Rebirth

‘Resurrection’ was a potential title for my last blog post which I discarded. At the time, however, I knew of another piece that I was planning to write where it might fit. And now that it’s come time to do it, I’ve passed over the name once more in preference for this one. Such is the creative process.

I originally cracked this ultra-short piece out with a deadline in mind, October 31st, because, as everyone knows, November is NaNoWriMo. And once that started there was no hope of publishing this mini piece until way after NaNo was done and dusted.

Below is the piece as well as the accompanying art. When I posted it on my Instagram account, each sentence was actually a caption to the accompanying latte art that I had poured for the purpose of making one giant latte art. And by giant, I mean 3×3 photos. This was my take on those other Instagrammers that took a single photo and cut it up to publish as 9 consecutive posts, something that is easily done with some app, I’m sure. My version is a far more ambitious twist on that, a reversal, in fact.

It was fun because it was like flash fiction, quick and with little commitment, but refined to pack maximal punch, combined with another fun thing I do in life and in my café job.

Without further ado,

REBIRTH

From the pyre of his rebirth, he rose with a scream triumphant.

Tail lashing, he shot upwards, sparks riding in his wake.

The spectacular plumes used in courting streamed behind, like bright ribbons proclaiming his arrival.

At the peak of his ascent, the phoenix spread his wings, catching the bonfire’s updraft.

The heat lifted his spirit, washing away memories of the twilight years of his previous life, filling him anew with the fresh fire of youth.

Rainbow-hued secondaries flared, sprays of colour that would identify a phoenix to his mate,

Orange and gold wingtips stroked the air, tongues of fire licking, hungry.

He swept his gaze across stars and beach, where the bonfire began to smoulder.

Where was she who had prepared his pyre? Instead of a courting dance it seemed that first there must be a hunt.

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Motivation

Or Resurrection. Of this blog, that is.

One thing that a writer needs is motivation. Ideas are easy to come by. A million people have a million ideas a day. The thing that separates a writer from one of these million other schmoes, is the will to execute; the motivation to not just say ‘ooh, that would make a fantastic idea for a story,’ but to actually sit down and put pen to paper.

Motivation.

Ultimately, it comes from within. In this case, the motivation to resurrect my blog is that I told someone about it. Or rather, first they told me that they had a blog and I responded in kind. Unly (I should write a post about that), when I directed that person to my blog, I had to wryly add that I hadn’t made a blog post in ages (more than a year it turns out).

Hence this.

So sometimes it takes an externally imposed deadline, let’s call it ‘inspiration,’ but the will to follow through and meet that deadline is still derived from within. It might be pride in your own word, desire to impress, fear of appearing as someone who doesn’t uphold his word (there’s a word for that I’m sure. Forgive me, I’m a bit rusty at this). All these emotions come from within, a response to some stimulus, an outside catalyst perhaps.

Inspiration is all well and good, I just got a car load on my road trip out to Cowra to attend the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival, but utilising that to drive your writing, that’s hard.

And easy. Or, rather, simple. All it takes is a bum on a seat and hand to the keyboard.

It is good timing perhaps. The end of another year is fast approaching and that means another NaNoWriMo is coming along too. I’ve got a mini project (very mini) to complete before then and I should probably post about how my 2015 project went, since I completely missed writing in and around that whole year.

Whew.

Feeling motivated.

Thanks Shona.

NaNoWriMo 2014

November 2014 is over and with it I have successfully completed my second NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The following are my related Facebook posts and some commentary.

5000. Just humming along on target
50,000 words in 30 days means 5,000 words every 3 days. I kept this pace for about 14 days, which was actually slower than last year and thus was a little disappointing. When you start each day 1,666 words behind it’s a little discouraging and a buffer of surplus words would have been nice.

Cracked 10,000
This at 9pm on the 6th of November, just before my bedtime no doubt. This year I had a job to get to the next day whereas the previous year I did not. Which explains why I had more time and energy to write last year. Also my job is only part time, so massive respect to all the NaNoers holding down a fulltime job while writing.

Caught up. 15005
There was a day in there that I didn’t write one word. That’s why it’s nice to get ahead and have a buffer. But I managed to catch up by writing 2500 words in one day which was my biggest day’s word count to date.

