Tapping Out

15 11 2010

I made a decision last Thursday to just go ahead and hang up my NaNoWriMo attempt. I just couldn’t get there with it and instead started to actually dread it, which lead to skipping it entirely. It wasn’t so bad until I fell behind and hit the first major plot point. On the plus side, I had many directions I could’ve gone with it at that point, many different perspectives on The Big Central Event, but that turned out to be a problem, too.

So, without getting too reflective, I will say that overall, I enjoyed trying and might, but most likely will not try again next year, but I learned a lot very quickly, such as:

1) It really does help to write on a schedule. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true, it kills you when you can’t write on a schedule. I got derailed too many times and didn’t have the power to rally on a day I didn’t want to write.

2) I learned that planning would’ve probably carried the day. I did plan the overall plot of the novel and I thought I had a pretty good idea where it was going, but if I had made up a day-by-day, chapter-by-chapter outline, I would’ve been in much better shape.

3) I wrote a lot of really bad stuff that showed where I have more than a fair number of weaknesses in my plot. I was writing to reach a word count and I didn’t enjoy that very much. It felt like more of a stunt than real writing. What really surprised me, though, was there was a fair number of things that just came to me during the writing and they were quite good and I was very pleased with them.

The main thing I got out of it, though, was that I sat down and at least planned out a novel. I’d need to scrap the whole thing and rewrite it, but I think I see a bit on how to do it. I know that I can’t write everyday – I get tired too quickly and I need to build up more endurance. I also missed blogging and reading and writing other things. And I learned that I have to work on multiple things at once or I get bored or discouraged. So, it was a very good experience overall, but I ultimately just didn’t enjoy it enough to continue.

Playing Catchup [Nanowrimo Update]

10 11 2010
Jerry Orbach

Detective Lenny Briscoe (played by Jerry Orbach) Image via Wikipedia

So, today is 10 days into NaNoWriMo and I’m struggling to get caught back up. In fact, I sort of stunned myself a little to look up and see that today is already Wednesday (and ashamed that I hadn’t come here to update).

It was hard getting a lot done this weekend, but I actually had a really good day. We were in Atlanta visiting family and instead of sitting there enjoying coffee on Saturday morning before heading to the Rock Ranch for kids, play and more birthday party good times with my son, I forced myself to get out of the house. I wouldn’t have been able to get anything done there – just too many distractions. Instead, I drove to a Starbucks (ugh) and sat there and wrote for a couple hours while everyone else got ready to go.

I’m really proud of myself for that because it’s pretty out of character for me to retreat from the scene like that. I still don’t have an exact word count for how well I did over the two days, but after typing it all in – I did it all handwritten in a spiral notebook because my laptop is teh suck – I wasn’t too far behind, it looked like and I did have a small lead built up coming into the weekend. Then Monday and Tuesday this week were bigger disasters than the weekend for some reason.

Well, actually, I know what that reason is. I was building up to hit my first major plot point, which I hit yesterday. I think an ordinary person would’ve gotten a boost out of that, but it stumbled me. I knew how to get there, but from there now it’s such a big deal in the story and it’s an overwhelming feeling of all the things I have to reveal (as I build up to the second major plot point which I should hit next week sometime). It’s just a lot. The exposition turned out easier than I predicted and the meat of the novel is turning out to be harder.

Today had a long dialogue and questioning between the main character and a detective about the disappearance of the second main character (the FMC’s daughter). It was a lot of fun to write and I really kind of got into the mode of thinking like a cop. I tried to channel Lenny from the old Law and Order. I hadn’t planned most of it and found that I could come up with plenty of good reasons to suspect just about everyone for the kidnapping (except for the person who actually did it, of course!). It was good stuff and came out very quickly. I find that I enjoy writing dialogue a lot more than I thought I would.

NaNoWriMo Day 4 – Writing Music

4 11 2010

The day’s still early, but I’m wiped out. I overslept a little and procrastinated a lot and had to fight off a bit of a rotten mood, but I made my quota for the day. Actually, it was the fastest I’ve written and almost the most prolific: I got over 2,000 words in just a bit over an hour.

It doesn’t make much sense, but I’m going out on a limb and saying that I owe it to my buying the Battlestar Galactica: Season One soundtrack. I was struggling all day and felt like I needed some music in the background, but the usual eclectic mix of everything from Aerosmith to Lady Gaga to Nena to David Bowie that I listen to on my iTunes shuffle wasn’t going to cut it.

This actually did the trick and because my wife and I loved the series so much, it took me back and got me thinking about story (although what I’m writing isn’t science fiction). It just helped to have continuity between songs. A theme and an atmosphere in the room in between wrestling matches with my son, who’s turning 3 tomorrow (we’re very excited). The only downside was spending the money. I hate spending the money.

