Monday, February 28, 2011

End of Day 1

Having reached the end of the first day of combining writing with blogging, I can say the two aren't very different. I just completed about 1K words of the story, making up a little as I went but mostly following the story line that exists already in my mind. How do you describe a foreign culture that hasn't ever been seen? How, more importantly, do you describe what you're trying to set up as a meta-culture, consisting of bits and pieces of every major culture on the planet? How, most importantly, do you do all this without boring the reader with too much describiness?

I know, there are some who like it a lot, this describiness metric I just invented but have no idea how to measure yet. While I skipped whole parts of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series as it got into Book 944, page 1,456,345, other people complained that he wasn't adding enough describiness to the story. That's what I hear, anyway...most people I actually talk to say he was too damn wordy. I mean, there's a difference between saying that the hero walks into a clearing and hears a noise, which is arguably not descriptive enough, and describing every leaf and tree in the clearing and going into several thousand words of discussion of what the noise might sound like, which is clearly, describy.

I'm leaning toward the former, being a guy and an engineer by training. My beloved wife continues to press me for more details..."What were the twins wearing when they went down to dinner?" "Clothes, of course." "What kind of clothes?" "The kind that covered their asses?" But I get it, I really do. Some people prefer greater levels of descriptiveness, and others do not. OK, fine. But I want to avoid at all costs this describiness that some authors seem to lean toward.

So, while avoiding it, I managed to write about a thousand words. Could've easily been ten thousand, but I don't think it would've been any better of a story. That was what I got into in some of my research this weekend..."How many words should a novel contain?" is always answered by "As many as it takes to tell the story," which is like saying a guy needs to be tall enough to reach the ground with his legs. Duh. But there's a fundamental truth there, I guess.

In any event, I'm done being descriptive for the evening, and it's time to seek the comfort of my sheets. Good night, both worlds, and I pray both will be eagerly awaiting me in the morning.

V7N Blog Challenge

Initial Post

Every blog has one...the first post. Many blogs only have that one...fortunately in some cases, and unfortunately in others. But this one will be different. Really, it will!

*ahem* OK, so...we'll see.

Anyway, I'm Stephen King. Really, that's my name. No, no, really. And I write, though I'm a rank amateur. I'm probably as good at writing as the Stephen King who lives in Maine and writes for a living would be at running a college. Take that for what it's worth, I guess.

Most of what I write is curriculum and accreditation documentation...boring stuff by any measure. My inner muse, though, has been after me for some time. Several years ago I tried my hand at NaNoWriMo, and failed. For those who aren't familiar with it, the definition of success at NaNoWriMo--National Novel Writing Month, for long--is, as you might imagine, completion of a novel. In order for it to be considered a novel, they set two quasi-random parameters. One is that it must say "The End" or some such at the end, and the other is that it must contain at least 50K words. Most published novels are far, far longer than that; Twilight was between two and three times that per book. Still, they needed a measure, and 50K was it. So, whatever.

I think I started right. I acquired some nifty pens and paper, and a copy of Stephen King's On Writing (an awesome book, IMHO), and the Writer's Guide, and a writers' plotbook sketchbook of some sort. When November 1st hit, I went out like gangbusters. I got to about 20K words in just a week and a half, and then I quit. It wasn't that I didn't like writing, it was that I realized the story, crap, to put it nicely. It was a space novel that as I got deeper into it was reading more and more like another Ender's Game. I liked Ender's Game, really I did, but the world only needs one copy of it. On top of that, I'm not as good as Orson Scott Card, so it seemed like I was creating the writing equivalent of a Budweiser attempt at cloning Chimay, if you know what that means. And if you don't, well, no biggie.

For a couple of years since, then, it's been just like the second time I attempted to quit smoking. I really wanted to, and I knew I needed to, but frankly I was scared because I already knew how much it hurt. That, and I had already failed at it once. But I had a story of my own, not like anything I'd ever read, and it was very well developed, and it needed to be voiced. Still, I wanted to do it but I didn't want to do it.

I used the Ph.D. program I'm in as an excuse for a long time. Then I kind of ran out of money and put it on hold, thinking to myself that this was an excellent opportunity to start on the story. Problem was, I didn't. I even found myself spending entire weekends sitting down at the computer to write on Saturday only to get up Sunday having played computer games.

Simply put, it's hard. It's easier if you know what you're going to write, but even that's not really easy. But I did it...finally...I started it, a couple of weeks ago. No real tricks, honestly; I just got tired of excuses, turned off my World of Warcraft account, and sat down and wrote the first sentence.

At this point, I've done quite a bit. I'm up to nearly 32K words, and still have a lot of the story to get to. But I have started writing this blog now that I'm pretty sure I'm going to finish, so that once I'm done I can look back through what I did and why I did it. It's been intimidating at times, especially when I started this weekend wondering, "So how long is an average REAL novel?" and got intimidated by the size. Fortunately, I have a loving wife who told me to quit looking at the whole project and focus on just telling the story, one word, one paragraph, one chapter at a time, and that got me started on a 12K-word weekend...and gave me the confidence I needed to decide to start this blog.

So, for what it's worth...anybody reading this, I hope you enjoy the journey with me.

V7N Blog Challenge