Sunday, June 27, 2010

Goalie issues – Writing Goals and Missing Them

This year I actually set out some solid writing goals for myself. I wrote them down. As I met them, I put a nifty little red check mark next to them. I was feeling pretty good, until I realized that it was June and I was pretty far behind in my goals. Let’s take a look and see what I’ve done and haven’t done.

For the first quarter I actually met all my goals but two. I submitted a short story to a magazine. I created my movie review blog. I gave all my sites a little facelift of some kind. I joined a new group or blog. I started my second draft on my space opera novel. I didn’t write a new short story, and I didn’t research the YA sci-fi market.

Right away, I’m ready with excuses. I love my movie review blog, and once I got rolling with it, I’ve been coming up with all kinds of things to write about. I’ve got a surplus of reviews just waiting to be published, and I’ve been doing my best at keeping up with “Satellite News” in their coverage of the MST3K episodes. It’s been a lot of fun, but it’s also taken a lot of time. So, no short story and no research.

I wasn’t too worried because I could just write two short stories in the second quarter right? Yeah, it hasn’t happened. So now I’m two short stories behind. My plan was to write four short stories and two novels this year. Well I’m down a novel too, because I wanted to start that in the second quarter. This isn’t that big of an issue because I really want to start working on my second draft of “Forever Cold” my supernatural thriller that I wrote for NaNoWriMo last year. I’ll count that as my novel work for this summer, and cook up something new for NaNoWriMo this year.

But the short stories are proving a bit tougher. I’m just not motivated to work on them. Is it because I’m focusing so much creative energy on the movie blog? Possibly. But I’m enjoying myself - a lot. And if writing isn’t fun, than there isn’t a point in doing it. But on the other side of the coin, if I don’t get my work out there, I can’t continue down the path to publication. It’s a bit of a dilemma.

I’ve got a short story to submit to a magazine for this quarter, but I haven’t done any groundwork for that yet. I’m hoping to get that done by the end of the month, but we’ll see. After that, I don’t have any other stories I feel real good about submitting anywhere. There is one that is pretty good, but I’m not completely confident about it. It’s not genre and I did it on a whim. I’ve got cold feet, but my wife enjoyed it quite a bit and I trust her judgment.

As for my Space Opera second draft, I like elements of it, but at the same time it has the origin story issues. Lots of setup and some of it bogs down the pace. I need a fresh pair of eyes to look it over. I’m nearly done with the draft, just need to clean up some issues that always show up in the first draft. You know, where a character does something, and then a chapter or two later they do something that completely negates the original action. These aren’t big issues, but they need to be fixed. I don’t want my readers to say “Why did he go to a hotel when he’s got a place in town?”

Third quarter will be spent on the second draft of “Forever Cold” and maybe I’ll be able to get some short stories done. I’m gonna continue the movie blog, but try to get my surplus reviews out there, and slow down the new reviews. Once Satellite news finishes Season Ten of MST3K they are going back to the old cable access episodes. I have no desire to watch those episodes (Season One is slow enough). So I will be able to review whatever episodes I want, and I’ve got some already written.

Fourth Quarter will be focused on NaNoWriMo and wrapping up any loose ends. Will I reach my goal of four short stories submitted, and four new ones written? Will I finish the second draft of “Forever Cold”? I hope so. I do know that I’m gonna print this page of goals out and put on the wall to replace the old goals I have from last year. Maybe with those staring me in the face I’ll stop writing the movie reviews and get back to fiction.

Do you make writing goals for yourself? How well do you stay on top of them? Do you have a technique to keep them on your mind? Do you find yourself getting sucked into a project and missing one of your goals – or am I just a big freak that way?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Converging Storylines – Count Zero

It’s been a few years since I tackled William Gibson’s “Neuromancer”. It was an interesting read for a few reasons. It is often considered the first real cyber-punk novel. It also ended up inspiring a role-playing game I enjoyed in my youth “Shadowrun” as well as provided some of the basic inspiration for the excellent anime franchise “Ghost in the Shell”.

So when I sat down to read “Count Zero” I had an idea of what to expect. Gibson has a very dense style of prose. He gets a little too flowery in his descriptions for my taste, but he does know how to craft an intriguing story.

“Count Zero” takes a tricky path. It presents us with three protagonists, each with their own storyline. Gibson then jumps from storyline to storyline with each new chapter. At first all three stories seem unrelated, but you begin to see threads that do unite them. Of course the ending has all the stories clash in one way or the other. In addition, the events of “Neuromancer” are used as set up for “Count Zero”. So if you plan on reading this book, I suggest you start with “Neuromancer” first. I was a little fuzzy on the older book and had to look some stuff up on fan sites to refresh my memory.

The tactic of using three different stories isn’t new, but it is a challenge. You need to be able to craft three stories that are equally interesting and then tie them together in a way that keeps the reader turning pages. This requires some serious skill in pacing and story development. For the most part Gibson succeeds. His three protagonists couldn’t be more different. You’ve got an experienced mercenary, a punk kid hacker and a disgraced woman searching for a mysterious artist.

The action fan in me enjoyed the mercenary’s story the most. But the hacker kid had a lot of action in his story as well (and a bit of humor). The woman searching for the artist started out a little slow, but her journey is the most mysterious. When she turned up I was looking forward to what new clue she would discover. I have to give Gibson credit for really weaving the story well and telling it in a fairly compact form. My copy of the book is 244 pages long.

As for the sci-fi elements, the view of the world here is taken from the 80’s. The Internet was in a very basic form at this point. The Matrix (this worlds version of the internet combined with virtual reality) seems a bit silly sounding to us now. Everyone is jacking in using wires and there are still public phones. Wireless technology isn’t around, but people have full holographic videophones. It’s an interesting view, one that was probably edgy in the mid 80’s when this was written.

But as with most good sci-fi, it is Gibson’s ideas that still carry over with time. Artificial Intelligence takes a key role in this book. The integration of computers with humans is also a major point. Both of these elements would be explored even deeper in “Ghost in the Shell”, but its very interesting to see how Gibson approaches them here.

Still it’s worth checking out for any sci-fi writers who haven’t read Gibson yet. His three story line structure is executed with skill and the story moves quickly. I’m looking forward to picking up more of his work.

What do you think of Gibson’s work? Have you read “Count Zero”? Have you tried writing an intertwined three story novel? Have you read another book using the same technique?