Tag Archives: Writing

Prepping for NaNoWriMo 2007

NaNoWriMo 2007 ParticipantIs it mid-October already? That can mean only one thing: National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, as the kids call it; or, as the Ancient Ones knew it, November) is right around the corner. Once again, thousands of aspiring writers from all over the globe will attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in just 30 short days.

This will be my fifth consecutive year participating in NaNoWriMo and—though I’ve only hit that 50,000 word goal once before (in 2005)—I’m pretty jazzed about it. People still say that, right? Jazzed? Anyway, I’ve got a couple of ideas floating around in my head and I’m going to try some pre-NaNo mindmapping exercises to knock some of the details loose before I commit the first words to paper (or electrons) on 01 November.

The (morbidly or otherwise) curious among you can view my NaNoWriMo profile at any time to get an idea of how well I’m doing, but I’ll also have a handy word-o-meter in the sidebar at KJToo.com to provide a constant reminder that I need to be cranking out 1,667 words per day throughout the month. I’ll also be recording a couple of episodes for The NanoMonkeys, the (Parsec-nominated!) daily tips, tricks and encouragement podcast Chris Miller, Mur Lafferty, P.G. Holyfield and I did last year. We’re doing it again for NaNoWriMo 2007 and we’ve got a lot of new participants, including Sam Chupp, Jason Penney and Natalie Metzger, just to name a few. Stay tuned!

In addition to NaNoWriMo I’m going to take another stab at National Blog Posting Month, or NaBloPoMo, and attempt to write—at a minimum—one blog post every day in November. Last year when I did NaBloPoMo I was writing daily posts about my NaNoWriMo progress; this year, I’ll be posting pictures of my HoNoToGroABeMo progress, and if you’re wondering what the heck that is (and why there’s no link to the appropriate website), read on…

HoNoToGroABeMo (short for How Not to Grow a Beard Month) is a project of my own devising. On October the 31st, I will be shaving my goatee off and letting my beard grow for an entire month, documenting the process with a daily photograph. It is my sincere belief that the bizarre follicle topography of my face makes it impossible for me to grow a full beard, so I’m giving my cheeks and chin thirty days to prove me wrong. I’ll still be shaving my neck just below the jawline, because after a few days that hair drives me up the wall, but the aforementioned cheeks and chin will remain untouched by my Mach 3 (but occasionally groomed with my beard trimmer to maintain some semblance of civility on my grizzled visage) throughout the month of November.

Writing: Untitled Turf War Story

“Where do you think you’re going?”

Aw, crap, I think. I don’t need this right now.

There are three of them, all dressed alike. Gang colors. I’m on the edge of Deuce territory.

“Maybe you didn’t hear me,” the leader says.

“Look,” I say, my voice firm but non-threatening. I don’t want this to escalate; the last thing we need is a turf war. “I just want to use the restroom.”

“You’re a long way from home, aren’t you?” The leader smiles and I realize I’ve never seen him before. That explains a lot.

“Back off,” I say, letting a hint of aggression creep into my tone. “This is neutral territory, or didn’t your Deuce buddies tell you that?”

The leader glances back at his cronies; they just shrug. They’re all new, and the guy I’m staring down may be the big dog of the three but he’s clearly just another flunky trying to make an impression. More than likely the next guy up on the food chain sent him out here as a joke.

While they’re trying to figure out their next move, I give them a once over: all khakis and cornflower polo shirts and some kind of bargain bin loafers; all wearing their badges with the ID photos turned in so I can’t see their names; all with last year’s cell phone hanging from their belts right next to their equally-outdated pagers. Strictly minor league. They may outnumber me, but I can take them without breaking a sweat.

The leader straightens to his full height. He’s got maybe a half an inch and easily thirty pounds on me. “Just turn around and get out of here,” he says, his bravado wearing a little thin around the edges. “Go use your own restroom.”

“Third floor restroom’s closed,” I say, narrowing my eyes. “But you already knew that didn’t you?”

