Friday, 25 November 2016

I'm Trying, Though

Now, I think I know what you're thinking. You're thinking:
“Absurd Word Nerd, where was the last update?”
At least that's what I imagined you would be thinking,  because the last update is very clearly missing. So where is it? I'll tell you where it is, it's in a black hole, the aether of unsaved Word Documents.
When I write the novel that I'm working on, I'm doing so on Google Docs.  I am incredibly fond of Google Docs not just because it's available everywhere I go (and not just because I can use it to write alongside my beloved and we write stories together) but also because it means that I can just write and not have to worry about saving the document. See Google Docs has an amazing feature whereby it just saves everything you do and sends it to the database. I'm not sure if it's the the cloud or the server, but either way, it will save it, it's locked down. The way I write these blog posts, I tend to do it just on blogger - As much as I may be doing this blog draught on Google Docs - because it's just little updates and I didn't want to put too much effort into them. I figure sit down throw it  on the page,  send it out, get back to writing. That worked really well the first few times but last time it didn't save. For that reason I figured I'd give you a nice in depth explanation as to what I'm up to right now when it comes to writing. I have written over 20,000 words. Yes that's a two and yes that's four zeros. I'm pretty hyped about that, pretty excited, it means I'm approaching the halfway mark. Whilst it's only 5 more days till the end of nanowrimo proper, I'm still excited I'm not going to stop after nanowrimo I'm going to get this thing written I am going to get this thing published and hopefully you people will be able to enjoy the story I've been working on for so long.
And I'm also excited to get back into other projects I like. Listen, I like writing this story. I'm so used to creating short stories - in fact in the beginning, I was wondering how I get to create something longer and I'm actually surprised by the way that my brain has composed the story which needs to be longer - when I write Duke Forever those stories are 9000 words, cut and paste send it out and they always that long that's how long they are. I can't stop them being that long, it's how they are. It's not something I do artificially, it's how the stories are, if I try to make them longer or shorter they wouldn't feel like Duke Forever stories they wouldn't feel right.
But this story is constructed in a way much more akin to a mystery there's this piece here, that piece there, slowly building it up and putting the pieces together. It's different from writing a short-instalment, episodic series. Another one of the things that I have already spoken about struggling with are videos and things that I put on the background to help. I am still searching for some simple videos just to get you on track, but if you're looking for something yourself, I've discovered the amazing Jenna Moreci. She's an author; she's a vlogger and her videos are invaluable if you're feeling unsure, you have questions about writing or you're just a little blank. If your mind isn't in the writing game, whenever she does vlogs her mind is in the right zone so I found that really useful for getting myself right back on track, listening to her tell me that you absolutely need to keep going. One of the other things I discovered that reinvigorated my enjoyment of writing was a scene I wrote that just came out of nowhere. See you when I plotted this story I had an idea of the main character meeting somebody who knew about aliens and I thought she would just go to their house, have a chat and leave knowing more, but not everything they wanted to know. But when I wrote that thing, I wanted to shake things up a bit. I didn't want to just send her to somebody's house because that felt a bit pedestrian and contrived, who would invite a stranger inside if you just rocked up at their house, let alone invite her inside and talk? So instead I sent her to a cafe and there she met the woman she was looking for and the way I wrote her, this woman was quite resistant.
I mean, if you know that aliens exist I imagine you may be the kind of person who screams at politicians while wearing tinfoil, or wears those sandwich board things saying: The End is Nigh. But I didn't want that, that seems to crack the suspension of disbelief (to me at least).
And my solution was to have the woman be in denial, so she knew a lot, but she assumed it was all just a figment of her imagination or something. But you see, almost accidently, this created a tension. A drama I hadn't prepared for, wherein the main character was learning and questioning this poor woman, at the same time as the woman was trying to help the main character come to terms with the fact that aliens don't exist (even though there was one standing right outside the cafe). It was actually quite intense writing, because the woman at first was resistant and then she was opening up to the main character - not to tell her what she wanted to know, but this woman was trying to convince herself that she has nothing to fear. Meanwhile the main character knows for a fact that everything that she doesn't want to be true is. The main character finds aliens cool and friendly, but this woman was terrified of the prospect either that she'd met someone just as deluded as her, or that she'd met someone to tell her that all of her delusions and fears were real.
Okay . . . maybe I'm just tooting my own horn, maybe this isn't the amazing thing that I imagine it to be. But, nonetheless this opened my eyes to why this is not only a story I want to write, but one that I have to.

