Sunday, October 30, 2016

Possible Breakthrough on the Eve-Eve of NaNo

Tonight is the eve of the eve of NaNoWriMo and I continue to have no idea what I might attempt to write. I've had very fleeting ideas come and go, but nothing concrete. The Plan isn't quite working all that well yet. However I've still got a couple of days, and this post to finish.

When I finish this post tonight I will have fulfilled my goal of writing at least one blog post per week. So in that way we can say that I've had some measure of success thus far. The problem is that the plan requires more than just the regular writing, it requires a concerted effort on my part to assist my future self by providing him with ideas to write about. I don't have any for him; sorry John.

Instead of feeling sorry for myself I think I'll work towards resolving that issue by at least considering different genres. Peter Clines wrote a post earlier this week talking about how important it is to consider your sub-genre. That may not have been specifically what it was about, but that's what I took away from it. Reading through that post prompted me to think more about specifically what genre I would like my story to be. In my last post I talked about how I sometimes come up with characters and scenes that don't necessarily fit into the genres I like to read. So I think if I start by talking about the different genres that interest me, and why, it may provoke some creative spark. So let's get to it.

Science Fiction: I've been on a pretty strong sci-fi kick for quite a few years now and would have to say that it's currently my favorite genre. There are a multitude of sub-genres within sci-fi, and I don't believe that I enjoy all of them. In general I prefer the lighter type of sci-fi that you'd normally find in the works of John Scalzi, Drew Hayes, and Ernest Cline. What I think most of these have in common is a very cast of very likeable characters that just happen to be in universes that happen to rely heavily on futuristic technology to exist.

Given the types of science fiction that I enjoy, it seems entirely possible to put any character I can come up with into those universes. Even if they don't exactly fit, there's no reason it couldn't be a "fish out of water" scenario in which my main character is murdered early in the story only to be awoken many years into the future for some unkown reason. This isn't too dissimilar to the plot behind Demolition Man or even Futurama, both of which are worlds I enjoy/ed. Thinking about it right now, this actually feels like a really cool idea that I may want to explore. I just need to come up with a reason for him or her to be brought back, and in what way. Moving on...

Fantasy: This is another genre that contains myriad sub-genres, and even mixes with sci-fi on occasion. For example the Magic 2.0 series by Scott Meyer. In that series a normal guy who works in IT stumbles upon a text file that allows him to manipulate time and space. He uses this newfound knowledge to transport himself back to the Middle Ages to pose as a wizard. Much of the story takes place in what would generally be considered a fantasy setting, but it's highly dependent upon technology. And it works very well.

I've never really enjoyed the Lord of the Rings movies or books, and have had a hard time getting back into the Shannarah series after enjoying the first book as a teenager. On the other hand, I have enjoyed much of what I've read from the likes of Brandon Sanderson, and the Caverns and Creatures books by Robert Bevan are an absolute blast. I don't think there's much that links Sanderson with Meyer and Bevan, but the latter appeal to me in that they are somewhat normal people thrust into a crazy world and make the best of it. While also making me laugh.

So when I look at just those two genres and what I seem to enjoy about them, I think I've come up with a potential idea. It will still require a ton of work to get beyond the basic premise, but at least I think I have an initial conflict that works. Now all I have to do is come up with my...

Idea of the week: When Hilt regained consciousness he couldn't feel his arms or legs. He couldn't feel his head either, but this wasn't so strange considering the last the he remembered was it being torn to shreds by the shotgun she had pointed at him earlier that night.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Here We Are Again

Here we are, four years on from my last post on this blog and my most recent attempt at NaNoWriMo. And as predicted, I failed. Miserably. There's no real shame in that, but it does get a little depressing to fail every time I attempt to do this. I should accept the fact that I'm likely not cut out to be a novelist.

One of the things I've heard from successful novelists is that ideas are cheap. Specifically in this post by Brandon Sanderson on John Scalzi's Big Idea. Brandon talks about how "writers are accustomed to coming up with–and discarding–ideas on a daily basis." This isn't me. I don't have those ideas. At least I don't think I do.

This may very well be the biggest obstacle I have to face: coming up with an idea to write about. I have ideas for scenes and characters fairly regularly, but those are not Ideas. At least not ones that can sustain a novel-length story. They're Ficlets at worst (not to denigrate Ficlets as I loved that site) and short stories at best.

Another issue I have is that these characters and scenes don't necessarily fit into the types of stories I like to read. It would seem incredibly odd for me to want to write a literary character study on relationships when all I want to read are SF/F books. I don't really even read thrillers or courtroom dramas anymore. Technically I don't read at all anymore as I digest all of my books via audio. I have to write a story that I want to read, and that has been a difficult thing for me to synergize with the ideas I've come up with.

So here's the plan: fix it.

