Tags: nanowrimo

Dream of Dust

In a couple days, I am sending out that donor gift version of my NaNo novel. I had a dream about it last night, which is funny because I think it originated from a dream in the first place, and it's narrator has a strange recurring dream. Here's a sexy passage from one of those dreams in the story itself. Things have been hectic here lately and if I don't pop in here to say again before the holiday, then I hope everyone has a fine, happy Annual Gift Day!

I closed my eyes and dreamed a red Dust dream as I dozed:
Brace, clad in the red hue of the Dust but otherwise naked, red-sheened body smooth as glass, lay down next to me. “I don’t think your vision of A-R in the Dust is accurate," he said. "Or rather, I should say that you are not interpreting it correctly.” 
I dreamed that he ran fingertips downward from my lips to my navel and it tickled a bit. “What do you mean? What’s the correct interpretation?”
       He caressed me further, lower, and said: “He’s not vanishing and he’s not trying to get away from you. He wants you to follow him.”
“Into the Dust?”
“Into wherever he is going. You need to follow him. And he needs you to.”
I agreed that I’d reinterpret my Dust vision tomorrow, but pointed out that I was very sleepy right now. I imagined sitting at an enormous desk, for some reason spread heavily with ancient manuscripts and astrological charts and Tarot cards. A steampunk computer made out of a brassy typewriter and a hazy lens would chatter its way through an arcane calculation, and I would suck opium smoke from a hookah. Here, at such a desk and with such tools, I would reinterpret the vision, but I was so sleepy now that it would have to wait until morning. Brace continued to glow redly around me and made love to me as I drifted the rest of the way into sleep. Of course, the reality in the physical world was that my own right hand had probably stood in for Brace’s hand and mouth, but it was a fine, marvelous way to pass all the way into dreams.
Brace looks at me and says, “The Waste and the Dust show as much as they hide. Neither can hurt you.” Dust roils around us and soon I can see nothing.

Reviewing my NaNoWriMo effort

I'm spending some time today formatting my National Novel Writing Month novel into a readable and aesthetically agreeable condition. A PDF of it will be a holiday gift for the donors to that fund drive that I was conducting during November. I am adding to it a number of annotations that may help the reader make some sense out of certain sections and provide some insight into what the hell I was thinking at various points. My writing method, as discussed in previous entries, left a lot of holes and missing scenes and a couple of fairly weird continuity errors. Overall, however, this story is not the complete piece of crap that I had feared it would be. It actually has a fair number of good attributes, and it represents about the best that I can do writing-wise under the conditions of NaNo. One question that remains for me is whether or not this story is out of my system now, or if I will further revise it and try to finish it in a more professional manner. Even if I never touch it again, I am quite happy with it just because it's the most and best work of its kind that I have ever managed in such a short span.

Covers for my NaNo book

Now that NaNoWriMo is done (see previous entry), I can screw around with the cover for the gift edition of the story that I am sending to the donors to my November fund drive without feeling like I am wasting too much time (I actually had to stop myself from screwing around with this on days that I needed to be writing the story instead). So here's the front cover and the back in their current versions. The front cover image is compiled out an image of me with a wine spritzer from last summer (which I guess means that the novel's narrator looks a great deal like me, since it is the narrator who is supposed to be pictured there) and an image of a zeppelin. The boy on the back cover can be taken to be the character "A-R," who is the narrator's step-son and the one who actually gets to fly on the zeppelin. The back cover also contains a passage from the story and some items of critical acclaim for it :)



I think that text is more legible if you click on the pic. At least it is on my screen.

Victory: I just won NaNo and learned some stuff about how I write

I have completed this year's National Novel Writing Month, bringing my manuscript (recently retitled Days of the Dust and the Diane Rehm Show) to just over 50,000 words! The next step with it is to format it into something looking like a real book, with some annotations and illustrations. This will be a thank you gift at Christmas for the sweet and generous folks who threw in on this month's fundraiser for J.

I'm pretty pleased with this accomplishment. I had not participated in NaNo before, but decided to try it this year since I thought I had a story that seemed tellable in the time allotted and I thought that it would be a good exercise for my discipline as a writer. Both of those thoughts were correct, and I have a feeling of great satisfaction today. I now know that I can bang out that kind of word count in a month on a single project while still doing other things like running M-Brane, maintaining my blogs, and various real-world things.

The story itself held a lot of surprises in store for me as it evolved over the month. It's quite different now than I had imagined it would be, but also more interesting as well. I have not really had that experience very often as a fiction writer that so many other writers describe where their characters seem to take control of the thing and pull the author along toward an unknown conclusion. That definitely happened with this story, and I think it might be a result of simply trying to to write it quickly without stopping to mull over plot details for a long time before setting down words. This is how I'm doing it from now on. I know a lot of writers do not find the NaNo Death March to be a useful tool--everyone has their own preferences--but I am sold on it and am already planning to do it again next year.

