NaNoWriMo Another Day Another 2000

by kalbzayn on August 13, 2008

Last night while watching Phelps win a couple more golds and set a couple more world records and then listening to music on the TV, I wrote another 2041 words. It takes time to do it (especially while distracted by the short attention span events of the Olympics) but it is getting pretty easy to write 2000 words a night.

Last night brings my grand total up to 18,663. My wife noticed last night that I’ve started calling it my book instead of my story which must be telling of something.

Barring any overseen reasons that cause me to miss a couple days of writing, I should be fine to get my 50,000 words in by the end of the month. My work project deadline is looming heavy though. Especially since I’m probably going to spend most of my “free time” during the last weekend working on the work project which is really going to motivate me to cross 50K before that weekend starts.

I’m pretty happy with my plot right now. I really need to start focusing on introducing the big, big problems and getting the bad guys to really start taking control for a while. I’m still struggling a little bit with whether I’m going to make the good guys have to dodge the bad guys for most of the book or just get captured and have to escape. They both have their strengths and weaknesses within the plot. Since I have several groups of bad guys, I’m leaning towards getting the good guys captured and then have the other bad guys have to work to free the good guys so they can capture them all while the good guys have to try to break free from all of them. We’ll see. I’m sure it will turn into a nice mess either way.

My biggest realization from last night is just how much dialogue I’m really using. That doesn’t really bother me, though, because I don’t spend much time letting the narrator say things like, “Tom wondered if Sally liked his sandwich.” I’m more likely just to have Tom ask about it.

Outside of the dialogue, there are tons of descriptions of movements of the characters. I’m still doing a horrible job of describing the sights, sounds, smells, etc. I can already tell that the story would get a massive improvement if I spent a day or two adding one or two sentences of these type of details to each paragraph which might be a fun way to take a break from the plot and still get a lot written some day. It will also be at the top of my priority list if I ever decide to edit this into a polished version after the rough draft is done.

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NaNoWriMo Closing Up The First Third

by kalbzayn on August 12, 2008

I’m kind of writing this NaNoWriMo book in thirds. I know a fair amount of things that are going to happen in the last third, I managed to find enough things to talk about to get through the first third without rushing through too much of the plot by adding a few characters. Last night I wrote another 2000 and some odd words to get myself to 16,622 words so far. If I would have thought about it, I would have written 45 more just to get officially through the first third of the book.

16,667 is the barrier that I will cross tonight. Since I’m conceptually dividing the plot into thirds this means that starting tonight, I need to start working on the middle portion of the plot. And that is not something that I am very good at. I always no how to start a story and can normally finish it but have a hell of a time dancing around in the middle.

Fortunately, the two scenes that I wrote last night are going to be a big help…and completely accidentally. The one gave a person on one side a definite hint of a backstory with one of the main characters. It happened completely accidentally, too. The main character needed a weapon and this new character was her source. While writing it, I was giving vague descriptions about the new guy and using a fluff name that I can change later. During one of the paragraphs, I was talking about this new character and realized he sounded an awful lot like another vague character that I had introduced earlier. Then I realized that it was because they were the same character. Then I started thinking about it and said, “Wow. That means that one of my main characters has a friendly backstory with one of the bad guys and they are now going to have to decide whether their past is stronger than their present goals.” I couldn’t believe it. It is like a conflict or something. Anyway, now I’m pretty excited about where that is going to head. For the record, none of that would have happened without my weekend away from the main characters.

Then, I was writing another scene with a couple characters that I added over the weekend just for fun and half with the expectation of them going nowhere and eventually getting killed or deleted. They still might get killed but they definitely won’t be deleted. During their normal course of work, pirating of course, they found something interesting. Something that I really needed somebody to spot. They are going to need to steal another ship to investigate but that other ship has already been stolen by the good guys. I really need that ship to have a reason to get to a very specific spot during the climax and I have a feeling these guys might just end up having a lot to do with that….unless I kill them first of course. But either way, now I know how I am going to get a handful of the characters exactly where they need to be when the most main of the main characters does her big action sequence during the climax. All of which is really going to help the last third of the book sound like something more than, “and then the girl did her heroic action fixing all the problems.”

On another note, that makes the third night in a row over 2000 words and the night prior to that I was over 1500. For me, that is really pounding the typewriter. My deficit on my initial pace (caused by the vacation) has decreased from around 7200 words to under 5000 words if I’m reading my spreadsheet correctly. If I can keep getting a couple thousand a night, I really will have a chance of catching up on a big day or two during some weekend. Hmm.

