Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Recent Reading

I have made time again in my life for reading novels and it is like finding an old friend hiding under the basement floorboards. Ahhh... Welcome back books.

Here are the three books that I have read most recently with quick blurbs or recommendations.

1. The Maze Runner - James Daschner

A YA (Young Adult) book that I really enjoyed and definitely recommend. It is jarring and disorienting at times, but in a good way. It didn't always feel like the best written book (in terms of the actual language and word choice/style) but it was a fascinating story and any thoughts of over use of cliches disappeared quickly when the story started to become more clear. Fans of The Hunger Games, Ender's Game, and Fahrenheit 451 would very likely enjoy this book.

2. Neverwinter - R.A. Salvatore

Book eighteen (I believe) of the impressively consistent New York Times Bestseller Drizzt Do'Urden/dark elf, fantasy series. This particular novel is part two of a trilogy that jumps forward in the main character's timeline to a point where all of his friends and old companions are dead and he is forced to find his way in what feels like a new life to him. It's an interesting look at a character that in so many ways had come to feel a little stagnant in his personal growth and character development to me. I enjoyed the book but would only recommend it to those who are already fans of the series and character. If you have no clue who I'm talking about but are interested in a great adventure series with excellent fight scenes then I'd recommend starting with the first book published int he series: The Crystal Shard.

Other books I am currently reading and will hopefully finish in the next few months (because I've been slowly reading them for well over a year): Les Miserables and The Happy Lawyer.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Day 28: Endgame

Today was a bag of mixed nuts. First the great, fantastic, amazing, it is still blowing my mind news: I reached 50k words today for the month of November! WOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOO! Take that, Captain Planet!

However I also received some disappointing news today: apparently the rules for NaNoWriMo only recognize you as a "Winner" if you started completely from scratch on day 1. Since I started in October and already had 14k words for my novel on day 1, I cannot be considered a Winner (by them--I'm totally a winner in my book). Instead I can only be considered a Rebel and feel what I assume is supposed to be a slightly less gratifying satisfaction by my cheater's victory.

I'm actually not as disappointed by this as I would have thought. When I first started I intended only to write 20k words in November and I was going to conduct my own NaNoWriMo with just friends. It wasn't until the last minute that I decided to try the real one. The point is that I did what I set out to do, wrote 50k words in November (I did it in 28 days), and I loved every minute of it.

I never had that whole "I don't want to write today" thing. Most days I wished I could have written more and just had to content myself to stop where I did so I could live my real life. I never really had writer's block either. If I had trouble writing it was always because I hadn't prepared and outlined enough to know something as simple as the setting or what was motivating a character (almost always the setting). It has been a wonderful experience for me and one that I plan to do again and again in the future.

As for this novel: I will finish it (hopefully in December) and then scrap it, go back and outline it how I should have from the beginning, and then write the seconds draft of what will likely be a very different book. That thought always terrified me before but now I embrace it.

What a fun adventure. From here on out I will not be updating with a daily report on my word count. Instead I will fall back into a more general accounting of my writing projects and life. I also will take a break from my novel while I work on that short story so I can submit it to the writing contest I had previously mentioned. Here is to victory.

Day 28: 3,309
NaNo Novel: 49,872
Total Novel: 63,777

NaNo Side Short Story: 1,407

November Total (including the short story): 51,279

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Days 22 - 27

Happy Thanksgiving Thursday, Black Friday, and Sloppy Seconds Saturday.

No real comments other than I haven't written much at all during the holiday weekend, but I still intend to reach my goal.

Good day to you.

Days 22 - 27: 2,378
NaNo: 46,563
Total: 60,468

Side Short Story: 1,407

Monday, November 21, 2011

Days 20 & 21

Whew. I finally finished the necessary back story of the two main characters. As mentioned before, most if it will not appear in the book in its current form. Instead, it will likely be revealed through flashbacks. I am glad I wrote it thought because I definitely understand better who the two main characters are and their history, which will help as I move toward building a believable romantic relationship between them.

I still need to do some world building. I really need to hammer out the technology, governments, cultures, and religions that exist. I'm excited to do that stuff, but I'm not too worried about doing it during NaNo. I'm actually quite content to not "finish" my novel by November. I am planning on writing the ending so that I know where I'm going and I can say that I wrote a novel, but once I reach the 50k mark for the month I'm not going to keep pushing the way I have been. Instead I'll do a rewrite of my short story, and then I'll go back to outlining and world-building the Wishing Well novel.

