Sunday, November 29, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - November 29

Just a short update today. Thanksgiving came around and pretty much ate up my free time. Well that and I celebrated meeting my National Novel Writing Month goal by... um... not writing. Damn video games and movies were calling my name so I indulged. Then I felt guilty afterwards... just like a typical Thanksgiving feast. :)

But I was determined to get some writing in on Sunday and I did. My antagonist made her final play and is drawing the protagonists to her. During this sequence I explored a little of her history. I'm very tempted to write a novella about her and what brought her to this juncture. It could be very interesting. But for now, I wanted to keep it all veiled hints and disturbing one liners.

My protagonists are about to run into something nasty. I created these creatures back in the 1990s as part of a short story that inspired this end sequence. I hope they are as creepy as I remember them being when I first brought them to life. The protagonists are in for some trouble.

Music for this run:

  • Bram Stoker's Dracula - Wojciech Kilar
  • Penny Dreadful: Season One - Abel Korzeniowski
Final Word Count: 53594

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - November 24

Well it finally happened, as I knew it would. I reached the goal for National Novel Writing Month and as you can see from the image, I'm a winner! It feels pretty darn good, especially reaching that goal during an intense month at work and some unexpected incidents at home. As I mentioned when I started this project, I had some trepidation about giving this a try, especially since it had been a few years since I've written any long form fiction. But it all came back to me. Yeah there's the self doubt and the crazy moments of feeling lost without a plot map. But there are also those wonderful moments when everything just clicks. I had forgotten how great those euphoric moments are. I really missed that feeling.

I'm making it sound like the novel is done. But it isn't.

I met the goal, but the story isn't finished yet. I've still got a journey to complete beyond NaNoWriMo. At this point the characters are about to face their biggest challenge yet from the main antagonist. Then they will strike back and attempt to finish her one way or the other. I gotta admit that  some of them are not going to make it (writing death scenes for characters I've come to like is always tough). But that is still a bit a way. Plenty of writing needs to be done to get to that conclusion.

So that means that NaNoWriMo may be over for me, but the writing isn't done. I'm planning on keeping my schedule and momentum up until I finish this draft. Hope to get it done my mid December and then let it sit for a month or two.

So allow me to celebrate a little bit tonight, but also don't let my momentum flag either. I want to get this novel done. I think it may be the start of something really exciting.

Music for this run:

  • Batman Returns - Danny Elfman
  • The Shadow - Jerry Goldsmith
Final Word Count: 50551

Sunday, November 22, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - November 22

Not too much exciting to talk about for this writing run. It went really well. I completed the scene where my main antagonist revealed herself. Well, I had written it before, but that was in the "deleted scene" that I'm throwing out. This version plays out a bit different. I had one of my protagonists interact with her, and attempt to resist her overwhelming powers. Then I switched around to her point of view after she got what she wanted from him. This worked SO much better than having the Book of Thoth moment with one character speaking about the antagonist's motivations. Instead we get to hear them from her point of view. It gives her character more depth, and we realize why she's doing the things she's doing. I also had fun with the protagonist attempting a battle of wills with her and not handling it well. It was kind of funny and sad all at the same time.

Started in on the next chapter where my other protagonist finds himself in a alien environment. It is strange how much easier this similar sequence is to write this time around. Well that's about it. Looking forward to continuing tomorrow.

Music for this run:

  • Batman (soundtrack) - Danny Elfman
  • The Ninth Gate (soundtrack) - Wojciech Kilar
  • The Uninvited (soundtrack) - Christopher Young
Final Word Count: 45544

Thursday, November 19, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - November 19

So Tuesday was a bad writing day. I felt like I was going through the motions. I attributed that to me being tired. And I was. But I think there was something else going on.

Stephen King said something to the effect of "if you are bored writing the story than imagine what it is like reading it". I was bored writing the chapter I was working on, it was that simple. So on Wednesday I started mulling over what was wrong with that chapter. I always think better when I'm walking, so during my breaks at work I went over the issues in my head during my stroll around the building in the crisp autumn air.

