Spring Break Day 4

I got Warden’s Call plotted out.  I took the execrable third section of the story, warped some of it into a better story, and resurrected some old plot points I’d cut originally to make the story a little more sensible.

Now I know what to do with the book.  But I also have a conundrum.  I managed to resurrect Chapter 1 of Pathfinder (A working title only until I come up with something better).  So now I have two viable stories to work on, either of which would be good to send to Viable Paradise as my “audition” piece.  Since you spend the week of VP working on whatever it is you sent, I have to decide which of these I can get to 8,000 words on and which I’d rather spend a week working with pros on.

WC has about 4,000 words.  Pathfinder has about 3700.  Not a lot of difference.  So which one holds most of my passion? That’s the key question.  Secondly, which one has a better chance?  That one’s harder to answer, and maybe doesn’t matter as much.

Spring Break Day 1

I’m on Spring Break, and I really want to use the time to get a few things accomplished: 

  • Plan lessons for next week and the rest of the year in broad strokes
  • Get some violin practice in
  • Write
The lesson plans are partly done.  The violin?  Practiced, though I have lots more to do this week.  
 
This is not working so well. The writing, that is.  

I sit here and stare at the screen.  I have four chapters left to plot, and I can’t seem to make myself write the story until the whole plot is outlined in broad strokes–without that, I feel bereft of plot and purpose.  I have the feeling that I ought to just suck it up and start writing the second chapter, which is plotted, but I can’t seem to muster up the brain to do it.  

This day is a loss.  

On the plus side, my daughter just informed me, in her sweet four year old way, that she really likes how I look when I’m wearing my reading glasses.  

Progress, I dub thee “Boring Teacher Meeting”

I was in the most incredibly useless teacher conference all day.  I was, as I am every month in these things, with other freshman English teachers who were as irritated as I was by the consultants’ “Process” based approach, so we cut through the time-padding shit and did the required work so fast we had lots of idle time to talk and do our own thing, so I got some major restructuring/replotting done on Warden’s Call, which may now be part of a series called The Long Walk instead of The Wardens of Andari, but we’ll see.  I suspect a lot of that might be more in a future publisher’s control than my own, and worrying about that now when I’m still beginning the writing process is pointless in the extreme.  

Anyway, that’s some progress there.  I’m hoping to get moving on writing.  I have about 3600 words already, which is relatively nothing, but I want to get it to 8,000 and send it as my submission to attend Viable Paradise–though, considering that I may not actually be able to pay for it this year (not that we’re doing badly, but I AM on the pinkslip parade again, and the budget situation for my school district might mean I actually get laid off this year), so maybe I’d be doing better to apply for NEXT fall’s workshop–but what the frell; I might as well attempt it.  You never know–if accepted, I might be able to pull it off.   

In talking with the wife, the current plan is that if I AM laid off, I’ll work as a substitute teacher as many days as I can, and work on writing on the other days.  Even nine days a month would cover the tuition on my kid’s school, and anything else would be for bills and such.  If that happens, we’ll have to cut back, of course, and eliminate some things, but we’ll handle it.  I don’t think we’d be in any danger of losing the house, and if we did, frankly, meh–as long as we can still feed ourselves and not live on the street, I could live with that.  

I’d still rather have a job, though.  

If a writer writes and nobody reads it, is it a total waste of time?

I created this blog in a fit of “I will be a writer!” But the enthusiasm for developing an audience is somewhat gone.  I have these people in the industry who tell me I should blog, should develop a reader base, the methods of doing so, etc., but my introverted tendencies are getting the better of me, so I forget to post.

Anyway.  I finished plotting Warden’s Call, but, well, the last third of the plot is the biggest, most steamy pile of felgercarb (or dren) I’ve seen in a good long while.  So now I have to go back and rework it.  Ugh.

On the other hand, something came back to me in regards to The War for Earth, which might help.  And some other ideas have been written down and slotted away for another day. But for now, I need to fix WC.

Getting back to it

I’m starting to get back into a state of mind where I can get back into the writing.  I lost my “groove” for a while there, partly because of work, and a little because of my grandfather’s death.  But now the words are coming again, and I’m finally enjoying the process again.  

Someday, when I’m a full time writer,* I’ll work on the Scalzi Plan (my title, not his), wherein he works on writing from 8am to noon or 2000 words, whichever comes first, and then the rest of the day he can do whatever, from business issues to playing video games, twitter, etc.  

Until then, I don’t have that kind of luxury, since I have to earn a paycheck and take care of my little girl. But I can squeeze in a few hundred words a day, at least.  

And I will.  

 

*It seems silly to say “when” when I know as well as anyone that it’s also a big “if,” but let’s be positive today, mmkay? 

Progress!

Last night I fired up Scrivener*, a wonderful writer’s tool for Macintosh (and now Windows!**), and started to attempt to plot more.  And it worked–I was able to complete the outline for Part I, and most of Part II, along with very broad-stroke outlines for the last two chapters of Part II and Part III.  I’m torn on whether I’ll start the actual writing before I finish the outline or not.  Either way will work fine. 

Anyway, I’m using a three part structure for the book.  Part 1 sets the stage and gets the characters from the completed Chapter 1 to Chapter 8, where the stakes rise.  Part 2 will be the awakening, and the meat of the story.  Part 3 will be the climax and resolution, as well as setting the stage for future books. 

Best of all, Chapter 9, the midpoint of the book, will be what Jim Butcher calls “The Big Swampy Middle,” where many books get lost, and I’m using one of his strategies to get through it–the “secondary story,” which in this case is a ritual the protagonist will have to go through, and it will be written in such a way that it could in fact stand as its own short story, much as C.S. Friedman’s In Cold Blood has a chapter that stood apart as a short before the book was published. 

