Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Preparations Proceeding Apace

Do I get alliterative when I get antsy? It seems that I might.

Last night's big contribution was a realization that my antagonist wasn't a good fit for the story I'm working on. As I tried to picture how he fit into the plot, he kept raising more questions that had to be answered. Eventually I realized that what I was really working on there was an entirely different story. When I came to that realization, I came up with a new character to serve as my antagonist - one who serves the needs of this story very well.

Tonight, I believe, I finalized the details for his own history and place in the world. I've given him a name, and a story all his own. In turn, the pieces of my rough plotting outline started to fall into place. I think I've got my key moments picked out, and I'm quite happy with the psychological dynamic between my protagonists and my antagonist.

So, if everything's going so well... why am I feeling a little anxious? I'm drawing closer and closer to the part of this project that, well I guess it scares me a little.

I'm very comfortable working with the discrete elements of a story. They're simple, and they're only scraps of narrative surrounded by notes hurriedly scratched out. They don't interact with one another, and they don't provide a narrative.

I'm not precisely sure why the prospect of sitting down and starting to actually write my story seems to scare me. I've got a few notions that I'm sure contribute to it. I'm concerned about how to pace a story, and worried that I'll move too quickly through it. I'm afraid that, in an attempt to avoid making that mistake, I'll draw everything out and describe every object and location in my story to a horrifying level of detail. And, of course, my own insecurities about the quality of my writing no doubt play a part.

I think that the medication I've been taking these past several weeks has definitely helped me focus in on a single story idea, and I think I've developed this one almost to the point that I should start writing it. Too bad I don't think it's going to help me with my anxieties. Those are mine to deal with.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Returning to Work

I let myself slack off last night, and I'm feeling a little guilty about it. It made it that much more difficult to start working again tonight. But that time off may have helped shake something up in my head.

In an attempt to kick-start my writing (or in this early stage, it's still planning) I'll usually just open Word and start free-writing. I saw something about this when an author detailed their writing process - they'll just start free-writing about anything (why they're having trouble writing, etc) until whatever part of their brain is being difficult realizes that they're going to be writing one way or the other.

As I was doing this free-writing, my thoughts (and my writing) drifted to my antagonist, and what I was thinking about doing with him. I started thinking about the culture this character came from, and suddenly realized that his story didn't work terribly well with the story as a whole. He could still work perfectly well as a valid threat to be confronted, but he didn't add anything extra - and for this character, I'd really rather tell his story that shoehorn him where he doesn't work quite as well.

And almost instantly, I realized what I needed for an antagonist. I'm unsure if I should put the details here in the blog, but the idea I had basically reflects my protagonists in a way that I think adds deeper levels to the story I'm trying to tell. The new antagonist I'm building - I don't know his specifics, but I think I'm already in his head. I can understand why he's doing what he's doing - and why he's doomed to keep doing it. He's under pressure to validate himself... to 'show them all'. I'm excited about the idea, but I still need a couple details before I can start building him and refining my plot. I've been researching, trying to find the spark that'll fill in these last blanks for me, but I don't have anything yet. I'll sleep on it, and see if that provides any illumination.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Night Off (Mostly)

Tonight, I largely excused myself from writing. Over the past week and a half, my primary goal has been to do some work consistently - and that's a goal I've succeeded in thus far. While I've had nights where I clearly got less work done than on others, and no night has resulted in massive progress, I've worked consistently towards a single project.

Tomorrow, we'll be going out of town to see Hilary's parents. It's going to involve a disruption of my nocturnal lifestyle, but for a good reason. I'm not sure how much work I might get done, so I'm going to try to set this weekend (and possibly next weekend, when we plan to see my family) aside for the purpose of thinking/day-dreaming about what I've got thus far. (The notion being that without sitting down to work, I might come up with some good ideas.)

