Monday, April 25, 2011

A Table Full of Books

This week I added 2,316 words to my Work In Progress. This is a definite improvement over last week, but I know I can still find more opportunities to write.

This past weekend, the family and I did a little yard sale shopping. Our mission, and we chose to accept it, was to find clothes for our kids. At one of the yard sales, I came across a table of used books. There must have been two or three dozen books across a variety of genres. There were big names like Steig Larson, James Paterson, and Tom Clancy, and there were authors I recognized from my wife's ongoing love affair with murder mysteries. There were also authors who names and works I didn't recognize at all. Hanging on the table was a sign that read, "All books, 25 cents." It was in that moment that I realized I don't look at books the same anymore. This wasn't simply a pile full of dead trees with ink sprayed in them. Each of these books represented someone's hopes and dreams and literally years of their life and millions of words they wrote to perfect their craft. They represented hundreds of query letters those authors received, and countless hours those authors (even the 'big' names) spent in front of a keyboard writing and editing. Now they were splayed before me, and I could have any of them for the price of a gumball. It was sad in a way. I fought the urge to gather the whole lot up in my arms and whisk them away somewhere.

I wonder what any of those authors would have felt to have seen their work on that flimsy card table. I wonder how I would feel to see one of my books on a flimsy card table being sold for next to nothing. I would probably be pretty happy. Happy that I had a book that an agent, and a publisher believed in enough at one point in time to publish. I might just snatch it up and buy it myself. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bending the Laws of Time and Space

This is my accountability report for the week that ended on 16 April.

This week I added 1,738 words to my WIP*. At my current rate, it will take me about a year to finish. That’s not acceptable, so I will have to find ways to get more done next week.

*I actually have about another 1,500 words written, but I haven’t transferred those from the handwritten stage to the typed stage and I’m only counting typed words at this point. It will certainly help inflate my word count for next week.

It’s been a very eventful week. It started off with my little Scrivener adventure that I blogged about on Tuesday. Scrivener already has a new version out, but they said
“Scrivener saving issue. Hopefully, this has been addressed. Unfortunately, we were not able to reproduce this most sinister issue so we'll have to wait for confirmation that our changes have in fact worked.”
You’ll pardon me if that doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence about using the software again. I still plan on buying it once it’s released but for now, I’m sticking with good ole Microsoft Word.

I actually hit a little issue as I was writing this week that actually had to do with my story and not software.

I have these two events events that happen in my story. If my universe works the same way as the one we live in (and it does) each of these events is timed, and the reader will implicitly know the timing of them. If it starts at one time, it must end at another particular time.

I saw an opportunity to create some tension by making my Main Character have to choose between the events as they come to conclusion. The problem is that for the events to end at the same time, the way I had originally written the story won't work unless I bend the very fabric of space and time or hope my reader doesn't notice. Spring starts around April, and ends around June. I can fudge those dates a little bit, but i can't very well have something that is supposed to happen at the end of spring, happen in September.

This would introduce what is known in the industry as a plot hole. I'm sure I'll wind up with some of those anyway, but I have no desire to knowingly allow one to exist. I feel like the tension I create by setting up the choice the Main Character has to make it worth it because he really wants to be in two places at once. So part of my writing time this week was spent figuring out how I was going to fix that issue. I’m pleased to say that I was able to move some events around and make it work, and that I think the new timeline works much better than the old one.

I've also started Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways (HTTS) class. I’ve only done Lesson 1 so far, but already I can see how Ms. Lisle is challenging the way I think. I firmly believe the hours I putting into HTTS will pay off down the road with better characters, plotting and writing.

But ultimately, this week was about not taking my writing seriously enough, and letting other things get in the way. The good news is I have a fresh week in front of me to make better choices and get further towards my goal.

