A Spa Day Approacheth — positive reinforcement for dealing with life

My dog ate a package of blackberries that I’d left out on the counter. A few days ago, she got into a pack of blueberry muffins, and then another of carrot. Honestly, we’re going to have to clear out the cupboards just to lock all the food stuffs up and out of her way from now on.

I really ought to be in bed, but it’s so nice and quiet in the house . . . I gained another two thousand words or so on my WIP today, hitting another plot snag but at least rescuing my protagonist Adam from certain death and a watery grave. I’m modelling this a bit on Hatchet and a bit on Crabbe. I offered my reluctant readers a look at what I have so far, and they flipped through a few pages before setting it aside. It will definitely have to be a read-aloud, I think, or scanned for automatic reading for some of them. Still, not giving up hope.

I think I’ve got a vested interest in this character, now. Always an interesting process, getting to know a new fictional individual! One of my youthful beta readers doesn’t like how he sounds like a stoner, since not all snowmobilers are like that (#notallsnowmobilers), but another thinks it’s suitable, since it’s just one character and the demographic I’m aiming for understands the references I’m trying to make. I’ve also been making notes in my classroom while listening to their conversations, trying to incorporate slang and generic life events or nicknames they give each other.

The snowpack has melted a bit further today, helped by intermittent rainfall, but we’re getting another batch of flurries tonight and tomorrow. Helpful for inspiring the novel, but not good for much of anything else. Our car desperately needs a cleaning, and my daughter is going to want to ride her new bike when I pick it up tomorrow, but a nice sunny day is still far off in the forecast. I miss sandals. Maybe next week, I’ll treat myself to a nice mani-pedi as a bit of a lift. If I can keep from picking my nails until that point, that is. I also really need to make myself complete my edits on Crystal and Wand, so maybe that will be my reward. I have a pile of facial packets I’ve been wanting to use, too. Let my daughter have at me with the polish, while I soak my face in slathered cream and cucumber slices or tea bags . . . yesssss.

Updates on Cover Reveal, Field Trip, WIP, and SNOW

Okay, so it’s time for some quick updates, I think.

Cover Reveal: I will raise the curtain on the cover of my latest novel, the soon-to-be-released third and final instalment of the Talbot Trilogy, on Saturday! I’ll put together some celebratory giveaways to mark the occasion. Prepare to be pampered!

Ottawa ComicCon: Permission has been sought and obtained from the school board to enable me to bring a group of avid students to this event. I was going to make up posters yesterday, and tonight, to spread the word a little more — we have the minimum number we need but it would be nice to be able to fill the bus. I figure, another week and then I’ll cut it off so I can order the tickets and finalize the rooms. We’re going to stay at a university residence, so the kids will get the experience of dorm rooms and be able to see downtown Ottawa. Very exciting. I also have to try to get Wil Wheaton’s autograph for my administrator, because she’s so supportive and awesome, AND she’s a big fan of his. Challenge accepted!

I’m thinking, too, that I’ll have to make up a list of pointers for the kids who are first-time Con attendees, so they’re not overwhelmed or underprepared. Lots to do, still. In 30 days, I’ll be in Ottawa on our trip! EEEK!

Camp NaNoWriMo: I caught up and went past my word count tonight, giving myself a nice 1,000 word buffer. Feels good. And actually, since Crystal and Wand is over 100,000 words, it’s kind of refreshing to know that this novel is going to be cut and dried by the end of this month. Not as daunting as the others, and I feel like I’ve picked up the rhythm now on the snowmobile story (although it would be nice to have a better working title). Also, I had two students read the first fourteen pages, and their feedback was really positive, particularly after I’d applied the feedback from my dear friend Tara Hall. All three beta readers feel like I’ve captured the voice of a sixteen-year-old boy, which is extremely gratifying. Onwards and upwards on that! Although — next week I will have to spend an evening focusing on report cards. I’d better make sure to keep adding to that buffer . . .

Snow: There was visible meltage today! Just a hint of difference in the level of the snowpack, where it had been cut away by the snowblowers or ploughs. Earlier this week — even yesterday — it had looked to be a depth of 2 – 2.5 feet, and today I could swear it’d lost 5 inches. We’re supposed to get rain mixed with snow tonight and tomorrow — bleh — but I’ll take that over getting another dumping. We’re not out of the weather-woods yet!

So that’s it, for now. I can’t seem to get enough rest, ever, but at least I’m getting to bed before midnight for once. See you tomorrow!

The value of research and feedback while writing: don’t be afraid to ask!

I’m at 8,158 words in my Camp NaNoWriMo project, the Snowmobiling Story for young adults / reluctant readers. A bit shy of the count I want to have for today, so I’ll try to keep this post short in order to attempt to squeeze a few more paragraphs in before midnight. (I had to take an Outlander break, Sassenach!)

