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July 26, 2007

Novels Update « Writing »

I currently have 3 good stories ready to go.

1) a Fantasy war novel using my own magic system. Mainly about military self-sacrifice and resolving interpersonal problems
2) Outer space as neo-Western. Basically trying to explore why we leave the comforts of home to strike out into new frontiers, but also to explore manhood, somewhat.
3) A story based on an amalgam of the USS Pueblo and EP-3 incidents, exploring leadership and sacrifice. The original historical events will form the basis of the characters' decision-making, so it will not be a re-telling or re-creation, but a follow-on.

I had another big breakthrough in understanding how to be a writer:
It hit me that I felt afraid to continue writing after I knocked out 550 words in about half an hour on the Outer Space Neo-Western. Why? Well, I had found before that even when I mapped out where I wanted to go in the novel, I would start out fast and strong, and then get bogged down in the writing as I attempted to get to the next part I thought was interesting and important. I didn't want to just skip up there, because if I wrote all the cool parts, then things changed or didn't work well in the transitions, I'd have to re-write, or stop writing because I could resolve the problems, etc....

I finally realized that I didn't need to be afraid. Screw it. I'll write what I want, I'll write what interests me. If I just write the cool parts, I can probably write a 1-paragraph, dry narrative transition to get there. That's good enough. I'll keep writing until the story is done, whatever length it is, it is. Then I'll either send it to a magazine or to a publishing company, or an agent.

In other words, I'm going to stop trying to write novels and just see what comes out.

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posted by Nathan on 07:59 AM | Comments (110) | TrackBack (0)

July 20, 2007

Future Military Tech Development « Militaria » « Stuff Important to Me » « Writing »

Pretty cool use of technology.

It always seems like there are some developments that are always on the horizon, like flying cars. It never gets here.

But other things show up before we know it, like the internet, and MP3s, and cell phones.

From a Science Fiction writer point of view, it amazes me how much the professional writers just plain miss. Think of all the stories written in the 60s and 70s (or earlier). Not just SF stories, but normal love stories, comedies, thrillers, etc. How many movies/novels had the main portion of tension arising from lack of convenient long-distance communication? Friday the 13th couldn't really be made intelligently without addressing the prevalence of cell phones (I understand "Scream" did address that...but maybe not completely).

So in all the future looks about technology, when FTL travel and cloning have been solved, very few posit the exponential growth of computational ability. My laptop can do more than the ship's computer in Star Trek.

I'm trying to incorporate much of that in the story I'm working on now. If I finish it (and I think this one will be completed, for various reasons I don't want to discuss now), I'll look into trying to work a method of blog-publishing it for your reading pleasure in conjunction with my PayPal TipJar...

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posted by Nathan on 10:38 AM | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)

December 08, 2006

Free On-Line Books « Writing »

There's a great essay in relation to the offering here.

I know it will work with me; I often go and purchase old favorites as I run across them.

...hopefully, I can someday post one of my books here. Based on what Eric the Librarian said, and based on how he characterized Jim Baen's views on the issue, I'll be offering my first novel to Baen's books first, just as soon as I complete it...I've made some really good progress lately.

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posted by Nathan on 10:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 09, 2004

November 20, 2004

NANOWRIMO, Pt III « Writing »

I did another 2,200 words today in one session. Things are going well. I really think I can finish it this time. Not in one month, though. I think perhaps NANOWRIMO may really be for someone who already knows how to write a novel, not someone who is still trying to actually plot and complete his first one.

But it still provides a good spur for trying to complete one. I can tell you, I wouldn't have 4,669 words done right now if it hadn't been for a belated realization that it was, in fact, NaNoWriMo. And perhaps even more importantly, NaNoWriMo provides motivation to just get it done. With the way this one is going so far, I'm beginning to wonder if perhaps I wasn't aiming too high before, and getting bogged down when my novel wasn't turning out to be "the next best-seller" level. NaNoWriMo lets me give permission to myself to not be perfect, as long as I get it done.l

The next most encouraging thing is, I'm starting to pick up speed. The more I write, the more I can write, and that's pretty much the point. There's an outside chance I may still get 50k words done, if I write twice a day like I did today. By the end of December is more do-able, but most likely would be by the end of February, perhaps, with some of the blind alleys and problems I often seem to create for myself. We'll see how it goes.