See the main reason why I didn't want to do NaNoWriMo in the first place, why I wrote that blog post about why wasn't a fan of it, was because I always received it as incredibly shame-driven. You give yourself a month, 30 days with a large quota and you say "I need to finish this by the deadline if I want to call myself a writer"; If you start to falter from that deadline, what keeps you moving forward is the thought of "Ugh, I suck at this, I need to exceed what I failed at before". And why is it 'Na' NoWriMo? Why is it National? It's because you're supposed to compare yourself to everyone else - there's meant to be winners in this race. You're supposed to blame yourself for not being as good as the other writers when you can't keep up, you have other people to look at and show you "they can do it", so there's no excuse to be one of the losers. Yes, I know this may seem extreme, but it's true more often than you'd believe. In fact my girlfriend offered to do NaNoWriMo with me, but she has been struggling to get a story started even now. My Beloved is a great writer, but the pressure of NaNoWriMo is actually holding her back. I feel like there is a tendency to capitulate this mindset of "You suck. Do better, because NaNoWriMo". Just use me, for example - the reason why I restarted my NaNoWriMo journey was because I felt like I could do better and I was failing at writing, and I didn't want to keep on failing. It's negative reinforcement. But, what made this is successful journey, to me, is the fact that it's not so much shame as it is growth. I'm not comparing myself to other writers, I'm comparing myself to myself. The reason I have a quota is because I know that I can write that much, I've done it before. Hell, I started this journey right after Halloween Countdown. There's a lot more than 2,000 words in some of those posts, yet I did those on time. So, when I failed, it wasn't because I suck - I can't suck, the 'winner' that I'm comparing myself to is me. So, I am awesome, I'm just not achieving what I am capable of, I am not reaching my potential. And I have found this to be a fun challenge.
It's been said before that one of the driving factors of creativity is boundaries. Telling you, "I bet you can't kick this goal blindfolded"? That's a challenge that forces you to test your skills, and push further. So, telling someone "Create a story, but you can only tell it with this paper and this pen and in a way that other people can understand" - that's creativity. That's what writing is. And saying that you have to write a story in a month? This deadline, I find it inspiring. At the end of the day, it's not perfect. I started again because I realized that the kind of stories that I write, the complicated, heavily researched, plot-driven stories . . . I couldn't do that, because this timeframe wasn't long enough to make the conflict complex. I've created a backstory that makes this story conducive to the kind of style of writing that I love, but I am definitely not going to write my planned novels this way. No, NaNoWriMo is an amazing challenge, but it's not the same thing as regular writing, just as how running a marathon for exercise is not the same as going for a jog to exercise. Just because I challenge myself like this, doesn't mean that I can do my best work this way, and it's not something you can do all the time. It's just a sometimes thing. It seems like I will half-complete this novel by the 30th of November, and I will complete it before the end of January. For my next few stories, I will do something a little slower, a little less labour intensive.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and don't get me wrong, I think I might just try NaNoWriMo again next year. After all, just like the marathon runner . . . I want to beat my best time. Keep up the writing, and I'll see you in the last update.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Oh dear, I'm Slow

