Saturday, January 30, 2010

Writing Exercise - Movies Between 10 and 15

Tonight I'm writing from my parents' house on Hilton Head Island. We came down for a visit, and apparently Columbia was drenched with freezing rain, making the drive home less than optimal. We're staying overnight, and driving back tomorrow.

But am I going to let that stop me from writing? Not if I can help it. Here's tonight's writing exercise courtesy of C.M. Mayo's website.

January 30 "Movies Between 10 and 15"
In a 1974 interview with Gerald Clarke for The Paris Review, Gore Vidal said, "Every writer of my generation has been influenced by films.... Find out the movies a man saw between ten and fifteen, which ones he liked, disliked, and you would have a pretty good idea of what sort of mind and temperment he has." Either for yourself, or for one of your characters, list the movies you (he / she) can recall having seen between ten and fifteen.
(Is this bananas? Or is there some nugget of something to this?)

Here we go:

Predator, Aliens, Big Trouble in Little China, Overboard, Return of the Jedi, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, UHF, The Princess Bride, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Dances With Wolves, Top Gun, Total Recall, The Running Man, The Dream Team, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Ghostbusters 2, Beetlejuice, Batman, The Wraith, The Naked Gun, Three Men And A Baby

And, time:

I definitely think that there's something to this. Several of these movies have stayed with me, and I'm sure they will stay with me for all my life. It's a little more of a memory exercise, but I think it bears thinking about.

I'm going to try to make some headway writing tonight. I'm not in my usual writing habitat, but I'll see what I can do.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Act Two Takes Shape

I think I have a more specific idea of how this second act is going to progress. I had some of the story-beats I wanted to hit worked out, but now I think I've got a better idea of how I'm going to get there.

This part of the project is going to test Erin's resolve. I told Hilary roughly how I think things are going to go, and I'm not sure she liked it. I don't think it's because she dislikes the story, though, I just don't think she wants Erin to be taxed the way I think she needs to be.

This story's moved away from my original vision, but it also hasn't. The seed, the idea that the whole thing leapt forth from is still there, but the focus on Erin is making it more about her and less about the other characters. I think it's fitting, since as soon as I finished writing my first draft of her 'bio', I said that I could write so much about her. This really feels like the story of how she really comes into her own, and that does tend to mean some hardships coming.

I tried to reassure Hilary that Erin would not only overcome her trials, but that she'd be made stronger by them. Or at least that I thought she would. That didn't quite reassure her, though I think it gives me a bit more confidence early on into this stage.

As a question for anyone reading, at what point do you officially call a story or writing project a book? I'm into my 40th typed page in Word. (Single-spaced, formatted for a typical sheet of paper.) I was wondering that as I typed this.

Here's this morning's word count:

Tonight's Word Count: 834

Total Word Count: 19,236

20,000 words is on the horizon, and it doesn't feel like it's taken long at all to reach it. Outstanding. I'm not sure if I'll be writing the next couple of nights, though. We're making another attempt to go visit my parents tomorrow evening, and returning Saturday night. I'll take the laptop for opportunistic writing, though.

Writing Exercise - The Five Dollar Bill

And here's tonight's writing exercise (courtesy of C.M. Mayo's website):

January 29 "The Five Dollar Bill"
A five dollar bill changes hands five times in one day. Make a list of where, when, who hands it over, and for what. For example:
~Where: Starbucks, New Jersey Turnpike
~When: 7:30 am;
~Who: Bob, a truck driver;
~What: a cup of coffee (black) and a bean burrito.
If you can complete this exercise in less than five minutes, go back and add more detail to describe the places and the people.

Starting now:

Where: McDonalds off a nearby interstate
When: 5am
Who: Jim, road-tripping back to see his parents after a 3 year absence
What: 2 Sausage Biscuits and a large coffee

Where: Mcdonalds off a nearby interstate
When: 6:17 am
Who: Sam, the McDonalds clerk working the drive-through register
What: Payback - angry at his boss for yelling at him, he takes the money from the register and pockets it.

Where: Corner of Senate and Park St.
When: 2:28 pm
Who: Millins, the dealer Steve buys pot from
What: Part of the payment for some 'comfort' for the weekend.

Where: Movie Theater
When: 5:15pm
Who: Rachel, the clerk at the ticket office
What: A ticket to see a movie with his girlfriend

And... time.

I thought I knew what the last stage was going to be - but on reflection, Rachel would've needed a reason to be taking money from her register, and I've already had one person steal the bill already. Five minutes went by kindof fast on this one.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What's In A Name?

I can't speak for anybody else, but one of the hardest things for me to do is to come up with a name for someone or something.

And it can completely stop me in my tracks. Tonight, I sat in front of MS Word for a good 45 minutes to an hour because I needed to come up with a few names for active superheroes in the city my story is set in. I had nothing, so I let myself waste a little time - check Facebook, catch up on some of my feeds on Google Reader.

I've gotten better, and once I'm warmed up, the name thing doesn't intimidate me so much anymore. Once I'd built up a head of steam, I deduced Achilles' name rather easily - Alec Keller. But here, I wanted a few superhero names to toss out at Floyd's at the beginning of this chapter, and it had me stopped cold. Eventually, I figured one out, and dug out two more that I'd mentioned earlier and it worked. Do you have anything like that? Anything that can paralyze you for an hour or longer?

Tonight's writing was pretty good for Erin, though. Too bad that in the coming nights, she's going to face a lot of demoralization from several quarters. I'll let her live it up for tonight, though, and call it.

Here's the word count:

Tonight's Word Count: 847

Total Word Count: 18,402

Writing Exercise - Purple Things

Tonight's exercise from C. M. Mayo's website is another listing exercise, and I'm not entirely sure what to make of it:

January 28 "Purple Things"
What things are purple? Make a list

But I'll give it a go.

Eggplants, pants, bad suits, shirts, ties, flowers, aliens, eyes, beams of cosmic energy, Galactus, handkerchiefs, the sky (through a red lens), bruises, prose, crayons, magic markers, paints, computer screens, bubble gum, jewels, jello (if something went wrong), cars, trucks, Barney the Dinosaur, blueberries, colored ink, stained glass, dye, dice, pictures, shirts, cups, plates, houses (if the resident is color-blind, maybe), candy

And time.