They all flinch as I reach for my hip. They may be younger, but I’m faster; I’ve got my cell out before any of them can clear their bulky holsters.

“What you apparently don’t know,” I say, tapping the stylus rapidly on the screen, “is that according to the Interfloor Facilities Closure Treaty of 1999, all washrooms in the building are neutral territory and no one can be refused entry to any restroom while their home facilities are closed for cleaning and/or remodeling.”

I flip the screen around so they can see the document I’ve pulled off the corporate network. They all stare, slack-jawed, and I know they’re less interested in the Treaty than they are in my shiny smartphone. After a moment they back off, retreating wordlessly to their cubicles.

I holster my cell and push through the door into the second floor mens room. The confrontation was annoying, but something else is nagging at the back of my mind. The ambush was a little too convenient to be coincidence. How did those three know the third floor washroom was closed for cleaning? Two possibilities occur to me, both equally unpleasant: either the Deuces have an inside man in the facilities crew or someone on the third floor is feeding them information.

Washing my hands, I mull over both possibilities. A Deuce in the facilities crew would be bad news for all the Treys, myself included; but a mole inside the Treys would be much, much worse.

The hand-dryer is still whirring as I leave the washroom. I need to make a few phone calls and call in some favors. One way or another, I’ve got a war to stop.

Writing: I Am Such a PC Geek

Lacking anything particularly interesting to talk about today, I present a villanelle I wrote way back in January of 2002; it was the result of an at-work discussion of structured poetry (haiku, sonnets and villanelles in particular).

I Am Such a PC Geek

I am such a PC geek
There’s no bigger geek than me ((This is just as big a lie today as it was in 2002, but I allowed myself some creative leeway in terms of the magnitude of my geekery.))
Quite fluent in computer speak

All my conversations reek
of SCSI, RAID and IDE ((Pronounced “scuzzy, raid and eye-dee-ee”, of course.))
I am such a PC geek

Let me take a little peek
at your root directory
(quite fluent in computer speak)

I can plug that mem’ry ((Originally “memory”, but as I was typing it out today I realized I could improve the meter by borrowing a tricky from heav’nly hymns.)) leak
and degauss your CRT ((This one (along with SCSI) makes me realize how dated the poem is. Flatscreen LCD monitors have come into prevalence over cathode ray tubes (and SCSI seems to have largely fallen by the wayside). Perhaps the entire poem should be rewritten every five years or so to integrate new acronyms and initialisms. Even better, perhaps I should make it a series of poems, with this version being 1.1 and pentennial (which should mean “five years”, even if it doesn’t) rewrites incrementing the version number.))
I am such a PC geek

Install, configure, patch and tweak
and transfer files by FTP ((I’m not especially fond of this line because the previous line ends with “and tweak” and this one begins with “and”. It could stand a bit of tweaking (har!), but I don’t want to lose the “FTP”.))
(quite fluent in computer speak)

If you can’t find the any key
don’t bother trying to talk to me
I am such a PC geek
quite fluent in computer speak

NaNoWriMo, Aftermath: The Best Laid Plans…

My final official wordcount for NaNoWriMo is just over 15,000. In truth, I wrote another thousand words last night before midnight, but was unable to get the total updated before the NaNoWriMo website shut off the counter for the Eastern time zone.

Out of the Shadows is by no means finished, and if you enjoyed the excerpts I posted during the latter half of November you may be pleased to learn that I plan to make more of the story available online in the near future.

Yesterday’s Tomorrow isn’t finished, either. I’ll be developing the strange world that Bannister Proulx awakened in for International World Creation Month in January. A lot of what I had planned for Yesterday’s Tomorrow was borne out of a discussion with game designer and podcaster Sam Chupp, and I hope to have some more conversations around the story and the setting with Sam in the near future. Perhaps I can convince him to collaborate with me for IntWoCreMo next month.

