Showing posts from October, 2011

NaNoWriMo '11

November 1st is the start of NaNoWriMo--November is National Novel Writing Month--where people from across the globe will gather together, drink lots of coffee, forsake any kind of social life during the dreary month of November in a quest to write 50,000 words of a novel.

I participated (and won) last year--with Iggy, the child of a monk and a nun. While the story itself turned out not-so-great, I had a blast doing it and it taught me some valuable things about the writing process.

I wasn't sure what to do during this November. After all, I've been puttering away on Miles's portion of the Great Regency Adventure for the better part of this year and I've not really got anywhere. Granted, I think it's more crafted a first draft than any of the others, but it's a long way from done yet.

But NaNo is really meant to be about writing a new novel--the rationale being that continuing on old projects will only make meeting the daily word count of 1667 words difficult, …

Bachelors of Highbury Quiz

I've been reading Emma by Jane Austen to get a feel for an English country village and because I haven't made my way through Austen's canon completely.

I think, so far, Persuasion is still my favorite of hers, but Mr. Knightley is quickly becoming my favorite Austen hero.

I've been sneaking peeks at the 2009 miniseries version of Emma, starring Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller. It's available on YouTube.

Lo and behold, I came across this quiz.

And this was my result: Boo-ya!

Character Deaths

In honor of Halloween coming up, let's talk about something I loved to do to my characters when I was a teenager.

Killing them off.

In the days before I bothered to finish my stories, I would often grow tired of characters and then invent ways for them to die. There was the ever-popular consumption, car accidents, death by war, drowning. One time, I wrote a story about a girl who had eight siblings, all of whom were killed one by one by their psycho estranged father. That one didn't really go anywhere because I gave myself nightmares.

The Soldiers of Downton Abbey

War changes things. So they say on Downton Abbey, so they say in books and on TV. It's the feeling floating around in the air as the war begins, that this'll change things in a profound way somehow.

This post was requested by a reader. She wanted to talk about how the rank of the solider becomes relevant--during wartime and beyond--and how others, at home or outside of the armed forces--can start to assume that because a man is serving his country, that he is being noble or heroic and not unscrupulous and taking advantage.

What triggered this? Major Bryant on Downton Abbey.

I made a very short submission to another blog: Downton Abbey History at tumblr. Here's the link.

Someone had asked about people being interested in Downton Abbey because of any family history they might have, i.e, was your great grandmother a maid? Was your grandfather a lord?

I know for sure that one of my great grandmothers was a maid, here in America. Both of my great-grandfathers fought in World War One. Supposedly, they went back to Ireland after the war to take part in some shady dealings in the Irish republican cause--though what they did and what stances they took is something I don't know yet.


I've come across this phrase "OTP" while trawling around fandoms on the Internet. Apparently, it stands for One True Pairing (shades of the One True Ring?). The OTP is a fan's particularly favorite romantic or possibly romantic pairing on a TV show or a movie. 

When one thinks a couple is an OTP, you "ship" them. As in, you want them to have a relationship. 

I've found that in most shows, there's the main couple who gets all the attention or a couple that is will-they-won't-they for ages and then, maybe, secondary characters who are coupling up or should be, but aren't because writers like to torture their viewers. 

Lies My History Teacher Told Me: American History Edition

When I was in junior high, the Social Studies classes we took focused on American history. Now, the events are pretty standard: The Bering Strait. Native Americans. Jamestown. The Pilgrims. 1776. The American Revolution. The Constitution.

The personalities are indisputable, too: Washington. Jefferson. Franklin. Madison. Lincoln.

History is not just dates, battles and events. It's not just things that happened in olden times and long dead rich white men making decisions that we now have to live with. History is also about biases and perception, different connections and angles.

As an example, a slight digression:
In high school, in the one day it took in AP World History to cover World War One (because we were running out of time), we came upon Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, which later became the basis for the League of Nations (which was the prototype for the United Nations). One of the bits in the Points was about nations under colonial rule having the right to self-deter…

Downton Links


I've been trying to give myself a quick primer on farming.

Yeah. Farming.

This is in service to the current Mess-in-Progress, of course. I wasn't originally going to involve any farming at all. My protagonist is an estate owner and a new one at that. He doesn't actually do any farming.

That is, until I read this while I was researching:

In war-weary England, wheat was four times what it was at the start of the war; the 6d loaf had risen to 17d.

This is a reference to England's harvest in 1801. I'm writing about 1800 and in reading about the time period, found that 1799 and 1800 had bad harvests. Very bad harvests. Apparently, it rained too much and ruined the crop. 

I've been searching and digging for more evidence. Was it really that bad of a harvest? And what could a landowner do to alleviate his tenants' hunger? 

I found a source to confirm the bad harvest and famine in 1800. 

From History of the consulate and the empire of France under Napoleon:

"The harves…

The Passage of Time

Sometimes, when I'm writing, I forget that I'm allowed to skip time. I've often found myself writing the most boring minutiae in a scene, realizing that it's boring, then thinking, "Wait... that does nothing for the plot...I can skip over this month, can't I?"

But sometimes I can't remember the timeline exactly--I know it's 1800, for example, and it is summertime, but is it late June or is it July already? I tend to write it into the text just so I know. I may or may not take out the indications in a later draft.

When I wrote my soul-swapping story, Last Request, I had a fairly tight timeline--two weeks, I believe--on one storyline. My protagonist, Eva, was in a coma and through research, I'd learned that two weeks is about the time someone can stay in a coma and still wake up with all their brain functions intact. To widen the scope of the story, there were a lot of flashbacks, ranging about fourteen years. I wrote in clear indications about …

"Too many adjectives"

There's a great bit in Becoming Jane where Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) is writing to her sister Cassandra. She's describing Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy).
The scene ends with Jane's writerly verdict: "Too many adjectives." 
I once read, in some writing craft manual, that adjectives are lazy writing. Also, in writing class, I was taught that the word "just" should never be used. 
Really, where do people come up with such wacky declarations anyhow? 
How many adjectives are too many adjectives? Sometimes, it feel like there aren't enough. How can you describe the tone of someone's voice, for instance, when you hear it but don't know how to describe it? Is it husky or sweet or rich? Is it low or loud? Is there a scratch in it? 
Is it really even that important to a reader that they hear or see the character the way the author imagines them to be? Jane Austen describes her characters thoroughly--but not how they look or sound, but how they think. I'm …