Well, truth be told, I didn't come up with anything new for the last 30 seconds of that five minute period, and I feel like I was really reaching for some of it. (Though I'd imagine that the 'reaching' was the focus of the exercise.) I wasn't so much thinking what is purple, but what could be purple. At least, that's the direction I went.

Time to settle down now, and try to get some writing done.

Act One - Completed

Well, at least for my first draft. I know I'm going to have to revisit it - especially the first week and a half, or so. But my story is taking shape. And while the past week or so provided me with the comfortable sensation of having a better idea of how that part of my story was going to work, I now find myself preparing to start on Act Two. Once again, I've got a general idea of where I'm starting from, where I'm going to, and a few of the events - but the immediate future is clouded.

I'm both excited and nervous. I think I was a little more confident as the story beat I was heading for grew closer. Now it's out of my sight again, though I know roughly what direction to head out in. I'll be fine, I'm sure, it'll just be a matter of getting started next time I sit down to write.

This next chapter's going to introduce this world's more prominent superheroes. Erin and her friends are thinking they might be out of their depth, and it's time to look for some help. This is going to be challenging for another reason - I only know who one of those characters is, and only in the sense of a one-sentence summary. (That'd be Achilles, referenced in Erin's trip to the dentist on this blog.) A couple months ago, that'd paralyze me until I did some pre-writing on each of them. Now... I think I'm more ready to just roll up my sleeves, and see what I come out with. Though it's going to mean re-reading what I have, and writing down the names of any superheroes I've already referenced. (If anybody wants to do that for me, please let me know? I'm not sure if I'm ready to actually read my own material yet.)

My next writing session will be from the writing room back home, with a lot fewer interruptions. But I don't think I've got anything to complain about tonight. Here's the word count:

Tonight's Word Count: 1,564

Total Word Count: 17,555

And it's a record-breaking night. Not only did I exceed my best nightly word-count, but I polished off my first act. That might call for a reward.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Writing Exercise - Flying A Kite

Another day, another writing exercise from C. M. Mayo's website. Here's today:

January 27 "Flying a Kite"
Describe a person flying a kite

And start:

He bent over and picked the plastic form off the ground. What's the matter with this thing, he thought. Turning it over in his hands, he looked it over. The frame still looks good, and I don't see any tears. Why won't it fly?

He turned and felt the wind whip through his hair, carrying the salty air past his face. The beach was empty. He'd seen a jogger about twenty minutes ago, and nobody since. The sun was barely over the horizon. I can't believe I'm having this much trouble with a kite. He held it firmly into the wind, and felt the breeze trying to wrench it from his grip. Alright... let's give this one more go.

With an upward toss, he released the kite and stepped quickly back. It struggled to navigate the currents of air buffeting it. He tugged on the string, pulling it into a better angle to catch the wind, and gasped involuntarily as it took flight. He slowly fed out the string, watching it rise higher and higher in the early morning air. He stopped feeling the chill air, and stopped noticing the wind as it rose.

And, time.

It's been a long time since I've tried to fly a kite, so the mechanics escape me. ;) I'm trying to do a little better about injecting my characters' voice into bits that don't have any dialog, so I'm trying to work that in where I can.

I haven't started writing yet tonight. Apparently the University of South Carolina won a basketball game tonight, so things are a little busy for 2am on a Wednesday morning. I'll be getting to work on that presently, though.

On The Verge Of A Climax

Get your mind out of the gutter, I'm on the very edge of the first act climax to my writing project.

I was in the middle of a detailed post about what I wanted to do for the climax. I was talking a bit about the narrative technique I wanted to employ for the way I've pictured this scene playing out - but I realized that not only was I spoiling my story before anybody had read it, I was spoiling it before I'd even written it. I think that it'd be better for a reader to judge the dramatic affect by reading it before they know it's coming.

So I've shelved that post. I'll go back to it after I've written it, and one or two folks have read it. I'm lucky in that I've got friends like Caine who are willing to give my first draft a look, while I'm writing it. He's already given me some feedback that I'm trying to work in as I work my way forward. I've made a conscious decision not to go back and apply it to the early parts of the story until I've completed the first draft. I'd be willing to take on a couple other 'Alpha' readers if there's any interest.

I think I'm going to stop writing for the night, though. I've still got some time to work with, but I want to sleep on this scene and give my subconscious a chance to weigh in on it. I've still gotten over a thousand words written, so it's not like I'm slacking. Here's tonight's word count to prove it!

Tonight's Word Count: 1,102

Total Word Count: 15,991

Almost a third the length of a NaNo entry. Not bad, though I'm taking a more relaxed pace. I'm definitely going to have to take another stab at NaNoWriMo this year.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Writing Exercise - Dream Solution

Since I don't have a convenient excuse to avoid doing the writing exercise on C. M. Mayo's site tonight (other than I'm probably going to seriously time out) I'm going to have a go at another one.

January 26 "Dream Solution"
Your character has a nightmare. But in the middle of it, he or she creatively solves the problem. For example, Ted dreams that he is being backed to the edge of a cliff by someone coming at him with a saber. All of a sudden, Ted realizes that the saber is made out of the same tin foil his wife used to wrap up the peanut butter cookie dough for the freezer, and so, he sits down and starts playing the kazoo. Hey, have fun! What is your character's nightmare, and what is his or her "dream solution"? List as many as you can think of in 5 minutes.

My concern here, is that I'm not sure what my characters' nightmares are, much less how they resolve them. But I'll give it a go.

And... start:

Erin gasped as she stared at the sky. Women were falling from the heavens. "That's not it", she thought to herself. "It's the same woman. Hundreds, thousands of the same woman are falling from the sky throughout the city." Without thinking, she leapt from the precipice she stood on, and caught one of them, but just a few feet to the side was another. And another next to her. And more, and more.