How did the story turn out differently? Well, I had imagined it as a very realistic "literary" type story about nothing other than the stupid old human heart in conflict with itself. I didn't think it would be very plot-intensive, nor have a lot (if any) speculative fiction elements. It ended being very much that kind of story in some ways except that it does, after all, have some important speculative fiction elements and a bit more "adventure" to its storyline than originally planned. Also, a character who was somewhat second-tier in my mind when I started, took over the lead and made the whole thing very much about himself (that character-surprising-the-writer thing that I mentioned above). It also has a fair amount of content related to gay sexual matters in it, though I would characterize those passages not so much as erotic but rather as frank observations. Oh, and it has a freak dust storm and a giant zeppelin and an NPR radio show host in it, too.

NaNo process dilemma

Thinking aloud here. Pay no attention. It will be quite dull.

A fact about my writing process has become more obvious to me as I go through this month with my NaNoWriMo project. It's always been easy for me to see that when I write non-fiction (such as my blog posts or editorial comments for M-Brane) that it can generally be made a lot tighter and more coherent by a quick edit. This nearly always results in fewer words. (This is not to say that I generally spend the time to actually do a lot of that of sort of editing on blog posts--I'm just making an observation).

With fiction, however, I find that when I slip into a mode of writing rather quickly, just to get the story spilled out, as I am trying to do for NaNoWriMo, then I end up with a rather skeletal beast. Indeed, the editing process with fiction is for me almost always one of adding a lot more words. By the time I was done revising my story for TWAN, it had inflated by over 1000 words from its original condition (total word count when done: 4700). I will look over a passage or a scene and say to myself, "This has no substance, no atmosphere, no detail," and then start laying in that stuff. Which almost always adds words. So here's my dilemma today: as I approach the 30,000 word mark, I am starting to feel that it's possible that I if I were to sort all my scenes into proper order from start to finish, I would have already have something resembling the complete story, just lacking for some of that back-filling of substance and detail.

I can't decide if I should stop cranking out words for a couple hours, sort this thing out, read it over, find out what's missing and start the editing process. Another problem is that I get lost in my manuscripts when I try long-form fiction because I don't have an outline. I sort of "see" the whole sweep of the story, but not it's step-by-step progression. I tend to just write scenes as they come to me without regard for where they will go in the finished story. When one document full of scenes gets too long and unwieldy, I start another one and then merge them later. My still unfinished sf novel Shame is in this condition: various documents have been merged, it's fairly well sorted out, but is still riddled with holes, needing some new scenes that link others together logically. Instead of getting those missing pieces drafted, however, I spend my time with it tweaking and revising the existing portions.

OK, it's too early in NaNo to risk getting bogged down in revision when I still need a lot more raw word count. I will sort out my manuscript, but not do any editing, and then get right back into the raw writing.

The "Literary" nature of my NaNo book may be getting less so

The premise of my NaNoWriMo project is one that has been stewing in my head for a long time, and so I decided that this would be a good time to try to finally get it written. I was imagining it all along as a sort of mainstream or "literary" story because it did not seem to have any sort of spec fic elements in it as originally conceived.

I don't normally read a great deal of what is usually called, by critics and publishers, contemporary literary fiction. But I have lately been trying to work more of it into my reading diet so that I would have some extra flavor of the genre on my palette as I launched into trying to tell this story. And it is a genre with its own expectations and conventions as much as any other genre. One of those expectations is that the stories seem to be generally of a rather a small scale and rather narrowly focused on the inner lives of a small cast of characters, and set in a time period that is more or less "now" or some reasonably recent period. Plot is rather secondary or even incidental, and the stories generally do not involve any sort of big adventures or events on an epic scale. They also generally lack speculative elements (though there are a good many example recently of such novels that are exceptions to that rule).

And that's where my NaNo story is starting to get a lot different than originally planned and probably a lot less like the little lit story that I thought it needed to be. Spec fic elements are creeping in. They are not taking over the foreground or really turning the whole thing into an sf novel, but they are becoming more important. Also, my small-scale plot grew a little subplot last night which has now turned into larger subplot and which is now taking on the shape of...EPIC ADVENTURE. I'm not noting these developments out of worry. I'm quite comfortable with the way it appears to be developing. I think my story is adapting itself into one I am better suited to tell. The process is interesting and I think is a direct result of the NaNo schedule. Since I am being forced to comply with this one-month schedule, my process of working through what I want to say is being compressed and is becoming more visible to me at the same time.

My NaNoWriMo novel: The deadline is now for real

I should have suspected that I would have difficulty moving along at the optimum clip on my National Novel Writing Month project if I kept working under a fake deadline with no real consequences to failure other than having to admit failure. I need real deadlines. I get M-Brane published on time--actually early most months--because it's on a real schedule. People expect me to do it. I'd look a loser if I was late with an issue. So, yeah, if I failed at NaNo, I wouldn't feel great about it, but there would be no repercussions. I could just scratch it off the list of Things to Do and not worry about it anymore. 

