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So that’s it. It’s December 1st and NaNoWriMo 2010 is officially over. To all my friends who won, or even attempted this utter insanity, I offer my hat to you in congratulations. Now go sleep for a week. You’ve earned it.

This was a rough NaNo for me. I powered out of the gate, guns and pen blazing like a racehorse covered in napalm, but then I hit stumbling blocks that extinguished my fire and tripped me until I was ass-deep in dirt. I hit 50k on the 15th after two weeks of exhausting myself and then said ‘I can’t keep this up.’

I blame school mostly. I’m almost to the finish line of my final semester of college, and because of this projects, papers and presentations have taken me by the arms and said ‘oh no you don’t!’ and have forced me to pay attention to my studies while leaving my novel projects by the wayside. And I gave in. I chose not to fight. ‘This is my fate’, I said, and allowed the bastardly assignments to claim me.

Normally I wouldn’t do anything of the sort. The writing comes first, hell or high water. This semester is different though. This is the last time I have to put school first. In about two and a half weeks I’ll be done with homework in it’s traditional form and donning my cap and gown at ass in the morning, traipse across that stage and give the University the finger, wishing it Good Riddance.

Then I can get down to the real thing; actually writing.

That’s the real thing I’ve learned this November. That it really wasn’t about the wordcount for me. I’ve discovered that I’m definitely an overachiever, because most of the novels I come up with don’t fit in the 50k frame. I also don’t like to stop in the middle of a scene. I don’t like writing with abandon, because I write fast enough that I have the time to edit as I go.

NaNoWriMo isn’t about writing 50,000 words for me. It’s about writing. Just writing. The act of putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, and creating. There’s no right way to do this mad month of noveling, no matter what people may say. And while I love a lot of the community surrounding NaNo, a lot of it just gives me a headache. People being people of course, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Or put up with it.

This is my third NaNo, and I will continue to participate, but I will also be taking the spirit of writing daily into my new, post-graduate life. It’s time to put writing first, and even though it stung, even though my idea turned out to be ill-suited for prose novel form, this is, and was, the very last time I have to put school first.

So that’s that. Ghost was a good exercise, but I don’t think it’s the novel for me. I hope to be transferring it to Graphic Novel format as next year progresses. As well as this Jeff and I are looking to start a webcomic together (casually, nothing serious of course), and I’m going to focus my noveling on Strain 10.

And hopefully I’ll end up getting a job so I can support myself without having to eat my own foot.

So that’s my NaNo 2010. Rewarding, but backburnered quickly. I didn’t make it to my minimum goal of 75k, let alone 100k. But I hit the 50 thousand, and right now that’s good enough for me.

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There’s been a lot of amusing talk wandering the interblag lately about the idea of dating writers and just interacting with writers in general (see Chuck Wendig’s amusing Beware of Writer post and Rebecca Rosenblum’s Why Date a Writer for an idea). The gist of these posts, and it’s a gist I can agree with, is that writers are terrifying, tempermental, unpredictable animals who do not play well with others and are best when avoided.

I won’t argue. We writers are a surly, pissed off, poverty-stricken bunch who hide behind their notebooks and computer screens with ideas running around their heads muttering ‘you wouldn’t understand’ to anyone who gets within biting distance. We’re mostly intolerable, narcissistic self-involved geeks who bury ourselves in our own little worlds that we do our best to transcribe onto paper. We don’t even really get along that well with each other, as we’re a solitary breed by nature.

So what happens when two writers date each other?

This is me, Lora. 23 years old, almost out of college, writer and aspiring novelist since she figured out how to hold a pencil for something other than stabbing people and that all she needed was a story and a healthy touch of insanity. Originally from the US and lived 12 years in London, she’s been lurking in Lincoln, Nebraska for the last five years and seems to have survived despite being a liberal and a vegetarian.

This is Jeff. 22 years old, a philosophy major, and has been certain since a very young age that he could write a novel, a damned good novel, and he could keep writing damned good novels and telling damned good stories until the day his brain eventually fell out. Born and raised in Nebraska, he’s a fan of live music, good mixed drinks and silliness. And doesn’t like football, which in this town is a crime practically punishable by death.

We’ve been dating for the last seven and a half months. And we’re both writers. Writers and aspiring novelists.

