The Road to eBooking Part 1: Where To Begin?

The Road to eBooking Part 1: Where To Begin?

You know how it goes…

It’s late summer, and you’re holding court at some corporate Tiki Bar in the middle of the banker district. There’s a beautiful sunset overhead, but you ignore it because, at the moment, one hand is feverishly flipping through your news feed on your phone, while the other is wrapped around your third Suffering Bastard. Right now, all you can think about is where your next gig is coming from.

Your buddy’s Hawaiian shirt is so loud it could be heard over the soulless banter of the Mid-week Happy Hour crowd and whatever piped in audio sedative treacle they have playing at the time. It must be a Tuesday. His gait is wide as he clears a path back to your table. He removes his cheap, ill-fitting sunglasses from his pockmarked face, and he reveals a very serious expression. He orders a Red Stripe, turns to you and says, “That was the main office. They want to know if you can write a novel.”

“A novel?” You ask with heavy indignance, “Can’t those bastards find anything else to do in this godforsaken time? They had plenty of time to unleash this task last month. Novel. Pfft. They must be getting desperate.”

“I dunno. It could be important,” says your buddy as he gives the glass back to the waitress and takes a mighty swig from the tiny bottle. “As your attorney, I advise you to consider this option. Pack up the car, leave town for at least 48 hours. It could be just the thing you need to get out of this rut.”

“Those barking jackasses won’t get a word from me,” you say as you adjust your amber tinted aviators and turn your attention back to your Twitter feed. “Don’t they realize this country is going to hell in a handbasket? There are more important things out there than just casual reading, dammit!”

Next thing you know, you wake up in some horribly painted unfurnished apartment out by the railroad tracks on the edge of town. You are surrounded by stacks of notecards, a mountain of hastily written drafts that seem to be propping up a tower of pizza boxes, a minefield of empty coffee cups underfoot, and huge goddamn WiFi bill that your buddy stuck you with.

You squint at the Dollar Store Adorable Kitten calendar affixed crudely against the kitchen wall with duct tape. You notice it’s November. You notice this not because of the fluffy baby tabby kitteh posed perfectly on a pumpkin in pilgrim attire, you notice this because the name of the month circled and underlined repeatedly in red marker with an equally urgent treatment given to the date of the 28th.

Today.

You look over at your laptop and you notice a jibberish laden manuscript flickering on the screen with a bold heading that simply says Chapter 3. You panic. At least, you think about panicking if it weren’t for the dull nausea in your gut that you get from too much coffee and not enough food. It has garnered your full attention and is quickly amplifying the hell that you found yourself in.

Everywhere you look is chaos. Nothing is making sense. Seriously, where did this cat come from? Do I even own this much paper? These aren’t my pants. Did someone actually use a highlighter on my screen? You’d be more inclined to think that you’d been robbed, but nothing appears stolen. But then again, you don’t even know whose place this is.

You turn around and come face to face with a wall-sized cork board completely choked from corner to corner with more notecards, color-coded and frenzied. A few are stitched together in some random network of colored yarn and thumbtacks. Confusion fills your head because you can’t recall any conspiracy theories that you’re following at the moment. Then, it hits you. It’s NaNoWriMo, and you’re about to go down in flames.

I know, I know. We’ve all been there.

My experience wasn’t any different.

With a little restraint, I’ve managed to control the impulse to do something like this, and it has gone down a few notches since then.

Write Smaller, Not Harder

Before signing up, I honestly don’t think I had a cohesive idea for a novel at all. I had the beginnings of an idea. A spark. I had the willingness to elevate the way I use this craft, and the desire to see it through to the end, only to have the wind knocked out of my sails by the end of week two.

I was ill-equipped, and perhaps just a little full of myself. I ramble, in case you haven’t noticed. And as such, I thought I would be able to make it to the finish line. Most of my blog posts average around 2000 words so it should be no problem. True, there are times where it takes me a few days, sometimes longer to finish. I accept this because time and privacy are both luxuries I do not possess. These are the things that I would need in order crank out more, if not better and more consistent posts. These things would facilitate a decent showing at the end of November.

At least I’d get a t-shirt out of it.

These are also the things I will probably never get by being a stay-at-home dad. So, in order to reach a compromise, it made more sense to set my sites a bit lower and work smaller.

Writing prompts and Flash Fiction contests are great to make sure the imagination keeps flowing, but these days, I tend to gravitate more towards static art. Building a story around a painting just makes sense because…well… they are worth a thousand words, after all. So, why not figure out what they are and write them down? You know… for kicks!

At Home Among A Gaggle of Geeks

When you post a work of art on your social medias, you’ll get your usual, obligatory likes, and random one or two-word comments. You feel this fleeting moment of satisfaction where you think someone might have the same taste you do.

Post that same work onto a community space that is inhabited entirely by a nerd herd of people with similar likes, interests, and experiences, and you’re bound to get something a little more fleshed out.

Examples of this can be found on Tumblr, Medium, Facebook (I’m presuming) and in this case, Charlie Hoover’s Geekscape of the Day.  There is no contest he constructs. He offers no direction. One would think that he would posit a challenge at the very least, but he doesn’t. He simply posts a work of art that he likes, something that can easily fit with the community’s namesake, along with the name of the artist who made it and a link to where they originally posted it. That’s it.

To the average person, this is just another post on just another social site.

To a person who is predisposed to letting their mind wander, it’s like catnip.

