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The following entries were originally published at An Island Where No One Lives.  They were adapted for inclusion here.

 

National Novel Writing Month is a competition sponsored over at NaNoWriMo.Org and run by one Chris Baty.   The rules are simple:  during the month of November, contestants have thirty days to write a 50,000 word novel.   A participant cannot use a pre-existing work, though outlines and sketches and such are allowed.  You have to reach 50,000 words by November 30 to win, though I'm unclear whether or not the story has to be completed at that time.  Word-count appears to be the primary goal.   There is no judging of works, or prizes awarded; each participant who competes and completes gets only the satisfaction of having accomplished something.

I suffer from a severe case of Writer's Block.  I haven't been able to do much more than doodle on my fictional works for over six years now.  So I figured I had nothing to lose, and signed up.  For some time, I had a vague concept that might form the backbone of a fictional work, and I decided to use that.  

That concept was this.  Set in a fantasy world (approximating seventeenth-eighteenth century Earth, with some differences in the details), a cabin boy on a ship is our witness as a mysterious stranger hires his vessel.   They travel to the edge of the world, where it is revealed that this is a book, the stranger the author, and he has come to end his works.  

Only a little of that survived the first few minutes of writing--we had the stranger and the voyage and that was it.   The cabin boy was still there, but he was no longer the point-of-view character.  The overly precious ending, which would never work (at least not in my hands), was the first to go.  Which meant I had no ending.   But since I barely had a beginning, and wasn't really expecting 50 words (to say nothing of 50 thousand), I wasn't particularly worried.

The following are my blog entries for November, 2005, detailing my attempts to compete in National Novel Writing Month, presented as they appeared with no post editing (other than spelling correction).  I had thirty entries, usually one for each day, but sometimes a day would overlap.  Enjoy, and by all means, try NaNoWriMo for yourself!

_____________________

Chapter One: Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Well, I managed to follow all the rules and so forth. Want to know my pathetic word count?

424.

Laugh as you will. Because you...you will easily beat me. So never mind. Cough.

_____________________

Chapter Two: Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Total word count as of today, 1696.

Not building up those vacation days, am I? Not to mention the fact that, in the kindest possible terms, what I've huacked up is basically utter crap.

I would, though, like to take a moment to thank everyone (you know who you are) who has given me encouragement in this endeavor. You folks are real writers, and it's really very nice of you to, in essence, cheer on the kid who's trying to walk without crutches after spending all the spare time in the arboretum counting butterflies.

Enthusiasm can count for a lot in any sphere, and maybe I can break this thing, maybe. And I appreciate you all planting that idea.

The internet, on occasion, can be a wonderful thing.

_____________________

Chapter Three: Thursday, November 3, 2005

Current word count: 3060.

Eh. I still think it is largely garbage, and will probably go into the permanent collection at the Statue of Corrupted Endeavor's Memorial Library.

And I still don't feel the block lifting. Maybe it will. Who knows? Many thanks for the encouraging words from all parties, by the way. Which begs a tad of an explanation.

Anyone who has read any of my entries, here or elsewhere, or my massive movie reviews or whatnot, will wonder how in the heck I can say I suffer from Writer's Block. My Gosh, he just blathers on endlessly about all kind of junk. If he's got Writer's Block, Frankenstein is my great aunt Tilly.

Well, have you spoken to your aunt lately? There is a difference. Obviously, there's nothing preventing me from moving my fingers across a keyboard. No problem there. I'm sure I could, like Jack Torrence, write "All work and no play" etc over and over in a fine simulacrum of formatted text, and I could keep doing that until I had 50,000 words.

But is that a novel? No. It does fulfill the physical requirements, though. I am racking up word count. But I'm not writing, I'm typing. And the line between writing and typing, believe it or not, is a subtle one.

Case in point: in my NaNoWriMo project, two characters were going to agree to a contract. However, my inner editor suddenly made one character reject the offer. Why? I think the reason was, I could stretch it out a bit more if I threw that in. Now, in a sense, it worked because it allowed me to deepen some things and detail the situation. But I wonder how much of what I wrote was simply typed to add word count. Who knows? It may turn out to be a key passage. (I have, as of now, done almost no revising. I have a feeling the best revision would be Edit, Select All, Delete, Save.)

When I write, I want the writing to matter to me. I want the writing to be good, to be something where I might consider reading it (if I weren't the author). And I definitely don't want to see the machinery. I recall reading a Dean Koontz book a couple of years ago. Somewhere early on, he had his protagonist walk through a neighborhood, and Koontz started detailing the architecture of the houses. I could see immediately what Koontz was up to--he was padding. I started seeing more and more of it, and I eventually put the book down about a hundred pages in and never picked it up again. It just felt as if none of the events were important at all. That is, I think, one of the dangers of an artificial deadline. Rather than stop when the book is done, you stop when you reach a certain word count or your time runs out.

Those of you who write regularly know that when the writing is going well, when you're pounding out prose for hours at a time, there's no feeling in the world like it. Raw creativity is pouring out of you, and you're caught up in it, and you really feel you're creating something.

I'm not feeling any of that. Will that come? Good question. There may be some kind of conceptual breakthrough, when I realise what the heck my characters are actually up to. And perhaps what the heck I'm up to.

