Madman Across the Water

Just under fifteen hours to go before I head off to the cabin and start typing words into a computer.  There was a time when I used to do this on paper, but just as Tony Banks doesn’t look back lovingly on the ARP Pro Soloist or Quadra he used to fight with, or the Mellotron M400 that broke down every night–the one that he said was built with bicycle chain, which is a pretty harsh comment from a guy who has a Mellotron package named after one of his songs–I don’t look back upon my old typewriter and get misty eyed remembering all the great times we had.  I look back upon that device as the tool I used at the time, and know I’ll be damned if I’d go back to using one.

I love my computer for writing, even if I need power to make it go.  One day I’ll get a new computer and replace The Beast, but until then my machine will do the job.  A tool is a tool, and there will probably come a day when I realize I waited far too long to replace this little monster.

Anyway, Camp . . . it’s almost here.  My day is planed:  do this post, check over a few things, maybe finished my building design, maybe start working modeling a spacecraft in Blender, take a nap, stay up until midnight, then right at the stroke, start writing.  Get three to five hundred words down, then go to sleep and start writing in the morning.  Oh, and I need to fix my spread sheet that I use to track word count.  Mustn’t forget that.  (I didn’t; just fixed it up.)

I’m about as ready as I can be, with another NaNo ahead of me.  Not the NaNo, but something shorter and sweeter.  Doesn’t matter.  Fantasies in Harmonie was finished on 10 June, and that’s three weeks in the past, and since then I’ve not written a draft of anything.  The last time I went this long without writing anything, and spent the time developing background for a story was October, 2011–and we know what happened after that.  Well, you might not, but I do:  I participated in my first NaNoWriMo, and I wrote, and finished, my first novel.

What I’m starting tonight–which will be tomorrow, but really early tomorrow–is the beginning of another novel.  I’ll do the prologue in July, then come November I’ll finish off the novel, and include the prologue as part of the story.  I can do that, for I haz Scrivener, and adding things to the final compiled document is a breeze.  When the time comes, I’ll take the separate folder for this novella and blend it into the main novel.  Case closed.

I can see very clear:  this is going to be fun.  I’m excited to start, and even if I’m going to lose my mind at some point and go on about how much I’m hating the story, I don’t worry, because I know I’ll finish.  I’ll probably end up writing more than the twenty-five thousand words I’ve set for myself.

I hope by not too much, though.  I would hate to edit all this awesome down.

Too Low for Zero

With only today and tomorrow remaining before Camp is brought to order, there remain only a few things to do before I stay up until midnight and whip off a few hundred words to start the Madness on Monday.  I’m in a cabin with a friend, and she commented about how quiet the other people seemed.  Yep, par for the course, I believe.  They have their fifty thousand goal, they’re doing something–and that may be all.

I’ve observed this with NaNoWriMo.  During the month of October you have so many people who are pumped up and ready to roll, talking about what they’re going to write, then about a week into the venture there is a massive silence, as if a thousand budding writers suddenly realized just want it means to pen a couple of thousand words a day, and to do it for thirty days straight.  Many make it:  many more are left in the dust of their dreams.

And for a few, they NaNo Rainbow Dash Naprealize that it’s more of a social experiment, as in, “I’m going to spend all my time being sociable and talking about writing, and begging people to sprint with me . . .”  Yeah, more than a few of those people out there, and I’ll at least say I haven’t seen too many of them out there this month.  Probably because Camp NaNo is a bit more laid back, and there seems to be less preparing that normally happens, so that mean fewer social butterflies out and about the forums and groups.

For me, my main building is pretty much finished.  I started the third floor of my Great Hall yesterday, and there’s not a lot to it, save for setting up rooms and throwing in doorways.  Since most of those spaces won’t need a name for a few months, I don’t have to worry about them now, I just know they’re there.  In time they will become real places:  for now they are but spaces on a layout.

Hey, just wait until I start laying out the basement on this sucker.  That’s coming up next–I think.

That’s the thing with this project:  there is so much I can do, so much that can be done, that I could probably spend the rest of the year laying out this world.  I have to set up a series of tunnels for the school, because some of the locations for classes are way far apart, and given their location in New England, that means a lot of snow for many months out of the year.  Will I have my students walking from place to place?  Yes.  Will they do that when they’re knee deep in snow?  No.  Hence the tunnels.

