Archive for Writing

NaNoWriMo 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011I didn’t post much about this year’s WriMo. After last year’s horrid experience which resulted in my first win but in my complete dissatisfaction at what I wrote where normally I fail but am happy with my writing, I wasn’t 100% sure I would play.

But I did, and after waffling between a couple ideas, I picked one and ran with it.

This year’s major hurdle was a lack of planning. Not on purpose. You see, I was planning pretty well for Idea A and then I ran into a snag. A huge central element of my story turned out to not be feasible. So I could either A) write it anyway and fix it later, B) spend the first week or so of November fixing it and start way behind, or C) go with Idea B. I chose option C.

With my second idea planned only half-assedly, I jumped in. Things were going well to start but my lack of an outline began to show and I stalled out around 10,000 words. I needed to break and fix my outline so I knew where I was headed. I took a couple days off and did that. I wrote a little each day, very little, and about a week later I’d finished the outline and got back to real writing. Only now I’d lost my momentum and my passion for the project. I’ve continued piddling with it and I’ll end the month with around maybe 25,000 words. Half way.

Anyway, I’ll back burner the project and come back to it when I’m inspired. In December I’ll be tackling a different writing project, a re-write of a previous work. In January I’ll be taking on another re-write. In February I plan to be starting on an entirely new project, assuming my research goes well. I am excited for all three projects. And I have a goal now. I want to polish up a couple things enough so I feel comfortable letting other people read them, another pass of re-writes/corrections and then actually paying someone to copy-edit them, either learning to format them myself or pay someone to do it, and then make them available for purchase for Kindle, iBooks and other markets.

I want 2012 to be a good year.

Script Frenzy 2011

Script Frenzy 2011Two years ago, I attempted an adaptation of the Punisher: Circle of Blood graphic novel.  It isn’t bad, and I might even show it to someone someday.  Last year, I took a short story I wrote and did an adaptation of it.  It also isn’t bad, and it too I might show to other people in the future.  Both need another couple of passes before I’m happy with them though.

This year, I decided to write an original screenplay instead.  And it was much harder.

I’m sure the screenplay itself won’t actually be harder to write, once I get to it.  See, the hard part this year was that by working on an adaptation, like I had the previous two years, there is less prep work.  The characters and the plot is around 90% there.  Sure, you’ll have to make changes, but the foundations are there.  But with an original, I have to make all that stuff up myself, which I didn’t do before hand, and so I’ve spent the last four weeks fleshing out characters and plot points, layout out arcs, and doing everything I should have done in March but never got around to.

Lesson learned: start prepping in March next year.

That said, I like what I’ve got, even if with a day and a half to go I don’t have a single page of screenplay.  I’ve got notes.  Lots of notes.  And I really like the idea I’ve come up with, so I will continue to work on this and hope to have a finished screenplay in a couple of months.  What’s it about?  I’d rather not say, but I will leave you with one little tidbit.  The title.

“Ursa Major”

Fifty Thousand Words

For the first time ever, I have won the NaNoWriMo.  By focusing on word counts over content, I was able to bang out over 50,000 words in 30 days…

… and I feel dirty.

In my time on this Earth I have written a number of things of which I am ashamed, but after the first fifteen thousand or so words this year’s WriMo project turned into the worst piece of shit I have ever created.  I will set it aside and sometime in January I might review it, and in all likelihood I’ll delete over 35,000 of those words and pretend they never existed.  And that’s if I can ever bring myself to review it, which I may not, because it really is a piece of shit.

Next year, I think I’ll go back to focusing on content and return to my previous years of losing with style.  I’ve never felt so poorly about winning in my entire life.

Music for Writers

Do you write?  Do you listen to music while you do it?

I do.  In fact, I’ve learned over the years that silence is the most distracting thing in the universe.  Once it’s just me and my thoughts, my thoughts win.  It’s like a category 5 storm of random things crashing around in my skull.  But if I have sound playing in the background, the winds die down and I can focus on my work.  But it has to be just music (perhaps with the occasional commercial), not video.  When I hear things that I know also have a visual component, my eyes are drawn to the visual.  I need to see what images go with the sounds I am hearing.  As my eyes pull away from the page or laptop screen, writing stops.

But what music works best?

For me, the best writing music falls into three categories…

  1. Music that I know by heart.
    This music works well because I don’t have to actually listen to it.  I know every work, every note so well that my brain just latches on and follows along.  I’ll subconsciously tap my feet or bob my head.  Sometimes I’ll even begin typing to the rhythm of the songs.
  2. Music that I don’t know at all.
    Because it isn’t music that I love, I’m able to just sort of block it.  I know it’s there and it still achieves the goal of calming down my brain, but I don’t care enough to learn the lyrics or feel the beats.  It’s just on.
  3. Classical music.
    I’m sure there are studies out there that will show you that brainwaves become more calm and allow for more creativity while listening to classical.  But for me it falls almost into category 2, only I do know quite a bit of it.  It’s just that there are no lyrics to sing along with.  At best, there might be some humming, but not often.

