Monday, October 29, 2007

Troll story first draft nearing completion

It's 10/29/07, and so far I've worked on my stories every day this month. As a consequence, I get more done every time I sit down. At least, as long as I avoid the internet. ;)

I'm writing a few key glue scenes now for my "Elf and Troll" story. I used to laugh at the idea that titles would be difficult. Now it seems I can never come up with titles that I'm happy with for my stories. I'm having great fun with this one.

This one got started one morning at our church, when I had some time while the kids were in Sunday school. I had a notebook and I started jotting down a story. I finished most of the first half of this story that day, I think, in very early draft form anyway. But like a lot of stories, it didn't feel finished, and I ended up reworking and complicating it for a long time.

I think it's in pretty good shape now. But there's still work to be done. The stage I'm nearing is one where I'll have all the bits in pretty good order, but it will still need a lot of polishing. But that point where I feel like I have all the key story points told, and in the proper order, so that it's a full and complete story with no gaping holes....that's a key point. After a little polish, I can then start sending it out for review and get some feedback.

Meanwhile, I'm delaying reviewing my draft of "The Elf on Cotton Street" until I finish this "Elf and Troll" work. That's what makes sense to me.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Finished first typed draft, restarted work on "Elf and Troll"

So I finished the first typed draft of "Elf on Cotton Street" this weekend, which was a nice milestone. And I had to find something else to work on, because I want to let the draft sit for a while. So I went back to the story I'd dropped to work on this one. :)

I had an enjoyable session rereading what I'd written of "Elf and Troll", which will almost certainly have some other title before I'm done. Why are titles so hard for me? I look at Cory Doctorow's stories, and they often seem like they could have no other title. A story like his "I, Rowboat" seems like it could have been generated from that pun alone.

Anyway, I had become vague about what was left to do on "Elf and Troll" in the interim. Basically, it needs a few scenes in the middle. I wrote the beginning and the ending. :) Not sure that that's necessarily a good idea, given that the middle's often the hardest part, but it could be a way to combat the malaise of the complicated middle of a story. I mean, I'm probably more likely to come back and finish this one because there's just a little middle left to do.

I had a blast re-reading it, so that was a really good thing. I've seldom enjoyed reading my own writing quite so much as that. I realized later that I had a cup of coffee before I read it, so that has to factor into things. :)

Maker Faire Austin 2007...a few notes

We went to the Maker Faire yesterday. It was great -- one of the most enjoyable festival experiences I've had.

My favorite display was one involving magnetic fish in water. I can't remember the name of the device, and a quick web search isn't locating it. The fellow had created several gadgets, each of which involved a plexiglass cube filled with water, with a magnet floating in it; the magnet was nestled inside a sheet foam shape. The cube had coils of wire on every face, so that every vertex had wires on it. Each device had controls -- in two cases, the controls were game controllers with dual joysticks. By manipulating the joysticks, you could make the magnet quickly move to any point within the cube. This was done by energizing the coils with magnetic fields. It was marvelous. You could move the magnet around in 3d space effortlessly.

Pros of the fair:
  • Most of the booths had an interactive component
  • There wasn't a ton of stuff for sale
  • The Maker schtick incorporates art and engineering and craft in a really empowering way.
  • Kids were mostly kept entertained
  • Fire displays at the Ring of Fire
  • We actually modified some clothes to take home at the Swap-o-rama-rama.
  • Lots of computer-manufacturing gizmos and rapid-prototyping gadgets. I love that stuff.
  • Saw several people I knew while I was there.
  • Art cars!

  • Tickets were $25. That's a lot of money to drop up front. With the kids, we paid $70 to get in the door. Now, once inside, we only spent money on food.
  • Food was insanely expensive. Well, I guess no more expensive than ballpark food usually is. But I'm becoming curmudgeonly about this stuff. $5 for a taco, $3.50 for a drink is an expensive way to feed a family.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Order of the Stick knocks one out of the park

I have to say that The Order of the Stick has really grown far beyond its genre position as a role-playing-game webcomic. This episode proves it. I think you don't need to know much about the comic's backstory to get this one, and I hope that if you read it, it'll motivate you to go back to the beginning and read this one from the get-go.

Using D&D conventions, the author is able to riff on the afterlife -- an afterlife where one might be called back to regular corporeality by a resurrection spell at any time. So he's able to have a character converse with his dead parents. He's been doing that for several episodes. It's good stuff.

The two-minute version of The Order of the Stick? It's about a group of sword- and spell-wielding adventurers in a four-color version of a Dungeons and Dragons world...people for whom the rules of spell-casting and game combat are the physics of life. Its characters mock stereotypes while trying to save the world and cope with the widely varying personalities of their team. It's damn funny in each instance, but it also builds up over time.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Not breaking the chain yet

Still writing every day. Now it looks like I'll be finished with the first typed draft of "Elf on Cotton Street" within a couple of days. Apparently my longhand got bigger and looser as the draft got longer...and there was more stuff that now seems worth cutting. ;) Anyway, that means I can get to the next editing stage sooner.

