Happy New Year–Now Let’s Get This Ball Rolling

I need to see how possible it is to crop GIFs while retaining the motion, if only so I can clean up this post’s featured image some day.  Never forget, people: Google is your friend, at least if you can’t take multimedia classes.  I’ve learned a lot of DIY skills through Google (and YouTube, for that matter), and while I’m no expert, I’m smarter than before I started searching.

maxresdefaultAt any rate, as the doubtless imaginative title of this post suggests, I’m all full of New Year cheer, and eager to get underway with my resolutions.  All the more remarkable about it is the fact that, by and large, I don’t formally make resolutions, at least not during New Year season, as I find them arbitrary, trite setups for failure that can really be made at any point during a given year with equal importance.  And I’d say that’s still a relevant attitude I sport towards them in general, so it’s fair to say that I’m not going to be making any new resolutions for the coming year.

But new resolutions aren’t a requirement these days, as I have plenty of old ones I’ve either failed at or left behind, as well as existing ones that, while I haven’t failed, might do with a new twist.  Those are the resolutions I’m happy to focus on for the coming year. Here are some ideas

  1. Get healthy–or at least, heathier. Always easily said, I’ve had my ups and downs when it comes to getting fit and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. On the down side, I was diagnosed as being pre-diabetic last year, but as a result, I’ve implemented at least a basic exercise regiment that has stuck pretty well these last few months. My biggest enemy here tends to be stress, as it makes me go to comfort food whenever things get tough.  There are a few ways I can continue to improve and uphold this goal:
    1. Take up a more intense form of exercise, such as martial arts.
    2. Get better at avoiding sugars, such as sodas and desserts.
    3. Eat less in general, while doing more.
  2. Continue to write, and write more.  I once wrote in a blog every day for six straight months, and this was back when I had a full-time job, so I know I can do more writing than I recently have been.  I profess to want to write, and yet I way too often find myself wasting time on video games, Youtube, and other idle pursuits.  Stress, again, tends to be the enemy here, so I should probably look into ways to manage it.  Specific to writing, a few possible goals are spinning in my head, among them:
    1. Resurrecting 187,500.  This is a 500-words per day mandate, at the end of the year of which I should have 187,500 words written.  I’ll detail the rules of this self-created goal some other time, but it’s significant that each year I’ve tried to accomplish it, I’ve failed.
    2. Creating themed day posts for my blog. Madcap Mondays, Terrible Tuesdays, things like that.  We’ll see.
    3. Find a writing exercise every day, and do them.
    4. Work on my novel(s).
    5. Write X number of {short stories, articles, novel excerpts, etc.} per Y unit of time.  Taking suggestions on how much of what in what amounts of time.
  3. Work towards a writing career.  Similar to the previous resolution, it’s more focused on publication and earning income.  Some possibilities:
    1. Finish a novel manuscript and start shopping it around.
    2. Enter x number of writing contests this year.
    3. Find websites and magazines that pay for writing, and start submitting applications.
  4. Make things.  So many possibilities with this one.  Writing is technically included, I suppose, but I’m thinking in a more broad sense.  Some examples:
    1. Learn to play an instrument (make music).
    2. Create superhero costume parts/pieces (make cosplay).
    3. Raspberry pi/arduino projects (make fun and useful technology).
  5. Read more–or at least, consume more audiobooks and podcasts.  Aside from graphic novels, which I love, I just haven’t found much time to actually sit down and read.  I’ve found that audiobooks and podcasts have been much more conducive for when I’m doing things like exercise, driving across town, or simply working on chores, writing, or other tasks.  Some things I’ve considered:
    1. Ask friends for podcast recommendations.  Try out a new podcast every week, and expand my current base of podcasts.
    2. Listen to both fiction and nonfiction in audiobook form.  I’m loving The Dresden Files so far (James Marsters reads them!), and am almost done with Stephen King’s On Writing, which he narrates.
    3. Where possible, listen to these things for free.  Library cards are your friends in this endeavor.
  6. Educate and teach others.  I do this more or less every day as a librarian (case in point: want to learn how to use your tablet or smartphone to access your library’s e-books and e-audiobooks? I and other librarians can help you!), but I’m hoping to do so this year in a more formalized sense.  Some ideas:
    1. Host a program or programs at work on a topic I’m knowledgeable in.
    2. Participate on a panel at a conference or convention on a topic I’m good at.

