A to Z Challenge 2013

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Every End Starts A New Beginning

Despite my long absence, I have not abandoned you all. I have been merely taking a long break. I have been reveling in the celebrations of graduation (mostly in my own head of course) and decided not to do anything remotely difficult for a while. Don't get me wrong - writing is as much fun as it is difficult, but it has been nice to not "think" about anything.

Since we're at the beginning of another year however, I feel the need to look back on things. Despite some huge difficulties with family and home, I consider 2009 to be a very successful year. Some of these things I've spoken about (such as graduating college and experiencing NaNo), but there are other things in my life that haven't made these pages.

My family has gone through some pretty tough times, but in the end its all been worthwhile. We lost our house, but we ended up with a better place than we had before. My wife had to leave her job, but she is able to do things now that she never could before. We've had plenty of financial troubles, but we're no longer struggling to make ends meet. So despite many hardships and hurdles thoughout the year, we've come out looking good on the other end.

I've found my love of writing, and although I was not able to complete NaNo, I enjoyed the journey anyway. I've learned how much I enjoy riding a motorcycle, no matter the danger inherent in that activity. I have realized how much I don't enjoy my job, but maybe someday I'll be able to change that too. I've also discovered how much I like having my wife at home, even if its for selfish reasons. I really like coming home to her warm hugs and loving kisses. If luck is with us, she will be done with her degree in a few years too and will be able to work from home. That would be the best gift yet, for both of us.

What do I have to look forward to in the upcoming year? Well, my NaNo fun has shown me that I can manage to write every single day, a new habit I am going to try to cultivate. I won't be holding myself to the rather stressful timeline of that experience, but I will attempt to at least get some words down each day.

Now that I have graduated, I am free to concentrate on other educational goals, such as learning to write better. I'm hoping to get involved in a local writing course and glean as much from it as possible. I considered the possibility of going for my Masters in Creative Writing, but two things stop me. First of all, its highly expensive and I would most likely have to get more student loans to pay for it. Once I obtained it though, I doubt it would be any more useful to me than not having one at all. I can see where a singular writing course however, would be immediately useful.

I'm done taking a vacation though, so you can expect more regular updates here. I do have a few people I'd like to thank however. Whether they knew it or not, they helped make my year fun and taught me more than they probably know. This list is in no way exhaustive (since I find myself learning something from just about everyone), but these people are at the top.

1. Screaming Guppy - The Guppster is one of my favs. Not only does she drink Diet Coke (extra points there), she is insightful and honest in her writing.
2. The Surly Writer - Michelle brings a smile to my face every time I read her stuff. She puts up with my comments and makes me envious with her exceptional writing skills.
3. The Literary Lab - Lady Glamis, Davin, and Scott are mentors in every sense of the word. I don't believe there has been a single post of theirs that didn't teach me something useful.
4. Lost Wanderer - The Wanderer is a true friend, even if she does leave me in awe at her ability to crank out the words. Sure, while the rest of us were struggling to make our daily amount, she was easily doing double. She is ever humble, however.
5. Elana Johnson - I would be completely remiss if I did not mention Elana. Not only has she put out the authoritative tome for writing queries, she consistently teaches us all how to maintain a fun demeanor while we struggle towards publication.
6. Imagineering Fiction - Galen Kindley is a scholar, a fellow veteran, and an accomplished author. I'm honored that he stops by from time to time and brightens my page.
7. One Word, One Rung, One Day - Travis is an enigma; how can one guy be so funny and write so well? While I doubt I'll ever be able to mirror his ability with dialogue, he inspires me to try anyway.

Since 7 is a lucky number, I'll stop there. There are a great many more of you I owe thanks to, but I don't want to tempt fate. If I didn't mention you, I hope you know that just about everyone I know in the writing world helps me all the time. I wish everyone out there a new year filled with successes, opportunities, and good times. Sure there will be tough moments, but trust me that eventually things work out right.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Blogchain - How Silly Am I? Not Very, Evidently

That's right word fans - it's blogchain time. And today I get the pleasure of answering the question posed by the talented Shaun, who asks:

What is the silliest thing from a book or short story you've written, and why? It can be a line or a paragraph or a whole page. Anything that you look back at and go, "Say what?"

Unfortunately, I am a bit different than the other writers on the chain. I do not have a long history of writing, filled with silly little scribblings and insightful interrogatives. There is no stack of poorly written pages beneath my bed or in an abandoned drawer (plenty of bad writing, just thankfully banished with the delete key). I'm barely a babe in this crowded forest, so answering this question was quite difficult for me.

Never let it be said however, that I have backed down from a literary challenge (okay, NaNo doesn't count and I had reasons, dangit). I searched the folder on my computer for anything even remotely silly, and this is the best I could come up with. This is the opening for a story narrated by someone other than the MC. I really haven't gone anywhere with it at this point, but maybe if I clean it up a bit...

Every story has a beginning. And every beginning is a story. This is my story, and if there’s any place to begin, its here. Well to be honest, this isn’t really my story. But I am meagerly involved. And since no one yet has told this story, I guess its up to me. So where shall I start? A start is often times difficult to begin, but I will give it my best.

