Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Nanowrimo 2014: Completed -kinda

On November 27, I crossed the magic number of 50,000 words (while writing my story, I would have written that as "fifty thousand" to get the credit for an extra word and also because I vaguely recall an elementary school teacher telling me that was the proper way to do it in prose).

The story isn't done.  It is just in the middle of the climax.  Right now, on a large island on Lake Baikal, Russian, British and Chinese forces are battling with muskets and steam powered engines that can fly over who will rule Asia.  And, what's that?  A scorned shaman is dancing for an audience of seals, imploring their help?  Will they bring in a new super weapon from the depths of the deepest lake in the world?  Really?  In the last chapter, a whole new group of characters, motivations and weapons are being introduced?  Ah, probably to build interest in the sequel.

The story has been fun to write and I hope I continue it this afternoon.  I am happy that the stress is off but the point of Nanowrimo is that this stress is often the only thing that gets one to write in the first place.  God knows my first story hasn't been touched in eleven months and three days.

Again, the story has been fun.  It starts off in the Himalayas with an expedition heading toward Tibet headed by a man named Oldwife.  Is that clever?  I have tried to use connections to historic events - like Younghusband's expedition to Tibet, but I am not sure if it is too heavyhanded or not.  Anyway, the story takes place around 1800 and Oldwife is an ex-naval officer who sailed with Cook.  His chief engineer is a man who studied watchmaking from the man who supplied Cook with his chronometer and apprenticed under Harrison, the famous clock-maker who made the first timepiece accurate enough to determine longitude at sea.  There is a man who basically invents scuba diving - a tuque-wearing Frenchman of course.  A female Korean martial artist, smiling, deadly Gurkhas, flamboyant, deadly Kazakhs, gruff, deadly Tashkentians and more.  I needed a few browser windows open to find names appropriate to each nationality as I went along.

I love the term 'plot bunny'.  You think of a few plot points and suddenly they've mated and you're overwhelmed in them.  Probably adding semi-sentient seals in the last chapter is an example of too many ideas without enough mortar of story holding them together.

A shovel that someone carried a long distance - not a special shovel, just an ordinary one, appears in the story and is used with intent to kill.  One could call it a traveling shovel of death, if one so chose.

My planning this time was minimal. I wanted something 'steampunk' and that meant a steam-powered giant dragonfly and more.  I also wanted Tibet or the Himalayas and I can't explain why although the area has always fascinated me.
From my notebook:
In my notebook, I see that I thought about the previous year's story - The Distancing Engine - on September 11.  I had written some notes about where the story was and how to move it forward.  I don't think I got beyond that point.

On Oct 9, I have the start of Nanowrimo prep - one thing that stands out is that I spelled 'Himalayas' correctly - recently I have caught myself using two 'i's and two 'a's instead of one and three respectively.  I then wanted the story to be about local areas rejecting imperial power.  Nepal did fairly well at that, compared to India - I'm sure the location helped.  I also wanted to include Tantric sex.  Maybe I could still add that in the revision.

Oct 28: some attempt at character sketches.  Discovery of 'Orion' as the religion that offers meditation training that turbo charges your brain.

I have just found a list of names.  Some of the names are from Cook's final expedition.  I took the surnames and given names and shifted them a little so they don't match the original.
I also have notes comparing the education of three individuals - Oldwife who received a Classical education - Greek and such, Kasher, who learned even older dead languages and Mi-suk, who studied Confucianism - the Classical of east Asia.

As with last year, everywhere are numbers. Nanowrimo drives home the message of record keeping and if the story was going slowly, I would stop many times in a day, write down the current and the most recent number, subtract one from the other and record the difference.

I consider myself to be fairly objective and numbers oriented.  In descriptions of battles and fights, I often found myself writing "The charged the final 50 meters to the enemy line." or "The landing field was a little more than ten kilometers away."  Is that kind of precision valuable?  when writing about gunfights, does it make the action more visual, more relatable or more obviously wrong?  I don't know how accurate a pistol made in the late 1700's is.

