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.

All the Nasties

Good times are rolling.  How good are they?  Just look at how Happy Fluttershyhappy Fluttershy is, and you get an idea; I’m just about as happy as the pink-haired pony.  Trust me.  If I wasn’t, you’d know it because I’d tell you.

Things might not be perfect, but they are bearable.  This means I’ve sorta kicked all the crazy stuff that had been getting me down the last couple of weeks, and more or less moved on–and I’ve done that by getting my story in shape.  Which took a bit of work, but that’s nothing new.

Let me show you what I did.  You’ll like it.

Since I have this thing coming up in my story–you could call it a battle, but it’s more like an attack by crazy people who just wanna burn everything to hell and gone, and leave nothing standing when they’re finished.  I’d call them nihilist, but the moment I do that I gotta hear Walter go on about them, so lets just say they like chaos, and they don’t like the main group in my story.

So time lines . . . I needed one for my story, because I didn’t want to have to think about what action was going to occur while writing the scene.  It’s hard enough to write without thinking, “Oh, this is suppose to happen now,” or wondering what so-and-so is doing while I’m raising hell in another part of the story.

I worked up my first time line using Timeline software, Sigel Attack Timelinewhich is open source, so it can run on just about anything using Windows.  What you see is the final creation, where I put up normal events, then incidents that happened during the time indicated, and . . . well, I threw the weather in there because since this happens at a particular point in the past, I wanted to know conditions at that time, which I did by going to the Weather Underground website and finding the Airport Weather History.  From what I could figure out, it was a cool night, but it wasn’t raining.

It took a few hours of thinking and figuring out times, then writing down what happened to which characters, but as you can see, the lines were completed, and fates were sealed.  Now I knew what would happen to my characters, who would be heroes, and who would die horribly.

Yet I was missing something . . .

What it was missing was the ability to write it up the way it needed to be written.  Even though I had a nice time line laid out for all my action, I’d still need to write this stuff.  That would mean setting up my story in Scrivener, and that meant moving the time line over–

So after a few hours of watching movies at home–something Attack Timeline ScrivenerI almost never do these days–I began the task of getting my information into Scrivener.  I started laying out my cards, but rather than look at it on the cork board, I went into outline form and began putting things into proper order with a date and time.  And when I was finished a few hours later–ta da!  My story was laid out as you see to your right.

I know some are saying, “Cassie, you’re crazy.  That’s a lot of crazy there,” but you couldn’t be more wrong.  Each entry is a scene, and when it comes time I write the scene within the confines of the point laid out–and I’m done.  I don’t need to worry if what I’m writing is in the proper order, because I already know.  I don’t even need to write things in order, because I know what happens in each of these plotted points:  I only need to write.

One thing the Scrivener time line did for me:  it made me realize that one character who was suppose to be involved in the action wasn’t.  When I’d put the first time line together I mentioned the character, and then never brought them up again.  Realizing this, I made certain I pointed out in my Scrivener time line that their fate was sealed–

Now that doesn’t sound good, does it?

Salvation

Here were are, together again.  Not only you and I, but my characters and I as well.  The dark clouds have blown away, and there is sun on the horizon.

Well, sort of.  It’s cloudy here, we’re probably getting rain, and tomorrow is going to be humid as hell.  But things are better for me, ’cause I’ve sort of pushed the depression away and gotten back into my sort of normal swing.  I’m almost ready for Camp–

Except they still haven’t put me in a new cabin.  Doesn’t matter.  I’m going to do it even if I’m in a tent in the woods, and I’m running my laptop off a solar collector.  Right now it looks like I’ll be hangin’ with camping buddies off a Facebook page that will be hidden from the rest of the people who hang out there bitching about the kids on their lawns while posting pictures of cats.  That’s fine with me, ’cause one of the reasons I dropped out of my NaNo Cabin was due to a post in the cabin chat that more or less said, “Hai, ho U doin?  Wha U ritin?”  No, no.  If you’re writing a story, you don’t get to speak like one of your characters.

Yesterday was a time for thinking, a time for getting names for my little novella.  I needed a list of people who exist at my school during the time I’ve set up, and it was a rather easy thing to do with the Name Generator in Scrivener.  I made the names, plugged them into the right character cards, then I went through and figured out who were the good guys, and who were the bad.  That’s important, because there’s gonna be some nastiness going down, and I had to know who was on what side.