I have to draw them up, however.  Then I have to imagine them linking into the basements under each building, or just coming up into the buildings themselves, because not every place is going to have, or need, a basement.  My Astro-Sciences building is one such place, because it’s sitting in a pedestal, and there’s no need for a basement.

Maybe I should just write.  It seems it would be so much easier to take off and worry about my worlds later.

Lady What’s Tomorrow

The tent with the fire over on the Camp NaNo page says there are two days and fifteen hours left before the mid-summer insanity begins.  Said insanity being writing, but why should July be any different for me?  I’m always doing that, though this latest stretch of three weeks without actually writing anything new is one of the longest I’ve gone in a while.

As for my own story, the first two floors of my Great Hall are complete.  It’s a thing of beauty, with it’s old class rooms and dorms and storage areas, the library and its archives, the private rooms and collection areas–and the bathrooms.  At this moment it’s a real place for me, not just something I dreamed up.  I still have a third and a fourth floor to add, but they won’t take up much space.  I may get those in place today, or maybe tomorrow.  But I will get them.

Though now, with the rendering required to produce the 3D version of my structure, my poor computer is working overtime to give me something I can’t view as well as before.  But no matter:  I’m able to get it built, and I can always shut down a lot of other things in order to see what I’m creating.

The thing that has happened as I build the structure is that I’m also building history.  There are a great many empty rooms in this building:  the majority of the first floor is sealed off, the doors locked and the rooms dusty.  Why is this?  Why have such a huge, unused building in the middle of this school?

There is a history building in my head.  It’s been there for a while; in fact, I know how the school started, and who laid the foundation.  I’ve known a little of the early history of the building, and now that I’m seeing it appear, brick by virtual brick, the history is becoming far more clear.

As with the characters, the buildings have their history.  They have a presence, and it helps to actually bring it out and write it down.  Which is what I’ll do, either today or tomorrow.  Since I already have a timeline started for my characters, why not add the school to that document as well?  Then when I need to see when a particular event occurred, and who may have had a hand in it, then I know where to go.

I’ll also write it down inside my Scrivener project, so it’ll be there as well when writing time comes.

All this work has made me happy.  No, really, it has.  It’s freeing to allow your mind to break loose and find things that have been hidden, or even repressed, for a while, and to get them out and make them real.  Even if there are things I never use in any of the stories that would revolve around this school, I know their story, and they have become a part of me forever.

It’s only a matter of time before I pass this feeling to others.

Come Down in Time

I finally have a NaNo Cabin–or should I say, “I haz cabin!” in the way of the Internet?  Naw.  I try to write as I speak, which is to say semi-comprehensible.  It’s better in the afternoon, trust me, but I do my best to not come off as a complete idiot when I first wake up.

I was finally placed in a cabin with (1) people who didn’t come off as strange–unlike me–and (2) with a writing friend I know.  The last made me most happy, so I’ve decided not to bail out and throw up a tent and stay there.  I can relax and tell ghost stories and share the bunk with my friend, whispering to her at night how one of the boys keeps staring at her . . . ah, the life of a writer.  Coming up with BS all the time.

One of the things I have completed are the names and ages of the instructors of my school.  I had stuff in a ball park area before I sat down the other night and began adjusting ages, and in doing so I came up with a few surprises.  There are a couple of instructors who are simply damn young–as in, “Damn!  They’re young!” when you finally calculate their age in the current story.  But, hey, if you’re good, who cares about your age?  The people at my school shouldn’t.

Speaking of the school . . . I’ve nearly finished the second floorGreat Hall 627 of this gigantic main hall, and I have an excellent idea of how the third and fourth floors will look.  As you can see, library to the right, security to the top, administration and offices to the bottom, old classrooms to the left; it’s all taking shape.  I’ll throw up walls and doors and railings, then get to work on the next two floors, which won’t take up a lot of space, and she’ll be finished.

As I told someone last night, the Hall is no longer a mysterious place to me.  Even though I created it, I didn’t know it.  I had an idea where things were, but not how they should look.  I also realize that there is a hell of a lot of building that isn’t used, that is full of empty rooms because it’s not being used for teaching any more.  This leaves room for–adventure?  Finding something strange?  Coming across a DeLorean with the keys in it?  There’s a few storage areas, so that last may be possible–though I wouldn’t hold my breath.

