Thursday, July 28, 2011

Moving Sucks



Everyone says that moving sucks. What I think they mean is: the tiring work of actually packing up boxes, putting them into trucks and coercing friends to help you carry furniture up and down stairs, that period of time when you don't really know where anything is, getting you mail to go to the right place, and that sort of thing. Well, we aren't there yet, and actually, that all sounds pretty okay from where I sit right now.

Right now what sucks is the looking. We've looked at houses, turned in applications the very next day only to learn that it is already rented out. Why did they make us an appointment then? Or make an appointment with us, to then not show up. Craigslist ads that send you to another site that sends you to another site that wants you to pay to see a list of real listings. Phone numbers answered by people who have apparently sworn an oath to avoid telling you the square footage or rental price of a property on pain of death. I don't have the time or the sanity to put up with these kinds of shenanigans right now.

If anyone has any wonderful advice on rental house hunting techniques, please, please share them. I need a better method.

As for the place where the owner stood me up, I actually knew it was not a good fit for us as soon as I walked in and saw the above sign. I felt like they may as well have had a sign that said, "No Kids". O the bright side, I got the picture below, so I at last have something to contribute to the "42 sightings" thread over at the Towel Day website.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Starting Over - Again

I've started my novel over. From the beginning. When I wrote my 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo, I did it in true NaNo style. That is, fast, and without a lot of deep thought. I had an idea about the sort of story I was trying to tell, so I didn't try to outline or do much planning. You see, Id actually written this same story once before - back in 2005 when I first started writing again. Then it was a 7000 word short story. It was dreadful. The first helpful review I got was from a fellow called Bob over at Writing.com who explained this writing idea to me of showing vs. telling. Yep, that version was 7000 words of telling. *shudders*

It was Bob's review and advice that started me on my way seeking out more information about the craft of writing. Before that, I though writing was some sort of talent. It was so exciting to learn that there were some very powerful techniques that I could learn that would help me improve my writing.

I defiantly feel that version 2 of this story - the 2010 NaNoWriMo version was much, much better than the 2005, short story version. Yet, 60,000 words in, I could see it wasn't working well, but I'm not so experienced that I could easily see a way to fix it. The I watched the video by Dan Wells about the 7 point story structure and tried to plug my novel into that structure. That showed me that my ending didn't make any sense. Actually, more than that, it showed me I didn't really have an ending. Using the 7 point structure, though, I quickly came up with an ending, and a middle, and some sub-plots that all made the story fit together so much better. I was so happy! Now, I told myself, I have something to work with.

Last night, the downside of all these insights hit me as it came time to stop playing with outlines ans structure and get writing again. That was, I had to start all over again. To create the structure I wanted, I had to make some really fundamental changes to the story I already had. Mainly in the characters. The characters are completely different now. Better, but different. Beyond a revision. Have to start over. When I look at all the work I already had, this made me a little sad.

I wondered why I even want to keep trying with this story. Why not scrap it and start over with something new? I hope that since I'm still interested in this story enough to keep writing it (again) that's a sign that it may be interesting enough for other people to enjoy reading if I can ever get a draft finished. That's my hope, because I really do want to keep writing it. That almost amazes me more than anything else.

So, my fellow writers out there. What would you do in my shoes. Start over, or start something new?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

New Camera, Fisheye and a Bob

Since I've complained here about my camera, I thought I should also show off my snazzy new one!

So, for your enjoyment, here is a picture of my cat, Bob:



Now, my new camera has a setting for what is called 'fish-eye' mode. It curves the image around so you get something that looks like this:



It was fun to take silly pictures of my cat and my kids in fish-eye mode, but honestly I'm not sure what it's actually for. There are only 6 preset settings for still photos on this camera, so dedicating one to fish-eye makes me feel like it must be for something. When I did a Google search on the topic, all I got was a lot of articles that say something like, "Look at all these weird pictures you can take using fish-eye mode!" Although I did learn that apparently it takes a special kind of lens to pull fish-eye off. So I'm curious all the more why my camera maker felt the need to add this special lens.

Does anyone know if there is a special purpose to the fish-eye lens? If it really is just there to take silly cat pictures, I can accept that. We all know the world needs more silly cat pictures after all. I'm just wondering.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The 7 Point Story Structure and Learning How to Plot

I have no real idea how to plot a story. I think that's why I like flash fiction. It isn't hard to keep the plot of a 300 word story straight in your head while writing it. But a novel. . .? Umm. . . I don't think I can handle that.

There's the three act structure, which never really helped me because I still didn't quite get how to move from one part to the next. A third of a novel is still really huge. On the Writing Excuses podcast, Dan Wells mentioned he uses a 7 point story structure. I had never heard of this. My friend Amanda beat me to this post, and found a wonderful video of him explaining how it works, and you can see it over at her blog. Plus she says nice things about me there, so you should go read that.