Oh, and I went and created a death list.  Because . . . well, people are going to die.  Badly.  I’ve already envisioned how a few people, instructors and students, are going to die, and they’re not going down easy.  It’s going to be messy, it’s going to be ugly.  Characters aren’t going to look as if they fell asleep:  they’re going to look as if they were mauled by a lioness.  Death isn’t gonna come creeping in on little cat feet like the fog:  it’s gonna kick down the door and make itself at home.

I’ve never really gotten this personal with handing out murder.  Should be fun.

The only thing I need now is–wait for it . . . a time line.  There are going to be things that happen, and they will happen in a certain order, and I need to know when.  Since I don’t want to think this all out while I’m writing, I’ll plot out this thing first in Timeline, then I’ll work it out on a Scrivener card.  Or, better yet . . . since Scrivener allows you to write at any level you like, I may just set up several scene cards under a folder, and write what is happening for that scene, then organize them in something that looks like a real story.  That will be a good way to lay out the action, and if I want to add or remove something, then it’s a matter of adding a card, or deleting one.  Hell, I can write scenes that I think I may want, and not bother to use them in the final edit.

Welcome to my world, it’s gonna be interesting.

 

Closer to Believing

Where am I today?  That’s a good question.

I’m not in a cabin at Camp NaNo, that’s for certain.  I checked their site to see if I’ve been placed somewhere new after packing up my crap and abandoning the cabin where I’d been placed.  There is another twenty or so hours until they give another assignment, but I know I won’t get in with anyone I requested, so I have to assume I’ll spend Camp NaNo by myself, in a tent, listening to the crickets chirp while I work on my story.  Alone, in the night.

Yeah, seems to be the story of my life of late.

It’s probably obvious as hell that I’m going through a bought of severe depression.  In the past writing helped, but the last couple of months has done little to alleviate the feelings.  If anything, I believe the act of getting Her Demonic Majesty helped exasperate everything.  I’m touchy, I’m bitchy, and when I perceive myself as being less that perfect, I spin out and get down on myself far too hard, sometimes to the point where I just want to chuck it all and walk away into whatever sunset awaits.

It was sort of like that yesterday.  I had my new story all set up, I started laying out a time line for what certain characters in the story were doing . . . and then it hit me, that old feeling of, “You’re wasting your time on this shit, wouldn’t you rather do something self destructive?”  After that I spent the rest of the afternoon, and a large part of the evening, staring at my time line as if I expected it to jump off the screen and start tap dancing.

A funny thing happened, though.  After hours of sitting at the computer, listening to music and thinking about how I completely, totally suck as a writer and a person, I kept looking at my story and time line, neither of which I closed out during this whole process.  The longer I looked at what I’d prepared, what I’d created to that point, the more ideas started working their way into my mind.  As they ideas came, the depression faded, and with that fade came the notion that, yeah, I can do this, I do have something that’s wasn’t only worth while, but pretty damn good.

With that I spent about forty minutes plotting out my novella while speaking to a friend who is a very good person, and a hell of a creative person in her own right.  When I was finished with both, I saved my work, bid my friend a good evening, and went off to bed–

When I awoke this morning, I came across a couple of works–one a story, one a story idea–and was struck by the thought that while I might think myself kind of suck-o at times, I would never sink to the creative levels I saw this morning.  Just . . . damn.

It’s not fun being this way–but then, I’m in good company.  Find a truly creative person, and you’re going to find a tortured soul, someone who is, from time to time, beset by their demons and ready to jump into the lake of fire so they don’t have to listen to their bullshit any longer.

If nothing else, I can do my best to show my demons they don’t own me, that they are as fictional as my characters–and just like my characters, I control them.

Not the other way around.

 

Stones of Years

Being a writer is never easy.  You are stuck with ideas you can’t bring to fruition.  You have things happen in real life that affect your writing time.  You find yourself becoming obsessed with characters that simply won’t come into focus–

Yeah, that last has happened to me.

With Camp NaNo just around the corner–and I didn’t get anyone I wanted in my cabin!  What’s up with that?  Never mind, back to what I was saying . . . with Camp looming I needed to get my story set up.  And I’ve been doing that, but–lets be honest–there are a few things I’ve been lacking here.  A couple of my characters are a bit nebulous, and I’m not feeling them, not the way I should.  And it pisses me off, because I want to know my characters when I start writing.

