Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I Need a Fix...


It’s been many weeks, far more than I would like to see since I had it. My miracle drug, the one that takes the pain away, and leaves me bright eyed and bushy tailed. Right now I am a huddled mess, my hair feels like it is falling out, and sleep eludes me. War cries emanate from my room like some medieval warrior falling upon a pike, and the quality of my work suffers. This shit has got to stop.

While I am sure this will be talked about at length over the existence of this blog, I haven’t spoken about a subject that I have become pretty intimate with: Ankylosing spondylitis. I have been diagnosed with a degenerative spinal condition, in which my immune system attacks the joints of the spine, slowly causing them to fuse. Over a long enough time, each vertebrae will fuse into the next, taking the flexibility out of my back. In the short term, it causes inflammation between each joint, which results in chronic and quite debilitating pain.

The one counter that I have found to alleviate this pain costs in the neighborhood of $1500 to $1700 dollars per month, and is an injection called Enbrel. Naturally, the disease has made me uninsurable, which leads me to the shortage I am now experiencing.

Forgive me readers, I do not mean to complain, but these issues have weighed on my mind recently, and I thought I would take a moment to enlighten everyone about it. The disease itself is an intensely personal struggle, and for the most part, I keep it private. My journals overflow with details about these struggles, but with how constant the pain has been in recent weeks, I simply wanted to get it in the open.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Using Word Sprints


In the past week, as many of my last few posts have pointed out, I hit a sort of minor writers block. I was allowing myself to get distracted, and my focus was all but gone. Some of this related to being in a funk over my job, but I would peg the bulk of it on simply being unmotivated. I needed a jump start; one that copious amounts of coffee and reading failed to provide. I resorted to word sprints.

This is a tactic I picked up on during NaNoWriMo this past November. Essentially, you set a timer, and for that interval, you aren’t allowed to alt tab, pick up your phone, read your RSS feeds, etc. I know it is a fairly simple concept, but it works for me. Fifteen minute bursts have gotten me back on track, and I am meeting my daily word goals in less time.

My biggest concern with this strategy is the quality of work. Many people during NaNoWriMo would engage in word wars, where the specific goal was to type more than the other person, regardless of quality. I am trying to find a middle ground, as I am keeping track of how much I type, and setting goals, but also trying to maintain a level of acceptable writing. I am afraid that it will make for much more intensive editing, but being able to find a slew of words is helping me get past that blockage. It’s pretty much Drano for my writing brain.

Before I make this a permanent fixture, I plan to run a few short stories using only the sprinting method. If the quality of the writing is not up to my standards after a few attempts, then I will strictly use it on those distraction clogged days.

On another note, if I had an egg timer, it would most certainly get swallowed in the black hole that is my desk. To keep things uncluttered I have been using http://e.ggtimer.com/.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Slight Demoralization

Today was oddly difficult to cope with. One of those mornings that starts with a whiff of sour milk and a stubborn joint that wont pop, and then turns ever so comfortably into a downward slope.

Okay, so the day wasn’t that terrible, but I did receive a pretty surprising rejection. I had so much confidence in this story, as it was custom tailored to the anthology I was submitting it too. The story itself also seemed a great deal better than my last few short stories. The description was better, the premise wasn’t a cliché, and people that normally don’t care about my writing were into it.

I got the rejection notice, and realized that it was a slightly personal rejection telling me not to give up, and to contact other editors. I know editors have a lot to work with, but a single sentence about what I did wrong would make my life much easier. I would take a scathing criticism better than a vague and lightly put pat on the back.

I think Harper Lee was right. If I intend to make my mark in this business, I need thicker skin. Losing a few hours of writing trying to analyze a rejection is about as wasteful as watching figure skating and waiting for a fall. In the end, you are still watching flamboyant people prance. In the end, I am still looking at a rejection hardly more personal than a copied and pasted form.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Boom or Bust

The cycles of writing are not always convenient. The times when I am positively brimming with ideas, and when the words are being pounded out on my poor, poor keyboard, are usually when I have the most going on in my life. Obligations like school and work, as well as being with friends and other time spending alternatives, are the bane of my word count goals. I of course, wouldn’t have it any other way. A life of fulfillment and labor leaves me much happier than the alternatives, but this rising lull in progress bothers me to no end.