The last revelation fell into place last night, though, while chatting with my friend.  If I do bring this story in at twenty-five thousand words, as I’d like, then this novella would become the opening of the novel I’ll write in November for NaNoWriMo.  If that novel should run seventy-five to ninety thousand words, then I have something that is not only a stand-alone tale, but that has its own built-in prologue that introduces characters, backgrounds, and the world.  There’s little need for a lot of setup, because the novella is the set up.

Yes, I am satisfied.  Yes, I am patting myself on the back.

Yes, I hope I’m not about to drive myself crazy with this stuff.


The Greatest Discovery

When I look at the maps and the building designs I’ve produced for my next story, I see things.  I have visions in my head of the action that will happen there, I see people walking from place to place, I realize what some of these blocked out places are supposed to be–such as realizing that those open places on the second floor should be bathrooms–and I go to work making them so.

Camp is getting closer, it’s growing in size.  I’m taking it easy this time along, and I realize I need to set up a spreadsheet so I can track my progress.  Not that I need to do that, but it’s fun.  Next to cooking smores at night while sipping on lemonade and Wild Turkey as you discuss the crap you’ve churned out that day, watching your word count grow is one of those things that gives you a sense of accomplishment.  I realize that’s one of the reason some of us watch our counts, because it’s a conformation that we are actually doing something.

Which brings me to the Deep Though of the Day:  how does one get motivated for such things?  Yesterday, yet again, I observed a question that seems to come quite often around these times before a NaNo event–how do you find the motivation to write?  How do you psych yourself to create?  How do you go about writing?  And one of these pleas came with the code, “Don’t tell me ‘just write!’  There’s more to it than that.”

Um, no.  There isn’t more to it than that.

As I’ve pointed out from time to time, writing is a lot of work.  Maybe not the actual act of writing, but creating a story can be a pain, because creativity requires a bit of blood, sweat, and tears.  I told someone I may spend a quarter of my time physically setting up a story, but when I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing, I’m thinking about my story–or the next story to come.

Most of all, I’m writing.  Figure if I’m doing a thousand words every ninety minutes, then a twenty-five thousand word story is going to take you two thousand, two hundred fifty minutes to write.  That’s thirty-seven hours and thirty minutes, in case you don’t have a calculator handy.  If it takes you two hours to write a thousand words, then you’re looking at fifty hours for the same wordage.

Look at that time.  To write a novella, you’re going to spend at least one working week writing.  To produce a short novel, you’ll need a couple of week to two-and-a-half weeks.  To write a novel that clocks out between eighty and one hundred thousand words, you’ll need four to six weeks.

It is all about writing.

For a long time I wouldn’t write.  I had a voice that kept saying, “You suck, so why bother?” and I wouldn’t write.  What I did, instead, was look for my motivation, my reason to write.

What I found was this:  if I don’t write, then I’ll never finish the stories I want to tell.  So start writing, baby.

I believe it was Stephen King who had one of the simplest formulas for getting rid of writer’s block.  It went like this:  sit down at whatever you use to write.  Start writing.  Write down names.  Write out your grocery list.  Write down addresses.  Write out songs you love.  Write out names of cities.  Keep writing.  It doesn’t matter what you write, as long as you are writing.  After a few pages of that, start writing your story, because if you have a story in you, it’ll come out.

For ten years my problem was this:  I thought I needed a reason to write.  I thought I needed motivation.

I didn’t.

I only needed to write.

Bitter Fingers

One of the advantages of being finished with my Camp NaNo prep work is I can sit back and watch everyone else getting their acts together.  I should be used to this by now, since I’ve worked through two NaNoWriMos, and the modus is usually the same:  ask what people are going to do, throw out a few ideas you have, wonder about how you’re going to do your story, tell people you’re having issues with plot/characters/motivation, OH, DAMNDAMNDAMN!  I’m behind my wordcount, whatamigonnado?????

I know what works for me.  As I told someone the other night, I was fortunate enough to read about the writing process of others starting way back in the early 1970’s, and I adopted some of their process as nuggets to hold close to my heart.  Harlan Ellison said he never started a story until he had a title.  King and Gibson said they write every day, though Gibson has added that if he doesn’t feel there is anything to write, then he finds something else to do and doesn’t try to force the story.  Arthur Hailey would usually never write more than five hundred words in a day, but he’d spend the day editing and re-editing those words until what he had was the final draft.  Ben Bova once said that he wrote naked–okay, that one isn’t for me.

