Tag Archives: Writing

Whoops! It’s January!

Happy New Year! Have you stopped writing 2010 on your checks yet?

Things I’ve done since my last blog post:

  • upgrade the RAM on my MacBook;
  • upgrade the OS on the MacBook to Snow Leopard;
  • team up with the Siren and the Unfocused Kids to break into the Top 25 players in our ocean in Grepolis (we control 5 ancient Greek city-states);
  • start watching Torchwood, Series 1 on Netfl1x streaming, once I moved my weekday runs inside to the treadmill;
  • work;
  • read Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (highly recommended);
  • read Consider Phlebas, by Iain Banks (also highly recommended);
  • read Cognitive Surplus, by Clay Shirky (again, highly recommended — it’s not that I’m an easy grader, it’s that these days, if it isn’t engaging, I don’t finish it);
  • start converting our power-sucking recessed ceiling lights to LEDs that we won’t need to change until we’re at retirement age, at which point the Unfocused Kids can change them for us;
  • work;
  • run 16 times (90 miles total — I screwed up my left calf and ran almost not at all for two weeks in December);
  • travel to San Diego (for work);
  • travel to New York (for work);
  • attend my childrens’ performances in their school holiday concerts;
  • enjoy a rare public performance by the Siren, singing Christmas songs with a pick up band (piano, drums, accordion, and 10-15 people trying to keep time with egg shakers or other little kid instruments) at a holiday party thrown by talented friends;
  • work; and
  • screw around on the internet.

Things I didn’t do since my last blog post:

  • finish the first draft of Breezeway;
  • get to my November word count goal;
  • get to my year-end word count goal;
  • post on this blog; and
  • respond to comments on this blog.

Yeah, sorry about that last one.

I’ve been reading through the archives at Merlin Mann’s 43Folders lately. Merlin is one of my blog idols (despite his hair) for a lot of reasons, but the direction he’s taken the blog in the last couple of years has been very interesting. He’s focusing on how you focus your attention on the creative work you want to be doing. And as we all know, focus is not my strong suit (I picked this name for a reason, people). Merlin’s first post in this series is here. I just reread it; frankly, need the inspiration.

When I first started this blog, it was to start myself back in the habit of writing again after decades off. It worked; I started writing fiction again almost immediately. On the other hand, I can’t begin to count how many posts I’ve started with something on the order of: “So I didn’t get any work done on the novel this week [or month, or season] because…” and posting on the blog itself has dropped off to somewhere between “infrequent” and “clear, high-definition video of bigfoot.”

Work is what work is: that thing they pay you to do so that you do it every day whether you feel like it or not. Everything else, I have to pay myself if I’m going to manage enough focus to accomplish anything that requires more than a few hours in a single afternoon. I just haven’t figured out the currency yet. What’s yours?

Not NaNoWriMo, Day 13: 3,331 Words and Messing With Computers.

Depending on how you measure it, my Not NaNoWriMo has so far been either a complete failure or a raging success.  It’s been a failure by the standards of  NaNoWriMo, certainly: in 12 days, I’ve written almost exactly the number of words needed to be on track for day 2.

Good thing for me that I’m not holding myself to that standard. My goal is to write at least 300 words each day, and although I haven’t been able to write every day, I’m averaging pretty close to that amount and have written more days than not.  My other goal is to get 10,000 words by the end of November, and while I’m not perfectly on track for it I’m not far off, either. I’m definitely feeling more in touch with the story and characters than I’ve been in a long while, and I’m starting to be more comfortable just sitting down and pounding the keys regardless of whether I “feel like it,” whatever that means.

I should qualify that to say pounding the keys or tapping the screen, because I’ve probably written a third of my output this month on my iPhone, using WriteRoom, a great little plain text app that syncs easily with Scrivener. I bought a cheap flexible bluetooth keyboard to use with the phone instead of schlepping my MacBook on the train, but several keys stopped working within a couple of days, so I’ve been typing directly onto the touch screen. It’s less painful than I would have thought, although I type enough emails that way that I should have been more willing to try it sooner.

I’m limiting my word count goal because I’ve got a number of things going on at the office that make doing a full NaNo project impossible this month, and also because I have other projects I didn’t want to put off.