Fun times ahead ladies and gentlemen.

Days 20 & 21: 4,050
NaNo: 44,185
Total: 58,090

Side Short Story: 1,407

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Day 19

Sierra's parents were in town and it was Saturday with LOTS on the plate so I sadly didn't reach my 2k words a day goal. Oh well. I knew that it would be like this as the month wore on. I'm not beating myself or getting discouraged about it.

Not much else to say today. Happy weekend to you.

Day 19: 1,099
NaNo: 40,127
Total: 54,032

Side Short Story: 1,407

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Days 17 & 18

Yep. Another one of those special two-for-one updates.

I am still developing the back story material on the characters and writing the set up. One fun aspect of that is I now feel like I've stumbled upon a completely different book. The idea had come to my mind at one point to make this story a nine-part Young Adult series. If that were to happen then much of what I am currently writing would be Book 1 of that series. Other parts of it would come out as flashback material for the rest of the series. One part of really likes that idea, but another part of me wants to just write a novel and be done with it.

I've been writing romantic scenes of first kisses and from both male and female characters' perspectives. It has been a lot of fun but also rather challenging. It is an interesting exercise to see how you understand the opposite sex. Hopefully my ability to capture my female characters' thoughts and emotions is at least realistic enough to be palatable to female readers.

I've also written one of the darker scenes in the book. This was a good challenge for me as well, because it was uncomfortable to write parts of it. In fact, I doubt that much of it will be used in the actual book, because I believe that sometimes it is more powerful to leave things unsaid and just hinted at. I also want my children to be able to read these books and so a certain amount of self censorship is appropriate.

As a last bit of info, I found out about a short story contest put on by lulu.com. At first I ignored it because I am in novel writing mode for the month and did not want to be distracted. But yesterday morning while I was showering I had an idea pop into my head for a short story so I wrote one yesterday morning before I worked on the novel. It ended up at ~1,400 words for the rough draft, but I will be able (and need) to cut it down tremendously during the revision process; the max word count is 600.

I've never entered a writing contest before so I am ecstatic. I'm even excited to enter and lose, just because I'm stretching myself further than I've stretched before. However winning would be fantastic because, who doesn't want $500 and a Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader thingie? Sounds good to me.

And now the part that no one but me is waiting for:

Days 17 & 18: 4,227
NaNoWriMo: 39,028
Total: 52,933

Side Short Story: 1,407 (which means I'm technically 40k+ now for NaNo writing. Woohoo!)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Farewell to 24

I realize that I am waaaay behind the rest of the 24 world in this, but I just finished season 8--the final season--of 24 last week and there needs to be some sort of commemoration of the feat.

You see, 24 is a special show; it is the show that sucked me back into watching TV (which was/is a blessing and a curse all at the same time). Through most of high school, my mission to the Dominican Republic (especially my mission), and the first couple years after my mission while I was starting college, I hardly ever watched TV. I LOVE movies and watched those a lot, but my TV watching pretty much consisted of Conan O'Brien and the occasional episode of SNL. I actually sort of hated TV. I hated how whenever I did sit down to watch something, I'd end up spending hours surfing channels and feeling bored and unfulfilled. Movies were great because they ended and then life went on.

24 was different. 24 was the first show that ever really blew my mind. I got caught up in season 2 of the show while working a summer sales job in Indianapolis back in 2005 (remember those good old days, Matt? Of course you do you old, Dinglehopper). The show was the most intense thing I'd ever seen and I couldn't get enough.

24 was also the first communal show I ever experienced. One Winter a rather large group of us would gather together at Cody's house (his parents' house really) every night and watch24 for hours. We watched Seasons 1 - 4 in about 2.5 months (correct me if I'm wrong, any who participated). This meant that each night we started at about 10:00 p.m. and ended somewhere between 2:00 - 4:00 a.m. (which is absolutely crazy to me now since most if not all of us worked and had to be to work by 9:00 a.m.). Those were incredibly fun times though I would never trade those memories away.

Since those days I have watched the following shows all the way through (from season 1 to season finale): Lost, Arrested Development, Firefly, Prison Break, and Dresden Files. I am currently watching and will finish watching Castle, Community, The Office, Fringe, Smallville, and The Transformers (the original animated series).

24 has been both a blessing and a curse to me. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time watching each of these shows and probably wouldn't take that time back if given the choice. However, I frequently think about how much time I could have spent: writing stories and books, writing songs, playing guitar, learning to play the piano, playing sports or going hiking, or a myriad other things that may have been more rewarding and fulfilling long term in my life. I'll never really know though.

