Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Nanowrimo is for slowpokes

I just found out about the 3-day novel contest via Nephele Tempest's blog. Veterans of Nanowrimo attempt to write a novel in a month. (Full disclosure: I've attempted Nano twice and never reached the 50,000 word mark in 30 days.) The one-month novel is an challenging first draft adventure. The three-day novel contest borders on clinical insanity.

Like Nano, the 3-day contest takes place over a set period of time every year, specifically Labor Day weekend. The rules are simple: 1) Register; 2) Write a novel in 3 days; 3) Submit your novel. You may prepare an outline in advance, but cannot write a word of text until Saturday at 12:01. No editing after the marathon weekend is permitted. The winning entry receives a publishing contract via 3-Day Books (after the novel is edited). Second and third places receive cash prizes.

While length is not specified, the contest administrators note that entries average about 100 pages. Length is a factor in judging, but it is not the only factor. Since writers have no chance for editing or over-thinking, raw writing is what matters. And the contest administrators say they can tell if you cheat.

I'm tempted at the notion; I've had an idea for another story floating around in my head for a while. Unfortunately, I have an out-of-town wedding to attend that weekend, and such an undertaking requires 72 hours of unswerving dedication.

If anyone is nuts enough to give this a try, please let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"You cut my semicolon...I want a divorce!"

This evening the Central Ohio SCBWI got a double treat. Two acclaimed authors, Gary Braunbeck and Lucy Snyder, shared some insights on collaborative writing. They have a special concern in terms of joint writing projects: they’re also married. They gave an informative (and amusing) presentation entitled “You cut my semicolon…I want a divorce!”

Lucy and Gary talked first about the benefits of collaborative writing in general. As Gary pointed out, a writing partner is especially helpful when working under a tight deadline. On one occasion an anthology editor asked him if he could produce a story in four days. Gary and Lucy working together were able to meet the challenge and create a compelling tale.

A fresh viewpoint is also useful when one party can’t decide which way to go with a given work. Maybe one person has a developed beginning, or a strong middle, but can’t decide whose story it is. In these cases, an outside perspective can illuminate and clarify the story.

Lucy pointed out that marriage brings unique challenges to collaborating writers. For example, when both are pounding out words under deadline, who has to clean the litter box? There can also be clashes over creative issues. When one of them is having a tough time, it’s difficult for the other to remain unaffected. Arguments might also arise over who gets time to work on creatively fulfilling projects while the other has to bring in a paycheck. Jealousy and egos can also come into play.

But they were quick to point out that marriage has its benefits, too. They never have to schedule a meeting to brainstorm; it can happen in the hallway or over laundry. They also share the bond of empathy. When Gary’s having trouble, Lucy can empathize, and vice versa. Being married to another writer allows them to share that understanding about the joys and frustrations of the creative process.

If you get a chance to work with either Gary or Lucy, I would recommend it; both are fonts of writing knowledge, and entertaining as well. As luck would have it, both will also be at Context this year. Context is an intimate convention for readers and writers of speculative fiction. I’ll be there, and I highly recommend it. While online registration is now closed, you can still register at the door. It takes place in Columbus, Ohio, August 27-29. More information is here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Revision hell

Some writers love the second draft. Having laid down the raw clay of the story, they revel in forming the loose contours into a clearly recognizable form, then moving beyond to craft it into a breathtaking final piece.

I am not one of those writers.

Last week marked the end of the first draft of a novel. Since then I've been in recovery, mooning about, staring at walls, wondering where to go from here. I've started research for a new short story that I'm eager to burst into; also, I've been leafing through this book, trying to internalize some tips. When I'm ready to revise (probably later this week), hopefully some useful advice will remain stuck inside me, and I'll be able to unstick it.

In the meantime, does anyone have any preferred revision techniques? Do you do multiple targeted revisions: once for characterization, once for tension, etc.? Or do you go in for the one-pass technique? Or maybe you're hardcore like Heinlein, and never rewrite unless an editor demands it.


[ETA: Link to Heinlein's Rules for Writing]