It didn’t help that yesterday felt like one of those times when, if I may borrow from Graham Parker, every kind of pressure steps on your toes.  Shouldn’t have happened like that, but it did, and there were a few times when I had to step away and regroup because I was winding myself up.

So with night approaching I found myself at a crossroads:  what was I going to do with this story?  I hate when I get caught up in these möbius loops of indecision.  (I would have said a chronic hysteresis, but I covered Doctor Who yesterday.)  I found I needed a bathroom break, and while I was there . . .

Epiphany!

Camp NaNo isn’t about writing novels, or so I’m told.  It’s about writing what you feel like writing, and you can set your own word count and take it easy.  You might set out writing thirty thousand words on something lite and breezy, but maybe your intention was to only produce twenty thousand words.

Doesn’t matter.  You wrote, you got a story, move on.

What did I decide?  I decided I needed to write about an event that happened in the world I’ve created, to set up what’s actually happening in the novel I’m going to write.  It’s a traumatic event, one that messed things up so bad that the place was almost shuttered, and it really sets the stage for why the school–and the world, by extension–is the way it is at the start of the novel.

Call it a long prologue, but since I was only looking to write about twenty-five thousand words, it gives me a reason to write something that could be expanded into a novel later, and work on character outlines for the novel I’ll work on in November.  Assuming I’m not waylaid by something shiny.

To show you how I set up something like The Foundation Scouringthat . . . I’d already set up the novel as a Scrivener project, which meant I had a title page, and characters and places, along with some research, in place.  The character, place, and research are all meta data, but I needed to set up something with particular characters, as this new piece takes place eleven years earlier.  That means minimizing the character folder and using the Duplicate function to create a new fold, which I then moved to the story location.  I set up a new title page, set the meta data to tell me it’s a novella to do, and–ta da!  New story is already to go, and all I have to do is time line a few things and set up my parts.  Took all of about ten minutes to get to the point you see to the right.

The Scouring.  Quick and dirty writing, it is, and it’ll give me a foundation upon which to write Welcome to the Fishbowl.  Or whatever I decide to call the next piece.

The doubt is gone.  Time to write.

 

Iconoclast

No talking of writing today, other than to say it’s coming along.  I awoke today realizing that yesterday I worked on writing things all day.  First I edited, then I blogged, then I worked on buildings, then I worked on my Camp Story.  As the song says, same as it ever was.

But I have something else to chat about today.

I want to talk Time Ladies.

If you are a bit of a geek like me, you know about the upcoming Changing of the Time Guard on Doctor Who.  Matt Smith, aka He’s One More, He’s Eleven, is leaving to find gold at the end of the movie rainbow.  As has happens many times before, there is not only the search for the next actor who would be The Doctor, but a lot of betting and speculating, including who the fans would love to see take over the TARDIS.

Sure, people would like to see someone high profiled take over, but there’s this thing called “money” that prevents that from happening.  That means having to go with actors who are not going to break the budget, and you’re seeing names on the short list like Julian Rhind-Tutt, Emun Elliott, Richard Coyle, Burn Gorman, and the person who has been tipped as the favorite for the while, Rory Kinnear.

Yesterday another name popped up on the short list, and if you listen to some of the report, the name is close to, if not at the top of the short list.  And that name is Sheridan Smith.  If this were true, then for the first time the producers of the show are considering an actress for the role, and for the first time in fifty years (okay, not fifty in a row, but you know what I mean), we might have a Time Lady running her fingers over the TARDIS console whispering, “Hello, Sexy.”

Me and a few of my fangirl friends were like, “Yes, bring it!”, when the news came out.  Since the show was revived there’s been a lot of changes that couldn’t have happened during the first three decades.  And now that we know regenerating means not only getting a new body, but perhaps a new gender (blame Neil Gaiman for that one, folks), some of us are like, “Hey, isn’t it time we had a lady at the controls?”

However . . .

I’ve seen a couple of people indicate they wouldn’t like this drastic a change, that they might have a problem with gender switching, that the show doesn’t do well when it’s experimenting, that such a move would turn fans off and hurt ratings.  Now, I don’t want to stereotype, but of the people who’ve said these things to me, how many of those comments came from guys?  Strangely enough, the answer is all.  I know:  I’m shocked.

