Thursday, October 29, 2020

Preparing for Nanowrimo--Ideas, Notebooks, Scrivener, and maybe Sims


Spiral notebook with kitten photo for Nanowrimo
My Nanowrimo 2020 notebook

It's late October, which means it's time to prepare for Nanowrimo. If you haven't heard of it before, that's National Novel Writing Month, in which many people attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days while simultaneously preparing their home for Thanksgiving and eating way too much leftover Halloween candy, followed by pumpkin pie.

Okay, this year there isn't so much cleaning involved, since family gatherings are out. That might help my word count, though I'd rather have the gathering.

This year I am starting a new mystery with the working title "The Bunny in the Library." Yes, I was thinking of Agatha Christie. No, the bunny does not get murdered. Really, the only two things I was sure of was that I wanted to use a character from a previous mystery, Tabitha Key, and have a bunny in a library.

Since then I have decided I also want an alien sleuth--alien as in extra-terrestrial. I don't think I've run into one yet, unless you count books that are clearly in the science fiction genre. I guess having an alien sleuth would technically make this mystery science fiction, though no more so than having actual magic classifies a mystery as fantasy. (Well, it does get labeled paranormal. I guess paranormal is a subgenre of fantasy? It seems to depend on the kind of magic.)

Armed with these ideas, I have chosen a spiral notebook to jot them down in (a tabby kitten with yarn--too bad I didn't have a cute rabbit notebook) and started a new Scrivener file. I like using wide-ruled notebooks, which means having covers that appeal to grade-school kids. Fortunately, my tastes do overlap with grade-school tastes, so I have a sufficient number of spiral notebooks for my writing projects (plus extras).

I also really like using Scrivener, which lets me reorganize chapters and scenes at the drop of a hat (or mouse) and also lets me add a brief description to chapters and then print them all out so I can figure out where my plot is going. I cannot say enough good stuff about Scrivener, and on top of that, it is very reasonably priced. (And no, I am not being paid to say that.)

One thing I have trouble with is visualizing my characters and settings. I thought maybe it would help if I used The Sims to create my characters, and then built a house to use as the setting. Unfortunately, it has been years since I played The Sims, so trying to do anything with it takes forever and gets very frustrating. I made some of the characters, but didn't manage to put them all in the same household. I started a house, then realized it would take way more time than it was worth. I should probably just draw a simple floorplan in my notebook. It won't be nearly as much fun as having look-alikes wandering around a Sim house, but it won't steal nearly as much of my time either.


Blurry picture of Sims characters for Nanowrimo 2020
These are some of my characters.

The other problem I ran into with The Sims was the limited selection of outfits, most of which were weirdly unappealing to me. I realize my characters aren't going to share my tastes in clothes, but even allowing for that, there wasn't much variety without buying extras.

Still, it was interesting to generate some semi-random Sims and picture them as my characters. Maybe I will stuff them in a too-small house and see what they do.

I'm looking forward to November, and reminding myself that I'm doing this for fun. This project does not have to result in a draft of real, functioning mystery. I can throw in bunnies, and treasure maps, and aliens, and my favorite sleuth, and not worry about the resulting chaos. I just need 50,000 words, plus a beginning, a middle, and an end.

So bring on November!

Till next post.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Blog Writer's Block? Or Just Conflicting Priorities?

 I haven't posted anything new since late March. While I'd like to blame that on the Pandemic, I really can't. I seem to have a case of blog writer's block--in this case, a kind of resistance to finishing any of the the posts I have started.

And I have started quite a few posts. There's one about the difference between actual and virtual activities (particularly with regard to virtual pets), one about decorating cakes with a technique variously called Japanese jellyroll and joconde imprime, one about suburban deer, and one about feuds. I've worked on all of these at various points, but never quite enough to post any of them.

It's true I've spent a lot of time polishing the cozy mystery I wrote last November, getting other people to read it, and polishing some more. I've also tried to increase my letter writing during this time, sending letters to some people I would normally see in person. So I've certainly been writing all this time. It just hasn't been blog posts. 

It doesn't help that the political atmosphere fills my head with all sorts of arguments that I don't really want to post about at the moment, not because I don't want any serious discussion on this blog, but because I want to keep it welcoming and fairly positive in tone. I want to unify, not divide, and I'm not sure I can get the tone right just now.

So why am I writing this post? Is it to excuse myself? Actually, no. I'm hoping that by writing this post, I will somehow break the pattern of not posting. If nothing else, it will remind my inner editor that this blog is not a finished product and I don't need to write something perfect in order to post. Goodness knows this post qualifies as "not perfect".

Till next post.