Posted by: oneyearbook | April 13, 2010

Beginnings

One of my issues right now is with how to organize the mass of material that comes from the first part of the book. And a big part of that problem is with how, exactly, to begin. I have written at least four scenes already that seem tailored to be a ‘beginning,’ in a number of different ways – two as prologue-types, using a different time-frame than the next part of the story, and two as close character pieces; and while the two can exist together, a prologue and then a close character piece as the beginning of the first section, this bunch doesn’t seem to want to pair off that way. And then there are two more scenes, unwritten, that seem like they should come right off the top. It is hard to decide.

I am not very good at deciding things, y’all. Perhaps I should just roll some dice.

Posted by: oneyearbook | March 19, 2010

Name change?

So, as discussed yesterday, the project has outlived its year, although both novel and blog go forward. The question becomes, should I change my branding? I don’t think I can change the url without starting a new blog entirely, and I don’t want to do that; but the masthead could have a swap up. I do like a good redecorating, anyhow.

Under consideration:

My Book, My Blog

Blog & Book & Zombies (sure to be popular)

Many Years, One Book

A Hundred Years of (Solitary) Book-Writing

? Years, One Book

Not wanting to decide rashly, I’ll probably give it ’til the end of the week before any bloggy-style renovations go on. And, because I love it so, I probably won’t give up on the typewriter. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments: maybe you guys like continuity and want things to remain how they are, I dunno.

Posted by: oneyearbook | March 18, 2010

A silent milestone

On Monday, without fanfare or comment (from me or anyone else, although on my part I was aware of the date and just chose not to comment), my ‘year’ finished.

Yes, I officially began on March 15 – which was also a Monday – and I suppose the experiment ‘officially,’ if you will, ended this week.

First, let’s get the obvious, and most unpleasant aspect of this all out of the way: I have not, in fact, written one book in one year, as the masthead of this business seems to promise you. In fact I have produced the first draft of one novel, a novella-written-in-three-days, and about 60,000 words, give-or-take, from various sections of a draft of another novel, which I am still, I promise, working diligently on. I also wrote the first drafts of about five short stories and polished and refined two of them.

I would like to note, for the sake of accuracy, that what was intended to be a year off from work (at least, most especially, from full-time work) was in the end not even close to that: I wrote full-time from March 15 to late July, worked full-time until the end of August, and wrote full-time again until three days before Christmas, when for $$$-related reasons, I returned again to the 40-hour workforce, where I have been ever since. By my count I’m short of eight months by a couple weeks.

Excuses, excuses, you cry. A novel was promised!

Just kidding, no-one’s bugged me about this or anything. Mostly I’ve just bugged myself. How sure was I, a year ago, that I could write a novel in a year? I think I would have put my confidence at close to 100 per cent, but I’ve become aware lately that I tend to overestimate things, often quite badly. My expectations are often not aligned with reality. Which, I contend (and will continue to contend) is probably the only way to progress; but it still leads to let-down more often than not.

Honestly, the days around the 15th were filled with a number of ‘bad news’ moments on the writing front, including my first real rejection note for a short story. (I promise to frame it and begin a collection – isn’t that the way forward with these things?) But then again, the last couple of days have been filled with a number of breakthroughs on the novel front, both ideas-wise and in actual words written.

Yes: I am still writing the novel. It’s not as if I’ve given up on it; it’s just that I didn’t write it in a year. I have every intention of finishing it. This time, though, I’m not putting a timeline on that. I guess I can stop calling the project One Year, One Book. Now I’m just going to call it One Book. That’s a pretty big goal, anyway. And one I think I’m up for.

Posted by: oneyearbook | February 28, 2010

Response

The Minotaur

The Minotaur

So I read the 3-Day novel. And guess what? I actually really liked it.

