Book Review – Ready Player One

It’s been close to a year or so, that I first heard about Ready Player One. Ladies of Nerditude (shameless plug for these girls – Episode #25: Book Review #2) reviewed it on one of their podcasts. I didn’t listen to the whole episode at that time. They warned of SPOILERS, but I didn’t know anything about the book, so I listened on for a little before I thought I might enjoy it. (I’ve now listened to the whole thing. It’s fun. You should check it out.)

Then… I moved on, forgetting about it entirely until I saw a trailer for the movie. Okay, maybe I should look into this book again.

…but I’ve been rather busy with edits and writing and redoing my house, so I didn’t think I had time to read. BUT… I did have some Audible credits… and WHAT?? Wil Wheaton reads it??? I hit BUY before I really thought it through, and regret nothing.

….and this is another reason why authors should love me, because I don’t just like to listen, I like to read it. Reading is experiencing, using my eyes, so I started to listen, but then had to go buy the book too, so I could read it at night all snuggly in my bed. So, I basically bought the book twice! You’re welcome, Ernest.

This review is on BOTH!

Ready Player One is – one word – FUN! This book appealed to my nerdy soul. I had asked a few friends about reading it and I got mixed reviews. Some thought it was awesome, some couldn’t get into it. I now understand why. There is a very deep-rooted level of nerd that this book reaches, not only gamers or RETRO gamers, but those growing in the early experimental personal consoles and arcade venturing folk. This book hits so many pop culture references that I felt like I was transported back in time watching commercial after commercial. Toys in cereal, Family Ties, Holy Grail, Votron, Rush… every genre-defining 80’s reference was crammed into this book. I feel the author channeling Halliday’s nerd obsession. I can see how some of my gentler down-to-earth friends couldn’t get into it. It’s not for them… but, this book was definitely for me.

The eighties were my fundamental growth years, living in a small home with three older brothers. We didn’t have much, but we did have a ColecoVision.

I remember the year we got it. It was Christmas and we were all so excited. When we opened it, inside was a brick, not the game system at all. My dad returned the brick back to the store and exchanged it just to find another brick in the box. It took us DAYS to finally get our ColecoVision, but once we did, it was MAGIC! The only games we had were Donkey Kong, Venture, and Smurfs – but seriously, they were SO much fun. We grew in our collection and I get pretty good. (My sister STILL has most of our Coleco Vision games and we retro game sometimes. Any time my nephew starts talking smack about being better at video games than me, I pull out Q*Bert and make him play. Games without cheat codes, save spots, and online buddies to co-op.)

This was just the start. I grew up surrounded by games: Atari, Nintendo, Sega, Playstation… my favorites are still on the Dreamcast (Revolt) and PS2 (Timesplitters 2 is still SO MUCH FUN!) and I’m stupidly good at the Sega Genesis original Sonic and Sonic 2. (The world of Sonic has exploded beyond my gaming rations, but I’ve got those two down.)

My gaming has waned over the years, devoting time to book writing and kid rearing, but some of my best times and memories surround sitting at a console and playing with my family and friends.

So… when I first started listening the Wil read Ready Player One, I really had no idea how deep in my childhood it would reach.

Ready Player One is set in a virtual reality-based world placed in a bleak future. The best way to escape is through plugging into the OASIS. Wade Watts is written after my brother Nathan, the BEST video gamer there is, so you know. We would watch him for hours, and he’s still has amazing dexterity and can cream you easily at any game.

So, when I started reading this cyberpunk dystopia, the last thing I expected was a trip back in time. The entire book is jammed with references to every 80’s nerd pop culture reference there is.

When I was listening to it, usually in the car, I had a good time capturing back memories that I had completely forgotten about. This became a problem, since I would get lost in headspace and not pay attention. But, I got to a point where I didn’t want to miss anything, so that’s where I bought the book. I would revisit the chapters I had heard, bonding with the pages and the reading on. It probably took me longer because I reread a bunch. But I loved both ways.

Wil Wheaton does a great job at reading the book. He is perfectly cast. And any time Star Trek: NG was mentioned, I giggled, like all the rest of the listeners. AND nice job too, as the Vice President in 2045! I laughed out loud. The only thing that started to bug me were the ‘then’s. Wil would pause his reading and an excited upturn of the word ‘then’ would happen. It began to hear a ding of a bell every time he did this, like ‘incredulous’ did in the Twilight series. When I looked through the book, the ‘then’s weren’t as noticeable. I will say this… I was in the car when listening to Wil Wheaton recite all the early video game systems. When I heard “Coleco Vision” said with such reverence, I yelled and raised my fist in the air! I was being represented.

