Nano and writing what you know

So I’m doing Nanowrimo (and I recommend everyone has a go at least once, even if you only end up with a thousand words by the end of it, you’ll have more than you started with) and have been trundling along at a reasonable clip, managing to keep up so far. But the other day I was writing a scene with the crew of a spaceship chatting about something, what to do next or some such, and I realised that not only was that boring, but it was too nice. So since my Captain, Laura Shields, tends a bit towards the irreverent and stupid on some things, I decided to do what all writers must do.

It was time to be mean.

Now I tend to agree with the consensus that, on the whole, the job of a writer is to be an asshole to their characters, to be the one who makes their life hell so they can come through it stronger, or weaker, but either way definitively changed. In some cases, dead, which I’m sure you’ll agree is a hell of a change. So I decided that it was time for the Captain to screw up on a tiny bit of interaction with the ship’s AI, and since the AI is a full fledged person this was enough to actually hurt her.

What has this to do with writing what you know, phantom people who may exist only in my fevered hallucinations are no doubt asking? Why that’s the very thing, I took the interaction from one of my very own fuck ups of this sort, and I think the scene is better for it. Like me, Laura didn’t realise what she had done because she was thinking about other things and generally being an inconsiderate dumbass. Also like me, she was immediately called on it by her crew and, I hope (there’s still a long way to go just on this first story with them) has learned from it. Now, I didn’t need to use my own experience for this, I could have just made something up that made sense and gone from there.

But it was a hell of a lot easier, and more convincing, to write from what I’d experienced.

Also, in an odd way, it gave me a kind of final ownership over my fuck up. Recognising I’d been shitty, owning up, then showing how it can happen have helped solidify the checks needed in my mind so that it won’t happen again. I hope. We’re all human, mostly.

So yeah, writing what you know, useful in a whole range of ways and for more than just the writing. But, I think the phrase ‘write what you know’ is a bit problematic, since it seems to imply only ever writing about what you’ve experienced.

And I’ve never insulted an artificial intelligence.

A better (in my opinion, which you can take, leave, or fling away in the desperate hope to never see it again but know this: like a boomerang it will come back to haunt you) way of saying it might be: ‘know what you write’ which, while still somewhat ambiguous, at least puts the impetus on ‘knowing’. And I can know all kinds of things without experiencing them, just from reading and watching and generally taking notice.

Basically I’d prefer it if everyone felt safe to write whatever the hell they liked, and if you don’t feel like what you’ve written about is convincing, just read read read until you think you understand it, check that by explaining it to someone else, and then fix your writing appropriately.

No, this wasn’t me justifying my wiki walks and tv tropes traversals, shut up.


Back in something, probably not black

Time to restart, methinks.

Ugh, I hate that word.

This blog has been neglected for the various reasons people neglect blogs. I won’t bore you with details.

I finally finished last year’s nano story, and by finished I mean it has a beginning, middle and end. All of which are too thin and require a metric tonne of world building to work properly; I really need practice with fantasy writing.

It’ll get done, just needs to simmer for a while.

I’m editing Only Human, a previous nano story which needs more work. But the difference is I know what it needs now, enough time has gone by for that to become clear. Editing is it’s own kind of slog though, so that’s fun.

Write write and write some more, that’s what we’re aiming for.

Enough gibberish from me, I’ve got a first line to figure out for a Chuck Wendig friday flash challenge 🙂

Shattered Blade

This years (years’? year’s? I don’t even care anymore) Nano novel is one that has existed in one form or another in the back of my mind for a couple of years now. I wrote out the first few chapters by hand in a notebook and it kind of died an odd sort of death as I drifted away from it. Now though it is not a tale of gods intruding on the world we know, but one set in a fantasy world where they have always existed.

And always been petty, as it turns out.

The titular item is a weapon forged in the last great war between the heavens and hell. Neither of which are really more than the domains of their respected gods, He on high and the Vengeful One, both of which are just the most powerful of their kind. There are many others all vying for power, but this weapon is going to change the entire world with it’s coming. Forged when the greatest weapons of heaven and hell clashed this thing is stronger than both and will end up in the hands of a mortal woman who just wants to know more about the world.

