Tuesday, November 28, 2006

NaNo Won! Woo-hoo! More gems

I did it! With the kids watching while I typed the last three words, I crossed the 50,000-word NaNoWriMo finish line!

Here are more gems from my manuscript:

Good taste, however, seemed to be thoroughly lacking that week.
"Rita, Ann, will you come look at this?" Thomas called from the office.
The two sisters shrugged at each other, then picked up their cups of tea and wandered over to see what had made their friend so exasperated.
Ann gave a small shriek and Rita nearly dropped her at what they saw.
On Sr. Thomas' computer screen was a horrifying nasty skeletal creature with a huge oblong head snapping its jaws at a woman who, was cowering in absolute terror. Over the hissing and snarls came a voice that lilted like all salesmen of any age:
"Don't know what's waiting on that unexplored alien ship? Not willing to be caught by surprise? Well, neither are we. And, thanks to the cinematographers of old, we don't have to be."
The scene changed to space suited figures wandering in a dark cavernous room with large, leathery eggs.
"Every Monday night, we'll be analyzing the procedures and tactics of others who have gone the way we dare go now. After each full-length feature presentation in its extended form remastered exclusively for CruiseGalactic, we will have analysis and discussion."
The scene changed to the woman strapping herself into her seat and opening the ship door, blasting the alien into space.
"We don't have to operate in a vacuum. Come join us for these life and death discussion. Remember: they made the stupid mistakes so we don't have to!"
The last image--that of a man on a hospital bed with a pale yellow scorpion-like creature with long legs clamped over his face--froze. Over it appeared a small box that said in bright flashing letters, "First showing tonight: ALIEN, directed by Ridley Scott. Download a reminder into your calendar now! Avoid death by alien incubation!"

Rita and Sr. Thomas peeked inside the gym while Sr. Ann and the engineers from the Edwina Thomas and Rocky Flats waited anxiously. They had refused to let the sisters enter the room.
The gym walls, floor and ceiling were a crazy quilt of exercise mats of different sizes, shapes and colors. Various hand and foot holds stuck out everywhere. In one corner a container the size of a truck (sat?).
"All right, I see what you did with all the floor mats, but why?"
As if having waited for that very question, Sr. Ann reached between them and tossed a ball she'd been holding into the room. Rather than making the expected parabola, it continued on a straight path.
"A zero g room!"
"Isn't it wonderful?" Sr. Ann said gaily. "And in the box are things we can use to set up tunnels or obstacle courses or practice moving items--"
"How did you manage it?"
"We reversed the polarity of the gravitational field," Sr. Ann said casually, while the engineering team behind her fought to suppress their snickers. They'd obviously been planning the joke for a long time.
"Mmmm-Hmmm." Sr. Thomas turned her back to the room and gave the team her best "don't kid with me" look. "Which means…?"
At first, Sr. Ann gave them her usual wide-eyed, innocent look, then said, "Oh, we pulled all the gravity plating out of the floor somewhere else and attached it to the ceiling, powered up an RCH generator and set it for .978g, which is actually the acceleration force for the Edwina Thomas right now. The gravity generator provides counter-force for the acceleration force, and there you go! Zero g. But it's so much more fun to say we reversed the polarity!"
Sr. Thomas rolled her eyes. "All right--as long as you don't start padding your repair estimates."
"Oh, no, Sister!" Sr. Ann said with complete innocence, while the team behind her did their best to feign innocence.

(Set up: Sister Rita and James (a former almost-love interest and the reason she fled into space) are trapped on board an alien lifepod taht activated when they entered. They are running out of air and have no idea if they'll be rescued. Rita, BTW, has been struggling wtih doubts about her calling for a long time.)

