dreaminghope: (3-Day Novel)
I went to see Lee Maracle read this past Tuesday at the Central Library. I love her novels, especially Ravensong.

She has this fabulous laugh – deep, full, jolly. Her daughter and niece – both at the reading – have the same laugh. They filled the room with joy while Lee told slightly bawdy stories before the official reading started.

While the librarian was trying to introduce her, doing the traditional listing of awards, qualifications, and books, the family got the giggles, seemingly at the pomposity of the whole thing. The librarian finally gave up and gave over to Lee.

She read from "Will's Garden" and "Daughters are Forever", then she took questions. Someone asked her about her writing process:

Writing is a sacred thing to me. It's like a Sweat to me. ... I sit down at my computer on a Friday, and I say to my ass: "Hold on; we're going to be here awhile." I'll write, and my family asks: "Are you going to sleep?" And then on Tuesday or so, the first draft'll be done. It has to be 156 pages long; when it's 156 pages, I know it's done.

I do an average of 16 drafts before I finish a book. On a Friday night, my daughters would see me bringing out the popcorn and the pop, and they’d know: "Mom's got another draft to read to us." I'd read until Monday, with them dozing sometimes, and after, they'd be asking how it was different from the last draft they listened to...


Lee Maracle entered the 3-Day Novel Contest once. She thought she couldn't do any preparation, so she told her family to keep her distracted. Her daughters sang to her; kept her from planning. She came in second. She found out later from the people running the contest that the winner had a forty page outline.

Forty page outline! I thought that'd be cheating. That's practically a novel. I could've written a second draft in three days if I'd had a forty page outline.

It's comforting that even a published author only came in second. Comforting, too, that a published author writes a first draft in three to five days on a regular basis.

The 3-Day Novel Contest starts tomorrow at midnight. I've got an idea, but it feels fragile, like it'll dry up like a husk if I put it on paper too soon. I am trying very hard not to even look at the idea too closely; it's a seed, still in the dark, and if it comes to light too soon, it may not make it – I'll get bored with the story before I've even started to write it. Or, worse yet, I'll get bored halfway through, when it's nearly impossible to start over.

If you can't see the 3-Day entry just before this one, then you are not on my NaNoWriMo/3-Day Novel filter. Let me know if you would like to be, in case I use it to blow off steam and post silly and strange novel excerpts during this marathon.

Soon, the journey begins... I've got lots of chocolate, coffee, and garlic bread laid in.
dreaminghope: (Working Zoey)
By most any definition, the Gathering for Life on Earth is long over. We've been home for nearly three weeks, the Facebook friending frenzy has slowed, next year's theme's has been posted to the website, and I've completed my final duties as Board secretary. I'm working on the last of my Gathering laundry today, so along with the usual t-shirts and underwear, I've got swimming towels, sarongs, and cloaks drying on the deck.

Words have been failing me in regards to the Gathering. Other people's words clutter my attempts (they say "the best Gathering I've had", "my favourite Gathering so far", and "a wonderful weekend", and I say... nothing), and the pressure of the unexpressed words is keeping my other writing attempts stopped up. Given that the 3-Day Novel Contest is in two weeks, I must write again despite wordlessness and finger stutters.

I've started slow, commenting on a few LJ posts at long last*. Next, this post. Then, soon – maybe, hopefully – a novel outline in time for the long weekend.

Today's been a day of laundry and words.

I'm awash – lost – in other people's words and in piles of wet clothing. Various distractions (William and Russ' birthday) and bad weather have interfered with my ability to do laundry, so I'm doing about a month's worth this weekend. Between, I've finally read Atwood's brilliant Oryx and Crake in preparation for reading her new book, The Year of the Flood, when it comes out in a month or so. And there's been the The Videographer – the 3-Day winner from 2008. Weird book, but worth a read. Not particularly cheery, though, so Russ won't want it soon. He read The Handmaid's Tale and Cat's Eye back-to-back and is a little over the literary misery. I've told him to read a Bruno and Boots novel before tackling "Oryx", as it is dystopian.

I don't mind dystopian, but I wish it weren't so depressing all the time.



