I made a decision today(1) and a kick in the butt for my writing.
I find I work better with deadlines – I was one of those kids at school that would do very little until almost the last minute then slam something out. Not always the best way to do it(2) but it’s how I was back then.
Nowadays I kind of acknowledge I need a deadline and generally work before there are only a few days are left. I’ve been working on upgraded costume parts for my Ghostbusters outfit in time for “The Love of Sci Fi” in December, I’m starting to work on things for the Larp I’m helping run in March(3) and so I figured I needed a deadline for writing something substantial, otherwise I would probably procrastinate the time away.
It all started with a mail I received about Angry Robot books open door submission window. This opened yesterday and runs until December 31st 2017
2 months to write a novel from bare bone background information I hear you say(4).
Nope. Even I know that in my most hyper-caffeinated, sleep deprived, sugar hyped(5) state I wouldn’t be able to manage that(6).
I’m setting myself the goal of having something that I can submit for NEXT years open submission window.
Which gives me between 364 days and 424 days to get something done.
I’m sticking a countdown up in the sidebar for the (probable) close date of the 2018 submission window.
Here we go.
- No. Not whether the underwear goes on the outside or not. Apparently that’s not an option.
- 72 hours or so straight awake working on my final project back in college would suggest it was never my wisest choices.
- Last year thanks to a combination of factors we had a grand total of 2 months to get everything together for the last game we ran…. Managed it, but it wasn’t exactly fun towards the end.
- I know your there. I can hear your breathing.
- For those that know – kinda how I end up on a lot of Larp events/games
- And the day job might get a bit grumpy if I didn’t show up for two months
A lot of my writing time at the moment is focused on world building for the sci-fi setting I’m working on for my stories.
The world/setting information will likely end up being far longer than anything I’m likely to write based on it (1), but then the question that comes to mind is “Why?”(2)
Mostly for consistency.
And oddly, some inspiration.
Knowing how I want the Faster than light travel to work (3) – basing it on some extrapolated real-world physics, and frankly a little bit of the Space-fold drives from Macross(4) throws up a few ideas for incidents.
Oddly, also putting some thought into how the spacesuits work has also added a few potential complications…. For example, if the suits have nanotech filters for breathing gas and umm… bodily waste….. in case the wearers finds themselves adrift in space… what would happen if they forgot a catheter? (5)
These are just little bits that pop up as I’m typing out ideas, even before I’ve started putting serious thought into them.
Yes, I could go ahead and start working on stories with only the barest of setting information and add more detail as I go(6) and no doubt I will get to a point where I’m happy enough to start working on stories, and add more/change more as I go and incidents happen. But for now, I’m happy world building, I think it’s just how I’m wired.
Winging it is something I’m not always that great with – yet at the same time I know once I’ve got the setting details down, I can wing it and come up with a fair amount of stuff almost on the fly. (7)
But not yet.
What are your thoughts on world building versus winging it?
- I’m always a little curious on how big the setting information is for something like Frank Herbert’s “Dune” series
- And occasionally, “Who are you?” “How did you get in here?” and “Please stop doing that to me”
- Other than “They go real fast”
- Because it’s Macross, and I’ve loved that series for *ahem* years now…. and Dammit…. checking the link reminded me I still need to find a Sub or Dub version of Macross Delta on DVD…
- Thank one of our cats for THAT particular mental image….. He’s had a catheter in for the last week 🙂
- I’m sure that’s how Sir Terry Pratchett did it – starting with the basic ideas and building from there… if you’ve read the series you’ll know the levels of detail by the end. Unfortunately, I’ll never be able to ask him now.
- I know the Warhammer 40k background damn well and can come up with bits for that quite easily, but at the same time I don’t feel much like writing fiction based in that universe – at least, not at the moment.
This year, I’ve kept popping into the NaNoWriMo forums to see how people were going, and to see what the general atmosphere was.
It’s been the first year I’ve actually paid any sort of attention to it, and the first time I’ve put any thought into whether or not I’m likely to take part next year.
After all, 50,000 words or as it’s billed “A novel in a month”. Quite an achievement I’d say
That was, until I spent some time on the boards.
People melting down because they weren’t ‘on target’; had written themselves in a corner; having to start again as it wasn’t as good an idea as first thought or a load of similar reasons.
Towards the end, there were people saying ‘I’ve not used the delete key at all, so I’ve got typos and plot threads hanging all over the place. That’s how I’ve got my word count up’. My personal favourite: “Every so often I’ll just key whatever’s in my head into the manuscripts, stream of consciousness fashion and it usually is nothing to do with it. I’m leaving it in however so that I can include it in my word count.”