Sooner or later, the word nerds from the nerd herd would gather and start clicking away at their keyboards like little nerdy word birds. What ultimately ends up happening isn’t a competition or even a round-robin type thing. It’s more like an unofficial open mic night at some bar that only the locals know about. One person would leave their related micro-fiction as a comment. Then another would leave their interpretation, then another, and so on.  This is what happens when you show something interesting to a group of smarter than average people who read a lot in their spare time. This is how I often thought an ideal social media interaction would take place.

This is also how I came to travel down the road to my first official publication. Fingers crossed.

I’m about 1200 words in, and I still haven’t provided anything actionable yet.

For some reason, I’m still thinking that the point of writing this post is to show what my thinking process was in writing a short story, or anything else for that matter. I’ve been fighting with this part for about a week now because there’s a big part of me who is convinced no one will care.

As I’ve stated before, do you really want advice from someone who isn’t a professional? Advice, good advice, should be dispensed by smarter people than me.

But then again, advice isn’t gospel.

The best I can do is impart a tiny bit of wisdom through experience and hope that it might be beneficial to someone.

Where To Start?

The painting that I based my current story on, is found here. Take a look. Take a good long look at it. Absorb it. Spend a few minutes with it, then get back to me.

Welcome back. Now, answer me this. What did you see? Who talked to you? What was said? What did you smell? This way of doing things accounts for the majority of my present and future drafts. I’m not saying that it will work for you. It may, but it may not. Looking at the source material is the first step. This is what I normally do next.

1.) Remember The Basic Rule.

“Every play has to have a beginning, middle and an end. Jean-Luc Godard said, ‘Not necessarily in that order.’ And that’s why French movies are so effing boring.”
-David Mamet

I will acknowledge that liberties are ours for the taking. We as writers, professional and amateur, will always have the freedom to do what we want with our own work.

Mix it up ‘Memento’ style?
Go ahead with your bad self!

Sticking with the ‘Once Upon a Time’ to ‘Happily Ever After’ formula?
Well, look at YOU in your Sunday Best!

Whatever route you follow, always remember that every story will have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Absorb the source material. Think about a beginning, you don’t have to get into too much detail. Then a middle; will there be conflict? What will that conflict look like? Then the end; what would be the result?

If you can fill in these blanks, then you’re well on your way.

2.) Keep Asking Questions.

Imagine you aren’t a writer chained to your desk to finish your latest work of fiction. Imagine you’re a journalist who just arrived on the scene of a botched robbery. Your job is to get all the important details out of the way first. The rest will take care of itself.

  • Who was involved? Who was the victim? Was there a perpetrator?
  • What happened? What is the evidence? What are the facts?
  • Where did it happen? Home or business? City or suburbs?
  • Why did it happen? What was the motivation? Who stands to benefit?
  • How did it happen? What was used? Where was it acquired?

The principle is the same regardless if you’re creating worlds for your next novel, or writing a fully detailed article for the Washington Post. Once you get all the important information down, ask yourself, “Is this all to the story, or is there something that I missed?”

3.) Stay Curious.

Right around this time, Imposter Syndrome kicks in, and I go back over everything to see if it’s slightly original, or just another worn out trope.

If it starts ringing familiar, then I try to steer the narrative into a new direction. If it doesn’t, well, it doesn’t make it any less challenging.

Can you work with it? Are you willing to work with it? Is it something you’re willing to put the hours into? If the answer to these is no, then it probably wasn’t meant to be, but that’s okay. There are plenty of other motes of inspiration out there waiting to fly into your nostril cavity at any time. All you have to do is to keep an open mind and stay curious.

It’s been over a week on this post. I’ve spent long enough away from my draft, and I should return with a fresh set of eyes. Revisions will be the house in which I will be moving into soon, but for now, something else has my full attention. Something awful.

In the course of writing this post, an American radicalized by a White Supremacist Terrorist Group walked into a Florida high school and murdered 17 children.

He walked in with an assault rifle. Passed metal detectors. Passed armed guards. 17 children, 3 adults, murdered. In school. On Valentine’s Day. It’s now two days later. No motive has been given.

I know it’s our job to stay on task and finish the article and stick to the program, but shit like this makes it hard to talk about anything else. Everything else seems small in comparison. I’m writing about some stupid book that I’m trying to publish. Meanwhile, 17 kids were slaughtered on Valentine’s Day. That’s 17 kids who will never have the opportunity to make the world a better place. 17 voices silenced. Hundreds in mourning. Thousands enraged. A country fed up.

Right now, there isn’t anything else.

Right now, there are more important things that need discussion.

 

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Crisis Averted

Crisis Averted

Okay, remember in my last post where I was gushing about the benefits of Scrivener?

In that post, remember where I remarked that I should ‘always remember the value of playing’?

Right. Well, no sooner when I started back on my current project, then something happened that I caused, and if I were the person I was… like… I dunno… five years ago? That’s about right. Something happened where, if I were the same person I was five years ago, I probably would have handled it in the same patient and thoughtful way that Kylo Ren would when someone took the last Pepsi.

kylotantrum

I didn’t like the way my binder was set up. The area where I was going to write my draft was fine. It was the brand new, undiscovered territory I carved out for myself by way of storyboarding.

I have this notion. I am determined that I will be a Planner and leave my chequered Pantser past behind me. I. Will. Be. Organized.

So, it started with a basic outline. Just like the other projects I have going. I start with an outline, try my best to keep it brief, plan it out in a linear fashion, finish it, and then completely disregard its existence for the rest of the project. It’s the equivalent of deciding to get a treadmill because you want to lose weight, and then turning it to a clothes hanger a month later. I make an effort to at least put up the illusion of trying to be better. But, inasmuch as I’d like to think otherwise, outlines are just frickin’ boring!

