. . . In That Quiet Earth

It’s interesting that just a few days ago I was talking about using Nukemap to figure out explosions for my story, and all of a sudden both Time and io9 are talking about the 3D version of the site, which does let you see what your home town looks like with a mushroom cloud rising overhead.  Of course the site is down at the moment, ’cause everyone is busy nuking their old schools, or their last job, or the home of the significant other who gave them heartache.  Enjoy that W-76 in your corn flakes, butthead.

I finished the part of my story dealing with the, let us say, battle I had there.  I started writing yesterday morning after posting yesterday’s musings, and thirteen hundred words later I finished everything with a good mauling.  Really, someone had their face eaten by a lioness, which isn’t the worst way to go, unless that lioness also happened to be an instructor who the foolish character in question had done nothing but piss off for the last two years.  That’s when your face gets eaten.  It’s worse than being mauled by a bear, let me tell you.

I even managed another three hundred words late last night to show things getting a little back to normal, though there are some whispered tales of what’s happening and who died.  The end is close by, and the story will probably end up hitting the fifty thousand mark when it’s all said and done.

The thing is, I feel no need to rush and finish the story before the end of the month.  If I do, I do.  If not, I’ll finish it the first week in August.  I met my Camp goal, and surpassed it.  I even feel proud that I managed another novella if not a short novel.  Beyond that, however, I feel a bit burned out and a whole lot of stressed.  Some of that comes from things in my life, some from things online.

Either way, there are changes coming for me, for I need them.  I need to walk away from distractions, and get more serious about this craft I’ve chosen.  As soon as this story is finished, I’m thinking my way through on how to make things . . . different.  Whatever the hell that means, you know?

As I was told once, if you wanna feel professional, you gotta be professional.  The time for acting is over.  Besides, I received my first royalty payment from Amazon yesterday, and it was enough to make me smile.  So the possibility of breaking through is still there.  I just gotta reach for it.

As Chuck says, you might just be doing it wrong otherwise . . .

Lastly, since I’d finished my writing early yesterday, I thought I’d jump into blender and start fooling around with modeling out The Great Hall and The Pentagram as they are described in the current story.  Despite not really knowing what I’m doing, just having the vision in my head and a few layouts I’ve developed.

Imagine my surprise when I finally get it all set up in 3D and . . . whoa.

I’ll show you tomorrow.

Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers . . .

It’s almost over.  This “short scene” of action that would end up the centerpiece of a twenty-five thousand word novella has turned into a novella of its own–thought, to be fair, it’s still the centerpiece of a short novel.  Funny how those things work out.

But it’s in the final stretch.  The last chapter ended up about thirteen hundred words full, and I set the first short sentence of a next part of the chapter before I decided my eyes were going to begin fighting me before long if I continued upon this course.

It’s what’s for breakfast, though.  After posting I’ll get into the chapter and rip into the sucker.  I’ll finish up the last segment of this nightmare, spill the last blood, and set up Part Four.  I still have another character to bring on stage in somewhat dramatic fashion, though I could say I’m really bringing four characters onto the stage, but one doesn’t have a lot of lines, and the other two–better not say.

“What of the unquiet slumber you speak of?” I hear you say.  I don’t really hear you saying it, but I know it’s there, at least in my imagination . . . good question, though.  Here’s what I mean.

First off, there’s this story idea that is tearing around in my head–again.  It’s another of those erotic fantasies, like the one I just finished before the Camp, and it won’t go away.  It wants me to write it down in my Ideas Project so that it becomes a thing, a real thing that stays around forever, but I’m resisting.  At least for now.  But the time will come–maybe today, maybe tomorrow–when I set the idea inside an idea file, and save the project.  Again.  Because I never have enough ideas, it appears.

Then there’s the dream . . .

For the longest time dreams have been impossible to remember, likely because of a combination of long work hours and exhaustion.  But they’ve been coming back, because who knows, they just do.  There’s a reason they tickle your brain in the middle of the night, because they are reminding you that you’re not the boss of your mind subconscious.

What did I have in my dreams?  A whole lot of being told that I can’t do things that I want to do.

It felt like I was at Comic Con, though it could have been any con, since I’ve attended GenCon and know what they’re like.  I was walking to and fro, my badge slung around my neck, and it seemed like everywhere I went, I’d hear from people about how I shouldn’t dress a certain way, or I shouldn’t walk a certain way.  How I shouldn’t walk onto a panel and talk about a certain subject.  How I should write stories a certain way, or that there were some stories I shouldn’t write at all.

