Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Winning at NaNoWriMo

November 2015 has been torn off and tossed into recycling, leaving behind the rushed pages of a new novel, a yearning for even more coffee, and the satisfaction of having conquered my second NaNoWriMo challenge. It was a smooth ride up until the very last day.  I think I lulled myself into a false sense of complacency, leaving the final 3000 words for my last day. "I'll take the day off, finish up the challenge, and still have time for laundry and video games." Then I stood there with my hands on my hips and faced into the gusty wind like a triumphant hero should.

Then the migraine hit.  I wasn't worried at first.  I often wake up fuzzy-headed but like Quinn said of the sharks in Jaws, "Sometimes they go away, sometimes they don't go away." Well, this one turned out to be a predator and it was bent on biting the legs off my novel just before the finish line.  I scraped together a few hundred words during the day, took groggy, lurching breaks to throw in the damn laundry and let the roofers in the finish insulating a skylight they removed...a month ago. No video games.  Couldn't keep my head up for that.  But by evening the Migraine Shark got bored with my antics and I was able to finish and send it in for validation.  Only afterwards did I realize I had moved around two scenes twice meaning I had double scenes.  Got rid of those then banged out another 1000 words in an hour to FINALLY validate a correct chunk of novel.  Don't know if it mattered to anyone else, but getting it right mattered to me, even if I screwed something up.

My novel, however, is not finished.  I've got about10-15 more scenes, maybe another 100 pages to go before I rip into it with my editorial weed whacker.  I actually enjoy rewriting though.  I'm setting my next goal at finishing the first draft by Christmas then the re-write by my birthday on Jan 27.  The 28th will see me sending it out.  Here's hoping.  Write on.

Monday, November 23, 2015

NaNoWriMo WIP 1000 word snippet

Here goes the first scene from my work in progress over at NaNoWriMo tentatively called Facets. It's just about 1000 words so I thought I would use this for Chuck Wendig's latest sort of challenge.

"Well, Talia, let me start with what you've been worrying about the most.  You're not insane."

Talia Wiley released the breath she had been holding.  She smiled for the first time in days and tears fell down her cheeks as her mother put her arm around her from the chair beside her.  Her father, Jarrett, squeezed her arm on the other side.  The three of them sat in identical padded chairs in front of the doctor's oak desk.  Talia's little sister, Sara, was being watched by a neighbor.  They had decided to leave her at home in case the news was bad.  The office was warm with wood trim and stacked bookcases.  It was a far cry from the labs Talia had been in for the past two days.

"That's great news, Dr. Van Hoag," Jarrett said, still looking concerned, "It only confirms what we've been saying.  I mean if something was wrong with Talia, then there was something wrong with everyone that was with her that day, including me.  But it doesn't tell us what happened.  Hallucinations don't cause that kind of damage."

Talia left her mother's embrace and rubbed the wetness from her dark brown eyes.  Her mother, Aniya did the same.  People always remarked how much they looked alike, same dark eyes, same smooth skin and high cheekbones.  The only difference was their hair.  Talia's was straight and black like her father's while her mother's was brown.  Sometimes Talia wished her hair was brown just so she would not have such a Goth look in the morning.  It did not help that her mood tended towards dark and sarcastic.  No one considered her behavior abnormal, however, just the usual teenage angst.  That was until two days ago at the jewelry store.  Talia still had dreams of the chaos she had created.  Objects flying around the store, pockets of darkness, visions of ghosts and demons.  She jumped at the sound of the doctor's voice.

"I can shed some light on Talia's incident but to be honest, she's given us more questions than answers.  You were referred to me because I am a neurologist who specializes in Talia's suspected condition."

"Condition?" Talia said.  "It's a tumor, isn't it?"

"No, dear, it's not a tumor."

Talia continued, "So some hormonal or electro-chemical imbalance affecting my perception of reality?"

Devlin VanHoag sighed from behind his desk, "Let me guess.  WebMD?"


"Ah, the Borg brain of the twenty-first century.  Did it happen to say how your hormones knocked over display cases from across the showroom or allowed you to hear the other customers' thoughts as they ran out?  No?  I'm actually surprised but at least we can rule that out, right?"

Aniya leaned forward, "So then what caused those things to happen, doctor?  The security cameras prove she didn't make it up."

Jarrett scoffed, "Security cameras?  Hell, I was there, remember?"

