Tag Archives: nanowrimo

NaNoWriMo is Here

That’s that time of the year, folks. NaNoWriMo time. November is a novel writing month, and as usual, it makes me excited. This time, though, I am busy with other things so I honestly don’t have idea how I’m going to accomplish the whole “write 50 000 words in 30 days”. On the other hand, I can’t help but wanting to participate, so… here I am.

I discovered NaNoWriMo in 2010, at a particularly weird moment in my life, when I desperately needed something to uplift me and take my mind off the harsh reality of being an university educated person who can’t find a job. It was just a slap in the face, you know? I needed something to look forward to, something to call my own, an accomplishment of some sorts, and NaNoWriMo provided a perfect outlet. My novel, “A Postcard from Hades” was born there, and it still holds a special place in my heart despite being imperfect and, well demanding more work.

This year, I’m writing in English (good luck to me about that). I figured it would fit the story and it will help me practice my English. I feel passionate about and really invested in psychology behind it, even though I am not completely sure how to build the plot or how dark it’s going to be. (I am not really into dark stories per se – I like to read some of them but I can’t write them well. No idea why).

The first thing I had with this story was a title, back in 2010 or so. The first plot idea revolved around a supernatural girl who can harm humans but wants to avoid it at all costs and her love interest who helps her. Somehow (no idea how) it evolved into a story about succubi and incubi and a complex method of their survival and reproduction. The core of the story, though, is identity and figuring out you are not who you thought you were. There are many things to explore here.

The Bechdel Test for Novels?

womenNote: this post is made directly from my reply on a NaNoWriMo thread. I figured my reply was long enough (and hopefully eloquent enough) so I wanted to share it. For full discussion and other opinions, please visit the board.

The board commenter Millie714 made an interesting thread: can/should the Bechdel test be used for novels. If yes, in what form? Namely, is the Bechdel test applicable to novels, how much effort a writer should put into creating characters that represent our world (characters who represent multiple genders, races, and orientations) and if writers should be true to certain settings (for example, predominantly white towns or time periods) even if it means sacrificing inclusiveness.

As a writer who does think about this stuff, here’s my stance on the issue.

I think the Bechdel test (be it original, race Bechdel test, sexual orientation, etc.) is a nice thought experiment when you want to take notice of cumulative works. Such as, all movies released in the US in 2013. You take the list and see how many movies pass the test. I don’t have this list but I don’t doubt most of them will fail. Heck, I bet many would fail even the first requirement (“having two named female/POC characters”) Which is a good indicative that something is wrong and should be changed.

But on an individual level, it shouldn’t be taken as a law or a rule. There are actually many decent movies that don’t pass the test and many bad (and even misogynistic and racist, etc.) movies that do. Personally, I despise Sex and the City and I think it’s full of backwards ideas about sex and gender, but it passes the test.

So I do see the Bechdel test as a valuable tool. Not sure if it can be easily translated to an author’s individual written work, though. First of all, books and movies are different animals. A novel is, for the most part, a work made by one person; movies are, for the most part, a joined effort. In order to have two women talking to each other about something other than a man, all a writer needs to do is to write the scene and put it in the novel. In order to have the same scene appear in the movie, it has to be written by a screenwriter, included by a director, approved by a producer and it also has to survive the editing and the cutting room floor. It just requires more effort and different rules apply to novels.

But yes, I do think people should take the head out of the sand (or their own ass) and look around.

The problem is not having a predominantly white cast of characters in an area that is predominantly white – the problem is that the majority of (published) stories are centered around predominantly white areas and concerning white people only. Whenever something deviates from this “norm” it is labeled either chick lit (if it contains more women than is considered comfortable/acceptable), African-American/POC (if it contains more black people/POC people), gay & lesbian (if it contains more LGBT* characters), etc.

This is why you still have a strong divide between mainstream fiction (that contains just “the right amount” of minority (here including women) characters) and “minority literature”. As long as diverse characters and diverse themes are not normalized and treated as mainstream, we will have this uncanny situation.

For these reasons, I do think it’s important for mainstream literature to be diverse and to include a wide range of themes or characters outside those that often appear and are actually pretty bad (token characters, white saviours, madonna vs whore dichotomy, rape as motivation, lesbians who only need the right guy to become straight, disabled characters with esoteric powers, etc.)

I don’t, however, think a writer should force herself to be inclusive. Especially if her only reason to do so is because she doesn’t want to appear racist and those “angry POC get insulted”. No. If you truly have to be pushed and forced into even imagining a story that might include two named characters of colour/women, then I don’t think you are a writer who can give such stories justice.

So I kind of hope more and more authors will develop a frame of mind that makes them spontaneously envision stories that include diverse characters and themes. Not that they have to be dragged and forced into it.

Also, yes, an author has a right to write whatever he wants. It doesn’t mean he should be free of criticism if he happens to inject his work with sexism, racism, homophobia and other questionable stuff. Seriously, “I want to write what I want, political correctness be damned!” is often a code word for: “I know what I write is unfair and offensive but I am a nice person (honest!) and I really want to write it so I’d like to be exempted from criticism”. It just doesn’t work that way.

