Ramble

Thanksgiving week meant all my time went to family things: cooking and cleaning mostly, but a lot else besides.

I took the week (actually more like ten days) off from pretty much everything else. I was already behind with my self-imposed schedule of posting here at least once a week, so that took another hit, and I deliberately avoided social media – as a result, I have pretty much no idea of what’s been going on in the news. The only thing I’ve used any computer for in the last few days has been playing games (The Talos Principle and Sir, You Are Being Hunted) and watching Netflix (I watched Cloud Atlas and Rogue One yesterday – the first pause all week where I was able to sit down and relax properly for a few hours).

Starting today, I’m getting wound back into the world. I took a few minutes earlier to send an email to my editor-in-chief to ask if there’s any news about the status of copy-editing on The Artemis Device, and whether she’s accepting Phantasms & Magicks for publication, and also to update a couple of pages on this site. I caught up a little bit with Twitter (and learned that Rance Howard died yesterday) and Mastodon (which I just started using a couple of weeks ago).

On the actual writing front, I’m planning on splitting the rest of today between doing some timeline work on the Untitled SF Project, and also writing a few notes for another project idea that I had a few days ago (it started as a short story idea, but as I thought about it it became bigger to the point where I think it’s likely to end up being a full-length novel).

On that note, I need to wrap this up; I have a couple of errands to run (the first time I’ll have left the house in three days) and then I want to get on that writing work.

Until next time…

#NaNoWriMoNoNoNo

It’s that time of year again. The month when many writers do their damndest (is that a word?) to slam out fifty thousand words in just thirty days.

I’m not even going to try. Not that I wouldn’t if I could spare the time, but I can’t. Fifty thousand words in thirty days means averaging almost two thousand words a day. That’s perfectly doable – but only if I took a month off the day job. Trying to pull a nine-hour day (that’s my average, Monday to Friday) then follow up with several hours’ writing (for that’s how long it would likely take me to get a couple of thousand words out) would kill me in less than a week, probably.

And there’s the prep work I’d have to do ahead of time. I can’t just spout out a story, you see. I must have a plan. (If you’ve seen my book Finish Your Book you’ll know something of the planning I do before the first words are committed to paper or pixels.) And given that it usually takes me around three months to go from first ideas to a completed scene-by-scene timeline, I’d have to start prepping around the beginning of August to be ready to start the actual writing on November 1. And that would cut into work on other projects, and I can’t afford for that to happen. Those other projects are just too important to put to one side.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that you, dear reader (and writer) shouldn’t have a go. I’d never try to stop a writer from writing, ever.

But I won’t be doing it. Not this year, at least.

Day Job Woes Again

Sort-of continuing from last week…

I was right about Monday hitting the reset button on the technical problems my team has been working hard to put right. Again, I don’t want to go into detail. In short, it’s taken another week of ten-hour days, plus half of Saturday, to get to a point where it looks like all the fixes are in and working. We won’t know for sure until tomorrow (Tuesday) when the whole thing gets an end-to-end test, which might reveal that we still have a little bit more to do. But I really think the worst is behind us.

Now, since today is Columbus Day, I get a three day weekend (actually a two-and-a-half day weekend, thanks to Saturday morning). And that means I’ve actually had some time to work on the timelines for the SF series (I really must think of a working title).

Well, ok, I have to be honest: I have spent some time playing Astroneer. And I’ve been catching up with the huge pile of laundry in the basement.

But I’ve also been making some progress with the timeline of the first story in the series, so that’s good, right? I took a break to write this, and I need to update the WiP pages while I’m at it, then I’m getting back to work.

I might just mention that today we had the first snow of the season here in our part of the world. It’s still falling; the forecast says we could have six or eight inches built up by the end of the day.

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On that note, time to update those WiP pages real quick, then it’s back to the timelines.

Until next time…

Yes It’s No

Another response from an agent re: Smoke & Mirrors. And yes, it’s another rejection.

Staying positive, I think maybe I’ll go back through email and count the rejections. Get a T-shirt made with the number on it. Wear it like a badge of honour. When people wonder why I make a thing about the negatives, I can say something like at least it shows I tried.

Actually, there is perhaps one positive thing, in that the agent said that she didn’t feel passionately enough about it, which I could interpret as meaning that the writing doesn’t really pop the way it needs to. I’m thinking maybe another editing pass is called for here.

