Sunday, November 30, 2008

I did it!

I heaved myself over the 50,000 word line, just now. I actually thought I had enough words, but with the difference in word counters (apparently there's a difference), I was 50 words short. You'd think adding 50 words wouldn't be hard, and it isn't like I have only (or any) perfect sentences or paragraphs that couldn't be improved. Or fluffed. But it was hard, although I managed to go 23 words over! Hurray, me!

So it'll be back to other topics for me on this blog, how nice for you!

I'm glad I did it, though, and maybe when I look at it in a week or so, there'll be some good stuff, among the not-so-good stuff. The winner's badge, BTW, only means I made it to 50K, not that it's any good or that anyone else has even read it. My husband is the only one who has read any of it, and he's only read bits and pieces. But the badge is pretty, isn't it? Even if it only means I can type!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Almost done!

I am going to the library on Monday and reading five novels consecutively without stopping. But first I have to write these last 4000+ words. It's nothing really, but I find myself a little reluctant to finish. I won't really be finished, of course, but I will definitely stop, at least until those other-people's-lovely-far-superior-novels from the library are finished. So, maybe I want to cling to these frustrating, but disciplined days of forced writing, by dragging it out to the very end. Somewhere not so deep in my subconscious, I want someone to make me write . . . and that person should be me. Oh, so not profound.

A funny find-and-replace story for a small audience: I realized I had two characters, one named Pat and the other named Patricia who interacted for one scene. One character (Pat) was really only in that scene, while Patricia was in several scenes, so I decided to change Pat's name to Kim (although, IRL, of course people with the same name often interact, I didn't want to confuse myself with too much realism). I typed in replace "Pat" with "Kim." Word made 37 or so replacements, which seemed a little high, but it was 11:30 and I didn't think much of it.

The next day, paging through my story, I came across a sentence where one character Kimted another character's hand. Later a group was sitting on a Kimio. And another character ran out of Kimience. I wonder what else I will find. I should probably run the old spell check, no?

Here's to the end!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Remind me again (NaNoWriMo)

why I am doing this? When I could be watching something from Netflix? Or drinking a beer and going to bed? I think I'm doing this to prove to myself that I can, to force myself to stick with a piece of writing beyond the infatuation stage. Oh, but I would really surprised if 25% of this is worth saving. And if any of those are the last 10,000 words I've written.

They said breaking 30,000 would be like reaching the top of the mountain, which I took to mean that the last 20,000 would be like skiing downhill, which I have very limited experience of, but sure looks like fun. I think they were just lying to get us to keep going.

My problem is (and then I'll get back to writing, I swear) is that my tone and even my point of view are all over the place. I've given in and switched to first person, which was nice at first, but now I just feel like I'm narrating the boring events of my life. Kind of like blogging, except stuff that happened ten years ago and without too much ironic distance. And I definitely don't think anyone wants to read my memoir.

What I'm hoping is that after I get my little NaNoWriMo certificate and the accompanying sense of accomplishment that I've written 50,000 words, even if 40,000 of them are crap, I will be able to figure out what I want to do with this idea. Right now I just don't know. I do know I would have abandoned it by now if it weren't for this contest. It's debatable whether that would be better or worse for me and this pile of steaming words.

I have a few photos to post on the mommy blog (Soccer! Stereotypical Thanksgiving Costumes!), but that will have to wait until tomorrow. Tonight I have to get to 35K, or at least close.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Reasonable, balanced discussion or rant? You decide!

I take this break from my frantic fiction production--over 23K words, almost halfway there--because of this article in Fortune magazine. I realize this is a long article and some or all of you may not want to click through 5 pages to read it all, so I will do my best to summarize it.

First, you may be thinking, Fortune magazine? You read Fortune? Well, my in-laws started the subscription a few years ago when they, perhaps logically, assumed that their son, after completing his MBA, was on the path to junior executivehood (that is apparently not a word) and the subsequent wealth-building such a job would yield. Turns out they didn't know their son very well (and this is totally not a dig at you, Honey), but we actually both enjoy the magazine. What he lacks in career ambition, my husband makes up for in keen quantitative analysis and an appetite for casually acquired knowledge (I refer mostly to the internets). The articles are well-written and interesting. It's usually the 3rd or 4th thing I get to during the week, after Entertainment Weekly and the local yokel newspaper and whatever novel I'm reading. It's become part of my breakfast and lunch reading, when I don't have a novel to read. And right now, I'm not reading any novels because of this whole writing one thing.

