NaNoWriMo 2013 — In Retrospect

I’ll just put this here.

NaNoWriMo 2103 Winner


It wasn’t easy.

Like last year, I had some business obligations arise in the middle of November.  I was flown to Albuquerque for a little while.  I had to do onsite visits for some companies.  I had to write documentation for some of the projects I’m working on at work.  It ate away at my time, energy, and creativity at some of the worst times.

I fell behind.  I wrote a little most days, but there were a few days where I simply couldn’t get to the keyboard.  I tried to make up for the lost days on the weekend, spending hours and hours at different Starbucks and Paneras throughout the area.

At the beginning of November 29th, I only had 35,545 words.  I wrote around 6500 words on the 29th, and around 8000 words on the 30th, crossing the finish line with 2 and a half hours to spare.

The book isn’t done.  It’s mostly done.  It’ll take fewer words to finish it than I expected a few chapters ago.  Maybe in my mad rush, I’ve skipped over some important plot points, which I’ll need to go back and fix.

In this exercise, I’ve learned two extremely valuable things:

  1. I can meet a writing deadline when I need to
  2. I can turn off my inner editor, when I need to

So what are my plans now?

  • I’m going to finish my “Baggage” story (which I’m renaming to “Unclaimed Goods”).  I received some fantastic feedback this month at Convolution for it, but because I was trying to finish my NaNoWriMo project, I never took the time to act on that feedback.  I want to lift my short story to the next level and sell it.
  • I need to finish the first draft of my still unnamed Mel Walker novel.  I’m 50,000 words in now.  There’s no turning back.
  • I need to finish the first draft of my fantasy novel, A Clean Slate.  I’ve learned a lot since I started it.  Once I’ve finished the first draft, I can go back and fix the things I already know are broken and wrong.  This is something I can do while the glue is drying on the Mel Walker novel.
  • I want to start posting on a regular schedule to my blog.  I was really happy during October when I was posting here frequently.  I don’t think I need to post every day, but a regular schedule would be good for me.

I don’t think I’m going to write anything tomorrow.  Tomorrow, I’m taking a break.


My Story and Gender Equality

Things have been a little quiet on my blog this month.  It’s because I’ve been focusing all of my writing energy on my NaNoWriMo project.  I’ve been doing a pretty great job with that project, and I’m really liking how the story is going.  I started off strong, meandered a little bit around chapter 6, then gained a lot of momentum after I had an epiphany about what my story was about.  Chapter 6 will get dealt with when I turn my attention to editing.

“Editing” is a good segue into another subject.  Specifically, editing myself.  Even more specifically, I’m talking about not posting stuff here, for fear of offending a new friend or two.

I made a few friends at Convolution that I admire and respect, and I value their opinions.  They are fantastic people, and I look forward to seeing them in person again, and sharing my work with them as it develops.  They’re great people, but sometimes they post things to Facebook that make feel three or four degrees short of uncomfortable.  Maybe that means the posts are effective, because I’m thinking about the subject material without feeling outright upset.

So now that I’ve spent three paragraphs on build-up, let’s get into what I really want to talk about: __________.


Damn it, I can’t even fill in the blank right.  I think I’m supposed to put in “feminism” or “women’s rights” or “gender balance” or something, but I don’t know which terms I should use, and which ones I should avoid.

I’m going to struggle with this topic, because I’m a straight white male in his 40s, making a decent living and supporting his family.  I’m the “privileged.” With all of the advantages I have, it seems like I shouldn’t have an opinion that counts for anything.

The problem is that I was born white, I was born male, and I was born straight.  I chose none of that.  And sometimes, when I read about some of the gender imbalance issues, I feel like I should be apologizing for these attributes that I was born with, and did not choose.

That is the root of the problem.  No one should have to feel bad or apologize for traits they are born with.  I try to live my life and make choices to the effect that no one should have to regret the person that they are.  I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman, or a gay man, or any race other than the one I was born with.  The struggles of other people can be described to me, but I’ll never know them.

But what about responsibility?  Don’t I have a responsibility to try and promote equality across the races, the sexes, and the genders?

I believe I do have a responsibility.  The way I address it is through respect, and to take no action to propagate the unfairness.  By respect I mean, I don’t presume to know something I do not know about someone else’s life experience.  I try to teach my children to respect everyone in the same way.  Maybe I am not doing enough, but I don’t know what else to do.

