Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Art of Escape

I was listening to an episode of the Giant Bomb podcast today and a discussion came up about Sony's new Playstation Vue TV-streaming service that will be launching in early 2015. As the conversation went on, it became less about the how people watched TV, and more about how many people are watching less TV overall. One of the guys on the show mentioned that when he gets home from work, he either wants to read a book or play a video game, and TV is just not something that's high on his list anymore.

I've also been reading Clive Barker's Weaveworld again, which is an amazing dark fantasy about an entire world that was woven into a carpet in order to keep it hidden and safe from humankind. Well, it's about much more than that, but you should really give it a read if you haven't.

Anyway, I read a book like Weaveworld, and books in general, as a means of escape. And I write fiction both as another means of escape for myself, as well as to provide an escape for my readers. A good story is the best kind of escape, and books are always where I've found the best stories.

There was a time that scripted dramas ruled the television airwaves, and TV could provide some of those escapes that many of us go to books for. And in some ways, that still happens. Shows like The Walking Dead, Supernatural, Sleepy Hollow and Doctor Who are certainly escapist television. But for every one of those, there's fifty reality TV shows, and if the numbers are any indication, people are getting bored with reality TV.

This will be good in the long run for scripted television, but I think it's also reminding people that there's another place for them to escape to--books. E-books give people a chance to use those digital screens for reading, and in a way, the indie publishing scene is kind of like the early days of cable TV--there's something for everyone, and creators are doing things that would never have fit within the traditional mainstream model.

Here's hoping more people turn off the TV and start to discover the kinds of escape that only a good book can offer. As a writer, I'll welcome them with open arms.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Need to Feed: Consuming Content to Recharge My Creative Batteries

Since finishing NaNoWriMo last week, I have been absolutely ravenous.

Because I spent basically every waking moment of November writing and creating, I had almost no time to consume any of the things I usually read, watch and play for both escape and inspiration.

And it left me hungry. Very, very hungry. So on December 1st, I went on a binge, and I haven't stopped since.

In the past week alone, I read two novels and dozens of comics. I continued catching up on Constantine, Arrow, Helix, Supernatural, American Horror Story and a bunch of other shows. I also watched Nightbreed: the Director's Cut, and got all caught up on the new Nightbreed comic series as well.

I've attended two live music shows in the past ten days and listened to the new AC/DC album around ten times since it came out last Tuesday. And that's not even counting the hours of podcasts I've been listening to.

On the gaming front, I started Rocksmith 2014, Assassin's Creed: Unity, and Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition.

Music, fiction, comics, games--you name it, and I've been consuming it in every spare moment I have. And I'm hungry for more.

As I've been consuming all of these things, I've been making random notes about plot points and character beats that I want to add into the draft of Lovecraft's Trial I just finished for NaNoWriMo. I won't actually start messing around with the draft until the new year, but I already have some great ideas that will make that story so much better than it is right now. I've also begun mapping out the next couple of books, and some big pieces of the meta-story that ties all of the books together is really starting to click into place.

Thinking back, I realized that I went through similar content binges after the last few NaNo events too, and it makes total sense. My switch is flipped completely into "creative mode" during those events, and I need to replenish my inspiration banks when I stop to take a breather. This process happens on a much smaller scale outside of those events, so it's just my normal routine, and much less pronounced. But this year in particular, I really noticed how content hungry I was after finishing NaNoWriMo, And so, I'm happily consuming everything in my path, and will continue to do so, until I collapse.

Do you find yourself going on content binges after big projects? What's your go-to inspirational junk food?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Collecting My Thoughts with Scrivener

Something that became increasingly clear to me during NaNoWriMo last month was the fact that I have too many places for jotting down ideas. Or rather, I haven't done a good job of compiling all the ideas I've jotted down into one place. At any given time, I have handwritten notes stuffed into my pockets or work back, dozens of quick notes saved to Google Keep, and several Google Docs I've opened up for "really important" ideas that need more space to breathe. While these different note-taking systems are not necessarily a problem when I'm working on a standalone story or book, they've become impossible to manage as my Parted Veil series has continued to grow. I just finished the first draft of Lovecraft's Trial, which means by the time that comes out, I'll have four books and one short story in the series. And since it's a paranormal horror series that spans different worlds, there is a ton of details that have to remain consistent across the series.

So, having just finished NaNoWriMo, my first order of business for the Parted Veil series is to take control of all these note-taking systems and consolidate everything into once place.

That place is Scrivener.

I've used Scrivener for all of my books and stories so far, but mainly for its compiling functions that make formatting ebooks and print books a breeze. What I have not done is actually written my books from scratch in Scrivener, or even begun to dig into its myriad of uses. So, putting together a sort of world bible and database for the parted Veil series is serving two functions for me--helping me compile my notes and forcing me to learn Scrivener inside and out.