I realized that my main protagonist had been relegated to a supporting character? How did I manage that? Easy, the item that all the other characters wanted was no longer in his possession. The key source of conflict was now moved to another character. My protagonist was left doing errand boy work (which could shape up to be exciting and all, but seriously who wants to read about an errand boy in a supernatural thriller?).

What is kind of funny is that I subconsciously realized what I was doing. I actually had quite a few moments where the character was thinking that he really couldn't let this object go to any of the factions that wanted it. The thing was too damn dangerous. But then I had one of the factions sweet talk it over to them. If I do end up going in that direction it should happen in the final third of the book, not at the half way point.

Instead it would be better to stretch the tension with my protagonist still in possession of the item, still being pursued and confronted by those that want it, and still be afraid of losing it. That is where the conflict lies and that is what drives the action.

Once I got that figured out I suddenly felt like I had the momentum back in my story. I was excited to start writing again.

One small problem, for this new story path to work, I'd basically have to scrap the last five chapters I'd worked on. We are talking about roughly 12,800 words. Ouch. But that was the best place to have the story switch gears to this more action oriented path. Suddenly those three chapters of exposition were gone. Some of that fun dialogue was gone, but also some of that bad dialogue that was essentially me just spewing out lines while looking for the hook. I tend to do that and it's a bad habit.

For NaNoWriMo purposes I'm not going to cut out that chunk for my word count. It is still words I typed for the novel and I'm actually still going to use portions of it. Some of the discussions, settings and confrontations will still occur, but they will be modified and happen in different places. It won't be wasted, its more like a deleted scene in a film, one that director thought was working, but was actually too clunky and was replaced by something more streamlined and engaging (at least that is what I hope it is).

And that is my final fear. Self doubt is my biggest issue as a fiction writer. Mr. King also said something to the effect of "your initial instinct on the story is usually the right one". Of course that word "usually" is sitting in there. I'm rusty on writing long fiction, and I knew I'd probably make some kind of storytelling mistake. I'm glad I caught it and figured out what the problem was.

Tonight's writing went great. I had a few interruptions but I still managed to write beyond the minimum, and frankly I'm still wanting to work on the story, but I'm just stopping because it is so late. That is a great sign. I've got several scenes planned out, and I'm looking forward to writing them. All in all this is a great learning experience and since I documented it in this blog I can always come back to it if this happens again with another novel.

Music for this run:

  • i Robot (soundtrack) - Marco Beltrami
  • Pan's Labyrinth (soundtrack) - Javiere Navarrese (Holy Crap is this a great score!)
Final Word Count: 42200

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - November 17

Well I have to admit, today was the first day where it was a bit of a chore to write. I went past the minimum word count, which is a good thing. But it really felt like I was really running on empty here. Part of it was the simple fact that I was pretty damn tired when I got home from work. It was a busy day where I  had to be way more of an extrovert than I'm used to. That combined with not much sleep the night before pretty much meant I was not in the mood to tackle my novel. I probably should have swapped my day off.

But I pressed on and got a chapter done. It was a good balance of description and dialogue as my main protagonist arrives at the location for the final confrontation. This location is based on a story I came up with in the 1990s. I always liked it, so it is a bit of fun to write about it again. But I'm wondering if my familiarity with the setting is part of what made the writing so difficult.

Well that's about all I have to write about writing tonight. I'm heading to bed, and will hopefully be able to recharge tomorrow so I can get some quality writing in on Thursday.

Music for this run:

  • Pi (soundtrack) - Clint Mansell, Orbital, David Holmes, Psilonaut, Massive Attack, etc.
  • Reflections II (electronica/trance) - Delirium
Final Word Count: 38828

Monday, November 16, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - November 16

Well today wasn't great for writing. Had a one-two punch of work eating into my writing time, and my brain being pretty fried by the work day. I found it hard to focus on the story. My mind kept wandering to work issues and planning for tomorrow instead of just writing the story in front of me. As a result I didn't quite hit the minimum word count I needed to. Disappointing, but not a deal breaker. I'm still ahead of where I need to be.