The slowest race is happening on my porch right now, between the drying laundry and the sinking sun. And then it's folding clothes and planning my preparation for the Writers and Readers Festival. I'm thinking this year I might actually try to read some of the authors' works before hearing them speak.

*I've been reading my FL daily, but have had no words for commenting.
dreaminghope: (Happy Bug)
I am fated to play Bananagrams.

I saw them in a toy store one day and they captured my attention because, you know, adorable packaging and words, together. I didn't buy them because my money was destined for Triominoes for my Mom's birthday present.

Then my 3-Day novel needed a character to want to go to Toronto. On a whim, I decided to have him going to a Bananagrams championship.

Last night, I went to my parents' place for dinner. After dinner, my Mom brings out a little banana-shaped bag: Bananagrams!

"Oh, so you read my novel," I say, thinking Mom sought the game out after reading the story I'd emailed to her only a couple of days ago.

"I haven't had a chance yet, actually. Why?"

I got "geist" in the only round I won.

I must buy my own copy and then force everyone who enters my home to play it. Bananagrams is my destiny.
dreaminghope: (Working Zoey)
There are stories to tell.

There was an afternoon at Quest spent cleaning up rodent droppings and re-shelving hundreds of dented cans and dusty pasta packages with a recovering drug addict. She had just moved to Vancouver to enter her father's treatment center, and she was looking forward to having spaghetti for dinner.

There's the new website at work, and the long list of complaints and struggles and other associated annoyances. And there's my assistant, The Kid, who sure gets sick a lot and should maybe start investing in large bottles of Pepto.

There's the deck... well, the deck isn't so much a story as a saga. The project sounds reasonable: remove the poorly made railings, yank up the rotting plywood, replace any rotten boards in the structure, then put down new plywood, treat with a deck finishing product, and put up new railings. Simple. But our deck is almost 300 square feet... a small Yaletown apartment.

If you've been through East Van lately and noticed some any weird(er) behaviour, it's probably my neighbours, high on the fumes from the deck surfacing. Russ put on three undercoats and one topcoat, which made for some pretty intense fumes. And since houses are pretty close together here and our deck is seven feet up, a lot of people were getting whiffs of our deck. Luckily, our neighbours on all sides are kind and tolerant. Mostly, they are just teasing us because the project's now four weeks old and not yet complete.

There was the 3-Day Novel Contest. I only wrote just over 17,000 words, and the resulting story – Dream in Toner – features a magical photocopier, a bunch of pigeons, and Bananagrams.

And there's my new love: a Rigid Heddle Loom. I bought a assembled-but-never-used 24-inch Ashford from a neighbour a couple of months ago. Since then, I've made a couple of scarves, a set of place mats, and a whole lot of dishcloths.



There are plenty of stories, but I just haven't had the right words. But if I wait for the words to come to me, I'll never write. So here I am again, trying to tell a story with what words I have.
dreaminghope: (3-Day Novel)
When I was a very little girl, I wanted to be a vet. That I was scared of every animal that walks, flies, jumps, or crawls - everything but snakes (slithers) and fish (swims) - didn't seem to me to be an impediment. I was aware that most pet owners have either cats or dogs, which were the scariest creatures in my small world. I knew, from friends' tragic incidents involving goldfish, that vet assistance is rarely sought for fish. But I also knew that being a vet was a Good Thing, so that's what I wanted to be. My Mom is incredibly generous of spirit: she never laughed at six year old me who declared that she wanted to be a vet. At least, she didn't laugh at me to my face.

When I was a slightly older little girl, I wanted to be a nurse or a doctor. That I felt sick at the sight of blood and had to cover my eyes even during fictional medical procedures on TV didn't seem to be insurmountable problems. I knew that doctors and nurses made people feel better, and that’s what I wanted to do.

When I was graduating from high school and trying to decide what to do in university, I decided that I wanted to be a journalist. I didn't take into account that I dislike talking to strangers, that I get claustrophobic in crowds, and that I don't deal with stress well. Journalists were noble, and smart, and they gave people power through information, so I wanted to be one of them.

