
  • the idea of the cabins

The things that are not as great as in November?

  • The reality of cabins. We don’t have cabins in November, but our region rocks.
  • No regional component
  • Not a lot of actual conversation on the forums, just a lot of posting (like Twitter)
  • The days are so nice it’s hard to want to be inside – in November it’s pretty easy!

But the NaNo format works for me, as I’ve said before. I have always been a “project” person. I don’t just clean out the pantry, I take a 3lb hammer, demolish it, and build it back. I don’t just clean my office, I go through boxes of papers and put up shelving and redecorate. (Consequently, things get done rather sporadically, rather than regularly!) NaNo is like that – if you’re a project person, or like an adrenaline rush, it’s fabulous. If you write fast on top of those things, it’s tailor made for you. However, if you are a ponderer, if you like to mull over word choices, if you type slowly or find your comfort zone more in the 800-1000 words a day, then NaNo isn’t for you AS IT’S DESIGNED. BUT, and hear me out, consider joining as a rebel.

What is a NaNo rebel, you ask? Well, you can do a lot of things and be considered a rebel (I’m kind of list happy tonight, sorry):

  • Write 50k words, but something other than a novel (ie a memoir, fan fiction, non-fiction)
  • Write on a WIP (work in progress) rather than an original-to-this-NaNo novel
  • Write a screenplay, or other Script Frenzy type work, which will be shorter than 50k but complete – stage play, graphic novel, tv series episodes, etc
  • Set a goal lower than 50k

Now, in November, most rebels fall into the top 3 in the list above. In November you have over 250,000 people engaging in “30 days and nights of literary abandon” and for the most part they’re working to the 50k or completed work goals. But for the Camps, a lot of people have set lower goals of 10,000 or 25,000 or whatever they think they can fit into the summer month where the weather is nice and the kids are out of school, or they themselves are out of school (there are a lot of teens doing Camp NaNo).  And you know what? That 10,000 or 25,000 is more than they had when they started. So what if it’s not 50k, they wrote something.

There are a good number of criticisms on the internet about NaNo, and I have to say that I find them discouraging when they come from other writers. The single biggest one reminds me of the single biggest comment we get as homeschoolers. That is, “What about socialization?” My kids call it the “s word”. And that is possibly the stupidest question to ever ask of a homeschooling family (helpful hint there), because homeschool kids tend to be highly involved in activities they like, tend to be incredibly comfortable talking to people of all ages, and tend to have much less issues with the typical teen stuff than other kids.

OK, so what is the NaNo equivalent? I read this same theme three times today, on three different sites (blogs). It is that most NaNo novels are crap. And somehow that’s a bad thing. As a commenter on one of these sites noted, most art people do, especially when they’re just learning, is crap, but nobody stands around the art supply store and says “STOP DOING THAT, YOU’RE RUINING IT FOR THE REST OF US!” (I know this to be true, as an artist who occasionally paints crap myself.) Yet somehow, rather than celebrating that people are writing, or trying to write, 50k words of a first draft, fully accepting that they will indeed write crap, and that that’s OK, people criticize.

Now first of all, and forgive my pet peeve, but what the heck does someone in Uganda writing a novel in 30 days, perhaps badly, have to do with you in the first place? For that matter, if your neighbor is a WriMo, it still has absolutely nothing to do with you. If you are a successful writer of fabulous literary fiction, it still has nothing to do with you. Zero, zip, nada. Secondly, if you are a writer, you know how hard it can be to start, especially at the beginning. Hey, you’re putting yourself onto that page, and that’s a scary thing. Plus writing a whole novel, with characters and plots and settings, is damn hard. Especially if you’re a young person without a lot of life experience. So the fact that someone started, that they may even persevere for a whole month and get those 50k words written, is cause for celebration from everybody, and most especially from other writers.

And thirdly, it seems that most non WriMos assume that everyone doing NaNoWriMo is going to try to become an indie author and self publish, somehow polluting the indie gene pool, or even worse, try to get an agent or publisher. I’ve been on the forums a lot (too much, I’m sure), and I can tell you that the vast majority of the people doing it are doing it for the challenge, for the personal satisfaction of saying they wrote the first draft of a novel, and virtually no one is talking about publishing. Sure, there are forums for “novel aftercare” and “life after NaNo”, and there are a small number of people (like me) who were experienced writers already and who produced something that, upon reading and editing, is worth publication. And sure, there are a few who have delusions of grandeur, but is that unique to NaNo?  Quite frankly, some God-awful books get published, by legacy publishers, all the time. I have a book on my nightstand, a trade paperback so it cost me probably $13-15, that’s terrible, and I just can’t finish it. So that’s not a NaNo issue, that’s a human nature issue… And guess what, it still has nothing to do with you, or any other writer out there.