One thing that is troubling me is that I'm setting things up for the final confrontation. This is requiring me to get characters in place and heading toward one point to face off. The last few chapters have been dealing with that and it all kind of feels like a bunch of talking, planning and exposition. Not terribly exciting stuff when you really think about it. I do have some confrontations and battles of will, but the explosive action of the first half seems to have hit a lull.

So in the back of my mind I'm wondering how much of this is going to get reworked and just plain deleted. I have to have some kind of written explanation of why characters are ending up in this one spot and why they are prepared to attempt certain actions. If they just appear and start doing odd stuff it will just seem lame (I think it will, maybe it will be a fun surprise). In any case, I don't see a better way to get essentially four groups of people in different locations all heading toward this one point without them interacting and talking.

Hopefully I've just got the "needy-ass-writer-blues", which is an official thing. I hope that when I reread this for the first edit pass through it won't be bad at all, and just need a few tweaks and trims. The main goal is to just keep writing. And I'm going to do just that.

Music for this run:

  • Priest (soundtrack) - Christopher Young
  • Species (soundtrack) - Christopher Young
Final Word Count: 35709

Sunday, November 15, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - November 15

A short update today, but I got a lot of writing in. I decided to write a chapter dealing with my protagonist planning his next move with his new companions. The chapter ended with the first stage of the plan proceeding, but an unexpected event occurring that changes everything.

The next chapter I started deals my other protagonist coming face to face with the main antagonist herself. It was fun to describe her abilities and appearance. She started questioning my protagonist and attempting to figure out her next move. Should prove to be a good conversation that will carry into the next day of writing.

All in all today's writing flew by and was a lot of fun. I'm thinking the final book may go longer than the required word count for NaNoWriMo, but you know what, that's just fine with me.

Music for this run:

  • The Ring/The Ring 2 (soundtrack) - Hans Zimmer
  • Seventh Son (soundtrack) - Marco Beltrami
  • Hellboy (soundtrack) - Marco Beltrame
Final Word Count: 33186

Thursday, November 12, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - November 12

So first things first, I had to rework the action scene I ended with last night. I went back and reread the scene and realized that I could keep the same set up and even the same distraction the protagonists attempt, but the actual confrontation (which only lasted a paragraph in the original version) got expanded. I really turned the tables against the protagonists and it helped raise the tension of the whole scene (I hope). I also had the main antagonist make her first big appearance, but did in a way that the main character doesn't really see the specifics of what happens. So he is impressed by her show of force, but doesn't really see her. I hope it reads as well as it played out in my imagination.

After that I had a Book of Thoth chapter. I think it was Joss Whedon who talked about those moments in supernatural thrillers where the characters obtain wise advice from a mentor, or a sage or a book (or all three) and that sets things up for the final confrontation. He called them: Book of Thoth scenes. If memory serves he disliked having those moments stop the plot. I can see where he is coming from because this chapter was nothing but a dialogue that went on for pages and pages. Since I love dialogue, I had no problem with it, but in the back of my mind I'm wondering how much is going to get edited out just so I can keep the pacing brisk and lively.

It's a dilemma I've faced before. My protagonist will not know any of this stuff (dealing with the occult and the forces arrayed against him). Keeping him ignorant up till this point helps build suspense and add tension. But it means I have to give him an info dump in the middle of the story. The other option is to feed him some of this as the story goes along. That might work, but I have to be careful to give him enough to be dangerous, maybe increase the tension because he knows a little out the enemies he's facing. I don't know. But I don't have to worry about that right now. First draft is all about getting it down. My first editing pass will be looking at that monster chapter.

