Thursday, October 31, 2013

Weekly Update: 10-31-13

Happy Halloween.

This post is a little early, but on Friday I'm going to Vegas, where my mom and I will meet my grandma's sister.  Last Tuesday would have been my late grandma's birthday.  She'd have been 85.  In her honor, my cousins and I met at Farrell's, an old fashioned ice cream parlor.  Grandma had mentioned wanting to go there for her birthday.  So we did.

Given how my social calandar was filled up this week, I'm amazed I got so much writing done.  Yesterday, I finished a chapter in my Coffin story.  Today I finished a chapter in The Originals.  But tomorrow NaNoWriMo starts.  This Halloween might find me hiding in my room as I sneak a head start on my word count.  Scary, I know.

I'm such a party pooper.  But at least I'm wearing an orange shirt.  That's as Halloween-y as I get,

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dissecting Fantasy: Mazes

In this 3-part installment of "Dissecting Fantasy," I'll look at how to represent intellectual play in speculative fiction using mazes, riddles, and games.   Just in time for Halloween, the most horror-dripped of the three forms: the dread maze.

The Role of Play in Fantasy

Do you ever feel nostalgia for the play of childhood?  I have since junior high.  While technically still a kid, the relentless creativity and all-consuming games were starting to detach from my mind.  Even as I felt it drift, I yearned for it.  I think that's why fantasy appeals to me--it's an echo of "Make-Believe" with all its boundless possibilities, adventures, and heightened emotions.

But "Make-Believe" was far from the only game I played as a child.  Every now and then, I liked to mix it up with various puzzles and strategy-based games--things that appealed to my logic and problem-solving abilities.  That's why I get excited to see mazes, riddles, and games in speculative fiction.  They promise conflict, fun, and a certain amount of cleverness that balance out the emotionalism of fantasy.


Sources: Greek Myths, James Dashner's The Maze Runner

Why We Love 'em

It's one kind of scary to get lost in the woods.  But a much more sinister kind of terror comes from being trapped in a maze.  In theory, there's a kind of logic and structure to mazes; in practice, all the logic and structure has bent to the will of the maze's creator for the sole purpose of getting you lost.  In a natural environment, you have space to run and places to hide.  Not so in a maze, where narrow corridors and dead ends force you to confront deadly peril.  And even the most benevolent of mazes have some sort of nasty surprise ready to pop out at you.

How to Build 'em

Well, first you grow a lot of hedges....

You need some kind of material to keep your protagonist trapped, something that obscures the view and keeps him from climbing over.  Hedges are find for friendly mazes, but for more evil mazes you need something that can do more bodily damage: poisoned spikes, shards of glass, chains, swinging saws, slime, laser beams... whatever floats your boat.

Now there's a trick about mazes that if you run your hand against the right wall, you can eventually find your way out.   Try to make that option as unattractive as possible.  Set up barriers.  Make the characters have to choose between a deadly route--spiderwebs or swamps or bones--and the safe route that will only get them even more lost.  Or you can break your hero's concentration.  Animals that chase him, swarms of stinging insects, darkness, smoke, alarms.  Downright cheat if you have to--make panels slide open and shut.

You might want to consider how the hero enters the maze and how to make sure they can't get out.  The simplest method is a gate that shuts behind the protagonist, sealing him in.  In The Maze Runner, an elevator brings the boys up.  Try to get down the same way and you die.

Do you want the protagonists to suffer a quick demise or would you rather they linger in torment for days?  In the case of the latter, you may want to consider safe zones and even open spaces where the hero can rest.

Last but not least, include at least one really stand-out monster.  In Greek myth, the Minotaur occupied the center of the maze.  The half-man, half-bull devoured all those who entered his maze.  But your monster can be anything.  It can pop out and surprise your hero or slowly stalk him through the maze.  Although not strictly necessary, the monster in a maze adds action to what would normally be a tense, but tiring meander.

Also Consider...

The Creator

As a general rule, mazes don't pop out of nowhere--to build one takes a focused application of brainpower and resources.  But why expend the effort?  What's the purpose in creating a maze?  A simple hedge maze may exist to delight and challenge its participants.  But a humungous death trap requires more explanation.  It's tempting to just dismiss the creator with a "He's crazy" and leave it at that.   But there must be a method to his madness.  After all, there are far easier ways to torment people.