I once tried writing while semi-baked, because I was told that I could “unlock my imagination”.  What it unlocked was a bunch of crap, and I tossed the pages I’d produced right in the trash.  Guys like Hemingway and Fitzgerald might have had great success writing half in the bag, but I’ve not had much luck writing while in an altered state of mind.

I always kinda, sorta have an ending in mind when I start.  Maybe the ending I do write isn’t the one I had in mind when I started, but I had an idea about the ending before I write my first word.  In fact, I’ll usually think about a story for a week or two before I enter the title into the computer.  But if I don’t know where I’m going–per the wisdom of Dr. Issac Asimov–then I won’t know how to get there.

As for plotting . . . yes, I do a bit of plotting.  If I have something intensive to do, then I get a little more intensive with my plotting, but for the most part I do a little overview, create a quick heading, and I’m off from there.  For my upcoming novel, one of the cards I set up in Scrivener says, “Silver Threads”.  What does that mean?  I know what it means, and from that I’ll write five hundred words, maybe a thousand.  What ever it takes to get it done, will.

But that’s it as far at the plotting goes.  I know the scene in my mind, so all I need is a reminder of what is suppose to go there, and I don’t need much else.  What will I say?  I have a good idea what I’ll say, but the final form could be far different from what I’ve thought about.

What else is there to say?  Let me think about it.

I’m sure I’ll come up with something.


You’re So Static

It’s only been about a week or so since I decided to do The Scouring for Camp NaNo.  Sure, I could go back and look up when I decided to make the change, but I’m too lazy, and it’s late, so I don’t feel like digging through posts.  But the time frame hasn’t been that much:  I decided to change my story, and I did.

I’ve gotten the idea solidified in my mind, I’ve pulled over the characters I want to use.  I’ve built times lines for who was a teacher and who was a student.  I’ve created my time line for a battle.  I’ve put all the information into my Scrivener project, which was originally set up for another novel, one that I’ll tackle in November.

And the end result of this stuff?  Behold.The Scouring Layout

I figured I’d still have things to do a few days from now, but the weekends get long and the nights get boring, and the moment I feel as if I have some time to burn, I get into the story.  That time ended up being many hours of work before I decided to call it a night, so my little novella began developing far quicker than I’d imagined.

Which is why now you see it all laid out, all meta plotted, all time lined so I know what it suppose to happen when.  About all I need to do is figure out the ages for the characters, the grade levels for some of the characters, and throw in a few background characters who will walk on and do . . . something.

Not a lot there; I can probably have that all finished by Wednesday night at the latest.

Which means I’m going to have time on my hands to do something else, though I’m not sure what.  Maybe I’ll work on developing my characters for the Big NaNo, or maybe I’ll pull out the next story I’m going to start editing so I can get it published.  Either way, I have to get into my writing because–

I’m bored.

I never thought I’d say that, but this is the first time in a long time that I felt like I had to write.  Yes, I write every day, but for the most part it’s been a lot of the “Lemme sit down and get my thousand in today” kind of writing.  Tonight, when I was finished with this layout, I was like, “Okay, what’s next?”

And I wanted to start writing.

I’ve been seeing the following conversation among some of the writers I know, and it goes like this:  “How do I get myself motivated to write?  I can’t seem to get started on my story.”  Here’s what you do:  start writing.  I know it seems like old hat, but the truth is there are time when you don’t want to write, when you hate what you’re doing, when you’re tired.  Last year I’d get up at five-thirty to blog, then write that night from eight-thirty PM until ten PM.  For my last job I’d spend an hour driving to the job, work nine hours, spend an hour driving home, about ninety minutes eating and catching up, and then, depending on my level of tired, I’d start writing, sometimes at eight PM, sometimes at nine.  And I’d write until about ten-thirty or eleven PM, then go to bed so I could get up at five AM.

I didn’t always want to do this, but I did.  You gotta write, Bunkie.  You gotta do it because you want to.  I just went through a month of heavy depression, and I wrote and edited and planed, many times feeling like I wanted to walk away and never look back.

But I know why I didn’t.

Because I have to do this.  It’s what I do.

It’s what I was meant to do.