Post Mayan Apocalypse, Year 4

njord

Plotting a sequel, a worthy sequel, is far from an easy thing. In my case, very little of the first book is being kept. Sure, three of the protagonists make a return, as does a valuable plot device and a few villains.

But everything else is vastly different. The setting has drastically changed, there’s less fighting and more survival and travel. Fewer bits of history and a larger share of myth and lore. The desire for vengeance is now overshadowed by the need to protect loved ones: familial, platonic and romantic. There’s no law to uphold and crime to condemn anymore, just the realpolitik of might makes mine.

The world is no small stage.

When you factor in all these changes, is it really a sequel anymore? I don’t know. My tale is but a gaiden, a side story, that happens on a beach before the storm of a greater epic. My characters are children squabbling over seashells, too preoccupied to notice the tsunami’s crescendo behind them.

Let others write of the work of gods. I deal mostly in men.

And men make many, many small things. The grand, sweeping myths of gods and creation are often strangely simple. But men are more prone to thousands of tiny dots that can be traced together and recognized as some grander shape, a design caused by our very lives. Some interconnected magnum opus that we cannot see until we’re old and cold.

Our own saga.

If this is a sequel, it is the last one. Not because there won’t be more story to tell afterwards, but because that which connected it to previously is fading away. Such is wyrd.

Happy New Years folks.

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New Years Resolution

If you’re reading this, it means I’ve completed my goal of writing 10 short stories before the year is up. Almost all of these stories went towards publications with token payments, anywhere from $5 to $25 a story. At least one went to a pro-rated publisher, willing to pay the industry average of $.05 a word.

Here is my new regime for writing. Nothing is lofty or dependent on anything specific, which increases my odds of pulling these off.

1) Submit two short stories a month.

This is a decent goal. At my going rate, I’m pumping out almost four stories a month. It has cost me a few nights of sleep and most of my spare time, but it has gotten me in the right mind frame to keep going and developing my skills.

2) Get a pro-rated story published.

A story worth $.05 a word. Anytime next year. To maximize my chances, I should aim to make one of my two submitted stories go towards professional paying publishers, even if it means I’ll be published less often.

3) Read three how-to-write/get-published books.

Most of my reading has been more fictional. Devising how to write in a manner akin to what editors want. But there’s behind the business scene that I only partially get. And I need to make a stronger effort to shore up my weaknesses and strive to present my work more effectively to editors.

4) Lay the ground work for my novels.

I don’t expect to get a novel finished next year. I’d be worried about the quality if I did. Instead, I’d like to jot down the chapter-by-chapter synopses of several novels. Maybe I’ll start one after I finish laying them out, but I really do want to keep going with short stories until I hit a three year mark and the resulting body of work.

Have a happy new years everyone!

First Drafts and New Years

Take that, sky!

Take that, sky!

When it comes to starting a new tale, I find there are two ways to go about it.

The first is to plan things out. To take notes, jot down what you need. Little scraps that come together, get played with and eventually sorted into some kind of blueprint for the story. At which point, the first draft is put together and probably isn’t unlike what the blue print made it out to be. I foresee this approach being outright necessary for novels, but optional for short stories.

Short stories can get away with beginning with a first draft that is guaranteed unsellable, a throwaway draft. It is, after all, just a short story. Perhaps a 14,000 word maximum, but most of the time, it will be less than 10,000 words. Probably more like 6k to 8k. From this first draft, one can get down a number of details and discover what kind of questions need to be answered after research. You can figure out names and hammer a decent plot of some kind.

My current approach to my first novella is somewhere between these two methods. It actually began with a short story I wrote a year ago, totalling some 14,000 words. I like the characters, but the tale itself could have been beefed up some. So I threw it in the draft bin and went to work on other things. Now, I’ve dusted it off and am looking over it. I’ve taken notes, added names and added thickening plot elements. I think there are still a few things that will need further development, but I’ll handle that as I write this second draft.

It’s hard to figure out what manner I prefer for story telling. I’ve never written a tried and true novella before. It’s always been short story. Longer tales require more planning, more consideration and respect for the length. Who in their right mind would want to write a fully throwaway draft of an entire book is an absolute writing masochist, and if they plan to live off writing royalties, they better grow to like hunger pains.

