Monday, December 15, 2008

Getting my life back

I've often said that NaNoWriMo is something like a mental marathon. Having never actually run a marathon, this is all conjecture, but it does take a tremendous amount of single-mindedness and mental endurance to crank out nearly 2,000 words a day for 30 days.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the relief one feels when it ends is nearly as great (I imagine) as ending a marathon. This is the reason why, though I had told myself I would finish my novel over the summer last year, I somehow never got around to it and so I've had to put my SF novel off again. In fact, now that I've put in another 50,000 words into it and somehow only reached the second of the three main climaxes of the story, I'm getting a little concerned.

Though December has killed my word count (last I looked it was 1/4th November's average--I'm afaid to look now). I am, however, determined to finish this thing once and for all. In fact since the crew at NaNoWriMo have worked out a deal with Amazon's POD publisher to give winner's free proofs of their stories (only good for six months) I have some incentive to finish the thing. I just have some hard decisions to make about how far I'm going to take this thing, to say nothing of a month's worth of messages in my inbox and all these friends requests coming into my facebook page...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Go! Go! Go

Just a quick post. Things have been going very well so far this year. I checked my logs and by last night I was 1,124 words over where I was last year. In fact I've not failed to meet goal yet (averaging nearly 2,000 words a day so far) whereas last year I'd already had one day where I'd failed to make goal and was averaging about 160 words a day less.

Maybe, despite all the editing I've done over the last year, I've learned to turn the internal editor off and just write this year. I think having a more detailed outline has certainly helped as I no longer have to stop and ask myself what happens next. Of course I still have that nagging fear that I'll run out of outline before I run out of story again this year, but I guess I'll burn that bridge when I get there. :)

One interesting thing I've discovered is that when I'm nearing the end of a scene, but still haven't made goal for the night, but I'm close enough that I don't want to start the next one, I am forced to be creative. At least a couple of times now, it's forced me to dig deeper and discover aspects of characters and their relationships that I hadn't suspected until I decided I needed "something more" before I was done with the scene. I'll sometimes do this sort of thing in revision, but it's been a nice surprise to be able to unearth this stuff while I'm frantically sprinting toward my goal for the day. I'll have to spend more time thinking about this...when I have time to think.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ready! Set! Wait For It!...

Ok, I'm going slightly mad waiting. I REALLY want to write but I'm making myself hold off until November. I've drawn up a list of about 60 scenes which is about 1/3 longer than last year so I shouldn't have to scramble too much for ideas when it comes time to write. (I hope.)

I'm a little concerned about the scope of the story though. I've already dumped 50k into it last year and I expect anywhere from 50-80k yet to go before the story is done. I tried really hard not to pad it with unnecessary stuff, so it's even possible it will grow when I get to the editing stage. I'm afraid it may be a little large for a first-published (hopefully) novel.

My big fear, other than the usual disasters such as hard drive/computer failures, holidays and families and who knows what else might be lurking next month, is that I've got this not so little web design contract on the side that has been delayed and delayed and though I had hoped to finish it by the end of this month, probably isn't going to be finished. My coding partner may get stuck with the brunt of the load in Nov., which is going to sabotage his attempts again at nano.

Speaking of my cousin, he found a local supply of shrimp chips! I first had these when my aunt brought them back from Japan when I was in kindergarten. I last had them 15 or 20 years ago when I lived in California. I missed them and I still love to watch them puff up as they cook just as much as I did when I was a kid.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Preparing for the 10th Anniversary of NaNoWriMo

So many things to blog about...and so little time to do so. I finally finished the latest version of my author's site I've got the CMS set up for a site where I plan to post all my setting information, but that won't go live until after NaNoWriMo

Speaking of nanowrimo, I'm very excited about participating this year. (I'm already starting to annoy my wife talking about it.) I'm also a little more worried this year. I'm planning on doing part 2 of the story I began last year, but I'm firmly stuck in the muddy middle of the story and I'm not sure which route I want to take to get me from the beginning to the ending. It's an ambitious story so pacing is already going to be an issue. Based on my work last year, I'm going to need somewhere between 50 to 75 scenes. So far I've got about 20 planned, then the rest just kind of fades into a blur. But, then, that's what's nanowrimo is about, isn't it? Just forcing you to gut out the word count and discover all kinds of things inside of you that you didn't know was there. That and just getting writers off their lazy butts.

Several weeks back I printed out all of my completed short stories (and the 1 novella) and ran them through a final (re)edit to get them ready to send out for their final rounds of submissions. I'm planning on running them through all the few remaining professional markets for short fiction, then I'll probably do something with them online. I like to do my final edits in hard copy (because I think I catch more stuff that way), so though I've finished nearly all of them, I still have to type in the changes.

Other than work, kids and the general distractions of life, I've done a little reading. One was a best-selling fantasy author who shall go nameless. I got about 5 or 6 chapters into it before realizing I had read it once before nearly 10 years ago. Even considering that it was a freshman work, the writing was appalling. The whole thing was all passive verbs, tons of over-writing and general cruft, not just one but two cliche openings because the first couldn't possibly motivate such a lame character.... It thoroughly depressed me, because if this guy could not only get published but go on to have a best-selling career, then something other than writing is the key factor in this business.