The leader of the main group is an ex-Naval officer - naturally Forrester and Hornblower figure in my mind as I write his exploits.  Forrester once described Hornblower as having a pair of rifled pistols that were accurate to fifty meters and that always seemed excessive to me. Forrester did not have Hornblower picking off individuals at that distance so the question might be moot, but, well, I clearly remember it.

There are a total of 17 pages of notes, including two mind maps.  I also used two sheets of A3 paper - that's the double A4 size - for maps and other notes.
Well, that 's over nine hundred words.  More than half a day's work at standard Nanowrimo pace.  Enough for now.  Time to exercise or do school work or any of the millions things I put off doing for the month.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A good day to Nanowrimo

I am currently at nearly 2,400 words for the day and am satisfied with the progress.  Now, I have to focus on how to end it all.  The story, I mean.

I found a fellow K-blogger's posts on his nanowrimo exploits from days-past.  Liminality 1, 2, 3, 4.

From the first link:
 ... ending that features lightsaber-wielding penguins in the catacombs beneath the Vatican.
Since then, I've always wanted some unlikely foes to do battle 'in the catacombs beneath the Vatican.' This year, I might have a story line fits - if any does.  My story could have proto-Nazis fighting steampunk-powered Victorians and Yetis, in the catacombs, beneath the Vatican.

All the action so far has taken place in Asia - Nepal and Lake Baikal, Russia, so having them travel another 6500 km, to an entirely new continent, seems a little unwieldy.  We'll see - soon, I hope.
I was curious about windows  open to internet sites.  I currently have 10 windows open, including the one i am typing in right now.  The two that responded, don't do research during the month, but perhaps after the month is down and during revision time.

Friday, November 14, 2014

milk carton plastic bricks and more on writing

From Boingboing:
Peter Brown grinds up plastic jugs and bottle caps in a blender, then melts them into bricks. He uses the bricks as stock to turn on his lathe. I want to make one just to admire it.

Also from Boingboing, Doctorow discusses story tellers in other media:
At least with stories, you know that if you tell a scary story, and it works, the audience will experience fear. But the emotional oomph of non-narrative art is much more mysterious, more of an art, really, and though it may be harder to systematize, when it gets in the groove, look out.

The bad sex in fiction award. Is it just me of do all authors have to turn off the awareness that their mothers might read their work before writing sex scenes?


Sci Am again on the connection between ADHD and creativity.
Of course, whether this is a positive thing or a negative thing depends on the context. The ability to control your attention is most certainly a valuable asset; difficulty inhibiting your inner mind can get in the way of paying attention to a boring classroom lecture or concentrating on a challenging problem. But the ability to keep your inner stream of fantasies, imagination, and daydreams on call can be immensely conducive to creativity. By automatically treating ADHD characteristics as a disability– as we so often do in an educational context– we are unnecessarily letting too many competent and creative kids fall through the cracks.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

In between the action scenes

Fred Clarke at Slacktivist has spent a decade dissecting the World's Worst Books - the Left Behind series.  I'd like him to speed up a little but I'm enjoying the critique.  In today's (probably Nov 12, I live on the other side of the world) post, he writes:
But anyway, we’ve finally reached the end of the Escape From the Jews subplot. That means we’re now just idling until the next big set piece begins. That’s the pattern in these books — a disconnected series of such set pieces, interspersed with long stretches of nothing in between. Jerry Jenkins usually fills that nothingness with airports, phone calls, prayer sessions and lots of unnatural conversation in which various characters, including Buck and Rayford, talk about how awesomely cool Buck and Rayford are.
Perhaps they need Elmore Leonard's advice:

I try to leave out the parts readers skip.
Perhaps you need to work on describing the indescribable - and for inarticulate writers like myself, that is a huge slice of the peoples,places,things,events,actions pie.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cambridge and Waterloo area, Ontario