_____________________

Chapter Four: Friday, November 4, 2005

Current Word Count - 4004

Well, I'm heading into the part where I...shudder...have to re-read some of the previous work. Strands and things are starting to form a tapestry, and it's time to keep the threads straight.

Some of it is okay, but an awful lot of it reads like a stranger wrote it. Bunches of it make me go, yuck. And, Who wrote this crap. And (before I remember that I didn't buy this at a bookstore), I hope I can get my money back.

The thing is, there's not a lot of me in there. Which is probably a good thing. Everyone needs to see what the me that isn't me is up to now and then. If I'm lucky, that me doesn't have the credit cards or the cell phone.

If I'm not lucky, well, that would sure explain a lot...like this Antonio Bandaneras blow up love doll. That's sure not me.

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Chapter Five: Saturday, November 5, 2005

Current word count, 10AM: 4949.

(I seem to like stopping at these kinds of numbers. Probably some childhood trauma.)

What worries me is I still have no idea what the aim of these characters is. The concept for the story is one I'd had floating around in the back of my throat for some time, though the ultimate end of that (a shaggy dog story, in essence) probably won't work. The problem then becomes, What will work?

Current word count, 1:30PM: 5560.

Well, something unexpected happened.  While lying on the couch, I thought of something I could toss into the story that would engage the atmosphere a bit and throw some details of this world at the reader.   I figured it would be pretty gratuitous, but it wouldnít last long and would have a bit of imaginative suspense to it.  

So, imagine my surprise when a way of tying it into the main story presented itself.  Of course, I grabbed that with both hands and wove it in.  

As Henry mentions in his latest entry, the writing is really going well when the story seems to write itself, and all you have to do is stand out of the way and keep up the typing.   Thatís not happening yet, with me, but at least the story doesnít seem to be standing in its own way, now.   Rather than simply flail at it with strings of words, it seems to be developing.   Cool.   Still hard as mud to write it, every typing session I feel like Iím wading through weeds with every stroke..

I still think it unlikely this will end up good, no matter how often or sharply edited it is, but at least there seems to be some flow, here.   Iíll be happy if it ends up done, good or not.  Iím hoping, though, that it wonít start to seem a burden.  Oh God, Iíve got to work on that thing.

Of course, if it does, I can always abandon it.   Writing is already hard enough; thereís no point in making it painful as well.

_____________________

Chapter Six: Monday, November 07, 2005

Word Count: 7207

This is niceÖfor the first time, word count (in thousands) is more than the date (the 6th).

I also seem to have a better idea of what these characters are about. The overall plan still hasnít revealed itself to me, but there does seem to be a building-up of some kind, an accumulation of detail.

Of course, I am only about a seventh of the way toward 50,000 words, so Iíve got to widen the net, so to speak. But, I am starting to feel ideas flow. Today at the swimming pool, as I was doing laps I kept losing count (of the laps) because ideas for scenes would keep occurring to me. Again, thatís probably a good thing, but it would be nice if the muse waited until I could, you know, write things down. I wonder if they make a waterproof laptop?

* * *

Curious. I was thinking over what Iíd written today, and noted another bit of ďcolorful additionĒ to make the world more complete for the (cough) reader, when I had another of those bits of information which could make this relevant to the (cough) plot. So I stuck that in, and was typing along nicely. Which brings me to this:

Word Count: 8411

Huh, how about that.

* * *

Of course, I just now went back and wrote some more.

Word Count: 8922

Yeah, this is great and all but itísÖitís past midnight now and I have to work tomorrowÖ.

I am starting to think that maybe, just maybe the block has lifted. And it did so without a bang or a parade or anything other than a quiet rolling over. Iím not baking a cake yet, but it just might be.

Once the NaNoWriMo project is over and done, Iíll have to dig out some of my other works and see if I can actually write some more for them. Because really, thatís the important work, I think. I hope. I mean, I still donít even know what this story is about! It only said at the NaNoWriMo rules that this had to be something new, it couldnít be an old MS that one had lying about in a dusty trunk.

* * *

Later that same night:

Word Count: 9776

Okay, I really have to go to bed now. Itís 12:40, for crying out loud. Of course, Iíll probably toss all night, thinking of ideas and such. I guess thatís a good thing. It certainly could be worse.

_____________________

Chapter Seven: Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Current Word Count: 11,040.

Iím really pleased that the muse has decided to pop on over on occasion. But it would be rather nice if her hours were a wee bit earlier. Here it is, 12:30AM. It would be much, much nicer if it was 10:30PM.

BO-RING: Of course, I have myself to blame for that, to some degree. One of my other websites has been experiencing technical difficulties, and tech support seems baffled. I finally decided to delete the offending folder, and reload the stuff that was in it to the root. (Which I hate, but never mind.) Unfortunately, Iíd forgotten to see whether I had the graphics readily availableówhich I didnít. That meant poking through sundry CDRs to see where the errant files might be hiding. As of now, though, the graphics are back. DULL-DULL-DULL.

None of which makes up for the fact that Iím pretty darn tired, and tomorrow is a work day as usual.