Sure, it had all the sorts of problems one might expect from something that was not only written in three days, but basically conceived, plotted, and outlined during that timeline too. For example, it pretty much doesn’t have a middle. It’s all, here is a beginning, this will go on for a bit, setting things up, hooking people into the plot, etc. etc., oh, here’s a mid – nope, sorry, we’re into the climax and the ending now. So any editing would have to address that imbalance. I guess while I was writing I subconsciously was thinking, “there’s not enough time to hit all the main structural points of a regular novel; and if I have to give anything up, it can’t be the beginning or the end, so let’s sacrifice the middle.” And one of the characters is a bit of a caricature … and one of the main plot points is underdeveloped and underwritten during the climax, so it doesn’t really come off. But those are all fixable.

The main thing is, I sat down to read the first bit and I ended up reading the whole thing through because I was enjoying myself. I liked it. I was compelled by it. I found it emotionally resonant, and I found it exciting. So the 3-Day thing was definitely worth it. I’d recommend it to anyone out there who wants to try to escape their own bad habit of being too editor-y with their writing, or too critical to ever get anything finished or down on paper.

Posted by: oneyearbook | February 11, 2010

Results

The results of this year’s 3-day novel contest are in, here. Nope, I didn’t win – you would have heard about it here already if I had – or place or anything like that. That’s fine; winning things is nice, and obviously big congrats to the winner, whose novel sounds quite interesting, but I imagine that most of us entered it mostly to push for the experience of writing a book in three days. Seeing what could be done, and all that. Finding out what comes out when we’re pushed.

So now I’m faced with the task of actually finding out what DID come out – I haven’t re-read the book since I wrote it that weekend, and, in fact, because I ran out of time for copy-editing, I don’t think I’ve actually read the book in its entirety even once. I mean, I’ve read all the parts of it, but separately and not start-to-finish. So that’s something I’m going to work on in the next week or so: giving it a thorough read and trying to decide if there’s anything there worth doing something with. And if so, what sort of something. Should be fun!

Posted by: oneyearbook | February 2, 2010

Move

This weekend we moved apartments – the preparation for which has taken up much of the last three weeks. But now it is over and everyone (including, surprisingly, the cat, who I thought would be freaked out for much longer than she was) is settled in and ready to get back to everyday life.

Posted by: oneyearbook | January 10, 2010

Resolve

I don’t know if I mentioned on here, but for 2009 my New Year’s resolution was to not eat candy for a year. Those of you who know me know that this was a big thing to give up: I have a gigantic sweet tooth, and in particular I really, really like both sour candy and all types of licorice. So it was a real test of my resolve. And I did it: for a solid year, I didn’t eat a bit of candy. Much discussion was had in this household as to what qualified as ‘candy’ – ie, chocolate is not a candy per se, but if it came in the form of what is labelled a ‘candy bar,’ then it was. So no Crispy Crunch, no Skor, etc., but I did eat things like chocolate almonds and occasionally Purdy’s chocolates or what not.

At midnight on January 1 I tucked into my first candy in 365 days. I bought five different types to celebrate, and had the full intention of eating them until I felt sick. Which I did. And it turned out I couldn’t eat very many and that, after the first few bites, I wasn’t really into it. The year off had purged me of much of my reaction. I didn’t eat much at all.

By about a week later, with small amounts of candy eaten throughout, though, I’d started to get back into the swing of it – if I saw candy, I wanted it, etc. Lesson learned, I thought: I never really needed it or wanted it; it was just that by allowing myself to have it, I begin to teach myself to feel that I want it and need it.

Side note: this is the only time I can think of in my life where I’ve 100 per cent followed through on a New Year’s resolution. There’s another lesson there: I respond best to concrete, measurable goals. Things like “get fitter” or “write more” don’t have enough of a yardstick for me.

So my new thought is this: what if I resolve (unrelated to the New Year – I’m not stuck on traditional dates or anything like that) to write every day for the next year? Even if it’s only a sentence, I have to work on one of my own writing projects (writing work done for other people doesn’t count) every day. No breaks.

This one’s harder, because it’s not an act of omission – which takes no time, beyond the mental time required to say No, no candy today – but I bet I’ll get to the end of  a year and find that I both wrote more than I otherwise would have and that the habit of writing every day has set in to the point that I just keep doing it. Suddenly it won’t take willpower to find time to write in a day – it’ll just be habit. Unthinkable to not. We’ll see.