But as much as I loved listening, I enjoyed reading it more. The type and font is thoughtful and the graphics for the scoreboard are really fun. And that’s where my memories were made, late at night reading a book and pressing the pages with my tired fingers. It was still a time travel trip through life in the 1980’s. The way Cline described the typical 1980’s home, the gold carpet, the paneled walls to the vintage 80’s arcade with accompanying pizza joint, was spot on to my memories.

I’d like to think Cline did his homework, but I’m leaning more toward Cline knew his stuff. Like my brother, there are so many nerdy gamers that recognize what he’s talking about, and the fact that I caught a lot of the references tells me enough that Cline wanted to write a book that honored his upbringing and something he’d want to read himself. The writer in me forgave his rookie novel because of the sheer fun of it. But it was easy to read, and so much fun, I’ll probably let me teen read it, if not just for the history lesson it teaches.

I don’t know how the Ready Player One movie will compare, but I already know I will need to view them differently– Book AND Movie not Book V.S. Movie. I can see Spielberg’s draw to this, I see it fitting well with his E.T. , Close Encounters, and authentic 80’s cinematography. But, I doubt very much that he could capture the nerd nostalgia that you get from the book. I personally think that to take the words in the book and recreated it would be confusing to a third of the audience. I can see that being a factor in the screenplay. But what I think will be something to look forward to is just how visually stunning the virtual reality world of the OASIS has to be. I’m beyond excited to see that.

This book not only is a good trip down memory lane, but a good retrospective glance to all Millennials that have it tech-easy. Some days in my house we play 1989, and remind my kids how it was to live without instant download or Wikipedia. It’s also a comment on our current videogame culture and how social interaction has become more online than in person. Cline’s vision of the future is not so distant and that is terrifying. We really have an amazing world around us. Yes, Skyrim is also, amazing, I will admit that, but sometimes I just like to go outside, smell fresh air, feel wind, and lay on the real grass and just be.

I recommend Ready Player One to anyone who knows this deep culture and wants the 80’s flashback. For those who don’t understand what I’m talking about but want an 80’s culture fix without watching old John Hughes films, try Stranger Things.

Follow Ladies of Nerditude on Twitter at: @ladiesofnerditude

 

“Reading A Memory” Book Review – A Wrinkle In Time

Most people know of A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I’ve always listed it as one of my influences, a creative muse from my past that helped fill the reserve. I remember seeing a quick trailer for the movie last year and got really excited and told my girls we should see it. A few months ago my 10 year old was looking for something to read and I suggested A Wrinkle In Time, which had been hiding, tucked in a quiet, dusty corner in her bookcase.

She looked at it and then asked me what it was about. My answer, “Umm…. I don’t remember.” She wasn’t a fan of that answer. She wanted me to tell her everything, to convince her it was amazing. I tried to run some of the details in my mind, but really, had I forgotten everything about this book? “There is this girl, and her father goes missing and I think he was a scientist. I don’t remember where he is. I remember it starts with ‘It was a dark and stormy night’ which has made it into our social-culture….” Her body language told me enough that she was not interested. “Promise. It’s really good.” Oh boy. Losing Mom points here. “I could read it too.” She perked up at this idea.

I’m not a person how enjoys re-reading books (unless it’s Harry Potter and that’s actually categorized as Memorizing). Re-reading is hard for me, and it really doesn’t have to do with remembering the details, it’s all about disrupting the memories.

Trapped within these printed words, among the browning of each folded edge of paper, lies a memory. The memory has to do with how old I was when I read it or what was happening around me, sometimes foods I ate, the oily fingerprint visible on the pages… but also the feeling of experiencing it for the first time. How I like to relive a book is through recommending it to others, talking about it with friends, or writing a blog post :).

Memories can be trapped in everything. Remember the smell of baking bread? It’s your grandma’s bread. She passed away years ago, but when you follow her recipe, it smells like Grandma’s house, more personal to me, it’s my grandma’s caramel popcorn. But, it’s not like I don’t want to re-experience my memories of caramel popcorn, that’s easy. Books are much more involved, more complicated. And I don’t like touching those memories, because it was a journey and it took a long time to feel and experience and triumph. I feel like I lived through something and depending on the book, I may not have the strength to relive it again.