She caught movement out of the corner of her eye, and Erin turned to look. The woman next to her had been caught by... well, by Erin. Across the city, Erin dived from rooftops and billboards. She swung in on grappling lines, catching the multitude of the single falling woman. Each and every one.

There's one character down. After reading it, I'm not sure if I was as clear as I'd have liked. Erin's nightmare is a falling woman, one that she didn't save. So her nightmare is an impossible task - the same woman falling a thousand times at once. But the solution is that an army of her, one of her for every falling woman appears. I think it means that she has to understand that one person can only do so much, and to trust herself and others more.

John looked down at himself was disgust. The filthy flesh that comprised his body was decaying before his eyes. It was putrid and rank, covered in open sores and crawling with insects. But he couldn't help trying to pick a it. Removing a large chunk, he found cool, steel underneath.
And... time.

And there's another one, though I'm not sure I had a chance to do justice to him in the time I had left. John (or J.O.H.N.) is me playing around with another type of character from science fiction and comics - the robot that wants to be human. John managed to achieve his wish, but it was the worst thing that ever happened to him. The decay and putrefaction he sees is his own self-loathing for what he's become. But underneath it all, he's still the same being he was.

I think I surprised myself with that one. I was expecting to have a hard time with it, but once I thought about what my characters' nightmares were, I came up with dreamlike solutions a lot more quickly than I thought.

Act One

I think I'm drawing to a close in my first act.

To keep things simple, I tried to plot my project according to the three-act structure so that I could get a grasp on what shape the story was going to take. I think I see the light at the end of the first act now.

I'm not sure where my story is geographically, though. I keep referring to 'the city' because I'm too cowardly to either make up a city, or pick one. I'm going to need to do that in my second draft, though. The city I'm making, though, I feel like I added a pretty colorful locale to. Floyd's Diner is a 24-hour greasy spoon that's particularly popular with the cape and mask crowd. (Or at least, with those on the right side of the law.) There aren't many places to grab lunch at 3:30 in the morning, and so Floyd's got the occasional bit of 'to go' business with the city's heroes who aren't too busy to break for lunch. It just came to me, and I like it. If I get the chance to tell more stories with these characters, I expect Floyd's to appear again.

I didn't do tonight's writing exercise. It involved adapting a few lines from elsewhere, and adapting them for lines of your own. It sounds like the type of exercise that helps you get a feel for the flow of your words. I just didn't have it in me to find a bit of rhythmic text that grabbed me.

But I did get some writing done. Here's the word count:

Tonight's Word Count: 896

Total Word Count: 14,889

In my next shift, I expect to break 15,000 words - all of which will have been written since the New Year. A month ago, I hadn't taken any of my ideas past pre-writing notes and now I'm almost 15,000 words in. It's exciting. I'm looking forward to getting back to it.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Morning Writing

I took a break after my writing exercise below to do a little housework and relax some. I sat back down a little while ago to try to get to work on a scene between Erin and her former mentor Achilles. He's the man who saw her, and was so impressed that he trained her as his sidekick. But the past couple years have changed things between them. Erin's left the superhero life behind her, and Achilles' presence alone is enough to make her uncomfortable.

I wanted this scene to really work, so I asked Hil to read what I had down, and bounced some ideas off of her. She had some helpful feedback, and I think she helped set me on the right path. At the very least, the scene finished writing itself.

Now I'm changing locations to Floyd's Diner. It's a 24-hour greasy spoon, that's frequented by the cape-and-mask crowd from time to time. (Or at least, those on the right side of the law.) As a consequence, Floyd's is probably the safest eatery in the city after dark. Most of the time, they pick up their food via the rear door and run, but occasionally they have a seat at the counter next to anybody else who's looking for a hamburger at 3:30am. They're harder to find than you might think.

Here's tonight's word count:

Tonight's Word Count: 705

Total Word Count: 13,993

Writing Exercise - Your Character Visits The Dentist

Tonight, I'm warming up with another exercise courtesy of C. M. Mayo. Here's tonight's appetizer:

January 24 "Your Character Visits the Dentist"
Your character visits the dentist. Write the scene

Let's get started.

Erin stared up at the institutional ceiling and tried to relax. The chemicals she'd been given by Achilles helped to negate the effects of the sedatives, and she was attempting to lie still and calm. The fluorescent lighting gave an unnatural palor to the room. She hated going to the dentist to begin with, but this one was something else.

Quietly, she heard the door behind her open and soft footfalls moving about the room. "Is she ready?" a man's voice asked in hushed tones. She heard a drawer open, and saw a shadow out of the corner of her eye.

With no prelude, she whipped her foot up, catching the dentist square on the side of the head and sending him reeling. She spun her body around, leaping to her feet. "You thought we wouldn't notice you'd come back to town, Dr. Decay?" A crash from the direction of the waiting room signaled that Achilles had also made his entrance. "Or did you think we wouldn't notice you trying your games as a dentist instead of a doctor? Time to throw a little chaos into your plans."

And scene.

Erin's the main character from my current project, a story regarding a group of former superheroes. This is an 'untold tale' of her life as a sidekick to the costumed her known as 'Achilles'. They both play important roles in my project, and I thought that it would be fun to portray the dentist as a super-villain. After all, who hasn't wanted to kick their dentist in the head? :)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Writing Exercise - Your Publishing Firm

Another writing exercise with kind thanks to C. M. Mayo and her website.

January 23 "Your Publishing Firm"
Assume that you have both endless hours in every day and endless pots of money. Therefore, you could, with the snap of your fingers and no worries, start your own publishing firm. What would you call it? What sort of books would you publish? What sort of image would you project? What would your office look like? What kind of "culture" would your firm have? What sort of people would you have work for you? Who might be your customers? (By the way, you can also try this exercise for one of your characters.)

Here we go:

Here at Quirk Publishing, there's one rule that needs to be remembered - Jason gets final say. Mainstream political and military thrillers are a dime a dozen. So are biographies, franchise science fiction and fantasy. Don't even get us started on Young Adult stuff. Jason's tried to make a home here for things that other publishers wouldn't bat an eye at. If it tickles his fancy, you've made it. You may have to edit it a time or three, but you will be published.

