Clean clothes: check.
Bag lunch and dinner: check.
Chilled water bottles: check.
Directions to St George from Provo: check.
Interview questions: check.
iRiver 800 with sufficient recording space: check.
iRiver to USB cord: check.
Extra batteries: check.
Asus netbook: check.
2003 Buick LeSabre Custom: check.
4+ hours of ocremix and other music: check.
Copy of On My Way to Paradise to get signed: check.
Oh man. I was hoping to hit 5k words today, and even though I must have spent five or six hours writing, I only managed half of that. It’s progress, I know, but it’s not as much progress as I’d like; the words just aren’t coming, no matter what I do. Blarg.
The worst part is that I know that most of these words are just crap. I’ll get to the end of a chapter and think “oh yeah, shouldn’t these characters be doing/thinking this?” And I’ll make a couple of notes in the revision guide, or touch up what I’ve written just a little bit, but one thing compounds on another until everything’s got problems.
But you know what? I’m almost three quarters of the way through, so it’s probably better just to write on through these problems and finish the @#$! thing. At this point, I’ve got a good enough story that I can carry things through to the end, as horrible as it may be, and just fix everything in the next draft.
It’s frustrating, though, because I know that most of the changes I’m going to make will seem obvious. Why can’t I just get it right the first time?
Is it because I failed to outline things enough? I know from experience, however, that outlining too much can be fatal for me. Is it because I didn’t take the time to immerse myself in my story? But then again, I’ve been spending so much time on my writing, everything else seems to be suffering, including my social life…
I’m probably just missing the forest for the trees. Once I get out of these woods, though, I’m sure things will fall into place. One way or another, in two weeks this abomination will be FINISHED! …at least until the next draft.
Owen Zastava Pitt wants nothing more than to be a mild-mannered accountant with a comfortable, boring life. Unfortunately, fate has other plans. His father–a retired green beret–brought him up to be a killing machine, with or without a firearm. To pay for college, Owen worked alternately as a bouncer and a highly illegal cage fighter. But all that’s behind him now; he has a respectable job–one where he isn’t required to kill things for a living.
When his boss turns out to be a werewolf, however, and Owen single-handedly kills him, all of that changes. A guy shows up at the hospital with a business card for a company called “Monster Hunter International,” and promises to help him make a lot of money killing things for a living. It turns out that vampires, wights, werewolves, and evil tentacled monsters are real, and the business of monster hunting is quite lucrative.
At first, Owen is hesitant. But when an old Jewish man starts showing up in his dreams, telling him about an ancient, evil plot to subjugate the world, he realizes that he has little choice in the matter. Fate has given him a calling–or, as the old man likes to say, the “short end of stick.”
If you’re a gun fanatic or a B-movie connoisseur, you’ll love this book. It’s basically Men in Black meets Van Helsing, with enough firearms and weapons to make Rambo look tame. Hundreds of mindless zombie wights? Bring out your automatic 12 gauge shotgun. Giant flying gargoyles the size of semi-trucks? Hope you brought enough RPGs and grenade launchers to go around. Hordes of undead swarming across Alabama? Better arm the 5-kiloton tactical nukes.
The story was quite entertaining, with enough comedic and romantic subplots to keep things interesting. The battle between good and evil was pretty clear cut and unambiguous, with evil being measured by how many tentacles a thing has, but some of the monsters (such as the vampires) were much more complex. When you have to decapitate your buddies after they die, to make sure they don’t come back as something that will kill you, that makes things interesting.
I felt that the second half of the novel lagged a little, especially with the number of false endings. However, the ending itself was quite satisfying, with an interesting twist that caught me a little by surprise. The quality of Correia’s writing was a little weak in places, but the story was more about killing the bad guys than crafting beautiful prose. In any case, I don’t think his intended audience will mind.
Overall, it was an entertaining, surprisingly fast read. It’s not the type of thing I usually read, but I enjoyed it. If you’re looking for deep, meaningful literature that changes the way you view the world, or a clean, wholesome read that’s free of excessive language or violence (Gamila, I’m talking to you), this book probably isn’t for you, but if you’re looking for an entertaining story about undead monsters where the good guys aren’t pussy-footing idiots, you’ll probably enjoy this book. If you own more than one firearm, it’s a must-read.
Ever since graduation in May, I’ve been doing my best to support myself and be 100% financially independent. I haven’t gotten a steady, well-paying day job yet, but fortunately summers in Utah are cheap and I’ve more or less been able to make ends meet.
That’s not to say it’s been easy, though. I’m operating under an extremely limited budget, and things are only going to get worse in August. My current employment is more or less a dead end job, and I’m going to need to find something else if I want to stay in the black (and keep myself mentally sane).
Here’s what I’m trying to do to change that, in order of priority:
1) Apply for full/part time positions at BYU. My ideal job at this point would be to use my writing/editing/mentoring skills as a BYU employee in some capacity. Not only would I be able to stay in Utah Valley where all my writing contacts are, I’d be able to take classes at BYU for free! Besides, BYU is an organization behind which I can completely throw myself. Having graduated from there, I believe 110% in the university’s mission and the value of a BYU education.
