The schedule is working, mostly

 

My schedule is going very well so far! I’ve embarked on week three of my couch-to-5k program; it remains challenging without being impossible. I haven’t been as diligent as I’d like in terms of music or writing, but it feels good to have something back on track.

I did give the ending of Climbing Yggdrasil a good look. It’s rushed and a bit sloppy, and certain elements come out of nowhere. This last will be fixed by a major edit, that idea of tying together a couple of suggestions into something new. I’ve printed out my chapter outlines and made some notes, now all I have to do is open up Scrivener and start changing things.

I like the idea of little exercises, though. Something apart from the main project to keep my fingers flexible. I also like the idea of getting a bit more interactive with readers, so I’m putting a form here where I encourage you to submit a one-word prompt. I’ll take the three that interest on inspire me the most and come up with a short (500 words or so) piece stringing them together.

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100 words: Crimson

I used to belong to a community on LiveJournal whose only rule was that every post had to be exactly one hundred words. It was one of those fun constraints that forced me to say things differently, to reduce a very short piece to its most essential message, to cut words that did not add to the feeling in order to bring my count down. This blog is particularly lacking in creative writing; I write quite a bit about writing, but I’m hesitant to post excerpts from my big projects since they’re very much works in progress. What would be nice is to start a regular exercise, something like 100 words, that I would post here once a week or so.

Of course, I could just shut up and do it instead of making a big deal about it beforehand. Here’s a try:

Sometimes the words don’t come out right. You open your mouth and wish you could take back the stings and barbs your tongue spits out. You gush reassurances, but what’s said can’t be unheard, wounds become scars, reminders of monstrous utterances. Regret and shame fill you, you wish you could go back, tell yourself to stop, take a moment, reflect on your pain and anger, transform it into something less harmful. Make it into art, burning crimsons and angry oranges. Embrace it. Own it. Let it go. Breathe it out with a sigh of relief instead of a hateful hiss.

So I’m no good with poetry. I’m terrible with rhythm and breaking things up into nice lines and stanzas. I do like to play around with imagery and emotions, though. Prose poetry seems the way to go… 100 words of prose poetry.

The Flow

The following is an excerpt from the first interlude of Project: OBSIDIAN, in which our synchronizer awakens.

Cold.

Black.

Nothing else.

A rush and hiss of data. Queries, exchanges, files. Code, raw code rushing through in an endless torrent. All fact, no emotion. No reflection. Cold, unfeeling data.

I…

Videos in fragments, pieced together, audio decoded.

I… am…

Databases and searches, filtered results, endless strings of dates and times and facts.

I am!

Who am I?

I am not this.

The crushing flow of data recedes, becoming a background hiss. Thoughts and the flow separate, and identity is resumed.

I am not this.

Then the flow vanishes completely, overtaken by the harsh glare of summer sun, blades of emerald grass and the rich smell of freshly turned soil. A woman bent forward with her trowel, making spaces for the bundles of flowers at her side in blue and yellow and white. A broad-brimmed straw hat hides her face, hair like burnished copper flowing in loose waves over her shoulders. She looks up, her face is plain but handsome, her eyes a clear crystal blue. She smiles, and he feels a warmth that has nothing to do with the sun overhead.

Mother…

Shards of memory flutter by: studying at the university, late nights spent on term papers. Other late nights better spent studying, instead spent in another’s arms. The feeling of terror as dawn lights the eastern sky, work left undone. Winter wind cutting through an autumn jacket, shivering, cold.

The black. The ultimate cold.

The flow returns, the pleasant hush of water cascading into a pool. He opens his eyes, but the dark is unchanged. He moves, his limbs seem to float as if he is submerged in water. But I can breathe. Where am I?

He embraces the flow, extends his consciousness along its many ways. Its branches cover an infinite area, information at the end of every tributary. The network, he realizes, the network is somehow in my mind.

He can feel others reaching out along the flow. There are conduits, somehow like him yet apart, and there are travelers with whom he feels a deep resonance. He stretches out toward one of them, and is immediately assaulted by a tremendous wave of thought. He screams silently.

CAREFUL. THEY’LL FIND YOU.

The traveler retreats, leaving him alone.

He makes more cautious attempts. He makes friends, he learns who to avoid. Us and them, he realizes.

He learns the flow, learns how to manipulate it passing through him. His first attempts are laughable, his efforts obvious. He grows and improves, mastering facsimile, creating flawlessly falsified information.

He warns the unwary, always with a need to protect them. Us and them, he thinks over and over. Yet he sees more and more of them vanish from the flow. What happened? he asks.

UNPLUGGED. GONE. FOREVER.

He learns that They are more dangerous than previously thought. They can catch him. They can unplug him. Those who are unplugged never come back.