Unfortunately, I caught a bit of a cold over Thanksgiving weekend and decided to skip the Jonathan Coulton show last night. Chris Miller attended and assured me that it was simply dreadful and that I didn’t miss much. Of course, he also informed me that he bought pretty much every CD Coulton has released, not to mention those from the show’s other act, Paul and Storm, which makes his assessment of the show’s quality somewhat suspect.

Last but not least in the “Things I Didn’t Do Last Month” category is National Blog Posting Month. While I was never an official participant, I had planned to make at least one post in this blog every day in November. A look at the archives reveals that I was doing well until the 22nd, when I fell off the wagon and didn’t post a thing for the remainder of the month. I blame Kid Rock and Pamela Anderson.

NaNoWriMo, Day 20: Lowered Expectations

Short of a miracle, I don’t think I’ll be hitting 50,000 words by the end of the month. I’m going to keep writing Out of the Shadows because I enjoy the story and perhaps I’ll make it halfway to the goal. If I manage that, I’ll be happy; anything beyond that will be icing on the cake. The writing will continue into December and beyond, until the story arc is finished, and regardless of whether or not I think I’ll make 50K, I’ll keep posting daily updates.

Today was a lot of violence without any over character development or introspection as I wrapped up the (immediate) tale of the not-dead prostitute’s abducted daughter. There may be future repercussions for some of the characters involved, as the abduction was related to the death of the other prostitute. The dead one.

Tomorrow there should be little or no violence, as I plan to focus on the aftermath of my protagonist passing out in an alley following the rescue of a suicidal man from the tallest building in Cleveland, Key Tower. There are clean sheets and bacon involved, not to mention an attractive redhead.

NaNoWriMo: Progress!

It’s 3:45am on the 19th of November and for the first time in several days the word count in my NaNoWriMo progress tracker has increased. Granted, it technically only increased by 250 words, but that’s because I didn’t want to update my word count until what I’d written in Out of the Shadows exceeded what I’d written Yesterday’s Tomorrow. All 9,575 of the words represented by that progress meter are new words, written since the 15th.

Researching how to relocate a dislocated shoulder earlier today made me very paranoid about my own shoulders. Don’t try to reach something behind you while seated, kids. Really. Just… don’t do it. Ugh.

Tonight, I dislocated and relocated a very bad man’s shoulder, killed a hooker, and drove a Cadillac Escalade to Lakewood. Tomorrow I’ve got acres of ass to kick if I want to get that kid back.

P.S. The non-dead hooker’s daughter is named Eve, at the suggestion of Rae Lamond.
P.P.S. The guy who got nailed with a baton, kneed in the crotch and then tased is named Mick. Sorry, Mr. Bradley.
P.P.P.S. You’ll get yours soon enough, Mr. Miller.
P.P.P.P.S. Who else wants a piece of this?

NaNoWriMo, Day 18: Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

I thought I’d post a little excerpt of Out of the Shadows as an example of what I was talking about yesterday. This snippet of introspection is the result of a scene taking not one but two turns I hadn’t anticipated when I began writing it.

I like simple crimes: someone getting mugged in the park, a hold-up at a convenience store, a drug deal; stuff like that. Stopping these types of crime is usually just a matter of figuring out who the bad guys are and hitting them until they fall down. That’s typically followed by an anonymous phone call to the police and then I’m on my merry way. I don’t stick around to talk to the cops or the victims; I don’t like a lot of attention.

Crimes that are “stopped” generally qualify as simple; crimes that must be “solved” do not. I tend to stay away from crimes that must be solved because I’m not much of an investigator. I don’t have a crime lab back in my secret lair – hell, I don’t even have a secret lair – nor do I carry a forensics kit with me in my duffel bag. Leads and clues simply aren’t my forte. If you want someone punched in the face, I’m your guy; if you want something investigated, you’ll have better luck calling the Hardy boys.

Sometimes, what looks for all the world to be a simple crime turns into something complicated; an excellent example would be assault and battery on a prostitute turning into kidnapping and extortion. The problem is, once I get involved I can’t just turn away after I’m done hitting people, no matter how much I’d like to. Sure, it would simplify my life, but I wouldn’t feel like one of the good guys anymore.