Coming up next... well I can go with another dialogue scene between the main antagonist and her prisoner. Or I can put that off for a chapter and stick with my protagonist preparing for the upcoming battle, or maybe starting the hunt. I'm on the fence, but we'll see where it falls this weekend.

Music for this run:

  • The Woman in Black (soundtrack) - Marco Beltrami
  • Thor (soundtrack) - Patrick Doyle
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (soundtrack) - Michael Giacchino
Final Word Count: 29023

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - November 11

So Tuesday was pretty much a non-writing day. I'm fine with that, as long as Wednesday could turn into a writing day, and luckily it did. I got up this morning and suddenly that plot motivator issue I thought I had was solved.

I mentioned that supernatural incident that happened a couple of chapters back, well I had a ready made solution to my issue right there. What if that supernatural item wasn't just the treasure everyone was after, but had a magic boobytrap placed on it. It would make perfect sense considering who originally had it. Suddenly the plot was writing itself again. The boobytrap was triggered and my characters were back in peril again. Things quickly escalated and there was more tension, some fun dialogue scenes and another hint at the main antagonist.

Things progressed pretty well until right near the end of my writing run. The action scene I finished up felt a lot like the one I just did. I did shake it up a little bit, but I was worried that it might be too stale. I glanced at my outline and saw that my primary antagonist was supposed to strike in a separate scene. But what if she struck in the middle of this fight scene? That would make this even more chaotic and interesting. So I think I will have her appear, (but none of my protagonists will get a good look at her) and clash with my folks in this scene. That may mean some rewriting of the action scene, but I did get a good chunk of my word count today. Passed the halfway mark! So if I have to rework things a little bit tomorrow, I'm not too worried.

Music for this run:

  • The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey (soundtrack) - Howard Shore
  • Maleficent (soundtrack) - James Newton Howard
  • Snowpiercer (soundtrack) - Marco Beltrami
Final Word Count: 25090

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - November 9

Well yesterday hit an unexpected snag. Life walked in, figured it was time to throw a real wrench in things and did just that. So I didn't get much writing done at all. That said, the story progressed a little bit. But the first self doubts are creeping in. Once again, I'm feeling like I don't have a real driver for this middle portion of the story. Do I introduce the primary antagonist now? Do I have some of her minions show up? I was hoping to keep that whole thing bottled up till closer to the third act, but at this point it feels like the story is running out of momentum. Hopefully I'll get some inspiration on how to get to that next plot point before I pick up the story again.

Music for this run:
  • Knowing (soundtrack) - Marco Beltrami
Final Word Count: 20301

Saturday, November 7, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - November 7

Had some fun today. First up was a car chase. I haven't had a chance to write one of those in many years. Starship dogfights - did one of those last year. But a car chase, damn I think I have to go back to the 1990s for one of those. Funny thing is, that old car chase is from a story that contains a few characters and situations that I borrowed and used as inspiration for this current story. Kind of funny how that all works out.

The car chase was not easy to write, since I'm not a big car guy. But with NaNoWriMo going on, I told my inner editor not to sweat the details and approached the whole thing like a film storyboard. I'm not sure how well it will read, but I think I got across the perils of two cars hurtling around curves on a lonely forest road.

When the chase ends a shootout erupts. That was also fun to write. Got to throw a few surprises at my protagonists as they fought for their lives and ended up getting battered and bloodied. These poor guys are going to need a serious rest after all this is done (if they survive).

After the corpses hit the floor, my protagonists had some clean up to do, and some more grisly actions to take. For them, this is really the threshold, they've been initiated in blood and now must pursue the course of action till the end.

Up till this point, I've kept the supernatural elements as merely hinted at. Both protagonists have seen things (or thought they've seen things) that they can explain away. But at in the scene I just wrote something happens that changes the whole deal. They both see it and they can't explain it. It is supernatural, and they are tied up in it.

I wasn't expecting this moment to play out like that, but it just happened.  It was one of those writing moments - you feel it happening and it feels so perfect for the story. I love when that happens. This was a good day for the novel, that's for sure.