Posted by: oneyearbook | December 29, 2009

A year in reading

This year I’ve read 100 books. (Barring any further reading before midnight on the 31st, of course, but I don’t think I’m going to have the time in the next couple of days, so I’ll probably be stuck with this nice round number.) I kept a list for myself, just like I did last year. One happy side effect of taking time off to write was that I got a lot more reading done – in 2008 I apparently only read 41 book.

Now, to the highlights!

FAVORITE YA NOVEL

This was a competitive category this year. Probably the most competitive, actually – looking back at my list it appears I read quite a lot of YA and quite a lot of it was new and award-winning. A noticeable theme here: awesome heroines. All three of the young women who lead these books are formidable.

Honourable mentions: Graceling, Kristin Cashore; Un Lun Dun, China Mieville

Winner: The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

FAVORITE NON FICTION

I Believe in Yesterday

I Believe in Yesterday

A lot of the non-fiction I read came from one category: writing how-to guides. The rest of it was very widespread, although mostly focussing on personal interests: travel, agriculture/food, literature.

Favorite writing how-to guide: Reading Like a Writer, Francine Prose

Honourable mentions, general non-fiction: Farm City, Novella Carpenter; The Magician’s Book, Laura Miller

Winner: I Believe in Yesterday, Tim Moore

FAVORITE DISCOVERY

Does that seem vague? Oh well. Anyway, these were all discoveries, of a sort, mostly in the sense that I hadn’t read them before and thought I should have.

Honourable mentions here  go to Canadian writers whose work I was glad to discover: Bill Gaston (whose short stories exactly fit my appetite for shorts that combine energy and plot with strong writing) and Alastair MacLeod (who is a Canadian legend and whose characterization and evocation of place aren’t to be missed), as well as to Neil Gaiman, who I hadn’t read at all when the year began, and then I saw the Stardust movie and picked up that book and since then I’ve read almost all his stuff.

Winner: on a totally different tangent, but still: all the Jeeves & Wooster books (and PG Wodehouse as well). I had never read his stuff and it’s very funny. And relaxing. It’s good to have in one’s repertoire.

FAVORITE SPECULATIVE FICTION

I like both fantasy and sci-fi. I’ve definitely read more Hugo winners in my life than Nobel Lit prize winners. This year I did a lot of re-reading in the category,

Honourable mentions: American Gods, Neil Gaiman; The Orphan’s Tale: In the Night Garden, Catherynne M. Valente

Winner: The Veil of Gold, Kim Wilkins

FAVORITE NOVEL

The Story of Lucy Gault

I apparently did not read that many lit-fiction novels this year. I can’t even come up with an honourable mention list. Last year was a better one for novels – of the 41 books I read I can see at least five that would have battled their way onto an end-of-year list. And two books from that year made my all-time top ten. That being said, this year’s winner also managed that feat. So it was a dry year, but that’s not taking anything away from the winner, which I think is breathtaking. (And the author may have deserved a position on my ‘favorite discoveries’ list, too.)

Winner: The Story of Lucy Gault, William Trevor

Posted by: oneyearbook | December 21, 2009

‘Tis the season to work

Yes, that’s right, I am returning to the working environment for the forseeable future. That doesn’t mean I’m abandoning the blog, and it DEFINITELY doesn’t mean I’m abandoning the book. It’s just that the whole not-working thing wasn’t working out from a financial perspective anymore. The hours for the job I’ve taken should have me home early enough to get some work done in the evening. Or maybe early in the morning? (Doesn’t sound like me, does it?) We’ll see what works out.

I won’t go into what the job is here, but suffice to say that it doesn’t involve writing for a living, and should therefore leave my writing energies free to go straight into my own creative projects.

Posted by: oneyearbook | December 15, 2009

Retreat

Man, this post on Apartment Therapy makes me salivate. It’s probably a fallacy to believe that writing would be easier – or that I’d spend more time doing it – if I had a working space like those ones (especially the first one, with the huge windows on either side and the lovely wall of books), but I still do sort of believe it. When I sit in my chair and stare out the window at power lines and cranes, it’s not particularly inspiring.

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