Cue the Soundtrack

Decided to go into my Spotify playlist for my Camp Nano novel and tweak it so that I’m ready to hit the ground ready. It’s become a trend to create and post playlists, or a “soundtrack” that have inspired a specific project, whatever it might be. I just enjoy having the music in the background, so it might as well fit the project.

I got inspired to go back to my playlist for Camp Nano after stumbling across a Trans-Siberian Orchestra album on Spotify I never recalled hearing about. On a side note, I will probably be purchasing it because several of the songs have a delightful creepy vibe to them. Probably not what I would consider some of their better work, but it is still satisfying listening music. Spotify is such a delightful streaming service, and I wish I wasn’t so broke that I can’t afford the monthly fee for the premium account.

When I’m putting together a soundtrack for a novel I don’t always go for exact thematic songs, I might use songs to capture a mood or an emotion. A lot of my music is instrumental, so it makes theming a playlist easier and trickier at the same time. If it’s a heavier topic or setting like the pandemic setting in my novel, I try to balance out more intense and pulsating songs with calm and relaxing songs. It helps have something for the lighter or calmer moments in a novel. It also helps to dial back the intensity mentally, so my brain gets a bit of a break. If it has a unique vibe that I think fits a character or a situation, I might include it just because it feels right. Other times, I might be tweaking the playlist in the middle of writing because a particular song just doesn’t hit the right note like I expected it to, or it becomes too distracting to my writing to be beneficial to my process.

Connecting with Community

There is one thing that I like about the newly renovated Nanowrimo website, and it’s the writing groups function. It’s a nice way to keep people plugged in with writers outside of the nano season, especially during it’s camp sessions.

A lot of times the chat rooms die after the main nanowrimo event (don’t get me wrong, I love logging into Discord), but the writing groups offer a simple place for writers to get together and chat while writing in the off-season, whether you group by genre, interest, location, or (if you’re a potter nerd) you group by your Hogwarts house. Also, you’re not confined to just one writing group. You can join several writing groups if you want to, as long as you are invited by the writing group’s admin, or if you decide to create one (or two) for yourself.

This Camp event, I’m looking forward to some responsible social distancing via writing groups with local wrimos, and also globally connecting with fellow Hufflepuffs. It’s a great opportunity to commiserate with fellow writers while safely meeting new people via the web.

Write safely. Write responsibly.

Unplugging and refocusing

I’m unplugging from Facebook for two weeks. I never realized how much I used it until I made the decision yesterday to walk away for two weeks. Right now it just feels like too much stuff going on and something has to give, and at the end of the day, Facebook is nonessential to my life. My anxiety levels are pretty high right now – about where they were when I quit my gas station job – and I need a happy place right now.

Writing is my happy place.

I’m going to be doing Camp Nano in April.

I’m sure with time and perspective we’ll find out that we did our best given this is a once in a century event. But right now I’m surrounded by panic, anxiety, and fear and I just need some place to escape from it all. Writing makes sense to me. Maybe not to most, but it’s an easy solitary activity for me. It makes sense to me to retreat into my fictional worlds, so that’s what I’m doing right now.

My NaNoWriMo Delcaration

While it shouldn’t be all that shocking at this point, I have finally decided on what I am going to do for National Novel Writing Month this year.

I am going to reboot the novel I worked on last year. I lacked serious preparation skills in that I had forgotten several important members of my main cast in favour of jumping ahead to the big war that I was apparently really eager to write about. Now, I’m all about cutting to the chase and getting down to what really matters, but when you have nine heroes and you’ve only introduced four of them, well, um… Huston, we have a problem here. So this year I’m going to try and focus more on making sure my other heroes get their fair shot at getting an introduction and good development so that these characters aren’t just showing up out of the blue and everyone, reader and characters, aren’t all, where the hell did you all come from and why are you here?