I just realized that I could have gotten two more words if I’d used “Scooby Doo and the gang” in place of “the Hardy boys”. We’ll see whether that would have made the difference between glorious triumph and crushing failure come the end of the month.

NaNoWriMo, Day 17: Unexpected Encounters

Now that I’ve broken out of my metaphor, I’m discovering that Out of the Shadows allows me to let the story wander without completely derailing the main storyarc. The main character is a nocturnal vigilante and there are plenty of opportunities to tell mini-stories that have little or no impact on the main plot, but still allow me to explore his character.

Twice now I’ve begun writing a scene with a general idea of where I wanted it to go, only to have an unexpected element come into play and take things off in a new direction. Last night, the protagonist sprang into action when a woman was being assaulted. He dispatched the assailant easily, only to find himself on the business end of a pistol being wielded by a second assailant who had not been there when I started writing the scene.

I’ve been jumping back and forth between these miniature adventures (call them side quests, if you like) and the main story for two days now, and 6,500 words later I’m feeling very good about the story so far. I’ll update my official NaNoWriMo word count when my new story surpasses the one I began on 01 November.

NaNoWriMo: Don’t Try This at Home

I have done the unthinkable: mid-way through NaNoWriMo, I ditched my original idea (Yesterday’s Tomorrow) and started on an entirely new one. It’s called Out of the Shadows, and I’ve written just over 4,000 words since Tuesday night. Here’s the excerpt I posted on my NaNoWriMo profile. It has not been proofread.

The plan was to shadowslip onto the ledge without the wannabe jumper noticing me, then grab him, pull him back into the shadows and slip back to ground level. I thought it was one of my more straightforward, simple, and bulletproof plans. Unfortunately, it all hinged on me being (to quote the venerable Elmer Fudd) “vewy, vewy quiet,” something that’s incredibly difficult when the pigeon whose nap you’ve just interrupted has flown directly into your crotch. I have the worst luck with animals.

Just as it’s a generally accepted rule that waking a sleepwalker is a bad idea, it should also be widely agreed that startling a guy who is standing on a high ledge is something one should strive to avoid. Whether the guy had accepted Jesus Christ as his lord and savior – probably not a bad idea if you’re planning on taking a 600-foot nosedive onto solid concrete – he definitely uttered His name as the perturbed pigeon pummeled my nether regions. While taking the Lord’s name in vain, the guy whirled around, lost his balance, and immediately switched roles in the little drama we were playing out. Where he’d previously been portraying Guy Who Might Jump, he soon became Guy Who Is Falling.

I didn’t have time to reach him, I knew that. Even without a feral pigeon assaulting my crotch, there was just no way I could cross the forty feet between my shadowy nook to where he was tumbling off the ledge. I extended my left arm and pressed the firing studs in my gauntlet. There was a whoosh of compressed air and the little collapsible grapple shot out above my left wrist, trailing a matte black, carbon-fiber cable.

If I’d had time to aim, I would have tried to hit the guy in the leg; I got lucky and the grapple didn’t hit him in the chest or the head. The titanium grapple pierced his left arm instead, plowing through muscle and tendon before the spring-loaded prongs deployed. The guy cried out – this time just a gutteral yell of pain – and I released the firing studs. The line immediately went taut and the guy lurched, still leaning backward over empty air. I gave the line a yank and he twisted, another pained yelp swallowed by the wind, then tumbled back toward the building.

The pigeon had finished taking out its frustration and rage on my undercarriage and flapped desultorily up to a higher perch. The ledge was wide enough that I didn’t have to worry about being blown over the side by a gust of wind, and I made my way to where the guy was curled up on the deck, clutching his pierced arm and howling with pain. I didn’t see a whole lot of sense in trying to reason with him, so I unholstered my taser and sent him into a place where the pain wouldn’t bother him. Crouching down, I carefully hauled him up over my shoulder and carried him back into the shadows. A moment later we were back in the alley.