Okay, but this article, which graces the cover of the November 10th issue with the headline "Who Pays for the Bailout? You do, of course!" has me hopping. (Or maybe that's the Flea Problem we discovered when we took New Cat to the vet this week.) The gist of the article is that folks (like you, typical Fortune reader--the article actually says this at least once) who make 250-500K are being overtaxed. These folks are dubbed HENRYs, which stands for High-Earners-Not-Rich-Yet. Although they earn more than 97% of Americans, we are encouraged to think of them (us?) with sympathy or even compassion because 1) they are not rich and 2) they are essential to our economic system (so let's not tick them off?).

If you're skipping the full text of the article, you might want to watch this video featuring one of the families from the article. That's problem number one with the article.* This family is great. He's a dentist, she's a part-time pediatrician and part-time stay-at-home mom for their two young children. They're tall, attractive, and African-American to boot. They went through a lot of schooling, sacrifice, and hard work to get to what they themselves describe as a "comfortable" place in their lives. They remind me a little of my own pediatricians who are both moms-of-young-kids (with doctor husbands) and split their hours so they can both work less than full time and be there for their kids. In fact, the couple in the video don't even complain about their taxes. The husband says, Yeah, we pay a lot of taxes, but we'd rather be in this situation than one in which we make less money and pay less taxes. Well, duh. So why is this article being written, again?

Because (surprise!) not all the people in this tax bracket are so reasonable about their proportion of the tax burden. Because you, typical Fortune reader, might be worried about Obama raising taxes on capital gains and, oh yeah, reducing taxes for those who make less than you.

So here's what bothers me the most. The not-so-subtle implication that the hard work of people in this bracket is somehow harder and more essential than other people's hard work. There's also more than an implication that these people make sacrifices due to being dual income households. Here's a quote that had me seeing red (green?): "They're all about the kids: saving for private colleges, paying for day care--practically a must, because Mom and Dad are both working--and providing dance, tennis, or gymnastic lessons. These might be seen as luxury items by middle class workers, but they're absolute necessities to the HENRYs."

Okay, calm yourself, Karen. It's just a sentence. Here goes: most of the people I know use daycare, which could be defined as a necessity (and not a luxury!) for dual-income households earning any amount from the 66% percent of households who earn under $50K right up to the HENRYs and beyond. But, while most of the people I know also provide dance, tennis, gymnastics lessons and may sacrifice to do so, I don't think anyone should refer to them as Absolute Necessities.

These things are choices, not necessities. It's great if you want to send your kids to exclusive private school, but you don't have to. Ditto with socking away money so that your kids can both go to (examples used in the article) Cornell or Duke, but again, that's your choice. It's a choice that costs money. Somewhere in the article it talks about how the HENRYs forgo luxuries to save for their futures. Well, again, duh.

I didn't hear a lot in this article about how the HENRYs are helping others. I'm sure many of them are, but that didn't seem to be important in this article. The authors seemed to consider the fact that the HENRYs are preparing their children by private-schooling and elite-college-preparing the new MasterClass as well as buying and producing economically/capitalistically at a higher level than the other 97% of us to be sufficient to establish their essentialness.

Oh, yes, one more thing. The unwillingness to use the word "rich." Let's take a look at some of the euphemisms used to describe themselves by the HENRYs interviewed in the article: "comfortable" "successful" "well off". Okay, if it makes you better to say it that way. They struggle to define what rich means: "people with golf club memberships" not people who "eat fast food and take [their] kids to soccer." The authors say that "many Americans" would define "wealthy" as having a net worth of around $3 million and/or "if a couple in their 30s, 40s, or 50s has the option to stop working and live on their ample savings . . . they can definitely be classified as rich." Oh, good, something we can finally agree on. I also think MAKING MORE THAN 97% OF YOUR FELLOW CITIZENS is not a bad definition.

Here's the bottom line, there's always going to be a cut off if we continue to use the tax bracket system the U.S. taxpayer has been participating in for years. There are always going to be people on the edge whose modest annual bonus pushes them up to a higher percentage owed to the government at the end of the year. Argue with the system if you want, but if you didn't question it before you reached $250K/year, you kind of sound like a big, fat, rich (yeah, I said it) whiner now.

I am an outside observer, not a HENRY, and a richer American could interpret my interpretation as envy. None of us are unbiased. I grew up squarely in the under 50K bracket, in whatever years' dollars you use. Only in the last year have my husband and I squeaked over that line. Now, I am only ambitious in the sense that I am trying to get a job with health benefits. I admit I don't have the drive of these families in the article. I don't imagine I will ever be a HENRY, unless I, say, write a best-selling novel or my husband hits the top 100 at the WSOP. So, make of that what you will.

