NaNoWriMo: The rise before the fall?

I have to say after my second day of NaNoWriMo yielded a pithy 269 words I was starting to think that I wouldn’t make it through. We had an unanticipated gig dropped on us which we’d agreed to go to months ago and forgotten about, so in between getting home from work, feeding the cats and ourselves and actually going to the gig there wasn’t much time left for writing. What little I did write I hammered out on my phone’s email client and emailed to myself while on the bus…

Yesterday however was another story both Avarinne had a presentation to prepare for so we both got up at 5:30 and I was working away on my NaNo by half six. I managed to bring my word count up to the region it should have been at by that point just in time to start work. And upon coming home I managed to pass an exceed my word count goal for yesterday.
All in all I’m in a good place word count wise at the moment, I’m 892 words ahead of where I should be, unfortunately I’ve no idea where the story is going next, fingers crossed I’ll figure something out today but I only have to write 700 words or so to stay on target, ideally I’ll smash through that and increase my slack to allow for stuff to go wrong later this month as I doubt that Tuesday’s surprise gig will be the only mishap to occur in my schedule.
I’m apprehensive but hopeful, I’m going to do my damnest to win NaNoWriMo this year.

Focus Writer: If You Are Doing NaNoWriMo You Should Look Into It

I am prone to being distracted, and when I say prone, I mean really really prone. This fact doesn’t help one write 50,000 words over the course of a month, I’ll write half a sentence, check my email or Twitter lose my train of thought follow a link to an interesting website, look something up on Wikipedia, SQUIRREL!

All of a sudden an hour has passed and I’ve only managed to add 6 words to my word count, that’s less than ideal.

Last year I tries to mitigate this using a tool called DarkRoom, and it really helped. It provided a no frills text only full screen interface for me to write in. The problem was the interface was a bit to minimal, I’ve grown used to spell checkers and word counts and the like and though they can be distracting, so is having to copy and paste your document into a word processor every time you want to find out how close you are reaching your target for the day.

This year I’m trying out a little program called Focus Writer, it like DarkRoom provides you with a minimal interface in which to write without distractions, except it has more features, move the mouse cursor to the top of the screen and you are presented with a file menu with a slew of customization options, including ones that allow you to customize what options are visible, themes, and font sizes.

Move your mouse down to the bottom of the screen and you can see a workout, character count, and progress towards a your goal.It also allows you to have multiple documents open in tabs which are also hidden until you mouse down to the bottom of the screen which is pretty nifty for keeping notes.

All in all its pretty nifty, I’ve only used it for a couple of hours but during that time I definitely spent less time faffing about on the internet, which is a bonus.

In case anyone is looking for other distraction free word processing environments here are a few I’ve not tried:

jDarkroom: A Java implementaion of DarkRoom

WriteRoom: DarkRoom is actually a reimplementation of this OSX Application.

OmmWriter: Is another OSX only writing tool that follows the principles of Zen and simplicity.

DarkCopy: A web based version of WriteRoom.

Writer: Looks like a promising web based tool which allows you to save, export to PDF and email documents.

NaNoWriMo Day 1: Post Mortem [UPDATED]

I don’t think I’ll be blogging every ray of NaNoWriMo because anytime spent writing blog posts could be better spent adding to my word count.

With the first day of NaNoWriMo over I’m currently sitting at 1,130 odd words, which is 2006 or so lower than I’d hoped to have written, I’ve choreographed a fight scene which I know I will end up rewriting, I’ve introduced three characters who may or may not recur and I’ve introduced a character who isn’t the protagonist.

I didn’t get as far as meeting my protagonist, which is okay as technically I’m writing the prologue at the moment and the protagonist is just a child.

I am worried that I’m not going to be able to take the story anywhere though, I was suffering from some serious writers block last night.

Oh well I can but try.

On another note the NaNoWriMo website was down last night so I couldn’t submit my word count. I’m going to try and keep track of it myself in a spreadsheet, so I can do my own funky graphs in case the website never comes back up.

[UPDATE] Bugger I just realized that the daily average word count should be 1,667 not 1,333, my current word count is 1,137 so I’m 530 words behind for yesterday. All I have to do is write 2,197 words to be back on track though, I reckon that’s a good couple of hours work. Not Ideal that I’m going to a gig this evening. I think I might have a late night ahead of me.

NaNoWriMo: Writing Outside My Comfort Zone?