The 100 notebooks project

Hemingway, Da Vinci, Currie, just a few among many, recorded their thoughts, arts and day-to-day musings in notebooks providing insight into their creative minds. The 100 Notebook Project explores the power and potential of the notebook as a medium for capturing creativity. Our local community is full of inspiring and imaginative people who have their own unique perspectives to share. 100 creative people will be selected and given a notebook to fill with their own thoughts, art and day-to-day explorations. Each of the completed notebooks forms the basis of the 100 Notebook Project Exhibition, a community event to celebrate these unique, creative works. Afterwards, the collection will become a circulating library further sharing the power of the notebook with the public. 

My only concern is that they notebooks will not be authentic enough: whoever makes them might well do rough copies on loose leaf, then make a good copy in the book.
Added a month later.  I like L'Engle's phrase "honest, unpublishable journal" and read in it support for my own criticism (from Brain Pickings).
“You want to write, you need to keep an honest, unpublishable journal that nobody reads, nobody but you,” Madeleine L’Engle counseled in her advice to aspiring writers. W.H. Auden once described hisjournal as “a discipline for [his] laziness and lack of observation.”

Monday, November 10, 2014

Personal Nanowrimo News: it's gimmicks all the way down.

I would say a big part of Nanowrimo is gimmickry.  I don't precisely mean this in a bad way.  If the gimmicks can lead people to attempting something long and challenging, like writing 50,000 words in a month, then they've proven their value.  I have only written at that length due to Nanowrimo, so I do see the value.

On the other hand, during the recent talk by Chris Baty -just before November 1 - there is a link in a previous post - his interviewer showed off his 'writing cap' and his mascot dragon and the comment queue filled with people wanting to get their own.  Good, but off-topic.

The "write, don't think" meme of Nanowrimo gets to me a little, too.  When I completed my book in 2013, it was of a story I had day dreamed for years - it probably isn't particularly awesome to anyone else, but it was a recurring story I worked on in my head at great length.  When I wrote it out, I learned all the plot points I had skipped and how dream logic had made possible events that make sense in writing them down - But I had a story with many plot points ready to go.

This year, I started with only an idea, a gimmick or single premise.  One that grew through the first week but is now drying up.  I need another thousand words tonight and I will use a technique that worked last year.  I will jump forward in the narrative and hope that I can later fill in the gap between what I have now -mid Spring - and what I will soon work on - early summer.

I wonder how much 'real' authors rely on gimmicks.

Here is another example of gimmick writing - the new location:

The mountain I lugged my computer up is DongMae San and is in Saha Gu, Busan.  In this way, I was able to exercise my dog and get a good three hundred plus words in.  I will probably do it again, and maybe for my actual work as well. I could grade essays there.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Success - driven by luck or not?

Love and integrity made Welcome to Nightvale a success.  Random chance ruled whether this man's creations were successful (video).
The contrasting viewpoints hinge on the criteria for success.  Darius Kazemi (the latter link) measured his by internet hits and links - he completed 72 projects last year and looked for patterns in which ones became successful - he didn't find any.

Jeffrey Cranor, of Nightvale, judged success by how satisfied he was and considers some of his projects, which drew 9 people to view them, as being equally successful to others that drew millions.
It being Nanowrimo, an essential writing skill:
The answer is to step back, reverse the whole process, and start with the character arc. Jot down notes about those cool settings and scenes on a set of cards. What is the appeal of that setting to you – the emotional pull? This could give insights into the kind of character that would inhabit it. Then start working on the characters. Focus on one character only to begin with. This is your lead character. Forget the setting. What does the character NEED to develop, to grow? What is their journey?...Want proof? Go check out that show about the guy with the blue box. The stories aren’t really about his TARDIS or the neat places you can go in it. Are they?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Google Docs gets into the Nanowrimo spirit