I found myself stymied a few times this weekend, in this project, because I’m so out of my depth. I’m not into mechanics or engines or anything technical, so I’m dependent on research and interviews to give me the details I need. The problem is that half the time what I’m reading is still completely over my head, thanks to the jargon and colloquialisms in use by the people in the know.

So last night I started bugging individuals in my circle (and in their circles) for answers. I proposed situations and sought their opinions on what would happen next, with fantastic results. And then, when I sent my work (so far) to one of my usual beta readers to get her take on a scene that didn’t have anything to do with mechanical stuff, I ended up getting more feedback on the technicalities — really helpful stuff that I’m going to fix right away.

See, the thing is, when you’re working on a first draft, it’s important to just keep ploughing ahead and never mind the edits, or else the damned thing will never get done. Go back and fix the little things later. But with this — I don’t mind jumping back here and there to make sure my descriptions and plot points are accurate, because that means I’ll be more likely to get them right when I refer to that stuff again later on.

Some writers also don’t like showing their unfinished drafts to others because — well, hey, we’re a sensitive lot, sometimes, and we don’t want to be told that what we’re writing sucks. It’s a leap of faith in all respects to get the words on the page and then to ask someone what he/she thinks. I find it depends on what I’m doing, and how secure I’m feeling with it, and my own emotional connection to the piece. With this one, I know I’m bound to make errors because I’m writing about something pretty foreign to my experience. The more feedback I can get on it, the better I’ll be.

One problem that I can foresee, though, is the subjectivity of the experience. Some snowmobilers up here call the handlebars “risers”, while others call them simply “handlebars”. If I write something that is closely related to this region, I risk others not enjoying it as much because they’re not in the vernacular loop that people up here are. Then again, it’s edifying to read about experiences in other places, so maybe it won’t really matter.

I think, too, that for this one I’ll be seeking a Canadian publisher, just to really drive it home to my students that they’re awesome. Maybe that’s counting my chickens before they’re hatched, though.

Keep writing!

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Writing Problem #492 — Is the Challenge Too Challenging?

Okay, fellow writers, here’s a problem for you to contemplate: How do you get into a creative project that you’re not really doing for yourself?

I may have bitten off more than I can chew with this snowmobiling story, you see. I’m going to work on it throughout Camp NaNoWriMo this month, and complete the draft, but I’m having some real difficulties in building enthusiasm. I’m out of my usual genre and theme, learning a new colloquial language and trying to figure out how to mesh the ins and outs of the sport with an actual plot. Watching YouTube videos of snowmobilers isn’t terribly helpful, because those are simply footage shot by enthusiasts without a storyline.

I know I previously posted about my plot ideas, but those feel so weak right now . . .

And how do I spread out a day’s riding through a 50,000 word novel?

I’m contemplating starting off with the protagonist’s typical morning, dealing with family and home life and so on, and then building to the part I already have with my MC splitting away from his buddies. But I like how it starts with action, establishing the setting and the first problem — his friend’s attraction to his girlfriend — so I’m considering flashbacks instead. Maybe splitting the snowmobiling with bits about how his day started off.

He could have a GoPro on his helmet and he sees a crime take place, gets it on camera, before his machine crashes through the ice.

But what crime? Could be a cabin being broken into, or poachers . . . A chase would ensue.

It doesn’t help that I’m feeling exhausted again. It’s hard to think of ideas and put them into action when you’re wiped out. I really ought to go through the writing exercises I gave my students to do from the NaNo YWP handbook, but I also have work priorities of overdue marking, planning, and my other edits to complete for my coming release. If I had a power bar on my forehead, it would be red and in its last 1/8 segment. My gas needle is hovering over “E”. If I attempted to juice up with fresh coffee, I’d get the shakes.

The forecast for tonight and tomorrow is for freezing rain, followed by rain mixed with snow. I’m not sure how I’m feeling about the potential for bus cancellations. On the one hand, it would be good to have the day to be productive and catch up on things. On the other, it’s already a short week and I still have things to do with my students that really need to get done — some are redoing tests that they’d failed a few weeks ago, some need help to catch up on their blogs, and some need encouragement with their independent reading.

It would make me so happy to sleep for two or three days in a row. Just sleep. Wake up feeling refreshed and energized and focused, instead of sensing the hamster wheel under my feet.

Spring is coming. Think positive. Going to bed before midnight tonight is a plus. Everyone is healthy. Elizabeth is well-fed and shedding nicely. Skittles is fat and affectionate. House is warm. Okay, since I seem to be sinking into random sentence fragments, I should probably just post this and crawl into bed . . .

Good night, everybody. Wednesday is done.