Quite the list there, eh?  I’ve been working on a lot of these for a long time, and hopefully can just build on them as the years go on.  There may be more new ones as the year continues, and I reserve the right to modify or abandon these as I choose (at my own risk, of course–I’m sure if I eat too many more chocolates, I’ll go into a diabetic coma), but this is a good base from which to work as I try to make 2017 as good a year as I can.  It is my hope that each and every one of you can achieve the goals and dreams you set for yourself this year.

75cfb75b958e159f647988b804a4ce36aa1d2ace5be9328ddb1eaf505ec4e1e1Happy 2017, and may it be a great year for us all!  Now, let’s get this ball rolling, and knock it out of the park as best we can.

NaNoWriMo, and the Benefits of Failure

It’s been about a month since I’ve posted anything here, and a lot has happened in that time.  Holiday stuff, family stuff, personal stuff, all kinds of stuff that has–of course–affected my ability to keep my nose to the proverbial grindstone where writing has been concerned.  With that said, I’m hopefully back to blogging regularly, and writing more consistently even when I’m not blogging.

As I mentioned in previous posts, I participated in NaNoWriMo this year, and managed to get a large chunk written of a novel that I’ve been spinning around in my head for years.  In terms of the stated victory conditions for NaNoWriMo–50,000 words of a novel written during the month of November–I technically did not win; my novel has come in at just under 40,000 words, and it’s not complete.  However, I’m not sure my failure this year is as complete as one might initially believe, even when one factors in the excellent pace I was maintaining at the beginning of the month, and the sudden drop-off at the end.

A number of factors have led me to consider that this failure might be one of the better things to happen to me, from the standpoint of one who aspires to write for a living.  Consider the following:

  1. The story that I’ve told this year is far more complete–or, at least closer to being completed–than the partial novel I wrote 3 years ago, when I “won” NaNoWriMo by getting 50,000 words pounded out.  That story, which still remains badly unfinished, was only to about the halfway point of the plot before I hit the word count minimum, and I haven’t had the gumption to go back and finish it.  This story, I’ve basically finished: there’s a beginning, middle, and clear end, and could probably work as it stands with a little bit of editing, polish, and a little more content.  I feel much better about this unfinished novel than the technical winner I wrote in 2013.
  2. I tried a new approach to this story that I hadn’t with the others–I wrote it in first person.  Typically, I’ve gone for the third person omniscient point of view, and even though I’ve gotten used to writing that way, I’m not sure it’s helped me over the years.  First person has allowed me to get into the head of my protagonist–no, it’s allowed me to express things through my protagonist’s viewpoint in a way that has just come off as more natural and relevant to the story I’m trying to tell.  It probably means I’ll be rewriting a lot of previously written stories, but I simply can’t get over how right it feels.
  3. My characters were talking to me.  This had previously only happened once previously, in a scene that still strikes me as one of the best character moments I’ve ever written.  It came about in that feeling of not actually having written it, but merely serving as the mouthpiece, or recorder, of your character’s words and actions.  That happened again during this story, and it resulted in some long-standing questions finally getting answered about several characters and their motivations.  It enabled me to get my characters to the final conflict, and has had significant bearing on the aftermath.  As I work to finish out the piece entirely, I look forward to hearing more from them.

I think the most significant indicator of this failure being in name only is that I’m still working to flesh this story out and finish it.  Consider it one of my New Year’s resolutions, but if I can get this story finished by the end of the month, I’ll think of this year’s NaNoWriMo as one of my most successful ever, regardless of whether or not I actually “won” or not.

A Sample from My NaNoWriMo 2016 Novel

For anyone who’s been awaiting my latest blog post, I realize the last couple weeks have been pretty barren.  I’m sorry about that, but I feel I have a good reason.  I’ve been working diligently on my novel for NaNoWriMo this year, and I just passed the 25,000 word threshold today.  That means I’m at the halfway mark, word count-wise, and it’s halfway through November.

With that in mind, I’ve pulled an approximately 500-word excerpt from my novel for anyone who would like to see what I’ve been working on in lieu of the blog (which will, I promise, have more regular posts when I’ve finished this monster).