This kind of transition is not what I expected. But learning it is part of my growth as a writer. And on those grounds, I’m considering my resolutions for new years.

First, I’m making a promise to myself to no longer voice my political views on Twitter and Facebook so often. It alienates people, is bad for business and fiction is primarily meant to be an escape from reality.

Two, I’m going to try and not read or study anymore producers, actors, other authors or directors of any kind unless they’ve already passed on. The fact is I’ve been burned and let down by some of the blogs I’ve been looking at. I won’t name names, but some of the views expressed sound downright abysmal. I’ve learned a few things which have frustrated me.

Third, write 1,000 words a day minimum if possible. Not including blogging, tweeting or the like. It takes 30 minutes. It keeps me on schedule with everything I’m trying to do. Think about it. 1,000 words a day, at seven times a week. That’s a short story draft a week.

Fourth and final of my writing resolutions. Get published by two or three new publishers this year. The fact is, I want to prove that multiple people think my work can sell. If I’m published all the time by one or two guys, it suggests that I appeal to only a certain group of people. If I have four or five publishers who think I sell, then that says I might have something ideal.

So that’s it. Happy New Years, folks!

One Resolution to Rule Them All

I really hope that's a finger...

I really hope that's a finger...

So I slapped together a new resolution I call the ‘Goodbye 20s.’ I think the joy of the 30s is that they’re great earning years while I still have my general youth.

So I slapped together a short list that will grow throughout the next month. I like a balance of things. Some physical, body building stuff. Better finances. A few writing successes. A few social ones as well.

But I have a hard time coming up with things that are really “living it up.” Career successes and financial achievements are nifty. But saying, I don’t know, ‘I went on a sabbatical’ or the like is more ideal.

But it’s enough to get started. Not everything can be done. I’m unlikely to make enough money for the 20 to 30% down payment on a house I want to do (the more I pay now, the less I pay with interest later). But I can diet, work out, write and work to advance my career. Save money for that trip to Las Vegas.

Getting a body like one of these guys would be awesome. But I doubt I could gain that much muscle mass in a year. Before you ask how Chris Hemsworth overtook Ryan Gosling, a shirtless man who commands the respect of other men will always beat a lady killer, regardless of how much he works out.

Anyway, my writing slowed down again because of the release of my works’ production software. This came without warning to my team and I was suddenly up to my neck in work to do. It’s about done and goes live at noon today. I’m really, really looking forward to next week though. I can’t wait for things to go back to normal both at work and with the holidays. People and family demand a lot of time. And I hope to have some to myself to focus on working out, reading and writing.

Expect a review of Prospero Burns next week as well as The Scarlet Letter. Happy New Years!

A Fresh Start

Not pictured: What happens to Santa when the elves had a little Coca Cola.

Not pictured: What happens to Santa when the elves had a little too much Coca Cola.

So the combination of work, shopping for Christmas, writing stories and tackling projects at home has depleted my time for games and blogging. Tis the season, you see.

There’s so much I’ve wanted to do and I hadn’t realized it until now. Now being more than just Christmas 2011 or the coming start of a new year. In a way, it’s an important year. It’s the final year of my 20s. My birthday occurred late November and the time slipped away around Thanksgiving and I haven’t really gotten it back yet.

But that’s going to change soon. Christmas is a mere five days away, and after New Years there will be a big blank calender that I want to fill. So I’ve started a draft of my “Goodbye 20s” list.

Maybe I didn’t do everything I wanted to do before I turned thirty, but I’m going to try hard to get it now before it’s too late.

It can be frustrating though. I’ve done lists like this before and I saw incredible accomplishments and improvements. But there’s always more I wanted to do. Always more I wanted to add or improve upon. Part of my frustration ties into much larger goals that cannot be accomplished in a single year, or it hasn’t been the best years to do it.

I shouldn’t beat myself up for these failures. But I should act on them because it really is now or never. I don’t know what’s around the corner. I don’t know if I’ll be here near D.C. I don’t know if I’ll be employed. But the one thing I do know is that I won’t be young forever. So I’ve got to live it up.

This is my last blog until after Christmas. So happy holidays and Merry Christmas folks.