Tonight, however, I did talk to Hilary about my antagonist and one of the big questions I was having about my plot. She was an immense help - pointing out something that I should have seen. So there was still progress made.

This will probably be my last post until Monday morning, so Happy Holidays and Seasons Greetings to anybody out there!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

An Odd Night to Categorize

Tonight was odd.

On the one hand, I feel like I let myself slack off tonight. I didn't work on my writing quite as much as I'd hoped. I spent more of my evening reading forums, and even reading a few comics. So I'm hesitant to say I made a lot of progress, because I don't think that I did.

But I did help to refine some of the elements of my plot, and perhaps more importantly I think I identified a few questions I have to answer in order for my plot to hold up.

So I'm going to need to greater categorize how much progress I make in a night. Does anybody have any suggestions for labels? I'm not feeling incredibly imaginative at this point of my morning.

Also, a bit of a note. Over the next couple weeks, I'm going to be doing some traveling and I'm not sure how internet access will actually work out. While I'm on the road, I may just declare those days to think about my story and jot down ideas as they occur to me. But I wouldn't count on blog updates on the days surrounding Christmas and New Year's Day. They're not completely out of the question, but they're far from certain.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Moving On To An Antagonist

Tonight I finished my initial stab at charting out what my main characters think of one another. It's certainly subject to change as things progress and I start to get a better handle on the character's voice in my head.

But as I thought about plotting, I came to realize that the biggest reason my plotting was so vague (and my third act nonexistent) was that I still hadn't sat down to think about who my antagonist is going to be, and what he's trying to do. From my own personal tastes, I don't want to write a one-dimensional hand-wringing villain. I'd much rather have a character who believes he's doing something necessary, but his actions place the conflict into the story.

I was mining the back-story I'd written for my characters in an effort to find a villain there. I'd come up with a possibility, but I felt that it weighed the story too heavily in the direction of one of my characters - one who doesn't lend himself to being very likable. I asked my friend Caine to look at what I was thinking, and he agreed that it could work. I still felt it was going to need some work, but while I was thinking about it, Caine offered to share another idea in case I was still looking for characters. I'm always eager to hear others' ideas - even if they don't fit with what I'm trying to do, they usually send my thinking in an unexpected direction. It was just such a mental ricochet that helped provide me with a strong candidate for my antagonist. I know who he is, what he's trying to do, why, and why he's making his move now.

I know sometimes I get paranoid about taking others' ideas, and worried that I'm not doing my work myself. But when I'm feeling less neurotic, it's a great thing to have someone you can bounce ideas off of. He sent me an e-mail a little later with something he wasn't sure was working and it sounds like I might've been able to help return the favor some. He's working on a project as well, and when it's ready I'll talk about it here (and elsewhere). From what I've seen, it's something I really want to read more of.

I didn't fully flesh out my antagonist though. I want to leave that to start with tomorrow. I really like the idea, so I'm hoping that'll help me build momentum early during my next shift at work. I feel like I made some decent progress tonight and I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Character Charting

Tonight I spent my working time thinking about my characters as a group. I spent a little time in Google Wave updating their entries by listing off some attributes or facts about several of them that I want to keep in mind going forward.

I also sat down with a blank sheet of paper (okay, it's the back of a take-out menu) and set about charting what my main protagonists think of one another. The idea here, is so that I'm establishing how they interact with one another. This should help me 'hear' them more clearly, so I don't find myself wondering "How would this character react to what THAT one just said?". I've got some dynamics going on - pity, respect, jealousy... I think it all feels pretty good. I'm not done with my chart yet, but I've gotten a lot down.

I really like a couple of my characters. Part of me would really like to spend more time on one of them. (One of the characters my friend Caine helped get me rolling with. I wonder if he can tell which one, just from reading the threads on Wave.) I think that character has a lot of room for storytelling, and I wouldn't be surprised to see more elements of their story show up by the time I'm done.