Re-reading A Wrinkle In Time was opening a memory, and I didn’t know it was there until I read the first page.

This was the scary cover I remember

Fifth grade. Ten years old.

I was attending my third school that year. My parents uprooted us from our simple, country living to the big city. I started my fifth grade actually in middle school, then went back to elementary in November when we moved. I felt like I had been demoted. My parents were building a house, so in February we moved yet again, to our new home. This was really hard. There wasn’t Facebook that could keep me involved with my old friends’ lives, it felt like I moved a million miles away and all my friends were gone forever. To start a new school was hard, as anyone who has moved can attest to, and back then I was shy and kept to myself, so shy I didn’t ask for a pencil when I needed it and would fail tests because I pretended I had one. I didn’t make friends easily, I mean, I never had to. I was awkward and came from a strange family that didn’t conform to the suburban lifestyle. My memories of the second school are all me being made fun of—how everyone thought I farted when I actually sneezed and cracked my lip open, being called ‘Star Underwear’ because I was growing too fast and my clothes no longer fit and boys saw my panties (which was mortifying and I went to wearing a sweatshirt around my waist), and living in the rented house the neighborhood kids thought was haunted. Yes. I was that kid. But I knew it was temporary, so I just kept quiet and stayed weird.

When we moved to our new house, everything changed, and not in the best way. Here was a different environment, this neighborhood was new and the kids were believe it! not as friendly. I came the last few months of elementary before moving to jr. high, already discouraged and friendless. And here, a carefree spirited country girl, didn’t fit in AT ALL. Because of all the moving, I missed my Maturation program and felt rather clueless with all the girlie issues happening around me, and I was too damn shy to ask about it. And my grades were all over the place. I drifted in imagination all the time and got in trouble for daydreaming and not paying attention. How could anyone keep track of a shy nobody transferring from place to place?

So there is the stage for you – a shy ten year old with poor reading comprehension and imagination as her only friend.

Mrs. Hickman, my tired older teacher, who did not really impact my life any beyond this, decided to read A Wrinkle In Time to the entire 5th grade. I wasn’t interested in listening, I tended to draw on my shoes during Reading Time. During the first chapter I learned about Meg Murry and how much of an outsider she was at school. This… THIS! is a very important fact. Meg was like me, in so many ways. This was when I started to pay attention.

This is the memory – the feeling – I felt when I heard A Wrinkle In Time for the first time. I was ten, and lost, and somehow found a compass. Meg was a girl, like me, and she had a starring role in a science fiction novel. I wasn’t interested in the Babysitter’s Club or Ramona the Brave, they lacked imagination. Instead of pretending to be Shea Ohmsford or Frodo Baggins, I could pretend to be Meg Murry. She’s the one that saved everything. It wasn’t her dad. The book also had wild imagination that I gravitated to. I wanted to tesseract other places and disappear from my life. I think everyone has felt that. These four points were what I really remembered, what helped root my imagination.

In my re-reading as an adult, I discovered some very interesting things. This book was very forward-thinking, something I didn’t think about when I was ten. L’Engle had a very hard time publishing it, because it was too grown-up for children. It’s science-driven and bazaar, and pushed imagination to different planets, realms, bridged time-travel, quantum theory, and ended in love being the power that can conquer any evil.

The book is all about diversity, about being different. Everything in Camazotz was about being the same, about not having new ideas, or feeling pain. This is why this book has such a strong purpose and has been around for so many years. Life is about experiencing, about making mistakes and about being an individual. I was different – I still AM different – and this book was one of my first lessons that it’s okay to be different.

Meg is slightly complain-y. She wasn’t when I was ten, but I think I was more complain-y then. I think that’s important to the character and for the reader to feel that, because it makes for such a powerful ending. As a writer, I understand character development and journey and I was okay with accepting the whinier Meg.

But the thing that is most surprising, a lot of what I write and what I read stems from this tender encounter. I search for creativity that blows my mind and this is certainly not like anything else. This book made a footprint on my creative path, an imprint in my brain that made me ache to find something equal, similar. I’ve been searching my whole life for powerful imagination that leaves footprints just like this did. I have found and worked on some gems that I cherish, and that has done this very thing.