Yesterday I felt a bit of spontaneous momentum on NaNoWriMo and got a lot of word count added to my book. Today, I have upped the ante. I started a fund drive that is tied into my completion of it. Details at this page. I have started promising people a finished project that I will need to actually have ready for presentation in a few weeks. Like the zine, people are now expecting it. This does not increase the stress on me, oddly enough. It actually reduces it because I see a real date-certain for the project's end, and all the steps that need to happen between now and then. 

While I am not promising that my NaNo novel is going to be incredibly good as a piece of literature, I am committing to the following: The story will be complete, meaning that it has a beginning, a middle and an end (no "to be continued" at the end of 50000 words); it will be written as well as I can manage in the time allotted; it will be formatted in the manner of real book, with nicely designed pages and cover art (though all in electronic form); it will contain annotations in which I will comment on various aspects of the story; it will contain illustrations which may add to the reader's pleasure or amusement.

So throw in on my fund drive and turn up the pressure on me even further!  I need it.

Illness. Seasonal depression. Failure ahoy!

Last Thursday afternoon, I was suddenly seized with an awful wave of feeling like hell and decroded crap, and I ended up napping for about three hours in the middle of the day, a thing I generally avoid. If I nap, the day is shot. I never fully recover wakefulness and the rest of the waking hours of the day are spent in a groggy and disoriented limbo. I was at the day job on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, feeling not great but not terrible either each day, with Sunday being marginally worse than Saturday. Yesterday (Monday) and today, I have felt out-and-out sick with chills and general all-over body pain. I wonder if it's the swine flu?  If so, I'm being spared symptoms like nausea and vomiting and death (so far). But it is worrisome just how long this is lasting. Generally anytime I feel ill, there is one really bad day and then it's over. 

Whatever this disease may be, its onset could not have happened at a worse time for my mental state. The weather here has been unrelentingly rainy and gray for weeks, and now it's also started being unseasonably cold. We didn't even get above the 60s F today, which I consider to be unpleasantly frigid even under the best circumstances, and entirely unbearable in my current condition. Unlike most people, I don't like the start of fall. I don't like anything about it. It's the second shittiest season of the year after winter.  The start of fall just means that summer is over and winter (the longest and shittiest season of the year at most American latitudes) is about to begin. I do not like the crispness in the air. I do not like the changing colors of the leaves. I do not like football, neither college, nor pro nor high school. I do not like the decreasing hours of daylight.  My grandma, who is in most ways a wise woman, always told me how much she appreciated "the four seasons" and wouldn't want to live in a place without them.  I love you, Grandma, but the four seasons can kiss my ass. Or at least fall and winter can, and that gross crappy part of spring where it seems like winter is over for a few days and then it snows again. 

I have plans that will hopefully keep me very busy and very active mentally during the coming months, through the cold dark seasons, through the tiresome progression through the goddamned winter holidays. I'm going to try not to succumb to depression and malaise this year. One major problem with all my plans, however, is that I have failed to do anything to change my stupid day job. I really can't hack it very much longer, but I don't see a way out. Back when I started this LJ, I set a 60 day deadline to get out of that nonsense. Those days have almost elapsed, and I have failed to find an alternative.  I'm not going to let it fuck with my mental state too badly, however. Fuck it. And fuck the fall season and the horse it rode in on, too.

Things I'm busy with between now and January 1: 
M-Brane SF: publication of issues #9-#12
Things We Are Not: Promotion and sales of it, due out 10/15
Other M-Brane Activities: continue planning for the Aether Age
Other M-Brane Activities: Two or three "secret projects" to be announced later
Personal writing: Finish first full draft of Shame (October)
Personal writing: Revise three or four short stories that have been needing it
Personal writing: NaNoWriMo all November
Blogging: Maintain my own sites as well as my participation with GreenPunk and Outer Alliance

Does that sound like a fairly full slate of Things to Do?  My goal is to be so deeply occupied with interesting activities that I will have no time to worry about the dreariness of the season. Suddenly it will be over, and I will be able to look back and be delighted with my incredible productivity. That's the plan anyway.

[Image is from Tom Coates Flickr gallery of the bizarre "red dust" phenomenon that blanketed Sydney today]

Shall I do NaNoWriMo this year? How nuts am I?

 I think I am going to attempt the National Novel Writing Month this year. I've wanted to do it before, but just never did. I have a pretty solid idea for--get this--a "mainstream/literary" story that requires at least 50K words to tell, and I think I'm going to do it. I have been assured that if I maintain a pace of 1667 words/day for the month, I will "win" by reaching the 50K goal. That's an easy word-count to meet or beat if I am approaching it with a plan and actually do it every day. I probably really need to average more like 2000 to 2500 per day, though because I don't think 50K gets this story that I am imagining really finished. And I want it to be complete by the end of it.  

I need to work this word count goal into a schedule that is already quite full with zine-editing, blogging and other M-Brane-related projects. Oh and there's that fucking day job, sleeping, and junk like that, too. I think good practice will be using October to finish Draft One of of Shame finally, a sort of test-month where I really make myself meet a certain word count on a single project every day. It can be done.