NaNoWriMo Update 2: Derailed!

November 14, 2014 in Fantasy, Novel, On Writing by pacejmiller

goku

It’s been about a week since my last update.

I’m not going to lie. As you can probably already tell from the headline, my plans have been derailed — somewhat.

It has not happened due to a lack of effort, that’s for sure. I tried getting back into it at the start of the week, but work was such a bitch (I sometimes have those days, and they just happened to be in succession) that I could barely get anything done. That and the fact that I was stuck on trying to figure out how to resolve a plot point had me on stall for the first couple of days.

Then something else happened. I was trawling through the hard drive of my old laptop and found my other project, Without Prejudice: Almost Entirely True Stories of Life, Death and Scandal in a Top-tier Law Firm. This was my master’s project, one I had done about 4 or 5 very polished chapters for and completed rough drafts of another 4 or 5 chapters. The remaining 4 or 5 chapters of the book were already planned out.

I started reading through it. I don’t like to brag, but since you brought it up, Without Prejudice is an awesome read. It’s probably the best unpublished thing I’ve ever written because most of it comes straight from my bleeding, twisted heart. My supervisor at the time — this was 3 or 4 years ago — gave me the top grade and advised that I complete it for publication.

Then life happened and I forgot all about it. I don’t regret having put the project on hold for stuff like moving overseas, having kids, doing freelance gigs to survive and then starting a new job. That shit happens. But man, I do regret not having picked it back up sooner because I had such great momentum back then and all the horrible memories were still so fresh. And with so much already completed, I was pretty damn close to completing it.

Anyway, I’ve decided to park my fantasy novel for the time being and focus on completing Without Prejudice. It took me a couple of days to sort through all the stuff I’ve done so far and rearrange and cut and paste the files until I had a master document with all my drafts and ideas — old and new — in them. It’s about 85 pages in Microsoft Word.

To my surprise a lot of the anecdotes are still etched firmly into my brain, though some others have already faded or are fading fast. I’m hoping planned visits with old friends and colleagues in a few weeks will help bring back those memories. Maybe some of the dysfunction in my new workplace can also help create some new ones.

In the meantime, I’m dedicating my NaNoWriMo to finishing this project. I only managed to do about half an hour before my working week finished for this week, but it was a great rush and I’m itching to get back into it soon. It’s a fantastic feeling to have that fire burning again.

NaNoWriMo Update 1: That’s Rough, Buddy

November 7, 2014 in Fantasy, Novel, On Writing by pacejmiller

rough

So here’s my first NaNoWriMo update, and it’s not pretty. Better than nothing, I suppose, but the progress has been admittedly slow. I have so far had two days to write and I have barely broken 2000 words, a far cry from the overly optimistic and fairly ridiculous 3000-a-day target I had set for myself.

What I have realized from this process is that writing anything at work is really really hard. There are distractions galore, and I don’t just mean actual work-related stuff that needs to get done. And all it takes is one shithouse article — just one — to screw up my entire schedule and rhythm for the day. Lately, unfortunately, I’ve gotten a few.

As for the writing itself, I’ve decided to tackle my oldest project, the classic fantasy novel that has been rewriting itself in my brain on and off for the last dozen or so years. It’s probably the most ambitious of my projects, but also the one that requires the least amount of planning and thinking through.

I have started again right from the beginning with a new intro that will introduce the protagonist in a more exciting manner so that the story hits the ground running. I’ve since gone back to work on a prologue, though I think it probably works better as a backdated chapter 2. I guess I’ll see how it goes.

The biggest take away from these last couple of days is that I still have not figured out how to just write and not self edit along the way. They always say, when writing first drafts, that you should not think too much and just let the words flow. Sure, it will probably be crap, but it is more important at this stage to just get the words down. You can always fix things up later.

On day one I started off relatively well, getting about 1500 words down, but on the way home at night I kept thinking of things I should have added. So on day two instead of continuing with the writing I spent much of my time putting in those changes, and all the other things I kept thinking would improve the narrative. Due to some of these changes, I have had to stop and think of ways to make the story logical and fit together, which took up a huge chunk of my time as well. In the end, I only had about 500 words down on the second day. And the truth is, it is still crap, so I more or less wasted my time trying to fix it now.

Still hopeful that I will be able to get into some kind of groove so that the words will come more easily. At this stage, unless I catch fire, so to speak, it seems unlikely that I will get close to reaching my goal. We’ll see.