Saturday Six – April 16

This is my ongoing participation in Patrick’s Place Saturday Six meme.
This weeks’ meme is about TV. Patrick works for our local CBS station. I will have to apologize for my responses being a little ABC focused.
1. What was the last show whose cancellation really surprised you?
  ABC’s The Forgotten. It was a show about a group of amateurs who attempt to reconstruct the pieces of these John and Jane Does' lives from what little evidence is left behind. Each episode is narrated by a "body" who watches the team as they pursue the tantalizingly difficult challenge of figuring out who this victim once was.The show starred Christian Slater.
What we found so surprising about the cancellation is that we believed the show was doing well, and the story was building up in a very good way, however they had recently added a new actress, Elisha Cuthbert. We didn’t like from her time on 24.
2. Many believe that the soap opera genre is quickly dying. Which genre do you wish would drop dead tomorrow?
The paranormal tween romance. It’s been over done. Although, I admit to not being in that show’s core demographic.
3. What show do you watch most often or with the most enthusiasm each week?
ABC’s Castle. It is murder/mystery show about a writer named Richard Castle, played by Nathan Fillon of Firefly fame. He shadows a gorgeous NYPD detective named Kate Beckett, played by Stana Katic. Beckett is smart, sexy, and completely dedicated to her job. The writing on the show is superb from the actual mysteries to the interaction of the characters.
4. Which program that you watch regularly, if cancelled, would be the biggest blow to your weekly entertainment choices?
Same answer, ABC’s Castle. The show has become appointment viewing in our house.
Although, a close runner-up would be NFL Network’s Playbook. The casual fan doesn’t enjoy the national commentators getting in depth on the strategic Xs and Os during a broadcast. Playbook is a show dedicated to the more hardcore football fans who really enjoy breaking down plays, and seeing how the game was won on the chalkboard.
5. Which show do you wish would go away, never to be seen (or remade) again?
V. This series was recently remade by ABC in 2009, but I wasn’t a fan of the original in 2004 either. The show is simply too graphic. In Sci-Fi and Horror, the line between good and B-quality if a thin one. V has never walked it well. It tries to be a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but fails to deliver on the suspense premise. I think that it is better, especially in a TV format, to hint at some of the more gruesome aspects.
6. Which television personality would you most like to see banished to the world of cancellation?
I don’t watch a great deal of TV. If you are talking about a character, Dexter, the titular character of Showtime/CBS’s Dexter. The show’s premise, while certainly original, has zero appeal for me. As far as an actor or host, I really don’t have anyone I particular dislike.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nasty Bug

For several months now, I have been beta testing a writing tool called Scrivener. This was a Mac only tool, which is now being ported to the PC. Thus far, my testing of Scrivener has been very smooth, but last night I encountered one of the nastiest bugs I have ever encountered while using software.

I want to be clear that I am very positive on Scrivener. Despite the bug I encountered last night, I still plan on purchasing it, so my remarks here should not be seen as disparaging. The reason for my post is something along the lines of a Public Service Announcement, a warning to others who may also be testing Scrivener. On the whole, Scrivener is a wonderful product. I am not an organized guy, just look at my sock drawer, but Scrivener helps me stay organized while I write. I also love the separate areas for Research, and random notes that I made while writing.

As I stated on Sunday, I am now keeping track of my word counts on a daily basis so I can report to my blog on a weekly basis how I’m doing. The way I’ve been doing this is to go into Scrivener at the start of the evening, and copy out the current number of words I have in my manuscript. Then, at the end of the evening, I put the new number of words I have. Using a little elementary subtraction, I have my word count for the night. I dutifully did that tonight, and then went to the area of the manuscript I was working on last night. When I got to the end of my manuscript, my jaw hit the floor. I couldn’t find the scene I had been working on when I closed up shop last night. I flipped back to the blog draft where I was keeping my running count.

The verge of tears.

My beginning word count for Tuesday matched my beginning word count for Monday. Someway, somehow, everything I had written Monday night was gone. I jumped on the Scrivener forums, and lo and behold, the first thread is titled “Saving Error”.

The users there are trying their best to communicate to the Scrivener devs just what happened. I wasn’t able to add much, and even if they figure it out, I’ve still lost all my work from last night.  Thankfully, this damage is partially mitigated by the fact that I tend to write my story out with pen and paper before transferring it to computer. Now, I will have to do some dumpster diving (okay, just trash can diving) to find those notes.
But last night, I remember really being into the characters, and writing a couple of scenes extemporaneously. I’m sitting here trying to rack my synapses to remember what I wrote. Maybe as a I start to rewrite from my notes, it will jog something deep in my cerebral cortex and I’ll remember.

