all that jazz

As of this evening, I’ve written the first 15,000 words of this year’s NaNoWriMo. I made what might be an ill-advised decision to write historical fiction—it’s an m/m romance featuring a vaudeville actor and a mobster in 1927. It’s tough because I’m researching simultaneously. That is, I did a bunch of research in October, but I’m also currently reading two books and have a gazillion tabs open in my browser with info about slang and fashion. But now that I’ve gotten into the meat of the novel, it’s really fun to write, so I have high hopes.

I’ve found a lot of really great photos. The above is a photo of Times Square in 1920. Most of my novel takes place in or around Times Square, which at this time was bustling both with Broadway theaters—more shows opened in 1927 than any year before or since—and nightclubs and speakeasies. And this, of course, is Rudolph Valentino, the epitome of male beauty in the ’20s. Good-looking men were referred to as “sheiks” after Valentino’s best-known character. In my head, my mobster character, looks a bit like Valentino. I’m not really new to the Jazz Age or writing historical fiction (though all of my attempts at the latter are unfinished or otherwise languishing on my hard drive) and I’ve been wanting to write a novel set in that era for a long time. One of the things NaNoWriMo is really great for is forcing oneself to write that thing you’ve always wanted to write.

Anyone else participating in NaNoWriMo? Any strange discoveries or triumphs?

newsy things

I hear there’s a little story about m/m romance in the latest Rolling Stone, but the newsstand I dropped by this evening was all out of copies. Hmph.

In Hot Pursuit got a nice little shout out in today’s All Romance eBooks’ Wildfire newsletter, so that was pretty cool.

I’m gearing up to participate in this month’s National Novel Writing Month and I have what I think is a fairly awesome idea. It’s historical fiction (and m/m romance, of course), which can be tricky when you have to write in a hurry, so we’ll see how that goes. I’m researching now, so hopefully I’ll have what I need by the end of the month.

Oh, and also Kindling Fire with Snow is coming out in two weeks, and when that’s done, I’ve got another novel coming out from Loose Id (although that’s a couple of months away still).

o hai

I should make a resolution to update this blog more often. I’ve been bogged down in the end of NaNoWriMo, then finishing up revisions on my upcoming novel (In Hot Pursuit will be available in February!), and now the holiday season. So that’s why I fail at my once-a-week blog posting goal.

I finished NaNoWriMo with a 92,000-word behemoth that I am nonetheless very excited by. I managed to finish the story during November, writing the epilogue on the 29th. It needs some work, but I’m still excited about the story.

I just bought a book almost entirely for the reasons that it had a pretty cover. I don’t know if this speaks more to the value of good cover artists or my own gullibility. Hopefully this pans out, I’ll let you know.

And now it is very cold, there’s a snowstorm on the way, and I have to finish my Christmas shopping.

halfway… or not

As of yesterday afternoon, I have written just over 50,000 words of the NaNoWriMo novel, which means technically that I’m finished, but! a) November’s not over, and b) I have a lot more story to tell.

I’d been thinking this novel was about 2/3 written. I know that my big flaw as a novelist is that I’m not always especially good at pacing, so this is of course subject to change, but I was thinking, “I’ve covered a lot of ground, there can’t be much left.” I also didn’t think I could write a 100,000-word novel. Not that this in and of itself is an impossibility—I have this 140,000-word monstrosity that I’m sure will never get published, at least not in its current form, because it is awful—more that I didn’t think this novel was that long. And probably it really isn’t and I’ll end up cutting out a lot of dead weight when I edit.

Before I went to sleep last night, I planned out the rest of the chapters. I’ve completely written fifteen chapters so far. According to my plan, there will be 30 total. That means I’m roughly at the halfway point, theoretically. And today’s the 15th, the NaNo halfway point, and that means I’ve been writing roughly a chapter a day, which, woah!

