Here’s my collection of six items I’m going to need for a solid month of writing.
1. Laptop / Cell phone
With the WiFi disconnected / in airplane mode most of the time. Well… not really because I need to keep an eye on email in case I hear back about a job application I’ve put out there. But nothing else!
I’ve taken to using Evernote for daily writing (new note per day) and Google Docs for collecting everything and getting the complete word count. That means it’s automatically backed up on two programs, accessible from both my devices anywhere I have an internet connection.
2. Timeline / First Draft
I haven’t updated this in months, so some of it will have to be adjusted, but I want to make sure that the story doesn’t boil down to an unconvincingly short span of time in which everything happens.
Last year I was going along so slow that I had to do a massive retcon leap — jumping forward in events and pretending that everything had actually happened/been written — just so I could get to the end of the story by the 31st. So technically I did finish that one, it just had a gaping hole in the middle. I’m sure I’ll cringe when I get to it during the rewrite.
I’m not a coffee person; it makes me jittery. I mostly stick to black teas, sometimes green or white. A little rice milk if it’s too hot and a dab of honey if I need some sweet. And, yes, caffeine.
Fresh bananas are great. What I sometimes also do is slice them into bitesized pieces and freeze them, and that basically satisfies my cravings for ice cream.
5. Oatmeal (gluten free)
It’s warm, it’s a hearty breakfast, and the kind I have has flax in it. Plus, I can add dried cranberries.
No power on earth could keep our three furbabies from bugging me for an entire month… Plus, Louie will loaf on my chest and rev up her purr motor, that’s always nice. The other two frequently curl up against my feet or butt and use me as a head source. It’s very soothing.
What’s in your NaNoWriMo survival kit? Do you feel prepared for November 1st?
I didn’t get tagged for this, I just saw it floating around and thought it looked like fun. For this reason, I’m not going to tag anyone either. 🍃🍂🍁
1. What’s your favorite fall outfit?
Comfy jeans and a warm snuggly shirt or sweatshirt.
2. What is fall weather like where you live?
Fall in California’s wine country isn’t as dramatic as it is in other parts of the country, but as soon as the vineyards are harvested the grape leaves start to turn orange and yellow. The apples are ripe. Local pumpkin patches start to open up all over the place, and there’s a large corn maze a fairly short drive away (luckily untouched by the fires).
3. Your favourite drink to have in the fall?
Hot chocolate. Although, hot apple cider is always good, too. And you know what I want to try that I haven’t had since college? Hot buttered rum.
4. Does your family have any fall traditions?
It’s the beginning of baking season! Grandma’s birthday is October 31st and I’m doing the cake this year — well, cupcakes. Dad’s birthday is at towards the end of November and I took over making the red velvet cake for that years ago. Then for Thanksgiving I’m in charge of gluten free pumpkin pies for two different dinners (yay having a second family via long term relationship). After Thanksgiving comes all the family Christmas cookie events, from cookie making day to cookie decorating day.
5. What are some activities and events you enjoy going to in the fall months?
Super, super psyched about that corn maze. We’ve lived near it for a couple years now and this is going to be the first year we get to go!
6. What’s your favourite fall-scented candle?
Warm vanilla sugar, or anything that smells like baking spices.
7. Tell us about one of your favourite fall memories.
It was some time in middle school and I had the flu. It was a little after Thanksgiving so the Christmas decorations were already up, and my mom was having some work friends over for a holiday party and White Elephant game.
(For those of you unfamiliar: You wrap up a ridiculous and/or hilarious gift, possibly even something around the house that you want to get rid of. At the party, everyone draws a number to determine what order they get to open presents and the first one opens whatever they want. The second person can either steal the known gift or venture into the unknown. Each gift can only be stolen three times, max.)
My mom let me unwrap for her, and I ended up with this really cute, big mug in the shape of a sheep. I called it my Shmug. It was a really funny afternoon, even with the flu!
8. What are some fall movies you enjoy watching?
Anything creepy. I love Halloween.
9. What’s your favourite fall treat?
10. If you celebrated Halloween, what’s the best costume you’ve worn?
Best, or hilarious? Because one year in highschool I ordered a cardboard coffin, cut off the bottom end and the top portion of the lid, cut arm holes in the side, and spent an entire school day walking around in it. The opening in the bottom wasn’t very big so I had to take small steps everywhere, and could only go down stairs by hopping down from step to step. I also couldn’t lower my arms without clunking the top of the coffin into my head. My mom was laughing so hard when she dropped me off at school that I think she almost caused a minor traffic incident in the parking lot.