Then I thought of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, and how they went about planning Shaun of the Dead. It was one of the extras on the DVD. It was a bit where they were flanking this giant flipboard, and glossing over their scribbly shorthand of the plot of the movie. Now, whether it was done with tongue planted firmly in cheek, whether they were spoofing themselves or not, it didn’t matter. The flipboard was an effective idea. At least for me. There’s something about using a space big enough to throw everything into and see what worked and what didn’t. So with that in mind, I thought storyboarding would be a much better approach.

Remember when I said my organizational skills were weak to begin with?

I had a vague idea on how to storyboard in Scrivener. I knew it involved folders…and rearranging…and…stuff…Anyway, my first attempt at it was practically unusable. It was a grade school paper maché representation of what I think a storyboard is. I had I good amount of notes and thoughts written down, but I didn’t arrange it the way I wanted to begin with, and so I set forth to copy, paste and rearrange.

Long story short, I accidently deleted two days worth of notes.

No no…that’s fine… you needed that Pepsi more than I did…” ZZZORP! ZZAP! SLASH!

It would be a situation where, if I were not used to setbacks the way I am now, I would set my computer on fire. The only thing that was keeping me in check was as I was making these notes, new ideas kept jumping in and placing themselves in the story. So, it was  a lot of:

Okay. This happened, this happened, then this happened. Oh but wait, what if this happened. So, I’d have to go back and do this…

Since the process was ever evolving, and the confusing way I set up the storyboard might had turned out to be double-knotted shoelaces on a child’s pair of Keds, it was probably for the best if just nuked the whole thing and started over. The ideas and the plot were still in my head, and I haven’t made it too far yet, it would only be a matter of minutes to reconstruct. Which I did.

Now, I’ve got the hang of it.

newprojectnotes

Before this, the version that got erased,  I already made things difficult for myself. I blame being organized for it.

In order for me to harness, to wrangle, to make sense, to make more efficient the process of writing, the appeal of starting with a bare bones structure started to make more sense. I went with a basic 3 Act Structure; meat and potatoes, nothing fancy.

Out of the dozens of ways I could format it, I went with the ever reliable Tree chart.

3 Act Structure

I took the lead from NaNoWriMo veteran, Katytastic, and arranged her method in a way that makes the most sense to me.

Even before I began, I was setting myself up to fail. I was using a 3 Act Structure for a 4 Act story. On top of that, I have somehow convinced myself that this will be a short story.  Add to this the frustration of trying to get something to work the way you want it to, but you’re explaining yourself the wrong way, it was going to take more time to rearrange than to just start over again. Which I did. Because remember: It’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity.

So, let’s go over what we’ve learned. Keep in mind, I still attest that there is no wrong way to use Scrivener. For the sake of my own sanity, and just to see if I can do it, I’m sticking with the 3 Act structure for now.

What Didn’t Work?

Set Up, Conflict, Resolution. Beginning, Middle, End. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. I regarded everything in the green boxes as chapters, and everything in the red circles as scenes. Chapters were my notecards, scenes were… well, more notecards, but they weren’t connected or nested into anything else. My goal is to write my scene on a split screen with the notes taking up the other half. The way I originally set it up, wasn’t really friendly to the way I was doing it.

Most authors who use Scrivener prefer to utilize the corkboard view for the simple reason of labelling the cards to reflect different stages of completion until it’s finished. That’s what I wanted to do. Instead, I crammed the three corresponding points (red circles) into a document and shoved it under one card. I had no idea how to rework it, until I accidentally deleted it.

What Did Work?

Every so often, when things get a little too confusing and difficult, I find that a good ol’ Tabula Rasa is the best solution. desk_flip

Starting over, I learned how to put subfolders into main folders.Then it was easier to make the cards I needed. A brief synopsis for every chapter, finer details on corresponding sheets to be used in conjunction with the draft, and then once completed, change the card from “To Do” to “First Draft” to “Second Draft” and so on.

Butbutbut…what about the 4th Act?” I hear you say. Denouement, is my answer.

This was supposed to be a quick post,so I didn’t bother taking detailed screen shots this time. For a better explanation of what this whole post is about, here’s a video directly from the creator of Scrivener.

So in conclusion, what could have been a total disaster turned out to be my Eureka Moment. I’m sure more obstacles will come across my path soon enough, and I’ll do my best to report them as they do. As well as, of course, publish more snippets.

Talk to you soon…

The First Rule in Talking About New Projects Is…

The First Rule in Talking About New Projects Is…

amwritingThe first rule of talking about the Holidays after the Holidays is: You do not talk about the Holidays after the Holidays.

Of course, it’s an unwritten and unspoken rule amongst most of us, right? Like, the guy in your office who gleefully walks around to each cubicle and reminds you on December 26th that there are only 364 shopping days ’til Christmas.

Then the office beat down happens in the breakroom.

Then they tell you to clean out your desk.

Then comes the restraining order…

January 1st rolls around and the well-wishing is officially over. You do not talk about the Holidays after the Holidays.

Same with NaNoWriMo.

Writers, at least the ones that I follow, have no time to dwell on something that happened months ago because some of them are in the midst of tidying up the manuscript they just cranked out in 30 days.

I am no different. Even though I didn’t win NaNo (next year, I’m DEFINITELY getting the t-shirt), I have no plans on abandoning this project because out of the previous attempts at trying to hammer out a story, this is the one has greased the wheels of my storytelling machine long enough to get the bugs out and make it purr like it just came off the assembly line. I’m not walking away from this one.

