Camp NaNoWriMo!

So, as promised, here’s my new project – another novel. Sort of.

Last summer, I finished a novel that I’d worked on with Brian Morton, who is an incredible author who teaches at my school. It is extremely first-draft-y. June is going to be my month to write a second draft.
True, it’s not a completely new novel that I’m writing utterly from scratch, and perhaps the men and women at Camp NaNoWriMo would object that I’m not quite following the rules, but honestly? I don’t think they would. Because the point is to write, to work on your writing and commit yourself to it for a month. And gosh darn it, that’s what I’m doing.

I’m currently reading the novel that I wrote. It’s a strange experience. I’ve tried to do it a few times before, but I never could. It made me cringe, or it bored me. But now, now that I am actually in the process of preparing to edit it, I’m able to do it. Or maybe I just needed to wait for nine months to be able to deal with it. Writing a book in a month is possible – but rewriting it takes a bit of cool down time.

There is so much I’m going to change. So much that simply makes no sense to me. I have the characters so firmly set in my mind, and have had them there for the past year and a half, that I can’t understand how I wrote some of what I did. One character, for instance, is painfully shy in my head, but in the novel as it stands, she is an RA at her college. This is absolutely ridiculous – she would never sign up to such a job. True, she’s become less painfully shy than she once was and she has friends, but her retraction from others is still her default state. Why on earth did I make her a bubbly RA in some scenes? Strange, indeed.

I’m excited about this coming month’s project, even though I will also be working, once again, at Hebrew Book Week (third year in a row!) and as a result will be stressed between June 6 and 18 (yes, it’s much longer than a week, I am aware).

Just to be clear – I am still going to complete the 50,000 words in a month part of Camp NaNoWriMo. And I’m so excited about this whole editing business, that I’m going to actually ask you all to sponsor me! The Office of Letters and Light are a wonderful nonprofit that organize NaNoWriMo and thus help more people to overcome their fear of writing, and, even better, they organize writing programs for children in some 2700 schools around the Unites States.
Here’s the link where you can donate, if you’d like. No pressure! You can donate as little or as much as you like, or not at all. If you do, though, and would like to be kept abreast of my writing, let me know! Here’s the link to my fundraising page:

http://slightlyignorant.stayclassy.org

Story? Novel? Book?

So here’s a question for all my fellow writers out there: what do you call the projects you work on? I mean, if you’re writing something that’s novel length, do you call it a novel? Or a book? Do you label it?

My current project, the main one I’ve been working on for the past two months, is now way over 100,000 words, and is over 280 pages. know the point to which I want to get with my characters progress before I stop and begin the strenuous and, I assume, long process of editing, fact checking and making sure that everything makes sense and isn’t total crap. I accept the fact that it might well not be worth a damn once I’m finished and that maybe I’ll put it aside and begin something new. The idea doesn’t scare me as much as it used to. It’s okay to write things that stay in the closet and never leave, because they’re practice for those things that are good enough to show the world and be proud of.

Anyway, the point is that my story is in advance stages, more than halfway through – maybe even three-quarters of the way. I know that if I choose to keep it, there will be a sequel or a part two or something of the sort, because I’ve simply discovered so many things that my characters need to go through that I didn’t realize before. But I still call the whole thing, all 285 pages that I have so far,  a “story” because it is. It’s a story, there’s no doubt about that, but I feel that calling it a novel or a book is… well, somehow it’s as if I don’t deserve those titles for it yet.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve actually gotten to the point where I actually do consider myself a writer, because, well, I write! I write two hours a day, and I enjoy it. I love the feeling the words coming out of my mind and suddenly finding themselves on paper or screen, the little sounds that they keys make as my fingers fly across them on my tiny little laptop, my sturdy companion. I love the way the pen feels in my hand when I write in my journal. I love the feeling of knowing that I write every day, and I even love the frustration and anger and hate that I sometimes feel when I try to write and don’t manage to. It’s all part and parcel of being a writer (not yet an author, of course, but a writer) and I love it.

But how about you? Do you put labels on your work? Are you scared to do so like me, or are you bold and courageous and agree to say that your project is a novel or book-in-progress?

Can’t. Write. Panic. Attack. Plus a Research Question.

Not quite an attack, but almost.

It’s scary – feeling like I can’t write. I think it may be the kind of fear that wakes me up from nightmares. It’s a taunting fear, too – it’s like the music buildup in horror films, the kind that goes into a crescendo just to calm again around the next corner, then climb again suddenly when the monster jumps out of the shadows.

