Monthly Archives: October 2014

Prepping for NaNoWriMo

Time is flying by so fast, and I just have so much writing to do.

After I finished my last short story and put it aside, I buckled down adn wrapped up my work on that side project I was writing on contract. since then, I’ve been wrestling with what to tackle next. I wanted to continue the momentum with another short project, and maybe tie a neat ribbon around something I’d written before that was executed badly. There are plenty of those stories in my drive.

I eventually settled on an idea that had a tremendous amount of atmospheric dread but didn’t deliver with the plot or characters. Plus, one of the two characters was just kind of there, and the main character was a bit of a bore. As I started working on correcting it, I realized that it would just be easier to rewrite it entirely. I’ve managed to get through about forty percent of the story already, but it’s Halloween and tomorrow is the start of November.

That means either I need to finish writing this sucker tonight (which would entail an exhausting four thousand words, give or take) or put it aside for a month. I certainly don’t want to do the latter, and the former is impractical (especially as I’m wasting about 500 of those potential words on this post.) Which means, I’ll be juggling both throughout the weekend, meeting my 2,000 words a day quota for the book and then getting in at least half as much again on the story.


With two kids, Halloween weekend, a friend visiting, and some plans throughout the weekend, it’s going to be tough to keep either of those promises let alone both, but what can you do? 2,000 words a day, every day.

I think I know what I want to write, and the ideas I’ve got rolling about are doable. Also, I’m determined, this time, to write something each time, even if it winds up non-linear. I’m also going to do my absolute best to avoid any revision whatsoever. That always eats up hours of my November, when I go back to re-read something, change a word here, rewrite a phrase there, and suddenly I’ve wasted hours fiddling instead of vomiting words.

That’s basically what NaNo is for me – a month of word-bulimia. I just need to force myself till the words come out. Word counts have never been my problem, brevity isn’t something I generally think about until I’m revising, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve also grown more critical of my writing. At least in fiction, if not in my blogs. When I find myself indulging my own pleasure, I always have to pause and give myself a head-check. Is this essential?

With NaNo, there’s no room for any of that, no time to correct a spelling (even if it just takes a second), no time to apply context, no time for anything close to elegance – there are just brute keystrokes making words.

This year, I’m probably going to avoid even using a word processor. I’ll be with just a flat text editor and a file in DropBox in order to avoid even the smallest distraction of squiggly lines.

I will report back when I can get my head out of the word toilet. Good luck, everybody!

November already?

I always get edgy in November because of NaNoWriMo.

Even though I’ve made a promise to myself not to start any major initiatives for a little while, even though I’m committed to short-fiction for the foreseeable future, even though I don’t really want to start a book right now… November just makes me want to write a novel anyway. I got through about 20,000 words last year around mid-November, but then never quite caught up again. The aborted draft is sitting somewhere, waiting for me to return. This time, an old friend has been poking and asking me to give him another chance.

Years ago, I tried to make a comic unsuccessfully – I’ve always had terrible luck retaining the attention (or interest, I can’t tell which) of any artists. Some day, I’ll be able to just pay someone to draw for me. Until then, I’ll just mutter wistfully about ideas that float by and wave farewell when they round the bend downstream, never to return. Anyway, those early, aborted ideas have been a fertile breeding ground for other ideas that linger long after the comic itself has faded, and this is one of them.

It’s vaguely autobiographical, which makes me leery, but I think I can keep enough distance from it to allow it to be its own thing, and let the character breathe, and be, on his own. It’s the kind of book that I’d love to read, but seldom see on shelves, perhaps because books like these are unmarketable or because, well, maybe it’s a dead genre after the sixties did a thorough job of exploring it (albeit mostly in non-fiction and traditional literature, not in speculative fiction or dark fantasy.)

Regardless, the idea – and maybe even the will – is there, it’s strong, and getting through 50,000 words would give me a solid boost of confidence. Not that I need very many more boosts, I’m on a fairly decent streak right now, but NaNoWriMo is one of those elusive animals that hunters go after every season. I’ve missed a few years since the project initiated more than a decade ago, but most years I toss my hat into the ring. I’ve tried. Many times, often loosing steam or missing too many days of writing, and the closest I got was about 30,000 words.

Maybe the current burst of creative instinct is what I need to get moving on this. Perhaps this is what I’ve been missing in the past. And if I’m entirely honest with myself, it’ll be a way for me to avoid getting sucked back into Warcraft again, with the new expansion coming out. But then, I’m going to have to put a hard stop to most of my other projects. Once again, I find myself marooned on an island of uncertainty. I think I’m leaning at a steep angle toward diving in, but the next couple of weeks might change my mind yet.

If you’re going for it – I wish us all the best of luck! It’s a tough climb, but someone needs to finish it, and it might as well be you and me.


