Saturday, October 31, 2009

November is revision/rewriting month

I have a confession to make: I haven't done much with the novel for about a month and a half now. At first, I thought it was because I wasn't sure where to go next, but I recently realized that I know exactly what I need to do - I even have a firm idea of where the novel will end - but I let myself get overwhelmed by all the things I need to do. So instead of working on Through Charlotte's Eyes the novel, I've been working on Through Charlotte's Eyes the short stories. My characters now are more fully themselves, and I realized: I just need to dive back in.

And that's when I realized, what perfect timing to think this! November, as all of you writerly people know, is NaNoWriMo - the time for people to dive into a new novel and write as much as possible over the 30 days of November (with a minimum word count of 50,000).

I will not be writing a new novel come November 1st. (This one needs to get out of my head first.) But since I want to make some progress on this novel and since I love having deadlines and since I love having a community of writers to help hold myself accountable, I'm doing my own version of NaNoWriMo. I'm rewriting draft 3.5.

What this involves:
1) Finish changing the novel from 3rd to 1st person POV.
2) Finish adding two new characters in. (This, by far, seems the most overwhelming of all, even though I already know who these characters are).
3) Rewrite/revise, well, pretty much the whole novel. Tightening up scenes, fleshing out others (especially the ones taking place during the French Revolution).

So, yeah, a lot. I'm not going to overwhelm myself more by saying that I'll get this all done by the end of November. After all, I do work 40+ hours a week. I'll be out of town at least one weekend in November... but I'm re-committing myself to finishing this novel in faster than 10 years.

I'm not the first person to think of November as a rewriting/revising month. For that credit, I point you to THE INTERN. If you don't already read her blog, become a follower right now. She is both crazy entertaining and insightful.

Plus, in reading her blog, I came across a comment about a great way to track how much you've written (without keeping your own Excel spreadsheet and wasting time making calculations, which I don't know about you, but this is a big time-waster for me). Interested? Check it out here.

Are you participating in either NaNoWriMo, or the new NaNoReVisMo? How do you keep track of your writing progress? Do you use spreadsheets? Or do you just fly by the seat of your pants?
On my writing agenda for the weekend:
- Revise "Loss" stories
- Come up with a game plan for the novel (i.e. update outline for the novel; yes, I like to outline. I'll post more about this later).

Good luck to everyone, whether you're starting a new project or trying to make headway on an old one.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Oh, Canada, deep dish pizza... and Tantrum!

In last night's episode, "Duel Citizenship," Robin questioned whether she was American or Canadian, and Ted and Marshall tried to re-live their college days by going on a road trip, even while Lily tagged along.

This wasn't my favorite episode of the season, but it elicited a few laughs, particularly during moments that flashed back or referenced previous (better) seasons... namely, Ted & Marshall belting out "I will walk 500 miles" (now we know that the highly caffeinated soft drink Tantrum! helped them survive road trips, and is, perhaps, the reason they forgot about Marshall's no food/no drink policy in the car). Then there's the Canadian jokes, mostly care of Barney, but this time there were plenty of American jokes, too: "Not only are you wrong, but you are belligerently sticking to your guns and insulting me in the process. Robin Scherbatzky, you are an American!"

HIMYM also has a knack for playing up the differences between singles and couples. In the 2006 "Single Stamina" episode, Ted explained how singles are always on the move while couples always look for a place to sit down. In last night's episode, Ted lamented how Marshall has become a "we" ever since getting married to Lily. The final straw occurred, though, when they made yet another road trip stop at a b&b and both Lily and Marshall wanted to get cornmeal body scrub, effectively merging them into one blob of a person while Ted looked on in disgust. Granted, that was kind of disgusting. And I think it's about high-time Lily and Marshall got their own - and very much separate - storylines. They've got the personality for them - stripper Lily, anyone? - but in the most recent episodes, they seem to be literally attached at the hip.

In general, nothing much particularly happened in this episode. Robin ended up deciding to get dual citizenship and become an American citizen (to Barney's delight), and Ted and Marshall re-affirmed their friendship. There were two things I liked about this episode, other than the references to past episodes.

