The Idea Goblin

Remember what I said earlier about being totally into the project I have been writing in longhand? Well, yes and no. I realized that something just didn’t feel right about it. I felt forced. I really enjoy the act of writing (on good days) and I realized that I was just making myself go through the motions, which isn’t always a good thing. So I retreated back to my journal, which was good because then I got to sate my writing fix without all the obligations of creating a coherent fictional storyline. All this journal writing must have unblocked something in  me, because last night I had a bit of a light bulb moment regarding my weird state of semi-writer’s block…

I had always thought that this had more to do with the post-NaNo blues than anything, but now I know what the real reason is: the Idea Goblin.

The Idea Goblin has stolen all of my story ideas. He squirrels them away in a big burlap sack that he has to tie on the top to prevent them from slipping away and escaping, which is a very big possibility, since ideas tend to be very squirmy and sneaky. However, the Idea Goblin is pretty sneaky himself. He is so good at snatching ideas that sometimes you don’t even know that you had them in the first place. He just uses his long, pointed, skinny fingers and just plucks the ideas out of the air, long before you can see, smell, touch, hear, or taste them. This is why so many people say things like, “Oh, I’d love to write a story, I just never have any ideas.” Other times, he is bold and snatches them right out of your head. He grabs one end of the idea and pulls it right out of your brain like silvery dental floss. You would think that most people might have a problem with this, but the Idea Goblin has a very reliable method of convincing you that your thoughts and ideas really aren’t very good anyway, so then you don’t mind giving them up.

Even after all that, though, you have to realize that the Idea Goblin isn’t such a bad guy. He likes ideas just as much as you do, it’s just that he prefers them in their fresh, truly hypothetical state. The process of turning a lemony-fresh idea into a well-developed and multi-textured finished work can be pretty brutal and he hates to see them being  bent and stretched and plucked and pumped up. He prefers them to stay little, cute, and perfect, rather than all grown-up and battle-scarred. I have to admit that there is some appeal to collecting perfect, bouncy little ideas, but we all know that that doesn’t give us much to do as writers.

One’s relationship with the Idea Goblin can be carefully managed. The Idea Goblin does need some ideas for its emotional survival, but he doesn’t have to have everything. He’s just very greedy and a tad insecure, so he can come off as a little demanding sometimes. All you need to do is just agree that he can have some of your ideas, but not all of them. If you have felt blocked for awhile, then he most likely has his fair share of ideas for now and you can feel free to keep everything for yourself for now.

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My Inner Critic: Still A Mean Girl After All These Years

I am not gonna lie–I had a serious case of the post-NaNo Blues. Early December was a time of gigantic transition for me–from finding out that I had gotten into grad school to quitting my day job once and for all, it’s been a little nuts. Add to that the lack of noveling obsession and you’ve got one very out of sorts writer lady. While it was pretty awesome to have all that time on my  hands, the downside was that I didn’t have a lot to do with it.

I know now that my brain just needed about a week of rest after all the November craziness, but of course I never want to give myself a rest. I wouldn’t call myself a workaholic, but I do know I have some issues with allowing myself to just take a damn break. I kept carrying my little Alphasmart around and demanding inspiration to strike–as you can probably tell, that’s not the best way to get things flowing, now is it?

Anyway, after I finally did give myself permission to just recharge a bit, the ideas did start coming back. Even during NaNo, I had an inkling of what I wanted to do afterward, but nothing really concrete. I knew I wanted to do something for young adults, but I wasn’t entirely certain what. I don’t really have any experience writing YA fiction, so that was very daunting. Even when I was a young adult, I didn’t actually write YA fiction–I was too busy trying to be grown-up and literary.

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Which brings me to my recent revelation. I know who my Inner Critic is. I’ve met her in real-life, in the flesh. We’ve had slumber parties together. She is different from my Inner Editor, who occasionally comes in handy. My Inner Critic is needlessly, well, critical and totally lacking in useful information or advice. My Inner Critic is my early-teenage best friend, Jennifer. In my mind, Jen is still 15 years old and retains the power to reduce me to a self-conscious pile of mush. Of course, I know now that Jen had a lot of really bad self-esteem issues that she deflected by focusing on making me miserable, but there’s still a part of me that is afraid to try things like YA fiction because her voice is still in my head saying, “You don’t seriously think that a REAL writer would spend their time on something like that, would you? What a joke!”

Well, I’ve started my very first YA novel and I’m enjoying it so far. I love my characters and I love the casual tone I’m using. And I finally get to use the first-person and feel totally comfortable with it. How cool is that?

So, to the mean girl inhabiting my memories and still pushing me around after all these years, I commadingly say–

STFU!

Oh, and I’m writing longhand again. Somehow, it just makes more sense to me for this book. Maybe because I spent so much time scribbling in notebooks as a teenager, longhand writing is something that I associate with teen angst. And it gave me a good excuse to go shopping for pens and the perfect smallish notebook. So, yeah, that was pretty sweet, too.

OMG

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That’s right, y’all. Chris Baty says I’m a WINNER.

And dammit, I believe him.

After an intensely stressful November (not so much because of NaNoWriMo but due mostly to my trying to get into a grad school, having massive drama at my day job, and dealing with a hectic Thanksgiving) it’s just nice to have something go absolutely and wonderfully right.