The creator of the maze is not easily ignored.  Let's say, for example, that the maze is an archeological relic, its creator long dead, its history obscured.  The people who run the maze now use it for their own purpose.  Why the maze came into existence has no bearing on the story--or so it seems.  However, if the hero wandering the maze starts to understand the creator's mind, he gains a significant advantage in solving the puzzle.  He might even use this information to outwit the people who currently run the maze.  In this case, the long-dead creator can actually be the hero's greatest ally.

The fact of the matter is, if you do not establish who built the maze and why right from the start, the question will gnaw away at the readers.  They will demand an explanation by story's end and be supremely disappointed if they do not receive one.  This is the unspoken promise of the maze, and it is not a bad thing.  Few things keep people turning pages like a good mystery.  Establish the creator in your own mind but hide him from the audience.  This will give you power over your readers.

Finding a Way Out

Getting out of the maze should not be easy.  If your hero fumbles and stumbles his way out, the anticlimax is palpable.  Ideally escape from the maze should involve a combination of wits and confrontation.

In Greek myth, hero Theseus enters the labyrinth in order to defeat the Minotaur.  Slaying the beast is the confrontation.  But getting out of the maze requires a trick.  Ariadne, one of the guardians of the maze, gives Theseus a ball of golden thread before he steps foot inside.  He ties one end of the string to the entrance and unravels it until he gets to the center of the maze, where the Minotaur lurks.  After killing the half-man, half-bull, Theseus follows the thread back to the entrance.  That's the wits.

This example, by the way, illustrates that solving the maze need not require any stroke of genius.  A small burst of insight is greater than a complex scheme.  So don't intimidate yourself.  The creator of the maze might employ 10,000 tricks to keep his prisoners captive, but the hero only needs only to exploit one little weakness to escape.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Weekly Update: 10-25-13

In her famous book on creativity The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron argues that every writer ought to commit to journaling three pages every morning.  These "Morning Pages" are a dumping ground for self-doubt, frustrations, ideas, inspiration, boredom, or stress.  Though I find this surprisingly helpful, I don't always write my Morning Pages every week.  Just when I need them.

I needed them this week.  I find myself halfway throgh my Fall Writing Schedule, with NaNoWriMo just around the bend, and now the stress starts kicking in.  For September, October, and November, I set the goals of writing 6 new chapters in The Originals, my sequel to The Changelings; writing 6 new chapters for my Three Floating Coffins story; researching and submitting query letters to 10 new agents; completing 50,000 words (roughly 200 pages) of rough draft of Company, my ghost and imaginary friend story, for November's National Novel Writing Month; and writing two blog entries each week, at least one of which has actual content.

October's nearly gone and I barely have 3 messy chapters of The Originals complete, 3 polished chapters of Three Floating Coffins complete, and 5 agents submitted to.   Which puts me at the halfway point.  I could easily catch up--except that starting November I have to write 10 pages a day for NaNoWriMo, plus 3-10 hours a week on my Coffin story, plus another 100-150 pages written on my Originals story, plus more agents, plus the holidays coming up and all the good movies coming out.  Oh, and this week my sinuses have been draining phlegm into my chest, giving me a nasty cogh, and reminding me it's flu season.

To sum up, I'm stressed and that's why I need to spend nearly an hour everyday figuring out which projects to prioritize and which to cut.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Websearch: Sprint Beyond the Book

This is a new segment where I link websites on writing, publishing, fantasy, and other things that catch my interest.

I found this website thanks to Jane Friedman's e-newletter.  She participated in a conference called Sprint Beyond the Books, where several members of the writing industry gathered to discuss the future of publishing. Their articles are a good resource for those of us trying to keep on top of the publishing trends.

Favorite Articles

"The Blurring Line Between Reader and Writer" by Jane Friedman  

As reading becomes more participatory, the reader will take a larger role in creating the material, while writers will become the facilitators of ideas (Non-Fiction) or builders of worlds (Fiction).  Face-tracking technology will calculate how people read and adapt to their reactions.

"Publishers: What Are They Good For?" by Charlie Stross  

If you ever wanted to know all the steps it takes to go from manuscript to published book (both physical and digital), this article sums it up.  It also explains why it usually takes publishers a year to get the book out.