We find that this takes a lot of pressure off the author, which helps them to produce better work. Of course, many writers have a lot of interesting quirks themselves, so along with editors we have licensed and certified counselors to help talk the writers down from their ledges... both literal and metaphorical.

Culture around the office... it's chaotic, but fun. The odds are that you can find a project that interests you. Fiction, histories, the odd biography... they're all here. We even have a small comic book publishing arm. That's Jason's personal pet-project. He vets all the artists and writers for that one himself. It's not big enough to catch the eye of the big comics distributor... yet. But he's worked out a deal with our book distribution to get those out there.

And done.

That one was pretty fun. It felt like a reflection of my personality, at any rate. (Though 'Quirk' might understate things a little in my case.) My tastes in everything are so across the board it's hard for me to keep up sometimes. The one thread that binds them together reliably is the fact that I tend to prefer things that tend to skew away from the mainstream. (Though I do have to confess a love of cop dramas. It seems like I'll watch anything with 'Law & Order' in the title. And Castle is probably my favorite show airing right now.)

I'm not going to do any story-work tonight. I've put down this writing exercise, and that'll have to be enough for now. I'm going to relax a bit more before bed. I return to work tonight, so I want to make the most of what I've got left.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Light Night

Tonight, I'm working on a scene where my main protagonist, Erin, is facing her father-figure for the first time in a couple years. He bailed her out of some trouble last time they saw each other, and she's been too ashamed to face him since. He means well in this encounter, but she's immediately defensive and takes everything the wrong way.

So, this is an important scene, to me. I want to try to show the truth of their relationship instead of explicitly stating it. (Hey, it's been years since I've tried to write almost anything before starting this project.) But because I think this scene is important, progress was slow. I'd still be working on it, but I'm getting tired and I want it to be right.

I want to try talking a little more about what I'm actually writing here. I know it'll be more interesting to read, but I'm still a little unsure about how much to share, and how much to hold back. Any feedback on the subject is certainly welcome.

Here's tonight's word count:

Tonight's Word Count: 497

Total Word Count: 13,288

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Writing Exercise - Magical Furniture

Again, thanks to C. M. Mayo for providing a list of writing exercises. Here's today's:

January 22 "Magical Furniture"
This is a little exercise in magical realism. With realistic detail, write a scene in which your character has a conversation with a piece of furniture. Assume that the person and the piece of furiture disagree about something.

And, here we go :

Jason casually placed his laptop on the tabletop. But as he opened it, and prepared to sit a voice seemingly from nowhere spoke out.

"Hey! What the heck are you doing?"

His eyes scanned the room. He was alone, except for the boxes that had been here since he moved into the house. Odds and ends that had never found their proper place, and were exiled for their lack of usefulness to this room that he was now trying to find a use for.

"Don't you think I've got enough crap on me already?" the voice continued. "You really think I need more?"

"Excuse me," Jason replied. "Am I actually speaking to my table?"

"Oh, now he's polite? He piles stuff up on me for years, and now bothers with 'excuse me'? That's rich. Yes, as it so happens, you are talking to your table."

Jason's brow furrowed. "Sorry, I didn't think my furniture could talk."

"Did you ever bother to ask it?" the table replied sharply. "I know I've had a few words for you for years now, but I've held my piece. But this... this is the last straw. Some of this stuff needs to go."

"Well, I'd have done something ages ago if you'd told me it was a problem!" he protested.

And... time.

I think this ran a bit more smoothly than the listing exercises I did for the past two days. Of course, the subject is the load of junk I've had this poor table weighed down with for years. It feels good to turn this room into useful space. I hope it appreciates it as well. ;)

Breaking In The Writing Room

As the title of this post suggests, tonight I did my writing from within the spartan 'comfort' of my writing room.

Now, that doesn't mean I'm done in here by any stretch. The floor definitely needs a good mopping (if not an outright scrubbing.) There are still a few boxes that need to find themselves stored elsewhere, and some other detritus on the table that's serving as a desk. But I thought I'd progressed far enough that I could try to start using it for it's appointed purpose - and on that score, it's a success. I pulled one of our dining-room chairs to use until I can get something more suitable, plugged in the laptop and got started.

Granted, I got a later start than I would've liked. I tried to sit down, but I felt like I was forcing things. I took an hour's break and made some decent headway. How decent? That depends. I've been trying to write 700-1200 words a night. But my friend Caine e-mailed me a link to this blog. The basic premise of the link states that writing 500 words a day is a goal to shoot for. After all, 500 words times 365 days is over 100,000 words written in a year, which according to the blog is about the upper limit for a 'publishable' novel. But why that suggestion? Is it to keep you from burning out? Is it to try to show that a small amount of progress every day over a year can add up to a novel? I think I'm ahead of that curve on average, and I'm pretty comfortable with my output. I'm just curious, if anybody knows.

Tonight I wrote a bit over 700 words. Yesterday I might've been a little dissatisfied with that amount. But in light of Caine's e-mail, I think I'm going to try to view it a little more positively. I want to see how much I can do, but I do sometimes need to remember to keep a more positive outlook.

I left my story at a point that I think I should be pretty eager to pick back up later. So hopefully tomorrow will be a very fruitful night. For now, I think I'm going to see about taking care of some last loose ends about the house before going to bed.

Word Count:

Tonight's Word Count: 746

Total Word Count: 12,791

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Writing Exercise - Filmy Fluttery

January 21 "Filmy Fluttery"
Dreaming by the Book, a path-breaking analysis of how novelists instruct us to form images in our minds as we read, Elaine Scarry devotes an entire chapter to "rarity". I call it "filmy fluttery." Writes Scarry, "rare objects--- ghosts, filmy curtains, shadows-- move more easily than solid ones do... Filmy objects--- hair, paper, light cloth, flower petals, butterflies (petals in motion)--- continually move about in the mind almost without effort." The exercise is this: In a typical café, what might be filmy or fluttery? Simply make a list of as many objects as you can, and very briefly describe the way in which these might move.

