Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Rewrite - Part 1

So, NaNoWriMo is over, and I've got some stories I think have potential, and others that don't. All in all, I've got about a half dozen short stories.

Well, I have a half dozen first drafts. That's significantly different than having a half dozen completed stories. So now what do I do? 

I rewrite.

The first law of first drafts is that first drafts suck. Some people write better first drafts than others, true. I'm sure there are some lucky people out there who write first drafts that are even worthwhile. Those people are proof that God loves some folks more than others and allows them to break the rules. If you're one of those, then I am deeply honored by your reading of this. You are very sparkly. Can I rub myself on you?

We mortals have to rewrite. Revise. Edit.

In that order.

Monday, November 29, 2010

NaNo Complete

NaNo Count: 50,359

Well, that was a close call. After all my confidence the other day, I went and had a family emergency.

Let's just say the last few thousand words are very poor, and leave it at that.

Well, that was fun. And a lot harder than I expected.  Which is even more annoying, considering that I expected it to be quite difficult!  This next month will mostly be editing, though I hope to finish at least two new stories as well. I think it's important to keep writing even when you're doing other things related to said writing. Spending an entire month doing nothing but editing does get a lot of editing done, but it gets pretty much no writing done. Since writing's the hardest part, well then, it's fairly obvious what needs to be practiced most.

One day, writing will not be hard at all. And then I will be a god.*

* It's important to keep your goals humble and realistic. There's a reason I didn't capitalize that "g."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

NaNoWriMo Update

NaNo count: 47,530

I'm definitely going to make it, which is nice. Granted, I've only attempted once before, but still. It's nice to know I can accomplish something like this if I really press myself on it.

I completed my story about the enhanced US agent fighting monsters in Chicago. I've also done the following concepts:

A man who lived his entire life on a small space station scrambles to fix it, as more and more things go wrong. As the story progresses, the reader finds out why he's the only one there.

A man has experience in dealing with minor magics here and there, and one day sees a fairy in the woods. He becomes obsessed with finding her again, finding out who he is, to the detriment of his family and village.

A knight on a great quest is gravely wounded, but healed by a beautiful forest spirit. As time goes on, he becomes so obsessed with the spirit that he abandons his great quest.

An elf girl, trained to bring in the spring with a ritual dance, is barred from it as she has committed anathema. She struggles to complete the ritual anyway, for the sake of her tribe.

I do recognize that two of those stories are quite similar. It's almost as if I finished one story, then realized it worked a lot better if I changed all the characters and the setting. Imagine that.

Right now I'm working on this one: A scientist who runs mice through mazes begins to lose his mind, thinking that he's in a maze, himself.

Overall, I'm satisfied with how the month has gone. I could have done more, but there's no reason to focus on that kind of thing. I am proud of several of these stories, and after a good bit of rewriting, hope to start submitting them soon.

Next month, expect plenty of posts about editing and revising! (That's the most fun part, right?)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bret Maverick is Mat Cauthon

I was watching Maverick tonight and had a realization.  Specifically, that realization that I went ahead and titled this post with: there is no significant difference between Bret Maverick and Matrim Cauthon.

They're both gamblers.  They're both exceptionally good fighters.  Considering that they spend quite a bit of time fighting for their lives, they certainly like fine clothing.  Maverick imports his silk shirts in all the way from Paris, for crying out loud!  And most importantly, they're both the luckiest people alive. Maverick doesn't even need to look at his cards to know he's going to win.

I just thought I'd throw that out there.

And yes, I know that there's a TV show.  But I've never seen any of that, so I'm going by the movie.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Villains - Part 2

Do all stories need a villain?

Well, no.

Sure, almost any story needs an antagonist, but that antagonist doesn't need to be a person. Since we are talking about speculative fiction, I should add that by "person" I do not necessarily mean "human." A villain can be an alien, a robot, a fairy, a sentient stone, a god, God, or an evil book. However, to be a villain, the antagonist does need to have at least the potential for personality.

