Thursday, November 30, 2023

Some Annotated Reading November 30

True Biz by Sara Novic is one of those books that has such a long waiting list on Libby that by the time it turns up for me, I've forgotten why I placed the hold. It takes place in a boarding school for the deaf and deals with a multitude of teenage things, but, additionally, two methods of communication for the deaf, sign language or ocular implants. Interesting point: I often complain about books for the young that appear to be written to teach them something, claiming that I don't see that in adult books. This book does seem to be written to teach adult readers something, it just seemed to do it really well. Or perhaps it's just that the deaf community is something I know very little about, so being exposed to it was fascinating.

I was looking for mystery/thrillers to read and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn had been on my Kindle for some time. I bought it on sale, but because I'd seen, and liked, the movie years ago, I didn't bother to read it. I bothered this month, and it is a very good read. I rewatched the movie this past weekend. The ending of the book is much grimmer than the ending of the movie. Interesting point: Writers often read that they must have likable characters, certainly a likable main character. One of Gone Girl's main characters is unlikable and the other is a psychopath. Yet Flynn pulls it off.

So then I decided to read one of Gillian Flynn's earlier books, Dark Places. Holy Moses, it makes Gone Girl look light and fluffy. Interesting point: Talk about unlikable characters! This one has some unlikable child victims. Again, Flynn pulls it off.

Another interesting point: All three of these books use multiple points of view, something I didn't realize was used that much in adult work. With Flynn's books, in particular, you really get different voices with the different point of view characters, something I think doesn't happen a lot with YA and middle grade, in which the characters often sound alike.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Time Management Tuesday: December! Still Another Temporal Landmark

You haven't been seeing much of me here, because I've been intently working on my National Novel Writing Month project, which I did, indeed, finish his past Sunday, five days early. As I've tried to make clear, I wasn't doing a traditional NaNoWriMo 50,000-word first draft. I was doing a revision of a completed manuscript that I think comes in around 80,000 words. Nonetheless, it is probably my most successful National Novel Writing Month effort.

Now, this fall I went on, and not for the first time, about the splendors of NaNoWriMo as a temporal landmark, a special occasion/calendar date(s) that mark out a period of time that's different from what came before, an event or period that creates an opportunity for a fresh start. (Paraphrasing myself there.) Damn if we don't finish the NaNoWriMo temporal landmark season then we head right into another. 

Advent/Holiday Season/End of Year

Whether you want to go all Christian and think of December as Advent or you'd prefer to think of it as the holiday season, because there is a boatload of them (the article linked to is from last year, so many of the dates aren't accurate for 2023), or just preparation for the end of the year, December makes many of us feel that it's different from what came before and most definitely different from what will come later.

Often that difference involves being overwhelmed, because even if we're not big holiday people, ourselves, our culture (capitalist culture?) loves them. Town events, school events, family events, musical events--the demands and distractions go on and on. Additionally, many day jobs may require end-of-the-year rushes, because even if the year's end isn't the end of the fiscal year, it's the end of the year. Come on, people, everyone knows that means something.

Writers In December

Writers, especially writers with day jobs or families or day jobs and families, who also have a contractual end-of-the-year writing deadline--congratulations! Though it's been a long time since I've been in this situation, I know it's going to be rough for you. I'm going to be honest and say that I don't have much advice to offer other than:

  • The only way out is through.
  • Nothing lasts forever.
  • When this is over, think about some end-of-the-year life prep you can do in the future well before December to help if this happens to you again. 
For the rest of us, December may not be a good time to start working on a new novel or that history of women who received master's degrees in the nineteenth century. It may not be a good time to decide you must get up at five every morning to write or even to write two hours a day. Taking on big things when you're strapped for time is a good way to wreck your self-esteem and wrecking your self-esteem leads to failures of impulse control and once you're impulse control is shot, well, it's going to be difficult coming back in January.

