Saturday, December 19, 2009

Keep on, Keeping On

First, let me just send out a quick thank you to David J. Thanks for the encouragement, and don't worry. The updates on the blog may be infrequent, but the work in the background continues.

So, where am I. Let's see. Currently have my second draft out to be read by friends so I can get some feedback and instead of waiting for it to come back I've started writing another story. This one is already shaping up to be interesting, as I want to use multiple viewpoints, including one that isn't even human, and switch between them over the story. Very cool, and a bit of a stretch for me. So far everything I've written has had one main viewpoint character and stayed with that one for the entire story. This should be interesting.

I don't foresee having much time to put up blog entries for the next little bit, what with all the holidaze coming up. What little extra time I have needs to be spent writing.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Well So Much for Regular Updates

Heh, when I started this blog I promised myself I'd update it every Monday to keep a record of what I've been doing on the writing front, to motivate myself by putting my progress up in public (if anyone other than me is actually reading this). Last little bit hasn't been going according to schedule. I have been better about actually writing though. I've got the second draft about 60-70% done so at least progress is being made. Last week was tough as I felt like garbage all week, and after work I really just wanted to sleep, but I got some writing done even if it wasn't as much as I wanted. Next week will be better as I feel much improved and a lot of the Christmas stuff is out of the way. The gifts are wrapped and ready to go, and today I made homemade turtles for friends and coworkers. :)

On a side note, one of my favorite episodes of Deep Space Nine aired on Friday. Now, you may be wondering what an episode of a television show has to do with writing. Well, the episode was Far Beyond the Stars, where Captain Sisko has visions of being a science fiction writer in 1950s New York. If you've never seen it I recommend going out and finding a copy. I wanted to become a writer before I saw the episode, but it highlighted a lot of the reasons I wanted to become one. Sisko's dream/vision character of Benny Russell has drive and passion for what he does, and writes a story about a black captain in charge of a space station, in other words Captain Sisko, making this kind of a dream dreaming of a dream that is dreaming. Yeah, it gets confused. I loved it. Anyways, the episode goes on about Benny's fight to get his story published and ends on a tragic note, but it is such a moving story, I just can't find the words to express how it made me feel, how it still affects me. I want to write stories that do the same thing to others, that make them feel something so deep and primal, that move them in ways they never knew the could be moved.

Oh well, time to get back to work on that. It won't happen overnight, but it will happen.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I've Been Drafted

First draft that is. Finished the first draft on my new story last week and took a few days off to let the story percolate in my brain. Not that the days were actually off. I still worked the day job, and I spent the free time reading which can be considered part of a writer's job.

I started on the second draft yesterday and I like where things are going. I'm not as strapped for words on this one since I don't have a limit like I did with Tesseracts, so I've starting to include more description. Also, the second draft is starting to include more direction. The first was all about getting it out on the page and that led to some interesting developments. I actually had one character die who I didn't intend to, and that ended up changing the protagonists motivation completely. I think in the end it gives him a more nobler and more personal reason for doing the things he does.

It sh0uld be interesting how this plays out. I'm thinking I'll submit this one to Writers of the Future when I'm done and see how it does. If that doesn't pan out I'll continue to submit elsewhere. I already have the next story idea in my brain and I can't wait to get working on that one.

One final note, still waiting on Tesseracts but then I'll likely be waiting for a few more weeks. Oh, and I'm almost done my Christmas shopping. Yeah!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I Guess I Should Put Something Up

A little bit late for my "Monday" update, but better late than never, as they say.

So, where am I, what's the "state of the union" so to speak. At this point I'm still waiting to hear on my submission on Tesseracts. No big surprise there. The deadline for submissions was Nov 30, so I'm early on submitting and won't hear anything till Dec at the earliest.

I'm almost done the first draft of my next story, and I have an idea brewing for the one after. Today I wrote at least 2500 words. I believe that may be a personal best. I normally only write between 500 and 600, so 2500 is a huge jump. It helps that I had the day off.