Everyone’s writing process is a little different. Some of us talk to ourselves, some never speak a word. Some of us work best with deadlines, pounding out a certain amount of words a day, others just let things percolate a while and then throw words on to paper. Some type, some write longhand. It all depends.

In terms of process, Jeff and I have different styles. I type a lot faster than I write longhand, so I work best at my laptop clicking away furiously at keys, occasionally distracted by a chat window or a twitter post. Jeff likes to write in longhand using pens and spiral notebooks, distracted only when he needs to change the music on his iPod. One thing we do have in common is that we enjoy writing as a solitary pastime. To this date we’ve never both been writing at the same time in the same room, and that doesn’t seem likely to change.

Jeff is not a NaNoWriMo participant. He’s not looking to start a brand-spanking new novel every month, he’s been working on the same one, slowly but surely, for the last three years. Every couple of days he cranks out a few more hand-written pages.

I am a deadlines person. I like reaching my wordcount goals. I’m prolific in my pages and my scenes. And I start at least one new novel a year, even if I don’t finish it (if you gave me a dollar for every half-finished novel sitting in my hard drive right now… well, I’d have a lot of dollars).

We have different styles and different methods, but the madness often associated with writers is understood. And that’s the biggest advantage I’ve found to dating another writer. Even if Jeff and I have different processes, different stories to tell, when I inform him that I need to stay late on campus because I ‘just have to finish this scene’, he gets it. When he is sitting in his room at his desk with his headphones on and doesn’t stop when I enter through the door, I know it means ‘am writing, do not disturb.’ When he asks me what’s wrong and I tell him “oh, [insert name of  current main character here] is being difficult because of x,” he doesn’t look at me like I just grew an extra head.

We have writing swaps, where I throw my laptop at him and he gives me a pile of half-finished notebooks and we curl up on the bed, reading each other’s work. We recommend good books to each other. We talk about the hopefully-attainable dream of writing full-time, as we please, being Authors, Novelists, professional Storytellers with published stories. We talk about collaborating. We give each other feedback, knowing full well that we’re as honest as we can be with the bias of being in a relationship. We help each other through tricky plotholes and confusions, even just by acting as a sounding board.

It’s not all a walk in the park. We’re both poor as dirt. Neither of us likes the idea of returning to school after finishing our respective B.A’s. We both get temperamental and irrational in our own ways (I’m overemotional, he’s stubborn and distant). We bicker about silly things like any other couple. It’s normal.

But we both write. And for me, that’s better. He doesn’t always understand HOW I get to where I do in my process, my methods, but he understands WHY.

I still say beware of writers. We’re a pretty scary bunch. We’re morbid, creepy, isolated, rude, conniving bastards a lot of the time.

We even sometimes want to eat your brains.

But ultimately, we have each other.

Even if only because it’s nice to be able to look up from my computer and say “honey, do you know anything about the street price of heroin in New York City” and have him respond with: “have you googled it?” as opposed to “Why in the name of god would you need to know that?”

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Dear Craig Finn;

This isn’t my traditional method of communication; writing letters or blogging them. However, last night I was inspired, and felt the need to share with you (should you ever come across this on the vast expanse of the internet) and my readers the joy that your music brings to me.

I’m a recent convert to your band, The Hold Steady, and like many of my musical journeys this one started with a guy. When my boyfriend Jeff and I started dating seven months ago, he made me a playlist on Rhapsody to keep me upbeat during finals week at College. Among the songs he chose was one off of Boys and Girls in America, Massive Nights:

From this point he let me borrow the rest of Boys and Girls in America, which I copied into my music library and devoured like a greedy child, instantly falling head over heels in love with basically every single song. I listened to them on the long walk to my apartment before I got a car, I listened to them in my car when I finally needed a car, and they kept me entertained on my long drives up to Omaha to visit Jeff when he still lived there.

We’re both relatively in tune with the local music scenes (i.e. we’re Hipsters, which we hate to admit, but admitting oneself a Hipster means that you have lost the true sense of being a Hipster in a way), so when we found out you guys were coming to play at the Slowdown in July, we bought tickets and I drove up to Omaha to enjoy what I hoped would be an evening of amazing live music.

And it was.

But, and I still think this to this day, the crowd sucked.