I had a lot of fun writing out the 7 points for my novel-in-progress, and it really helped me see where I was going astray and why I was flailing around at certain points. And because it's a simple, almost mini-outline, it was much easier to figure out how to fix than a huge manuscript. It was exactly what I needed. I'm going to work on subplots next, and research a little, and then maybe, just maybe, I'll actually finish a novel!

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

How I Threw Out Half My Kid's Toys, And They Thanked Me For It

I'm still a little in shock at how this played out.

Let me begin by saying that I have been concerned for some time about the volume of crap in my kid's room. I tried talking them into donating some of the toys they don't play with to kids who don't have as much. No. Not interested. Then my oldest was on a big kick about earning money, so we had a great talk about selling some of her older stuff at a garage sale. She was only willing to part with one pink fuzzy dice, and strongly felt that $14 was a reasonable asking price for it. So, umm. . . that didn't go well.

I despaired that one day their belongings would crush them as they slept. Almost literally. There were so many stuffed animals on the top bunk that I didn't see how my daughter could get in there to go to sleep. "Don't worry," she assured me, and burrowed into the pile, her face eventually popping out like in that scene from E.T.

I hadn't given up, but I was at a loss of how to get them to give up some of these old toys that they hadn't played with in months, to years. If I pointed out that they had never actually played with a particular item, they would tell me how much they loved it. They remembered who had given it to them, and on what occasion. They seemed to have photographic memories suddenly.

Yet, they almost never wanted to play in their room. They didn't have a lot of play space, for one. Also, I can only imagine how hard it must have been to find anything particular they may have wanted to play with. The little toy house, for example, was so full from being used as a storage spot, it would have taken awhile to clear out to be able to be used for an actual play session. Something had to give.

I am reading a book right now called "Simplicity Parenting". It gave me the courage to do what I was too afraid to do on my own. So when the kids were recently having a sleep over with Grandma, my husband and I raided their room. We filled up garbage bags, and give-away boxes, and a pile of baby things for their soon-to-be new cousin, and several large boxes to go into storage. Storage because some things we just weren't sure how attached they really were to them, but the room was still too full. If we'd made a horrible blunder and taken something that would break their tender little hearts, we wanted to be able to undo it.


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I was so full of guilt. So, so full. When they came home, they would hate me. They would never want another sleep over ever again. They would cry. But I would be strong. They needed some space to play. They needed to be able to see and get to their toys, not have mountains of mysterious piles. I was so afraid of their reaction. As an example of what we removed, the basket in the picture was their bat-tub toys. Before, it was brimming full. So overfilled that you had to pick it up carefully or toys would topple off the heap. Now it's a little less than half full. Their room was similar in percentages. We took that much away.



One thing I did, to hopefully soften the blow, was get a few new things. Simple things. The book recommended this. We had strongly targeted all those movie and TV character toys in "The Great Purge" as I have come to think of it. The book talked about the virtues of more simple playthings that left more up to the imagination. So I got a small tub of pop-beads and I filled one of their now empty bins with fabric pieces and clothes pins to make forts or whatever. I also got them each a new book and a little bag of cookies (the guilt made me do that - they can't hate me if I give them cookies, right?)

So the next day we were out until evening. I was so worried about the fallout that was coming when we got home; I was upset and distracted a lot of the day. They didn't go up to their room right away. I watched them from the corner of my eye. Bracing myself for when they might head for the stairs.

At last it was time for pajamas and they went up to their room. I held my breath. And. . .

They didn't notice.

The book said they wouldn't, but I hadn't believed it. They didn't know my kids.

Actually, that's not quite true. They noticed the new things. They saw the beads right away. Then the fabric. They were delighted and began building right then. They gave me hugs. They saw the books on their pillows (the pillows that were now uncovered and could be seen) More hugs for me. Then they looked at their storage bins. "Okay, here it comes," I thought, "They'll see now everything that's missing."

No. They saw toys they hadn't seen in forever. They were even more thrilled. "Hey! Here's my airplane! Thanks Mama for finding it!" They ran around the room, noticing all the things that had been buried and invisible before. They thanked their father and me over and over again for organizing their room. They saw books on their shelves that they'd been looking for but couldn't find. Another hug.

Why didn't I do this before?

Because it felt mean. But it wasn't. They were overwhelmed. There was just too much there. They are so beloved by so many people who love to give them things, it had smothered them. I am sure eventually - probably tomorrow - they will notice something is missing. Then I'll tell them about the storage. Maybe we'll rotate some storage items back and some of what they have now away from time to time. Maybe we won't. But one thing is sure - my room is next and I only hope I can be as brutal with my own belonging, because I'm feeling a little smothered too.