So, another day, another few words written.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I Submit!

Just sent off my submission for Tesseracts 14. This was after a final check for errors and a few minor tweaks.

Dear sweet Jeebus, I actually did it.

Now the fun part, waiting. Hopefully I'll know soon. Latest I should know is December 31. Let's hope the news is good. I'd love to be able to tell my parents at Christmas that I'm going to be published.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Remember, Remember, the month of November

OK, so we're into November and you know what that means?

Snow?!? WTF Mother Nature! (Yes, I actually saw a brief snowfall today, in Southern Ontario, shudder)

Nope, it means another chance to do NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month for those of you not familiar with the short form. The goal is to write a 50000 word novel in one month, that month of course being November. It means writing about 1666 a day, or lets just round it off to 2000 with a day off here or there. Let's put that into perspective. Robert J. Sawyer (yes, I like the guy- met him twice and both times he was pleasant and approachable), a professional author, writes an average of 2000 words a day, and that's his full time job. So the goal of NaNoWriMo is to have the quantitative output of a professional writer for at least one month.

Is this possible? I mean, most of us can't afford to spend all of our time writing. We have jobs to go to, errands to run, lives to live, etc. Heck, even the number of writers that only write and do nothing else is starting to diminish. So all in all, this is a daunting feat for many.

So, the question is, am I going to do NaNoWriMo this year? The short answer is No. The longer answer is No and stop bugging me about it! Seriously though, I'm not ready this year. I've just really gotten back into the writing swing, and my 500 words a day works for me right now. I hope to start bumping that number up and I have been developing better work habits. I'm less likely to wander away from the computer and watch TV. When I'm not writing I'm spending more time reading, which in the end will help my writing a great deal. I recently finished a book on Revision and Self Editing and my writing has improved from it. Just need to keep the improvements going.

Alright, I'm going to go out on a limb here. I'm going to make a public pledge in this blog to enter NaNoWriMo in 2010 and start work on my first novel. Until then, I'm going to keep on working on getting a short story published.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Updating While Cooking Dinner

Right now I have a spicy stir-fry on the stove so I'm going to make this quick.

Nearly at 5000 words on the new story and still waiting for feedback. Dang people having lives and all that. Don't they know they are on this Earth to serve my ever whim!

Don't worry, I'm kidding. I still have nearly a month before submission to Tesseracts, and the story is almost at the publishable state. I'll make it.

Hopefully more later this week. I want to make a comment on NaNoWriMo.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Short Update

Just a short update this week. Progress goes forward on the first draft of the new story. Over 2800 words so far. Still waiting on some feedback for the Tesseract project but I have a feeling that story is almost ready for submission.

That's all for this week.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Train Keeps Rolling On.

Another week, another post. I'm being surprisingly consistent in this!

At this point I'm still waiting for feedback on the Tesseracts project. I have two different people reading the story at the same time, so I'll have two different perspectives when I go to make the next revision. However, life keeps getting in the way for both of them and it's been a few days. Hopefully I'll get something tomorrow and I can make another tweak and have some fresh eyes take a look. I'm thinking though that this is getting closer to the end. I'm hoping to submit soon.

The one feeling I'm taking out of this is the sense that I've blown the rust off. It's been years since I've written on a regular basis, and now I've been writing at a steady pace for over a month and a half. I'm doing it. I'm actually doing it. Now all I have to do is keep this up, keep the train on track.

In that spirit, since I'm waiting on feedback, I've started work on another project. It's still in the short story vein, but this one will get submitted to Interzone first and then to Asimov and or Analog, depending upon the results. Already the first draft of the new story feels strong, feels good. I worked for an hour today before I went to the doctors and wrote five hundred words without breaking a sweat. My mental muscles are expanding. As I said, it's happening, it's really happening.