Of course, that’s also going to mean that I have to do some planning ahead of time. If there’s one thing that I’m almost notoriously bad at doing at this point in the month, it’s planning, especially if there’s a shortage of employees and I’m having to work overtime as a consequence. But that’s the point of NaNoWriMo after all.  It’s a horrible time to be doing this, but damn it, I’m going to find the time to get it done this year.

Sometimes an accidental file deletion is a blessing.

It turns out that working in retail full-time is not conducive to creativity when your store is chronically short staffed and you’re in management. Which is why I haven’t been online and blogging in over a year. As much as I’d like to say things are going to change for the better, having stepped down from my shift lead position, I know better than to say that at this point in the game.

I wouldn’t have made a second attempt at reviving my creative juices though if I hadn’t been in the process of relocating my Scrivener files (so that everything was conveniently saved to a Dropbox synced folder). It appears at some point when I was performing last rites on my last laptop and going through my files to determine which files were worthy, an entire trilogy I had worked on during NaNoWriMo either slipped through the cracks or I deleted the trilogy out of pure embarrassment of its existence. It’s probably the latter since the whole execution of it was a disaster and a half by the time I got to what should have been the third installment. I probably deleted it knowing full well that if I went back, the only way I could salvage anything in the novel was if I started from scratch.

It’s probably the latter that ended up happening since the whole execution of it was a disaster and a half by the time I got to what should have been the third installment of the trilogy. I probably deleted it knowing full well that if I went back, the only way I could salvage anything in the novel was if I started from scratch. Almost everything was either a mistake or something that wasn’t working at least within the framework that I had willing constrained myself with.  It was a great idea, don’t get me wrong. I was in love with the idea, but I just managed to have shitty execution of that idea. Maybe if I’m feeling ambitious I’ll revisit it for a different NaNo. Right now I can only try to remember what I did wrong so that I don’t make the same mistakes a second time.

Time to get my mojo back

What most of you may not know, is that one of my goals this year was going to be to write more, whether it was a blog post, or if it was working on a work in progress. NaNo is a sure thing every year, but I wanted to see if I could write more. Well, as it turns out, getting promoted to shift lead not only gives you zero time and zero life, but it also makes your life miserable as hell because everyone thinks that you don’t deserve to have any time to sleep. I also took a promotion at work and I thought it would be no big deal; I’d get a regular work schedule so I would only have to work one Sunday a month and that I’d have some time to spend with my family.

That never happened. None of it. No writing. No regular work schedule. I’m exhausted from working a nine-day work week as I write this post.

So I stepped down.

It really didn’t take long for me to realize that when someone in a training class tells you that  your time with your family and friends matters to Corporate you should just not believe it. I spent five months being miserable before finding the will to step down from my post. Was the increased pay nice? Yes. But when your boss laughs in your face because you only ever agreed to one Sunday a month, and you were working more than one Sunday a month, and your family was starting to give you grief over the number of Sundays you were working… well, something has to give. Either you continue to let your family rip on you for how many Sundays your working and watch it slowly wear you down, or you step down while you still have the will to say “I can’t take this anymore”.

I’ve written once since the new year, and that was on a weekend shopping trip with my BFF, and I only sort of made progress in editing last year’s nano. A drastic re-write is in order after fixing one scene, I don’t know how else to fix it. Fortunately, stepping down has already done wonders. The moment I told my boss I was stepping down, it was like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. Hopefully I’ll be able to stay motivated writing, because I don’t want to hit November and feel more dread than excitement.

NaNoWriMo Day 17 Part 1? -Getting up to speed on things

I will probably blog more later, but I figured I would write some now before I get so involved with writing that I completely forget to give an update on how the writing goes.

