Monday, October 19, 2009

Size does matter!

OK, maybe not size per se, but gauge. And don't always trust your memory that you know what gauge you got the last time you knit with a certain yarn or needle. And don't believe yourself when you say, "Oh 72 stitches is perfect for a hat on size US 8 needles with this yarn. I've made them like that before." Because you know what? It's all a lie! Your brain will lie to you in order to not make gauge. It will convince you that the last time you knit with this particular yarn you got 4-5 stitches per inch. I'm quite sure of it. Yeah, and ... and ... and ... I've made lots of hats by casting on 72 stitches. Remember?

Except the sad truth is, now thinking back I've never used Moda Dea Wool 'n' Silk and all the 72 stitch hats I've made were on size US10 needles not US8 and I've never done anything like this before. Ever. Which all means that I just blindly cast on 72 stitches of a lovely blue silk and wool blend yarn and knit it like I knew what the heck I was doing. And in the end I had made a very lovely little lacy hat that would possibly fit a baby!

So repeat after me: Gauge matters. If you aren't 100% absolutely positively 100% sure that you know your gauge with that wool then don't just willy nilly cast on and set to town. You will spend many hours making something that doesn't fit anyone in your household (let alone the charity I was intending this hat to go to). It will make you cuss. It will make you spit. It will make you want to attack your finished work with a butcher knife. (Please refrain. I did and so can you, but you still want to.) Just suck it up, cast on some stitches and swatch for gauge. Your inner self will appreciate you for it.

Fortunately, I know a little boy who is going to look just dandy in a blue silk and wool cap and since he is a baby he wont' mind the lace.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Thank you for your query but blah blah blah

Yep, you know what it says after the "Thank you for your query but..." It means "YOU SUCK!" Or at least that is what you are envisioning the agent or editor to be saying. However, it is humorous when you read through a form rejection letter and count six (yes sax, sex, seis, zes, sass, shest' - you know 6) spelling or grammatical errors in the letter. Six. Wow. Maybe I didn't want that person to represent my book after all (although, admittedly I forgot I had sent that query over three months ago).

But I'm not letting that get me down. I'm not going to quit. I'm going to persevere. I think I've got a good story in me and eventually it will be recognized. I just have to wait.

But in all this waiting, I'm getting quite a big of knitting done. Socks, hats, and I'm even searching for a sweater pattern. I just have this feeling I've got to get to the point of no major UFO's before November 1st. I'm already losing six days of NaNoWriMo due to our Disney vacation. I can't afford to waste anymore with something silly like knitting. I'm even wondering if I will cook anything but hot water for tea.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

No Prob!

As promised I am here to write about No Plot No Problem by Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo. It was a fun read. Having already won NaNoWriMo once before and having written that ubiquitous 50,000 words in 30/31 days several times since then, I saw this book as more of a reflection of the work I have done while picking up a few ideas on the way. For someone who is trepidatiously stepping off that cliff of insanity that is the power writing of NaNoWriMo, it could be a great comfort as well as affirmation that you can indeed write 50,000 words towards a novel in 30 days (or less). There is much wit over the task of forced word count writing which I easily saw as a reflection of my own derangement. (Please, I am the sort of crazed author that has lengthy conversations with her characters when she is alone in the car. You just think that I am singing to Cold Play.)

In other news, I did finally sit down and write the synopsis to last year's NaNo. I've heard that the weather here is supposed to cool down this weekend. Maybe even highs in the lower 70's, which is fantastic to finally get out of the 80's that we've been hanging on to like a toddler fearing that first solo step. (That was a feeble attempt at changing the subject. Let's just say that if I were to read the synopsis that I wrote I wouldn't be interested in reading the novel. And no, I really don't want to talk about it anymore. Suffice to say I much prefer writing novels than synopses and it is an area that I know now I must expend more energy in order to become a better synopsist, synopsisist?)

The next book on my table is The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life by Noah Lukeman.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Another day another book on writing

Sorry to all my knitting friends, but you are just going to have to live with more posts on writing for a while. At least until Nanowrimo is over. I'll *try* to sneak in a few yarns here and there that talk about food or woolly goodness if I can.

This weekend I sat and made my way through Your Novel Proposal: From Creation to Contract by Blythe Camenson and Marshall J. Cook. It has an excellent chapter on writing synopses which I totally SUCK at (all of those agents who are reading this and might be considering my book(s) please disregard that last statement) primarily because I tend to become way too wordy or I fall into the "then she did this and then she did that and then they all died." I think my challenge for today is going to be to actually write a real synopsis of one of my books.

I was most impressed with the use of real and fictional examples of query letters and synopses. It was helpful to read synopses and pitches for books that I had actually read rather than books that are either on my "to read" list or that I had never heard of (or that don't actually exist). I keep reading the chapter "Handling the Wait - and the Rejection" over and over. That I think is truly the hardest part of being an author. At least a new, yet-to-be-discovered author. I obsessively check my e-mail account and the spam folder (just in case) and double check to make sure that I actually sent what I was supposed to. I mean what if I only filed the follow up letter in my drafts folder or what if s/he is really writing back, but Gmail is considering that all important letter as spam? It's hard not to worry. My favorite "analysis of the silence" is "They haven't stopped laughing long enough to put the rejection slip in the envelope." I keep reminding myself that I write for my own enjoyment. Publishing will be the icing. It's good cake without it, but it would be more the sweet with.

