Sunday, October 31, 2004

The Scariest Thing About Halloween

Is that it's right before November. NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow and this is the point at which I really start wondering what I'm getting myself into. I have no concept of what it's like trying to write 50,000 words at all, much less all in one month. But I guess I'll be finding out soon enough. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? Right. I'll just keep telling myself that.

Anyway, for those of you with a morbid curiosity in bad writing, you can follow along as I blog the whole thing over at NanoGraham. Note that I will be posting pure, unedited trash, so brace yourselves accordingly. Posting over here on the regular blog may be rather sparse for a while.

I'm opting for a good night's sleep tonight, rather than starting right at midnight. Unfortunately though, I may get a bit of a slow start tomorrow. I've got to go to work of course, and then I've got my class afterwards, so I probably won't get a chance to write anything until at least 9:30 p.m. But we'll see how it goes.

Wish me luck!

Friday, October 29, 2004


Kimmy was the mastermind behind our costumes for the Halloween party today. That means she got to be the goatherd and Goldman and I got to be the goats. Fun. Check out some of the other pictures from today, too. And Happy Blog-o-ween!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Blogging Your Novel

My new Blogger Knowledge article is out: Blogging Your Novel Part Two. (Biz did Part One last week.) It's got a bunch of tips for people doing NaNoWriMo on their blogs as well as for people who already have entire books that they want to publish. Check it out if you're at all interested in that kind of thing.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The Two Magna Cartas of Novel Writing

I was rereading some of No Plot? No Problem! this weekend, in preparation for November starting in just a few more days. One interesting exercise in it involves making two lists, which Baty refers to as the "Magna Cartas" of novel writing. In the first list, you write down what makes a good novel, in your mind. Items can be as vague or specific as you want. The second list is the opposite -- everything that bores you or that you dislike in novels. These lists are very handy to have when working on your own fiction. Chances are, the things you like and admire most about other people's books will be the things you'll have the best chance of doing well in your own book. And the list of negatives reminds you to keep an eye out for things which could kill your writing momentum if they start sneaking in.

Here's the initial version (probably subject to additions) of my "Magna Carta I," the good list:
  • Journal / notebook style (e.g. Any Human Heart, The Tattooed Map)
  • Supplementary drawings, documents, footnotes etc. (e.g. The Tattooed Map again, Off the Road, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time)
  • Humor
  • Unusual, unexpected, but perfect descriptions (e.g. Douglas Adams)
  • Characters I can relate to, that exemplify or acquire traits or attributes I want for myself
  • Background stories / information (e.g. The Princess Bride)
  • Good first lines that hook you in
  • Magic interacting with everyday life (e.g. Charles de Lint)
  • Magical artifacts (e.g. the pensieve and Tom Riddle's diary from the Harry Potter books)
  • Self-aware main characters

It's evil twin "Magna Carta II," is a bit shorter so far. I think this is probably because I don't spend much time these days reading books I don't like. But here it is:

  • Dull or boring writing (I'd like to think of a way to define this better)
  • Obscure point (yes, this is relative to my analytic skills)
  • Inaccurate technical references (e.g. to music)
  • Characters who make things overly difficult for themselves (i.e. in ways that I think are too obvious)
  • Protagonists that die
  • Self-referential writing (possibly excepting fiction posing as non-fiction, as in A Series of Unfortunate Events)

Thursday, October 21, 2004


This is just wonderful: The Omnificent English Dictionary in Limerick Form. The only disappointment was to find that they are only working on a limited set of words at a time -- Aa to Ar right now. So I can't submit the entry I already had for "waltz" (and it'll probably be a very long time before I can). Still, I can see myself spending an inordinate amount of time writing limericks for this thing.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


Biz came out with a new Blogger Knowledge article today, in preparation for National Novel Writing Month: Blogging Your Novel (Part One). I'm working on Part Two, which will appear next week. I've also created NaNoBlogMo, a new blog to gather together participants who want to blog their novels. It'll be a place to browse through and see what everybody is writing about. And if you're going to be blogging your own progress through November or posting a completed novel, you can fill out a form there and I'll add you to the listings. (Assuming I don't get entirely swamped -- we've already had a lot of submissions just since this afternoon.)