Every year my NaNo region hosts a half-way party called “Day of Knockout Noveling”, which, in many ways, is much like the Night of Writing Dangerously that OLL puts on every year for NaNo. This day of epic writing, food, and magical caffinated goodness took place on Sunday, because it seems to work out rather well for us. This year I did not write as much as I woud have liked, and whether it was because of the lack of word wars this year, or because we had a slightly shorter writing period, or simply because I’ve been writing over 45K of stuff that is mostly going to get cut when the plot actually does decide to show up, I can’t say, but I was a bit disappointed in myself this year in my output on Sunday.
Most years I’m able to average around 10K, but this year I eeked out a little more than 7K. Some times I can compensate for what I don’t write at DoKN when I get back to my house, but writer’s block decided to show up more agressive than ever, so I had to give up after managing a measly 500 words at home.
I didn’t write anything yesterday because working seven hours of overtime finally caught up with me after my regular shift. I can’t wait to get off of third shifts to be honest. It hasn’t been doing favors for my writing in spite of the fact that I’ve been mostly on track to reach my goal of 70K this year. The sinus infection wasn’t even the first time I’ve gotten sick since switching to thirds, so I’m really looking forward to getting our new hires all trained up so I can get off thirds and help with covering the daytime shifts, since we’re short workers for those shifts as well at my workplace.
Right now I’m just busy getting some notes down about my goddess of prophecy, since I had an epiphany about her last night. So I’m going to work on getting all of that down in a separate place in Scrivener, and then jump back into the narrative of my novel.
I’ll try and post an update later today about my progress, so here goes nothing!
Starting word count: 47, 722 words

NaNoWriMo Day 2 – Once more with Word Wars

Today was much better on the writing front. My hands and my brain did a better job of talking to each other, so there were no unfortunate typos. Interestingly enough, I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep today.

Why you ask?

Well, long story short I got home from my third shift, and, shortly after cuddling into bed for some sleep, I got a phone call from my doctor’s office because I’ve been feeling like crap the last few weeks. As it turned out, they called to let me know they’d gotten my request for an appointment and offered an afternoon appointment that could only be accommodated by a glorified nap. So I didn’t get a lot of sleep, but I did find out that I have a sinus infection. Wheee! /not

Fortunately I was able to hop into the nano chat room for my region and kickstart my writing for the day with a few word wars to get the creative juices started. Now I just have to figure out how to break the news to a character that my MC was in love with his mom 30+ years ago (keeping in mind that my MC has been in a goddess induced slumber for 30+ years). Talk about things that are definitely /not/ awkward conversation topics.

Ending the day at 6,099.

Writers need to do more than just write

When I was going through my professional writing degree program, our department head, who was also my professor, had a mantra that he often impressed on us in our non-writing classes – “It’s no longer good enough to just write. Writers need to do more than just write these days to get a job, and that’s why you’re taking these courses.”

My design courses frustrated me to no end. My big sister would hardly find this surprising, as art was never one of my strengths, yet somehow I managed an A in both of my design courses during my college career. I also somehow managed to stumble, quite clumsily through a writing for the web course, where we had to build our own website on Drupal 7. Now I’m not going to sit here and say that those were a waste of money, but today’s job market, as writers, we can’t just breeze through the job listings hoping we can find some place where we can “just write”.

For example, while I was taking my introductory document design course, I did some volunteering for my former church’s marketing and communications division (yes, my former church is that big). You would have thought that for all the glossy fliers with elaborate graphic designs, we would have been able to put out a half decent weekly newsletter that clearly presented all the events in various church ministries every week.

Not so much.

In fact, my document design professor took a jab at it when I showed him the newsletter, saying “it looks like something a church would put out, multi-colored paper and all!” I couldn’t defend it, since I knew church used Adobe InDesign, and this half-letter, black lettering on neon pink paper newsletter was a poor offering for such a highly advanced program, and a church that spared no expense on its pamphlets, bulletins, and hand out cards. So I did a redesign for a class project, starting the project by using a larger paper size (half-legal) and adding color .

This was the result:

Weekly project

It made a huge difference, and I think that was when it dawned on me that maybe there was a logic to what the writing department was doing. Writers in the professional world need to not only write, but present their writing clearly, and effectively to their audience. What the redesign taught me wasn’t that I was good at document design, but that presentation still matters, and as writers, we will do well to remember that how we present our writing matters.

