Dreaming of November Contests (and probably lying to myself)

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Just a friendly warning: the following pages and pages are drivel—pointless discussions that go nowhere. As I discussed in writing for me, I’m posting the following because I wrote it and that’s what I do: post things I write. While I probably could just post this without a warning, a little part of me (which is shrinking every day) shouts about not wanting to bore the reader and lose my audience. We won’t get into what audience I’m talking about, since besides friends and family (and Doolies!), nobody reads this stuff. But that’s okay (see above musing for selfish retort). Enough dancing and delaying: here’s the crap you’ve been waiting for:

Just write! I’ve tried this before, but this time I’m going to complete it. The idea is to write a story without editing or changing it until it is complete. No looking back, rereading, and editing a part. No nothing except new words placed one after the next. Only the last sentence may be reread, but not changed, to create continuity. I’m talking but not actually doing. I have no idea what story I will tell or how it will come out, but there’s only way to find out:

The sun rose early that morning. Most tales start somewhere, and it’s usually at the beginning of a day. This one is no different. The hero is usually introduced here as well. Let’s meet him, then. He’s a tall man, taller than most men that live in his small village. His arms are the size of the farthest twigs in an oak tree. You were probably thinking that our hero was strong, with arms the size of the trunk of the oak tree. This is not that type of story. I’ll tell you right up front that our hero is not much of a hero. He’s going to be given a choice early in his life, and he’s going to choose wrong. That choice is going to haunt him and shape who he is for most of his life. The ending isn’t going to be happy. If you’re one of those people who wants to read happy endings, then you should put this story down now. I felt it only fair that I warn you before you devote anymore time to reading this story. That way, when you reach the end, you won’t be disappointed. You’ll look back at this introduction and believe me. You’ll see that I didn’t try to hide anything from you. But now I’m just shifting my feet, trying to distract you and prevent you from reading the story. I’ll stop now. You’ve been warned and that’s all I can do. How you choose to waste your time is your business.

Fred looked down at his thin arms. Twigs. Each twig even had its own knob at the elbow. When he straightened his arms, they bent backwards at the knob. That’s the thing about knobs. They cause bends. Fred used his twig arms to chop wood. The axe, an unsharpened blade that was never intended to cut wood, would split the wood, but it required a backward momentum that had taken Fred many years to get right. During that time, he could have purchased a new axe. The inheritance he received from his dead mother would have covered that, but that wasn’t the point.

A horrible start, but at least you’re writing something without editing. What you really need is to go beyond this. You need a germ of an idea that you can use to put something down. Starting from nowhere will lead you there in the end. Does that lead me back to the planning again? I am afraid that didn’t work as well. I need a combination of the two. Most importantly, I need to write every day every minute that I can. I have to stop relying on fake stimulants to put words down. I have to train myself to write when I have nothing to say and write when I have no energy to do so. This has to be enjoyable. Remember the times when you’ve found your rhythm and you couldn’t type fast enough with all the words that wanted to get out? I remember that time, but it happened too infrequently. What if I have nothing to say? Then say nothing! You’ve been through this before and you’ve tried. But the words aren’t always there. Sometimes the blank screen is all that stares back at me until I get a little kick. Is that what you’re scared of? You’ll visit the doctor and he’ll tell you, “no more caffeine,” and you’ll have to give up this dream of yours?

This isn’t much of a dream. Most people fail at this, and I am no different. But I’m an arrogant SOB, and I’m willing to do it until it works. I’m going to put the hours into telling these stories until there are no stories left to tell. Stop with the negative thoughts and get back to it. What story do you want to tell? I don’t really care. I just want to tell something. Your characters don’t live in your head. I’ve read interviews with authors, one of which said that her favorite part of writing was right before she put the pen to paper. Her characters would start living in her head and she would watch them develop until the story materialized. Then she’d start translating those characters from her head to the paper. This never happens for me.

I wanted to draw when I was young. I became rather proficient at copying pictures, but I couldn’t draw something that wasn’t in front of me. I couldn’t take a picture in my head and translate it onto paper. I think I was unfair when I was young. I don’t think many people can do that. Even the “great” artists performed studies of their subjects before they produced their final piece. They would sketch out the parts of the picture until they were comfortable with their understanding of the piece. I guess it’s disingenuous to say that they saw pictures in their minds. After drawing hundred of thousands, if not millions, of images, they were able to sketch pictures from their head, more from muscle memory than from copying the pictures that appeared in their mind.