Crap like that the whole time.

In the end I walked into a hall dressed a bit like the Silk Specter, though what I had on was more red and black than yellow and black.  I seem to remember flipping someone off as I headed through the door, because they were about to question where I was going, and I didn’t feel like giving them the satisfaction of being able to feel good about “telling me something”.

That unquiet slumber is over.  Now I have writing to do.

After I tell this idea to stop bugging me.

Gathering in the Hall at Midnight

It wasn’t the bonanza of writing I expected, but I pushed my story up another twenty-one hundred word after my eyes returned to normal, and I found the time to make it to the computer between bouts of running here and there.

Finest kind, I’m tellin’ you.

Finally removed the last sub-folder, and all my text files are Attack 0714looking pretty in the light of a new day.  I’m more than half-way through this section, and I spy a scene that I may not need.  I also see a heading I might change by giving a particular character a different name, and thereby giving the scene the name of an episode of Doctor Who that would have had the same title.  See how my mind work?  So many “What if?”‘s that it’s not even funny.

I’m surprised by the length of each scene, though.  Two right around the two thousand word mark, four more in the low thousands, and the rest above the “Work in Progress” mark in the mid-hundreds.  The plotting for this section worked as I expected:  I kept things low where needed, and built up things when necessary.

The scene you see that is labeled “Work in Progress”, that’s likely going to be a short one, but the two that follow–yeah, they’ll take up some wordage.  At least fifteen hundred, maybe a couple of thousand each.  Before I get to that third scene, though, I’ll have “won” Camp NaNo.

Yes, I’ll be over my thirty thousand word goal, and have won–if you want to think of writing thirty thousand words as some kind of victory.  To me, it’s just another day of writing:  bring up program, put words in, keep track of your count, give that little Fluttershy “yay” when you hit your goals for the day.

Looking at the scenes that remain in the story, I’m using my experience from putting stories together to give an estimate of hitting about thirty-five, thirty-six thousand words at the end of this part, and then maybe another four or five thousand words for the last section.  I’d originally charted for a twenty-five thousand word novella:  I may very well end up with a forty thousand word short, short, short novel.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

So, now:  I know, in my mind, what remains for the section, who lives and dies.  It’s all about finishing now, getting the story wrapped up before the end of the month, and then . . . I’m thinking it’s time to get another story edited and ready for the big upload, and getting some word done setting up my next work in progress for NaNo 2013.  I will edit, but I don’t feel like starting another original piece until November, because I have too damn many original pieces at the moment.  I’ve written one novel, one novella, published another novel, and I’m close to finishing what’s either going to be a long novella, or a short novel.

It’s somewhere around one hundred and twenty-five thousand words of new stories for this year, and that’s not doing me any good sitting on the computer.

The stories must flow, but if they aren’t seen by others, do they really exist?

The Blood of Thine Characters

Today, probably by sometime this evening, I’ll have breezed past the fifteen thousand words mark of The Foundation Chronicles:  The Scouring, and perhaps have even crawled into the sixteen thousand word range.  After seven days of writing I’l have moved beyond the half-way point of my novella, and if my stats are correct, I’ll finish NaNo Camp next Sunday with thirty thousand words plus of a lead-in to my November NaNo Novel.

Then I can rest for a little while.

This gives me time to read some of the things out on in the Facebook NaNo group, and ponder the human condition.  I’ve started following it more closely these days, smiling at several of the questions, ignoring others, blocking a few (when someone comments that “science is a religion”, you’ve succeeded in pressing my You’re An Idiot Button, and I have to stop following them from that point on), commenting once in a while, and even assisting in the hijacking of one thread, which brought out the Evil Dominatrix Empress from within and saw a soft “Bwah, hahaha!” being uttered.

I’m so proud of myself.

There was a question today that was actually a good one.  Someone asked if anyone ever cried when they had to kill certain main characters.  It is a good question, because writing can be an emotional experience, and it entirely possible to get caught up in the words you weave.  I’ve cried as well, usually at the end of a story–two in particular–because there were feeling passing between my characters that were feelings I pulled deep from within.  There was a time when I couldn’t write like that; that time is long past.

But what if you have to off your characters?  Doesn’t that get you down?