Tomorrow night, I need to see if I can put in a bit more character work, and then some more thinking about plotting. My third act is still almost a complete mystery to me.

I definitely got some work done, so I'll still tag this as 'progress' but I think I was slacking off a little more than I'm happy with. I'm not sure if that's motivation, or other factors. I'm hoping to do better tomorrow, though.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Protagonists - Completed

With more gracious help from my friend Caine, I believe I've decided on all of my protagonists. Part of me feels a little guilty for taking the help - as though I think I'm somehow cheating by talking to a friend, and taking the great ideas he gives me. I think I put my own twist on them.

But with all of my protagonists decided upon, tomorrow I'm going to start working on charting the dynamics of the group - what does everyone think about everyone else. Who wants to spur them into action, and who thinks that interfering in things is a mistake.

I'll probably also revisit my plotting. I think that these character ideas have given me ideas that could very well influence the shape of the story. This is possibly the most exciting part for me thus far. The thing I enjoyed the most in writing the comic book scripts I've done was finding ways to connect my story into a larger universe. Making connections between things that might not seem related at first glance is something that I find really fun.

Going forward, I need to try to remember to give myself something fun to start on for the next session. Something I read tonight is sticking with me. To paraphrase, if you have trouble starting from a clean sheet, then leave the work in the middle of a scene. I think it's supposed to give you a place to jump back in (and ideally a place you're eager to jump back in). My planned work for tomorrow is stuff I think I'll be itching to start with.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My First Week's Progress

I sat down to start a little earlier than the past couple of nights. And with the help of a friend (Thanks, Caine!) I think I've possibly gotten my best character yet. I stink at sports metaphors, but he tossed me a great seed for an idea like a gentle pitch straight over the plate. I may like what I got from it, but whatever I made of it started with his suggestion.

I'm calling it tonight after creating one character, but I think I've found a few things out about my writing process. I've seen it suggested elsewhere, but I try to get my brain going by just 'automatic writing' to get my fingers and thoughts going. I honestly believe that helps. Music choice also seems to matter. I've tried listening to playlists of music that I like. I've tried listening to Christmas music. But I think I've had my best results from listening to Enya. The fact that a large number of her lyrics are in Gaelic and Latin (two languages I don't understand) probably helps.

I've been writing this journal for a week now. While I've had a couple nights where I had trouble getting the ball rolling, I think I've managed to put most of my protagonists together. I think I need one more, and then I can start charting out the group's dynamics - I'm really looking forward to that part. I still need to detail antagonists and other important characters, but writing the backgrounds for the characters I've already selected has given me thoughts on some of those already. It's nice when the work you've DONE helps you with the work you've got to do.

Spirits and motivation are both still pretty high. I've worked consistently on one project for a week now, as I get my ideas organized. This week at my night-job, I should have lots of time to play with. The tenants should be home for Christmas, leaving me with a lot of night to fill. Next week, I'll try to have a more formal recap.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Limited Progress

Once again, I didn't get started until later in the evening. I've had a couple notions that might help in regards to making the plotting more specific. I feel like I ought to set up two more characters for my group of protagonists.

But things aren't coming well. I've tried getting up briefly, but I'm still not feeling anything coming tonight. I'll et myself off a little easy tonight, and just try to see what occurs to me. Is it better to just try to force this sort of thing, or let it come on it's own? I'd imagine that the answer differs from writer to writer.

I don't feel like I can tag this post with 'progress' tonight, though.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Late Start But Not a Lost Night

As I almost expected, I didn't start writing tonight until late - however, write I did. Hilary and I played Lord of the Rings Online until nearly 2am, when I popped out to Wal-Mart to do a little grocery shopping. (Trust me, it's the best time to do it.)

But I sat down at about 3:30am, and began to work. As I've seen suggested elsewhere, I started with some free writing to get my brain moving. I wrote about what I wanted to try to write. Before long, I hit on a few ideas that coalesced into the character I think I was trying to create. He came together pretty quickly once I started writing.

