Finally past that horrible flu thing (with only a bit of a lingering glass-edged throat to endure), I have resumed writing my novel. In the last two days I’ve managed a weirdly precise 6,800 words. I don’t even need a calculator like I normally do to know that’s 3,400 words per day or double the daily average required. I’m at a total of 14,725 words, where I should be at 23,000+, but it’s not as bad as it looks, because I now require a pace of just over 2,000 words per day to finish by November 30, something I don’t see as a problem unless I get the flu again or are hit by a blimp.
I haven’t committed to a dictation session yet and will probably hold off until the weekend, where if it backfires horribly, I will still have time to fall back to the more conventional hunt-and-peck method.
Anyway, it’s nice to be writing again, and it’s nice to see that even after long dry spells I can still find and slip into the groove.
I came down with the flu right as this year’s NaNoWriMo started and the effect was predictable: I didn’t write.
Now, I have written, even if you don’t count the existing words from the third version of Weirdsmith I’m using (now with the working title of The Journal), but most days I have lacked either the physical energy, the mental energy or both. And this has been one of those horrible, lingering flu bugs, with that feeling of tiredness being the most persistent symptom (others have ranged from light fever, loss of appetite, head and lung congestion, pressure headaches, and the always fun dry, hacking cough).
Normally this would be a disaster. We are at November 11th and with a daily word count of 1,667 to keep on pace, I would need to be at 18,337 words. Instead I am at 7,925 words.
To finish on time I would need to write an average of 2,214 words per day, a boost of about 547 words above the regular pace. This is actually doable, so there’s no need to panic.
More to that point, I have now finished my voice dictation setup and my coughing has settled down enough that I should be able to do it fairly reliably. I am curious to see how this can boost my word count (and how accurate the results are. Initial testing was pretty good, with a few lapses, though I’m not sure yet if it was me being mush-mouthed or Dragon being weird or some combination thereof).
I’m also going to pick up a digital voice recorder and use that during walks to also get in more “writing” time.
The hardest part in resuming actually has nothing to do with the way I am feeling, but that I had left the story off at a rather dull point–something that may be expunged in a revision–so I need to look past that and dive back in to the “good” stuff.
Onward I go. I will report as warranted, through tears of joy or despair.
I am starting the month with the flu, which is sub-optimal for my health and for National Novel Writing Month, which began yesterday.
Last night I attempted to write after revising the earlier work I’d done on what is now going by the bland working title of The Journal, but by 9 o’ clock I had written nothing, had no energy, then went to bed, where I burned up and had literal fever dreams.
Today–or tonight, to be more precise, I have a little more energy and a new thermometer confirmed I only have a mild fever, but I am still lacking the energy to really put out words. Tomorrow’s weather is The Rains, so I’m thinking I’ll have a good go then, especially if I’m over the hump of this latest beating to my health that is the year 2018. Not that I’m complaining! It’s been, uh, interesting. Yes. Interesting. Grist for the mill, fodder for my writing. Or something.
Anyway, on with November and the official start of the two month Christmas blitz. Ho ho ho.
When all through the house…er, condo…not a creature was stirring, except me, making sure I’m actually ready.
As I mentioned on Broken Forum, I’ve got most stuff set up:
Story with actual plot outline
Daily word tracker
Updated laptop with writing apps installed
Note I said writing apps. That’s because I’m still flipping between using WriteMonkey or FocusWriter. Both are installed on any machine I’ll use and both save to text format, so there’s no issue if I switch from one to the other, or even back and forth. At this point I’m leaning toward FocusWriter because it’s been more recently updated and has fewer options to distract me.
Now to find out if I’m looking back on 50,000 words in a month’s time or a puddle of tears over what might have been.
As referenced in this post, I did in fact spend some time mulling over version #3 of Weirdsmith and came up with enough to think it might work with a little more fleshing out. I chatted with Nic because it’s always helpful to bounce ideas off someone else and came away with what is an actual outline. I just have to move it from my head to somewhere that I (and others) can read it.
Here it is in broad strokes:
William Smith has a decent but not great job. He yearns to become a successful writer but is plagued by writer’s block and lots of self-doubt
He is also single and working to rectify this, too
He meets a guy through a dating app and they begin dating
Eventually they begin a committed relationship, though William is still frustrated with his writing and not thrilled with work
William gets into a head-on collision that leaves him badly injured and in a coma for several weeks; the occupant of the other vehicle is killed
During the coma William has a lot of weird dreams and also sees things that he later feels are more like premonitions than dreams, though he can’t say why. These largely revolve around a book of some kind.