Now, at the risk of undoing any good that I’ve done with this post, I want to talk about something more specific: men objectifying women.

The main character in my current novel is a dog, and I don’t mean a canine.  He objectifies women.  He stares at their body, and isn’t uncomfortable with terms like “tits.” He’s in his early twenties, mostly broke, and basically just wants to have a good time.

Why am I writing a character like this?  Actually, I don’t have to answer that question.  It’s fiction.  People can write whatever they want.

The real question is: am I propagating gender inequality by writing this story, with this character?

One of the articles Juliette Wade (here’s her blog) posted on Facebook talked about gender inequality in terms of results.  The point was that when women objectify men, there are no ramifications, but when men objectify women, it results in continuing the inequality that is still present in our culture.

In my story, Mel’s objectification of women will have no ramifications.  Him staring at a model with lust in his eyes isn’t going to impact how much money she makes.  It’s a realistic depiction because Mel is one rung up the social ladder from homeless.  The real world would not care what Mel thinks of women.

But I’m adding this story to the real world, so what about my responsibility to adding to the culture?

Perhaps I’m justifying, but the view we’re getting inside Mel’s head is honest.  Men look at women in a lustful fashion.  I think women look at men, too, but having never been a woman, I have to take other people’s word on that.  Objectifying strangers happens daily.

We are animals.  I know that when I’m standing in line at Starbucks, I notice waistlines and breasts and eyes and slim necks.  My brain is constantly bombarded with stimulus, noticing what I’m attracted to, and what I’m not.  I want to think that every male has the same experience as me in this regard, and I also want to think that every female also has the same experience.

What separates us from the animals is how we act on the stimulus.  I acknowledge what I see on some level.  I even enjoy it, sometimes.  But I try not to act on it.  I try to treat everyone as equally as I can.  I try to be generous with people, regardless of whether or not I’m attracted to them.  I try to remember to smile at everyone, and not just the ones my body thinks would be good to press up against.

Along that line of thought, I don’t think my story will be damaging to our culture.  What we see of Mel is an honest depiction of what’s going on in that particular male’s head.  He’s a little bit of a creep, but he’s also young, which makes his behavior even more believable, if not acceptable.  I don’t think I’m promoting objectification as much as I’m acknowledging that it is a regular part of our normal lives.


My Employer doesn’t realize it’s November

I already wrote about my crazy schedule this last week.  In the Tetris game of time management, I wasn’t able to get all of the pieces of my life to fall neatly into place.  Or, maybe I did, but the lines didn’t clear out and leave room for other things.  I don’t know.  I’m still a little too tired to metaphor correctly.

My NaNoWriMo project was going really well until this week.  I was even managing to keep pace while at the convention, and again on Monday.  I only have a single hour free on Mondays, and I was able to fill it with about 1200 words.  I was kicking ass and taking initials; I didn’t have time to stop and take names.

Then, just like last year, there was some travel in the middle of the week, and my schedule went straight to hell.  I couldn’t write on Tuesday or Wednesday, and I was too exhausted Thursday and Friday.  That means that I need to write around 9000 words today in order to get back on track.  I have a hard time seeing that happening.

I’m not going to worry too much about the word count.  I’m actually not that worried about getting to 50,000 by the end of the month, though I still think it’s an achievable goal.  The writing is what’s important to me, not the quantity.  The quality is also important, but I’m getting better at leaving the first draft well enough alone, just to get through it.

I will spend a good amount of today with Mel Walker.  I’ve been having a ton of fun writing this story.  It’s been more fun than the fantasy novel.  I still want to tell that other story, but I’m realizing how good an idea it is to let it sit for a month.  When I get back to it, I’ll be better than I was when I left it, and I’ll be able to give those characters a greater treatment.

Before I settle into writing, I’m going to go help a friend move.  Someone once told me that if your mind is tired, go exercise the body, and if your body is tired, exercise the mind.  I’m still tired all over, so we’ll see what happens.  I haven’t told them that I’m coming to help yet.  I just know that they’ll be at their house with a truck in about 30 minutes.

After the move, I’m going to chain myself to a table at Starbucks and see how long I can sit and type.


My Convolution Wrap-up, and Other News

I just finished posting my notes on Convolution 2013 under my Convention Notes.

In my last past, I’d given my first impressions of the convention, and I complained about some of the shenanigans that went on with registration.  I tried to state that the people running the convention made up for those shenanigans, but then I talked about the panels, and I think I might have given an impression that I wasn’t having a good time.