When Robin dated Ted, her character disappeared into the background, except for a couple one-liners that weren't all that funny. In last night's episode, we saw more of the identity crisis she's been facing as of late. Not only has her TV reporting career taken a wrong turn, she also had to decide which country she belongs to. Luckily for the show (and for her relationship with Barney), she decides to not make a decision and goes with both. Her character, especially during her internal monologue right before she heads into the Hoser Hut, has been a lot more fun to watch recently.

Road trip to CHICAGO
HIMYM gave a big shout-out to Chicago; how could I not bring that up? Not only that, but it talked about food, specifically Chicago DEEP DISH PIZZA (which was the latest contender in the food fight my friends and I recently held). Granted, Gazzola's doesn't really exist, and the address given by Ted (316 Kinzie) is located on a bridge, but I'll take it. Also, for those of you who aren't from the Windy City, rest assured; deep-dish pizza doesn't normally cause people to scream "cut it out!" - but hopefully you knew that already. Then again, the crust really is made of corn meal.

What did you think of this latest episode? I've heard rumors of another slap approaching as well as some 'Mother' information in the upcoming 100th episode (in January)... what else do you want to see? Marshall and Lily separate and distinct? Ted in his classroom? More Barneyisms? Share your thoughts below!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The words I use most

I used to find out which words I use the most in my WIP, Through Charlotte's Eyes. (I got this idea from Nathan Bransford's blog.) The bigger the word, the more often I use it.

For the most part, I'm not surprised. Names come up the most often, as does Paris. What surprised me about the names, though, was that "Grand-mere" came up more often than the two main characters, Anne and Charlotte. Then again, the WIP is now in first person, which makes the usage of their names a lot less frequent.

What I like about this word cloud is that important themes, items, symbols, etc. come up quite a bit, too: family, diary, wanted, past, time... I hope this means I'm doing something right, at least in the words I'm choosing.

Speaking of word choice, I'm definitely using "like" too often, according to this wordle. Note for revisions!

Which words do you get when you do 'wordle' your own wip? (I also did a wordle for my blog and nearly every word dealt with HIMYM. Ha!) Does this wordle make you want to know more about my WIP? Or is it just a bunch of random words that mean nothing to you? =)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A proper announcement... finally

I just realized that in the excitement of my new writing project, I never announced what my latest writing project is (and which I first alluded to here.)

Without further ado, I announce the uber-fun and awesome new blog, CHICAGO FOOD FIGHTS. In a nutshell, my friends and I had so much fun with the Chicago Hot Dog war that we decided to make it a regular thing, but under the name "food fights" rather than "war." Both sound violent, yes, but I promise you they're neither... unless you count our heated arguments over which foods are best.

I figure, I love food and I love writing, so why not take it beyond hot dogs and branch out to other food groups? And there, ladies and gentlemen, is how Chicago Food Fights came about. So, go check it out and let me know if you agree with my assessment of the best Chicago dishes!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Best Night Ever; Segel at his best

Marshall (Jason Segel) did what he does best last night, and Ted became the Sexless Innkeeper.

Marshall and Lily have been struggling to find another couple to hang out with (forgetting the fact that Robin & Ted used to date), but with Robin and Barney together at last, they think they've found their match. While the premise and some of the scenes (like when Barney/Robin and Marshall/Lily reunite at the end) were lackluster, the show shone with the latest and greatest song/video produced by HIMYM characters.

Segel hasn't been getting the best of storylines in recent episodes (or even seasons), but he has one of the most creative characters on TV. So, let's forget Barney and Robin for a single post, even though they're still awesome (especially when they walked out of Lily & Marshall's apartment, declared it the worst night ever, Robin pretended to shoot herself, and Barney pretended to wipe the blood and guts off). And, let's focus on the king of song, Marshall.

