Monthly Archives: September 2010

Ridiculously Awesome Blog

I stumbled upon this website a little while ago, and I haven’t stopped laughing since.

Thus, I feel it necessary to share with you, dear lurky readers.

It is essential that you read the whole thing before November, or else I cannot and will not be held accountable for the time you waste while reading it and thus not writing. You have been warned.

Hyperbole and a Half

So I have spoken, so go and visit while I add it to my links 😀


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Drawing versus Ability (MAPS!)

On the writing forums that I’ve belonged to over the years (yes, I’m of *such* advanced age), I’ve seen a lot of people do one or the other (or both) of the following:

1) Had clear visualizations of their characters and/or settings

2) Drawn pictures of their characters and/or settings.

I run into a stumbling block when it comes to things like that. Firstly, my brain doesn’t really work in pictures as much as concepts. Occasionally, if I concentrate really hard, I can summon up a mental image of something or someone, but it usually happens accidentally and I can’t hold onto it for very long. My brain works more in words than pictures – given my particular strengths and deficits overall, that fits the pattern.

The second stumbling block I run into is that I have no artistic ability whatsoever. Ask me to draw a picture and it’ll come out looking like something a kindergartener did. (Seriously, this is not only my opinion. It’s the opinion of anyone who’s ever seen anything I’ve drawn.) One of the issues is that I lack many spatial awareness skills, possibly in part fostered by my deficits in depth perception. (When I took an IQ test to get into the gifted program in my high school, I scored very highly on the verbal part, but so poorly on the spatial part that I didn’t get into the program.) It means that even if I can get past stick figures, my drawings are always very flat, disproportionate, and just generally off. I accept that.

And when it comes to characters, I’m cool. I don’t think it’s vital that I know exactly what a character looks like – I don’t believe the *reader* needs to know exactly what a character looks like. If I say that he’s ruggedly handsome, then you can put your own image on the guy so he fits your perception of ruggedly handsome, frex.

But I do write primarily SFF, and I have a fondness for maps. Maps are reasonably easy things to do even if you’re as stupid as I am about these things. I even made a map of a city last year, and while I’m sure it’s a riotously stupidly-laid-out city, it served its purpose and my having the map came tremendously in handy when I was writing the damn thing.

I have lots of maps hanging about on my computer, probably well over a dozen. They help me to put into pictures what I cannot in words – they help me define spaces in my world. As a political science major, political/national boundaries are important to me. There’s a reason that nearly all of my stories involve a political element. And more than character sketches or god forbid city sketches, maps make my imaginary worlds make sense to me.

Each writer works to their own strengths and tries to come up with workarounds for their deficits. This is one of my bigger ones; I still haven’t come up with a truly workaround-ly workaround for it, but I don’t think it’s significantly hampered me thus far. (Of course, I’m still unagented and unpublished, so what the hell do I know?)

If character sketches work for you, great. If those long character checklists/question sheets work for you, great.

Everyone has a “process”. Mine just tends to involve brightly-colored maps.

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Pre-Pre-NaNo Prep

So, over the past few months, I’ve been accumulating ideas like…uh…*insert witty metaphor*

Most of them have been written down in my trusty notebook. These ideas go in depth of completeness from one-sentence summaries to pages-long character and plot descriptions. However, this isn’t terribly useful for me when I’m debating what projects to do this November. (I’m also not set on a particular word count, as my mother has expressed displeasure with the idea of me going for a million again and knows where my blog is…hi mom!)

Anyway, so about a week ago, I decide to consolidate at least the general ideas into one document, so that I wouldn’t have to constantly count and recount the number of ideas I have. Right now, my NaNo ideas document looks like this (honestly, I just copy-pasted from it):

Nano Ideas:

1.      Nazi-esqu (in notebook and folder)

2.      Kyrgyzstan-esque (notebook)

3.      Female post-apoc (notebook)

4.      Human Bible (notebook)

5.      Paranormal Romance (folder)

6.      Renaissance rewrite

7.      Hero’s Journey (folder)

More ideas may follow, naturally, but I’m probably closing the door on mental submissions by the end of September, because October has to be focused on fleshing out those ideas into actual plots, with characters and outlines. Outlining is something that I seem to have been rather lax in doing over the year, so I’m rather looking forward to actually doing some half-decent outlining again. I’m tired of winging it and having things explode in several different directions at once.

Anyway, keep your eyes here for my NaNo prep, as these brave ideas are put through challenges that will test their robustness of plot and character, that will force them to confront what they really are, and in the end, only one can remain! (okay, that’s a blatant lie and we all know it. Probably at least five of them will go through, if not all of them).

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Creating Order Out of Chaos

I’m sure every writer has their own set of rituals. They’re good excuses to not write. (I’m not one of those people who believe either in muses or writer’s block – you either write or you don’t. If you don’t, it’s because you chose not to, and the only way to get anything done is to sit down and actually write something. It’s as simple as that. Even if it’s crap – writer’s block is an excuse to not do anything; waiting for the muse to strike means you’ll rarely get anything done.)

