Movable Type 3.2
November 30, 2010
Fans are crazy, Part 5483
My friend Alyssa Rosenberg is moving into her newly-purchased apartment this week - congratulations, Alyssa! - so I'll be doing some posting over at her place to help hold down the fort while she's busy. Tonight's post is about fans and showrunners interacting on Twitter and how fans shouldn't get a say in creative decisions.
MORNING CHEER (11/30/10)
Ah, Tuesday, we meet again. My Monday went pretty well, though, so if the rest of the week wanted to follow in its footsteps, that would be fine. And it's the last day of November! Wow. Do you have any CHEER requests?
Warning: This David Leonhardt story about the development of the Chinese economy is really long, but it's fascinating and important and you should read it.
I had never thought about what cab drivers wear.
I kind of assume this is fake, but oooh, dishy.
Here's some explanation of the technology behind the WikiLeaks information.
The Masterpiece Classic 2011 titles have been announced. I'm pretty freaking excited about all of them, honestly.
The annual NYTimes list of 100 Notable Books of the year is out. I have read all of two of them so far. Oops? I should make a checklist. Maybe I'll try to read them all before next year's list comes out. That could be an interesting project . . .
Some Hindus want yoga back. Or want credit, at least. This seems completely reasonable to me.
Prince William has come out and said that his father should be the next king, which makes me happy, because all the "They're going to skip Charles" rumors just never made any sense to me at all.
November 29, 2010
Gift Guides 2010: Time's Holiday Shopping Guide
Time's guide was the one I reviewed last year, so it seems appropriate to start with them this year. They seem to have dropped the charity aspect, so we just have "this year's coolest books, music, DVDs and gifts for every budget." Here we go!
The Christmas Gig
"Norwegian Wood" on iTunes
Decoy Gift Box
Glee: The Music, Vol. 4
I Live Real Close to Where You Used to Live
Let's Bring Back
Atlas of Remote Islands
Green Toys Fire Truck
Community: The Complete First Season
Kiehl's Creme De Corps Holiday Collection
Electronic Spy Camera Shirt
Disney Epic Mickey
Slings and Arrows: The Complete Collection
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
The Making of The Empire Strikes Back
40: A Doonesbury Retrospective
The Larry Sanders Show: The Complete Series
75 Years Of DC Comics: The Art Of Modern Mythmaking
Lost: The Complete Collection
The Rolling Stones Limited Edition Remastered Vinyl Box Sets
MORNING CHEER (11/29/10)
Good morning and happy Monday! We're at that point at which we're just past Thanksgiving and it seems like it's time for Christmas, but then comes the realization that we have another four weeks of work to get through first. Sigh. So let's have some nice mellow music to get us through this Monday morning back at work:
I don't know much about this blog in general, so I'm not endorsing their overall program or anything, but a friend sent me the link to this list of things to do now to get ready for Christmas and it has some good ideas.
This Morning Edition story about a gay Marine discharged under Don't Ask, Don't Tell was very interesting.
Leslie Nielsen has died, and here's where I admit that I've never seen any of his movies. I know, I know. I shall Netflix Airplane posthaste.
NPR is doing a Christmas Carol-themed series on the deficit. I love NPR.
November 28, 2010
It's not technically morning anymore; I'm sorry. But hey, it's Sunday, so we'll call it brunch! It's been a busy morning at my parents' house and now I'm getting ready to head home this afternoon. I'm thinking "Home for the Holidays," with its mention of traffic issues, is good for days on which I'll be driving a lot. Are there other songs about traffic, or should I just use different versions of this one? Hmm.
Three good links from Apartment Therapy:
November 27, 2010
I set up my Department 56 Dickens' Village yesterday. I usually set it up at my parents' house, since that's where I actually have Christmas, and since they entertain more, so people will see it, and since they have no cat to knock it all over. This year, we decided to put it on the hutch in their kitchen, and I like the result:
The problem with using the hutch is that there's nowhere to hide the cords, so Mom decided they would look better if I braided them. Let's just hope they don't need to take it down in a hurry for some reason. (Mom's response to that comment? "Like what? If the Nazis come?")
Here's a blurry picture taken with no flash so you can see how pretty it looks all lit up:
And if you'd like to see close-up pictures of the various pieces, click here.
Alert! ALERT! Beck's Oprah post!
Yes, this one link is enough to warrant its own post from me, because I've been looking forward to it all year. My friend Beck reviews Oprah's holiday gift suggestions each year, and last year her post was hilarious and wonderful enough to prompt me to get into the gift guide review thing. And look! Here's Beck on Oprah's list this year!
MORNING CHEER (11/27/10)
Good morning! Welcome to your first edition of MORNING CHEER! The dog (my parents' dog) and I are the only ones up, and he's gazing at me adoringly, which is nice, but he's kind of stinky. Anyway! You need a morning song! I promise I won't use Glee music every day, but we've been decorating my parents' house, and I love their version of "Deck the Halls" . . .
A few Thanksgiving-specific links I didn't manage to post before Thanksgiving:
Looking for a movie to see with family or friends over the holidays? TWoP has you covered.
I liked the Avalon High movie better than the folks at Forever Young Adult did, but their take on it is hilarious regardless.
Not quite feeling the holiday spirit? This is for you.
November 26, 2010
Welcome to THE CHEER FACTORY!
Thanksgiving is officially over, and I'm more or less ignoring Black Friday, which means . . .
Time for CHEER! A few of you have asked exactly what I mean by that. Basically, it's short for Christmas cheer or holiday cheer, but this particular usage of "cheer," and the spreading of, originated, I believe, with author Maureen Johnson. You can read her blog posts on the subject here.