Music for this run:

  • Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (game soundtrack) - Oscar Araujo
  • Heat (soundtrack) - Elliot Goldenthal, Moby, Passengers, Kronos Quartet, etc.
  • World War Z (Soundtrack) - Marco Beltrami
  • Permanent Midnight (Soundtrack) - The Crystal Method, Girls against Boys, BT, Moby, Morcheeba etc.
Final Word Count: 19364

Thursday, November 5, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - November 5

So I was actually a bit nervous to take Wednesday off. I was on a roll on Tuesday night and thought that my scheduled break might do more harm than good. But taking days off between the writing worked well for me in previous NaNoWriMo runs, so I figured, why change a good thing. And the day off worked great. I was able to go over the upcoming confrontation scene in my mind and get some of the details a bit clearer. I also created a little makeshift map during lunch and planned out where I wanted everyone.

Stuff like that rarely comes across in my writing. But the planning helps me visualize those scenes and write them with a bit more ease. I still ended up stopping for a bit, considering the best way to approach it and then starting up again. My original concept was to have the scene play out and jump between the protagonists and antagonists as it occurred. But that seemed too cumbersome when it came down to it.

I ended up writing the confrontation from the protagonists point of view, jumping back and forth between the two gents (who are viewing it from different places in the desert). It worked out pretty well. I'm curious to how it reads when I come back to edit. I ended the chapter with the antagonists having a conversation about what just happened, so I was able to get their point of view.

Funny thing about that moment is that one of the characters just stepped forward full of personalty that I wasn't expecting. She made an impression and I'm looking forward to writing more for her later in the novel.

Next up was dialogue, my favorite bits to write. Had a lot of fun with three characters trying to talk circles around each other, but none of them really getting what they want out of the conversation. It probably goes on way too long, but it was fun to write. I'm taking Friday off, but Saturday or Sunday I'll be back at it. I've got a surprising situation for the protagonists to deal with in this next portion. It will be fun to write.

Music for this run:

  • Tomorrowland (soundtrack) - Michael Giacchino
  • Hellboy (soundtrack) - Marco Beltrami
  • Wolverine (soundtrack) - Marco Beltrami

Final Word Count: 14617

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - November 3

So today was the start of the great unknown. Well at least as far as this novel goes. I had planned my scenes out pretty well up till this point. From here on in I have vague ideas of scenes and a general direction of the plot and conflict, but the details are murky. This is usually where I start slowing down in my word count and yeah that did happen.

I also find myself getting distracted as I try to get into the writing zone. To avoid this, I shut off my internet browser and just focused on Word and iTunes. Less distractions meant more writing. I ended up looking up how to spell Quonset hut. Wikipedia to the rescue!

Most of my writing today focused on describing a key setting in the desert. One of my weaknesses as a writer is my lack of description for setting. In this case I wanted to establish a creepy atmosphere to the place, so I went into quite a bit of detail. I'm thinking some of that will get cut in the editing process, but I feel that going overboard in the first draft is better then writing less, at least for setting material.

This particular setting has appeared in two of my previous stories. It was the location of a bloody finale in one of the first short stories I ever wrote. I also used the same location in my Nanowrimo novels from 2009. In that case, I opened the story there for a bloody confrontation. This time it appears near the beginning, but it is the site of another violent encounter. I put a little homage to my previous stories with a blood stained wall in a key location. it's an in joke for the five people who have read both of those stories.

Coming up next is that confrontation, the first major one of the book. I'm feeling a bit intimidated because I don't have it planned out too well. But I have an end point firmly in sight, so I'll just need to dive in and see what the characters do. In any case, there will be blood.

