The Reminder You Sometimes Need: Writing Is Actually Fun

Okay, guys.  I’m not gonna lie.  I’m actually kind of enjoying this.

I know, I know.  The whole NaNoWriMo thing.  It’s gimmicky and kind of pop-culturey and I can’t ever quite get myself 100% on board with it.  I’ve been, if not a skeptic, at least a kind of hiply ironic douchebag about the whole thing for years.

But I did it before it was cool. So, y'know.

And yet, it’s been a good excuse to do the part of writing that I really like — the part where you’re actually making things up and just putting them down on paper, rather than selling words to people or working on your contacts and profile or whatever.  To say nothing of editing and re-editing web content for better SEO!

It’s good to be reminded that that’s the dream:  writing your own stuff, long-term, sustainably.  And that it’s fun, and that it’s doable, and that when the parts of “being a writer” that aren’t “writing” feel awful and tedious and like nothing you ever wanted to do there’s a point to it all so cowboy up and get through.

Yee-haw.

Barnes & Nobles as NaNoWriMo Sponsor — Slighty Creepy

This is sort of shaping up into a NaNoWriMo week, isn’t it?  I apologize to those readers that aren’t big fans.  My own feelings on the program, as you all know, are a little mixed too.

But I’m doing it and that’s good fun, yadda yadda yadda.  Not the point today.  Today I’m a little squicked out by something from NaNoWriMo’s front page:  a “sponsored by” section that, today (and maybe other days too?  I haven’t been looking, but will start now) features Barnes & Nobles’s “PubIt!” offshoot.

Nothing against PubIt! in particular; it seems roughly comparable with most other major booksellers’ self-publishing outfits in terms of pricing (standardized), royalties (passable), and rights (lousy).  I wouldn’t make a case for or against it as far as going the self-pub route goes.

But something about a self-publishing enterprise hanging out on the front page of an amateur novel-writing contest just seems a little…predatory.

Maybe I’m being a little too skeptical.  Maybe I should have a little more faith in my fellow word-count-pounders, who are certainly capable of educating themselves about the self-publishing industry and its various advantages and perils.  It just seems a little too easy for someone who’s producing their first manuscript to see the (very slick) PubIt! webpage and think Oh, man, I could be getting like six bucks for EVERY SINGLE COPY PEOPLE BUY?

I suppose my problem is with the ease of it all:  three or four clicks and an upload, and your book is now Barnes & Nobles’s book.  A lot more could have happened to make it a better book, and to make it a profitable product for yourself rather than a drop in their rather large bucket.  And I’m not sure that people who’ve just this November gotten to the very first impulse of “hey, it would be fun to write a novel” know that.

It makes me want to run around shouting “no, no, no; read some self-published authors’ blogs first!  Know what you’re getting into!”  Which I’m sure lots of people will do.  I shouldn’t worry.

But I can’t help feeling a little iffy about that particular sponsorship.  Anyone else see it, or am I just crazy?

Why Professional Writers Shouldn’t Cheat on NaNoWriMo

I wound up doing NaNoWriMo this year, after some careful thinking about it.

So did a few other friends, and the challenge-aspect of the 50,00-word goal seems to have spilled over into other metrics as well; one woman I know is doing “NaBeAFuAdMo,” or “National Be A Fucking Adult Month,” with a list of real-life tasks laid out one per day for each day in November.

Up to a point I like these sort of adaptations.  The spirit of the game is self-improvement and striving to achieve more than you would without the artificial carrot-and-stick motivation, so anything in that general vein seems like fair game.

But I worry that there’s a temptation for fellow-writers especially to water things down a little bit:

Word count is the official metric of NaNoWriMo, and word count is what a lot of us do for a living.  In many cases that’s quite literal.  I’m paid by the word more often than I am by any other scale, so every word has a real and concrete value (albeit a very, very small one, as far as a single word goes).

So after a day of that it’s easy for your hard-working writer who’s also decided to do NaNoWriMo to say “well, okay, it’s 9:00 PM and I’m just now starting on today’s part of the manuscript, but technically I’m already up 3,500 words from my work, right?”

And I do know people who are doing things that way, keeping track of all words written in the month rather than just the word count of a single comprehensive work.

THE GROCERY LIST COUNTS, DAMMIT!

But I feel like people who really want the novelist-training exercise might be missing out a little by doing it that way.

Very few people are lucky enough to write in a professional vacuum, i.e., sans day job.  Being able to make it through the workday and then still pound out a few thousand words on the next novel is a huge, huge part of the authorial skill.  And I think it’s a skill that NaNoWriMo is trying pretty deliberately to teach.

So on the one hand I’m all for people taking the idea of NaNoWriMo and adjusting the metric to meet their own motivational needs.  It’s basically a self-motivating exercise in the first place, with a little help from our old buddy peer pressure via the internet.

But on the other hand I hope writers are thinking about the benefits of doing the full 50,000 word manuscript on top of all the other written-word projects.

