In which the word ‘intereading’ is coined

In between ending my old job and starting my new job, I had 10 weeks off. In that 10 weeks I started a lot of the little projects that have been on my mind (and finished none, of course): a z80 emulator (the cpu from a gameboy) and some bits of the graphics processor, a short story, the start of a longer story, an iPad version of the old Fighting Fantasy books (which someone beat me to releasing), and an iPad framework for developing old-school text adventure games. Most of these projects were just clearing out dusty corners of my cerebral filing cabinet, but I was most excited about playing with the notion of books and interactivity on the iPad.

This next bit may seem like a non-sequitur, but i’ll pull it all back together in a bit. I promise.

I’ve admired Oliver Jeffers‘ work for ages. I own a few of his books, have a large print of his in the bedroom, and have a tattoo appointment booked to get a tattoo inspired by another of his images.

Here’s where this post comes back together: This is one of those ideas that I wish I’d had. It’s a version of Oliver Jeffers’ latest book, The Heart and the Bottle, developed for iPad with beautiful, whimsical interactions for the reader.

As an aside, we’re probably going to want to start using a more active noun for someone who reads interactive books. An interacter, perhaps? Or intereader?

Anyway, I cannot wait until there are more books like this, and if I was a kid I would interead this over, and over again.

Who am I kidding; I will be intereading it over, and over.

November rain

First, the great news: My better half has a permanent job! She’s been working on contract for a while and they finally realised, as I did some time ago, that they couldn’t possibly live without her and have insisted she stay on.

Now, the less good news: As part of her new permanent contract, our mutual friend must fly to Shanghai next week and stay there for ten days. This is very exciting, and a great opportunity for her to reveal herself as the rock star of apparel quality and vendor management that I know her to be, but I’m selfish and am going to miss her tremendously.

Finally the silver lining: NaNoWriMo starts this coming week and unlike last year, I don’t have the excuse of being new to the country, moving apartments or having a new job to fall back on and use to justify my failing to complete a novel in a month. And now I have an apartment to myself (and two dogs) for the first week.

I have also made some changes to my approach this year, which I’m hoping will improve my chances of completing the challenge:

Handwriting instead of typing
By handwriting, I hope not to get sucked in to the temptation of premature editing which should enable me to keep the creative flow going. Assuming I can get the creative flow started.

No planning
Last year, I started with an outline for a novel and a title, however once I stepped out of the bounds of that plan I became blocked. By not having a plan, I expect to be freer to just write.

Expect updates here as the month continues.

Gratefulgiving

I wrote a really long post here detailing the last couple of days, covering Thanksgiving, Black Friday, eating too much, drinking way too much, and generally struggling to get to all systems working within operational parameters. However, I don’t really want this blog to just be a journal of events that I might look back on fondly in a few years, I want to write interesting things, so I deleted it. And now I’m writing about how I deleted it. Yes, that’s much more interesting. Well done, Dominic.

On a side note about writing interesting things, I should probably write a little about how NaNoWriMo has gone for me. Well, I stopped writing at 12,000 words out of the target of 50,000. Lame, right? I could point you to the relocation to a foreign country, recent illness, but then you’d probably point to my posts about how much fun work is and how I’m playing Warcraft. And then you’d rub my nose in my post where I complained about how I never finish any projects and I’m proud of taking part in NaNoWriMo as it will kick my butt into actually finishing something. Then I’d probably just sit quietly for a moment before a tear rolls down my face and I realise I’ll never amount to a hill of beans, or something.

Anyway, I figured out where I went wrong, which is a good start to doing something right, I think. For the parts of my novel where I knew what had to happen, I was able to blaze through a couple of thousand words at a time and really enjoy doing it. Some people on the forums for NaNoWriMo state that they find this the least interesting part of the process, but I really love fleshing out dialogue and encounters between characters. Where I get stuck, however, is when I don’t know what should happen next. I know that I should just write whatever comes to mind, but I can’t. I can’t get past the fact that I have no plan, no matter how much I may have written in the past that I want to get past it.

What should I do, then? I think that the best way forward for me is to make a plan for my novel, with a deadline for that plan. Nothing detailed, just an overall plot arc, maybe a couple of subplots, major character names and basic personalities, motives, etc. But nothing detailed. You hear that, brain? Once I have the overall plan, I can put together a scene breakdown: A list of scenes, not necessarily in order, that need filling out for the novel to have a solid three acts, conflict and to flesh out the story that I want to tell. Then, I think, I’ll be able to actually write those scenes and complete the world and the characters.

As long as I set myself deadlines, I can do this. And if it means me learning to work with a plan, but not to let myself get stuck in the plan, that’s a great lesson that I need to learn.

Wow, that turned out to be quite the side note, huh? So back to what I should write about: Thanksgiving.

My Turkey Day was fantastic. An unexpected invitation to dinner, and a hope that noone would go out of their way for the vegetarian, ended with a great night with fun conversation, a dancing voice-activated R2-D2 (which only reacts to dreadful American accents and whiny Luke Skywalker voice), and new friends (well, kinda; I knew them from before, but never really socialised with them) who are going to be neighbours. And everybody needs good neighbours.

I think the tradition is that I’m supposed to give thanks for something, however in my previous attempt at this post, I ended up coming to the conclusion that I’m thankful for everything that I should be thankful for. When I tried to pin down who I should be thanking, though, I ran into trouble. I don’t subscribe to a higher power, or anything relating to predetermination of events, so it’s difficult for me to thank anyone for things when I see them as the result of hard work, fortuitous decision-making and raw chance. I have, then, to just be grateful in general that my life has become what it is, and I’m able to share it with the people I share it with. A hand-wringing liberal sentiment, if ever there was one.