A Wrinkle In Time is reading a memory. For the good and the bad of it, I am stronger, more creative, more energized, and more thoughtful in my writing because of this. It was good for me to be that shy, awkward girl, or I wouldn’t have identified with Meg. We might not have been friends.

Thank you Meg, for being my friend and teaching me how to Tesseract.

 

Narrator Spotlight – Meet Aly, the Voice Behind Vivatera

As Vivatera’s audiobook comes closer to release, I thought I would spotlight the very talented actress that took on this series with such enthusiasm.

First, let me tell you of the unusual circumstances that led Aly to my door.

We met on a hot summer day when I picked her up from the airport. She wore this completely out-of-my-normalcy steampunk-y bowler hat, that stood out immediately in the quiet, pretend-to-be-normal atmosphere… It was so charming. I liked her instantly. This is very much Aly, my fated twin sister from across the nation. She flew to Salt Lake City from Chicago to stay with my family and I, and attend Salt City Steamfest, a local Steampunk festival with our collective publisher. She is an author as well, so we knew each other cyberly, but not formally.

Within two hours of landing, Aly had climbed my tree, found my ukulele and serenaded us with Radiohead’s Creep, had a good conversation with my talking cat, and told me she wanted to see the UP House, from, yes, the Disney/Pixar flick “Up.”

It was serendipitous, one of those cosmic moments when you couldn’t believe someone so alike lived on the same planet. The friendship forged that weekend went on to alter both of our paths. Now, you could call her my ‘sister.’

I knew Aly was a voice actor, and she mentioned wanting to record my series, just a fleeting, playful idea maybe someday… but the timing was never right. She approached me this summer when an opportunity arose for her to record all three. Yes, of course I wanted her to, but I didn’t want a friendship to get ruined if it wasn’t right. So I approached this with a business mind, being very professional. I had her audition like I would have for anyone, both us knowing that if she wasn’t right for the series then I would hire someone else. I was blown away…. blown away. She was perfect for the job.

I know several of you have been waiting years for Vivatera to be on audio. I’m glad the wait is nearly over and so happy Aly could record all three.

So, meet the voice talent that brought the Vivatera series to life… Alyson Grauer!


When do you first want to be a voice actor?

What influenced you?

My dad loves audiobooks. I loved reading a lot as a kid, and I treasured the times when Mom or Dad would read to me at bedtime from a favorite story. As I got older, Dad got me into listening to professional audiobooks. I wore out several cassette tapes’ worth of Peter S. Beagle’s “The Last Unicorn” – I had the abridged version and the unabridged version! I loved the magic of hearing a voice carry you through the story in your mind’s eye. When I graduated college (I studied acting), I found out about a website called ACX – Audiobook Creation Exchange. I set myself up with a cheap mic and a determination to learn everything on the spot and that’s how I got my start.

I’ve always wanted to do voice over for cartoons or games, but I’ve yet to really get into that area of voice acting. It’s a wide spectrum of possibilities!

What is your favorite parts about recording a book?

What challenges do you face?

I love figuring out the characters’ voices. There’s so much that goes into it for me: how old are they? Where are they from? What is their odd personality quirk that comes through vocalization? Who do they remind me of in real life? It can be hard sometimes if there are a lot of characters to keep everything straight in my head – I keep a spreadsheet with notes and commentary to help me keep track. Sometimes I even have to record samples just to jog my memory of a certain type of voice.

Is it weird to hear your own voice?

I used to HATE the way my speaking voice sounded!!! In middle school and high school, despite my best efforts to ignore it, I had to record myself for various projects and absolutely despised it. I learned that it’s normal for people to hate the sound of their own voice – when we speak normally, we hear ourselves THROUGH our own skulls and various other body parts, so the resonance and the pitch are slightly different to us on the inside than it is to people on the outside of our bodies hearing us. It made me feel better to know that I wasn’t alone, but it took a long time for me to personally get over it for myself and learn to like my voice.

In college I took a dialects class and fell in love with that aspect of acting. Being able to mimic intonation, vowel changes, and rhythms was something that I took to very well, and through that I learned to like my voice.

And now, doing audiobooks, it’s not hard at all – I rarely hear ‘my’ voice on the recordings. There’s Narrator Me, and then there’s a million other characters. Rarely do I use my own natural voice.