Through it all, what I really wanted to be was a novelist (and a drag queen, but that's a story for another day). In many ways, I'm well suited to it: I'm imaginative and a natural people-watcher and eavesdropper, and I like spending a lot of time alone, writing. I wonder that I never mentioned it in the "what I want to be when I grow up" field in the memory books I would fill out with my Mom at the end of every school year.

Maybe I didn't mention it because I took it for granted: I couldn't not tell stories; I couldn't not write. It didn't matter if anyone else was reading or not, I would still write.

Or maybe I didn't mention it because, even as a kid, I've always been a practical person, and I knew that I would need a day job too. Vet by day and novelist by night! Or, you know, office manager by day and novelist on long weekends.

I mailed in my early registration for the 2008 3-Day Novel Contest this week.
dreaminghope: (Working Zoey)
Vancouver has an annual literary festival, The International Writers & Readers Festival. Last year, [livejournal.com profile] rythos42 and I went to a couple of events together, and we continued the tradition this year. Most events are what you expect from a literary event: darkened theaters, authors reading, and thoughtful discussions about character's motivations.

Last night's event was a little different. Our first clue that this wasn't quite the same as the other events we'd gone to was that there was a bar. After some confusion about how to buy a glass of wine (the process involved tracking down and buying tickets, then using the tickets to acquire alcoholic refreshment), we settled into seats. We were just discussing our expectations for the evening when the dance music came on. And then the go-go dancers came out.

There were three male go-go dancers. They wore American Apparel briefs, t-shirts, headbands, and white knee socks with stripes at the top. One was in green, one in red, and one in yellow. Green was really into it. He was dancing his little heart out, even pulling up his shirt to show his belly button and playing to the crowd. The other two seemed a little self-conscious, maybe because their underwear didn't fit as well as Green's did. If you are going to be showing your underwear, it's a good idea to make sure it fits your ass tightly. Baggy-bum is not sexy.

After the go-go dancers came some readings, featuring selections from a biography of Houdini written entirely in poetry, "the dirtiest story in my short story collection" (about a woman working on a sex website), a poet with very poet hair who brought wine to the reading stand and repeatedly, adorably, lied that he was calm, and the 3-Day Novel winner of 2006, The Convictions Of Leonard McKinley.

I had chosen this event in order to see the 3-Day writer, Brendan McLeod. [livejournal.com profile] rythos42 and I had both read his book ahead of time – and unintentionally almost scared Russ out of reading it with our veiled references to the story's almost-very-disturbing conclusion. It is a funny book... and it is even funnier when he reads it. I would like to propose that all authors who have to do readings should get training by slam poets first – Brendan and the other performance poet who read from her first novel were both wonderful to listen to.

More go-go dancing during the intermission – this time without the t-shirts. Green was still enthusiastic. We'd all been given a free copy of subTerrain magazine and I used was relieved to find it full of short stories and poems. The last time I was given a magazine for free, it was a surprise to me when it turned out to be full of furry porn. Not really my thing, but very educational.

After the intermission, an audience participation game called "Tops or Bottoms" for book prizes, followed by more readings: an author who apologized for being smashed before reading a very serious passage about a mother with dementia, a novel section about giant killer ants and a milk chicken bomb (I don't know), a piece about a bridesmaid having a fling with the wedding bartender in her parents' house, and a story about a couple who sleep in a cage to prevent the man's jealous pet chimp from attacking the girlfriend. The last author, Catherine Kidd, also performed one of her poems, which was a very interesting combination of science and politics and artistry, set to music. I wouldn't want to read it – I don't think it would very interesting on paper – but it was a great performance.

After the event was over, [livejournal.com profile] rythos42 and I hung out near Brendan McLeod until he extracted himself from another conversation. I told him that I'd also done the contest and all three of us, along with a friend of his who had also done the 3-Day twice, commiserated on the problems of writing fast (making characters walk off cliffs, sudden earthquakes, and multiple kidnappings).

He hated his novel after writing it and didn't think it would win (which doesn't give me any hope that my novel that I hate has any chance of winning, but it is interesting given that I love his novel).

