Archive for July, 2007

Chapter 29: Looming Enemies

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

David and gang prepare to engage the enemy.

And I love Thor. Just sayin’.

I’d forgotten how hard it can be to get back in the saddle. David’s formation meant a lot of long hours in our local coffee shop after The Real Job, planning and typing until I thought my fingers were going to fall off. I finished the most intense writing portion in approximately a year, then launched into editing. Editing is of course its own kind of monster, but progress on that front is much faster, if still a many-hours kind of thing.

The talk of goals in my last post was inspired by my own short-/long-term planning, and my current schedule is to begin my next novel on Sept 1st of 2007. In the meantime, it’s time to begin submitting David to agents to see if anyone is interested in pimping it for possible publication.

However, I do want to scrub through it again (oh, one more time, just for fun) before I send it away for possible adoption. I sat down with Nancy Kress’s “Beginnings, Middles & Ends” at my usual writing hot spot and discovered a few things:

A) “Beginnings, Middles & Ends” is an excellent book. Clearly written and very practical, it’s a great resource for a writer. There’s a lot of good information/exercises to take advantage of, and it’s a fast read/checklist if you, like me, are relatively happy with your manuscript and presently in the editing stage. I made a real improvement with minimal effort.

B) According to her direction (and my critical eye), I am thankfully on the right track concerning the first and second scenes. This does not mean that it was error-free (is that possible?) but that I really didn’t have to do much to tighten it up. Huzzah.

C) …aaand sitting in a coffee shop for hours requires a long-forgotten dose of stamina.

Good grief. I had forgotten how intense the whole exercise is. Granted, my brain isn’t on the Full Steam Ahead setting at the moment; I will say there is a different mind-set when you are simply trying to muscle through a scene over the course of several evenings… But regardless, sitting should not be this difficult.

Fortunately, my Sept 1st planning period factors in re-reading HP6 and then gobbling the seventh and final book of Harry Potter. Time for a break! So I’m going to go… well, I’m going to sit, but sit somewhere else.

Goals

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

“Why do you do it? And how do you do it?” A couple weeks ago, Josh and I were having a deep and philosophical discussion about the things we do and why we do them.

He was referring to writing, and the long and arduous process of sitting down to create a novel. He’s been around through all my writing adventures, and was wondering how you tackle something that you know is going to eventually be 200+ pages long.

Setting Goals and Remaining Patient
In my opinion, setting goals is something that everyone should do, whether they be for personal, career, creative, financial or family. Goals were rammed down my throat as a kid, because as a child we have a bunch of people setting goals for us since they assume we aren’t competent enough to set them for ourselves. Well, now you’re a grown-up: you can set your own.

Short term goals are to be completed today, tomorrow, this week. Long term goals are slated for next month, January 2008, when I’m 50… and they should all work in tandem. After all, you can’t complete the first 100 pages of a novel by January 1st, 2008 if you don’t sit down and write today, tomorrow and all this week.

My suggestion? Take all the big goals and chunk them out into smaller and smaller bites until they are something manageable. This allows for: a) Hope, because you see that you only need to do X to reach that Long term goal, or b) Despair, because there is no way you can do X and have it completed by the time you wish. Here’s some ways I’ve found to make the a’s outweigh the b’s.

Be realistic: planning for a goal that is unattainable is a set up for failure. You can’t conquer the world by tomorrow. It might take you a month, or a year.

Be patient: just because you’ve gotten your giant mountain of a goal whittled down to something you can chew on doesn’t mean it isn’t still going to be a challenge.

Be stubborn. If you plan to work on a project all day Saturday, don’t be discouraged or tempted away. If the coffee shop where you hole up and work is crowded, grab the corner, less comfortable seat or find another place to go. If your neighbor has a cookout, skip it — or only stay for an hour before packing up and sticking to your plan.

But on the flipside, be flexible. You can stick to that hard deadline if you are diligent with your short term accomplishments, but life will still happen. The day job will suddenly demand extra hours, a vacation or trip will pop up, maybe you or your child will get sick — just roll with it. Understand that it might require more dedication later, but sacrificing too much will either burn you out before you meet your deadline or make you miss the things that make life worth living.

These are the lessons I’ve picked up in reaching (or failing to reach) my goals. How about you?

Chapter 28: The Reasons Why

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

David and the Child size each either up from a distance.
The perspectives between these two are interesting. David looks at the approaching fight as a means to survival… he just wants him and his friends to make it out alive. The idea of defeating the Child is almost vague and abstract, and he doesn’t really have anything in the way of a plan… he’s winging it. The Child, on the other hand, doesn’t worry about any sort of threat from David, and instead only revels in the idea of David’s complete annihilation; he’s dreaming of all the possible discomforts he could rain down the boy. Two very different approaches.
We had a long, over-due, brainstorming session on Friday with the Old Crew and it was wonderful. Once upon a time (a year and half ago? maybe two years?), Josh, Justin and I used to find ourselves at a coffee shop or Eat’n Park semi-weekly for some critique and general idea-bouncing for our particular projects. I know that SoD benefitted tremendously from these sessions, to the tune of it probably not even being complete if it hadn’t been for our little meetings.
When it comes to hobbies/careers of creation, I think it is really important to have some level of support around you. It is really easy to become comfortable in the little box you make for yourself, and having outside support (to bring you up when you’re down) and criticism (to bring you back to reality when you’re not) is infinitely important to helping boost the success of whatever your project is.
Brainstorming is a powerful thing, and when you’re with people whose opinions you trust, really good things can happen. Having done it for a while means we’re familiar with one another’s characters and material, and the fresh perspective allows suggestions that we wouldn’t have thought about on our own. Plus, we’re all comfortable enough that receiving criticism doesn’t hurt, and throwing out ideas that aren’t excitedly jumped on is okay too, since it could concievably only take one really good one to break through.