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Well, it’ll have to wait until tomorrow. While I usually work at home, all this week until yesterday I had to go into the office for meetings and presentations so I’ve had no time for any of my own stuff, and it’s also left me with a small backlog of work I need to catch up on today. It’s coming up on 6am; time to get started.

Until next time…

What I Did On My Holiday

Not a lot, actually. I took Friday and Tuesday off from the day job to give me a five-day weekend, and I had intended to spend some of that time working on the SF stories, but I ended up not doing much on that. Monday was pretty much taken up with prepping stuff for the grill—chicken and smoked sausage, mostly—and then actually grilling and eating. Nevertheless I did manage to make a little progress on the writing—specifically, I figured out how to get round one particularly knotty problem with the fourth and last story. On that front, the plan now is to focus on getting the high-level structure of that story nailed down so that I can get on to building the timelines.

Given that I didn’t do any day job, and only did a little (if important) bit of writing work, the rest of the time was spent slacking, by which I mean binge-watching TV and movies: The Martian (again), Interstellar (again), and The Expanse (season one; I’m part way into season two).

Today, back to the day job and as usual on the first day back after a break I’m whacked. So the plan is to take a little break then pull up the spreadsheet for SF story the fourth and do a bit more work on it.

But first, time for tea.

Stalled

I’ve been working on the four stories making up the SF series that I’m engaged on at the moment. At this point I have a high-level description of each of the first three stories in the form of a dozen or so paragraphs.

But the fourth story… I’m having a problem with it.

I have the beginning. I know where my protagonist starts off. And I have the ending—at least in general terms, in that I know what she’ll have achieved. The bad guys are out of the picture one way or another, the protagonist has got what she wanted and more.

It’s the bit in between that’s giving me a headache at the moment. The bit that connects the beginning and the end. The part that writers like to call (technical term) the story.

I have absolutely no idea how to get my character from point A to point B. In part, that’s because she herself doesn’t know what to do at the start. She has a limited amount of information, and an objective—but no clue what to do to get moving in the right direction.

So right now I’m stalled. I’ll keep thinking on this for a while but I might have to find a way to start her off with a bit more information from the end of the third story—but not so much that it gives things away that I want to keep until near the end.

Meanwhile, episode 5 of Game of Thrones.

Neo’s Character Flaw

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that I’d had to put timelining of the four-story SF series I’m working on on hold, because I’d managed to bugger up the way my protagonist’s major problem (her wound) got resolved at the end of the first story. I’d like to explain that a bit, at least the way it was explained to me.

Characters have flaws, and they have wounds. Flaws are usually consequences of wounds. When it comes to developing a series, the wound will usually carry on through the entire series. I used Harry Potter as an example; his wound is that Voldemort murdered his parents, and that doesn’t get sorted out until the defeat of Voldemort at the end of the last book. However, Harry has a series of flaws: self-doubt, arrogance, the worry that he’s a new Voldemort in the making, and so on. And each of these provides a background for one of the books, and is resolved by the end of that book.

So while wounds and flaws are related, they’re distinct.

But there’s more to flaws than just setting them up at the start of a story and resolving them at the end. Far better is to make the resolution of the flaw vital to the resolution of the story as a whole.

Here’s an example: Neo in The Matrix. Neo’s flaw is that he won’t accept that he is The One. In terms of wants and needs, he wants to believe that he’s not special (and the Oracle reinforces this when she tells him he isn’t). But he needs to believe, because until he does he doesn’t stand a chance against Agent Smith. So his wants and needs conflict.

So then comes the fight with Smith, and Neo dies in the Matrix. BUT… at that point, Trinity tells Neo’s real-world corpse that she loves him and that means he must be The One, because the Oracle told her so. And now Neo believes; he knows he is The One. He is reborn with world-bending powers, and can take on Smith with one hand behind his back.

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In the first story of the series I’m working on at the moment, my protagonist realises that what she thought she wanted was a phantom, and that what she really needed the whole time is about to be taken away by the bad guy. This happens when the bad guy himself tells her that he’s going to take that thing from her, not realising that he just gave her a reason to fight as hard as she ever has, and doomed himself in the process.

Hopefully I’ve shed a little light on how wants and needs can tie into flaws in a way that all comes together at the end of a story, in such a way as to make for a more powerful tale.