Friday, December 4, 2009

And now... Back to Dreamshapers!

Lol, I've always wanted to say that in my special announcer voice. Win.

So after successfully completing my sci-fi novel I'm returning to my old friend, Dreamshapers. I've been reading through the first draft and I think I finally found the weak point that was causing me to fall apart. I was missing Lambent early on! I guess some distance was a good thing (Thanks Rad) and now I can get back into it.

I'm actually outlining this time too. I think the Dream World needs it. I was just running around before, which was helpful because now I understand it better, but having gone through once I'm ready to actually plan it out this time around.

Hopefully the next time I post I'll be on my way. :)

- /^>

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Novel First Draft! COMPLETE!

So it's a day past NaNo and I've finally brought the first draft of my novel to an end. 60,549 words. Wow I was right about how much more it would be past 50. That's almost exactly 10K.

This is the first time I've ever completed something like this. I can't tell you what it means to me personally. It's a milestone I'll never forget. I've completely fallen head over heels for these characters who've become so close to me and told me their innermost secrets.

It needs a major re-write of course, but the heart of it is there and it's beating good and loud. It's even ended and left room for another if I really wanted to. OMG Space Ninjas next. :) It could totally happen next year, NaNo, next year! What do you say? I think I'll just worry about getting this one done first, lol. What do you say NaNo? Sounds good to you, you say. Congratulations, author. You've done it.

This is a day I'll never forget. :) Now I have to go save it in a billion places and send it out to my peeps - and get some feedback for draft number two! And what's next Joanie?

Holy crap do I need some sleep. I'm with Rad on this one. One bed, please. Kthnxnight.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A 2009 NaNoWriMo Winner is Me!

I hit the 50,000 mark sometime last night at about 10:30pm one day from the finish line of NaNoWriMo. For those of you who have no clue what I'm talking about, I can direct you here:

As I said in my last post, this has been more than just about making it to 50,000. I've written nearly twice as much in this month alone than I have in the entire year of 2009 and that's something I want to celebrate.

NaNo is always about a personal battle and mine felt more like an old war that just never ended. I suffered from lack of confidence and spirit due to harsh critics and even harsher self-erosion which had built up over a long period of time. The last time I had ever been excited about writing without worrying what it looked like or sounded like was back when I was writing the old author's nightmare fanfiction and before that Pika's Tale and way way way before that my first ever (horrors!) 14-year-old novel that I never finished due to the family computer crashing and voiping most of my childhood writings and schoolwork. All this to say this wasn't an easy thing for me. There were two major times I thought about giving up. I was at least 10,000 or more behind and I didn't think I could do it.

I'm so glad I proved myself wrong.

I feel like my writer's block is finally cured. It wasn't lack of ideas that was keeping me from writing, it was literally something telling me that I couldn't write, that I shouldn't write and that it didn't matter even if I did write.

I'm here to tell you if you have something like that stopping you, the voice is bullshit! Some people call it their "inner editor" others their "personal demons" but you know what I think? In the end it's just my own selfish pride. I think that I have to be successful with whatever I write to make it worth something and that's complete bull! You know why? Because writing isn't about making money or becoming famous, or even getting people to like you. I know because I've heard it from my favorite writers' own mouths. Writing is for expressing yourself and sharing your love of storytelling, of reading, and imagination. These are precious gifts and because every person in this universe has a unique voice, they are all valued. They are all needed. This is what NaNoWriMo reminded me. Thank God for it.

So I leave NaNo behind with this novel of mine. (I'm still writing as of this post. I haven't gotten to the end yet, but I project it to be about another 10,000 words at most.) No it's not award-winning, but I had a blast with it and now there's a hell of a lot to do. I've started making some rewrite notes and I'll probably start into that after a few days of distance from it. I'm hoping to finish today so I can take the first week of December off and just chill for a bit. I've earned it.

To anyone who wants the challenge, I urge you to do NaNo next year - or if you're a screenwriter-y type, try Script Frenzy in April. My dear friend Chris will be write there beside you.

God Bless and I hope everyone had as good of a November as I had. I'll be remembering it for years to come as an poignant chapter in my life.

- /^>

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul...

