Novel On!

After the little down period I had the last few days, and the bit of affirmation I received yesterday morning, it was time to get to work.  I’m not ready to start on the novel I’ve written for NaNoWriMo, so what’s next?

Why, how about looking at my first novel?

When I first got into this writing thing I did a couple of short stories–which went nowhere, which happens–and then thought, “Hey, I’ve got something to say, why not do a novel?”  This was 1989 or so, and I had almost no idea what I was doing or what I was getting into.  But I went there anyway, because I had a lot more enthusiasm and grand ideas than I had knowledge about what was coming.

I’ve mentioned, in passing, my first novel a few times.  It’s one that is huge, and it’s gotten away from me more than once, but I’ve decided that I am going to rope this beast and bring it down.  And perhaps, in the process, get it published.

Now, in the beginning of this novel I wrote in Word Perfect, then moved to Word.  Now, I am using Scrivener to “reverse engineer” the story, and let me tell you–I’m loving every second of it.

A little quick background: my first published story, Kuntilanak (found on Smashwords and Barnes & Noble) was started in MS Word, but I started using the beta version of Scrivener for Windows to see how it worked.  I liked how quickly I was able to not only figure out how to use it, but how I could “see” the whole story laid out before me, as well as having access to notes while I was working away in a chapter or scene without having to start looking for other files.

I did another story, one of about 10,000 words, in Scrivener, and I loved how I was able to do most of the formatting in the Compile function before sending it off for (what I hope is) accepted.  I was using Scrivener, but I wasn’t using it the way I felt it should be used.

Now, with my NaNo Novel, everything was written in Scrivener (or should I say “wrote”, which I’m saying with a wink).  I used Scrivener to figure out each chapter, give a little note about what was going to happen, when that event happened in the time frame of the story.  I would write split screen and pull up notes and pictures and, for me, a listing of my word sprints.  And I used the Project Targets feature to set how many words the novel would require, how many words I had written, and how many I’d done while I’d had the program up.

The novel ended up with a final word count of 86688, and it took 25 days.  And Scrivener kept me going the whole time.  It helped me write in a way I’ve never written before, and I don’t believe I would have finished the novel without the program.

Right now, for my first novel, I’ve set up three parts corresponding to the three parts I have in my story.  Within each part I’m creating a “chapter folder”, and inside each of those chapters I’m setting up scenes.  On the note card that shows each chapter and scene I’m giving a little description of what is happening, and I’m also setting up the date and time when this all happens.  For me, knowing when is very important, as nearly the entire Part Three is predicated on something happening within a limited time frame, and knowing the dates is going to help me a lot in terms of keeping track of everything.  I’ve also indicated, through one of the characters, that everything takes place over a nearly two year period, so with the dates in place I can verify that as I go along.

It’s going to be a big project.  I’ve completed the first five chapters and I’m already at 38,600 words.  Like I’ve said before, I’m wordy.  The main reason for all this work is so I can look at what I have, see how the story flows, and decided if I need to cut something–or, add something into the mix.  I know I’ll have to end this thing–I’m maybe 3/4th of the way through it–and that will require a Part Four, but with the novel laid for like this, with everything at my virtual fingers, the writing and editing process will become much easier.

So there you having it.  My next WiP, which is really an old WiP.  Maybe by this time next year I’ll have this novel done, edited, and–fingers crossed–published.  Then you’ll be able to see if all this hard work was worth every second.

Oh, and one last thing: I might sounds like I’m shilling Scrivener, but it’s not my intention.  However, that said . . . if you write, and you’re serious about writing, buy it.  You won’t be disappointed.

Starting Over

Let me set this up, otherwise you’ll never get where my head was sitting this morning.

Someone told me a while back, “You’ve got to understand you never know where life is taking you, or what will come next”.  And that is true; you don’t know what’s going to happen to you tomorrow, or the day after.  Hell, you don’t know what’s coming at you by the time you’ve finished reading this post.

