Monday, November 29, 2004

NaNo: Day Who the fuck cares because this shit is finally over

I am the proud owner of an unfinished but officially verified 50,000 word novel. This actually means a lot to me, as I somehow managed to cross that 50,000 word mark after giving up on this novel not once, but twice.

Seven days ago, I threw it away. I didn't think there was anything salvageable.

Then the part of me that knows better fought back, and I wrote 15,000 words in the last five days.

Like I said, the book isn't done yet, and probably won't be done until the end of December at the earliest, maybe the end of January if I have some trouble with it. I'm gonna try to stick with the daily writing, pushing out something between 1,000 and 1,500 words until I get to type the words "THE END". I've still got a few hurdles to overcome before I get there, but I think I'll make it.

It's been a lot of years since I sat down and spent any amount of time creating something this...unformed. I think a big part of why I was so tempted to give up was because I was scared, scared that I didn't know where the book was going, scared that I didn't know how to steer towards anything, scared that it all felt so out of control.

It's not fun feeling out of control.

But it's exhilerating. When the book went well, I felt a kind of excitement I haven't felt since the last time I wrote a novel by the seat of my pants. And what's surprising, is I don't think last year counts.

Last year I had too good an idea of where I was going. I may not have had an ending, but the middle -- the basic structure of the book -- was there before I started work on it. So it didn't feel like quite as pure a creative process as I went through this year.

No, what I'm reminded of this year was a book I wrote just out of high school called "The Voice of the Raven" -- great title, crappy book, and next to incomprehensible on its own, given that it was intended as part of some psychotic 10 part series.

But we're not talking quality here, are we? We're just talking about creativity, and how the massive random output I've had this month reminds me of a book I wrote twelve years ago, or so.

And how it reminds me of how many books I could have written in those intervening years.

And how it reminds of how fucking depressed that makes me feel.

Friday, November 19, 2004

NaNo: Day Nineteen

My novel is out of control. And I think it's nobody's fault but my own.

When I started, I had a beginning, and a direction for about the next 20 pages. And I had a pretty good -- to abou 75% or so -- idea of what the ending was going to be.

Middle? I dunno. We'll figure it out when we get there.

Those first 20 pages? Well, the initial idea was that those would be the backstory, setting up the character and his history and explaining a bit about how he got to be where he was today. After those 20 pages, we could dig into the real meat of the story.

I'm at page 55 and still working on backstory. At some story "backstory" became "story". Or at least the first half of the "story".

I've got about a chapter and half until that first half is finished, I think, if everything goes more or less the way it seems to be. That'll be, based on previous chapters, somewhere between 15 to 30 pages, putting the first half of the book somewhere in the area of 70 to 85 pages and 40,000 to 50,000 words. Not too shabby.

Except I'm just as confused right now about the second half as I was regarding the first half 30 or 40 pages ago.

I have a rough idea of what's going to happen, but that's mostly because I know the ending that I'm headed towards. Page by page, sentence by sentence, I haven't the foggiest idea what I'm going to do with the second half of my book.

Nothing worth worrying about right now, though, I guess. I've still got the first half to finish. And if all goes well, that'll get me to my 50,000 words for NaNo, leaving me to worry about the second half in December.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

I think I'm in love

I downloaded Mozilla Firefox tonight. I think I'm in love with a browser for the first time since I laid my eyes on Netscape Navigator version 0.9. Firefox freaking rocks.

Get Firefox

Someone mentioned it to me months ago and I kind of poo-poohed the suggestion. That's how locked into my Internet Explorer mindset I was. That was how powerful a grip Microsoft had over my mind, and over my soul.

Thank you, Firefox, for setting me free.

In a weird "just like old times" way, I've included a little promo link on the side of the blog so interested parties can snag their own copy of Firefox. It's odd because it's the first time I've done this since Netscape was king of the hill.

The more things change...blah blah blah.

Friday, November 12, 2004

NaNo: Day Twelve

Saw this link while logging in to blogger today -- a blog listing people who are posting their NaNoWriMo novel on their blogs at It's a tempting thought, to blog your novel and post your nightly writings, get feedback and criticism and the like from readers all over, and I might give it a spin next year. I'd probably have to fire up a new blog just for the novel, though.

In writing news, the novel's gone fairly well in the last couple of days. I didn't get the chance to do any writing on Wednesday night, but I did double-duty last night to catch up on that missing day. The novel is now clocking in at just over 20,000 words, and it's really starting to feel like it's a long way from being done. I'm not sure if it's just turning out to be a long novel, or if I'm trying to pad my word count with extraneous words to make sure I manage my daily word count, but whatever it is I'm fairly sure the book, when finished, will be closer to 75,000 or 100,000 words.

Which, if everything goes well, I'll continue to work on well into December, if necessary.

In other news, I started down the road of learning CSS at work today, and if a few headaches at the start, my brain started to wrap around the idea and it's surprisingly functional and logical. Wish it hadn't taken so long. May actually play at redesigning the ol' blog layout over the Xmas holidays if I get bored.

