Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry X-Day, More King Fanboying, and Maybe I'm Just Lazy

I find trying to figure out which holiday exhortation to use for any particular audience incredibly annoying. Christmas? Holidays? Kwanzanukah? Grr... Happy holidays was supposed to solve the whole mess, but it feels impersonal and overly PC.


In an effort to live by Bob's rule (Don't just eat that hamburger, eat the HELL out of it!), I have decided to just wish everyone a Merry X-Day. I realize X-Day sounds vaguely like foreboding, maybe the day the mutant uprising kicks off, or the Mayan prophecies come true, or the UFOs descend from Mars to consume our Moms. This menacing cheerfulness is just a happy bonus. The vague part was really what I was after.

So Merry X-Day, everybody. May the cattle of your heart remain unmutilated, and your inner Earth shy from climate change. Also, I hope you get cool loot. Or your two front teeth. Or--if you're a thieving tooth fairy--a pair of pliers and somebody else's two front teeth.

I may have been reading too much of Chuck Wendig's blog. I'm only so-so on what he has to say, but the way he says it is f-ing hilarious. Only he would never abbreviate f-ing as f-ing. Other censored phrases he would never use likely include c-ck g-rgler, b--ver d-ck, -nal p-ssy h-le, and so on. So, fair warning there, but go check him out.

Moving on: I've made it about 1/4 of the way through 11/22/63 by Stephen King. Still loving it. Page-turning, can't-put-it-down loving it. Highly recommended. I find the treatment of time-travel--from a horror perspective rather than SF perspective--especially interesting. Also, man can this guy write. A lot can be learned here from how he structures his phrases.

I'm not gonna spend much more time on this, but it bears repeating--King's writing is Chunky. Long-short, florid-simple, occasional and effective use of tricks like repetition, just a wonderful variety, nice and chewy. I'm going to be spending time rereading this book in analytical mode when I 'm done reading it for fun.

Final stop on today's choo-choo of fun: I have written almost nothing this week. A couple of poems, which I consider fun-but-not-really-productive. IE, good luck selling those, you bozo. I keep a daily log, and I've mostly kept up with that this week. My writing calender (what I use in place of something modern like a spreadsheet) is a long row of zeros.

Part of my excuse is that I've been sick, as has the rest of my family. Also, NaNoWriMo burnout should be good for some slack. Still. I may have to face the fact that I am just lazy. Which is No Good.

A successful writing career (the goal of this whole exercise--IE, not working a shitty day job for the rest of my life) requires working my ass off. Not lounging it off. So I am going to have to do something about that.

My goal for next year involves doubling my wordcount from this year, what I'm calling the “Beat Michael Stackpole’s 2011 Wordcount Challenge” (or BMS2W Challenge, which sounds like a German car), which I announced in the comments section of this blog post, because I got the minerals. So now the only question is whether the threat of public humiliation can overcome my natural inertia, AKA the laziness of a depressed cat on Valium.

We'll see.

And I'll see you next week, likely early again (because of Pounding-hangover-I-did-what-to-the-dog? Day--termed New Year's Day in more civilized places.)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Wind Beneath My Whine, Also Stephen King and 11/22/63

I am not entirely sure what that title means just yet, but I suspect we're going to find out.

Before I get to the self-critical moaning: congratulations are in order. For me I mean. Goofball. I finished my MS! Yippee-dippee woodlee-hoo! I am a Real Writer now, right?

Granted--and we've talked about this--it's just a zero draft. It needs some heavy edits before it's ready to be seen by anyone, and I'm sure it will want more after that. But still...

But still...

I finished a novel. I am so absolutely, ravingly, ridiculously proud of myself. More importantly, now that I have proven to myself that I am, in fact, capable of writing an entire novel, I can get started on the next one. But maybe not this month.

My current idea is to do at least two NaNo's next year, maybe three or four. Okay, I really want to do four. But I don't want to set my goals unrealistically high. If I do one in March, then Camp Nano in July, Then regular NaNo, that might work out pretty well.

My writing schedule has still been pretty slack this week, but I did manage to turn out the last chunk of the MS, most of a new short, plus a poem. Yep, first poetry I've written in nearly ten years. No idea why I haven't had anything to say in that form, but I haven't. Until now.

Still not up and running on all cylinders, but at least I'm sitting in the chair again. Which is the most important thing--apply butt to chair is all a writer really needs by way of advice on writing.

I have also been doing some reading, Stephen King's 11/22/63. I'm not far into it, so I'm not ready to make any pronouncements about the plot. But the writing is absolutely gorgeous. Not in a flowery way, or overly descriptive or ornate way. In a chunky way.

One of the flaws in my own writing is a tendency to repeat too few of the same sentence structures too many times. King's prose ducks and weaves, tending toward the long-winded but keeping things interesting by constantly breaking things up, doing things differently. I'm really digging it.

My name for it--Chunky Writing. Like peanut butter. I want my writing to be Chunky Writing.

So yeah. I've gotten to a point in my own writing where I'm definitely seeing a need to increase my awareness of grammar and punctuation, so I can vary my phrasing more. I want my Writing to show off and enhance my Storytelling, propelling it forward rather than holding it back. Which maybe isn't exactly a job for peanut butter, but whatever. Work with me here.

This new focus/area to improve/awareness can now go on the To Do pile, along with more writing by voice recorder, self epubbing weekly, writing new short fiction, and on and on and on.

If finishing my first MS is the Wind, that last paragraph, folks, is the Whine. Each depends on the other. I need accomplishments and success to keep up my pace, and I need a frenetic pace with high expectations to get anything done.

