I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to participate in National Novel Writing Month, which I have since 2009, this year. The thought was disturbing. But my muse came to the rescue. It said: locate a novel on Twitter. Make it a mystery. You figure out the rest. Well, I did. And though I waffled over my initial idea of playing it out on Twitter — should I or shouldn’t I? — and though I began by thinking the entire novel would take place on Twitter and ended by realizing it couldn’t — by the time I began writing Chantie’s story just after midnight on November 1st, I knew I would go ahead.
So here’s the deal. [Updated 6 November 2014 with questions for me, below.]
The novel takes place on Twitter, which means the characters will be tweeting at each other, which means they need their own accounts, which means, well, hey you can watch them tweet on Twitter. The only issue is that the novel includes some prose — how much I’ll find out as I write it. That prose will, for the most part, not appear on Twitter. That could make it a little incomprehensible for readers or, I’m hoping, make it more mysterious and set up conversations about what’s happening “behind the scenes.” This idea will certainly make novel writing more challenging for me. I don’t know how Charles Dickens ever got the nerve to serialize his novels as he wrote them, but I’ve always admired him and am now following in his footsteps. Eek!
I wrote the first draft of the final chapter yesterday. That will remain locked up away from prying eyes. Today, I wrote the first chapter of my novel, tentatively titled Chantie. I’m not a big fan of my title; it’ll do though. Anyway, chapter one introduces my main character Chantie Trembel, and I opened it up on Twitter with a few critical tweets giving context:
I was debating about the timeline. I write the novel in 30 days, so should it take place over 30 days? Sort of. Because of the writing process, some of the tweets won’t be in real time. But all the Twitter chats will be done in the time they’re supposed to happen over. Where time is a factor, I will stick as closely as possible to real time.
@ShireenJ is there a risk of being dragged into the narrative by following them? Because that’d be hilarious 😉
I was thinking of having Bobby follow some of my tweeps, then I began to wonder if he did more than follow, if he interacted with them, how would that work in a published novel with issues of copyright and all? I’d ask before I did that and before I had his character follow anyone as well. But it could be fun!
All tweets by my characters are copyright protected under my name as per Twitter’s terms of service. “5. Your RightsYou retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services.”
Data don’t lie; you can’t hide from data. Mid-August my gamma brainwaves had dropped, my ever-spinning busy brain, heart rate, and muscle tension risen. Then my Pastor helped me make a necessary decision, and all my brainwaves returned to my normal the first week of September. I learnt a hard lesson about social media and therapists.
The situation on Twitter my Pastor extricated me from had been unfolding for months. I had been blind to it because of being a woman who hates confrontation, because my injured brain processed slowly what I was experiencing, because the PTSD hell I am in deafened me to the subtle difference between concern and obsession.
When I began to feel crowded in late August, I spoke to three therapists, a peer mentor, friends, and family about what to do. The situation changed daily and hourly; advice I got was old by the time I returned to Twitter. My inability to make quick decisions, my self-doubt, my slow processing all rendered me unable to handle the situation in real time on my own. I didn’t have weeks for my brain to process sensory input and initiate an action plan. I needed professional help. I didn’t receive it from my not-on-Twitter therapists. If I had told any therapist a man I knew was suddenly knocking on my front door every. single. day with a bunch of roses, then roses and chocolates, then roses, chocolates, and teddy bears several times a day, what do you think they would have said? Probably not “I can’t tell you what to do.” Finally I thought of my Pastor. He is a professional, he knows off behaviour, and he participates in social media. It was the latter that benefitted me. He understood the milieu, the tools to protect people; he knew what I needed to say and what I needed to not do. Mute, block, report, in that order, he repeated to me, if the man keeps getting to me. I wrote down his instructions and acted.
Relief. Then I got angry.
Imagine being a person with a brain injury who discovers Twitter, begins to flourish socially, then is informed by mental health professionals who are not on Twitter how it’s not “real life,” it’s only a start, how they need to get a social life in the “real world.” And to leave if someone is bothering them.