The trouble is that there are probably hundreds of other graduates in my position trying to do that right now. More spots might open up quickly if the economy improves, but the competition is still going to be fierce.
2) Apply for a bookstore job in Utah Valley. Working in a bookstore might mesh very well with my aspirations to become a full-time writer. It would give me a chance to see a useful side of the publishing/bookselling industry, as well as opportunities to network with authors, readers, and booksellers. The pay might not be great, but as long as it’s full time and pays at least minimum wage, it would be enough.
I hear that a lot of local venues are going to be making hiring decisions later in August, as the summer term at BYU comes to an end and the students start moving back to Provo. For that reason, I’ve been holding out contacting places like Chapters (formerly Pioneer Books) and Barnes and Noble–the last thing I want is for my resume/application to get swamped under a huge pile of other applicants.
3) Apply for a Wilderness Therapy job. There are a lot of these in Utah, and I hear that they’re always looking for new staff. The work is strenuous–one to three weeks out in the wilderness with a bunch of troubled teens, living in survivalist conditions–but the life experience may well be worth the extended time commitment. Besides, considering how much it will cut down my living expenses (since I won’t be spending money in the wilderness), the pay should be pretty good. I may be able to save up a sizable amount.
The main reason I’d want to do this is because of the adventure. I feel that at this point in my life, I need to do something big–something I can look back and point at as a major milestone or accomplishment. For this reason, I almost want to take a wilderness job more than a BYU or bookstore job, but the tradeoffs are pretty serious. My social life will probably suffer, as well as my daily writing schedule.
Redcliff Ascent has their next staff training session in September. If I’m still looking for work by then, I’ll probably take it.
4) Try to find some opportunity in the Middle East. When I came back from Washington DC in April, I decided to hold out for a year before returning to the Middle East to see how the tensions between Iran, Israel, and Lebanon play out. While I still think there will be a war, however, I’m less worried about getting caught up in a bad situation if I’m in, say, Jordan or Egypt.
This would also be an awesome adventure. The trouble, though, is how it may cut into my writing career here in the states. I’ve already bought tickets to World Fantasy 2010 in October, so I probably won’t be leaving before then. Besides, most Middle East jobs only pay enough to cover living expenses–not enough to save up, or even buy a ticket back. Getting stranded in a developing country might not be so fun.
5) Take any part-time retail/labor job I can find in Utah Valley. This is the last option, because I don’t want to end up with a job that, for all intents and purposes, isn’t going to lead to anything bigger and better. If it pays the bills, though, might as well take it.
That’s what I’m currently trying to do to improve my employment situation. In the meantime, I’m looking up part time jobs and gigs on craigslist and trying to be as resourceful as I can. It’s not fun being poor.
Inshallah, though, something big will come my way. I have every confidence that things will work out for the best, whatever happens.
Image courtesy Postsecret.
For those of you who may be surprised that I’m sharing all my story ideas, let me explain why I’m doing this. First, ideas are cheap, especially in genres as imaginative and inventive as science fiction and fantasy. What really matters is the execution, and any two people’s take on the same idea is going to be different. For that reason, I’m not too worried about anyone “stealing” my ideas.
Second, and more importantly, I believe that the only way for ideas to grow in value is for them to be shared. Ideas that get horded only worsen with age, because they’re not being explored. Only by exploring ideas can they come into their full potential, and the best way to explore ideas is to share them. When we fail to share our ideas, we inevitably fail to explore them from all angles, because working alone in a vacuum, we’re so much more likely to miss something crucial.
Enough of that. Here are the story ideas from my second notebook, roughly covering the fall of ’08, right after I finished my first novel and got back from Jordan.
How will myths arise in the space exploration age? Previously, myths formed perhaps because people had very limited means of communication and limited means of world awareness. Now, technology allows much better spread of information and science, but in isolated spacecraft, will [the conditions of isolation that lead to myth formation] return?
An interesting and somewhat complicated thought. How do myths form, anyway? I suppose that at the very least, the extreme isolation of space will lead to a proliferation of wildly different cultures and worldviews.
Just as the Catholic monks set up a monastery in Iceland, so people will go beyond the explored universe in the age of space travel and set up a religious order there.
Fascinating–and I think it runs somewhat counter to the grain, too. Most people tend to see space explorers as either adventurers or absolute believers in pure science–but what about the devoutly religious? If the Catholic monks set up a monastery in Iceland, is it possible that the monks of some other religious order may set one up on Mars, or Alpha Centauri, or Gliese?
And…that’s all I’ve got in this notebook. Sorry–there’s lots of scribbling and calculating for Genesis Earth, as well as library call numbers for books about Saladin and the Crusades, but not too much else in the way of story ideas. For more, you’ll have to wait until story notebook #3.
My old blog background was starting to get old, so I decided to change it. What do you guys think of the new one? Is it too busy and distracting, or do you think it works?
Right now, I’m going through this unexpected rough spot in my novel, where I know what’s supposed to happen (or at least I have enough of an idea to wing it fairly well), but the writing just isn’t coming. This happens every time I hit the two thirds mark, and it really sucks.