20130. The going is tough but intermittently flowing.
I do hate slogging through scenes where nothing but crap dialogue is going on. Sometimes it just has to be pushed through. During NaNo I try not to skip ahead to juicier bits. It may not be efficient but I try to write in the order the book proceeds. And thankfully, sometimes I’m rewarded by something worth keeping, often something I didn’t even know about the characters or the plot or the world.

Wrote 5155 words today. So yeah, smashed 25k.
This was my most productive day. It started with a good patch early in the morning at the café. Followed by more writing in the arvo. And another session at night. It all came too easily. Again it was after a day of no words, a Saturday, which is the day I’m usually exhausted from working all day at the trapeze rig.

30k down. Building some momentum now
This is the period where I’m finally getting ahead of the curve with some word counts over 1666. This is where things start feeling good.

35,000.
Incredibly slow day. Then couldn’t stop writing. Maybe what I need is a video camera on me all the time.
This day the SMH came to film their article for their website on NaNo. We turned up in force at the Nerd Cave and put on our serious writer’s faces. I had planned on leaving earlier but as I said, I just couldn’t stop writing. When you’re in the flow you’re loathe to break it.

40206. Take that.
I’m 5000 words over the benchmark which means I have a three day buffer. Feels good.

Passed 45k. No where near finished though.
Approaching the end of the month’s race and yet it feels that my plot has barely begun. What have I been writing?

50,060. But it took me over an hour to damn validate the damn thing. Going to bed
I made it with three days to spare. Finished again in time for bed but then wasted an hour trying to get Word to change all the letters but keep the spaces so I could validate the word count of an essentially gibberish text document. Then it took some more time getting the website to work for me. But I had to get it done that day.

AND NOW…

During last year’s effort I asked other returners what they had written during the intervening months and most times the answer was a disappointing ‘Nothing.’ I thought to myself ‘they must not be that serious about their writing, not like me,’ and so the plan was to get at least my short story and another novel written before the next NaNo came around.

What I discovered is just how easy it was to let the year go by without reaching my goal, nay, even striving for it.
Will this year be different? I have plans for it to be. I have a friend who is a movement conditioner, which is like a personal trainer, but perhaps with a more intelligent approach to reaching our goals. With his attitude and approach I plan on getting the story mill churning.

For now I’ve got to keep the momentum up and finish this story. I feel like maybe I’m halfway through. Just another 50k, or a month’s work, right?

First Draft Complete

“Yeah. Woo. Woo,” followed by a fist pump.

That is the reaction of man who has just finished the first draft of his first novel. It took some sixteen days longer than the time allotted to it in November but I relaxed the pace a lot after November ended.

I was nearing the end with one last chapter to write. I suspected after I finished that final chapter, I would then find I had to write the real final chapter and I was correct. Then the epilogue. In the end I got there though and it’s time to put another one in the incubator. After it comes out, then the hard work will start. I can already envision throwing out a quarter of it and needing to rewrite large sections. But looking forward to moving the novel forward.

And that is what this NaNo has really been about for me. This was the next step in producing a novel. A big step for me. Prior to it I had been content to jump from story to story, writing whatever scene had captured my attention that day, not wanting to stifle my muse. That’s given me a hodgepodge of scenes to work with but that does not a novel make. NaNo has given me that, the first step in producing the story from start to end, something that a reader can read, theoretically without me needing to fill in the gaps from my mind.

Along the way the characters did things I didn’t know they were going to do but they solved their problems in their own ways and even solved some of mine, aka plot holes. That’s what you get from bashing words out on a keyboard. You can day dream all day and still get nothing to solve that problem with the plot. Writing is exploration and discovery.

That writing course I did years ago taught me that to write all I need to do is put pen to paper and write away. NaNo taught me that to write a novel all I need to do is sit down and write. Write. Write. Write. Keep charging forward until that ugly, hole-infested first draft is done. Worry about fixing it another day. Just keep writing.

I don’t think it is a miracle but I am still thankful that I somehow managed to not get stumped by writer’s block as some other NaNoers claimed. Maybe it’s because this thing has been brewing in my head for the last decade or so. Maybe it’s because writer’s block is just another excuse. Maybe there is a muse up there singing my song.

Final word count for the first draft of In The Service of the Queen: 111,983 words give or take. Forty-Six days well spent.