It’s a vacant feeling, too. Like something disappeared. My rational, logical mind knows that nothing disappeared, that it’s still there somewhere and that today, for some reason, I just couldn’t reach it.

Instead of writing, I tried researching. And I got very upset about that too, since I couldn’t find the price of paper in the seventeenth century. I’m not sure it matters, not really, especially as I found some cool stuff that might be very useful and that gave me ideas, but still – the thought that there will be something glaringly anachronistic in what I’m writing bothered me so much that I had to take a walk, reading The City & The City by China Mieville, just to take my mind off it.

So here’s the question – I don’t know how many of you write fantasy of any sort, but if you do… How much license do you give yourself? How much creative freedoms do you think you can take with a story that’s clearly based in a different world?

A Schedule

Ancient Greece, course number 10110, exam at the New High-School at 4PM. Tomorrow.

That sounds like I’m taking an exam IN ancient Greece. But no, I haven’t learned the secrets to time travel… yet.

The day after tomorrow, Friday, is the day before my birthday. I’ll be going with my friends to a cafe in Jaffa to listen to some jazz and then walk around the flea market.

Saturday, June 26, is my birthday. I’m turning twenty. Last year, I was extremely depressed before my nineteenth birthday, but this year, I don’t feel much of anything. Does it scare me that I won’t be an official “teen” anymore? Yes. Does it scare me that “twenty” sounds so grown up? Yes. Is there a little part inside of me that’s screaming at me to get down on the ground, play with dolls, make faces at boys I don’t like, and stay a child forever? Yes. But then, there are good things that come with age. I can’t think of anything that I didn’t have last year or the year before, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be. Anyway, I have more important things to figure out at the moment – like getting back to health so I can get back to college.

Yes, I’m going back to college – I hope, I think, I want – but not yet. It’s going to be spring-semester. So meanwhile I’m here, until October when I need to send my letters in and proclaim that on all fronts, I’m better.

But how am I going to spend my time? What am I going to do? Well, I have a few objectives, none of which are easy:

1. I’m going to relax. I swear, hand on heart, hand on my favorite teddy, hand on my favorite book, I swear that I don’t know how to relax. Not really, not for stretches of time. There’s always something I should be doing. Something I’m supposed to be doing. Something productive, that looks good on a resume, that will make me busy so that no one will be able to tell me that I’m wasting my time. So, once and for all, I’m going to say NO to that overachiever inside me – I’m going to tell her that I’m taking a break, whether she likes it or not. This may be the one and only time in my life that I’ll be absolutely, 100% free to rest and relax and catch up on my gaming, my reading, my fun. I don’t know if I’ll manage, but I’m going to try. You may think – this is the easiest damn thing in the world, how can this be a hard thing to do? Well, let me tell you, you don’t live in my head. This is going to be a real challenge, and it’s probably going to be the one thing I won’t manage to do.

2. Having said all that, I don’t want to loll around in bed all day, every day. I just want to do something that I want to be doing. So, my next objective, is to finish the four games I have that I’ve not yet finished, that were expensive, and that I REALLY want to play. You may say what you want about video/computer games, since I know there are many people who are against them. But you know what? To me, they’re stories. They’re stories I get to be in, get to participate in and get to anticipate and wait for what comes next and to be responsible for it. It’s like an extremely interactive Choose Your Own Adventure Book for me.

3. Take drawing lessons and maybe voice lessons. I’ve always wanted to know how to draw, and as for my voice… well, I’ve always been one of those people who sing along to everything – including making weird noises when the horns/piano/guitar are playing. But it’s scary, putting myself, my voice, a deep part of who I am, out there to be scrutinized and looked at and played around with. So this idea is still going around my brain and I’m thinking about it.

….and, the most important of them all:

4. I’m going to write. I’m going to make a schedule. I’m going to put aside two hours a day, every day, starting next week, and during those two hours I’m going to be dead to the world. I’ll take no calls, I’ll see no friends, I’ll make no excuses. Can I get up to make coffee? Sure. If I go on holiday, will I take a break? Possibly. But I’m treating this as a job. Not in a bad way – not at all. This is exciting me almost more than the rest of them. Because if I dedicate, say, half an hour to writing in my blog on an average day, then the other hour and a half will be going towards one of my bigger projects. There are three serious ones at the moment, and I’m going to have to play around with all of them and choose which one I want to be serious about right now. But I’m going to do this. I have to do this. I have to see that I’m able to do this and enjoy it. Because, as every writer I’ve ever heard has said, part of writing is just learning to sit your butt down and write. And write. And write.