Again, itís surprising how I will think of a brief scene that I think might make the world more colorful and developed, and Iíll almost immediately think of a way to make it relevant to the narrative. Within that brief scene, as well, ideas will come where there werenít any before. Itís almost (but not quite) to the point where the work writes itself.

I keep getting the picture of George Lucas writing the story for The Empire Strikes Back. ďObi-Wan never told you what happened to your father,Ē heíd type, then think Oh My GOD I have the greatest idea ever!

Not that Iím claiming to write anything as entertaining. Besides, it would be depressing to write the ďSpecial EditionĒ later.

As always, many thanks to you all for the encouragement and the kind words. Sometimes, when I see people who donít even know each other being nice to one another over the internet, I think there might be hope for it after all.

_____________________

Chapter Eight: Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Current Word Count: 16,161.

To which I can only sayÖthe hell?

How did I go from a few hundred words a day, if lucky, to around 5000 today? From thinking, ďCool, my thousands are more than the dateĒ to ďCool, my thousands are double the dateĒ in a normal day? That is just not natural (for me).

Iím probably dreaming, thatís what it is. Pretty soon Iíll wake up, in some post-nuclear wasteland where we have to spend our days boiling water and tending to oozing sores while wondering what went wrong and hiding from mutants. Man, I hate when that happens. (Mutants know all my cool hiding places.) "I pulled this off the reptile, it said Type 1, I pulled this off the David, it said Type 3. Now WHAT OTHER TYPE!"

On a serious note, I cannot thank my Heroic Quartet enough for their encouraging words. You all know who you are, and it is really touching that yíall would take time out from your own writing schedules to pat liíl olí me on the head and say, ďGood job. You did a good job. Now put down the weapon, please.Ē

Iím sure if you check your karma bank you will be surprised at your current balance.

_____________________

Chapter Nine: Thursday, November 10, 2005

Current word count: 19,155

You know what's funny? I hadn't intended to write anything last night. I was going to take a break and, I dunno, watch a movie or take up knitting or construct box-girder bridges. Instead, I was up until 2AM firing plasma weapons into a rotating energy field. I mean, typing, that's what meant to write.

I can see good and bad in this. Good, because I'm actually working on stuff. It doesn't seem to be a chore to do so, and I'm getting ideas. Bad, because it's going to become an obsession. My hands will itch everytime I'm not using them to type. Someone will say "Good morning" or "Could you pass the salt" and I'll start thinking, That's perfect. Some guys who require salt, but there isn't any where they are. How do they get it? Where is this place, and how did they get there?

As you can see, I'm already doing it. And in that scenario, I probably didn't pass the salt and the guy got all mad.

This is all quite interesting. I joined the NaNoWriMo thing on a whim, practically at the last minute, thinking I would end up accomplishing zilch. I'd be one of those statistics, you know, "Every year about [X number of] folks sign up for NaNoWriMo, and about [X minus N] actually complete it." I'd be one of the people in the N group.

Of course, that still might happen. I may run entirely out of gas tomorrow and screech to a halt. I may be running on fumes even as we speak.

But for now, I'm not in the N group yet.

_____________________

Chapter Ten: Friday, November 11, 2005

Total word count: 21,521

For the most part, Iíve been writing this linearly, each event leading to the next. This was largely because I had no idea of where I was going, or even what was going to happen next or who these people were. As bits started accumulating, however, they would suggest future bits, which were not ready to be plugged into the narrative, but were nevertheless floating around like fruitflies over a diseased and forgotten melon.

Ahem. Some of these later bits struck me as having phrases worthy of keeping, so rather than just let them drift off into the setting sun like shipwreck survivors on a makeshift raft (cough), I thought Iíd write them down. Naturally, once Iíd written the phrases I liked down, they started forming a context, so Iíd write that down too.

And I made a discovery today. I would have made an evil god. I mean, just one of the most capricious and thinly motivated deities that would ever have bedeviled the cosmos. Kind of like Loki, I suppose, but even more petty (yet deadly) in action.

How do I know this? Well, I decided to kill off a character (though that scene remains to be written) because I liked how someone casually mentioned that near the end. It wasnít even about the character so much as the way the phrase rolled out. He was killed because it made the rhythm in the paragraph flow. That really has to suck.

You are all so lucky that Iím not a god. Iíd probably kill a group of people just because the initials of their last names would spell a funny word or something.

Itís like a whole new reason to be thankful, and to start praying.

_____________________

Chapter Eleven:  Friday, November 11, 2005

Current word count: 24,245.

This is more for other people out there, you know who you are.

Donít give up. Hell, if you can inspire me to keep pushing, to keep chronicling human drama (despite the fact that Iím an arthropod who breathes ammonia), then by gum, you cannot give up.

You donít want to leave it to the arthropods. Trust me, you donít want to go there. Yeah, sure it may seem like fun, and the brochures are sure colorful...but it just won't work. It's been tried.

In other news, I've got action figures of both Leela and Emily. They're right there on top of the DVR, where I can look upon them with love, and they can look upon me with reproach. (Everyone wins, you see--who says I'm not accomodating?)

If you want your own action figure up there, well, you must do certain things. Like, provide me with an action figure, for one. What do I look like, an entity that has its own injection molding facility?