Monday, October 18, 2004

Resonance, Take 2

Tonight in voice class we all ran through abbreviated, one-minute versions of our presentations and it was really interesting to see how much everyone improved. It's fun to see what a difference a week or two can make, and it's also fun just to be paying attention to the subtleties of speech that we're not usually aware of. I think I did rather better myself, and I certainly got some good feedback, though it's hard for me to really tell how I sound when I'm also concentrating on the actual content of what I'm saying. But I've been practicing a bit and I guess it shows. The way I practiced was to start with just singing in my car, with the sing-along playlist on my iPod. It's a lot easier to notice resonance and vibration when singing because the sounds are more sustained, and it's easier for me to relax and make a bigger sound when I'm in my car and singing along with something. So I did that for a while and just started paying attention to any vibrations I could feel in my chest and head. And then when I went back to practicing what I was going to say, it was easier to get that feeling in my speech as well. So that was good.

One thing I was a bit disappointed with tonight though, was when I asked the professor about pitch production. I'm really curious about the actual mechanism that changes pitch, and I was expecting to learn about it in the class, just like learning about diaphragms and resonating areas and all that, but unfortunately she doesn't really know the details of how it works. One of the medical people in the class explained a bit about the vocal cord setup, which was good, but one big thing I want to know about is what affects vocal range, and she couldn't tell me that. I understand some stuff about vocal chords -- like changing the tension to change the pitch -- because it's just like musical instruments. But I don't understand how something like testosterone would make men's voices lower (I've never put testosterone on my fiddle to play lower notes). And there must be something else that affects vocal ranges across different people, since I assume most people's vocal chords are approximately the same size and tension. I guess I'm going to have to go get a book on this or something.

Knowing more about the vocal chords would probably help with figuring out more about Tuvan throat singing, too. Especially with the subharmonics, which I don't know how to do at all (I can kind of do the overtones a bit, but that's an entirely different technique).

Saturday, October 16, 2004

First Jammix of the Year

Jammix was fun last night, crowded floor and all. It was good dancing with some friends I hadn't seen in a while, though of course there was also a whole new batch of freshmen to make me feel old. Richard didn't play as much new music as he did at the last FNW, but he did do the Harry Potter waltz (pieced together from 30-second fragments throughout the soundtrack) which I just love. There were a ton of WCS tunes, too, which was really amazing. I haven't gone to the Dance Spectrum for a couple months now, but after last night I really want to get back into that again. It's fun seeing a bunch of friends who are starting to learn it, too.

And one other thing: Roble Studio now has a brand new set of purple curtains, which I expect is very confusing for the dance classes. ("Everybody face the orange curtains... ummm... no.") I was doing slight double-takes throughout the night.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Unfortunate Events

About a year ago I started reading Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. These are a bunch of books about three orphans who are continually pursued by the evil Count Olaf and are having pretty generally miserable lives as a result. The author himself constantly warns you that they are horribly depressing books and advises leaving them alone entirely, but that really just sort of adds to their charm.

After I read the first three books, I figured they were enjoyable, but seemed similar enough that I didn't care to read all 10 (actually, I think there's an 11th out now). But a little while ago I found out that there would be a movie about them coming out in December, so I went back to read a couple more. And that's when I started realizing that these books are more interesting than I first thought.

The author has a very definite presence in the book -- that much was clear from the beginning. Around book 4 or 5 though, I realized that he's not just part of the book, he's also part of the story. But he won't tell us exactly how; he just keeps dropping hints, and it's got me totally hooked. I finished book 8 today and I'm to the point where I'm actually taking notes on all the clues that are appearing, trying to piece together how Lemony Snicket fits in with Beatrice and Esmé and Olaf and Jacques and the Baudelaire parents and the fire and everything. It's fascinating.