I ask these people, especially the ones that artificially boosted the word count to hit the ‘target’: Why. Can you look yourself in the eye and say: “I did it”; or more likely, are you looking at yourself and saying “I didn’t do it, but I found a work around so it looks like I did. I didn’t hit the target so I didn’t succeed at writing.”
In my opinion, word count is not an indicator of story Word count should not dictate the story. The story should come first, whether it needs 2,000; 20,000 or a 200,000 epic. Of course, if you’re writing to a commercial deadline/contract you usually have an idea of the page count/word count required, but then once the story is out, you can then look at additional scenes/plotlines to explore or ones that it could live without to get towards what the publisher is asking for.
I’ve seen the arguments that NaNoWriMo is about pushing you to set and meet a target. 250 words a day is a target, and one that I so far have managed to hit quite well Eventually, I may increase my daily target, or turn it into a weekly target as then I can work more on Fridays and the weekend when I’m not at work to hit it. I didn’t need anything external to decide this. I did find that I’m not the only one however.
I’m also not a competitive person, and NaNoWriMo feels to me to be encouraging competitiveness (you get a certificate if you ’win’) between writers, rather than supporting each other generally.
The other thing weighing against NaNoWriMo for me is simple; November see’s both my wedding anniversary, and my birthday, so wrapping myself into NaNowriMo would mean sequestering myself away in the man-cave for most of the month and missing both of those. That’d go down really well….
So yeah, I’m not going to take part in NaNoWriMo.
- It’s not a novel, it’s a first draft. Lot of difference…
- Look at Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings – MASSIVE word count, fairly straightforward story (Summed up perfectly in Clerks 2) with a LOT of padding On the flipside of this, Harry Turtledove’s Southern Victory series – Massive word count per book, but the way it’s written gives quite a tight, detailed and rich story, and that’s just per book. I’ve got the paperbacks of all bar How Few Remain and they take up about 3-4 feet of bookshelf.
- I tend to skip a lot of Lord of the Rings when I read it, especially the Elven poetry and overly bombastic descriptions.
- This man is insanely productive with his writing, there are times where I’d love to meet him to learn, and others when I’d love to meet him to break his fingers
- Usually when I’m having a none productive writing session and the little jealous monster is coming out.
- Well, apart from Monday night[ when Heather gave me an early xmas present of the Transformers video game. But then, that’s why the target is for 250 words/day 6 days a week
- Because Giant Transforming Robots. That’s why.
- Which is effectively 1,500 words per week at the moment
- Take a look at my other blog for more about that
- I guarantee I’d come out of it at the start of December looking like Gollum, blinking in the daylight, going “Was I supposed to be going to work this month? So that’s why the phone kept ringing!”
So, for part of today (In between procrastinating on the Transformers Wiki* and finishing decorating the kitchen) I’ve been working on a few bits & bobs for my writing.
One of the well.. Exercises threw up a couple of interesting viewpoints and at least one of them shows a possible character in the making. That is, if I ever decide to write that kind of story.
The premise was to begin a story with a given first line. I didn’t write much, as I didn’t feel it needed it. But, as an experiment** I wrote the same scene from the other participants point of view.
Behold: (And there’s a teensy bit of profanity behind the cut) (more…)
Space tore open. A massive flare of exotic radiation danced across the spectrum as a leviathan powered it’s way through the jump gate singularity.
The Terran Hegemony warship Agamemnon erupted; Plasma drives flaring as she accelerated away. Along her flanks, armoured covers retracted from weapon batteries as she woke for the fight to come.
“Transition complete Admiral” came the voice on the bridge.
“Release the frigates; prep for fighter wing launch. Find me the targets.”
The Agamemnon’s attendant battle group, the frigates Encroacher, Comet, Hesperus and Eclipse detached from their parent carrier, each powering forward and prepping their own batteries like attack dogs baring their teeth.
“Battle group away; we have acquired targeting returns.”
“Clear the fighters for launch, get me a full spread of torpedoes ready, maximum yield”
Shielding retracted along the ventral hull of the Agamemnon, exposing her launch bays. Shrike class space superiority fighters and Mauler class torpedo bombers launching on bright plumes of plasma exhaust like seeds spat from a pod.
“All wings report attack formation. time to target 10 minutes and counting; Torpedoes loaded and ready, Main battery targeting reports locked and ready.”
“Excellent. Any response yet?”
“Picking up engine flare Admiral, looks like they are tying to run.”
“I’m not having that. I want them gone. All batteries, All torpedoes. FIRE!”