Dang this feels good.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Canadian Turkey Day!

So today is the Canadian Thanksgiving and what am I doing? Why revision of course!

Don't worry, I'm not missing out on any family time to do this. My family had Thanksgiving dinner last night so today was free for me to work on the Tesseracts project. After the feedback I received from Gary the revisions resulting from it have pushed the word count over 7k. I'm going to need to be careful that I don't push it any higher as at 7.5k the odds of it getting in become greatly reduced.

I like what I've added though. It gives the story more, well, texture. I've also placed more action at the beginning, and moved some needed exposition to a section that was a little lean. Overall I think this works better than the earlier versions. Now I just need to get it read by others to see how they react.

The plan this week is to work on something else while waiting for feedback. Maybe I'll start a new story, something in a different setting, or maybe I'll continue working on the setting for the current story, the one I intend to reuse. We'll just have to see.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Time to Nut Up or Shut Up!

Today's title brought to you by Zombieland. If you're looking for comedy and zombies, watch Zombieland.

All kidding aside, it was a great movie. Gary, Jeff, and I went to see it last Friday and the line quoted in the title is going to be with me for weeks. It's simple and direct, and expresses volumes about the character who utters it. It is the character summed up in one phrase. I mean, wow, just wow.

That's one of the things I love about writing; the moment you find just the right phrase and everything just clicks together like a purring machine. It's something I'm working towards, and not much progress was made the last week. I'm still waiting on Gary for feedback, but we have discussed the story and he had a lot of good points. I'm hoping to have his input by tomorrow so I can take it into account when I resume revision.

You're probably wondering what I've done the last week. Well, without more feedback on the story I've been working on background material on the setting. I intend to reuse it, and maybe the characters as well. I have nearly 6 full pages single spaced of background material, and that is still likely to expand.

Something Gary said stuck with me. The antagonist in my Tesseracts story came off as one dimensional to him. Now, granted this characters function is to be more or less a force of repression on the protagonist, and by trying to stay under 7500 words I have to be careful in what I put in, so the character may not get much more time in this story. However, that doesn't prevent me from reusing him in a different story - maybe even recount the events of the same day from his perspective and show the opposite arc. In the current story the protagonist goes from being low to a new high, while in the alternate story the antagonist in the original story can go from high to low.

I'll need to put some thought into this.

Monday, September 28, 2009

State of the Story

It's Monday so that means another blog post.

First an update on my progress. Second revision has been completed and the story has been passed on to my friend Gary to read. I should have his feedback tomorrow and then the rest of the week will be spent revising and then it will go on to my friend Trevor. After Trevor, who knows. I might even be ready to submit it at that point and then move on to the next one.

One thing I am sure of, I'm going to reuse the setting. I've even taken some time to work on a background document for the setting, something I can refer to when making other stories set there. One event in the current story I think will occur in others will be a power outage. I can use this as a thread to tie them together. Who knows, maybe 10, 20 years from now they will be released together as a collection.

Anyways, since we are on the topic of writing (kinda the whole point of this blog) I should mention the boost I received yesterday. I went to Word On the Street at Queens Park in Toronto. Very cool event, with lots of different booksellers and literary based discussion. Getting there was a challenge. If you've ever driven into Toronto you know what I mean. Once I arrived I checked out the writer's workshop tent and this is where I got half of the boost. At 3pm they had an event where they read out one page that people had submitted anonymously, so I submitted mine and hoped to get feedback. Well, mine wasn't read but from what I was hearing about the other submissions I felt a lot better about mine. I mean, some of them were utter dreck, and I could spot that right away. I wish mine had been read, but listening to the advice being given I think I've avoided the most obvious pitfalls.

Oh, and the second half of the boost? I approached Robert J. Sawyer at this table and he remembered me from two weeks ago in Mississauga. Always nice to remembered.

Monday, September 21, 2009

New Doctor in the House?

Happy Monday Everyone!