I also got a copy of Lemony Snicket's Unauthorized Autobiography, which I'd say is worth getting just for the title. It looked like it was going to give a lot away though, so I set it aside after a couple pages. I'll save it for when I finish the series. The detective work is too much fun.

By the way, Count Olaf has a blog. It's done by Paramount rather than Lemony Snicket but still, it's kind of amusing.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Not Just Words

Last weekend I read The Tattooed Map by Barbara Hodgson. It has an interesting premise, but what really made me take it home from the bookstore was the format. It's written as a travel diary, but it's not just written. It also has numerous photos, maps, handwritten notes, torn-out pages from other books, and more on every page, all of which just make it a visual delight. There are a few pages up on Amazon -- take a look. All the extra material just beautifully enriches the text.

Not only does it make for an enjoyable book, though, it's also something that I'd like to incorporate into my own journals. It's similar to what I wrote back when I read Off the Road by Elisha Cooper. And I did do a bit of that kind of thing in Costa Rica. My journal from those 10 days has a number of tickets and stamps and whatnot, and even a few drawings. It's fun to look back and see actual things from the trip, in addition to what I wrote. To me, little journal extras like this are more interesting as a souvenirs than buying random tourist knickknacks.

As long as I'm here, I might as well say something about The Tattooed Map's story, too. It involves travelers in North Africa, and a map that appears mysteriously as a tattoo on a woman's arm. I thought it was an excellent mix of realism and magic, just the way I like it. The ending was also not what I expected. I feel kind of like it left me hanging a bit -- there were too many questions left unanswered -- but I enjoyed it enough that I can forgive that.

Monday, October 04, 2004


I just got back from my second voice class. Our first assignment was to prepare a two-minute demo or lesson of some sort to present to the class. It could be on any subject -- the point was just to give us something we were comfortable speaking to people about. Listening to people today, I learned how to dice an onion, draw in perspective, and administer medicine to a cat, among many other things. I just did a quick little bit about the circle of fifths. After each person spoke, the instructor would give her comments and critiques so we'd have something to work on (we'll be repeating the presentations for a few weeks). Not too surprisingly, one of her main comments for me was about resonance. Too much of my sound is coming from my throat, whereas I need to concentrate on it resonating in my chest and face. It's tricky, though. I can get a sense of what she means when we're just doing vocal warmups or humming or something, but I have trouble even thinking about it, much less doing it, when I'm actually trying to speak coherently in front of a group of people. So it'll take some practice.

Friday, October 01, 2004

NaNoWriMo and the Magic of Deadlines

Signups for National Novel Writing Month opened today. If you haven't heard of this before, idea behind it is for participants to write 50,000+ words of fiction each during the month of November. This works out to something like 6 or 7 pages a day, so it's not a small job. You don't get any prize for passing the word count except a PDF certificate to print out and, of course, your very own novel. But I'd say that's enough. Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo, has a new book out: No Plot? No Problem! It's all about writing a novel in 30 days, and it's excellent. Amusing, inspiring and encouraging all at the same time, so definitely recommended for anyone interested in trying this.

The genius of it all is in the deadline. A great many people daydream or talk about writing a novel "some day," but very few actually do. Being given a mere month to write an entire novel basically gives people permission to write complete crap if they need to, as long as they write enough. And that gets them through the hardest part of novel writing -- getting started and getting the bulk of the text written. Plus, if lots of other people are doing the same thing during the same month, you can get people together for writing parties and support groups and whatnot, which helps, too. When it's all over, you can decide to go on to edit and revise your novel, and try to make it something worth actually reading. Or you can just let it all go as having been a fun exercise in creativity. Whatever.

I'm signed up for it, so I'm going to give it a shot. I haven't a clue whether or not I can actually do it, and it's moderately terrifying to think about. But on the other hand, it could be extremely cool. What have I got to lose, anyway? Andrea, one of my cube-mates, is going to do it too, so we can encourage each other through it.

The rules are that you can think up characters and plot outlines and such ahead of time, but you can't write any prose until 12:00:01 am November 1st. So I will happily accept any ideas people might want to throw my way. What should I write a novel about?