See you again soon. Remember, my Heroic Quartet. You must not give up. Giving up is for losers...uh, like me, in fact. Um, well, don't give up anyway. Trust me this time.

_____________________

Chapter Twelve: Saturday, November 12, 2005

6:40 PM. Current word count: 25,052.

Half-way there.

Cool.

I've known since college that a deadline imposed from without is the best way to get me to produce. In school, I could do three or four finished canvases a week; in creative writing class, I just wrote and wrote, above and beyond the assigned work. On my own, I was lucky (before I started this blog) if I could do a canvas a year. Writing was similarly catch-as-catch-can, but there never seemed to be a problem with flow until about six years or so ago. I could still paint, and still produce paintings, but every time I looked at some of my unfinished fiction, it looked like the work of a stranger. I not only did not know how to continue (though I was aware of the events to follow in the narrative), I didn't even recognize the language.

So it's very surprising how easily this particular story is flowing. It might just be that my previous work suffers some kind of psychic taint--it may never be completed. Once this story reaches its conclusion, I'll tackle one of the others. Perhaps that long simmering novel, which must be two or three hundred pages already completed and a complete plan in place.

Having this blog has been a tremendous help in getting my painting schedule back on line--explaining, no matter the audience, processes and progress has helped me to focus. And focus leads to motivation, which leads to work.

The NaNoWriMo project has, in turn, seemingly reawoken my desire to play with words.

I guess we'll know for sure in December.

_____________________

Chapter Thirteen: Sunday, November 13, 2005

Current Word Count: 27,282

Itís going pretty well, all things considered. Iím starting to get a clearer idea of where the characters are going, and whatís going to happen when they get there (and before they get there, too). A couple of big, vague scenes have started to fall into the scheme of things. (Still havenít written them yet, but I know how to write them and how to tie them in now.) Itís fun to write it, though I imagine itís going to be awful to read it (I havenít looked at any previous work since day three or so). Iím thinking if I can keep my word count approximately twice the date, thatíll be good and Iíll get through this.

And thatís good, because this week, I run into one big obstacle.

Call Week.

Starting Monday, for seven days, I am on call 24 hours a day. Now, my last call week was actually okay, very few calls and only one in the wee hours.

Thatís not the point. The point is, youíre sitting there, looking at your cell phone, waiting for it to go off. When it doesnít, you donít gain that time back. You canít go to a movie or visit someone out of town, or any of that. Gotta hang around. It might go off at any moment, and it doesnít care if that moment is when the meaning of ďRosebudĒ is finally revealed. It doesnít care.

And I can see myself, sitting at the keyboard, trying to wring an idea out of something (ďOkay, he specifically asked for a hot dog WITH relish, what does that meanĒ), all the time the cell phone is sitting there in my brain. Heh heh heh. Donít forget about me, eh? Heh heh heh.

So, work (on the novel) may be a bit difficult this week. As always, weíll see.

_____________________

Chapter Fourteen:  Sunday, November 13, 2005

Current word count: 30,315

Pretty good day, considering the rest that went on during it. Although I am over half-way in word count, Iím just now reaching the half-way point in the novel. I guess thatís goodóIím not sure how long a typical novel is, that is, something that can be put between covers and sold at a shop, then go into the remainder bin, then get hurled into the recycling basket, then become a collectorís item on eBay.

Itís fifty-five pages, single spaced, no breaks between paragraphs. Itís also pretty lousy I bet. But it might be done, completed, and that would make up for a great bushel-basket of lousiness, as far as Iím concerned.

It's actually kind of fun writing this, though I'm having to put more thought and planning into what goes on. It was kind of easier in the first part, since I could just write anything and worry later about tying it all together. That kind of luxury seems to be...well, not exactly gone, but definitely on the back burner, somewhat less in evidence.

Still have not gone back and revised. I kind of shudder to think what sort of tangled, gangrous narrative I must have sprouted. Rivisng it is going to be...icky. On the other hand, it may be fun to take a machete to it and turn it into a sculpture garden.

_____________________

Chapter Fifteen: Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Total word count: 32,032

Seems like a nice number on which to report the dayís accomplishment.

Again, a pretty good amount of work, more than Iíd imagined I would accomplish. Here we are, after all, at the half-way point of November. If I were to go strictly on word-count, Iím ahead of the game. Actually, just writing, just being able to put one sentence in front of another one, and grow a narrative, feels like being ahead of the game. (The game being staring at a blank screen and seeing who blinks first.)

And again, itís turning out to be fun to write. Putting the words, um, ďon paperĒ feels like an accomplishment, but it doesnít feel like work. Thatís the remarkable state that I most enjoy finding myself inóthe work just flows, whether itís writing, painting, composing or, uh, some other thing which is fun to do. Reading the work, on the other hand, is going to hurt. Itís going to be like looking at pictures of myself in high schoolóďWhoa, were you actually that dorky looking?Ē "My God, you have such a stupid expression!" "Well, this certainly explains a lot!" "Yeah, let's see what else we can extrapolate!"