To begin with, my first announcement of updates with regards to NaNoWriMo is that I've added these updates onto my schedule. I only knew it was due for an update because I was watching YouTube, and I was thinking "what's the date?" and when I saw it was the 15th, I was thinking "No, if it were the fifteenth, I would be doing a NaNoWriMo Update . . . oh crap." So, I am posting a day late, sorry.
But, I've added little crosses onto my NaNoWriMo calendar for every five days, so that I shouldn't do that again.
But, falling behind is something I am doing quite a bit lately, it seems.
The big news for my story is that I have been petering out lately. every day this week, I've written less than one thousand words, which has been slowing me down considerably. I'm still writing, I'm still going, no worries. I'm just finding some parts more difficult, especially the emotional, dramatic moments.
Part of it is personal issues, my girlfriend isn't at her best and we're both stressed with politics and personal deadlines lately. It's a mess.
The heat doesn't help, but that's not the main factor. The main thing slowing me down is just . . . mental fatigue.
One of the ways I've been managing it is by watching videos, particularly Netflix. I watched the entirety of Stranger Things (which, I recommend to anyone that likes the 80s, or just good horror/sci-fi/mystery shows). I think I've been doing it wrong, though. The show is fantastic, but . . . not during NaNoWriMo.
Don't get me wrong, I loved the show, but it had a lot of good, new ideas.
See, I'm thinking about it, and five days ago? I was tired too. Yeah, don't forget that I was writing the Halloween Countdown before I began this. But, five days ago, I was raring to go, I was excited. I am still excited for this story, but the energy is gone. And there are two reasons for that.
Firstly, the stress of life, the difficulties of juggling looking for work with being a boyfriend with cooking dinner and cleaning with socializing and writing on top of that. It feels like a lot, and whilst it's not the hardest, as I said, the heat doesn't help.
But secondly, and most importantly, I am letting it get to me. Self-care is important, but choosing the right kind of self-care is just as important as deciding to take care of yourself. There is a fine line between self-care and self-medicating; addiction is often a form of self-medication, whether it be alcoholism, sexual addiction, drug addiction, addiction to eating brickdust or videogame addiction - it's all using the positive chemicals (often dopamine, but sometimes hormones or literal chemicals) to get a positive feeling which you had not felt otherwise.
For me, I think that I've been using watching good shows and YouTube (addicted to these online videos) as a way of distracting myself from the task at hand.

But it was subtle, because I was doing something similar last week, but with a major difference. Last week, I was putting on shows.
I was watching MIB; I was watching At World's End, I was watching Paul. Why?
Not because they are movies I enjoy (although I do enjoy some of them); and not even because they were sci-fi and I am writing sci-fi, after all Stranger Things also has a lot of sci-fi. No, what made these work is they were shows I had already watched. I wasn't receiving and processing new information, I was putting these shows on and relaxing. For the MIB movies, I didn't even watch most of them, I just put them on in the background while I was writing. But for the others, I was just zoning out, because I was concentrating more on the story I was working on.
I'm losing focus, and letting the stress get to me, that's what's holding me back and that's what's slowing me down.

On a lighter note, I finally have a title for this story. It's kinda funny, the title has basically been changing for every single post of this blog.
For the first one, it was GIDEON, but then I rebooted, and I called it Untitled Urban Sci-Fi Story, then for a week, I was calling it Quicksilver, which is apparently a street name for metallic spray paint cans amongst people that huff paint (it sounded spacey to me, but not enough). But finally, I have sort of settled on the name Still Life. I know, it's a little abstract, but it's the best title I have, and it actually kinda works for the theme that I'm going for with this story. So, unless something unexpected happens next week, that is the title of this story.
See? Things aren't all looking down. Despite the fact that there was a day when I didn't write anything. But, full disclosure, that was a day when I went out drinking with my mates. I thought I could get home and write something, and while I did get home, I actually kinda forgot to write anything until after midnight, and since my daily quota deadline is midnight . . . well, shit happens.

Anyway, so, right after I finish this post, I am going to pick several sci-fi and urban fantasy movies that I've seen before. Actually, right after this I am going to shower, because I stink. Whilst showering, I will discuss storylines with myself, and try to come up with some solid scenes for tomorrow, since my timeline is a little vague, currently (and I am a writer, talking to yourself is a common symptom).
But then, I will pick several movies, and stack them on my bookshelf so that for the next five days, if I get bored, I will put them on and keep writing in here, with them playing in the background. Then, I will probably cook and eat dinner. Then, finally, I will sit down here and continue writing, because damn it, I want to write more than 2,000 words today, and make today another green day. Alright, no more screwing around.
I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and until next time, don't quit on me, people. I am writing, I hope you're writing (or reading) too. We're half-way to the finish line.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Yeah, so, Here Goes . . .