She pulled out her sampling equipment, thoughtfully. As soon as the door had shut, systems had come on. They had light, heat, and gravity of a fashion. Could it be…?
She broke open the seal of a sample tube, breaking the vacuum within. In her mind, she heard the air rushing into the tube. She prayed her imagination was true.
"What are you doing?"
"Checking the air."
"Is there breathable air? Didn't you remind me repeatedly that this an alien ship?"
"Let's have a little faith," she snapped and he fell to sullen silence.
The timer on the screen ended and results appeared. She almost cried with relilef, but made herself repeat the experiment before saying anything. The results came up the same the second time.
"Oxygen/Nitrogen! Praise God! It's a little thinner, but no more so than say, Tibet."
"So how does that help-- What are you doing?!"
Rita had her hand on her helmet and was about to release the seal. Her hands, however, refused to carry out her commands. "Come here. We're going to do this one at a time," she told him firmly.
"Are you out of your mind? What if there's something the scanner didn't pick up?"
"Then I'll asphyxiate and you'd better be ready to slam this helmet back on me. Then we pray the skinsuit medpod can keep me alive until we're back on the Edwina Thomas. Listen to me, James. You are right. We should have been rescued by now. That means there's some kind of obstacle. We need to save the suit air in case we do have to force that door open to get to the Basilica.
"So, what we're going to do is this: I'm taking this helmet off--don't fight with me, James. I'm the expert--I'm taking this helmet off and testing the air. If I'm not sick or turning blue in five minutes, you take yours off, too. I'll hand the helmet to you. You'll be ready to put it back on. Got it?"
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," she lied. "Ready?"
He shuffled over to her and held out his hands. "Ready."
He took a deep breath. Come on, girl. "You remember how to put the helmet on?"
"You trained me," he said, then added. "You want me to go first?"
"No. My idea. I'm first." She took some deep breaths as if steeling herself for a plunge into a cold deep lake. Then with a sudden yank, she twisted the seal and yanked her helmet off.
The cold thin air hit her like icy water and she gasped, then coughed.
"Rita!" his voice came loud through her earpiece.
"I'm OK! I'm OK! It's just cold!" her breath came out in little clouds and she could feel the sweat in her hair turn to ice. "It's about 8 degrees"--she stopped to cough as the sharp chill seared her lungs. The humidity's low, too. Brrr!" her teeth were chattering.
"Are you sure?" James was watching her with a new kind of fear.
"Look at my chest."
"The monitors on my chest. How do they read?"
Grimacing at his foolishness, he looked at the monitors. "Everything's good. Heart rate's a little fast."
"Imagine that." She laughed then coughed. "Oh! I'd forgotten what it's like to breathe such cold air! It actually smells very clean, though. There's kind of a…raisin scent…"
"Should I?" he reached for his own helmet.
"Not yet. Start a timer. We'll wait five minutes. I'll bleed a little air from my tank to yours so we'll be even."
"No. keep all your air. If anything happened to you--"
"No heroic posturing, please! You know, I think it's getting warmer."
By the time James took off his helmet, the temperature had risen to 30 degreed Celcius. Soon, it had risen another six.
Rita activated her helmet long enough to graph the readings, then pulled it off. "It's tapering off but nowhere near stabilizing yet. We have to assume that the pod is programmed for the optimum temperature of the species. We'll have to pray that that's something we can handle, too. At the rate it's going, it'll be another hour before we have to depend on our suits to keep us from dying of heat. In the meantime, I am dying of heat." She reached behind her and flipped the suit catch. "Do an emergency evac from the suit and set it up for emergency donning in case we have to get back in them quickly."
"Are you sure?"
But Rita was already bent forward and sliding out of the suittop. "That's better!" she said with forced brightness. James gave an elaborate shrug and followed.
Suddenly, there was an earsplitting schieking and scratching that made both of them slam their hands over their ears.
"What is that?!" James shouted.
"How should I know! We must have triggered an alarm!"
"What? Why now?"
"I don't know! Maybe it picked up our life signs with the suits off--"
"Look!" James pointed to a hologram that appeared in a corner. "Quick! It's showing us what to do!"
Had he gone insane? "Great! Do you speak alien?"
"Well, neither do I!"
The screeching continued, loud and insistent, tearing at the few nerves she had left.
"But it's showing you what to do!"
Me? Showing me?! "James would you think for a minute! We don't know what it's showing us. We don't even know if they see in our visual spectrum! Even if they do, are these the instructions for a course change or a hibernation sequence? And even if we knew, they've got six arms!"
"Can't you--"
"No! I can't! I don't know what to do! I'm not a saint! I'm not even--" Suddenly the sobs ripped from her and she grabbed her stomach and her face screwed up with pain. "I'm not even a good nun!"
Suddenly, the holo disappeared and the shrieking ceased. There was no sound but her sobs.

That's it. The rest would give the ending away.