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posted by Nathan on 07:40 PM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2004

NaNoWriMo Novel Catch-up Update « Writing »

Well, I didn't write any more on Thursday, and I didn't write at all on Friday...

But then today I sat down and did 1800 words in about 2 hours while I sat at the bookstore with my kids.

I figured out exactly why she felt she couldn't or shouldn't put the gun down. It is, in fact, turning out to be a modern take on Mike Hammer or something. At least it is turning out to be twisty detective novel with a fairly cynical main character. I considered making it a science fiction novel, but rejected that idea.

In any case, it got twisty pretty quick and is going pretty good. When I ended last, I had no idea what was going to happen in the next paragraph. Now I've got it extended out to about the next few pages...but still don't know what's going to happen in the next chapter.

It's kind of interesting to write this way. It's more like some of the best adventures I ran back in my roleplaying days, when the only things I knew were the characters, the setting, and the fact that I wanted the "good guys" to win in the end. What seemed to work in those days was just throwing more and more obstacles in their paths, letting them succeed with one obstacle only to encounter a bigger one next, sometimes arising from the success on the previous one.

I guess what I find most interesting is that this is the way books unfold as you're reading, but I always thought that you were supposed to have a novel pretty much plotted before you start. And yet, one of my favorite authors apparently has a sign over his writing desk that says something like, "I'm going to tell you something cool today," and that's how I seem to developing this novel. I think I can still work in subplots and character development.

And if it doesn't turn out, well, I've abandoned better novels than this from not knowing what to do or where to go. At least with this one I haven't invested months of planning and musing.

Anyway, I'm trying to figure out if I want to share it with you as I write it. I'm thinking I don't want to for two reasons. First, I hope to sell it one day, and while having about 200 people have an advance shot at it wouldn't hurt sales at all, there may be legal problems with having an earlier version of it "published" on my blog. Second, and less selfishly, I've already gone back and added a sentence or two and changed some stuff in the opening paragraphs, and I will probably continue to tweak it over time, so reprinting only what I've most recently written won't include the changes/improvements on earlier parts, or else will quickly become so long as to be unwieldy to keep putting on the blog.

So unless someone comes up with a very compelling argument and a decent plan to make keeping you up to date easy and simple for everyone involved, you'll just have to live with the earlier tidbit until I get the dang thing published.

I do promise that if I end up leaving it for dead, I'll email what I have done to any who requests it...maybe a suggestion or two could help me resurrect it? Or perhaps someone would want to finish it and we could try to publish it as a collaboration? But I'll burn that bridge when I come to it, and with luck it won't even become an issue because I'll finish it and then skip happily off into the beautiful sunset to cash my royalty checks. Heh.

Oh, and while I'm doing this for NaNoWriMo, I'm not expecting to finish it by the end of the month at all. I'm too far behind and just can't put out that kind of volume each day. But if I get momentum going, finishing it before the new year would still make me inordinately pleased.

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posted by Nathan on 07:52 PM | Comments (0)
» The LLama Butchers links with: Diebold moment--vote early and often!

November 11, 2004

NaNoWriMo « Writing »

No one bothered to remind me that NaNoWriMo was upon us.

I did think about it last week, but have been too busy/stressed to get around to it, and don't really feel up to fixing last year's novel or starting over from scratch with it.

But what the heck, nothing is ever lost from making the effort, so I'm starting off again, but this time with no earthly clue what the heck I'm going to write about. I just started writing and did 700 or so words in about 30 minutes. I figure I need to 2,500 words each day to catch up, so I'm going to shoot for 3k today. Only 2300 more to go! I have no idea what's going to happen, because I'm going to read this as I write it, just to see what crap comes out.