So this year, I will be following her lead and devoting the blog to spreading CHEER from now until New Year's. I have a variety of plans, and have outlined them below, but if you have any CHEER REQUESTS, please let me know! What would make YOUR holiday season more CHEERful?
1. Holiday cards for all! Yes, the real, paper kind. If I don't have your address, email me! And most of the cards I have are secular Christmas cards, so if you'd be offended by that, please mention. I have a few Hannukah cards left, plus some non-holiday winter CHEER cards and some religious Christmas cards.
2. MORNING CHEER. This will be like Morning Coffee, but different. I will give you a holiday song to listen to each morning, plus, if I have time, some links and general commentary.
3. Gift Guide Extravaganza!
4. Music! I have very definite opinions on holiday music, and I will be sharing them. Lucky you. I will give you at least one iMix for iTunes users, and probably some album suggestions here. (If I see you in person, I am also liable to start shoving CDs at you, as Caitlin and Bobby can attest.)
5. Lists! I love lists. I'm working on a list of favorite holiday movies and one of holiday books. Any other lists you'd like?
6. Recipes! There will be baking. You'll get a recipe or two.
7. Answers! I know a lot of random holiday stuff, and I love research, so if you have QUESTIONS about holiday history, traditions, etc., let me know! Or about what I do for holidays, or, I don't know, whatever. I also give pretty good advice, so if you have a weird holiday situation with your family or friends or something, I'd be happy to give an opinion.
That's all the categories of CHEER I can think of right now. Do you have others I should add? Tell me!
November 25, 2010
Thanksgiving Cooking and Macy's Parade Liveblog!
8:39: Good morning! On NBC, we're having the kind of odd cultural moment of cutting back and forth between soldiers in Afghanistan talking to their families - and making me teary, Martha Stewart cooking a turkey, and Al Roker at the parade talking to Jessica Simpson. Also, I'm not sure whether to be pleased or ashamed that I recognized Jessica Simpson. I'm going to try to get in a shower before the parade itself starts, and then I'll start cooking . . .
9:07: Just got back downstairs and had the following conversation.
9:12: Oh, hi, Jason Ritter! You're pretty.
9:16: I want Meredith's sparkly coat. Ooh, the Broadway performances are always my favorite part, although I've heard mixed things about Memphis. But this song seemed fine, if unexceptional. And the performers did a good job of performing out in the street in the cold, which is sometimes iffy. (Not that they're singing live. But still. Sometimes it looks really dumb.)
9:20: If you were wondering, Terrence Howard's new gig on LOLA is making him appreciate law. And presumably order. Ooh, American Idiot!
9:24: Oh. I was hoping they'd do the song "American Idiot," or maybe "Holiday," but I guess "Time of Your Life" is better for the general TV audience. It was fine. Oooh, Christmas Coke commercial! I think that's the first one I've seen this season. I love those. I think I need more coffee. Almost all my vegetables for my gravy are prepped, so I'm starting the broth.
9:29: Marching bands: yay! Spongebob: Meh. (Still? Really? We're not over him yet?) And I usually like Million Dollar Quartet but this medley seems oddly unenergetic.
9:35: I don't think I approve of a capella versions of U2. Dad and I are watching the turkey while Mom's at work. Dad: "I heard juices forming! Let's see if we can baste." Nope. Not yet.
9:40: Oh dear. Outsourced. I was afraid of this. And no, Al Roker, it is not literally a fish out of water comedy. Not unless they've added real fish. Actually, now that I think about it, that might be an improvement. My gravy is at the point at which it simmers for 45 minutes, so let's see if I can get my roasted vegetables started in that time.
9:42: SUMMER GLAU!!!!! Yes, I will watch The Cape for her. At least for a few episodes.
9:44: I still haven't managed to see the whole movie of Elf, but I can't say I've heard anything good about the show.
9:49: That number went on forever. I got vegetables out of the basement and went upstairs to find a hair elastic and when I got back it was still going. Now we're on a St. Jude's commercial, and since when does Robin Williams have a mustache? And does he have an excuse?
9:50: If you had told me 20 years ago that, when I grew up, there would be American Girl commercial on TV, I would have been ecstatic.
9:53: Aw, the Rockettes! What can I say; I like tradition.
9:59: The parade itself! I love when the marching bands do traditional stuff, and especially New York themed stuff, so good job, Purdue! Ooh, the parade is getting a new executive producer next year, and I'm probably a dork for caring, but I do. Snoopy!!
10:01: Tom Turkey! WITH ALTON BROWN! Speaking of, our actual turkey is looking a little dry. Hmm. I have never heard of this "top recording artist," fwiw, and I listen to awful Top 40 radio all the time.
10:04: I'm not sure how I feel about these "feminist" Barbie commercials. But now I'm wondering the odds of being home in time for this Taylor Swift special tonight. So make of that what you will.
10:06: Arlo Guthrie's doing "This Land Is Your Land"!!!! Yay.
10:07: I was going to be mad that they cut away from Guthrie, but it was for Kermit, so. "Rainbow Connection"!
10:14: I got distracted because of a basting emergency, but yay, Sesame Street! The turkey was looking dry but there weren't enough juices to baste effectively, so we poured some melted butter over the top. Can't hurt, right? Dad: "As we learned from Julie and Julia, butter is pretty much the solution to everything, right?"
10:19: I love the high school bands. And I also love Jimmy Fallon, although I have a whole list of issues with this song he's doing. ("Do They Know It's Christmas?") Oh, but is it a medley? That would be better. Really, now I want to watch his Emmy opener again.
10:22: Ronald McDonald. Enh. Ooh, but I like the Mount Rushmore float! Wait, it's carrying Mannheim Steamroller? Um, okay. Their music doesn't seem very paradey, does it?
