Biiiiiig Changes

So….

Life has an equal amount of humor and tragedy, kind of like when a clown is set on fire.  As I sit here at my desk and spin words into the void, I realize that I haven’t visited my old blog for a month.

Big changes coming up in the next few months.  I’ll be retiring from military service.  I am relocating from my temporary midwest locale to my home in the bucolic mountains of northern Arizona.

(Muse:  The one that almost burned down?)

Yeah, and there’s that to cope with.  Issues with family, and what not.  Bank snarls and trouble there.  It is all becoming one rich tapestry of stress and confusion.

Through it all, still finding some time to write.  I shelved Shattered Colossus.  Even though I have the four-book series pretty-well outlined, I just wasn’t feeling it.  I can always re-visit later, though I’ve said the same about any number of stories I left in limbo.  I wrote a few short stories, one of which I am using as the basis to start a new book series.  I tentatively titled the first book Princess of the North.  It’s my initial experiment in writing a novel-length story in first-person, so we’ll see what we see.

Some good news.  I did get some writing done, and I keep kicking Pilgrimage out the door to agents.  Mrs. Axe has been doing some new artwork and is coming along nicely in expanding her repertoire.  She’ll be here in a little over  a week to escort me home and I certainly cannot complain about that.

I will make a good faith effort to keep up with things here as I go.  Feel free to message me and give me a kick in the butt as a I fall behind.

Okay, Your Setting is a Burned-Out Shell

So….

A while back, I referenced the show Naked and Afraid, and discussed how it tied into how humans would act when ripped away from the tools they would come to rely on – in other words, what would happen when people stopped having every modern convenience at their fingertips.

When I started writing Shattered Colossus for NaNoWriMo, I didn't really take the world-building into account, since it was more about getting words on paper than anything.  But as I kept writing, it became pretty clear that the world of Kareshiel was pretty damn apocalyptic:  an invasion from overseas that completely wrecked one of the seven countries of the confederation, followed by a plague that lasted for years and killed a third of the population, followed by a power-mad demi-god who laid waste to half the lands and plunged the rest into chaos.  The survivors were left with little food or shelter as governments fell and populations turned on each other.

And I have not even finished the first book.

Having said all that, I did some poking around, looking for resources on writing for "after the fall."  Here's what I came up with in a few moments of browsing:

This video, which History Channel aired a few years ago, about what would happen to all of mankind's wonders and civilization if we all suddenly vanished.  Sure, much of it is theoretical.  But it's a good basis for figuring out how far around the bend your world to be ten/thirty/ninety years after everything goes to pot.

– This set of photos on the website Distractify.  Pripyat (the town near Chernobyl) is shown in the second entry.  Pripyat is a real laboratory for seeing a city decay.  Since the meltdown, the entire town has been off-limits to the public, and is only accessed by scientists, journalists, and government officials.  Since the town was basically left in mid-stride, as people picked up whatever they were doing and fled for their lives, it is fairly preserved – and slowly being reclaimed by nature.  Peer around Google, see what turns up.

– This blog entry from the blog Writing is Hard Work.  It lists a handful of links to various calculators and such, detailing the impact of a meteor, the time it would take a plague to spread, etc.  I checked the links, they all seem to be good.

I'll try to post some more as I think of and/or find them.  In any event, y'all keep fighting the good fight, writing the good write.

NaNoWriMo 2013 – Postmortem

So….

NaNoWriMo officially ended yesterday.  Here are the stats from the last week and two days:

Nov 22: 1023 words
Nov 23: 3353 words
Nov 24: 2089 words
Nov 25: 1463 words  <–topped 50K here
Nov 26: 1298 words
Nov 27: 491 words

Grand Total:  51891 words

I won't add the last couple of days, as I pretty much flopped.  Burned out and weary, I caved in and didn't do anything over the final three days of the month.

So what did I get out of this?

1) As always, it's good to challenge one's self.  I took up the challenge and was able to do it.

2) I have the core of a workable story.  It doesn't much matter that I deviated from the my initial concept from the get-go (the main character ended up not finding any scrap of paper at the farm).  It also doesn't matter that the subject matter became more family-friendly than initially intended.  Part of this was the result of emailing it back and forth to work and not wanting to get it hung up in filters, or getting myself flagged for some rather wretched violence, swearing, and sodomy.  (Yes, all those were part of the initial plan.)   I think the characters are believable without being over the top and there is some potential here.

3) It has kept my love of writing alive.  Over time, as life stresses wax and wane, I find myself looking away from writing, and at doing other stuff.  Sometimes I just need to reinvigorate myself.  Even though I didn't work on the project for the last couple of days, I did revise some other works and did a handful of submissions over the weekend.  My mind is tumbling with ideas and I like it when I get here (active and excited about writing as a whole).

On the whole, no complaints.  I'll have to look at doing it again next year.  To any reading that gave it a shot, I hope it was as helpful for you.

NaNoWriMo 2013 – Week 3 Update

So I have been doing this for three weeks straight.  This is where it starts to get hard, where I go, "Ugh, could I just take a day off?"  And my Muse fires back, cracking her whip, and says, "No!  You get your quota done!  No days off!"

(Muse:  Don't act like you don't like it, baby.)