As a long-time viewer–and by that I mean I’ve seen every episode two or three times–I have to look at the show and think:  when hasn’t the show had change that could turn fans off?  I mean, lets forget for a moment the the First Doctor considered killing one of his companions with a rock, but lets look at change:

Every time there’s a regeneration, there’s change and experimentation.  After the First became the Second, and then the Third, the producers could have said, “Hey, play it like the first guy,” but they didn’t.  They went from being an old pain in the ass (which the First Doctor was), to “a Dandy and a Clown,” to quote the old pain in the ass.  Then he went all, what was the phrase?  “Teeth and Hair”, as the Third Doctor said.  Then he was some punk kid in a cricket outfit, and who thought some guy under thirty could do the role justice?

Then we go to the U-boat Captain and Doctor Emo and The Bow tie Hispster, and you get the idea:  there’s change, and with change you get something different than what came before.  The show runners are experimenting, and either the fans adapt, or they leave.  Most people who still pine for the Tenth Doctor Fjords have no idea what it was like when Tom Baker left and that new kid, Peter, took over.  I mean, what did he ever do for the show?  (Note:  that last was sarcasm.  I know what he has done.)

Companions.  Lets talk change and experimenting.  First couple of doctors had some good companions, some bad, and some who got chucked out an airlock because no one knew what to do with them.  Then the Third comes along and what do you get?  First you get the Lady Scientist, which totally raised the bar for companions.  Then you get the Doctor Who version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, aka Jo Grant–and why the hell she isn’t getting pulled into the Fiftieth shows I don’t know, but that’s another post.  Jo was a smart, cute, mini skirt go-go boots wearing lady, and had no problem using Beatles lyrics to describe the Doctor.  (She also posed naked with a Dalek, but that’s also another post.)

And who replaced Jo?  Why, one of those . . . Feminists!  Which was exactly what Sarah Jane was.  Don’t believe me?  Go back and check.  As popular as she became, producers found that she was scaring off the 25-45 male demographic, so when Sarah Jane said bye-bye, they replaced her with a Savage in a Loincloth and Leather Boots.  Hellloooo, Leela.

Every time there’s a new companion, there’s change, there’s experimentation.  Some good, some bad, some you kill with fire so hard their take out dinosaurs.  And some you love because they blow shit up with home made explosives.

Those were the old ways, however.  Today, we have–

Interracial couples.  Interspecies couples.  Gay couples.  Interspecies lesbian couples.  Bisexual con men (RTD’s description of Captain Jack, not mine.)  Werewolf royalty.  Human Daleks.  An episode considered the best of the revival that hardly has the Doctor in it.  Chav companions.  People of Color companions.  Annoying companions that saw death threats sent to the producers.  Horny companions.  A somewhat horny TARDIS.  Married companions.  Worst of all, you have The Doctor snogging!  Sometimes in the TARDIS!  And not only that . . . you have companions making TARDIS babies!  Does no one remember the First Rule of Doctor Who:  “No hanky panky inside the TARDIS.”  We won’t mention that the TARDIS baby ends up marrying the Doctor after making friends with her much younger parents, who she originally got to start dating, but only after we first saw her die . . .

It could be said that since 2005 the show has been . . . experimenting.  How’s it doing, you say?  Pretty good, if the fans are any indication.

If after all of that one might say that having The Doctor turn into a woman for their eleventh regeneration (or is it their eleventh?  Dun, du, duuuuuu!) could be a mistake, that it might turn fans off, that it might hurt the show because it’s a little to experimental . . . the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but may lie somewhere inside.

The great thing about science fiction, the thing that sets it apart for most other fiction, is that it you can take chances, you can push things, you can experiment.  Look at every great science fiction story, and you’ll see where the writer took things and turned them beyond eleven, and not only said, “What if?” they considered “if” a bit too mundane, and went further.

Maybe it’s just me, though.  Maybe the idea of swapping genders isn’t that big of a deal to me–and trust me, it isn’t.  I’ve seen that in games, I’ve seen that in stories–I’ve written stories where it happens.  I could see how it could open up a whole new side to The Doctor, and not because she’d get to wear a frilly dress now and then.

I mean, there are so many ways one could take that . . .

If only I had Stephen’s number, I’d be musing him out right now.