I’ve had a new job since late last year, and since it’s in I.T., it’s more than full time. In addition, I’ve gone back to school to get a master’s in library science.
I’ve been complaining that I can’t make time to write, but I began a new story yesterday. It might go nowhere, but it’s a start. I wrote a couple of paragraphs as I was eating lunch. I think this is my writing life now: five or ten minutes here or there. But five minutes of writing is more productive than five minutes of griping about no time to write.
The story? I have two characters — the narrator and his ne’er-do-well cousin — and a situation. It’s started out absurd, but not fantastic, and I’d like to keep it in that realm. No more: I find if I talk/write about my writing too much before the first draft is done, the first draft is never done.
This contest will probably be closed by the time you read this post, but you can have fun reading the entries: The (Second) “Worst Storyline Ever” Contest. I just this evening stumbled across it and slammed out a couple of entries.
I’ve started a new novel in the fantasy genre. I’m excited about this one because it’s the first time I’ve ever begun a story with a clear picture of the protagonist. I’m prone to tepid main characters, saving all the spice and color for the supporting cast.
I’ve created names and descriptions for the major players and places, I have a sketchy idea of the overall story arc, and I have a good view of an important early scene. I suppose I could do some more diagramming and brainstorming and planning, but I think it’s time to dive in. I plan to write — not necessarily the opening scene, but a scene — this weekend.
Without giving too much away, I think I can describe it as Gulliver’s Travels meets Candide meets Gargantua and Pantagruel, except that it’s not much like any of them. (And I’m not talking only about the quality.)
Last night I finished brainstorming 19 ideas for TV series pilots. (19 was the goal I had set for myself. 20 just seemed impossible.) Most are in the fantasy/sf/horror area, but the few that aren’t surprised me. Especially one that’s more, um — well, it’s kind of — okay, it’s romance!
I don’t know that I’ll do anything with any of these ideas. It was more in the nature of an exercise. But maybe. If I never write a TV pilot, some of them might make good stories. How do I know which ones? If I began imagining not only a situation but vivid characters, and maybe an episode or two, or even a story arc for a whole season, that’s an idea worth further attention.
- I downloaded a word list of nouns, and created a Linux command-line alias… too much detail. I had my computer throw random pairs of nouns at me, and let those spark my thinking.If you’re a Linux user and want to do the same, download a word list of nouns and then run a command (or create an alias) similar to the following:
shuf -n 2 /home/jdoe/Documents/writing/files/nouns.txt
This works in Ubuntu, anyway. I don’t know about other Linux distributions, but I think shuf is pretty common.
- I daydreamed.
- I browsed news sites, and when something snagged my thoughts, I mind-mapped it.
- In a couple of instances, I cannibalized old ideas that never came to anything.
I’m too self-skeptical to make New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I’ve set the following goals. (These could also be considered my list of Big, Fun, Scary Things for 2009.) This list is subject to additions, deletions and alterations at any time.
- Find a permanent job. I’ve been doing the IT contracting thing for a while now, but that puts me in a volatile sector in a volatile career field. Choosing a place to settle down is a gamble. What if they have massive layoffs, or move the office to a distant state? (Both have happened to me, and I had been happy in those jobs.) What if the company looks good on paper, but turns out to be another Dickensian, Dilbertesque or Kafkaesque environment? (I’ve worked in all three. A sense of humor is mandatory.)
- Start learning Polish. I’ve often threatened to learn a second language. In addition to high school Spanish, and German and Koiné Greek in college, at various times I’ve toyed with Italian, French, Latin, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and Icelandic. I couldn’t ask for a cup of coffee in any of those languages. Polish, with its scarcity of vowels, is intimidating, but I admire Polish culture and have enjoyed many Polish writers in translation.
- Start learning yoga. I have the For Dummies book. I don’t intend to become a human knot, but I would like to become more fit and less stressed.
- Start meditating. I’ve meditated sporadically, by which I mean about five times a year, for a couple of decades. I need to start revving down my type-A personality. I might even begin sleeping eight hours a night. (Why is everyone laughing?)
- Write a play. I’ve written plays before, but that was in my dadaist period; they made no sense and were completely unstageable. (As I recall, one ended with the destruction of the universe.) I’d like to script something that could actually be performed.
- Write song lyrics. I’ve written the lyrics for two or three songs in my life, and I still don’t know what I’m doing. I hope to learn. Composing melody is beyond me.
- Write at least one poem a day in April. I do this every year for National Poetry Month, but I think it still counts as an adventure. I usually end the month with at least one or two keepers.
- ScriptFrenzy. This is the cousin to National Novel Writing Month; the goal is to write a full-length film screenplay in one month. Unfortunately, ScriptFrenzy coincides with National Poetry Month. (There goes my “eight hours of sleep” goal.) I’ll be collaborating with my wife, Anne, in this adventure.
- Create my personal website. I’ve owned the domain for years. I keep tinkering with the site design. It’s time to just do it.
- Publish a piece of fiction—for pay—in currency, not copies. Just to prove I can.
- Make a good start on that philosophical-epic-dramatic poem I have notes for on a million scattered scraps of paper. (Working title: “Polyphanic Idiographies.”)
- Recycle the abandoned items on this list for 2010.
NaNoWriMo Winner 2008
I finished NaNoWriMo about 6:30 this morning, with a hundred words or so over the 50,000 goal and my story wrapped up.
The characters are inconsistently drawn, you can drive an SUV through the plot holes, the dialogue is often clunky, and I only found the narrator’s voice in the last few chapters. Nonetheless, I think I have something worth revising. It made me laugh, it made me cry, I was sleep-deprived.
It was a fantastic and frustrating experience.
I’ve been sporadic about writing this past week, and I’m about 3,800 words behind schedule, but I’m making up ground. I’m running into plot cul-de-sacs. When I had trouble coming up with something to write tonight, I had my main character receive letters from his siblings. Those were good for about 700 words, but more importantly, it kicked my brain into gear.
I think I’ll come out of this with something worth revising, but it will need major reconstructive surgery.
Anyway, the stats:
Today’s word count: 2,314
Total word count to date: 22,836
…though I’m writing this on Day 11.
My scenes are getting longer, but that’s because I’m having a hard time finding a way out of them. They end without resolution, and abruptly.
On the other hand, my protagonist (whom we have been following from age 5) is now in 9th grade, so I have a lot to say. As a nerd, and more importantly, as a self-righteous, arrogant prig, I did not have a happy high school experience. I brought a lot of it on myself — but when adults do the kinds of things to one another that teenagers do, they go to prison. If my experience was anywhere close to typical, we all leave adolescence with PTSD. (I just remembered: I need to talk about zits.)
I’m rambling. Maybe to put off yesterday’s stats, which are not impressive. Here they are:
Yesterday’s word count:739
Total word count to date: 17,759
Today’s word count:3,403
Total word count to date:17,020
I had a productive session at the write-in this evening. I think I actually created some good scenes.
On the other hand, I once thought I had won the lottery, but when I woke up I was still broke.
Today’s word count: 1,834
Total word count to date: 13,617
I know the next major plot point I want to reach in my novel, I just can’t decide which of three paths to take to get there. How I get from A to B will influence the development of all the major characters.
I’ll sleep on it, and return to the dilemma (trilemma?) tomorrow with a fresh lack of clarity.