So, anyway, here's the crap so far:

It’s never pleasant waking up to the sensation of cold metal pressed against your skin. It’s even less pleasant when the scent of cordite and lubricant makes you realize a gun is being pressed firmly into your temple. Once I opened my eyes, however, what bothered me most was that from that angle, I couldn’t tell what kind of pistol it was.
I could see him, though. Or rather, her. She seemed a little young to have such a grim look on her face. On the other hand, she was grinding a firearm into my head. In our present anti-gun society, that takes a little bit of personal courage, or experience with firearms.
“You awake?” she asked.
I took my time in answering. She was fairly tall, which meant she’d top me. Blonde hair, but eyebrows dark enough to assume the blonde came out of a bottle. Green eyes, the kind that can change color according to mood, or the weather, or the clothes worn. Slender, probably, but it was hard to tell much, becuase she was wearing a leather biker’s jacket, complete with zippers and chains and studs, all a bright kelly green, which would account for her eyes. Her pants were gray, a soft velvet made tougher by some buckles near the cuff. She was dressed for show, not for business. Could I assume the pistol was part and parcel of the image?
I could not. No matter what else, it only took a few pounds of pressure to cause the hammer to fall, and if it struck a chambered round, all it might do to her is sully the image with some clashing red drops spattering on her green jacket. It would have a much more profound and long-term effect on my state of mind, so to speak.
Now, a knife would have been different. You’ve got to really know how to use a knife to make it effective, and I would have known instantly from the way she was holding it if she was any good...
But it was a pistol, not a knife. I’d have to bluff with the hand I was dealt. Luckily, I was good at bluffing.
“You know it’s unloaded, right?” I said.
“Nice try, Mr. Bond,” she said.
No, my name wasn’t actually Bond, James or otherwise. But I use that name a lot, because I’ve found that little mind games like that can give you an advantage, no matter how slight. You get them thinking about the possibility of your name actually being the same as a famous movie character, and they stop thinking about the story they’re trying to keep straight, or they stop paying attention to something else they might normally notice, like, say, that your left hand was out of sight and readying a weapon. I desperately wished my left hand was doing just that about now.
“Okay, you have me at a disadvantage. What can I do for you?” I said.
“That may take some explaining.”
“Fine. Do you normally start explanations with a gun to the head?” “Not always. Sometimes with a knee to the groin. Would you prefer that?” She enjoyed that, I could tell, by the little pixie grin that flashed across her features. It made me realize she had a fairly cute little pug nose, lightly dusted with freckles. Suddenly, she looked Irish.
“Not really, thanks for offering me the choice. But how about you put the gun down and we talk?”
“I can’t do that, Mr. Bond. May I call you James?”
“As long as you hold the gun, you can call me Bertha and make me write bad checks.” She enjoyed that one, too. If it weren’t for the lethal instrument directed at my head, I’d think I was doing fabulously well with her. I’m sure there’s a lesson about women and romance in there somewhere.

646 words, to be exact. And I have no more idea of why she feels she can't put the gun down than you do.

Isn't writing fun?

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posted by Nathan on 03:33 PM | Comments (2)

October 25, 2004

Spell-Check vs. Proof-Reading « Writing »

It seems a day doesn't go by without seeing some misplaced or incorrect word appearing in someone's writing. I don't worry about blogs, because we don't have editors. Heck, most of us don't have funding, much less a staff that should include copy-editors.

So while it bothers me, I don't usually make a big deal out of "tow the line" and such.

But check out this paragraph:

Why did the electoral college survive electing a president who failed to win a majority of the popular vote? Quite simply, we learned from 2000 that no matter what the drawbacks of the current system, it is imminently better than the alternative.

See anything funny? To wit, how could something be imminently better? Try: eminently and it makes sense. Sure, they sound almost the same, but the former is clearly totally inappropriate for the meaning intended.

It's enough to make me fear for the future of American literacy, I tell ya.*

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posted by Nathan on 01:45 PM | Comments (4)

September 28, 2004

September 07, 2004

Deep Thoughts on Writing « Writing »

Rae asked me some questions about my experiences in writing a few days ago. I've spent some time in thought, trying to think of the best answers I could give. Keep in mind that I have never been published before in any way, shape, or form. I have never even completed more than 10,000 words on any novel (about 1/5th of what you would probably need to do to be considered 'complete') I am "A Writer" only in the sense that I am convinced I am one, that I must keep writing, and that I will be published someday. I admit I have zero credibility on most of these questions. However, I'll still do my best to answer.