What other endeavors do you have that prepared you for voice acting?

Like I said, I studied acting at Loyola University of Chicago and have performed in various shows, events, and venues since then. Listening closely to the voice patterns of people around me also helps – at work, while traveling, while watching TV. There are clues everywhere!

What was your favorite part about recording Candace’s series?

Candace has written a trilogy of magic, but for me some of the magic was nostalgia. It reminds me of some of the young adult fantasy books I read when I was younger, books that inspired me to imagine and create on my own. I love the nostalgia of some of the themes of these books: a hidden power, a journey to reunite severed pieces, learning how to be a person as well as a person with magic, taking control of destiny, etc.

As far as recording the characters goes… I gotta say, Katia is my girl. Her scenes with Landon are pretty fun to record. I also really liked creating very specific voices for Ferra and Micah, thinking I’d never have to do two ‘hard’ voices in a scene together, only to be proven wrong! If you could only see what my face and posture were doing when switching between those voices… It was very fun to do, though challenging.

When I first heard Micah and Ferra I couldn’t believe it. Aly sent me these two videos back in September to show how she was doing the voices. I found them adorable.

This one is Micah…

This one is about Ferra…


I had so much fun working with Aly on this project. Vivatera is set to release the first part of February. Conjectrix will soon follow in March, and Everstar early Spring.

I want to thank Aly for giving me some of her time. You can find the first book Vivatera on Audible, iTunes, and Amazon. Click here for my Amazon Author page to find my audio books.

And find out more about Alyson Grauer here:

Alyson Grauer is an author, actor, podcaster, and voice actor. Her first novel, “On The Isle of Sound And Wonder” came out in 2014, and she has produced short stories for various anthologies and roleplaying game books. She narrates audiobooks and produces a podcast called Warda, which she co-creates with her husband Drew. Warda is an original fantasy roleplaying game, with magic, intrigue, and class warfare between humans and fey living in a utopian art deco fantasy realm. For more information, check out welcometowarda.com. Originally from Milwaukee, she lived in Chicago for many years before transplanting to Florida, where she currently lives with Drew and their cat, Queen Felicia. For more, please visit dreamstobecome.com.

Project Conjectrix – Journey of the Misprinted Misfits

Conjectrix:

In Latin it means: diviner, female soothsayer, female dream interpreter.

I used this word in my second novel for all three definitions. But, I added that this magical item, called the Conjectrix, traveled around to different locations. How appropriate for the adventure it is about to embark on.

I’m sure authors know what I’m talking about when I say MISFITS. It’s not a regular term that we use, but there are always mistakes that happen when printing books, it’s a hazard of the trade. The printing is too dark, the numbers are wrong, the cover is misaligned, I’ve heard of a different book actually being printed under the wrong cover, misspellings, formatting goofs… you name it, it happens, especially in the world of fast printing jobs and POD. I have a lot of these misfits hanging around my garage. I bet many authors do too.

But what do we do with these misfits? Burning them sometimes feels appropriate. Tearing out pages to use as craft projects, I’ve actually done that. They hang around in our basements like gremlins, knowing exactly that they are not sell-able and how costly the error is. It’s so much money wasted.

People may think they might be of value some day, you know, when you become famous. That’s why they creep around for so long. With my first printing of Vivatera that I yanked from Amazon a few months after publication, I found one listed as a “rare” book, which in truth I guess it was, since I only printed very few of them. The copy listed on Amazon for $865. I laughed. WOW! No one is going to buy that.

My misfits have grown fewer as I grow more established, more smart about my purchasing, more and more willing to pitch the trash. My newest misfit though is not something I’m willing to just toss. A couple of problems: I love this book. It was my favorite to write. Not many have read it. It’s the second in the series, and I’m having an internal struggle with what I should do with them, something rather than just let them sit in my garage. They are screaming to be read.

Here is the problem.

Now that my publisher has finished my series, it was discussed to make a box set and redo the first cover and update the second. I really like how Conjectrix looks. It was a fine cover before, but it wasn’t outstanding like my first book.

The covers are very new. I hadn’t seen them in print yet. I have a book signing coming up that I prepared as my box set release. I ordered my new books and received them on Saturday.

It’s always a thrill when you get new books, so I opened them right when they arrived. My new Vivatera cover is a little on the dark side, but I can handle that. My Conjectrix, however, has a misprint on the cover involving the font.