He said that the published novel is pretty close to what he wrote during the contest; he added about ten pages, took out the parts where random characters he didn't need anymore ended up walking off of cliffs, and fixed the ending so that it actually was what he'd intended it to be when writing the original manuscript. Which took us to talking about the ending (which I won't spoil; read the book!) and I think he was pleased that we'd already read the book (rather than just having bought it at the table at the other side of the room) so we could share in the joke when he told us that a middle school decided to give copies away as prizes, only to find that they really should have read the whole book first and not just the first couple of pages and that parents weren't terribly pleased with this particular literary prize. Brendan sent them some more youth-friendly and parent-pleasing poetry recordings as replacements, even though he had told them that their plan was a bad one, and one of them surely should have been able to read all 111 pages.

He signed my book, adding "P.S., Do cocaine!"
dreaminghope: (Waterbaby)
I like steamed broccoli.

When I was a kid, my family traveled a fair amount by car and motor home. We crossed Canada a couple of times; the first time was when I was seven. I couldn’t read in the car (motion sickness), so I would spend hours just day dreaming.

I didn't ask: "Are we there yet?"

Instead: "We're there already?"

At dinner, I would pretend that someone had poisoned my broccoli, but that there was an antidote in it too, so if I ate in exactly the right order – all the florets first, then alternating bites off each end of the stalks so the center of the stalk was the last bite – I would be OK. As I ate, I would imagine my enemies watching and arguing about whether or not I would get it right and whether I knew about the antidote or was just really lucky.

I used to write novels in my head. They were populated by Mary Sues, but I suppose I can be forgiven for that. If anyone is entitled to writing Mary Sues, it is a twelve year old girl. That some of my characters still lean towards wish-fulfillment is… a weakness.

Most of my stories are fleeting, fading away as soon as the day dreaming moment passes. Others stick around to become a part of this LJ (most under the whimsy tag) or to become part of one of my novels.

I tell myself stories to pause the endless list making, the planning and preparing, and the worrying. The stories aren't an escape from reality; they are an escape from another layer of non-reality. The grocery shopping won't go any faster if I rehearse it a hundred times on the way to the store, and my evening tasks won't go any more smoothly if I worry about them the whole way home, so I might as well think about punk princesses and gangster squirrels.

The results from the 3-Day Novel Contest are in, and I didn't place. I'm not surprised, especially given that the winner is a published poet and has written screenplays, and the runner-up placed with his seventh 3-Day Novel. There were 389 completed 3-day novels this year; there was some stiff competition in there.

I wrote three novels in 2006. They are rough and messy and strange, but I'd never written anything so long as any one of them before this year, so I feel accomplished just having their messiness out where other people can see it; out of my head, away from my dinner and neighbourhood bird stories.

I will write at least one novel in 2007, as the three-day novel contest is an irresistible rush. Local folks: Don't plan anything for the Labour Day weekend if you want me to be there, for I will be writing and eating chocolate.

I like to think that one day I will sit down with my rough drafts and make one (or more) of them into a real published book, but that part of the creative process is more like the list-making and planning section of my brain – the part I want to escape when I am story-telling, and the part of my brain that is much over-used in every other part of my life. For now, the story of how I polish the book and see it in print is just like the other stories: in my head.

That's OK, because I like my stories.

Done!

Sep. 5th, 2006 07:40 pm
dreaminghope: (Working Zoey)
Woah, man...

Stats:
Hours: 23
Words: 23,079
Pages: 111

"The Family Spirits": A story of three generations of women of unusual perception, and their beloved ghosts and spirits.

After my last post, I did a couple of last minute fixes and made a minor addition or two, then called it done and printed it. There's a lot more I could have done, but I was exhausted from writing all weekend and from getting up at 5:45 AM for a half-day of paying work.

My brain feels like it just ran a marathon. My body feels like it spent the whole weekend hunched over a computer keyboard... funny that. Even my eyeballs are tired.

But the novel's done, and I'll be handing it in tomorrow after work.

Oops!

Sep. 4th, 2006 03:33 pm
dreaminghope: (Flying Demon Girl)
Stats:
Hours: 22.5
Words: 22,634
Pages: 110

Music: A Prairie Home Companion - "Original Motion Picture Sountrack" (twice, or was it three times?); Bif Naked - "Purge".

