best of the year

There’s been a lot of stress and frustration over this last year, but in an effort to be positive & optimistic, here’s a few of the highlights of my 2009, the things that make me smile almost instantly when I think about them:

Creamsicle the cat…he actually came into our lives in the summer of 2008, as a crazy stray tom with matted dreadlocks of orange and white fur. But after keeping him safe through the snowpocalypse, he began to be part of the posse.

In March, we officially adopted him via a trip to the animal shelter — he was so ill-mannered in the cages that he was set to be killed — while he had a wound in his head from fighting, so bad that it had to have a tube put in it. We weren’t sure if it was going to work out, what with the fighting (not with ours, oddly enough), running away, spraying, etc., but wow! Neutering worked wonders. 🙂

His bad behavior gradually ended over the course of a few weeks, and with lots of love and attention he’s become a lovely friendly kitty, crazy about laps and treats. He’s the only cat I’ve ever had who sits on my lap in a way that allows me to keep typing, which I love. He still has a tendency to be “talkative” at night, but often if you just yell “hey” back at him that’s good enough to calm him down.

The Xtracycle, about which I have written several times: my awesome, awesome new bike this summer, the load-hauling machine.  Rides to the river, massive grocery trips, and plenty of commuting.

Working with Drupal — I converted my employer’s site this year, and so spent a lot of time playing with it, learning, and getting to know the delightful Drupal community. Even went to two (free!) events in Seattle this year, both of which were immensely helpful, even if the second one was cut short by C’s brush with the flu. I’m getting that feeling of mastery that’s so joyful (and a little addictive) — I feel like I could do wondrous things with Drupal.

And finally NaNoWriMo, which gave me back confidence in my creativity. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve made a couple of unsuccessful attempts. I’ve also been stalled out on my writing for several years, stuck unable to finish the novel I’ve been puttering at since…um… 1994? NaNoWriMo gave me a chance to jump into something entirely new, and to commit to finishing it. I even tried some entirely new (to me) techniques, and discovered to my surprise that a little bit of planning ahead worked really, really well. (Snowflake method FTW!) Plus I found the fabulous Scrivener. I finished above the goal and before the deadline.

If you’re wondering, I’ve decided to continue with it, after some wonderful feedback from Paula, and after rereading it myself. I still like this story and its characters. I’ve already done some early editing, mostly continuity stuff. (There’s only one character whose name didn’t stay consistent, and he’s a pretty minor one at that!) I’m planning on getting through a complete second draft early in the new year. What happens after that I’ve no idea.

Which is how I feel about 2010 in general: I’ve no idea what happens now, really.

this is what 50000 words looks like

I am, frankly, feeling a little giddy at the moment. Just this evening I finished my NaNoWriMo novel. I went to a write-in this evening downtown, after spending a big chunk of Thanksgiving puttering away between bouts of cooking. Wrote a couple thousand words at the write-in before the coffeeshop closed, at which point I was only 1500 away, so I rode back home (yes, with a new helmet, on ye olde Townie instead of the Xtracycle) and just pushed through to the end, which as it turned out was almost 600 words over the 50,000 mark.

I don’t know yet if it’s something I can work into a readable state. I do know that a lot of the writing is clunky and awkward, some of it is badly rushed, and there’s a huge chunk of flashback in the middle that may or may not be appropriate for the final piece. But all that can wait a little bit. (I am actually interested in having a couple of gentle readers who like high fantasy look at it and tell me if they think it can be salvaged.) And honestly, the fact that I did this, now, after having been essentially completely stuck with my writing for probably over five years…means I know I can do it again if I want to. Also, that I still love writing, even fighting with the clunky bits and the moments of OMG this is too boring to stand. Finally, that I have other stories to tell, not just the scifi novel that I’ve been fighting with off and on since (gulp) 1994. Actually, now that I think about it, I think I have some ideas about how to wrestle the last big section of that to the ground after this experience.

The “snowflake method” helped immensely; I didn’t go all the way through the process, but as far as I did gave me a solid foundation to work from, including a sense of where the story needed to go. Chris Baty’s No Plot No Problem! book was also helpful, as you might imagine for a work written specifically for NaNo writers. The bit that made the biggest difference for me was the trick of writing two lists: stuff I like in novels, and stuff I hate in novels. Just a good reference for things to toss in when I was getting stuck, and for recognizing when I was writing into a bit of bleh. (My story didn’t have ninjas, but bandits are always good in a pinch. Also, freakishly, the inspiration of a scene from The Craft. No, really.)