"The Future of Bookstores" by Lee Konstantinon  

Barnes and Noble may disappear, but new types of bookstores will spring in to fill-in the void.  Ideas include temporary "pop-up" kiosks facilitated by hip "Book DJs," Print on Demand Machines, and a radical socialist experiment known as "the public library."

Gut Reactions

"[Y]ou often find that people's biggest problem has nothing to do with finding stories [...], but with having time to consume everything they find.  One strategy in the self-publishing community [...] is keeping their prices very low (even free) [...] to encourage large volumes of people to buy.  However, this can have the unintended effect of encouraging readers to download or buy many more books than they could ever read [...]." 

--Jane Friedman, "The Importance of Metadata in Book Discoverability"

I agree.  Sad as it is, I rarely read the free downloads of ebooks authors give away.  Since I haven't invested any money in buying it, I don't feel obliged to invest the time in reading it.  However, library books are free and I read them.  I think, since the time in which I have the book is limited, I'm more apt to actually prioritize reading a library book.  Which brings me to an idea.  What if you could download an author's book free for a limited amount of time and then it disappeared?  Wouldn't you be more prone to reading it before it was gone and you had to pay full price?

"The digital era may entail a new type of authorship, one that is built on resampling, remixing, and collaboration.  Authors may evolve to be leaders, moderators, and synthesizers of information, rather than the dictator in control of it."  

--Jane Friedman, "The Idea of the Author Is Facing Extinction"

I think the idea of involving readers works well in Non-Fiction, especially Non-Fiction that delves into a universal human experience.  But for Fiction, I disagree.  In order to tell the story, an author must have the control to say, "This MUST happen."  It's that sense of inevitable that makes a story worth reading.

"Authors are already told they have to behave like brands.  They need to run their own websites, have presence on popular social media sites, cultivate reader communities and market their own books (publishers won't bother).  [... In the future, the publisher's] job [will be] to have good taste.  His livelihood will depend on his reputation.  He will make--and break--canons."

--Lee Konstantinou, "Our Friend the Book DJ"

Depressing.  Publishers have always been "gatekeepers," dictating which writing is good enough to enter the market, but at least they have the decency to do some of the dirty work: editing, marketing, distribution, etc.  In this imagined future the publisher (or Book DJ) will evolve into a super gatekeeper, a kingmaker so to speak, sitting upon his throne of books and bestowing the good ones onto the public. Frankly, I find this rather fantastic.  Who would pay a person to do this job?  And wouldn't, in fact, this job be more akin to a book reviewer anyway?

For Future Research

Websites casually mentioned in the articles.  Must explore in more detail later on.

Kindle Worlds--Fanfiction on Amazon
Kindle Singles--Stories between 10,000-30,000 words
Kindle Serials--Subscriptions
Wattpad--"provides a sandbox for any authors to experiment, practice, and gather readership"
Penflip--"Github for Writers"

Weekly Update: 10-19-13

At this point in my writing career, I assume I'm still relatively annonymous.  For now, I don't mind my obscurity, since I haven't gotten anything published yet and I'm still figuring out how marketing works.  This Monday, however, I learned that certain people were scanning my website.  Namely, the high school students I sub for.

I was half-flattered, half-embarassed.  I could practically feel my cheeks turning pink.  It's not that I put anything bad on my website, but rather, it feels strange when your students start to glimpse your personal life.  In Japan, I'd often run across students at the grocery store and that felt embarassing too.  Should I say hi to them in my bright, chippery "English" voice or should I attempt to engage them in Japanese?  If I was lucky, they'd be wearing uniforms and I could at least guess what schools they were from (I visited 3 schools a week).  Knowing their names was imposssible.  And sometimes they'd look in my basket to see what I was buying, which was usually bread and vegetables and pasta and tofu and meat and cookies.  Again, nothing bad, but boy did it feel weird.  

It's sort of like being a mini celebrity.  And that makes me wonder how it will feel if I become an author and actually have fans.  Will my cheeks turn pink?  Will I have to find an "author" persona to go into at any random time?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Day Trip Travelogue: Decompression, LA

Drawn in by my friend Ashley, I enter a carnival of art and play that harkens back to college days.   As the sun sets and the lights go on, what adventures shall we have in this strange new world?

