NaNoWriMo Midpoint

So I’ve made it half way through National Novel Writing Month. How am I faring you ask? Well I’m behind the targeted goals but extremely happy with what I’ve written. I should be at 26,000 words or so around today but I’m actually only at 10,300. That’s 10,000 more words than I had two weeks ago. With a full time job that’s crazy busy, three awesome kids, and a wife I’m ecstatic with the progress I’ve made and really excited with how the story is evolving.

I’m about 22,500 words into the overall story line which is crazy to think about. I have ideas for turning it into a series but that all depends on how it works out I suppose. The story ideas and plot twists have been really coming at me the more I write. I had an outline I wrote over the past year and then refined before NaNoWriMo and I’ve been adding a ton of great ideas to it as I write. Those words don’t count do they?

I’ve been writing mostly using Ulysses on my iPad but from time to time I launch it on my Mac as well. It syncs via iCloud to both machines which makes for a seamless workflow. I’ve also setup a Dropbox and git backup of everything I write. You can never be too sure and the backup nerd in me needs to make sure I’m covered in event of a disaster.

Back to writing!!

Word Count: 240

The Same Yet Different

How many different ways can I write about a similar scene to offer different ideas, angles, and perspectives? This is an exercise in engaging and pulling the reader into a situation that’s similar yet complete different.

The alarm gradually pulled him out of a deep sleep. Groggy from working late the night before, he fought the pull of a new day. Slowly reaching to where he thought the alarm was he instead knocked over his cup of water. Swearing at not only the water spilling onto the carpet but at how cold the room was he quickly pulled his hand back under the warmth of the covers. Gradually he realized the alarm was still warning him of the cold. No wait, it was awakening him, that’s right he had to get up. Finally fighting the siren song of sleep he regained full consciousness and reluctantly reached over and turned it off.

The alarms incessant beeping yanked him out sleep. He felt like he’d just put his head on the pillow and was reluctant to move at first. He closed his eyes tighter refusing to admit the new day was here but that blasted alarm continued to drone on. Finally after far too many beeps he reached into the cold room to end the clatter and was greeted instead with a tipping cup of water. Slowly it spilled it’s contents onto the floor. Pulling his arm back to the warmth he could hear the water dripping on the carpet almost like a melody in sync with the beeps. Finally after the duet ended he reached out and put an end to the horrible noise.

It all came down to this, man verse dragon. He’d set his trap and now he was waiting silently for the perfect moment to trip it. Suddenly he heard something, a piercing noise he’d never heard before. Was it the dragon? No, that was no dragon he’d ever heard. Suddenly the chamber grew cloudy and the noise grew louder. Fearing his end was near and that he’d lost the upper hand he reached to trip the trap. A last ditch attempt to get even with the fiery beast rewarded instead with water. Water?

Slowly he awoke to an unfortunate realization that he wasn’t in a cavern after all. He was instead in his bed and had just dumped water all over his end table. That noise, not the infernal dragon he’d longed to kill but something far worse, his alarm clock. Reaching in disgust he turned it off all the while wishing he’d be cast back into his dreamy final battle.

There it was, the alarm. He knew it was coming at some point he just wasn’t quite ready. He’d been up all night unable to sleep with his mind doing circles. No matter what he just couldn’t figure out how to start this new chapter. He hit dead end after dead end, tossing and turning tossing and turning. Finally admitting defeat, the bell now literally tolling on the end to a fitful nights sleep he reached to turn off the alarm. Instead of being given the end he longed for he was instead given a splash to the face. Well actually a splash on the floor from his cup of water on the end table. It did however give him a great idea for the new chapter, water! Quickly reaching to shut the alarm off he jumped out of bed to start writing this down before it washed away.

He laid there staring at the clock waiting for it to ring. Not quite sure what to say. Always a loss for words now wasn’t the time to botch the morning after. He’d never had a one night stand before but he’d seen enough sitcoms to know what not to do the next morning. Forgetting her name ranks right up there with sneaking out of bed.

Suddenly the alarm started beeping and she began stirring beside him. As he reached for the alarm she turned and put her arms around him causing him to jump and knock the water over. Why was he so darn ticklish? He turned to look at her and smiled, she smiled back and pulled him closer. Slowly he leaned in to kiss her and used his free hand to throw the alarm across the room. This was how to start the morning.

The alarm beeped every 1.5 seconds. He timed it as just as he timed everything in his life. He’d slept 10 minutes short of 7 hours. He woke 3 times, once to use the restroom which took precisely 1.5 minutes. As he reached to shut off the alarm, always on the 5th beep, he instead knocked over his cup water. Stunned he wasn’t sure how that had happened, the cup wasn’t usually there. He froze as he watched the water fall to the floor it’s pattern random. He hated randomness. He’d lost track of the count, how many beeps was that? How long had he waited? Slowly he reached and shut the alarm off mid beep instead of in the crisp controlled silence between the beeps. Still staring at the water mark growing on the floor he suddenly realized the temperature in the room was off from its usually precise 70 degrees. He sighed and muttered quietly under his breath, “Chaos! Absolute chaos!” He knew this day was not going to go well at all.