So, NaNo is won and now the real work begins. Time to fill up holes, clean up words, look up tech and truly forge this bunch of glorious fun into something that I hope will one day sit proudly on the bookshelves. Hope you enjoyed sharing my race with me. I'll let you know how the rest of the marathon goes.

Final NaNo Count:

Words written (per MS Word): 50,336
Words written (per NaNo counter): 50,010
Places I need better words: 96
Holes I need to fill: 22
Tech I need to write: 35
Characters, places that need names: 24

Saturday, November 25, 2006

NaNo--gems from Discovery manuscript

As promised, today I list a few gems from my NaNo project, Discovery.

(Set-up; Sr. Ann had a minor accident and her suit is damaged, but she didn't know it. She continues to rescue the miners stuck in the damaged station while Sr. Rita--also unaware of Ann's suit damage) attaches the miners in the emergency transport "bags" to the rover.)

Ten minutes later, Sr. Ann emerged with the last crewman in a bag. She attached herself to the cable, then disengaged the pulley from the door handle and let Rita pull them in. Then while Rita got the pulley gear stowed, she attached the last balloon to the rover.
"They're kind of pretty, aren't they? Silver balloons of life." Sr. Ann smiled dreamily.
"Sister?" Rita asked. "Are you all right? "
"Fine. Why?"
"What's your suit say?"
"Heads up," Rita heard her murmur, then: "Nominal. Nominal. Nominal,
nominal, nominal and all pretty shade of green."
Rita was not reassured. "You've had quite a time of it, sister. Why don't I drive?"
Hayden, too had been watching and listening. "Tell you what, Sister. I'll do the honors."
They headed back to the ship with Hayden at the wheel and another crewman beside him, two crew hanging onto the sides, and Rita and Ann in the back seats. Sr. Ann turned to look at the bags bobbing and sighed again. She murmured something Rita couldn’t catch against the other traffic on the line.
The miners were talking among themselves and didn't notice. Rita switched to a private channel. "Sister Ann?"
"Has anybody ever given you a balloon?"
"What? I suppose. They're rather common on Earth--"
"But you left Earth and balloons and… Disregard."
"Sister Ann?"
"I came as a wanderer/found You, Beloved, here/in a dead world poised/on the edge of eternity…" Sr. Ann paused, giggled, then said, "My beloved is to me a pouch of myrrh/Which lies all night between my breasts./My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms/In the vineyards of Engedi."
"What? Sister what are you talking about?"
"Balloons and perfume and blossoms and--and rocks!" She suddenly pointed and as the gesture pulled her half out of the seat, Rita realized she hadn't strapped herself in properly. Rita reached out and grabbed her arm with one hand and started pulling her should strap tight with the other.
"But I want the pretty rock! Look how it's falling so gentle. My Beloved means it for me!" she pouted and started to struggle.
"Sister, suit status!"
"I want the rock!"
One of the miners, seeing her gesture, pushed off from the rover and letting her line out gently, snagged the rock then pulled himself back in. She handed it to Sr. Ann, who clapped with delight and clutched it to her breast. Rita hastened to strap her in as she again asked her partner for a suit check. Again, Sr. Ann reported everything green.
As Rita looked at the miner, she held up three fingers, and Rita switched channels.
"Sorry, Sister. We were all a little worried after the accident, so I've been listening. I thought the easiest thing was to just give her the stone."
"No, I thank you. We're almost to the ship. In another couple of minutes we can check her out ourselves and not rely on the suit."
Nonetheless, she switched to the common channel and told Hayden to accelerate to as fast as he felt safe, then contacted Sr. Thomas and told her to prep the EMT kit.
"I feel a little dizzy," Sr. Ann complained as the ship came into view. "And things are a little dark around the edges."
Sr. Rita breathed a quick prayer as she loosened Ann's straps enough to look at the gages on her chest display. Her suit insisted she was fine, but the O2 supply gage hadn't dropped below 75 percent. She called up her own supply: 65 (decide amount), and she'd exerted herself far less than Sr. Ann.
Please let the gages just be stuck... "Sister Ann, what does your skinsuit say?"
"What? Isn’t my rock pretty? Have you ever wanted someone to give you a pretty stone?"
"Annie, come on. Focus. What does your skinsuit say? What's the oxygen level in your blood? Give me the readings."
"The numbers are blurry... Um, it gave me a shot."
"Think so."
"Thank God. Hang on, Sister. We'll have you on the ship in a minute."
"Pretty rock from a barren land... I'm going to name you Peter."