Speaking of which, I need to get back to work. So thanks for reading, and I'll see you next week.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I Have Been a Very Bad Boy


Apparently my ability to complete a novel is far weaker than my ability to write most of one. My Challenge this week was simple--finish my NaNo novel by writing the last four chapters. I failed miserably.

Okay, not miserably. But not good, either. I managed to get my butt in the chair and actually write only one day this week. Which makes a grand total of two days I have written since NaNo.

Sad, huh?

I take solace in the fact that I'm getting lots of other things done, like playing The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. And reading (in a nice, hot, bubbly tub.) I also changed a flat on the side of the freeway, got new tires, disposed of the old tires, and put away the air compressor I've had to use every other morning for the last few months.

I've come up with an equation for this: Exhaustion + Life Roll = NoNoWriMo.

So, yeah. Time spent on non-writing has been really nice, but. But, but, but. I would have been far better served to have kept going as if NaNo wasn't done, rather than taking the small break that turned into a longish break.

On the other hand, I got two chunks done. which means I'm only two from the end. Assuming those two chunks tare enough to tie everything together, of course. I think so, but...

This brings up another point. Since this is my first novel, this is my first novel ending. I'm not real sure how this whole ending a novel thing is supposed to go. I wonder if perhaps I'm delaying the inevitable, out of either fear or attachment?

Anyhoo, I need to finish, and soon. I already know the rest of the story. The chunks are outlined. This is a four-to-six hour job now. No reason not to be done by mid-week.

--cue theme to Rocky--

The real kicker is all the stuff I want to be getting done that's on hold until I finish this MS. Which brings up the rest of today's post--future challenges.

I've already starting working on writing short stories by voice recorder. I have a well developed idea, and one story started already. My goal is to complete one short a week, in addition to reinstating the Day Off Story Challenge. I'm going to bundle all these together into one challenge--The Two A Week Story Challenge, AKA 100 in 2012 (cutting myself a little slack, in order to have a nice round number.)

Yep, I'm not actually starting until 2012. Gotta finish that MS, you know. The 100 in 2012 challenge will ensure that I write at least  200k or so. I also want to write a few more novels. Hopefully I can hit somewhere between 360k and 720k for the year (between 1k and 2k a day, or 3k a day during the week and weekends off.)

I am still considering how the self-epub challenge will run, but I'm definitely getting started on some version of that as soon as this MS is finished. Short stories and collections, at least one a week, are the basic plan. More TBA, as was the case last week.

Final thoughts--everyone needs a break sometime, failure is just another excuse to try harder, appreciate every accomplishment, and the only way to lose is to quit.

See you next week.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Easy-Does-It vs Middle-of-the-Road vs Oversetting

Today's post is a binary post. As in, there are two kinds of X: Y and Z. Since this is also a beginning writer's blog, I am naturally going to tell you which of the two kinds of X works for me.

But first you might want to know what, exactly, X--and thus our subject--is, hrmm? You might also wonder why I'm being so obtuse, and rightly so. The answer to that question comes later.

Today's post is about goals and goal-setting. Humans naturally set goals; every time someone decides to do something, they've set a goal. Generally, these short-term goals are easy, or at least not too difficult. Writer's example: I'm going to sit down and write for a while (an hour, 1k words, a page, a chapter.)

When we set clusters of medium-to-long-term goals (termed a Challenge), we get into more difficult territory. This sort of goal-setting  requires more determination, discipline, and effort. Writer's example: I'm going to write 1k words a day (a short story every week, 4 novels this year, win NaNoWriMo.)

Challenges are a great way to get your butt in gear, by giving yourself a concrete set of attainable goals to work towards. The best Challenges also have the added benefit of having a plan-of-action built in. "Become a better writer" is a difficult to measure, and thus "win", goal. "Write a short story every week" is clear and measurable.

Different personalities do better with different forms of motivation. Some people might do best by setting their goals low (easy-does-it.) This ensures that they succeed, helping to build confidence. I like to set my goals at the highest level I think I can achieve, but not unrealistically out of reach--a middle-of-the-road approach. I know others who set their goals ridiculously high, knowing they won't make them, but also knowing they won't accomplish anything if they don't "overset."

Yes, I know I said all that binary stuff at the beginning. And here I went and gave three different kinds of goal-setting (trinary?). This is why I am a writer and not a mathematician.

Once you understand what kind of goal-setter you are, you can tailor your Challenges to what suits your personality best. The important thing is that you are setting Challenges. Writing is like exercising; your writing muscle needs to be worked out, not just maintained. And especially not allowed to atrophy.

Personal updates and lessons learned this week:

Writing my NaNo novel has taught me that I can create suspense and plot hooks by leaving little mysteries in my writing, to be explained later. Even if the explanation is something innocuous, holding a little back for later helps maintain interest. And sometimes, silly little mysteries morph into major plot points, because I gave myself something to work with early on.

I still haven't finished my MS. I know the gist of the rest of the story, and only have a few chunks left to write, but life (and burnout) has been getting in the way. Which is a shame because I am so looking forward to celebrating my first completed MS (first completed zero-draft, to be clear.) I will be done by next Sunday, I am sure.

In fact, small challenge--Micro-NaNo. Or NaNoFiWe (National Novel Finishing Week.) I will finish my MS (at least 4 chunks and 8k) by next Sunday.

Coming up: Once NaNoFiWe is done, I plan on starting a regular self-epub challenge, details TBA, as well as starting a write-by-voice-recorder daily challenge (for short stories.) Finally, I plan on re-outlining my zero-draft, in preparation for rewrites to make the MS a coherent, readable story.