Talia remembered hearing the voices.  The few other customers ran out thinking it was an earthquake.  But she had heard other voices, too, not from the room.  She clenched her fists tight until those  chilling memories went away.

Devlin left his leather chair and came around to sit on the front of his desk, legs stretched to the floor.  He was mature with thinning grey hair, hazel eyes surrounded by lines, and a slight stoop to his walk.  He was thin and his pristine lab coat draped on him like a robe.

"Talia definitely does not have a tumor," he said, "and she does not have any problem with her brain at all.  In fact, her brain works better than yours or mine at a certain level that we are only now beginning to understand."

"This isn't going to get too technical, is it doctor?" Jarrett asked.  "I mean I'm no slouch but my knowledge is in business and running a restaurant.  I'm going to need layman terms to understand this."

"Speak for yourself, Dad," Talia said, "I want to know everything."

Devlin chuckled, "Trust me, I prefer simple.  Life's complicated enough without pointless jargon.  Now, a lot of people don't know that the brain gives off different electrical waves from its own activity.  There are several different ranges of these waves from Alpha to Gamma.  Normally these waves are so weak they have no affect on their surroundings.  Talia is part of a new emerging group of people who can produce a brainwave known as Gamma-3."

"So my brain's radioactive?" Talia said.

"No, there's no radioactivity.  The name is based on the length of the wave."

"And these Gamma-3 waves can affect things like in the store?"

"Not things in general.  In fact, the only things they interact with are microscopic crystals in the brain.  When they are then in the presence of similar crystals outside of the body, such as in a ring, depending on the crystal, different things will happen."

"That's why so many things happened at once," Jarrett said, nodding.  "We were in a jewelry store.  We were surrounded by crystals."

"But why then?" Aniya asked.  "Talia's been around crystals before.  I know for a fact she has a few necklaces that I bought her that have crystals.  Oh, my.  Could that have done it?"

"No, no," Devlin said, "The brain is always developing and growing.  Different chemical changes are also going on in teen brains such as Talia.  It probably started producing the correct waves that day and she just happened to go into the store.  A perfect storm, if you will."

"Wait," Talia said, "You said I'm part of an emerging group.  So there are others like me?"

Devlin Van Hoag leaned forward so his hands were above his kneess and looked Talia in the eyes.  He smiled.  "Oh, no, dear.  There are no others like you."

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

NaNoWriMo fun

Here we are in the second week of NaNoWriMo and hopefully everyone is still on pace or ahead of schedule.  For once I've managed to stay on point and I'm passed the 16000 word mark.  Here's a quick excerpt from my WIP, "Facets":

"You don't belong here, freak," Sam said in a hushed tone.  "I'm going to get you kicked out of here.  Bet on it.  I don't care what you can do."

"Too bad it's not up to you, is it, Sammy?" Talia said.

"Don't call me Sammy, freak.  Your days here are numbered."

"Well, let me get you started," Talia held up her middle finger, "One."


Talia spun around at the voice, snapping her hand out of sight, too late.  Dr. VanHoag stood at his door.

"If you're through, come into my office."

Sam walked away laughing more than necessary.  Talia stifled a curse and went into the director's office, closing the door behind her.

As you can see, I'm having loads of fun with this character.  Keep it up, NaNoers!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Write, Blog, Write

I know I really should be doing more with my blog, but it is still something I have to force myself to do.  On the one hand, I would rather be working on my fiction writing instead of relating what's going on in my head.  Honestly, it's not that interesting, even to me.  On the other hand, keeping up on a blog about writing will help me do two things: keep track of my successes and failures while writing and help reach out to fellow writers for comments, commiseration, and contacts.  Every whisper into an ear helps, right?  So here I am with more news about my work in progress.

So far I'm keeping up with my NaNoWriMo goals and it is helping me to push through this latest draft of my YA novel.  I still love this idea.  My problem is getting to the exciting parts without leaving out vital information that would keep the reader up to pace with what is going on both in my character's life and in her head.  My first attempt at this I don't think I did a good job of explaining how the different crystals worked and what it felt like for the characters to use them.  In this story I have people who derive psychic-like powers from tapping into crystals.  Different crystals bring out different abilities but what people can do depends on how their brains send out certain gamma rays.  Some can do telekinesis, some can do clairvoyance.  I'm fixing that this time.  Also, in my previous draft I severly limited what everyone was allowed to do with their powers.  I think that made it too boring.  Who would want to live in that world?  So this time I'm letting them be free to use their power, but they know they are all being monitored and their actions will have consequences even as far as prison.  I also had the main character going to a school with a mix of normal kids and Crystallers.  I got rid of that, too much extra trouble for nothing.  If I want to have her have a normal friend, I think I'll bring in one of her friends from before she was forced to move.