My series is known for its font, it’s nearly an identifiable trademark. So, when I look at Conjectrix both the font on the spine and the back are wrong. My heart sank. I can’t sell this as part of a box set, it doesn’t match. That’s what people look for, all the matching covers. I contacted my publisher and they were quick to fix it.

But the question remains, what do I do with these misfits?

We live so globally. And we are all so connected. Nothing seems small anymore. Back in September, I tagged one of my favorite authors on Twitter, knowing she would be at Salt Lake Comic Con. When I came over, dressed as one of her characters, she knew EXACTLY who I was and we struck up a quick friendship. The weaving of connectivity is astonishing. I’ve always wished I could be more connected with readers and I feel this mistake might be my chance.

I have always wanted to leave a book on a train, letting it fall in the hands of a random reader. Like in the movie Orange County, a random encounter with a book could change your life. This is exactly what I am preparing to do with my misfit copies of Conjectrix.

In the book, the heroine Naomi uses the Conjectrix to see where her friends are. I’d like to do the same here. In these misfit copies I have placed a little note with a QR code linking to my website. Here you can share where it has been and how you came across it. Naomi also uses it to travel across her world. This is also a goal. I’d like to see where these books go, like wheresgeorge.com. If you decide to keep it as a treasure, I can’t blame you, but the intent is to share.

The downside to a lot of this, Conjectrix is the second in the series. Though it is good on its own, it is better as a companion. If you do find one of these books, I’ve kinda handled the problem within the note. 😉

I plan on posting where I will drop a few of them. One I know will land in Kansas, one will most likely be heading to Florida, one might even travel to Argentina. Who knows where these little books might go. I feel like I did in third grade when I launched a balloon in the air with a note attached to it, hoping to hear from some stranger far away. I’m fascinated by life beyond my sight, and how others discover imagination. What a beautiful idea, this experimental extension of human connection.

God speed my little Conjectrix. May all those who you touch ride on the wings of dragons.

Follow my Instagram (candacejthomas) to see where I will be making the drops.

Let’s Be Authors – NaNoWriMo Explained

My current view

I know. I should be writing right now, with this being November, but I’m counting this in my word count. 😉

EVERYONE is doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year, and it is thrilling. I think it runs in seasons, you know, like some years Halloween is freaking awesome and others you just aren’t feeling it. It’s the same with NaNoWriMo, some years it just seems like a hassle, but THIS year everyone is feeling it. I am feeling it and participating, as I have in previous years, with a new project and everything. My author profile explains my wishy-washy history with NaNoWriMo. I should have earned a badge for Quitter several times. But it’s been really fun to explore something completely new from what I usually write. NaNo is giving me that opportunity.

I’m writing this as a “Let’s Be Authors” post, because I am going to lay out some honesty about this yearly tradition that I find funny.

Anyone Can Write…Right?

I have been caught saying that all I did was finish a novel. But, you know, finishing is a BIG part of it. I didn’t go over the first five chapters again and again like we all have done, however, it did take me more than a month to do. (Try a few years.) NaNo gives newbies a chance to finally finish that novel, without looking back at what they’ve written. Just move on and get that damn novel out of their head and onto paper.

This year I’m not rereading what I wrote. The whole point is to spill out the bare bones of the story. For me, it’s nearly like outlining. I’m a discovery writer, but with direction. Maybe that makes me a hybrid, I don’t know. But the point is, I need to know the ending of the story in order to understand what I need to fix and that is what I try to do.

NaNo is an exercise in discipline and crunching for a deadline. But it also allows you to write crap. NONE of these novels are publish ready. Everything I’m writing right now is seriously… crap. Crap. Crap. CRAP. NaNo can get creativity flowing, and that is truly awesome, but nothing will ever be ready on December 1st.

Here’s the brightside: all three of my previous NaNos are now published, but I NEVER, that’s right, I have never won NaNoWriMo. Winning means you’ve achieved 50K words. The most I have written in one year is 23K and I feel that was pretty good. That novel turned into a 100K word number three capstone in my series, which took me two years to complete (and just won the LUW Silver Quill Award). So, yes, NaNo had a place, to get me motivated and writing, but it was never something I was proud of showing anyone. Not until it was ready.

