Post #46 – NaNoWriMo 2018

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11/8/18

It’s here. Like a baby that takes 12 months rather than 9, it’s here. It’s National Novel Writing Month.

What have I done so far, and what do I plan to do the rest of the month? I’m so glad you asked. I initially debated whether to keep writing several work-in-progress short stories with the 50k word goal in mind or actually work on my yet-to-be-started novel. Then it dawned on me the name of this activity has “novel” in it. There’s my answer.

So I began. No more procrastinating. No more character development, though the characters need it. No more developing the various settings, though they need it too. I’m finally putting words on the screen for the novel.

Luckily, I already had mapped out the four settings and three of the four main characters in the novel, so I wasn’t starting from scratch. So far, I’ve written an introductory chapter for each of those three characters. I’m also pleased to report that while doing so, the fourth main character coalesced in my mind, and I’ve written her introductory chapter as well.  Now I’ll see how much further I get. The holes in the backstory for these character is coming to me as I write each chapter or as I do my plotting during a run. I’m making a real effort to avoid the info dump and sprinkle that history in as I go, not only in the introductory chapter but in later chapters as well.

I’m enjoying the process, but it’s still daunting. As of today, I’ve written 4395 words, essentially a short story. The small number is a reflection of my limited time to write rather than my commitment. I’ve managed to add to that total every day this month, and I hope to continue that streak to November 30. Even so, my biggest fear is I’ll end up with a novella length work rather than a novel. If that happens, I’ll have to decide whether to continue adding more conflict to get to novel length or polish the novella and submit that to willing markets. I should be so lucky to have to make such a decision.  I plan to have a follow-up blog post the first week of December to confirm how I did.

Let me know in the comments if you’re attempting NaNoWriMo this year and how’s it going.

Photo credit: Free-Photos via Pixabay

Post #44 – Writing Retreats

10/25/18

Are they worth it? Are they comparable or better than writing conferences such as CapClave, which includes small workshops in addition to panel discussions with writers and editors?

And what to choose? A blogger I follow, Luke Tarzian, recently went on a writing cruise. There’s, of course, Clarion West and Odyssey. This Wired article on the Strangely Competitive World of Sci-Fi Writing Workshops was eye opening too.

Then there is Writers of the Future, if you place in the contest. I admit I am skeptical about this contest given L. Ron Hubbard’s history. Based on what I’ve seen online, the contest and retreat appear to be legit.  Also, big names in the speculative fiction realm attend every year and teach during the retreat, but it’s hard to overlook the Scientology connections as reported here and elsewhere.

Nevertheless, I’ve submitted a story every quarter for the last year.  One of my stories got through the first round of judging recently, and I admit I am intrigued by the possibility of spending a week learning the craft. Since I’ve continued to submit a story every quarter, it may still happen eventually, though my conscience is weighing heavily on me these days.

The thing about Writers of the Future is it’s free. Otherwise, I don’t know if I can justify both paying for the retreat and taking the time off from work. One seems manageable. Both seems burdensome.

Maybe it’s an investment I need to make to get better. A couple beta readers have mentioned I’ve noticeably improved since starting out, which was a great ego boost. But I don’t want to plateau. I know I’m far from a good writer, and I want to continue to improve. I’m thinking it’ll be an investment to make when one of the two constraints are lifted, i.e. the retreat is free or I’m retired.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve attended a writers retreat, which one, and what you thought of it.

Photo credit: Christian Georg via Pixabay

Post #39 – A French Writing Adventure, Part 2

9/20/18

Last week I detailed a laptop battery issue that kept me from writing for several days while on vacation in Paris. Before leaving the U.S., I had grand plans of writing every night once the family went to bed. Since that wasn’t happening, what’d I do instead? I read! And it was luxurious.

I don’t get much free time to read. I don’t get much free time at all. What little I have I mostly use to write. From a reading standpoint, I’ve been working my way through the same two books all year. For some reason, I tend to read a physical book and an ebook simultaneously. I hope to finish reading both by Christmas. Then I can get an early start on my two for next year.

I also have subscriptions to two sci-fi magazines: Galaxy’s Edge (it’s free to read online) and the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (purchased a year’s electronic subscription on sale for $5 on Amazon). Before this trip, I don’t think I’d made it through an entire issue of either.

I’m pleased to report I’ve now read an entire issue of Galaxy’s Edge. I’m still working on the MFSF issue. Even once I resolved the battery issue, I continued reading in the evenings after everyone went to bed. Following a day of walking and chasing two kids around the beach (we’d moved on to Aix-en-Provence and finished in Antibes on the French Riviera), I was too tired to write at night; or the logistics of our accommodations didn’t permit me to keep a light on. (My next laptop needs a back-lit keyboard.) I usually could finish a story or two before nodding off.

as an aside, before kids, when vacationing, my wife and I each would take a book to read and then we’d share a third book. Even then, we often bought one or more books from a local store. We were prolific readers. Good times.

Once in Antibes, we stayed at a great Airbnb with a second story terrace. There, during a couple nap times, I managed to hammer out a few more words. The three painters we experienced in Provence (Van Gogh, Cézanne, and Picasso) were not that inspiring for my writing, but the opportunity to write in the open air on a terrace was. I finished the first draft of a short story that had languished for a while and started a flash fiction piece. I also wrote several hundred words for the latter on my phone while waiting for takeout one night. Got to take advantage when the inspiration strikes.