Prologue--The Burning Man Connection

As we sat at a cafe sipped tea together, my dear friend Ashley recounted her experience with Burning Man, a pop-up community in the Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada.  For one week at the end of August, this empty stretch of powder-fine dust explodes into a city of 68,000 souls, who bring their own food, water, shelter, costume, and art.  Among the pieces is a huge wooden effigy, the titular "burning man" that erupts into flame by the experience's end. 

What draws people to the desert is an individual matter, but my friend Ashley sought and found spiritual transformation.  She felt safe to be herself, to give and receive freely, to let go of negative emotions and achieve catharsis.  And as she told me about climbing on statues, dangling from hammocks high off the ground, and riding down narrow rickety "death slides," I found myself growing intrigued.  I wanted to enter this magical place of survival and play.

"I wish I could have come with you," I sighed.  "It sounds like such an interesting experience."
"Would you like to go to Decompression with me?"

Decompression, Ashley explained, was a one-day event associated with Burning Man, where some of the art was displayed and local "Burners" had a chance to mingle.  Burning Man mini, so to speak.  Ashley wanted me to come, and I was free.  Why not experience this world my friend loved, why not play together like kids?

And so the date was set.  Saturday, October 5th we would go.
The Setting--What Would the Metro-link Passengers Think?

A park in LA.  Flat ground, mostly dirt, with some dried crab grass clawing at the two tiny mounds we call hills.  Five or six adolescent trees, barely out of sapling-hood, stand on each hill; forests, to us.  Glassy skyscrapers make up the borrowed scenery; a smattering of palm trees and a mission-style church look on blankly from outside the fence.  Occasionally, the Metrolink runs by.  I imagine passengers gazing out the window at the same scenery they see everyday.  Suddenly they start.  What's going on at this park?  Why are there white tents and booths and stages, people dressed in costume, the steady hum of bass?  They barely have time to wonder before the train shoots by and their experience of Decompression is done.  

But not for me.  I'm shuffling along, turning my head like an owl, while my brain desperately gropes for an analogy.  The first thing that one that pops into my head is the circus--simultaneously watching it and being in it.  Here are stages where scantily dressed performers twirl fire batons; there are boxes of mirrors that distort your face to fun-house effect.  And yet, you can easily pick up a hoop and create your own show or join in a tea party or paint your body with art.  I don't, but I could.

On second thought, though, maybe Decompression is like college.  It has the same pungent, illegal odor the hallways of my dorm had, as well as art projects built of recycled bubble wrap and spontaneous light sabers duels.  The play of young adults trying to recapture the innocent games of childhood has the sense of impermanence to it.   The fragile world is in jeopardy and will all too soon disappear.

Costumes--The Gypsy Wood Nymph and the Kitsune Goth

I would have felt strange if I didn't dress up--like an outsider.  Maybe I am one and maybe they'll know it, but a costume works as camouflage, so I raid Ashley's closet before we set off.  My go-to persona is what Ashley calls "the kitsune goddess," a reference to the fox-spirits of Japanese lore who can shape shift into beautiful women.  I throw on a blue yukata, attach a fox tail, and color my face.

Red and yellow kabuki-style make-up swoop my eyes like a butterfly mask.  I can't decide what to do with my lips, so I paint them black.  Ashley instantly likes it, saying I look goth.  I've never been goth before, but I don't mind trying.  I cinch a silver and black belt around my waist, put on striped arm-warmers, and stick a tall comb in my hair.  I feel both regal and scary alike, like an evil queen or Lady MacBeth.  Incidentally, I was always good at acting out demented roles in high school drama class.  Go figure.

Ashley was already dressed when she picked me up.  She has on poofy green harem pants and a mesh top that bares her arms and midriff.  Scarfs and purple yarn hair wind the top of her head and tiny horns poke from her hair.  She looks like a gypsy wood nymph.  We are both fantastical characters.

Decompression holds a cornucopia of different characters.  I see steampunk outfits, hoop skirts, huge mohawks made of feathers, orange astronaut jumpsuits, white jumpsuits with disco mirrors plastered like polka dots, red cheerleader outfits... too many to describe.  My "evil" confidence slips as I revert back to being a shy girl.  We walk side by side into the crowd.