The point is that 24 has influenced my life dramatically. Its farewell deserves more than a silent passing into the darkness of TV shows past. Thus, I salute you, Mr. Jack Bauer. Thanks for saving America all those times. Thanks for also re-introducing me to one of my favorite pasttimes: watching a great show.

Day 16

Today I did something new with my writing: I wrote from a different character's view point. This was an excellent decision for a couple of reasons: (1) I had been writing lots of back story for the past few days and needed a change of pace, and (2) I finally got into the head of the female main character.

Man! I had no clue how little I knew about her. I didn't know how she thought, what was important to her, how she reacted to surprise, or hardly anything about her until this morning. This was also important because it finally gave me some material for her conflicts and character path.

Most of the material I wrote today will likely come into the story through flashbacks (because I think the story will REALLY drag at the beginning if I try to put all this material in Act 1), but I also think that it is good to start off writing it at the time in which it happened to the character. It feels more present to me and I hope that will make it more realistic and present for the reader.

Today we begin the slide down the writing mountain. Some of my fears about having less time to write are no longer concerns; Friday is the last day of my judicial externship with my dad and so after that I'll be helping to watch Lydia in the mornings and studying for finals in the afternoons and evenings. It will be just like summer school (sort of).

Day 16: 3,699
NaNoWriMo: 34,801
Total: 48,706

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Day 15

Today felt good. I was able to write a lot and get myself back on track toward writing this book. I'm still doing Act 1, background material for the story. I didn't realize how little I understood this world I'm creating until I had to start thinking through the steps that got the world to where it is (I'm writing a setting of Earth in the future after some pretty calamitous events). I'm sure much of what I'm currently writing will never see the light of day in this book or any other. It is still very helpful for me to write it out and think through it because I'm being forced to make decisions about how I want the world to feel and also to play out scenarios that help me understand where the world currently is at.

Part of what I am discovering is that I don't think this first draft will be finished in November. I was hoping that it would so I could move on to other projects and take a break from this one (which would mean coming back to do the revisions all the sooner). I'm ok with that thought though. I'm having fun in the journey so if I get to my destination a little later than I first planned, does it really matter? Right now I don't think so.

Day 15: 2,790
NaNoWriMo: 31,102
Total: 45,007

Monday, November 14, 2011

Day 14

The weekend throws my sleeping (and thus writing) schedule off. I didn't wake up at five this morning and (due to needing to (1) get summer job application materials emailed over and (2) make sure I was ready for an interview at the Bankruptcy Court for an externship next semester) my word count suffered because of it.

Again, I am so glad that I built up a buffer early on, because I am going to need it more and more as the month wears on. I'm optimistic that I'll be able to get some good writing in tomorrow morning though (I'm going to bed by 10:00 p.m. tonight so I can be sure to wake up at 5:00 a.m. tomorrow).

Good night.

Day 14: 1,029
NaNoWriMo: 28,312
Total: 42,217

Days 11 & 12

This weekend was insanely busy and I got very little done for NaNoWriMo. So I am feeling very grateful that I have been able to write as much as I have throughout the first part of the month, otherwise I'd be looking at not getting to the finish line.

You see, the time I can spend writing will only continue to dwindle as we approach finals and the Thanksgiving holiday. I am still optimistic that I will reach my goal, but I may not be able to demolish the 50k mark like I had started to assume I would.

So what you see here is the total for both days as I did not figure out how much was written on each individual day.

Days 11 & 12: 2,049
NaNoWriMo: 27,283
Total: 41,188

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Day 10

[Update: I'm halfway there! Hoooraaaaaay! I broke the 25k mark this morning and the month is only one-third done. At this pace I should be able to get 75k written in November. However, I am aware that toward the end of the month finals will be looming and the holiday will take much time away. So I'm going to be trying for around 60k methinks.]

I think that I am finally getting some structure to my story. Not in terms of the material that I write each day, because that is all focused on developing the characters at this point. At other times when I am not writing--like yesterday when I was court watching down at the Federal Courthouse--I am working on understanding what the three-act structure is in my story.

At this time the story is still designed to span three books. So I've been building three-act structures on both the grand and small scale. I still have plenty of work to do on getting all fo that fleshed out, but the nice thing is that I don't have to have it done asap. In fact it is likely to change as I continue writing and learning more about my characters.

