Michaeline: Make Your Own Rules!

Woman racing past judges in a number 13 automobile (circa 1916)

“Without cutting down her speed, Tish bumped home the winner.” And how was your November? (May Wilson Preston/Wikimedia Commons)

Here we are, the penultimate day of November, and those of you who have been doing NaNo are either sitting pretty, or tearing your hair out, or, if you are like me, looking somewhat bemused and wondering, “What the hell happened this month?”

By all metrics, this has been my worst NaNo ever. I haven’t made even 25 percent of the word count, and most strangely, I’m not sitting here with a short novella – a completely finished story.

But, I still feel optimistic. I’ve got a great story, I’ve plotted out two-thirds of it, my world-building is some of my strongest yet, and everything just feels right. So, I feel that makes me a NaNo winner. I’m really happy with my results this month.

And just like Tish in this illustration by May Wilson Preston, I’m going to keep bumping along through December. This is going to be a great ride!

And how was your November? And what are your plans and strategies for December?

Nancy: NaNoWriMo: Midset Break Edition

High-Intensity Workout

In the workout/weight training/athletics world, there is a concept called the midset break. To understand what that is, you first need to know the definition of a set, which is doing the same exercise for a defined number of times, or repetitions (reps for short). From that, you can probably decipher that a midset break is, in fact, a break you take in the middle of a set.

So let’s say I’m doing a set of bicep curls with a 20-lb weight, and for that set, I plan to do 15 reps, so I’m going to curl that weight 15 times. But around curl number 8 or 10 or 12, my arm is hurting, my muscles are burning, and if I push it to 15, my form is likely to suffer and I’ll do something stupid like hurt myself.

At this point, I have some options. Continue reading

Michaeline: Hocus Pocus

Magician with rabbit, roses, a hat full of carnations, cards, no we are not done yet, doves, a goldfish and a magic case. Whew!

Zan Zig, magician, has a lot of flash and creativity and color going on, but lacks something in the structure departure. Does it matter? It’s still beautiful. And yet . . . . (Via Wikimedia Commons)

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had a magic wand and could *poof* our story into existence – a perfect story without faults and perfectly entertaining?

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. On the other hand, judging from the Halloween hit, Hocus Pocus, you don’t need perfect to create an enduring seasonal hit. There is no doubt that a lot of hard work went into this Disney movie, but if you need an example of a deeply flawed story to learn from, here you go.

The biggest problem with the story is that the movie takes three feisty, funny women (Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker), and immediately turns them into child murderers. And the flip side of the problem is that they are the best damn things in the movie. Every time I want to root for them, I catch myself and say, “Oh, yeah. Complete and utter evil.”

We’ve talked before about how a villain should be understandable, and even likable. Jenny Crusie has talked about how a villain should also be smarter and better than the protagonist. If the villain isn’t any good, the victory is hollow.

But there is such a thing as going to extremes. If you are going to have witty and interesting villains (and you really should!), Continue reading

Michaeline: NaNo on my mind, too

Woman in a cape, looking through an oval in cardboard

Now here’s a lady with a story — noblewoman, adventuress, photographer . . . Virginia Oldoini, via Wikimedia Commons

National Novel Writing Month is coming up in just 20 more days! That crazy month-long dash to write 50,000 words is supposed to be a spontaneous exercise of joy, but the more I do it, the more I want to prepare for it. And I’m afraid that it’s a very fine line I walk between preparation and over-preparation.

NaNo welcomes rebels, but in order to rebel, there have to be rules to rebel against. You can see the rules here, but the one I’m worried about is this one:

Start from scratch. None of your own previously written prose can be included in your NaNoWriMo draft (though outlines, character sketches, and research are all fine, as are citations from other people’s works). While this is no longer a hard-and-fast rule, it is still very strongly recommended, ESPECIALLY for first timers.

To tell the truth, I’ve never done any of this before my three NaNos. I started with a protagonist and a starting incident on November 1, and that was it. This year is a little different. Continue reading