I had the idea of writing a fantasy Book for NaNoWriMo this year rather than my usual Science Fiction. That for a start is a little outside my comfort zone. I’ve had ideas for fantasy stories in the past but they have all been spin offs of things I’ve read before, or more likely rip offs, with one concept changed.

I think I have a relatively original Idea, this year but time will tell, it started as a basic fantasy romp, unfortunately I don’t think there is enough substance in it to fuel a whole book, or if there is I have yet to come up with that substance.

So I’ve decided to once more step outside my comfort zone, originally my story was going to be quite tame, it was going to follow one main protagonist and his merry band of adventurers on their quest.  Except their quest as far as I could make out was not being where whomever was chasing them was… Which doesn’t really lend it’s self to a good story. The whole “Just keep running”  idea is just a bit crass I think.

So I’ve re-thunked my Idea and I’m adding a few levels to the story. The merry band of adventurers aren’t the only characters I’ll be focusing on, I’ve added a concept of politics and I’m creating a group of nation states that all fall under the rule of a single empire. I’ve only really got a skeletal plan for three of these nation states at the moment, but I think I like where it’s going.

I’ve also tried to add some severe brutality to to the story, this is seriously outside my comfort zone. In the past the worst I’ve ever done to a character (main or incidental) is to make their lives a little rubbish by sacking them, or making their significant others leave them. I’ve already got a rape scene, a few murders and political espionage plotted in at different parts of the story.

I’m not sure how I’m going to work this, but I think making it more brutal/controversial might make it more interesting to both read and write. I just hope I get the tone right, as I’m aware that sometimes it can seem like people writing about this kind of thing tend to desensitise it and or glorify it, the last thing I want to do is to glorify it, especially the rape scene, which I think is in there partially to illustrate just how evil a character is, but also how brutal the society is, I think I’m aiming for a fairly grim story world, and I don’t want to be afraid to push my characters to their limits.

I don’t know if it will work, if it doesn’t I can take it out, as it stands it’s not a cornerstone of the plot, but as the characters involved in the scene only came to me last night I can’t really say how that will change.

So far I’ve got just under 3,000 words of notes, which is two days NaNoWriMo work, I’m hoping to have more by the time that I start, because at the moment I have a setting, some characters ideas and a catalyst for a plot, but not actually a plot, which is kinda important.

I’ve also got another idea ferreting it’s way out in the back of my head which I am working hard on ignoring lest I lose focus before I even begin. Should be easy enough though as it’s completely unrelated.

So anyway, I’m writing out with my comfort zone, and hopefully it’s going to make the story more interesting.

Incoming! NaNoWriMo 2010.

The start of NaNoWriMo is pretty much exactly a month away now. And I’m both psyched and apprehensive. I think I’ve decided what I’m going to write but it’s a bit of a jumble. I’m taking a break from dystopian science fiction and going for “Epic” fantasy. I think I’m trying to incorporate a bunch of ideas I’ve had for fantasy stories into one mainly for the sake of giving me enough ideas to work with.

The basis of my idea is that in the beginning there were three gods one of Light one of Darkness and one of Twilight. These three gods represent Good, Evil and the balance between the two, the god of light and the god of darkness were at constant war with each other while the god of twilight merely observed not wanting to give either side an advantage. This war between Darkness and Light, Night and Day is the reason the seasons exist, in winter the Darkness is winning in Summer the Light.

At some point in history or prehistory the it looked like the god of darkness was going to win over the god of light, so the god of light asked the god of twilight for help. Fearing that the balance would be upset if the god of darkness won the god of twilight agreed to help the god of light in defeating the god of darkness, but on the condition that upon his defeat the god of light would also surrender his power, lest the balance tip in the other direction.

The god of light agreed to this and together they managed to seal away the god of darkness and break up his power into crystal shards called “God Shards”. However the God of light reneged on his agreement and tried to create a world of true Light.

The world cannot survive with light alone, the endless day meant that people could not sleep, crops dies because it was too hot, and there was no rain.  The overpowering good was corrupted and twisted, good taken to extreme can be just as evil as evil it’s self. In order to return the balance the god of twilight enlisted the help of man to topple the god of light, it was a long fought out war but eventually the god of light was also sealed and his power broken up into “God Shards”.

At this point the god of twilight fearing that he too would become corrupt decided to take a back seat and let the age of man begin.

The god shards were entrusted to an order of knights/monks who were sworn to defend their power. The crystals gave the monks a modicum of power that enabled them to protect the shards lest the fall into the wrong hands. If all the shards are assembled why can imbue someone with the power of a god, or possibly lead to the god trapped within them to be reborn. The monks for the most part live in a solitary existence, they accept one apprentice who is chosen with the help of the crystal and is trained up so that they may defend the crystal when the monk passes. (Someone has already made the Always there are two a Master and and Apprentice Sith analogy).

