Archive | November 2017

Uncle Josh Pulls a Chandler

There is a well-know bit of writing advice out there that apocryphally comes from Raymond Chandler: If you don’t know what to do next in the story, send in a heavy with a gun. Yesterday’s writing session focused on one of the scenes I had come up with during idea development with the way magic could be used and how it would work practically within the story, and I had finally decided to use it in the second half when I have introduced a major crises and then successfully managed to throw enough rocks at my protagonist she hasn’t had a chance to breathe or even think about solving this major crises.

But the scene was feeling flat and not helpful in any way towards her growth, just a scene she had to get through. So I decided the Chandler method was needed and took a small character I didn’t know anything about and gave him a gun. Then I needed to explain why he had a gun and why he was using it and that led to the introduction of new magics, more conflict, and even discovered a reason why solving the big crisis I introduced will also help her win the final battle of the book.

Score one for Chandler.

Uncle Josh Pulls a Chandler was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much


Uncle Josh Tries to Get “Colossal”

(Obvious note regarding a movie that came out 14 months ago: Spoilers.)

This has been in the back of my head for several weeks. When I first saw the trailer for Colossal I assumed it was comedy take on kaiju movies. As we watched the film, I thought the monster was a metaphor for Gloria’s alcoholism and how it ruined everything in her life. As I kept watching I decided the monster was her internal way of handling the controlling jerks she had in her life, and she didn’t realize it until the very end. At the of the movie I actually had a negative reaction. She may have learned what her actual problem was, but she didn’t solve it. She didn’t grow. By killing Oscar (and I can’t imagine him surviving that ending) she didn’t become a better person. I didn’t like the movie.

But Stephanie and I kept talking about it. We kept talking about Gloria and Oscar and Tim and why she did things. I am still not sure the sex scene was necessary for Gloria but maybe I’ll figure it out eventually and at least it was a well done sex scene in that it was a scene cut and the why mattered as the how wasn’t shown at all. It’s not like I need a reminder that Anne Hathaway is a beautiful woman.

It took a week of talking before it dropped from our conversation, what with America coming to an end and all, but I kept thinking about it. The movie presented a problem, and it took a long time (for me) to reveal it. Yes, I thought Oscar was generous, then creepy, then an asshole, and Tim being an asshole was a surprise. No knights in this picture. Joel, the sweet one who thinks he has to act like an asshole gets the “prize” of Gloria (from Oscar’s point of view, Gloria is a thing to control and having sex with her is his “prize”) and he always does something assholish and backs off. He’s too nice for Oscar and Garth, the cocaine-sniffing asshole friend of Oscars.

All right, enough with the assholes. Maybe I’ve reading too much about Dan Savage.

The point of the ending, I think, wasn’t to “heal” Gloria but to show she had enough strength to do something good for absolute strangers. Oscar is the monster that does not back down. He can be scared into being a nice guy but only for a little while and he lashes out, anger and demanding control being his only real tools for dealing with life.

Gloria can’t heal. Not in the space of a single movie’s narrative. She can get strong enough to say “enough” and when that isn’t enough she has to push herself out of the control she had managed to gain during the movie when she stopped drinking.

And the news ever since we watched has been full of men acting shocked and appalled when their abusive behavior from twenty, thirty, forty years ago gets highly publicized. The women who have come forward to accuse Weinstein, Louis, Spacey, Moore, et. al. have probably not really healed after all this time either. The depth of the wounds they suffered are so deep that they may never even be aware of them all. Gloria, being aware but still wounded, is a symbol of #YesAllWomen.

As a white man with a middle-class upbringing, I am not aware of all the blinders I have. I think in some way watching Colossal has helped me see the problems in the real world a little better.

So I’m calling Colossal my “sleeper hit” of the year. A movie that may have been low on my priority list, but I’m glad I watched it.

Uncle Josh Tries to Get “Colossal” was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Uncle Josh Breathes a Sigh of Relief

Thursday was a bad day, and I ended up writing for half an hour later in the evening and that made the prospect of getting out of bed Friday morning to continue writing a little too much to bear, so I didn’t. I didn’t write during my lunch hour and I didn’t write Friday evening. I decided against it. I gave myself a day off.

This can be a dangerous thing to do. An hour a day on a novel is not too much to ask of myself or to schedule but I needed a day off, so I took on. I also plan on writing two or three hour-long sessions today and maybe two tomorrow, so that will make up for lost time.

According to my wordcount, despite skipping yesterday I’m still ahead of the game and I’m on pace to write 50K assuming I actually have that much material. I have a feeling that despite my carefully balanced plotting to pantsing ratio will still not leave me enough material. I’m also thinking “novella” here so 35K-40K is more reasonable length. I’m overwriting in my head to give myself plenty of room to cut down. I have learned over the years that not every word I put in a file is important. Dumping wordcount is healthy. Loving your words, especially those first-draft pre-coffee words, can be dangerous. The more words I add, the more gems I’ll have and hopefully less re-writing when February rolls around.

Uncle Josh Breathes a Sigh of Relief was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Uncle Josh Averts Disaster

Today did not start well. I didn’t want to wake up and didn’t get out of bed until six or seven minutes after the hour. By the time I got to my desk, tea in hand, I found my computer had decided to take a break from reality and I got a pink screen of death. Then after waiting for the long reboot I launched my novel to find … 0 words. 0 bytes. Nothing. Nada. Not an electronic sausage.

I was too tired to panic but so tired that I couldn’t swear loudly and if I had a neighbor in residence, I would have woken him. (He’s a great guy but he travels a lot.)