(Set up: An evangelist on the research team has been bombarding a wicca on the team with religious tracts and she's fed up. She goes to paint a wicca symbol on his door (in ketchup) and they argue. Sister Rita stops them, tells them both to leave each other alone. Keli, the wicca agrees, but Merl follows Rita to argue some more.)

Merl, however, followed Rita, carrying on a one-sided diatribe and even entering the sisters' quarters uninvited
"I cannot believe you didn't side with me against a--"
Rita closed her eyes, said a silent prayer, then turned to her antagonizer. "Mr. Pritchard, can you lay hands upon that child and banish her demons?"
"No, but--"
"Neither can I. Do you think sending her religious tracts is going change her?"
"Well, I've made her angry--"
"As she has made you. Inciting anger is not evangelization, Merl."

(Set-Up: This is Suits 101 for the research team members who are not familiar with EVA activities. Sr. Rita is teaching the class. James is a former almost-love interest. (He left the Jesuits to be free to pursue her, even though she was still a nun, but before he returned from Rome, she had left her post and gone to space--to escape him. It's now 3 years later and things are a little tense between them.)

"...Let's start with the skinsuits."
"Do they have to be so tight?" one of the ladies complained.
Rita smiled sympathetically. "Unfortunately, yes. The material is a NaturaDyne nanoweave that reads and interacts with your skin to track your life signs. It contains its own power supply and is partly recharged by kinetic energy--but you don't need to worry about running laps; it doesn't use a lot of power. It can inject medicines and apply pressure to specific areas when necessary: for example, when in microgravity to help prevent your blood from pooling to your head. For that reason, it's important to make sure it isn't wrinkled. Please check that now."
Everyone did so, with varying degrees of shyness. James, Rita noticed, endeavored to check his suit while still keeping his hands modestly in front of him. It was kind of sweet. Still, something didn't look quite right. "James, move your hands."
He looked up as if caught at something. "What?"
Rita demonstrated by putting her hands over her head. "Raise your hands. James, where's your 'pod?"
"My What?!" his shriek, combined by the way he flushed, made Andy snort with mirth. Galen and some of the others started to follow, but Rita stopped them with a glare.
"Your medpod, James," she pointed to the small nonoweave-wrapped black box just in front of her hip, then addressed the class as a whole. "The Medpod contains various narcotics to regulate blood pressure and oxygen content, treat pain and handle other emergencies. It docks through the suit to your internal catheter to deliver... James, you do have an internal line?"
When he looked blank, she sighed. "Is there anyone else who does not have an internal line? You would have had a simple outpatient procedure...?"
Most people nodded; a few winced at the memory; but two--plus James--shook their heads.
"All right, then. After class, Galen will escort you to the ship's surgeon. She'll schedule the surgery and see you are excused from duties that day."
"Do we have to?" the same woman who'd complained that her suit was tight asked. "I mean, our space suits are supposed to protect us, right? If we get injured out there, it'll probably tear the suit and we're gonners anyway." She almost sounded as if she preferred that option to the thought ofa "simple outpatient procedure."
"Fortunately, no. These suits are not like those you see in the old holos. They don't tear easily. You can sustain broken bones and severe internal injuries--including concussion--without harming your suit. Having said that, the suit has been known to take other kinds of damage, which could affect its--your--life support system. Hence, the redundancy of the skinsuit. If sends you notices if it detects injury, illness, or other hazardous health conditions, and if you confirm the diagnosis or it determines you are incapable of responding rationally, it will automatically medicate you to keep you alive. You're welcome to ask Sister Ann about how the suit saved her life if you're skeptical."

That's enough for now. I actually have a lot of stuff I like in this mess of a manuscript, so I'll post more Tuesday.

NaNo Update: 49,000 words!
I've lost track of holes and such, but I'll give a final count on Tuesday--after I hit 50,000!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

NaNo: Hole-y Manuscripts, Batman!

I've been listening to WriMoRadio, the official podcasts of NaNoWriMo. People are giving their advice for making that 50,000 word count. I'd record mine, but I have laryngitis from a sinus infection. (Curse you, mulching leaves of autumn!)