So, we return once more, and I am in the midst of my NaNoWriMo journey, and this is my second blog update. And I do indeed have good news, my plan is actually kinda working. At least, it's working so far, I can't speak to the future, but I have written two full chapters of this story so far, over 8,000 words. Okay, yes, those of you good at maths may now be counting on your fingers to realize that I should be at 10,000 today if I were keeping up with my quota. And no, I'm a little bit behind, but that's okay. See, the purpose of this is not to meet the goal or quit, it's to keep yourself honest. If I just wrote every day and shrugged it off, like
  "Yeah, I did a lot today." I could lie to myself. Or, I could be honest, but in a false hope kind of way. Because if I wake up and there's no coffee, and then I hear that something devastating, like a racist, bigoted tyrant just took over a powerful country, yeah writing may feel difficult and even putting six words on a page may feel like a success.
But we remember emotions more than we remember facts, and if I feel like I've done a lot, when in reality I've only written eleven words one day, then I kinda suck at my job of "writing a story". So, on the days when I only write 300 words, I don't look at it and go "I suck", I look at it and go "I need to be better".
But one thing that has amazed me greatly are what I call my green days. See, whilst I make it black and white for the sake of this post, when I write on that little NaNoWriMo calendar, when I've written under my quota, I score it in red. But when I exceed my quota, I write it in green - they have the plus signs (+) beside them, if you're curious. And on both of those occasions, I have been on fire.
Also, I have been in my father's study writing with the air conditioning on, so I may try to do that more often, to see if it's the heat that's making my slow days even slower. But, I have just sat down and blazed through. And both of those occasions, it's something I have had in my mind for a while: The first painting; the crash - both of these scenes I have had in mind ever since I started this venture, and I have researched, so when it came time to write them I just threw them down.
Tappity-tappity-tap. Keyboard keys were flying.

There are two other things I feel the need to mention, then I will disappear back into my writing-hole.

Firstly, I felt the need to do field research. This was unusual, because I am used to just using Google Maps to find a location, and I adapt it as needed. When I wrote Chapter 13 of Duke forever, Kindred of the Gods, I picked a beach and pretended there was a church on it. But because this is a novel, and because I am writing my story in my home country and local town (Brisbane represent!) I didn't want to lie about how the city looked. So, in one scene where my character was literally climbing all over the buildings, I got in my car, drove to the spot I'd found on Google Maps, and I took as many photos as I could. Then I came home, wished I'd taken more photos (It's always the way, isn't it? You're there, think "I don't want to overdo it". Then get back and go "crap, I underdid it".)
I did take enough to manage to write the scene. I think it's because I am actually, properly planning on trying to get this story published, so I don't want to just wing it; but, that moment preceded one of my green days, when I was writing on fire, because I had an impulse "I need this in order to write the story", and when I had it, I just went with it all the way to Chapter 3.

Another thing I noticed was that music . . . helps. I like background noise, but the thing is, I am a bit scared of heights. Not ultimately so, but quite a bit; enough that I don't like leaning on railings in most circumstances just in case. But, I didn't want my character to have that. Gene is a bit more wild, a bit more out there and free. So, when I had her climb up the building, I decided that she would feel free.
I did that by listening to Katy Perry's Rise. Not because I think that is the best, inspirational song or anything, it's just that I was in the middle of a writing session, I needed something about height and being excellent, and that's the first one that came to mind. And listening to that whilst I was writing was perfect, I got this image in my head, and it's not much, but it helped to create that scene.
But then I had to stop. Because the next scene was tense, and I was looking for a song that represented that; then the next scene was eye-opening and mind-blowing, so I was looking for a song that evoked that . . . unfortunately, I failed both times, and my story stopped dead when my playlist did.
So, I went back to playing videos of people talking in the background. I think, if you have a few important scenes in your story that you want to be inspired by a song, you need to rack that playlist up in advance, because it really did stop my writing dead for two minutes the other day.
To be frank, I'm surprised that I find stuff to talk about. I would love to tell you about the story, but it's a surprise. Like I said, I want to publish this one. the only other thing I can tell you is . . . I don't have a title.
I have a "working title", but it sucks. I don't like it. I was trying to find a term that tied together, paint, graffiti, space and aliens . . . but it's still evading me.

