Friday, October 28, 2011

Polly's 21 tips to NaNoWriMo success

I promised I'd do it a couple of days ago, and with 3 days until the event begins, here's my almighty successful advice.

  1. Keep writing. If you had an off day, you don't know what you're doing, you hate all of your characters and you want to kill everything, you just don't feel like writing, do not, under any circumstances, stop writing. It will be difficult. You may not know where the story is. Don't stop writing.
  2. Go with it. If one of your characters keeps telling you repeatedly to burn down the house, but you know that you plot really needs the house, but your character is very insistent that the house needs to be burned down, BURN THE HOUSE DOWN. You have now murdered your entire plot. Go with it.
  3. Don't get too attached to your plot or your characters. Things will change. If you are too attached, you will get stuck, and not want to write. One of the best scenes from my last year's NaNo novel was a creepy torture scene that I ended up writing because I didn't want to pick up the main plot again.
  4. Speaking of which, double plots. They may happen. If you don't know what's going on with one character, switch to another character's point of view and tell the same story that just happened. It earns you words, and you can edit it out in December.
  5. Make a sticky note that says, "I can edit it out in December." Save it. Love it.
  6. Wrist braces: Get some. If you're typing all day, unless you have magical wrists or the best posture ever, you are probably at risk for Carpal Tunnel or RSI (I've given myself both. Carpal Tunnel is when your pinkies go numb. RSI is where it feels like someone stabbed you every time you try to type). Get some typing braces today. Start typing with them, so that you can get back up to your normal typing speed with them on.
  7. Do not delete anything. You had a new idea that requires revising a previous part? Go with it. Don't revise your previous part. Just pretend you already did that. You can fix continuity errors later.
  8. Have some really spectacular success days. Did you write 5000 words in a day? You can!
  9. Get ahead while you can. In the beginning, try to write at least 3K every day. Then you're ahead, and you won't die, and may earn some days off.
  10. Don't take a day off. If you're about to fall asleep at 2 AM, I don't care. Open up your computer, pull out your notebook, write a sentence, and log it. 0's are bigger motivation killers than 12's. Scientific fact.
  11. Don't think it will be easy. You will miss out on things you really wanted to do. You will feel incredibly stressed and hate all of your characters and want to burn down their building. You will probably cry and scream and tear out your hair and that is okay and that means you're doing things right.
  12. Write in the mornings. Pick a time (Last year, my time was 5:45 AM. This year, it's 8:00 AM), set your alarm for that, and when it goes off, open computer, type. You may not be awake enough to do this well. That is okay. Write words. You can edit it out in December.
  13. Shower. You stuck on your plot? don't know where this character is taking you? Take a shower. Things appear to magically work themselves out in your mind in the shower (it's something to do with the fact that you can't write them down and distinctly feel like it's not as good when you get it on paper. Don't worry about that. It's fine).
  14. Tangents. Go on them. Your character is walking through the park, and you realize that the homeless man she always walks past has a really interesting backstory. WRITE THAT. I don't care if it isn't relevant to the plot. DECEMBER IS FOR EDITING.
  15. Writing sprints. Do them. Go on the Twitter, the forum, Skype, anything, and find someone to word war with. It is helpful.
  16. Write in coffee shops. Let the people think you're crazy.
  17. At some point, you will realize that you cannot write a good novel in this amount of time. That is true. The goal is to write a bad novel, then make it good of a period of several months. Fun fact: Without writing a bad novel, you will never write a good novel.
  18. Challenges. Dares. Adopt-a-lines. Do them.
  19. Don't panic. If your novel halfway through wants to become a Glee fanfiction or your pilot turned into River from Firefly, go with it. You don't know where it's going to take you, but you'll be going somewhere.
  20. Write your whole story. If you hit 50K but haven't wrapped up the story, is it still a win?
  21. Just write. Seriously. Just keep writing.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

My tea is cold and there's a Beth on my floor

So yesterday, Beth drove down here from Salem to visit me. (I love Beth)
She's currently asleep on my floor, and my tea has gotten cold.