It’s patronizing, unhelpful, uncomprehending of social media, and a nicely worded putdown of your client’s experiential knowledge of Twitter as if it’s not as good as your what-you-heard-through-the-grapevine knowledge.
How can you really know the new and opaque Twitter community if you’ve never lived in it? Would you consider yourself qualified to help a person if you had no experience with commuting, with working, with living with a family, with friendship, with social clubs, with professional groups? That’s the kind of therapist you are when you attempt to aid a patient on Twitter when you’re unfamiliar with it yourself.
Up till now, I’ve thought it would be nice but not necessary to have my therapists on Twitter with me. But I’ve changed my mind. It is necessary for people in the helping professions to be on Twitter, to be experientially familiar with it.
So this blog post is for mental health professionals with no social media life experience.
Social media, specifically Twitter, is real life.
People in the helping professions who are not participating even to a small, regular degree, cannot help their patients or clients when toxic situations arise. They may think they can; their clients may hope they can. But they can’t.
How can you tell when behaviour is tipping from a bit too interested to obsession to stalking when you’re not familiar with what’s normal behaviour on social media?
When would you advise a patient being harassed on Twitter?
You may have heard about the obvious dangers where men tweet vicious rape and death threats to women. But people also become obsessed with a tweep so subtly and cleverly that fellow tweeps won’t recognize the danger. These people can control a person through misusing good Twitter features and can stalk them with no effort. I can see furrowed brows as you guys not on social media think “following” is stalking. It isn’t.
That’s the essential problem isn’t it when your patients or clients are on Twitter or Facebook and you are not: you speak different languages.
It’s like the telephone forty years ago. The instrument of instant voice communication was ubiquitous in Canada but not in England. Every time I visited England, I’d go to call someone and was sharply rebuked. What? What do you mean I can’t just pick up the phone and talk? What do you mean I can only use it if urgent and to use the mail instead? Since when do people use letters to talk to each other?!!! Argh!!! The English relatives would have the opposite experience coming to Canada; they would marvel at this concept of easily talking to people any old time and for as long as they wanted to. How novel! How fast! How freeing!!
That’s social media: novel, fast, freeing; also fun, challenging, stimulating, newsy.
But a therapist not on Twitter is like that relative in England: unknowing and unbelieving.
Twitter has matured into a community separate yet threaded into the world. Today, people of like minds meet each other across space and time; people of opposite minds debate and people from different cultures learn how they argue differently, making us Canadians appreciate how respectful we are; people talk to each other rapidly as if face-to-face, as well as in slow motion over several hours; people congregate around conversations like at the best party ever; people strike up friendships, draw “real-life” relationships closer, and take Twitter ones into geographic space, thereby changing them in unforeseen ways; people live tweet events to an audience who watch through their smartphone apps; journalists smash through the confining walls of traditional media; people influence politicians; and people get a hell of a lot better customer service – it’s amazing what complaining about bad service to one’s 1000+ followers does for your telephone service. Tone, mood, tiredness, hunger, laughter, knowledge, EQ, IQ, sense of humour, interests all come through in tweets. People become intertwined; personal discussions are conducted in public instead of privately through DM. As a result, all sorts of social cohesions and problems crop up that therapists have no clue about, even if explained through the imperfect filter of their patient’s experience. How would you advise your client in trouble on Twitter? Perhaps tell them to take a break from social media, as I was told to?
But that advice blames the victim and reveals your harmful-to-your-client ignorance of safety tools created to allow the victim to stay on happily while sending the offender out the air lock. Can you imagine advising your client to not visit their friends, don’t read the newspaper, don’t talk to politicians, don’t attend events, don’t watch videos, don’t listen to music, don’t share your photos, don’t write? Well, that’s what you’re doing when you suggest quitting Twitter or social media.