I have also discovered that when I began writing, I completely skipped the first part of any three-part structure: the set up. I was so excited to write the meatier parts of the story that had been brewing in my head for so long that I didn't bother writing about the setting, describing it in any detail. Nor did I write about my characters, getting into their heads, putting them in situations to see how they fit together and thought as the story began. It is making so much mroe sense now why I was feeling lost in the writing process; I didn't know where my characters had been so it was hard to know how to get them to go where I wanted them to go.

As I've gone back to do the set up, I am learning so much about my characters that I had not known. I am especially learning a great deal about the main female character of the story--a character who I am now growing to love but who (very sadly) at first existed as nothing more than a one-dimensional facade of a character whose entire existence was to act as a love interest for my main male character. I quickly grew bored with her so I am sure my readers would have as well. Now however she is becoming more dynamic. She has a personality, she says interesting things and thinks interesting things, and best of all, she wants more for her existence than to just be a romantic prize for my main male character.

Man, I love writing.

Day 10: 2,371
NaNoWriMo: 25,234
Total: 39,139

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Day 9

Man, I am doing so much better than I thought I would at NaNoWriMo. I say this not to gloat but to share my excitement at the feeling of excelling at something. Whether my story or writing ability is any good whatsoever is irrelevant; I can write lots of words fast. Ha! Take that, world!

So part of the idea of NaNoWriMo (from what I've read and been told) is that you don't go back and edit or rewrite. I think that I thought that meant that I shouldn't go back and fill in scenes, but just keep moving toward the end. Well, this week I am learning what a silly assumption that is. I had been writing and writing and moving forward and then I started to realize that I had not developed my characters even slightly enough. I didn't know who they were when the story began, so it was proving very difficult to know who they were to become through their trials and how they would respond to certain stimuli. So I am going back and figuring out who those characters are. I'm not erasing anything that I have written and I am not rewriting scenes that have already been written. Instead I am writing scenes from a time before the characters' world was shot to heck.

It has been tremendous fun for me. I finally feel like I understand who my main character is and I am finally forming a picture of who his love interest is (and she finally feels like a person instead of an ideal). Huzzah.

In other random news, I thought I'd give a shout out to a couple of books that I recently read and enjoyed.

First, Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. It was an excellent and highly original work of fantasy fiction. I've read lots of fantasy novels over the years and it is easy for many of them to be entertaining but not very memorable. This one was memorable.

Second, Here, There be Dragons (The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica) by James A. Owen. This was a recommended to me through Graham Bradley's blog. It was a lot of fun and had a very enjoyable "big reveal" at the end. Not terribly groundbreaking but lots of fun.

Third, Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. This one was recommended to me by Isaac Byrd--the law clerk that supervises me at the court. VERY cool book and you do NOT need to be learned or versed in Economics to understand or enjoy it.

That is all. Have a nice day and enjoy some stats.

Day 9: 3,458
NaNoWriMo: 22,863
Total: 36,768

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Days 6, 7, & 8

I didn't write on Sunday and forgot to log in my word count from yesterday so I will do so today.

Yesterday I was listening to the Writing Excuses podcast and the topic was formulas (such as The Hero's Journey, 3-act Play, Romance, etc.). I realized that my story has no formula or real structure. I think that is partly why I don't know where it is going. So I am going to try and learn more about those and work it in while I am doing my writing. I am not going to stop and spend tons of time on it, but I think it would help. Anyway, here are the stats:

Day 7: 2,345 words
Day 7 NaNoWriMo: 16,787 words
Day 7 Total: 30,692 words

Day 8: 2,618 words
Day 8 NaNoWriMo: 19,405 words
Day 8 Total: 33,310 words

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Day 5

Today was the first day this week that I didn't wake up before seven and start writing before 7:30 a.m. In fact, I didn't start writing until the afternoon, because my morning was filled with a study group session and a visit with my grandmother.

I'm pleased to report that I still met my goal for the day (2,317 words) and I continued to enjoy the writing process. I'm also amazed that I have basically written in one week what took me a whole month (October) to write (about 14,000 words). NaNoWriMo: you rock my socks off.

NaNoWriMo: 14,445
Total: 28,350

Day 4

I came, I wrote, I took the high ground: 2,448 words.

I am running into interesting "problems" now. I am now changing scenes midway through the scene. For example I began a scene and halfway through realized that the scene needed to come earlier in the story AND that I needed to include the antagonist in the scene (he hadn't been there up until now, only his lackey had). So the writing I did of that scene became very convoluted. Suddenly the antagonist is there, suddenly the dialogue reflects an earlier time period of the story.

