Ate My Homework

Ever lose a really critical document? If you’ve ever used Word, the answer is probably yes. Especially if you’ve used Word on the Mac.

I haven’t ever lost a document because I am pretty compulsive when it comes to backing documents up. My use of computers predates the availability of hard drives for home use, so a lack of trust in computers is pretty well-ingrained with me.

I still managed to lose an extensive collection of movies and scanned comic book collection to a thunderstorm once, when the power outage destroyed a system that had “mirrored” hard drives. So now I don’t trust them either.

Here is a story from one of my favorite sites, Brain Pickings, about John Steinbeck and how he lost the half-written (by hand!) manuscript to Of Mice and Men.

The dog ate it.

No. Really.

(I had a truly epic rant queued up for this week, but it seems that the act of writing it helped me get over my anger and in the cool light of day, the epic rant looks, well, lame. Sorry for the hasty replacement.)

Resolutions and Time Management Bullshit

922I’m not a New Year’s Resolution guy.  The beginnings and endings of years have always felt arbitrary to me, and the dead of Winter seems like an odd time to start new endeavors unless maybe they’re endeavors to wear thicker socks or take down the Christmas Decorations before MLK Day.

This year looks a little different, however. NaNoWriMo had me finishing my very first rough draft of a novel right at the start of December.  I learned a lot in that month, including that this whole writing thing might be a possibility for me.

So making my plans for what to write next, as well as editing the draft I wrote in November, fall right at the New Year. I started a second book while I let the other draft sit, and I need to start taking this blog more seriously so that if/when I publish something there might be a handful of people that want to read it.

This sounds like a lead-in to some resolutions, right? “Finish the draft I am currently working on!” “Edit the other one!” “Post on the blog at least once a week.”

Yeah, not so much.

Resolutions are like diets. They’re temporary transitions that tend to only last for a short period of time since they fail to address the real problem. What has to happen is much more simple and straightforward: I need to write.

I can set all kinds of goals, but if I don’t write, it doesn’t matter. Whether I fail to write 100 words a day or three books in 2017. I didn’t write. Same thing.

For a long time, the key seemed to be time management. More often than not I find myself saying “I didn’t have time to write.” How do I remove that excuse? By managing time better, right?

Fortunately, the Internet is here to save the day. If there’s one topic the ‘net has covered, it’s time management.  You can find millions of articles about how to manage your time.  Google rounded my results for “time management tips” at 61.7 million. The only how-to topics I can think of that might even be close to competitive would be “how to train a dog,” “how to write a novel,” and “how to manage software engineering.

But like the other three topics, most of what you’ll find about time management is bullshit. (I do feel obligated to point out that the amount of unvarnished horseshit shoveled in the name of managing developers is truly unparalleled, though.) As this article says, time management is killing us.

Much of the talk about time management is about avoiding doing the work. Peter Drucker famously said, “What gets measured, gets managed.” He didn’t follow his famous quote with  “and what gets managed gets done” I don’t think anyone ever said that. It might get done, or it might just get talked to death, have a few hundred books and a few thousand LinkedIn posts written about it, and be mentioned in a few Six Sigma courses.

It could go either way.

But I digress. Again.

Time management is not the solution. The solution is prioritization. Writing is important and I need to get it done. The day job will take priority. The family will, too.

But writing will happen.

Christopher Walken Reads Edgar Allan Poe

raven reading a book2017 is gonna be weird. Let’s get started on the right foot, shall we?

Poe is a favorite of mine, dating back to an assigned reading of The Telltale Heart in middle school.

It’s easy to imagine Poe being read aloud with an accent, maybe a slightly British one, even though he is a distinctly American author. Or maybe that pompous twang that William F. Buckley had.  He’s hip again, now that conservatives have gone extinct and been replaced with kleptocrats and whiny white bigots, hearing a New England snob reading some Poe might be comforting.

But I digress.

Poe’s mid-nineteenth century writing lends itself to being read in a “formal” tone, probably by a gentleman wearing a dinner jacket and a cravat. That’s right mid-nineteenth century! I often forget that he died 40 years before H.P. Lovecraft was born!

But how does Poe sound with Walken’s offbeat pauses and Queens lilt? Quite good, actually. Take a listen.

Happy New Year. Say “hi” to the raven for me.

Heroes, Actions, and Consequences

This is a long video. With today’s online audience, a 12 minute YouTube might as well be 90 minutes. But it’s worth watching; especially if you are a storyteller.

I have a problem with my NaNoWriMo project, and this video is helping me figure out a solution. One that I think will improve the novel.

My heroes have secrets. These secrets are unveiled as the story progresses, which makes my heroes poor choices for my point-of-view (POV) characters. Having them be implicitly or explicitly dishonest with the viewer is at best a gimmick and at worst reason to put the book down forever.

So I need new characters to provide the POV. How do I do this without obscuring the story? How do I add a new character with him or her just being a prop? This video demonstrates how; I use the POV character to explore the impact of my heroes’ actions.

It’s going to require some juggling to get the character where he or she needs to be, but it’s making me consider my plot in a completely different light, and I like it.

Here Comes NanoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month 2016 (NaNoWriMo) is almost here. If you’re not familiar with NaNoWriMo, it means what it says; write a novel in a month. “Writing a novel” means a 50,000-word first draft, but the criteria for success is up to the participant.

I am participating for the first time this year. I’ve decided to set my ongoing project, the book about my grandfather, and work on a fantasy novel that’s been banging around in the back of my mind for a couple of years.

When I started to focus on the book about my grandfather I was worried about making it my first project, and I was right: it’s too personal, and the plotting is a little tricky.

The fantasy story, which is primarily (but not only) about a character named Johann Hehl, is a bit more straightforward and less personal. I think it’s a unique take on the genre, but I suppose most authors start out saying that.

50,000 words are a lot in a single month, and I will need to prioritize the book over the blog. I’ll do my best to check in and at least post some quick updates.

Is anyone else participating this year? Let me know in the comments.