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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Game Plan

Why, yes, I am attempting NaNoWriMo for the third time, and maybe this time I will even succeed.

The last two years, I ran out of steam about halfway through the month. It wasn't that the my story didn't excite me (the first one actually turned into a great project), it was that seeing the deficits became overwhelming.

In case you didn't know, in order to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, you have to write about 1,667 words a day. If you track your progress via the NaNo website, your stats counter will show you your daily average and how many words you will have to write in order to stay on track.

As someone who has no real average (4,000 one day can be 60 the next), that is really daunting.

So this year, I have a plan to get me to the NaNo finish line for the first time.

1. Two different ideas
Where's the rule that the 50,000 words have to be the same book? Nowhere, I tells ya! So now when I am stuck, I am going to switch over to a second project. Hopefully I get two novellas (or at least two great starts on two novellas) by the time December rolls around.

2. Mini writing retreats
I have a few vacation days at work and I plan to use them (and only one time for skiing). Fortunately, I plan to meet up with some writings pals at various coffee shops for when I need human interaction, and Write Club meetups on Twitter for when the Internets will do.

3. Write Or Die
 I hate this program already, but I feel like it's going to do great things for me.

4. The two great catch-ups.
It is sort of inevitable that at some point, I will fall behind. It's just my writing style -- sometimes I have to stare out a window for an hour or so to figure out what I'm going to do. Fortunately, November comes gift wrapped with two very special holidays: Veteran's Day and Thanksgiving. If I can double my production over these two holiday weekends, I will hopefully have enough buffer to make it through.

5. Clean living.
This one is going to sound crazy town, but bear with me. Normally when I am writing, either fiction or memos, I stuff my face with Jolly Ranchers, licorice, and Diet Coke. It's a habit I got into in junior high, and it's something that takes a far larger toll on my adult metabolism than I'd like to admit.

So in addition to striving for 1,667 words a day, I am also going to ax the caffeine and refined sugar from my life, and add in more regular workouts. Motivational memes on Pinterest lead me to believe that this will have a positive impact on me, both physically and mentally, and who can argue with Pinterest?

Any of you all doing NaNo next month? And if you're not, want to start a different, unrelated goal so we can cheer each other on anyway?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Curses!

I'm in a few Facebook groups related to writing and someone posed an interesting question: Do the characters in your novels swear?

It's sort of strange, when you think about it. I can see why an author might want to refrain from using certain vulgarities. If the author is religious and has convictions against those sort of words; if the author writes for tweens or even teens; if the author writes in certain time settings (think Regency period) where swearing was some serious hankie dropping business.

But I have to admit, my first thought about that question was, "Hell yes, my characters swear."

I'm not going to throw a side-eye at any author who refuses (for whatever reason) to make their characters swear. I will give a major side-eye, however, to any completed novel that has modern adults say stuff like, "That stinks" unironically. There is a line called realism. If you cross that line, no matter how pure your intentions, you've made a big error in the land of fiction writing. (To be clear, the line goes both ways. Don't make the mistake of thinking you can signal character traits like TEEN or THUG or HEARTLESS BUSINESS MAN just by tossing some vulgarities into their dialogue. I mean, who are you, E.L. James writing about currency changes in China?*)

For the record, it is entirely possible to write a novel with realistic characters in a modern setting and not have any of them swear. That's what I set out to do with my last manuscript, JAYMA RODGERS GOES TO COLLEGE, since I knew I was going to be submitting it to LDS publishers. That being said ... had Jayma and her friends been hunting down a serial killer, involved in a car crash, lost their jobs, or had any other high-stress, high-drama moment come their way ... I'm not sure I could say the same. JRGTC was a romantic comedy set in college, and while there is conflict, it's more of the "mixed romantic messages," "loneliness," "failed chemistry tests," and "existential angst of being in college and not knowing what you're doing" variety. In other words, it's slice-of-life kind of stuff.

My current project is a bit heavier, and accordingly, the characters swear. It's a part of their teenage, dealing-with-drama-beyond-that-should-have-been-beyond-their-maturity-level thang. (Oh mygosh, I am so old. Thang.)

Do I feel bad about it? Hell, no. (The cursing, not the-being-old.)

That being said ... I think no matter what kind of character I wrote, there are certain things I just wouldn't have them say, words I consider far more offensive than any technical swear could be. (This is me, getting off my high horse.) So I suppose everyone has a line in the sand. Except Stephen King, because I'm pretty sure there's nothing that man won't write, and man, I love him for it.

Writers, where is your "line"? Do you have one? And readers, what is the most egregious example of non-realistic dialogue you've ever encountered? (Either of the vulgar/attempting to avoid being vulgar, or the "this clause modifies the provisos!"* variety?)

