prewriting NaNoWriMo… and some other stuff

One of the things I really like about Jennifer Crusie’s blog is that she talks about craft a lot, especially as related to her latest projects.

I was thinking about this while procrastinating from some editorial work yesterday afternoon. In the grand scheme of “what do people want to read about on an author blog” I know that, for me, I like reading about craft. But maybe that’s not universal. You guys will have to let me know.

So what can I say about craft? Except that I’m such a scatterbrain, it’s amazing I ever finish anything.

I’ve got a WIP I decided I’d poke at during the week before NaNoWriMo, so I spent a couple of hours in my favorite local cafe yesterday doing just that, until I got sort of restless (and the laptop battery started to wane) so I came home to do more writing, at which time I promptly lost 3 hours to video games, got trapped inside the dress I wanted to wear to dinner, mourned the loss of the zipper, changed clothes a few more times, went back outside and got rained on a lot, had a delightful dinner out with friends, complained about the rain, complained about the Yankees, complained about the rain postponing the Yankees game, then stayed up until the wee hours of the morning doing nothing in particular for no real reason beyond that I just wasn’t ready to go to sleep. Me, I am good at the scheduling.

But, of course, the beauty of NaNoWriMo is that it forces you to write to meet a goal.

I’m not a big planner. I learned the first year that I participated in NaNoWriMo that planning too much is no good for me, because I tend to rush through my outlines. But it’s hard not to spend time thinking about the story I want to tell, and I tend to forget things if I don’t write them down, so I have to make notes.

So I guess I have planned to a certain extent: no outlines, but I’ve got several pages of notes (some on the story, some research), a 2-hour playlist on my iPod, and I’ve been talking about the story to anyone who will listen.

And nothing to do but sit on my hands for a week. 😀

Incidentally, instead of poking at my WIP, today I went out to brunch, wasted time on the internets, and baked cookies. Just one of those weekends, I guess.

new york changing

I mentioned in my last post, my idea for NaNoWriMo has a historical plot. One of my protagonists lived through New York City in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and I’ve been researching important historical events of these years.

My thinking on the last 50 years of New York City history would probably take a whole book, but I will say 2 things: 1) there’s a part of me that always wanted to “be a part of it”; I grew up in the Jersey suburbs and spent a fair amount of time in the city as a kid, but more than that, I wanted to be a part of the New York as seen on TV, even the rough, nasty parts of it. I can’t really explain why. 2) There’s a lot of weird nostalgia for the Way Things Used to Be that puzzles me because it’s like people don’t remember how awful the city was, or they, for some reason, want to increase the odds they’ll get mugged. Maybe that makes them feel like a real city dweller? I’ll take the safer city, thanks.

But it’s hard not to get nostalgic, too, since the New York I live in is not the one I saw on the TV as a kid in the 80s, not the place I wanted to live when I was a teenager. And I think the cleaner New York has lost something, some edge to its creativity, as the mom and pop stores give way to Starbucks and the Gap.

Well, anyway. Speaking of 70s nostalgia, Scouting New York has a really cool series showing how New York has changed since certain iconic New York movies:

Taxi Driver: part 1, part 2, part 3

Ghostbusters: part 1, part 2

On Taxi Driver, Scout says:

Personally, I don’t look back nostalgically on the grittier New York of the late 1970’s. As I never experienced it first hand, I believe it’s dangerous and naive to romanticize something the city has worked so desperately to rise up from. In 1976, a large portion of New York’s population people simply didn’t care, and the city suffered for it. If you pine for this level of apathy, there are plenty of other American cities going through some pretty bad rough patches you could move to, and I promise the rent will be much cheaper.

In 2009, people care. A byproduct of people caring is a city that is safer, more g-rated, more expensive, more museum-like. I agree that such an environment leaves very little room for growth, artistic or otherwise – frankly, you CAN’T have a Belmore diner at the corner of 28th & Park anymore (if you owned the place, would you not sell the property for countless millions?). While I dislike the fact that so many of the FAR more interesting locations in Taxi Driver have been replaced by Duane Reades, McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Sephora’s, I can only look at it as part of the unfortunate social evolution of New York. Ultimately, if New York City didn’t want them, they wouldn’t exist for long.