Sadly, Gratefulgiving just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Writing in the dark

I thought that I’d survived jetlag. I was clearly wrong.

After a very tiring day yesterday, during which I walked nearly 3km with an enormous bag of dog food thanks to getting lost and not finding a cab, I crashed early at 7.30pm. I like to think of the walk of doom as my own personal Biggest Loser challenge. Sleeping early would have been fine, except I woke up very confused in the dark. Bugger, I thought, it’s 3am, isn’t it. I resigned myself to another early start before checking the time and seeing 11.15. Confused that it was still dark but the time showed that I’d slept in late, it took a while before I realised I’d only been asleep for a few hours.

Fortunately, or unfortunately in retrospect, I had a great idea for the novel that I’m writing as part of NaNoWriMo. So I slunk into the living room, fired up Ike, the EeePC, and started writing. Now I’m horribly behind in my writing; I should be at around 15,000 words and I was at about 4,000. I churned out over 2,500 words before feeling that I could sleep once more, at about 2am. I haven’t caught up, but it was a good dent in the word count.

Sadly, I was mistaken about my propensity for sleep. Another couple of hours went by as I stared at the ceiling during which Mirto also woke up. We decided to give up on sleep for a while and watch some TV. An hour later, she’d been able to crash again, but I stayed up until nearly 7am before crashing on the couch. The couch, by the way, is the least comfortable couch I’ve ever had the displeasure of knowing. It’s too short, too shallow, and the cushions are attached to the frame.

I finally woke up at 11.30am with a very frustrated puppy nuzzling my arm for breakfast and a walk, with a stiff neck, arms, shoulders and back.

Now it’s early afternoon and I’m about to have pancakes for breakfast. Yeah, I know. My life sucks, right?

It’s my first day at work tomorrow in a new company, so I really need to get a solid night’s sleep. Of course, if it’s interrupted by another bout of writing, I won’t be too upset. But sleep would be great too.

Learning to fly

I started my novel today. It’s part of the NaNoWriMo project to write 50,000 words in a month that I have mentioned previously.

In the few hours since I began, I have managed to write 372 words. Given that I should be writing 1,667 a day, and that I’m aiming for 2,000 a day to give myself some room, it’s a poor showing. Here’s what happened:

I had a plan for the novel, or at least for the idea at the core of the novel. I managed to get a framework for three acts together, although I still don’t really know how the third act will pan out; that’s part of the fun of the NaNoWriMo philosophy though. However, when I put finger to keyboard, I realised that I needed to do more research. I had to look into the things I was writing about due to my in-built need for accuracy, something others may refer to as pedantry. I could not bear the thought of writing something, even in a fictional framework, that was inaccurate when refering to things outside of the fantasy world of the novel.

I lost an hour or so to research, but I now do have a great pile of photos and web pages. I’m using Scrivener for Mac OS X for my writing which is a great application that allows me to keep my research alongside my manuscript. And yes, I lost an hour to the research that led me to that software too.

However, back to the writing. I wrote about a 350 words of my planned story, and then another character appeared. I realised I needed him to offset the chap who was going to be my main character, but then it became clear that he’d be a far more sympathetic main character.

At this point, I should have realised that I didn’t need a plan and should just go with the flow, but I didn’t. So I replanned with the new main character instead. I know now what I should be doing, and yes, my usual all-knowing oracle already gave me this advice and I failed to follow it, so tomorrow should be a better effort.

I might write a little more tonight, just to see if I can break 500 words.

What I need right now, is another project

I often have many things on the go. Most of the projects have the same life-cycle: I start incredibly enthusiastic, solve the main ‘problem’ involved in the project, and then get bored before completing it.

I’ve tried recently to break this cycle and I keep telling myself that the reason I’m not finishing the One Great Project I’m meant to be focusing on is the move. See other posts for more on that.

I don’t believe it either.

So I have been looking for a way to work on a project with a deadline that is imposed by someone else. I tried getting my better half to work with me on the One Great Project as a way to pressure me, but she has her own projects and doesn’t see a need for a deadline. Also, I’m not sure that it’s wise to be held to a deadline by someone you live with. Mixing family and business, etc.

I’d vaguely been aware of NaNoWriMo for a few years, but it was this post on Neil Gaiman’s blog that started me digging. Writing a novel is something that I’ve always though I would try at some point, and I believe everyone should at least try. It has a fixed deadline of one month, and a clear goal to acheive.

As I thought more about it, I realised something else about my approach to previous projects: While I believe that planning is a good thing, I can now see that I overplan my projects as I start them. While looking for a solution to step 3, I’m already considering the impact to steps 9, 10 and 11. The conclusion to this is that I never actually start step 3 as I’m at a mental block worrying about every little implication of every little decision I might make. What I need, at least in my personal projects, is to learn to solve step 3, maybe consider step 4, and deal with all the impacts when I have to, not now.

That’s the complete focus of NaNoWriMo. To attempt to write a (admittedly short) novel in such a length of time that the author is forced to move on with the story and not think too hard about it.

I shall be updating here as my word count grows, and as I struggle towards the final goal. I don’t know how much time I’ll have before the move, but I believe the cross-pacific flight should give me some time to write something.