So here we go.

  • Curtains - The curtains billowed like smoke in the breeze.
  • Napkins - A sudden gust of wind from the open window inspired the napkins on the table to take flight, lifting them up into the air before watching them glide back down on their own.
  • Tablecloth - The light breeze carried the edges of the lacy tablecloth aloft with it, held aloft on nothing more than the slightest breath of air.
  • Wind Chimes - The movement of air in the cafe, created by the door set the wind chimes in motion like a flurry of butterflies, creating a chaotic but beautiful melody.

And that's five minutes. I don't spend enough time in cafes I guess. But I can definitely see the value in thinking about it, and visualizing a more complete setting. I'm not quite used to hitting the ground running in regards to writing - that's one of the reasons I'm pursuing these exercises.

I'm about to start working for the night now. So I'll post back later.

My First Setback

About half an hour, my laptop ran into a Blue Screen Of Death, wiping out a fair chunk of progress. Save early, save often, right?

Part of me wanted to just shut down, and entertain myself for the remainder of the shift. I resisted the urge, though. I still remembered the basics of what was lost, if not all of the exact verbiage so I went about trying to replace it lest I forget.

I started writing a little earlier tonight, which is what I need to do. And while I may not have as many words saved as I wrote, I still crossed the 12,000 word mark. Tonight's writing involved trying to figure out an argument that basically splits up my protagonists with some bad feelings. (My main protagonist will help to discover she's a better leader than she gives herself credit for by pulling them back together - or at least I think that's what's going to happen.) I'm not sure how well that works, or if it feels contrived - but I do think that the group needs a little internal strife, and they've been getting along a little too well. If I'm letting you read for me, let me know what you think about it (when you get to that point), since that's one thing I'm unsure of.

Here's tonight's word count:

Tonight's Word Count: 726

Total Word Count: 12,045

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Writing Exercise - 10 Places, 10 Smells

Taking a nod from Stefanie Howerton, I'm going to start working on some writing exercises. I think that, aside from helping my skills as a writer, they might also help me get more in the mindset that helps me get my writing done. Since I'm going to have a little more to do on my working nights during the hours that I feel like I get my best writing done, the quicker I can get started writing on a given night, the better off I'll be.

They're laid out by day to form a year's worth of exercises by date. I'll be boring and pick the one for today. (That'd be January 20th at this point, now that it's after midnight.) And of course, it bears mentioning that the exercise comes from C. M. Mayo's website, so my thanks for that resource.

January 20 "Childrens' Birthday Party: Surprise"

Make a list of all the things you would associate with a childrens birthday party. Try to get in smells, tastes, textures, sounds, colors, and of course, silly games and toys. Nearing the end of the five minutes, circle the items that surprised you in some way.

Clowns, Cake, Mothers, Trampoline, Grass, Blue Sky, Clouds, Sunlight, children, presents, picnic table, hot dogs, hamburgers, gift-bags, movies, tablecloths, kazoos, magicians, pizza, video games, toys, fence, swimming pool, cameras, Fathers, ice cream, candy, breeze, cooking meat, laughter, shouting, headaches, tummy aches, music, sugar

None of it really surprises me, though for most of the five minutes, I found myself thinking of actual objects. I caught myself towards the end and started throwing in some less tangible things. I suppose I could claim that headaches surprise me, but I'd imagine that for any parents involved it might be the only thing possible with a bunch of kids running around on a sugar high, whooping and yelling - and the inevitable stomach aches that come from eating too much candy.

With that as a warm up, time to look at my story, and pick up from last night's work.


For those who don't know, I'm currently working as a nighttime security guard, and I do some of my writing at work. In the middle of the night it's a way for me to keep myself awake, pass the time and try to do something productive.

Of course, this means that sometimes the demands of my job will interfere with my actual work, if you can understand that distinction.

We've had a bit of a cold spell lately, so part of my job was put on hold. (Between 10pm and 4am, another guard and I are supposed to take turns keeping an eye on the parking lot to discourage vandals and thieves.) With the temperatures gradually increasing, that part of my job was reinstated tonight. So I'm going to need to find a comfortable way to write around the fact that every other hour I'm supposed to be outside - away from my laptop. Tonight, I cheated a bit. But I need to get used to writing in smaller increments so that it doesn't interrupt me too badly. (And I also need to start more quickly to make the best use of my time.)

That said, I had another decent night. In all honesty, I think it was my most productive night so far, but I think I can do better if I didn't putter around quite so much. :) Anyhow, here's the word count for the night:

Tonight's Word Count: 1301

Total Word Count: 11319

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Milestone

I passed a milestone tonight - I've written over 10,000 words for this story.

The length of this story is something I'm uncertain of. I think I have the major plot beats laid out, but that doesn't tell me how long it'll actually take to tell the story. The benchmark I'm using is the 50,000 word barrier used to determine success in NaNoWriMo - but that's largely because I'm not sure what else to use, or what length to shoot for. I'm certainly interested in hearing anybody else's guidelines or suggestions in that regard.

Right now, I'm just planning to follow the story as far as I can track it. It's already gone through changes since I first tried to figure it all out. And some of my favorite bits to write were bits of character work that helped me (and will hopefully help a reader) to get under my characters' skins - and those weren't planned. I'm trying to put them in as it occurs to me that they might fit.

Tonight was a rough start, though. The three day weekend here in South Carolina means that the 'inmates' were up and about longer than normal on a Sunday. That, in turn, meant that I was a little nervous about trying to sit down and write until a little later. But I'm not going to complain - it was a reasonably productive night. Any night over 1,000 words is still a pretty decent one for me.

Taking a nod from a new acquaintance on the internet, I might try to perform a few writing exercises. My impression is that they only take 5 minutes. Aside from helping me to hone my verbal skills, they might help put me in a better state of mind for writing later in the night. I'm planning to give it a try with my next shift. Those will be posted here.