William faces a long period of recovery, with a lot of physical therapy, plus survivor guilt to work through. His partner provides support, reminding him he was not at fault in the accident.
After he has mostly recovered, William finds his writing is no better off. “So much for the artist having to suffer,” he muses.
A woman comes to him one day with a book in hand. She introduces herself as the sister of the other driver killed in the car accident. The book is an unwritten journal. She explain that her brother, like William, was also a writer, and also struggled to get the words down. He had purchased the journal to help record his thoughts, his inspiration and the sister believes that by passing it to William it will help keep her brother’s spirit and his work alive.
William thinks this is a little creepy and weird, but takes the journal. He tucks it away in a drawer, never intending to use it.
He continues to be plagued by nightmares and is frustrated by his ongoing inability to write. He takes out the journal, thinks about writing in it, then decides instead to throw it away, thinking it bad luck.
The next day the book is back on the nightstand. His partner denies any knowledge of it. William leaves it in the drawer again.
Eventually William feels a strange tug toward the journal and writes in it for the first time. He isn’t writing fiction, just his thoughts, so it comes easier.
A day or so after writing in the journal, he picks it up again only to find a few cryptic words have been added after his entry. He ponders asking his partner, but ultimately rules him out, as the words are essentially meaningless.
William continues to write in the journal and after each entry, more writing appears. He eventually shows his partner, who offers no explanation. They check the security of their condo and there are some tense nights as William–already plagued by bad dreams–believes he hears an intruder entering their home.
The entries in the journal become more coherent and William realizes someone–or something–is trying to communicate with him. He attempts to reply back.
The communication begins in earnest. It seems the person or entity wants to help William with his writing and offers him advice and tips, some of which seem rather dubious or even ill-advised.
As this happens, William begins to see what are at first subtle changes in his personality. His partner picks up on this but at first says nothing, thinking he is suffering mental (or physical) trauma from the accident.
Eventually this change in behavior begins to generate friction in the relationship.
His partner puts together some clues that lead him to believe that somehow the man killed in the car accident is somehow communicating with William through the journal. He takes this to William, who finds the idea ludicrous, something “I wouldn’t put in a novel because no one would find it believable.” The tension in the relationship grows.
Putting together more clues, the partner comes to the conclusion that the sister of the brother has given the journal to William in the hope that her dead brother’s spirit can be transferred from the journal into William, allowing him to live again. The partner, without William’s knowledge, confronts the sister. Rather than denying it, the sister admits to it, says it was wrong and agrees to stop. The partner leaves, thinking it all went a little too easily. This is accurate as she was lying all over the place about stopping.
A short time later, the partner is nearly run down by a car. A coincidence or something more?
The partner takes what he has done to William, but William, already acting increasingly belligerent and odd, rejects the whole thing as absurd. The partner is torn. On the one hand, he wants desperately to help William, but also feels very much that he is getting pushed away hard. He decides to give it a little more time.
They end up in an argument, with William saying and doing things so strange that his partner gives him an ultimatum to either work with him to do something or he’s leaving. William tells him to leave.
The partner goes back to the sister, who claims again that she hasn’t done anything and has no idea what could be happening. He tells her it doesn’t matter, they’ve split up, anyway, and that William is now on his own. She barely suppresses her glee at this news.
The partner goes back to William to try again to convince him to get rid of the journal before it’s too late. To his surprise, William agrees. He gets a large butcher knife, which strikes the partner as rather odd, but watches as William tries to stab the journal. The knife keeps deflecting. The partner asks if he can try and the same thing happens, the blade keeps skating off the cover. William tries tearing out the pages, but they remain firmly attached. He then gets a lighter and tries to burn one of the pages, but it fails to ignite.
The partner wonders if it’s already too late, but he still sees enough of William to think it isn’t, and that the efforts to destroy the journal were genuine. He attempts a reconciliation and William tells him that they can no longer be a couple, he’s no longer attracted to him. The partner retreats, hurt and unsure how to continue.
At this point the communication from the dead writer is nearly complete. He tells William to finish writing in the journal, to complete the task and let him fully assume control. William balks and tries to get rid of the journal again, tossing it off a bridge into a rapidly flowing river.
The next day the journal is back, good as new. William fears he is losing his mind as his personality continues to change. He calls his partner for help and he returns, albeit with some hesitation as he is unsure how much William is in control at this point.
They agree that the best and perhaps only way William can defeat the dead writer is by not destroying the journal, but rather by tapping into his own writing skills to effectively pen a different ending.