Of course, I don’t think of myself as truly done with my NaNo, which lacks a title. I’ve codenamed it ZOMBIE THING for now, and I guess it works well enough as an interim title. I’ve got plenty more scenes to write and lots of editing to do, but yeah, it’s pretty sweet to know that I accomplished something awesome this month. Crazy as it is, I think I might just adopt the NaNo setup for all of my rough draft novels from now on. I mean, yeah, it does suck at times, but now that I know I can do 50K in one month, it seems like such a cool way to get a rough draft done. This month has been nuts, full of ups and downs, and a really awesome ride–I can’t imagine a better way to finish a first draft, since you really are kind of “living” in the material for a few weeks.

As for my next project? I don’t know, really. I’m kind of interested in fiction for kids, though my idea of what is “appropriate” for children might be a little off-kilter. I’m sort of take the more Tim Burton/Neil Gaiman philosophy in what I think about kid fic, so we shall see.

NaNoWriMo Week 3 Check-in

I’m a bad blogger. I had so many good intentions about posting consistently during NaNoWriMo, but as you can see, that simply didn’t pan out.

I hope everybody that’s participating in NaNo is having a good time. They say that week 3 is supposed to be sort of awesome and thrilling, but frankly I’m still kinda whipped from week 2. Also, I’m feeling uber-fatigued from my day job (more on that later) so that can’t be helping.

All that aside, I’d say that everything is going well with my novel. I still don’t have a name for it, but hey, whatever. I think it’ll come to me once I’m done with the first draft and have delved a little bit into my edits. For now, the zombies have attacked and now my hero and heroine (and company) are trying to figure out how to get the hell out of a corner office, downstairs, and back into the main lobby, where they will (hopefully) make it to one of their cars.

It’s so odd to know almost exactly where the story is going. On the one hand, it’s a nice relief because then I don’t have to worry so much about it, but unfortunately the rest of my story is mostly concerned with straight action scenes, which are really difficult for me to write. I do allow myself a little bit of quirky dialogue here and there, so it’s not all bad. But still, I sometimes look back longingly on week one with its flights of fancy and random asides.

All things considered, I would say that life is good. I’m tuckered out physically and emotionally, but I’m having a really nice time.

Also, in non-writing news, I have taken up sewing. I made a semi-flattering wrap skirt (not really my style, so I gave it to my sister) along with various little objects (like my panda-head Neo case). My latest creation is this sweet whale applique purse.

Baby’s First NaNoWriMo

Wow. So far, NaNoWriMo has been going pretty well for me. I think my secret is that I started expecting a 2K word a day output from myself about two weeks prior to the start of November. While it didn’t always work out that way, I will say that it has helped me realize that 90% of my problems stem from not being willing to just sit my butt down and just start typing–good, bad, sometimes terrible. And isn’t that what NaNo is all about?

It’s really refreshing. And I’m so glad I bought a Neo–I can write practically anywhere without having to worry a bit about battery life. All I need is a steady surface and a little bit of concentration. That’s not to say that NaNo has gone totally smoothly–I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had one of those “OMG this sucks! Why am I doing this?”-moments. But I just kept writing through it and, eventually, the feeling passed.

Being slightly nuts, I have also decided that it would be a great idea to take up sewing during November, as well. I’m using an inherited machine from my mother-in-law, bought in 1981. Yes, this machine is actually older than me, but it works really well. It’s all metal, so it’s basically a tank. While I do dream of a Singer Curvy (no need to worry about threading the machine and about a million different thread styles) I’m quite happy with my incredibly heavy, almost 30 years old machine.

Here’s my very first project. It’s a slipcover for (of course) my little Neo. Not sure where I got the idea for carrying my favorite gadget around in a decapitated panda head, but I’m pleased by its cuteness. And it’s got appliques. And a zipper!

Writing Totems

According to Chris Baty’s book, No Plot, No Problem, I really need a writing totem. I have to confess that I think the idea is a tad bit silly, which is why I like it so damn much. I’m not a very superstitious person, but I’m certainly not above imbuing inanimate objects with semi-magical qualities if it gives me a good excuse to pad my word count a little.

I got these awesome handmade hats from Feral Works on Etsy. I know I’m only supposed to wear them when writing (so as not to needlessly use up their magical abilities) but they’re just so fun I can’t keep myself from wearing them outside the house.

In case you’re wondering, the hat is supposed to make me look like a fox, not a bunny. I know that the big pointy ears are a little jarring, but notice the little black tips.

The cat ears hat is pretty straight-forward. I like the material on this one a little better than the one on the fox hat. It isn’t quite as stretchy, so the fit is more snug.

The Bag o’ Ideas

Reach into the idea bag, children… The most marvelous wonders await you…

Seriously, though, I think that I might have come up with the basic idea for my NaNoWriMo novel by writing down things that I like on scraps of paper, then dumping them all into a bag and then fishing a few out, lottery style. Not sure where I got the idea. Maybe I made this one up all by myself, which is kind of a change of pace.

Anyway, I wrote a bunch of things down. Examples include: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “The Office,” “Closet Monsters,” “Witches,” and “Zombies.” Then I set a timer for fifteen minutes and started picking out ideas from the bag, two at a time, totally randomly. For each combination, I wrote down story idea, no matter how stupid it seemed–“X-Men” combined with “Closet Monsters” and “Buffy” with “Closet Monsters” yielded some rather humorous results.

But the combination of “Zombies” and “The Office” did spark my interest.

If anything, it was a nice exercise to force my mind working and creating stories. You may not get anything out of it besides a bunch of strange ideas that probably don’t seem all that interesting, but hey, maybe you’ll stumble upon something cool and that will spark an idea for your NaNoWriMo novel.