Fuel: Double-long-shot iced mocha and a lot of chocolate-covered-almonds.

I wrote the words "the end" with every intention of going back and adding some more scenes and details, but I find it very hard to motivate myself to do that.

The story's done, for better or for worse, and I want to walk away.

On the other hand, I want it to be as good as it can be, and I've got until midnight (or until I fall asleep) to improve it. On the other hand, "improving" it could cause more problems and just end up with a lot of word clutter. On the other hand, I really wanted to make it to 25,000 words - something about that number, which is exactly half of a NaNoWriMo novel, seems significant. On the other hand, I'm a perfectionist, and if I start re-reading, I might start trying for extensive editing, and that's just asking for trouble.

How many hands is that?

I'm going to take a break and then see what I think.
dreaminghope: (Cute but Deranged)
I just broke the 20,000 word mark.

At some point I must have decided that pants were interfering with my creativity.

My characters are starting to feel more real then I am.

I really love the semi-colon; there's a lot of them in my novel.
dreaminghope: (Sleeping Zoey)
I'm getting ready to turn in for the night. My attempt at a nap earlier didn't pan out, so I hope I managed to sleep tonight.

I know it is time to turn in when I start mixing my homonyms. I just wrote "She won't come near me; I don't think she knows I'm hear." I wonder how many of those I haven't caught.

Stats:
Words: 12,214
Pages: 59
Progress on outline: still 9 of 14
Number of copies saved to GMail: 4

I took a break for dinner (green onion pancakes and spring rolls) and some forgettable TV, then came back for another hour and a half or so of peppermint tea and putting in the pieces of a plotline I forgot to introduce early enough in the novel. I think I've got the groundwork laid for it now, so tomorrow should be about moving the plot forward.

I think that makes about eleven hours in front of the computer today. I've wandered over to the 3-Day Novel forum for a few minutes here and there, and I've been updating this once in a while, but most of that time has really been spent writing. I don't think I even did a marathon like this during my university years.

Over at the forum, some people are flying along and some are struggling. I feel like I'm in the "flying" category for now; the story's been going well and I don't want to give up, scream, cry, or throw things, which seems to be what the "struggling" folks are going through. I'm also proud to note that my caffeine intake is much lower then most of the other 3-Dayers, though I doubt that'll hold through tomorrow.

Off to bed for me! I'll be back here (hear?) all too soon.
dreaminghope: (Working Zoey)
In regards to the 3-Day Novel Contest I am entering this weekend.

There's a new document on my computer's desktop. It seems to have a pulse. I can hear it; I can feel its echo in my chest. I don't know if I'm going to able to sleep tonight, much less tomorrow night, because it is so loud.

The document whispers to me: Why are you doing this?

It is a good question. I don't know that my answers are good enough:

Because it is there to do.

Because I want to be able to say that I did it.

Because there's a teeny, tiny, itsy-bitsy chance that mine will be the best.

Perhaps I should create more noble reasons. I should have a story that must be told, a perspective that will change the world, or a muse that demands obedience.

To be a Writer*, I would be more tortured and driven, more romantic and artistic.

Really, I just write, but I think a little part of me wants to be a Writer, so I enter challenges and contests that let me play at it for awhile.

Are you ready for this?

I don't know how the story ends. I'm nervous, because I like to have a clear plan for everything, but I am trying to trust that I will figure out what to say by the time I am saying it.

Why are you doing this?

Because I've sent in the non-refundable $50 registration fee.

Because I told my Mom I was going to do it.

Because it is a good excuse to ignore the housework, eat junk food, and have Russ make me coffee.

Are you ready for this?

No, but that's OK. I don't have to be ready for everything. I can't be ready for everything. I'm a planner; this is the closest I've gotten to flying without a net.

Are you ready for this?

The closer it gets to the start of 12:01 AM Saturday, the less sure I am that I know what I'm doing or how I'm going to do it.

Why are you doing this?

The closer it gets to the start time, the less sure I am of why. But I am still sure that I want to do it.

One novel in three days.

I'm sure I will do it.

*With a deliberate Winnie-the-Pooh-like capital W.

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