I think this is a “NaNoWriMo is what you make of it” lesson. Some people do use it as an opportunity to write that novel they’ve always wanted to write. Some just write whatever silly things pop into their heads and have a lot of fun with it. Some people just write as many words as possible, relative worth be damned. I, obviously, am not in the, “I’ve always wanted to write a novel but never have time,” camp, since I’ve written a few (and one will be out in February!), but I think it is about testing the upper limits of what you can do, writing-wise. The most words I’ve ever written in one month was 85,000, achieved in 2007. At this point, I just want to get a draft of this novel finished. If it turns out to be 100,000 words, so be it. And also, damn. And also, I hope I don’t wind up with carpal tunnel.

process is a strange thing

All writers work differently. I do this now less than I used to, but I always liked to draw, and when I’m really planning something out, I sometimes draw maps and diagrams. It helps me remember things.

Someone in my local NaNoWriMo forum posted a link to novelist Richard Kadrey’s plot outlines notes. There’s an odd familiarity in it, perhaps because I don’t think especially linearly.

The closest equivalent I have for that in a current work in progress is this: When I was working on my NaNoWriMo research, I sat through the penultimate episode of Ric Burns’ documentary New York. And I took notes. I feel sort of like a fraud now, because these are too neat and orderly seeming to be the product of a mind planning a novel, but I uploaded them anyway, if you’re interested: PDF. No, the crazier part of this process was, I think, the notes I wrote after I finished watching the film. I wound up not using a lot of this, so I feel okay posting the notes. They were:

Continue reading

Marathon Mile 8

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo every year since 2002, and it kind of amazes me that every year I still learn something new about myself and my writing and what I’m capable of.

The comparison to NaNoWriMo as a marathon is apt, but for me mostly because it requires training and a warm-up. I made a resolution at the beginning of 2008 to make the time to write a little every day, which is something I’ve stuck with for the most part. It’s tough; I don’t know that I realized what I’d have to sacrifice to make that work. Some things were easy, like watching fewer hours of television. Some things are harder, like spending less time on my other hobbies, or making time to write when I don’t feel up to it, or even just forcing myself to trudge over to my favorite neighborhood cafe on a Sunday when I’d really rather stay in bed and watch TV.

Which is to say that it got to the point where writing 50,000 words in a month is still a challenge, but an easily overcome one, because I was already in the habit of writing every day. The last two years, I’ve written in excess of 50,000 words by a significant margin during November. So what’s the challenge?

I’m terrible at finishing things. I tend to lose focus on projects easily. NaNoWriMo at least forces me to focus on one project for a whole month, and to crank out lots of raw material. This year’s is rough, there are things about it I already want to change, but I like the idea and I want to keep going with it.

I was thinking the other day about some writing advice I read. I don’t remember the context, but I think it was a letter to an advice column, wherein a woman wrote that she wanted to be a writer, but by the time she went to and came home from work, fed the dog, fed her husband, folded her laundry, yadda yadda, she found that she had maybe an hour tops to write before she fell asleep on her keyboard. This one hour, she said, was not enough, because about half of it was used trying to get her bearings and remember what she wanted to write about.

Around the same time I read about that, I read about a writer who said she did all her best thinking while out walking her dog. This is something I was already doing. Well, not with a dog, but I also do my best thinking while walking, and I walk a lot during the course of a normal day. To and from work, plus usually I take a walk at lunch time to clear my head. I also spend a lot of time when I’m not working thinking about my stories, so when I sit down write at night, I’m usually mostly ready to go. I’ve got scenes worked out in my head, or bits of dialogue, or new characters or whatever, and then I just… type it.

So the NaNo novel is kind of this all-consuming thing now. I spent a good fifteen minutes last night at a bar talking to another participant about my story. (I said, “I think I’ve hit a wall,” and she said, “Tell me what the problem is,” and we brainstormed together. I think it’s crazy that my current work-in-progress is conversation fodder in a bar. But I love it.)

Current word count: 16,569.

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:

NaNoWriMo

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?