NaNoWriMo madness

It’s that time of year again. I’m 10,000 words into another NaNoWriMo project (I’m not calling it a novel because, well, it just isn’t and probably never will be) and already bumping into some kind of wall. Such fun!

What’s not so fun is

Laura Miller advising people against NaNoWriMo. Why? So people can read more. Hmm. Right. But maybe even less fun are all the ranting comments defending NaNo. The whole thing is pretty unfortunate.

Anyway, I have to go read Freedom and write some more words. That’s just how I roll.

I like the cut of your Jib

A new colleague of mine occassionally says “I like the cut of your jib,” which is a great phrase and, well, makes me like the cut of his jib, as well. Most people are probably roughly familiar with the nautical origins of the phrase, but I’d never considered speculation that “there may be an allusion between the triangular shape of noses and jibs in the figurative use of this phrase,” or that it might refer to either someone’s appearance or the direction they seem to be heading, or both. It’s a great phrase, made better by this example usage from Urban Dictionary:

A – lets go for a beer and some readily available cannabis
B – alright, i like the cut of your jib

Oh yes, indeed. But where is this sort of world that includes readily available cannabis?

Neverwhere

Sadly, I just finished reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I say “sadly” because it was such a great book I just didn’t want it to end. I’m a sucker for sci-fi and fantasy that creates detailed and convincing parallel worlds filled with richly developed characters, and Neverwhere is definitely among the best. It’s superficially the story of an average guy in his early twenties trying to make his way in the world when, because of his innate goodness, he gets sucked into the parallel world of “London below” where he accompanies his new friend through a series of challenges in order to answer the question of who killed her family and possibly to avenge their deaths. It sounds complicated, because it is, but the plot is definitely not the book’s strength. No, Neverwhere has instantly taken its place on my best-books-of-all-time shelf because its characters are so well-developed and because the world through which they move is so creative and fascinating. It’s satisfying in the sense that the “good guys” win, but it also leaves open the possibility for further adventures with these characters. In fact, that open possibility is my only criticism of the book—it ends literally with a door open to the next book, so where’s the sequel!? I want more! Yet, as he did with American Gods, Gaiman seems to be content to have written one helluva great book and created one very believable fictional world, and to just leave it at that. I guess it’s understandable in the sense of “why risk ruining such a great thing?” but still, if he ever changes his mind and decides to follow up with either of these books, I will be among the thousands standing in line for one of the first copies.

So what do you think? Have you read Neverwhere? And if yes, do you have suggestions for further reading? If so, please let me know in the comments…

UPDATE: I just finished reading an excerpt from an interview of Neil Gaiman by Claire E White which provides interesting tidbits of information about Neverwhere. It began life as a tv script, but Gaiman decided to make a novel out of it because the production of the television movie wasn’t going the way liked. He then wrote an English version, then a second version for release in the U.S., and a third “international” version that he says contains the most complete story he wanted to tell. What I find most fascinating is that he claims to have started out with only a few rough ideas of what would happen:

When I began the book I had more than the beginning in my head, but not an awful lot more than the beginning. I knew that he was going to stumble across this girl. I knew that truly no good deed would go unpunished. And that he was going to wind up losing his life, his identity and everything else. His fiancée would dump him and… he would very rapidly stop existing as far as everybody else was concerned. I had Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar in my head, and the marquis. I figured we’d meet Hunter sooner or later. But that was it. That’s what I had to go on when i started the book and when I stared writing the script. Most everything else turned up along the way. These are the things I discovered as I wrote.

That’s good stuff. So often writers here the advice that they should plan ahead, outline a novel, etc. But here Gaiman is saying he just started w/a few characters and the first chapter or two and the rest just popped up along the way. It gives a sloppy, bad-planning, wannabe writer like me a bit of hope….

Rodney Awards: I am not worthy!

The 2007 Public Defender Blogger Awards, aka, The Rodneys, are now in full swing over at Public Defender Stuff. I’m flattered to see that the imbroglio was nominated for Best Writing in a public defender blog. It’s very sweet of whomever made that nomination, but the days in which this blog featured anything close to quality writing seem long gone. I still harbor tiny little glowing embers of hope that someday, and someday soon, I will be able to find a way to return to writing here with the frequency and relative substance that I once did, but for now I must face facts: This blog has been in slow decay since I started working as a PD and I just haven’t quite figured out how to balance everything out yet.

With that in mind, I hereby heartily support Scoplaw or Woman of the Law, both of whom far surpass me in style and substance. And, of course, congratulations to Scoplaw, who just was officially sworn in to the practice of law in Florida! Woot!

I would also nominate Woman In Black, whose posts are almost always both entertaining and informative, w/a good mix of personal and professional content that keeps readers interested and also gives them lots to think about for their own lives and practice. Highly recommended!

I need a time turner

How great would it be as a lawyer to be able to go back in time and file that motion you forgot to file or find that witness you forgot about? Talk about making this job easier! I’m thinking it would be awfully tempting to keep going back and back. For example, you get a client charged with possession for drugs found in his glove box on a traffic stop, but if you can go back in time, why not just go back to the night of the stop and make sure there are not drugs in that glove box before the traffic stop? Then you don’t even need to worry about getting the case dismissed—it would never be filed!

Have you ever heard of a time-travelling lawyer? Hmm… the possibilities are nearly endless!

