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Nation Novel Writing Month 2010 RECAP December 10, 2010

Posted by ashiah in Books.
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I feel like I’m still recovering from this year’s NanoWriMo. Unlike past years, I actually finished early this year and completed my 50,000 words two days before deadline. But I wasn’t ecstatic; I didn’t even feel congratulatory. I was just happy it was over. For the first time I actually felt like it was kind of a waste of time this year. Maybe I’m just being hard on myself. Maybe six months from now I’ll look back and see I didn’t write pure crap, but we’ll see.



The Synopsis

Oh, boy. OK, so this year I had this great idea to help me write outside my comfort zone. I usually write about lonely 20-something losers who are thrust into bizarre situations, but this year I wanted to do something different. So I set up a challenge for myself: the plan was to randomly pick a photo on Google images and write a novel based on that one photo. Well, on midnight November 1, the photo I randomly selected was of an old woman. So I cheated and picked another picture, which was a picture of a middle-aged woman and child. I decided that I would write a story using these two photos as inspiration.

OK, so the story is about an old, retired nurse who lives with her divorced, unemployed daughter. Helen (the protagonist) is loved and respected in her community through her work at church, and, on the down low, is known as the go-to source for a quick and confidential illegal home abortion. But things spin out of control when one of Helen’s patients dies from a botched abortion, which pisses off a bunch of entitled hicks or something. There’s a subplot of Karen (Helen’s daughter) dealing with being forced to work at Starbucks and her unsuccessful luck in post-divorce dating (I just can’t help writing about losers). Her plot doesn’t really go anywhere, though. The entire novel just sucks, to be honest. I’m not used to writing these domestic drama type stories, but it was good practice I guess.


WARNING! The following excerpt is unedited and is full of typos, grammar mistakes and possibly other things that will make an English teacher cry.

Helen crossed her arms bitterly and continued reading her book. Oh Jerry, she thought. She had known him since he was a boy. Unlike the other young people in the neighborhood, Jerry never left. He got a job, got married and literally moved into the house down the street from where he grew up. He had two daughters, the oldest was 15. Her name was Michelle, a beautiful girl who, unfortunately, was growing up too fast. Helen would often see the girl coming home late at night and coming home early in the morning on a school night. The young girl had been sent away before in the past, but she always came back and never seemed to be redeemed or ready to change her ways. She wasn’t a bad kid by any means. She was smart, made good grades whenever she’s actually in school and overall seemed to have a good head on her shoulders. The problem was that she fell in love. A boy she met at church had completely changed her life. She was infatuated with him and would do anything to be around him, including skipping school and fighting adamantly with her worried parents. Her parents would tell her that she had no idea what love it or what it was like to truly be in love. They told her that she was just a dumb kid doesn’t stupid things that dumb kids always do and then later grow up to regret. But Michelle always persisted. Her love was real, she was not stupid or naïve, nor was she going through some kind of rebellious stage. She loved him more than she should love anyone. How did she know? She just knew, Michell told Helen one day.

“I have never been certain of anything ever in my life,” she spoke to her as if she was already 90 years old. “But I’m certain about this. If I can be certain about anything in my life, I can be certain about him.”

Helen has had her fair share of stubborn youth who swear the world to her about their lives, about their experiences and about how if they do things their way it would turn out much different from when their older counterparts did it. But they always came back, sometimes several years later, holding their caps in their hands as they confess about their horrible youthful ways. These people would usually do this at church on Sunday morning. They would approach the pulpit, head hanging low but spirits high. They had left the church in their young ways, have strayed from the great one and realized they couldn’t go on with their lives without God in their lives again. The church would all echo an “amen, amen” as the former child testified about their wicked ways and how they are now reformed in the name of the most high. The former children would fall on their knees, their palms lifted to the tiled ceiling. “Forgive me, Lord,” they would cry. “If only we had listened.”

The congregation would rejoice but in a manner that suggested a sly bit of passive aggressiveness. They predicted this all along and was now proven right. They felt content with this fact, but would never admit it.

But Helen never felt this way about Michelle. She was different. She could never imagine Michelle being one of those former children who crawled back to their humble upbringings on hands and knees. Michelle knew what she wanted, but her stance wasn’t out of stubbornness. It was a sense of quiet wisdom and knowledge that Helen perceived from Michelle after their first meeting. Helen couldn’t explain why she exactly inferred this theory about Michelle; it was just something she felt, something she felt quite strongly about. Something she knew had to be true because she always trusted her instinct.

Michelle was a smart girl even though on the surface it might not appear so, especially now with her father having to ask Helen again to do her little favor for them. But there was probably much more to the story than she knew.


Quick Nano update December 22, 2009

Posted by ashiah in Books.
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Since I never got around to completing Week 3 or Week 4 of my Nano update, just wanted to say real quick that I won. Woohoo! Definitely wasn’t easy though. But oh well, that’s in the past now. Now all I have to do is pretend that novel never existed…

National Novel Writing Month: Week 2 November 19, 2009

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Thank goodness for the four-day weekend I’m getting next week because I fell extremely behind last week. As of now, I’m only sitting at 17,000 words.

Last Saturday I hit the library early and wrote all day. I was cruisin’, let me tell you. The story actually started to get good. So after a successful day of writing on Saturday, I went back to the library on Sunday to pick up where I left off. Unfortunately, whatever magic writer energy I had on Saturday didn’t generate on Sunday. So the story, once again, slid into a tragic mess. But there’s still hope. I refuse to give up!

