Today is great because…

NANOWRIMO Preparation

Posted: October 31st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Inspiration, writing | Comments Off

National Novel Writing Month starts tomorrow. And I’m ready for it. I’ve been brainstorming, planning, thinking about characters–all the things necessary to write a novel. I went in last year with only vague plans. I didn’t complete the month-long 50,000 word challenge. I didn’t want that to happen again this year. I’m not going to discuss anything about my plans for the novel. But I thought I’d share how I’m prepping for the next 30 days of non-stop writing. I’m hoping these things–along with my pent up excitement–will help me easily get to 50,000 words by November 30.

  1. Blocking time-sucking websites (Facebook, twitter, etc)
    Like most people (probably ALL people) I have trouble managing my internet usage. I waste far too much time waiting for new Facebook posts, Twitter comments or new emails. So I installed the Firefox add-on LeechBlock.  It lets me block access to sites that are notorious time wasters. I set it so that I can only spend 10 minutes on Facebook every day. After that, it’s blocked out. It’s surprising how fast those 10 minutes go. So far, every time the blocked warning comes up I think to myself, “But I have so much more Facebooking left to do.” But really that’s not true. 10 minutes/day is enough.
    Check it out here: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/4476/
  2. Finding a less distracting text editor
    I only have Microsoft Works on my computer, which has rotating advertising and a side menu that won’t close. I hate it and it’s distracting. So I downloaded Q10. It’s a super simple, text only editor. Black background, green text. Think of editing text on a computer built in 1983. That’s basically what it looks like. (You can change colors if you like.) But there are absolutely no distractions. No toolbar or menu options. Even better you can set a countdown word counter. Or you can do time challenges–set the clock to 30 minutes and it’ll tell you how many words you’ve written after the clock runs out. Simple motivation. It also let’s you add sound effects so it sounds like I’m writing with a typewriter. It was cool at first, but got annoying fast.  And it’s free.
    Find it here: http://www.baara.com/q10/

I should have done both of these things months ago!


Down with Doc Brown

Posted: October 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off

While I was reading this article explaining how Doc Brown was the real villain of Back to the Future, I tried to decide if it was a waste of time or true entertainment. It was good, but total fluff. The most enjoyable reads can be full of nonsense, but this one has some valid arguments. The last time I watched Back to the Future II–which happened about three weeks ago (it was on TV, and it is one of my favorite movies)–I had similar thoughts about Doc Brown. He seemed like a really selfish lunatic. The lunatic part was written into his character…he was supposed to be the oddball outsider, which makes him even more unlikely to have invented something of as much monumental importance as a time machine. But it was his selfishness that struck me the most.

We learn that Doc has been hoping around in time just to see what happens. Just to see if there’s maybe something that might possibly need changing. That’s just poor management of your time machine. At the beginning of II, he comes back to get Marty because they need to save his future son. That is, his goal was to fuck with the space-time continuum for a pretty minor reason: Marty’s kid goes to jail. Then, when they get to the future, Doc immediately knocks out Jennifer and dumps her in a pile of garbage. (Rude!) From their everything goes chaotic and Doc struggles to meet his objectives.

Anyway, I won’t critique Back to the Future or the fact that ol’ Doc Brown really caused all the eventual shit storms he had to later solve (with all the necessary hover boards and Calvin Klein product placement). But I think this article has some valid points.  Even more, the video below points out something of much greater concern:

Back to the Future 3 kid pointing to his


American Spaces

Posted: October 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: writing | Comments Off

Setting really effects me. It’s one thing that has the ability to instantly transform my mood. Walking into a new space, like a cafe, restaurant or someone’s home can make me feel calm, depressed, welcome.  Last weekend my roommate and I reorganized our living space. It feels fresh, new and inviting. There had always been great spaces, but none of them ever felt quite right. None were as comfortably homey as they should by.  Worst of all, there was an amazing, but unused, fireplace hidden behind a living room couch. It was totally wasted and is now the show piece of the room and makes sitting on the couch feel extra cozy.

freedom-jonathan-franzenI’ve been reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen the past few days, just like a lot of Oprah watchers and other American readers have been. Whatever your take on the publicity that book is getting, Franzen is a top notch writer.  His language is precise, sentences are tightly crafted and pacing is moving with ease through what could otherwise be bogs of character history and psychological defect. But the thing that I notice missing is any time spent describing physical settings. There’s always the precursory physical character descriptions or “it was an old house”, but space get almost no more attention than that. There’s no  play-by-play of vacation home floor plan or description of what the lighting is like in the restaurant where Patty has dinner with her daughter. What I”m getting at is that other than very brief, surface level descriptions, Franzen ignores the significance of space on characters and action.  I’m pretty sure you wont find anything even hinting at a variation of “it was a dark stormy night.” Yet the novel works and I have perfectly clear images of all the spaces that I’ve been led through so far. The wonder in reading fiction is that I get led through a story, but my own mind gets to imagine the details. To this, Freedom has been a success.

I’m writing about this simply because it’s something I noticed and because I’m taking it as a lesson to myself. Setting effects the way I interpret the actions of the people around me. It sets me up and gives me warning signs of what I can expect to encounter.  But in fiction, over-reliance on setting to impart meaning can be distracting at worst and at best, misleading (I can see where there would be great applications of using setting to mislead a reader’s interpretation of the action, specifically to build drama). It’s necessary to help readers understand the space they’re reading about, but it isn’t always necessary for that space to have significance beyond being a home for characters to live out their dramas.