Category Archives: Opinion

My changed view on NaNoWriMo

I’ve done NaNo since 2003 and tried Camp NaNoWriMo this past July. The

Things Have Changed

Things Have Changed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

first four times I ‘won’ the 50 K challenge, but didn’t achieve it ever since, and didn’t achieve the goal for Camp either. I didn’t even get halfway there.

My Changed View

What I’ve come to realize is that I’m now putting too much pressure on myself to complete the marathon, to the point that I’m stalled to actually do so.

So, I’ll plan to try a different approach and see how it works for me:  from now on I’ll use the start of a NaNo event to spur me to start a project (a novel in November, something else for Camp) but I won’t concern myself with completing the target by the deadline date.

Maybe by not pressuring myself I’ll succeed at it more often again. I want to always finish the book that I start, instead of leaving it to be forgotten when the event is over. Some of my past projects I already plan to revisit, some of them I need to rewrite from scratch because I no  longer have my backups. Just as well, as the new versions won’t feel as clunky.

An Important Caveat

Note that I’m not bashing NaNoWriMo in the least. I’ve been a part of it since nearly its start (I think there were three before I began) and it can help an author to get the words out of their head – and  my view may change yet again, many times in fact– but for now this is what I’ll try, and see how it works.

“Don’t Get it Right. Just Get it Written.” James Thurber

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Pat Flewelling, on alternative plotting

It’s quid pro quo time.. over a year ago I posted on Pat’s blog (here‘s a link to the blog), now she’s returning the favor.

With me writing for Camp NaNoWriMo right now, this is an appropriate post.

I’m not as prolific, but few people are!

At last count, I’ve written 59 novel-length manuscripts since 1993, and I’ve just come back from a weekend-long novel writing marathon with the better half of # 60. Some have been completely pre-planned. Some were written off the cuff. Most haven’t been published, because they just haven’t been solid enough.

When I thoroughly plotted the story in advance, one of two things would always

The Marathon

The Marathon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

happen: either I would deviate wildly off course, or I would get so bored that I’d just stop writing altogether. I often mistook a tangent as some kind of award-winning plot-twist, and having to delete 10-15% of the manuscript was a real killer to my motivation. And sometimes, I was just bored, because there was no sense of discovery left over, no room to play around. I was choking my own creativity.

At the other extreme, stories that had no predestination took longer to finish. I’d often spend hours staring slightly cross-eyed at the ceiling, trying to remember where I was taking that last thought. I’d also ended up spending countless hours editing after the fact, removing tens of pages of verbal dross.

But for this year’s novel writing marathon, I decided to try something new. I planned only so much, but I also left major plot points blank.

I thought of it like a vacation itinerary. Let’s say that I knew I was leaving Montreal on a Monday at 7:00 a.m., and that I had to be in Toronto by Saturday at noon. Let’s say, furthermore, that I also wanted to visit Ottawa, Brockville, Kingston, and Oshawa, before finally heading into the Big Smoke. As long as I got to Ottawa by 4:00 p.m., I could take any route I wanted. I could take the back roads and enjoy a longer drive through the country, or I could stick to the highways and get there sooner, then park the car and stroll around on foot before leaving at 4:00. I wouldn’t decide which route to take to Ottawa until I was in the car with the radio on and a coffee in hand.

During the marathon, I discovered not only that I actually stuck to the plan, but I wrote in an unforeseen major character, who made the plot more engaging and resolved a lot of plot holes. I finally had a planner that would direct my story toward a fun and logical conclusion, but one that left plenty of opportunities to make stuff up as I went along. Most surprisingly of all, because I had a known destination and unknown roads, I found my narrative pacing became the strongest it’s ever been.

But, after this many novels, I know that what works for one project doesn’t necessarily work for another. Likewise, what works for me may not work for you. All I can suggest is that you keep experimenting until you find what works best, and have fun with it along the way.

Wil Wheaton and Not Writing for Free

I won’t commit idea theft myself, so Wil Wheaton‘s original post is here. Here’s an opinion on Slate.

English: Wil Wheaton at a San Diego Comic-Con ...

English: Wil Wheaton at a San Diego Comic-Con panel for The Guild in July 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I agree with both views. I offer what I write free on this blog; what I’m writing for Exploits of a Midnight Traveler is also free — but no one is being paid for it.

In the case of Huffington Post, however, the site is valued at 53 million dollars. It makes money off the advertising that it sells on every post it puts.

Telling people that it can’t pay them is silly. Saying that it is free publicity and exposure… that’s offensive. Will it offer beads and rags  too?

When someone is making profit from your work, you should be paid for it too. PERIOD. A restaurant doesn’t give away food in return for word of mouth (unless you’re a published food critic); a  non-Olympic athlete won’t play for a team solely out of love for their sport; why, then, is it OK for an artist to work for free?

I write RPG products to make money. My novels will sell on Amazon. I’ll give away a story to help to build up my email list… I don’t write these things without a purpose to benefit to myself.

Free exposure is not it.

This site moving

I haven’t updated this blog in a month. The reason for that is the limits that the WordPress hosting system puts on me. For a free blog they’re okay but not for my personal brand.

Update soon.

Space Opera — What is It?