Seriously, you guys make amazing music, anthems for our generation, your performance was upbeat, so full of energy… and the crowd just stood there. People gave us dirty looks when we yelled and jumped up and down. I was disappointed in them. I didn’t expect much from the Omaha music scene I admit, but I felt bad. You guys deserved a better crowd. I’m sorry.

I loved the show personally. I was still pretty new to your music so I didn’t recognize half the songs, but I loved them and I danced to them, and sang along to the ones I knew.

And then you played my favourite song, the one I didn’t expect you to play as it’s a slower tempo and I wasn’t sure anyone else actually liked it, that maybe it was just me.

But you played it. You played First Night.

I admit it; I cried. I bawled like a small child in my boyfriend’s arms while you guys played the one song I hadn’t expected. It was a glorious night; we were drunk on screwdrivers and danced until our feet hurt. Had the crowd been less ridiculously lame, I would call it one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. Sadly I didn’t get any pictures because my camera was dead and buried in my backpack somewhere back in Lincoln. But it was wonderful.

A couple months passed. Jeff moved down to Lincoln, school started up again, I still listened to your music between classes and during my long night shifts at the library where I work.

I’m an aspiring novelist, and I started working on a new story idea over the last couple of months. As I was designing and creating character concepts one night (I couldn’t tell you which), I was sitting at work listening to Boys and Girls in America for what had to be the thousandth time, and something clicked. Two characters, now older and more grown up, remembering their younger, college days, dancing at parties and going to concerts. The songs spoke to them, made them come to life when before they were just names. Leo and Holly. (A pure coincidence, her name being Holly, but one that I embraced).

From then on the words started to flow. I listened to more of your albums on Grooveshark, playing them over and over as my characters interacted and the story progressed. The music became their anthems, and my inspiration.

Jump forward to last night. I hit a roadblock in my writing process and sat in my favourite coffee shop for hours, miserable and surly and worried about finding a new job, graduating university, following my dreams, trying to figure out if I was good enough, if I was competent in any way.

After a while I figured I should get something to eat, so I shuffled despondently across the street to Noodles & Co, knowing that if nothing else mac and cheese would cheer me up. I settled in to a table in the corner with my laptop and sketchpad, doodling and daydreaming and waiting for Jeff to get off work and go to the Bourbon Theatre. We’d both had a rough couple of weeks and needed a break, so last week I picked up tickets to your show.

Then I glanced up and saw a guy sitting at a table across the restaurant. He looked rather familiar. After a couple quick google searches and picture stalkings I confirmed my suspicions and found myself overwhelmed with nervous childlike fear and excitement.

Because I had just recognized Craig Finn sitting in Noodles, reading a book and eating some dinner before his show.

So, fangirlish little nerd that I am, I took a few deep breaths and dug frantically in my bag for a sharpie. Approaching, hands shaking, I warbled embarrassedly to you, saying you looked familiar and asking if you were Craig.

You were friendly, gracious, calm. Signed my sketchbook without a second thought, even asked me my name and signed it with the date on the top. I babbled a bit about how I’d seen you in Omaha last July, how I was a huge fan, how I was excited to see you perform tonight. Then I left you to your dinner and went back to my chair to hyperventilate a little.

I didn’t get to say all the other things I wanted to say. That your music inspires me, inspired two characters in my novel who are very dear to my heart. That your music sang to me as a girl in America who does a lot of wild things and has a lot of wild nights. That I hope someday to be as passionate about making art as you obviously are in your performance.

But all I could do was shake and babble, and that’s okay. Any more conversation and I think I would have been creepy or obnoxious.

I’m not sure I believe in signs, but if they exist, I think this is one of them:

The name of one of your better albums of course, but I took it to be something of a sign.

The show at the Bourbon was wonderful. Both supporting bands set the mood (seriously, first show I’ve been to in years where the openers didn’t suck), and Jeff and I went through the same routine we did last time we went to see you guys: screwdrivers and dancing.

Hey Citrus, Hey Liquor I love it when you touch each other

I admit, I’m poor as dirt, and never found the time to track down and really give Heaven is Whenever a good listen. But I recognized and sang along to more songs last night than I did the time before.

The crowd was better. The crowd was so much better. We all danced and yelled and sang along. A guy in front of me kept on saying ‘Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!” Clearly a first time attendee of your concerts, and definitely a huge fan. We were among good company.

I even remembered my camera.