Speaking of reading old works, I borrowed a copy of Watchmen from a friend. Seeing the trailer for the movie, made me want to go back and re-read it. It was just as good as I remembered from all those years ago. I hope they can get the legal issues worked out, because I really want to see it, though it will be curious to see how they are able to adapt such a deep character-rich story for the big screen. All that being said, these photos of "Rorschach" picketing Fox studios for holding the movie up made me laugh.

I finally got around to reading The Road. I should say at the outset, that I'm a guy who likes post-apocalyptic stories. That is probably the only reason I finished this relentlessly oppressive book. I'm not saying it's bad. It's actually quite captivating despite some real flaws. The premise is completely unconvincing. (This from a guy who will happily suspend disbelief for any Romero-style zombie movie.) Plot-wise, I think it would have made an awesome short story. As a novel, it was a little thin. The characters are thin as well (both literally and literarily :) but their relationship and the father's obsessive will to survive do keep you engaged in the story. I almost didn't get into it because of an inexplicable lack of quotation marks and other punctuation and at least a few times where the author blatantly shifted from third to first person POV, but it is still a very worthwhile read. It is not divided up into chapters, but many of the scenes are short so I found myself gobbling one after the other like popcorn. I would highly recommend it to anyone and encourage those who fear they can't handle the bleak and unrelenting oppression by saying the book has a surprising and strangely optimistic conclusion that is really quite touching.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What I did on my Summer Vacation--Part 2

Of course I've done other things besides reading. Besides all the holidays and family events and the sudden need to change web hosts and losing a two (or was that three) week's battle trying to set up a multi-site installation of Drupal for my new author's site (and a couple other sites--hence the multi-site thing. I'm may just stick with flat html.) I have been working on some stories.

A group of us have been meeting once a month to critique stories. I brought the first 10 pages or so of my zombie novella and, even after hearing someone else read it, decided I actually still like it. Even though there seems to be little chance of finding a magazine to publish a science fiction story about zombies in space, I think I'll go ahead and submit it anyway, just to waste postage.

November is getting closer and closer. I was hoping to have the rest of my novel mapped out before then, but I haven't made much progress there. I did, however finish the map I mentioned in an earlier post and it has helped me straighten out a lot of things involving time and distance in the story. Here's the thumbnail version.

Speaking of zombies, I had made a good start on a zombie RPG. It was intended as something of an experiment to see if I can incorporate all the design choices that I would normally reject and to see if I can make them work. Part of the reason for this is because the issue of zombie infection which would make a character from a traditional RPG too brittle to play for long, so I thought a more indie-narrativist approach would work better. I even toyed with using a d6 die pool, as in Ron Edward's Sorcerer RPG (I don't normally care for die pools, but...) I wanted to keep the mechanics fairly minimalistic. I pretty much completed the character description system, but got hung up on the economy of "hope". I hope to get back to it eventually, but I have a secondary web-design contract job to occupy what little "spare" time I have for now.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

What I did on my Summer Vacation--Part 1

Ok, I don't actually have the time or money to take a vacation--I haven't in a very long time--but with the price of gas these days I suppose that doesn't come as much of a surprise.

I did finish some of my reading though. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell turned out to be a wonderful book, though some major plot points were left unresolved. I hope that means we'll be seeing a sequel. I'll definitely have to keep an eye out for it.

I also finished both A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords and am about halfway through A Feast for Crows. I've enjoyed them, but I have to confess that I haven't bothered to buy any of them and am only working through the library's copies. The first two books (Thrones and Kings) had a nice tragic Fall of Rome type quality to it, but the third book reminded me of a certain John Gardener quote:
“Real suspense comes with moral dilemma and the courage to make and act upon choices. False suspense comes from the accidental and meaningless occurrence of one damned thing after another.”
It's not that there wasn't suspense, but by about the third or fourth time that Arya escaped, got captured and escaped again, well it became somewhat tedious. And when two key characters from her family get killed...well, the whole story is a slow blood-letting so you kind of stop caring who lives and who dies after a while. Other characters disappeared and seemed forgotten for 100,000 words at a time. One rather sympathetic character just got killed--but it happened off-screen which left me filling a little cheated. It might have been better to devote some novels to specific individual characters rather than trying to weave all these plot strands together just a few at a time.

I've heard terrible stories from fans of Robert Jordan's work. I never made it past the first book myself, but I've heard that even his fans felt that he sold out or lost control of the series at some point. I hope GRRM doesn't do a Jordan. He's got a massive story going on. I hope he can keep track of all the story threads, devote the time to each that they deserve, and still keep the story focused on the parts that move the overall plot forward and that he doesn't just follow characters wandering around the landscape for no reason.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Reading, Writing and...Submissions?