But I do know where I’ve been, and for the most part I have no problem flipping off life.  My life, quite honestly, sucks.  I’m bi-polar; I’ve been suicidal; I’ve had a few other curve balls tossed my way at a young age that still haunt my ass in ways I’m not comfortable speaking about.  It’s not been a good 54 years.  So my first impulse, when I hear “You never know what life is gonna bring ya,” is to say, yeah, I do: more crap.

As a teenager going into my twenty-somethings, it seemed like serious traffic accidents and me went hand-in-hand.  I’ve been in cars that have driven flew plowed fields at 60 miles per hour; I’ve been in a car that rolled; I was once in a Trans-Am where the driver lost control at 80 mph and we ended up taking off the entire front end of a garage and, had I been wearing a seat belt, I would have taken a 4 x 4 right in the face (this was 1976, so settled down).  And of all the best things that happened while driving, I was T-boned by a drunk driver who just missed hitting me by about 5 feet, but still managed to put me in the hospital for 2 weeks with a neck injury, and forced me to wear a neck brace for 9 months after.

I was told “You lived through all those because you were meant for something else”.  I understand that–but my cynical ass has also thought that I’ve got Khan Noonien Singh trying to take me out, and like a poor marksman he. keeps. missing. the. target!, and I wish the son of a bitch had been a better shot.

The last few years haven’t been easy.  Emotionally, I’d shut down.  I was on autopilot.  I’d get up, go to work, come home, sleep.  Pretty much it.  Nothing was touching me; nothing wanted to touch me.  As I told someone, “The last few years all I’ve been waiting for is to die”.  Yeah, that’s not the sort of attitude one should have, but it was mine.

A few years ago I needed to go into a “facility” for “observation”, which is a nice way of saying “I was loosing my shit and I was a danger to myself, so I needed to be watched for 48 hours”.  I got out, I got medication, I got some help . . . and then I got laid off, got out of a job, and lost all that.

By this time last year I was a freakin’ mess.  There was, to be honest, no one home.  I was going through the motions.  Yes, I started this blog; I started writing, because I used to love writing, and I thought this would help me.  It didn’t; it did nothing for me.  I was giving up.

Then . . . something happened.

It was something that I hadn’t experienced in a while, and it really shook me.  It helped pull me up.  It helped get me to writing again.  It also started me to not be so closed up, and I started to open, to feel things I hadn’t in a while.  And so the last few months have been good for me–

But here are the holidays, and everything gets messed up.

I hate this time of the year.  All it does is remind me of how alone I feel.  And that happened.  Thanksgiving I called my father, and the first thing he did was ask if I was my sister.  I wasn’t, and we spoke for about 2 minutes before he blew me off because he was waiting on a call from her.  That was a great kick off.

The rest of the time was very boring . . . hour upon hour of nothing.  The one, only, single bright spot was finishing my NaNo Novel on Friday, the 25th, and I had a little bit of a celebration over that.

But after that it was right back to the shit.

Sunday night I tried getting in touch with my son, with whom I’m estranged.  I’ve tried over the years getting in touch with him, but he won’t get back with me.  Monday was his birthday, so I tried calling–nothing.  I left a message, hoping I’d hear something back.  Silence.

I wanted to reach out yesterday, but it was hard; everyone is busy, people have their own lives.  I understand this, but these days my emotions are cranked up to 11 and when I feel something, I really feel it.  In the past I wouldn’t have given a shit because there was nothing there: now . . . there is hurt.  A lot of hurt.

Bedtime saw a lot of me knocking myself in the head, more than a bit of crying and cursing because I allowed myself to once more believe things were going to be better.  It didn’t feel better; it felt like, once more, life was kicking me in the crotch.

This morning I didn’t have anything in my mind that came close to whispering “hope”.  I didn’t have any dreams that I can remember, but if I did they were probably the dark, gloomy ones I’m used to, and not the few I’ve had that bring me such happiness.  I lay in bed, with some pain because my back hurt and my legs hurt, and I’d had enough.  I was ready to say “fuck it” all over again.  I was seriously considering walking away from everything; this blog, my writing, everything, because it wasn’t mattering to me any more, it was better to wall up and shut down.