10:29: I assume that Despicable Me thing would have made more sense if I'd seen the movie. Did Miranda Cosgrove even sing? I like her. Oh, Mickey! Nice to see NBC and Disney/ABC can unite in the name of profit. And, um, holiday cheer. I think they just said something about pizza but I missed it.
10:35: Dad on the frightening mob of hundreds of cheerleaders: "Dear God, they're all smiling!" And on the ridiculous "medley" with ten seconds of each song: "This is like the works of Shakespeare in 60 seconds." We take our surfing music seriously around here.
10:37: Oh. Spongebob. He's still the #1 animated program? Wow.
10:39: Who's that singing? Is that a pirate ship? What's going on? Dad: "Oh, it's the Singing Pirates!" My roasted vegetables are almost ready to roast, by the way.
10:45: That Native American/Country thing was fine, I guess. I am deeply unsure about this marching band version of Black Eyed Peas stuff, though. My vegetables are in the oven! Time to strain the gravy.
10:57: A bunch of things went by while I managed to spill gravy all over the kitchen. Hello Kitty! Kylie Minogue! Shrek! Now we're on some sort of princesses of questionable quality.
11:06: Uh, I totally had something to say and then my aunt called and I forgot. I don't think there's been anything wildly exciting on the parade, though. Oh, Power Rangers! I didn't know they were still around. Is it just me or does the parade seem front-loaded this year?
11:10: I know some people get very excited about Pokemon. I am not one of those people.
11:13: Tap dancers! That's more like it.
11:14: Gladys Knight! WHERE ARE THE PIPS?
11:18: Oh, here's Kanye finally. I was beginning to suspect that my father was lying to me about his promised appearance. I will admit that I've heard so many good things about his new album that I'm actually considering buying it.
11:23: There's Horton, presumably hearing a Who. Meanwhile, my dad ran to the store for gravy mix so I tried to baste the turkey and discovered that my mom has the most counterintuitive turkey baster ever.
11:27: And Folgers commercials continue to make me cry. If you were wondering.
11:40: Jessica Simpson just sang a song that was probably the closest she could get to "All I Want for Christmas Is You" without actually being sued. Right down to the drum part. Now someone is singing "Blue Skies," which is much better.
11:47: "We Need a Little Christmas." "My Favorite Things." Nice choices. SMURFS!!!! Where's Ausiello?
11:55: My brother started playing the drum set, so I can't actually hear anything. Sorry! Balloons! Dancers!
11:57: And here's Santa! Yay! Time to go read Miracle on 34th Street! (Not really. I'm still cooking.)
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone!
November 24, 2010
Happy Thanksgiving Eve from Dewey!
Hello! I have various links and thoughts for you, but I've run out of time, so for now you're just getting a picture of a certain someone who tried to stow away in my suitcase:
Apparently he wants to go to Connecticut, and I had to remind him of how much he didn't like the car ride last time he went to Connecticut. And there wasn't even any traffic then. So! Speaking of traffic, wish me luck!
November 22, 2010
Thanksgiving! Politics! Fun of all sorts!
Good evening! How are you? I am tired but not very sleepy, and I hate that combination, because I actually have time to sleep at the moment. Oh well. I am tired because I worked approximately forever tonight - about four extra hours - so I can leave early on Wednesday. And I need to leave early on Wednesday because . . .
Remember my cousin Liz? You have heard her thoughts on hand lotion and Gossip Girl and maybe some other things. Anyway, she's home for Thanksgiving, so obviously I must see her. I'm going to leave work around two on Wednesday and drive to a pretty little town outside of Boston to have dinner with Liz and her parents and brother, and wait out the worst (I hope) of rush hour. Then later in the evening I'll head to my parents' house in Connecticut, so I will be there to wake up early Thursday morning to cook* and watch the parade and liveblog. We're having dinner at one aunt's house, but since I don't get home that often I want to see the other side of the family too, so I'll be driving to another aunt's house for dessert. And then back to my parents' house for a few days. Lots of driving, but I have convinced myself that that is PART OF THE FUN. Right?
I realized today that one of the reasons why I love Thanksgiving and Christmas is that people suddenly start publishing SCHEDULES ALL OVER THE PLACE and no one thinks they're nuts. Here's one. For my fellow vegetarians: Serious Eats has vegetarian main dish options, and Maureen Johnson tweets her vegetarian gravy-making process.
* I have apparently decided that I didn't actually have enough cooking to do, because I think I'm going to add Maureen Johnson's vegetarian gravy to the list. My mom has to work Thursday morning, and she said I can do what I want in the kitchen while she's gone, so it shouldn't be a problem. Right, Mom? :)
The Campaign Never Ends
Meanwhile, Vice President Biden tries and fails to keep a straight face while discussing Palin's 2012 prospects.
Slate's updates from the President's Facebook feed are hilarious as always.
I was going to make some "Ezra Klein makes everything political" joke, but he doesn't, and charity really is, so. Just read the column.
On the anniversary of Kennedy's assassination, The Atlantic brings us myths about the conspiracy debate.
Salon rounds up the worst columnists and commentators in America.
Carina and Tierney are basically IN MY BRAIN with this list of casting suggestions for Klaus on The Vampire Diaries.
November 21, 2010
Massive Weekend Link Roundup!
Hello! Now that I've made my word count, I can get back to doing things like dishes and laundry and showing you links. But first, let's going to discuss some things that will be going on around here . . .
Preview of Coming Attractions
In general, I'm really enjoying writing fewer, longer posts, so I am going to stick with that for now. Subject to change in the future, of course. On the other hand, I know some of you are missing Morning Coffee. Starting after Thanksgiving, we will have Morning Cheer each morning through December. That will have at LEAST a holiday song for you, and hopefully some links and stuff too. Once we hit January, I'll try to do Morning Coffee most days.
