In Defense of NaNoWriMo

In the last week of October, and the last week before this year’s NaNo, an episode of my favorite writing podcast was dedicated to the question of whether we, the listeners and aspiring writers, should do it or not. And the answer was a resounding NO. Tim Clare, the author of said podcast, brought forward an array of arguments to support his advice. Some of his thoughts made me look at NaNo from a new angle. NaNo has been a part of my life for nearly a decade now, so this fresh perspective is a valuable gift and I appreciate it.

At the same time, I was put off by the tremendous one-sidedness of these same arguments. It seemed that Tim was either unaware of, or intent on ignoring all potentially good things about NaNo. And if there were no good things about it, if all it ever did for anyone was make them miserable and prevent them from writing ever again (which is, basically, what Tim believes), it would have died off a long time ago. Instead, it gets bigger and more popular every year.

Tim isn’t necessarily wrong about its potential to harm, but this risk is limited to a small minority of participants: to people who, like himself, have a troubled relationship with writing. There have been other episodes of the podcast where it sounded like such people are the only audience Tim’s interested in speaking to. But this was the first time I felt there was literally nothing in it for the rest of us, not a single thought or word spared. This spurred me to write a response, even though I realize that NaNo has an army of voices speaking in its favor already and doesn’t particularly need me to defend it.

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An Exercise in Self-Critique

A few weeks back, I was exposed to a Tumblr meme inviting writers to extract the first line from their ten latest works and see if some pattern will emerge. I accepted the challenge and indeed found some patterns — none of which are good. At about the same time, I started regularly listening to the marvelous writing podcast, Death Of 1000 Cuts (“making you an awesome writer one cut at a time!”) produced by the novelist, creative writing teacher and stand-up poet, Tim Clare. Among other things, this podcast features refreshingly honest and incredibly illuminating critiques of story beginnings submitted by courageous novice writers.

Thus inspired, I decided to make a series of posts in which I’ll take a critical look at the beginnings of some of my own stories. I’ll keep the excerpts under 250 words, and I’ll paste them whole before taking them apart one sentence at a time.

The first victim: Ghost in the Machine.

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A New Mass Effect Fic: Conference Transcript 159

Conference Transcript 159 is a redo of a sexy Saren/Nihlus flash-fic titled “Fluff” that I posted elsewhere a long time ago. It’s a bit of an experiment in form, consisting of pure dialog. I had a lot of fun writing it and hopefully you’ll enjoy it too.

Image: excerpt from Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep by MisfireAnon


PS
This is not the fic that I hinted at in the previous post.

PPS
You can also read it at AO3.

Writer’s Intuition

In an attempt to get back to writing fanfiction for Mass Effect, I’ve been reading and hesitantly poking at some old unfinished pieces. Among them was this rather long short story (about the length of The Candidate), about Saren and Nihlus, of course, tackling some unusual and heavy issues. Like the others, it was unfinished, but unlike the others, it was really close to being finished. I don’t know when exactly I started to write it, but it must have been way back in 2013. When I picked it up a few days ago, it read almost like a fresh piece of (not very good) fiction that I’ve never seen before. Yet I had no trouble whatsoever understanding why it had gone unfinished. At the time when I started it, I simply didn’t know how it should end. The only way I could see it ending was in total disaster, whereas I wanted it to be a learning experience for the characters. Reading it five years and a lot of diverse experiences later, I realized that now I do know how to finish it. And I set out to do it.

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