An Exercise in Discipline

And really, I’m the worst at discipline. I do not like deadlines. I cave if there is chocolate around. I love to watch Jeopardy. And will accept any distraction when it comes to NaNo. Because, honestly, who cares? There is no one really pressuring you to finish. There is not a gun to your head. There is not a damsel tied to the train tracks. It’s only you (and your NaNo buddies) that care about this.

So, why do it?

It’s fun to say that I’m participating in NaNoWriMo, and people either say, what’s that? Or they say Nano-why-what? And a quick explanation makes them think you are crazy. But hammering out 50K in a month is not going to go on a resume. It’s impressive to the art community, and maybe that is all you need, but what is your real reason for doing it.

For me, the story needs to be my motivation. It always is. If I’m passionate about what I’m creating I’ll reach my goal, because it’s fun. F. U. N. There is always this moment I hit when writing that I NEED to know what happens next. And I love that moment, I’m swept away by it – where my fingers are flying and I just do not want to stop writing… and it’s really late at night, and I have to get my daughter up for school at 6, but I just do not want to stop, and I haven’t eaten and my tummy is so mad, and I snack on pistachios and then I’m fine. Does this sound familiar? You know this moment. Reaching THIS moment in NaNo makes or breaks me. If I don’t reach this moment, I’m very half-assed about the whole event. My goal is to get to that moment in my writing. If I can, NaNo is way more fun.

The Popularity Contest

Here is where I fail when it comes to NaNo. Online, yes, it is a great environment, I have lots of buddies. And you can see what your buddies are up to in word count. But I look at all the badges of what people have earned or what their word count is, and I start to worry.

There are badges for EVERYTHING! Some you earn just for creating a profile, some for logging in your process, but some you can achieve by being yourself. Just by drinking jugs of coffee you can earn a badge. Writing in a bathroom stall…  YEP! You got a badge! I’m totally going to do this one. It’s fun, but also, distracting for the serious WriMo.

I look at the badges of my buddies and it makes me worry that I am NOT drinking enough caffeine, or I am admitting that I write in the bathroom stall. I am definitely not the most popular girl on the site. I don’t have the flare, I guess.

But what makes you the most popular, the most envied of all your buddies, is your word count. Word count is EVERYTHING! Word count makes you king! And everyone is watching it. You can easily adjust your word count at the top. I usually keep the site up on a tab and add my score when I’m about to shut my computer. Why, this blog post is 1476 words and I’m counting it in my word count tonight. 😉

But let me ask you this? By a raise of hands, who fudges on the numbers? Come on. I know you do too. This should feel like cheating at Solitaire, because no one will know the truth but you. But your number is what makes other people crazy jealous of your mad typing skills. It’s good, but it really is bad of you. Shame shame…

The honesty of the project benefits you. It’s our exercise is discipline, and yet we are failing because of the natural jealousy that occurs when we value other peoples’ talents. It’s easy to say, “Don’t worry about what others are doing,” but it’s impossible to not. If the numbers mean anything to you, just be honest. It’s the best way to do NaNo. At the end of November, no one will really care at all. As I stated, I never finished, but all of my projects are published, and THAT, my friends is the goal, really.

A Month of Hell

I can always tell a WriMo by the state of their house, the condition of the laundry piling, the quick microwavables in the freezer, the stack of empty Dr. Pepper cans, the scribbled on trash heap next to the computer, the noise-canceling headphones in the jack, the crowded coffee houses, and the deep bags under each eye.

Why do we torture ourselves like this? We can naturally write every day and achieve the same goal. But why November? Why? When there is turkey that needs to be sliced, and family, and shopping, and plays, and everything else that comes in November. Why do we torture ourselves like this?

Because, NaNoWriMo is an experience. That’s why.

It really is something you can commemorate with others. I have twitter followers that are doing NaNo, and it feels like we are fighting the same war together. We are all climbing Everest, and it makes us comrades together. Every crappy word that bleeds out is stained by the experience. Every treasured Write-in is shared in memory. Every active-brain late night adds to one more badge, not just the ones earned online, but the ones you feel when achieving something incredible.

I know. I’ve yet to WIN, but I try, as WriMos do, to be part of that small percentage that says they finished a novel. And if you don’t, just fudge the numbers until you feel better. 🙂

That is the joy, and hell, that is NaNoWriMo. It’s silly, but it has its place.

And now I’m adding this blog to my total. Because, I need to be honest… right?