Saturday, June 30, 2007

The purpose of writing 50,000 words in the space of a month

So I am guessing that many people wonder what would be the purpose of writing 50,000 words in the space of a month. Quite simply, it is for the experience of doing so.

We learn our craft as writers by writing. It is just that simple. No matter how much we read on the subject, or plot out stories and articles, it is not until we are sitting in front of the keyboard that we start to learn how to write. Up to that point, all is just theory. Learning to write just from articles is like trying to learn to drive from reading the manual without taking the car out for a spin.

Many novelists have to write a couple of novels, as in actually finish them, before they hit the point where what they are writing is publishable. In light of that fact, having never written a piece that long before, July promises to be a learning experience.

I think of it as an extensive month long course in the craft of novel writing. I will propbably learn more about the craft of novel writing in one month than I would in several years of reading about it.

And besides, I do need to clean out the cobwebs out of my head. Between school and the pressure of having to support myself by writing, I am on the edge of a case of full blown writers block. Better that I take a month off this summer, and just write something where it is for the act of writing. No thought of pay, or needing to do it. Just writing for writing's sake.

Friday, June 29, 2007

National Novel Writing Month

Now, some of you that read my commitment to write 50,000 words in July may be wondering why 50,000 words. The answer to that is simple, that is the goal for the National Novel Writing Month. Back in 1999, a writer in the San Franciso Bay area (Chris Baty) decided what he really needed to do was to write a novel in a month.

It may sound like a lunatic's idea. But obvivously, he is not the only lunatic out there, for during the first year, twenty-one otehr writers signed up to do it also. And amazingly, six people won.

Won as in they actually finished 50,000 words in the space of a month. If you finish, you are a winner. Period. No matter how bad the novel is.

Each year, the "contest" gets more people involved. Last year, there was 79,000 writers involved. And 13,000 people won.

So why am I doing it in July, rather than November? Simple, I am a college sophomore and that is the height of term paper season. I would like to play in November, but I might be busy, so I am doing it in July. Just to prove to myself that I can (and to edge out of my borderline writer's block).

My Lot

Lately, I have been doing a lot of goofing around on My Lot. Call it avoiding work (aka avoiding writing). My Lot is what I would call a hang-out site. It is not what My Lot considers itself.

My Lot is a paid to post site. In other words, members of the site get paid to take part in the discussions. It is definitely not a get-rich-quick scheme. It pays, quite frankly, in pennies. Based on my own experiences there, I have gotten anywhere from a half penny to four cents a post. It all just depends on the length of the post (and a batch of stuff I don't know).

Anyway, if anyone wants to check out what I have been doing lately in my goofing off time, my profile is:

myLot User Profile

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

50,000 words in 30 days

Yesterday, I was at the library. Originally, it was to meet someone. They didn't show. So I spent my time there people watching and browsing though the stacks. That is how I found No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days.

Reading the first three chapters of it, I realized that I would much rather spend my summer vacation hacking out the first draft of a novel (50,000 pages) than what I have been doing--mainly trying to force myself to write items for pay and setting up a webpage.

I guess part of it is the fact that the pressure to produce money-making copy has killed my creativity. Now, that the money issue is settled, I would actually like to accomplish something this summer. Or at least something I want to accomplish.

I know, hardly the attitude that a professional writer is supposed to have. But there it is--my ever constant attitude problem. I am supposed to love slaving away for money, or so I get told by those who are handing me small piles of pennies.

And with my 42 birthday approaching, I would like to accomplish the task of writing a complete draft of a novel, even if it promises to be cat litter and unpublishable.

There is also the fact that I refuse to believe that a certain writer friend of mine is better at this business than I am. Yes, pride comes before a fall. If he can hack out a couple of novels in the space of a year, then so can I. And it is not like I have anything better to do in the month of July.

So during the month of July, I promise to hack out 50,000 words--a novel in the space of a month--not good words, but no rough draft is good words.

For those, who want to watch this insanity, I will be posting my progress here periodically over the next month. It promises to make term paper season look like a cakewalk.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sci-fi writers as fortune tellers

Last week, I was over at a friend's house. During my visit, I talked about the outline of a science fiction story that I am thinking of writing. For the most part, it is still all vapor and no substance.

But during the conversation, I mentioned how hard it must be to get computer tech support while in space. I was thinking of the difficulties that a Mars mission would have. And for a Mars colony, I think that tech support should be sent outright to them. Imagine calling India from Mars.

"Hello, this is Earl. How can we help you today?"

"Yeah, this is Mars Colony One, and our life-support computer is down."

"Have you checked to make sure that it is plugged in?"