That's not really a plan, that's a goal. So let's plan out how to achieve the goal. The first step is to start writing again. And to do it regularly. I'm going to commit to writing at least one post here per week for at least the rest of the year. Just like anything, writing well takes practice. The more you do it, the easier it is, and the better you become at doing it... hopefully. I'm not entirely sure what I'll write about here, but I may take inspiration from an author whose blog I admire and enjoy reading: Peter Clines. His blog is great for aspiring writers as he often discusses ways to improve your writing in an entertaining fashion. It may not be the masterclass that is Stephen King's On Writing or Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules, but I've found it to be very informative and engaging. At the very least I can read his post and potentially come up with my own thoughts on it and bring them here.

In addition to Peter's blog, I've been enjoying the blog of Robert Bevan. His blog mainly concerns self publishing information, but also the weekly thoughts and minutiae of a very good, and funny, author. I can start there and see where it goes. In addition, I will try to come up with at least one sentence per week that might spark an idea for me. I'm going to cheat and start with one of my favorites from my past.

Idea of the week: The hotel room smelled of wet socks and sex. It was an eerily familiar scent that reminded Hilt of his childhood. Instinctively, he winced at the memory.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Day One Success

I met my writing goal for the day, and then went ahead and exceeded it by a few hundred words. I was able to pump out 2,038 words in a little under two hours. So far this is close to the most success I've ever had with NaNoWriMo. The beginning chapter's aren't really all that good, and it feels like most of the characters are very similar, but it's a start.

Considering I have always wanted to be a writer, having this little bit of success feels very good. Especially after the spectacular failures I had in previous years, and the trepidation that caused over the past few weeks before NaNo started. For a while there I started to believe that I couldn't do this. Now I'm back to thinking that there is a chance that I can.

I'll keep taking it one day at a time, and hopefully have something tangible to show for it at the end of the month. It will likely be unreadable trash, but if I'm able to get some decent characters, scenes, and plot ideas out of it, it won't have been a pointless exercise. And I think that's a big part of the goal. Just to get something done that can either be edited into something great, or at the very least, small pieces of a larger great thing.

In any case, today was a success, and that feels good.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Biting Off More Than I Can Chew

While I still hope to achieve a NaNoWriMo goal, I believe I have set myself up for failure yet again. After giving some serious thought to the purpose of NaNo, I began to have misgivings about the usefulness of it, particularly in the context of previous winners (but I plan to write about that later). While I believe NaNo is particularly useful to get people to write, I’m a bit worried about the end result of that writing being complete garbage.

So, I’ve decided to enroll in a creative writing class. I have been hoping to do this for many years, but there was only one Community College in my area that offered creative writing courses, and none of them were online. While looking at the courses for this semester for the county’s online community college, I noticed that they have since added a creative writing program. Not just a class or two, but an entire program.

This was much too exciting to pass up. So I signed up for the first class in the program, Introduction to Creative Writing. It started yesterday. NaNo starts tomorrow. I’m not sure that I’ll be able to do both, and I’m almost positive I won’t be able to do both well. However, when I think about my future, and what I would like to do with my writing, I feel that a structured environment in which to learn good habits will be more beneficial to those long-term goals.

As I work on the first writing project, carbonation bubbles of doubt rise to the top of my consciousness. It’s entirely possible I’m simply not cut out for this. And that, continues to frighten and concern me. I don’t mind failing at most things. This is different. This is not most things, this is the thing.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Penultimate Attempt

For the fourth time I will be attempting NaNoWriMo. My first three attempts were failures due to a multitude of issues. While I am not an exceptional writer, and outside of my mother, I'm not sure there are many people who would even consider me above mediocre, I have difficulty writing poorly. Well, only when it's on purpose.

I should clarify. I don't believe the purpose of NaNoWriMo is to write terrible novels, however, it is incredibly difficult for me to simply write things down without editing as I go. I can often do it for a few sentences or paragraphs, but I quickly find myself scanning back to find errors and poorly constructed thoughts. I will agonize over these mistakes to no end, neglecting the most import part of completing a novel, writing more words.

Another issue that has consistently defeated me is my inability to conceive of good ideas that can sustain a novel. I very much enjoy writing micro fiction at sites like, and am often happy with some of the work I churn out there. However, when I think about writing something that is novel-length, or even novella-length as the 50,000 words of NaNo would be, I freeze up.

Writing a good novel requires an interesting plot and characters that you will enjoy following on their journey. As anyone who has read some of the more popular fiction that exists right now can attest, skillful mastery of prose is less important than an engaging story. I can do that... for a few pages. Successful stories have multiple arcs, with at least two minor climaxes leading to a final climax. They also contain multiple plot threads, with the main, overarching plot being supplemented by two or three other minor plots. The really interesting works have even more than that.

It is a sad realization that something I have wanted to do since I was a teenager may simply be outside of my abilities. And in the end, I would imagine that that has been my main antagonist all along: fear. I've always believed in the back of my mind that I could do it, and that I'd likely do it well. The fear of inevitable failure, and simply not being as good at something as I believe myself to be (and my mom insists I am) frightens me. And if I never give it a real attempt, I can never really fail.