Monday, November 30, 2009

NaNoWriMo Winner

So, for some reason I thought it would be an awesome idea to participate in NaNoWriMo despite the fact that my plate was already full to overflowing with a full MFA course load, a full time job, and a family who likes attention now and then. But hey, what the heck, who needs sanity anyway? So I plunged into the NaNoWriMo experience. Thankfully I had a strong concept of my story. I had plotted it out in broad terms and knew where I wanted it to go. Of course, along the way it veered away from where I thought it should go a couple of times, but I managed to rein it in and get back on course. And today, on the very last possible day, I crossed the NaNoWriMo 50000 word finish line and "won" - Yay me!

Of course the novel isn't finished yet, but now I can slow down to slightly less than breakneck pace, perhaps 1000 words per day?, and finish it with a little more leisure.

I definitely recommend the NaNoWriMo experience to any and all writers. It's complete and utter insanity, but it's also incredibly invigorating and inspiring as a writer. For 30 days you commune and commiserate with a community of writers who all have a common purpose: to write 50000 words in a month. It's heady stuff; frustrating and fun. I fully intend to do it again next year. If nothing else, it will boost your confidence that you can get that many words on the page - it forces you to write instead of stare at the blankness.

So there you go. I won. Hooray! Has anyone else done NaNo? What was your experience?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Word about POV

Trying to decide what point of view to use when writing can be tricky. Your choice can depend on a lot of different factors, and even then you can get partway through a manuscript and realize you made the wrong choice. I made that mistake myself when I started my first novel. I began with first person and then realized I needed to get into the other characters' heads too, so had to go back and rewrite 25000 words from a third person POV. It was an interesting challenge.

Now I'm working on my second novel, the second in a series of three, and I'm very happy with the third person POV. It works well in this case.

I bring up the whole issue of POV because I just read a novel written in first person plural POV, The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides. I've got to applaud him for taking the risk, especially since it was his debut novel, and obviously it paid off for him because the novel is well respected and it was made into a movie. However, for me, I'm not so sure it was effective. In fact, because of the anonymity of the narrators (a nebulously vague group of neighborhood boys) and the distance the POV puts between the reader and the suicide victims, I found that the POV specifically made me less engaged in the story. Because I couldn't identify with only one narrator or any of the suicide victims, there was nothing to identify with and as I writer I would think it your first concern would be to engage your reader and keep them engaged.

My guess is that the novel did so well because of two factors (and if you plan to read it but haven't, you might want to stop here): first the uniqueness of the POV, but secondly the morbid curiosity factor with regard to the suicides. Eugenides draws the reader in with one suicide immediately, appealing to the lookie-loo in all of us and then promises more gruesomeness but doesn't deliver until the very end of the book when the rest of the girls kill themselves all at once, in kind of an anticlimax. Everything in between is musings, meanderings, felt like filler to me - philosophical and moderately interesting - but still filler.

So I'm basically on the fence about this novel. As a writer it was an interesting lesson in POV, but as a reader it really wasn't all that satisfying. I think I'll stick to writing in either first or third person (singular!) POV.

What kinds of experiences and/or preferences do you have when it comes to POV?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Progress and New Focus

Well, I'm halfway through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and I'm keeping up with the word count and I think the plot is still holding together, so that's a really good thing. I read posts on Twitter #nanowrimo about people who's plots are falling apart and they're just writing random scenes to make word count. I really want to complete a coherent story, and so far I haven't had too many hand-wringing moments when I wasn't sure where the story was headed.

I also managed to start writing the first draft of my screenplay (which is my MFA thesis). I'm about halfway through the first act. So far it seems to be pretty solid, considering I'm learning format as I go. We'll see how the first draft turns out.

I also presented my paper at the Women's Studies conference and it went quite well. I was very pleased.

I obviously need to find a focus for this blog. Just updating the writing projects I'm working on is not very interesting, nor is it purposeful. I think I'll spend some time considering what I want the goal of this blog to be and then revamp it some.

Anyone have any suggestions? What you'd like to see? What has worked on other blogs? Something you haven't seen in the blog world but would like to?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hacking Through the Undergrowth

Yesterday when I posted I was lamenting about being lost in my NaNoWriMo plot already, but I'm happy to report that today I believe the direction has become clear(er) least for the next couple of chapters anyway. It's amazing how immersing yourself in a story and being forced to write daily can cause the imagination to churn into high gear and solve those sticky plot problems.

I'm loving it!

Hopefully I can get today's writing goal out of the way before I step on the train to head to the conference.

Talk to y'all later!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Making Progress

So...I'm participating in NaNoWriMo this month and so far not doing too badly. I'm a couple hundred words behind where I should be, but I'm confident I can catch that up. It's good to get back to these characters. I've missed them over the last month. However, the problem lies in the fact that I'm four days in and already hit a roadblock. The path of this story seems to be overgrown and hazy and although I have an overall global view of the course it will take, I don't have a specific road map so I'm working at hacking through the brush and finding my way through the fog. But that's half the fun of NaNoWriMo...or so I'm told. For any of the rest of you who are participating and want to buddy up, my nickname is: mkdbail.

I'm also working on my presentation for the women's studies conference I'm going to attend this weekend. For anyone who's interested, it's entitled: "Images of Women in East of Eden: Cathy as Masculine or Monster?" I realized my speech runs over the time limit so I need to cut it some and then practice it so I won't look like a moron or have to read it word for word off the page. We'll see how this whole episode goes. I'm starting to get nervous.

And just a trivial note: I'm over halfway through my first MFA semester and it appears I'll survive it, barring any drastic unforeseens. Then it's only 3 more semesters to go...Yay!

Hope everyone had a good Halloween, hope autumn is treating you well, and that winter's vengeance hasn't hit you yet. (Here in ND we've had one snowstorm in October which left us about an inch of snow that melted the next day. Since then just cool and clear. Everyone's on pins and needles waiting for the next shoe - or snowstorm - to drop).