I'm not doing this without help, though. I've been looking for a good Scrivener resource for a while now, and on Black Friday, Joseph Michael discounted his critically-acclaimed "Learn Scrivener Fast" course by 80%. I bought it, and in the first few modules of the online course i have already learned a ton. I'm using this note consolidation project as my practice project as I go through the course.

I will continue to use multiple note-taking systems to keep track of ideas as i move forward, but I will now have one place where I will make sure those notes get to in order to make things easier to keep track of as the Parted veil series continues to grow. I'll be posting more about eh "Learn Scrivener Fast" course as I make my way through it as well.

Monday, December 1, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014: Finishing Strong

When I checked in last week, I had just crossed the 50,000-word mark and "won" NaNoWriMo. But I still had a ways to go. I had a story that needed an ending, and I was determined to finish that story by November's end.

At around 2:30PM yesterday, I did just that. I finished my story with a final word count of 62, 844, which was my best finish ever. Last year I barely topped the 60k mark when I wrote the first draft for Lovecraft's Pupil, and I finished with around 58k when I wrote Lovecraft's Curse a couple years before that. What was more significant than 60k for me though was keeping my per-day average over 2,000 words for the first time ever. That might not seem like a big deal, but one of my goals for NaNoWriMo this year was to be more consistent. I finished NaNoWriMo with a 2200-word day, and finished the event with a 2094 per-day average.

I mentioned last week about learning the importance of starting strong this year. But I wanted to finish strong as well, and not just in terms of word count. Chuck Wendig had a great post about finishing what you write this week on his blog. And while I had every intention of finishing my story, I wasn't sure if I'd finish it in November. I'd hit my 50k mark, but the first draft wasn't complete. Last year, the same thing happened, and it wasn't until months later that I finished the first draft of Lovecraft's Pupil, which is a primary reason that I haven't released that book yet.

So it was important to me to get the first draft of Lovecraft's Trial completed during NaNoWriMo. And now that it is, I can focus on making it better. I have a lot of rewrites to do, scenes that I need to add, and plenty that will need to be cut as well. But I have a first draft--a complete first draft--to work with.

I also came out of NaNoWriMo with something very precious--momentum. As I look forward to 2015, I have some big plans for the Parted Veil series, my podcasts and my webcomic Mo Stache. I'll be posting about some of those goals and plans over the rest of this month.

Stay tuned!

Monday, November 24, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014: Thoughts on Hitting 50k

Wait--if you're reading this and you haven't hit your daily word count for NaNoWriMo yet, go do that first, then come back.

All set? Okay!

Woo-hoo! I hit 50k!!!!!!

I think it was around 4:30PM Sunday that I hit the magic number for this year's NaNoWriMo event. And while my book is definitely not finished yet, I did reach the goal all Wrimos set for themselves when they embark in this crazy adventure at the beginning of November--50,000 words in 30 days.

I actually looked back at the post I made last year when I finished NaNoWriMo, and my feelings this year are pretty much the same. The sense of accomplishment, the love for the NaNo community, the reinforcement of how important it is to write regularly--all of it. The more NaNo events I participate in, the more I love them, and the bigger evangelist I become for what everything they are about.

Here is the mission statement of NaNoWriMo (from their ABOUT page):

National Novel Writing Month organizes events where children and adults find the inspiration, encouragement, and structure they need to achieve their creative potential. Our programs are web-enabled challenges with vibrant real-world components, designed to foster self-expression while building community on local and global levels.

What a great sentiment. And I can say from experience that NaNoWriMo does exactly what it sets out to do. These events inspire and encourage people, and they build community among those who take up the challenge. they have inspired me, helped me make some great friends in the writing community, and without them I never would have gotten my first book out into the world.

If there is a new lesson I took away from this year's event, it was the importance of starting strong. For the first time time, I actually stayed up until midnight and began writing the second NaNoWriMo started. That night I got over 3,100 words down, and within three days, I had over 10,000. That strong start took a lot of the pressure off as I moved forward, as I was always working with a cushion of words that I could fall back on if there was a day I couldn't get a ton of writing done. Because of that, my average never dipped below 2,000 words a day. This allowed me to truly enjoy the experience as opposed to playing catch up.

There's no rest for me now that I've hit my 50k mark, I've still got plenty to do, and I will be writing for the rest of the month alongside all of my fellow Wrimos, cheering them on and celebrating their successes with them. In the coming months, I will be dedicating an entire new season of the See Brian Write podcast to NaNoWrimo, and I will be putting out an open call for people interested in being on the show. Stay tuned for that one.

So, if you're somewhere along the way to 50k, keep going! I'll be the crazy bearded guy at the finish line screaming and cheering for you.

P.S. If you enjoy NaNoWriMo as much as I do, I would encourage you to donate a few dollars to help them keep these great events going.