On Thanksgiving: I will be live-blogging the Macy's Parade, my cooking adventures, and possibly my annual argument with my brother about whether the parade is worth watching! So you have that to look forward to. Or dread. Whichever.
On Black Friday, this blog will become THE CHEER FACTORY. I have a whole list of ways I will be spreading CHEER in December, and you'll get a list that day. (And if you have ideas or requests, let me know!) A few have asked what CHEER means. Basically, it's short for holiday cheer or Christmas cheer. I'll explain a little more about why I'm using it that way soon.
Things to Watch
Alec Baldwin has done some weirdly sincere commercials for Wegmans. No one seems to really understand why. Now, Wegmans is great and I wish I had one near me, but . . . huh?
If you like tea or Nora Ephron or Maureen Johnson's Free Monkey stories or funny things, you must watch this.
William and Kate Forever!
As if the engagement weren't enough, William also rescued a guy on Snowdon the other day.
Anglophiles in America are pretty excited about the whole thing. Uh, yes. I could have told you that.
If Kate someday becomes queen, she'll be the first British queen to have attended college.
One of the funniest thing's I've ever read, about Will's college friend Jules.
Jezebel has had a few good ones: what to wear, how to survive Thanksgiving with your family, how to properly feed your guests who have food restrictions and other issues.
The Awl has a great series of essays called The Real American Thanksgiving Cookbook.
Other interesting things:
Read Housewives of God and then think about what it means when Palin calls herself a housewife. Meanwhile: Inside Sarah Palin's Inner Circle.
Daniel Day-Lewis is going to be Lincoln in Spielberg's biopic. Huh. Okay.
Apparently the Times is as confused by the Cathie Black appointment as the rest of us, because they put FOURTEEN reporters on a three-page profile.
Here's some info on a bunch of shows in development for next year.
Or, to be more precise, 50,031. Yes. I'm done with NaNoWriMo. Yay! I feel like I should do something to celebrate, but I've been basically staring at my computer in a stupor for the twenty minutes since I finished. So. Actually, what I'm going to do in just a little bit is write you a big roundup of a bunch of good links I've been collecting this week. And maybe give you a little preview of coming attractions, now that I'm done worrying about NaNo and can really concentrate on CHEER. Yay!
November 18, 2010
NaNoWriMo Advice, Part Two: ACTUALLY FINISHING
Good evening! Exciting news: I located a new coffee-and-sandwiches type place that is independent AND open past four in the afternoon! You wouldn't think this would be a huge issue but it is, around here. I needed a dinner on the go tonight and got a tasty sandwich. (They actually have no vegetarian sandwiches on the menu, but they were happy to just make a sandwich with whatever I wanted on it.) On Friday mornings I usually let myself go to Starbucks as a reward for making it through the week, but I think tomorrow I will try a latte from this new place instead. And maybe see how their bagels are. This IS New Hampshire. I'm not expecting much. (Oh, look, they have a Web site.)
I suppose you want that advice on things like MOTIVATION and REWARDS I promised yesterday, though, huh? Okay. I think the advice tonight all falls under the rough category of "actually getting all 50,000 words in." I mean, I guess yesterday's was sort of about that too, but this is more direct. Or something.
1. Keep track of your word count progress as you go. It's satisfying watching the numbers stack up. There are various ways to do this - anything from just a list of daily word counts in a notebook to complicated Excel "Report Cards." But regardless of what else you use, I do suggest that you update your word count on the NaNoWriMo site. They'll make you a pretty bar graph of your daily progress, and also generate some other statistics (more on that later). How often to update your count? Whatever, really. Some prefer to only do it after one writing session. I do it much more frequently so I can obsessively monitor the statistics and be encouraged by the graph.
This year I also have an item within my document in which I'm recording my ending word count each day, just so I have that record in a place other than the NaNo site.
2. Use the NaNo Stats page. (You can find this on the "My NaNoWriMo" section of the NaNo site. Last tab to the right.) It offers the aforementioned shiny bar graph, as well as a bunch of other helpful things. The "today" section is based on a daily goal of 1667 - the minimum average per day you have to do to get to 50,000 in 30 days - and shows you how many words you've written and how many you have left. But I actually find the "total" section more helpful. It shows you how many words you need to get to the day's minimum target, so I find it soothing to keep this at 0 by always staying at least a day ahead. I generally try to write until my word count for the day is higher than my average words per day, which is a fun little mind trick because, of course, the daily average increases as your daily word count increases. And I have been loving the "words per day to finish on time," because watching that drop is really encouraging.
3. If you're having trouble keeping your momentum going, stop in the middle of scenes. Really. It's much easier to start up again the next writing session if it's obvious what the next line should be.
4. Friendly competition can help, but keep it friendly. I will admit that I almost stopped writing when I hit 2000 words this morning (my usual goal), but then I realized that I was only about 500 words behind the person on my Writing Buddies page with the highest word count, so I kept going until I had a higher count than any of my buddies. (It only lasted for about an hour, but it was satisfying.) On the other hand, you'll probably have a friend or two who has a lot of free time or writes really quickly or something, and they'll always be way ahead of you, and it will be tempting to let this make you feel like a failure even if you're not actually behind. RESIST.