The important take away from today’s post is that if you are using Scrivener (beta 0.22) right now, be very careful and back up your work. I have decided to take my manuscript back to Word for the time being until Scrivener is ready for prime time. Again, I knew the risks when I signed up for the beta. I'm not mad at Scrivener, or their Developers. I'm a Developer myself, bugs happen. I'm just trying to deal with a very tangible sense of loss.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Over the weekend, the government of the United States avoided a potential shutdown. I don’t want to get into the politics of it here on the blog, other than to say I would have been affected. My position would have been furloughed if the government had shut down. This brought some clarity to my thinking in a couple of ways.

Despite having anticipated it, and prepared for it, I still wasn’t ready. When I was actually told, in writing, that my position was classified as nonessential, it still hurt my ego. I’ve always told myself that the rejection letters will come and I will prepared for them, and that will take away some of their sting. What I learned from this weekend was that I was lying to myself. The rejection letters are still going to hurt.

That’s not all I’ve learned. When facing the prospect that my ‘day job’ would no longer be there, I realized how that I would like to further on my journey towards becoming an author than I am. Commenter Laurie Tom from my “Write or Socialize” blog post made me realize that I haven’t been taking my pursuit of a writing career as seriously as I should. I never explicitly stated it, but you can tell, just from the way I was asking the question, that I wasn’t taking writing as seriously as I should if I want to accomplish my goal.

I have a goal, to become a professional writer. I have to evaluate every choice I make in light of that goal. Will doing X bring me closer to my goal? That’s how I have to think, and still have some semblance of balance my life.  I mean, if I get there, but I’m divorced and my kids won’t talk to me, I really won’t have accomplished anything.

But if learned anything about myself during NaNo, it’s that I’m better talking about what I need to do than actually doing it. If I was at work, and I wanted to complete a project, I would have an action plan with action steps. I’m going to apply that here.

Action Plan Item #1: Write Every Day

I will add something to my WIP every day, and keep a word count to track my progress.

Action Plan Item #2: Accountability

Every Sunday, I will report on this blog on my progress from the previous week by way of word count. By making myself accountable, it will give me added motivation when my will is weak.

Action Plan #3: Education / Skin in the game

I’m going to sign up for an online writing course that was suggested to me by Tami Moore. This is going to cost me real money, but I feel like it will be money well spent. Dave Ramsey says ‘you will be same person in five years you are today, except for the books you read, and the people you meet.’ I will consider this writing course like a book I would read to change who I will be in five years.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Write or Socialize?

I am a fairly busy guy. I have a full-time job, a wife, and two kids (one of which is just a baby). I try to maintain some semblance of a social life outside of work, plus I've got a couple hobbies I enjoy doing. Finding time to to write can be a challenge. Monday night was so crazy, that I didn't even turn the computer on, much less write anything. At my current pace, I will be retired before my draft is done. I need to find more time to devote to writing.

Recently, I've discovered a window that I could use, but I'm not sure it's one I can rely on long term. The past few days I've been able to do some writing at work during lunch. It is not a lot of time, but its time nonetheless. I take my notebook down to the cafeteria, and scribble away while I eat. Some days I write more than others. It still amazes me that some days I can hardly wait to get down there to start writing, while on others I literally have to force myself to put pen to paper, all the while mumbling 'I will have to edit this later.' I have to transcribed the writing I do later at home as personal laptops are not allowed in the building, and there is no 'taking lunch at your desk' allowed. Nevertheless, I'm getting more writing done using my lunch break than I was before.

While it may sound as if like I've found my writing nirvana, there's trouble in paradise. For the first six months I worked at this job, I was in an office removed from the major traffic flow. Essentially, I was hidden in a little hole. Not really sure of myself, or this strange new environ I found myself in, I typically stayed in my little hole. It was private in there, and my inner introvert liked it. After I was moved to a more central location, I met someone from one of the other departments. He was a geek like me, and we hit it off pretty quickly. We started having lunch together and appreciated the company. Neither of us had many work friends, so finding each other was a boon.

For the past couple of days, my friend has been out sick, and I've discovered the lunch break provides this beautiful opportunity to get some writing done. Now I must choose between spending my lunch break shooting the breeze with my friend, or spend it writing. If I spend it writing, I will have to explain to my friend what I'm dong, and why I'm not joining him for our usual lunch hour.

I find choice between socializing and writing to be a difficult one, any advice?