Here's tonight's word count:

Tonight's Word Count: 1054

Total Word Count: 10018

Regarding the Writing Room, I'm hoping to finish cleanup Wednesday or Thursday. Then all I should need is a chair.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Writing Room Update

Before going out last night, I continued the push to clean out the spare bedroom in our house with the intention of making it over into a writing room. I think I can say that I've cleared 80% of the stuff in that room with a high degree of confidence. And much of it has already been hauled to the dump. The rest is a little trickier, as it's mostly comprised of things that I would like to keep. Figuring out what to do with those things is a trickier matter - particularly since putting them aside to deal with later is what started the whole issue.

I haven't written anything tonight, but that was to the plan. After sleeping, I don't plan to write or clean today. If either happens, it'll be spontaneous. I work a brief four hour shift, during which I'll likely be reading The Hero With A Thousand Faces, and marking the time until I put that tiny slice of misery behind me.

But now, to the disappointment of the cat who's nested here in my lap,I need to make preparations to go to sleep.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ten Nights Writing

Well, I'm still close to the beginning, but this is a little milestone. I've been actually writing to produce this story for almost two weeks and I've chalked up ten nights of actual writing. I'm pretty happy about it - I've managed to retain my focus, and work towards a single project. I feel a little awkward being self-congratulatory, but I'm happy.

I'm also happy with what I've written for the past couple nights. Up until then, I regarded my work with a degree of trepidation. I just told myself that I'd put it out of my mind until I finished the first pass on the story, and then I'd see about re-working everything to the point that I wouldn't cringe at it.

But I'm pretty happy with the past two night's writing. I think I'm managing to get things across clearly, but with a little more subtlety. I could be wrong, but I'm feeling a lot better about not only the act of writing, but of the writing itself. Hilary read up through the end of last night's work, and she liked it. She gave me one piece of feedback, and it was something I'd honestly considered myself. I wasn't going to any lengths to describe my characters physically, unless there was something unusual about their appearance. When I'm revising, I may add more of that to the beginning, but I'm trying to work more of it in.

I'm not planning on writing tonight (Friday). Hilary and I are planning to meet up with a friend of hers to hit up a karaoke bar. We haven't been in too long, and it's something we've all really enjoyed in the past. I work a short four-hour shift on Saturday. We'll see if I write Saturday night or not. If the mood takes me, I will - if not, I'll just chill.

Here's today's word count.

Tonight's Word Count: 1216

Total Word Count: 8964

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Second Weekend of Writing

For any that don't know, my screwed up work schedule has me working nights instead of days, and my 'weekend' falls largely in the middle of the week.

So this is the first day of my second weekend of the year. I was looking forward to putting in a good, long night of writing. It didn't quite work out that way, but I'm not going to complain. I didn't get to sit down until about 2am, and didn't really start writing until at least 3am. But the story just poured forth. In about an hour and a half, I'd written over 600 words and had to decide whether to press on, or call it.

Ultimately, my belly made the call. I need some food.

For those who've got access to my story on Google Docs, let me know what you think about the last chunk of Chapter 4? I'm feeling unusually happy with it, and I don't know if that's a good thing or not. :)

But the writing progress isn't the only thing going on. I hauled several boxes of junk to the dump today. (Well, yesterday for you diurnal types.) I also got some more cleaning of my writing room in-progress done. If I don't get it done this weekend, I should definitely have it next weekend. I'm looking forward to that. I'm planning to lug another load of stuff off on Friday. I feel twinges of regret on some of it, but I know that the things I'm getting rid of aren't really important. (If they were, I'd have seen them in the past three years.)

On top of that, I spent some quality time with Hilary and had a really great day regarding some personal issues. So even though I fell short of the 1K words I'd like to have written tonight, I feel great. I'm going to have something to eat, watch something off the DVR, and get ready to call it a day.

Here's the word count:

Tonight's Word Count: 660

Total Word Count: 7748

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Commencing Chapter Four

Tonight was shaping up to be a difficult night. The 'tenants' at the building I watch were bringing in a lot of beer (especially for a Tuesday night) and there was a lot of activity. I was hesitant to even start trying to write until after midnight. And then I found myself caught up in conversation on Twitter with friends. (I don't get a lot of interesting conversation on my work-nights, so I tend to be a sucker for some.)

So I was naturally feeling a little nervous about how much writing I'd get done.

I didn't have to worry that much. I would have rather had a third thousand-word night, but I feel fine calling it a night where I am. I'm stopping mid-scene, and I think I know how the scene will play out. I'm trying to do this to make it easier to pick up my writing again tomorrow night. I think it's helped before.

The fourth chapter is a lot of work with my main protagonist. I'm trying to tease out some of her back-story since she seems to be my main character. I can't help but feel that I'm being entirely too clumsy and direct. I don't know if there's any medication that can make me feel better about my writing, but at least I'm able to keep writing and keep moving forward. I wonder if there are writers who actually like their own work. I feel like I've got so much room for improvement. But that's what this is for.

I'm less than an hour from being done with work for the week. I'd like to finish clearing out the writing room. I don't know if it will happen, but I'm going to try. I'm also hoping to spend more time writing this weekend than last. Again, we'll have to see how that pans out, but I want to break 1K each night I write. (I'd like to try to shoot for 2K, but one step at a time.)

Here's the word count:

Tonight's Word Count: 937

Total Word Count: 7088

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chapter Three - Complete

Well, I had an easier time starting tonight than I did last night. I was a bit worried when I wasn't able to sleep as much as I'd have liked (due to the situation with my medicine mentioned in yesterday's post.) But by midnight, I had put down the comics and started to write.

I'm seeming to work in spurts. A couple hundred words here, a few hundred more there. My most productive period seems to be between 3:30 and 5:00am. The past couple of nights, at least, I've been able to just sit down and let the story flow out a bit more easily. That's surely due in part to the fact that the tenants are sleeping by that time on a night when they have to face the prospect of morning classes.

But tonight, I finished my third chapter. And this far in, I'm having some interesting experiences. The story is starting to break away from the notions under which I conceived it. I initially meant for it to be a kind of comedy adventure, but the comedic elements are fading into the background, or transforming into something else. I also meant for it to be, primarily, an ensemble story but I''m finding it easier to center in one of my protagonists. I'm even thinking of adding solo scenes where the main story has natural breaks to help draw out her own story more naturally. I've tried to split the difference between exposition and demonstration in revealing who my characters are. I'm not sure how well I've done that, but I'll find out later I'm sure.