New Year’s resolution 3: read more (classics and fantasy)

January 25, 2013 in Fantasy, Misc, On Writing by pacejmiller

Man Reading Book and Sitting on Bookshelf in Library

I didn’t read nearly as much as I wanted to last year, but I blame that on the life-draining force that is parenthood, which makes sleep a priority over anything not baby-related. I blame that as well awesome TV series such as Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. Most of all, I blame the turd that is the Fifty Shades Trilogy, which wasted a good part of my year and just about turned me off reading altogether.

This year, I am glad to say, I have already read two books (though I started one of them last year) and am halfway through a third. Reading really does help your writing in so many ways, including expanding your imagination and ability to visualize scenes, and I’m trying to learn as much as I can. I feel like I am already way behind because I didn’t read all that much once I hit high school, which I blame entirely on Sony (Playstation) and basketball.

Anyway, this year one of my resolutions is to read more. A lot more. I have already started executing my ‘no smartphone and read instead before bed’ plan, which is kind of working. I’m also trying to read whenever I can on public transport and even during lunch breaks at work.

A subset of that plan is to read more classics. I always find them daunting and often put them off in favour of trash like Fifty Shades or whatever commercial fiction is in fashion, but it’s time for me to discover why classics are classics. The last modern classic I read was probably Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (which I loved) and the last classic of any era I read was Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (which, despite being told repeatedly that it was probably the most technically perfect book ever written, bored me to death).

The good thing is that many older classics are now out of copyright and free to download. My guess is I will attempt to tackle the easier ones first, like say Frankenstein or Dracula, or perhaps some Dickens. War and Peace and James Joyce will probably have to wait a few more decades.

The other of part of the goal is to read more fantasy to prepare myself to get back on the fantasy writing wagon. I have A Game of Thrones ready to go, and if that isn’t enough I might finally (re)try the original Sword of Shannara trilogy or Feist’s Magician.

I doubt I’m going to get through anywhere near what I’ve planned for myself but I sure am going to try.

Happy reading!

I want my sleep back!

March 13, 2012 in Best Of, Fantasy, Novel, On Writing, Parenting by pacejmiller

It’s amazing how little sleep you can function on when you have no choice.

As a new father, I’ve repeatedly astounded myself by sleeping less than I’ve ever slept in my life, even worse than when I was working my tail off as a lawyer. The problem is not just the lack of sleep — it’s the continuous breaks in the sleep when you actually do get the chance for some shut-eye that really kills you.

I used to be a relatively deep sleeper, but now I wake up over the sound of a pube hitting the ground. You can’t sleep when the baby is crying or making noises, and you can’t sleep well when they are completely silent because you wonder if something has gone horribly wrong.  It’s f&%ed.

That said, I am getting used to it. Kind of. I had my first five-hour sleeping spree last night in months, followed by an uninterrupted two-hour nap. I am hoping my little boy has finally turned a corner (I probably just jinxed myself there), but I’ll have to wait and see tonight if it’s just a once off miracle.

I long for the day I can get a full night’s sleep again.  I hear maybe from six months onwards, babies will be able to sleep through the night.  Looking back, I deeply regret the times I took sleep for granted.  Ahh…sweet, sweet, beautiful sleep. How I miss thee!

Life has slowly entered a routine around here. Well, kind of.  I go work in the morning, stay there for nine hours, come home, have dinner, try and finish off my freelance work, maybe watch some TV or a movie, play some Words With Friends or Scramble With Friends, exercise a little, feed the little one and put him to sleep, before I collapse in exhaustion myself.

Not that I’m complaining. Despite the general exhaustion and sleep deprivation I have never been happier.  It’s such a wonderful thing watching my little boy grow everyday — he has already doubled his birth weight and has gone from a skinny alien into a fatty with a couple of chins.  I love watching his big wandering eyes, seemingly curious at every little thing in this new world around him.  I love how he cracks a little smile when I steal a kiss on his chubby cheeks.  I love the look of satisfaction on his face when he finally gets that hard-fought burp, fart or poop out.  I even adore (love is too strong a word) the way he sobs and cries.

In fact, it’s one of the rare, perhaps unprecedented times in my life where I actually know how special things are right now.

The best part about my current situation that I no longer hate my job.  I wouldn’t say the work, working conditions are pay are ideal, but it feels good not waking up to a tsunami of overwhelming dread every morning just because you have to go to work.  Amazingly, I enjoy what I do and almost look forward to it.