One thing I’m working on is learning more about the hardware and software we have in the house, which I use every day without much thought.  Every three years, the firm where I work gives us new computers and will sell us our old ones for a minimal price.  I’ve now been there long enough to go through two of these upgrade cycles; in 2007, I bought my old office Thinkpad X40 for $1, and a couple of weeks ago, I bought my old Thinkpad X61 for $47 (there was still a month or so of warranty left on it).

The X40 had always been a slow machine, and even with a clean install of Windows XP and running just a handful of non-Microsoft apps (Firefox and OpenOffice, mostly), it was still painful to use, but it was the only Windows machine we had in the house and I think it’s a good idea to have at least one machine other than my current office computer that runs the world’s dominant OS.

Once I brought home the X61, though, I was free to do whatever I liked with the older laptop. So last weekend, I installed the Linux-based Ubuntu Desktop operating system on it.  I’d never done anything like that on a PC, and in the space of an afternoon learned more about the computer than I have in years.

It ran better on Ubuntu, but it was still slow, so I ordered more RAM last weekend and this afternoon while the Siren and Junior were out for his best friend’s birthday party, Unfocused Girl and I had a wonderful time opening it up and adding 1GB of RAM to the 512MB of RAM already in it.  She was very excited about it and wanted to know what our next project would be.  I gave her a couple of choices, so in a couple of minutes we’re going to jailbreak my old iPhone 3G.  Pretty entry-level stuff, but we’re enjoying ourselves.

Not NaNoWriMo Day 2: 365. Also, an Election.

I voted this morning: 13 Democrats, 5 Republicans, 1 Green, 1 independent, not counting judges running only for retention or judicial candidates for open seats running unopposed. So far, it looks like two of the Republicans, the Green, the independent, and one of the Democrats are going to lose, and two of the other races are too close to call. The only races I felt at all good about were some of the very local races; the Democrats managed to field entirely uninspiring candidates for our state wide races, but the Republicans were either no better or worse in most cases. If the races hadn’t been so close, I would have voted for more of the third party candidates.

I added 365 words today, all written on the train to and from work. I was a little more productive in the morning than I was on the way home, probably due to brain drain from the day’s work, and that on the way home I have to worry about missing my stop while going downtown I can write all the way up to the point the last other commuter leaves the train car.

Total word count for Not NaNoWriMo 2010 so far: 783/10,000.

Total word count for Breezeway Blows Town: 75,416/100,000.

Not NaNoWriMo Day 1: 418 words.

Word count for day 1: 418.

The first draft of Breezeway Blows Town was 74,633 when the day started (I’ve been warming up for NaNo the last couple of weeks and have gotten a little more added to where I had been), so adding this evening’s 418 words gives me a total word count of 75,051.

That’s right, I broke 75,000 words on day 1! Yeah, fine, I had a 74,633 word head start, but still.

Once again, I also recommend Geek Survival Guide’s daily NaNoWriMo podcast.  The kick-off is here.

NaNoWriMo: What I’m NOT Doing This Year (sort of).

I love National Novel Writing Month. In the abstract, the idea is wonderful: more than 100,000 people signing up for 30 days of unembarrassed semi-public creativity. At the personal level, this is exactly what an (ahem) unfocused person like me needs: a hard deadline, with accountability. Last year, I played to win and I got there, finishing November 30 with 51,324 words of Breezeway Blows Town under my belt (that title has to go, by the way — it was the working title for the novel I outlined before NaNo started, not the novel I actually wrote). Since then, I’ve written approximately 16,000 words more.

Let me say that again: in November, 2009, I wrote 51,000+ words in the novel, and in the 11 months since then, I wrote 16,000. My average monthly word count since December 1, 2009 has been less than my average daily word count for the 30 days before.

I know what you’re thinking: the boy needs a deadline. Well, duh. I didn’t pick the name of this blog at random, you know.