The story will centre around one of these monks trying to protect his crystal shard from someone who is trying to steal it for some nefarious plan.

I’ve got some other ideas but I’d rather not say much more as it would give away the story.

At the moment I’ve got a 3 page document of Ideas and Questions, I fear the number of questions out weighs the number of ideas, although the answer to each question is an idea I guess.

If anyone want’s to offer suggestions/ideas I welcome them, I’ll try to take them on board, but I may also ignore them.

Idea: Holmes

The new BBC adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes story “Sherlock” is nothing short of amazing. If you’ve not seen it what they have done is taken inspiration from the original Arthur Connan Doyle stories and created three crimes for a 21st century Sherlock to solve. I won’t go into any more detail as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t watched it, but if you are one of those unfortunates then you should rectify that post haste.

My Idea is more or an exercise in literary reverse engineering, the 3 currently existing episodes of Sherlock draw a lot of inspiration and pay homage to the original works, however as I understand they are new stories unto themselves. The exercise therefore would to imagine that the original works never existed and to attempt to rewrite the current TV show as if it were set in another time period, like Sherlock’s Victorian England, the American civil war, or maybe even in space.

If you’ve read the original you could try and pay homage to both the original and the series by taking the references to the original which exist in the series and intentionally misinterpret them.

Well there you go an idea for any budding writers out there, possibly an idea for a NaNoWriMo? I’d best get cracking.

Writing… What?

Having messed around with I write like I got to thinking that I need to actually get down to doing some writing. I’m not going to get much of a chance to write in the next couple of weeks as I’m going to be going on holiday to China and I’m not taking a computer with me but I think when I get back I’m going to try and make a concerted effort to get some writing done.

I’ve got two incomplete NaNoWriMo stories to finish, and I’ve written snippets here and there for other things. I have a vague Idea what I want to do for my next NaNoWriMo, My first one was going to be a bit cyberpunk, my second was Scifi so my third must be fantasy… I’ve got a vague idea of the world I want to set it in, I’m trying at the moment to take the story from it’s embryonic state in my mind through the and I’m trying to walk it thorough a war-zone of ideas while trying to avoid plagiarism mines.

The basic premise is that it’s been 100 years since the gods fell from power, in that time an empire of man has come into place lead by the descendants of the “Hero” who brought the gods down. Exactly who the gods were, why they had to be brought down is something that no one is entirely clear on, some people reason that there never were any gods at all, and that the Emperors ancestors made the whole thing up.

Some people say that the gods were evil some that they were good, some that there were some good and some evil, there are a hundred and one stories as to why they had to fall and it’s not clear which if any of them are true. All that is known is that at the present, there are no gods and the emperor is becoming a bit of a tyrant.

At the moment I’m trying to figure out in my head what the heck actually happened historically before I go into what’s going to happen. I’d like it to become quite dark, but to be honest knowing me it’s going to be satirical in some way shape or form, in fact thinking about it now I might excuse my accidental plagiarism by stating that the entire work is a satire on the fantasy genre.

Character wise I’ve only got two in mind one is a charlatan “magician” who specializes in sleight of hand and distraction to con people into thinking he has magical powers. As it turns out he does have magical powers much to his surprise. How he gets them and how they manifest I’m not clear on. I do know that magic is uncommon and or non-existent and that has been the case since the gods fell.

The other character is a eccentric old man who is convinced that he is the king of some country somewhere, he just seems to have misplaced his kingdom, and he can’t remember where it is or what it was called. It’s going to be hard to write such a character without him being irritating but I’m going to damn well try.

Both of those characters I’ve unfortunately since coming up with the idea seen parallels to characters in other fantasy works, I’m going to have to try and avoid them being the same. The magician is a bit like Schmendrick from The Last Unicorn, and the old man is a little similar to Fizban from the Dragonlance Novels, hopefully I can steer both characters away from the characters who may or may not have consciously or unconsciously inspired them… I guess there are archetypes and tropes that seem to appear in all kinds of stories, fantasy especially.