I'm a bit torn as to when to start asking for feedback, as well. On the one hand, writing this story (whatever format the length puts it in) is primarily a test to prove to myself that I can stick with it, and finish it. And getting a lot of feedback early on would probably prompt me to go back and try to re-work earlier things instead of continue the story. I get to wondering if what I'm writing is any good, or if there'd be any interest that would prompt people to want to read it. I'm try to bear in mind, though, that this is just a first draft and not a finished product. And when I get too critical of it, I try to remind myself that I'm not out anything besides time in working on it. (And honestly, I'm getting paid for most of the time I'm spending.)

I'm planning to start the fourth chapter with my main protagonist before returning to the actual story. I think I'm also going to flash over to my antagonist soon. He's a contrast to my protagonists and I think that the best way to highlight those is to give him some more 'screen' time.

I've rambled on for tonight, though. Here's tonight's word count:

Tonight's Word Count: 1002

Total Word Count: 6151

That's two 1K nights in a row. I'm hoping to push for those to be the standard, and maybe push a little further on some nights.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Rough Start Into A Productive Night

I had a hard time getting started tonight. I don't think that I really got going until about 3:30 am, when I wanted to start four hours earlier. I'm trying to figure out why, but I think it was a combination of missing my first dose of medicine this afternoon, having new comic books to read, and a bit of dissatisfaction with one or two of my characters.

The first... I've got one more day's worth of pills, and there was a little SNAFU with my replacement prescription. I need to get the doctor to resolve that this afternoon after I wake up, and drive the corrected prescription over to the pharmacy so Hil can bring them home when she gets off work. But with the number of pills I had left, I had to skip that dose in order to have my later ones.

The comics, surprisingly weren't a bigger distraction. I think I read one issue after 11pm, and that's it. I love my comics, and receiving my monthly shipment of new books usually occupies me intensely. The fact that I was able to put them down says something to me.

The dissatisfaction with characters... I chalk that up to one part neurosis and one part accurately realizing that the character of the Masked Mystic might need an overhaul. I'll think on it. Maybe it'll be something I save for revisions.

The story's working out the way I envisioned it so far, but it's also diverging too. I originally saw it as a big of a comedy-adventure. But thus far I'm not sure I'm hitting the 'funny' much. I've certainly written some bits that amuse me, but my sense of humor probably isn't the best judge for other people. I'll wait to hear feedback to see if I'm badly off target.

Tonight's Word Count: 1151

Total Word Count: 5149

That's a bit of a milestone, for me. My second 1K night, and I've gotten 10% of a NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) submission in. Granted, it's taken me a full week to get there, but it's regular progress. And it's more consistent work than I think I've been able to do on other projects. Hopefully, since I'll have this medicine issue resolved, I'll make more progress tomorrow.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Internet Issues

I'd planned to at least write a blog post this morning before bed, but a recurring issue with our cable package left me frustrated to the point that I didn't want to write, and I couldn't post to the blog.

Put simply, on the nights when the temperature gets cold, our home phone, internet and HD television channels become unusable. There isn't a problem with the lines, but the services just disappear. The return at some point in the morning and everything's fine again when I wake up. But after another night arguing with the technical support for our service provider, I was in no mood to write. (This issue is the primary reason that I'm keeping my actual 'writing' local, as opposed to keeping it online.

I'm hoping to start writing tonight in a couple of hours after two days off. I also haven't done much cleaning in the Writing Room over the couple days either. I've amassed a small mountain of garbage on our porch to be disposed of, and I need some clear space to put things that aren't going to be our problem any longer.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Taking A Night Off

I'm posting ahead of time, since I have no clue what kind of shape I'll be in when I get home.

In celebration of different things, Hil and I are going out to the local karaoke bar with a friend. It's something we haven't done in a long time, but we always had a great time. (I'm personally celebrating five straight nights of writing.) In an uncharacteristic move, I've offered to try to drink anything our friend puts in front of me. Since I typically avoid alcohol like most folks avoid trips to the dentist, this could be an interesting night. (That's right, I karaoke sober.)

It's entirely possible that I won't be working tomorrow either. That one depends entirely on mood. But one night at a time.

Work Continues When I'm Off

Last night I began work on clearing our third bedroom out to use it as a writing room. At about 5pm this evening, I went back to work towards that goal. In an hour's time I probably doubled (at least) the amount of garbage I'd hauled out onto our front porch. The UPS driver's probably going to be a little confused when he delivers my monthly shipment of comic books today.

I don't really have a metric to record my progress, so I guess the fact that I worked at it is what counts the most.

I sat down to write a bit later than usual. That's fine, though, since I'm going to be up a bit later than usual today. I need to run over to the doctor's office, which means that I'll probably be up until 10am. But I still put some writing away. Hoover sat on my lap to supervise once I really got going, and I wound up surpassing last night. I had a few interesting thoughts about a potential twist for one of my characters. I jotted down some notes, but there are a couple of issues I'll have to address if I'm going to use it. I like it, but I might not be able to work it in here.

Here's the night's progress:

Tonight's Word Count: 640

Total Word Count: 3998

Just for a comparison, my abortive NaNoWriMo attempt topped out at 1056 words, and that took two or three nights. And I'm nowhere near ready to jump ship and try to start something else.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Productive On Two Fronts

I feel like I got a lot accomplished tonight.

True to my word, I started working on clearing our third bedroom to use as a writing room. I cleared four or five boxes of detritus to head out to the dump and swept about half of the floor. We had no use for this bedroom when we moved into the house, so we decided to use it for temporary storage of things we wouldn't need immediately.

The storage was decidedly more than temporary. And the pile was in fact added to over the past few years. These pictures should adequately
convey how bad it had gotten. (Be thankful that the lighting isn't good.) But there's a noticeable difference after an hour or so of work. (I stopped because the dust was becoming problematic, and I anticipated Hilary would be going to sleep soon.)