William and his partner sit at the kitchen table with the journal. William fights hard against the dead writer assuming control, but he begins to write in the journal. At first his words have no effect. His partner offers to try writing instead and is violently repelled, but unhurt.
William tries again and suddenly grips the arm of his partner. His partner feels not only uneasy, but also not quite right–the dead writer is trying to transfer from William to him. With his free hand, William continues to write and his other hand eventually loosens its grip.
William seems more himself and the two tentatively believe that it is over, they have pushed back against the dead writer. They agree that rather than destroying the journal, it is actually safer to keep it. William puts it away in a drawer again.
They both go to work the next day, but when they get home, the journal is gone from the drawer. The partner suspects the sister has taken it and says they should go to her. William is reluctant and the partner pretends to relent, fully intending to confront her on his own.
He does this and she doesn’t deny that she took it, then says they can have it back if they wish. She promises not to take it again or interfere in any way with them again. The partner smells a trap, but there is little he can do but take the journal and leave.
Upon bringing the journal back, it becomes apparent that the sister has somehow infused it with more dark magic and William is drawn to write again in response to the pleading of the now-fading dead writer. His partner tries to pull him away, but William fends him off. William begins to write a scene and suddenly the book is blasted off the table, flying against a wall and sliding to the floor. He seems wholly himself now.
They worry that the sister may try again and debate on trying to destroy the journal. for now, they decide to keep it, thinking the window for the dead writer to transfer has either run out or is very close to doing so.
I’m not sure if I’ve captured everything from the discussion we had, but it’s certainly enough to start with, and it has a middle and and end and all the things you expect in a story. I’m not sure how exciting writing in a journal will be, but hey, you never know.
I’ll find out in three days. Well, I guess I’ll really find out in 33 days.
Also, I know this version won’t be called Weirdsmith, but on other title immediately occurs to me. Titles are easy, though. Writing is hard.
I can’t say why, exactly, but I’ve been unable to outline any of my finalist story ideas. I’ve thought about them and had some ideas, but nothing that could be applied to an outline in any useful way. When I try to think of how to outline one of the ideas, I experience this strange sort of blanking where my brain simply comes up with nothing and I eventually end up looking at kittens on the internet. It can be maddening because it feels like the harder I try to push against the blanking, the more resolute it becomes.
I’m not sure how to get past this, but I am soliciting the help of others instead of just flailing on my own. If nothing else, I’ll at least have company while I flail.
Also, I have absolutely no evidence to back this up, but it feels like NaNoWriMo itself is at a low ebb this year, with lower participation and enthusiasm. This has no actual bearing on my specific issue, but it makes me feel slightly better to think a general malaise is plaguing the entire thing. Actually, it doesn’t make me feel better, it makes me feel a little depressed.
But there are still 10 days to go before November 1st, so I remain cautiously hopeful that I can still pull this off. If not, there are still plenty of kittens out there.
I’m still deciding on what to use for writing this year’s novel.
I’m leaning against Scrivener for a few reasons:
the 3.0 version for Windows seems very unlikely to go live before November 1st. The older version works fine, but is not directly compatible with the current Mac version.
I am still not comfortable with how fragile it is with cloud storage. I get that it’s not that hard to just use Dropbox and remember to save, close and sync before returning to a project on a different system, but it’s 2018 and it just seems like this shouldn’t feel like a hack at this point. Plus my preferred storage solution of OneDrive is actively discouraged.
I am still not a big fan of the UI, though it is certainly better in 3.0.
That said, it has a lot still going for it, especially for a novel, so I haven’t absolutely ruled it out.
Speaking of Scrivener, the Scrivener-like Atomic Scribbler seems out of the running as its cloud-saving is even more fragile, and the author of the software offers dire warnings to those who would trust an online service in conjunction with it.
I’m also actually considering Microsoft Word. Since novels don’t use a lot of formatting, it wouldn’t get too bogged down and unlike Scrivener, cloud saving is easy-peasy across devices. But it’s still Word and despite having a billion features, it lacks a lot of things that are useful for novel-writing.
WriteMonkey 3.0 is still in beta, doesn’t (yet) support paragraph indents and is unlikely to even come out of beta this year, let alone before NaNoWriMo. Version 2.7 is still very capable and the text-only files it produces make cloud-saving simple and the files themselves very light and quick to load. This is probably still the leading candidate.
FocusWriter is like a stripped-down version of WriteMonkey that supports a lot of its core features and offers an easy-to-use interface. Since it can save in text format, it’s easy to switch between it and other editors that use text files without anything mucking up. I’m not entirely sure why I don’t consider it a stronger contender. It’s almost as if it may lack some feature I need but I can’t think of what it might be.