My abdomen flared with pain, as I expected, but we were safe. I gently lowered the guy to the ground and had a look at his arm. The grapple appeared to have gone cleanly between the radius and ulna, which meant no broken or damaged bones. I pulled the grapple further and folded the prongs back into the head; they locked in place with a soft snap, and I was able to pull it back out the way it had gone through. The wound was bleeding, dark stains spreading across the blue sleeve of the guy’s shirt. I tore the shirt sleeve off and tied it in temporary tourniquet just above his elbow. I retrieved my First Aid kit and cleaned the wound as best I could, then covered both entry and exit points with heavy gauze. Finally, I wrapped the whole thing with a wide gauze bandage.

I surveyed my work; not bad, but the guy was going to need medical attention – not to mention a healthy dose of Vicodin – as soon as he woke up. The burning in my stomach had begun to recede, but shadowslipping again would definitely cause it to flare up again. Shadowslipping with a passenger would make it ten times worse, but I didn’t have much of a choice. The nearest hospital was a half mile away, and there were several secluded spots that I could easily slip into, then dump the guy near admitting and exit stage right.

“All right, buddy,” I said, zipping up my duffel bag. “Time to get you to a doctor.” I shouldered the bag, then pulled the guy over my shoulders in the classic fireman’s carry. My abdomen registered its protest in the form of a dull burn that started just below my navel and radiated outward. This is going to hurt like hell, I thought, and stepped into the shadows again.

NaNoWriMo: Trapped in a Metaphor of my Own Making

While doing word sprints with Charley on Saturday, I came to the realization that all four of my NaNoWriMo attempts have begun with a similar theme and had a tendency to fall apart in the same place.

2003: Son of God is the story of a young man who was raised to believe that he is the second coming of Jesus Christ. His parents have kept him in seculsion on their property deep in the forests of Montana, never allowing him to have contact with any outsiders. Now that his parents are both dead, the young man must set out to fulfill his destiny; a destiny that lies beyond the gate through which he has never passed.

2004: Bubba is the clone of former President William Jefferson Clinton and has lived his entire short existence in a top secret facility run by a man known only as The Director. The men who created Bubba believe him to be a mindless, soulless creature who will obey their every command, but now Bubba has developed his own personality and a desire for freedom.

2005: Untitled. Ted Gaunt was just a normal guy until he discovered he had abilities that made him far more than human. Now he’s been captured by unscrupulous men who want to explore and exploit his powers. Imprisoned in an underground facility in the Nevada desert, his brain impossibly transplanted to another body, Ted has two goals: get his body back and get home to his family. Unfortunately, The Director has other plans.

2006: Yesterday’s Tomorrow. In the year 2033, Bannister Proulx was sentenced to fifty years in a cryogenic chamber. Three days ago, Bannister was awakened by people who have no idea who he is and don’t believe a word he says. Bannister is a prisoner again, but is he as insane as his captors insist he must be, or is there another, more sinister explanation?

All of the stories involve some manner of imprisonment and escape into a larger world. The imprisonment seems to work fairly well, but the stories all begin to fall apart leading up to or shortly following the escape. In Son of God, the protagonist made it to the front gate of his parents’ property and never climbed over it. In Bubba, the clone escaped and I had no idea what to do with him; same thing with last year’s story (which had 50,000 words but ended with my protagonists driving a Mitsubishi Galant out of Reno).

This year, Bannister Proulx has been questioned and scanned and questioned again. Ultimately, he must escape (with the help of a nurse who is not at all what she appears to be), join up with a group of outcasts and aid them in their struggle against an oppressive government. Eventually, he will learn the truth behind his awakening, the woman he has come to love, and the world in which he lives.

Unfortunately, I don’t know how that escape will come about, I’m having trouble imagining what the world outside of Bannister’s “cell” looks like, and I’m not feeling particularly attached to any of the characters. This story had the most structure and direction of any I’ve attempted thus far, but I’m discovering that I don’t want to write it.

I need to stop trying to write the same story over and over again and start with something new.