I save the file to Google Drive. Should solve the problem. Except Google Drive also showed a 0-byte file where my nascent novel had been.

I must admit at this point I bitched on Facebook and went to back to bed, swearing off NaNoWriMo, writing, or ever achieving anything at all in life because Windows.

After calming down I thought there was a way to view previous versions of the file and I did eventually find them, and salvaged the work that had been lost. There was an official backup of only 7K words compared to the 15K I had actually done… but no. The story was saved but the writing hour was up. I wrote about 900 words in half an hour and gave up to the inevitable “have to go to work” that plagues so many people in today’s world.

After work we went to Fonda Lee’s reading for Jade City, which sounds like incredible fun and I hope both the RPG and movie based on the work do it justice. Fonda presented the origin story of the novel, from initial thoughts to fan casting it, to the point where I realized that I hadn’t actually tracked this stuff myself. The idea for this book has been kicking around my head, according to my earlier posts “for about a year” but I’m not sure it was that long. I did have some notes online about the novel’s origins and they stemmed from a Terry Pratchett line “the natural number of a group of witches is one” from one of the early witch novels, and these may have come along during the summer when I re-read a good chunk of early Pratchett.

My process is unorganized and quite chaotic, and in the past I have caught myself writing two different stories in the same manuscript because the mental pre-writing clouds in my head converged and the result was, well, messy. I do a lot of pre-writing that way, but I think with this book I have come across a process that will let me shape those pre-writing clouds into something that I can finish.

Anyway, I came home tired and gave myself 30 minutes to crank out words, and found 1.300 more for the novel. So that’s a win. I blame Fonda.

Uncle Josh Averts Disaster was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Uncle Josh Yells at Himself

This morning I wrote for the full scheduled hour but only got 1,650 words, but I’m not really upset about that.

I’m upset with my internal editor. I’ve been writing the same part of the novel for three days in one long sequence of events, which I suppose I had to do at some point. I can’t write everything out of order because some scenes are just taking longer that others. I am slowly building up to the first point of no return, the place where my narrative character cannot turn back, and this is supposed to happen at about the 20% mark of the manuscript, and I’m probably about 12K into the novel at this point. I have to estimate the first couple of scene that are yet to be written.

And my internal editor is beginning to twitch and tell me that I’m taking too long, that I’m meandering and not pushing the plot forward.

I know that probably what will happen is I will take the bulk of what I’ve written over the past few days and put them after the bit that I’m probably to going write tomorrow or the next day.

But that is editing, and I shouldn’t be thinking about editing. I need to let myself write the damn thing and let the story play out as I think it’s going to play out.

But man, that internal editor is a nuisance.

Uncle Josh Yells at Himself was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Uncle Josh Builds his World

I wanted to write about this on the third, but other things were pressing on my mind when I wrote this. After re-reading my first three posts, it almost sounds like I’m exclusively using one source for “how to write a book” which isn’t the case. Bell’s books are very good, but the great bulk of my world building and basic story was done going through Mark Teppo’s Jump Start Your Novel. It was very helpful to get the parts of my novel sorted out that I normally wouldn’t develop all that well and then peter out mid-way through.

The most important example of this is my antagonist. It’s not a person, it’s a “raw creative force of the world” which was harder to wrap my head around until I forced myself to write out the exercises in Teppo’s book. Now I understand the power structure of the book and how every major character plays into that structure. This has given me a ground work to half-pants the work. I know where I’m going most of the time and I have a built-up sense of everything but so far nothing has constrained me into a plot hole or an impossible situation.

There is still space for that, I will admit. It is possible that in the scenes between my big signpost scenes I’ll find myself sticking thing into plot points from which there is no escape.

Today’s actual writing session was not at 6 AM. I set my alarm for 7 and had a breakfast, then I came home and worked out and then we went to see Thor: Ragnarok and then I sat down to write, unsure about myself and not sure which scene to work on so I did the follow up to Thursday’s work which pushes things past the disturbance and towards the First Door of No Return. I was a little afraid of it and I found myself back in my old writing habits in that I have about 13 pages of pure dialog sitting here now. According to the NaNoWriMo wordcount I did 1,900 words  in that hour. I’m a little shocked that I did that much.

Uncle Josh Builds his World was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Uncle Josh Ends the Novella

This morning’s writing session was the end of Bell’s triangle of the story. I wrote the core “what is the character’s main question” bit on the first, then wrote the lead in to that, the “hell no I won’t change” bit, and this morning the resolution, which is pretty much the end of the story. In the first five minutes I realized that I wasn’t quite emotionally prepared to write the ending. I stuttered a bit but pressed on and accepted that it will probably need to be re-written, but then again, practically every thing I write is potentially re-writable by the end of all things. No worries. So I wrote and ended up 25 words shy of the daily goal in an hour.

Another thing that bothered me about writing the ending was there’s a bit of an emotional punch there, and my narrative character and her best friends participate in a ritual among themselves I called “Crying Night” and there were tears of joy and not joy and the catharsis of watching tearjerkers. I wrote it and thought “this is potentially horribly sexist.” I already ask my beta readers to tell me with brutal honesty when my writing goes sexist. I will admit to blind spots in my life.

So now I’ve written the emotional triangle and I need to start filling in the rest of the story. I’m not sure I’m up to write the opening yet. It hasn’t changed from how I first imagined the hook when I first came up with this story, but I’m not ready. I’ll probably work on some of the other top-tier scenes from Bell’s outline.

But not at six in the morning. I plan on taking the weekends off of the 6 AM writing call and write in the afternoon.

Uncle Josh Ends the Novella was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much