Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Sunday, November 09, 2008

RIP Michael Crichton

I was in my 20's when I read my very first Michael Crichton novel: The Andromeda Strain. I can still remember how deeply I fell into reading that book, with every page gripping my attention until the very end.

After that, I started reading others. Any Crichton novel I could find was one I eagerly snatched up and devoured. Eaters of the Dead. Jurassic Park. The Lost World. Congo. Disclosure. Timeline. I started listing Crichton as one of my favorite authors (and he still remains so to this day) and read everything I came across that mentioned him.

So it was with great distress and sadness when I learned that he died. On Tuesday, November 4th, he lost his private battle with cancer and departed from this world. I was so shocked and saddened. It just came so suddenly. I didn't even know he was battling cancer -- and, apparently, a lot of other writers didn't know about this, either. I guess he didn't want it to be this "big thing" with his fans. Or maybe he was too busy writing, creating and working to let something as scary as cancer be this thing he had to face, owe up to and answer questions about every day.

After I read the news story that he had died, I sadly sat on the couch holding the newspaper, my eyes welling up with tears. I almost cried as I said, "The world won't have anymore stories from him." One thing I always liked about his stories, and one thing that made them stand out, was how he was able to put all of his research into a story without making it boring. He made medicine interesting for readers. He made science interesting for readers. He made world issues interesting for readers. He took things people worried about, issues we dreaded becoming real, and turned them all into damn good stories that thousands of people enjoyed. His books became the topics of discussion among educators and scientists. They prompted debates and incited discussions. They just really took the whole "What if?" question to a whole 'nother level.

And when he created the hit TV show ER, he brought the medical world to life for all of us in a whole new way. He helped us to see that world as it really is, and he made us care. His stories, and ER, are all more than just products of his imagination. Even as we knew the characters were not real and the stories were not real, he made them real enough for us to care about a field a lot of people are not normally aware of.

Michael Crichton's death is indeed a great loss. The world has lost a very creative and productive mind. Crichton was definitely a legend in his time and he will be sorely missed.


Friday, November 07, 2008

NaNoWriMo on my terms

For the third time, I am attempting NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, http://www.nanowrimo.org/ -- in which writers take on the challenge of writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days). The first time around, I was too conflicted with my story to finish it. The second, I got tapped for writing assignments and, since I needed the money, I abandoned the project. THIS IS THE YEAR I WILL DO IT! I will see my novel-writing challenge to completion!

There was, however, one problem. As I got to work writing the story on November 1st, I found I had trouble writing this first draft on the computer. I just couldn't "get into" the story. I wasn't able to write it so well because I just couldn't see it as a REAL story or FEEL it as a real story. Writing at the computer is just so...manual. And not all that natural. That fire to keep writing just wasn't there!

I talked with my editor about this, explaining how hard it was for me to get into the story while writing it at the computer. She said it's understandable, that as writers we train ourselves to edit at the computer. The computer is where we "fix" things. Not create things. While I know there ARE indeed writers who have no trouble writing a first draft on the screen, I am not one of them. I'm a notebook writer. It's easier for me to write if I do so with pen and paper. The words literally come pouring out of my pen. The story is more "alive" for me, as are the characters.

Indeed, after I started writing this story on paper, I was completely in my character's mind. Fragments from her past previously unknown to me came into the light. I could hear a character huffing and puffing after carrying a large couch inside of a house, feel my character's tension as she listened to her eldest son argue with her husband, and see just what she was seeing as she peered through a hole in the wall of an old house.
I was FINALLY writing the story! It was finally a REAL story for me!

That's the good news. And I've got some better news: It's more convenient for me to write. As it is, on Day One, I had to keep getting up from the computer for the children. It was impossible to sit down at the computer and write for very long with two small kiddos underfoot. (Honestly, I don't know how in the world William Peter Blatty managed to write The Exorcist while there were kids running around his apartment -- but I can guess where he got his inspiration from! LOL) So having the notebook to carry around with me and to write in when I'm with the baby as he drinks his bottle or relaxing in bed at night is a definite plus. (And just for the record, I do A LOT of writing in bed!)

Now comes the bad news. NaNoWriMo is big on word count, and writing with pen and paper makes it difficult to keep an accurate word count. Difficult, but not impossible. Apparently, I'm not the only writer who is more comfortable writing by hand. I did some checking on the 'Net and found this: http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=120381 I like that idea of writing each page's word count at the top of the page. That way, it isn't so daunting. And it's a great way to avoid losing count.

Still, I know I HAVE to get it all typed up eventually. Can't "win" NaNoWriMo if I don't have my word count validated by TPTB. And as it is, when I was logged in at the site and tried to count up my words, I decided to just put off that task for now. What was the point? I had a plan, anyway: I would type up EVERYTHING when I have the chance. After the kids go to bed, my daughter's in school and the baby is napping, or on weekends when hubby is home to watch the children for an hour or two. For now, the task at hand is to WRITE the story, not count how many words I have written so far. Just WRITE THE NOVEL. And do so in the span of 30 days.

Even though I hate the title of my story. Even though I have doubts of my character's names. And even though mine is not really so much an "original" story idea. And even though I can hardly read my own freaking handwriting! LOL I will write the story, anyway.

I am glad I have that kind of determinatikon for this challenge. I am going to need that determination to see me through. As it is, we've passed the one week mark, and I only have one chapter written so far. I have been THAT busy and THAT distracted.

But I won't give up! I will proceed. I'm off to a slow start but I'll definitely keep at it and keep at it, and get all caught up in the end.

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