I do imagine of the times when it’ll become necessary Blood of Thine Enemiesto kill characters in stories.  I mean, I could justify doing it by pointing to this picture on the right and saying, “Substitute ‘main characters’ for ‘enemies’.”  It’s gonna add some character to your writing, piece by piece–get it?  Chirrup chirrup.  Oooh, tough crowd.

As I usually do, I think about my characters and where they are going.  I think about their past, their presents, and their futures.  They don’t tell me where they’re going:  I do that for them, because they are figments of my imagination, and I own their asses, not the other way around.  If I say they’re going to get married, they do; if I say they’re going to retire, they do.

If I say they’re going to come down with a horrible, degenerative illness, or get their legs blasted off in an explosion, or die in a fairly hopeless fashion because they didn’t listen to advice, it’s gonna happen.  They got no say in the matter.

The things I’ve mentioned above, they will happen to characters I’ve written about.  Two of those events, in fact, will eventually happen to characters in this story I’m writing for Camp NaNo.  Am I trying to crawl my way up The Wall to stand next to the Master of Destroying Your Favorite Character Just to Make You Feel Bad, George R.R. Martin?  No.  For one, none of these characters are your favorite.  Maybe they’re mine–well, yes, all three are.  I love them.  I cherish them.  I want good things for them.

But everything dies.  Everything.  Even my favorite characters.  Oh, sure:  they might live on in your memory, or in the memories of your readers.  But they can die on the page.  Sometimes their deaths will be good, and other times they’ll suck hard.  I can promise I won’t ever stuff someone in a refrigerator just for the hell of it, but everything else is up for grabs.

Besides, I’ve got about forty characters to bump off in my current story this coming week.

Who’s got time for tears with that much writing?

The Short of the Long

The year is half over, more or less.  I suppose once my area hits noon, then it will be half-way to the end.  Can’t say it’s been a horrible year, but I can’t say I’ve been clicking my heels at how awesomely incredible it’s been, either.  And, no, I don’t believe it’s because there’s a thirteen in the sucker:  the last few years have been shitty, so that argument, as they kids say these days, is invalid.

Something I recently did may have been noticed by a few people.  If you were following along, you might have noticed that every blog post for the month of June was the title of a song.  Not only that, but each week pretty much fed from the discography of a particular artist.  Why did I do that?  Why not?  It was not only fun, but it was also difficult to find titles that sort of fit with what I was writing, while also not giving away the whole show as to what I was doing.  Oh, sure:  there were a couple that completely tipped my hand, but since no one said anything like, “Hey, did you just use the title of a song?” I have to assume no one caught on–or no one was noticing.  Maybe I’ll do I again later in the year.  Maybe I’ll pick the title of porn movies.  That will probably get everyone’s attention.

Camp NaNo July is on, though the website isn’t.  It’s been Crash Palace for the last day, probably due to the influx of people trying to sign up at the last moment.  I mean, it’s not as if people were aware this was coming, but hey, what do I know?  Anyway, the site is off meditating, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write . . .

Which I’ve done.  I started in on my story at midnight, and wrote for the length of time it took for The Duke Suite to finish.  That’s twenty-seven minutes and forty-five seconds if you’re keeping track, and when the last notes faded into the evening, I’d written six hundred and ninety words.  That’s not bad, considering I was stumbling over things here and there.

This morning I got right back into it about six-thirty, and after editing a few things that read clumsy, I started adding to the chapter.  By the time I finished forty-five minutes later, I’d bumped the chapter to one thousand, one hundred and seventeen words.  As I’d estimated this story at twenty-five thousand words, my daily count is only eight hundred and six words a day.  I’m already at 138.51% of my count for the day, and I’ll add more to the chapter–if not finish it–before I go to bed tonight.

What have I learned about Camp so far?  One, I got right back into my writing with little hesitation.  Two, I’m watching what I’m writing far more closer, and I don’t hesitate to edit as I go along–something I’ve done for a while, but I’m getting far pickier about it these days.

Then there’s three:  I know this novella is going to end up going beyond twenty-five thousand words.  I thought I’d be close to the end of this chapter at a thousand words, but no, that’s not happening.  I believe I’ll wrap up the first chapter around two thousand words, but as for the next?  Probably shorter.  But the one after that?

Oi, I have no idea.  Maybe I should just shut up and write . . .

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.

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.