50,000 and Counting

Well I made it and in much better time than I was expecting. On day 19 of the 30 I passed the 50k mark. Do I have a novel however? No. I have maybe half a novel at the rate I’m going.

I have my plan of where I need to go but as I write it seems that new scenes just keep popping up to fill out that fleshless skeleton that I had begun with. This of course is a good thing but it seems to keep me from getting closer to finishing.

Of course that’s not true and scene by scene I’m getting closer to completion. And when I get there I hopefully won’t have to go back and add in too many scenes.

The scene that got me over the 50k was one that I hadn’t planned on writing. Of all things it was about one of my main characters buying a dress for the ball. Though I hadn’t preplanned any of it, I had so much fun writing it with the women bullying the poor tailor that the words just flew from my fingertips. And along the way I thought of a good line to finish the chapter and just like that I had reached the NaNo goal.

Fifty thousand words in nineteen days!

Whew. I pulled some long days and nights to get there including the weekend in Palm Beach where I didn’t sleep until 9am. That reminds me I should write about that.

When I think about what I’ve achieved so far, something I’ve  never done before, I feel very happy. I’m one big step closer to my dream.

Well I’m not done yet. Just another little milestone.

Big thank you to NaNo!

Half Way There

By the end of the day we will be half way through November. Yesterday I passed the 30k mark and I feel like I’ve really progressed the story. There’s a huge difference between what I’ve got on paper now and the less-than-framework I had in my notes and in my head before. That’s the difference between dreaming and writing. But I’m still not there yet. As I think about what I still need to write, all the scenes to go, I know that there’s still much work to be done and I’m glad I’ve still got half a month to do it in.

Lessons learnt? Nothing much. I did start using OneNote to type which is great for jotting down that note on the side for the first revision. It’s not as nice as Word for crisp and cleanly feeling, doesn’t auto-fix quite as many of my typos and does not have a word count function built in (and I can’t add one on my Surface RT). But since sending the fresh typed section to Word is not hard, I would say the ability to jot down notes is worth it. I still haven’t gotten around to playing with the ability to shuffle the order of chapters yet, but am looking forward to it, if and when I need to.

Though of course what I really want is Scrivener. But I can’t get it on my Surface RT!

For now I’m liking my writing tools. Count me as converted from my paper notebook. I like scribbling and drawing lines on paper but when it comes time for the second draft, reading my sometimes poor handwriting and typing it into the computer is painful and really just wasting my time. It’s precious enough as it is. That’s time I could be creating new stuff!

Plus I can use OneNote to scribble as many lines as I like.

Okay enough about the tools. What about the writing?

Last night I was typing away at a scene involving a major plot hole. Halfway into the book I decided to finally have my characters stop putting it off (me too) and had them tackle it head on. There was seduction and confrontation. Someone took her clothes off. And…

It hit me. I had my answer. Well I had half an answer, filling in half of my hole. And that still leaves a hole but a smaller one. Maybe. I was ultra-excited, as I have been lacking a plot for a long, long time.

You can’t have plot holes when you don’t have a plot right? Wait that’s not a good thing.

There was still something missing but I had an opening. A little brainstorm session and I came up with something satisfactory. It hasn’t exactly not been done before (what hasn’t in fantasy) but I think it’s okay. It might change later, though so far I am the kind of writer that decides on a route and lets that dictate the rest of the story. I’m yet to go back and alter such decisions and don’t know if I have the strength to do that. Cross that bridge when it comes.

So plots and brainstorming success. Got up this morning and went to my local café (the first time I can say that in Australia woot!!!) for a riz and got to writing with my new ideas.

Life is good.

 

A Third of the Way

Yesterday marked 10 days into NaNo month, a third of the time allotted to completing the task at hand. My word count? 20,894 words. Woohoo, I’m ahead of the game. At least I am word count-wise. Plot-wise I actually do feel about a third of the way through. Considering how many words I’ve written I feel this is slow. My party has have finally, finally arrived where they are supposed to be. Almost.

It feels like the hobbits arriving at Rivendell. I’m not sure it’s good that it took a third of the book to get here but it’s a first draft and this is NaNo. Write write write. It also feels like this book will go over 50k words, maybe 60 if my gut feeling is worth anything (which I doubt it is).

So it seems I’m right on target.

