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votes are in and names are up

Wow, thanks for everyone who voted on the NaNo novel! The numbers are in and it stands as this:

Option 1 (comic urban fantasy): III

Option 2 (children’s adventure): IIII

Option 3 (literary fiction): IIII I

So it looks as if I’ll be attempting some literary fiction. That’s a new one for me and I have to tell you, I’m a little intimidated by it, but in the end, challenges are good, aren’t they? Help us to rise above ourselves? Make us better and stronger people?

… alright, it did sound more convincing in my head…

Okay, I’ll be serious. Serious about planning, that is. Since it’s already the 18th (!!! gahhhhh! how did that happen?!?!?) and there is lots and lots to plot and plan. Some things I already know though. The names. I don’t how how you guys deal with names, but for me, it’s pretty much one of the first things I know about a character. Not always. Sometimes I know who he or she is and then find a name that fits them. But usually, the name and the character of the person come to me in a bundle. And then, once they have that name, that’s it. There’s nothing I can do about it. I might want to change it later on, because maybe the name has to sound different or maybe it conveys a ‘wrong’ cultural background or two names in one story sound too much alike, but in that case, it’s just bad luck. Nothing I can do about it.

I mean, just imagine if you took it into your head that you really didn’t like your own name that much and you decided to go by another. Maybe you have a second name, maybe you’ll change your surname to something else… but underneath, in your own head, wouldn’t you still think of yourself by your original name?

I can see how a change of name would help if you wanted to become a different person. Just like clothes, I guess: you put them on and you just feel different. They allow you to leave your personality and pretend, for a little while, that you are more fun or more quiet, more outspoken or more professional, more this or that or anything else that you can think of than you usually are. That’s one reason why people dress up for job interviews or for dates or for festive occasions – it’s an outward signal to themselves and it bucks them up to be professional or at their most charming or in their best festive mood. It helps. It’s certainly part of why I only really use make-up and fancy jewelry at certain times (like interviews and exams and parties and so on). In the end though, you’re still yourself when you take the clothes off.

A change of name, of course, is more permanent than clothes and I’m sure it would help you change, just by always reminding you to be different and act as a sort of guide to the new you. But that’s exactly my point with characters: once they have a name, that is them. I cannot change the name without changing the personality. And the other way round, if I think that that secondary character (or even, in one case, the main character herself) really has to be different to fit in the story, then I need to do them from scratch: new personality, new name, new character. The old ones gets put in a back corner of my head, where they sulks for a while, crossing their arms in front of their chests, huffing and kicking at the dusty furniture and pretending not to be hurt, until they snatch up a random particle of inspiration and hold it up above their heads, its light reflecting back on their faces and lighting it up with a wild hope and glee and they shout at me: “That’s my story, right there! All mine! My story! Do something about it! Move, come on!”

(I don’t know if your characters sulk or are hurt or angry at you or shout at you and order you about, but I fervently hope they do, because if they don’t, it might mean I’m crazy after all.)

So, yeah, names are IMPORTANT. They define people. They define characters in novels. And I have the names for my next book, and attached to that, the personalities of the characters. That’s a good start, right?

All the writers out there: do you find names as important as well? Are you able to change them in the middle of the story or is that utterly unthinkable for you?

on finishing something

The last few days I have been obsessed. Possibly also possessed. Anyway, that’s my excuse for failing miserably at writing one post a day.

I couldn’t think of anything else, except of my project. Ironically, that project is all about blogging, which would make the sane and normal person think that it would remind me of writing a blog post, but nope. It didn’t. I woke up in the morning, long before the alarm, with the feeling that I was wasting time, after I had dreamed about the project the whole night, grabbed my computer, worked right through the whole day without stopping except for a quick walk with the dog, went to bed with red, swollen eyes and completely exhausted around 11 pm, dreamed all night about it, woke up much too early, … I think you can guess how it continues.

Anyway, that was me the last three days.

Right now, my part is done and I’m waiting for reactions. Which leaves me suddenly feeling adrift. Even though it was so exhausting, I really enjoyed my headlong rush to finish a project I can be proud of. Waiting for the reactions from my classmates is eating me up inside and making me nervous as anything, but at the same time, I’m already looking for the next project I can dive into with the same abandon as I did with this one. That might not be so easy, because I usually have a problem: I’m a committment-phobic when it comes to my own ideas.

I’m really fabulous at starting things and quite the reverse when it comes to finishing something. Fantastic ideas always come to me, and I never see them through. So right now, I want to take a quick look at what made this project different. What made me see it through to the point where it’s actually out in the world and depending on other people to carry it further.

  • First, I had a vision. But then, I also sat down and turned the vision into a real, do-able goal. I thought about the details and the nitty-gritty, instead of just the glory of the finished product. I drew plans, made notes, researched stuff.
  • I started doing something, even though I knew it wouldn’t be perfect. I knew I would have to revise and, quite possibly, completely rework it later on. Still, I did it. I did it, because I needed to show the people I wanted to work with (my classmates) something concrete, instead of just talking about it all the time. I needed something to work with, even if I would have to change every single thing about it in the process.
  • I filled dozens of papers with notes. I wrote down every single tasks I had to do, be it ever so small, and I did not let myself get up until I had completed all the tasks there were. I stayed in my chair and kept the fingers on the keyboard, or the mouse. Actually, it wasn’t really a chore – I didn’t want to stop. But I didn’t want to stop because I could see it moving forward and progressing.

Sound familiar? It certainly does to me. It’s what everyone always tells me. It’s what everybody is being told all the time. It’s what all mentors, all handbooks, all guides say: Set achievable goals. Work out what you have to do to get there. Sit down and do it. Don’t stop until you’re there.

I guess all those people who have given me advice… they were right after all.