I refer to "not breaking the chain" from an article about a tip from Jerry Seinfeld, about marking your calendar for every day that you stick with your goal, and thinking about it as a chain of days. I read it here, on LifeHacker, but I think this has been written about in a lot of different places.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Finished first draft!

It's amazing what writing every day will do for you. Yestereve I realized I was getting darn close to the end of a first draft of my current project, "The Elf of Cotton Street", and that inspired me to spend more time than usual. Today at lunch I reached the last scene.

I feel good. It's a pretty rough draft, with lots of telling and meandering, but it's good work. It's a complete rewrite of the original, and a lot more happens. I feel like I know the characters and the setting very well and I did a ton of work on the background that is bearing fruit now.

I did most of this in a notebook in longhand. The majority of this draft is about 50 pages of handwritten text, double-spaced. Usually I'll take that and type it up mostly as is, then edit that. But I'm thinking that I'll try to only type up the good stuff, because I'm so conscious of the fact that lots of this needs to be edited away, and the pure typing takes forever and seems like a giant waste of time.

Monday, October 08, 2007

They're not trying to be subtle anymore

Please don't accuse Mattel of subtlety in encouraging girls to take the roles of prime consumer in the American family. I laughed out loud when I first saw a commercial for this new product, the Polly Pocket "Pollywheels Race to the Mall" set. At first glance, it just looks like a girl-themed car-and-track toy. But this race has a purpose.

Wanna go to the mall? I’ll race ya! If anyone understands a girl’s passion for needing to shop immediately, it’s Polly Pocket and her friend Lila. And this racetrack set is just the thing to get them to the mall in record time. -- from the product description
If it weren't for this ugly consumerist theme, I think I'd like this toy. Any kid should enjoy the race track, which is set up somewhat like a roller-coaster and has a loop. The addition of tiny doll drivers to the cars, which you don't usually see in this scale, seems like fun. And I can imagine that this would be a toy dads and daughters could see eye-to-eye on. But what a name! What a theme! I'd love to know if there was any consciousness of irony in the team that designed it. And if I ran a mall, I'd have stands selling these at every entry. It's pure genius, and aimed at pre-irony-age kids.

Made it through the first weekend, still writing daily

Weekends are the worst for daily writing attempts for me.
  • On Fridays we usually relax with TV after putting the kids to bed, and my will to stick with self-discipline-related goals is at a low ebb.
  • On Saturdays we're often running around town shopping, running errands, or going to kid events/people's houses.
  • Sundays have church obligations and often grocery shopping.
Wow, those all sound like terrible excuses. So why am I so pleased with myself? Well, one way or another, weekends are full of temptations to skip the writing just this once...but I got through this weekend just fine.

Heh. The reason for my success is basically avoiding people. I had the kids all to myself all Saturday until 6pm. I took the kids for a bike ride in the morning, with 2-year-old Lily in a cart behind my bike, and we ended up stopping at a couple of friends' houses. The second friend invited us to go to a Texas maze at Sweet Berry Farm. I didn't want to go, but Ethan and Chloe did...and the family took them, so that I was able to put Lily down for a nap and then had lots of time to write. And I actually used some of it to write! Fate smiles on me.

Friday, October 05, 2007

If you haven't read Erfworld, it's time

Erfworld is hard to describe. It's a webcomic, I'm sure of that. It's even a gaming webcomic, the height of geekiness. It also has
  • fun characters
  • unique art
  • a fictional world with unique rules, slowly revealed
  • a main character who has to learn those rules
  • lots of great pop-culture references
  • a lot of heart
So I recommend you check it out.

Writing every day this month

There are a lot of writing goals I can choose from in any given month. I tend to think of my writing goals in month-terms...although I'd hate to trot them out and compare the goals with what I've actually accomplished. I've been working on a project to complete 5 stories for a long long time now....and there's been a lot of NOT-working on it along the way to make it take twice as long.

But an old favorite is to try to go a whole month and write every day. Recently I've been writing more often and enjoying my work on my current story, "The Elf on Cotton Street." So I'm going to try to write every single day this month.

A good friend of mine has recently dedicated himself to working on a novel (go Doug, I can't wait to read it!) and it made me realize that none of my projects are going to get finished unless I make a commitment to them. Of course this realization comes as we are in the middle of remodeling our kitchen. I always seem to think about personal accomplishments when I'm busiest...probably because that's when I feel like I have the least time for them.

Anyway....I just wanted to note this goal somewhere publicly. It's day 5 of October 2007, and I've already written every day so far...and my writing sessions are becoming longer and more fruitful, too.