Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Hook

(from U.S. Patent #2486473, "TYPEWRITER RIBBON AND SPOOL" by H. J. Hart (1946)

On my Royal's ribbon spools, there is a small hook that drops down: the ribbon holds it in place when it's wrapped around the core, but when you reach the end, the hook lowers and trips the reverse mechanism, and what was now the end of the ribbon becomes the beginning. (This is a snip from the patent drawing, above.)

We're ending week two of NaNoWriMo, and maybe you're feeling a little at-the-end too? Like you've typed all you can and have run out of ideas? Time to invoke the Hook: make a change, kill a character, summon those monkey ninjas from the ninth dimension. Do something dramatic and you'll have a whole fresh story all laid out before you.

All the way to 50K, people. You can do it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Today was a difficult day: my lunch was interrupted by a minor crisis, and while fixing that, was interrupted by another more major crisis, the two of which conspired to keep me away from my afternoon NaNoWriMo session. I'd been especially looking forward to this one, as I'd literally been on my feet all day -- I'm using a new standing desk, and am in the adjustment period where my back is happy but my feet are protesting. Sitting in a padded chair for forty-five minutes in the middle of the day sounded pretty damn good. But instead what I got was a gulped-down lunch and two hours mired in the depths of financial software. By the time the fog lifted, it was too late to skulk away with the Skyriter under the arm.

This made me bitter.

And then the lights went out.

For the second time in a month, we lost power to our building, and after the wails of despair died down ("I didn't save!") and casual conversation broke out in the hall, I realized that life had turned my lemony day into novel-ade. Out came the typing pad and the Skyriter, and for the next forty-five minutes or so, I typed by the fading daylight, boosting up the word count. Someone even stopped by and jokingly suggested that I hand out spare machines to anyone needing to finish up their work. I said, "I am doing work!"

This made me smug.

Little Smug Man

I took the sudden work stoppage as a sign that Dramatic Action was called for in the novel, too. I've been languishing a bit, wallowing in the flabby and ill-defined section in the middle of my outline. When the lights went out in the office, though, the lights came on in my brain, and whether it was the unexpected opportunity of a writing session, or the endorphin rush from finally sitting down, I think I've got a title for the story, and even a decent synopsis I can put up on the site.

Very smug indeed.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Magic

Well, it happened this morning. The first morning when I hit the alarm button a couple of times, and actually resented getting up at some ludicrous hour to write terrible fiction.

This is what morning looks like

This was taken at the end of the session, just before my kids woke up. I started at 5:30, and I've been starting at 5:00 since Monday. Needless to say, I'm very much looking forward to the time change this weekend. It's far too dark to warrant getting out of bed, much less getting up to attempt to string together a contiguous storyline. But it's also one of the few times of day when I'm truly left alone -- since all sane people are still abed -- and so I take advantage of the quiet and solitude to work. (Since starting this post, for example, I have made two breakfasts, fed and let out the dog, defused a tantrum, and watched a parade of plastic dinosaurs and cows.)

Reluctance is part of the NaNo game, of course, and much as I try to suppress the Inner Editor, he is known to perch on my shoulder and make murky comments in my ear while I'm trying to work.

"This is crap."

"Why didn't you figure out the character names in advance? My God, this is lame."

"You got us up for this?"

Sadly for the Inner E, I don't hear so well at 5:00 AM, so most of these complaints go unheeded. And during my lunchtime writing sessions at work, the coffee-cart guy has Fox news turned up too loud on his TV, which I've found to be an effective drone to dispel all rational thought. NaNoWriMo thrives in pockets of irrationality, and in the very heart of those pockets lies magic.

Magic Margin

Around the same time that the Inner E wants to start smacking "snooze", the Muse also starts kicking in. For me, writing is best tackled at regular times: I think it fools my brain into being creative, because, hey, we're sitting at that damn typewriter again and we're not getting up, might as well write. And it's in those oh-what-the-hell-just-move-those-fingers moments that the unexpected starts to creep in. The characters start talking to each other and reveal Big Personal Secrets. Scenes I had not anticipated appear, and the story is better for them. User "munk" on the Typewriter Brigade topic compared the feeling to a silvery thread connecting the subconscious to the typewriter. Yeah, I totally get that. It's the magic.

There was an anti-NaNo article on Salon lately, and then an anti-anti-NaNo article in the LA Times blog. You can search them down if you like, but it's the same arguments and defenses that have been trotted out every year, and I feel like it boils down to a slobs versus snobs distinction. I don't listen to the argument much, though I do savor some of the more nasty comments from both sides. I know the self-imposed suffering of writing regimen will end in three weeks, and I know that what I'm writing is not High Art. But gives me a chance get in touch with the magic, and that feeling makes it worthwhile.

But even more when we turn the clocks back.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Your Arsenal

For Twitterites, there's a #DailyArsenal hashtag and a corresponding flickr group, highlighting what's in your writing/creating space for the day. Although it's not limited to NaNoWriMo, you can still use it as a way to do a little shameless self-promotion. I arranged my afternoon-writing setup and took a quick photo before heading down to the building lobby to type.

At the risk of sounding like a hokey credit card commercial, what's in your arsenal?
NaNoWriMo Day 3

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cheering Section

We're doing some remodeling, which required that I put my main NaNo typewriter away for a while, after I'd brought it out and given it a cleaning up. I'd forgotten that my middle child had "helped" with the process, making sure that the keys worked and the ribbon was properly inked. She wrote this up, and then a day later the contractor came, so her work was hurridly tucked away in my box of paper. When I sat down this morning to start NaNoWriMo, I found it again.

20101101 poemcast

It's never a bad thing to kick off with your own personal cheering section.