My advice is to pay homage to your inner editor. But of course, you all know I do that. It's on the bottom of my blog: my running tally of words I need but can't remember, TECH I have to look up or make up, holes in the plot I need to go back and fill. And, for those days when a read scene escapes me, the holes I do go back and fill.

Today, I thought I'd post a few hole-riddled scenes from my novel, Discovery, so you could see what I mean. (Bookmark this, so you can say "I remember when..." after Discovery becomes the NYT's surprise best seller!)

(TECH--get some protocol from shuttle locking onto station for this Mathcing speed with ET--need to dock in sideways to not interfere with the engines-- the sisters are all belted down in a gyroscope-type flight deck with their feet facing toward aft since they are accelerating at just past 1 g.)

While Sr. Thomas attended to the details of docking, Srs. Rita and Ann stared out the viwescreen at the behemoth where they would serve for the next ?? months.

"It’s almost as big as the convent," Rita whispered.

"(TECH ColeCorp Hulkhualer II VASIRM engines capable of 1.5g constant acceleration, with dual Kayfarer hydrogen fusion drives for deceleration and emergency boost, kind of comm. gross volume: ) Two docking bays capable of holding 5 Esprit-class private yachts, each equipped with a (somekind of net--Minnownet) to assist in docking."

Sr. Thomas snorted. Edwina Thomas had offered the use of the magnetic arm to dock Basilica. However whenthey found out the relative size of the OLR ship and she learned of the inexperience of he crew in handling the equipment, they mutually agreed on her docking manually.

"200 life pods holding up to 12 persons each situated on each hull at 5 degree interverals. ?? foot hydroponics over ?? decks provides fresh produce and O2 (reclamation). Waste recycling system--describe of just name it? Sickbay equipped to handle everything short of transplant surgery; three stasis chambers for emergencies. Central (waiting) room with Hawkins/Jacobs 7 Gravity generator. Three story grand lobby. Fore viewing room beneath the main bridge, with additional viewing rooms on port and starboard. (big canyon in mars) 25,000 square foot day spa contains Olympic sized pool with retractable floor to double the depth for scuba and complete fitness center. Amusement deck contains an ampitheater with 950 capacity; a zero-g fun deck, virtual sports, the Nova Casino, and a 2-level variable g disco. Four ballrooms, two bars, five dining facilities, four public Laundromats, a library with a complete set of the Library of Sol (as of last year), plus 6,000 hardback prints, shopping mall. Stateroom vary from 1500-foot suites to single-bed cabins and house up to 700 crew and 1800 passenger, with kennel facilities for 24 approved spacefaring animals and weight/volume for 2-month cruises of the inner system. And only one chapel--multidenominational." Sr. Ann, of course, had memorized the tech specs ColeCorp had sent. Nonetheless, her eyes flickered with excitement over the ET’s hull.

Got to love writing about a ship you can't picture in your mind yet...or know how long they're staying. Wish ColeCorp would send ME the mission specs.

"How am I supposed to find time to do that?!" (who) protested. "Radell already has us working 10 hours getting the (TECH) running and I have kitchen duty, forced exercise and these lessons--"

"If you want to go out, you pass with 95 percent or better. However, we are already talking to Doctors Thoren and Radell about the schedule. You have three months to get your lab in order, but you cannot train in the suit until you pass the test. For today, however, we're simply going to learn to put it on and to assist each other in putting it on. Under most circumstances, you should have an experienced buddy to help you; however, everyone needs to be proficient, just in case."

(How's the suit go on?)

Or space suits without operating instructions. Then there're the great scenes I don't want to waste time setting up this month:

(Exploring around the ship. James and rita teamed up. Build a little tension earlier. Now he's on a private channel trying to talk to her about their relationship, and she’s none too happy. In a spot with several different small doors and a central area with (what would a lifeboat center have?) She has her back to the door, maybe scanning the area to record. James looking at something. He turns to her (perhaps as he was saying something esp. intimate/suggestive) and she steps back. )

The door opened behind her. She hadn't been leaning on it, yet somehow, her body had taken it for granted it was there, and in its absence, she overbalanced and fell back into a small room.

So there are some of the many warts in my manuscript. Next time, I'll share what I consider some of the gems.