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I didn’t know much about ammunition in general–I tended to prefer hand-to-hand forms of combat given the choice, though I wasn’t averse to using them if the situation called for it–but I knew demon killer rounds were some seriously high-power and destructive rounds.  They were probably all hollow-point, high-caliber, whatever the hell you say about bullets to make them sound cool, sexy, and high-tech, but they also contained traces of silver, holy water, garlic essence, and a number of other things that were generally known to be bad for most monsters.  They were a highly specialized item, and therefore not easy to get.  

“And, the organization cleared you for access to demon killer rounds?” I pressed, pretty sure I already knew the answer.

“I was able to requisition a couple of clips, here and there,” Alan said, his voice taking on a fluidic, almost evasive smoothness.  “For completely practical purposes, of course.”

“And just from where did you ‘requisition’ these clips?” I inquired.

“Spinner’s footlocker,” he said, his voice not bothering to hide the laugh.  “Last week.”

Oh, my hell.  I knew Alan could sometimes play a little fast and loose with the rules, but this was the first time I could recall him outright stealing something from someone.

“Oh, hell.  You’re kidding.  You’re kidding me, right?”

“What?” Alan asked innocently, his arms spread.  “They were extras.  It’s not like I left him with none.”

“I can’t believe you!” I exclaimed.  “You stole a man’s ammo!”

“Hey!” Alan shot back, as if offended by the accusation.  “First of all, I’m all about getting what we need, not what others think we need, regardless of who may think otherwise!”

I smirked sideways at the flimsy excuse, but kept silent.

“And second, what makes you think I procured these without Spinner’s permission and blessing?”

“Oh, I don’t know.  How about Spinner’s little talk about how they’re not for non-military personnel?”

I could see Alan rolling his eyes dismissively.  “Oh, sure,” he said.  “Bring that up.”

“You were the reason he brought it up in the first place!”

“They were pretty!” Alan shot back adamantly, as if that were all the reason he needed.  “Besides, it’s not like they didn’t end up being put to good use.  Right?”

I rolled my eyes and sighed, unable to argue that.  If Alan hadn’t had those bullets in his gun, that little tussle with the Omega Demon would have likely gone way differently–and certainly more bloody for the two of us.  I may not have approved of his methods, but I had to admit that Alan had made a good call in acquiring, however unethically, the rounds that had both allowed him to stun the Omega Demon and enabled me to tear its bullet wounds open with the enchanted crowbar.

“True,” I conceded.  “They definitely did some good back there.”

“Yeah.  Did you see the surprised look on that thing’s stupid demon face after it realized the bullets had actually pierced its stupid demon hide?”

“I did,” I answered, smiling.  “It almost makes up for the shocked agony on your face when you tried to swing your crowbar at it while it had a stoneskin enchantment up.”

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That’s it for now.  I hope you enjoyed it.  Please let me know if you like it, what you think so far, etc.

Happy writing!

NaNoWriMo Report: When Your Characters Won’t Divulge Their Dark Secrets

As of this moment, I’ve amassed about 2600 words towards the 50,000 that dictate victory conditions for NaNoWriMo.  It’s a modest start, but a promising one, and I think I’ve got a decent first chapter written.  I’m planning to write more tonight, and every day, until I finish the story.

characterization-clipart-super-hero-cartoons-mdOne of the longer-term issues I’ve had with this particular story centers around one of my main characters.  She’s the main antagonist for this story, a former ally of my protagonist who has betrayed him and his group.  I’ve also decided that she’s irredeemable at this point, someone who has crossed a moral threshold from which she can’t return, necessitating the conflict between herself and the main character.

The problem is, I can’t get her to tell me exactly what it is she’s done.

That’s important information, and while it may not play directly into the conflict that I’m writing in the NaNoWriMo story, it will provide one of the main drivers for my main character to match wits and lives with her.  It’s a fuel source for their conflict.  I’ve tried to sit down with her and nail down what it is that makes her so beyond the pale in terms of redemption, but every time I ask, she just kind of smiles coyly, her eyes narrow slits, as if she’s about to say, “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

She has a number of character traits that make her both complex and interesting, but she’s using some of them against me.  Damn her.

I could try to arbitrarily come up with some big, bad, terrible situation she’s done or engineered.  I’m her creator, after all, and I could do that easily enough.  But I find these situations are so much better when your creations are so well formed and independent that they can almost take the proverbial pen from the writer, push you to the side, and go, “No, dummy, that’s not what I would do.  Here, gimme.  I’ll take it from here for a little while.”  Oftentimes, when I try to mandate a situation for my characters, it feels clunky, out of place, and in need of a lot of editing and revising.