You know those dreams where you’re suddenly back in school but you have no idea what your class schedule is? And often it’s partway through the school year, and you know that either (a) you’ve been going to those classes for months and have suddenly forgotten everything about when and where, or (b) you just haven been going to them at all, only just realized it, and are completely screwed?
Last night, I had a slightly different variation of that dream. My partner and best friend had decided to go back to college, and I decided to join in. I didn’t look at any other schools, just applied to the same one they did. When I got there, for some reason I expected to have math classes… and it took me a week to realize they were lit classes, I hadn’t gone to any of them, and I was behind on reasoned at least three classic novels with more assignments coming up soon. Then my brain decided I was going for a degree in editing (is that even a thing?) and not only had to read the books, but had to write an evaluation of the most common sentence structure types throughout each and write a short story in the same style.
… I might have been accidentally trying to dream-create a fan fiction major.
If it’s not one thing, it’s the other. This past winter we were worried about flooding throughout the county, and now a raging urban fire has torn through Santa Rosa and other towns throughout Wine Country.
I am very lucky. My partner and I were in Nevada visiting my brother, and were driving back on the Sunday night all the fires started. Instead of driving straight into it we went to the South Bay, where our three cats were already staying at one of our parents’ house. We didn’t realize what was happening until the next morning.
Then began several days of watching the news, which, honestly… was depressing. I feel for the people who lost their homes, and the people who still don’t know if they have homes or not, and the people whose houses are still standing but they can’t return to them because of evacuation rules. But “breaking news” provided more human interest stories than actual information, and here’s why:
There wasn’t any. Everything started at night, when they couldn’t start fighting it until dawn. By then there wasn’t anything they could do about containment, all focus was on evacuation and rescue. So there was nothing informative to report.
No one could really believe what was happening. We get our share of fires here in California, but even we are used to forest fires and wildfires in sparsely populated areas. Even up here where we know that Lake County just a couple hours north has semi-annual fire problems. This was different. This was multiple urban fires throughout four counties (Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Lake) all at once. I think part of what kept us watching was these sense of, “wait this is actually happening?”
The news was also meant for people outside of the impacted areas. Because if it doesn’t affect you directly (even elsewhere in the Bay Area where it’s merely super smoky), we want you to know what we’re going through. Local news will broadcast the devastation again and again just to try and convey how real, how devastating this is to the area. Even once they get all the flames out, this will continue to impact our community for months, at least — and we have until then to make sure the outside interest and support will stick past that point.
Honestly, I got more helpful, direct information from Cal Fire’s twitter feed than the local news. (Sorry local news.)
The only other points of reference we had for what was happening near our home were our landlord and a smattering of local friends and coworkers. Our friends are lucky too, because none of them were injured or lost their homes. Some were evacuated, some were on high alert with the possibility, one’s workplace burned down, but overall they are okay.
We happen to be friends with a really cool person who made some of the first moves to set up at evacuation centers and firefighter camps to offer massages, reiki, energy healing, etc. She’s been giving with her whole heart and soul for around eight hours a day ever since her neighborhood was deemed safe (ish, as long as the wind didn’t change, and so on). Firefighters have told her that she and her peers who are pitching in this way are making the experience legendary, because no one has ever done it for them before. (There tends to be a lot of red tape around actually getting into the firefighters’ camp, so she set up right outside one of the entrances and they come to her.) It’s heartwarming to see in her Facebook posts and talk about whenever we see here. We ❤️ you, Rebecca!
On Friday we were able to drive up and check on our place. It’s about twenty minutes from the Fulton Road evacuation line, but perfectly fine, not covered in snow-like drifts of ash as I had half imagined. We harvested tomatoes from the garden and went to a potluck dinner with friends to celebrate being able to get together in all this madness.
On Saturday we gathered up some things to donate. We don’t have a lot of money right now, so it wasn’t a lot. Two cans of tuna, two small containers of gluten free cereal, two cartons of rice milk, a tiny jar of honey, and a packet of hot chocolate mix. Some kitchen things, some clothes we no longer need, some cat toys our girls don’t play with much anymore, and a couple cans of kitten food.
After donating food at Redwood Empire Food Bank, we didn’t know where to go to drop off the other stuff so we visited our friends at Tilted Shed Ciderworks. They were having a benefit for neighbors of theirs who had lost their house, donating 35% of profits for the day to help. They were also handing out fliers for a place just down the street that was accepting donations, which was so helpful because I’d heard that some places had reached capacity for accepting things.