Still, the first week in January found me staring at my first draft and all my notes like Jack Torrance closely inspecting his Adler typewriter to make sure it doesn’t change color on him… again. This was the time where I should have wiped the deck clean, rearranged things, beefed it up, trimmed it down, played with it. Instead, and I hate myself for thinking it, I kept looking at it as if it were 5-day old leftovers.

Oh no…Meatloaf again?

Meatloaf
“Is it Saturday Night yet?”

I wouldn’t call it a block. My intention is in full swing, and when that happens, all it takes is one word, one phrase, a picture, something that happened on the way to the grocery store, and I’m back on the horse. I wouldn’t call it a block, it was more like a pit stop. I needed some perspective.

I read somewhere recently that one of the best ways to overcome getting stuck in your manuscript was to start another project, see it through as far as you can take it, then revisit your original manuscript. A fresh perspective might be just the thing to clear the logjam and get moving.

As fate would have it, around the same time that I should have been adding more chapters, fixing dialog and tinkering with sub-plots, an invitation was extended by a fellow blogger about writer-y stuff, Chris Graham, to participate in a short story contest. The tl;dr version is 1500 words, 30 days to write, based on a picture chosen by the contest provider.

Now, like wishing someone a Happy Holiday in late January, I’m not supposed to talk about it to a certain extent. I can’t write it, post it and link to it here where it can shine in all it’s hastily-put-together glory¹ (e.g. the occasional Flash Fiction Challenge from Chuck Wendig). Nope, this time it’s fo’ realizies. Grand Prize winner will get published across a number of publications, name and brand recognition will become more concrete, mana will rain from the sky and European lingerie models will throw themselves at my feet.

…well, not really. But I will chalk it up as actual experience; something to add to a resumé. Being published in any capacity at this point would be most welcome. My horoscope has been stuck on repeat for months. It just keeps repeating, “Good things are going to happen, good things are going to happen…”

I sincerely hope so…

Upcoming Projects

  • As I started to say before I got sidetracked, I’m not allowed to discuss or share a copy of my entry until later on this year. However, that doesn’t preclude me from two things. 1.) It doesn’t mean that I can’t share a little snippet of it in a future post, and 2.) who’s to say that I should stop there? Who’s to say that I should be solely reliant on random opportunities to come my way so that I could find an excuse to make more content? My noggin is full to capacity with story ideas. I collect writing prompts for fun. I kinda, sorta know how to make a decent book cover. Inspiration is all around me and all I have to do is interpret its language. This is the mission statement of this blog to begin with. Yes, my NaNo Novel will be worked on this year, and perhaps might be entered again as soon as November comes around again. In the meantime, expect smaller projects to bubble to the surface. I’ll still be throwing up Flash Fiction, but if something slightly heavier needs to be fleshed out, like say a novella, you can rest assured that you will know about it. So, lot’s of writing this year… but first…
  • My ultimate goal is to make this website self-substantial. Along with a sturdy final draft of my manuscript that is set for publication, a well-deserved t-shirt from NaNoWriMo as my prize for finishing, I would like to see “aapayson.com” become a reality. In order to do that, I need money. And, in order to get that, I would like to direct you to my Pay Pal donation button on the right-hand side of the page. Now, as much as all donations great and small will be most welcome, begging was never my strong suit. So, therefore, a new page on this blog will be in development over the coming weeks. Prepare for the swag.

That’s it, very excited and enthused this year. I got a lot of great ideas and I can’t wait to make them happen. Thanks for reading.

How about you? What’s your big project this year? Are you finishing a book too? Starting one? Let me know in the comments.

¹I forgot to mention that I should have proofread my submission a little better. Looking over it the day after I sent it, small mistakes were glaring at me. Meh.

Lessons Learned From NaNoWriMo (in response to Chuck Wendig)

Lessons Learned From NaNoWriMo (in response to Chuck Wendig)

The water was warmer around the dock. lake-425029_1920

It was probably the only shallow part of the lake. The safest part. The part where a few dozen suburban Boy Scouts who have never experienced swimming in a natural body of water before splashed and thrashed and screamed and silently cataloged every moment to be saved for the time when they teach their own children. Against the serene and majestic backdrop of the Maine Wilderness, it was loud, it was chaotic. But, it’s what is supposed to happen in the middle of summer, and you were a pre-teen, and warm weather came at a premium. There was fun to be had.

Your feet ran across sharp, tiny pebbles all the way to the water’s edge. As they broke the surface of the lake, they slid across a frosted layer cake of algae to find themselves floating, while the rest of the body did all the work. This is where everyone splashed and played; an area of no further than 20 feet from the shoreline. It was warm. It was safe.

It was not where you were going today.

Today, you stopped focusing on the kiddie section, and put the rest of the scenery into context, as if you’ve spent the majority of the summer in blissful darkness, and suddenly remembered where you are. Today, you walked all the way to the edge of the dock and noticed that even though it was a warm summer’s day, the nearby mountain range sliced thick atmosphere that was rolling overhead. Undetected. Like sharp shears through Spring wool. Even though it didn’t hit you right away, but even with all the thrashing about in the warm, shallow end, the waters beyond the edge of the dock were fairly still.

This was the day you had to swim out to the platform, the one closer to the middle of the lake, swim three laps around it, and tread water for 10 minutes while trying not to pass out from exhaustion or panic. Which sounded easy enough on paper, but once you fill you lungs with air and dive in, you quickly find a new respect for mountain fed lakes, and just how deep and cold they are. The water is just a few degrees above forming ice crystals. It surrounds every inch of you, steals whatever air is left in your lungs, turns your blood into Hershey’s Syrup, and makes your feet long for the time when tiny rocks tenderized its soles. They wish they could feel something, anything. They need something flat to propel the body that is currently going into shock out of the water. Nothing is found. The body starts flailing, the mind goes into survival mode.

