ROW Checkin: April 22, 2012

At a certain level of abstraction my goals are: “Read more” and “Write more.” And assessed equally vaguely, so far so good.

Goal Part One: Read More: Since last check in, I’ve read all of China Miéville’s The City and The City. I have had several of his books sitting on the shelf for years but this is the first I’ve ever read. Miéville has a Ph.D. in international law or something and his writing suggests a conceptual depth far beneath its careful surface. Miéville is currently a darling of the nouveau fantasy crowd, and based on City and the City, deserves it. It’s not your daddy’s fantasy. The book was like hard boiled noir in a city designed by Kafka. Eastern europe… somewhere. A city that is internally segregated. Not like Berlin that had a physical wall dividing different halves. This city (these cities, technically) interlace the same geography and the inhabitants of one city are rigorously trained to “unsee” anything happening in the other city, and vice versa. If you make a slip, it’s called “breach” and a mysterious, terrifying organization called “Breach” apprehends you and… well, that’s part of the story. I kept waiting for more “fantasy” things to happen but the world was pretty believably depicted — as implausible as that set-up sounds.

After that foray into cutting edge specualtive fiction, it’s little wonder I had less success reading the first volume of the “Fahfrd and the Grey Mouser” stories by Fritz Lieber. They’re classic old school “sword and sorcery” but oh, my, my I couldn’t FORCE myself through them. Stereotypes, thin characters, awkward language for both dialogue and even twisted descriptions, names that are rather silly puns. For years, folks have been saying I would love these stories, that elements of my writing is reminiscent of these tales. I don’t know if I should be insulted! (grin) Then again, I started with the first collection of a multi-multi book series of tales. Maybe the ride gets smoother a little ways along. Again, maybe I didn’t cleanse my pallate after Miéville.

I am now just over half-way through Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Graheme-Smith and am enjoying the hell out of it. I wanted to read the book before I saw the movie. Perfect summer-time reading, light, quick, clear sentences that don’t require (or repay) too much thought. Just clever enough without trying to go too far. It’s a fast read supplemented by the flavor of history that helps buoy up any lacking elements.It’s written in a pretty plain and direct style, intercutting bits from Lincoln’s “lost diary” with narrative that the author is composing. Nothing TOO profound but amusing as all get out.

Goal Part Two: Write More is actually supposed to be write 1,000 on the backstory to the haunted high school novel. Ish. I have a serviceable first draft of the whole first chapter. I feel that I’ve learned alot about Brandon, my protagonist by watching him act a bit. I also have completed this week an outline of sorts that draws on the Joseph Campbell “Hero with a Thousand Faces” archetype structure. I usually poo-poo any such grand metanarrative stuff but taken at the high level of abstraction that I used it, I found his schema rather enlightening. I am a bit light on the actual word count for my goal if I’m being a sticker for detail but ROW is definitely keeping my attention focused on one project, rather than a mishmash of too many little things.


ROW Checkin: April 4, 2012

Goal: 1,000 words a day on prep materials mostly for my “haunted high school” novel

Check In Status: So far so good.
• I have three good meaty character descriptions for my three major characters — though everything I write uncovers more I could note. These descriptions have lead to a nice collection of quotations and situations that I’ve saved in my “Trapper Keeper” file for when I actually start drafting;

• a good start on descriptions of a couple more characters and I realized that there are other folks who I need to know about so I’ve appended them to my to do list;

• I am most proud of the several fair to good iterations of an outline following the fractal / “Snowflake” method. I started with a one sentence overview that I re-wrote 4 or 5 times and am now up to my third revision of a 5 sentence paragraph outline. The backbone of the story is becoming clearer. I’m trying to allow space around this story for the rest of the “trilogy.”

I find it exciting to focus on “prep work” even though I have a NaNo sized draft of the work. I love the deep revelations that backstory can give and left to my own devices, I fear I would stagnate there. The NaNo draft allowed me to gain first hand familiarity with the story and it got me to just start writing. Granted NaNoWriMo is just a writing spring, but I needed that starter’s gun. Taking the analogy further, I am reminded of the motto of a famous tennis shoe company “Just Go Ahead, Stop Planning and Fidgeting For Cry It Out Loaud and… Just Put a Few Words After a Few Other Words.” I think the tennis shoe company puts it a bit more succinctly.

If all continues to go well, I might be able to start drafting even before this ROW is up.

A Round of Words – Round 2 – GOALS

Starting Monday, I’ll be participating in a “Round of Words for 80 Days,” a friendly goal-setting group that challenges participants to set any word-related goal and to stick to it for 80 days. Coincidentally enough, that 80 days will be long enough to get me to the brink of time when I can write more or less focally on my “Haunted High School” novel, which is just in time for Round 3.

My goals for Round 2 is to write 1,000 words a day initially on prep materials though once a scrap of dialoge, description or drama starts to creep in, I shan’t hit “delete.”

80,000 words of prep materials? That’s longer than a successful NaNo. There are a few twists I want to deal with which I’m sure I’ll discuss as the project goes along. I’d love to start actual drafting but in the least, I want:

==>  Full character descriptions of the major characters — I find it MUCH easier to write believable dialogue when I really know the person who is speaking. It’s often the case that actual dialogue starts to appear as I cobble together a character description so this might not be entirely unusable backstory

  • Brandon
  • Caitlyn
  • Robert

==> Good Enough descriptions of the supporting cast — Yes, of course, everyone in a book needs to be fully rounded but the supporting cast appears largely to present problems for the major characters, just as grown ups are around largely to get in the way of what teenagers really want to do, right?

  • the Computer Teacher,
  • the English teacher,
  • the Science teacher,
  • the custodian,
  • the community assistant,
  • the principal,
  • the assistant principal,
  • and of course, the ghost
  • and the ghost’s wife

==> a “snowflake” outline of this bookRandy Ingermanson has the idea of fractal outlining where the shape of the whole is, in a sense, recursive throughout every part. In the least, his strategy is to start with a one sentence description of the whole novel, then to expand it to a whole page and on and on. Kind of clever and it avoids the problem of writing just one thing after another, which is great for a journal but a bit rambling for a novel.

==> A spreadsheet of scenes based on the NaNo draft – I need to see what I have already and to see if any of it can translate to the project I’m attempting now.

==> A comprehensive timeline of what each of the three major characters are doing at any given moment. — Why? More on that later.

Now I’m off to figure out how to add the “Linky” for A Round of Words… Can’t be TOO hard, right?