They’d better be there, otherwise I’m losing a lot of sleep this month for nothing.

Thoughts?

How We All Hope Our Writing Careers Go

An image and a link for the day, on the theory that a picture is worth a thousand words and therefore I’ve more than exceeded my responsibility to you as soon as I post one.  Also John Allison’s work is just wonderful, and everyone should browse through at least some of it.  Like today’s kick-off to a new mini-series called Murder She Writes:

This is how all writing careers should start.  This, or something like this with more drinking, perhaps.  Bear any similarities to your own starts?  Leave a comment and let us know!

Actual writing, thoughts, etc. tomorrow.  Unless you would rather just see more comics, in which case you should also leave a comment, and let me know.

Once again, today’s comic comes from John Allison of Scary Go Round.  His work is excellent and you should take a look at it.  I have no affiliation with him except being a fan!

When Your Blog is More of a BLAAAGH

I like that these things are called “blogs.”

It’s a good sound.  When you’re stuck and swamped and the last thing you want to do is come up with something to talk about (and all your saved drafts look terrible because that’s just the kind of mood you’re in) you can draw the vowel out really long and make it sound like “BLAAAAAGHHHHH!”  Blog.  Blagh.

So that’s my two cents for this kind of blaaaaaghy day.  Thoughts?

Fun with Homophones, Real-Life Edition

I have, like many fine writers before me, more than a passing familiarity with retail.  Sellin’ stuff, ringin’ up, don’t-quit-your-day-job type jobs.  Everyone needs a little steady income!

So every once in a while something entertaining and word-related crosses my counter at the Day Job.  Some stores, you may know, still check the signature on the back of your credit card?  I can assure that it is entirely a formality, even at the few places that do still bother, but most people still know to sign theirs.

Or — or — and this is where it gets fun — to write “See I.D.” on the back instead.

The idea here is that someone who steals your credit card won’t be able to use it, this way, since they’ll be asked for an ID they don’t have rather than scrawling something similar to your signature, which is mostly a joke since, as I said, most places don’t even check and the ones that do are happy to accept “Oh, sorry, I left my ID at home, but I swear it’s me!” as legal identification.  But some people do it.  And some bankers or credit-card-issuers still tell people to do it.

I know that in some cases it is people being told to do it and not people choosing to out of some vaguely conscious sense of identity security.  I know this because every once in a while we get a card that, in place of a signature, has the neatly-printed acronym “C.I.D.”

This is not a thing.  There is no credit card signature related thing called a “C.I.D.,” apart from the acronym sometimes being used interchangeably with “CVV2,” which is the little security code printed on the back.  The only reason to write it on your card is if you heard someone authoritative-seeming tell you to write “See I.D.” and you thought they meant “C.I.D.” and didn’t think to ask what it meant.

Picture related.

I’m always a little boggled by people with “C.I.D.” cards.  But that’s life for you, and that’s homophones too!  Which, speaking of, came up in yesterday’s post too, when I found that famous picture from The Graduate and a caption describing it as “Anne Bancroft stalking” on the part of Dustin Hoffman.

Get it? He's stalking her stocking? Ah well.

So that’s today’s Fun with Homophones, Real-Life Edition.  Share your own favorites (or just your stories of bone-headed consumers!) in the comments and we’ll see you tomorrow…

If Everyone on OkCupid Says They Like Books, What’s a Devoted Reader to Do?

I had to Google OkCupid to figure out the capitalization and other formatting choices in the name, which gives you a pretty good idea of my fixed domestic status.  So this is not my story.  It is a friend-of-a-friend story.  But it’s a good one.

If you’re like me, i.e. not carefully-tuned to the vicissitudes of online dating, you probably didn’t know that people on it often say they like books.  Like a lot — apparently to the point that it is completely, utterly meaningless.  People who haven’t cracked a cover since high school English class say they like books.

(To be fair, some of OkCupid’s users are only a few years out of high school English, apparently, and saying that they’re quite a few years further out than that, also apparently.  Who knew?)

Picture related.

For your genuine bibliophile this is a serious problem.  There’s really only a specific sort of person that actually likes curling up with a good book, like every night; the rest of us just enjoy the idea of being that kind of person.  Someone who read Harry Potter and thought it was pretty cool is not going to fit the bill.

So hence the friend-of-a-friend part, a woman who apparently solved this problem by trying to think of other things that people who like books tend to like and eventually settled on Scrabble.  No one actually likes Scrabble until they are into words in a very serious way, after all, or else are the kind of bespectacled weenie who wanted to be really good at chess but lacked the spacial skills and wound up memorizing a lot of words that use both X and J instead.

Fuckers.

Apparently she went on dates with five guys and wound up married to the fifth, which would be a happy ending except that she sort of hates Scrabble and has to play it all the time now.

Makes you wonder what we did before we had scientifically-balanced algorithms to tell us who we love, doesn’t it?  Thoughts and tales of finding your own true love, through fate or information-technology-chicanery, please!

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