I’m sitting here, staring at a blank page, and the blinking cursor taunts me. It reminds me that it should be shuffling in near endless fashion from left to right, left to right. The cursor’s rapid descent from top to bottom should be endless, as the pages fall away in Microsoft Word, and reveal themselves to me at an Asimovian pace.

Alas, here I am. Needing to finish a book, a short story sitting idle, and my Next Great Idea™ sitting on cream colored pages, scrawled in pen. I have the ideas, I know how the story ends, but right now, my fingers can’t translate the images. I feel as though I am desperately running my hands along the walls of a dark room, looking for a damn light switch so I can get back to work.

Maybe I should be thankful that a blog post about frustration is helping my word count.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Human Echoes: The Exerpt

So, many of you have probably heard that I have been writing a book entitled Human Echoes. Besides the first excerpt I posted months ago, most of you have only heard word count updates. I decided that I would post an excerpt here. I tried to find a point with as few spoilers as possible, and I hope you all like it. Also keep in mind that this is still very early, and with the sheer amount of editing needed to finish, very little will stay the same. Feedback is very welcome, just try to be constructive if you don’t like it.

On another note, if you haven’t been paying attention, this is a zombie novel set in southwest Colorado, and the gun he is firing is a fairly standard M4. If I posted the entire chapter that gave these details, it would have revealed more than I want any of you to know at this point. Here we go.

---
Taking a quick sigh, Carl took slow aim on his old friend, and put a round between his eyes. The animated bodies fell upon him harder, seeking the flesh that no longer resisted their teeth. The felled corpse drew more zombies than Carl could clear, as the clamoring undead turned into a ravenous scrum, all seeking the flesh at the bottom.

The still rumbling motorcycle lay crashed against the curb, grumbling in low tones as the undead attacked it. The bike’s only sin was breaking the silence, and to zombies, that was a most terrible offense. From his view from on top of the Hummer, Carl could see they swept too close to the horde, which drew their own fair number of undead. With greed in their bloodshot and rotting eyes, they lumbered after the vehicle with relentless determination. The freshest ones sprinted with a deceptive haste, uncaring about the deep wounds and bite marks that perforated their flesh.

Carl reloaded, and sprayed rounds into his pursuers with deadly marksmanship. This was his trade, and as a gunner, he wouldn’t disappoint his enemies or his comrades. The mechanic efficiency of his rifle shot in constant rhythm, and tried to keep pace with his pounding heart. Grunts and spittle shot out of his mouth as he laid in to the undead.

Every other enemy Carl had ever faced knew fear. He felt that when he levied that righteous weapon in their direction, he was in complete and uncaring control of their fate. The sound alone was deterrence for even the most hardened martyr or would be soldier. Their resolve would flounder in the face of their friends and brothers at arms falling to the pavement, life torn out of them by the will of smoldering lead.

This wasn’t his normal foe.

This mass of human refuse, the waste product of good men and women, stampeded after him, crushing the bodies of their own, growling, snarling, and snapping in pursuit. Their hands drew outward like an unholy Oliver Twist’s begging for more. Their resolve was no longer human and no longer logical. It was solely the specific and instinctual craving, the hunger. Their will was of a harder caliber than his rounds, and would only be broken through the outright decimation of the brain.

He was more than happy to oblige.

Inconsistency

I have noticed in the last few chapters of Human Echoes, that my characters are only now becoming truly dynamic. If you couldn’t already guess, this is very bad. I am 90,000 words into a book, and the characters have only been feeling complex emotions and acting on their own accord for about 40,000 words.

If I had to guess, I would attribute this to my writing aptitude. I had been so far removed from fiction writing that the first 50,000 words or so were forcing me to get back in to the swing of things, as well as establish new writing habits. I know the characters aren’t totally flat, but there will be a considerable amount of rewriting based off of a change in skill level. That isn’t to say that I have somehow broken through some mythical barrier and am now an incredible writer, but it has shown me how rusty I was.

As far as progress goes, I feel like every passage I write gets me a little closer to my own unique voice. My descriptions are more concise, but doubly effective and the settings seem more vivid. Even the ideas that are popping into my various journals seem to be more creative, and hold much more depth than before. I feel that I am finally getting a handle on the old rule of “show, don’t tell.”