This is a genre that’s existed for decades, but it’s often misunderstood.
It was considered as Science Fiction in the 1950s, the Golden Age of Science Fiction, but it’s really a form of Science Fantasy. There are many worlds of aliens, in fact hundreds, which gave it the veneer of science fiction. How it no longer fits it:

There are myriad inhabited worlds, often within the same systems. Science shows us that’s not the case, without major terraforming. That is a concept that didn’t exist in those early days.
Entire worlds often have a single feature, such as a desert world or an ice planet. Just look at Earth… we have different climates based on different areas. Just winter alone is different here in Canada and in Northern Europe – and it’s non-existent in the equator zone.
A major example is the Lensman series by E.E. “Doc” Smith, and in film: the Star Wars saga.

E. E. "Doc" Smith

E. E. “Doc” Smith (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Note that I’m not ragging on Star Wars. I’m a fan). Star Wars because there are so many worlds with life on them, and entire worlds just one climate.

Technically it isn’t entire worlds with a sole environment. A good writer could say that we just see part of a world, so the entire world isn’t just one environment type… but for the sake of this genre it’s considered to be.

Also, there are more intelligent versions of this genre. Lois McMaster-Bujold has her series of Vorkosigan novels set in a Space Opera universe, but she uses more science fiction ideas in it than others do.

Lois McMaster Bujold. Photo: David Dyer-Bennet...

Lois McMaster Bujold. Photo: David Dyer-Bennet 1996. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The main definition of space opera, according to its entry on Wikipedia, is that a space opera is like a ‘soap opera in space’. This is a bit simplistic, but they are often melodramatic stories involving ship combat, or romances and betrayals. We see them in standard SF, but far less melodramatic.
The Wikipedia article lists Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series as an example of Space Opera; I have trouble with that. First off, I’m a big Asimov fan. The Mule is an example of a large power escalation — cited as a characteristic of Space Opera — but Isaac didn’t write deep romance, and he was an actual scientist; his writing did have a more believable basis (I’m not saying that Psychohistory is real.
My 2nd NaNoWriMo novel (Into the Flock, a winner) was a Space Opera. I may try to redo it someday.

Cats and Writers

Today I’ll examine something less weighty; appropriate as it should not be a day for deep thoughts. It is Sunday, after all!

What I’d like to discuss is how many writers (including me) have cats.

My publishing imprint (Bosulliman Press) is based on a cat theme too. The origin of the name I’ll cover in my newsletter. I have a link to another Page on this Blog for me to manually add you to that list if you’re interested. Here ends my digression.

My cat (Garfield) is my third in 25 years. Author Rayne Hall wrote a series of books about writing using her black cat Salem as a spokesbeing; here’s a link (not an affiliate one). One of my friends — a very prolific author in her own right (blog here) has a cat named Ishmael. The number of authors with cats in their bios is beyond number.

So, why are cats and writers such a pairing?

Writing is a solitary endeavor; a writer is often alone for long stretches of time. A cat is only around when it wants attention, then stays away.

A cat purring, often on your lap, seems to calm a writer into more creative thought.

I’ll leave it to more scientific minds to answer this mystery!

Related articles

In Praise of Mark Twain

MTE5NDg0MDU1MTUzNTA5OTAzThis is later than I planned initially, so I’ll end up posting a few days in a row to compensate. I planned this post for Monday:

I’m a great admirer of Mark Twain (born Samuel Clemens. Biographies here and here). He was a prolific author, a witty humorist and a man of many great quotes. Here are some examples:

(from Brainyquote)

(from Goodreads)

 

Long Live the Legion!

This is not like my typical posts on this blog, but I wished to share my views anyway.

DC Comics have announced they will soon be cancelling the series due to poor sales. Paul Levitz – a writing legend on the series, and Keith Giffen – art legend on same – couldn’t save the title. Instead they killed many of the cast, and now the plug is being pulled.

5.22.10PaulLevitzByLuigiNovi4

5.22.10PaulLevitzByLuigiNovi4 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been a fan of the LSH for most of 33 years.

Julius Schwartz (the SF literary agent who carved himself another legendary career as a comicbook editor) helped to  pioneer this property, with Hugo-winning author Otto Binder, then joined by his brother Edgar as E and O (“Eando”) for awhile.

English: at in 2002. Français : au , en 2002.

English: at in 2002. Français : au , en 2002. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cracks began to show every time that the company rewrote the series in an attempt to remove Superman from the series. He was finally returned, but after 4 of these “retcon”s (retroactive continuity; essentially re-writing what we already know) the damage may have irrevocably been done – and having mediocre new stories didn’t help either.

The Legion hopefully will return someday. Meanwhile, the excellent past stories are collected in history volumes to read.

 

When People Write for Free, Who Pays?

Article on Gawker

I write articles  for the newsletter at work. I don’t get paid any extra for it,  You could say that I’m writing for free.

Is this bad? I don’t think so. This month I’ll be launching my first Kindle novels through Indiegogo (trust me, you’ll hear about it here among other sources), and I have a few other projects too… the newsletter for me is pure non-fiction though; I always benefit from further practice in that area. The more that I write, the better that I get in it, and the more confident I grow.

Those I’d see as reasons that while I don’t get cash for it it’s not really free. Plus for other magazines it will be for money.

Differing Views

Noisy class during first day of Creative Writi...

Noisy class during first day of Creative Writing Lab about “Writing and Silence” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ultimately not, but from different approaches:

Write On: Can We Teach Writing?

The Best Writing Advice You’ll Ever Get

I fall between those two camps. I took 2 classes in creative writing 28 years ago in CEGEP (junior college here in Quebec. Grades 12 and 13 in the rest of Canada). I learned the mechanics of writing there, but writing quality much later. I finished those classes frustrated in fact.

BIC (butt in chair) is I find the only true way to get better at the craft. In fact, it’s the methodology of NaNoWriMo. A philosophy that I should use more often…