Oh well, as Yoda said (in another context), revising is ďeasier, more seductive.Ē You can run in place in the quicksand and tell yourself itís progress. Not looking forward to that, though I suppose it is part of the NaNoWriMo process. Editing.

For now, Iím just enjoying the writing. I hope this feeling stays. Just as a hope, mind. Iíd love to be able to visit Cathy again and continue the story she and I concocted together. That one really came to life for a while, before everything crashed down. Cathyís a great person, really. Youíd like her, if you knew her. You know, she actually convinced me that she should live at the end of the story. And she was right. (Not that I needed a lot of convincing. I really started to like her.)

Funny how characters do that. I sure hope my novelist has a nice fate planned for me.

_____________________

Chapter Sixteen: Thursday, November 17, 2005

Current Word Count: 34,256

Missed the opportunity to post it last night, so this will be short and to the point, unlike everything else I've ever written. I'm keeping to the schedule and hope to reach 40,000 by the end of Saturday. If I can, and then reach 50,000 by the middle of next week, that will give me a few days for the most horrible part of the job.

Revising. Which means I'm gonna have to read this crap.

_____________________

Chapter Seventeen: Thursday, November 17, 2005

Current Word Count: 38,785

The other day I thought up and wrote a scene which had action, peril, destruction, rolling wooden barrels, and it advanced the plot. I thought it was a pretty good scene, and I moved on. And then today, I made a sudden realization: with that scene, which I liked and didn't see how I could go back on, I had rendered my main character useless. He used to be vital to the overall goals being advanced; at a stroke, I had made him a burden.

How the Fark did I allow that to happen?

Well, naturally, panic set in. I figured this was going to take some retrenching. Maybe abandon the forward thrust of the narrative, and start revising, hoping inspiration would strike and I could continue. Otherwise, I'd have a whole bunch of pages that were useless. Actually, worse than useless--parts of a stupid waste of time.

That evening, I went down to the gym for swimming, hoping to give the old cerebrum a spot of rest, and my GOD by the time I was done, I not only had a way to rehabilitate my main character, but a whole plot arc had fallen out of the sky into my brain.

Gotta love it when that sort of thing happens. At least, gotta hope someone loves it. I mean, I hope they're not expecting money or something, I'm fresh out...

_____________________

Chapter Eighteen: Friday, November 18, 2005

Current Word Count: 39,339.

It just struck me, believe it or not. The greatest incentive to writing has been your encouragement, and I thank you most sincerely.

But the second greatest? That first line up there. Current word count. There's a definite urge to make that number as big as I can.

That may be the secret, to have a visible goal that I can post, much like the photos of paintings in progress. Once this NaNoWriMo affair is concluded, it would be an interesting experiment.

Possibly more later, I know you all can't wait.

UPDATE: Well, here it is later. Current Word Count: 41,140. I never, ever thought I would see a number like that. Heck, I thought 400 would be a towering monument in an empty, bleached desert. This number is unbelievable. I still don't believe it. Here's hoping I haven't set Microsoft Word's "Options" to "Lie like a rug for ego stimulation."

I owe it all to those who would tell me, time and time again that I could do this. Despite my skepticism. You guys are the greatest. I'll kiss you or buy you a beer, or both, depending on gender and/or preference.

_____________________

Chapter Nineteen: Saturday, November 19, 2005

Current Word Count: 44,884

Considering that itís not quite 9PM, and my goal for Saturday was to reach 40,000 words, I am thinking that Iíve not done too badly today. The narrative is coming along pretty well, though thereís lots of talk, I donít really think itís bad talkóby which I mean, itís not dull. I hope. Ideas keep branching into other ideas which in turn lead to new paths, and thus new scenes, new parts to the narrative. Some of them completely unexpected and quite interesting indeed (says the author).

Iím thinking, since itís the 19th and Iím less than 6000 words from the finish line, that I shouldnít have much trouble reaching that line. I may have a few days for revision, to try and actually make the thing good.

Iíve read elsewhere on the web that the typical short novel is 60,000 words, so that the ďNoĒ in NaNoWriMo might actually stand for ďnovella.Ē I ought to go back to the main page and poke a bit more in the rules of the contest. Does it have to be just 50,000 words, or can it be considerably more?

Wow, I just re-read the last sentence up there and canít believe I typed it. "Considerably more." Sheesh. Talk about hubris!

_____________________

Chapter Twenty: Sunday, November 20, 2005

Current Word Count: 45,678

Haven't done much today, as the narrative is heading into the final stretch. But I did want to post that word count. How many times am I going to stop on a number like that?

I've been thinking of letting that one character I "killed" (haven't written the scene) actually not be killed. What the gods taketh away and what not. In fact, I may give him a bottle of something (like me, he is overfond of libations). And then I might kill him, after he's drunk. (It would be a good lesson to me.) We'll have to see how it all works out.

UPDATE: Current Word Count: 48,084. Another pretty cool number, being an anagram and all.

Pity my villain is becoming sympathetic. Man, I bet, you know, *cough* the Big Man Upstairs hates when that happens, as much as I do. I was pretty much hoping for Bleeding Entrails and All, I sure hate to settle for Rueful Furrowed Brow Regrets--it's just not cinematic. Still, the stories write themselves. Particularly this one. Though not without help.