There was no point in following your dreams, because when you awake reality is there to turn your life into another chapter of The Killing Joke.

So I fire up the computer and log into all my stuff.  Already to say the hell with it and move on with my sucky life.

And right there, at the top of my email, is a message.  I open it, and it’s from a guy who runs a website on science fiction.  I’d sent him an article and he’d published it last night–

He was going on about how, at the time of the email, the article had gotten 1600 hits, and seemed to be a hit on reddit.com.  I had to say that put a bit of a smile on my face, seeing that.  I spoke with him maybe an hour later by IMs, and he told me there’d been another 200 hits to the article, and the most activity the whole site had seen before this was 500 hits in a day.

And he was very happy I’d sent him another article.

I could hear my friend once more telling me about life, and here it was, shooting at me again and missing.  I can hear them saying that I’m meant for something else, and while my inclination is to scream, “Stop making me suffer!”  I can hear them say one day I’ll really be happy, and I do have to wonder if they are right.

For now I’m hanging on.  All because I did something that appeara to make others happy, and that, in turn, makes me happy.

I guess I’m going to have to keep writing and hope for the best, huh?

Let’s Review

Last night was sort of “I’m relaxing here” night for me.  I wasn’t editing; I wasn’t writing.  I’d just spent the day getting an article finished and didn’t really feel like getting into editing mood.  It was time to sit and think about what is coming next for me.

And in doing that, I started going back over what I been doing here, in this blog.

In fact, it wasn’t just this blog I was going back over, but I was sort of my history of writing that was under review.

I’ve been doing this blog for about 6 months now.  I started it at the end of April mostly because I thought have a blog would be a good exercise.  As you writer, you get better.  As you get better, you learn how to figure out styles and plots and characterization.

In short, the more you write, the better you get at being a writer.

Originally I talked about things slightly political.  Why?  Because at the time I was into that.  Back at the end of April and the start of May, yeah, I was there.  I was big into politics.

But in time that changed.  By June I was fed up with a lot of things.  Politics (same old shit), writing (I couldn’t bring myself to do anything), life . . . it was all a very big bore for me.  I didn’t write much of anything in June.  In fact, I nearly gave up this blog because I felt I had nothing to say–and even if I did no one was listening.

Then came an idea for a story . . . and an idea for another . . . and one for a novel.  I started writing my story, and decided I’d talk about what it was like to write.  So I blogged about writing, what I was writing, what I felt about writing.  Sure, some times I’ll get off the beaten track and talk about other things, but I’ve usually stuck to the point of talking about writer, or those thought relating to writing, and how it affects me.

And that brings me to my old writing.  My old life, so to speak.

Long, long, time ago–we’re talking maybe 10, 12 years ago–I wrote a lot of strange fiction.  To say it was fetish fiction would be a bit of an understatement; it was straight up fantasy wank material.  I didn’t always think that, but I knew that it would likely be used that way.

I didn’t care, however, because I was writing.  At the time it was the only way I knew to express myself; to do anything else would have been far too difficult because, frankly, I just didn’t have it in me to return to trying to write a novel.  I was far too emotionally and mentally scared.

So I wrote about things that weren’t your normal stories.  It pleased me because they entertained people.  But I never actually took them seriously.

However, I’ve spoken at length about this.  But speaking and showing are two different things.  I’ve shown Trusty Editortm some of my work, but the majority of it . . . not a chance.  It’s been a part of my life I’ve never wanted out for others to see.  Oh, sure, she’s asked, but every time I’ve said no.

Because that’s not been something I wanted people to see.

However, over time, I’ve grown softer.  I’ve begun to allow parts of me that I’d never let out before come out.

And today . . . maybe Trusty Editortm gets a present.  Maybe they get to see what I was like back then.

You know, if I’m lucky, they won’t run off screaming.  they’ll read them and go, “You were strange, but you were also good.”

Hey, isn’t that what all writers want to hear?

Weaving the Subconscious

My dreams are a wreck.  I know of people who get happy dreams, a lot of them, but I get stuff that, when it is vivid, is usually so strange and disjointed that I wish I never had them.