Currently, I’m using two methods to get through it: 1) keep a running chapter-by-scene outline of the next few scenes, and 2) use a loose adaptation of story theory models (such as the hero’s journey) to keep perspective on things. Right now, this is what my chapter-by-scene outline looks like:
Jalil meets LARS, who with Michelle shows him the ship. Jalil learns that Lars has a connection with the Farlen family and that the Stewarts are from his parents’ home.
Mira returns home an outcast. Sheila rails at her for failing to seduce Jalil, while Sathi pulls her into his quarters to tell her that he’s arranged for her speedy marriage.
The Bridgette launches from GN-2 using a gravity whip maneuver. The ship heads out for the L2 point, using a second gravity whip around GN-2b. Jalil realizes this is goodbye.
While Mira prepares herself to get ready to meet her cousin Ibrahim, Tiera approaches her in private to apologize for calling her a whore. Tiera advises her to stand up for herself.
IBRAHIM’s convoy arrives. As Sathi and Ibrahim’s father conduct negotiations, Mira meets him and is surprised to find that she’s attracted to him.
Mira, Surayya, Amina, and Tiera discuss Ibrahim in the women’s quarters. Tiera advises Mira not to pursue him, but Surayya and Amina convince her to go ahead with it.
Lars and Michelle tell Jalil about the Colony. They show him pictures, and he has flashbacks.
While making maneuvers around GN-2a, the Bridgette receives news of Hameji movements near Karduna. Jalil learns a bit of the Hameji.
The Bridgette arrives at the L2 station and enters the starlane. Jalil’s first experience as an adult making the jump.
As you can see, I’ve broken down each chapter by scene, with the viewpoint character indicated as well as a short one or two line description of what happens. When a new character comes along, I mention them by name in ALL CAPS. I use the auto font color for story that I’ve already written, and the stuff that remains to be written in red. Also, I only outline a handful of scenes ahead of my current position.
That’s the method that works for me. I have no idea if it will work for you, but feel free to give it a try or let me know what methods you’re using.
I’m finding that even though I’m more of a “discovery writer,” certain methods of outlining give me much greater flexibility to discovery write than simply winging it all on the fly. In particular, I find that outlining my characters and keeping a running scene-by-scene map for the next couple days helps to keep me on track.
I ran into this problem earlier in the week: without any kind of outline, and no previously written material to fall back on, I had no idea what to do. Instead of sitting at my keyboard doing nothing, though, I plotted out the next few scenes to give me some idea what to do.
That helped me out for a while, but now…man, it’s still rough. I did 3,251 words yesterday, but today I only hit 1,555. It’s a lot, I know, but with all my free time, I should be hitting more. Much more.
I suppose the only way out of this slump is to write–and write I certainly must. I seriously need a real job, and right now I’m looking into the field staff position at Wilderness Quest. If they hire me, I’ll need to finish this novel before I start work, since I’ll be out in the wilderness for three weeks at a time and the last thing I want is to pick up a half-finished project after it’s gone cold–especially when I’ve got to rewrite Mercenary Savior for World Fantasy 2010.
So that’s what I’m looking at right now. Three weeks, inshallah, and Worlds Away from Home 1.2 will be finished. Hopefully by then, I’ll have a real job too.
To close, check out this awesome version of the Corridors of Time song (Zeal theme) from the Chrono Trigger soundtrack. I’ve heard maybe twenty or thirty different arrangements of this excellent composition, and this one takes the cake. Beautiful.
A couple days ago, I finished writing through the material I’d written for Worlds Away From Home back in 2008 before I dropped the project. For the first time since March, I find myself drafting entirely new material.
It’s a little bit unnerving; I’m a much better reviser, I feel, than straight up writer. Revising is awesome because I know that the book is getting better, whereas drafting is frustrating because the written story never turns out as awesome as it was when it was in my head.
At the same time, it’s really fun to play fast and loose with your book. Need a new character? Throw him in! A new romantic subplot? Go for it! A new planet for the characters to visit? Sure, why not?
I will say, though, that it’s much harder to keep up a steady writing rate when you’re drafting new material. My daily word count has fallen to about 2k, give or take a few hundred words. In order to finish this by August 15, I just need to do 2.2k per day, but I’m sure something will come up and I’ll find myself in a crunch by the end.
One thing that might throw a kink in the works is getting a new job. Being underemployed really sucks, and I want to move on to a new job by the beginning of August. Easier said than done in this economy, right? Well, there are some options open to a young, single college grad in my position: namely, a wilderness job. I’ve been holding out on that because eight days in the wilderness for every six days off seems like a lot of time away from other pursuits, but the more I look at it, the more appealing it seems. Six days completely off, with no money problems…hmm…
Which reminds me: would it be lame to put up a donate button on this blog? One that said “buy me a (non-alcoholic) drink” or something like that? I don’t want to ask for money, but if you guys feel like throwing it at me, who am I to hold you back? I don’t expect it to earn much, but something is better than nothing, especially these days.