5. Make a realistic assessment of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is tricky, because reactions to it can range from "Yay, an extra long weekend I can spend writing!" to "OMG, it's a black hole of traveling and relatives that will suck away all my writing time and possibly my will to live." I have been in both positions. One year, I hosted Thanksgiving instead of traveling, but it was only for four people and three of us were writing, so they didn't expect much. And that meant I could spend Saturday (I think I worked on Friday) writing all day, and the Saturday after Thanksgiving was actually the 30th that year. I was behind and wrote ten or twelve thousand words in a marathon while eating leftover Chex mix. Good times. On the other hand, this year I have a fairly busy Thanksgiving week, so I'm planning to get to 50,000 this weekend so I don't even have to worry about it (although I'll try to keep writing each morning, even if only a little). Either way is workable; just think about it ahead of time and plan accordingly.
6. Write out a word count checklist each day. This takes a little time at the beginning of your writing session, but it's definitely worth it, at least for me. There are various ways to do this. A few years ago, I wrote out instructions for the formula I was using at the time. I still really like that system. This year, though, I've been going a little simpler: I write a list of all the even 100s between my current word count and my goal, and add in the number for (my word count + 1667) (the minimum; my goal is 2000), as well as any daily word minimum goals that fall within the range (so 1667, 3334, etc.). Conveniently enough, the notebook I'm using has exactly as many lines as are required for that, so it's all nice and neat. The basic idea here is to give yourself a ton of really teeny goals that you can CROSS OFF as you reach them. The crossing off part is important, and extremely satisfying. This is all basically mind tricks, but I write so much more quickly when I do this.
7. Reward yourself! I actually prefer to call this bribing myself, because it sounds so much more sordid and dramatic. Someone in my writing group tonight said that she hadn't been rewarding herself, and we all gasped in horror and immediately concluded that this was why she felt her novel wasn't going well. You can set rewards at all sorts of milestones, and they can be whatever you want. Food is good for smaller milestones. I don't let myself eat breakfast until I've written 1000 words. A friend tonight said "I get 3 chocolate chips every 100 words," and I'm honestly not sure whether she was joking, but hey, sounds like a plan! Daily rewards can also include walks, showers, breaks to read or watch TV, whatever. I haven't yet gotten to the point this year when I start "allowing" myself to do chores as rewards, but hey, maybe this weekend! (I'm rather behind on dishes.)
Big rewards can also be good, either at the end or at a few big milestones in the middle. This year, I'm not letting myself watch Christmas movies until I hit 50,000, and I ordered a few new ones (well, old favorites that I didn't have on DVD) that will be sitting next to the computer
So . . . I think that's all my NaNoWriMo advice. At least for now. Off the top of my head. But if you have QUESTIONS or other things you would like me to address, comment away and I will write a follow-up!
November 17, 2010
Some NaNoWriMo Advice, Part One
We're over halfway through the month! Everyone surviving? I am still feeling chipper about the whole deal, and honestly, the longer I go setting my alarm for five, the more I like getting up so early. I know, I'm weird. Anyway, I've been answering some questions and giving some tips on Twitter, so I thought I'd pull some of them into a post. I'm not claiming I'm a great expert or anything, but I've done this a bunch of times, and God knows I have opinions on everything. And some of you even asked questions!
So I have settled in with a fruit smoothie and quality Food Network Thanksgiving programming to answer your questions and generally tell you some things that have worked, for me. (They are showing me a turducken. I am disturbed.) So first . . .
My NaNoWriMo Rules
1. Most importantly: Ignore all advice if you want to. Yes, even what I'm saying here. The only rules that actually matter are the official ones: You must write 50,000 words in November. It must be fiction. It must be a new work, not something previously started. I know people sometimes break these rules, and frankly, that drives me nuts. If you're doing something other than writing a new piece of fiction, that's fine, but it's not NaNoWriMo. But anyway. My point was that people will tell you a lot of things you "have" to do other than those basic rules - Outline! Don't edit! Don't reread! - and you should feel free to ignore all that.
2. Define your goal. Are you literally just trying to see if you can produce 50,000 words in a month? Or are you trying to produce something that you can eventually turn into something publishable? EITHER OF THESE OPTIONS IS FINE. Really. For my first few years, I concentrated on the former, but this year its the latter. It doesn't really matter which you pick, but it helps to know, because some of the wackier techniques, like randomly inserting ninjas or something, work better if you're just trying to write 50,000 words of anything.
3. Figure out your optimal writing circumstances. You won't always be able to create them on demand, but it helps to know. Do you write best at home? Out somewhere? Alone? With people? Morning? Late at night? I've found things go so much more easily when I make time to write in my optimal circumstances and don't try to force myself to write at other times. (Again, this will not always work, and you need to be flexible. I am lucky that my best time is before anyone else is awake, so it never conflicts with anything.)
4. Don't worry too much about the peripherals. The forums can be great. Local gatherings can be great. But don't feel like you have to do all that, if you don't want to and/or don't find it helpful. I've been pretty much ignoring the forums this year, and really, it's fine. (If you do like the forums, I'd recommend trying to get your daily word count in before visiting them, or they might suck up all your writing time.)
5. Similarly, don't get too caught up in the silly stuff. There's all sorts of stuff on the forums that's designed to be inspirational - challenges, adopt-a-plot, trading characters, whatever - but I've never been wild about that for a few reasons. Firstly, trying to cram random stuff in can backfire and send your book off the rails. And keeping track of it all can get time-consuming and just distracting. (Full disclosure: I did take a few requests of this sort this year, from specific people, not the forums. A friend told me to include someone named Spencer, and that was easy enough, because I have two whole schools of people to name. Another friend asked for a grocer named Telemachus, and I already had an unnamed grocer, so fine. And my cousin, upon hearing that I had my characters reading the late lamented Gourmet, asked for House and Garden to be resurrected too, so I'll probably mention that at some point.)