None of this is terribly problematic, because after I finish the first draft, I will go back and rewrite the story as it should have been (which will likely show me new problems and I'll repeat these steps a few times before this story is ready to submit to anyone).

I can see why it is suggested to not worry about this stuff and to just keep going. There are a ton kinks that need to be fixed, but I have already encountered the scenario where I see a problem, I think of a solution and then, having wisely decided to not go back and fix it yet, I realize that the initial solution won't work because of a different problem and different solution that I later discover. So if I had gone back to fix something I would have been wasting my time.

The point is that I am not aware of all the problems yet and therefore I am not yet aware of what all the solutions should be. Instead of wasting time chasing potential ghosts, I should just get this thing all in front of me, where I can get a bigger perspective of what changes need to be made.

That is all. Happy hunting.

NaNoWriMo: 12,128
Total: 26,033

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Day 3

Maybe I will write on here everyday; it gives me a place to keep track of my progress.

I wrote 2,464 words today. It almost felt like cheating for part of it though because some of it was more outline than novel. The problem is that I am noticing just how undeveloped this story is and I don't always know what is happening between the major scenes. I also don't really have an ending at all. So today I realized that much of what I wrote yesterday is likely unusable once I make some of the changes that I outlined today. I'm totally fine with that, because the core aspects of the dialogue are absolutely transportable from one version of a scene to either the new version of that scene or an entirely different scene.

I am happy about today as well, because I finally woke up earlier than when Lydia wakes me up. So I got up at 6:00 a.m., did some scripture study, and then went to work on the novel for an hour or so. Sierra went in to work this morning so I wasn't able to write a ton once Lydia woke up, but getting up early made it possible to reach my daily goal. Hooray for goal reaching.

If I may also add one last tidbit, I learned tonight that many professional, full-time artists write about 2,000 words a day. That is a fairly standard industry goal. Granted there are PLENTY of authors out there that do more, but once an author's book gets published, there are lots of PR and career management tasks that take time away from writing each day. The point is that I have put off writing for so long, thinking that I didn't have time for it. Apparently my current goal of 2,000 words a day is EXACTLY how much time I need (and I am finding that to be a more than achievable goal for myself).

Anyway, good night.

NaNoWriMo Word Count: 9,680
Total Word Count: 23,585

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Day 2

Today is my long day so I wasn't able to write as much. However, I still passed my daily goal and am sitting pretty with 2,041 words for the day. Nice.

Today marked one of the first times that I really got lost in the story. By lost I don't mean that I was so enthralled that I forgot which existence was my reality and I started living my life as though it were the story... Oh no.

By lost I mean that I realized that the ending I thought was so clear is not so clear. The problem is that I haven't committed myself to certain elements of the setting and plot that may just be necessary to know how it ends. So I spent some time while I was driving trying to hammer out those details. In a strange twist of fate I am now returning to my original idea for the setting, which functions similarly but creates a VERY different world and ending for the story than the idea to which I had later changed it.

This does not mean that my story is completely changing gears midway through--my beginning and end were never all that clear to anyway--but it does mean that I'm feeling a little disoriented in the world. I had envisioned a world, setting, and time that no longer apply in the same way.

Instead of going back to fix anything though, I'm just going to plug away and write it in the new setting as I move forward, ignoring any inconsistency along the way.

Que divertido, no?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Day 1

I don't think I will try to get on here every single day. I imagine it would get repetitive and dull pretty quickly. However, certain landmarks deserve reporting and certain insights deserve mentioning. So here goes...

I wrote 5, 175 words today, and it felt amazing! There are few things that I love more than reading a good book but I think that this one easily meets that standard. I found myself deeply enthralled in the story and character development, just as I do while reading a well-written story, and I even found myself being surprised along the way, just like I do while reading a good story. I had breakthrough moments where a solution to plot points that I had realized were problematic would suddenly pop into my mind and I'd be able to adjust my planning accordingly.

More than anything else, it was tremendous fun to write and I am thoroughly enjoying this story that I am working on. I have discovered all sorts of problems with the plot, characters, and just about everything else, but at this stage I don't need to worry about it; I just need to keep writing and making notes of them here and there (as well as the possible solutions that spring to mind) and I can worry about fixing things later.

So, NaNoWirMo is off to a glorious start and I bought myself some leeway for tomorrow since it is my long day and I will have close to no time to write at all.

Now I am off to bed because 5:00 a.m. comes EARLY.