Yeah, I know. Mondays suck. We've all read Garfield at one point or another so I won't belabor the point. One bright spot today, and the subject of the title, is the new season of House just kicked off with a 2 hour episode and it was a doozy. I'll resist the urge to reveal any details of the episode except to reveal that at the end of it House achieves a new equilibrium. Oh, and German woman are hot. If you've seen the episode you know what I'm talkin about.

So how are things going on the writing front? Well, we have a revised draft that my friend Jeff read over this weekend and he enjoyed it and he only found one obvious grammatical mistake. Why would I trust Jeff with this task you may ask. I trust him because he is a former Brock English Major, such as myself, and is even more widely read than I.

He is the first step. The next is to spend the next few days with the text and hammer out another revision. I didn't look at the story for the entire weekend while Jeff read it, so I can look at it with a fresh perspective. I will have another revision by Friday so that I can hand it off to my friend Gary for his impression, and then next week it goes to Trevor.

So, if all goes according to plan I could have the finished, or rather the submittable draft, ready by the end of next week. I already have a least two other good stories in mind, both in settings different from the one the current story is set in, but I intend to come back to this setting in future stories.

Who knows, I may be able to get a few stories out of this setting and years from know collect them and publish them in a single volume. Heck, stranger things have happened.

Monday, September 14, 2009

High Fiving a Demon

The Mississauga Literary Festival was a blast!

First off, let me say that last Friday was a boatload of suck. A friend and I went to a restaurant called The Host. My "Shrimp and Scallop Curry" was 4 tiny scallops mated with 4 tiny shrimps on top of a bed of snow peas instead of what was advertised as "stir-fried vegetables". If that wasn't disappointing enough the waitress claimed I only gave her a twenty and a five when I actually gave her pair of twenties and that devolved into "yes I did" "no you didn't fight". Then to add to the general misery we went to see the movie 9, which was OK but so short that you left the theater feeling cheated. Alright, we've established the Friday was terrible.

Now lets contrast that with Sunday. I woke up before my alarm and had plenty of time to get up, get dressed, and get going. The only hitch was forgetting the directions in the apartment and having to walk up five flights of stairs to get them. So far, not so bad. The Living Arts Center in Mississauga was not hard to find and I arrived a few hours before Robert J. Sawyer was set to talk so I decided to browse what was there. At the Library book sale I found the Janes for planes from 1996 to 2000, something I was sure my friend Jeff would love, but man were those suckers heavy and they did not fit into the backpack I was carrying. A quick trip to the car to drop them off and it was back to browsing. One thing that stood out were the people in costume, including one girl in a Queen of Hearts getup from Alice in Wonderland; very cool!

Browsing didn't take long so I checked out what other authors were on tap to speak that day and didn't find anyone else I had a huge hankering to listen to, so I head out to Square One for lunch. This meal was the exact opposite of the one I had on Friday so the day continued to shine, but the highpoint still hadn't been reached.

I got back from lunch with about an hour to spare before Rob was set to go on, so I pulled out my copy of Wake and continued reading. Wow is all I can say. After reading that the bar I've set for myself for my writing just went up a couple notches. I now have a definite standard to judge myself against and I'm keeping that in mind while revise the Tesseracts project.

After reading for awhile I got up and headed over the BMO room to grab a seat before the reading started. The author reading beforehand was just finishing up so I received the tail end of a lecture on gardening; not something I'm interested in but not torture to listen too. As the gardening enthusiasts filed out I snuck up front and grabbed a seat in the first row. A few minutes later I hear "Hi Rob" and then Mr. Sawyer's response, which I honestly can't remember after being starstruck. I turn to my left and there he is, red shirt and blue jeans with a splash of facial hair, and I'm thinking to myself here is what a Canadian author looks like. I won't describe any more, as it is not hard to find a photo of Mr Sawyer online, except to say that I was struck at how small he seemed. How could such a giant of media, the "dean of Canadian science-fiction", be contained in such an average looking frame. The truth is it couldn't.