One interesting occurrence that happened last week was that I realized I absolutely loathed one of my characters. The character Jillian, who is the main character’s best friend, became so obnoxious I decided to take a literary dump on her. Case in point:

She quit her job and dyed her hair pitch black, which drooped in front of her face, covering her eyes. She stalked passed Café Express and glared at all the faceless people inside. She pressed her forehead against the window and slowly started scratching her nails against the glass, much to the displeasure of the latte-drinking, Macbook owners who looked at her over their laptop screens with fear and annoyance.

“OK, miss, move along,” said the screechy voice Café Express worker. He came out with a broom and proceeded to jab her with it. Jillian hissed and stalked away.

You see, Jillian used to be perfectly sane and normal, but now she’s just a plot device prop. If I later have to start killing off characters, this bitch will be first.

This week’s worst sentence:
It not only was a little out of character, it was completely out of character for her.

Overall score for the week:

National Novel Writing Month 2009: Week 1 November 12, 2009

Posted by ashiah in Books.
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nano_08_winner_smallSo the annual month-long writing exercise began on November 1. My procrastination this year is so bad it’s not even funny. While last year was an often frustrating yet interesting writing experience, this year is just pure pain. Horrible, horrible pain. Just looking at my novel sends me into fists of rage. I hate it ever so much.

Not to say last year’s Nano novel was any better. 2008’s Millie and I was a bizarre comedy/surrealist novel that had literally, like, five plots. But what was most rewarding about the whole experience was that I taught myself there was no such thing as writer’s block. “Writer’s block” is just an excuse for lazy, procrastinating writers who don’t know how to sit still for an hour and just WRITE without thinking. I was able to accomplish this during last year’s Nano. Although the novel was far from publishable, it did have tiny morsels of brilliance in it that made me smile when I went back and reread it months later.

But this year? For some reason I’m not doing it right. I keep telling myself to stop thinking, to stop worrying about plot holes, and to stop worrying about making everything neat. But my brain won’t listen to me. So now I have an incredibly neat novel that is incredibly boring. Meet Untitled Nano Novel 2009:

Plot (Is subject to change): Lisa is an uptight, humorless recent grad who has a bunch of degrees under her belt but no job. Desperate, she starts applying for crappy jobs at big coffee chains until she meets a strange man who tells her she has a personality malfunction. He tells her she’s too normal and boring and that he runs a business that will help change her, which will better her life somehow. She and her best friend Jillian make appointments with the stranger.

Excerpt: (Nothing particularly special about this excerpt, but it does have the least amount of typos and grammar mistakes.)

“What?” a voice shouted out from behind the door.

“It’s me. Lisa.”

There was a brief pause before the door swiftly swung open. A little yappy dog ran out and started to run around Lisa’s feet.

“Damn it, Skittles, get back in here,” said a voice. Seconds later a frizzy blond hair girl emerged wearing a leopard print bathrobe. Her makeup was still smeared on from the night before. She leaned against the door frame and kicked the dog aside with her hosed foot. “Hey,” she said with her smoker’s voice. “What’s going on with you, Tighty?”

“Tighty” was the nickname she had for Lisa, which was supposed to be short for “uptight.” This nickname infuriated Lisa, but mostly because she found it neither funny nor clever.

“Things are fine,” Lisa hesitated. “Hey, I’m going to a party tonight. I was wondering if you had anything that I could borrow?”

The blonde neighbor shifted feet. “Well, what are you looking for?”

“Well…” Lisa eyed her neighbor’s gaudy leopard bathrobe and started to regret asking for help. What if her neighbor hands her something really sleazy, she thought. “I guess I just need a nice top and a skirt.”

The neighbor stared off into the distance for a second, silently going through her mental inventory of trashy clothes before inviting Lisa in.

Lisa carefully stepped into the apartment and closed the door as quietly as possible. This wasn’t her first time being inside her neighbor’s apartment, and the place always looked a mess. But this particular time it looked as if her neighbor had company over. Plates and empty cups and wine bottles covered the kitchen counter. As they walked through the living room, Lisa saw a man sleeping face down on the couch. Yolanda always seemed to have strange men over all the time. Ever the judgmental type, Lisa peered at the sleeping man and shuddered.

Worst sentence (so far): Keep in mind, one of the rules of Nano is that you do NOT self-edit. This is like torture for any writer. Without edits, you end up with gems like these:

She was feeling momentarily relieved but also a sense of worry.

A SENSE OF WORRY?? *beats self with a thesaurus*

Overall score for the week: F-

Hopefully things will go better this week. Of course I’m already 10,000 words behind. Not to mention it’s now the middle of Week 2, and I have yet to write anything.

A look back on “Bizarro” fiction July 14, 2008

Posted by ashiah in Books.
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Say what you will about summer traditions, whether it’s the summer blockbuster or the summer vacation, but summer reading has always been my favorite. Though lately as I plow through Amazon looking for good book recs, I keep running into these. I guess it’s not entirely Amazon’s fault. You see, about a year ago I bought about six of these books expecting a great introduction into the world of underground surreal fiction. This particular genre of surreal fiction (later branded as “Bizarro” fiction) is unique, or so I thought at first. The authors are usually from the Seattle area and unlike other surrealist authors that worship Franz Kafka, these authors are not big literary nuts. Instead, their inspiration comes from filmmakers like David Lynch and Takashi Miike. The stories are neither plot or character driven, but the stories strive to take strangeness into hilarious and captivating areas. (Warning: NSFW behind the cut.) (more…)