Monday, 19 June 2017

July on Steve the WriMo Forum: juice boxes, jubes, and joy!

Greetings Stevians past and present!

First of all, this is an invitation to those of you who haven't visited Steve the WriMo Forum in a while. We're still here and we'd love to have you back! I'm trying to get hold of everyone I possibly can, so as well as posting here I've sent out a mass email and will be linking to this post on Twitter.

Next, plans for the coming month of July, which is a Camp NaNoWriMo month. For this month I'm revisiting my April theme: unless you have a compelling reason to avoid it, I think everyone on Steve should sign up for Camp NaNo.

Reasons why:

1. Compelling reasons aside, it's basically something you'd be doing anyway, only with a slightly stronger feel of 'challenge' to it and an extra incentive to make it a more or less daily thing.

2. You can set just about any goal you like - words, hours, minutes, lines, pages.

3. The lowest goal number you can choose is 30, so if that applies to all of those things, you could be signing up for a goal as low as one word per day for the month. (Note: I don't actually know if this is true. There's probably different minimum goals for the different goal types.)

4. It gives us a unifying theme for Steve - regardless of what goals and projects, we'd all have the same goal of not slipping behind in our Camp goal.

Because we already have an entire forum for chatting through the month, there isn't going to be an official Steve cabin, although anyone can feel free to start an unofficial one. There will be various small writing challenges throughout the month, on a secret schedule known only to myself.

(Okay, I don't have a schedule. I may try to make one up before then, though, because it's much easier to think of challenges when you're not neck-deep in a NaNo month.)

As usual, there will be thread on Steve for suggestions, discussion and general preparation for July. In particular, suggestions for challenges to put on that schedule would be fantastic. Also, any June planning/preparation challenges that could help us get ready for July. While we all have different techniques and approaches, sometimes something that works well for one writer could provide the missing piece of the puzzle another writer needs.

The planning thread is here: July: juice boxes, jubes, and joy! (you'll need to log in to access it, though)

So, are we ready for July?

Siana, (Steve co-admin)

PS: If you've forgotten your Steve password or username, check your email! Virtually this exact message was sent around as a mass email today, and the email will show you your username. You'll be able to use that email account and username to reset your password and log back into Steve.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Story elements I need to figure out in advance: "Why this character?"

Quick note on my blogging schedule: for June, I think it's going to be this: at least 3 posts per week, no set topics. In July I'll increase it to at least 5 per week, mostly with the theme 'Camp NaNoWriMo day x: title'. I'll think about August and beyond if I manage to keep the blog alive for June/July. At the moment I'm mostly thinking about blogging as an extension of journalling - similar to how I use my PPT on Steve the WriMo Forum.

Now, on with today's topic: the things I need to figure out in advance.

In my notes for one of my current classes (Writing the Short Story), there's this question: do you think some story elements look after themselves as long as you concentrate on others, and which do you think are the important ones to focus on?
Being me, I automatically answered that the important elements are 'character' and 'setting'. Everything else - plot, structure, voice, viewpoint, style and so on, I tend to assume will grow out of solid characterisation and setting-building. However, while this is a nice idea and makes me feel all writerly and creative, there's a big problem.
I don't actually do these things.

Right now I have this tangled mess of characters, settings and plots that I believe can be divided into (I think) five entirely separate stories. So, if I believe the two most vital building blocks are the characters and their worlds, you'd think the way I'd try to untangle it would be to make solid versions of the characters and settings and then work outwards from there. Am I doing this? No. I'm just sitting here flailing, and the stories are still tangled and largely unwritten.

A more honest answer to that question would be that I believe some elements look after themselves as long as I oncentrate on others... but that I don't actually know which elements fall into which category. For example, in my last (entirely pantsed) story, I tried to end the world with space-sunflowers. I came up with that basic premise, and then just sort of sketched the rest of it in. The story almost worked and I got a pretty good mark for it, but there was something missing. Specifically, there was a giant hole in my characterisation and I think this points me towards one of the elements I really need to have in advance. The element is this: "Why this character?"