Our job as writers is to write, for ourselves, for our readers, for readers we don’t have but want to reach. Perhaps our goal is the next great literary novel that will taught in colleges for years to come. Go for it! My goal is to write entertaining books with great, unique plots and characters, great dialogue, that appeals to people and gives them entertainment. I, personally, LOVE books. I am addicted to books. I have bought tens of thousands of books in my life (when we moved to this house, I gave over 3000 books to a local school’s library because we weren’t going to have room for them here). Sure, I like “quality” books – JRR Tolkein and CS Lewis and The Count of Monte Cristo and Sherlock Holmes. Some Shakespeare. Some Dostoyevsky. But what I really love, what I read over and over when I’m out of new things, are books that entertain me. (Yep, I’m admitting it!) Martha Grimes, Dick Francis, John MacDonald, Janet Evanovich, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books, Stephen Lawhead, James Rollins… I want good characters, I want (above almost all else) great dialogue, I want quirky or unique plots and situations. I want to read and fall into that world for awhile, and miss it when it’s gone. It doesn’t have to be a literary classic, it has to be fun.

All that to say… If NaNo gets people writing, whether it’s great or crap, they’re writing, and that’s better than what they were doing before. I feel the same way about the visual arts. I’ve been in art classes with some people with pretty much zero talent, but they had an absolute blast in the class, loved splooging paint on the paper, and whose enthusiasm was worth way more than their finished product. They got joy from it. They started to find their lost spirit of creativity. They had fun. And honestly, do we have so much of those things in our lives that we can afford to squash them in ourselves or others?

Camp NaNoWriMo and migraines – no correlation!

18 Jun

I’m moving along well with the new NaNo novel – 57,104 words before today’s writing. And more importantly, I think the story is coming along well. What I realized in the last few days is that I am really energized up til I cross the 50,000 “win” mark, and then the doldrums hit. For most people doing NaNo, the doldrums hit in weeks 2 and 3… Week 1 is exciting because you’re off and running, and week 4 is exciting, because the end is in sight. 2 and 3? Meh, whatever.

For me, I’m really jazzed to cross that finish line (although I know I’m not finished) and be in house money. So that’s been about 2 weeks. But from that point to about 70,000, that’s when I hit it. That dreaded middle. The “yeah, whatever, let’s get this puppy finished” point. It’s not the the writing gets hard, or the story gets bad – at least that didn’t happen in November. It’s just an enthusiasm gap. Like the background of a needlepoint pillow. Yeah, you gotta do it. Yeah, it’s important to the plot. Yeah, it’s only 20,000 words. Blah blah blah. And I’m writing. I actually wrote nearly 4,000 yesterday, and a pretty good scene in there, if I do say so myself. But it’s not… fun. It’s work.

Aha! Say all the amateur psychologists out there. And yes, I get it. And yes, I’m plugging through it. And yes, since I plan to make this my “mid-life” career (hey, if Paula Dean can get going at 48, I’ve got time!), I know there will be work involved. So I’m really just grousing… Not complaining. And the good news is, at 3-4,000 words a day, it doesn’t take too long to get out of the doldrums!

Now the migraines… That I don’t have an answer for. I got migraines when I was pregnant the second time, which is, apparently, not unusual with 2nd and later pregnancies. I’ve gotten a few scattered throughout the years since, and over the last year, they’ve been increasing in frequency from less than one a year to maybe three. But in the last two months I’ve had them almost exactly 2 weeks apart. I was awakened at 2:30 this morning with one, and I was not a happy camper. I have realized that being even a little dehydrated contributes, but for these last two that wasn’t a factor. I know I get them from even a little wine, so I don’t drink wine. I ate fresh grouper, fresh salad, and homemade bread for dinner. No MSG or anything weird there. This is a mystery I need to solve – and in the meantime, I need some serious meds. No lie.

Summer with Camp NaNoWriMo!

7 Jun

Yes, folks, I’m back at the writing. It would probably be awesome if I enjoyed exercise in these intense bursts as much as I enjoy writing this way, but alas… My fitness level is way below my “completed projects” level!

Logo

Camp NaNo is going on in June and August. It’s the same as the November “big event” except much smaller, meaning you still write 50,000 words in 30 days, but there aren’t a quarter of a million people plus doing the same thing around the world. There is one forum on the regular NaNo boards for Camp, with many threads, but it’s not nearly as interactive with your fellow WriMos as November. And there’s a Camp NaNo website, where you can find the other 5 in your cabin and post on a message board, update your word count, get pep talk emails, etc.

I LOVE doing the November NaNo because of the comeraderie, and the fact that there are many, many people in my age group and genre(s), and you really get a lot of actual conversation. What I find with Camp is that there are a lot of teens and early twenties, and most in the fantasy/scifi genre. Which is fine, I love seeing what everyone’s doing, but it’s not the same level of interaction and life experience sharing. BUT (big but here, no intentional pun on my second sentence of the post), I really do well with the 30 day sprint format, and really enjoy it.

This time around I’m writing a Christian Civil War era romance. Yeah, I know, go figure! For those of you who know me, you know that I’m not a chick flick watcher, nor a romance novel reader. However, I do enjoy history, and my November NaNo novel was about 1/3 set in the 1680s. The romance part is a little more difficult, although I can do it – it just isn’t what comes naturally. The Christian part is great, being able to fully express my beliefs and my view of our personal relationship with our Father.

So so far so good! I’m at 20,830 words before writing today, and with the pouring rain here in the Sunshine State, I will aim to at least cross 25,000 by the end of the day. My young couple has eloped, and my main male character has volunteered for the 1st South Carolina Infantry, which is going to give him a lot of excitement over the next 20,000 words or so. My main female character is forlorn but leaning on God. The War is about to start. Sounds exciting, huh?!