Word Count: 906

Doing Circles

Sitting here watching my kids enjoy their Christmas presents going round and around on their scooters and plasma cars, I can’t help but think about the parallels to life’s journey. Round and around they go, faster and faster, trying new tricks and seeing who can beat whom. One cuts off the other, stops short to cause a near collision, or they out maneuver the other by speeding past on the inside of a turn. Frustration ensues at being bested and the aggressive circling continues. It’s a familiar journey they’ll be following throughout their life journey.

I really hope it won’t always be a journey of endless circles for them but as most people can attest it feels at times like there isn’t much progress or change. That circle takes it’s toll and when we’re just about to hit cruise control we’re sometimes rewarded with an outpouring of successes or new doors open. Unexpected doors with new opportunities and challenging new circles and tricks to learn.

We start by going to school year after year wondering when it’ll end only to be rewarded with the floodgates of college life or a career. Then we step right into day after day at a job and after working hard we might find ourselves at a new crossroads from time to time. A point where we can take a new path, a new set of curves and challenges or continue on the familiar well worn path we’re comfortably on perhaps with some upward movement.

The question then becomes, do we take that inside track and cut to the inside scaring (and angering) some people? Stop short and cause a crash? Or perhaps we continue the comfortable circle focusing on other things?

Let’s face it, we all find ways to pass the time. Anything from our endless hobbies of golf, tennis, cycling, gaming or our seemingly endless “keeping up” with the latest technology or news. These things are all designed to release ourselves from our responsibilities, have some fun, let off a little steam, or divert our attention from the drudgery … an escapism from reality or that endless circle of life.

Some people catch a glimpse of or find that perfect path that’s both fun and rewarding. They’ve mastered that cut to the inside to set themselves up for exactly what they wanted at the right place and right time. Careers that fit their personality and lifestyle without compromise. Sometimes we can even convince ourselves that we’ve found that perfect path only to be forced back to reality soon thereafter.

Does the rarity of that pathway mean we all should accept our places and just “escape” when we seek release? Stop searching for that opportunity or for that career that fits our personality? Should we accept that it’s rare enough that we could spend forever searching and never find it, destine to doing circles with everyone else?

Or perhaps we shouldn’t look at it as a rare and hard to attain goal because perhaps we’ve searching for it wrong. When you first start to ride that scooter or that plasma car how do you learn it? Usually by listening to people in your inner childhood circle, likely your parents or friends. That’s probably fine for something like a scooter but are your parents or friends the best people to teach or guide you about a career path (like writing) if they themselves have no experience with it? If your English teacher is a failed author perhaps they’re not the best or only person who should advise you on what your writing potential is or isn’t.

Seek out someone who’s a success or inspiration in their circle. Someone who’s learned to cut to the inside or do some amazing tricks on their scooter. For authors maybe they’ve managed to write a book every few years or are accomplished writers. Maybe they’ve released their own software or started their own successful companies. It doesn’t matter where you look just make sure you look to the right people and most of all you look inside yourself.

In the end each person takes their own path along their life journey. By a certain point, usually some time around high school, they’ve either become focused on reaching for their dreams or they’ve diverted their attention to something else entirely. Depending on who guided them along the way this dream journey can happen sooner rather than later or not at all for some people.

Don’t settle or get diverted along your journey only to find yourself doing circles years later. Don’t be distracted from your dreams, no matter your age or position in life it’s never too late to realize this. Think hard about what you love, what inspires you, and what makes you excited and then do those things often. Being sure that you find ways to make those things central to your life and your journey means you’ll do less endless circles and more exciting tricks with your friends and family.

Word Count: 832

NaNoWriMo 2015

I wanted to write a posting to let folks know what I’ve been up to. There’s a big gap between my last writing and today. Trust me when I tell you I’ve been writing a lot. I’ve actually been working furiously on researching, outlining, and preparing for NaNoWriMo.

For those who aren’t familiar NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It’s always the month of November and has been going on for years. Traditionally you set a goal of writing a 50,000 word novel in a month. That’s a lot of words but that’s the point. No editing, no proofreading, just writing.

I’ve written a few science fiction pieces I really liked but never published. I was sitting there brainstorming a topic to write about during NaNoWriMo and it all came rushing at me. A story line, characters, and plot twists. I still have a few holes to fill and things to research but it’s pretty exciting. A perfect time to see what I can make of it.

I know I have a lot to learn but what better way than to write? I’ll still be writing here quite often to explore other outlets, refine my writing, and to work out ideas. I’ll also be posting some of the chapters as I finish them in a hopes of getting feedback.