6. Know what you can let go. By definition, if you're spending x amount of time writing your novel in November, you are taking those x hours away from something else. It helps if you can articulate what that something is. This year, for example, I have been cooking less, blogging less (obviously, although I'm kind of like this new format of fewer, longer entries, and might keep it up), and watching less TV. I've also more or less given up any pretense of getting to work on time, but I'm lucky enough to have a very understanding boss, and my job is such that it doesn't really matter which hours I'm there as long as I'm there for forty hours. So your mileage may vary on that one, and really, think about your situation before emulating me there.
Here are the questions you all asked . . .
"What about resources for NaNo participants such as where to find writing prompts, organizational tools, apps for phones, etc..."
Honestly, for me, most of this falls into the category of "peripherals" so I don't pay much attention to it. But let's see. Writing prompts? I, um, actually hate writing prompts, especially when I'm working on something longer like a novel, because they usually mean I have to add in something I don't want to add in, and I'm too much of a control freak for that. Writing prompts are unexpected and mess things up and obviously I have a hard time handling this. But if you do like this sort of thing, for reasons I can't fathom, try the Word Wars, Prompts & Sprints forum. Organizational tools: I am using Scrivener this year, and it has changed my life. No joke. It lets you organize and write in the same place, and it's amazing, and I will devote a whole post to this soon. There are lots of places where you can find word count graphs and progress reports and stuff, but I've been really enjoying keeping things simple and using the tracker and stats page on the NaNoWriMo site. More about that tomorrow.
"What does one do when you're writing along and all of a sudden you hate your characters and plot and think it's all crap?"
I'm going to focus on the first part of this, because the next question is also about thinking it's all crap. (Apparently it's an epidemic.) When you all of a sudden hate your characters and plot, it's usually for one of two reasons, or maybe a combination. It's possible that you are stuck on some particular point or issue, and you might not even be consciously aware, but you need to solve the problem before you can like your novel again. It's also possible that you've just been spending too much time with your characters and you're sick of them, they way you can get sick of even your closest friends when you're together for days on end.
In either of these cases, I recommend taking a break from the particular bit of the novel you're working on. If you have time to take an actual break, great. Take a walk. Take a shower. (I often figure out difficult plot things in the shower.) Read a book. But if you don't have time to take a break and just need to get your word count in, there are a few things you can do. If you hate your plot and characters, why not describe things? Houses! Houses are great to describe. So are school curricula. Or the way your character's office works. Or have your character go on a walk and describe their neighborhood. Basically, write things in which you are not trying to progress the action - since you're stuck with that - but which still fit in with the rest and help you get to know your novel better. You can generate thousands of words this way. You may end up cutting some of them later - after November - but it's actually all stuff that's helpful for you to know. And if you're still stuck? Write out of order. I do it all the time, and it's so much easier. And often writing a completely different scene will help me figure out what went wrong in the first place and made me start hating everything.
"How do you move forward when you think everything you've just written is crap?"
Ignore it. Really. The only way to stop writing crap is to keep writing, and eventually if you practice enough it will start getting better. When you can't stand looking at what you've written anymore, just go on to a new scene. If it makes you feel better, change the font of the part you don't like to a really bright color so your subconscious knows you will be able to go back and fix it later, and then stop worrying about it. Concentrate on the next thing you're writing.
But on the other hand . . .
"And how do you resist the urge to edit?"
Don't. Why would you? Why resist this urge? Seriously. This is one of those NaNoWriMo "rules" people talk about all the time, but it is not a rule and, frankly, I think it's nonsense. The idea is that some people never get anywhere with their writing because they keep editing the same bits over and over again in some sort of endless loop. And for people with this specific problem, not letting themselves edit is undoubtedly helpful when their goal is word count. But not everyone has this problem, and it certainly should not be a universal rule. If anything, I have the opposite issue: if I know I'm not going to be able to edit, I get paralyzed and don't manage to write anything at all. It all comes back to understanding yourself and how you work, and not trusting other people's "rules" over your own instincts.
And, look, if you're worried about this, compromise. Make yourself get to your work count for the day, and then edit. Actually, if you're really worried, make yourself get ahead by 500 words or something to compensate for any words you might delete in the editing process. It all comes down to figuring out what works for you.
I have more to say about MOTIVATION and REWARDS, but that will have to wait for Part Two tomorrow, because I am starting to fall asleep as I write this. Good night!
November 16, 2010
The Royal Engagement, plus some neat songs I heard recently
Happy Tuesday! I am listening to the Glee Christmas album (which is amazing and wonderful, by the way) and drinking cocoa and generally feeling festive. And I just noticed that the milk I bought tonight doesn't expire until January 4, so wow, the end of the year is really creeping up on us, isn't it?
Announcement! I am working on a NaNoWriMo advice blog post! So if you have questions or topics you want me to address, please put them in the comments. I realize I probably should have done this at the beginning of the month, but better late than never, right?
Speaking of comments: Gmail has started sending some comment notifications to the spam folder. I'm trying to catch them all, but some may be slipping through the cracks. If your comment never shows up and I don't answer it, feel free to leave another or email me.
The Royal Engagement
As I tweeted this morning, all of my childhood hopes and dreams were finally officially dashed: Prince William is engaged. I know some people are already sick of hearing about this, but I am so excited about the prospect of a royal wedding. And yes, I understand that it's not actually vitally important news and doesn't need to be on CNN constantly, as I hear it was today. (I was at work.) I'm just saying I want to buy magazines full of pretty pictures and find a way to order some tacky souvenirs, and then probably stay up all night watching coverage of the event itself. Because, really, I care about the royal family far more than I care about pretty much any American celebrities. I grew up playing with paper dolls of them. I am emotionally invested.
And hey, this will certainly lead to all sort of fun things to read. Already today we have this explanation of why Kate is an awesome name and this list of historical events that took less time than William and Kate's courtship. And Matt Yglesias is taking the opportunity to make a pretty decent case for monarchy here, as a follow-up to this. I'm pretty convinced.