... and I liked it! :O

For those of you unfamiliar with NaNo, I suggest visiting their website:
But basically what it boils down to is a writing challenge for the month of November. Write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

I can't begin to describe what this month has been for me. I've written more now in the last 23 days than I have the entire year so far. I'm writing again and I'm making progress. I've begun to heal from my "Inner Editor" (as we say on the NaNo Forums) and all the biting remarks that had I let stop me from doing what I loved. It's been a time of growth, and it's been a long road to 50,000. I'm currently in another valley as life has gotten in the way with working overtime at my job (which pulled me away from updating here consequently!), my volunteer work, and my new living situation with my little sister. Through it all I have never given up although I've thought about it many times. I'm going to make it to 50,000. I need to do it, for myself, to prove my inner editor wrong and to banish the scars that have haunted me since the last holiday season. Through this month I've rediscovered the joy of writing, especially just making things up as I go along and enjoying the discovery that my imagination provides. Rewriting is for when you have something complete to work with. This doesn't mean I don't have an idea of where I want to go, but now I'm letting the characters speak for themselves, and that is a joy all in itself when they say (or do!) something that surprises me.

The author pep talks have been very helpful as well. I was more than pleased to see many of my favorite authors writing encouraging letters. It's so good to hear they all struggle with the same problems we do and that it is possible to overcome them.

My daily writing habits have been reestablished now and I'm looking forward to returning to Lambent and company after I finish my NaNo science fiction novel, which is currently titled: "Rad Savage Wins Against the Universe (Sometimes)" .

I'll post more about it here, including a full update on December 1st with the final tally and results of NaNoWriMo. The funny thing is though, I've already won. I'm writing again, and I couldn't be happier than I am right now.

- Joanie /^>

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Rules of the Universe completed!

Novel Progress:
Words: 37,000 approx.
Pages: 148
Chapters: 10

It's crazy when you think about it. I've been working on this only since January and already I have so much (over 37,000 words!). I've been very pleased that I've been able to keep and sometimes even surpass my daily writing goals. Writing has brought me so much pleasure and I only wish I would have picked it up sooner. But no time to worry about that, keep moving forward, because Ka is a wheel and this time I'm finding myself enjoying the ride rather than feeling trampled under it.

So I took one week off to work on just the "Rules of the Universe" and damn am I ever glad I did that. It's helped me answer so many questions I had about the Dream Realm and the creatures in it - and most importantly the roles that humans play both as spirits wandering it at night and visiting there physically. Lambent had a lot to say of course, but most of it came from more story ideas. I was intially afraid of writing down what could and couldn't be done. I mean, the Dream Realm is the world of impossibilities, right? But I suppose if there was one thing I took away from Animation school it's that even the most impossible things are still plausible. Watch any classic Merry Melodies and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Mr. McMorpheus finally makes his appearance in text too. This time he's much more developed. And yeah, the "Mc" came back. It was missing it. I think it needed the extra syllable and to me it makes sense that he's more non-sensical. I almost want to say Suessical, hahaha. I'm excited to get to Bastinado now - I'm dreading the Greyscales, but I'm confident this time the boys will make it through and they won't get stuck like poor Blythe. I'm still sure I will do a story with her later. They have Cameo and he's really come to life - a lot more kid-like and brave as ever.

That's all I have to say for now other than I want to post my reading list too. Thank God for the Public Library System. I've been checking them out like crazy and loving every page of them. I was surprised to find Neil Gaiman's Sandman in the library too! Yay for graphic novels. I want to see his interpretation of the Dream Hunters in that book of the saga. I still want to see "Coraline" at some point too. I saw the maquettes for her and some of the other characters at ComicCon last year and couldn't wait to see more from it. Animation Mag had a great story on it. It's so good to see Stop Motion going strong. I hope it's doing well in the cinemas.

Books of the Week:

Indignation by Phillip Roth
I found this one on the "new books" shelf at King County Library. I had read The Plot Against America back in 2005 for my English Seminar class with Dr. Fuller and remembered enjoying him. This one's about an atheist Jewish college student on the edge of being drafted into the Korean War. I loved his character portrait - Marcus was someone who reminded me a bit of myself, a perfectionist - Roth really knows how to stab you in just the right places. It had a bit of existentialism thrown in and the ending (as always) surprised me. Not nearly as happy as Plot Against was, but this ending was more satisfying. Very short, less than 220 pages, so I read it in one day.