So; last night I finished the entire* first draft of my short story Sprawl Run intended for the short story/first line competition in writing magazine (www.writers-online.co.uk).
It’s the first time in years I’ve actually finished a story; even though it’s a little over the word count and needs editing and a serious polish before I send it on it’s way.
Plenty of time yet, the deadline isn’t until mid-January.
Interestingly, it was a similar process for me to working on my various warhammer roleplay campaign ideas – Once I’d got started, the ideas started flowing and I got into the groove the words flew by.
In the end I had to drop a couple of scene ideas as there just wasn’t enough room in the format I was working to; although I may expand on it later or maybe work them into another story. Maybe a sequel?
What struck me (and again, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised as the same thing happened once I got started with rpg work) was how much it fed into itself and how many ideas just a couple of characters and a couple of scenes can generate.
The overall story throws up in my mind a lot of questions about the two characters and how the whole situation came to be; What happens after; What’s the relationship between them; What have they done before. For example the quote:
Caspar chuckled. “That’s what you said in Kiev, and look how that ended up”
Tell me your not wondering what happened in Kiev? Shall I write that one at some point, or leave it as these characters ‘Noodle Incident‘
Not having the freedom of writing however much I felt like or a full length novel word count, I was forced to keep the focus on a relatively small window in time (I think it works out as about half an hour of in-character time, with a little bit set later in their day).
Because of the questions it’s raising even before an edit, I’ve laid the groundwork for other shorts I can write in the future if I want the characters to flesh out even more.
Overall though, there was the satisfaction of actually having finished a draft.
Something I’ve been saying I’m going to do for years now.
Heck I brought my current laptop in 2007 based on how useful it would be for writing etc.
It’s a small, faltering first step, But it’s a step.
YOUR TASK IN GENERAL
Please pick any existing serial protagonist that you know very well, and use the attached PDF/the form below to create a character profile. This profile should include his or her most important traits. Please post the ANSWER below this question post.
This is helpful because…
a) …you can compare this profile to that of other protagonists.
b) …you can learn how serial characters are built and why some characters work better than others.
YOUR TASK IN DETAIL:
- Whether it is desires, enemies, professions, hobbies, religions, behaviorisms or else: Please copy and fill out the form with all the info you got from watching the show. (the list is also downloadable via pdf) Maybe it helps to rewatch one of the episodes first.
- Think about what makes this protagonist worth following through a whole series of episodes. What is it that HOOKed you?
YOUR CHARACTER PROFILE LIST
Age: Never stated but late 30’s would seem about right
Physical Description (Size, Weight, Defining Attributes…): Tall, lanky, generally dishevelled and scruffy. Mop of black, unkempt hair, usually needing a shave
Ambitions/Desires: To be left alone with his books, drink and smoke
Is mostly seen as: A grumpy, hermitlike almost scrooge character
Sees her/himself as: Friendly, helpful generally all round nice guy
Loves: Books, wine (Or any boose), cigarettes
Believes in: The general moral decay of society
Trusts: Himself, his friend Fran
Fears most: customers, being exposed to the real world
Fights for: depends if he’s drunk or not – if he is, it could be anything, if not it’s generally for a quiet life, and at one stage he fights to get his housemate back after he has kicked him out when he realised how much he missed him.
Hates: Customers, people who read books. People in general
Most important event in life up to date: Getting his bookshop. The supposed ‘death’ of his fiance
Most influenced by: Boose & Fags – also his best friends, Fran & Manny
Best Friends: Fran (Female, originally ran the next door shop) Manny – his housemate & general shop dogsbody
Worst Enemies: Himself.
Relationship/Family status: Had a Ma once
Social/Ethnic Background: Irish.
Occupation: Book store owner
Education: No Idea
Hobbies: Fags, Boose, books, shouting at customers
Special Skills/Talents: Incrediably resiliant liver, can unerringly throw a cigarette into his mouth regardless of distance. Capable of psycotic, yet non-lethal violence
Flaws: Doesn’t like people buying the books from his shop, doesn’t like restocking the shop, hates tidying, dislikes other people having too much fun
Special behaviourism(s), quirks,…: Can make clothes from Tax receipts, find any book in a pile almost instantly. Can insult someone almost endlessly seems to survive purely on boose, fags and books
Style (Dress/Life Style): Near Hermit/recluse, generally just want to be left alone by the world to quietly read his books. Always in a suit (Though dishelvelled and rumpled)
Name: Bernard Black
TV Series, this character is in: Black Books
Black Books on IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0262150/
Black Books on Channel 4: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/black-books