Anyway, let's talk about NaNoWriMo.

For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo is the craziest thing ever created that I have personally participated in.
It's a bunch of nerds. On the internet. Writing novels. In a month.
Specifically, the month of November.


I've done it three times, won twice (you win by finishing your novel. Everyone who participates can win, but usually the win rate is at around 25%), and learned a lot of things in the process.

So here's POLLY'S GUIDE TO NOT FAIL AT NANOWRIMO. First of all, let's talk about the three methods of NaNoing that I've witnessed.
  1. When November comes, write. You realize that it's November, and you don't have any idea for a story, and you don't know where things are going, write. If you didn't do any planning, now is not the time. You need to just start writing. Don't worry if it's a good concept or a terrible concept or you don't know your character or what they're going to do...just put your fingers on the keys and write. Eventually, you will find yourself making turns and changes that you had never expected, and the novel will happen.
  2. Well, it's like this, but also like that... You have a vague idea for a plot. "It's about a guy who sends a journal back in time to stop a plague from killing his sister." You don't think it through much more than that. I have used this method for the past two years (my two winning years) and it's nice and easy. Since November has 4 weeks, here's my basic formula:
    Week 1: Establish this character's life as it normally is. Build the world, their job that they hate, their coworkers that like to steal things from them, the magical talking alpaca that lives in their basement, business as normal.

    Week 2: Mess up their life. Their alpaca sends them on a journey for a mystical crystal, their obnoxious coworker sleeps with your character's spouse, and to top it all off, the coffee pot breaks and your character has to go through the whole story WITH NO COFFEE.

    Week 3: The character tries to fix things, but just makes it all worse. They go to Starbucks for coffee and find that they interrupted a counseling session with their spouse, and to top it all off, they broke that mystical crystal and now the universe is going to explode. By the middle of week 3, everything that can go wrong, has gone wrong.

    Week 3.5/4: Fix it. You have written your character into a giant literary hole. Now make it better.
    Most of this you just make up as you go, but you know where the plot is hopefully going to lead you.
  3. The intense outline method. I'm attempting this one for the first time this year. Here's how it works: You download Scrivener (SERIOUSLY YOU CAN'T DO IT WITHOUT SCRIVENER, IT'S AMAZING) and you put every scene into a notecard, figure out how many words you need, and then you can write whatever scene strikes your fancy when it comes time to write. Having never done this before, that's all I can say.

Okay. This got long, so tomorrow will happen my 21 tips to make NaNoWriMo less miserable.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Some more Theatre-y things.

Disclaimer: There will be much theatre nerding, a little bit of angst, and probably a misuse of Theatre/Theater in this post.

I'm sitting on my bed right now, holding Thumper the Thunder Thumper, and really glad that my Den Mom appears to be psychic. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

So two weeks ago, the Foundations students (that's me and all of the other pre-theatre majors) filled out their theatre practice assignment requests.
And we were told, "Hey, guys, don't panic, but you MAY not get an assignment. We don't have enough space. Sorry, guys." And then we got a little piece of paper and filled out our schedule and went home.
And then a couple days later they posted the assignments, and I checked the call board--
--I'm going to take a moment right there to be like GUYS I CHECKED THE CALL BOARD THAT'S SOMETHING THEATRE PEOPLE DO!!--
--and there was my name! Right there! on the costume crafts crew!
THE COSTUME CRAFTS CREW, GUYS! It's like the best job ever. It ALLITERATES!
So I signed off that I'd seen it and went on my merry way, and when I checked the call board on Friday, I saw when my first work call was.
And then I looked at the time, and my heart just kind of plummeted into my liver. "Tuesday-Thursday work call: 1:30-5:20." Which would have been fine, but I have a class Tuesday-Thursday, 1:30-3:30. And I couldn't do Monday, because I'd have class from 3:30-5:20.
So then there was a lot of panicking, and a lot of stress, and a lot of Polly OMG WHAT DO WHAT DO.
So then I sent an email to the lady in charge of scheduling for the costume department, and tried to have a good weekend.