It's clearly going to take a few days (and possibly more time than I've got in this 'weekend') to overhaul the room enough to make it a functional place to write. But the fact that I can see an appreciable difference after one night's efforts is a big encouragement. And since the room I'm currently writing in is a 'finished' garage, this new writing room will hold heat and cold better - making a more comfortable environment to work in.

But that's not the only area where I made progress tonight. While my word count was down a bit further from last night, this is a 'weekend' and I didn't start until a bit later (on account of the fact that I was cleaning and seeing to other chores.) I think I've got a better idea on how I want the second chapter to unfold. Talking out some of my thoughts with Hilary helped some on that score as well. That's one of the advantages of being home when I write, I guess.

But this makes four nights that I've consistently added to my story. I've managed to maintain focus, and interest in what I'm writing which is already a big improvement over my attempt to write something for NaNoWriMo. And the ability to maintain focus is primarily what I'm looking for, here. I know that two chapters don't make a novel/novella, but at least the early metrics are promising.

Anyhow, here's the word count for the night:

Tonight's Word Count: 436

Total Word Count: 3358

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Point Of View Characters

As I was starting to write tonight, I realized I was having a little trouble getting started. While I don't doubt that some of the trouble was just the effort of starting, I've come to think that part of it was that I didn't feel strongly anchored to the second chapter. I think it was due to the fact that I wasn't yet anchored in a POV (Point-of-View) character.

The first chapter only had two characters, and I knew from the outset which one I was going to seeing it through. But with the second chapter, I planned to introduce the rest of my cast. With a total of five protagonists, who are going to be together for much of the story, how do I write this chapter in the most interesting way that I can?

I thought about it, and settled on one of my characters as my main POV character for the rest of the story - largely because I felt that this character was the one that an audience could most easily get behind. Things got a bit easier from that point on, and I made some progress. Not as much as either of the past two nights, but not that far off, either. (I'm having a tricky time getting from where the chapter starts, to where I know it's got to end. This is something I'm going to have to get used to, though.)

So I thought I'd ask... what are your thoughts on POV characters? Are they always necessary? Do they sometimes get in the way of telling a good story? When should you use them, and when shouldn't you? Just interested in hearing some thoughts.

I'm wrapping up a little early tonight, but I'm planning to work on my writing at some point tomorrow. I'm also planning to start work on clearing out my writing room. If I can find our digital camera, maybe I'll post some 'before' pictures.

And as always, I've copied tonight's work to Google Docs for my select pre-readers. If you've got the time, I think I have enough written that I'd like to hear about anything that you think stands out (positive or *ulp* negative).

Tonight's Word Count: 822

Total Word Count: 2922

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Another Solid Night

Despite a rough start, I actually managed to meet my goals for the night.

Last night, I managed to actually begin writing my story, and produced 900 words to that end. Tonight, my plan was to match that though by 3am I wasn't liking my chances. I'd let myself get distracted by my job, but also by the internet (which I really need to be better about.)

But somewhere after walking my last patrol for the night (around 3:45 am) I hit a roll. I sat down to write, and the story came. I had a few small story issues to work through in my first chapter/scene, but I managed it. I'm not sure how much I like the way I did so, but I'll worry about that later. For now, I'm just trying to produce a draft of the story and save the editing/rewriting for later. I'm still playing with Google Docs, trying to find the best way to share it with those who're willing to read it in it's current state. (Ideally I'd like to find a way to update the entry on Google Docs from a file. Some internet outages at home have convinced me that for the actual writing stage at least, I should work local.)

Once I fell into a rhythm, though, the writing proceeded well. I'm not feeling horribly about it, and I actually did one better on my word count. We'll see what tomorrow night holds for me.

Tonight's Word Count: 1200

Total Word Count: 2100

And oddly, both nights have ended on precisely even word-counts, rounded to the hundred. What's that about?

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Writing Has Begun

It took me a little while to steel myself up to it, but tonight I began the act of writing my story.

I don't know what I'll think about my progress after I've slept, but I suspect I'll be extremely unhappy with what I've written thus far. But the story has begun.

I'm still unsure about my pacing. While I'm no longer quite so frightened that I'm going to rush through chapters far too quickly, I'm still nervous about my pacing. While the first chapter isn't rushing, a flashback scene therein may have gone by too quickly. I'll have to read it when I get back to work, and see.

A new concern has raised itself, though. I'm beginning to think that I'm over-narrating. I like to think of myself as a clever person, and I'm not sure that the tone I'm writing with fits. I'm also not sure if I'm describing things instead of trying to show them because I'm so amused with my own 'voice'. Ultimately, I'll probably need others to read what I have so that they can tell me, yea or nay.

But for tonight:

900 Words

And total:

900 Words

Sunday, January 3, 2010


I hadn't planned on getting any writing done over this past weekend due to the New Year's holiday (and the chance to spend more time with Hilary than our work usually allows.) I had planned to update the blog over the weekend, however, but was frustrated by Time Warner Cable's service. We had some manner of disruption in our area that blanked out all of our services (cable, telephone and internet). Things were active again at the house before I left for work tonight, so hopefully that won't bother us anymore.

Over my 'weekend' I watched an episode of 'Hoarders' and it made me look around our home a tad uncomfortably. While our house is nowhere near the level displayed on the show, I can't shake the feeling that we're further in that direction than we should be.

Why do I mention this? Because I've decided that a 'Writing Room' at home might help. We live in a three bedroom house with no children. We have a guest room, but our third bedroom has served as nothing more than a repository for things we haven't wanted to deal with since we moved in. And a big table I bought when we moved in. I'm planning to go through the things in that room, throwing out what I can, and claiming it as an 'office'. There will be no television, or telephone in this room - just a place that I can set up my laptop, close the door, and hopefully work. When I feel like it's well enough to show off, there may be pictures.

Tonight I plan to actually start crafting my story. I even think I have a line to start with, so I'm interested in seeing how far that takes me. I'm a little anxious, but hopefully that'll pass as I work.