You start to sink.

You forgot how to swim.

The broomstick shoots below the surface. There’s a voice yelling at you to grab on to it.

Someone pulls you in.

Lesson failed.

Lesson learned.

Thirty days, hath September, April, June and November. Which means as of the first draft of this post, it will soon mean “pencils down”.

This is my first year in participating in NaNoWriMo. My approach in doing so was something akin to walking the labyrinthine floors of any given Vegas casino for the first time; Get the lay of the land. Get a feel for where the action is, where to start playing. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll figure it out eventually the longer you acclimate yourself to this environment. Find a table, break out your chips, start playing.

I know how to write. I’ve been doing it for years. Just…not professionally. Writing 50,000 words of fiction in 30 days I figured would be challenging, but doable. “I can do this,” I thought to myself back in October when I had a spark of a plot and not much else. “I’m able to crank out about 200 words in 15 minutes. Which means that if I don’t get up to pee, eat, take care of a toddler, refill my coffee, acknowledge any other responsibility in the house, I can average 800 or so words an hour. Which means I can crank out 1667 words in a little over two. I can do this. This is going to be the yard stick by which I measure all future accomplishments.”

I didn’t take into consideration the occasional writer’s block, or the stretches of days where the icy grip of ennui and depression steal the last breath from you. I also didn’t take into consideration that I may have over-inflated myself in my research skills just a touch.

In as much as I’d want to admit to myself that I was prepared, I wasn’t. I just wasn’t. I suck, and that’s it.

Yes, I had notes and source material, but it didn’t matter squat if I kept finding more, and adding to it every day. Yes, I had a frame of reference that I found a little too late where I could craft the story much easier with a lot less headache. But, it doesn’t matter if I didn’t know what I was doing before I started. I mean, I thought I knew, nobody told me how cold and deep the water was.

A wing and a prayer. That’s it. That’s all I had. You see that guy waaaaay in the back of the pack of the Boston Marathon? The one that jogs a quarter mile, then ducks into a bar for a beer and a burger when no one’s watching? The guy whose boobs shake every time he plants his foot? Yeah, that’s me.

I suck, and that’s it.

This post was supposed to be shorter. It was, in fact, supposed to be a reply to a recent post on Chuck Wendig’s blog a few days ago. But, me being me, I thought it would be better to wildly thrash about on my own blog, vent a little in hopes that I can keep a little something going from the previous month while at the same time, answer his questions by not posting an epic tl;dr reply in his comments.af86b-tldr_longcat

Recently, he asked his followers, specifically the ones participating in NaNoWriMo this year, what their individual experiences were, and what they learned from it. This was my first year. I thought that I was better prepared for it, found out otherwise. Here’s my take-away from it…

How’d you do?

On One Hand…

The experience was exactly what I needed to get me out of a writing drought. While forging ahead at breakneck speed with a single spark of inspiration that I carried in my shirt pocket for a couple of days, I was secretly wishing that I would knock this project out of the park on my first time around, become the next J.K. Rowling, become insanely rich and tell every doubter and hater I know that they can all go stuff it.

On The Other Hand…

That moment when you’re scrubbing up in the shower, or you’re driving with the windows rolled down, and suddenly you’re belting out a tune that you haven’t heard in ages, but you forgot most of the words?

“It’s not the things that you do or the thing somethinsomethin doo doo…HOLD THE LINE! Nuhnuhnuhnuuuhnuuhhnuh TIME!…”

Like that. A nasty habit of mine I’d like to break is starting strong on any given project, and then fizzle out after a few pages. It’s not that I’m completely naïve and think that writing a book was a linear process and I could start on page one and not stop until I reach page two hundred and whatever.

Okay…maybe I was a little naïve.

I am easily distracted. And I’m not talking about your usual Jump-On-Facebook-And-Stay-There-For-Hours type of distracted. My level of distraction is hovering somewhere in the clinical range; the type where they have to give it a snappy acronym or a Latin moniker. The type where they have to give me a pretty little bottle filled with pretty little pills, that can pull in some decent coin on the street….

…what was I talking about?…

I start something, find a shiny object to play with for a while, and by the time I return to what I was doing, I had no idea why I started in the first place. This is the type of thing that slows me down, always. Like this post. It was supposed to go up days ago.

The end result being, I didn’t finish my novel. And, I’m okay with that, because above all else NaNo is a learning experience.

What Did You Learn?

Well, I learned that…

  • Planners and Pantsers are connected, even though all evidence leads to the contrary. I believe that all of us that are brave enough in the first place to grapple with this Word Beast for a month, that it’s probably a wise idea to adopt the attitudes of both. Making stuff up as you go along is fun and you’d be amazed at where you can go, but I believe that it can only take you so far before you have to stop and ask for directions. I believe that in order to finish your goal, you would need to have the mind of a Planner, and the soul of a Pantser.
  • However many notes you have, double them. Triple them if you have to. There’s no such thing as too much research.
  • I need to take time out and read more. Even if it’s just a few pages. Not Twitter, Not other blogs. An honest to goodness book. It does the body good.
  • Quiet and solitude are valuable commodities. Music is a good stimulus, but there’s only so much I can take before I get completely distracted and start making new Spotify stations. I must look into stealing myself away to write, which is impossible these days. My boy likes to get into trouble. I’d like a quiet space with blank walls and maybe a few windows, a laptop, access to wi-fi, blank notebooks, note cards, pencils, an area to make coffee, and a door with a lock on it. That’s about it. Distractions are a killer.
  • A proper 3 Act Structure is not necessarily the only way to craft a story, but it’s a sturdy framework, and it’s worked out pretty good for a lot of people so far. It’s a good place to start, don’t discount it, don’t deny it. Use it.
  • Using Scrivener will probably help out a lot. Yeah, it was very confusing at first, but so was Blender, and you figured that out eventually. Bite the bullet, buy a copy, and stick it on the above mentioned laptop.