What does a patient do when a painful conversation pops up in their stream? Could you advise them and recognize the urgency if their tweeps began arguing with them, muted them, blocked them for no reason they could understand? Arguments are a fact of Twitter life. Not all are bad. Political or news-driven arguments are informative or entertaining and the cool thing is that strangers jump in – but perhaps a person with a brain injury or social phobia would hesitate to participate without your help. Being able to ask you, their therapist, for knowledgeable guidance would not only be nice but moreso necessary for people with poor social skills and/or low EQ, dontchya think?
Relationships on Twitter are real ones. People are people everywhere. They bring their baggage into the Twitter community, even when they intend to hide it. If they tweet regularly they’ll eventually reveal more and more of themselves.
One of my therapists said it’s like texting. Um, no. It’s more like film acting or writing a book in that you have no specific audience in mind. Maybe one day when you’re a little emotional or bored, you tweet out something revelatory. You mayn’t get a reply, so you won’t know it was read. That drops your guard a little. You tweet out something more revelatory. Pretty soon, regular followers and anyone checking out your timeline will develop a pretty good picture of you. But in texting you always have one person firmly in mind – so you’ll remember to keep hiding what you don’t want the other person to know. And no one ever joins in that conversation sans an invitation.
I was also told it’s like a dating site where the person you’re supposed to be exclusive with can see when you’ve logged on and who’ve you corresponded with. Really? I had no idea. But, um, no. Twitter doesn’t reveal lurkers. But Twitter does make monitoring dead easy: turn on notifications on a favourite tweep and voilá, as soon as she tweets, your smartphone or tablet buzzes. It’s a great feature for friends to keep up with each other or a therapist to monitor a fragile client, but it can also be used to obsess over a person. Or control them. Or stalk them. Fun.
Would a therapist not on social media know about that?
No. You wouldn’t. And so you might say soothingly, it’s only a coincidence he tweets you within minutes of you tweeting and he’s suddenly mimicking your tweets, not recognizing the danger to your client.
Would a therapist not on social media know Twitter is like face-to-face communication and how rapidly things evolve or devolve?
No. You wouldn’t. And so you might tell a woman patient with a brain injury worried about a man obsessed with her, that you can’t tell her what to do but can discuss it at the next appointment if it remains unresolved, as if she has weeks to decide, compose, act.
Would a therapist not on social media understand mute, block, report?
No. You wouldn’t. And so you would tell your client to take a break from a big part of her real life instead of advising her on how to use the safety tools in order to stay in her community sans being harassed.
Well, what’s in it for me, asked one health care professional of me, as if being able to advise their patient appropriately was not a good enough reason. Ahem.
Well, okay then: what’s in it for you to live in a community, live in Toronto, be part of Canadian life?
Do you read newspapers? Twitter will provide you broader and more comprehensive news faster than your traditional newspapers, TV, radio, way beyond what you can imagine. Do you like to influence local politics? Twitter will get you direct access to policians, bureaucrats, and journalists. Do you like to chat over coffee? You’ll meet all sorts of people from around the globe to shoot the breeze with. Do you want to expand your professional learning? You’ll get together with patients and fellow professionals in scheduled chats. Do you want to meet like minds and be challenged by new ideas? Do you want to break out of your geographic box and meet your fellow Canuckians, learn about Canada’s North, feast your eyes on the gorgeousness of our country, our planet? Do you want to meet your fellow professionals from the UK, Australia, India, etc. socially as well as professionally? Do you want to participate in your professional conferences more fully? Do you want to watch volcanoes blow complete with visible and audible shock waves? Do you want to participate in or watch events you can’t attend? Do you want to discuss a TV show no one in your family is interested in while you’re viewing it? Do you like to people watch? Well, Twitter does all that and more because it’s a community comprising flesh-and-blood humans connecting through their minds. Rather sci-fi’ish I know. But real.