The worst music for me are song by bands I know, or ones I’ve heard before, I sort of like but don’t know well enough for them to be automatic.  This is why applications like Pandora or Slacker or Last.fm just don’t work for me as writing tools on anything but the classical music stations.  Too many times a song will pop up in the play list that drags me out of the zone and forced me to consciously listen, and the writing stops.

So, this month, as I make my way toward 50,000 words, I’ll, more often than not, be listening to classical music.

NaNoWriMo 2010 Begins…

I’m actually a couple days late with this.  I’m also off to a pretty poor start.  In any event, I’m participating again and am now working my way toward 50,000 words.  Last year I broke 5,000 words, which is the farthest I’ve ever gotten and double the year before.  My goal this year is really just to break 10,000.  Of course, I’d love to get the whole 50k, but I also like setting manageable expectations.

This year I’m actually dusting off an old idea and I really want to finish it.  I’d like to get this idea down on paper, and maybe stop having it hang around in the back of my head as one of those things I really should write.

My profile, as always, is here.  Feel free to add me as a writing buddy.  And to throw a little inspiration your way, enjoy this little music video…

Center of the Universe

3439686345_40d26c8193Captain Thomas Markham checked the readout on his wrist again. He’d been nervously checking it every few minutes since they had taken their helmets off. The atmosphere was still sufficiently Earth-like, and he was still breathing normally.  The air had a musty smell, but it didn’t offend the senses.

He glanced over his shoulder to the rest of his team following behind.  Lieutenant Sarah Gavin, Sergeant Gerard Wilcox, and Privates Claire Daud, Louis Michaels and Neriah Skildum walked in a spread pattern, no one walking directly behind or in front of anyone else.  Each had a rifle in hand, a pack on their back, and their helmet slung on the belt at their hip.  With their helmets off, they’d all put on tactical visors giving them better vision in the dark and data readouts.  Markham’s rifle was in the hand of Ship’s cook Jalah, who looked entirely out of place in his orange space suit surrounded by the rest of the crew in their military grays.  The light from random spots of glowing lichen on the walls was low, but he could still see his team.   Markham’s visor was hanging down around his own neck as he’d opted to hold his pistol and a flashlight as they’d pressed onward.

From the deserted surface of this tiny planet they’d enter the caves and wound down and around for days.  The deeper they got, the warmer it became, but Lieutenant Gavin had assured him this planet didn’t have a molten core.  “Solid all the way through,” she’d said.  “Stake my life on it,” she’d continued.

He turned to her now.  “Gavin, what’s our depth?”

Gavin put her rifle over her shoulder, flicked the power buttons on the wrists of her gloves and began waving through the virtual readouts her visor was showing.  “Hard to say.  But we are getting close.  I’m getting some interference, but we are almost directly below the ship and I estimate nearing halfway through our external readings of the planet’s diameter.”

“All right.”  Markham turned to Wilcox.  “Sergeant, find us a spot to set up camp.”

“Yes, sir.”  Wilcox signaled to the Privates who followed him in a diamond formation off into the dark.

Jalah came in close to Markham, sidestepping around Gavin who continue to wave her hands in the empty air.  “Sir.”

“Yeah, Jalah.”

“We’ve only got a few days more of supplies with us.  We are going to need to turn around pretty soon.”  Jalah’s eyes were darting around, never staying still.  He hadn’t wanted to come down with the team, but Markham didn’t want to leave him alone on the ship.

Markham holstered his pistol and placed his hand on Jalah’s shoulder.  “Tomorrow.”

“Captain!”  The word echoed through the chamber.  Markham snapped off his flashlight, dropped it into a pocket on the leg of his suit and put his visor on.

The darkness of the world retreated, replaced with hues of green peppered with bits of text and data.  He was facing a wall, the text told him it was fifteen meters away and comprised mostly of granite.  The floor beneath his feet was also granite but covered with scattered dirt.  Off to his right there were blue flashes of movement and he could see the outline of the four men.  “With me,” he said just loud enough for Gavin and Jalah to hear.  The three of them moved toward the others.

As they approached, Markham realized his gun was in his hands even though he didn’t remember pulling it.  He even held it out front, with both hands, aimed downward as he was trained to do.  Wilcox and the Privates stood together by a wall.  The Privates faced outward in different directions, but Wilcox faced a door sized hole.  Beside the hole was a small rectangular sign.  As Markham got close he could see there were words written on it.

