The Grotesquerie

steampunkinHappy Halloween and Samhain!  I’m posting today while I wait for NaNoWriMo to begin and thought I’d write about a topic that I’ve been wanting to address for the last month or so but hadn’t found a good time to post about so far. Given the subject matter, I can’t think of a better time than now on Halloween, a day dedicated to the grotesque and macabre.

As a society, we are addicted to being thrilled. From amusement parks to movies, we crave the emotional and physical sensations of being excited, of feeling our hearts thumping in our chest and adrenaline pumping through our veins.  Action in movies play upon this desire. How many throw shadow punches during a good boxing movie? How many pantomime rocketing at 80 mph down the highway during a Fast and the Furious movie? How many turned off their targeting computer during the Star Wars trench scene? We imagine ourselves in these situations and it gives us a palpable thrill, a surge of emotion and energy. The same could be said of good books, ones that transport us and exhilarate us, whether its love’s first blush or being part of the charge of Rohirrim during the Battle of Pelennor Fields.  Good books pull us into the action. A good narrative always does that, whether on page or celluloid or televised.

Of course, there’s the darker side of those thrills, a need to be scared, shocked and surprised. Horror as a genre is nothing new. It has existed for thousands of years in the form of superstitions, folklore and dark fables. In some ways it can be cautionary or educational, imparting moral lessons or survival instincts. More recently, it has been to let us dip our toes into a darker world, one where we are not necessarily the masters of our world or of our fate. This is the same kind of thrill an intimidating roller coaster would have, pushing us close to the brink of death, under a control that is not of our making. But always the terror and horror are saying something, be it a warning or a lesson.

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Challenge Completed!

success2Earlier in the month, I’d set myself a challenge to complete the first two-thirds of my novel by November 1st.  There was some doubt and hesitation on my part, but I managed to complete the first two acts and am heading into NaNoWriMo ready to finish this novel.

Of course, I’ve come to some unpleasant but unavoidable realizations, such as the fact that the novel is a door stop right now and will need some serious trimming to ever be able to present to an agent, let alone a publisher, but I’m already considering some cuts right now.

However, now is a time for celebration, not review.  This will be a special NaNo and November for me.  Perhaps for Christmas I’ll have a finished and edited first draft, ready for my beta readers.  Who know, I might even put a chapter on my blog!

Review: Toshiba Satellite Radius P55W Laptop

 il_570xN.252267716         The only truly essential components for writing a novel are imagination, determination, paper and a pen or pencil. Nothing else is required and indeed many writers use just those components and nothing else. However, technology offers a number of truly useful benefits to the writing process that aids in efficiency, security and research. I would wager that most writers these days would not consider starting a novel without their trusty desktop or laptop. And coffee, of course; lots of coffee. And perhaps Scotch. Definitely Scotch.

As for myself, I have been doing most of my writing on my desktop. I use Scrivener as my writing app of choice, so I usually need a fair bit of real estate onscreen to make the most of its myriad features and desktop layout.  Having a second monitor is also nice, as I can have my main writing window free of distractions, yet have the smaller of the two screens available for notes, Google/Wikipedia searches or just have iTunes running and accessible. It has worked well for me on the majority of my novel, but frequently, I cannot be at home when the drive to write hits me, such as at work during breaks or when I’m otherwise away form home but have a surfeit of free time I’d like to use to write.

I have/had a 11″ HP laptop, but it wasn’t incredibly well-suited for the task. It was small, so it was best used for a single open doc, so it did not work well for Scrivener. It also did not have any ambient keyboard lighting, so working in low-light or dim environments was difficult -at best- and maddening, at worst. Additionally, it had a very slow processor and an unreliable wireless modem. Thus, I decided it was necessary to look for a replacement, especially with the approach of NaNoWriMo, which I participate in every year. While it was not absolutely necessary, any impediment to writing can be detrimental to actually writing, so I wanted something that felt right to use when I was writing.

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NaNoWriMo Resources

nonowrimoNational Novel Writers Month is in just a few days and I wanted to share some information I had learned concerning seminars being offered by the local Metropolitan and Pioneer Library Systems this coming month.  These are free, although you are definitely encouraged to register online.

While I know anyone participating in NaNoWriMo will be heads down and brain-deep in our novels, but these discussions offer a unique opportunity to join other writers, share about your experiences, your successes and failures and take a break from the hustle and word-count and expand upon your craft.


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The Light of Purpose

dawnSo, I’ve recently been battling self-doubt and confusion concerning my novel.  Every writer faces it from time to time and every writer must come to terms with it or give up their craft.  I was not quite at that point, but I certainly was wavering on continuing my first novel:  It’s too big, it’s very likely to disappear in a cloud of other (better) steampunk novels, it’s taken too long.  Whatever criticisms or doubt I could level at my manuscript, my imagination or myself, I did.  With gusto.

I perpetrated the first and greatest sin of a writer and didn’t ever realize it: I let criticism destroy my courage and my perseverance.  I took helpful suggestions, valid observations about how I was expressing my novel and its message and turned that into condemnation.  That’s a bad thing to do, but I suppose learning that lesson now is better than submitting the novel and having someone ravage it and not be prepared to handle that level of criticism.

However, my lovely wife Jennifer, always my muse, defender and generally wiser half had a long heart-to-heart with me.  She gave me her opinions, unvarnished as I would expect, but ultimately optimistic.  Will my novel need serious editing? Yes, a fact I already knew.  It is too long?  Yes again, but I was already prepared for some savage editing after my first draft was done.  She explained that if I already knew there facts, why so defeatist?  Why be prepared to give up on a novel I’ve been writing for four years and try something new?  Wouldn’t the sense of accomplishment outweigh any benefit of stepping aside?  Wouldn’t finishing the first draft and making my first hard cuts and revisions and then passing it to my beta readers to review be both a better option, providing both an important sense of completion of my first manuscript (or at least the first serious draft) as well as a built-in period of distance?  Why not work on my new idea(s) then?  I’ll certainly have time.

Of course, she was right.  She thankfully is always right.

So, now I approach November re-dedicated and reinvigorated.  There’s nothing bad about stepping back from something, but only if the reason is worthwhile and the results are worth it.  I think getting this novel past its current stage and then letting others handle the brutal work of critiquing it is what my novel needs, as well as what I need.