If all this is happening within the first 100,000 words, I am excited to see what will be revealed in the next few months.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Small Note on the Craft

For every statement there are always hundreds of conflicts and arguments that go unused. The key to their effectiveness is choosing the one that lays the most impact or works toward the next idea. Often times, a statement skips over the details that are most imperative to what we are trying to say. When ambiguous claims are made, the clarity of an argument or point of view is often lost.

In every argument there are details I don’t know, as well as concepts and ideas that I won’t bring up. To some, the details of an event of conflict are trivial, even if they hold great value to the person detailing them. This is mostly related to mindset and values, and is part of why i love writing so much. Effective writing forces people to see life from your perspective, and why the details matter. Formerly irrelevant details can illuminate perspectives that would otherwise be lost, and true understanding can be achieved.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Back to the Grind... Oh Wait, Nevermind.

Well, this is never easy to deal with, but thanks to a dreadful economy, I am now looking for work again. This last job was by far one of the best I had ever worked, and the experience I gained will help me immensely in the field of Information Technology. It's just a shame that it ended so quickly. I was hoping to make it to one year.

At the moment, I feel like the adversity I am facing is overwhelming. The loss of my insurance, the continued trouble with my spine (which I will discuss in a later blog post), and the general fatigue of trying to get by are all taking their toll. I feel incredibly tired all the time, and no amount of Monster (Oh how I love thee, black canister of life) seems to be able to lift.

Although I hope to make it as a professional author, I know that this is an incredibly difficult feat. I need to keep building on a back up career, but i hope that this bit of time off will help me achieve some writing goals. Words have been coming easier in the past week or two, and I am hoping that trend continues. Especially as I inch toward the finish of Human Echoes, which is sitting at 85,000 words and counting. I have a feeling it will be quite a few months before I top that number with a new project.

I also hope to have another two short stories out very soon. I have a feeling that my personal bio is lacking. I will need to work on that, and a solid query letter as well. Of course, Human Echoes is going to be in editing for quite some time, but getting ready for that push to market can't hurt.

Anyway, I am off to watch the Super Bowl here shortly. I plan to relax and have a few beers. It is a much needed reprieve from this turbulent weekend.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Little too Much to Handle

Over the past few weeks, I have been reading too much. Well maybe just too much of the wrong content. The thought of my book nearing completion has led me to search for information on publishing and the business side of writing. Much to my despair, these people have made it sound damn near impossible to break into. I knew when I started writing seriously that it would be hard, but I had never really looked at how convoluted the whole process is.

Thus far, I have only received two rejections, both on a short story that I did not have a lot of confidence in. I believed it to be superior to many of the pieces I was reading, but in the eyes of the editor, it did not measure up. Both times, I was told the problem was related to the voice of the story.

The problem I am worried about isn’t so much from a short story I wrote in a couple of hours, but how I will respond to the virtually guaranteed plethora of rejections my first book will receive. I have hope that it will find a home in the literary world, but considering the way agents and publishing houses make their decisions, that view is becoming a bit bleak.

The best and only way I can counter this is to keep writing. To create enough content that something will find its way into print. Along with that, I may be able to find that consistent voice that has been apparently lacking. My writing style has already shifted in these first hundred thousand words. My descriptions, transitions, conflicts, and voice are closer resembling their own identity. I just wonder what my writing will be like a year from now.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The January Report

Well, this month certainly left in a hurry. I'm not entirely sure if it's related to being busy, moderately productive, or that I am getting older. I remember thinking that as a kid. That the older a person gets, the more time seems to fly. Like the difference between the long and glorious summers of my youth, and the now short spats of summer I experience now. One felt like almost a year to itself, the latter, more like a weekend vacation.

Anyway, onto some stats. I had a marginal month as far as word count goes. It started out strong, but eventually started to recede a little bit. I did reach 85 percent of my monthly goal, but considering that was only 1,000 words a day, I feel I could have done more. Still, the work I have done on Human Echoes and Thin Ice was at a much higher level than when I started consistently writing back in November. I will have my work cut out for me trying to establish consistency in that book.

For the month of January:

Monthly Goal: 31,000
Words Written: 26,281
Words Over/Under: -4,819
Percentage: 84.7% of goal completed

Writing Breakdown:

Human Echoes: 22,127
Thin Ice: 2,632
This Blog: 1,522

For February, I am going to stick a little closer to my schedule so I don't need 3,000 word days just to catch up. I just need to make writing as much a habit as anything else I do.
 
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