As I’ve mentioned, this has been an … interesting year, but I haven’t been ready to post about that, which is why I’ve been updating so infrequently. The easy explanation is that I’m getting slammed at work, which is both true and incomplete.  I am, however, ready to start writing again, and I recognize that I need a deadline and the competitive spirit (I’m looking at you, Chad and John — both of whom, I note, finished their NaNo novels; John is podcasting Enemy Lines now, and it’s fantastic) to get me back into the habit of lying on paper every day (insert lawyer joke here).  So here it is: I’m back at the NaNo site, user no. 261488, and I’ll be updating my word count all through November. I will not be starting a new project, and will not attempt anything close to 50,000 words.  If I get 10,000 words farther into Breezeway by Nov. 30, I will do the two-finger victory dance and award myself a bonus 300XP on Epic Win.  My only goal is to finish the damn first draft by year-end, and I have at least 25,000 words to go — in plot outline terms, I’ve only just started act 3.

If we were writing buddies last year, it looks like the site kept that connection; if not, feel free to add me to your buddy list, and I’ll add you back. See you November 1.  Until then, have a happy Hallowe’en, or as some of us call it, All Nanos Eve.

Planning for the Future.

I went to a business development training session this afternoon at the office (it wasn’t mandatory, but it seemed like a good idea). This is not the kind of thing I generally enjoy, and today was no exception; I spent the hour making notes about all of the other things I needed to do and generally wishing I was somewhere else.  I did make some notes about the presentation itself, since the presenter said that taking notes was important (I don’t remember why, because I forgot to write that part down).

Did I mention there was PowerPoint? You knew there was PowerPoint.

At one point, the presenter put up a slide telling me I needed to think about future trends that could impact my business, then told me to think about future trends that could impact my business, then added a bullet point on the screen suggesting that I write down five future trends that could impact my business.  Here’s what I wrote:

  • energy scarcity
  • flooding
  • chemical poisoning of the food supply
  • zombie attacks

I just realized I only wrote down four future trends that could impact my business.  Crap.  Although after the zombie attacks, I’m not sure there would be any future trends to worry about.

Over the weekend, I finished my re-read of what I’ve written so far of Breezeway (95% written during NaNoWriMo last November, the rest in fits and starts since).  I didn’t make many changes on this pass, just a few notes or tweaks here and there; I’m glad to see that it isn’t as execrable as I thought it would be. Today, I managed to write 1100 words, probably the most I’ve written in one day since November 30. If I manage another 1000 words over the rest of the week, it would be the most productive week I’ve had since NaNo ended, too. It’s hard getting back into the habit, but re-reading what I’ve done so far left me really wanting to finish the damn thing.

Namedropping My Imaginary Friends, Because I Have Nothing to Report Myself.

First, let me freely admit that all that rah-rah bullshit in my last couple of posts about getting back into working on Breezeway has turned out to have been pure gasbaggery. Predictably, work has completely kicked my ass over the last three weeks, with extensive travel and days spent in conference rooms straining my meager faculties. On top of that, I’ve got some personal stuff I’m working through — nothing too serious, but it’s occupying a lot of mental space. I’m not quite ready to discuss it here, but I probably will at some point.

Enough about me, I want to tell you about two of my imaginary friends. I’ve never met either of these guys, so for all I know either or both of them could be a Russian mobster, Paris Hilton, or a dog. Those disturbing possibilities aside, they seem real enough to me — a significant step above the voices in my head, for example — that I’m going to take them at face value. After competing with them all through November for NaNoWriMo word count, frankly, they’d better be real.

In addition, each has recently demonstrated independent third-party verification of their existence. California writer Chad Grayson‘s story “Jadeflower” is part of the recently-released Destination: Future (amazon.com, Barnes & Noble). I got to know Chad through WordPress — either he stumbled across my blog, or I stumbled across his.  He’s a great guy, and based on his blog he’s a damn fine writer.  Trying to keep up with his NaNo output was both inspiring and frustrating. I’m looking forward to my copy of Destination: Future arriving in the mail.

Canadian writer and podcaster John Mierau has been giving away his genre-crossing short fiction for over a year on his Serving Worlds podcast. I first encountered John on Twitter when he insulted my entire profession, so I immediately started following him there and listening to his podcast. Last week he was the guest interview on Episode 119 of the Dead Robots’ Society podcast (I’ve mentioned DRS before, and again, it’s well worth listening to in its own right), talking about Serving Worlds and his NaNoWriMo novel.

Both of these guys helped me get through NaNoWriMo, and John’s podcast has carried me through many a run and long drive. Their creative output is well worth checking out.