Sunday, November 30, 2008

National Novel Continuation Month

November is almost over; just about six hours to go here on the East Coast. And with the end of November arrives the close of National Novel Writing Month. Though I have topped 15,000 words, it is not physically possible for me to get to 50,000 today unless I were to steal words from other documents and paste them into my work in progress. That's not going to happen. I respect myself and my fellow writers too much to do that.

But that doesn't mean I'll stop writing what I have begun. I'm still getting to know the characters in my new novel, Blood Falls. They're interesting and I'm sure there's a lot more complexity to them than has been shown so far. But that's what you learn when you first meet people. I know something about my main character's family, how her parents died, the awful disease her sister has, the brother who seems about as deep as the condensation on a bottle of beer. I met people I didn't know about, like the niece of my main character, who strikes me as smart and precocious and potentially uplifting as this family's story progresses.

I've also gotten to know a couple fellow writers better. For that I am most thankful. I feel like I've been welcomed into a community of writers and I've already learned a lot from them; I suspect that more will come. I hope I've helped at least as many people as have helped me.

But tomorrow, despite the board meeting I must attend and the mountains of work I must tend to, begins National Novel Continuation Month(s). Most likely, it'll extend into the new year. It may also overlap with the beginning of Local Life-Interrupted-by-Babies Lifetime, but I'm ok with that too. Because they will be a big part of my writing life for years to come. Indeed, I expect them to garnish a huge chunk of my salary over the next 20-25 years.

So, off I go to live the life of yet another aspiring novelist -- albeit, one with a novel to show for it and another on the way and dozens of workable ideas to pursue after that. I'll probably reach about 16,000 words on this year's Nano. I strongly suspect I'll start something else next year, but this year's word count may end up as a high-water mark for a while, unless I start fictionalizing what my kids do. Lord knows what tomorrow brings.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Is There Any Such Thing as Bad Sex?

Proving that there can be an award for anything, the British Literary Review has bestowed its annual Bad Sex in Fiction Prize on the venerable John Updike. While he may have created a famous character named Rabbit, it seems his characters in general have not quite shown the same joie de vivre as a warren of horny bunnies.

Updike was honored for a lifetime of crude, tasteless, or ridiculous sex scenes. Although he's never won the annual award, he apparently has been on the short list (ouch!) four times. "Good sex or bad sex, he has kept us entertained for many years," the Review's editors said in a statement.

As someone whose written sex scenes have been both wince-inducing and enjoyed, I feel I can say that I'd rather not be known as a writer of bad fictional sex. However, I'd prefer that to being known for bad real sex.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Putting Things Right

Life has been very busy lately, and not merely because I'm still struggling to write daily on a new novel. I've got major projects to finish before the end of the year and a freelance piece I intend to finish tonight and miles to go before I sleep...

While procrastinating about 10 minutes ago (before this arguably more valuable procrastination), I read a review of Stephen King's new collection of short stories, Just After Sunset. At the same time, I found another writer's MySpace page and she had cool background music, which has put me into a mellow mood (cue the single malt!).

So I read the review and took it in. And you know what? This guy is right: Stephen King's power as a writer is his honesty. I mean, anyone who knows how to write knows that King's work isn't a stellar example of art — and King knows how to write. Get it? Stephen King is an honorable craftsman, and I enjoy his work — even those that are pedestrian, like Dreamcatcher. He wrote to pay the bills, to get his wife a birthday gift, to feed his alcoholic needs while those terrors enlivened his early writing. He kept writing because it's all he really knew to do. I respect that. Even the drinking part. (The coke habit I can do without, thank you.) He kept writing because it's what he was meant to do. And he believed. Amen.

Read the review on your time. I'm going to put my time in to finish this profile. Because I need the money, and I've done the interview, and it's interesting. And I'm the only one who can write it right now the way it's supposed to be done. So be it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Brief Update on Nano WriMo 2008

For those who might care, I've not been able to write often here. I have a couple posts in the hopper, but I'm trying to write a new novel this month as part of National Novel Writing Month, and I just don't get much time to write anything else.

As you can see by the cool little widget on top of the sidebar, I've written more than 7000 words. If that sounds like a lot, I thank you. It's not. I'm way behind pace. And these 75 words or so don't count.

If you're a fellow Nano, feel free to visit me. I'm elephantguy.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Dracula in the 21st Century

Lately, I've been reading Dracula — the original by Bram Stoker, not some comic book version. I'd never read it before and I must admit I was surprised. I had expected that there was more going on than a simple scary story. People often talk about the sexual (and even homosexual) innuendo and movies embellish the vanity, but a reader can really sink his teeth into the allusions to class distinctions and religious differences that Stoker included.

But even the structure of the novel is unique. He told his story through telegrams and journals — a product of his time that, like a vampire, can survive forever if properly fed. Most (well, a lot if not most) of my reading the past couple of years has been devoted to contemporary literature, and I'm not much of a consumer of experimental literature. (A collection of short stories that I bought at the Brooklyn Book Festival was about inanimate objects. Sorry, I can't relate to that. I'll never get that dollar back.)

But a well crafted story that demonstrates an interesting use of structure can be captivating. I've got an idea that I won't go into here for a 21st century horror story. I haven't figured out yet how it would sell (not whether it would Bram Stoker lives!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

One for the History Books

All right! You don't have to be a math whiz to see the blue ink on the wall. With Ohio now declared for Sen. Barack Obama, Pennsylvania unsurprisingly going Democratic, and Florida looking ready to go Democratic too, it's time to stick a fork in Sen. John McCain's campaign. It's done.

There's a party in Grant Park in Chicago, and I think there will be celebration throughout much of the United States. Barack Obama is on the verge of history!

President-Elect Obama will have a lot of work ahead of him, and there remains much to learn about the House and Senate races as the night goes on, but short of an unspeakable catastrophe, he has accomplished what many African-Americans never thought possible in their lifetimes.

This may sound silly to some, but I'm proud of America. We're still a nation with deep racial divisions, but at least it can be said now that we have elected a black man president. There's never been a black prime minister of England or a black president of France. Don't even think about Germany in this equation. I don't know for certain, but I'd be shocked if there's been an Aboriginal PM of Australia.

This truly is history. I'm proud to have witnessed it and to be part of this historic vote.

NaNo Site Problems, So What Else Is New

I'd forgotten how much of a pain in the butt it can be to access the National Novel Writing Month Web site during November. Honestly, the only thing I want to do there is update my word count, but I can't get into the site.

I don't know if it's because there's so much activity or because they have so little bandwidth available... all I know is it's a hassle.

This year, I'm far ahead of my pace from last year, though I haven't maintained the pace I need to reach my goal. Basically, I'm a little farther than two days in using the average of 1666 words per day; today is November 4th, so I need to catch up. This month is too busy to let things get behind.

Hope everyone out there participating is able to write regularly. If I can borrow from the old joke about voting (on this Election Day), Write early, write often.

Funny, it's more appropriate this way.