Twitter is real life. Twitter is where your patients and clients live. That is why you as a therapist must join in. Or if you choose not to, know that you are abandoning your client to the deceivers of the world while you watch from the sidelines benignly.
The bald eagles
Launch from the bleached
Pole trees and
Soar up and up over
The head of the photographer below.
Sixteen in all.
Click, click, click
She captures them oblivious
And smiles to see them free and together
Before turning away for the long trek home oblivious
To their sharp eyes on her
watching her walk on the hard, skittery sand into her future.
A lot of these I’d read before because they are published in other books of hers. For that reason, if you haven’t read Christie’s short stories featuring Poirot, then this is a good book or ebook to read. But if you have, you’ll be flipping through the book a lot…unless you’ve read her shorts once a long time ago or like to reread familiar stories over and over.
The one interesting addition to familiar material is seeing where they were originally published. And there were a few stories I hadn’t read before and enjoyed getting to know.
I didn’t think I would do it this year. The novel I had in mind, I couldn’t get researched in time. I had trouble even with desiring to write anything, and I worried that by the time November 1st came around, I’d have some motivation back but nothing to write. And so I, unusually for me, ditched my original idea (for now) and went back to a radio play I’d written for ScriptFrenzy in 2011. All I had to do was go through it and create an outline in my Index Card app. I almost didn’t get that done either! But I did at the last minute and started writing the very first minute of November 1st.
I was off to an auspicious start. It helped that the National Novel Writing Month folks have really amped up the pep talks, Twitter coaching, online sprints, encouraging emails — I mean, we were positively inundated in a really, really good way. But it wasn’t enough. My motivation hadn’t returned, and I found myself reluctant to write. Fortunately, for me, life had dropped out of a maritime blue sky a fellow brain injury survivor who’s a trained life coach who made her mission to cheer me on. Every time I flagged, she was there to discuss the novel, me, NaNoWriMo, whatever, and wind me up again. From her, I received daily ecards, and with her astute questions, I figured out what was wrong with the ending and what I needed it to be. And finally, on the last day, the story came together and wrapped itself up, and suddenly, I was done. Phew.
I blogged occasionally on Google+, as is my wont. Herewith are the posts:
So I’m off. I don’t normally start NaNoWriMo right at midnight. But I wasn’t sure I’d get a chance to write my first novelling words during normal, sane hours of the day, and hey, it’s good to launch with everyone else at the stroke of 12:00am in my time zone! I’d been waiting all Halloween day since I woke up and saw Christmas Island start their first NaNoWriMo word sprint.
Day two of NaNoWriMo, and I’m behind in word count. On the plus side, I wrote more than the daily allotted number today, which bodes well for the next few days, right? 🙂
I’ve introduced a character that was only implied in the radio play, which means he has no name. And my mind was not up to coming up with one on the spot as I wrote in his character. So I called him the “director.” Maybe I should capitalize it, turn it into a noun name. 1,920 words today, 2,640 words so far for “Divorce Times Marriage.”
I wrote just over 2,000 words today for NaNoWriMo. I’m almost caught up to the daily word count. Almost. 🙂 A lot of dialogue in today’s scene. Yesterday, I was wondering if I had a handle on Cherry’s character because she seemed to be morphing from how she was in my head back when I wrote the original radio play to something different today. Then I realized that I’m adding on a layer rather than changing her outright, making her less of caricature or one-note character. Gerald’s turn will come, I’m sure. But he’s such a strong character in my head, he doesn’t need tweaking. Heh.
I was almost caught up, and then today, I wrote a short chapter. I began in third person, but luckily had only written a paragraph or two when I remembered that these particular interior scenes are in first person. I went back and edited (a big NaNoWriMo no-no — one must never edit, but I had to in this case!). And once I was in first person, the words come more easily. This is definitely the right point of view for these scenes with Gerald talking to you. 🙂
I’m up to 7,622 words, ahead of some of my NaNoWriMo writing buddies, behind others. Smack in the middle is OK, but it’s more fun when I’m leading the pack. Heh.