Whether the villain has personality or not depends on how well you write him. In my last post on villains, I talked about this, why it's important that a villain be relatable. In this post, I'll talk about how a villain-driven conflict differs from others.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Productive weekend is productive

Ok, so it was more of a productive super-weekend. Since I'm a government employee (trust me, the most boring kind of government employee imaginable) I got Veteran's Day off, and I took Friday off as a vacation because . . . who wants to go back to work for a day after having a day off? Over this magnificent four-day weekend, I managed to write over 12,000 words! I'm fairly proud of that. I started and completely finished two separate stories. The first was the story I mentioned in my last post, about a woman who must survive without her magic for fear of harming her child. I also wrote a fairly short story (2,700 words) about a poor, abused woman who fully believes that she is the one who must be doing something wrong. When the stars talk to her, they tell her a different story.

Nano Count: 22,698

The next story: In the late 21st century, an agent of the United States government uses his technological enhancements to save Chicago from a military bio-monster.

I have not written a good post about the actual art of writing in several weeks, and plan to rectify that situation soon. Expect part two of my Villains post later this week.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Books I am reading, NaNo update, and also a new keyboard!

I've decided to add a page to this blog that lists the books that I'm currently reading, and those I have read. (This will not be retroactive. I'm not even going to try to do something like that.) I will probably mention what I'm reading on the main blog as well, but I'll be able to keep a record this way.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Damn you, Brandon Sanderson!

I'm really not sure how anyone expects me to write when Sanderson keeps publishing books every few months.  What?  He doesn't?  Well, it seems that way to me.  From now on, I'm calling him Captain Insano.

Why?  No reason.  I just like the idea.

This might make NaNo harder, but it'll also drive home an important lesson: to write, you must read.  I've seen author after author say this, though a quick Google only turns up Nicholas Sparks (which is funny, cause I've actually never read him).  It sounds like you're just piling another difficulty on top of what's already a difficult process, but it's important.

Seriously, it helps.  Even the little experience I have has taught me that.  Words fall out of my head much easier when I've been reading a lot, lately. 

NaNo Count: 3,656

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day 1 - NaNo

NaNo Count: 1,739

As I mentioned earlier, I'm writing several different stories for this year's NaNoWriMo. This morning I looked at a list of several ideas I've had and chose the one that seemed most interesting at the moment. When I finish that story, I'll go back to the list and pick another.

The one I chose for today was this: A man fights back against his former slavers. He was in shackles for so long that even now, years later, his wrists feel naked and wrong to him.

So far the story is going well. I'm already looking forward to cleaning it up, next month! That's always a good sign.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


So it's been awhile.

So Starcraft 2 is like a black hole of free time. For the last month or so, my life has been pretty much devoured by it. I've written nothing. No stories, no outlines, no blog posts . . . I've barely written any emails. My friends should count themselves lucky I even deigned to talk to them.

You should definitely take that as an endorsement of the game. I expect my large check in the mail any day now, Blizzard.


Anyway, it's time for me to hop back on the horse and be a little more responsible. Now is a good day to make that decision, as NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow. I'm excited about it, and plan on winning this time. (Winning involves writing the requisite 50,000 words during November and is entirely self-governed. Anyone can claim to have won and submit 50,000 words of gibberish, but what's the fun in that?) I am tweaking the rules a bit, though.

The standard idea is to write 50,000 words of a novel, hence the name: National Novel Writing Month. I will still write 50,000 words, but I will write stories instead of a novel. I would rather end the month with five to ten stories instead of a single partial novel. It stays within the spirit of the thing, I think, and I'll feel more accomplished.

I brainstormed today with a friend, and came up with several concepts for potential stories. Tomorrow morning I will choose one, and I will start writing until I finish it. Then I will choose another, and so on and so forth.

Here's my profile, if anyone wants to follow my progress for some reason.

The most important thing about something like this is to remember to have fun, and not stress. The idea isn't to burn yourself out so much you don't write at all for another year; it's to push yourself.

So let's push ourselves.

Edit: Wow, the Nano site is being HAMMERED tonight. Hopefully that's a good sign. I love to see people writing.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Villains - Part 1

(I wrote this, then realized it would probably be the first of an eventual series on villains.  Here goes.)

Everyone loves good villains.  They can be fun -- or horrifying -- but one thing good villains always are is memorable.  It’s easy to write poor villains, as well.  How can you tell the difference?

In high school, when I started writing fantasy, I always paid special attention to the bad guy scenes.  Several years ago I found copies of several things I had written back then and went over them.  While most of it was quite horrible, the scenes where the bad guy was doing something cool were fairly well written!  I was retroactively proud of myself.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

You gotta do the cookin' by the book

The cake that inspired my last post.

