Tuesday, November 30, 2010


The magic number for today! I must say it is a pretty great feeling getting that many words under my belt in 30 days. But what is an even better feeling is I really think this could be my best book yet. I still have another 15 to 20 thousand words to write until the story is done, but I really like where it is going thus far. I will surely speak more about it later, but for now you can revel in my shiny new NaNoWriMo winner's badge.

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010

Once again I'm undertaking the craziness that is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). And this year I vow I won't hit the middle of the month doldrums. This will be the third year I've undertaken to write a 50,000 word novel in one month, but from experience I can tell you in some ways it is easier than it sounds and other ways harder. Writing the words is easy. Getting beyond the blocks that crop up is much much harder. Each year, just around the 15th of the month I've run into a wall. My nice little graph that was trending upwards at a beautiful 45 degree angle suddenly flattens out. It is the awful middle section where I just don't know what to write about. But not this year.

I have done something that I never did in the last three novels I've written. I created a detailed outline of the whole story, beginning, middle and end. I don't don't know why I've never tried it before (except maybe I'm lazy). But this year I was not going to have that feeling where I was sure I couldn't finish, and everything I was writing was crap. This year I would triumph over mid-month blues. By the way, one reason I've never created an outline before is because I never had a tool that made it so easy. Let me restate that, I never USED a tool that made it so easy. I wrote last year's novel in Scrivener, but I didn't take full advantage of it. This year, no excuses. I have detailed note cards of every major scene. Detailed notes of every major location. Notes for the magic system of the world. Photos of all the characters (found at istockphoto.com). All put together in a wonderful, easy to organize format within Scrivener.

Tonight for example I was writing a scene involving my main character, Joey, and his Father. I split the screen vertically. On the left were notes about his father. Who he is, what he does for a living, his character traits, etc... along with a photo I thought represented him. On the right was the manuscript. I wrote while looking at the notes and photo. It was amazing the details I pulled out, that I normally would not have. I love this tool. If you don't use it, go to their web site now: www.scrivener.com The new Scrivener for Mac, version 2.0 came out today (I am not going to upgrade until after November) and the version for Windows is available in beta format. I can't say enough about this program, and to top it all off it is dirt cheap. Go there now.

I'm headed for bed. 3,500 words under my belt and it is only day one. Who knows maybe I'll crank out a 100,000 word novel this month. (I'd settle for 50,000 words with at least a small portion of those usable.) Happy writing all.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

On Epic Fantasy

I just completed The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, the twelfth book in the Wheel of Time series. Robert Jordan died before being able to finish writing the series (sometimes I thought I'd die before I was able to finish reading the series) and Brandon Sanderson was chosen to wrap it up. There are actually going to be two more books by Mr. Sanderson before we finally get to the end. Book thirteen is due November 1 of this year.

This series is epic, in every sense of the word. Each book is big enough to give you tendonitis just holding it. It makes the Harry Potter series look like picture books. The storyline spans an entire continent, and encompasses the lives of dozens of people, although it primarily focuses on a handful. At times I found myself thinking the series could have been much shorter, but then I think there would have been a great deal lost. This series, more than any other in quite some time, became real to me. There were times over the past eight or nine months (that's how long it took me to read them) that I honestly had moments where I wasn't sure what was reality, and what was part of the world that Mr. Jordan created. As an example, for several books there was an intense heat wave that lasted well into winter. On hot days, in the real world in the middle of summer, I actually had in the back of my mind that it was supposed to be winter, even though the temperature outside was ninety degrees. These moments only lasted seconds, but they go to show how deeply immersed I was in the world of The Wheel of Time.

The fact that Brandon Sanderson wrote the last book, using copious notes from Robert Jordan, has been a great example for me as a writer-wanna-be on pacing. I can honestly say that if Mr. Sanderson had written the first eleven books, I think most of my difficulty slogging through the books would have been nonexistent. Robert Jordan would spend nearly entire books on one character. Then do big, honkin' prologues on the next book catching you up to what was going on with everyone else. His prologues could be a sixth of the book. So I found myself a bit frustrated at times wondering what was going on with the rest of the characters. Brandon Sanderson on the other hand jumped around. Every second or third chapter was devoted to a different character. Sure there was that disappointment when you were involved in one character's circumstances and he yanked you away to follow another, but each section ended in such a way as to force you to read on. I read the last book in half the time as any of the others.

All this to say, I love epic fantasy, but I'm sure it isn't for everyone. You do have to have the mindset that you will finish no matter what. That you will continue reading even if it is hard going at times. The world building is incredible. The scope of the story all encompassing. And the payoff at the end is usually (hopefully) worth it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm not supposed to be good at it...

I've been in a funk lately, in my writing, in my exercise regime, with my poker club, in my family life, in my spiritual life, in life in general. No big, nasty, horrible things are happening to me, just a general malaise has hung like a cloud around me. I've felt like I'm just not particularly good at anything. I know this feeling very well. I've had this feeling in periods of my life. But today (my birthday) I've discovered something profound. Watch this video and you'll see what I mean.

"...when you are learning things, you suck at them." I don't even know who this woman is, but I think she has stumbled on a deeply profound idea. Life is all about learning. I think maybe I've spent my life never really getting past the "suckitude" stage. I find something I like, I work at it a while then I start to feel like I'm just not that good at it, so I move on to something else. But what this smart lady is saying is I'm not supposed to be good at it, at first. Life is all about learning new things, but if we don't, if I don't ever get past the "sucking" stage, then what good are my attempts? I should just quit trying if every time I try, I quit.

So, here is to being lousy at something, but pushing on through. Here's to working from suckage to awesome, and not jumping from sucking at one thing to sucking at another, over, and over again.