Happy 31st Birthday, Reading Rainbow!

Today is kind of a big deal. If you don’t know, today marks 31 years for the popular show, Reading Rainbow, which is in the middle of a massive Kickstarter undertaking. Aside from Wishbone, and a family that fostered a love for reading, Reading Rainbow is why I love the written word so much, and is probably one reason I ended up excelling at English as a subject during my academic years from First grade on up to High School, and beyond. For those who are unaware of what Reading Rainbow is, let me explain to you what it is, what it isn’t, and why it’s important.

  • It is a show that inspires kids to love reading.
    They do more than just read books to kids on this show, although that is part of the programming. But even when I was a kid, aside from the occasional Reading Rainbow video in class, kids aren’t taught to fall in love with reading. They’re shown how to read, spell, write, but it’s never about fostering a love for these things because simply having a love for reading isn’t going to get a kid to pass a standardized test.

    Most teachers, especially these days, are too focused on getting kids to pass tests both state and nationally, to nurture a love of reading in their students. Unfortunately, when teachers develop the tunnel vision that only has them thinking “how can I get these students to pass this test?”, the “how do I get my students to care about this and carry this throughout their lives?” gets lost in the teaching. When students are forced to learn something for a test, however, they are more inclined to detest and forget what they learn, because “it’s all just for some stupid test.”

    What made Reading Rainbow so revolutionary when it began was that it met kids where the technology was. For the longest time, that was the TV. But the world is getting increasingly digital, which means that kids are moving to mobile devices, gaming consoles and tv boxes. Right now the Reading Rainbow app is on the iPad, even though they want to expand to other platforms and devices. That’s why the folks at Reading Rainbow are doing a Kickstarter – so that they can continue to be relevant and meet kids where the technology is, and unfortunately, they can’t do that without money, because decent app developers don’t come cheap.

  • It doesn’t teach kids how to read.
    I don’t know how this misconception started, but apparently some people at some point thought that Reading Rainbow was going to save the world from illiteracy by teaching kids how to read.  That’s not what Reading Rainbow is designed for. Reading Rainbow isn’t intended to teach kids how to read, or give them critical thinking skills. Those are still skills that are best left to be taught in the classroom.

    Reading Rainbow is all about giving kids a reason to read. Most kids these days would sooner pick up a “shoot ’em up and blow ’em up” video game over a book any day. I’m not saying that all video games are bad. (I believe that MMORPG can have value, since those kind of games are generally built around a storyline developed by the game developers. It can be a great, hands-on approach to storytelling.) However, given the alternative, a kid is more likely to complain and bitch about having to pick up and read a book, even for class. Even at the high school and college levels, it’s becoming increasingly common for people to “watch the movie or tv-series version”, and not trudge through a wall of text for a class assignment. (If you think I’m inventing this, I took a course in English literature for fun during my last spring semester in college. There was one girl who would always tell me, when we met in the hallway before class, that she watched the movie version or the tv-series version because she didn’t want to be bothered with actually reading the book.)

  • It’s important because writing and Reading go hand in hand.
    I haven’t heard a single author who hasn’t said that writers read. And it makes sense. Because it’s more than just fully immersing yourself in your genre – it’s about a deeper love for the written word. English, for all its infuriating contradictions, spellings, and nonsensical rules, is beautiful. And as a storyteller, it’s not good enough for us to simply enjoy arranging them in a way that delights us as individual writers. Language, by its very nature, is creative, and to not read is to limit your enjoyment of your creativity.

    Additionally, we need to know how to write so we can comprehend what we read. Writing is how we learn sentence structures, parts of speech, and grammar. As a generation comes up that is more fluent in text abbreviations than grammatically correct writing, writing and reading comprehension are becoming increasingly valued skills in the work place.

So if you have $5, or even $1, maybe consider donating to the Reading Rainbow kickstarter. It will be the best investment you ever made.

But you don’t have to take my word for it.