Finally, I leave you with this thought, dear Blog friends, from a cherished film from my childhood:

"He worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium; a master."
-Ralphie, A Christmas Story



* For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of reading 50 Shades of Grey, Ms. James characterizes her 27-year-old bazillionaire Christian Grey by having him shout nonsense into the phone like, "I don't care about currency changes in China, damnit!" and "The remaining subclauses of this clause are to be read subject to this proviso and the clauses above! Ugh, gosh, why is everyone so much dumber than me?" 

So. Yeah. I still do not know what Christian Grey's company does. Though, to be fair, Christian's lady-love Ana (a college graduate and an English major) responds to all of it with "Holy crap!" and "Jeez." 

Ahem. Let that sink in for a second.

The realism thing cuts in a lot of different directions.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Never (Again)

Today Theresa Paolo's debut novel Never (Again) comes out and she's hosting a blog hop to celebrate. I have wanted to read Never (Again) ever since I heard about it, so I hope you will too!

So is there anything you have ever vowed you'd never do again, only to find yourself ... doing it again?

1. Well, clearly I repeatedly sign up for blog hops and then post a few days late. (Sorry, Theresa! Everyone, still read her book!)

2. I am addicted to gossip websites. I read Perez Hilton daily in law school and now I've moved on to Dlisted. I love trashy magazines and if I weren't too cheap I'd probably buy them every time I went to the grocery store.

Periodically I remember this habit is trashy and gross, but at the end of the day I find nothing more relaxing that sleaze.

3. Dating websites. Oh, dating websites. I know I have never had success on you (every guy I've ever dated was someone I met in real life, not InternetLand), but when faced with the prospect of living the rest of my life surrounded by people who are either already coupled-up or gay (meaning I will never meet another straight, single man my age for the foreseeable future), I get desperate and sign up for yet another dating website.

On my most recent blind date excursion, I ran into my boss, my date "forgot his wallet," and then he asked if we could walk around Bed, Bath, and Beyond for a little bit. Apparently he needed a new toilet scrubber and wanted to check out his options.

So, dear readers, any awkward habits you'd like to confess? No? Well then, I think the only thing to do at this point is go read Theresa's book!


Monday, October 14, 2013

I won't be satisfied until I see one zombie ride another zombie into battle

Memo to the world: If you go on a blind date with a guy who thinks last night's episode of The Walking Dead, featuring zombies raining down on people as they fell through a rotting ceiling (repeat: ZOMBIES RAINING DOWN) did not have enough zombie action ...

Run.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Banana fana fo fana

Diego adopted two rescue kitties this weekend.

So far, Spencer loves them. The kitties ... sometimes love Spencer. Sometimes they hate him. Sometimes they are indifferent to him. (Cats, amiright?) But Spencer always loves them. Last night he spent about an hour grooming (read: licking) one of them as it purred in delight.

Spencer's new theme song: We Can't Stop (Loving the Kitties) by Miley Cyrus







Right now their names are either Taco and Tim Gunn, or Fergus and Sebastian.

Please feel free to weigh in on the debate.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Adventures in dating land

Anyone puzzled by why guys on first dates ask about whether you play sports? What do they think you're going to say, "Umm, yeah, I'm hoping to make varsity this year"?

No, dummy, I'm 29. I don't play sports.

And point of clarification, frisbee golf does not count as a sport.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Really, I'm just jealous because I don't know which persona I should be cultivating

Have you heard of online image crafting? It's this phenomenon where people post Facebook statuses and Instagrams designed solely to portray a version of themselves that does not actually exist.

This isn't a new thing--as long as social media has been around online, people have been (consciously or unconsciously) sharing pieces of themselves that are only the most flattering. (At least ... we hope so.)

But as more and more people Tweet, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, and blog every moment of their lives, the more people start to present not just the best possible versions of themselves, but a does not quite really exist version of themselves.

Cute photos of outfits. Kids doing adorable things. Beautiful meals. Oooey-gooey texts from a loved one. A perfectly neat office. A sweaty-but-still-adorable-nose after a long workout. A sunset with #nofilter, because if the sun sets without someone Instagramming it, was it really enjoyed?

Anyway.

This is a long post just to explain why I will never put anything online about loving the gym* or General Conference.** NEVER GONNA HAPPEN.







* Oh, the gym. How I hate the gym. It would be such a filthy lie if I ever said otherwise. It's weird to me that once upon a time, I really did love to run, because ever since I turned 19, I despise physical activity. If I were to Instagram myself working out, all you guys would see is a sweaty, resentful, uncoordinated, still-fairly-chubby girl in a free credit union t-shirt.



** This is like church on cocaine for non-Momos. I physically cannot roll my eyes hard enough at people who feel the need to Facebook about how much they love General Conference.


Friday, October 4, 2013

Why I am still interested in writing New Adult ... that other post notwithstanding ...