After not writing yesterday, I cracked the 2000-word barrier today. Phew. Still behind in the word count though. I’m not sure I could’ve written anymore. My character did a lot of yelling and then the exhaustion of it overtook her — and me too. #nanowrimo is doing a writing marathon on Saturday. I may join in, for a part anyway, so as to finally, finally get caught up. Been behind since day one!
Big scene at the shrink’s today in my #nanowrimo novel Divorce Times Marriage. Went a long way to making up for my low word count so far. I’m almost near where I should be — again. Cherry didn’t have much to say during this session; she mostly hid behind her hair. I find having long, or at least not too short, hair comes in handy, but it was hard trying to describe the fall of her hair and how she hid behind it without using “tell” words. Gerald, though, had lots to say. On and on. The shrink’s response was suitably rewarding. I like an active shrink!
A beefy 2,800 words or so today! Over 12,000 words this month so far!!
Today was NaNoWriMo’s NaNoThon day. I typed 3,727 words and upped my word count above where I’m supposed to be. I was hoping to type more, but I had to catch up on my coursework as well. I know, I know, we’re not supposed to have any other commitments during the novelling month, but I couldn’t resist! Anyway, it was fun being part of this planetary writing marathon while I could join in. It’s a definite keeper of an idea!
The #nanowrimo week-two-three doldrums officially dragged me down this week. But I saw the Toronto ML’s video in my Google+ feed and clicked on it to watch. You must too! Especially if you’re questioning whether you can write or want to write or if NaNoWriMo is for you. Or you just need a laugh and a non-Rob Ford thing to laugh over. 🙂
So I watched that, opened Scrivener, and got down to the business. And boy, did I write. I blew past all my previous daily word counts. I’m behind again in where I should be, but not as badly as I would’ve been if I’d written what I normally have this month. Phew. This is why NaNoWriMo is so great — the huge swell of support that buoys you up and pushes you along when you hit those discouraging still, windless waters.
But #nanowrimo comes first! The writing must always come first, isn’t that what they say? Heh. So as the sun shone onto me, I ignored it and typed away on my computer until I reached the halfway point of this month of novelling, although I didn’t know it was the halfway point. I just knew it was the end of today’s chapter and found out I’d passed the 25k mark when I clicked on Project Stats in Scrivener.
I’m getting used to Scrivener. I think I’ve fully transitioned from writing my novels in WordPerfect to writing them in Scrivener. I know there are many features of this software that I don’t use yet, but for distraction-free writing, I got it down pat.
I keep forgetting to change my POV from third person to first when I get to a Gerald-only chapter. Then when it dawns on me, a loud ARRGGHHH fills the room, before I have to go back and tediously replace all the “he”s with “I”s. And that’s when I notice — once again — what a difference it makes which POV I write in when I do a Gerald scene. Gerald’s thoughts and emotions come alive in my mind when I switch to first person in a way that third doesn’t do. Anyway, Gerald’s time is done for the day, and it’s my turn to have some fun (not that Gerald was having fun, oh no, he was in agony).
I’ve fallen off the #nanowrimo bandwagon. I blame my metaphysics course, making me think about reality, write about free will. But that’s all done. And after I passed out from the effort, had a pep talk, read a pep talk, looked at Errol’s nanotoon, watched Scrivener go belly up on me, restart it, I finally began writing again. And that’s when I saw I hadn’t quite finished my last chapter. I thought I had, but I hadn’t really, not based on where the plot was going in the radio play I’m basing the novel on. I didn’t want to touch the last chapter. So I made a bit of a switch-up in my structure and added a new chapter. Now the chapter I was going to work on will have to wait until tomorrow.
I wrote almost 1900 words today, exceeding the daily quota but not enough to catch up from three lost days. I need another #nanothon !