**

So there it is. My summer schedule. All wrapped up in four nice points. Now I just have to stick with it.

Ethan

It seemed that no matter how his hair fell, he looked fabulous. If it was in his eyes, it looked boyish. If it was curled up a bit, it looked sexy. If it was cut short, it showed off his perfect forehead. That was the kind of man-boy he was. He could wear whatever he wanted, and did. Anything from black boots, black jeans and a biker jacket to a waistcoat, pinstriped pants and loafers. In his pocket, you could easily find either a pack of cigarettes or a watch on a chain. If all that weren’t enough, he also projected his comfort and self-esteem and acceptance of who he was. His presence was enough to make anyone weak-kneed, men and women alike. He wasn’t even twenty yet.

He stood smoking outside of his apartment building. As I walked by, he looked up at me, and I saw that his eyes were wet, on the verge of spilling tears. Before I could stop myself, I blurted out “Ethan? You alright?”

He mutely offered me a cigarette, lit it for me, and leaned back against the brick wall, one leg going up to prop himself. He was wearing his black boots, I noticed. I stood beside him, puffing away, feeling more intimate with him than I ever had before, despite being his neighbour for over six months, and despite us having many mutual friends. It seemed that I saw him all the time – around the building, at clubs and pubs. He was a fixture of the Soho night-life, and I often found myself dancing just a few people away from him. It wasn’t that he was a snob, exactly. He wasn’t posh, his father didn’t go to Eton and he hadn’t even finished university. He was just a regular bloke like me. Of course, I couldn’t pull off half the image he had, but then, that’s me.

“Boyfriend,” he sighed. He took a last drag and then threw the butt down. He stomped on it with a force that made me shiver a little. He looked at me, and I think I must have looked a little guilty, since his eyes flashed from heartbroken to angry to resigned in quick succession. “You knew?” He’d already ducked his head, pulling out another cigarette from his pack.

I couldn’t deny it, but I didn’t want to let him in on the fact that, well, we all knew. We all thought he knew it, too. We’d seen them together almost every night of the past few months, but we all knew. The boyfriend lived in Manchester, only came to London every month or two. He’d been over just three weeks ago. So, obviously, we all thought that Ethan knew.

“Sorry, mate.”

He shook his head. His hair flopped, looking perfect no matter what he did. That hair, that hair that my eyes always fixated on, it was still as glossy, as perfect, as natural as it always was. But the rest of him… Well. For the first time since I’d met him, I wasn’t intimidated.

“When’s your birthday?” I asked. I knew it didn’t matter one whit, but I asked anyway.

“February. February 9th, ’88. Why?”

“No reason. You’re two days younger than me. I always thought you were older than me. Never mind. Come upstairs, come on, I’ll make you some tea and we can watch whatever football game is one tonight, right?”

He chucked his smoke way across the street so it hit the building across and a little spray of sparks shone red-hot before falling to the ground. Brushing a hand through his hair, he followed me into the building.

A Thought On Writing

Although I’m writing about essay-writing in this particular instance, I’m pretty sure that this happens in creative writing as well.

There is a point, while writing something, when your brain simply goes numb. You catch yourself staring at the computer screen or at the notebook in front of you, and for a moment you’re almost sure that no thoughts have gone through your head for the past two minutes. Of course, if you think about it, you realize that you’ve been thinking the whole time, but not about anything profound or interesting – definitely not about what you’ve been writing. Rather, you’ve been thinking about your next meal, or the dress your friend just bought, or the trees with their pretty autumn leaves outside.

It’s a strange sensation – almost like your mind is betraying you, for once it gets to this point, it’s often really hard to get your mind to function properly once more. You may need, at this point, to get up and stretch and do something completely different. If you try to stare at the page for much longer, you’ll fall into despair and won’t manage, under any circumstances, to write something you’re pleased with. It’s a tricky situation, and one which I’ve been reaching over and over again in the past couple weeks.

The real problem is when you don’t let yourself take that break from whatever you’re writing. It’s a problem I repeat too much. I need to learn to listen to my brain, and when it tells me to stop and get up and do something else, I should do it, instead of sit and force myself to write for another half hour or hour or two or three. Having said that, I am, of course, going back to my extremely poorly written essay, even though my brain is going fuzzy. Alas, I must ignore my own conclusions for tonight.