Having that support there — or simply available just-in-case, since we haven’t had a play date for a while — is critical to success. Go find yourself a crew!

Chapter 27: Take It Back

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

Bear moves the gang to a better vantage point for getting their butts kicked, and Thor delivers another pep talk… which may or may not fall short.

This is another “getting read to rock” chapter. Ideally, this would be part of another chapter so there isn’t the stop and go. I’ll remedy that in the next draft, I think.
Josh and I got into a very interesting discussion the other day about what makes people do the things they do — professionally or in their free time — especially when those things seem so unappealling to us.

For instance, I think worming through hundreds of lines of code sounds like a great nominee for the 5th level of hell… but he can’t get enough of it, even when it drives him crazy. Likewise, I have a love/hate relationship with writing. But it’s a labor of love, I suppose. It’s mad to sit down in a coffee shop after a full day of work and write until you’re ready to fall over and/or your brain is oatmeal; to have to divide a scene up into the days of a work week because that’s when you can do it; to pass up hanging out with real humans so you can construct a fantasy world around a main character that isn’t you; to live on java and the over-sized cookies from the coffee shop… there’s a lot going on there, and it doesn’t even sound particularly awesome to me, and I voluntarily live it.

It is interesting to think about what goes in to something like this; or any large piece of work, really. There’s brainstorming, outlining, planning, notes, writing and then rewriting, editing… plus a dozen other steps I don’t even think about. But you chip away at it, slow and steady, and you eventually get it done. Or close to done, since David isn’t really finished, not even a year after it’s “completion”.

Chapter 26: The Reaper Rides at Midnight

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

David leaps from a grisly nightmare, now aware of exactly what is coming, and the crew packs up. Meanwhile the Child and his vicious posse approaches.

This is one of those times when I question the chapter breaks. I’ve gotten mixed reviews on the size of the chapters… some like the fact that they are short, sometimes very dramatic, little bites; others don’t like how chopped up the entirety of the story can get.

The size of the chapters vary throughout, and there are times when I can shift scenes within a chapter… other times, I feel it is appropriate to start a new one. It’s hard to explain the method behind the process when it’s more of a “gut feeling”, but I typically break for a scene change or an “oh boy” kind of cliff hanger or discovery.

Ultimately, they work better in paper format because you can simply turn the page… I imagine if you are reading and involved, it would be frustrating to tune in on Monday and get only one or two pages and then wait. I will warn you: there are a couple of those coming up — but I think there’s a few six or seven pagers, too.

Josh (a fan of the short chaps) pointed out that if I combine chapters I’ll end up losing some of the cool chapter icons — that would be a shame, but I’m ultimately concerned about the story flow. Mostly.

Chapter 25: Never Alone

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

“Never Alone” shows Thor’s ability (or lack of) giving a pep talk. David suddenly has a lot to think about, and he’s running out of time as their vicious pursuers get closer.
Sorry for the lack of updates here — there will also be another chapter update tomorrow, since I’d over-estimated just how on top of SoD I was (I was a week short in advanced posting…) But be kind: I got married last weekend, and just about every side project/hobby I have has been pushed miles to the wayside.

I participated in an art show on Saturday night, and if Josh and I hadn’t done a gallery in coincidence with our ceremony/reception, there’s no way we could have pulled it off… as it was, we really just grabbed some of the stuff we had framed and displayed at the wedding and ran to the venue.

I won’t get too much into the wedding, except to say it was WONDERFUL. It was primarily outside, which can be a gamble in Pittsburgh, but it was a sunny 74 degrees with low humidity. We did a self-uniting license, which meant we effectually married ourselves — and allowed us a lot of creative liberties. I wrote the ceremony myself, and we each did our own vows. And you haven’t lived until your partner has called you “totally awesome” in front of your 100 favorite people…

At the reception we had volleyball, hillbilly golf, a wii, and of course: the art gallery. Josh and I wanted to show some of our artwork to both our friends and family since no one actually knows what we do for a living/hobbies: ask our family, and you will hear that Josh “fixes printers” and I make “billboards”. In reality, Josh is a software programmer/developer and I’m a graphic designer, and we both do a lot of creative things on the side. The gallery was very well received, and apparently surprising to a lot of people. It’s nice to showcase the things you do: comics, paintings, sketches, sculpture… and of course SoD and the training wheel novels.

If you’re feeling stalker-y, feel free to check out some of the pics here.