Writing Music for this Run:

  • The Ghost and the Darkness (soundtrack) - Jerry Goldsmith
  • A Passage in Time - Dead can Dance
  • Passion of the Christ (Soundtrack Suite) - John Debney
Final Word Count: 10625

Monday, November 2, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - November 2

Wasn't sure how far I was going to get today. I knew I'd have a couple of interruptions for sure, but things actually went pretty well. I cranked out another chapter and started in on the next one. But I'm getting to the point of the story that I don't have planned out as well. This is usually where I start running into issues with meeting that word count. But we'll see.

I have a better grasp of where I want to go now than I did yesterday. I spent a few minutes today writing down the motivations for the three factions involved in this story. Essentially my protagonists get involved in a much larger struggle they know nothing about. At first I just had some vague idea of these antagonists being... well antagonists. I needed to know more than that, so I wrote a few sentences about what was motivating them, and that actually helped create some additional conflict in the story.

The thing is, my protagonists don't know why they were hired, it's not their job to know why. But once they find out why (because what is the fun if they don't know) then it will impact how they react to the antagonists. It should make the later portions of the book more interesting since one group of antagonists is actually trying to protect people and the protagonists are actually getting in the way without knowing it.

And my characters did their first bit of off roading today. I had originally planned for a dialogue scene in a club. But things went awry and it turned out to be a dialogue scene in a bed with naked characters! Wow. Didn't see that coming!

Anyway, a good night of writing, but it did feel like I lost some steam as I started the next (unplotted) chapter.

Writing music for this run:
  • Carlitos Way (soundtrack suite) - Patrick Doyle
  • Hard Rain (soundtrack) - Christopher Young
  • Priest (soundtrack) - Christopher Young
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes (soundtrack suite) - Patrick Doyle
Final word count: 7531

Sunday, November 1, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - November 1

So I decided to give National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) a shot this year. I'll be tracking some of my progress, thoughts and mental anguish on this ancient blog. Been a while since I've posted something here, but I can't really reconcile putting these updates on my Movie Review blog.

So I'm working on one of my favorite genre's to write, supernatural thriller. It's got a definite Lovecraftian inspiration to it. But this story is also a bit more action oriented than my previous works. In a way I'm actually adapting a couple of my older stories in a new guise. Swapping out some characters here, some settings there and changing the overall outcome. The goal is to introduce the world these stories (yes I'm planning more of these) and set up the main characters. This is a kind of origin story with hints at the larger conflict I've got brewing.

One of the big differences here is that main characters are both male. Oddly enough that is rare in my fiction. I usually have one female protagonist. I think I'll have to focus on making sure both my male leads don't sound like the same guy talking.

I didn't get as much prep work completed as I wanted. I really should have character bios hammered out for both these guys and the main antagonists. I've got a basic idea about both of them, but with my week long business trip cutting into my writing time last week, I did't get the prepping work done.

Still I did create a basic framework for the story, and that will be my guide as I write. I like to create a basic outline for most stories, but I don't hold myself to it. Too often the characters take things in unusual directions that are just too fun to ignore.

Charted out my course for writing. I want to give myself three days off a week. That means I have to write about 2,777 words a day to meet the 50,000 word goal. That sounds really doable, especially if I can get ahead in the word count.

I ended up spending a few minutes formatting my document before I actually got started. I spent too many minutes messing with fonts, styles and line spacing. Ugh, I really should have done that last week.

I also ran into an issue where I wanted to put an accent on a character's name and spent too much time trying to figure out how to do that in Word. Realized I was wasting time and just wrote around it. This is a speed run for a first draft, it doesn't have to be perfect, right?

Writing music for this run:

  • Heat (soundtrack) - Various Artists including Eliot Goldenthal, Kronos Quartet, Passengers and Moby
  • Original Soundtracks 1 - Passengers (U2 and friends)
  • I Like to Score - Moby
  • Collateral (soundtrack) - Various Artists including James Newton Howard
  • Lost Highway (soundtrack) - Various Artists including Angelo Badalamenti, Barry Adamson, Trent Reznor and Smashing Pumpkin
Final word count: 4,420