Triss by Brian Jacques
There isn't a better traditional storyteller alive than this man. His voice is akin to sitting on Grandpa's lap and hearing a "ripping yarn" just before being put to bed for the night. (God Bless the United Kingdom! I don't know what I'd do without my dose of British humour and stories...) I think his work is best appreciated in the audio books, so you can hear his voice and his wonderfully talented cast not only act the roles, but sing the songs with music! You can almost taste the RedWall foods by the way he describes them so vividly and his sense of smell is something I want to emulate in my own writing. Triss features a glimpse of Salamandastron (the fire mountain of the Badger Lords), an evil Ferret princess, a squirrel Swordmaid (the titular character), a scaly three-headed monster and a score of other memorable characters. I loved it and if you love a good old fashioned battle of good and evil, pick this up.

The Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson
Ever wonder what goes on at night in the Magic Kingdom? Five kids know because each night in lieu of dreams they are holographically projected here, chosen to do battle with the evil characters who are struggling to break the boundaries of reality and take over. Great concept and I'm looking forward to reading more from this series. A really sad reference to the now debunked, VMK, but I'm glad for having experienced it before it went offline. I even got to visit the park last year and log in just for fun while there. Ridley has written the famous "Peter and The Starcatchers" and a host of other neverland fiction, which I read. He's a great author for children and I'm looking forward to more. It's rather simple, but if I was an elementary schooler again, this would be a permanent book on my shelf.

What do children dream? by Gérard Bleandonu (English Translation)
Phew, I hadn't read real textbook science material since my last college course. It was refreshing to find a challege again. I learned a lot about Dreams and Sleeping in general and also quite a bit about basic child psychology as the author himself is a therapist. This is the only book I found on the subject and had to wait two weeks to get it from the main Seattle branch. It also had special sections on Post-Traumatic Stress Dreams and Fetal Dreams, which were insightful to what I'm writing about. In the case studies he included many drawings from his young patients which helped me understand how children attempt to form what they have dreamed into words and visual language. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants some hard core facts about dreams.

The Secret Language of Dreams by David Fontana
At first I thought this was just your average Dream Dictionary, but was surprised to discover that the first half was an indepth discussion on the history of dream study, documenation and of dreams culturally throughout man's history. Fontana mentioned a lot of famous names I wasn't familiar with yet and rehashed Freud and Jung, helping me understand better what their separate philosophies were - and even presenting some of their most famous dreams. There were a lot of case studies in here too and have been helping me as I'm forming my characters' dreams.

Bird Brains by Candace Sherk
Candace is just awesome. This is a total coffee table book just bursting with full color photographs of the Crow (Corvidae) Family in action. I learned more about the corvids in my neighborhood, including the Stellar's Jay, Common Raven, and Lambent's species, the American Crow. I've been noticing them a lot more lately and was surprised to discover even more stories about their great intelligence and their ability to mock not only other bird calls but other animals and in some cases, human speech as well. Watch out parrots, here come the crows!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

19,500 and climbing!

I ended up pulling past my original goal of 18,500! I'm really impressed with how well and how easy it's been for me to write my quota. King was right. When you set yourself a consistent time, it really helps you prepare yourself. I love writing in these late, silent hours and I feel as if I'm finally getting to know Guy and Travis. I've got lots of ideas for changes, but for now I'm noting them and plotting forward. Logan's a total bastard now, but he feels more real than my first try at him. I think he'll develop over the course of it too. I'm really letting him have his way. I think before I was caging him up too much, now I'm letting him loose on Guy and Travis and it feels really natural to do so.

Novel Progress:
Words: 19,500
Pages: 79
Chapters: 6

Books of the Week!

Protector of the Small, Book One: First Test - by Tamora Pierce

So I kept hearing her name bounced around in the Juvenile Fiction section of things, and I finally picked up one of her books. This one's rather new, but it was the first one I found on the shelf and I liked the idea of a girl training to be a knight. This first book is Keladry of Mindelan trying desperately to outlast the torments and hardships of being a "probationary" page. She has to prove she can run with the boys, some who support her and others who do everything they can to make her want to go running home. Kel is such a great female lead because she's strong of will and mind instead of just with her fists as you would think a girl training to be a knight might be. It doesn't gloss over knighthood and make it look pretty, it shows the gritty, dangerous, day to day life and the endless training and sacrafice one must make. I highly recommend it.