The talk began with Rob apologizing to the audience that he was tired from celebrating his father's 80'th birthday last night and outlining that the plan was for him to read the first chapter from Wake and then he would take questions. This was the point where I learned that "dean of Canadian science fiction" could not be contained. He was on fire! He went back and forth across the front of the room, making eye contact at random with people in the audience. You could see the passion in his eyes as he read the first chapter from the small electronic device in his hand. If he was tired it wasn't obvious, in fact, he seemed anything but tired. We all clapped at the end of the reading and people started to fire off questions. A large portion were obviously related to FlashForward, the new television show based on Mr. Sawyer's novel of the same name the premiers on my birthday of all days, but I was able to sneak in one asking what resources he used in his writing and he elaborated on how the Internet was both and boon and bane for his work. Hey, it's not everyday you get to pick the brain of a Hugo and Nebula award winning author so I'm please to have worked up the courage to at least have asked one question.

Next on the agenda Rob had to dash downstairs to claim his table before it was given away so he could sign and sell books. I tromped down with everyone else and ended up chatting with a lovely Asian girl named Lillian. Heck, any day you get to spend time chatting with a pretty woman is a good day, so the bonanza of awesome continued. When I got up the front of the line I had a few brief moments to chat with Mr Sawyer. He is very personable and took the time to ask me how to spell my name. I have a very common male name with the less than common spelling and anytime someone goes to write it down I have to correct the spelling. It was nice not to have to do that. A few months earlier when Dan Abnett was signing my Gaunt's Ghosts collection he did the same thing, so I've marked that as something a professional writer should be aware of.

Anyways the chat was brief and while I was there I purchased a copy of FlashForward; the old paperback copy with the funky artwork and not the newer copy with a still from the upcoming TV show. I liked the artwork on it better than the still photo, and Mr. Sawyer commented that he did too. I had just enough time to stammer out my thanks for the advice offered on his website and that I was working on an entry for Tesseracts, before the next person in line took over his attention. I would have loved a chance to chat with him for a longer period of time but there we're people waiting and I already had taken up too much time from a very busy person. So, back to the car and off I went.

Oh, and the whole high fiving the demon thing from the title? One of the workers at the Festival was dressed up as Aku from Samurai Jack and I was able to snag a photo, turned to walk away and felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and there was Aku offering me the high five, so I had no choice but to take it. It's not every day one gets to high five a demon. :)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Is It a Little Drafty in Here?

Well, it appears that I have a reason to post a little bit earlier then Monday. I've finished the first draft on the Tesseracts project!

My goal was to write 500 words a day, but I've been averaging over 600 and that's only with about an hour to an hour and a half of writing time. The first day was the roughest. I had to pull and tease the words out of my brain, but the next day got easier, and then the next was easier, and so on and so on. I haven't written seriously since at least 5 years ago when I was part of a writing group. That group broke up, for various reasons, and it was only recently that I've found the drive to start writing again.

It probably helps that I have a job now that provides for my needs and I can afford to live on my own, without the distraction of roommates or parents. Don't get me wrong, I love my parents but it's hard to keep the writing flow going when you're suddenly interrupted to take out the trash. Another thing that helps is that I'm much less addicted to TV. When I was younger I spent way too much time just sitting and watching. In some ways it was useful as I was exposed to a wide range of stories in various genres, but it was all passive and not creative. My one saving grace is that I was also a voracious reader at the same time, devouring any and all books I could get my hands on. To this day most of my spare time is spent reading something; breaks and lunch at work, on the bus ride home, even during the commercials while watching TV :).