Spent most of the month catching up on reading. After hearing the name George R. R. Martin mentioned a lot (and seeing him in a photo standing next one of my favorite authors Fred Saberhagen and a bunch of other SF&F giants) I thought it past time I checked out his series, A Song of Ice and Fire. So I logged onto my local library and reserved A Game of Thrones, read it and am now halfway through A Clash of Kings. I'm enjoying it a lot though I'm having to resist the occasional urge to make editorial comments. Not that the writing is bad, but I've been doing so much editing of late that it's hard to turn the editor off.

I'm also halfway through Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, a jewel of a book with sly sense of humor and a wonderful Victorian style. My cousin had loaned it to me, but on the way home from a trip I stopped by an outlet mall at a 75% off store I know of and picked up their only copy, a hardback, for $5. Quite a find!

I'm afraid I haven't done much writing at all this month. I'm still banging my head over where I want to go with my nanowrimo project from Nov. (among other projects.) I came to a major turning point just before I hit the 50k mark and now that I've so thoroughly blown up the main character's world, I'm not quite sure where I'm going to go next. I'm afraid I've frustrated him so much that he doesn't have any real options left. I'm going to have to introduce some, probably by introducing a whole bunch of new characters.

The only progress on anything I can report is that my friend Bruno (one of my editorial subjects) pushed me to submit something, so I sent out little piece of flash fiction. I'm not holding my breath. I don't see much point in submitting short fiction anyway. It's not worth the time and expense of submission, but it was pretty much ready to go, so away it went. We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Maps, Outlines and Writing

Another month is nearly gone and though I don't have much to show for it, I can at least say I've been writing. I finished editing a novella for an anthology project that won't quite die. I ended up doing the final edit by hand on print out--it just seems to be easier to catch the little stuff that way than doing it on screen. Of course, now that means I have to retype the final version. If I get off my lazy butt, I may send it and a piece of flash fiction I've got waiting off to some venue or other. I'm not real optimistic about the state of publishing right now, though, so I'm not in a hurry.

Speaking of the anthology, I've--sort of--formed a monthly writing group with two of the anthology's potential authors and my wife. Ironically, the only thing I've presented at the meeting so far is an introductory essay for the anthology. Guess that means I have to get that novella typed up again.

When I realized I wasn't going to make the local con, all the game writing got put on hold which should have given me more time for the book, but that hasn't happened. Speaking of the book, I had also hoped to be halfway through the remainder of my nanowrimo project by now, but at this point I'm thinking I'll just try and get a functioning outline for the rest of it and finish the book next nanowrimo.

I have been working on maps lately. It may sound strange, but ever since I realized that the distance one of my characters traveled between two points (and thus the time required) was greater than I had anticipated, I've been working on mapping the setting for my nanowrimo project. I'm afraid it kind of messed up a bit of the story so its going to take some work to straighten out. Fortunately, I've got an old copy of Photoshop and a method that seems to be working for me. Geography might seem like the sort of thing that a writer just makes up, but after reading Guns, Germs and Steel, I don't take geography very lightly. I may post a thumbnail of some of it when I'm done if I'm feeling like it.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Yet Another Internet Meme

I stumbled across yet another amusing internet meme on a Jeff Rient's blog (which I also just discovered at the same time) which involve randomly generating a band name, title and cover art for an old-fashioned concept album. For instructions on how it's done, check out Jeff's site. Here is my results.

Yeah, I know it's pretty saccharine, but the funny thing is that the Larry Sweeney article was about a pro wrestler.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

January--where did you go?

Ok, so I didn't get anything done on my nanowrimo project. I was scrambling to try and get my RPG ready for Chimaeracon, but judging by how much my co-designer and I have done, I don't think we're going this year. I have plugged some important holes, but I'm something of a perfectionist and an intuitive thinker, so I have to get each component "right" before I'm satisfied, but making the leap to the correct design has been difficult. I've considered setting up a game design blog and even a podcast (yeah, like the world needs another one of those) because I thought it would help me to focus my thoughts. Some of the best design work I've accomplished--particularly in the area of clarifying my design goals--has been in some form of conversation with others. Even if the person I'm conversing with doesn't offer anything in the way of insight, just composing my thoughts helps a lot.

The other thing that has been occupying my time is an anthology that I've been trying to get together. Just when I'm about to give up because most of my writers have flaked out on me, someone else comes along to give me just that sliver of hope to cause me to drop everything and start work on it again. I did just have another short story submitted, so I've been spending quite a bit of time working on it. The down side of working with brand new writers is that they require a lot of guidance and hand holding, so that has absorbed a lot of my sparse writing time.

I have been thinking about plots a lot again, mostly since I'm working on the second half of my nano project in the back of my head. I've been looking a lot at things like Polti's 36 Dramatic Situations (which is horribly disorganized and missing large gaps in plot possibilities) and 20 Master Plots which is better, but still not as systematic as I would like. I'm taking a more, I don't know, linguistic approach I guess. I've got something like 13 key verbs which I think sums up the action in all plots. My goal is to create a system that encompasses both plot and premise and which can account for all plots. Ambitious, I know. and it will only be possibly in a broad categorical sense. Still, I think it would be cool. I'll post more when my thoughts have a chance to gel.