Art--Fire Angel and Painting the Trailer from the Inside Out

What first appeared to be a balsa-wood Taj Mahal has a very steam punk look when I approach it.  People sit and hang out in bulbous pockets of wood.  Nearby, a metal statue of a woman has flames trailing around her arms like the outlines of wings.  Later, real fire spurts from the base and the statue spins and spins in whirling dervish, as though trying to escape.  The flames shroud the angel but cannot quite consume her.

A gallery of florescent black-light paintings become 3-D when we put on the special glasses.  A box of red-lit smoke spits out perfect smoke rings, making me think of The Hobbit.  A fish tank maze of blue-green bubble wrap leads to tiny sea shell shrine.

But what I like best is a small trailer where a cheerful woman in an orange sari invites us to paint our own pictures in whatever spot we can find.  This is no easy task, as aliens, mermaids, and bubbles compete for space on the walls and ceiling.  Ashley locates a dolphin she painted last year.  This year she does tribal patterns on the edge of a shelf, while I play with the colors of an ocean sunset.

Dust--"Worse Than Burning Man"

I feel it first after the pedal car track.  We've been pumping the bicycle gears of our buggies through the dirt and wood chip terrain, trying to bump each other but mostly failing.  As I come out of the car, I'm out of breath and gasping--though this I attribute to my being out of shape.  Then I notice my mouth feels dry and cracked.  The black lipstick flakes off my mouth.  I croak to Ashley that I need water.

It's dusty here.  By the food trucks where I buy my water, there's no vegetation and people kick up the dirt.  My sinus explode.  I pop Sudefeds and cough drops in a desperate attempt to clear my head.  I suspect the Santa Ana winds are blowing, contaminating the air with allergens.  Ashley at first laughs at my complaints.  This is nothing compared to the "white out" dust storms that hit Burning Man.

The evening wears on and the dust clogs up my chest.  It's hard for me to breathe.  Now Ashley's aware of the dust, too.  Its almost invisible, except in the flash of my camera.  Ashley admits that this year Burning Man was low on dust storms.  The rain had come down before and made the dirt stick.  Decompression, surprisingly, is more dusty this year.

Lights--What Do Plastic Bottles Have to Do With a Beloved Childhood Game?

The more the sun sets, the less self-conscious I feel.  The scenery transforms.  The skyscrapers light up.  Dangling crystal objects glow, stages shine neon, Christmas lights twinkle atop stranger's hats.  Excitement bubbles in my veins.  I've done enough observing.  Now, I want to play.

I drag Ashley to a giant Lite Brite, one of those childhood toys I used to play with.  A Lite Brite is basically a board with pegs you stick in to create a mosiac which lights up when you plug it in.  From a distance, I can't figure out how they made it.  But on closer inspection, I see the "pegs" are actually water bottles drizzled in a coat of neon paints.  The frame is wood, but most of the board is Styrofoam, with holes cut out for the peg.  We arrange them for a while.  I try to make a diamond.  Ashley makes a heart.

People--Heart to Heart

Men from a booth offer hugs from in exchange for compliments.  One is "stuck-up" by a robber holding a banana, who proceeds to chase him round and round the stand.  Kids in scouting uniforms play a somber game of chess with pieces made of Barbie dolls and action figures.  A dancer twirls her long sleeves to a man playing a lute.  A girl in a wheelchair talks about color chakras and offers us a crystal infused with positive energy.

So many different people, so many personalities.  Still, what I liked best was sitting with my friend Ashley under one of those poor almost-grown trees, eating gelato and talking heart to heart, as old friends should.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Weekly Update: 10-11-13

Sometimes I feel bored when I write, sometimes I feel frustrated.  But this week writing filled me with joy.

On Wednesday, when I started Chapter 3 of "The Originals," I had some idea of where to start, thanks to brainstorming, but I wasn't sure where I'd end up.  But then, like dominos, one sentence followed the next, and I wrote with passion and intesity, discovering things I never knew about my characters.  It felt like hitting gold, or maybe hitting the carmel ribbon in my vanilla ice cream.  I wrote 15 pages in one morning and it felt good.

Then on Thursday I started thinking about my Coffin story, Chapter 20, an action scene.  As I walked to the library for my weekly volunteering at the bookstore, I could feel the excitement from the events.  It took a while to translate that passion into good writing, but once I hit that stride I didn't want to stop.