Hopefully, I'll find something suitable before I get too far. In the meantime, I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, wishing you all the best of luck. Pens on papers, fingers on keyboards, we still have a long way to go . . .

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Uh Oh, ReDo

I was hoping I would be able to write blog posts keeping you updated of my NaNoWriMo progress and this is my attempt at the first post. If this post reads a little unusual, it is because I'm not actually writing it with my keyboard. Because writing nanowrimo right after my countdown is a little bit tiring, and I don't want to use excess energy on blog posts, I am writing this post using the text to speech program on my mobile phone, with only minor editing to fix up mistakes. This means I can Speak 'n' Spell the entire posts without worrying about wearing myself out for the upcoming writing session.
[Author's Note: I gave up on the text-to-speech half-way through. It turns out that getting frustrated with a new function on your phone is more tiring and a results in a much less natural way of speaking than sitting down and writing.]
And the next writing session is going to be a big one . . .
See I have good news and bad news, the good news is I've written over 2000 words already for my NaNoWriMo attempt. The bad news is, I'm going to have to scrap all of my writing so far.
See, after four days of writing the story, I have come to a realization: I haven't done enough research for this story so that I can just sit down and write it.
See usually when I write my research as I go it's not the best habit but it's the one that I have gotten into. However, when it comes to NaNoWriMo you can't just research as you go because you have a word quota to fulfill. So, I tried to change my writing habits, but it just didn't fit the story. I needed to do a lot of research on the Australian Police Force, basic forensic analysis and call signs and codes and attitudes and and laws... it was just going to be a mess. So, I made an executive decision to scrap everything I've written so far for NaNoWriMo; store it elsewhere & reboot my National Novel Writing Month with a new story.
So, tomorrow I will begin writing again, and I will have twenty-five days to write fifty thousand words. This does mean that I will have to increase my daily writing quota to fulfill this new shortened schedule, but I'm confident that I can do it. See, to alleviate the burden of constant research I've decided that this new story will be science fiction, I've even spent the last twenty-four hours organising the timeline, the characters, the motivations and the themes so that now all I'm really missing are the words that make this story a book.
Because I'm much more experience whend it comes to writing science fiction (since I've been running Duke forever for so very very long) and since I'm somewhat knowledgeable when it comes to science it gives me a lot of leeway to write as I please and fill in any gaps with sci-fi technobabble fun times.
So, I suppose for you other writers out there, my suggestion is do your research. I found myself stopping and starting so often with the story that on my second day of writing for NaNoWriMo, I I wrote a grand total of eleven words. That's pathetic. And all because I hadn't done my research.
Also, my timeline wasn't fully developed, but the lack of research was the real kick in the pants.

This also means that I will have to apologize, I thought that my first update post would be about some of the interesting things I am written about or some of those fun things you discover as you build a story from the ground up. Unfortunately all I have is a cautionary tale. But don't let that discourage you, I sure as hell haven't let it discourage me. I am going to have to write two-thousand words a day to make up for this little hiccup, and I'm going to damn well try to get this story done by the 30th of November 2016.
[Author's Note: I just realized that I forgot to mention something . . . what can I say, I'm tired, I've been plotting for twenty-four hours. But anyway, the plan is that I will keep you guys updated by writing a blog post of my progress every five days. This schedule may shift depending on my personal responsibilities, levels of fatigue and unforeseen circumstances.]
As for the story itself? I don't want to give too much away, since I am trying to make this story publishable. But, I can tell you three things before I wrap up this blog post. Firstly, I have called the main character Gene Endroe, and she is a graffiti artist (yes, she; my original story had a male homicide detective, so when I rebooted, I decided to give the fairer sex the chance at leading the story). Secondly, I think robots are really cool, and this affected what I included in this story. Thirdly, besides my sweet Beloved, what inspired this story was a simple concept: 'Urban Sci-Fi'.
That's all I can say for now, I hope it peaks your interest.

Until next time, I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and I'm going to lie down. I have a big day ahead of me tomorrow.