And now for a musical interlude . . .
Hey, Listen to These!
One of the reasons why I sort of love long drives is because they provide the opportunity to listen to a bunch of music, and concentrate on it more than I usually do when I have music on in the background while working or writing or cleaning the house. And XM Radio has been a revelation in this department. It used to be that, say, as soon as I crossed the border into Maine, my radio options became 80% country. Now I can continue listening to my ridiculous number of stations wherever I am.
Usually when I'm just driving around town, if I'm not in the mood for a particular genre of music, I cycle through a certain subset of the XM options. (My standard rotation: the decade pop stations [40s-90s], the current pop stations, Lithium [90s alternative], Alt Nation [current alternative], and On Broadway.) But when I'm on a long drive, I go through pretty much all the stations to see what grabs my fancy. And that means that I often end up hearing some random new stuff, or at least new to me; it's completely possible that you all have known these songs for years. But I just heard them over the weekend, so I am going to inflict them upon you now.
First, a Counting Crows cover of the Eagles's "Amie:"
And how about a Tori Amos cover of Springsteen's "I'm on Fire"?
Now, I like Snow Patrol, but there's just something about "Chasing Cars" that makes me . . . well, usually makes me change the station before it finishes, frankly. But this remix was great:
November 15, 2010
A Monday Miscellany
Hello! Does anyone else feel like it should be at least Thursday by now? Why did today seem to take forever? I cannot figure it out. This weekend marked the end of my brother's football season, which is bittersweet, because the whole thing is fun and I certainly like seeing my family so often, but on the other hand, having my weekends back is sort of nice. Of course, I just have this one weekend and then it's Thanksgiving, but whatever. Bring on the holidays, I say. I am ready. I have started my giant notebook of lists. It's a wonderful thing. Speaking of which . . .
For you XM or Sirius subscribers out there: holiday stations are here! There will be five stations eventually, and you can read about them here, but for now we have Holiday Traditions on XM 4 and Holly on XM 23. Holiday Traditions does lots of Bing and the like, so I'm thrilled with that. Holly is more contemporary, so that's kind of hit or miss for me. But I will admit that I did rather like the Ashley Tisdale version of "Last Christmas" I heard on there this afternoon. I like the Taylor Swift one too. Shush.
In my post about the caramels, I mentioned needing a very patient friend to Skype with me to distract me while I chopped the things. Said friend read what I wrote and pointed out that that was the first time she had ever been called "very patient" in her entire life. Upon further reflection, I'll say it's possible that she's just willing to babble on for hours at the slightest provocation, and patience doesn't really enter into it.
How is NaNoWriMo going, you ask? Not too badly! Yesterday was the first day when I didn't do at least the daily minimum of 1667 words, so I started worrying, but I think the issue was just that I got home from Maine around dinner time, and my brain is just not designed to write in the evening. I gave up at only about 600 words last night, but I started writing at 6 a.m. today and wrote over 2000 words in a little over an hour, so I'm back into the swing of things and still three days ahead. Thank goodness.
New York, New York!
My aunt and I are going to New York for a long weekend in December! I'll tell you more about the trip later, but for now, I'm in the planning stages, so I figured I'd ask for your input. We want to do Christmassy things . . . any particularly good store displays or anything we should check out? Also, food suggestions - especially exciting grocery stores or specialty food places? Thanks!
November 12, 2010
A life-changing discovery
So there was another part of that conversation with my mother yesterday that I didn't tell you about. (Well, okay, there were several parts, but I assume you don't want to hear about the intense discussion of when we're going to put up the Christmas tree. Will I tell you about that eventually anyway? Probably.) But as soon as she answered the phone, I told Mom that I had made a life-changing discovery that afternoon. She was skeptical, as you might imagine. But not for long . . .
As I mentioned yesterday, we do a tailgate/potluck thing after my brother's football games, and I generally bring a dessert. This is partly because I like making desserts and partly because most desserts are conveniently meatless to start with, so I run no risk of inflicting my Weird Vegetarian Food on unsuspecting football players. Early this season, I was hunting around for a new recipe to try, and I came across this chocolate-covered Chex mix. It's really simple to make and pretty basic, but everyone loved it, and I've ended up making it almost every week. (Also: now planning on sending tins of it as Christmas gifts, so let me know if you want to be on my gift list.) It's simple, that is, except for one thing: The recipe calls for unwrapping and then chopping a bag of caramels. Have you ever chopped caramels? They're, uh, sticky. That's kind of the point. Chopping them is not any fun. At all. I've realized that in order to get through it, I need either really good music to sing along to or a very patient friend who is willing to amuse me via Skype.
They are also, it turns out, somewhat difficult to find. The grocery store doesn't have them. Walmart usually has them . . . until, this week, they didn't. After I failed to find them during a Walmart run at lunch on Thursday, I started making a list of other places to try. During this process, I started trying to explain to someone exactly what sort of caramels I needed, so I went to the Kraft site, and there I discovered the life-changing thing . . .
They now make CARAMEL BITS. They are a) already unwrapped and b) really little, so do not require chopping. So they would basically cut the preparation time of the whole thing by at least 2/3, if not 3/4. And it was the most annoying section that would be gone. Amazing. Of course, I had never seen these magical items in a store, but a clever friend suggested that I check Amazon. They had them - but you couldn't just buy a bag. You had to buy a 12-pack. On the one hand, buying 12 eleven-ounce bags of caramels seemed insane. On the other hand, I make this a lot, and I was REALLY sick of unwrapping and chopping. Not to mention how I was not looking forward to driving all over creation trying to find the regular ones in a store. So . . . I ordered them. Of course I ordered them.