As I think back over what I’ve learnt since my last entry, there’s not much new. It’s more like I’ve realised that by sitting down to type and type and type, you can actually get that lofty book in my head down on paper (electronic). It is actually possible to transform dream to reality. And this part of it is not glamorous but it is rewarding.

Incidentally, as of this typing I’ve actually passed the 25k mark, so I’m actually half way there. If I can squeeze out another 800 words I’ll have written a cool 5 thousand today but given the time I think that may be a little optimistic.

It’s been a good day. One good coffee, one bad. Lots of rain and lots of words.

5000 Words

Three days gone and I have 6787 words. 10% of the way there!

Had a horrible day playing basketball yesterday but came home and soaked the tired muscles. One and a half years in Japan not doing any running sports and as soon as I get back to Australia it’s the same old problems I had when I left. Oh how I miss Japan’s onsens.

After dinner I sat down to start the day’s write session. Somehow managed a couple of thousand words and without noticing it I’d hit the 5000 word milestone. In fact I’d completely leapfrogged it. No time to rest on that shallow bed of laurels however. I’m off to recharge my caffeine levels, my body is dangerously low after going without yesterday. On a Sunday! Crazy I know.

NaNo Days 1-3

Quick recap on my first three days of NaNo (can’t be bothered typing the whole thing anymore).

Day 1: Did my first day ever of sitting down seriously to write a novel…at home. It was horrible, with my mum going about the house cleaning in the background and sometimes not the background, hassling me, asking me questions, complaining about my diet, etc.

To make things worse I was really struggling to write. One of the scenes that I imagined years back being the trigger for events was so hard to write and seem interesting on paper. The scene was far too slow and boring I thought. And I have to go through thirty days of this torture? I want to quit already. Maybe I’m not cut out to be a writer after all. Doubt already and it’s only day one!

 

Day 2: Chapter 2 was even worse. I slogged through it and by the time I was finally done I was happy just to be done with it. Save and close.

Sometime during the day I figured I was missing a prologue so I went back to type in a punchy action scene. This was great as it reenergized my writing, reminding me of what was good about this story, giving me hope.

Later, when I went to update my word count for the day I discovered the bottom paragraphs of Chapter 2 which I’d struggled with were missing. Gone. No amount of trying to go back and tracking changes could turn up my deleted words. I’d already saved over the complete chapter with the one in which I must have accidently deleted those words. That’s what I hate about typing with a mouse pad on a laptop, when you accidently touch it and move the cursor around, sometimes highlighting and then replacing whole chunks of text with a single letter.

After much cursing, I bit the bullet and re-typed those hated couple hundred of words. The second time round they did seem less corny and I even think I added in some improved ideas, so I the end I’m happier. I guess I can look forward to that in the second draft. Overall a good result but I’d really rather not have to try to recreate any lost words again.

 

Day 3: Wrote a chunk of words, getting my character to where I want her to be. I really am trying to avoid travelogue as I hate reading it. Lack of detailed planning means that I was happy to discover a character interaction that both fills in some plot holes and was an actual pleasure to write. Need more of this.

NaNoWriMo

What sort of crazy word is that? It’s an acronym for National Novel Writing Month, that month being November. Of the history I don’t know much about it but it seems that by ‘National’ it refers to USA. It’s certainly a bit more global than that which is fortunate for me.

It’s a little known acronym but fortunately it’s very easy to explain to those not in the know. 50,000 words in 30 days. One novel in one month. That’s the goal and it begins tomorrow.

I stumbled across it a couple of years ago at Stanton Library in North Sydney, wondering what in the world is that nonsensical word with the jumble of upper and lower case letters? At the time I was not ready to tackle such a lofty challenge. Now it seems I am.

I had originally planned on taking the three months of the Japanese winter, mid-December through to mid-March, to write my first novel but upon arriving home in Sydney this October, somewhere, I can’t remember where, I saw that funny word NaNiWriMo. I thought to myself, that’s bad timing, I’m writing my novel in December not November.

Situations change and I’m no longer planning on spending three months snowboarding Japan’s wondrous snow. Bad timing becomes good timing and tomorrow I’m going to start writing my first novel.

There’s a lot of challenges to tackle and there’s plenty of reasons why I should not be writing a novel to begin with. But it’s November. It’s Novel Writing Month. And I’m the kind of guy who goes with the flow on these sorts of things.

Now I need to get back to preparing my plot.

Wish me luck