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What an interesting weekend. I forgot how much of a time sink watching the Olympics are but fortunately most of my writing happened between 10pm and midnight when I could safely switch to the music channels on the TV and not have to worry about missing amazing races like the mens 4 X 100 Freestyle Relay where the Americans came back from a rough deficit after the third leg and managed to hunt down and beat the French team that was strongly favored to win the event. That was just an amazing swim by the anchor.

Anyway, my word count for my NaNoWriMo book sits at 14,599 as of last night. Friday I wrote 1554, Saturday 2032 and Sunday 2078. I had hoped to get a few more words written but I also expected to sneak in a few hours of writing in small blocks during the days which didn’t happen. All of that writing occurred between 9pm and midnight on those three days. I was literally so tired by the end of each night that my eyes would close while I was typing, I would open my eyes and have to reread the sentence to remember what I was talking about, and sometimes had to edit out some stream of consciousness/dreaming sentences. Cool stuff.

Before the weekend started, I realized that my current characters and plot were not going to fill 50,000 words. I had one main story arch and the main characters only had side plots based strongly off of the main plot. So this weekend I wrote zero of my 5500+ words about the main characters. I took one very minor character (a bad guy) and wrote a couple scenes with him. While writing those scenes, he had to interact with another set of characters who now have a brand new subplot that is going to mix in very nicely with the main characters and cause them lots of problems. I also added a plot line that had absolutely nothing to do with the main plot or characters at all and wrote a couple thousand words on them. The two characters in that one really need to get away from their little problem and it will throw them into the path of the others but I’m not sure if they will help or hurt or even which characters they will be interacting. But they are kind of fun so they can hang out for a while.

All in all the opening third is much fuller now with some definite reasons for everybody to be in the book and some definite explanations about why they will all be interacting against each other. There are 5 different groups all moving around on the stage and none of them like each other at all.

Now that I’m nearly a third of the way through the book, I think I’m ready to get everybody to really start interacting and letting the problems grow for both the good and the bad guys and hopefully get them all moving to where I want them before I start writing the last third.

I’ve kind of hit a happy rhythm with the 2000 words a night. I seem to be writing either 500 word or 1000 word scenes and seem to be able to get all of that written between 9pm and midnight which is a window of time that I have fairly safely carved out for myself. If I can keep on that pace, I will make the 50,000 NaNoWriMo goal by the end of the month without needing to do a massive catchup day anywhere along the way.

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NaNoWriMo Update – Playing Catch Up

by kalbzayn on August 8, 2008

So, of course I’m still behind pace on my personal NaNoWriMo story. But, last night I wrote around 1900 words which puts me at 8935 words so far. I’m hoping to make a strong push over the weekend by writing at least 2000 words a day and hopefully a little more. If I am going to catch up to my target pace by Sunday, I need to finish Sunday at 20,000 words. I would like to be between 16,000 and 20,000 depending on how much time/energy I have.

As I approach 10,000 words, I’m noticing a couple of the plot lines really starting to get ready to go haywire. The bad guys are definitely going to make their presence felt in the next couple thousand words and change everybody’s course of action. They are currently literally looming on the horizon. I need to work on some smaller problems for each of the characters, too. Only one of them at this point actually has something problematic outside of what will be the main problem.

I need to do a little work over the next 5-10 thousand words of getting the people who actually reside where the story takes place more involved in the plot. The current stars of the book are all from a different place. I do have a couple local characters who have joined those teams but I want to work on some other locals doing their own independent local thing and getting mixed into the plots as their own standalone threads.

Also, I’m pretty confidant I know how the last 10K words or so are going to go for most of the major plot lines.

Which just leaves me with needing to develop about 30K of the middle of the story. Consider this my mental note to not rush the resolution of the problem. I need to give the bad guys plenty of room to cause their trouble and the good guys plenty of opportunities to try and fail (or at least just win the little battles) before we get to the end.

Finally, I finished reading the No Plot? No Problem! semi-official guide to surviving NaNoWriMo book. It seems to do a good job of describing the pressures that will hit at various stages of NaNoWriMo and offers tips and encouragement for surviving them. The book might not make anybody a better writer, but it could help many people actually finish their rough drafts which in and of itself will probably help people become better writers, I guess.

Oh yeah, one more writing type of thing. I had been using JDarkRoom up until yesterday. I really enjoyed using it and will continue to use it for projects in the future. But yesterday, I switched the story to OpenOffice which I have been using for years. No real reason for the switch but now that I’ve made it, I’m planning on sticking with it for the rest of the story.

I also have proof that I have officially turned off my Inner Editor. When converting from the JDarkRoom file to the OpenOffice one, I played around with some things of the nerdy variety that had nothing to do with actually converting the file. I realized that I somehow managed to clobber a whole bunch of paragraph breaks giving me crazy run on paragraphs and even chapter/section breaks that are just not there anymore. And I’m just leaving them for now. And stay locked up in that closet, Inner Editor.