It’s only been a month, so I probably just jinxed myself again, but it’s been the first time I’ve ever actually thought about work outside of work hours because I want to, and not out of fear. I want to write good articles and I want to come up with better ways to write and improve my writing. I also enjoy reading my articles after they’ve been published, particular so I can see the changes our copywriters have made so I can learn to be a better writer.

The working hours are good, the work itself is varied and most of the time it’s interesting. Occasionally I still get the dud article but I take it on the chin and think of it as a learning opportunity. On the downside I thought I’d have a lot more spare time during work hours to do other stuff, such as doing my own writing.  But not only does it feel wrong, I actually don’t have that much time — maybe five minutes or ten minutes here or there, which is never enough to get into the writing mood.

Right now the only thing preventing me from getting back on the novel-writing wagon is this freelance job I’ve been doing. After three months of crawling through this turd, I can finally say I am in the home stretch.  I’m just about in the colon.  My guess is one or two more weeks, and then I’m done.  It’s a good thing to have on my CV, being able to say I edited an entire book and all, but it’s just too hard and the pay is too low.  Besides, I’d much rather work on my novels again.  I’ve been in touch with my friend back in Oz and maybe we will get my masters project back on track.  I still believe it has potential.

As for my fantasy novel, I’ve been dreaming about it a lot lately. I guess it’s always like that — the scenes are written in your head much easier than they are written on the page.  Having kind of ‘figured it out’ at last, I know I’ll have to rewrite most of the damn thing, but I look forward to the challenge. Thanks to Game of Thones for getting me back into fantasy.

That’s the life update. I have about 40 posts in wait, and I promise I’ll eventually get to them. The only problem is that new post ideas are popping up quicker than I am writing them. Oh well, it’s time for the night feed. Sweet dreams (fingers crossed).

I don’t know how people with kids do it!

February 8, 2012 in Blogging, Fantasy, Misc, Novel, On Writing, Parenting by pacejmiller

Ned Stark had kids (including illegitimate ones), and he still accomplished a lot

Action has been somewhat slow on this blog lately, and with good reason.  My baby boy had been caught a little cold, as have his parents.  A healthy baby is brutal enough, but a sick baby is the cherry on top. Man I wish I cherished my sleep more in the past!

On top of that, I have commenced a full-time job at a place where I can write and edit  for a living.  It’s mainly newsy, journalistic stuff, but it’s better than nothing.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn as much as I can and hone my skills, which need a lot of honing. It doesn’t pay nearly as well, but on the bright side, it’s soooo cruisy compared to being a lawyer.  I finally feel like I belong, doing stuff I believe in and that I am comfortable with, without feeling totally stressed out all the time and like a fraud who has no idea what’s going.  And the best part is that I can leave work at 6pm, not 6am, meaning I can get home in time for dinner with the family and spend time with my wife and son.  That would never have been possible before.

I’m not quite sure what this means for the future of this blog, which still has at least 2 dozen posts waiting in the wings for me to write.  I started this blog as a hobby and it will remain so, but finding time to write posts is going to be difficult.  Time is a premium commodity these days, and even finding time to read is difficult, let alone exercise or play video games.  And what about my novels, the novels I so desperately want to finish (especially my fantasy novel, which has garnered renewed interest after I recently watched the first season of Game of Thrones — I also need to read all those books, by the way)?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Seriously, I don’t know how people with kids do the things they do.  How and where they find the time to go to the gym, catch up with friends, see a movie, write bestselling novels, change the freaking world.  I’m sure it gets easier as the kids get older but seriously, there are so many other excuses to prevent you from doing what you need to do!  You can count me in as someone in awe of anyone who can finish writing a book with young children in the house.

I remember reading somewhere that John Grisham used to get to work (at his law firm) an hour before everyone else and write at least a page on a yellow note pad.  Every day.  In a year or two, he had A Time to Kill.  I also remember reading that Dan Brown would get up at 4am every day to write.  Are these people even human?  I mean, come on.  Don’t these robots need sleep?

The good news for me is that my new job is a get-your-work-done-and-you-can-do-whatever-you-want kind of place.  I’m still as slow as a snail’s turd at the moment, but if I can train myself to be an article generating machine, then chances are I’ll have some time during the work day to pump out a couple of posts or even work on the novel.  In the meantime, however, I still have a bunch of freelance editing work holding up my “free” time, so it might be a little while longer before I can get into the groove.

That’s all I’ve got time for now.  As a butt-groping former governer once said, I’ll be back.

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