So, I’m ahead of schedule, though, which is good, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to get really derailed this weekend since we’re traveling. Because of that, however, there probably will be a catchup blog post on Monday to update how I do (or don’t do) over the weekend.

So say we all.

NaNoWriMo Day 3

3 11 2010

Was up and at it early this morning and it felt really good. Total opposite picture from yesterday. And aside from a little distress from the old digestive system thanks to Chicken Vindaloo last night (oh man, so awesome, btw), I feel pretty good.

I did feel a little stress and there were a few points where I actually said out loud, “Wow, this is really crap!” but there are words on paper that I cannot wait to delete and replace with something that sucks about 10,000% less. In fact, it was today’s chunk of writing that really convinced me that nobody, not nobody, not no how is going to be reading this one. What utter shit.

I’m worried, too, about this weekend since we’re on the road. I really don’t want to fall behind, but we’ve got birthday plans for my son and we’ll be out of the house all weekend. I will probably spend the day outlining in greater detail what I intend on writing and when and maybe (aww, who’m I kidding?) I’ll write some more and try to get a little ahead.

But hey, almost 1900 words this morning and my wife’s not even off to work yet.

NaNoWriMo Day 2

2 11 2010
Red Hulk

Image via Wikipedia

Today was a real struggle. I’m glad that I felt stressed out and crazy about meeting my writing goal, because I finally did get there this afternoon when I thought I might as well just hang it up on day two.

We went out to play trivia last night and had a really great time with some of friends, which was pleasant in itself since our social life is the lamest. So, there we were being all socialites in a smoky bar playing trivia. Good times.

This turned into an opportunity to oversleep this morning, so I missed my planned couple of quiet hours, then I had a job related errand to run and then back home to a crazy kid who wants to wrestle and pretend to be the Red Hulk while I’m supposed to be the Green Hulk. This wrestling match went on for at least an hour despite multiple injuries, one of which I’m sure just barely escaped being a full-blown concussion.

So, thinking that I could sit and scribble a line or two during this time was the definition of nutso.

I needed to clear my head, and I definitely needed to get the little monster out of the house for a bit, so we packed it up and went to the Y, where I did a 4 mile run and he turned into the most charming little boy and carried around a dolly for an hour. Red Hulk to master nurturer in less than 30 minutes.

The run helped more than anything else though. I hadn’t run that far in a few weeks and I’ve let myself slack too much. I think I scared the people in the nursery when I came back downstairs because I was completely red in the face. Get that man a Powerade, stat.

But, it really did clear my head and I thought out the section I intended to write today. Unfortunately, it turned out to only be enough to fill half of my quote and I had to come up with the rest on the fly.

Anyway, then lunch, then finally get the kid down for a nap. I started writing the bits I thought out and they took a different direction once I got them on paper and I was happier with it. But damn, it’s really a pain to write in the afternoon. It physically hurts almost. What comes so easy in the mornings is sheer torture in the afternoon. Especially when I’m tired and would much prefer to take a nap myself. So it sucked. A lot. I hated it.

On the upside, I think the writing was halfway decent with only a few parts that I find truly embarrassing and catastrophically bad. What was fun was I’m now into the background of my second main character, a seven year old girl loosely modeled on my daughter. That is, if my daughter were nuts and had this whole “I see dead people” vibe. It was a more fun section to read and it was really fun being in that brain for a little bit. What a weird girl she is. I totally dig it.

Today’s word count was almost exactly 1,800. Tonight, I shall sleep and write better. I have to be getting to the bad guy soon, but not tomorrow.

NaNoWriMo Day 1

1 11 2010

I was up and at ’em this morning, just like I hoped to be and then I started up MS Word and stared at the white screen. I had done some planning and I knew what I had to write, but I suddenly had this really bad feeling of not knowing exactly what to do.

It was the first line that was killing me. I read around the web some, opened the Kindle and checked some other novels I had lying around. Nothing spoke to me.

Then I think I nailed it. Here’s the first line:

“Going out for a run had the benefit of not costing much money, aside from the shoes which were purchased with the best of intentions in better times when everything in the world seemed possible and the fights were rare.”

Is it bad to feel a little proud of that one? Because I really like it and I’m sure that must mean it’s crap.

I also know I haven’t revealed much in the way of plot, but that’s because it’s only about 85% done and I’ve got some stickier bits later on that I’m not totally comfortable with yet. But it’s all the there and once I had that line, I was off in a flash.

Ended up with a bit over 1,800 words before everyone woke up and I had to stop. Plus, I’m feeling drained and not quite 100% up to par. Still, happy to say I’ve met my goal for the first day at least!