He put away his gun again, pulled off his visor and retrieved his flashlight from its pocket.  When he snapped it on he stared, then shook his head and stared again.  The sign was clear, a small arrow pointing downward at an angle into the door sized tunnel and the words Center of the Universe.

“I guess we’re here.”  Gavin’s voice drifted softly from behind him.  Markham faced her, her visor was off as well, her flashlight out.  In the light, he could see her face was flush.  The right corner of her mouth turned slightly upward.  Next to her, Jalah’s face was slack-jawed and bloodless.

“Sir,” Wilcox said, “should we proceed or make camp?”

Gavin’s eyes sparkled.  Years and years of calculations and every leg of the journey probably dancing through her head.  The wormholes and slingshots around stars, all leading here.

“I don’t see why we should wait.”

Jalah blinked.  “I don’t see why we should rush.”  He licked his lips and swallowed.  “I mean, after all it took to get here, it seems so odd that there would be a sign.  And in a language we can read, no less.”

Everyone turned and looked at the sign.  Gavin and Markham were both shining their lights on it, everyone had removed their visors.

“Very astute, Jalah.  Maybe we should wait.”  The words were barely out of his mouth before Gavin has pushed past and vanished down the tunnel.  “I suppose that settles it.”  Markham stepped forward into the tunnel.  “Come on then, we probably don’t want to miss this.”

Just a few feet into the tunnel it angled downward and the smooth floor gave way to steps.  It also turned to the right spiraling clockwise downward.  He couldn’t see any glow from ahead, Gavin had clearly moved quickly, but Markham kept a steady pace so as not to lose his team.  His own flashlight illuminated the tunnel as he went, the walls were smooth and the ceiling was arched, and at intervals along the way there were paintings, like the cave painting of earliest man, depicting tortoises.

He heard laughter ahead, then saw light.  Gavin came into view.  She was examining one of the tortoises and laughing.

“What?”

She smiled at him, “Turtles.”

Markham gave her a puzzled look.  He didn’t understand what she meant.

“Nevermind,” she said.  She winked at him and then continued down the stairs.  Markham wanted to make her stop so he could take the lead, but it was too narrow for him to pass her anyway, so he simply followed.

Behind him he heard Wilcox urging Jalah onward, and Jalah was breathing heavy.  He hadn’t liked the other much larger caves, so this tunnel was likely much worse.

Finally the tunnel and the tortoises came to an end, opening up to a large room.  Light seemed to come from the walls, and in the center was a round stone table.  Next to that was a comfortable looking chair, and in the chair was an old man.  The whiskers on his chin and lip moved as he snored.  In the center of the table, hovering just above the surface was a large black globe.

Markham stared at the globe, it seemed to draw him in, the blackness looked endless, but occasionally there would be a tiny fleck of light.

The snoring stopped.

“Ah! You’re here!”  The old man’s eyes were wide and he leaped to his feet.  He rushed forward with an outstretched hand.  Wilcox snapped his rifle up, but the old man didn’t stop.  He came immediately to Gavin and shook her hand.  She was smiling.  Then the old man shook Gavin’s hand.  Then Jalah’s and through the Privates, but not Wilcox because he wouldn’t put his rifle down.

Gavin stammered, “Where exactly are we?”

“Center of the Universe.”  The old man was almost hopping with excitement.

“THE center?”

“Well, almost.”  The old man indicated the table.  “The actual center is over there.”

“The globe?”

“The center of it.  The center of the center of the center and so one.”

Gavin laughed.  “Turtles all the way down.”

The old man slapped his leg and his face lit up.  “Indeed!”

The two of them laughed for a while and everyone else just stared.  Markham walked toward the table, mesmerized by the black globe with the occasional flickers of light.

When the laughter stopped, Markham felt someone standing beside him.  “What is this?”

Gavin answered his question with one of her own, “What do you see?”

“Nothing, mostly.”

“And if we were on the deck of our ship, looking out the window, what would you see?”

“Planets, moons, stars.”

“But mostly?”

“Mostly?  Space.  Nothing, I guess.”

“Exactly.”  Markham broke his gaze into the globe and looked right into Gavin’s green eyes.  “Looking out is looking in,” she said.  “Somewhere out there,” she waved her left arm in a sweeping arc away from the table, “far away from here, farther than anyone could possibly go is the edge of a large black sphere.  And outside that sphere is a room at the center of the universe, of someone else’s universe.”  She looked toward the globe and so did he.  “And in there,” she continued, “way down at the center is a room at the center of the universe, of another someone else’s universe.  It’s recursive.  Infinitely.”

“But,” he began, then stopped.  She waited for him to put his thoughts together.  “But what do we do?”

“About what?”