As soon as I read the comments, I knew it wasn't just a problem with that particular story. I could come up with a list of other things I've written where that question casts a dark cloud of uncertainty over the whole thing. So often, when I'm embarking on an editing/rewriting project, the only answer I can come up with is "Because the writer said so" as an answer, and I always know it's not good enough but can't come up with anything better. I conclude that the character I've created and the plot I shoved them into are so hopelessly incompatible that there's no way to fix it. The number of drafts in that category right now is slightly bigger than I'd like to admit. This is a problem I really need to learn how to fix.

While I was trying to answer the study question, I came up with an idea for a writing exercise that I think would help. Basically, I find a question I don't know the answer to ("Why this character?") and come up with a brief answer.

"Why this character?"

"She was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

"Why was she in the wrong place?"

"Because her handbag strap broke and she had to sit down for a moment to figure out an emergency fix."

...and so on. That example has nothing to do with anything, but it sort of illustrates the point. I ask myself a question, answer it, and then construct a new question out of a problem in the answer. I don't know if it's really going to help, but maybe if I can dig deep enough into those questions I'll at least be able to come up with a concrete answer to the original "Why?" question.

So, readers, have you ever tried anything like this before? Liked it? Hated it? Disappeared into an endless void of circling around the same questions, then given up and used the story as cat litter?

Although, I guess most of us do these things on the computer, so maybe 'hard drive clutter' is more likely than 'cat litter'. You have to go to special effort to turn it into something for your cat, while consigning it to the folder of abandoned WIPs is just a quick click-and-drag. That might be a fun idea for an app - something that produces a short animation of some kind of destruction (cat peeing, setting it on fire, shredding) and then moves the file to an archive folder.

Charging up her virtual flamethrower,

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The Return of the 'Year of Writing a Damn Lot'?

So, I've been doing some thinking (about 6 pages worth of typewriter-hitting) and I've come up with a bit of a plan.

First of all, I've concluded that I'm stuck in my current project because the Necroverse is always a giant tangle. I still don't know what I want to do about that in particular, but as a general sort of thing I've decided it's time to pursue another 'Siana Blackwood's Year of Writing a Damn Lot' (this was my theme for 2011) and try to really make an impact on the Scary List of Scary. So, I've developed a sort of idea for how to work on chaos drafts (aka incomplete non-linear pantsing). The plan goes like this:

0. (For all projects, not just chaos drafts) Have a brief look at the current state of the project and construct a task list to get it to the end of the next major milestone (e.g. chaos draft → complete first draft, first draft → second draft). Some tasks will be generic, others specific to an individual project.

1. Write a general description of the story - who's in it, what their roles are, what stuff happens, where it happens and such. Basically, what I was talking about the other day as a 'starting package'.

2. Make a list of all the available 'random scenes' that fit (or could fit) into this story.

3. Rewrite the first scene so it properly fits the general description. This is probably several steps in one - find the scene, make notes on what I need to do, do the things. Might also involve expansions to the general description.

4. Repeat Step 3 for the next scene on the list from Step 2.

5. If the two scenes fit together sequentially, all is fine at this point. If not, then at this point I go back and work out a summary of what happens between the two scenes.

Then after that it's basically looping through steps 3, 4 and 5 until I get all the way to the end of the available material.

So, this is going to be the new... I don't know, Financial Year of Writing a Damn Lot? That sounds weird, but it's halfway through June and the financial year ticks over at the end of the month, so something like that might even make sense.

(PS: This could possibly become a new Steve the WriMo Forum challenge, if anyone is interested. )

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Blog Necromancy III: A Little Light Abandonment (or, Why I'm Reviving my Blog)

I'm feeling very lonely and isolated at the moment. The reason for this is probably simple and obvious: it's past midnight and I'm sitting alone in my room with a computer and some heavy metal for company. The heavy metal is The Malkuth Grimoire by Alkaloid, by the way. Since getting my current computer at the end of last year, this is my most frequently played album. Loud, musically complex heavy metal is a great way to distract myself from the ultimate futility of existence.