Which leads me to my usual tribute. I didn't arrange the fireworks in time, sorry about that. Cough. I'll just do it in the quiet way, then.

Thank you, my Heroic Quartet. I owe all this to you. You are the best. I feel just like Oliver Twist, who dared to ask for more, or maybe that one orphan guy who wanted all those explosives, because he dared to ask why the universe wasn't --oh damn it. (He was raised with cats. )

GRUMBLING Be right back

MOMENTS LATER: Sigh. No, make that Highly Regretful Sigh.

Where was I? Oh, some well deserved thanks--and here thy are!

*Fireworks in all their glory, because I was able to arrange it all at the last minute*

UPDATE to the UPDATE: I meant palindrome, not anagram.

_____________________

Chapter Twenty-One: Monday, November 21, 2005

Current Word Count: 48,650

Not a terribly productive day, but thatís all right. I wrote some stuff last night that was pretty bad, so I had to remove it and then make up for that. At first I was afraid I had a Killer Line in there, but I didnít so no worries there.

Itís getting to the point, obviously, where I canít just throw stuff in there and ďmake it workĒ later on. I have to start closing the elements down, like closing an umbrella, so that it all intersects at an ending.

Itís a bit harder now. The words donít flow as easily, but theyíre still coming.

_____________________

Chapter Twenty-Two: Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Current Word Count: 49,502

Ran into a bit of a snag, today. To put it in non-writing terms: There I was, the vegetables chopped, the sauces prepared, the wine allowed to breathe, the settings and plates all arranged on the table. The only think I lacked was any idea of what kind of food to make.

My POV character has been caught between two opposing forces since about the mid-point of the book, or so, and itís getting time for me to resolve those forces. The only problem is he, like the author, has no idea what those forces are up to. Itís not as blunt as good versus evil, in fact itís much vaguer than that. Weíve spent more time with one representative than the other, but that doesnít mean his cause is the right one to pursue. Both my forces are good to their own purposes. I suppose. Like I said, no idea of what theyíre on about. They tend to make noises about how what they're up to is incomprehensible to outsiders. Pretty good dodge for "I don't know," isn't it?

I suppose thatís the problem when one starts writing with only a bare notion of what to write about. At least I have several days to think of something.

UPDATE: I think if I ever become a published author, and make a bit of money at it, I'm going to install a swimming pool. I get more useful ideas in the pool than I do almost anywhere else.

I have an idea of what my two forces are oppossed about, and why they've come to their respective viewpoints, and why they disagree with their opponents.

Still no idea of how to resolve the whole thing, but it's a start.

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Chapter Twenty-Three: Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Current Word Count: 50,065

How about that. I actually did it. At least in terms of making the word-count goal. I still haven't finished the story, though it is getting close. Just felt like posting the number.

More later, perhaps.

Site Update: This is my 199th post.

UPDATE: Now up to 50,475.

I'm having the one guy explain his side of what's going on to the POV character, but boy, writing this conversation is like steering a shopping cart. It wants to go everywhere but straight down the aisle.

Maybe I'll just have someone say, "Hey, what's the sound?" followed by a whistling noise, then an explosion, and the words THE END.

Wouldn't fit with anything, but heck it would end it all. More later, possibly.

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Chapter Twenty-Four: Thursday, November 24, 2005

Current Word Count: 51,185

Happy Thanksgiving to all and sundry. I'm celebrating by being the only one at work (which means I can write). You can celebrate by watching a swell Thanksgiving special--why, how about The Star Wars Holiday Special! That's a traditional Thanksgiving show that would put everyone in a nice thankful mood.

Also happy 200th post to me, of which this is it.

As for the novel...I wrote the antagonist's speech last night as a speech, in a separate document. Like he was lecturing a class, or something. I then intercut my POV's remarks and questions into it. I did a lot of this via beer, which helps loosen up the ole writin' gland a bit, though toward the end I ended up with something I'm not sure I follow. Here's a bit of it:

ďIím no longer worried that I donít understand you. Iím worried that you donít understand me. Understand anything other than yourselves. Your dreams have grown so vast and all encompassing, you no longer understand what it is to have nothing.Ē

We understand nothing. We came from nothing! We know all too well what nothing is!


I'm sure once I break out the old Fireball XL-5 Decoder Ring, that will make perfect sense AND work in context, somehow. As it is, well, as Jerry Lee Lewis might have sung once, "It Was the Bud Light Writing, Not Me."

Most of the rest of it, though, I'm fairly happy with. He sounds like a sympathetic Doctor Doom in a way, and when you see what he's trying to do, you can stand back and say, "Yeah, I can see where that would make sense, where you could look at that and say it's a good idea."

I don't like the traditional evil villain ("There's not enough light for me to read, so throw another peasant on the fire"). I prefer my villains to do what they do because of a different perspective. To be, in essence, good men working toward bad ends.

Or something. I'm still not sure my antagonist's goals are all that bad.

UPDATE: Current Word Count: 52,070

Well, I can't get anywhere with my ending, though I know what should happen and about what order it should happen in, it's just resisting my ability to write it.