I also watched a film I'd been waiting 14 years to see, but I'll save my thoughts on that for a night when I'm feeling less tired and don't have 1,600 words of a novel to still get through.

Monday, November 08, 2004

NaNo: Day Eight

Since getting back from Bella Coola, and scrapping the rapidly collapsing end to Chapter One, the novel's been back on track again. The last two days have gone relatively smoothly (though last night, I didn't really find myself "in the zone" until I'd just about hit the 1600 words -- I ended up continuing through for another 300 words, just because it was flowing so well).

I've come to think that my biggest problem with the end of Chapter One is that it involves a car accident, and I've already a car accident once in the past, for a story that didn't have a plot and never actually got one and never went anywhere and is currently unfinished. So now that I'm writing another car accident -- years later and, presumable, as a much better writer -- I feel like I have to surpass that previous car accident scene that I liked so much.

I'm trying to outright myself. And failing.

So I think, come Wednesday or Thursday, while I'm away from work, I'll play at trying to copy and paste chunks of that previous car accident, that I've always loved and never really been able to use anywhere, into my NaNo novel. If it doesn't work, no loss. If it does, I end up with an improved chapter *and* an excuse to finally use a scene I've loved for years but have never been able to find a home for.

I don't know why this didn't occur to me earlier.

And now, I'm off to tackle tonight's 1,600. Should be fun.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

NaNO: Day Six

I'm back from Bella Coola. What a long, ugly drive it was -- 11 hours out of the last 72. Blech.

I managed to NaNo on a borrowed laptop on Thursday night and got through my 1600 words for that day. I probably output a pitiful 400 last night before I was interupted by company and alcoholic beverages.

Today, in retrospect, I'm feeling like the 1,600 I did on Thursday were close to 1,550 really crappy words. The whole sequence I was writing has this feeling of being over-written and incredibly clunky. I'm not sure immediately how to fix it, and I think if I continue on from where I left it, it's only going to get worse. So I'm going to do the only thing I can think of doing at this point.

Move on to Chapter Two.

Knowing exactly how Chapter One ends, even though I'm apparently lacking the words to convey it, should make just giving up on that chapter for the moment and moving on beautifully easy. And hopefully moving on will help the quality of the work, as the area I'm going into now as not quite as plotted out as the end of Chapter One was -- I think the biggest problem I had was that I overthough that sequence, which led directly to the overwriting.

Should try to put out 2,000 words tonight too, to make up for last night's pitiful output.

And that's my update. I'm off to scratch out some words now. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

NaNo: Day Three

I had the day off today, so I tackled my NaNo pages this afternoon instead of waiting until the evening, as I've still got my column to write this evening. And I sure didn't want to overwork myself in the evening.

I crossed the 1,600 word line today, but I think it's going to get whittled down to 1,500 or 1,450 after I wipe out the last paragraph I wrote today, which just doesn't work for me. I'm going to go back to it post-column and see if I can clean it up and make it better. It's exactly the point I want to end at today, but I just need a couple of hundred more words to make it work. Dammit.

I'm headed to Bella Coola for a few days tomorrow, but I'm bringing a laptop with me to make sure I don't miss any writing opportunities. 5,000 words would be hard to make up after being out of it for three days. Not that it would me that much, given that I had a 5,000 word head-start, but I'd rather save that head-start for when I'm really suffering some blocks. I think the next two or three days will continue fairly smoothly.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

KING COVERS: Firestarter (1980)

Not one of my favourite books, certainly, though it did have all the right elements. People with pyschic powers, an evil off-shoot of the government attempting the capitilize on those psychics, lots and lots of things on fire.

I don't know exactly what it was about Firestarter that never quite worked for me, but it always seemed to be lacking something. It's a pretty brutal story, in some ways, and drifts about as far away from a happiness as a happy ending can get, which is something else I usually like in my novels, and...

And it's been so many years since I read this book, that I really can't remember much of it at all, least of all why it didn't make a lasting impression on me. All I know for sure is that it didn't. That just thway life goes sometimes.

We'll start the festivities tonight with the original Viking hardcover release, a strong contender for design superiority right out of the gate. A striking yet simple image that is burned -- pun not-so-terribly intended -- forever in my mind. When I think Firestarter, this is the image I will always thing of, as this is the image that graced the cover of the book for years, first in hardcover...

...and later in two differently coloured Signet paperback editions.

I think I like the black one better.

You know the one thing that does bug me about this design? From a purely tyopgraphical perspective, what the fuck is a hyphen doing in there? Seriously! Why are hyphenating your title? That looks retarded. Use a more condsensed font or something, and get it on one line!

Lazy typographer bastards...

This later Signet releases manage to maintain the basic look and feel of the earlier paperback cover -- flames, eyes -- while giving it a slight redesign. Unfortunately, it's a redesign that drifts a little too far into "boring" for my tastes.