The thing about 'lonely and isolated' as a concept is that there are things I want to say, and mere alleviation of the physical state of loneliness isn't going to cut it. I've spent most of today with my family, working on some improvements to the kitchen. This involved demolishing an entire room, which was pretty cool. At any rate, I've talked to people, spent time interacting with them and so on. Now, though, sitting alone at the computer, I realise that there are things I want to say in a more specific context. I want to talk about writing.

Anyone who knows me from writing-related sites (Arrow of Eloquence, NaNoPlotMo, Steve the WriMo Forum, or in the unlikely event that I've managed to establish my existence on the Absolute Write forum), is likely to have an impression of me as... I don't really know how to describe it, but what I sort of mean is that even in the company of other writers I feel like I'm going off somewhere strange. As a student now, studying literature and creative writing, I'm finding the same thing happening there. We get weekly discussion questions, and I write my answer and post it, then find that everyone else in the thread is coming from a completely different direction. I think this is adding to my sense of isolation, knowing that the deeper I dig the less accepted I feel.

Because of this, I end up keeping things to myself. Why bother writing down a thought when I have nowhere to share it? Then, because I do my best thinking when I'm writing things down as I go, I end up not exercising those philosophical and introspective parts of my mind. Without those moments, I start to lose other things as well, which I think is what's happening to me right now. The lack of people to share weird thinking with means I'm not doing any weird thinking, and that seems to mean I can't do any weird writing.

So, I'm choosing what's probably the least effective method imaginable for trying to get back into the right mindset for creativity: I'm reviving my blog.


Monday, 29 September 2014

October is Spectober on Steve!

This month on Steve the WriMo Forum we're trying something a little different - a month that combines preparing for NaNoWriMo with a celebration of speculative fiction. Here's the announcement:

Hear ye, hear ye, it's almost October here at Steve! This month, we've got a whole bunch of awesome activities and exercises lined up to help whip your story into shape and prep for NaNoWriMo!

It's time for...ta daaaa...Spectober!

Q: What is this Spectober thing?
A: It's NaNoWriMo preparation. It's a WriMo. It's an organizational boot camp. It's mandatory fun.

Q: AHA, but what if I'm not DOING NaNoWriMo?
A: Welcome, rebels. Welcome to the dark side. We've reserved a special lightless hole in the Sinister Symphony of Sad Trombones just for you.
...Just kidding. You can do Spectober with any WIP, from an existing draft to the merest wisp of an idea. If you're a writer, then Spectober is for you!

Q: But wait! I don't have a story!
A: Aaaaaaaand Steve's got you covered! During the first part of the month, we'll work on idea generation.

Q: But no! I don't want to plan anything out just yet! I prefer to leave the details pretty vague.
A: That's fine. We've got plenty for you as well! We'll be doing a bunch of NaNo-related prep activities that don't involve stories. It's time to get organized and get pumped!

### Scheduled Events

1st-14th: Daily Plot Bunnies - come up with 14 brand-new story ideas in 14 days.
4th-10th: 7-in-7 Character or Bunny Drawings - draw 7 characters or 7 plot bunnies (or just 7 rabbits) in 7 days.
11th-17th: 7-in-7 Playlists - each day, pick a character (or if you're juggling multiple bunnies, you can do bunnies), and assemble and post a playlist of at least 7 songs for that character/bunny. Include links if you like.
18th-24th: 7-in-7 Pictures - each day, pick a character or plot bunny and then assemble at least 7 pictures that represent it. You can use Pinterest. If you already have a collection, add 7 more pictures to the collection.
24th-31st: 7-in-7 Inspirgency Exercises! What is an inspirgency? To borrow the NaNo term, it's when inspiration fails during NaNo. To pick ourselves up during those times, we'll each be making ourselves a series of exercises. We can repeat these as necessary during NaNo.