Where Will You Go From Here?

Me from 2007 would have thrown in the towel weeks ago. I would have drowned in that icy lake of my own ambition, wept at my untimely demise for a few days, and started on something else that was a little less scary. Like, a Top 5 List about neckties or something.

Present Day Me would probably strangle 2007 me. No, we are not giving up. No, we are not wasting any more time writing blog posts that no one reads. No, we are not going to catch up on our Netflix cue. We are going to sit our ass down in front of the monitor, and we are going to finish this bastard.

By the end of the month, I made it to the halfway point; About 26,000 words. Personally, I would like to regard it as a benchmark. Not bad for a first timer, but compared to the people who have done this through the years, I barely showed up. I know I should regard other participant’s progress with little regard, but it’s kind of hard not to take a peek at what others are doing. The biggest obstacle I had to overcome was myself (turn off the cheesy music). I know I can do this. When faced with trying to write in a linear fashion, because I thought that’s how you do it for some reason, it slowed me down, it allowed doubt to take over, and stopped me dead in my tracks. Suddenly, getting ready for Thanksgiving was more important.

I will be continuing this. I will probably scrap everything and start over again, but I will be continuing this. NaNoWriMo has taught me self discipline, something that was rather lacking these days. I understand the nature of it now, and even though the usage of the month of November is a good measuring stick, I’m not going to let that hinder me now that we’re in December. I don’t have to use November. I could just as easily use April, June, or September…because all the rest of thirty-one. My novel, such as it is, is a mess. I will be spending however long it takes to get it into a cohesive work, and get it ready to publish. Because it means that much to me. I will finish this.

Present day me isn’t afraid of the water anymore.

Finishyours

“Fearsome Critters” (Working Title for Current NaNoWriMo Contest) Intro

“Fearsome Critters” (Working Title for Current NaNoWriMo Contest) Intro

Author’s Note: This is my WIP for this year’s NaNoWriMo contest, which means it is by no means completed. However, I’ve taken the liberty of bending the rules slightly, decided to use what I’m currently working on now, rather than starting fresh.

I’ve decided to do this for one very important reason:

Old Habits Die Hard

I have no boundaries set. No real deadlines. I have self-discipline in other areas of my life; I know how to wash a dish and brush my teeth and stuff. But like with everything else in life, in order to get good at things, you have to keep doing it.

When I blog, it’s no big thing. My topics usually aren’t the type of thing that make Google AdSense spin into a tizzy, quite the opposite, actually. They have less to do with current events, and more to do with an individual trying to make sense of things through writing. I’d find a topic to write about, take my time with it, sometimes days, edit until it sounds something like my voice, find a few choice graphics, maybe craft something of my own, and post. I take my time with it, but the point is, I finish it. It’s one topic meant to be chewed on for a few minutes and then published. Sometimes, I take a little longer to work my way through it. But I finish it.

The same cannot be said when it applies to writing fiction. Writing fiction is not like writing and article where I can grab one or two sources and build post around it. Not for lack of trying, though. Last year, I thought it would be cool if I constructed a story, and posted a chapter (or part of a chapter) a week on my blog.

It didn’t quite work out the way I expected.

What I learned from this experience was the importance of brevity, not to mention the importance of note taking and research. Also, reading something more substantial than a Twitter feed was worked into the equation as well: Dialog sound robotic and stiff? Try reading a book and pay attention to how the professionals do it. Like a certain story arc? Try writing it out or making a diagram. You know, all the little things that might have been helpful as I slowly lost steam halfway through the project.

I will return to it.

Someday.

But getting back on topic, when it comes to crafting something out of thin air, like writing a short story or a novel, being that I have no deadlines and no pressure to finish a current project, I will revert to my old habit of abandoning something that I start, purely out of lack of interest. It’s a pet peeve. One of many. And it bugs the shit out of me.

Also, even though I’ve had oodles of time to figure it out, I have yet to find that balance between being a domestic and becoming the next Tom Robbins. So, forgive me if I started a little on the early side with this, but I’ll take every Mulligan I can find to get this done.

Anyway, below is an “Intro In Progress”(?) for my latest project. It’s current title is “Fearsome Critters”. Please note that this is only a working title, and has very little to do with the book written by Henry H. Tryon. I liked his title, but I won’t be using it. I’m the kind of person who writes first, and thinks of a title later. In the meantime, I will be taking any and all suggestions for a new title, maybe one will come to me. By all means, please engage with me in the comments below.

Thank you, and enjoy.

Also, as you’ll probably figure out, there are some words peppered into the conversation that look like they’re made up. Rest assured, it is very real. It’s the native tongue of the Passamaquoddy people; a Native American Tribe indigenous to my neck of the woods. Again, I look forward to engaging in the comments below.

~***~

Empty Seats (2405779789)

“At this point, you don’t really have to concern yourself too much with these critters.” Eric gestured to the list of seemingly random animals scribbled on the giant chalkboard behind him. “Keep in mind that by this time, ‘The Ancient Age’ ended long ago, and can anybody tell me who ended it?” His words bounced off the concrete cavern of the not-even-half filled  teaching auditorium, and landed in the ear canals of  barely cognizant Twentysomethings who were there only to fulfill an elective. “Anybody?” continued Eric in vain.