My name is Neville. These days I am known as Sir Neville, but when this story began, I was known to be Theodore Neville. And I was an accountant. Well, my employer might consider me more than “merely an accountant”, but he tends to be overly generous. In fact, he is quite an exemplary man. He did not always believe that he was so, but I think I have known this for quite some time. It is that small spark you see in people, that you can tell when they are more than they outwardly show. And often enough, change in the world begins with a spark.

But forgive me, I am failing to introduce the hero of this story. Of course, every story needs a hero – of a sorts- so I suppose my employer fits the bill rather well. Frank Cindary was a piano player. That of course wasn’t his occupation, but it was his gift. The rest of his day encompassed so many other things, but truly his gift was the way his fingers could dance upon the keys. Whether he was playing a subtle mournful tune or a lively dance, anyone nearby would feel a swelling within that could lift them into the arms of heaven.

Now I understand that most people do not describe things in such a manner. In fact, most people do not talk this way at all. I’m afraid I am a dying breed, so you will have to bear with me. But it is true, that Frank had such an amazing effect when he began to explore his soul. He was a computer technician by trade. One could even say his job was rather boring. But that’s not the way Frank would have described it.
Even when he was performing the most menial task, Frank was always trying to remember to smile. He once told me “A smile can change the world”. And evidently that attitude seemed to work well for him. His smile was contagious, and you could see it in the way it infected those he helped. Even those who were having a rough day enjoyed the way he had a tune in mind, a bop in his step, eyes that were always bright. I know if it weren’t for Frank, I would have stayed in the dismal world of accounting and never gone on the adventures with him later. I do not mean to speak poorly of accountants, nor of their profession. I merely acknowledge that the field was never mine.

In spite of Frank’s continual teasing of calling me Teddy, I found him to be fresh air. I could also tell that he did not enjoy the work, but that he did enjoy pretty much everyone around him. It was always the people that Frank found interesting, and the fact that he could help them when help was needed was what kept him going. So it was a great surprise when he came in one day and announced to his few friends – I am thankful to say I was counted among them – that he would be leaving us in a couple weeks.

Okay, so I guess I've failed to bring something really silly to the discussion. I did write something during my sophomore year in high school that I wish I still had a copy of; I'm sure it would have given me lots to laugh about. This will just have to do.

From here, you can drop by my predecessor Sandra's take on the subject or you can hop over to Kat's page for her response.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Party's Over...Or Maybe It's Just Begun...

Well folks, the NaNo party is over. Writers everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief as they relax their pens, fingers, keyboards, etc. And how did your ol' buddy Eric fare during this trying month? Well, let me tell you.

I started out the month really cranking hard. I got a good lead in the beginning, and it saved me from really falling behind. But life has a way of popping the balloon just as we're soaring to heights never seen before. Despite my early lead, little things here and there caused me to fall behind schedule. By the twentieth, I was a good 5 or 6 thousand words behind. Then I had a very difficult decision to make.

You see, besides working on NaNo, I was also studying intensely for my last collegiate exam. It was a Microsoft certification exam for networking (in fact, one of the hardest they have out there). On the twentieth, I sat down to think very hard about what was the most important thing here. Remember our recent discussion about priorities? After weighing everything carefully, I decided to opt out of continuing with NaNo and concentrate on my studies. NaNoWriMo has been important to me, but finishing school was even more important.

Making that choice was probably the best thing I could have done. I crammed hard for the test and yesterday I successfully passed it. I am now a college graduate with a Bachelors degree in Information Technology with Networking emphasis. Okay, I still have some paperwork to complete with the college and a graduation to attend in January, but these are mere formalities.

Now that all of this is done, it's time to reflect on things. I do not regret beginning NaNo one bit. I managed to crank out about 37K words before I stopped (which I intend to continue working on). I also learned alot about myself. Let me share with you what I have learned through this experience:

1. I can write every day and crank out alot of words per day (okay, not as many as Lost Wanderer seems capable of, but oh well).
2. I realize now how much I really need more organization prior to launching into a project. Even a rough outline would be better than what I attempted during NaNo. It would probably have allowed me to be a "free roamer" and still stay inside boundaries that make sense.
3. I realize I don't really like NaNo with respect to word counts. The word count became an anchor that threatened to drown me, rather than allowing me to concentrate on the story.
4. I can write chapter after chapter of not-so-good writing and it's okay. This was a really hard thing to learn, to duct tape my inner editor's mouth shut so I could just write. I swear he almost chewed through the stuff at least 10 times.
5. My wife hates NaNo. It was a really drastic change for me to shut out the outside world while I build my own on the page. I usually don't shut the door on the fam for so long, but I had to in a very big way for this event. This is not an aspect I like, another reason I may not attempt NaNo again.

All in all, I enjoyed plodding through NaNo despite the troubles and aggravations. I am sure I would have been successful at the end, had I not needed to concentrate on other things. And I have a whole year to contemplate whether to attempt it again (a whole year of flowers for my wife so she doesn't scalp me next year).

As for celebrating, you better believe I am doing just that. I graduated! That in itself is cause for celebration. I also learned alot during November, which is also good. And now that I'm not working towards an IT degree, maybe I can take a few creative writing classes to improve my craft. Thank you to everyone who supported and encouraged me throughout this month. A special thanks goes out to my wife and kids, who always support me no matter how absent I might be.

So who made it through NaNo as a winner? Even if you didn't, congrats for making the attempt. It's quite a challenge, and no matter how it turned out, you should hold your head high.