I woke up early this morning and sat down to write. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time but never set aside the time or space to do it. Instead, my early mornings and late evenings have been dealing with tending farm, working on my frontier land and cabin, building new and updated buildings in my kingdom, and fighting dragons. Yesterday, I stopped and realized that what little free time I have when I am not at work or doing things with my son were being eaten up by what I always called “Stupid Facebook Games.” So, I quit. Just like that. I removed all of the apps, their permissions, unsubscribed from their mailing lists, and blocked them from showing up on my wall. It was liberating.
So, I woke up early as I always do and sat down to write. Alas, I only wrote a single paragraph today and not a very good one, but it was a start and I’m glad I did it and look forward to continuing tomorrow. If you want to write, write every day, they say. And so I will. Before this, I only ever wrote daily during NaNoWriMo and the three years I have done that have always been wonderful. However, NaNoWriMo is a different sort of writing. There, you write with reckless abandon. You plough forward, never looking back, never editing, never questioning. Your goal is word count, not art. And it is liberating but it also has given me an incorrect view of what writing is. As I began working on this short story idea I have wanted to play with for some time, I realized that I can’t write like that anymore. I need to structure. I need to plan. I need to balance expository dialogue with action and description. I need to care whether my characters sound and feel real. I need the world I am crafting to be fully realized (at least enough for a short story). I could probably write the story in one marathon session and then go back and edit it but that somehow feels like the wrong approach. So, I am stepping back and working out the outline. I want to know where my story is going before I try to go too far into it.
I want to read more, especially paying attention to the craft as much as the story itself. I want to look for a writing class somewhere locally. I want to learn from other writers what works and doesn’t work for how they work and begin to find a process that works for me. So, that is the journey I am undertaking now. And it feels wonderful and exciting.
I am having social network fatigue. First, there are the long-form posting sites — my main blog, Posterous and Tumblr (though the latter may be argued as a short-form site too). Then there’s the quick snippet land of Facebook and Twitter. Then there’s the GPS-aware side of things like Foursquare, Loopt, MyTown, and Yelp! (I have since given up on Gowalla and Brightkite as not being particularly interesting to me).
The GPS group are getting a long form post from me soon enough as I have been evaluating them with an eye towards a blog post for some time now. At least that’s how I justify to my wife my continued use of them…
What I’m trying to figure out now is how I should talk to the world without having to worry about where I am writing. I am not a power blogger. I don’t really feel the need to blast 20 posts a day out there and I am not trying to set myself up as an expert in any particular field to make my site a destination for those in that field and resume fodder. I could just do things in my WordPress site and have my Posterous and Tumblr sites auto-carry the posts or at least links back to them and have links auto-posted to Twitter and Facebook. But I also like the ultra-simplicity offered by Tumblr and Posterous. It is just easier to pull a post together.
And then there’s the fact that I like posting pictures from my iPhone (not so much text — while I don’t hate the iPhone keyboard, I am just not interested in trying to type a lot on it) and I feel that it is much easier to go directly to Facebook or Tumblr than it is my WP site (yes, I have the app, I still find it a longer process than these other methods).
Maybe my problem is that I can’t commit to just one program and stick to that. I like so much of each of them that I want the freedom to use all of them whenever I feel like it.
I wonder what the rest of the world does. Where do you post and where do you ignore? How important is it to you to get your stuff out to as many sites as possible versus using just one and trusting that your audience (friends, family, whoever) can and will find it?
I have just completed my third NaNoWriMo novel in three years. Clocking in at 50,172 words, the fantasty novel that needs a better title than what I have now is done. One of the greatest revelations about NaNoWriMo… I’ve always wanted to write but never had any ideas I liked. Now my head (and Evernote) is filled with them. A few times a week I bark out an idea or two as an audio note on my iPhone into Evernote where they get typed up and categorized and they sit for when I can realize them. But this year I went a different direction. I used to play a lot of Dungeons and Dragons in Junior High through college and a bit afterwards. I played most recently about two years ago and then not again since.