The conversation promises to go downhill from there, with the predicted ending of Earl (actually Ishivart from India) telling the Mars Colony that it is going to take eight months for the tech support to arrive, so they better start holding their breath.

Now by itself, this whole idea is just an indication that I spent too much of my youth reading science fiction. But a couple of days later, I got an email from my friend who found it remarkable that the international space station was having computer problems. He failed to note that they are going to have to wait for parts.

This whole conversation reminded me how some people think that science fiction is about predicting the future. It is not. Science fiction is always about the present and its ramifications. Which is how I can imagine a computer problem on Mars just days before such an event happens just above us at the current space station.

I suspect that most of the predictions that sci-fi has made that have came true have occurred the same way. I am not a fortune teller--it was just me asking "If tech support is so lousy here, how bad must it be in space?"

Friday, June 15, 2007

Giving up...

One thing that I have watched a lot of writers do is "give up" before they should. Whether it is making money on the internet writing, or finishing your novel--writers need to develop patience. Without patience, you will never be a successful writer.

Now, there are some that will point to my previous entry and say that I am not showing a lot of patience there. But starting over is not giving up. It requires a certain amount of patience to be able to roll up your sleeves and go, "Ok, I need to start back at the beginning, and re-do a bunch of the work I have already done."

When my mom was being taught sewing, her teacher would make her rip out stitches and re-do them if they were not up to par. The same has to be done with your writing occasionally. This requires patience.

Revising a novel after you wrote it requires patience. Very few writers are so good that their first draft is as good as it is going to get. The real writing takes place during revision--do you have patience to rewrite the same story a couple dozen times if necessary? If not, consider another career.

The same goes towards making money as a writer, whether in print or online. When you are engaged in submitting stuff to the print markets, it can be months before you learn the fate of a piece. And novels can bounce from publisher to publisher until they find a buyer. If you don't have patience, you are liable to give up before you cross the finish line.

Patience is also necessary if you are going to make money with online writing. You will make a small faction of a penny per person who reads your material. Not only do you have to have patience to wait for the pennies to pile up, you have to have the patience to advertise your material, and to write more when you are not making a decent profit.

Let's be honest, being a writer is a long lesson in patience. So hang in there, we are in this together.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Starting Over

There are times in every writer's life where you just have to start all over again. Either due to writing a really bad draft, or suffering a long illness (mental or physical), or gaining some major life experience. No matter what the cause, if your outlook and skill change enough, the only way to continue as a writer is to start all over. Oh, you might be able to save some of your more recent drafts. But the older a piece of writing is, the more likely that you are better off starting over rather than trying to fix it.

In my case, I have just walked out of a Creative Writing class. Successfully, as in I managed to get a passing grade. An A, in fact. More importantly, I am not the same writer that walked into the class.

Oh, I am the same person as before. I am still Morgan Drake Eckstein, writer of Golden Dawn rants and lectures, still occasionally doing sci-fi and fantasy. I am still rude and opinionated.

What has changed is the way I write. To salvage my previous unfinished work means a lot of work. If I don't start all over, people will be able to see the splice marks. It is better that I start all over for both me and my future readers. I can save the ideas, but not the actual words.

I knew that this could happen. I walked into college as a forty year old unemployed high school dropout with a GED which the ink still wet on. I didn't pay much attention in school the last time around, being too busy avoiding my abusive family to do much more. I expected to drop out after the end of the first year. Quite frankly, I was shocked to learn that I could pass classes on the college level, not alone get into Phi Theta Kappa.

When I started college, I decided that I was going to go for a degree that I wanted rather than the business degree that the admissions office thought I should go for. I figure I just as well study the subject of my passion; by the time I got done paying for college I would be well past being able to focus on writing (being old and grey), so I just as well do it now while I still had some time and health.

Which is how I found myself in Creative Writing at the end of my second year of college. When I heard some of the tasks that were being assigned to us, I shrugged my shoulders. Unlike some of the students in the class, I was there to improve my writing. And by this point, I have learned that it is easier to get a passing grade by doing what the teacher wants you to do than to do what you think is right. So I learned to write in a different style than my normal style.

Today, rolling up my sleeves after a couple of weeks' break, I started to work on a new long term project. Or rather an old one. A project that I never made much headway on. I suspected that I was going to have to start all over again. One of my best stories ever, if not the best, came out of that Creative Writing class. Knowing that I can get to that level, I didn't want to settle for less.

And after reading over the pages I wrote today, I realize that this is one of those times, one of those times I need to start all over because these pages were much better than anything I ever wrote about this character (Ramsey).

Live and learn, and if necessary start all over. So goes the life of a writer.