There are a billion other editors out there, but as I’ve recounted before, most have one or more features (or lack of the same) that make them unsuitable.
The three contenders above are also among the few that support both Windows and macOS, though the latter is less important since I’ve gotten a ThinkPad and seldom use my MacBook Pro now (every time I do I still want to start a rant about the keyboard). Scrivener and Word do offer the bonus of iOS versions, too, though in theory any iOS text editor could work if I stick to using the text-only format–though paragraph indents would likely remain a problem.
Unlike the story itself, I can pretty much put off making a decision about what tool to use until the last minute. And I just might!
A few days ago I was reading the NaNo Technology sub-forum because I like reading about the tech used for writing almost more than writing itself. Just typing that out I can feel the ghost of Harlan Ellison scowling over me.
Anyway, someone described but could not name a thing where words get put into a and are sized based on frequency. These are word clouds, which several other forumites helpfully named. Someone linked a site that generates word clouds based on the text you paste in, so I went looking for some text.
As there was no obvious limit on what could be pasted in, I went to the Novels folder of my All Writing – current folder and grabbed the most recent revision of my incomplete novel Weirdsmith. The site didn’t actually generate a word cloud, probably because I don’t have Java installed, and I couldn’t be bothered to pursue it further. But I looked at the incomplete draft of Weirdsmith–abandoned after only a few days–and was surprised. How can I be surprised by my own writing? I have a bad memory, apparently.
Weirdsmith has been started at least four different times:
As a play. This is the closest to actually being done of the bunch and in it, Weirdsmith is a psychopath who is found injured in the woods by a young couple. He insinuates himself into their lives and things do not go well, as you might expect. This was probably 40% complete when it petered out.
Novel attempt #1: This preserved the main story noted above, but as a novel and with the young couple being switched to two guys. It didn’t make it past the first scene.
Novel attempt #2: This is the one that surprised me. I’ll get back to it in a moment.
Novel attempt #3: This one, like #3, also changes up the story. It starts with a young man driving through a snowstorm to a new city and a new job. He crashes and is left in a weeks-long coma. My work ended just as he starts physical therapy and at a point where nothing unusual has happened.
What surprised me about #3 is that I had somehow managed to blot it right out of my mind. Re-reading it, it was at once familiar again, but it was kind of weird (no pun intended) to have so utterly forgotten about it, especially since the re-read revealed that it was not bad at all.
This one doesn’t start with a car crash or a new job, but rather an IT guy (write what you know) dealing with daily annoyances, struggling with his desire to write (write what you know) and finding little details in his life just a little off. The story hints ominously that the day is not going to end at all in a way he would like. In a rare case of recording my ideas, I actually have a note before the last (incomplete) scene:
William drives to meet a date and that is when he has the crash/finds the book—compare it to shouting “look out” to the girl and how the sequence of events leads to something happening that may not have happened otherwise [edit—or not. There may need to be more initial plot development before going straight to Magicke Book]
The Magicke Book is ill-defined, but I expected that it would somehow shape or predict events, possibly by making things written in it coming true, or something along those lines (I want to say “or words to that effect” but that would be a terrible bit of wordplay).
The other surprising part of finding this third version of Weirdsmith is how it actually grabbed me and showed promise upon re-reading it. William’s personal and private lives are both fleshed out, each with its own travails, so you immediately see a person with flaws, struggling, but seemingly decent at his core. He seems a bit hapless, and maybe deserves better.
As a result, I’m going to spend a few days trying to outline this and see where it goes. Nic suggested that perhaps after finding the book and using it as a journal, William is surprised to find other entries written in it–perhaps in response to what he is writing? Is someone or something trying to communicate with him? and why? Questions!
We’ll see how it goes, but I am thinking this may work out better than the Stage 4 cancer time travel story, which would require more research at the very least.
This weekend, other than eating almost-turkey on Thanksgiving, I will begin mulling over the primary candidate for next month’s contest, which is:
Time Enough? (working title) A Stage 4 cancer victim acquires an object/device that lets him slip through time. He tries to use this to rid himself of his cancer.
I’ll also be doing a final look over all of my various and zany ideas, to see if something else grabs me like that girl’s hand at the end of Carrie. If nothing does, I’ll spend next week doing an outline on Time Enough? and see how that goes. If it founders, I’ll spend another week looking at other ideas, pick one and outline that one in the fourth week of October. If that one founders as well I will spend November writing 50,000 words of haiku (that’s 2,941 haikus).