We ended up at what looked like an office building that had been vacant and the owners just decided, hey, let’s open it up and use it as a space to help people out. As we drove out a family was walking out carrying pillows, clothes, and bottled water. The woman I spoke to thanked us profusely for everything we brought — especially the cat supplies, because they had a lot of dog stuff but not a lot/no cat stuff. She asked if we needed anything, if we had been impacted by the fires, and when I said we were okay she offered us bottled water anyway and settled for giving me a hug. (As far as I know, they’re still accepting donations in Windsor.)
It wasn’t much, but it felt so wonderful to be able to help. There are more clothes that we can give away, we just have to dig it out.
On the way back down to the South Bay on Saturday night (since the air quality was okay we decided to bring the cats back up the next day), we were on 101 and drove through some of the area where the fire jumped the freeway. It was shocking. And it was pretty random. There would be one building that was just nothing, just a pile of ash with the remains of a roof collapsed down on top, surrounded by buildings that had been left untouched.
The thing about watching the news was, there was nothing we could do. But it’s empowering in the face of such tragedy to come home and see how much everyone is banding together.
I’ve finally made a few decisions about what I want to do this November.
I will definitely do NaNoWriMo. My novel is already announced on the site and I’ve come up with a working, if stupid, title that I got from googling “how to come up with a good book title.”
… It’s “Good Book Title.” Which probably won’t stick, although one of the main characters is a published author so maybe I can actually work that in.
The temporary cover image is one of the stock drawings from the how to come up with a good title wiki page.
It’s definitely going to be a second draft of the novel I was working on last year, which crept along so slowly that partway through I had to do an emergency retcon just so I could get anywhere near the end of the story by 50k. Despite that, I think there probably still are some bits I can still use, but a lot needs to be changed/rearranged and there will be a lot of new stuff to fill in the gaps.
I’m cheating a little and already writing. At the moment it’s mostly backstory shorts that wouldn’t necessarily be in the novel though.
… I say that, and yet it’s vital character building stuff for the main character’s later struggle with his sexuality as an adult. So I don’t know.
Boy howdy do I write better if I treat each scene like a short story. So for now I’m sticking with that, and filling in later. If I can spend November just getting down the most important bits, that would still be great progress.
So there’s that. Let me know if you’ve tried the each-scene-treated-like-short-story method and how it worked for you!
Tomorrow’s post will be about the fires in Sonoma County, where I happen to live.
For many people, poetry hits the page in a rush of emotion and/or inspiration. Developing it beyond that point can feel a tad sacrilegious, and I remember it took me quite some time both to learn how to do it, and to be willing to do it. I’ve tried writing the kind of poetry that is tinkered out in a calmer and more intellectual way and I can’t honestly say I like the results. As writing poetry is something I do for myself, I don’t have to be workish about it, I can wait for the lightning bolt to strike.
My usual method (other methods no doubt exist and are just as valid) is to write in the heat of the moment, and then put the piece aside for a day or two. When I come back, I’ll read through and see how I feel about it. I then get…
A couple days ago I wrote a short story in which a young character is bombarded with toxic masculinity “life lessons” by his father. It occurred to me today, while I was reading this, that if I continue his story some of these same points will have to be addressed. And any explicit discussion of toxic masculinity will mostly come to him through members of the queer community as he grows up and begins to explore his sexuality.
He’s going to have to figure out…
That it’s okay for men to hug and make other physical gestures of affection, platonic or otherwise.
That he’s allowed to cry and be vulnerable when he needs to be, instead of constantly suppressing.
That it’s totally unnecessary to feel uncomfortable when his boyfriend wears makeup. And/or offers to put some eyeliner on him.
As Sam points out in his post, “An essential part of dismantling toxic masculinity is men taking ownership over their own education around systemic inequality, and taking on the labor of educating other men about it as well.” And so considering this character learned most of this toxic stuff from his father, it seems fitting that he should unlearn it mostly from the guys in his life.
OCTOBER QUESTION: Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?
AHAHAHAHAHAHA— Yes. Both. I’m not sure it’s possible not to.
You know the stupid advice of “write what you know”? It’s trite, but stick with me here. The only thing you’re capable of writing is what you know. This includes everything you’ve experienced, everything you’ve read, everyone you’ve ever met.
It includes every emotion you’ve ever experienced, and everything you can extrapolate, based on those feelings, about situations you’ve never personally been in. That’s always there.
Then there are the things that define your experiences. The things which, maybe you’re not entirely sure you can escape enough to convincingly write outside of your own context. This is why young writers are often asked to write things like, if you’re a girl write about a guy experiencing XYZ, and vice versa — to challenge your personal context. And you have to do that if you write fiction. That’s what fiction is.