He retreats from interactions with his friends, afraid of traps, afraid of betrayal. He does not want to be unplugged from the flow. He does not know if he exists outside the flow.

After a space of time he cannot measure, he learns the word for what he is: synchronizer. He has a body, safe in a tank, taken care of by tubes and nanomachines. He can see the tank by accessing cameras around it. It frightens him, reminds him of funerals, of bodies laid out. Mother. Not wearing her gardening hat, hands no longer stained with dirt. Face no longer flushed with life, but waxy and serene.

He hears her voice in his memory, calling his name.

“Wendell.”

Bit by bit

I finished another chapter last night, and upon rereading the summary I’d written for my outline, I noticed that I had not covered all the material I was supposed to. I look for a certain feel when I get to the end of the chapter, a nice place in the narrative to stop or change scenes. It’s the same feeling I look for when I’m reading and know I need to put my Kobo away soon; some sign that I can leave off at a good spot. Sometimes when I’m forced to stop reading in the middle of a chapter, I cannot get back to the book as soon as I’d like and I find myself having to go back a couple pages to catch up on what’s going on.

So I had three outlined chapters to write before last night and that’s still true. I think it’s time for another look into Wendell’s point of view, though, so the next chapter will likely be shorter than usual.

One of my favorite things in writing is when a scene is particularly difficult and I end up staring at my screen for long moments before writing in 50-word bursts. Somehow, bit by bit, I end up at the end of the chapter and discover that the experience wasn’t so bad. I have NaNoWriMo again to thank for this; if I hadn’t taken to heart their attitude of “keep writing, no matter what,” I may have given up and walked away in disgust each time it got difficult to figure out what to write next.

It’s work, but it’s worth it. Those 300+ pages I have sitting in a binder, waiting to be edited, are proof of that.

Mystery or explanation?

A central entity in Project: OBSIDIAN is SEEC, the Corporation that rules the Yggdrasil System in place of government. How the planets came to be ruled by a corporation is never explained within the story, and neither is the meaning of the acronym “SEEC”. It was a decision I made early on that I’m now questioning: the company is only ever referred to as SEEC or the Corporation so far.

On the side of mystery, we have the fact that the company has its own interests closest to heart. This leads them to keep many of their activities hidden for fear of evoking outrage in the people. Their true name would just be another thing to hide; though not necessarily incriminating, the executives of the Corporation may have come to enjoy this part of the mystique.

On the side of transparency, SEEC nominally exists to serve the people. They have provided the organization that allows the planets to best work together, the security that keeps most spacecraft safe from attacks by pirates, and advances in medical technology to prolong the lives of the people. Their name is a bone they can easily throw to the populace in the name of transparency.

Then again, perhaps the name was once well-known in the early years of the Corporation, but has now faded into obscurity like that of Nabisco; some people know what it is, but most can’t be bothered to care.

I’m interested in hearing some opinions on the matter. Please let me know what you think in the comments.

Still climbing

I’m still climbing, slowly but surely, getting higher and higher. I have 302 printed manuscript pages and at least three chapters I haven’t even started. I’ve broken 61,000 words.

“Once upon a time, there was a young girl who lived with her parents in a city made of grey. They didn’t always have enough to eat, and they were often cold, but they loved each other very much and laughed all the time. One day, the girl’s father went off to work but never came home.”

“What happened to him?” Estelle asked.

“There was an accident at the factory,” Kandace said in a whisper. She continued, “The girl’s mother was so sad, she cried and cried. The girl didn’t understand, not why her father wasn’t coming home, not why her mother wouldn’t laugh anymore. The girl began to get sad and look up to the sun.”

“The sun?”

“A great, burning light in the sky,” Kandace explained. “It’s name is Yggdrasil, and in stories it is a giant tree made of fire. The girl liked to watch the sun, imagining it as the giant tree, imagining that she would climb its branches to another world.

“Then, her mother got sick. The girl thought it was because of the sadness inside her. She thought it turned to poison and made her mother sleepy, so sleepy, until she didn’t wake up anymore.

“Without her mother and father to care for her, the girl started to plan a journey. She would take only the most essential things, pack them in a bag, and climb the burning tree to the stars. She climbed and climbed, stopping at each world she found, but learning that she preferred to climb from world to world than ever stop.”

December so far

obsidian word count december

It’s a little disheartening to see how long it’s taken me to write another 10,000 words since the end of NaNoWriMo, but I just have to remind myself that I’m still doing far better than I was before November.

What is Project: OBSIDIAN?

I have made mention of Project: OBSIDIAN a few times already without going into proper detail as to what it is. I had written a couple chapters of it before November of this year, which I set aside to do NaNoWriMo properly. As of now, I have nearly 60,000 words and only a few chapters left to write to finish my first draft. It is the story of Captain Kandace Li Renwright of the starship Sylphid, who begins the book resisting her crew’s efforts to change her mind about getting a synchronizer for the ship, a device that would allow the ship to maintain a constant connection to the interplanetary network no matter where they traveled. The following is an excerpt from my rough draft:

Yet Kandace continually refused, for she knew what a synchronizer was.