Murder on the Orient Express - by Agatha Christie

Yes, it's good old Aggie at it again! The Grand Mistress of murder, mystery and mayhem as my professor once put it. This is a popular case staring one of her detectives, the amiable Belgian, M. Hercule Poirot. I love his subtle humor and that little twinkle he gets in his eye when you know he's already got things all figured out. Even if I can't solve it as easily as he can, I love hanging on for the ride and again she proves why she's still at the top. Her puzzles are deeply layered in human relationships and you believe when the solution is placed in front of you, wondering how you could miss it. I can't tell much about this one, but I will say you'll be turning pages and making tons of notes trying to keep track of pipe cleaners, handkerchiefs and a certain, elusive, scarlet kimono covered in dragons. If you haven't read any of her mysteries, this is a good one to start with.

Crows: Encounters with the Wise Guys - by Candace Savage

So I promised Lambent I would educate myself on the habits of natural crows, and I was quite surprised at the sheer volume of books I found on Crows and the rest of their relatives in the Corvus genus at the library. This one is a short book covering all the basics from mythology to mating habits, intelligence (did you know they use tools?) to inter-species relationships (one type of crow has been known to work with a wolf pack to hunt for food). It also included amusing anecdotes from fellow crow lovers and offered more indepth titles of books covering specific scientific studies on crows. A great read for anyone who wants to learn about these curious and often misunderstood neighbors who so frequently share our skies.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

It's over 9,000!!!

Couldn't help that joke, I really couldn't. :)

More than double word count from last weekend. I'm really happy with how my novel is progressing. This time I'm really letting Guy take the reins and tell the story, and I feel like I'm really getting to know him as a character now. King's book has helped me so much and my goal is working out so well that I want to bump it up to 1,000 a day for this week. I think I'm more than ready for it, since I've been writing about that much when I sit down for a good session.


Words: 11,750
Pages: 48
chapters: 4

In reading news, I finished two books:

I Heard the Owl Call My Name - Margaret Craven
A story about a young vicar who lives amongst a Native-American tribe in the Pacific Northwest. It's a classic in these parts, so I just had to check it out. I'm so glad that I did, it was short, but poignant and made me reflect about my own life and the journey that I'm currently on as well.
Elsewhere - Gabrielle Zevin
This one is awesome because it was on the floor of the libary, so I'm like, well, why not? So I added it to my stack, having no clue what it was, but thinking I would have an adventure. I got what I wanted and more. A super existential tale of a girl who is thrust early into an afterlife where everyone ages in reverse. It's a world populated with talking dogs, dead celebrities and all sorts of odds and ends that - well you just have to read for yourself. This one also was moving in a different sort of way and I feel like I've grown after reading it. Miraculously I read it all the way through this morning, which I've never done before. That was pretty awesome. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

5,000 Words

Novel Update!

I'm seven days into my novel and already I've got 5,000 words. I've been sticking to my guns and writing at least 500 words a day. There's gonna be days ahead when I know this will be hard, so I'm sticking to it and enjoying this first wave of creativity.

I'm working in standard manuscript format now, so it's a lot easier to keep track of my publisher's word count (Thanks Sheila!) and to save me time doing it later. I'm also trying to redevelop the good habit of two spaces after a period. After being on the internet for so long, it's easy to fall back into bad habits. I still like one better, but if the industry standard is two, I'm not going to argue with them. They're the ones I'm submitting too. It will just take practice. Maybe I'll come to see I like using two spaces, hahaha.

Current Status:
Words: 5,000
Pages: 22
Chapters: 3

Along that same line, I'm currently following my favorite writer's advice:

"If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot."
(King, "On Writing", 145)

So here's what on my reading plate:

- Four Past Midnight, Stephen King
(Just finished "The Library Policeman")

- The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book Two: The Golem's Eye, Jonathan Stroud
(Can't say enough good things about this series. Absolutely fun to read and humorous the whole way. Bartimaeus has to be one of my favorite narrators.)