It's not so much that I am not enjoying the writing or that I even resent "having" to meet a certain deadline.  There is just so much I already know I want to go back and fix, change, and enhance.  And I don't have quite enough mojo to do both that and churn out 2K words each and every day.  I am glad I only have one more week to go, but as with the last post, I am on pace to hit 50K words on 25 Nov.  When I do, we'll see what happens.

Nov 15:  1847 words
Nov 16:  2686 words
Nov 17:  2156 words
Nov 18:  1858 words
Nov 19:  1867 words
Nov 20:  2026 words
Nov 21:  1787 words

All right.  Once more, into the breach.  One more week.

(Muse:  And two days.)

But-

(Muse:  Don't make me get the paddle.)

Grumble.

The Value of Bedrock

So …

I wrote about a year ago about the value of having good world building and how that helped aid the richness of the tale.  Most of what I discussed had to do with defining cultural differences (naming conventions and the like) of the various states/kingdoms/empires ahead of time and how that added flavor to the world.  That's all good and still believe it, but there's more.

I have never been a big "outline" guy.  When I talk about outlining, I usually mean that I have sketched out a very quick idea of the major events of a story, just to get things sequential.  I don't get deep or keep a real detailed list of how the story will break down.  "Make it up as I go" is pretty much the rule of the road.  Much of that comes from writing short stories.  In a short story, I think you can get away with it; you have a limited scope and if things go awry, it is harder to paint yourself into a corner, because if you have to go back and redo 2K words, that's easier than 20K words.

But here is something I picked up:  there is insane value in having a well-detailed background for the world.

For my NaNoWriMO piece, I wrote a fairly detailed history of the world in which Shattered Colossus is set.  I started with omni-scale events that outlined how society kind of stood up and how it developed into the current setting.  The closer in the history I got to the story beginning – the more it affected the characters now living – the more detail I added in.  I sketched the timeline of the wars, the scale-up events, and the breakdown of the world.

Again, I kind of made it up as I went.  I wrote up the events, made up the names and let fly.  But this left me with several benefits:

1) It's consistent.  When the characters reference past events, including the ones that led to the protagonist returning home to find it deserted, they all refer to the same events, in the same time frame, and in the same understanding.  Having that on paper in advance made it much easier to keep all these babblers on the same page, which is not my strength.  Again, in a short story, because of scope, I can get away with it in my head.  In an epic, with many characters, it has worked out easier to pre-scope it.

2) It's organic.  Having the history of the world determined forces me to have the characters act consistently with that history.  Because of that, when they discuss the events, it blends with the story seamlessly.

3) It's a source for story material.  Having a twenty year history of wars, erupting rivalries between feudal lords, plague, and conquest by a despotic demon-conjuring insane emperor gives me absolutely no end of angles to attack this.  Every road the protagonist walks down, I have something to do to him, because something locally has gone wrong.

Granted, this is still not what I would call a hugely detailed list.  This is several thousand words in a few RTF documents, with notes on the nations, wars, and minor characters.  But it has made writing the novel vastly easier thus far.

So … am I coming around on writing an outline?  Not exactly.  I used to be hardcore against it.  But I am seeing the value.  I'm still too lazy to do a full one-

(Muse:  No kidding.)

-but so for this effort, it has been very helpful.  Food for thought, maybe it will be for you too.  Seacrest out.

NaNoWriMo 2013 – Week 2 Update

Okay, I know, I haven't been very productive, posting-wise.  I promise, something worth reading will show up this weekend.  Okay, I'll write on something besides NaNoWriMo, even if it's not worth reading.

Here's this week's progress:

Nov 8:    1597
Nov 9:    2530
Nov 10:  2447
Nov 11:  2047
Nov 12:  1986
Nov 13:  1781
Nov 14:  1302

Week two total:  13690.

Hmm.  I had two substandard days in there (Nov 8 and today) where I didn't meet my quota but the weekend writing allowed me to stay ahead.

On schedule:  2338 words
Two week total:  27941 words

So I am still doing all right.  The story is going pretty well, considering I completely making this up as I go.  I already see ways I can pull it together and maybe make it compelling for the protagonist.  Not sure if doing so will allow the core story to survive, though, so it may come down to a decision between characters or re-wickering the storyline.  If history is indication, my writing works better when I deliver on the characters.  So we'll see.

NaNoWriMo 2013 – Week 1 Update

So….

I am one week into NaNoWriMo and I am maintaining a good pace.  As one could expect, the story is proceeding somewhat different than I first outlined.  I already deviated from the crumpled parchment I mentioned last time, and yes, I already caught hell for it from a friend.

(Muse:  You have friends?)

I treat NaNoWriMo somewhat as a stream-of-consciousness exercise.  Get the words on paper and worry about making it better later on.  This one – this whole story – could very well be workable but I can tell it is going to take some horsing to get it into eventual shape.  The good news is I feel like the first 14K words unfolded without any trouble, and I have a very long way – maybe 2-3 more books worth – to get to the end.  Anyway, here's progress:

Nov 1:  1708 words
Nov 2:  2886 words
Nov 3:  2284 words
Nov 4:  2102 words
Nov 5:  1708 words
Nov 6:  1787 words
Nov 7:  1776 words

Week one total:  14251 words, or just over 2K words a day.

At this rate, I am on schedule to get over 50K by 25 Nov.  So far, so good.