I have a lot of rituals, and it occurred to me the other day that they’re to create order from chaos. Much like ancient tribes had their rain dances and their ritual sacrifices to appease the gods – to make sense out of natural cataclysms about which they had absolutely no comprehension, my most prominent one is similar. I have no functioning knowledge of how computers work, other than that they do. When they break, it’s incomprehensible to me, and the only thing I can do is start and restart them until they start cooperating again. And so, whenever I restart my computer, I cannot do anything else until I’ve checked all of my normal programs, making sure iTunes, Firefox, MSWord, MSExcel, and a handful of others, start up normally. It’s a fairly senseless ritual, as I know that the odds of anything being wrong are pretty slim. Yet I check. (Yes, this is pretty OCD-like behavior, but I doubt that I’d qualify for the *actual* disorder.) It takes me about ten minutes to do all of it (I’ve become faster over time), and after that, I can settle down and get on with whatever.

Anyway, my writing rituals. Mostly, they’re just a form of procrastinating. I really don’t have any games on the computer (seriously; other than the standard games that come with Windows, the only thing I’ve got on here is World of Goo ). When I’m in serious procrastination mode, I tell myself that I have to play (and win) a game of Freecell, a game of Hearts, and a game of websudoku. Once that’s done, I can get on with writing (Note: by then, I’ve usually thought of something else with which to procrastinate).

But they also create order from chaos, and there is something intensely soothing about that to me. Not so much Hearts, but definitely the organization in Freecell, and all the numbers in sudoku – it starts out as just as a jumble, and by the end, there is order and reason. When I’m stressed, I can play game after game of sudoku, and I end up relaxed. I’m pretty damn good at it by now (1377 puzzles solved on hard since last September, average time 6:01, best time 2:26).

I think I was making a point at the beginning of this blog. We all want to make sense of our worlds. We want there to be meaning and order; chaos is ugly and scary. It’s the black abyss we don’t want to face. Instead, we put a face on that monster, on that volcano, and call it our god. To appease it, we throw someone in once every couple of months, and so we please our volcano god.

Writing can be like that, too. It’s an empty page, devoid. It’s that same abyss. To create order, we make marks upon it, marks that are letters and words and sentences and stories. And by the end – there is order, rhyme, reason.

As writers, we help to make sense of that abyss.

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Linkin Park (and “A Thousand Suns”) (review)

Yes, I’ll come out and admit in public that I am a Linkin Park fan.

I have been since 9th grade when someone on the bus turned me onto their first album (Hybrid Theory). It was different from anything I’d heard before and I was eager to snap up Meteora when it came out in 2003. I also enjoyed, for various reasons, Reanimation (2002). It was the kind of teen-angsty-rappy music that suited the person I was in those years. When I went to college and got my iPod, they were among the first CDs that went onto iTunes. I won’t be ashamed of that.

I waited for another two years for their next CD and bought it the day it came out, happy as anything. And then I listened to it. Then I blinked, made sure that I’d actually downloaded the right CD. When I was sure of it, I listened to it again. This was *not* the Linkin Park that had helped to define my teenage years. It wasn’t even music that I particularly enjoyed (having branched out, by then, to all sorts of other teen angsty bands – yes, I won’t deny that my musical taste is very questionable). But there was still *something*, even as I hit 20 and was a bit less of a teen-angst-mobile that I really enjoyed about the early Linkin Park and is why 3 of my top 5 most played songs on iTunes are by them. But I *hated* Minutes to Midnight, and I’ve not played it more than 30 times since buying it in 2007.

Thus, I was skeptical about their new album.

I had already heard their first single from the CD, “The Catalyst”, and that sounded more like what I was used to. Obviously, 7 years had passed since Meteora, so one could hardly expect them to retain the entirety of their original sound. It made me more optimistic about the CD.  Against my gut, I decided to buy the thing when it came out. I held my breath as I started to listen to it.

It’s…different. It still doesn’t sound much like my original Linkin Park CDs. But unlike Minutes to Midnight, I can tell that it’s actually Linkin Park. There’s more rapping in it than there was in Minutes to Midnight, and less soppy angst. But there’s more electronic music than in their early albums, and there are also several short tracks that are just samples of speeches, which do add something but the number of tracks isn’t to be confused with the number of songs. It comes off as trying to be a political album of sorts, but in that it fails. I can see where it tries, but given that I’ve got a couple of much more political bands on iTunes (Rise Against, VNV Nation), it falls flat. It does have a cohesive feel to the length of it, alternating slower songs with choppier, rap-like ones.

Do I like this new direction that Linkin Park is taking? Dunno.

Will I buy their next CD (whenever the hell that is)? Probably.

Do I still wish they still were making songs like “In the End” and “Breaking the Habit”? Absolutely.

Sigh. Life goes on, I suppose.

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Happy Birthday!


I’ve reached the staggering milestone of 23 years without doing myself serious injury.

Expect more posts coming up here – I’ve got a bunch of ideas already buzzing around in my head and we’re getting close to NaNo season, so posts about that are going to start coming up soon. No promises that they’ll be three times a week, but you can expect at least one a week (hopefully).

Hang on, lurky readers, NaNo 2010 is going to be better than ever! (and I hope to see some of you on the NaNo forums!)


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