As far as my most recent exercise (to write about a vampire without eluding to vampires). Well, that went miserably horribly fantastically badly bad bad bad. No, really. I'd post it, but I'd be too embarrassed. I'm going to try again, though. Of course the entire writing exercise wasn't a waste because it did help me rewrite a portion in my third book that I wanted to remain ambiguous as to who was speaking. It did help me find key words that one character would say and another not. So I can't say that trying to write vaguely about vampires was futile. I have yet to find a writing exercise to be completely wasted. Sometimes it just doesn't reveal itself immediately.

Next up is the book No Plot? No Problem! : A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty. First step is going to be digging it out of my daughter's hands. She's glommed onto it and is considering attempting NaNoWriMo herself. I think her biggest concern is character development as she has mostly written Harry Potter FanFic up to this point where characters have already been created for her. Cheer her on, though. I think she has some marvelous stories in her head to share. The problem I foresee with two writers in the house both competing for NaNoWriMo is that we will be consuming far too much caffeine and no housework will get done. There's always December, write? Uh, I mean right?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Without really saying it

This morning over breakfast, my husband pulled out a pack of Via, Starbucks new instant coffee. Being a writer, I, of course, had to read the packaging. What I realized is that Starbucks must hire a team of creative writers to do their package descriptions. Not just advertising people, but near savant creative writers. The package reads like a writing exercise. Here it is: Describe our new instant coffee without ever using the phrase "instant coffee." In actuality it is pure genius. they don't even hint at it being "instant." There is no phrasing that makes you think "Sanka."

This little packet of "soluble and microground" coffee got me to thinking about a problem I am having in my current book. How do you describe vampire without ever saying vampire? Without even hinting that what you are talking about is a vampire? That is my task for the day. I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

How Not to Write a Novel

In preparation for Nanowrimo, I've been reading quite a few novel writing books. Yay for the public library or I'd be broke from everything I want to read. Yesterday I read the book How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid them - a Misstep-by-Misstep Guide by Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman. If you ever feel like your writing sucks, read this book. Seriously, in comparison to some of the examples that they use (which are not (at least I hope are not) from any actual book - published or un-) you will feel like a genius. Seriously, an MIT geek in comparison. Or at least I did. This book introduces you to some of the most common mistakes and while some of the examples are overdone, there are some that I have seen reading some fan fiction. This, of course, leads me to realize why some people are writing fan fic and not really publishing books.

Of particular interest to me at the moment is Part VII: How Not to Sell a Novel. At least I don't seem to have made any major mistakes according to this book. Maybe my potential agent(s) need to read this.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Knitting for Charity

I love knitting for charity. There is something gratifying about making something as simple as a hat or a pair of mittens or a washcloth that is received with so much joy. I like thinking about the person who may receive the article I am knitting and wonder what his/her life is like. Will she be comforted by this hat? Will he feel like someone cares when he puts his mittens on? I've knit for various charities, but the one that I keep going back to is called Sylvia's Place in NYC. It is a homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth. I have a soft spot for them in my heart.

I have noticed a phenomenon with knitters. Most knitters tend to be charitable. They seem to jump at a chance to knit for someone in need. Maybe their homes and drawers are overflowing with knitwear that they have a desire, nay, a need to knit, but fear that if they knit one more thing that their house is going to look like it threw up a gigantic hair ball. One could simply say, "Then stop knitting." But those are the words of a non-fiber person. There is something comforting and calming about knitting. Some would call it an addiction. But the truth is that the meditative qualities of knitting feed our endorphins (and no, I have no scientific proof to back that up. I'm just going with it, so just accept that it is true.) It is my hope as I knit and feel the relaxation that eases over me that the receivers of my knitted goods will also find that serenity when they wear and use the things I offer.

If you have never participated in a charity knit, look on Ravlery. There are hundreds of charity opportunities. Everything from snugglies for dogs to hats for the homeless. There are cancer hats, preemie hats, mitts and sweaters, demise blankets for premature babies, lap blankets for elderly or those suffering from a myriad of diseases, and there is even a charity to make bandages for those with leprosy. I'm sure there is a charity that will speak to every knitter. Think how good you will feel about yourself. Think how good you will make someone else feel. Think of the good that will do the world.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The anticlimaticness of it all

Today is a sad day. You strive and work and toil and write a fantastic novel (at least in your own unbiased opinion of your own work) and you are proud of what you have accomplished. And then you log on to NaNoWriMo and realize that they have reset all the stats from last year. You are left with a zero word count and you no longer have a purple bar under your name declaring you a WINNER! Your novel information is blank and you feel like all your work from last year has been wiped away. Erased. Deleted. It was all for nothing because now there is this zero under your name. A big fat black 0! There isn't even recognition that you even wrote a novel last year. I wept. And then I ate a turkey pot pie and felt a little better.

And then I sat down here at the computer and realized that I don't have my novel idea for this year even half formulated. Perhaps I'll write another witch book. Perhaps it will be the next installment of my vampire series. Maybe another romance. Although, I like writing in the young adult genre more than romance. Maybe it will be a whole new story with a whole new genre and a whole new idea with a whole new cast of characters. I just can't decide. Last year it was so easy. I knew I wanted to tell Aria's story. I knew that it was only going to be the first of a three part set. I knew from a dream how it was all going to play out. I knew the characters (at least most of them) and I knew I was going to enjoy it. And then 84,000+ words later I sat staring at the finished novel and wondered how I'd done it so quickly.

And now it is T-29 days and counting and I have no enthusiasm. All because Chris Baty reset my word count.

Perhaps I need tea and chocolate.