While I am still well ahead of where I’d be at this time in years past, I must admit to feeling a bit nervous with 26 days before the writing begins. But still reasonably confident I can do this.
This is one of those books that sets out to do one thing, in this case guide you through using voice dictation with Nuance’s Dragon software to improve your writing output. And author Scott Baker succeeds in providing a concise, clear and confident set of advice, covering everything from set up to hardware recommendations, the common pitfalls to avoid and more.
A lot of the advice also applies in general terms to using any kind of voice dictation, though Baker as much admits that Dragon is the only credible option for the best results (and is more expensive now that the Premium version has been discontinued in favor of the pricier Professional version). Dictation has the potential to dramatically improve your writing speed on first drafts–Baker advises against using it for editing, as do other authors I’ve read who are otherwise strong advocates of dictation–and Baker encourages the reader/writer to use it whenever they can.
He also addresses a problem people generally have with voice technology, whether it’s dictating or just speaking a command to your smart phone–it can feel somewhat embarrassing to do in public. Baker gamely insists people won’t care and my transit rides suggest he may be right, but he provides solutions ranging from dictating in your car on the ride in to work, to dictating as you leave the train and head to the office. With the increased speed of dictation over writing, even 10 or 15 minutes can yield great results.
Baker’s website also includes video tutorials for buyers of the book, as well as a blog where he regularly reviews microphones and other hardware, as well as provides a useful bunch of links to resources ranging from books, microphones, software and other accessories.
In all, this slim volume is an excellent way to acquaint yourself with Dragon dictation software, but more than that, it’s a good primer on why dictation is worthwhile to begin with, full of practical advice and good tips.
I’ve gotten feedback from three people on my seven story ideas and so far the results are:
Time Enough : 2 votes
Wake Up: 1 vote
Mean Mind: 1 vote
Lost youth: 1 vote
Time Enough is Stage 4 cancer person using time travel to get rid of the cancer.
Wake Up is the guy living another life in a coma as doctors and family try to reach him.
Mean Mind are psychokinetic good and bad people trying to use their powers to change the world or keep others from changing it.
Lost Youth is the other time travel story, with someone going back 20-30 years in time, but with all of their memories left intact.
I’m still discussing the ideas, so the winnowing has not begun, but I’m only extending my deadline by a week. That will still give me three weeks to work on an outline and, if need be, jettison the story for another likely candidate. This is why it’s good to have seven of them instead of one. That’s what I tell myself, anyway.
More soon, though I am giving Stage 4 (alternate working title) some thought now.
On a side note, I am still deciding what tool to use for the writing part, though I am still planning on working on mixing in voice dictation. I’ll be trying that out more extensively this week.
My short list is shorter than I thought it would be, but perhaps this is one of those things that turns out to be a blessing in disguise, like when scientists found out that eating chocolate makes you lose weight.
The Short list
Time After Time: A person with Stage 4 cancer finds a translucent stone that lets them move forward and back in time. They use it to see if they can cure their cancer.
One Slip: A man falls over the edge of a waterfall and is presumed dead by his partner. As time goes by the surviving partner sees signs that suggest his lover is still around, but stuck…somewhere.
Wake Up: Person unaware they are in a coma (as is the reader at first), experiences lots of weird and vivid things in the coma world as doctors and family try to break through to contact them.
The Broken Bridge: Expanded version of the long short story in which a man is saved from dying, only to become convinced he was meant to die.
Sanity Road: A long night drive starts to play havoc on the mind of the driver. A Twilight Zone joint, if you will.
The Mean Mind: Scaled-down version of unfinished NaNoWriMo novel in which a small group of people with psychokinetic powers must band together to stop The Bad Guys with the same powers, as they want to reshape the world in yucky ways. (Imagine if one were the right-hand person in the current White House. Talk about scary.)
Time Travel Idea: Yet another time travel story. This time a person goes back 20-30 years to become the younger version they once were, but retaining all the memories they accumulated over those 20-30 years. How does this knowledge help or hinder them?
Looking over this batch, I don’t have any strong, immediate urge to axe any of them–which is good, in a way. It means they all have potential. I may solicit some feedback from a few others and go from there.
I am going to have a target deadline in mind, though: the end of the month, which is exactly seven days hence, Sunday, September 30. On or before that day I will pick one of these seven and then begin the outline process. In the event of a tie, I’ll do two outlines and then choose the stronger of the pair.
Even without having chosen an idea yet, I am already way ahead of where I’ve been for most National Novel Writing Months I’ve participated in. Exciting! And weird.