Segel brings his own personality and creativity to the character of Marshall. Need evidence? He wrote the Muppet play that he performed in his movie, Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Segel's obsession with songs has been highlighted over the years in his HIMYM character, too, especially in Season 3's "Spoiler Alert" when it's revealed that Marshall likes to sing everything he's doing, from paying bills to doing laundry. [Glass shatters]. Then, in last season, Marshall became addicted to creating charts and pie graphs, yet another sign of his creativity.

Last night, Marshall's creativity had another outlet: creating a video montage and song documenting what he and Lily considered "the best night ever," after having a couples night with Robin and Barney. While fake Websites and videos (aka Robin Sparkles) have been the calling card for HIMYM, Marshall's photo montage, played during the show, showcased why Marshall is such an awesome character. Let's also not forget all the other photo montages Marshall created and sent out to unsuspecting friends, namely the ones about babysitting Lily's mom's cat and then the subsequent cat funeral. With all these songs/videos, Marshall finally got the attention he deserves, especially with how well he performed alongside Nuno Bettencourt in his parody of the "More Than Words" video. Segel's video version of his 'best night ever' song is available at this Website.
After you've watched the video a few times and basked in the glory of Marshall/Segel's awesomeness, don't forget the secondary storyline of last night's episode and the reason for the title of the episode: The Sexless Innkeeper. As a professor, Ted wears a tweed jacket and hopes the girls will fall at his feet in hopes of sleeping with a professor. Instead, a girl flirts with him just to have a place to crash, and Barney recites a poem about his own experience with a "sexless innkeeper," which you can see here.

Poems, fake Websites, parodies: it's what HIMYM does best, and it's awesome to see Marshall getting some screen time doing what he does best.

Okay, enough praise of Marshall. What did you think of Barney gasping in horror when Ted lands a girl (so much for being the sexless innkeeper), and Robin tells Barney it's time for brunch? Is Barney's "what have I done?" a sign of conflict to come?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Two new sides to Barney: student and boyfriend

Once upon a time, Barney declared, "Ted, I am gonna teach you how to live." In last night's episode, the tables turned and it was Ted's turn to teach Barney a thing or two about dating Robin.

After being single for so long, Barney doesn't know how to be in a relationship - as shown by him trying to sneak out of Robin's room at night, only to have Robin tell him that it isn't a one-night stand and he could get back into bed. Robin voices her fears that Barney might not be capable of being in a relationship, which leads Ted to tell Barney that he needs to try harder.

To that, Barney refuses any advice from Ted, claiming he doesn't want to change who he is (and audiences around the world cheered; Barney, even in a relationship, will be the same!) "This is just me," Barney explains, "but I like my testicles attached to my body rather than rolling around next to some eyeliner in Robin's purse. Stinson out!"

But Barney does try to be a better boyfriend (apparently forgetting that all of this is supposed to be a lie in the first place). He makes Robin breakfast in bed, sends her flowers... and Robin gets suspicious, thinking that Barney is being so nice because he's getting some on the side. This fits perfectly in line with what we've previously seen with her character; she has a jealous side. Remember the episode "Ted Mosby, architect"? In Season 2, Robin nearly went on a rampage when she thought Ted was cheating on her with Anna, a kick-boxing instructor, only to later discover that Barney has been using Ted's name to score.

Fast-forward to the latest episode. Robin's jealousy quickly turns into anger when she discovers - after breaking into Barney's suitcase with a handy sledgehammer - that Ted is teaching Barney about how to be in a relationship with Robin. Lessons include what it looks like when she's angry (flared nostril ridges, wide unblinking eyes), the three topics to bring up in order to distract her (Vancouver Canucks 2004 division title, proper gun cleaning and maintenance, and emperor penguins), and that when she's saying, "You're an idiot," she's really saying "I love you."

In the classroom, Barney isn't that great of a student. At one point, he tells Ted that taking sexual advice from him is like taking fashion advice from, well, Ted Mosby. And between the dozing off, asking if they can have class outside, and tweeting about Ted, Ted gets frustrated with what appears to be Barney's lack of commitment. After Barney claims that he isn't learning anything, Ted gives him a lightening-speed pop quiz in which Barney gets every. single. answer. right.