So, this is where I'm at.  If you're having similar issues with your story, let me know.  Communities can often help with problems that individuals can not deal with.  If you're doing NaNoWriMo I hope you're well on your way and good luck.  Write on!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

NaNoWriMo Powers - Activate!

Day three of NaNoWriMo and I'm a giddy 6100 words into it.  I say giddy because I know the feeling will not last.  This is the beginning of my book and I'm familiar with these scenes already.  Now comes the hard part where I implement the new ideas and plotlines for this 2.0 version of my story.  Gone are the chasms of of inactivity.  They have been replaced with a fearless mix of mentoring and personal challenges.  The main bad guy is now up front and personal instead of mysterious.  Now it's up to me to keep up the energy, avoid the migraines, and not be distracted by to sweet siren call of my PS4.  Aww, look at it over there all calm and peaceful just waiting to play... No!  No!  Bad writer.  I had to catch myself there.  No playing until those scenes are mapped out or so help me...

You see what I'm dealing with.  The kid in me says there's always time to write, while the adult in me wants to just shake some sense into that damn kid.  Write now, you freakin' kid!  Twenty years goes by like a damn McDonalds shamrock shake.  You say just one more day and then, "What?!  Gone!?  It can't be!" But it is and you're left crushing peppermint patties into a vanilla milkshake but it's not the same.  It just isn't.

Anyway.  Oh yeah, NaNoWriMo!  Go, writers!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

NaNoWriMo is calling

The latest National Novel Writing Month is upon us in less than a week.  Are you ready?  If you're a pantser (Def: one who perfers to just whip out their imagination at the last moment and let it spew as it will on the pages.  Gross), then you have not even begun to worry.  If, however, you are a planner like me, then there is never enough time.

Don't get me wrong.  I've got a lot of prep work already done; a year's worth, in fact.  I started my project a year ago but did not finish it during last year's NaNoWriMo.  Now before the angry mob reaches for their pitchforks and torches to chase down the cheater let me say this: Ayieeeee!  Actually I've had to re-imagine my idea and most of it has changed or been forced to change due to other changes.  Make sense?  Yeah, I'm hoping it'll be clearer for me too by then.

I'll try to use this blog to keep track of my progress as well as my failings, namely headaches, the bane of my writing right now.  With some determination, I should have most of a novel done and ready to edit by December.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Raccoonville, Monster USA

(My response to Glipho Ex-pats latest writing challenge on Facebook)

I found a typewriter in the fourth room I came to.  I dragged myself inside then checked the hallway behind me.  No blood on the floor.  Good.  My leg had stopped bleeding, mostly, but some blood may have gotten through the shirt I had used for a bandage.  I closed the door and locked it.

The police station was silent now so my labored breathing and boots scraping on the floor sounded louder than it should.  I won't complain.  At least the screaming had stopped.  The monsters had run out of food, live food anyway.  Except me.  And I know they were still looking.  I had to do this quick.  Only I knew how to stop them but there was no way I was getting out alive.  Mankind's only hope was for me to leave a message.

I reached up and tapped a key.  The ink was red.  Blood red.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Parental Guidance Suggested

(My latest response to the Glipho Ex-pats writing challenge on Facebook. 150 words starting with "What just blew up?")

"What just blew up?" Denny asked, pausing the video game.

"Probably your blow-up doll," his friend, Kurt suggested, "Now put the game back on."

"Ha, that's hilarious.  At least mine's a woman.  You got yours from that guy with the leather chaps who's always sitting in his van with the curtains drawn."

"It's all right, you can call him daddy.  All the other guys do."

"I'm serious, I heard something explode.  At first I thought maybe someone let out a righteously wicked fart but I remembered your mom's not home."

"Shut up, ass-wipe.  My mom said she was going out to look for your mom.  I told her try the corners by the bar district.  The guys there aren't too choosy."

"Apparently not.  Didn't your mom live there when you were born, on Skank Street?  I gotta see what that noise was."

"What?  You're just leaving?  How rude."

Monday, August 17, 2015

Spider Fighter

(My response to the latest writing challenge at the Glipho Ex-pats group on Facebook)

"Big spiders down here," Macabwah said.