1) How do you keep count of your words? Do you have a program that does this?
Nah, most word processing programs have a "word count" function somewhere...probably under the "tools" menu. I usually write the total at the end of each session so I can use simple subtraction to determine that day's output. If I end up revising in several different sections, I might make an entry into a "daily writing log" to at least show progress to myself, even if it the result is a contraction in the number of words...
2) Do you think that some are more "geared" toward a certain style or genre? What is yours?
I think a writer should write in the genre that interests him most. If you are well-read in a genre, you are more likely to know what its cliches are, and what unexplored niches still remain. My chosen genre is "Science Fiction and Fantasy", although I may take a shot at a spy/detective thriller at some point. I don't seem to have really discovered my "style" yet. It may be because I'm able to write in many different styles, but that remains to be seen. Part of the reason I've started over a few times with this most recent novel is because I've decided to try again and attempt a different style. Style does make a huge difference. For an excellent example, check out Steven Brust (if you can enjoy the fantasy genre): Check out The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars, then read Jhereg, then pick up a copy of The Phoenix Guards. Three entirely different styles, each masterfully done. He's my writing idol.
3)Is your wife supportive of your attempt? If she isn't, how do you reconcile it in yourself?
Ummm...she's not all that supportive. She even once told me I'd never finish, mainly because I never have. Maybe she's correct. Sometimes I play computer games when I could be writing. But to an extent, her support is immaterial. I can always find time to write. Even 100 words a day will eventually result in a novel. I have a need within myself to be a novelist. To me, that means finishing a novel and pronouncing it actually done, whether it sells or not. I have a dream to be a published novelist, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. If all I do is write a novel that I can only share with family and friends, well, that's enough. I'm shooting for more, but I find it vital to me to define a range of successes with which I can be comfortable. I hope that answered your question, but it was a rather difficult one.
4)John Grisham once said that he wouldn't write anything that would be embarrassing for his mother and grandmother to read or for him to read aloud to them. Knowing you are a Christian, do you feel your worldview affects your language selection and development of characters and situations?
I agree with Mr. Grisham, to an extent. I also might be more comfortable with a wider range of things. Mr. Grisham is Southern and a generation older than me, and that makes a difference. The thing is, I want to write about actual life, not fantasy with no connection with reality. That might mean writing about some of the more gritty aspects of life. If so, I think the way you approach and handle them makes all the difference in the world. Heck, I'm married and have kids, so one can assume I've experienced sexual intercourse. And I'm here on this earth, so I'm the product of at least one sexual encounter, no? But I personally believe that sexual relationships outside of committed relationships tend to be damaging in the long run, so you could probably expect that if such an occurrence takes place in one of my novels, I will probably point out or even emphasize the negative consequences. My Christian viewpoint will probably show itself in trying to make sure I don't glorify sinful behaviors, but also that I will always try to show that no one is free from sin, either. And yet, I probably won't use much profanity, if any. There are other, better ways to express what I want to get across besides profanity. If I ever felt I needed to emphasize that someone was so inarticulate and lazy that they were unable to speak without expletives, I might find myself with no choice, but you can imagine that person would probably not be held up as a shining example of humanity.
5)Do you attend writers conferences or communicate with other writers or are you more of a loner?
Um, I dunno. I guess I'm more of a loner if you define that as "not attending writers conferences". I communicate with other writers, though, each day that I blog. And I communicate with other writers with each novel I read, and even with every movie I watch. I pay attention to how they set up conflict so resolution is satisfying. I pay attention to the kinds of problems they choose to give their characters. I watch to see how they reveal character. I pick holes in plots and try to imagine how I would have done it better while retaining the overall storyline, or without retaining anything.
6)Do you use personal experiences or interesting stories from other people as springboards into characters or character situations?
Sure. I don't see how you could write without doing that.
7)How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll tootsie pop ?
I'm not going to attempt this one. Some things you have to figure out for yourself.

