All posts by Erik

NaNoWriMo 2018: a Post-Mortem

Total words: 16,507

That…didn’t go as planned.

Despite some thorough pre-writing and my best efforts, I did not reach 50,000 words during November. I didn’t anticipate coming down with an aggressive, flu-like cold. On the other hand, I did know about a crucial deadline at work, so I could have planned around that better.

Still, that’s 16K words on a story I’m thrilled about.

I’m catching up on business I put off while I was sick, but I should be back on it soon.

I’m also brainstorming a blog series to start next year, something to work out my writerly muscles and critically examine very flawed stories that I love.

Will I attempt NaNoWriMo next year? Eh. I knew it would be a challenge this year, and circumstances likely won’t change much by then. Chances are I’ll still be finishing this year’s novel. We shall see.

NaNoWriMo 2018: Days 12-18

Total word count: 16,304

So this week was terrible for getting any writing done. I was busy at work preparing for a deadline, taking care of Board of Trustees business, and dealing with some persistent fatigue. I knew I wouldn’t write much, but I skid to a halt.

I have all next week off. I just hope I feel better so I can get something, anything written.

NaNoWriMo 2018: Days 5-11

Word count: 16,018

Things are about to slow down. I’m running headlong into several unavoidable commitments this week, so my time crunch is at its crunchiest. I’m also dealing with a bit of fatigue, possibly caused by my health regimen, or perhaps minor sleep deprivation caused by the time change and driving early to Orlando on Friday for a workshop.

There’s a good chance I won’t win NaNoWriMo this year. However, I’m still confident I’ll finish my novel — just not as fast as I had expected.

My outline, despite some drift, is still serving me well. There’s one character whose fate I’m contemplating changing, but I can’t tell yet what outcome would play better until his arc is more fleshed out. My other three MCs have told me their secrets, a good sign that they’ll be “alive” on the page.

I have to keep up my momentum. If I write at least a page a day (around 250 words), the story will continue to flow, and when I get more time later I’ll be able to ramp my productivity back up.

Despite the inevitable slowdown, things are going very well.

NaNoWriMo 2018: Days 1-4

Total word count: 7,005

My “super-outline” spreadsheet — the one with too many columns — might be the key to keeping me on track this year. I had to work out every single plot beat in advance, including what POV characters to use each chapter. By sticking with the outline, I’ve been able to keep the words flowing, with minimal changes so far.

(One inspiration I forgot to mention: JK Rowling used a similar setup for her outline for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.)

The real test comes next week. I’ll be at a work conference from Friday-Sunday, so I can only count on four solid evenings for writing. To make up for those lost days, I’ll have to write 3K/day Monday-Thursday. But the chapters I have outlined for next week are ready to go, so with luck I won’t get bogged down with plot issues.

Characters are close to how I envisaged them. The dialogue is tricky, as it’s one thing I didn’t work out in advance. I do know the backstories for each of my main characters, so I can ballpark the right word choices, tone, etc. from the start, and clean it up later.

Getting the pace right is tough. I guessed each chapter would be ~1.5K, but they’re coming in a little longer. At least I’ll have enough material through the end of the month, if not longer.

This rough draft feels cleaner than in years past, but that’s no indicator of actual quality. No matter what, it’ll be riddled with abrupt color changes, misspelled place names, and so on.

On to week 2!

NaNoWriMo 2018: Final Preparations…

…Are as finished as I can manage.

I have an outline. (There’s a subplot I need to add, but I’ll do that in the next few days, and it won’t interfere with the first couple chapters.)

I have a few strategies for getting the words out. Most days I’ll be at home in the evenings, but for those that I’m not I can either write on my lunch break, or immediately before or after whatever meeting I have scheduled.

I have tea — with caffeine, even! — enough for the next few days, should I need it.

And I will not be starting at midnight tonight. I need to sleep. I still have work and other responsibilities, and continuing to fulfill those along with NaNoWriMo means staying sane and healthy.

All that said, I have medium confidence in my finishing this year. Several things in common the years I’ve won are 1) a high level of enthusiasm in the story, 2) a substantial outline, and 3) no emotional crises midway through. I stall out if I’m not invested, I get mired in the weeds if I don’t plan ahead, and sometimes life just has other priorities. If those are kept in check, I should be good.

Field of Shards, my NaNoWriMo 2018 attempt, is ready. Let’s do this.

FYI, the focus of this blog will be changing. I’ll continue to post about writing and technology and UU things, but certain aspects of my personal life will no longer be recorded here (personal religious beliefs, relationships, work, etc). Sure, social media knows all, but dear reader, you shouldn’t.

NaNoWriMo updates will resume soon. Preparations are underway and going well.

Mac and Me: Falling In, Out, and In Love Again with Apple

Ah, college.
(No, not that Mac and Me.)

Before I was a Mac user, I was into MS-DOS. My first PC was a Tandy 1000 with a 286 CPU and less than 1MB of RAM. It didn’t even have a hard drive.

During most of the 90s, my family couldn’t afford another computer, so I had to make do with the Tandy 1000 as best I could. I wrote a novella — my first! — on it, as well as countless school papers. We had a dot-matrix printer, so printing five pages took five minutes at least, more if there were graphics. (And woe unto you if your ribbon started running dry!)

Our finances improved around the same time that the iMac — the original gumdrop shaped model — was released, and I just had to have one. My parents splurged on it, with the condition that it was a “family” computer, and I couldn’t use it all the time. (That didn’t last long, as no one else knew how to use it very well.)

Going from DOS to Mac OS 8 was like trading in a Ford Model T for a 90s-era Volvo. Things were markedly better to use than before, but when you rode in your friends’ cars, you’d be struck by how differently their dashboards were laid out, or how the steering column didn’t have the same buttons yours did. Sure, you had a modern car, but it wasn’t like the ones everyone else drove.

And God, I loved that machine.

The love affair would last 17 years, up until a trial separation led me to wonder how much I still loved the Mac.
Continue reading Mac and Me: Falling In, Out, and In Love Again with Apple

Flash Fiction: “To Weather the Storm”

In lieu of a life update, I’ve decided to post a flash story. It’s an odd duck, not science fiction (no speculative elements) but not really lit fic either, so I’ve had trouble finding the right market. It was partly inspired by reading about this phenomenon in the wake of a hurricane. Enjoy!


The nursery chambers are flooding.

I march down the tunnels, trailing my sisters, other workers, following pheromones left by those fleeing from below. Danger, hurry, I smell, my antennae twitching. The air grows moist, the soil clinging to my legs in clumps that dwarf my tarsal claws.

A mass of tangled bodies, floating on the rising flood, blocks my path. These are more of my sisters, drowning, their pheromones shouting danger in sharp, acidic scents. I can smell cocooned workers and larvae dying below. I turn back, hurrying on my six legs into the chamber above before the waters reach me.
Continue reading Flash Fiction: “To Weather the Storm”