On Monday, still hadn't heard back (but also hadn't yet checked my email. I was terrified of having a YOU FAIL AT THEATRE, PACK YOUR BAGS, YOU DO NOT PASS GO, YOU DO NOT COLLECT $200 kind of email sitting in my inbox). My Den Mom has this little Thumper plushie (from Bambi. You know, Thumper?) that she gives to someone in the den who she thinks will need it, and then they bring him back for the next class. She gave him to me, and I ended up really needing him because the people I live with are hypocritical dicks. And then I checked my email.

And everyone was super nice and helpful! I now have a job working in the stock room or on the Make-it-Better crew (we don't know which one yet, but they're basically one group), which is FANTASTIC. This means next term, when/if I'm working on one of the other crews, I will know where everything is, and where it belongs, and what we have.

Anyway, that's all I've got to talk about at this point.

The thing that I was really upset about yesterday was still really upsetting today, so I ended up skipping one of my classes and walking around town. I discovered that buying bubble tea and a crepe fixes many of the problems with the world, especially when it's enjoyed while watching Project Runway.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

So I'm like doing theatre-y things

Hey, quick question: What is the difference between "theatre" and "theater," assuming that I'm not in the UK? Because I'm confused, so I just take a guess and figure I have a 50% chance of being right.

But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about school things.

So the first thing that I've learned is that the Theater/re department here is not as frightening or as intense as I was led to believe. I mean, it's definitely an intense course (the kind of course where you work 12 hours a week to get 2 credits) but I don't think it's as scary as I was led to believe.

See, the reason why Theatre/er really freaks me out is because I honestly don't know what I'm doing. My theaterre experience is close to nonexistent (acting in two shows, being a guerrilla hair assistant at one show, costuming one show,* and costume designing two shows), and most of my den brothers are in it for performance, meaning that I'm kind of the odd one out in the group.
I'm also the only girl in my den, but I don't have super rigidly-defined gender roles (Unlike one of the people in my den, henceforth referred to as Gender Roles Guy).

But, yeah, thus far I haven't majorly pissed off anyone.

Also, I've noticed something that I do with my clothes, and as, well, I AM a costume designer**, I started trying to figure out what I'm doing and why.

I don't dress femininely at all for foundations. I wear jeans, a unisex t-shirt, and tie my hair back in a braid or a ponytail or a bun or something. I don't do makeup. And then after 10:30, I go back to my dorm and change. I didn't think about why I do this, but I've finally figured it out. Part 1: Gender Roles Guy has really REALLY rigidly defined gender roles, bordering on misogyny. I'm not going to dress myself as a target, because being targeted would be a distraction. Part 2: I'm not there to impress anyone with my looks. I'm not there to impress anyone at all. I'm there to learn. If I happen to impress anyone with anything, it will be with my actions, with my skills, and not with my body. Part 3: This isn't about me, and as a costume designer***, I want to dress to reflect that. Being a costume designer is different from being a fashion designer. Fashion designers are what they sell. They need to look good all the time. Everything they wear reflects their unique sense of style, because they're clothing the masses. Being a costume designer means that sometimes you have to design really ugly wedding dresses or something. It's not about looking good. It's about reflecting what you are.

Not that I'm actually a costume designer, yet. Mostly, I'm just reusing a joke that started getting old at Comic-Con. though, when you look at the factorials, it's still really funny.

Anyway, I don't know what I'm saying anymore, so I guess I'll just leave. Give my love to Fay!
*NONE OF MY WRITING TEACHERS USE THE OXFORD COMMA. I LOVE THE OXFORD COMMA. They don't mark it as wrong, but they don't use it online or anything. #rant