In the meantime, I’ve got a story to write.  I plan to push on, and hopefully sometime in the near future I can actually find the time to psychically sit her down, treat her to a sumptuous meal and a glass of wine, and get her to tell me what her deep, dark secret is.  Until then, as long as she continues to play coy, I’m hoping that by plumbing the depths of the current story, maybe I can uncover a nugget or two as to what she must have done to make my main character despise her so much.

She’s enjoying the chase in the meantime, and for now I’m willing to play along.  I think she’ll eventually relent.  I would hate to think she’d be happy being a two-dimensional character–or, even worse, trapped in an underhanded scheme that wasn’t already of her own devising.

NaNoWriMo and Pushing Through

This post will serve as something of a writing update, since I may not engage in them on more than a monthly basis for a while.  But NaNoWriMo holds a special place in my heart, and I wanted to talk about it before I plunge headlong into it in a few hours.

I’m happy that I managed to finish off my October project and write a two-sentence horror story for every day of the month.  I’ve been pleased and humbled to watch my views, visits, and likes increase as I put out content on a daily, consistent basis.  If you’re ever in the mood for a month’s worth of tiny bites of creepy content, I’m proud to stand by this collection as a flawed, fun set of unsettling goodness.

I’ve mostly managed to keep the 500 words per day writing goal intact, though I will admit there have been a few days where that simply hasn’t happened.  With November upon me, I should have no problem (I’d better not, at any rate) keeping this goal met.  I also intend to keep writing for other sites as well, so while there may not be as many posts from me on this blog this month, there should be plenty of content on my Facebook page for anyone who cares to follow along.

Now, on to NaNoWriMo.

nanowrimoI’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month three times in the last few years.  I’ve succeeded at it once, and I say this with no shame whatsoever.  Even when I’ve failed, I’ve at least tried to write a novel, and I’ve managed to create content whenever I otherwise might not have done so.  It’s a worthwhile, noble endeavor to undertake, and when you hit that 50,000 word threshold, it feels like you’ve won a mighty victory.  You have written a novel’s worth of words, after all.

In the past few days, I’ve seen a number of friends in my online social circles talking about NaNoWriMo, often with trepidation and apprehension.  Some have been downright pessimistic, saying something along the lines of, “I might try this, but I really just think I’ll flake/putter out/fail in some other fashion.”  I’d like to address this phenomenon directly.

It’s fine to feel apprehensive about trying to write a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days.  Doing so is a gargantuan task, and the fact that you’re pouring all that focus, energy, and concentration on one large work or project is intimidating as hell.  But one of the worst things you can do is set yourself up to fail.

Say this with me: self-deprecation is not okay for NaNoWriMo.

41The year that I succeeded in doing so, it took every bit of will, discipline, and determination I had.  I gave up video games that month, foregoing my X-Box so I could get my 1700 words per day written.  I was less available for friends, socializing, and often even family (except Thanksgiving.  I’m not completely dense).  Even in the home stretch, I wondered how I could possibly complete this task before my mental fortitude gave out.

I did not–could not–allow myself to contemplate the possibility of failure, even for humorous purposes.  Whenever that particular demon reared its head, I bore down and kept writing.  Even if it sucked.  Even if it was just to put words to paper and increase my word count.  I would see how other writers were doing.  I would look for support.  And I always got it.  And I kept writing.

And eventually I climbed the 50,000 word mountain.

I’m not exactly thrilled with my victory novel from that year.  My novel from that year may have hit 50,000 words, but its story wasn’t finished.  It was glaringly weak in places.  And, I’m somewhat ashamed to admit, it hasn’t receive much work since then.  But dammit, I proved I could get that amount of words written.  I could write a novel’s worth of words.  And as Captain Malcolm Reynolds, “That ain’t nothing.”  And I intend to build upon that.

dont-give-upMy biggest piece of advice for NaNoWriMo participants is to do the opposite of what I’ve recently seen.  Tell yourself you can do this, just for one month.  Join a write-in and get to know other participants.  Seek support from other writers.  Don’t allow any of your doubts to get a foothold this month.  Banish them.  I know how devastating they can be, and how easy and soothing they can make the temptation to quit, or even slack for a day or six.

Push through.  Write all month.  It’s just for this month.

I will do it this year.  And so can you.