“About this?  All of this.”

“Nothing.  We go home.”  She turned away and wandered back over to the old man.

Markham’s mind was swirling.  “Wait.  Just wait.”  Gavin and the old man, and everyone else looked at him.  “Who is this guy?  Is he God?”

“Me?”  The old man looked shocked.  “No, I’m not God.  Well, not your God anyway.”

“Who’s God are you?”

The old man nodded toward the table and the globe.  “Them I suppose.  I mean, I’m the keeper of the sphere but it’s not like I created it or anything.  Can’t even do anything with it.  I just watch.”

“And?”

The old man shrugged.  “And nothing.”

Markham felt hot.  He was trained for flying space ships and following orders and making military decisions.  This jaunt to find the center of the universe had been Gavin’s proposal and they’d been given a mission to try.  She’d been working the math for a long time, but in the last year they’d been jumping wormholes and skimming gravity wells, spiraling around all of creation to find this room.  This sudden revelation of universes inside universes with universes outside them infinitely was beyond him.  He was trying very hard to piece it all together and make it fit in his view but there was just too much.  Everyone was just staring at him, which exasperated him even more.  “What does it mean?”

Gavin smiled at him.  A few strands of her auburn hair cascaded across her face.  She walked over slowly and put her hands on his upper arms.  She squeezed gently, but hard enough so he felt it through the suit.  Then she leaned in and kissed him.  It was at first a solid, firm kiss on the lips, then she tilted her head slightly and he followed suit.  Her lips parted just a little and her hands slid around his back.  His lips parted also, and his arms roamed upward finding her hips and then sliding up her back.  They kissed for a good long while.

Wilcox cleared his throat.

Gavin pulled back and resumed smiling.  She let go of Markham, walked back over to the old man, shook his hand, gave him a hug and then headed toward the stairway.

She paused at the opening, looked back over her shoulder at Markham.  “Are you coming?”  And then she clicked on her flashlight and began ascending the stairs.

The old man strode over to Markham.  “You want to know what it means?”  Markham nodded while still staring at the stairway.  “It means she came here to find the center of the universe, and she did.  She also found the center of her universe along the way.  It means that the center of the universe might be over there on the table, but the center of your universe may have just left the room.”

The old man patted him on the arm and then walked back to his chair.  Wilcox, Daud, Michaels, Skildum, and Jalah filed up the stairs.  Captain Markham smiled.


Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/gali_367/ / CC BY-NC 2.0

Script Frenzy 2010 – Results

Pretty much as I expected, I didn’t make the 100 pages.  However, I more than doubled my attempt from 2009.  I have, what I consider, 28 very solid pages.  I really enjoyed working on this and am going to continue because I want to see it through.

One thing I’ve heard of other people doing that I have decided to start myself is what is called “Morning Pages”.  Essentially, most people are better at planning in the early part of the day before conflicts and new items can screw up your plans, so you write three pages a day in the early morning to get them done.  Seeing as how these days I tend to get up at 6 A.M. but don’t go to work until 8 A.M. I’ve got time I currently spend reading message boards and watching TV.  Writing would be a better use of my time.

If I had done this throughout April, I might have been able to hit the 100 page mark.  There’s always next year.

Writing and writing

Script Frenzy has begun.  If you care, you can follow my progress on their site.  A good start for two days, I’m on target anyway.  While working on it, I found myself needing to step away, not from writing but specifically from the script while I sorted out a detail, and found myself polishing up chapter 2 of T.A.S.E.T. I finished it.

It feels good to make progress.

T.A.S.E.T.

Today begins the first part of an ongoing project.  Basically it is the embodiment of those “a reason to write every day” things that some communities do that I could never get any communities I belonged to to get interested in.  The idea is to write, essentially any idea that comes into my head, all into one story, just to get it out of my head.  Perhaps some of these ideas will eventually become full stories on their own, perhaps this whole thing will evolve into something different.  Who knows!

Hopefully, the journey will be fun. I present to you… The Awesomest Story Ever Told.

Enjoy!

The Last Christmas

As promised, here is my holiday short story.  It begins like this…

He hadn’t thought of himself as anything more than Santa Claus in many years. Since he’d been passed the mantle he’d just enjoyed the magic of the position. He spent three-hundred sixty-four days of the year in his village workshop, with just one night out to deliver toys to all the girls and boys who still believed.

It was a dwindling list of names, but more so this year. Around April the list very nearly cut by half in a single day, and steadily it had fallen until around mid May. After that is dropped in chunks every now and then with one more sharp decline in early October. By December first, when the village usually kicked into overdrive to finish all the toys, there we barely more than a hundred names left, less as he loaded up his sleigh on Christmas Eve.

… you can read the entire thing here.