Last night wasn’t any different.  There was a dark and gloomy apartment where I was living with someone I couldn’t see, ever; they were always locked away in a room.  Oh, and someone with wooden legs, and that’s all I’d ever see of them, their wooden legs.

An apartment complex full of evil kids who only wanted to steal your money and curse you.

Riding in a large elevator from somewhere underground, and as we are going up (very slowly, mind you), I’m actually imagining being cut in half between the open slab of the elevator and the shaft.

Getting invited to play video games, and then ending up at a concert where a naked Eddie Murphy is dancing around on stage covered in soap suds and whipped cream (yeah, you read that right).

And, lastly, ending up in a room with only a chair to keep me company.

Sure, I can look it all up, and have as much as I can.  A dark and gloomy apartment means possible loss of a lover or money; fighting with children implies you are repressing your inner child; ascending in an elevator represents a rise to status and wealth; getting an invitation foretells that you will receive sad news; being alone indicates feelings of rejection.

Eddie Murphy naked on a stage . . . hell, no.  I’m not goin’ there.  I wouldn’t even know what the hell to Google.

It’s not that I don’t have happy dreams, though that occurring if very rare, but of late I could use them.  I’ve actually been in a very good mood the last few weeks.  I’ve been writing a novel for NaNoWriMo and I finished it Friday in a way that was very special for me.  I’ve been writing articles that keeps me happy and allows me to engage in geeky past times.  Believe it or not I have something in my life that lifts me up and does manage to keep me happy.

And yet my moods flip on me in a second.  Last night was no exception.  I was trying to finish up an article and I just hit the wall.  I couldn’t go on.  I then started in on all the, “Why am I bothering?  What’s this going to get me?”, and all the images I’ve had of late of maybe, really, possibly making a living writing–that all vanished into the dark.  Of course I beat myself up before going to bed, reminding myself to stay positive, to just go one step at a time, to (as a friend is constantly reminding me) take life one step at a time, because we never know what tomorrow is going to bring.

It was probably this mindset that had me dreaming of the stuff I did.  I gotta stop that.

Writing is a lonely game.  You do it alone, and you rarely have people around you who understand why you do it, or what you get out of it.  Most of the time they want to know how much your making off your publications.  It’s a lot of hard work, because once you write you have to edit, and rewrite, and tune that sucker so it makes sense.

Which is why when someone says, “Oh, you’re writing?  How hard can that be?”–the last part usually done with a smug grin on their stupid face–I wanna smack them up side their head with my 17 inch Dell laptop and tell them to crank out 7000 words of something that isn’t total shit, and hand it to me by Friday, and if they can’t do either I’m going to spend Saturday kicking them in the crotch with steel-toed boots . . . that sort of attitude infuriates me.  As if being trying to be creative isn’t hard work.

So I keep on keeping.  I begin editing my novel; I look for a way to publish it.  Then I move on, and come up with the next thing to work on.

All I ask is I have better dreams.  Hey, that one I had where I was a woman and I had really pretty clothes and the heels didn’t hurt and I had someone who liked kissing me–that was a nice dream.

How about more like that?

Managing the Better Beast

You never really understand what it means to edit until you actually start the process.

I’ve been very serious about editing a couple of stories up to this point, and it’s been a . . . well, no one likes to edit, no one likes to rewrite.  But those are necessary evils when it comes to being a writer.  You find mistakes; you re-sculpt paragraphs that don’t make sense or seem clumsy; you either add or delete things from you story so it becomes tighter and more enjoyable.

And this takes time.  For my story Kuntilanak (did you know you can by this from either Smashwords or Barnes & Noble?  Thanks to this blog whoring, you now do!) the editing process took about a week, and for my last story I was able to get it worked out in a couple of days.

But the scale of both those words played a big part in how long it took to edit them.  Kuntilanak ran about 75 pages, and my other story came in around 25 pages . . . my NaNo Novel, when converted to a Word doc, runs about 225 pages, or about 3 times bigger than Kuntilanak.