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posted by Nathan on 01:23 PM | Comments (1)

August 30, 2004

More Writing « Writing »

Well, I'm back to working on my novel again.

After a long layoff (3 months?), I'm starting up again. It took a while for me to decide how I wanted to approach it. Plus, I've been busy.

I've finally decided I'm going to just start over from the beginning and merely incorporate some of the passages I've already written, rather than trying to start where I left off.

That means I'm several thousand words "down", but I don't consider it a horserace as much as the move toward a final project. Going from 7000 words done back to 2000 words "done" is still forward progress if, once I get back to 7000 words, the quality is better.

I'll provide random updates, as is my wont.

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posted by Nathan on 07:31 AM | Comments (1)

July 13, 2004

Creativity Within Structure « Writing »

Okay, I'm writing again. I got a new laptop a few days ago, and it is finally all set up and ready to go.

I lost about 3000 words when my last laptop crashed during the deployment. But it wasn't a big deal because I was forcing the words while painting myself into a corner. The 2 months off has been good for my mind, and I've thought of a few improvements, so I think I'll start over.

One of the problems the last time around was that I wasn't sure where to put chapter breaks, and some scenes were dragging, others too brief. Pacing was all screwed up, to say the least. So I got an idea: the average novel has 16 major scenes, usually divided as chapters. I want to try to write a 50,000 word novel, and 3,000 words per chapter/scene would be 48,000 words. In a way, that can help me, because I can adjust the pacing and the information flow/revelations by a general word count. Every 3k words or so, cliffhanger for a chapter ending. If I have a lot that needs to happen in one chapter, I can polish to the point that I am succinct and concise enough to fit it in 3k words, and the motive force for the reader is the development. In chapters where less occurs, I can polish to the point that the prose and description are lush and vivid, and the motive force for the reader can be in backfilling developments or setting the stage or introducing deeper levels of plot or character. In short, it will give me a framework to work with.

I originally started this novel by writing a one-sentence plot, then expanding it into a paragraph, then expanding that into a series of 17 sentences (one for each chapter... at the time, I had 17 major points), then expanding those into paragraphs; and finally attempting to expand each one into a full chapter. It didn't work, because some of the chapters were vague in my mind, and I kept thinking up stuff that invalidated some of my plans, or the more I thought about the plot, the weaker some parts of it seemed. That's how I "painted myself into corners".

The difference now is that I've been concentrating on only this novel for 8 months now, and I've been thinking about it for nearly 18 months, so I can actually hold the entire idea in my mind. Now it appears I'm finally ready for the structure.

For the limits. Because the difference between a story and meandering is the structure you give it. I am thinking of each chapter/scene as a bucket, and I'm going to throw words at each bucket until it is full. If there's too much to fit in one bucket, I'll throw out the stuff that's not as good, or maybe move it to another bucket. In any case, I think this structure is the mental development I need to finish the novel. Or, at the very least, the next step I must take in the continuum of effort through which I must progress to finish it. Whatever.

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posted by Nathan on 01:34 PM | Comments (3)

May 23, 2004

Writing Problems « Writing »

Have you noticed I haven't triumphantly proclaimed a word-completion total for my novel lately? There's a good reason for that.

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posted by Nathan on 07:40 PM | Comments (3)

May 06, 2004

Content-Free Cryptic Post « Writing »

I'm making a pledge right now. Or promising an attempt to get 7000 words written on my novel within a certain time period.

Unfortunately, I can't really tell you what that time period is. At least, until after it's over. Just remember, when I come back triumphantly proclaiming success or despondently admitting failure, that it is absolutely related to this post.

Remember: 7k words or humiliating admission!

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posted by Nathan on 01:58 PM | Comments (0)

April 30, 2004

A Promise « Writing »

I will be a paid, professional writer. I guarantee that.
When I finish this novel, if it doesn't sell in a reasonable amount of time, I will offer it to all readers of this site for something like $2 for an electronic copy or $15 for a Printed, Signed looseleaf copy (I'm not sure at this time what price I'll put on it. Just enough that I don't lose money printing it off and sending it to you).
Fair enough? The best part of that will be that if I do eventually sell that novel (or any other) and get even semi-famous in a niche genre, YOU will have a signed draft manuscript! If you hold onto it for 50 years, it might even be worth $20!

