Back In The Game

Wrote around 400 words of fiction today, a short bit of dialogue between two down on their luck spacers hacking a data feed. It’s almost entirely dialogue, so when I cycle back and add set dressing to help churn forward on the project, it should expand nicely.

It feels good to be back writing every day, even though this is only day two of that particular streak. But every little bit helps, and every bit writing something new makes be better and better as a writer.

I’ve also gotten around to reading more fiction. Last year was a huge year for non-fiction for my reading list, with 90 of the 104 books read/listened to being non-fiction. It’s good, I think, to consume as much storytelling as I can if I’m trying to tell a story.


This was not my day to accomplish damn near anything.

It was my first full day back at work, after 14 days of relaxing, wonderful winter vacation with my family. I had wrapped up all my projects before leaving, but there’s always issues that seemed to require my input impatiently awaiting me at the office. Handling those emails, voicemails and office drop-ins took up the majority of my work day, even eating into lunch.

The evening was spent scrambling to find daycare for tomorrow and Friday after an illness removed our current provider as an option. I managed to somehow completely mangle my password manager (I use KeePass) and lock my personal email account out, wasting time with support just to find out “we cannot verify your identity”. Lovely. That’ll get sorted tomorrow.

And I sat down to write at my usual evening time, after having personal (upset toddlers) and professional (upset adults) needs convinced me to skip my other times, I made the slowest progress I’ve experienced recently in writing. The words would come, but not fast, and not smooth. Like a car with bad gasoline, I lurched from one sentence to the next.

But that’s OK. So I had a rough day and a bad night of writing. I still wrote. I’m still making forward progress.

And the day wasn’t a complete loss. I cleaned up some old posts on my gaming website and got those published, so there’s that. Not that I’m counting those; 99% of them were written way back in August of 2018. Fear and a lack of motivation kept them from getting out the door. Well, fear of writing is stupid, and I was motivated to do something that didn’t involve waiting on the phone with support personnel.

The takeaway is this: I still wrote today, and it felt good to do so. In the only metric worth meeting, I had fun writing, stuttering it might have been.

Short Story Word Count: 1502
Blog Post Word Count: 258
Novel Word Count: 0

The Journey Begins

I’m starting today on my writing journey, hoping to capture half a million words, usable words, in 2019. It’s not off to a terrible start so far. I’ve laid out my goals in the post Half A Million, so I’m not going to repeat myself here. But like most plans this one has been adjusted right from the start.

I didn’t get any progress done towards a novel, or at least no new words on one. I spent my two Writing Pomodoros today on a short story, since it just seemed to be want my mind wanted to get down “on paper”. I’m looking at 1031 words so far, averaging just over 500 words in 20 minutes (I do 20 minute sets for writing, and 25 minutes when at work. Just seems to turn out better that way). But I’m afraid that maybe 1500 words spread over three projects–novel, short stories, and blog posts–will be stretching myself then rather than stretching towards improvement.

But the daily goals might not be super important. Half a million words is the end goal, but I’m breaking that up into quarters, easier to manage chunks I can handle 90 days at a time. For this first quarter, the plan still is novel/stories/blog posts, with an eye to submit any story I write (following Heinlein’s Rules). Those word counts per day/per project are goals, but ones I can work up to over the course of the quarter. It’ll still end up with a story every week and a novel at the end, and it chops the elephant up into more manageable pieces.

Short Story Word Count: 1031
Blog Post Word Count: 261
Novel Word Count: 0
Total Words as of 1/1/2019: 1292

Half A Million

Completing NaNoWriMo this year started me thinking “Could I keep up that pace for a year?” I don’t mean writing a novel a month; it’s a common thing for writers to do 50K in a month while writing a book. And I don’t mean the standard “write fast, first drafts are garbage anyway, clean up for years later” approach.

Fifty-thousand words a month. What if those were fifty-thousand usable words? Words that represent short stories being sent out for publication (the chance to be published, at least). Words that represent blog posts, right here. Not tweets, not texts, not emails. Words fit for human consumption. Words chosen, hand typed! for their impact, for specific audiences.

Applied to a year, that’s 600,000 words. That’s just under two words to the mythical million words to put in to really hone the craft of writing. And in half the time Ray Bradbury said it would take!

I’m not saying it’s just a number of words to really find your voice as a writer, any more than Bradbury was saying it’s always going to take 3 years, no more no less, to become a writer. But these are words that get sent out immediately. Blogs get published. Short stories completed and submitted. There’s going to be feedback aplenty.

It works out to 1374 words a day, give or take, and roughly 9618 words a week. Figure a 5000 word short story, or somewhere in there, and seven (!) 660 word posts. Maybe some are more, maybe some are less. It’d be easier (ha!) to throw in working on a novel, to break it up and take some pressure off blogging. Also, just round it up to 1500 already.

  • 750 words a day towards a short story for the week. Then submit. Post results on the blog.
  • 500 words towards a novel. Stop at six months, start the revision process and start a new novel. Result is two 90,000+ word novels in a year.
  • 250 words a day at least on the blog. This post is just over 370 words in length. Doable

I can get 1000 to 1500 words a hour done, and I can set aside up to two hours a day, sometimes more. This is starting to look like a pretty edible elephant, all divided up like that.