Anyway, it looks like things are back on track.

 

*A writing program I highly reccomend–and it’s fairly inexpensive, with a rather generous license.

** I haven’t used the Windows version, but if it’s half as good as the Mac version, it’s worth getting–though you still have to deal with Windows issues.

Seriously?

I started this blog as a way of trying to reclaim my writing–to motivate me to write more often.  I need to do more, it seems.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of sitting at home every day trying to write.  If I could, I dare say I’d have a novel done by now.  But that’s not my life.  I’m a full time teacher, a grad student, and the father of a four year-old girl who (rightly so) loves to spend time with her daddy and who, perhaps more importantly, her daddy loves to spend time with.  How’s that for a bad sentence?

This isn’t an excuse–there is still time for writing, and I could carve out some more time.  I could go to the coffee shop down the street (for now) when it’s my wife’s turn to put our daughter to bed.  Or I could dig out my office (which for the past six months was the temporary abode of our niece, and is thus covered in junk that isn’t mine) and go in there during those times so I can concetrate (writing in front of the TV works sometimes, but not often).

The problem is that I spend so much creative juice, so to speak, in my job that when I go home I feel like the LAST thing I want to do is try to squeeze out of my head whatever it is Jason and Azhan, or Teren, or Callie, are doing just now.  But if I don’t, then I’ll never reach the point where I can be a full-time writer.

So I’ll need to get on that.  And on getting my fiddling skills back on track.  And on playing that bloody Bodhran I asked for for Christmas 2009 and play only when I’m alone.

I’m a hell of a procrastinator.  Time to nip that crap in the bud.

Just checking in.

I haven’t written much in the past couple of weeks.  I was working on finishing the raw outline of (working title) Warden’s Call, but a little over two weeks ago my grandfather, who has been fairly bedridden and non-verbal since a stroke two years ago, crashed.  We sent him from his nursing home to the hospital, and the prognosis was grim, so I ended up spending several days at his bedside off and on.

Now he’s stabilized, if not well, and life has resumed.  I’m working on the plot outline.  The way I seem to work best as a writer is to broadly plot out the book chapter-by-chapter.  Then I sit down with the broad outline for a chapter and break it into scenes and what Jim Butcher calls sequels, in which the viewpoint character considers what’s happened in the just-concluded scene.  Then I start writing.  When I hit the end of the chapter, I plot out the next one.  Sometimes I’ll scene-break two or three at a time, but I rarely do that, as things sometimes change in the writing.

Anyway, I’m currently in Lake Tahoe, California, vacationing with some friends for the long weekend. I’ll come back to Sacramento on Monday, and start work again on Tuesday, both my dayjob as a teacher and writing.

And now a quote about writing, from Samuel Delany, noted science fiction author:

“In a very real way, one writes a story to find out what happens in it. Before it is written it sits in the mind like a piece of overheard gossip or a bit of intriguing tattle. The story process is like taking up such a piece of gossip, hunting down the people actually involved, questioning them, finding out what really occurred, and visiting pertinent locations. As with gossip, you can’t be too surprised if important things turn up that were left out of the first-heard version entirely; or if points initially made much of turn out to have been distorted, or simply not to have happened at all.”

What happened to the War for Earth?

I had this series I was working on, called The War for Earth.  The first book was Pathfinder, though I knew I’d have to change that before (not to mention if) I published, because a space opera novel came out in 2011 with the same title.  It was about a guy who discovers the hyperspace pathways back to Earth, which has been “lost” for half a millenium… and discovers that Earth is a dead world, and the remains of the human race are victims of the biggest con-job in known history.  And he, along with a relatively few others, starts a war over it.  The saga was going to be based on the history of Ireland’s struggle for independence from Britain, and the twisted and painful history of that relationship would have informed the story development across the trilogy.

I was halfway through the writing of the first draft, and I’d plotted the rest of the first book, when I lost my hard drive.  All data was gone.  I thought I had a backup from only a month before… but I didn’t.  Due to a mistake I had made recently in backup maintenance, I had a two year old backup. 

Shit.

Anyway, I got a new drive, and started trying to recreate Pathfinder.  But I just can’t seem to make it happen.  I’ve tried several times to get working on it, and my enthusiasm has just… shriveled up and died.  It’s like I’m still grieving the draft I had. 

So now I’m working on  new idea, one I’d put on the back burner while working on the Earth saga.  This one is about a mage who rediscovers an ancient magic and awakens it to save his nation… but in doing so begins a war that may tear his whole world apart. 

It’s a stand-alone novel at present, but I have ideas to spin off into a series of it becomes warranted.  It’s called (for now) Warden’s Call.

Wow. Just writing this up gave me an idea that could drastically alter the direction I was going to go for the ending. Thanks!

Why is this here?

Hello.  For those of you who know me, bear with me a moment while I initiate the newbies.

Ok, Newbies.  Over here.

All right.  My name is Michael Johnston.  I’m a high school English teacher, a husband, and a father, with the importance of each role rising and falling depending on my location on the Earth, who I’m with, and where the alien signals controlling my brain are coming from that day.  Wait.  Strike that last part.

Ok, old guys.  Come back.

I am also aspiring to be an author of science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories.  That’s what this blog is for.  I’ve already got a personal blog, which I’ve been using since 2001, over at Livejournal, under another name.  But when I thought about blogging about books and writing, I realized that I could either dig through ten years of posts about anything from my job to my cat’s latest puke to endless stupid internet memes I took part in, or I could start fresh here.  So that old blog will remain active for things I want to share only with personal friends, and this one will be for friends as well as possible future audiences.  We’ll see how that one works out.

Anyway, welcome.  Real posts soon, but right now my family wants to watch a movie, so Husband and Father wins out.