Yeah, I have my work cut out for me.  Of course I’ll have Trusty Editortm helping, but still–if we do two chapters a day, which is possible, that still requires almost 2 weeks of editing.  As Sam Becket used to say, oh, boy.

I’m already seeing parts of the novel in my mind and thinking, I need to change that, I need to rework that, I need . . . Never having completed a novel before I don’t quite understand the thought process that goes into turning it from a first draft into something that people will actually want to read and enjoy.  I suppose, just like when I started writing it, I’ll take the process and do hats seems logical.  Or if not logical, what seems right.  Or baring all that, I’ll just wing the bastard and hope it’s good.

‘Cause if I know Marissa’s out there, starting up the power loader, and just waiting for me to not work on my novel so she can come charging out of a cargo bay with the intention of busting my ass up for not working on my novel.  “Get to work, dude!”  Yeah, I get it . . ..

I suppose the only good thing is that I’m already looking ahead to my next project.  What’s it going to be?

When you figure that out, let me know.

I Won! Where’s the Prize?

Yes, that day has come.  25 November, about 12:10 my time, I slapped a “The End” at the end of my novel and jammed it into the NaNo Verifier.  And it came back and said, “You did 86688 words, congratulations!” and turned my writing bar purple.

I have done it.  I wrote my first novel.

So what have I really won?

I have laid the groundwork for something that, once I edit and re-write it a little (and I know that will happen, because there are parts I know can use it), will be presentable for publication.  And that means people will be able to pick it up and read it–and maybe even enjoy it.

Oh, yeah.  And the money thing, too.  That’s always a plus.

But I’m not writing for money.  Yes, getting paid is nice, but I wrote stuff for Internet fans and never saw a penny, and I did it because every so often I’d had people drop me a note and say, “I really liked your story”.  To me, that’s worth a lot more than the cash–though I will take the cash.  I’m not proud.

I see where editing and re-writing will bring this together.  I see it very clearly.  And that’s going to take a few weeks to get it right.

But for now, I’m taking a break.  Maybe I’ll make a list of what I’m going to spend my advance on when it shows.

You know, winning feels good.  And not in a “Charlie Sheen hookers and drugs” sort of way.  No, more in the way of, “I’m actually did something I’ve always wanted to do,” way.

I feel so good right now, I could kiss the hell outta someone.

The Turkey Sleeps Tonight

No turkey at my house; we go with a duck.  There are many reasons for this, but it doesn’t matter: a brave duck has given its life so I can cook its carcass on my grill and enjoy it later.

How goes the writing, you say?  Why, it’s going very well.  Last night saw the conclusion of the penultimate chapter, and it took most of the day to write in part because I had to look at a picture and some maps and get a feeling for what I needed to describe  and in part because there was suppose to be a confrontation between two of my characters that would resolve their conflict.

When I started thinking about that conflict, I started getting worried.  See, up to that point I had imagined a throw down that was going to kick ass and take names in a big way, but the more I looked at what was suppose to happen, and thought more about what should happen, the more I started to edit down the big conflict.

And edit it down I did.  You can blame what happened in part on my research into science fiction weapons, which I was doing for an article I want to write.  In a world where your spacecraft have the ability to vaporize just about anything with the devices at your disposal, combat is going to be short and sweet, and victory will usually go to the person who hits first.

So I was faced with the same situation in my novel: when you have powerful witches who can smoke someone’s ass with a single shot, and the only thing that’s going to save you is your powered-up enchanted armor, then the first to hit is probably going to start the winning.  Which means unless the combatants are on an equal footing–or have tons of backup–a battle will likely be pretty short.

That’s what happened; it was a very short, quick, and nasty battle, with much ownage in the end.  And that means, if I finished the penultimate chapter, there must be only one more chapter to write . . ..

I will likely do a little of that today.  Maybe today I’ll take a break from my novel and work on the article.  I have particular reasons for wanting to finish my novel tomorrow, and that’s what I’m going to do.

Not that I won’t do a little writing today.  But with the end almost here . . . why not drag it out just a little?

After all, no one wants the end to come too quickly, do they?