Percy dropped his pack at the cave entrance.  "That's what you said last time.  All I got for my trouble was a cold and my back covered in bat shit."

"No doubt this time.  Many villagers see them.  You see, Mr. Percy." 
Percy could not help but grin.  The african guide's english was improving but he apparently could not get past using only his first name. 
He could hear the spiders moving around.  This is my final test, he thought.  My work will be acknowledged and my family's sacrifice rewarded.  Flashes of his wife and daughter dying caught him off guard.  He shook the images off.  Now was not the time.

Percy saw the head of an enormous spider emerge from the shadows.  He unstoppered a vial of green liquid and swallowed it.  He felt his body changing instantly.

"All right, spider.  Bring it on!"  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Writing, Laughing, and Paying the Bills

My first attempt at this essay somehow turned into a short piece of fiction which I had to promptly delete and apologize for not following the rules.  I'm not exactly sure how it happened but that is one of the great mysteries of writing.  Sometimes the work takes control and you get so lost in it that by the time you're done you back away from it like Victor Frankenstein, part fascinated, part horrified.  "What have I done?" you ask yourself, your hand covering your mouth.  Then it's up to you whether to unleash it upon the world or highlight all then delete.  Now that I've vanquished my demon, it's time to make amends.

This mistake, however, spotlights one of the main reasons I write.  You can lose yourself for hours at a time in a whole new world.  And not just any world but one that you created.  Whether it is modern day on Earth or Xorbutt Day on Gemini K26, it is your world.  You decide what happens, what is said, who wins, who loses.  At least, you think you do.  Then again like Frankenstein's monster, your creation comes to life and runs amok, saying things they weren't meant to say and completely throwing your carefully crafted plot into a spiraling cone of fire stoked by the endless reams of carefully researched notes.  How freaking awesome is that?  I continue to write because I'm never certain what I will find once I'm at the mercy of characters.

My next reason for why I write I'm sure will ruffle feathers and cause a great deal of backlash but I'm here to be honest.  As Joker said in The Dark Knight, "When you're good at something, never do it for free.".  I've tried many things in my life to discover what talents I may have.  I can't sing, can't paint, can't build (aside from my super Lego collection, building things has been an art of frustration).  But writing?  Now that I can do.  So far I have not been paid much for my efforts, but considering my efforts have been subpar, I'd say it's about right.  Now don't get me wrong.  I've written a lot.  My issue is with finishing things, novels, mainly.  I've done many short stories and a few screenplays but my hopes lie with writing novels.  It's what I feel I was meant to do.  And when I do start finishing them on a regular basis, I hope to be paid for them.  There has always been a sort of recoil for writers when the talk of money comes around but I don't see why.  I write for money.  I love writing and will always do it, but I also have plans of making a living at it.  I don't see how creativity and cash can't go together.

I've tried writing for free.  I've filled journals but they've never really drawn me in.  I'm not a very introspective guy and it shows in my writing which leads me to my next reason for why I write.  I began writing just for myself.  My first story was an episode of Battlestar Galactica, the original one, thank you.  Yes, I'm that old.  Back in the days before the internet and satellite TV, everyone had to wait a week for the next episode of their favorite show to come on.  For a kid, a week was the same as 'FOREVER!'.  So while I waited, I wrote my own episode complete with sound effects and plenty of Starbuck yelling, "Yee-haw!".  I remember liking it.  But more importantly I remember the other kids liking it, too.  I discovered I got more joy out of others reading the story than I did.  After that, anything I wrote I did with an audience in mind.  My goal was clear: to entertain.  I still hold that to be my number one goal in writing.  I write to make people laugh, or cringe, lose themselves in another world.  I want them to read so they pee their pants, or turn the lights on for safety, or look at the clock and shout, "Oh, shit!  I'm going to be late!"  I've tried coming up with tales rife with moral fiber and life lessons.  They always fall flat and I know the reason.  They are not something I would choose to read, so why would I try to write them?  I read for entertainment.  I prefer genre novels such as fantasy, dystopian, horror, to anything mainstream.  It is just how I am wired so that when I write, I'm hoping to light that spark in someone else.

I write because I can.  Too many people ignore their talents and it is a shame.  I've talked with many people who are retired or about to retire and most of them talk about work like a fond memory and even think about just getting a part-time job for something to do.  It boggles my mind.  I just don't get it.  This is why I write.  I want writing to be my ONLY job.  Sure insurance will be tough going, as usual, but there is no other way I can think of that I would want to make a living.  As with these retirees, they have nothing but time now.  They should be using their talents and pursuing dreams that they've delayed or put on hold.  Write that book, paint that mural, sing, damn it, sing!