Sometimes I get discouraged with the life I've chosen for myself, the life of a penniless artist, and that makes it important to hold onto the exhuberent times and remember them.

* * *

On a different note, I found an interesting article on writing advice called "Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling," as told by Pixar storyboarder Emma Coats, written by Chris Robley.  Now I have to admit, I don't usually like being told how to write, but the list really felt helpful to me.  Here are some of the points that made me think:

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Quick Book Review: Feed

Title: Feed
Author: Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire)
Genre: Zombie Apocalypse, Political Thriller


There are two things Georgia Mason cares deeply about: the Truth and her daredevil brother Shaun.  As part of the post-Zombie Apocalypse generation, Georgia and Shaun run a multi-media blog reporting (and occasionally making) the news.  When asked to cover the presidential race of long-shot candidate Senator Ryman, they think they've hit the big time.  But when a series of zombie attacks start hitting the senator's camp, Georgia realizes she's stumbled upon a conspiracy bigger than she knows.  Georgia is determined to find and expose the Truth.  But with the assassins honing in on her team, will Truth come at a cost too high for her to pay?


Anyone paying any attention to the presidential race of 2008 will immediately notice the parallels in this book, starting with the young senator who becomes a front-runner overnight and isn't afraid to use new media to his advantage.  There's also a fanatic of the religious right who "cares so much about freedom he's willing to give it to you at gunpoint" and a comic-relief female candidate with no platform but a great set of boobs.  Aside from the election, the book tackles recent trends of celebrity culture, new media versus old, and the atmosphere of fear and isolation within the American public.

Georgia is a new kind of journalist with an old heart.  She makes extensive use of technology to give readers up-to-the-minute feed, but at the same time she's unafraid to go into the field for stories and ask politicians the tough questions.  She's also a fanatic on fact-checking.  Truth is her passion.  Yet I personally found some of her methods disturbing.  She and her crew are walking hidden cameras.  Dare to question her right to have live video streaming of private meetings after an assassination attempt, and she'll scream censorship.  She's often rude, sometimes bullying, and rarely doubts the rightness of her cause.

What saves Georgia from being a two-dimensional ideal of the perfect journalist is her relationship with her brother Shaun.  They love and trust each other and continually risk their lives together, all while keeping up a stream of witty bickering.  The brother-sister relationship is close to the point of co-dependence, but it makes sense given the isolationist world they grew up in and the lack of affection from their parents--media whores who exploit their children for ratings.  Georgia and Shaun have each other--no one else.  And therein lies their greatest vulnerability, for this is a world where one stupid mistake can lead to death.  Georgia and Shaun both fear losing the other, a fear that intensifies as they deal with not only zombies but full-on assassination attempts.

Plotwise, Feed moves fast, balancing zombie action with political intrigue.  I didn't want to put the book down.  Be warned, however, that as the story reaches its mid-way point, the deaths start coming fast and with greater emotional weight.  No one is safe.  I suppose I should have known enough about the zombie genre not to be shocked--but I was.  This is not a happy story.  It is, however, well-written and thought-provoking.  Whether or not you agree with the author, this book will make you think about the kind of world you want to live in and your duty to bring that world about.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Weekly Update: 10-4-13

It's been a sleep-deprived week.  Not that I exactly know why I can't seem to sleep.  General anxiety, I suppose.   I'm looking at ways to network and thinking about re-writing my short stories and starting my brainstorming for NaNoWriMo and, well, all these little thoughts worm their way into my brain in the middle of night.  So I toss and turn and toss and turn and worry about waking up at 5:00 AM for subbing work I may or may not get.  (This week I didn't get it.)  Next thing you know, poof, a couple hours have gone by and still I'm awake.

Incidentally, the only way I know to combat this is the same way I combat writer's block--by scribbling my frustrations into a journal until I feel calm.

Working on my second novel this week, I focused on brainstorming.  I have a rough draft and know vaguely where I'm going; the bones of the novel are in place, so now I've got to fasten some meat on them.  In the past I might have typed aimlessly in order to meet a random work count I've assigned myself.  This time, I'm trying a different strategy.  It's a combination of problem solving and outlining, a very informal structure of tossing out ideas until I figure out where I'm going.  I'm not sure how well this will work, but I'll test it and see. 

Oh, and I just found out I got Rejection # 3 for me novel.  Yay for me.