Monday, July 25, 2011

Food for the Writer's Soul

I was thinking about NaNoWriMo today and wondered, what goodies should I stock-pile as incentives during November?

Chocolates? Maybe.
White tea? Definitely.

But mostly, I love rewarding myself by spending money on ingredients for a fancy meal. Today, I discovered a meal that doesn't cost a lot and is easy to make. And I wish I could eat it continuously without getting full, it's that good.

Cumin-Spiced Chicken with Chunky Tomato Sauce
served with
Creamy Squash Risotto

I used Cub brand cooked squash 'cause I couldn't find frozen butternut squash and it still tasted good. I also used 5-minute pre-cooked rice so it didn't take me as long to heat things up in the microwave.

Husband, friends, and family: If you want to make my day, cook me this. :)
I'm going to use it as word-count motivator during November as a reward for reaching a certain word goal.

If you have a favorite way of rewarding yourself for making your goals during NaNoWriMo, or for writing in general, share in the comments! I'd love to hear them.

Looking forward to tomorrow's lunch of leftovers! :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

World Building - tougher than it sounds?

Every time I sit down to world build, I get frustrated: All I want to do is rush off and work on the PLOT of the story. I know how things are imagined in MY head. Why not let the reader imagine things for themselves, too?

I had planned to spend all of July building up the setting of my work in progress, and suddenly found myself almost two thirds of the way through the month without having done much. I finally gave up and decided I was going to rush ahead and make up the plot.

Within the first five minutes of plotting, I wanted to write a scene where one of my characters exclaims "By Jove!"

While I never intended to leave the word Jove in my novel, it did raise a question.
Jove is a derivative form of swearing by god's name. I asked myself, "What would my characters swear by? What would they bless by? Would they do the traditional Christian thing and say 'Thank Goodness!' even though they're on an alternate version of Earth?"

Suddenly I was world building and didn't even realize it. Funny how the right question will unlock a wealth of information.

I went from making up swear words and friendly exclamations to inventing what sorts of religions these people might follow. Soon after that I was drawing a map of my world just so I could point out to myself where all the religious places were.
Then I felt compelled to name all the new countries I had just drawn (or at least name them something other than colors of the rainbow which I had temporarily bestowed upon them).
Coming up with names for countries led me to realize that country names in our world today are from ancient words meaning things like "Horse people" or "People of the white mountain" (this is my simplification of it).
So I came up with a general genetics map of who has black hair, red hair, white hair and where they live, and which areas are more mixed than others. I also named the countries after things that they're known for, like industry, desert-land, and bountiful harvests. Plugging these words into Google translator and choosing a different language until I got something I liked was tons of fun.

By the end of the first day of me "giving up" on world building, I had a map of my entire world, names for all my countries, some slang words and their etymologies, I knew where everyone lived, what they believe and how they practice it, and, of course, which gods they swear by. I knew the political tensions between the countries, what certain places war over, what the weather is like in different parts on my map, and I had even created three different mythologies which a few characters in my story will draw upon.

I don't know how I could have ever found World Building hard before. Before I started asking questions, (ok, so just the one question) I wasn't interested. I didn't think there was enough to my world to talk about. I didn't want to bore my readers. But now, because I got curious and asked a question, I have a wealth of information.
Not all of it, or even most of it, will make it into my book, but it IS useful. It helps me imagine what I need to in order to build the world around my main character.

So here's to being curious, even about imaginary places!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Vacations! And how they make you feel...

Last week my husband took me to a water park on spur of the moment. It was Wednesday, and within half an hour of leaving work, I was standing at the top of a water slide, looking out over the highway at all the rush hour traffic I was missing and thinking to myself, "This doesn't feel like a Wednesday."

For Independence Day weekend, we had a blast, camped out on my in-laws' lawn, kayaked on their lake and talked with my lovely in-law uncles and grandma and grandpa. We didn't have our phones, our wallets, our computers or anything with us the entire time. Just the clothes on our backs. It was....odd. And wonderful.

I didn't do any writing. But when we got back to our normal, city apartment life, there was a difference in how I wrote. I had new visions of things to come in my book and my imagination was infused with real-life experiences that can't possibly be put into words.

It's important for writing to make life great. Even if I wasn't a writer, it'd be important, but especially because I am. A picture is worth a thousand words, but an experience is priceless and can't be bought with words on a page.

Maybe that's why being a writer is so attractive to so many people. You kind of have to have a thrilling life full of adventure, mishaps, explorations, and interesting things that happen in order to write. If you can find an author who led a boring life, tell me and I'll correct myself.

It's summer! Go out and take a walk. Discover new places. Go on a bike ride down a new trail. Go camping. Cook something you've never cooked before (I'm experimenting with something called a Poblano pepper and Butternut squash tonight). Strand yourself somewhere with nothing to do, no cell phone, or computer, and see what your mind comes up with to do. I've noticed that there are all kinds of ignored corners and fascinations we miss because we're busy with other things.