- The Elements of Style, Strunk and White
(Basic writer's toolbox item. I'm enjoying revisiting this one.)

What I want to grab at the library:
- Brian Jacques
- New mystery author
- Dean Koontz
- Kingdom Keepers
- Whatever's new in the YA section
- Horrors, I might even pick up "Twilight" just to learn from its mistakes.

Here's hoping next week will be good too.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Beginning of a Novel

Codename: DreamShapers
(i.e. Until I finish and come up with a good title.)

Yes, it's true. I'm scrapping the entire rough draft that I had started in favor of a new one. (Not throwing away, just putting it aside for now.) I'm doing this for several reasons, all of which I've discussed at length with a number of writers I hold in high regard:

1.) Too much P.O.V. switching.
I'm keeping it solely between Guy and Travis now. First half of the book is Guy, second half is all Travis! (At least until the Second Draft...)

2.) Cutting out main characters.
Blythe, my dear, you're quickly fading to the background. As much as I love your story, it's getting in the way of the main theme. God forbid I get a second book with DreamShapers, then I promise I will tell yours. Otherwise you'll get your own book. :) Erin has also made it clear she does not like Lambent at all so she's fading back to supporting character. I had thought about making her a nightcrafter, but she's too grounded in the real world. Logan's also getting major rewrites, but I think I would include his P.O.V. in Book 3 if that ever happens. :)

3.) Necessary for closure.
A lot has happened recently and has proven to me that I had been writing it for the wrong reasons and with other characters in mind. I need to start over again to give my characters a chance to be themselves and not who I "want" them to be.

So bearing all of this in mind, I want to state my goals:

1.) 500 words a day.
2.) Get the rough draft done by this time next year.
3.) Do not go back and edit until it is completed.
4.) Even when I don't want to write, I will at least sit in front of the keyboard and try to.

I'm really excited about this. Everyone has been so supportive and seeing my other friends finish their novels has given me hope about mine. I also have King's On Writing nearby, so he's been a big help too. I'd like to post one quote I found so maybe someone else will get inspiration from him too:

When you write a story, you're telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story. (King, 57)

One of my friends published her progress of her novel on her blog, which is actually what inspired me to first start this one. I might change formatting for these posts as time goes on, but for right now, I'll just stick with her system because it seems like a good one. And as Charles has told me, why spend time trying to figure out how to do something when someone else has already come up with an efficient way to do it?

Novel Progress:
Words: 608
Pages: 3
Chapters: 1

I also want to start up an outline soon as well. I'm getting the settings and introductary chapter out of the way first. I'm also working up a comprehensive set of "universe rules". One of my friends suggested it and it's been a huge help. Now I can keep track of the magic in the dream realm and make sure I'm not contradicting myself. It's also helped me come up with some great situations and even more ideas for story events.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Professionalism: To Write or Not to Write?

An incident happened to me on Christmas Day that's brought an old battle of mine rising to the surface of my mind.

I won't go into too much detail save to say that someone anonymously posted a handful of flames** on a fan fiction story that I posted. Normally this kind of thing wouldn't bother me, because you typically get lots of "trolls" who will come across your work and seem to get a sadistic pleasure from making you upset. But this particular person I knew, so it was surprising to say the least to see them do that.

Not wanting to cause unnecessary drama, I quickly removed the story to destroy the comments. This was done in immediate reaction to the comments posted and had I known what I know now, I wouldn't have been so quick to remove it. A friend informed me about some new features I wasn't aware of. Apparently you can get rid of anonymous reviews without deleting the story in the process. It used to be (some 5 years ago) that wasn't possible, but the site itself where I post has seen many upgrades in their technology.

Bearing that in mind, to the subject at hand.

Saying the word "fan" tends to drive up a bunch of images in a person's mind - watch the "Nerd" on Robot Chicken and you'll see what I mean. And add on the "fiction" part and you can say goodbye to any hope of gaining any shred of dignity from the average Joe on the street. Or is that really true?

