Tag Archives: writing

Come and Take It

The Alamo church.

“Remember the Alamo” has two primary connotations, depending on the audience. It’s either a jingoistic rallying cry, a justification for the incursion of white settlers into Spanish-held territory. Or, if you’re a certain kind of Texan, it’s a reminder of the nobility of sacrifice, when things are worth fighting for.

Not being Texan myself, nor a believer in the peculiarly American kind of Manifest Destiny, I fall into the former category.
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NaNoWriMo 2016: Yes, We’re Doing This

It was Stephen King, in his mandatory book On Writing, that described his writing desk at two stages of his life. Early on, his desk was gigantic, “T-rex sized” as he puts it, in the middle of his writing space. But later, he got a smaller desk, placed it to the side, and filled his room with other things.

Perhaps the best thing that could have happened to my writing was walking away from it. After my output slumped in June, I decided to break from anything that wasn’t paying me (basically, everything but The Daily WTF) and focus on everything else in my life. I had to get rid of the T-rex desk in my own life to get some things in order, but coming back, I realize that writing never left me. It’s always there, no matter how long I break from it. The trick is, as King discovered, not letting writing run your life, but to live as broad a life as possible and still be able to write.

So, this year’s NaNoWriMo is an extension of last year’s. Altars and Acolytes, the most recent title of what’s been called A Buried Stone Gate, The Coral Gate, and (dubiously) That F***ing Novel, will finally see its most recent draft done.

See, Altars was an easy first draft but an immensely difficult revision. Writing it through several years ago, I went on flights of fancy, creating darlings left-and-right. Stream of consciousness? Check. Style changes? Check. Way too many POV characters? Check. Too long for my genre (YA Fantasy)? Check. Italicized thoughts? Dune has more, but just barely.

I did one revision shortly after finishing the rough draft, but upon reading it later, it was clear that the story wasn’t working. Everything needed streamlining, the tension was as slack as a wet noodle, and I had converted to avoiding italicized thought narration. (Sorry, Frank Herbert.) Plus, there were character changes I could make to strengthen the narrative, but they would require a lot of revision.

So, v3 was what I started on last year, and I soon found that writing around existing scenes wasn’t the fastest way to make a new draft. I continued on after November, despite moving to a new apartment, getting hospitalized for heart trouble (just a vasospasm, not a heart attack, but damn did it scare me!), and acclimating to my new job. I took a break when my output whittled down to next to nothing every day, and since I was ramping up work in my church, my headspace wasn’t focused on writing at all for several months.

On Thursday, as my friends were three days into NaNoWriMo, I lamented not having a project to work on. I was considering starting from scratch, but I had no fresh ideas. My friend DM Bonanno suggested that, since we both have novels that need finishing, that we work on them simultaneously for NaNoWriMo.

While I didn’t take a totally “scorched earth” policy, I did decide that the halting progress of revisions on Altars could be sped up if I did something drastic: tossing out my existing third act. I had already stripped out unnecessary and obsolete scenes, but the rest depended so much on deleted characters and plot developments that stitching them together would take forever. So, taking a page from 2K to 10K, I made a new, detailed outline of my third act, tinkered with it over a couple days until it was just right, and put it into action.

And the words came back in a tidal wave.

I want Altars and Acolytes done. I mean, it still won’t be after this draft — it needs a thorough low-level pass and a polish — but I haven’t had a coherent draft of this story in literally years. It’s a story I love with characters that are writing themselves at this point. I just needed to clear away the debris of past drafts to let them.

Just What On Earth Do You DO?

Being multifaceted has some drawbacks. People speak about having exactly one lifelong passion (and jobs sometimes demand this from employees), which doesn’t sit well with me. It’s like the concept of a soul mate, that mythical person that’s perfectly matched to your strengths and weaknesses.

That is to say, it’s equally bollocks.

So what is it that I do?
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Twine: Some Impressions

For someone who likes both writing and programming, it took me a long time to try out interactive fiction. See, I love prose fiction, and I enjoy narrative-heavy video games (such as Gone Home or Heavy Rain), but in-between was a no-man’s land. I never cared for text-based adventure games, and visual novels (not to be confused with graphic novels) didn’t have much appeal.

So it was with some reluctance that I tried out Twine. It’s designed to mimic the “choose your own adventure” books of yesteryear, using HTML as a compile target. Creating something like this had tickled my brain occasionally, but I didn’t want to take the time to build an entire engine from scratch. Luckily, someone had already done that.

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Marking Up with Markdown

Since I began using computers in the early nineties, I’ve gone through five different word processors: DeskMate, AppleWorks, NeoOffice, OpenOffice, and LibreOffice. I’ve shuffled through as many computers and operating systems, from DOS to Mac OS X. I know — very well — the pain of incompatible file formats, starting in college when my professors sent me commented Word documents that AppleWorks couldn’t read.

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Returning Again, or I’m Back!

I write this from a large, one-bedroom apartment in Tampa. After weeks of packing boxes, reserving moving equipment, enlisting friends, and worrying a path in my floor, I finished my move.

Periods of transition are ripe for flights of fancy, from my experience. I think that’s what attracts me to writing: I love pretending to be something else. This time, it was a fantasy of moving abroad to teach English, something many of my friends have done.

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