Two things haven’t changed much since he started teaching this course: his syllabus, and his wardrobe. It wasn’t for any sort of notoriety  that Eric chose the collegiate life. There was no paper or grand study he felt the need to publish in earnest. Eric was never about the new discoveries. Eric is old. He is old in his clothes, his flesh, and his voice, but his eyes still burn with a shade of his youth. He was born to be the keeper of the word. It is his life’s purpose to carry his peoples  history. There once was a time when he would tell the tale of gods and demons and heroes, and all would stare, mouth agape, and minds ablaze  at the wonderful and mysterious worlds he would conjure for them.

Generations would grow up, grow old, and die before him. Years pass, and as they did, so would the wonder. The once energetic and receptive crowds became smaller and more sophisticated as technology slowly crept in, and disrupted the landscape of imagination. He could remember when a campfire and a full moon would be all he needed. Now, it’s how many ‘likes’ he’s accumulated on his rarely used Facebook account.  Stories don’t matter these days, it’s about connection. He could never understand why every one of his colleagues were so insistent on basing all of their interactions on something so impersonal and shallow. He has a grand total of 63 followers, and is completely indifferent about it. He has a total of  75 people signed up for his class, half of which bothered to show up tonight. He knows when he’s losing his audience, which seems to be happening a lot lately.

“That’s right,” continued Eric. “ Glooskap. You remember who he was, right? Glooskap? Also known as Gluskab? Odzihózo? Son of Tabaldak, The Creator?  ‘The Man Who Created Himself’? The guy we covered in the last class? C’mon, people!” The last part eliciting a slight moan from his students as if they were all prodded with a stick. He wasn’t getting anywhere. Not today. And this was one of his better classes. He glanced at the clock, and thankfully had enough time to fit in the rest of the story before everyone slipped away into lecture-induced coma.

“Anyway, all of these guys right here,” using a yardstick as an extension of his arm, “the rabbit, the muskrat, and the beaver were all as big as houses in ‘The Ancient Age’  They were all respected and revered and feared until..?” Eric paused to see if anyone would join in, “Glooskap came along and shrunk them down to the size that we know today. Now, whether or not some of these critters might have taken issue with that, like hostile feelings that have been harbored by the rabbits for generations because they were the most savage beasts in the land and now they’re just cute and fuzzy, is up for another discussion for another time. And, there are some that would say that would be motivation enough for that little bastard beaver,” Eric paused again to allow his disconnected audience to join in. “ ‘Kwah-beet-a-sis’ to spy on Glooskap and rat him out to his brother…anybody?” another pause.

Malsumis!” exclaimed a faceless voice from the back of the room.

“Oh, good!” Eric sighed. “I’m glad someone is paying attention.” Several bodies turned in their seat to see if they recognized the voice. “It didn’t really matter because Glooskap always knew that his little brother had a thing about murder and mayhem. Oh, and he had a predisposition for turning into a wolf. So any chance Malsumis got to mislead his older brother, he took it. Now, if this is starting to sound familiar, it’s because it is. You can find this same dynamic as far back as Ancient Greece.” He glanced at the clock again, the end grows nigh. “So, to sum up: Malsumis lied to the beaver. The beaver turned to Glooskap, telling him what his brother has planned for him. Glooskap slew his brother, and his body turned into a mountain range. Where that mountain range is, all depends on who’s telling the story.” He wanted to get into modern day parallels, and how the diminishing of all the species could  be interpreted as Man taking dominion over Nature. Or, he could have made several connections from the stories once told by an almost extinct and indigenous race of people, his people,  are still relevant and can be applied  today in terms of war, oppression and sovereignty. But the hour is late, and none of these kids couldn’t be bothered long enough to get their noses away from their laptops  to care.

“ Okay, that’s it for today.” Bodies suddenly sprung to life on cue. Eric ‘s voice rose to try to get over the clamor of  shuffling desks and yawning mouths. “Now, don’t forget that your papers need to be on my desk by the end of next week, and there’s going to be a test on Friday, so look sharp, everyone.” Another chorus of moans.

Eric is a study in busy work: Straighten out your desk, your stack of papers. Collect attendance records. Adjust your older-than-dust glasses on your face. Do this. Do this every day  to hide the creeping disdain that scratches the back of your throat and nags at every thought that once helped you through the day. You used to be greater than this. You used to be respected. A leader of men. There once was a time when you could bend nature to your will, now you’re stuck educating the ancestors of the people who drove yours to the edge of extinction. Don’t think about it. Don’t dwell on it. This is not what you were meant to do. Just finish this day, Eric. It will all be over soon enough. Pack up your briefcase, and try not to notice the pair of eyes that are burning a hole in the back of your skull.

“Class is over, do you have a question?” Eric asked without turning around from the chalkboard.

“Goodness,” said the voice behind him. “The story is much shorter than I remember, Kooda.”

The eraser slowed it’s hissing in his hand as a chill ran up his spine. The last time he was referred to by his birthname, the Pony Express was still in business. Enkoodabooaoo (Kooda for short, or Eric, as he goes by now) knows this voice.  It was deep and warm and unthreatening in a way that distant thunder is.  “Kids these days, you know?” was the response Eric gave as he slowly turned around. “If it isn’t in their smartphones, they could give a damn about it. There was a time where I held the attention of entire villages. Children used to quake in the bosom of their mothers when I told them stories of the ancient ones and their hold on the Earth.”

