The night before NanoWriMo – happy Halloween!

all-hallows-eveIt is indeed that time of the year – today is Halloween, which makes tomorrow the start of NanoWriMo! That means there are a couple of traditions about to kick off – the sequestered writing sessions, the mad dashes when work intervenes and I have to lock myself off for a few days, and of course – the Shearing.

I started doing this a few years ago, before I’d even heard of MoVember. Everyone thinks I shave it all of on Halloween and grow it in November as a tribute to that cause, but the truth is less admirable. It’s really a combination of my being lazy, plus a personal challenge (of sorts) – how much beard will it take to write this novel?

You see, growing a beard is an itchy and sometimes uncomfortable prospect. Now that we live in California, it’s even more complicated by the days being too warm to be comfortable (to me) in a beard. The growing of the beard is intended as an inspiration to write faster.  It’s a reminder that when I stop, I can shave again.

That mug on the page, though? That’s just me goofing around. I shaved off the middle of the goatee today, in a vaguely lame attempt at a self made costume that didn’t actually come together. Later tonight, I’ll be shaving the rest of it off.

Tomorrow morning (I hope), I will be firing up Novlr and beginning my daily words for the next month.  It’s never really about finishing, but about the practice involved. If you’re taking part this year, feel free to hit me up as an official – or unofficial – NanoWriMo buddy.

I’ll try and keep these posts going through the month, though I make no guarantees. But I will take a few pictures of my mug along the way so you can get an idea of how well its going.

Knowing the right time [writing]

There are certain things in life, certain events, where you just have to make the hard decision. Knowing when to abandon friends to invading zombie masses. Knowing when the deal the aliens are trying to make for your planet’s water is a bad deal. And now to add that to that list – knowing when it’s the right time to step away from a novel.

This is not an easy decision point. At least with the zombies, I know who among my friends will slow them down a little. But as readers of this blog know, I’ve been struggling pretty hard for the last month or so with the epic fantasy novel I’m working on. And by struggling, I mean flailing around a lot, arms and legs kicking out in spasms, and no substantive progress being made.

It’s time to take a break.

It pains me to admit that, because I loathe stopping projects once started. The interruption usually leads to me not finishing. But the fact is, I am floundering horribly on the current bit, and spinning my wheels on it isn’t getting me anywhere. I had hoped our road trip would breathe new life into me, but when I got back to the Bay area and sat down at the keyboard, I was still dead and lifeless when it came to the novel.

With NanoWriMo looming just around the corner, I think I’m going to shelve The Goddess Unbound for now.  I’m writing up all of my thoughts for the novel, all the murky hunches and notions I had brewing so that I can pick it back up later. I will probably spend a good week on that (there’s a lot in my head still). Once I’m satisfied, I’ll start working on my ideas for this year’s NanoWriMo novel, a YA book. I’ve picked up some old favorites from when I was a kid to try to recapture that feeling, but I already have a solid plot developing in my head.

Finally using my Kindle fully

I’ve been a Kindle owner since I bought a used first gen Kindle in 2008. Since then, I’ve owned a DX (sold), a Paperwhite (still use), and the $50 base Fire they came out with a year or so ago (also still use). In those 8 years of solid use, I’ve bought/acquired/loaded hundreds of books, mobi files, and other errata. I’ve synched across devices, created my own files, marked passages, and done all of the things that one does with a book.

Well, almost. Except for synchronizing, up to now I’ve used a Kindle like I would a book. It finally took a second attempt at reading “Gardens of the Moon“, the first book of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, to utilize my Kindle fully. I’m finally using X-Ray, and it is amazing.

One of the biggest issues many people, myself included, have when tackling the Malazan books is the sheer volume of names and places to remember. Other readers have been known to keep notebooks to keep track of everything, and if that’s not your thing there are entire wikis devoted to this task.

With X-ray, I don’t need most of that. On any given page, it will display on request who the characters in the page are, what their place in the story is, and remind me of any of the salient place names. This isn’t a replacement for paying attention to the complex tapestry of the story, but it does help. This isn’t my first attempt at reading the series, and to be honest I never got much further than this volume. But this time, I can enjoy the story being told instead of trying to keep a mental catalog of who’s who.

The irony, of course, being that I love hard copy books more. But in a world bound by space and shelf constraints, a Kindle book is a godsend.