Hey, I never claimed to be good at icing cakes.

The cake was great, by the way.  Recipe came from Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice.

Food in fiction

I don't know about anyone else out there, but I constantly find myself making my characters eat some variation of whatever I'm eating.

Actually, I do know that I'm not the only one who does this. The Turkey City Lexicon calls this a type of Dischism: "The unwitting intrusion of the author’s physical surroundings, or the author’s own mental state, into the text of the story."

As mentioned above, I do this most often with food. I don't know if it can be called unwitting, exactly. I know I'm doing it, and hopefully it gives the characters a bit of authenticity. Sometimes these situations become character traits in and of themselves. I've got a girl in one story who is a burgeoning tea connoisseur; she loves tea and has an improbable level of knowledge about the drink. It's not a major plot point or anything like that, but before the plot came along and ruined her life, tea was her hobby. In most situations, of course, making these little intrusions into defining character traits would be ridiculous. In the same story as the tea girl, there's a character who likes beans. He has a great recipe for beans, and there's a scene where he's making those beans. But if I were to make him into some sort of bean-obsessed bean man, he would look a bit stupid. Obviously, there's a line that can be crossed.

I just thought of this now because I'm in the middle of making a cake, and surprise! I ended up giving someone cake in a story. I erased the scene a few minutes later, because it really made no sense for there to be cake in that situation. If I had been working on a more whimsical fantasy, cake might have worked, but I wasn't. Surprise cake just didn't work in the slightly gritty setting that I was using.

And so sadly, I have learned that surprise cake isn't always a good thing.

By the way, I highly recommend that anyone who hasn't already read the Turkey City Lexicon linked above do so now; it's both hilarious and informative. If you find yourself repeatedly saying, "Hey, I do that!" it might be a good idea to think things over.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Direction of Writing

Is it better to write a story straight through? Or is it easier to jump around?

Obviously, the answer to this question will differ between different people. Some will prefer to start at the beginning and plow through until they reach the end. Others will write the ending first, and find their way there. Others will jump around like veritable madmen, writing wherever they feel like at the moment. Like almost any choice, there are advantages and disadvantages to each. (That's the problem with choices.)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Character Motivation

The question "Why do characters want things?" can often be rephrased as "So why exactly is there a plot?"

I've been working on a certain short story for a few days. I had most of the characters sketched out and basically knew their personalities. I'd detailed the history of the city where the story takes place, and given sparser (but enough for my purposes) history to the rest of the world. I'd figured out how the protagonist would interact with the other characters, and written some dialogue between them that looks pretty believable. I knew the primary conflict and a secondary conflict. I had gone so far as to write the climax out entirely, even though I consider that to be almost cheating.

Then I realized why I was cheating. I had no way to plot the story up to the climax, because the protagonist had no reason to get involved with any of this. There was no motivation, and everything that I could think of cram in there was . . . well . . . obviously something I just tried to cram in there.

The story isn't a complete wash, I just need to start from the characters and build my way up to a plot. Going the other direction is easier sometimes, but it results in characters that tend to be a little too vacuum-sealed to the plot. It's easy to fall into the trap, "if it's faster, it must be a good idea!" It's important to remember that characters should generate the plot, not you. (Of course, well-written characters will usually generate something pretty close to the plot you want.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Now that's what I call a good title for the first post on a blog about writing.

There comes a time in everyone's life when they think, "Of course I can't do any serious work tonight, the lights in here are too dim. I need to buy some lamps and really make the place shine. Of course, I can't do that until payday."

If they're lucky, that monster of an excuse is enough to shock them out of complacency and into something that at least resembles work. If they're not lucky, then they may well have need to fear. Soon, entire weeks -- or months! -- will be flying by, using only a single procrastinatory excuse at a time! This is dangerous. Unlike good, old-fashioned, American procrastination, which fills its author with guilt on an hourly (or at least daily) basis, this kind of Freedom-hating nefariousness lets the procrastinator float guiltlessly away on the slacker sea.

Not that slacking is bad in and of itself. Some of the best things happen when slacking. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how much a pessimist you are), work has to be done too. So here we go. It's not that bad.

After all, it only took me a week and a half to get around to writing this post.