“Yes, I remember. And now you have to compete with whoever the latest heartthrob is on YouTube.” The voice replied. He slowly rose from his seat from the back of the auditorium and strolled to the front of the class. He was sharply dressed, well coiffed. He has a grin made of a perfect set of teeth that shone brighter against deeply, if not artificially  tanned skin. “I also remember that you yourself were quite handy with the ladies, for a time.”

Silence. It’s that silence that hangs between two people who have known each other forever. “Nothing?” the man continued shrugging his shoulders. “Okay, well…shifting to small talk then. So,” he paused to put on a pair of spectacles, “how are you liking your new role as Professor of…” he delicately opened a tri-folded flyer he took from the Registrar’s Office, “…sorry, Adjunct Professor of Passamaquoddy Studies? Things going well with that?” he asked, teeth blazing.

“What do you want, Jerry?” the teapot of Eric’s patience set to a low simmer.

Gerard Boucher, or Jerry to people who have the privilege of knowing him, has built a life, and some would say a successful one, of being a predator in the banking industry. He was there in the 80s when Wall St. rose, he was there in 08 when it fell. All the while benefiting from winners and losers. He never fails. He has been, and always will be, all about The Deal.  A connoisseur of the finer things in life, it makes him stand out a little more when he is in the middle of a teaching auditorium, in a state college in rural Maine, in a thousand dollar, tailor made suit. “Kooda,” said Jerry in a sing-song voice contorting his face. “Why so hostile? I’m simply inquiring as to the success of your curriculum.”

“You know perfectly well  that it’s important to keep my history…our history alive. Our people were storytellers. We were never big on writing things down, so I think it’s my duty to make sure something of us is remembered.”

“I completely agree with you, Kooda. But they have this thing called the internet now, or haven’t you noticed?”

More silence.

“What do you want, Jerry?” asked Eric, quieter this time.

“You look worried.”

“Should I be?”

“What do you mean? I only… oh… oooooooh wait… you thought… HA!” an almost unnatural guffaw burst from Gerard’s stomach as he slowly clapped. “You think you… that I’m… oh, Wematin. No. No, not that. Well, not yet.”

“Ah, and there it is! The promise of my demise brought up again.”

“I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about, Kooda.”

“It’s Eric now. What am I talking about, you say? Well for starters, when we were kids, you told me I could fly if I jumped off a Mt. Cadillac.”

“You’re never going to let me live that down are you?” Gerard sighed, rolling his eyes.

“And what about that other time? Remember?”

“Which one?”

“At Tribal Council? The punch bowl?”

Gerard paused to recall the event. “Oh. That. I just wanted to know if it tasted like hemlock.”

“It was  hemlock, you asshole! You spiked the punch, and I had to spend the rest of the year making sure everyone didn’t die and putting out fires with the elders.”

“Yes, yes. All in the past. I haven’t tried to kill you lately, have I?”

“No, you haven’t. Then again, I haven’t seen you in over twenty years. You disappear without a word  and whenever you do show up from the great beyond, it’s to expedite my premature funeral. For twenty years… “

“Twenty-Five,” said Gerard.

“Whatever, for twenty-five years, I’ve had to look over my shoulder in case you decided to pop out of nowhere and slit my throat. And now, you waltz back into my life. with your suit and smelling like a Wapeyit  and dripping in cash claiming that you won’t. Your words are clothed in sheep’s skin, but I can still see the wolf beneath it. Since when have you ever been interested in anything in my life, Jerry?”

“Been holding that in for a while, have we?” asked Gerard after letting Eric’s words hang in the air.

“A little bit,” Eric replied. “It’s good to see you again, brother. You look well.”

“And you haven’t aged a day,” said Gerard with genuine warmth. “Unfortunately brother, I’m not here to catch up, and insofar as it pains me to go against my instinct and quash my pleasure, I promise, I’m not here to kill you.” Gerard’s always glowing face dimmed a bit as he leaned in closer to his older brother.

“Oh,” said Eric. “well, that’s a relief? I suppose?” As Mephistophelean as he paints his younger brother, Eric felt that Gerard was telling something closer to truth.  Gerard is a successful and powerful man. Eric could see right through him. He always could. “Still though, it’s not like you to show up out of nowhere and not try to ruin my life.”

“Well, I did just arrive.  If we still have time after all of this, I’ll see what I can do to fit it in.” said Gerard with a wink.

“What seems to be the trouble?” Eric smiled in appreciation to a brief moment of familial warmth. “Are you sick? You aren’t bankrupt, are you? Because I’m the wrong guy to ask for help. Maybe if I…”

“It’s not that,” said Gerard, cutting off his brother’s building tirade as gently as possible. “If there is one thing that you and I have in common other than our mother, it is our ability to survive. Growing up in the wilderness alongside the beasts and elements is nothing compared to hostile wilderness that is mergers and acquisitions.”

“So, what you’re saying is…”

“I make Trump look like a nuci-wisuniket.”

Eric stayed silent, save for the uncontrolled chortle that bubbled from his belly. He read the crease in Gerard’s brow that only showed up in times of trouble. Something uncomfortable and unfamiliar was clouding Gerard’s soul.  “Whatever is troubling you,” said Eric, “ it must be big to rattle your bones like this.”

Gerard’s eyes casting quick glances to every corner of the auditorium in mild disdain. “Say, I’ve never been one to have a heart-to-heart in utilitarian, post-war era architecture. Buy me  a drink?”

“Of course.” said Eric. “I know of just the place.”

“I do hope it isn’t tea out of your thermos.”

“I could take you to the campus watering hole. I think it’s Pledge Week.”

“Tea it is then.”

~***~