That left me trying to come up with another character concept. I allowed myself some access to the outside world via Twitter and the web while I thought about what I wanted. A little more brainstorming resulted in yet another character that I'm pretty happy with. (Well, at least happy with for the moment.)

It's now about 5:30am. I've got somewhere to be at 3pm, so I'll draw the line here for now. This was possibly my most productive night yet though. It certainly felt a bit easier. I'm not sure if that's because I was writing from home (where I can control the music I hear, and I'm much less likely to be interrupted) or if it's due to other factors. Either way, a good night.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

More Character Creation

Tonight was almost as productive as last night. I had some forces working against me, though, in the form of interruptions that almost seemed strategically planned. Around 4am, I was ready to throw in the towel for the night, but as I stood to walk my last patrol of the morning I had some inspiration for more character concepts. I need to remember to stand up and walk around more often.

I did also get a first stab at another character's backstory written out. It came out to be a bit of a downer though, for a story I want to try to keep lighthearted. I'll have to sleep on what I've got, and solicit some feedback.

Tomorrow night will be a big test, though, since I'll be off work. I need to resist the temptation to play video games all night in order to hammer out a few hours of writing (at least).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Second Night - Progress Is Made

Tonight I got my first bits of tangible work tonight. Yesterday morning, I settled on a concept to work with. The main reasons I picked the specific concept were that it seemed like something that would be fun to work on, something that I had a feeling for how the plot would proceed, and most importantly that it wasn't something I'd have to research. (I'm concerned that if I wander too far off the beaten path, research might become procrastination.)

Tonight, I sat down and started outlining my plot. I tend to think in terms of a three-act structure, so that's what comes to me most naturally. And while I think I have a basic understanding for the plot, there's still room to add twists as they occur to me. I jotted down what I thought would happen in the first two acts, but the third one is largely open thus far.

This concept also had several characters attached. I began writing the history, and determining the capabilities of one of my protagonists. I had an idea of who he was, but as I wrote, things seemed to continue falling into place leading me to understand not just who he is, but where he came from, and some of the challenges he's facing. I've got a name for him too, which is usually one of my sorest of spots.

I got as far as naming a second character before calling it a night. I'm not sure if I've got two hours of straight progress, but it felt good.

As I build the story elements this way, though, I need to try to figure out what format this story's going to take. I'd originally envisioned it as a comic book. I still think it would work well in that form, but with this project, one of my primary goals is to avoid giving myself a reason to stop working. (Such a reason might be the fact that I don't have any artistic skill myself, and that's something you need in a graphic format.) I think that I'm not going to concern myself with format, and write this story in short-story or novel format, depending on how long it feels. If it goes well, I can always adapt it back into a comic book script, after all.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rough Night

I'm not sure how much progress, if any, I made tonight because none of it was tangible. I'm trying to decide what I want to write, and how developed my ideas are. I think I've settled on an idea I've discussed with a friend. It's a fun idea, and while I think I have a general overview of the plot, there's still room to play with it.

Hopefully tomorrow will yield better results.

Word Count: 0

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I've always had problems with maintaining focus on things. It's been apparent from a young age, and it's cost me at least one good job. While my current employment may not offer the benefits and pay that my old job did, it does at least offer me free time in the middle of the night.

I've always loved stories in just about any medium. I enjoy television, movies, books, audio-dramas and video games. But it's not taking in stories that I like. I've made up stories in my head for almost as long as I can remember. Over the past couple of years, I've thought that I might enjoy writing. I've written a couple of comic book scripts for a friend, and tried to begin writing things of my own. What I've found is that my problems focusing on things were impacting me here as well.

I've taken steps that should hopefully address these problems and started this journal to document my attempts to write. I'm planning to try to write each night, and record my progress here. Hopefully it'll show that I'm able to stick with my ideas, and make better progress over time.

It's time to begin.