Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for August 29, 2014 – DDOP 30: Wrapup

In this episode, I do a wrap up of my experience of the Dog Days of Podcasting; I talk about other month long challenges I have attempted and failed at; I discuss why I still want to publish a paper zine; I reminisce about developing my own film and printing my own photos in high school; I talk about an exchange with Garrick van Buren that blew my mind.

Here is the direct MP3 download for the Evil Genius Chronicles podcast, August 29, 2014

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS. To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported. Bandwidth for this episode is provided by Cachefly.

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Narrative Grammar

My friend Nicola has a great post today on narrative grammar at her editing site. As I write my NaNoWriMo novel I struggle with this every single paragraph. I’m not an experienced fiction writer so I’m feeling my way through. I have been doing my best to follow some of these advice before reading it. I do pay attention to where my characters are in the space they occupy, and try to make sure that the order of actions makes sense for their viewpoint. I don’t randomly add details, I try to bring them into the flow as a person in that location would notice them, largest and most salient and attention getting things first and then honing in later.

Nicola throws out a challenge to rewrite a paragraph first given to her by Samuel R. Delany. Here is my stab at it:

Harris grabbed the intricate metal handles and pushed open the heavy boardroom door. As he walked in, the sensor circuit transpared the great panes of a huge picture window. He could see the great and silver buildings of the city through it. In the center of the room chairs were set haphazardly around a board table, framed by a gold rug.

For those people doing the NaNoWriMo challenge, I recommend subscribing to the Sterling Editing blog. You’ll learn lessons you need. And don’t forget their second draft special. I’ll be taking that one up myself.

NaNoWriMo Second Draft Special

My friends Kelley Eskridge and Nicola Griffith are writers who between them have written a significant chunk of my favorite books of the last twenty years. Earlier this year, before I decided to attempt NaNoWriMo and before they formed their agency, I had already reached out to them as first readers to help me with my novel draft. Not only am I a first novelist, but I haven’t written much fiction of any length so I wanted to get some critiques of the general structure of the work. I wasn’t looking for a line edit, but more along the lines of answering the questions “Does this book achieve what it tries to? Does it pay off what it sets up? Does this thing flow like a novel?” My novel has two timelines running in parallel, which Nicola did with three in her novel Slow River and I’d like to know how successfully they think I pull that off. It’s scary stuff for a dilettante writer to attempt and I definitely want a second opinion on it.

Now they they have formed their agency Sterling Editing, they are doing that sort of work for a wider clientele. They have decided to offer a NaNoWriMo special. If you are a participant (have to be able to point to your progress page and results), they’ll offer an evaluation of your book at a deep discount from what that service normally costs. I’ll be taking them up on this in the post NaNoWriMo editing madness of turning my first draft into something that will get published, either by an existing publisher or by me myself. One way or another, this is going out into the world and I want their help tuning it up.

November is all about losing the excuses, getting motivated and putting some words on paper. When you’ve done that and you are looking for taking your NaNoWriMo novel from first to subsequent drafts, I’d suggest looking at Sterling Editing. That’s who will be helping me.

Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for November 8, 2009 – “Punk and NaNoWriMo”

Here is the direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for November 8, 2009. I play multiple songs from the 1970s San Francisco punk scene; I talk about why I decided to do NaNoWriMo this year even though I wasn’t really ready for it; I talk about discovering interesting facts about the late 70’s San Francisco and the luck that Gimme Something Better was released just in time for me to write this book; I lay out the plan I think gay activists should use to get gay marriage if they really want it. With that, I skank to the beat on out of here.

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS. To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5. Bandwidth for this episode is provided by Cachefly.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Why I am Doing NaNoWriMo This Year

Punk List for Manzanar Dreams

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I made the decision late in the game that this year, I would be a participant in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. I’m publicly kind of a non-joiner, so why did I join in this? When I was in college and my early twenties, it was my goal to be a full-time professional writer. I was a big reader of science fiction, and I could think of nothing better than to spend my days as a writer of it. I did write short stories in that time period, and even had a poem published in the magazine Aboriginal SF. None of my short stories were ever published, as I never submitted any of them to any publications.

In 1991 I started taking notes for a novel idea I had. It was titled Manzanar Dreams and concerned the 1970’s California punk scene, the Japanese internment during World War 2, the spread of corporate radio, mind control and a little good old fashioned homicide. I’ve got character notes, plot outlines and even drawings of the characters that date back 18 years. I’ve never gone a week without thinking about this book in that whole time, but in 18 years there is one telling thing I have failed to do. I haven’t written one word of the actual text of the book.

I had actually emailed my writer friend Kelley Eskridge earlier this year to tell her I was stealth attempting to write the book. Then I shelved it in favor of a different project that seemed timely that equally didn’t happen, with the final result of me doing nothing on anything. I decided to change gears and rather than stealthily attempt the book, I’d publically do it as part of NaNoWriMo. It really is time to either do this thing or admit that I’ll never do it, so here I go.

One of the structural challenges that faced me is that I have three main characters: a hero, a fairly sympathetic villain, and a love interest vertex of the interpersonal triangle. When I have thought about the book for these years, 98% of my energies have gone towards the villain. He’s the character that I personally find compelling, which begged the question – if I cared about him more than the other characters, why should I expect the readers to care about the others? Why isn’t the book solely about him as the anti-hero? I had a breakthrough a few months ago, where a very small change in perspective towards the hero made the themes of the book more tangible and also gave me a hook into why I should care about him just as much as the bad guy. From that point, I felt like a bull waiting to get released from the chute.

Yesterday (notably day two of the month, I left the first pass by completely) I wrote the first two chapters of this book, including a scene I’ve been thinking of for most of that 18 years. It flew by. I write the first 1000 word chapter in 30 minutes on my lunch break. I don’t expect all of them to come this easily as I’ve thought a lot about the beginning and end of this book, but the tricky middle where all the story and character arc happens needs much fleshing out. Looking back over the 2350 words I wrote yesterday, it lacks a lot of sublety but I can live with that at this point. I need to get something down on paper to be fixed later, and I’d rather have imperfect, unsubtle prose today than perfect and wonderful words at some indeterminate point in the fuzzy future. This whole month long exercise is about turning off the inner critic, tabling all the excuses for failing to produce and just going for it. That’s what I’m doing, I’m going for it. I have an Amazon wish list for the project that I’m not begging for people to buy me stuff so much as is a resource list for what I’m thinking about. I’ll be buying some of the music on that list to listen to as I attempt to pound out this book.

Merlin Mann actually covered some of the points that bother me about the whole NaNoWriMo infrastructure. You can follow along with me at my author’s page, but be warned I’m not doing much of the social stuff. Like Merlin says, that time you spend on the forums is time you aren’t writing and with my full-time job and a lot of other crap going on, I don’t have much ability to spend my free time not writing while still making it to 50,000 words this month.

I’m scared, I’m exhilarated, I’m happy to be making tangible something about which I have thought so much. That’s the part that matters to me, making it real. See you in December, with my nearly completed or completely completed manuscript. For November it is mostly periscope down, full bore ahead.