### Stuff That's Happening All Month

SpecNoWriMo - Write a work of speculative fiction in October! What is speculative fiction? It is science fiction, fantasy, supernatural, or anything in between. Use SpecNoWriMo to get a head start on your NaNo novel, or use it as a warm up for a different story. Any length fiction is allowed: you can write short stories, poetry, novellas, etc, but only speculative fiction words count.
The 90-Day Reading Challenge (or at least the last 31 days of it) - Writers are readers, so choose a novel-reading goal for the month and hunt down some great new books! Those of you who are already reading -- time to kick it in high gear and read those last few books!
NaNoPrepMo - Get all your NaNoWriMo plotting, planning, and organization done by October 31st!

### Weekly Stuff

#### Mondays of Mucking About
Discussion time! On Tuesdays Mondays we'll be talking about the craft of writing - everything from coming up with an initial idea to tackling the dreaded Editing Monster.

#### Tips Tuesdays
Tuesdays are all about getting (and staying!) organised. Schedules, software, managing RSI, finding motivation and getting ready for NaNoWriMo are just some of the things we might be talking about.

#### Worldbuilding Wednesdays
Each Wednesday, we'll be posting brainstorming exercises to help everyone flesh out their worlds. Everyone will post their work on Steve for discussion, feedback and general advice.

#### I Never Could Get The Hang Of Thursdays
Thursday is the day for general discussion and cries for help. We'll also have random challenges like decorating your writing space, showing off your stationery, coming up with ways to keep warm/cool, stealthy fort-building, photography, image manipulation, drawing characters/places/other cool stuff, cover creation and Stevian art creation.

#### Friday Flash Fiction
Each Friday, we'll post a prompt (or selection of prompts). Everyone writes a ~1k flash piece, which is then posted on Steve for discussion and feedback. There will be a total of 5 'FFF' challenges in the month.

#### Wonderful Weekends of Wordplay
Crazy free-for-all time! Well... sort of. Weekends are the time to focus entirely on ongoing projects or the things you really, really want to get done before November 1st.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Metal Madness: Album Review - 'Venereal Dawn' by Dark Fortress

How the heck can it be September already?


That would be a gloomy sigh, but right now I'm listening to the new Dark Fortress album Venereal Dawn and I just can't quite be gloomy because metal awesomeness is pouring into my ears and as much as I want to feel gloomy about how the year is passing so fast and there's a disappointing lack of awesome writing sitting on my computer, I also want to headbang and generally act all crazy and hyperactive over the music.

Um... yeah. Readers of this blog already know the Blackwood is not quite sane so the above is probably neither news not out of character.

Anyway, Dark Fortress. When I decided to attempt an album review my initial thought was that it was probably going to start with something about how I want to mash the keyboard, headbang, jump around, scream and generally act crazy, but at the same time I feel like I'm probably supposed to be intelligent and sensible about it. Then I was just going to add some links and do a bit more flailing.



Listen on Spotify, read more about it on Encyclopaedia Metallum, or there's 'buy' links on and through Century Media.

Sound good?

Okay, done.

*starts combing knots out of post-headbang hair*

Now it's probably time to sound intelligent and sensible or whatever.
The music is black metal... sort of. Looking around the internet, you find a lot of trailing off and adding 'sort of' to genre classifications for bands that have Morean in them. The lyrics are like some kind of bizzaro/sci-fi poetry and well worth a read all on their own.

Every time I listen to the album (and I've pretty much just had it on endless repeat since the release) I pick up new bits and pieces in the music. It's huge and complex, overwhelming in the combination of head-exploding metal and layered subtlety. I still don't quite know how to process it all, which is probably why I started my post the way I did.

Okay, that's about all I've got. Go and listen to the album already.

Links again:

Listen on Spotify, read more about it on Encyclopaedia Metallum, or there's 'buy' links on and through Century Media.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

'Daily Goats' #1: B1 and B2

First kids of the 2014 season!

I'm finally doing a thing I've been planning for the past at least three years, so goat pics!

These two are 'B1' and 'B2', still-unnamed daughters of my doe Bellatrix. They were born on the 24th of August and they're two days old in this picture.