NaNo Update:
As of Tues 18 Nov
Tech: 35
Fixed: 14
Characters needing names: 7

Saturday, November 18, 2006

NaNoWriMo: Careful of that word count!

Week 3 of NaNo finds me sick with a sinus infection and laryngitis. While this has made for a relaxing week for me and the kids (who are actually doing some of their schoolwork and taking care of each other), it has also affected my concentration. So, despite having hours of uninterrupted time, I've been fixing holes and managing about 1000 words a day. What a waste of quiet time!

Last night, I put my text into the NaNo official word counter. Their counter's result was over 300 words *fewer* than MS Word's counter. (31,900 to my 32,200.)

For those who think they may be cutting it close, you might want to go to 50,500 words or check you word count in their counter a few days before the end.

NaNo Update:
Words: 32,218
Holes: 22
Tech: 31
Word/phrase: 64
Fixed holes: 12

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

PARENTING: Playtime a necessity

The American Academy of Pediatrics has determined that free play--not structured lessons, educational activities, or sports--is actually good for your child!

Click here to read about it.

This is something I think most parents already knew, but it's amazing how we've let the "experts," whether actual child psychologists or those that play one on TV (to sell the latest in educational, developmental, superior-al toys), convince us that we are cheating our children if they are not learning the piano at five, taking foreign language lessons after school by eight, and of course, involved in some form of managed exercise, whether ballet, little league (four nights a week plus games) or "open gym" at the local fitness center.

I'm not knocking those programs. The era of the neighborhood pick-up games has gone away (though we still see them in our nice quiet cul-de-sac.) I wonder, however, if the supervised activities evolved to fill the gap or did they cause the gap in the first place?

When I was growing up, I wanted lessons, but we couldn't afford them. I learned to dance from friends or watching others, sang in church, and got other activities (drama, debate, etc.) in school. As a parent, I first bought into the "structured lessons maximize your child's potential!" ideal and as a homeschooler, planned on lessons to fill out the curriculum. Nonetheless, we quickly learned that too many lessons, especially when you have to drive 30 minutes one-way for a 45 minute lesson, are hard on the family and the schedule.

Our compromise is to offer each one the chance at one kind of lesson at the beginning of September, January, and May. They try it and if they like it, commit to the lessons for 4 months, after which they can opt out. So far, Steven has tried football, art, guitar and fencing; and Alex and Liam, horseback riding and Tae Kwon Do. Amber has her black-belt in Tae Kwon Do, plays piano (no lessons in several years), has taken art, horseback riding and ballet; and is currently exploring drama. We've all had Japanese lessons in our home.

With homeschooling--which means less time needed for academics--the kids have a lot of free time. Sometimes, they are bored stiff. Other times, the place is a mess from their latest projects or escapades. Sometimes, their creativity seems more focused on finding ways to annoy each other. Overall, however, the house is far more relaxed than when we were heavy into the lessons routines.

It's lunchtime in our homeschooling house. Liam (6), Alex (8) and Amber (11) are building yet another Littlest Pet Shop City in the basement with everything from dollhouses to old boxes they've cut and taped together. Steven (13) is bounding about in his room, lost in an magical adventure featuring his best friends as warriors, healers, and wizards. Later, he may type these into the story he's composing--or maybe not. It's not an assignment for school. In an hour or so, I'll make sure they're fed and heard them back into school, but for now, their time is theirs.

I think the AAP would approve.

NaNo Update:
Holes: 28
Tech: 54
Word/phrase: 76
Fixed holes: 8

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Practical Tips for NaNo

One of the MuseOnlineConference members wrote this up for the conference, but I thought it applied to NaNo:

Five things you must do in order to prepare for NaNoWriMo (from the home office of Heather Grant, with thanks):

1. Write down the names of your children on a sticky note and post it somewhere visible where it will not get lost. Go in order of birth and add a characteristic or two so you can find the right name for the right child.

2. Check every once in awhile in closets, bedroom, refrigerator, any place you might find a clue that your spouse still lives with you. If you happen to find said spouse try to be polite and mumble a nice 'hello' or something to let them know you are still with them.

3. Stock up on peanut butter, jelly, t.v. dinners, microwave popcorn, anything even a four year old can pop in the microwave. I don't recommend peanut butter and jelly in the microwave…I do recommend a smoke alarm above the microwave. :) Have local food delivery on speed dial as well.