And, yeah, that pretty succinctly sums up what I believe also, and it’s going to be one of the themes of my novel. See also this LCD Soundsystem song:

the song remains the same

I do all my best thinking when I’m nowhere near a computer. Sometimes this is a problem; if I don’t write down an idea right away, it doesn’t always stay in my head. Most of the time, I view it as an asset.

I walk a lot. I live a little over a mile from my day job and I don’t own a car, so I walk to and from the office every day. Or, sometimes I just walk around the neighborhood when the ideas aren’t coming so easily.

And, because I’m also easily bored, I always have my iPod with me. The best strategy I’ve come up with to overcome writer’s block is to make playlists for each of my novels. If I’m stuck on a story, I’ll put on the playlist for that story and take a walk, and I can usually work out my problem. I started doing this for a novel I wrote in college: I made a soundtrack. It’s helpful sometimes to think of your novel in cinematic terms. Who would play this character in the movie? What song is playing in the background of this scene?

My musical tastes are varied and eclectic. I like everything from country to folk to opera to classic rock. Among other things, I’m a classically trained musician, and I’m a sucker for a good pop song that uses strings. (Real strings, not the synthesized ones; I can tell!) Sometimes I make playlists that are just a hodgepodge of songs that I think apply to specific scenes. It means that one soundtrack can have a folk song, a rap song, and maybe a piece of classical music. If I write a novel with a violinist character, the soundtrack might include a piece of music she plays in the novel. If I hear a song that I think is particularly evocative, that’s probably going to get added to a soundtrack. Sometimes I just pick a bunch of songs in one particular genre to set a mood for the whole piece. I have a work in progress about Wyoming ranchers, and I made a playlist that is entirely country music, for example (and all songs about wide open spaces, for the most part, or specific emotions, nothing that’s location specific to areas of the US I’m not writing about.)

So, I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this year, and the novel I have planned is, in part, “historical,” in that there’s a storyline that spans from 1945 until 2001 or so. The character who lives through all this is a lifelong New Yorker, so I’m trying to pick out some songs for his part of the novel’s soundtrack. So far I’ve got things like Bob Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street” and James Brown’s “Down and Out in New York City” and a whole lot of Simon & Garfunkel. If anyone has further songs, songs that are evocative of a particular era, or of New York City (especially in the 60s ad 70s), I’m open to suggestion, too.

PS — I haven’t officially announced it here, but my first novel is coming out in February, if all goes to plan. This novel’s got a soundtrack, too, sort of, in that I was listening to a lot of whiny emo rock at the time.

official site launch

This website officially launches on Monday, October 5th. Like I mentioned in a previous post, my goal is to update the blog once a week, probably just with inane scribblings about whatever I’m thinking about that week, and hopefully said scribblings will be relevant to writing or at least romance novels, but WHO KNOWS?

Anyway, I’m open to feedback, so if you’ve got opinions about what things I should add to the site, topics you’d like to see blog posts on, anything, please let me know!

I’ve been wracking my brain for things that I tend to look for when I go to an author site. If I’m going to an author’s site, I’m almost always looking at the book list. (My book list will be updated as publication dates and things become available, so stay tuned!) I have a few authors that I have come to love, so I check out their sites to see what order to read series books in (when did it become a trend for romance novels not to have series numbers printed on them?) or to check out an author’s backlist. I’m interested in biographical information, too, because I find it fascinating to know where writers are coming from. Have they been writing their whole lives? Did they pick up writing later in life, after their kids were born and their lives were established? Are they from cities or rural areas or places outside the US? All this stuff is interesting to me. So that’s kind of where I’m coming from with this blog. I figure, if you’re coming here to my website, you want to know some things about me.

I started a Twitter account, too, for shorter observations (or you can follow me there to find out when I update this blog).

So this is a work in progress. I will continue to tweak it over the coming weeks, so your feedback is appreciated. And welcome!


I’m going to participate in National Novel Writing Month this November. I’ve done it seven times with mixed success. It’s always a ridiculous amount of fun. Some years, I churn out awful novels never to be revisited (my 2005 novel… oh, we will never speak of that again). The last two years, though, I’ve managed to produce some worthwhile fiction (IMHO) that I’m currently in the process of revising. I’ve got an idea for this year that I’m really excited about. I plan to spend part of this afternoon researching it, in fact. (I’ve got a documentary to watch. That’s my favorite kind of research… I am such a nerd!)

Any other participants?