Word Count: 222

Expanding Into Long Form Writing

I’m sitting here on the morning train frozen from head to toe waiting for these heaters to work their thermal magic. Even with the freeze I’m still lost in thought. Yes, I’m wondering when my body is going to regain some feeling from standing in the unusually cold weather waiting on this bloody train but I still have other things on my mind as well.

I’ve really been enjoying writing here and the more I write the more I want to write, it’s a vicious cycle. I find myself wanting to continue writing more each on of the stories I start. It’s difficult at times to wrap up my thoughts into around 750 words. I know that isn’t the point of writing, to just do 750 words. I do however want to tell a story, control the narrative, and do it within a controlled time period. I want to use it to improve my writing while at the same time complete something. To me the deadline of 750 words is doable and fits my work life balance for now.

If you’re like most people, myself included, you enjoy the thrill of finishing something as much as you enjoy starting something anew. Each leads into the other, a continuum of past goals met and future goals set. That rush you feel when you wrap up something you’ve been working on is both sad and rewarding on many levels.

It’s sad because you put so much energy into the writing. You worked hard to ensure it’s perfect (within reason) and that it’ll stand on its own. You’ll miss the comfort of it, the flow of it. Even though it’s only 750 words it’s still your creation, your spark, your idea that flowed into those words. Those words that created a new world, a new future, a conspiracy to unravel and now it’s done. I guess it’s called a “short story” for a reason.

It’s rewarding because the draw of that clean slate spurs the creative juices. Anything is possible starting fresh and you long to just put it all out there in its raw glory. The polish isn’t yet necessary, just lay down the foundation and build up from there. The skies the limit!

So what’s a writer to do? Well first and foremost I’m going to write because without that I’m just spamming nonsense. I am however going to take a few of the stories I’ve already started, and some I haven’t yet, and expand on them over the coming months. I’ll fill in some of blanks and attempt to build on the story lines.

I’m doing this for multiple reasons. First and foremost because I’ve enjoyed the characters I developed and I found myself wanting to write about them again the next day. I forced myself not to however because I wanted get comfortable redirecting the mental juices into new places. I don’t want to get stuck in a mental rut beating an already dead narrative.

The second reason I want to continue these stories is because while I do enjoy writing short form fiction I’d also like to learn how to write more long form. It’s a different creative process that requires you to keep more pieces moving together. A balancing act of building the characters, moving the storyline forward, and keeping it interesting.

I’ll be honest and tell you that I’ve never written anything long form in my life. College term papers for literature class don’t count as long form sorry. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but as I mentioned in my opening posting it’s not something I ever thought was practical let alone possible. After writing these last few weeks I now know that it’s not just possible, it’s definitely something I can do.

I’m not making any leaps here, I know that I have much to learn and that I’m just starting to get my footing here. I’m just excited and felt like pouring some of my energy into a writing to explain why you might see some faces and story lines a little more often. I’ll try to link back to other parts of the story when appropriate. I’m also planning on adding each of the story lines to categories for quick access.

My challenge going forward is how to continue hitting my daily goal of at least 750 words while at the same time moving a story line forward without butchering it. Remember, I’m not spending as much time editing my daily writing because the goal with this site is to just write however imperfectly.

Word Count: 763

750 Word Update

I’ve made it to my ninth writing on this journey. With a mixture of stories, opinions, and introductions I feel like it’s been a success thus far. I’ve easily hit my 750 daily word count with yesterday’s piece going over 1,000 words. The key is that I’m writing which if I’m not makes it impossible to improve.

Yesterday I wrote my first story where I included character dialog. My first few stories were more point of view story telling pieces and weren’t about dialog. While I’ve read dialog thousands of times from a variety of authors it’s been years since I’ve written it myself. It was far smoother for me to write background story lines rather than dialog but once I got into the flow it went fairly well.

I know it was a bit rough around the edges but this blog isn’t about taking the time to perfect each and every piece. It’s about writing every day and improving each and every time. It may small improvement that aren’t obvious at first but the more I write and the more I read about writing the more fluid my writing should become.

Because I haven’t had the opportunity to read as much since I’m not writing more I haven’t studied as much as I’d like. I have a few books on my short list though that if you have opinions or better options I’d love to hear about them.

  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
  • The Elements of Style
  • How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One
  • Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose
  • On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft

I’m still on the lookout for a good reference and practical book on grammar and sentence structure. Ideally it’d be in electronic form if possible which limits most textbooks. If you can recommend anything please drop me a comment.

My process thus far has been to write in the evenings after the kids are down. I haven’t yet been back on the train so I haven’t had the opportunity to test my writing there. In the evening I often start around 8 pm and don’t finish until 10 or 11 pm. This is usually a mixture of random conversations with my wife and writing so it’s not exactly uninterrupted time. I’m hoping the dedicated time on the train will open some free evening time to read and study more.