4. Stock up on mini candy bars, granola bars (you need some sort of nutrition), cookies, chips, etc. and hide them from said four year old.

5. Never, never forget where you put your eye glasses and always have a good supply of pens and paper within reach.

NaNo Update:
Words: 21722
Holes: 29
Tech: 46
Word/phrase: 61
Fixed holes: 6

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


A friend e-mailed this today. I got a laugh out of it, especially when I realized I've broken at least 20 of them--some on a regular basis--in my own writing. I thik the keys lie in knowing the difference between formal/academic writing and fiction/casual writing, as well as knowing the rules and when breaking them is effective.

1. Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
5. Avoid cliche's like the plague. (They're old hat)
6. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.
7. Be more or less specific.
8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
9. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
10. No sentence fragments.
11. Contractions aren't necessary and shouldn't be used.
12. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
13. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
14. One should NEVER generalize.
15. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.
16. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
17. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
18. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
19. The passive voice is to be ignored.
20. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.
21. Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.
22. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
23. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth-shaking ideas.
24. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
25. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it correctly.
26. Puns are for children, not groan readers.
27. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
28. Even IF a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
29. Who needs rhetorical questions?
30. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
31. Proofreed carefully to see if you any words out.

Let's not forget:

32: Spell Check is their to help ewe.


Words written: 12,160
Holes in scene/plot: 12
Tech needed: 22
Correct word phrase needed: 23
People I've contacted for info, help: 6
Holes/tech/words fixed: 4

Saturday, November 04, 2006

NaNo Lessons

Thought some of you might like to see how one writer's work goes, so I've collected some stats on my first 3 days of NaNoWriMo.

TITLE: Discovery

TAG LINE: Can the discovery of an alien ship help a nun in crisis discover God's purpose for her?

PLOT: Sr. Rita is torn between her vows and her love for James Smith. To escape the need to make a decision, she flees the university where she teaches, her order, and even the Earth by joining the Order of Our Lady of the Rescue. Nonetheless, she cannot escape memories of James. When ColeCorp, an interplanetary conglomerate with interests in everything from education to asteroid mining, discovers a crashed alien ship in the Kuiper Belt, it assembles a team of researchers and miners to explore the ship and bring it back to Luna for further study. They hire the "Rescue Sisters" Sr. Rita and Sr. Ann, to oversee safety. But when they also hire archaeologist James Smith, Rita must face dangers of the soul as well as those of space.


"HOLES" IN STORY (where I write "describe," "need problems," "brilliant idea" because I can't think of anything at the moment): 12

TECH (need technical info): 5

WORDS (couldn't think of the right word, so I stuck in a substitute): 19

HELP: (Need technical advice, quotes, etc. from others): 6

ROOMS I'VE WRITTEN IN: 4--(schoolroom, kitchen, bedroom (in bed, ont he couch, and standing with the computer perched ont he ironing board), bathroom. The joy of laptops)

THINGS I'VE DONE WHILE WRITING: teach, cook, clean, exercise, chat with friends (Yahoo IM, both distraction and aid!), and tweaked my website for ISIG. And I've fallen asleep over the computer a few times.

The point? Writing is a messy process. Not every writer has their novel spring fully formed from their minds like some kind of Greek god. Nor does every writer thoroughly research their ideas beforehand. In this case, I had only a general idea what I needed until I started writing. Writers don't always have the correct words or phrases; some of the best writing comes after struggle and re-write.

While some people function best when in a place specially set aside for their craft, some of us squeeze it in wherever and whenever we can.

Nor do writers need to do it alone. I'm only on chapter 3, and already I need to find people to help me with zero g physics, distributive economics, hypoxia, and changing religious orders. I've already sent questions to the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Catholic Economic justice Society, a physicist friend, and my writers group. When Rob gets back from TDY, he's going to devote a few hours to my questions, holes, and words as well.

The important thing in all of this is that the words are getting written. Jumbled, messy, full of questions and ????, they nonetheless tell a story that, with time and editing, will flow as smoothly as if dictated by the Muses themselves.

(There's a great analogy for Catholic SF--maybe I'd better tag that "reword.")

Now, I've written way too many words that should be going to the novel. Until Tues!