Granted most stories that fans write are not very good. I don't need to explain how easy it is for fans to come together on the Internet. People usually tend to flock to others who share common interests. Based on the growing availability of the Internet, you have a mix of ages, grade levels, class status and culture. So, of course, there are going to be people who have not had the opportunity to take writing classes or for some reason or another, just aren't skilled at writing. But even Ernest Hemingway and Mark Twain had to work to become skilled in their trade and they started off with the alphabet just like everyone else.

On the other side of the coin you have people who write fan fiction that are superbly good - and who some fans would argue are just as good as what's on TV or better. Considering what makes it to TV and film these days, it's probably a correct assumption. There's also the tiny percentage of people who get paid to write what fans typically refer to as "canon" stories. I can point directly to the immensely popular Star Trek and Star Wars franchises which have many series of novels dedicated to furthering the main story lines. They must be selling well because they continue to make more. So what do you call that then? It certainly isn't the same fan fiction you see posted on the web, but it's not exactly well known either. You also have the artists and writers who (due to the retro comeback of many old movies) get to work on projects they had once enjoyed merely as fans. Then suddenly they become "official".

So probably at this point you're nodding (or shaking) your head now going, "Okay Joanie, I see what you're saying here, but what's the big deal you mentioned earlier?"

Well, bearing what I said in mind, for a person to become professional is it necessary to cut all ties to what they enjoy, which includes the creation of art and writing that is primarily of homage or in honor of something they enjoy?

At first my gut reaction was, "Heck yes! Get rid of everything! Leave no trace!" A part of me wants to pander to that kind of fear, thinking that if I try to "act professional" that people will respect me. If I get rid of everything no one will be able to point and label me as "rabid fan girl". They'll have nothing to point at.

I've discovered something though, and mainly it was while wandering around (of all places!) at Comic Con '08. Meeting artists and taking a peek at what they were drawing surprised me. I saw Marvel artists sketching D.C. characters, I saw animators doodling video game characters. I was confused. But these guys are "professionals" I said to myself. Why are they doing fan art? But that's when I figured it out.

They were drawing on their free time, doing whatever they wanted. But when it came to looking at their professional portfolios and prints, it was all their original or hired work. It was separated. Even when I was working at Disney Interactive and got a peek at some of what was going on the creative side of things, I saw the same thing. A clear line of separation. But there was a difference between how they were handling it and how I had been. They weren't afraid. They were confident about both halves of their creativity.

In animation writing, you also have the "spec" script, where you submit a script written for another show already in production to showcase your skills to take existing characters and create new material for them. Wait a minute. Sounds familiar n'est-ce pas? Good fan-fiction accomplishes the same task, keeping the spirit of the show going with new adventures for the cast.

I'd like to know how other people feel about this. Because this is what I've decided:

Creation in itself is a gift. Whether it's something brand new or a new version of something already out there. If someone finds joy in it, it was worth the creation process. There is a difference between your personal work and your professional work. But that doesn't mean that because you choose to be professional that your personal tastes have to fly out the window. Neither does it mean you go parading it around or stamping your fandom on your resume. It's your personal taste.

That being said, what about posting fan art and fan-fiction? Well, I see the pros doing it constantly on their blogs and places where they interact on the internet. No they usually don't include it in their portfolios unless it's an outstanding piece of work that showcases their skills. That's the answer for you right there. Every professional has the ability to look at a piece of their work and determine if it would be a good addition to their portfolio. If not, it can still be posted somewhere if they so choose to share it.

As for me? Well I took down my DeviantArt work, though more so because I didn't care for what was on there anymore. I still have all of it on my computer so I can look back at it a few years down the line. But right now I'm back to writing full-time again. It's what I love and it's what I do given a keyboard and a blank computer screen. For a long time, I had forgotten the sheer joy that comes with writing. The ability to start with the white space of a new document and to fill it with imagination and adventure.

I will continue to post on and I won't hide who I am on there, because it brings me happiness in more ways than I can describe. But I won't go advertisting it here. I'm writing a novel after all and that's what I'd really like to promote. Because this blog is special. It is professional. It is separated. And that's how it will stay.

- /^>

** For those of you not familiar with writing and forums on the Internet, when someone "flames" you it basically means they posted an offensive statement about the person they were attempting to critique, focusing on personal attacks instead of objective help.