But sometimes it helps to keep some of the same building blocks. Start with what’s familiar and extrapolate from there. If your character has parents who closely resemble your own parents, you don’t have to stretch as much to figure out the dynamic your character has with them, the quirks your character might have inherited from them, the books and tv shows your character was exposed to growing up.
For example, my parents are huge nerds. I grew up watching Star Trek TNG and Voyager, the Star Trek and Star Wars movies, 2001: Space Odyssey, anything with George Clooney (because my mom has a thing for George Clooney), and the History Channel (because my dad has a thing for the History Channel). On the other hand, my partner grew up with a dad who loved watching Westerns. You know how many Westerns I’ve watched in my life? Almost zero. We both think the other had kind of a weird childhood.
I can write a character whose parents both had 9 to 5+ jobs in computers, easy. Many of my characters are huge Star Trek fans. Many of my characters are blonde and 5’5″. Many of my characters have only one, younger sibling. And many of them don’t have any of those qualities, but those are some of my defaults because, hey, it has to be something. I can build other details on top of what I know that don’t necessarily have anything to do with me, and as long as it feels organic that’s the important thing.
And… I will admit to a few self-inserts. Sort of. Some details were significantly changed and that character had her own thoughts and feelings. But the similarities did make her a hell of a lot easier to write.
I type this one-handed because there is a cat on my chest. Because if anyone is enjoying the hell out if my unemployment, it’s the kitties. Plus, as the weather cools they’re only going to get snugglier. Even our Cranky Frankie has been in a better mood lately. And so have I!
Anyway, here’s what I am currently:
… Something. In theory. There are some ideas buzzing around in my head but I’m still trying to decide what I want to do for NaNoWriMo this year. Basically, it’s coming down to continuing work on one of my past novel attempts, but I’m not sure which one.
… To exercise a lot more. By chance, I saw something my local library posted on Instagram about a series of health and exercise classes starting up in September. I’m not doing a lot besides job applications and being a volunteer shelver on Mondays and Tuesdays, so I put them on my calendar. So far I’ve gone to two Boot Camp sessions and one Core class, both of which were basically voluntary cardio torture. But I was so much less sore after the third one than I was after the first, and that feels great!
… Savory baked goods. It took me a couple tries, but I have finally mastered the art of Scallion Goat Cheese Muffins! I’m trying to make things that have more veggies and less sugar. Oh, and healthy smoothies! Guava juice or mango juice both make really good bases.
… Visiting my brother in Nevada. He happens to live in a patch of nowhere that’s only a ten hour drive away, and he’s already bought us all tickets for the local Haunted Train ride. It’s also going to be the first road trip my partner and I have taken together!
… Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. It’s a fun story because it starts off telling you that a parent died at the local elementary school’s Trivia Night, then immediately jumps back to before the beginning of the school year and follows a few of the kindergarten parents up to that fateful night. While I won’t give spoilers, I will say that I did guess a significant clue about Jane’s backstory long before I was supposed to. However, I had no idea who was about to die right up until the paragraph it happened, and that’s what kept me listening to this audiobook.
Technically I haven’t finished it, but I will tomorrow morning. It’s probably only a few more minutes.
… American Horror Story: Cult. It’s… more surreal than usual. So far I can’t tell which parts are conspiracy and which parts are horrible coincidence, but the smart money is probably on horrible conspiracy that takes advantage of every coincidence it can find.
… So happy! My tattoo is all healed up. The first blush of my partner’s new industry discount at winery tasting rooms is starting to wear off, but I had so much fun while it lasted. Now I am content to stay home and focus more exclusively on job applications.
… A job. Something I really enjoy doing. And has health insurance. I seriously need health insurance. You want to know how much my stupid endoscopy cost? About $3000, after insurance.
… My freedom! Since leaving my job I’ve been able to focus on exercising more, decluttering the house, listening to more books, and taking care of my own mental health. It’s wonderful. The only downside is, you know, bills and rent and stuff.
… The dickwad who hacked my grandparents’ computer, stole all their credit card and social security info, and went on a spree of opening random as hell accounts at places like Walmart.
… My parents aren’t planning to push too hard against my dream wedding venue. Because it’s beautiful and probably the best deal we can get in this area (it’s a hotel with a farm-to-table restaurant, an event center, lots of outdoor space, and a vineyard), and if anyone tells me to just look in another area I will be pissed.
All in all, September saw some huge steps forward in my personal goals. How was yours?