Monday, October 31, 2011


Today is Halloween, and we all know what that means - National Novel Writing Month starts tomorrow!

This year I am going to try to have a basic outline before I start. (Yes, that means I have to start - and finish- the outline today.) This will be my third NaNo, and if I finish the outline today it will be the first where I started out with any sort of real planning ahead of time.

The first year I tried NaNo, I actually tried twice. I tried by myself in April after I bought the No Plot No Problem Novel-Writing Kit. I have two words to describe that attempt: epic fail. I tried again in November, when everyone else does NaNo. I signed up on the site, but other than going to the first write-in for about ten seconds and leaving, I did it alone. That time I finished. I am the proud author of a completely useless manuscript. It has plot holes, plot craters, probably even plot canyons. It has too helpful characters, too useless characters, and characters who need to be edited out.

I tried revising it, until I realized that what it really needs is a complete rewrite - from the first word on. It's terrible. Totally, mind-numbingly horrible. Does that mean it has no value whatsoever? Not at all. There are some parts I could use if I rewrote it. More importantly, though, it taught me that I can finish a novel-length work. More than anything, it gave me self-confidence. That makes it worth every second I spent on it.

I tried NaNo again last year with a little more planning. I had a couple of characters who wouldn't leave me alone, and I thought I had a plot idea. What I really had was an idea about the world they live in and the very beginning of a plot idea. I worked on it for the beginning of the month, then got sidetracked by my sister's wedding. That time I didn't finish. The story, though, lives on in my hard drive. I bring it out every now and then and work on it a bit. I'll finish it someday.

That's why this year I want to try with an actual plot outline in hand. I want to finish, but I also want to be able to revise the story into something usable. An outline will, I hope, give me the guidance I need to keep me from writing a rambling, canyon-riddled plot like I did the first year. I just need to write the outline. Guess what I am doing between classes today?

What about you? Are you NaNo-ing? Will you do it with or without an outline?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

Several months ago I made a change in my eating habits to better my health. I started eating more whole foods, making a conscious effort to include fresh fruits and veggies and avoid preservatives (and many other food additives). One of the things I have been trying to avoid is high fructose corn syrup. I started reading labels, which meant I stopped buying a lot of things I used to buy all the time. It also meant I stopped drinking anything other than water.

Ah, but how good can the life of a Dr. Pepper addict be when she's off the juice? Another time I had tried "dieting" - which meant no more Dr. Pepper. After a couple of months of nothing but water, I switched to Diet Dr. Pepper, and life went on as usual. I just traded one fake sweetener for another. (Corn growers can say what they want, but they'll never convince me highly processed corn goop is anything remotely resembling "sugar" or a natural sweetener.)

This time, though, I found I didn't want anything other than water. I didn't have any of the so-called caffeine headaches when I stopped drinking soda. I didn't miss the flavor of it, I didn't crave it, all I wanted was water. That's a huge thing from someone who used to drink at least two bottles every day.

Fast forward to today. Soda makers have been advertising sodas made from real sugar instead of corn syrup. Dr. Pepper got on the bandwagon and started making what they call Heritage Dr. Pepper. Being a reformed Dr. Pepper girl (or so I thought), I bought one. I don't know that it's really any better for you, and I certainly wouldn't call it a health food, but everyone deserves a guilty pleasure once in a while, so maybe this would be mine.

My first thought when I opened the can was, "This must be how ex-smokers feel." The smell of the soda was like nirvana. Nothing has smelled that sweet in a long time. How great this was going to be! I took a sip, expecting that familiar flavor, that strange tangy sweetness.

What I got was a mouthful of eww. Seriously. Yuck. How could I ever drink something that tasted that bad? I can tell it's the same flavor I liked before. It's familiar, I just don't like it anymore. Months of avoiding exactly what I used to like have changed my tastes (I think), and I recognize the fakeness of the flavor. Give me water over that any day. Don't get me wrong, I applaud the companies for using real sugar, and I am glad the option is available for other people. I'm just not one of them anymore. I'd still say, "I'm a pepper," but give me water to drink, thanks.

Does that happen to you? Do you find yourself wondering how you could ever have liked something when you try it again after a long hiatus? Do you miss it, or attempt to reacquire the taste? I think I'll be glad my tastes have changed and remember my Dr. Pepper days fondly, but not try to go back to them.