Now, this all happened Thursday afternoon, and I needed them today, Friday, to make Chex mix for Saturday. So not only did I order a case of caramels from Amazon, but I overnighted a case of caramels from Amazon. It's pretty awesome living in the future, huh? I have Amazon Prime, so overnight shipping was only $4. Amazing. When I got home, I called my mom, and once I described the whole situation and the unwrapped, small caramels, she said "Oh. You weren't joking. That is a life-changing discovery." We take our desserts seriously, as you can see.
I was a little worried that something would go wrong with the overnight shipping, so I checked the package tracking pretty religiously, and those of you who follow me on Twitter were lucky enough to get constant updates on the caramels' location. Indianapolis! Tennessee! Now on their way! Around lunchtime today, I saw that the tracking site was claiming that the package had been delivered. And sure enough, when I got home from work, this was waiting on my porch. (And sorry about the quality of all these pictures. It was dark.)
I have already used one of the bags to make Chex mix for tomorrow. Here's a bad picture of it setting:
November 11, 2010
ALL OF THE STUFF
Hello! I did not mean to be gone so long. I'm sorry. But it's November, which means that all of my blogging time is taken up by novel-writing. And this also means that I am doing less reading and TV-watching, because of the writing, so I have fewer things to tell you about. I have sort of been in the mood to write about various wacky and/or vaguely interesting happenings in my daily life, though, so I surveyed Twitter this afternoon, and the four readers who replied all said they would be fine with that sort of post. So! Here we are!
So, how is the novel going?
It's going well, actually! Thanks for asking! Unlike many frazzled writers this month, I am actually perfectly happy to be talking about it at this point. (This is, of course, subject to change as the month wears on.) I've written at least the minimum of 1667 words each day, and I think I've done at least 2000 all days but one. So I'm about three days ahead at this point. How am I doing this, and feeling remarkably unstressed about it, you ask? Well...
This year's NaNoWriMo strategy:
The 5 am thing is generally only on weekdays, by the way. Otherwise I just institute the rest of the plan whenever I wake up. Except for this Saturday, when I WILL be setting the alarm for 5 am, because I have to write and then drive to Maine by eleven or so. My brother's game is starting at 12:30, and usually I play it kind of fast and loose with arrival times, because my usual contribution to the after-game tailgate/potluck (dessert) doesn't really require any set-up. I always say I'll get there an hour early but then end up getting there a minute or two into the first quarter. (I'm trying! Really!) But this weekend is different, as you will see in this dramatic retelling of the phone conversation I had with my mom tonight:
Me: What time do you want to start setting up on Saturday morning?
The reason why I have ALL OF THE STUFF is somewhat convoluted and also has to do with the time when I swear my father was more impressed by my brilliance than he's ever been in his life.*
The Idea That Made My Father Extremely Proud
My parents take this tailgating thing pretty seriously. (It's not just them. A lot of the football parents do.) And there's a lot of stuff involved. They have folding tables and two different grills and a canopy and coolers of food and . . . I don't know, other stuff. They usually fold down the back seats in their SUV to get ALL OF THE STUFF in there, along with their suitcases and whatever else. This means that when we're all up in Maine, I end up driving my parents around when we want to go somewhere together because I can't fit in their car with ALL OF THE STUFF, but really, that's fine, and the system works.
This weekend, though, my aunt decided to come up to Maine as well, but she wasn't thrilled about the idea of driving by herself. And, as I've said, there was no way she was going to fit in my parents' car with ALL OF THE STUFF. Discussions of this went on for days before I finally said "Hey, wait. Why don't you just put ALL OF THE STUFF in my car when you pack up the week before, and I'll bring it for you?" And everyone was very impressed by my cleverness.
So! My point, I think, was that on Saturday I will be pretending it's a weekday and getting up at 5 to write so that ALL OF THE STUFF and I can get to Maine on time. Wish me luck!
* This is unfair. My father has been very proud of basically everything I've ever done, except the really dumb things, and probably even some of those, too. But seriously, he was so impressed by this idea, and it seemed way out of proportion to the actual idea, because it was clever but it's not like I cured cancer or something.
November 03, 2010
Morning Coffee (11/3/10)
Happy beginning of the NH 2012 presidential primary season! Whee! Yes, I am genuinely excited about that. I even started making plans with a friend yesterday about all the candidates we would go see. So. Excited.
But anyway, yes, that means this election is more or less over, although a few races are still being counted. Last night wasn't good, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been. And the race I cared about most went the way I wanted, so there's that.
NaNoWriMo update: Yesterday's total ended up being 4136, and I had a productive morning and am now at 6153. Yay!
I am somewhat concerned about this Tintin movie.
Sister Wives: Renewed!
Life Unexpected, on the other hand, has been basically canceled.
The Skating with the Stars cast is pretty underwhelming, but I'm actually more interested to see who the skaters are. And the judges will include Dick Button and Johnny Weir, which - AWESOME.
November 02, 2010
Morning Coffee (11/2/10)
Good morning! So, the whole blogging during NaNoWriMo concept is clearly not working very well. But I will try to at least give you a little update each morning. I actually had a few links for you, but then I forgot and turned my computer off, so you're getting a linkless iPad post.
Happy Election Day! It's one of my favorite days of the year. Seriously. Go vote! And this ALSO means that the 2012 NH presidential primary campaign really gets going tomorrow, and that thought FILLS ME WITH GLEE.
Novel update: day one total was 2116, and I got to 3336 this morning. I think I'll try to get to 5000 while watching election coverage tonight.
Oh, and so the baseball season ended last night, so all that existential angst about WHAT IT MEANS if they're playing baseball after Election Day was for naught.
Okay, I'm off to go vote!