Another Signet design takes a slightly different approach, though I guess there's only so much you can do with a story about a young girl who lights things on fire. We've got the young girl, and we've got the fire, so that's got all the story's bases covered. Plus we've got smoke! Or maybe clouds. Or, I guess, maybe fog. BUt that doesn't matter, because we've got a young girl and we've got fire!

England goes with proven success of the whole fire and eyeball thing, except they choose to use -- for reasons that their designer will likely take to their grave -- what appear to be photos. Crappy photos. Crappy superimposed photos.

All is not lost, though... the British redeem themselves with this design -- the winning entry. A massive burst of fire fills almost half the book's cover, with a tiny sillouhette in the midst of it all, bringing hom not just the ideas of "fire" and "little girl" but also "lots and lots and lots and lots of fire" which is pretty important to the story, actually.

This cover from Estonia (!) takes a close second, with a rather intriguing and inventive choice of images -- brain scans and a zippo lighter. Unfortunately, I think this cover design would have failed in the U.S. as it likely would have required a few too many steps of putting two and two together before it would make any sense. And thus, a creative design suffers in the hands of the great unwashed. Or something to that effect.

As for this cover from France, I'm really not sure what's going on. A...dragon? A sword? I can't quite make out what it's a picture of, so maybe if it were clearer it would make more sense, but I'm not betting on it.

I absolutely love the look of these two Japenese covers. The simple black and white images are fantastic, and more than any other cover these two pictures capture the loneliess of Charlie McGee's life, on the run from a government agency that wants to harness her powers for their own use. Unfortunately, it's lacking the all-important fire imagery required for a proper cover to a book called "Firestarter". Which is too bad because, once again, these really are incredibly beautiful.

NaNo: Day Two

1,600 words yesterday, plus 2,200 words today, plus the 5,500-ish words that I was already starting with leaves me currently just shy of 9,000 words, almost 1/5 of my NaNo total.

I think, to be fair, I'm going to shoot for 55,000, or maybe even 60,000. Given that I cheated a little bit at the start, with those 5,500 words already there. I don't like cheating. Cheaters are bad. Cheaters are evil.

Cheating or not, though, the novel's rocking so far, and it's looking like my prediction for the length of chapter one (the lengthy backstory chapter) is going to be just about bang-on at 20 pages. I may have to break that into two chapters later, as it might prove to be significantly longer than any other chapter in the book, which I don't like. I'm all about consistency. And liquor. Consistency and liquor. That's me.

I'm expecting this first week to fly by without breaking a sweat or batting an eye. I'm sure I can pump out 1,600 tomorrow with my eyes closed, and the day after that should be just as easy. By Friday, I might start struggling a bit, depending on where I end up, and depending on how much more solid the direction I'm going becomes in the next day or two.

And what d'ya know...I'm finished my writing for the day, still have another two glasses of red wine to get through, and I'm pumped creatively. I think I'm gonna put together the long-delayed and probably-not-so-terribly-anticipated new edition of King Covers. Why? Because I love ya. That's why.

Monday, November 01, 2004

NaNo: Day One

Today is the start of National Novel writing month. Today -- in roughly thirty minutes -- I'll open up MS Word and start struggling with my first 1600 words.

I have to confess. I'm already about 5,000 words into my NaNo novel, and it's not from working on it earlier today. I wrote about 10 pages on it earlier this year, though my intention wasn't to cheat -- honestly! -- my intention was simply to write a short story. When I reached page 10 and realized that I was still stuck on the character's back story, and that the back story was going to continue for at least another ten pages or so, I knew that I wasn't dealing with a short story any longer. I was dealing with a novel.

At which point I promptly dropped the project and set it aside as my NaNo novel.

I'm a little grateful to have those 5,000 words already down, as it will be a bit of a buffer in case I hit any nasty cases of writer's block, or for my 3-4 day work-related trip to Bella Coola later this week (where I may or may not be able to write, depending on whether I can wrestle my dad's laptop away from him for those few days).

Am I actually intending to keep some kind of a record of my NaNo progress here in the blog? Yes. Do I actually think I'll be successful? Well, that's another matter altogether, but it's still worth trying for, I think.

Having said that, though, non-NaNo-related blog postings might become fewer and further between. On the other hand, they may come more frequently, as what was intended to be a quick NaNo update becomes a longer, rambling blog-post.

If anything's almost guaranteed to suffer this month, it's the stick figure dramas and the King Cover reviews -- both of which are in dire need of an update (King Covers are badly needing some linkage over on the right hand side too, I think). If you see either a SFD or a King Covers post anytime in November, it can mean only one thing -- I have a writer's block that I haven't been able to get past, and I'm now working desperately to distract myself by doing *anything* other than thinking about it.

Off to write now. 1600 words today will be easy. Should be able to do it without breaking a sweat.

Of course, tomorrow's 1600 words will be a bit more difficult. And Wednesday's more difficult still.

Better get these 1600 taken care of while they're easy.