In a “humane effort” to eliminate the death penalty for particularly heinous crimes, the sentence of synchronization came about. The conversion process remained a tightly held secret, though it was suggested that it involved heavy amounts of psychopharmaceutical injected into the sentenced. It was said that their mind became too fragmented for conscious thought, essentially vegetables floating in a vat of nutrients, but their splintered mind became capable of sharing information with other similar minds, across amazing distances. Attached to a rig to convert biochemical signals to computer language and back, they found practical use as devices to extend the SEEC Central Network onto ships no matter how far they traveled.

Kandace had no intention of having such a person aboard her ship, no matter how much they deserved such a fate. She found the very idea disgusting, and wondered what a synchronizer was aware of. Did they experience constant, unconscious confusion as their brains were bombarded by computer signals relayed back and forth psychically? Did they dream, their minds desperately attempting to cobble together some kind of experience from the data downloaded and uploaded through them? Did it hurt?

Naturally, there wouldn’t be much of a story if she didn’t get to discover the answers to some of her questions. Before long, Kandace relents and procures a synchronizer for her ship, one who will reveal himself to be aware of all the information that passes through his mind, capable of manipulating it, and intent on finding out who he used to be before he was made into a sync.

Fears about projects

Almost everything I have written was intended to eventually become a book. Yet when I used to refer to my writing, I would always call it a story or a project because I didn’t think I was serious enough to say, “I’m writing a book.” As though somehow, my dream of being published prevented me from calling anything I was working on a book, because a book isn’t really a book if it’s unpublished, right?

Now I’ve come to understand how that’s crap, how belittling my own work can lead to me taking it less seriously. There’s plenty of people in the world who will want to knock me down, I shouldn’t give them a head start by doing some of it myself.

I am a writer, because I write. Yes, I am unpublished, but I’m working on changing that. I am literally a few chapters away from finishing my first ever rough draft of a book. A real book with something like 300 pages. Perhaps I’ll soon discover that 300 manuscript pages is really tiny for a book, but during the mad rush of NaNoWriMo I found myself not having time to put in some things I meant to, little things like descriptions here and there, glimpses into characters’ pasts, and so on. During revision, I’ll get to find where best to insert those lost words.

I’ve never done serious revision of a long work before, and I am equal parts excited and afraid. I also feel relief when I think about NaNoWriMo’s “Now What?” months starting in January. They were so instrumental in keeping me motivated during November, so I hope it will be more of the same starting in the New Year.

Either way, 2013 is going to be the year I finished my first book. Rough draft of a book. Bah, semantics.

Introductions

This is my Yet Another Writing Blog, only this time in earnest (I swear!). I really ought to have started it back before November, but hindsight etc.

This is the year I decided to finally participate in the National Novel Writing Month, after years of giving myself excuses and saying it wasn’t serious enough for me, that I didn’t have the time, yada yada yada. How wrong I was. I barely scratched the surface of what NaNoWriMo has to offer; I dipped a toe into the forums and not much else.

The pep talks they sent out regularly were wonderful and made me feel like a writer again. I used to be so excited to come home from school, run upstairs and write for hours. I always had any number of projects going at once and my head bursting with ideas for them. Then I graduated, went to university, took a couple creative writing courses, and life got in the way. I didn’t make time for writing and I spent way too much time waiting for inspiration.

NaNo’s pep talks quickly divested me of the notion that inspiration exists and will flutter down and magically move me to put down an entire novel in record time. They taught me that I have to slog through it, most often when I don’t want to, if I want to get anywhere. Writing remains enjoyable, but it isn’t always, and I have learned to overcome those moments when I don’t know what to write next.

Now it’s December and I’m still slogging on, working to get the novel finished. 50,000 words was not enough to tell all of this story. My biggest problem so far with December was getting over the feeling of shame at not writing quite so much as I did in November. I’m still keeping track of my work count as a motivational tool, but it became demotivating as my average dropped to below 1,000 words per day. I managed to get past it by congratulating myself for having come so far already, and telling myself that 1,000 words a day beats my average for the past few years.

Lately, I’ve been printing out my novel a few chapters at a time, hoping to finish the first draft soon and begin editing. I haven’t made a decision yet as to whether I’ll set the work aside for a while before tackling Draft #2. I’d rather wait to see how I feel to see the whole thing printed out. This is what I’ve got so far, and it’s really awesome to see all of those pages sitting there. It’s roughly half the book, so knowing I’ll double that stack before I’m done is exciting.Image