I need more characters, I see the now deceased emperor who brought about the godsfall as a strong warrior type, whenever I try to picture him in my mind I see this:

Which is unfortunate, because it’s Conan the barbarian and I don’t want him to be Conan the barbarian, I see him as a reluctant emperor who was thrust into power by dint of being the guy who happened to “Save the Day” on the right day. I guess a bit like Ned Stark from the song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin? I also see his descendants turning out a bit like some of the Lannisters from the same series, I’m not sure though, the idea is to progress from a just be reluctant ruler to a power crazed tyrant in 2-3 Generations. There might be people about who still remember the old king.

Above I imply that I’m taking inspiration from George R.R. Martin (He who is not your bitch), but I in no way shape or form think I can get even close to how brutal his books are, I’d like to be a little brutal though, I personally think that you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs and you can’t make your readers actually fear for the lives of your characters without showing them you are are willing to hurt and or kill them. George RRM is very good at this, he goes through his books on a merry killing spree, maiming and killing characters left right and centre, I doubt I’ll be that harsh, but I’d like to be at least a little harsh.

Another thing I’d Ideally like to take from G.R.R.M. (His name get’s shorter and shorter the more I write it) is the way he manages to make you hate a character in one chapter and love them in the next. As such I’d like to have a much better idea of who all my characters are before I start writing. I’d like it to be the case that although you may not agree with what the “villains” are doing you can at least empathise with them. And if they change from villains to heroes that maybe just maybe you might be able to look beyond their past and forgive them.

I’ve never really tried a character driven story before, my last two NaNo attempts focused on one character, they never changed point of view. Although the more recent one sometimes changed tense from chapter to chapter. I’d like to try and write each chapter from the point of view of a different character, because I think that it’s a really effective way to get the reader to empathise with all your characters, if not all maybe some. I’m not sure I’ve got the talent to do that, switching between characters essentially means you have to change the way you are thinking at the end of every chapter and start thinking in a different way, and you have to remember how you think when you are writing character X as opposed to character Y. I think I’m going to try it though, I’ve got 4 months (I think… Or is it three) to come up with character concepts, I’ll have to move on from there…

This is turning into a bit of a waffle about something that I may or may not write come November, I might just drop this whole train of thought and write a story about vampire cats (Yes I have notes on a concept story about vampire cats…) or something completely different that I think of on the 31st of October…

In the mean time I think I’m going to try and get some more words added to one or other of my NaNoWriMo stories, I don’t think I’ll have the bandwidth time wise to finish one, mainly because I don’t wan to burn out before November, but I’l like to take them both forward at some point. I’m thinking of putting up the rough draft that I have of what I wrote Last November, its just over 9 thousand words long, I’m not sure it’s any good, and I didn’t even get to where (in my head) the story starts.

Anyway on the subject of writing according to I write like this blog post is in the style of (Drum roll)…

I write like
H. P. Lovecraft

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I think the reason behind that is that it’s written like a diary entry…

NaNoWriMo 09 Nov 07 Post Mortum

Today has been the first chance I’ve had to actually go at it, up until now I’ve either not felt up to it or have had some social engagement or other that has stopped me from getting any writing done. As it stands I’m at 2,328 Words at the moment, up from 640 which has been my word count for the past 2 or so days. The irritating thing is that puts my output today at 1688 words… Which is only 21 words more than you are supposed to average a day during NaNoWriMo. this is partly because I rehashed/replaced/merged 200 of my old words into the new 1688 so technically I’ve written 1888 which is slightly better, I guess.

As it stands I’ve not gotten very far into my plot I have a long an convoluted plot planned out and I’m still in the first scene which introduces the main character. I might end the scene and thusly the chapter where I am or I might not, I’m not sure. I think I need to think on it, the next scene has my Amnesiac character meeting his wife for the first time since he disapeared for 6 months, and it’s going to have to involve a fight and a flashback. I’ll hopefully get that done tomorrow. I’ve got a little bit of filler I need to put in where nothing happens to set the reader at ease, about what the character is doing I dunno there are bits that I might skim over and just say they happen the filler is in space so I get to jabber on about technology and I get to describe for the first time what it feels like to slowly become a human popsicle. I like describing things.

After that there is a brief trip home for that character, the character has another fight with his wife, and sees his kids slightly more grown up. Then the final bit that is set in the “present” which I think will be a year  or so later will involve the main character going popsicle for one last time and waking up god knows when, which will lead on to the main plot. One of the things that I want to try to convey is how despite bieng socially inept when dealing with his wife and kids and constantly bickering/fighting with his wife that he really does love them, beause this is going to just make the rest of his future life all the more difficult. I don’t want to go too cliche, so lets see how I manage it…

I want birthdays to play a role in what I write, I think they are wierd, how we celebrate dates that mark the coincidence of the earth being at the same point in it’s orbit about the sun as it was when we were born. I also think that one really hard thing about being away from your kids and having them grow up while you are away is missing their birthdays.