This job isn’t funny

It’s November, which means it’s NaNoWriMo, which means I’m once again, for the sixth year straight, trying to write 50,000 words in 30 days. After just two days, I am not optimistic for this year. Foolishly I decided to attempt to write a satire about a public defender’s office. That was foolish because, frankly, this job isn’t very funny. Sure, I work with a bunch of funny people, most of them fascinating characters in their own right who amuse, anger, frustrate, and entertain me on a daily basis, but that doesn’t change the fact that what they do is deadly serious and really not very funny at all.

What was I thinking? [tags]nanowrimo[/tags]

NaNoWriMo 2007

It’s coming—just four days from now. I don’t seem to have time to update this blog or any other ((I have been cautioned about the risks of any posting from the office, even during lunch hour or outside of regular working hours. Since the office is like my second home, that means I have few opportunities to post…)), yet I’m going to try to write 1,667 words/day for 30 days. No, I know it doesn’t make sense, but really that’s exactly why we do it, isn’t it?

Besides being a semi-insane thing to do, NaNoWriMo also allows me to play w/toys w/which I have no other excuse to play. Once again I will be using Scrivener as my writing tool. It’s got more toys to play with than even I can use, but at the same time it’s flexible enough to virtually disappear when all you want to do is get down to business. The highly-customizable full-screen writing mode beats the many other implementations I’ve seen. Plus, did I mention it’s chock full of toys to play with?

So what will I write? Now taking suggestions. I generally ((Where “generally” means every November for the last 5 years straight.)) launch into some sort of dystopian sci-fi odyssey that allows for plenty of room to just make stuff up and blather on about a world that doesn’t exist (but which, I hope, bears a striking and poignantly logical resemblance to our own world). That’s always fun, and I’m drawn that way again, but, well, I’ve also been toying with doing a satirical spoof of a an office full of lawyers. Specifically, I’m thinking something like JPod or Microserfs for public defenders (rather than tech workers). It seems like it should be easy, considering I work daily with a whole cast of rich, complicated, and highly amusing (not to mention aggravating, frustrating, disappointing, and sometimes disgusting, degrading and downright evil) characters who already exist and have heard or lived enough engaging anecdotes in that context to easily fill a few chapters. It’s not the book I thought I’d ever write about this profession, but it could be fun. Who knows, the writing may even be therapeutic. Then my next book could be, “Don’t burn out! Write it down!” No, I don’t think it would be a big seller, either. [tags]nanowrimo, satire[/tags]

El Dorado on the lawn!

((Post title courtesy of OK Go’s “Crash the Party” from the album Oh No, to which I have been listening heavily for the past week or so, thanks to the generosity of the inimitable SuperD.)) One of the benefits of being a state employee is that we get quite a few holidays, including today in honor of Veterans Day. ((We also got last Tuesday off for Election Day. Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. The considerable downside, of course, is that every day we’re not there or the court is closed for any reason means at least a day or two extra in jail for someone…. )) Now that I have about 13 whole clients ((Yes, I know 13 clients is nothing. I’m starting slowly, obviously.)), my head spins almost constantly with all the different questions I have about each case, e.g.: What are my client’s sentencing options? What is a reasonable deal for this case? What would the prosecutor ask for if we went to trial and lost? What would a judge be likely to give? If we just admit these probation violations will there be any possibly way to avoid prison time? All of these are questions I’ve been trying to answer in the next week, not to mention the countless hours I’ve spent trying to figure out how to do something as simple as getting a subpoena duces tecum (basically a request for documents). You’d think that would be easy and well-established, but then, if you thought that, you’d be wrong.

So work has been challenging, engrossing, sometimes stressful, frustrating, and highly educational recently. I’ll have to go in this weekend to get some ducks lined up for next week, but today, on this holiday, I’m trying to focus on the “novel.” Sadly, since last weekend’s burst of noveling goodness, the writing has been basically not happening. I’m stuck on where my crazy dystopian future is going, I don’t have any well-developed characters that I really care about or understand, there’s nothing at stake for anyone except in a big abstract sense that no reader would yet understand or care about, and basically the thing’s a mess. My goal this year has been to, for once, produce a story w/a beginning, a middle and an end. so I’ve just been trying to move forward to get the basic pieces in place. The trouble is, if that’s your goal, you still have to know what the pieces are.

When I’m stuck w/writing, I often turn to Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. There I can almost always find something to get me moving again, and this time is no exception. To help get through plot problems, she suggests an idea she learned from Alice Adams:

She said that sometimes she uses a formula when writing a short story which goes ABDCE, for Action, Background, Development, Climax, and Ending. You begin with action that is compelling enough to draw us in, make us want to know more. Background is where you let us see and know who these people are, how they’ve come to be together, what was going on before the opening of the story. Then you develop these people so that we learn what they care most about. The plot—the drama, the actions, the tension—will grow out of that. You move them along until everything comes together in the climax, after which thigns are different for the main characters, different in some real way. And then there is the ending: what is our sense of who these people are now, what are they left with, what happened, and what did it mean?

So there you have it: ABDCE. I’ve got a little of A in the first 10k words, and B and D could probably take up a good 20k more if I can just figure out what they are, exactly, and try to make them interesting. Then I’ll just have to hope that about 20k words from now I’ve figured out what C will be, and E will take care of itself. Right? Right?

Would it be cheating if I just copied this blog entry into my novel as “notes”?