That’s the trick. The reason you have to write so much to be able to write, is that you need to create a basic set of tools that you can always fall back on. The tools allow you to create scenes and characters without fretting about the mechanics.

But again I find myself babbling about the method and not actually following through with the method. There is no such thing as something new, everything has been done before or at least seen before. “There’s nothing new under the sun.” “There’s more to the universe than is explained in your science and philosophy.” (Okay, so both of those quotations are paraphrased, but you understand the gist.) Keep writing!

I tried to go online to find story ideas. But that was just an excuse not to write. I would have to write twice as much as this to write 50,000 words in a month. That’s 25 days at 2,000 words per day. I’ve been thinking of doing that November-write-a-novel contest. It’s not exactly a contest, but more a challenge to show that you can write a novel. Most of the 6,000 people who actually finished the 50,000 created crap. Okay, all the people who finished created crap. But a few went on, after proving to themselves that they could finish, to write real novels, interesting ones that were published. This might be a good exercise for you. All the words above here have not been edited. These are just a dump of thoughts without the editorial comments that will come later when I reread and fix up the language so it makes more sense for the reader.

Again, I babble about form and forget about content. I’m thinking about entering that contest. I’ll produce crap, but it will be 2,000 words per day of crap and that would be an amazing exercise for me. What story would I tell? It doesn’t make a difference. It will be crap, so you might as well make it something you don’t care much about. How am I to tell 2,000 words a day if I don’t care about it? That’s too much writing not to care about. I’d have to set up a schedule and figure out how many words I’d need to tell everyday. That’s easy: 2,000 per day for 25 days. That’s a lot of words, and I don’t use “a lot” without some degree of control. My reason for doing this is two fold: first, I want to prove that I can write that much and tell a story (even if it’s a bad, stupid story); second, I want to write the three hours or so every night that’s required to complete this project. This feels like the calm before the storm, if I’m actually going to do this marathon. I’m running out of ideas to get my writing kick started.

Okay, so you’re going to do this in two weeks. What are you going to tell? You should at least partly plan out the story so you know what to write. I’d hate for you to get started and end up not writing anything because you had no where to go with it. This writing with no rereading is very refreshing. I know I’m writing nothing of value, but it feels like I’m completing quality and not worrying about what it is I’m (not) saying.

I have two weeks to plan what it is I want to say. That’s more than enough time. What’s the genre? It’s obvious: fantasy, enough of this “real” shit. We’re going to live in the fake world and see how I do in there. Okay. Should I work out my Goblin/Native American story? No, I’m going to drop the Native American part. I’m not a good researcher. It’ll all have to be made up on my own. We have Goblins living in a village that the humans are pushing out. The Goblins are being driven out. Is it Human or human? It’s lowercase for humans, so it should be lower case for Goblins. Goblins aren’t men, they’re gobs, and female goblins? Wogobs? Wogeb? Or are the male goblins, mags, and the females gobs. Yup. That’s it: the females are gobs, and the males are mags. The protagonist, a gob? This gob will age when the humans are driving the gobs out of their homeland. Are they evil? No, they live in tribes and they’re less “civilized,” as the humans define it. But they’re not evil. Will we follow the human invaders as well as the gobs? Show how they’re attacking and taking the gobs land? There will be a confrontation at the end where the gobs are wiped out, and the protagonist falls to the humans’ sword. You always design such happy ending stories. Yup. I’m good that way.

And on the humans’ side? Who will we follow? What is the protagonist there? Is it someone who sees the goblin genocide as a mistake? Or someone who sees it as the expansion, and right, of the humans? Yup. The human we follow is older. He’s the leader of the military arm of the human expansion. It’s his job to follow the order of the leaders of the human civilization, and command the armies. No, that’s getting too much into the politics. I want more of a squad leader human.

Story idea: old man, trying to get his coffee cup refilled. He walks using a walker with four wheels. Sounds…interesting?

Should I cheat and get started now? Or keep planning. Planning is more important now. I should write at one point in the day, and edit at another. Or should I just write and write, and only once I’m finished writing sit down and edit? That’s probably a sounder plan. This is word 1,910. None of these words are useful, but I wanted to give you an idea of what the word count would amount to that you would have to finish every day. And the words that you would complete could not just be thoughts on what you want to write. They would have to be actually words that would forward (or at least pretend to forward) the story. I’m not sure if I can do that. I end up talking and talk and saying so little. This is 2,000. Sad, huh?