Taking the initiative isn’t difficult for me. When problems rear their heads, I’m always eager to jump in and start solving them. At work, this has led to me taking on some fairly tough programming projects and they’re the kind of things that get you noticed. They get you a seat at the table in the boardroom when major initiatives are being discussed.

I was able to take advantage of that privilege for a long time. For many years, I had a place in the boardroom. But as the company has evolved into a more structured and corporate entity, it has also evolved more doorways. Portals to hop through, documents to sign, time accounted for, and technology management has grown skeptical of initiatives that aren’t driven by the sales group.

It leaves me frustrated – I have ideas, I want to drive initiatives, but instead, I throw them out in meetings and watch them flounder on the table, gasping for air. I wind up being the mouth-piece for innovation or improvement or even research when it’s my superiors who should be doing this work. Alas, it isn’t so, and I return to my desk with an empty piece of paper instead of excited notes about something new to research and develop. The mundane project-tracking task-list has replaced the passionately scribbled words and hastily drawn diagrams outlining new ideas.

While the change has frustrated me, I can admit that there are some advantages – it keeps wasteful work at bay, and makes my use of time more specific, ensuring that whatever I do is directly actionable. Sometimes, projects drag on a bit too long, research doesn’t work out to prove a hypothesis and time (and resources) gets wasted. (I’d argue that time spent closing a dead-end isn’t wasted, as it keeps that possibility from popping up again, but that’s neither here nor there.)

With my projects at home, I have a similar problem as I outlined earlier. Too many pots on too many stoves, because ideas are cheap and execution is fucking hard. It’s not just a question of picking and choosing, it’s a question of applying that initiative in impactful, actionable ways. I might scoff at task-lists, but I’m never more productive than when I’m working off of a task-list.

In fact, I find most task-list applications (because I’ve used at least a half-dozen by now, and have settled on Google’s Keep) to be woefully inadequate and have often played around with the idea of writing my own task-list program that ties into e-mail, calenders, build hierarchies, inter-dependencies… but there’s that ugly specter of available bandwidth, and do I really want to buy a new kitchen right now?

What the point, today? Well, the point is, I’m happy that I haven’t given up on my initiatives. I still toss them out, sometimes even lobbing huge, quivering Tunas on the table that splatter everyone with briny water and flop about, demanding attention. If the poor thing winds up unloved, ignored and dead – well, at least I’ll have Tuna for lunch.

Too Many Pots

Or maybe too many stoves.

With our brand new son in daycare, the days have become pretty hectic, and after a dormant period of easy maintenance, my work really took off last month with a number of high-profile projects, alongside some training… it’s been a mouthful. Did I just go from cutlery, to stoves, to food? Ah, well.

Regardless, I was able to squeeze in the time and finish the second half of my writing for that contract work I mentioned last time. It was similar in that there was a hard word limit and structure that I had to conform to, but it kept it focused again, I couldn’t meander on and had to remain on point. I really think contract writing is good for me, it’s teaching me to look at what I’m writing and examine it.

I recently organized my documents to better manage the short fiction side of things, and know what I should be working on and where. I think that’s a broader conversation I need to have, about how structure – not just in writing, but in organizing the things around the writing process itself – has been helping me… but probably later. Anyway, I came across a story I’d finished some time ago, but always felt strange about it, it felt a bit exploitative and I thought I could do better.

So, I took it out and began to read it and it surprised me how much I overwrote. I don’t know if it’s just a reaction from this really strict writing I just did, but I think in the last year or two I’ve really changed focus to examining what I’m writing and why it belongs in a story. That I like it isn’t enough, if I want to sell it. There’s pleasure in indulgent writing, I enjoy writing in a way that lets me sprawl, that lets me really stretch and let the words pour out faster than I can type… but it isn’t conducive to fiction, and it really isn’t good for trying to write anything that you want to sell.

For the last week, I’ve been picking this story apart, thread by thread, and I wonder if it wouldn’t just be easier to rewrite it entirely. But there are good bones in there, scenes that make me flinch in the sudden light or scenes that vibrate like bass strings in the dark.

Telling myself that I don’t have time, or that I’m too tired, or whatever else isn’t really an option anymore. I’ve been outlining new story ideas and setting them aside after a few hundred words and all of them are clamoring for attention. Some of them might even be good! And I can never keep the call of a novel at bay for long. Sadly, it’ll have to go unheeded till I’m at a place where I can be confident that isn’t going to just sit in my hard drive for all of eternity like my last book. I want to be good enough to write a book.

For now, these six to eight thousand word stories are where my focus is, and I’m building a structure around it, so that no matter how much food I’m eating while cooking on multiple pots in various kitchens, I can still sit down and write a couple of thousand words a day. It’s been a good year so far, I want it to continue.