I've made my disdain for the TV show Girls clear before, but even though I don't love it, it highlights an interesting phenomenon -- twenty-somethings today face a terrible job market combined with crippling student loans. They usually can't afford afford good healthcare, but they can afford relatively small luxuries like Starbucks, iPhones, and the occasional pair of designer jeans. They were raised by parents with a 50% divorce rate and were exposed to more armchair psychology than is good for anyone.

And as one of them, I must say, it pisses me off when our entire generation is systematically dismissed as entitled whiners.

I worked hard to get where I am today, and it makes me mad that I will never achieve the same levels of success as people who simply managed to arrive where I am ... five, ten, fifteen, twenty years earlier. People who are now calling me and people like me speshul snowflakes for wanting (to someday achieve) what they already got.

I love my current day job, but I can't think too hard about it without getting sucked into a rage spiral. You see, I don't make very much -- but I work with people who do. Because they got raises when times were good, with benefits that are vested and can never be taken away. And now times are bad, and those of us on the bottom of the ladder are supposed to just be grateful for a job. Wanting more is to be labeled "entitled."

Like I said, I love my job. I love that it's interesting, I love that it's flexible. But I'm not so unrealistic to think that I will always be able to say that, when I know that the 5 attorneys at the bottom of the ladder will always have a very different (smaller) compensation package than others, despite expending very different (bigger) amounts on our degrees.

Wanting a fair shake is not "entitled." I'm not asking to make the same amount of money as an attorney with 30 years of experience. I just want to be on the same bell curve.

At my old job, I did a lot of work I didn't like. (In all fairness, post-2008 economic meltdown, a lot of people did a lot of work they didn't like.) And one day, I ran into a partner on the elevator on my way to do some of that work. He smiled awkwardly at me and said, "We've all put in our time."

The problem is, that was absolutely not true. He hadn't ever had to do what I was doing--and certainly not for an entire year of his life. "We've all put in our time" was just something we both told ourselves to feel better about the situation.

I left that job, in part because of that situation. After I left, I heard that the firm fired most of the remaining people who were supposedly just "putting in their time." Putting it in for what?

Not to sound like an Occupier*, but the fact is simply this--for the bottom 99% of us, we are all worse off financially than our corresponding 99% were ten, twenty, or thirty years ago.** And there is nothing wrong with acknowledging that, and frankly, being a little angry about it.

New Adult, as a category of fiction, is important. It's important because art ought to reflect life, and not just the lives of the lovelorn or privileged-but-sad. There are a lot of authors who use New Adult to tackle topics "too dark" for Young Adult literature -- mental illness and sexual assault being the big two. But are those issues that only affect that 20-and-over set? I don't think so.

That's not to say that those stories aren't relevant, but they aren't the only stories.

I love the idea of New Adult literature because I want to read about a helicoptered generation trying their hand at independence for the first time. I want to read about boys and girls trying to become men and women in a society that has a really warped idea of what it means to be a man or a woman. I want to read about people with 6-figures of student loan debt trying to make it happen on a $30,000 annual salary, without coming off as woefully tone-deaf about bigger problems.

I love the idea of New Adult because I loved college and if I could redo college, I absolutely would--without changing much at all. I love the idea of New Adult because the question of whether your twenties are a wasted decade or the foundation to your entire adult life is still a question people ask themselves. (See this Ted talk for an answer I think we can all agree upon.)

Despite all my gripes, I think the best of New Adult is yet to come.





* PS, who decided on "Occupier" instead of "Occupant"? Occupant would have been much better.

** For the record, I am no doomsayer decrying our times. I like 2013. I'd rather live in 2013 than any other time, because I love equality, technology, and bras that are shaped like boobs instead of cones. Now is great! I just hope it gets even better, because our collective financial situation is nothing to be happy about, and is something definitely worth trying to fix.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Totes my goats

Lately I haven't been doing too much other than work, reading, and hanging out on the couch. It sounds like a rut, and when it comes to writing I have to admit it is, but I've been enjoying it.

If you're in your own rut, feel free to check out Homeland (season 2), Breaking Bad, Eleanor and Park, Fangirl (double recommendation for Fangirl, in fact), and Project Runway (R.I.P., Kate. Your dresses were too cute for a show that has kept Alexandria and her weird tattered skirts).

Last night I went to a mini-law school reunion because a friend was in town. I forgot how much I liked hanging out with old friends and gossiping like crazy.* My friend Roger introduced me to the phrase "totes my goats," which he says he can only use at work without criticism, since his kids groan, "Dad, don't say that!" every time he uses at work.

You guys, we are officially old.




* Favorite law school reminiscence: Our friend T, who received the pro bono award at graduation for providing the most service in our entire class. T was also into gangsta rap, flat brimmed hats, and thought he was seriously thugged out because he was from the ghetto of Utah (West Valley City). The combination was amazing--"I just love helping people, muthafu**ahs!"