I had a very good time!  It was not perfect, but it was excellent.

I had a little bit of the blues throughout the weekend.  I wasn’t depressed or sad, but I kept feeling like I was on the edge of being depressed or sad.  I smiled and socialized, and I tried not to whine or suck the life out of any of the rooms I was in.  I think I did a good job, and I think people enjoyed me as much as I enjoyed them.

I did get tired more quickly than I normally do, and I wound up going to bed early both evenings.  That was too bad, because the Goblin Ball was really neat.  I loved the costumes, and the performances that I stayed for were really well done.  I wished that I had done something a little more on the costume front myself.  I had borrowed a jacket and a hat from Michael, but it would have been more fun to have gone all out like some of the other people had done.

I would have posted these notes sooner, but then I got really busy.

Mondays are always busy, and the Monday after the con was no different.  It was a very long, complete day.  Tuesday, I had to get up extremely early so I could get to work extremely early and get some work done before heading to Albuquerque.  I got there in the evening and went to dinner with the other guys that had traveled with me.  I foolishly had a beer, so when I got back to my room, I was just a little bit too tired and fuzzy to get more programming or writing finished.

Wednesday morning, I got up around 4, managed to get some last minute programming tweaks done, and then we were off to Sandia Labs around 8:30.  We worked all day.  There were some bugs in our system, and I worked through lunch to get those taken care off.  Then it was back to the airport for our trip home.  I got to my house around 11:30PM.

The Thursday was upon me, and I went in to work at 8:00, as usual.  I wound up working until 6:00PM, because there was some stuff I really wanted to get finished.

So, tonight was my first opportunity to get my notes and final thoughts on Convolution posted.  I wish I’d been able to post some other stuff sooner.  Someone had noticed my previous post and had linked to it, noting that not everyone enjoyed themselves at Convolution.  On the one hand, I hadn’t meant to give the impression that I had a bad time.  On the other, I’ve never had 170 hits on this blog in one day before.  So maybe I should complain more often?


Convolution 2013 — First Impressions

I’m in Birlingame, which is near San Francisco, attending Convolution 2013.  I picked up Michael early in the morning, and we enjoyed a leisurely trip West, stopping along the way to pick up a jacket from Michael’s Mom, and a brief tour of San Francisco State University.  It was a really pleasant way to start the weekend.

Once we were checked in at the hotel, we went to check in to the convention.  Michael is a special guest, so he wound up going some place different.  I got in the back of a very long line, and started to feel my first misgivings.

I don’t want to speak ill of the convention, but my first impression of it had me worried.  They were having some severe technical difficulties getting people through registration, and it looked to me like there was a single point of failure.

When they called preregistered people forward, I went, stood in another line, and then discovered that while they had me on the list, they couldn’t find my badge.  It was starting to get precariously close to the opening ceremonies, and I didn’t want to miss it because I wanted to give Michael my support.  He is the toastmaster, after all.

The convention staff redeemed themselves by taking my phone number, and offering to print me a new ticket and deliver it and my badge directly to me, wherever I was in the hotel.  That was very nice of them, and they did deliver.

I think I managed to not be a dick to them while they were floundering around at registration.  I was worried and upset, and I think I expressed that without being too acidic.  I’m pretty proud of myself for that.

Opening ceremony turned out to be a very brief affair.  After that, I went to a panel with Effie and Arley, a couple of writers I’d met at Westercon and seen again at LonestarCon.  The panel was about “Show, Don’t Tell” as it pertains to writing, and some of the ways that “Showing” can go horribly wrong.  It wasn’t anything I didn’t already know, but it was interesting and well presented, and I took some good notes until my laptop battery died.

After that panel was another one in the same room, about storytelling and teaching culture.  This panel I found fairly painful.  The conversation was interesting, but I didn’t see much that I could apply to my own writing.  Also, there was a vibe that we shouldn’t write about cultures that we’re not a part of.  It was more complicated than that.

The day isn’t done yet, but I’m already feeling pretty tired.  In a little while, I’ll head to the Guest Meet and Greet, and then probably head off to dinner with Arley and Effie and some of their friends.  Looking at the schedule, Michael is stuck doing some kind of special Bingo event.  I don’t think I want to attend Bingo tonight, so he’s probably going to be on his own for that.