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posted by Nathan on 06:25 AM | Comments (2)
Novel Progress, II « Writing »

I did another 1,000 words last night, after not having written for a few days.

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posted by Nathan on 06:21 AM | Comments (0)

April 22, 2004

More Writing « Writing »

Oh, and I did another 667 words today. I didn't do anything yesterday, and only 130 or so the day before... :(
But the best thing about today's total is that I did it over lunch. In just 23 minutes.
I plan to do some more writing tonight. One thing that has sucked some time away is the desire to spend more time with the new cat, Lucky*, to help him settle in.

Yes, all in all, I think the novel is coming along fine. I think I'm working up to some significant progress sometime soon.

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posted by Nathan on 03:57 PM | Comments (3)

April 19, 2004

Sample « Writing »

Some of my readers...okay, okay, my only reader...was begging me to supply a portion of the novel to date.

Okay, here goes:

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posted by Nathan on 09:06 PM | Comments (3)
More Progress « Writing »

Geez, it's getting so it's harder to think up a new title for my writing progress reports than it is to write!

I didn't write anything yesterday. I tried, but I guess I had some "writer's block". Actually, that's crap; I don't really believe in writer's block and here's why: Last night, I was tired and just wasn't in the mood. I knew I was having difficulty developing a transition, and didn't feel like working on it. So I thought about it for 24 hours, but didn't really come up with a better solution.

Tonight, even though I felt just as uninspired, I had more energy, so I just started writing. I was partway through the first sub-standard (and if you knew just how low my standards are, you'd be shocked with how bad it was) paragraph when I thought of a better way to handle the transition. From there, the action proceeded fairly naturally to the next step. I cranked out about 1100 words in about 35 minutes, nearly without effort. I stopped because I don't want to burn out by writing too much. We'll see tomorrow if that was a bad move or not [grin].

So the best way to get through writer's block is writing, even if it's a listing of everything within visual range of your writing location. It doesn't matter. The actual act of seeing words appear on paper will "prime the pump", so to speak, and the words will flow. least, that's how it is for me. In any case, I may throw out every single one of the words I wrote tonight. I might end up throwing out just about everything I've written to date (over 11,000 words now). But the very act of writing something is better than thinking about plot and character, because writing is acting, it's deciding, it's evaluating and discarding and trying things on for size. Sometimes you really can't tell how the furniture might look in the room until you actually try to fit it all in; writing is the same way. No matter what form the final version of the novel takes, the writing I did tonight was a vital part of the process.

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posted by Nathan on 08:56 PM | Comments (0)

April 16, 2004

Novel Progress « Writing »

I wrote about 600 words tonight. Some minor points that I wasn't sure how I was going to handle solved themselves as I typed. Of course, I'll probably improve on them as I revise/polish after I complete the whole thing.

What I'm finding...

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posted by Nathan on 10:15 PM | Comments (2)

April 15, 2004

WooHoo! « Writing »

I just knocked out another 1300 words on my novel over the last hour or so. Not great stuff, but adequate for the task, which is just finishing the dang thing!

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posted by Nathan on 02:55 PM | Comments (3)

April 12, 2004

On Writing « Writing »

Yeah, the last entry was my little joke.


The First Novel is going fairly well. I'm up over 8000 words now. Never mind that I should have been at this point around day 7 of November of last year...

The important thing is that I am energized, excited, and I now know everything that will be written in the novel, as well as how plots and sub-plots and characters will be developed.

The biggest problem right now is that every time I write something, I feel like I've accomplished something and so I let other priorities overtake writing. I gotta stop that.

But this novel will be finished by Independence Day. Not polished, mind you, but finished.

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posted by Nathan on 03:53 PM | Comments (2)
Writing « Writing »


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posted by Nathan on 03:10 PM | Comments (3)