She… may have to stab some people in the process ^^”

The synopsis be here: Permanence, and the first 1200 words or so are here: Fragment

And now I rush off back to it, my word pile is not nearly high enough.

Behold the Nanobolt

Storm clouds gather in the deepening dark, mustering energies beyond fathoming with which to assault the ground below. The arcs begin even before the rain starts but they are merely the light show, the echoes of what is to come spreading in grand webs through the strengthening storm. Rain and ocean mix in the wind, the smells combining in the charged atmosphere to make that unique air of the storm.

The first strike explodes a tree. No one notices.

A second writes glittering letters in sandy soil of a language none can read.

The third, it’s always the third, strikes me, and life is reborn.

Somewhere, quietly, a madman is cackling with glee over this very subject. Or because he spilled his soup and it looks like jesus, it’s hard to tell.

The grand storm is Nanowrimo and it has, as pointed out in this silly little post, brought me back to writing life. I fell for an mmo, always a silly thing to do, and have written very little for the last few months, but no longer. I am 17,530 words into this year’s little month long novelling adventure and could not be happier to be back into it, with a little look see and revision (advised against, but I take advice sparingly) I think I’ll be posting my first 12-1500 words here shortly. Why? Why not, and because Chuck Wendig put it forth as the flash fiction challenge, of course 😉

Inspiration and Writer’s block

Inspiration is a funny thing. (How many posts have opened with this line? Probably too many)

Lots of people talk about it as though it’s nebulous and almost mystical, personally I don’t believe there’s that much special about it. I will admit it’s fickle (no, having an idea at 3 in the morning when I’m too tired to care does not help, dumb brain) but I’ve seen this used as an excuse, and I’m sure everyone has at some point. If you’re lucky inspiration will strike when you’re ready to write (or draw, act, whatever really) and the ideas will just flow and it can be a hell of a high. I think that’s where the idea that’s it’s something more magical comes from and that leads to the thought that without the magic moment, nothing can be done.

I reckon a lot of stories go unwritten because of this.

As it turns out, if you’ve written anything (or done anything creative really) you soon find that there is a lot of time where inspiration has taken a holiday, and carrying on feels like work. Because it is. But that’s not a bad thing, you can prod inspiration into working by just working through, stubbornly getting words down even if they’ re not very good(Related: if you like writing and haven’t tried Nanowrimo, go get an account and get ready, trust me on this). They can always be fixed later, after all, and you never know what you might trigger after a couple of hours of slogging.

This is related, in some way I think, to Writer’s Block. Which is something I’ve never suffered.

Yes, I can hear you laughing, just give me a sec.

There have been plenty of times when I’ve wanted to write and not been able to. I don’t attribute them to writer’s block because it never felt like a ‘block’. I’ve had plenty of lazy moments, tired moments or I just want to smash things in a game moments. But when I really focus on the task, I can always squeeze words out, no matter how stubborn they may be in coming. I’d guess the lack of inspiration can combine with whatever stresses a person is going through, leading to hopelessness and giving up on the writing, but again, I’ve never experienced it. But I could just be that stubborn

This is not, of course, the whole story. I asked Metalwings of Distantrealms for her opinion on this, and she pointed out something I hadn’t thought of. The block, I now suspect, can be as unique as the individual. What if, for example, the characters stop talking to you? They refuse to give up what they think, what they would say, how they’re feeling, so writing them feels wooden and just… wrong. In this case going back over everything about the character can induce the block to shift, but not always. Most of the time you have other characters as well, so you can just jump to someone else for a bit (Related 2, the Relatening: Scrivener is wonderful for this).

I’m sure there must be other ways words refuse to drop onto the page, but I will always recommend putting down whatever drivel is necessary to break through the block and fixing it later. Crappy metaphor time: It’s like tapping a well, you don’t drink until the water flows clear and cold, so you’ve got to keep chugging the crap out until it’s clear.

Wait, that was a simile. I think. Crap.

Have you experienced writers block? What was it like for you?