Words written in Provence = 5000. (Some of these I wrote on the flight home, but I’m still counting them as written in Provence.) Words written on the entire trip = 6500. Not a novel, but I’ll take it. This will go a long way towards meeting my quarterly goal of 12,500 words.

Let me know in the comments how you relax on your vacations. For those writers, do you write, read, or a mix of both?  Or do you focus on eating, drinking, sleeping, and being merry?

Photo credit: SoleneC1 via Pixabay

Post #38 – A French Writing Adventure, Part 1

9/13/18

I recently took a trip to France with the family. Keep in mind, any time traveling with kids is a trip not a vacation.

We traveled to Paris and Provence. Though I’ve been to Paris before, I was excited. I don’t normally take my laptop transatlantic, too much weight, too likely to lose or damage, and too likely to get searched upon arrival into the U.S. This time I decided to do so at the last minute. My fantasy football draft would happen while I was abroad, plus I could write in France!

Think of the company I’d share–Dumas, Voltaire, de Saint-Exupery, but most importantly Jules Verne. I could write in the birthplace of the grandfather of science fiction!

We planned to stay near the Eiffel Tower because my oldest daughter was enamored with that piece of architecture. Having booked our hotel well in advance, we set out. Going transatlantic is always difficult. It’s essentially a red eye. It’s harder with kids because they sleep on the plane. Normally, I do too but not this time.

We arrive at the hotel at 8:30a (or 2:30a by our internal clocks). Somehow they have a room available. It’s not what we booked, which was one with two double beds. There are four of us. Instead what was ready, and what we readily took due to exhaustion, was a room with one double bed and a trundle bed, meaning two singles, one on the floor that tucks under the one at sofa level. I didn’t know it was called that. My wife had to tell me.

I was excited because we were on the 11th floor, and there was a small table next to a window. I instantly fantasized about writing there overlooking the city.

After seeing a couple things that day, including the Eiffel Tower from street level, we went to bed early. The next morning the family slept and slept. Conveniently positioned on the sofa, I got up and decided to write. I finished a flash fiction story and added two scenes to my novella-in-progress. All that was missing was some French coffee.

Once the family final woke, we left and took in some more sites. Only when we got back did my wife look out the window and note we had a view of Notre Dame and the Pantheon, two of the sites we saw that day. The window had a weird angle, which we thought was odd, until my wife looked to her left. That’s when she notice we had a great view of the Eiffel Tower! I spent the entire morning staring out at beautiful Parisian rooftops when I could have moved the table a little to view the Eiffel Tower. I know, rough life.

Here’s the bad news. I didn’t bother plugging my laptop in that morning and drained the battery. When I went to recharge it, it wouldn’t cooperate. I have one of those sets of travel plugs to convert various outlets around the world and the accompanying surge protector. Using both, the battery would charge for a couple minutes and then stop, but it worked fine for our other electronics. I was devastated. How would I write? Do I hammer out words in the note app on my phone? Do I buy a notebook and try longhand?

For two days, I tried different plugs in our room and changing the angle of the plug converter, surge protector, and laptop plug. Nothing worked. Then my wife said something that made me realize I didn’t need the surge protector. Sure enough, plugging the laptop cord directly into the plug converter worked. The laptop began to charge! Crisis averted.

The final tally from my four days in Paris: 1500 words written. Without the recharging debacle, exhaustion, and a sick kid the last night, it likely would have been more. I’d have to make up for it on the rest of the trip. We were on to Provence to be inspired by three great painters.

Photo credit: Pexels via Pixabay

Post #33 – The Running Plotter

8/9/18

I’m a plotter. I can’t deny or hide from it. Even when I’m stuck on a plot point and say I’ll write up to that point and see where the story takes me, I still can’t be a pantser. I write to the sticking point and then get no further until I’ve plotted the next part.

When do I plot? Thank you for asking. I don’t sit down and have brainstorming sessions to develop a plot. That sounds like something a professional would do. I don’t have time for that. When I have time to write, I need to write not plot.

Instead, I plot at two other times: when running and when falling asleep. I didn’t develop into a runner until law school and even then I didn’t develop into a decent runner until years later. I’d get through runs in those first years by thinking about things. An early favorite was naming all a band’s albums, like Pink Floyd or Tom Petty.

Now I plot during my runs. I don’t listen to music or podcasts. Those mess with my pace. Plus I think it’s safer to listen to my surroundings. Keeping my mind from wandering is a constant battle, but when it doesn’t, I plot. I’ve come up with some decent plot points. I now find runs almost unbearable when I’m not working on a new piece and therefore don’t have anything to plot. As an alternative, I’m often able to develop a story on the spot. Sometimes I’m not. Recently, it’s been the latter, so I’ve worked on plotting blog posts instead. Got to keep the weekly ideas coming!

The other time I plot is in that netherland of consciousness found between wakefulness and asleep. I use plotting as a sleep aide. No Ambien for me. Thinking about that next plot point usually puts me right to sleep. It doesn’t even matter if I come up with the next plot point or if I remember it when I do. Sleep is it’s own reward. I find when the plot point does come to me, I readily remember it when I turn next to writing that story. It may take me nights, or weeks, but eventually the next plot point works itself out. In the meantime, I sleep soundly.

Let me know in the comments when you plot, if you are a plotter. If you’re a pantser, what do you think about while running and falling asleep?

Photo credit: Ryan McGuire via PixaBay