Finally I thought I’d write a bit about the stories and other random topics I’ve chosen. I don’t have any long running story lines planned yet. At some point I think it would be fun to have one or two moving story lines but I don’t want to put that pressure on myself yet. I’d rather write what comes to mind each time I pull up iA Writer and just let the words flow.

As you’ve likely already noticed I’m a huge fan of science fiction and most of my stories will likely come from that or a fantasy angle. I went through a period where I read some modern day survival fiction and I’ve recently been reading WOOL which is a futuristic post apocalyptic series of books, similar but different. I find it easier to write about modern survival topics but enjoy futuristic ones more. I think the future fiction requires much more planning and character development to pull the reader in and make them feel like part of the story. The modern fiction stories can be build from more relevant and relatable everyday topics and locations which while easier to write about can also be a bit tedious.

Since this is my first writing blog I don’t really know what to expect in terms of readership. My prior blogs had several hundred regular readers but the topics were quite different. A number of my readers come from a tight knit group of fellow bloggers linking to or commenting on my blog. I also have a lot of twitter and Facebook followers as well. On this blog I’m starting from ground zero but my goal isn’t to get a huge number of readers. I would however like a few readers who can give feedback on my writing or share ideas with me. Because of this I recently joined the Goodreads forums and have shared a few links to my blog there. If anyone can recommend any other good literary forums to join I’d appreciate it.

Thanks for taking the time to read.

Word Count: 750

First Words

Ever since I was little I wanted to be a writer. I used to spend countless hours volunteering at my local bookshop, Shelby Books. I’d read and reread so many Isaac Asimov, Greg Bear, David Brin, and countless other science fiction novels. I think that’s what made me start writing my first blog years ago, I wanted to write. To put into words all of my thoughts, ideas, and feelings but I never had the confidence nor the skills to do so. I say that because I was convinced by my teachers (and others) that I couldn’t write.

From my high school English teacher to college placement tests I was convinced I was behind in English. While this may have been true in one more form it didn’t lessen my creativity or desire to write, it just delayed the proverbial casting of the ideas and thoughts onto paper.

So instead of following a dream to write I took to programming instead. The mathematic (my second love) logic of programming gave me an alternate outlet to be creative. Programming has been a lot of fun and a very rewarding career but I’ll be honest, it’s not writing.

Programming has a logical flow and set of constraints that must be followed, without exception. There is no creative liberty, no blurring of the lines … there’s only rules. You can get creative putting patterns together and creating complex systems that seem to be “creative” but they’re nothing more than large and complex state machines or automata executing the patterns you’ve predefined.

Stories however, that’s a different thing entirely. Each story you write can be entirely different with new characters and ideas. It can take the reader on entirely different emotional journeys. As you define each part of the plot or character you color the readers vision of them. You can’t precisely control those feelings but you can certainly develop them.

In programming it’s as simple as chaining if/the/else statements to control flow. In writing you can’t say, if reader likes this then feel this and interpret this exactly like this. Imagine writing a novel about an experience you had or a character had in Italy. Now imagine how someone who’s never left their home town reading this story vs someone native to Italy. They’re going to have completely different impressions of the novel (especially if you get any facts wrong). That’s not how programming works, you’re either syntacticly correct or you’re not. You’ve either defined your programs logic flow correctly to solve the problem or you haven’t. Once compiled and running there isn’t anything left to interpretation that will change the flow (bugs aside).

So one has to wonder how someone who grew up in logical thought and programming is going to transition into writing. Your guess is as good as mine but that’s sorta the point of this writing I’m doing now. My goal is to write 750 words shorts as often as possible. To just write, to practice the craft of converting my thoughts into words. Break down gaps, learn how to develop characters, and sometimes I imagine just dump random thoughts or frustrations that are blocking me onto virtual paper. I’ll never write about my work, I’ve always kept that separation of personal from professional throughout me career.

So to get the other guidelines out of the way. I’m far from grammatically correct but if you want to give me constructive criticisms I’d be happy to take them. I’m hoping to get better as I write more. I’ll be researching and studying along the way. I don’t want to read like a choppy baboon and I’d prefer to master the craft rather than butcher it. This was one of the things that my teachers never helped with. I changed schools right in the middle of learning sentence structure. The school I left was starting to learn these things and the one I entered was finishing it up. From there it was all down hill and lots of feelings of being behind in English. So bear with me and please help me along the way if you’re up for it.

Think of this as an exercise in creative writing and author voyeurism. You may enjoy watching me fail, flounder, or who knows, you may be watching the beginnings of something interesting and worth reading … something completely unexpected and intriguing. Neither of us knows which path(s) we’ll traverse, which stars we’ll investigate, or what past skeletons we’ll explore in the name of creative exploration.

Word Count: 786