Finally, a (mostly*) unsolicited incredibly enthusiastic recommendation for Scrivener. I’ve never been especially devoted to any particular platform for writing. I started out with paper notebooks in my childhood, then graduated to a typewriter, then discovered MSWord in college. I’ve written in several different versions of that, plus Open Office; I started this month’s novel in Google Docs. Then I tried out Scrivener and it was awesome. Great mix of a tool for writing and a tool for organizing writing. Was able to import my inspiration bits (art found on wikipedia plus a selection of pictures from flickr) to have handy, the cards are tremendously useful for finding my place and seeing where the overall story is at. I like the fullscreen, and honestly, with as distracted as I get by the shiny shiny internets, it’s good to have a writing tool that can be used w/out a connection. As C noted, I have now pretty much talked myself out of a netbook, and into keeping the old Macbook for the time being. ::sigh:: But I’m loving Scrivener enough to make up for hauling around something a little larger than I’d really prefer.

So, yeah. It’s a novel. Still giddy. Might be giddy for a while. Might not get to sleep for a while, either. 🙂

* I say “mostly” because I did use the special NaNoWriMo trial version, and I’m fully intending to use my winner coupon to buy it at 50% off, and I’m sure the Scrivener folks do the sponsorship thing to get that sort of attention. But they certainly didn’t ask me specifically to try it out!

And it was going so well, too…

On the one hand, NaNoWriMo is going pretty damn well. I was stalled out for a while there, through most of last week, and it was a good thing that I got off to a quick start. But the last couple of days I got caught up again, and I’m now both over 40,ooo words and about a day ahead. Today I even figured out how to pull it all together for the ending!

On the other hand, I had a gnarly fall tonight, coming home from work on my way to the grocery store. I was turning up into a driveway and my front tire hit the edge wrong, so that my front wheel slid sideways and I just fell over. Landed HARD on my left side, scraped my elbow, banged up my knee (not the one I messed up 5 years ago, but the other one) and smacked the side of my head. I got up, made sure nothing was broken, and walked the rest of the way to the store…a very nice woman in a dept of licensing shirt had pulled over and asked if I was okay, should she call anyone, etc. but I just did my shopping and biked (slooowly) home.

Discovered that I’d torn my capilene shirt (strangely, the jacket is fine) and cracked my helmet. Cracked my helmet. I think about what it felt like when my head hit the ground… ::deep breath:: When I had that fall before, I don’t think the helmet would’ve made much difference one way or the other, most of the force was on my leg. This time…yeah, it probably kept me from cracking my SKULL.

I want to get back to my novel, but I still feel pretty shaken up, even after a hot bath, neosporin & bandages, ice pack on the leg, probably too many mint milanos, and some silly kids’ cartoons. And I am going to have a hell of a bruise tomorrow on my thigh just above the knee, I just hope I can walk on it. Bleh. Is it crazy that I’m just mad I won’t be able to ride tomorrow?

Beside having to replace the helmet — which I bought less than a month ago! — I want to take some time to give my bike a once-over, make sure everything’s in good condition. Well, both of my front headlights are messed up, to begin with. They work, but they look trashed. At least I’ve got an extra-long weekend to fuss over everything.

Maybe it’s a night to go to bed early and get some extra rest. After all, I’m ahead of schedule on my novel, so I can always get back to it tomorrow.

nanowrimo for reals

As in National Novel Writing Month. As in trying to write a 50,000 word novel this month. No more “one of these days I’m gonna” — this year I am for real. (A few years back I did quite a bit of writing during NaNoWriMo on my languishing 15-year-old scifi novel, which probably shouldn’t count. Didn’t make it to 50,000 words either.)

I’m actually somewhat organized about my writing for once, and worked through the first few steps of the Snowflake Method, after getting an initial inspiration by some semi-random photos. So I have main characters and a plot, mostly figured out, although I’m planning on weirdness & serendipity. (!) I’m not sure if I want to write about it more than that, or if that will just invite my inner editor back in to look over my shoulder.

But so far in the first two days I’ve racked up more than 5300 words with early morning & late evening writing sessions, so I’m more than a day ahead of schedule. I’m hoping to keep ahead of schedule as long as I can, because I’m sure something will come along to throw me off track! Wish me luck. 🙂