Thursday, December 5, 2013

Post NaNoWriMo Ennui

I’ve never run a marathon (I’ve never run anything longer than a couple of 5Ks) but I hear it’s pretty exhausting.  I often compare NaNoWriMo to a mental marathon though, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at how exhausted I am having finished it.  

Each year as I get excited preparing for NaNoWriMo, I always wonder why I didn’t get more writing done after November.  2013 was actually a pretty productive year for me writing-wise.  Even so I still wondered why half my novels have taken two years when, if I wrote more consistently, I could easily get them done in one.

Now I’m starting to remember.  It’s the week after nano and I’ve only poked at my story.  (Rather like a pre-adolescent boy poking at a dead body with a stick.)  All that energy and movment is completely gone.  This year I didn’t even finish off all my pre-planned bullet points.  I still have a few more scenes that I know need to happen, but I can’t seem to figure out how to care about them enough to write them.

I did go back and re-read what I’ve done so far.  The section where my young lady assassins appear still amuses and interests me greatly.  I’m already kicking around an idea for a sequel to frame their backstory.  In fact I’ve been toying with the idea of doing something really, really, really stupid.

I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a comic.

Drawing and writing comics were my first love as a child.  However, I have drawn almost nothing of significance in the last three decades.  I did, however, get a rather inexpensive Wacom drawing tablet late last year, and my drawing hand has been getting itchy as I’ve browsed through some instructional videos on youtube.

I’m probably just going to start with some character sketches with the idea of using them for the cover of my next book.  Then we’ll see where it goes.

That’s assuming I somehow get this book done.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Passing the 2/3rds mark

I can’t believe this month is almost over.  It seems like November just began and already NaNoWriMo is 2/3rds over.  I've had ideas for a couple of posts, mostly about the process of writing, but I've been so busy writing I haven’t had time to write about the writing.  What little I've done of that, I've tended to do either on the Nano forums or on the local nano group’s facebook age.  I think next year—assuming I’m still able to do this--I’ll have to make copies and post them on the blog just to make sure content occasionally gets updated.

Every year seems to go a little better than the last and I think, in some ways this year has gone smoother as well.  I was perhaps not quite as prepared as in previous years, but I haven’t really panicked.  I've always kept my running average above where it needs to be though I've missed a couple of days, and even then I got at least half my required quota in. 

In the last couple of years, I haven’t really attended any events.  This year I managed to make a couple, though most of the events are all on the other side of town.  I have enjoyed kibitzing with the facebook group, though and have felt more a part of things.

I've learned a couple of things this year:

  1.            Weekends aren't really the lifesaver you think they are.  I even took Friday Nov 1 off and though I made decent progress on Friday, my overall weekend total wasn't any better than my weekly total.  I’m guessing it’s either because there are more distractions or because I’m getting burned out.  I have been spending way too many nights plugging away till midnight so I can bump up my word count. (Which makes those early morning schedules quite painful.)
  2.              I’m writing a lot more of my story by hand.  Who would have thought it?  I've been a computer geek since I was a teenager.  Even so, I find that writing in my little fat notebook helps me slow down my thoughts and focus them, make steady progress and gives me a since of accomplishment as I fill up it’s little 3x5 pages.

I’m sure I’ll have more insights later, probably after this is over.  Thanksgiving looms ahead and we have a long car trip waiting for us next week.  It would be nice to finish before Thanksgiving day, but I’m sure I’ll be very busy until then.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Must the Main Character Always Change?

In preparing for this year's NaNoWriMo I've been reading a lot of writing advice hoping for inspiration.  One piece of advice that frequently gets cited is that when planning your story, the writer needs to decide how the main character is going to change.  It's pretty much assumed by many that without some sort of change, you don't even have a story.  But is this true?  Must the main character change?

James Bond has been cited as a character who never changes.  The man at the beginning of the story is pretty much the same person as the man at the end of the story.  While that's true, it might be argued that that James Bond stories are really about the villains.  At least they always seem to learn the lesson at the end that evil doesn't pay.

I can think of a better example, one you probably haven't heard of.  It not only demonstrates how an unchanging character can work, but be just as emotionally satisfying--if not more--than a story where a character changes.  It also explains what others really mean when they offer that other bit of advice: "Find the worse thing that can happen and make it happen."

Trigun is an old western style anime set in the future on a colonized world.

I know what you're thinking: "You want to talk about the craft of writing and you bring up a silly kids cartoon?" It may at times be silly, but its certainly not just for kids. Bear with me.

The main character, Vash, first appears as a bumbling goof-ball caught in a case of mistaken identity during a manhunt for an extremely dangerous criminal. He gets caught in situations with lots of gun play and somehow manages, seemingly through sheer luck, to not only survive but keep anyone else from getting killed.


It turns out he's not only a real gunman, but the best there ever was...and something of a pacifist. His goofy act is simply an attempt to disarm people-so to speak. Over the course of the series you find out just how committed he is to not letting anyone die as increasingly powerful bounty hunters come after Vash, yet he continues to save the innocents caught in the crossfire at increasingly higher personal costs.  

[even bigger spoilers]

The whole series is really a philosophical discussion been Vash and his brother Knives (Don't you just love his name?) as to whether violence and death are an inherent part of the universe.  (See what I mean about this not really being a kid show?) 

[end of spoilers and back to the main point]

Vash does have a momentary fall from grace where he is put in an impossible situation and appears to compromise his beliefs. But though it nearly destroys him (and me, just watching it) Vash reaffirms his beliefs in the final confrontation with his brother, remaining true to himself. It is his lack of change that makes the end so triumphant. 

If anyone changes in this story (aside from the character of Nicholas D. Wolfwood) it is the viewer, whose understanding of Vash changes as he/she gets an increasingly deeper understanding of who Vash really is. 

So why does this story work without change? 

It goes to that other bit of poorly worded advice, "think of the worst thing that can happen to your character and make it happen." The worst thing that could generally happen to a person is to be killed or rendered helpless and tortured, neither of which would make a good story. What the advice should be is "find out what your character believes in or stands for and test their commitment to that belief. Find out just how much they're willing to suffer or sacrifice to hold on to it." 

Most characters will be flawed and as a result will change. But in those rare cases where a character represents an ideal, you may not want that character to change, but you'll still want to see how much he/she will suffer to hold to that ideal. I'n the case of Vash the Stampede, Vash the Humanoid Typhoon, it turns out he will suffer quite a lot.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Twilight of the Outer Gods

I think I've settled on military SF this year and decided to give fantasy a break.  Of the two main ideas I've been toying with, Twilight of the Outer Gods--military SF in a Lovecraftian universe--is the one providing me with the greatest number of ideas.

These are the characters I've been working with.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Huh? what?

I think, somehow, some of my posts have gone missing, including the usual post-nano retrospective.

This year went pretty well despite a number of real life changes which had enormous potential to mess things up. Each year seems to get a little easier and go a little smoother. I still failed to attend even one nano event and even those few friends I could talk into doing it with me bailed out right at the beginning so I endured it entirely alone.

Despite all that, I not only got my 50K+ written, I even finished a rough edit before the year's end.  In fact--not to sound too Pollyannaish--even my first reader (my wife) has said my writing has improved enough that not much work will need to be done to whip it into shape.

Now if only I could get someone to actually read it.

I need to do at least one more pass before it's ready for the June deadline. I'd love to bounce it off some other readers, but I figure I'll have to go this alone as well. I have considered doing an audio recording, since one of the best ways to edit a piece is to read it aloud, (and there seems to be a market for such. A number of the guys I work with always seem to be listening to audio books instead of reading) but I'm not sure I have enough time to record it all.