I think I might have a birthday party in the filler, how much detail I go into is not really that important but I think I want a birthday party in the filler.

Anyway, I have a list of things I need to do tomorrow as well as NaNoWriMo so I’m going to have to go to bed soon. Just want to spend some time chilling before I do crash out, otherwise I’ll never get to sleep.

It amuses me that I just wrote almost 600 words about my nano rather than in it…

NaNoWriMo update Nov. 5

So maybe having 3 pots of tea in Tchai Ovna last night at half 8 was a mistake… My intention last night was to meet up with some folk after work for some tea, then go home and do nano for a couple of hours. What ended up happening was I went to the post grad club had dinner there, which of course meant delays because of their abnormally slow service. We then swung round to a friends house to pick up some stuff, that turned into staying there for an hour or so, which i don’t regret because I haven’t seen said friend in some time, also at her house was another friend whom I’d not seen in even longer so it was good to catch up, he only briefly.

Any way we finally got to Tchai Ovna at half 8 and left at about half 10 having survived an utterly rubbish poetry reading, which started with a girl who was a little too fixated on sex, so much so that you wondered if she was compensating for a lack of it by writing about it. We played hang man through the poetry reading although if i am ever in Tchai Ovna again on a Wednesday i plan on printing off poetry cliché bingo cards for all present, it would have made it much more enjoyable.
When i got home my mind was a buzz with ideas for my nano but i didn’t feel like i could write anything down for the nano untill i’d thought it out some more. So instead i opened up a new document and i did a brain dump of the characters and such, I also did a little bit of research on ranks of the airforce as my main character is in the airforce.

Then i went to bed, and spent 3 to 4 hours trying to sleep, my mind just kept buzzzing with more and more ideas. So much so that I ended up getting up at half 3 and writing some down just to get them out of my head. It didn’t work and I had some of the worst sleep I’ve had in ages, strangely I feel okay at the moment…

The upshot of this is than in my tossing and turning I’ve come up with a few ideas, and I’ve filled in a few plot holes that had been annoying me. The downside is I’m probably going to crash and burn this afternoon at work.

On another not: One of collegues at work browsed to my blog from a link on LinkedIn and read my Nano from last year, he thought it was really good. Nothing like a little bit of praise to brighten your day 🙂

NaNoWriMo Update: Eureka moment?

I’ve been having real trouble getting my nano started this year. On the first day i managed to batter out 450 or so words and since then i’ve just stagnated at about 600 words.

I had a bit of a eureka moment last night just before i went to bed. I think the reason I’m having issues is that i’m having trouble writiting dialogue. Some writers are good at dialogue others aren’t. It looks like i’m in the latter camp, which is a bit irritating because one simple way to beef up you word count is to have lengthy dialogues that expose your characters…

Another way it to quote coulridge…

Anyway i was thinking about my last attempt at nano, and that fell over as soon as i had two characters meet. Up untill that point there is dialogue, but it’s mostly between the main character and a bunch of machines, that was easy enough to write because the main character was basically me exaggerated, and the machines just needed to be comical and irritating.

I’ve reached a point in my current nano where the main character is being briefed by a doctor, to tell him whats happened. I’m having real trouble getting inside my characters head and i’m having even more trouble getting inside the head of the doctor who is for all intensive purposes a throw away character who’s only purpose is to move the plot along, a task he is proving to be rubbish at. I guess it’s to be expected, i don’t think they teach moving the plot forward in medical school.

I think i’m going to summarize what happens in the conversation and just note on. I’m going to try to internalise the story in my main characters head for the time being, he’s confused, he’s lost his memory and not everything makes sense to him at the moment so that should work okay. Or at least it’ll get me to the next conversation which is unfortunately for me only a few hundred words away, it’s more heated though as it’s going to be an argument with my main characters wife.

Any way in short nano still not going so well but i think i can see a light at the end of this particular tunnel, and i’m going to try to modify my route so that i avoid as many other tunnels as i can.

When nano is over i think i’m going to have to “improve my craft” by practicing writing conversations between people, but that can wait untill december. For the time being i’ve got 27 days to write 49,460 words.

Wish me luck.

UPDATE:

I did a word count on the blog posts I’ve wirtten about my Nano since the 1st of November and I’ve written 816 words not counting this update, when compared to the 640 I’ve actually contributed to my Nano i think I’m doing something wrong…