I’m also accepting names for characters. About once every couple days I make my wife think up a name to use for some new character. Almost all of the characters have a certain amount of bad streak in them. And I still am just using placeholder names for the 16-18 year old brother and sister main characters. I could really use some names that would be good for pirates if they used non-piratey kind of names, if that makes any sense.

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Writing a Book

by kalbzayn on August 6, 2008

So I decided to write a novel this month. With vacation and a big work project, it will be a very busy month but whatever.

Right now I am somewhere just over 6000 words if I remember correctly (I don’t have my text handy at the moment). I think I’m about 5000 words behind pace which isn’t surprising considering the vacation. What is surprising is that I actually did some writing while away and started back up with some writing when I got home. I figure if I can keep slightly ahead of pace for a few days and then have a couple really big days on the weekend I should be back in the ballgame. So, I’m slightly nervous but nowhere near panicking yet.

I also started the book with virtually no notes, outline, plot or even characters.

Since then, I have found an ending, discovered a couple new characters (in addition to the 4 characters that I sent into this mess), not wanted to kill any of the main characters yet, and have several different people/groups with an interest in getting to the final scene alive and on top.

The biggest problems are that I have not really found a style (some scenes are extremely short while others are much longer), most of the characters change the way they talk virtually every time they open their mouth, I bounce from pages of dialogue followed by pages of no dialogue (when I actually take the time to make people do something instead of just sitting around yapping), and overall I’m doing a fairly horrible job of describing where this is all taking place.

But all of that can get sorted out on the second draft. I’m still having fun and still looking forward to writing the ending. Now I just need to start figuring out how to get all the people where they need to be for that ending. I also need to jot down some quick outline notes so I can keep track of who has been doing what so far, what I named them, and some ideas on what needs to happen to them over the next 10K words which should get me about a third of the way through the book.

I’ll let you know how it is going as it happens.

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I have a few story ideas pounding around in my head. I am working very hard not to take any of them very seriously. But I am starting to jot down words for them.

Most of the inspiration for starting to write fiction again was reading a review about a text editor called JDarkRoom.

What Is JDarkRoom

JDarkRoom is a full screen text editor that locks you out of all of your other programs. It has no menus, no spell check, no…well pretty much anything. I take it back. If you hit Ctrl+L it will show you a word count which is pretty fancy.

By default it sets the background black with green text which happens to be a favorite of mine but I might have to change it to a blue background with white sometime to relive my favorite word processor (the name of which escapes me) from back when I was in college.

It lets you save pretty much plain text files. Kind of like notepad.

JDarkRoom Is Great For Rough Drafts

Since you do not spend time dorking around with formatting or with spelling or grammar, JDarkRoom really encourages you to pound out words which is just amazing for rough drafts. The other night in bed, I was typing and barely paying attention. I hit the Ctrl+L before saving and realized I had around 750 words of outline material. Pretty neat.

JDarkRoom is a Great Change of Pace

We are all so used to all of the features in Microsoft Word and OpenOffice.org and all the others that sometimes we spend so much time noticing the little squigglies under the mistyped words that we really shouldn’t be paying attention to until the second draft. Working with something so stripped down and new (to me at least) is a great way to change my expectations for a text editor which means I spend more time just typing.

All Good Writing Needs Java

I need coffee to function in the morning, but I’m talking about the Java programming language. JDarkRoom runs on Java. That would normally be enough to cause me to ignore it, but I recently bought an Asus EeePC which is running Linux. Since Java runs just as well on Linux as Windows (or Mac), there is a version of JDarkRoom for each platform. Since the files are just plain text files it is very easy to install JDarkRoom on each computer I touch and save all of the files on my USB Pen Drive or email the file back and forth to myself. Unlike most Java programs, this one loads fast and operates even faster.

If you are looking for something that feels more like an old school typewriter and encourages you to just get some words on paper, you might want to take a look at JDarkRoom.

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Prince Caspian and the Magic Formula

by kalbzayn on June 12, 2008

I saw Prince Caspian last night. Perfectly decent fantasy movie as far as fantasy movies go.

Here is something depressing though. Go Google Prince Caspian. The first page is almost entirely dominated by the movie. Which I find amazing since there should be some pretty well aged sites with a lot of links talking about the book.

Anyway, I read this book at loud about 5 years ago when our twins were very young babies and remember very little about the details. So all details of the plot come from the movie version and I don’t think there are any real spoilers here.