Why do I write?  Not because I have to.  I think I would survive if I was forced to stop.  But what kind of life would that be?  I don't write to teach.  My wisdom runs about as deep as a puddle in a parking lot.  I write because I want to entertain.  I want to take people from this world and put them in mine and nudge at them saying, "Hey, hey, watch this.  You're gonna love it."

And hopefully they will.  If you laughed at all reading this, then my job is done.    

Monday, July 13, 2015

Perserverence Beats Up Newbie

I couldn't do it.  I refused to let my story go after putting in so much work.  I'm still not quite halfway finished but I can see the sky beginning to lighten in my writing world.  The dawn of completion is coming, I just know it.

The desire to quit this version will not be wasted, however.  After some consideration, I found how I could use the new ideas for a better book 2 of this trilogy.  So in a way this was all pretty helpful.

Now the only thing I have to contend with is a YA market that appears to be in flux as far as the poopularity of genres.  I've read several articles saying how reality is making a comeback in teen fiction and fantasy, especially dystopian and zombie, are on the decline.  It doesn't make me too worried, however.  I wouldn't consider this story to be either of those (though zombie may be thrown in the way of the writer).  Mine is more of an urban sci-fi story.  It is based in the modern day but with a slight, secretive twist, kind of like the movie, Jumper.  But even if this genre is declining, I believe that as long as it is an intriguing story, it will do well.

OK, enough ruminating.  Back to work.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Running Naked Off The Cliff

I hate to say to myself, 'I told you so', but here I go again.  I stopped working on my latest novel for a week and now I can't get my mind to recognize it anymore.  I've re-read the first 150 pages and there's a lot I like, but it doesn't inspire further ideas or excitement about the scenes I already have planned out.  I have to keep referencing back to my character sheets because I don't recall certain details of them anymore.  The worst part?  I just don't care.

I know the apathy towards my story happens every time I take too long a break.  I've heard many writers say the same thing, that once they stop tending that fire it peters out and no amount of coaxing will bring it back.  Some breaks are unavoidable, most are unintentional.  I kept writing during this last one, just not about my novel.  I wrote a short story and a few flash writing challenges.  But then when I returned to my novel I found it pale and listless.

But all is not lost.  I still like the core premise of the story, a teen derives psychic like abilities from an unexpected source, but I want to handle it differently.  I want less school involved and more action.  I'll work that out this week after giving the main character another thorough once over.  The main character's ability hinges on helping or magnifying others' abilities so I want to focus on who this leads to her assuming a leadership role even though it is the last thing she wants.  She doesn't want to be responsible for others.  She has to learn that most people just need a little help to achieve greatness and if she can, she should be there for them.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Evils of the Questioning

Last year I had used NaNoWriMo to begin my latest attempt at a novel.  I got off to a rocky start and unfortunately never recovered to reach the 50000 word goal.  That's life, I suppose.  I did it last year, not this year.  Oh well.  I really did not feel defeated until December came and went and I was barely any further along.  Then came the Questioning.

What is the Questioning?  I think most writers know what it is.  It's that point in your writing endeavor when you hit a wall and while you stagger and try to get going again you begin to wonder if what you're doing is correct.  You question whether you've done enough research and maybe that's why you're stalled.  You question if this is the right story for you.  You don't want to get cornered into a genre or age bracket that may only be temporary.  Basically, you question everything.  One question leads to another and before you know it you've stopped writing the novel.

This is the crucial point at which a writer decides to either quit and maybe move on to something else or to plod on and finish what has already been started.  I can't help but think those that choose the latter are the ones we call authors.  They discovered what it takes.  I have found this out the hard way.  I finished one novel many years ago (thanks mainly to my wife) and have self published it on Amazon.  Since then, I've started many versions of a fantasy novel but I've never finished another book.  I've always let the Questioning scare me into stopping so I could rework the plot, change the characters, create a different magic system.  But then I'm back to page one.

But not this time.  I almost fell into that trap once again but I realized I did not want to abandon the 127 pages I already had and after reading it, I'm sure the questions I had about it can easily be fixed as I continue and then in the second draft.  I refuse to give up on this idea just to jump into another.  It's all just another trick of the Questioning.  I'd much rather focus on the Writing and then the Publishing.