So I've started on the awful part: revising. And truth to tell, it's no worse at the beginning than it is at the end. That's something of a relief. Though there's definitely adapting that needs to be done, so that what I have will match up with what I've got. But it's coming along at an okay clip. And I've only cringed, like, twice.

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Chapter Twenty-Five: Friday, November 25, 2005

Current Word Count: 53,100

Second day of revising, and it's still going pretty well. I'm trimming and inflating here and there, and the whole thing's not reading as bad as I'd feared...says the person who actually wrote it, and who thus would have a tendancy toward forgiveness. An actual physical reader might entertain an opinion which would differ substantially.

And I think the conversation pieces hold up pretty well. I was afraid, with all the talk, it would seem like an Isaac Asimov story, but I've got enough other stuff happening that I think the story holds interest. Again, says the author.

Still got to write the actual ending, but we're five days away from the finish line. I'm not terrifically worried.

More later, possibly.

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Chapter Twenty-Six: Saturday, November 26, 2005

Current Word Count: 55,130

Pretty decent number, I must say, oh no question, that is definitely a number to be reckoned with, eh?

Here we are, on the third day of revising. Iím on page 52 of 97, so it seems to be coming along all right. Iím right in the middle of my ďGoodĒ Opposing Forceís attempt to explain what heís up to. Thereís some stuff in there that I think Iím going to have to simply tear out, and replant, but Iím not worried too much about word-count being affected. Obviously, Iíve completed that aspect, though the story itself remains unfinished.

And now I have to think of what might happen on December 1st, after Iíve finished this story. Will I continue working on other stories, or has the imposed-from-without deadline been the sole motivating force behind this work?

Iím rather dreading the answer to that. Still, itís a few days off. Plenty of time.

Way cool numbers on the rest of you, at least according to the NaNoWriMo main site. As you have saluted me, so I now salute you all. Couldnít have gone this far without you. I may actually buy your books in HARDBACK.

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Chapter Twenty-Seven: Sunday, November 27, 2005

Current Word Count: 55,606

Sick as a dog today, so I didn't do as much as I wished to. I was hoping to be done with revising, so that tomorrow I could move on toward the ending I need to write. Starting to feel a little bit panicked about the approaching deadline. Funny how "five days" seems like all the time in the world, but "three days" seems like not enough time to accomplish the simplest tasks.

I am finding, on balance, that I like the story, and I like the characters. Always a plus. And the revising is going well, though I miss the raw creative stuff, writing out the story and having it invent itself. Like the bit where a powerful, deadly, nearly indestructable monster, who kills people for the bad guys, turns out to have his own agenda. Didn't expect that, but it was sure cool when it happened.

Ah well. I'm really hoping this doesn't end at midnight on November 30. We'll see, worry about that when it gets here. See you later.

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Chapter Twenty-Eight: Monday, November 28, 2005

Current Word Count: 56,200

Should be done with revising shortly, Iím on page 92 out of 100 and I know the last couple of pages are sketched-out notes for things I want to have happen, but havenít yet fleshed into writing.

This is actually pretty exciting. Itíll be nice, after all these years, to actually accomplish something (other than splitting infinitives). Provided I do finish, that is.

Later that same day: 57,007

Largely finished with revising, though the sticky bit near the end is still somewhat sticky. Then I decided to write part of the ending I'd been mulling over. Actual writing, not revising.

Wow, about 500 words in a fifteen minute span. Cool.

There's a lesson here. "I must not revise. Revision is the mind-killer. Revision is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my writing. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the writing has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."

I'm sure old Frank wouldn't mind my bits of...revision. Oops!

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Chapter Twenty-Nine: Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Current Word Count: 58,505

Finished the revising bit, and wrote out a version of the Bad Guy's Motivation Explanation that used all the notes I wanted to use. I think his motivation, and his missteps, are pretty well limned. There's a good argument between him and my POV character. Though the work is a whole lot of talk, I kind of like it.

Now all I have to do is end it, which is kind of already done but needs to be shaped. For the record, my alcoholic secondary character lived after all. OH, and I also came up with a title. Didn't have a title for the thing until just today. Funny how that works, eh? Sometimes a work searches for a title, other times a title searches for a story.

Woo Hoo, etc, brief spin of party noise-maker. I am not in a state of panic.

Effusive congratulations to FilthyRottenAngel and Cullen Waters for completing the NaNoWriMo journey. Henry, I'm sure you're almost there and Kerry, next year you're going to compete or I will, uh, hold my breath until I'm underwater. RVH ought to do one as well, but I sure wouldn't want to read it.

Love on all of ya. More later, maybe.

UPDATE: "We are down to the wire folks, we are down to the wire." I'm working on the last few paragraphs.

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Chapter Thirty: Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Current Word Count: 60,693

Even better is this:

DONE.


Official NaNoWriMo 2005 Winner


I am totally exhausted. I was up past 2AM, seized around the throat by the novel, finishing it up and putting an end to it.

Is it any good? Probably not. I like it, but I recognize flaws in it that I can overlook, since I knew I had to put them there to solve certain problems. Someone else would probably see nothing but the flaws. Well, they're never going to read it, so who cares?

The main thing is that I did it. It's done, a story with a beginning, a middle and an end, not just some pages, sketches and notes to revise forever.