That doesn't mean you should take the month of December off, either. December is a great time to work on small things that will help us next year and additionally support our identities as writers. Such as, Gail?
  • Got a manuscript ready to submit? Researching agents takes time, but can be done in short bursts here and then. Prepare a list of agents you can submit that project to in January. 
  • Do you write short pieces? In 2021 I spent the month of December just starting 31 short story or essay a day. That was one a day. Of those 32 starts, 6 have been completed and published. I started to do the same thing last year, but only made it to 15. Hey, but 15 starts. 
  • Research for a novel or nonfiction! I love research! It's great for December, because, like researching agents, it can be done in bits and pieces whenever you can make time. 
  • Reading markets, which is another way of saying researching markets, can also be done in odds and ends of time. I'm talking about reading print and on-line journals to see if they publish the kinds of things you write and would thus be a good choice for a submission next year.
  • Cleaning your office wouldn't require a lot of mental energy from you at a time when you may not have much. At least get the filing done? Make sure you're up-to-date with keeping track of your submissions? Yes, I have some things sitting on the desk that surrounds me that I could try doing something with. 
  • Have you got craft books (by which I mean writing craft) and articles stowed away somewhere? Another task that can be worked around the end of the year chaos.
Doing one or more things like these during December would mean truly accomplishing something, not just making you feel you have. 

Additionally, these are also all examples of how writers can work every day, or nearly so, without having to enslave themselves to the write-every-day order. Because being a writer involves more than writing. Working through December can help us learn that.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Friday Done List For November 24

I have started revising the last chapter of the manuscript I'm revising for NaNoWriMo. I am so close to being able to submit some short pieces next month. And clean up my email inboxes again. (Not that I'd finished them.) And start making a list of agents to submit this to. Oh, and looking for OCWW workshops to take! Maybe I can take one next month. And get some Christmas shopping done. Oh, and blogging, of course.

There is a lot of joy to be had with being almost finished with a project.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Friday Done List For November 10

National Novel Writing Month has been going well, even though I've missed one day for family and will be missing a lot of the coming weekend. Of course, I'm not writing an entire first draft this month, I'm doing a revision, so the demands aren't as great.

Goal 1. Finish 143 Canterbury Road As An Adult Book

  • My NaNoWriMo project is a revision of this book. I am down to the last two chapters, but they may be rough. Much of the earlier part of the book had gone through four drafts. These last two chapters had gone through only one. The last chapter, in particular, needs a lot of work. I'm waiting until next week.

Goal 2. Work On Adult Short Stories, Essays, And Humor

  • Got a rejection this week!

Friday, November 03, 2023

Friday Done List For November 3

National Novel Writing Month started three days ago. Since then I've been staying focused/on task with one project. 

Goal 1. Finish 143 Canterbury Road As An Adult Book

  • This was finished earlier in the year. I'm doing what I call a "tonal" revision for National Novel Writing Month. In three days, I've completed maybe a third of the job. This makes me hopeful that I'll finish by the end of the month. However, I have a number of family things coming up this month. Also, it has been my experience that everything takes more time than I think it will.

Goal 2. Work On Adult Short Stories, Essays, And Humor

  • I made a submission to Smokelong Quarterly at the beginning of the week before starting NaNoWriMo. I don't expect to do any more on this goal this month.

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding. 

  • Four blog posts, counting this one.
  • Attended Musings & Movement yesterday, a monthly Zoom program. This is the second time I've attended. I can't say I have done any community building there, but attending makes me feel one with other writers. Both times I've also come away with some creative ideas.
  • Did a couple of Goodreads reviews. My main interest with Goodreads is keeping track of my reading. If any community building or marketing happens, that's fine.

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Getting Serious About Writing Humor: Maybe Writers Of Adult Work Just Shouldn't Write For Children

Today I'm writing about another humor fail that shall remain nameless, because I just can't come up with anything good to say about it. It was written by someone who writes adult humor, and it's supposed to be a humorous middle grade novel.

  • First and foremost: Humor in children's fiction is just like humor in adult fiction--it should come out of the situations you're dealing with. It should be wholistic and natural and never heavy-handed and obvious like a lesson. And don't think you don't have to really be funny, because you're writing for kids. Don't think kids love jokes and one-liners and you can just salt a novel with them. That comes off awkwardly. It stops narrative flow. Narrative flow always matters.
  • Please don't try to use humor to teach kids something. Using children's fiction to teach is very common in books written by people who have been writing for adults and have little knowledge of children's books. I am repeating myself here, but teaching is a teacher's job, not a writer's. A writer's job is to create a world child readers will want to be part of for the time it takes them to read it, with a coherent story that is supported by every word they write. It's not to change these readers lives with a lesson so heavy-handed a minister wouldn't touch it. A good story may open up readers' minds to something new, but it rarely happens because a writer set out to use fiction to teach kids about climate change or not to be bullies or how to be good friends.