The people running Google Docs have prepared some authors to write a story in honour of Nanowrimo.
Of course, every great story needs a great beginning, and that’s where we need your help! You’ll tell the authors how the story should begin, whether it’s with the classic “Once upon a time…” or something completely random like “Before he came to Tuberville, Roger Pickens had never seen a chicken.”
To participate, send us your opening line ideas until November 12th. Then, on November 18, you can tune in to view the winning prompt, and watch as the writers transform that sentence into a one-of-a-kind story, right in front of your eyes.
Notebooks would be good for Nano people (and basically all people), too.
As I struggled through my most recent bout of writer's block, a friend recommended I read THE ARTIST'S WAY by Julia Cameron. 
In THE ARTIST'S WAY, Julia Cameron suggested writing "Morning Pages" every day before doing anything else. This applies to everyone, not just writers. Your morning pages can be anything you want. They can be profound, or crappy. It doesn't matter. The point is to use them as a focal point before starting your day.
I can't begin to tell you how helpful my Morning Pages have been for me! Since I write from home, it's very easy to get distracted. When I write in my Morning Pages, my entire day becomes much more focused and productive. It's something you have to see to believe, so rather than try and convince you, I highly suggest you give it a try and see how it can effect your life.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Saying "no" and typing "the"

The podcast "We have concerns" is fantastic.  My only complaint is they laugh at their own jokes a little too much.  In October, they discussed how productive creative people know how to say "No" and how scary that is.
An article by Kevin Ashton proposes that saying “no” to things is vital to the creative process.  Anthony and Jeff wonder why they have such a hard time saying “no” and what that might mean about them.

My Nanowrimo story continues to grow at the required pace - and a little bit faster.  One extra goal I have this week is to type teh freakin' word 'the' correctly more consistently.  In one section of my story, I counted 11 instances of mistyping out of around 152 times.  I say around because I use the 'find' function on Chrome - it found 152 instances, but that might include 'them' and 'there'...  I don't recall ever spelling those words 'tehre' or 'tehm'.  I do write 'taht' and 'tahn' on occasion.

My synopsis and a review blurb by a noted published author:
A British expeditionary group, mostly in the area for research, excavates a proto-Buddhist temple whose origins go back much further than expected.

"In his Steampunk exploration of Nepal, Dean has written a tour-de-force, a stunning debut novel that will make him the new JK Rowling.  He has somehow managed to retain a YA rating while including gritty violence and religiously fueled horror and remarkable sex scenes that made me blush."  Predicted review by Cory Doctorow, Dec 12, 2014.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Alternatives to Nanowrimo

Wordpress is offering two blogging U courses.  Blogging 101 and photos 101. Hurry, the  4 week classes start Monday!
Photography 101 is a photo-a-day challenge combining a daily photo theme with shooting and photo editing tips on composition, lighting, cropping, and more. You’ll publish new posts, make new friends, and hone your photographer’s eye. It’s also a great way for photobloggers to participate in NaBloPoMo this November. Charge your camera batteries and get ready to shoot!
For three years, I’ve tried to start a blog. Before Blogging 101, I never built enough momentum. Now, thanks to the accountability of regular assignments – and thanks to receiving such wonderful, encouraging feedback – I’ve reached the critical mass I needed.
Practicing My (Gray)ScalesBlogging 101 is a month of bite-size blogging assignments that take you from “Blog?” to “Blog!” Assignments help you publish posts, customize your blog, and engage with the community. You’ll walk away with published posts and a handful of drafts, a theme that reflects your personality, a small (but growing!) audience, a grasp of blogging etiquette — and a bunch of new friends.
P.D. James has advice that seems a little counter to the Nanowrimo experience.  As part of her ten pieces of advice, she recommends

Never talk about a book before it is finished

Alright, back to Nanowrimo stuff.  Scrivener is offering an extended free trial - til Dec 7 - so your work isn't lost at the end of the normal month-long trial.  I'm an Ommwriter fanatic, but Scrivener offers all the resources you may need.

Fastpencil also offers a discount to nano people.  It seems to be a resource for finishing and formatting your book for publishing.