It feels great. At least, it would if I could feel anything other than exhaustion.

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Afterword I: Thursday, December 01, 2005 - Aftermath

So, what did I learn during the month of November?

I learned that I can write, given the proper motivation and proper preparation. In this case, the motivation was NaNoWriMo, and the preparation was (pretty much) none.

Thatís right, none. I joined at the last minute, thinking Iíd work (if at all) on an abandoned project, then I read the FAQs that say that the novel canít be anything previously written. I think the organizersí reasons for this are excellentóit makes the author concentrate on the act of writing, rather than agonizing over character arcs, back-filling and what-not (though with a new project that also has to be done, somehow thereís a lot more psychic baggage with an old projectóone has to not only write the work, one has to somehow regain the mindset one originally had when the work was conceived).

So I think a great part of my ability to achieve this goal was the simple fact that Iíd jumped out of the plane without a parachute and needed a bale of hay to land on, and by the gods I was going to have one when the ground (labeled ďNovember 30Ē) and I finally met. Put it another way, the only way to dive off the high-dive is to do it without thinking about it. Thinking about it leads to fears and anxieties, and they become overwhelming, and in the end, one backs down the ladder and goes back to the shallow end. A third analogy (ďHave you noticed how everything about them seems to occur in threes?Ē) would be an attack by an animal. If you analyze why the animal is probably going to win, youíre probably going to lose. If you snarl and fling yourself at the creatureówell, who knows?

Actually, upon reflection, I think that the lack of preparation also meant a lack of concern. If the whole project collapsed, I had no real emotional stake in it; this wasn't one of the stories that I really cared most about (though I did grow to enjoy it great deal). So I had no fear of falling elsewhere than on that bale of hay, since I would simply tear through the fabric of the world and find myself sitting in a comfortable chair.

(Just to take a moment here and say that THE greatest impetus for me was the accumulation of so many wonderful notes of encouragement from all of you. More than likely I would have given up without you guys, and I thank you all.)

Oh, and as to the ďpretty muchĒ bit aboveóI had a concept from some years back which I used as the backbone of my novel, but the conceptís details were almost completely discarded in the first few moments of writing.

What does this mean in terms of my other stories? Since they fall under the aegis of ďpreparation Ė a lot,Ē are they dead? To be honest, I donít know. Iím no longer physically exhausted, much, but I feel as if my creativity has been given a good, hard squeeze and wrung out of shape, like one of those sponge-things people have on their desks. Itís slowly resuming its normal shape, but right now I have no desire at all to write a sentence of fiction. There was not a single day in November when I did not write at least a little, while doing a lot of thinking about what still needed to be written.

So Iím tired of writing and tired of thinking and just plain mentally tired in general. My internet surfing has also dropped to almost nothing--I just don't want to think about anything, I just want to be mindless for a while. But Iím thinking this is just due to the lifting of panic at the end of NaNoWriMo, not due to the Block easing back into position.

Only time will tell. In a few days, maybe, Iíll drag out one of the old stories and see if I can bring it back to life.

In the meantime, NaNoWriMo was a wonderful experience, exhilarating, and I highly recommend it to anyone serious about writing. For at least one month out of the last six or seven years, I actually wrote a story and finished it. Thereís no feeling in the world like that.

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Afterword II: Friday, December 02, 2005 - Post Aftermath

Henry points out that for NaNoWriMo winners, you have the option of having your book printed up as a paperback.

Honestly, my first reaction to that was something like ďEaaurrrggh!Ē However, the idea wouldnít be so easily dismissed. It would sure be nice to have something tangible, a book I could hold in my hand, I thought, but then followed up with Iím just not sure I want this book in my hand.

Donít misunderstand me, I like the book I wrote, and I think (with a bit more polish and a bit less gab-fest) others might like it too. But itís definitely not ready for prime time. Which is what made me ultimately decide to forgo the printed copy, not without a touch of regret but only a touch.

Also on the same page at NaNoWriMo, it mentions January as another novel writing month. The only stipulation is that you have to be a member of LiveJournal. Well, still feeling a tad stoked after November, I went ahead and signed up for both LiveJournal and JaNoWriMo (as itís known), thinking that it would be fun to participate.

So there I am, all signed up and all, and I happen to read the FAQ a bit more closely. And it turns out I have to post my writing to the site. Well, for someone who thought his book not ready to be read by the great unwashed, this is a tad of a dilemma.

I mean, here I go from a book that will be read by none, to a book that will be read by, ooo, nearly, gosh, [counts silently on fingers], nearly, ooo, I should say, hm, carry the five, nearlyÖnearly one. One? Call it none, then. That's quite a leap!

UPDATE: LiveJournal is confusing. For all its faults, Blogger definitely has the "ease of use" market cornered. I guess it's like the AOL of blogging stuff.

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So, that was my NaNoWriMo adventure.   Here, on the fifteenth day of December, it behooves me to mention that I have not done any writing since the end of the competition; however, I'm not worried about that.   As mentioned, the process was such a mentally exhausting one that my store of creativity was brought to a pretty low level.   As always, it takes a while to refill.

December 15, 2005

 

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