Thinking about Plot for NaNoWriMo

29 10 2010
William Faulkner's Outline

William Faulkner's mad outlining skills.

Things have been so busy around here and I’m so far behind on planning for NaNoWriMo, it’s not even funny. But it’s been a good week between finishing some pretty hefty job-related stuff, visiting an old friend, quite a bit of gaming and still managing to get to the gym. I definitely need to get on the ball, though and this weekend is going to take some finesse to plan out and get all the things done that need to be.

Among the varied sources of articles on the web about NaNoWriMo, I’m particularly grateful for Paulo Campos’ Countdown to NaNoWriMo series that he’s been putting together this week, which is good advice for any writer, but for as much writing is about to go on come Monday, it seems downright essential. You can find them on his blog, Yingle Yangle (I linked to all of the NaNoWriMo articles, but the rest seem like very good reading too). The series focuses primarily on good outlining and time-management skills. In other words, exactly the things I need help with the most.

I basically need all the help I can get with plot. I think it’s an unfortunate side-effect of being trained in literature that you tend to focus so heavily on character and psychology that you lose sight of the rest. Take, for example, the figure of Emma Bovary, about whom I could go on and on and try to understand from many different angles (feminist, social, economic, and the list goes on). Flaubert’s plot is, on the other hand, slower-paced than contemporary writing and is a little heavy-handed 19th century soap opera. It’s a good plot, don’t get me wrong. I think the novel is absolutely top notch and they don’t build ’em like that anymore. The pacing isn’t the same as what one sees in today’s heavy genre fiction, however, which makes up most of what’s out there. So, from my background, I’m pretty sure that I can come up with good characters, most of what I personally know about plot is pretty old-fashioned. A good bit of it is Aristotelian, it’s that old-fashioned. For what it’s worth, I’m aiming to write something in-between strictly genre and strictly “literary” and mostly, to be totally honest, I hate both labels and would just as soon focus on the writing itself.

I am still really looking forward to it. I plan on updating with my progress here starting on Monday and hopefully I’ll get through it okay. I’m also considering going to some of the write-ins put together by the good folks managing the Nashville writers. Might be a good way to meet some new people and get out a bit more. Mostly, I need to quit sleeping so much. I’m not used to this who 8-9 hours a night thing. I know it’s healthy, but unless they’re adding hours to the day, I can’t afford more than 6!

Still here!

27 10 2010

I’m still here, I’m just busy with the job hunt, kids and with getting ready for NaNoWriMo. On the latter, I really, really wish I had started earlier in planning. When I started thinking about it last year, I’ll admit I raised my eyebrows at all of the posts of people saying they were writing character sketches, plotting, designing covers, etc. Now, now, now! I see the error of my ways.

I can already tell you, I should have been on the ball, but I think the upside will be that the next few days’ worth of planning will be very productive, hell, even inspired. I’m really getting excited about it.

Name Game for NaNoWriMo

8 10 2010
The film's famous sequence where Jack sticks h...

I officially registered for NaNoWriMo yesterday and I’m totally excited about doing it this year (for the first time). I feel pretty confident that I can do it, but I know it’ll be a new challenge for me, so I’m keeping my mind open about all of the potential pitfalls that are surely going to snag me up at some point. Because I’m so inexperienced, I’m not even sure what they could be, but that’s part of the charm.

What I am doing is starting to sketch out some ideas, outline the plot and think about the characters. The latter is a big problem for me and something I seem to struggle with every time I try to write something, since most of the names I come up with are either far too common to be interesting or too heavy-handed and unusual to be believable. And I think this is a pretty normal problem to have. I want to have a regular guy in there with the usual problems, but I also want everyone to be exceptional. Jack won’t cut it. Jack is not a unique snowflake. Unless you’re Stephen King who can make a really scary, classic Jack.

So, again I’ll struggle not to name my main character George Gordon Byron or Steve, but rather I’ll agonize and stare at the paper until I find something that’s just right. But what always really strikes me as weird is that when I see other people’s character names, I find them so completely natural and I accept the names almost universally without question. Yes, I suppose if someone named a modern gothic hero Edgar Allen, I’d probably raise my eyebrows (and then laugh and toss the book in the dumpster), but that almost never happens.

I did look around and see what else was out there on the interwebs to use as a resource, coming across this article on a baby naming site. I think the most salient point here is that exotic names are for “romance novels, soap operas and strippers.” This gives me a chuckle and makes me want to write an action/adventure story about a team of zombie strippers, but I think I’ll suppress that urge (but hey, Anthea, you’re welcome to the idea if you want to run with it!).