My son is almost old enough to play and I’ve also wanted to get a gaming group together for a once-a-month lose-yourself-for-a-day game. And I got a crazy idea for a campaign I could run while walking Jack to school one day and explaining D&D to him. Out came the iPhone and I recorded the idea and now, 50K words later, I have a rough plot of the story I want to tell. It’s a campaign like nothing I’ve ever seen played before taking traditional fantasy story elements and twisting them a bit. Whether it makes a good novel I do not know. I always think that what I have written us utter crap when I finish it. I only recently went back and looked at last year’s novel and was surprised at how much I liked it. But while I hope to revisit last year’s novel (certainly not 2007’s!) and try to fix it into something I might consider doing something with, this year’s novel is just me fleshing out my campaign idea.
Now in December I will take what I have written, fix the story to make for a better gaming experience (add places for more random encounters, more chances for the players to figure out what is going on, open it up so it can handle them making choices different from those my characters made in the story I wrote) and draw the maps, roll up the big bads, and create the character sheets. “What?!” I hear you say. “Roll characters for your players? That’s blasphemy!” Ah, this is true. But the idea of this story is that our five heroes wake up on the side of a mountain with no idea who they are, no memories whatsoever. Part of the story is their journey of discovery into who they are (and the very nature of what makes an identity in the first place). As such, I create the characters and dole bits of information out to them as they discover their abilities as they go. I hope the gaming group will be willing to let me take them on this ride and that my idea actually works. It could be an epic fail. Or it could be a lot of fun. If nothing else, I really like the story I wrote and even though it was never intended to become an actual novel, it could easily be cleaned up and made into one. Oh, see? I’m already starting to move past that, “I hate this!” stage of my writing. That’s good. Thanks, you helped there by asking all those questions.
Anyway, I’m done and for a few days I will not think about this again as I get back to my real life and do something I have not had time to do in 29 days: pick up a book and read.
I am trying out posterous (my site: http://AndyAffleck.posterous.com/) and it’s post-everywhere feature. If this works, it should go to twitter, facebook, livejournal, flickr, and my blog. On the plus side, it makes it much simpler for me to post stuff to all of the usual sites all at once. I have friends who only follow me on twitter or facebook but not my blog or flickr, or other combinations . With a tool like this, I can reach everyone at once. I think this will double or triple post in facebook thanks to friendfeed being in the mix there so I may reduce by one or two the other secondary services I use. On the down side, my images are stored on posterous’ site which makes my ultimate blog portability less. If I change things around, I’ll have the text in my WordPress database but not the images which will make my blog break if I ever discontinue posterous down the road. So, there’s that to worry about. But, still, for now it’s a cool thing to try out. If you do follow me, where do you follow me? I’m curious where you come from. I should pick one service to be mission control, the “if you want to stalk Andy, do it here” type site but each has its own special usage. Twitter is great for small chatter which I would never bother blogging about and blogs are good for longer, more thought out pieces. LJ is really only useful insofar as I can post private stuff there only friends can read. Otherwise, it is redundant and pointless. Flickr is for photos only and facebook is… well, facebook is its own thing.
Anyway, let me know where you follow me. I will influence what services I use moving forward. Happy Holidays!
I went dark again this November doing the National Novel Writing Month. This is an annual competition to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. The idea is pure creativity. No editing, no thinking, just write and don’t stop. I just finished (hours earlier than I finished last year despite the fact that I got a late start this year). My story this year is a time travel story (which is a real challenge when you are trying to write straight through — time travel requires a lot of planning and watching for inconsistencies and the like) which is also a love story (I’m a sap, what can I say?) I’m actually very happy with it and, unlike last year’s novel, I plan on coming back to it and editing it and tightening it all up. But not today. Today, I just want to kick back and relax. I did it. I wrote my second novel and just want to bask in the glow of that achievement.
“I’m also surprised by how much writers fumble around in the dark, just hoping for a blast of fortunate inspiration. And I’m surprised by what a minor factor inspiration is in the overall process. It helps. But frankly it’s the glazed donut of thinking. Writing is breaking rocks with a shovel. It takes a certain kind of strength.” — Sally Jenkins