I could go on and on, but my daughter has watched enough Disney Channel this morning and I need to sweep/swiffer my crappy linoleum kitchen floor. So, go read the article and tell me what you think.

*I'm going to mostly skip over the fact that the families featured in this article are all, well, families. I'd like to see statistics on this income group, which I suspect isn't any more proportionately burdened with progeny than any of the rest of us.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Are YOU tired of (hearing about) it yet?

I am, but I will plow ahead, inspired by my previously dormant competitiveness. It is discouraging to click on a NaNoWriMo profile and see this person who already has 29,467 words is only 14 years old. Three things, though: 1) They could be 29,467 stupid words; 2) When I was 14, I wrote a lot, although I had no reason to count words; 3) What else does a 14 year old writing geek have to do anyway besides lame high school homework? Also, when I was 14, I did not worry about whether what I wrote was good. I mean, I thought about the words I wrote and even used my eraser every once in a while, but I didn't abandon stories halfway through because they'd never get published or because I couldn't think of anything that made sense. I just wrote. So, more of that, please.

Two non-writing related notices: Rent The Devil and Daniel Johnston if you are interested in art, music, mental illness, or humanity. Yeah, that better be all of you. It's from 2005 so I may be jumping on the bandwagon late, but I couldn't not recommend it. A story of a life. Maybe tragic, but also heroic. Plus, weird personal trivia, the church the family goes to is The Church of Christ. And so did I from ages 8-14! Definitely fundy!

What was the other thing? I started a poem about little P. Maybe I will post it later, after I bang out my ~2000 words for the day. I think there was something else, but I can't remember it now. . .

Thursday, November 6, 2008

NaNoWriMo could be Nah, No Write anyMore . . .

Day Four: You did it! You broke what they call the fourth wall. Way to get out of your character-who-resembles-you's head and right into yours. Consider that you might be the most boring person ever to write a novel about herself. Plus you wrote better when you were a teenager.

Day Five: Write down a dream you had seemingly in the world of your story, with you as main character (see, your dreams know she's you, too!), do dream analysis-lite and totally count it in your word count. Then do a bit of lazy writing during commercial breaks after 8 pm.

Day Six: Transcribe handwritten crap from last night, making it slightly better. Plan to write while your daughter is in her dance class. Talk to the other moms instead. Still 2000 words behind. Catch up! (After watching 30 Rock. And The Office. To paraphrase Homer Simpson: It's the networks!)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Progression (NaNoWriMo)

Day One: You write 2000 words, witty sentences, keen observations, actually interesting to reread. This is going to be great! I might actually sell this thing!

Day Two: Realize you've used up all your good ideas on day one. Slog through threads of plot chronologically. Character seems boring (and too much like you). Realize you have very little dialog. Maybe it's literary fiction? Or weak writing. Still, 2000 more words down.

Day Three: Keep saying all day (to self) that you are going to spend your 2-4 hours adding dialog. End up with zero words as of 8:15 pm. It actually seems like a good day to veg in front of the TV with some Golden Graham cereal. But, no. Is it too early to go all meta-fiction and start writing about your process in the novel? Probably.

I feel weirdly good, though. Physically good. (That should probably be "well" as in "physically well" because I don't think my ability to discriminate texture through my skin has changed.) Can writing actually heal? I think it can. Off to knock off another 2000. Or 1000, since I'm ahead, right?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

This week is also . . .

National Put Your Kids to Bed Early Week (because It's Dark and They Can't Tell Time Yet!) Shh!

November 2nd (Day Two)

I haven't started my writing for today, but I got over 2000 words last night. About 2 1/2 hours. I'm sure it won't be this "easy" every night, but it's a nice start.

I also tried drinking coffee at 8:30 pm and then tried to go to bed at 11 (or what would be 11 after the clocks were moved back. So, 12.). That was a bad idea. I generally drink 0-12 oz of caffeine a day, only in soda form and never later than dinner time (if at all). This was strong, fresh-roasted (the same day by my talented brother-in-law) one and a half cups. Delicious and maybe it helped my word production and creative juices, but not compatible with sleep. My husband suggests chasing it with beer. We'll see. Or not.

So now if I can just get him to go to the grocery store for me, make lunch for the kids . . . do you think I have time for a nap?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Tiny updates

I passed my comprehensive exam. Woo hoo!

Ack! It's November 1st! I must start writing.

Also, laundry to fold, school picnic/fundraiser this afternoon, what else, what else?

Halloween was fun.