Speaking of reading I should mention that I purchased Wake by Robert J. Sawyer last night. It's the first book of a trilogy he is working on about the World Wide Web gaining consciousness. Now that I'm done the first draft I think I'll spend the rest of the day reading, and that's the first thing I want to dig into. The main reason for this is that the author will be at the Mississauga Literary Festival tomorrow, and I plan to attend. Partly to see him speak as I've seen him on television and on YouTube and he is a fascinating person, but also as an example for myself when I have to do the same thing.

A big part of writing is, unfortunately, public performance. A writer has to be ready to stand in front of a crowd and read his work. It's kind of cruel, to both the author and the audience, that people who spend a great deal of time alone crafting stories need to get up on a stage and perform in order to sell those stories. To be honest I've never been interested in listening to authors recite their works, I've always preferred to read them and hear them in my head with my own voice. As well, I don't like speaking in front of crowds of people I don't know. However, if I'm going to be a successful author I'm going to have to get over it and get on up there, and the first step in this is to see how others do it. I can learn by watching them and seeing what works and what falls flat so that when I step out on stage for the first time I'm prepared.

Well, so much for a short post saying I've finished the first draft :). I'm bringing my camera with me tomorrow so hopefully I'll have some photos to share from the Festival. Now, off to the books.

Monday, September 7, 2009

In The Beginning


Welcome to the Left Hand of Dorkness.

I'm starting this blog for two reasons. One, to keep an ongoing progress report of my efforts to become a published science-fiction/fantasy writer. Two, to keep myself motivated and honest. My goal is to write at least 500 words a day for 5 days of the week and then gradually increase the amount of words over time. At first I'm going to focus on short fiction in an effort to get publish and to build a name for myself. And my first project is going to be for Tesseracts 14, a collection of Canadian speculative fiction. More information is available here.

Oh, did I forget to mention I'm Canadian? Well I guess now you know, and as they say knowing is half the battle.

Oh, did I forget to mention I'm a bit of a geek/dork/nerd. Well now you know that too. And I'm damn proud of it. I love science-fiction. I love fantasy. I love books, and this blog is also about those as well. I've played Dungeons and Dragons and Warhammer 40K and just about every board game I could get my hands on. I've watched the entire run of Babylon 5 on DVD and cursed the Fox network when they canceled Firefly. I read webcomics and have Robert J. Sawyer's website bookmarked. As I said, I'm a geek.

Well, now that we have the opening formalities out of the way and you know a bit about me let's take a look at what I've accomplished so far. For the last month I've been gathering resources together to start writing. I've scoured bookstores for books on writing and picked up a few choice volumes to read. I obtained a copy of Orson Scott Card's book on writing science fiction and gone through it. I've upgraded my chair so that I won't kill my back. I've cleaned and reorganized my bookshelves so that I can turn my chair and pull any reference book I might be looking for. I've started buying magazines for interesting articles that could inspire a short story or novel. All the needed prep work has been done, so has my writing career taken off?

Well, no.

Writing isn't about all the non-writing things you do. It's about butt in seat time spent writing and revising. I could spend the next 10 years in courses, reading books, and talking about writing but it won't make a difference until I actually put pen to paper, or pixel to screen as the case may be. One can have a full toolbox but a house can only be built through time and hard work. And today was the start.

So far I've written 680 words for the Tesseracts project. That may seem like a small number but for me it's huge. I've gone from nothing to something, from a blank page to words on the screen and it feels good. It was hard work. I'm using mental muscles that have lain dormant for a very long time, but I did something. I've started on my dream of becoming a published author and I'm not going to let that go. I have until the end of November to submit a story for Tesseracts 14. My goal is to have the first draft ready by the end of September so that I can have friends and family read it and provide feedback. October will be spent in revision and further reading, and then in November I submit. No excuses, no dodging. I will have a story submitted in November, ready or not.

Well, that's about it for this week. Thank-you for taking the time to read this and I hope you come back next week to check on my progress. I'm going to try to post every Monday with an update on where I'm at on my current project and what other activities I've done to aid my literary career. Until then, may the farce be with you.