NaNoWriMo 2018

It’s less than 48 hours to go before the start of NaNoWriMo 2018, and my dedicated push this year to write daily with a focus on fiction. I already have my daily(-ish) writing habit established, and at the moment I average around 900 words a day. That’s a little more than half the daily (not -ish) wordcount needed to complete NaNoWriMo. Plus, I already know of 3 days where no writing will get done, so there’s a need to plan ahead this time.

When I say “This time” it’s because I have attempted NaNoWriMo – and the seemingly-defunct NaGaDeMon, where you design, test and play a game in a month – many times in the past. By “attempted” you can already guess that means I have failed. Repeatedly. Generally, it comes down to a lack of planning  and a lack of belief in what I’m doing. This year I’ve short-circuited those by both having a plan and by realigning my beliefs.

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

As part of my 104 book GoodReads challenge this year, I read a number of books on writing. In addition to the primary advice of Just Write, more than a few added two more ideas that stuck with me.

  1. Know what you’re going to write
  2. Know how long you’re going to write

Trust me, I’m aware of the Planner vs Pantser debate, and whether or not you can even begin to assign a one-size-fits-all amount of advice beyond Just Write to any unique group like writers. But knowing what you’re going to write doesn’t require a full outline, or even more than a sentence. And as I’m already using the Pomodoro method at work, it was simple enough to use it for writing. Already I’ve seen a change in both word count and in the focus that gives to my ideas.

For overall planning, I’ve started using the Snowflake Method, and it has been a game changer in terms of both my excitement in writing, and in my ability to see where I’ve had issues in the past with plot and characters.

I Am A Writer

This has lit a fire in me for writing that I haven’t experienced since  the shadows of my youth. I look forward to sitting down and getting started, even if I’m not excited by the blank page/screen. But I’m not afraid of the blanks now. My beliefs have shifted from “Maybe I can write something, I guess I’ll try, it probably won’t be good” to “I will write, if it’s not good, so what? I’ll write again tomorrow!” I’ve gone from falling apart if a page or section isn’t working to just setting it aside for the time being and moving on. I’ve stopped seeing everything at eye-level, and with a plan in my pocket I can have that 30,000 foot view to see how it all connects, and not get hung up on a paragraph or sentence here or page there.

Chomping At The Bit

Now, there’s still some trepidation about November 1. It’s still embarking on a massive undertaking, in addition to all the other work, tasks and obligations that November brings my way. But, damn! I’m ready to go now.

In the end, I’ll just burn with patience until I flip that calendar to the next page, set my timer, review my plan, and write.

On Looking to the Past

As a gear up for NaNoWriMo this year, I’m looking at the past to seed ideas for the future.

My interests in science fiction have usually ran to space opera. There’s enjoyment to be had in cyberpunk or more transhumanist tales, or even in just classic, near-future type stories. But my heart belongs to rockets and starships and thousands of worlds and tramp freighters and mighty fleets. C-beams off the Tannhauser Gate and all that.

Further Reading

Of course, if you’re looking at writing anything remotely realistic in science fiction – and space opera can be realistic, to a point – you will find yourself drawn to Atomic Rockets, Winchell Chung’s amazing reference site for realistic rockets to space warfare to future money to remembering to respect science. There’s a few sections primarily for authors which pull out the idea of looking to the past to find ideas and story seeds for science fiction. The biggest one on the site is regarding Faster Than Light communication, referencing the birth of the telegraph and the wonderful book The Victorian Internet. That section got me thinking on avoiding the super common Navy In Space and Free Market Capitalism In Space tropes for space opera. The trick is to be close to original when presenting vastly different expectations while not coming across as preachy.

Let’s Call It A Spacy

In terms of Space Navy, I was leaning toward Space Force, but that’s A. becoming an actual thing and B. becoming a massive joke. The other direction is to just refer to the Fleet, and the various branches: Guard, Patrol, Scout, espatier, gropo. It’s just askew enough to work. Battles would be one on one or small unit, due to other considerations, and resemble more galley warfare or naval conflicts of the Imjin War than Jutland or Leyte Gulf. That’s the framework; it will inevitably be either more 3D in nature (lots of maneuver) or 1D (range uber alles, strategic maneuver over tactical positioning).

Economics and Government

For economics and trade, my interest has been sparked by the idea of Minoan palace economies writ large – think planetary center economy. Wealth goes into Earth, say, and then back out to Mars, the belt, Jupiter. I like this for not being a typical model while also being fraught with issues, downsides and peril, ripe for stories and conflict. Combine that with a interstellar polity, and that led me to the madala system from Southeast Asia, with complex webs of tributary agreements and zones of control.

Already I have some worldbuilding done, just by combining those two ideas. Here’s the Fleet, an organization that can’t be everywhere at once in force, maintaining control and exchange of “gifts” and tribute from client states. Would the fleet be involved between a war of two clients? Is there another polity willing to exploit the thin-ness of Fleet coverage in these ares? Something, maybe, like a Sea Peoples (Space Peoples?) invading systems, spreading panic that this polity of worlds just can’t live up to the vassal/lord arrangement anymore?

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