Thanks to the handy notebook Robin found in Barney's suitcase, she knows exactly when and where they meet. She storms into the classroom, clearly angry (thanks to all the pictures Ted has been using in his lectures), and says that Barney is cheating, that part of being in a relationship is getting to know each other and he can't just skip ahead.

Later, after Robin has stormed out of the classroom, Ted apologizes, makes fun of English degrees, and tells his ex-girlfriend that he's never seen Barney try so hard to keep a girl before. And then, in the best aw moment of the night, Barney and Robin make nice, with Robin telling him, "you're an idiot."

I don't know about you, but I'm loving this Robin/Barney thing. The writers have managed to keep Barney true to who he is, with his quips and jokes, while showing two new sides to the Barney we know and love. He was more than just a "student" in this episode - a role we've never seen him take before, especially when it comes to women and all his Barneyisms - he was also a boyfriend... even if they're still supposedly "lying" about being in a relationship.

Even though the secondary storyline was ridiculous, it deserves a mention, because Marshall is so good at being quirky. Plus, c'mon, HIMYM is all about the ridiculous (remember the cockamouse episode?) In Marshall's story, he tries to give away his barrel, named Mabel, by putting it on their sidewalk's Bermuda triangle where everything disappears within seconds. But Mabel doesn't go away. As Marshall watches his barrel, waiting to see the joy on someone's face when they discover it, he accidentally asks what the girls are doing with "Barney's Secret Robin notebook." After spilling the secret, he tries to change the topic by making light of the recent actresses' real-life pregnancies by saying, "Did you two ladies lose some weight?"

This episode, though, at it's heart was all about Barney and Robin, and it was by far my favorite of the season thus far.

Do you want an episode where Barney and Robin address whether they're still "lying" about the relationship? Do you want more stories about Ted and the future Mother? Do you want more serious storylines for Marshall and Lily - or were you satisfied with last week's stripper Lily episode?

Share your thoughts below!


Monday, October 5, 2009

Review: Find Your Strongest Life

When I cracked open the book Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham, I expected to learn about using my strengths to become an all-around more successful woman. In some ways, I was wrong.

Buckingham used the first 40 or so pages to provide all the reasons why women in this day and age are so overwhelmed and stressed; while women receive equal pay, hold more executive roles, and have more opportunities, all of these choices are why women are less happier now than they were 30 or so years ago, according to Buckingham. This section felt as if Buckingham was trying to establish a reason for why this book was important. In doing so, he tried telling women, 'this is why you should feel stressed out.' In other words, I'm not unhappy, but this section of the book tried to tell me that I should be.

Despite not being hooked early on, I continued to read, hoping that the depressing 40 pages would lead to what all women can do to utilize their strengths in both their professional and personal lives.

The book hit its stride with the online Strong Life Test, which determines what your 'lead role' and 'secondary role' is. Not surprising (but at the same time affirming) for me, my results named "creator" as my lead role, and "advisor" as a secondary role. With this knowledge about your roles, Buckingham explains, you can focus on doing things that play into your lead and secondary roles. Focus on why situations feel successful, not on weaknesses or problems. Focus on the moments that feel rewarding, the times that the day flies by and you barely even notice it. These moments, he says, are the best guide in determining where your life should go. It sounds like common sense, but Buckingham applies his advice in a thorough question and answer section at the end of the book.

While I didn't agree with everything Buckingham wrote and while the book is targeted to working mothers and wives (of which, I'm neither), Buckingham gave some good advice on how to build a strong life. I found most of his real-examples to be inspiring - despite always being about working moms. And I also liked how he re-defined what strengths and weaknesses are. Strengths are what makes you feel best, not necessarily the things you're best at. Weaknesses are the things that make you feel weak. So, while this book didn't provide too much of what I didn't already know, it does provide a lot of interesting things to think about when trying to make changes in your life based on the the things that strengthen you.

I am reviewing this book as a member of Thomas Nelson's Book Review Blogger program.