Photo credit: jjay69 via photopin cc

My Camp NaNo Results

campnanowrimo I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo for the first time this year and it was an interesting experience. In a way, it is a lite-NaNo event; you can set up your own goal for the word count and you get a lovely cabin to share with 5 writers so you can all motivate each other. Here’s my camper profile for those who are interested in this stuff.

Though in whole honesty, I cheated. Well, not really: there was some writing and outlining, but the story is not new – I’m still working on my last year’s NaNo novel. It’s that fantasy story I’m trying to write, the one I’ve been outlining for years. The funny – or really not – thing is that only after I started writing it for real I realized how the plot should unfold and, well, many other important things (for example, villains. I never had a proper villain in the story. This fact alone is not problematic on itself; after all, I don’t like the cliche “evil for the sake of it” villains anyway. However, I’ve realized that my story lacks a conflicting force, something that would motivate my characters, move the plot and, well, provide conflict).

The truth is that I know more about my story at this point, but it’s still far from being finished. Looks like I need to revise my outline before I move to the next step. It seemed like a fantasy duology but the writing showed some ill-outlined moments. Like the fact I’ve tried to push most of the stuff in what was supposed to be the first book. It doesn’t work that way, and it’s another thing I need to work on.

All in all, I’m glad I had Camp NaNo to rethink my story and add some new chapters, but the first draft is not over. I was planning on finishing it before doing my revision, but now I wonder if it’s better to revise the outline and come back to the beginning so I can revise the story right from scratch.

Doing NaNoWriMo

Two years ago, just a week before I graduated from university (and had a nasty cold shower of reality when it comes to job options in my country – first of many, that is), I joined NaNoWriMo.

So yes, you can say this happening is important for me. Both emotionally and as a writer. I need someone to, well, make me write. I really like the support and the sense of being there together, writing 50 000 words (or more!) in a month. It may sound counter-productive (you can’t create art on a cue, right?), but it’s actually important becuase it does make you write. This is a great thing for those who tend to find excuses and procrastinate to no end. To all those who never feel ready or never feel like it’s the right moment, or who never feel their ideas are good enough. It does make you write, as in, actually write; put words on (electronic) paper, turn your inner editor off and don’t look back.

There’s some great motivation coming from the task of writing a novel in a month.

The Novel Itself

There’s this idea of mine I feel really passionate about. It’s almost decade in the making – sounds ambitious, but frankly, it’s almost a decade of daydreaming and procrastinating and not the actual writing. Not really proper outlining, except in some key concepts.

It’s a story about a somewhat crazy world of hippies and rednecks and evil magnates and nature and a group of misfits on a journey. And rock music. Lots of it.

It’s fantasy, and it requires a lot of world building. In a way, you are never ready when you wish to do something like this. There’s still a lot of research and world building you need to do. But I kind of realized that I have to start writing it at one point. I need to write that first draft because I really want to tell this story, but daydreaming about it is just not enough. I need to write that first draft, at least partially and NaNoWriMo seems like a good place to start. Like I said, writing a novel with so many other people doing the same can motivate a person to stop procrastinating and actually do it.

Am I scared? Shit scared. But I really want to tell this story.

NaNoWriMo is here again!

There’s a reason for not blogging so long. I’ve been busy with NaNoWriMo, first outlining and doing a research, and then writing. To be honest, I’m still busy, but I felt like ignoring this blog wasn’t the best idea.

So, I present you my NaNo novel, The Demise of the Elm Trees (it’s a working title but I like it).

This novel is special for a couple of reasons. This is the first time I write in English (and yes, I’m shit scared of it, thanks for asking). My level of language self-esteem is quite low to non-existent. But if I ever think to grow as a writer I need to learn now to do this, so NaNo seemed like a good opportunity to try.

It’s also the first time I write a YA (Young Adult) novel. Consciously, at least. I believe many of my early novels (those beautiful and embarrassing and amazing and face-palm and nostalgic teen efforts) were also YA, but I was unfamiliar with the label back then. Why YA? In part, because I’m a sucker for coming of age stories, and in part because YA doesn’t require complicated style or advanced English.

I’ll share more about the story later (if there are people interested to read about it), but for now, I present you the writing rules (or you could say it’s more of a process?) I set for my NaNo novel:

1. Write now, worry about grammar later. Try to record your thoughts on the electronic paper without worrying about the grammar structure, appropriate words and idioms, and especially not about that fucking thing called “past tenses in English language”. (Or the most evil aspect of them, the Present Perfect vs Past Perfect issue). Oh no, don’t worry about it now.

2. When first draft is finished, write a second one. Fix the plot, characters and stuff.

3. Check your information Do your research again. Check every single thing, from school policies, drama classes and copyright to pop cultural references and important events. Make sure everything is plausible.

4. Speaking of which, make sure it seems like 1994. Do a double check on slang (especially regional, including, but not limited to Seattle). Do a double check on technology. Fashion. Pop culture all over again. And then, slang one more time.

5. Fix your grammar the best you can. (There’s no point in doing this before the step 5 if you need to change your sentences and write new ones).

6. Grow a pair and ask a few unsuspecting victims beta readers to read it. They will have a demanding task of checking your story/writing, your information and your grammar, but that’s what friends are for, right?