The story involves the kids from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe returning to Narnia after something like a year in England. At the end of Narnia, they had been Kings and Queens for years before returning to Narnia. In Prince Caspian, they return as kids again and Narnia has moved on hundreds of years. The kids are just historical legends within the Narnian culture. But when they return they are just kids who have memories of when they were much more.

I think that is such a cool subplot. And the movie does a good job reminding us that the subplot exists but I don’t think they really do enough to exploit some of the finer details of it. All of their experience seems to hinge on preparing for battle which is disappointing.

Along the same line, I thought a lot of the good drama building scenes were cut short which is a shame in a nearly 2 1/2 hour movie.

The action scenes were fine. Nice mix of CGI and watching animals fighting humans. Cool stuff. But I really wish fantasy movies could evolve beyond the inexperienced hero flees bad guys, spends a ton of time trying to build an army, and then either returns to kick some ass or bunkers down to defend against an ass kicking. I can’t really blame Prince Caspian for falling into this plot formula, though, since it is probably old enough to have been one of the books that created the formula.

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Guitar Hero 3 Addiction

by kalbzayn on June 3, 2008

I’ve become addicted to Guitar Hero 3. I’ve been playing a couple times a week and have managed to beat the easy level while getting 5 stars on all the easy level songs. I’ve beaten all of the songs on the medium level, most with 5 stars, but I still have not beaten Lou.

So, I’m starting to play the Hard level in the hopes of making the medium level versions that much easier to get 5 stars on and to have a chance at beating the medium Lou.

So far, I can beat 3 of the 4 songs in the Starting Out Small set. “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” is still beyond me. I have managed 3 stars on the other 3 songs.

In an effort to test a new Amazon widget, I will attempt to give you sample clips of the songs in the Starting Out Small set of Guitar Hero 3. These are my most recent obsession:

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News Fit For Fiction

by kalbzayn on March 13, 2008

I have managed to read two news items recently that are just begging to be the focal point of stories you are going to write.

First, a guy calls the police because he is worried about his girlfriend isn’t doing well in the bathroom…after two years. Her legs had actually fused to the toilet seat. Crazy. Speaking of crazy, she apparently has some emotional problems that made her unwilling to leave the bathroom but the boyfriend who let her stay in the bathroom for all that time without doing anything about it probably has his own issues to sort through.

Second, a couple of older ladies (62 and 63) were stopped at the Munich airport by the authorities after their bags were scanned. The women were traveling from Brazil to Italy. The contents of the bag in question were a human skull and some bones that belonged to one of the lady’s brother. He died in Brazil 11 years ago and had wanted to be buried back home in Italy. Here is the part that I find even slightly more interesting than that. The woman showed the “appropriate papers from Brazilian authorities” and were allowed to continue on their trip, bones and all. I didn’t know that there were “appropriate papers” that would allow you to fly with your siblings bones in your luggage.

There you go. Story ideas for you fresh from the news.

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The Ice Harvest Book Review

by kalbzayn on March 12, 2008

I bought The Ice Harvest a few years back. It was one of those books that was sitting in my never decreasing To Be Read pile that I have recently started plowing through.

The Ice Harvest is Scott Phillips first novel. It was the finalist for a few different awards and was eventually made into a movie starring John Cusak and Billy Bob Thornton which will be added to my Netflix queue shortly.

The book is one of those plots about people trying to pull off the perfect swindle and then everything falls apart and people start getting roughed up and/or killed. Phillips writing style creates the mood in the book awesomely. Lots of short sentences. Very little fluff. Lots of darkness and dark humor. Not for the faint of heart.

Pros Of The Ice Harvest

  • Short. Not every book needs to be short, but this one does not have anything unnecessary in it. The books gets to the point and gets out which keeps the pace flowing.
  • Dark. People are roughed up. People are killed. Marriages and families are destroyed at the drop of a hat. And it all fits the plot perfectly.
  • Strippers. You can’t go wrong by putting a bunch of the setting of a drug, money scam type of plot in a strip club. The strippers are pouty. The bosses are grumpy. The customers are short tempered and the police are always a phone call away.

Cons Of The Ice Harvest

  • Hard to believe some of the characters could survive the pain that gets inflicted upon them or the amount of alcohol/drugs they consume as well as they do.
  • Very short. As much as I respect the book for not going on too long for no reason, I really wish the book would have went on longer for some reason because of how much I enjoyed the book.

While I won’t spoil the ending, there is also a last second stunning plot twist that made me laugh out loud. Normally I don’t like hokey plot twists that come out of left field, but this one was well done and definitely improves the book.

If you are interested:

Buy a copy of The Ice Harvest at Amazon.com.

Buy a copy of The Ice Harvest on eBay

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