You played songs I loved as well as ones I wasn’t familiar with. I danced until my feet ached and I reeked of sweat. Everyone around me got sweaty too and we all stank of beer and didn’t care.

You didn’t play First Night. Or Massive Nights, which is Jeff’s favourite of your songs. But we didn’t care, because you played Stuck Between Stations. You played Chips Ahoy, and You Can Make Him Like You, and We Can Get Together, and so many other songs that made us laugh and smile and scream and punch the air. And so did the rest of the crowd.

I thought it was better than the night at the Slowdown. I hope you did too. You guys deserved a crowd that wild and joyous.

We stumbled home and called that night a victory, a triumph in escapist tactics and recreation. An example of why live music is glorious and beautiful and should be experienced loudly and often.

I couldn’t have asked for a better night.

So thank you Craig Finn, you and all your awesome companions in The Hold Steady. Thank you for inspiring me, for putting on such an amazing show last night, and for reminding me that above all, it’s important to stay positive.

You are one of my heroes. I hope you stay positive too.

With sincere appreciation and rock love,

Lora

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In a Funk

It’s just past six o’clock on Tuesday. My wrist hasn’t stopped hurting since last night and it now hurts not only to type but to move it.

Yesterday I made it to fifty thousand words, and I’m not sure I can continue this novel. I need to take a break, to breathe, to decide if what I’m writing is really my best. If this is the novel I need to be working on right now. If I have the time or energy to reach the 100k goal I had in mind at the beginning of the month.

I have a month left of my undergraduate experience. I am still unemployed outside the university, and am trying to complete and send out applications on a regular basis. Finding a job that pays more than minimum wage is going to be a bit tricky, especially around here.

I have a month left to complete my schoolwork. I have at least a dozen stories left to read and respond to in writing class. I have a 10 to 20 page research paper due in my religion class, along with a 15 minute presentation. I have another presentation in my other religion class, which will require substantial amounts of group work. I have to construct a final project in my history class which will require a lot of artistic work.

I can’t help but feel like I”m going to have trouble pounding out 3k a day and do all these things and maintain my sanity. I’m already slipping.

I just need to take a break. Decide if I want to keep this novel going, scrap it and start again, pick a different one and work on that. Maybe go for my minimum goal of 75k so I can work at a slower pace and have a more manageable month.

I just seem to repeatedly have great ideas, but lack the ability to express them to my satisfaction.

Maybe I just need to sleep for a week. Or at this point, just find something to eat. I’m going to a concert in an hour or two, and that should be fun.

I guess we’ll see how things go. Tonight though, tonight the writing just isn’t going to happen. It hurts too much to type.

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The Green Bar

I made it to fifty thousand words today.

I wrote all evening, my hands hurt, and I could use a good sleep, possibly even a drink, but I’m there. I have my green bar, and I’m halfway to my personal goal.

Today is awesome.

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Real life’s been a little nuts again; I’ve spent the bulk of my weekend helping out a very good friend going through a rough time, so that’s taken up the vast majority of my writing moments.

I’m currently a little less than 8k away from the big 50k, and the story is starting to escalate. I also have no other plans for today save for running some errands, napping and finishing up some work-related business.

Things are a little nuts here. This is by far the most stressful NaNoWriMo I’ve ever attempted, and while I’m going for 100k no less. Still totally worth it though in my opinion.

Other than that there’s not much I’m at liberty to ramble about. Except that Jeff’s roommate is getting a kitty today. Picspam of kitty might follow.

… I have a problem. An adorably cuddly, meowing problem.

Time to go clean up the kitchen. Everything smells like bacon.

 

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Rolling Along

I just passed 41k. I’m near the end of a scene that was a lot of fun to write, and after this I’m going to move into the action of the novel. Conflict is beginning. It’s exciting.

I’m at Coffee House, listening to Puscifer on Grooveshark and taking a breather, since I’ve been writing almost nonstop since around 6. I’m going to buy another drink, read a few things on the web, chat to some people, and see how much further I can go tonight. Sky’s the limit, and I’m inspired.

The guys at the table behind me are playing Uno. The song ‘Thriller’ by Michael Jackson just came on the speakers. I love this place so much.

Tomorrow, hopefully, a post about music again. Later, maybe an excerpt.

I hope you all have glorious weekends full of things you want to do in balance with things you have to do.

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