Holy cow. I look up from typing, click Project Statistics in Scrivener, and I’ve passed the 50k mark. How’d that happen? When’d that happen? Well, today, I know, but it seemed like I was forever catching up and then all of a sudden: bam. I won.
I won the word count part (not officially yet though). Now I have to finish my novel. I have another seven chapters to go and three days to write them in. Hoo boy.
Oh yeah. I did it. I did it! LOL! I just validated my novel and was instantly taken to the NaNoWriMo winner’s page where the “Huzzah!” video played. It’s simple, short, and amazingly uplifting and rewarding to watch that video of people you don’t know personally congratulating you. Whoot!
I made it to 50k and beyond. Even more importantly, I finished the story, and I’m finally feeling that the ending is right. I’ll probably tweak the last few lines, maybe add in more dialogue, but the tone of it, the conclusion of it, at long last works for me. And if it works for me, then hopefully it’ll work for readers too (although I’m not sure when I’ll post it into the searching spotlight of the public, always a nerve-wracking, tricky thing to do).
I wrote the entire novel in Scrivener. It went off in a different direction in the last several chapters from the original radio play I wrote in 2012 during ScriptFrenzy. And for once, I managed to keep updating my outline in the Index Card app as I went (oh, um, I forgot — gotta update the last two chapters and delete a couple…anywhoo). And I found the Scrivener NaNoWriMo obfuscation compile template so that I could quickly and easily validate my manuscript on the NaNoWriMo website.
I’m now done. I’m finding that hard to believe. Wow. Done. Gotta let that sink in.
I’m feeling rather at loose ends, like, what now? Well, celebrate with some chocolate, of course. And then peruse the winner’s page to see what the goodies are. And oh yeah, update my BiblioCrunch annual membership. That is one winner’s goody from last year that more than paid itself out to me. Best one ever!
After talking to fellow indie writers on Twitter, I posted Aban’s Accension on Wattpad for feedback. The response was overwhelming, and I was particularly affected by readers who shared how Aban’s story affected them. I’m pleased to say that by the end of 2013, it is professionally edited and out in paperback, ePub, and Kindle.
It’s been awhile since the last book came out in the Cardinal series, and I wanted to see what happened to him after those tragic events when I saw Crime Machine ebook in the library. But I must say: Blunt has quite the gruesome imagination. I wondered at one point if I wanted to continue reading Crime Machine. I did because I wanted to see the “why” of the events, to see what would happen to the characters in jeopardy, and to see how long it would take Cardinal to solve the crime. In the end, the motivation for the murder(s) was explained; yet it kind of felt…strange, like it wasn’t quite plausible. I suppose that was maybe because the original event was not explained satisfactorily. In the context of the plot, it couldn’t be, tis true that, and so it’s up to the reader to decide, to think it through. But as vivid as my imagination can get, I wasn’t able to make it make sense. And frankly, maybe I wasn’t in the right head space in the context of my own life. Perhaps if I was reading it on a quiet Sunday afternoon, I’d have come at it from a different perspective and thus be more open to thinking through the motivation. In any case, I’m not sure if I want to continue reading this series, even if I do love the Canadian context and settings. I’ll think on it!
Boy, is this ever a different kind of Nero Wolfe book. There’s no brownstone, barely any fine cooking, no orchids, and most amazing of all, Wolfe is out and about. The book is set in Montana, so Wolfe having to travel is a given. But it’s fun to read how Wolfe conducts himself and copes with this unexpected turn of events.
Archie Goodwin really comes into his own here, and we get a deeper glimpse into his private life than we normally would. A thoroughly enjoyable read for Goodwin fans like me.
I’m pretty sure I read this book already, but I enjoyed reading it again. I like how Connelly brings in the protagonist of his other series and creates tension in the reader to see when the lawyer will figure out the cop, how much longer it will take the lawyer than the reader.
This series is good escapist fare. I’ve placed a hold on the next book in the series at the library already.