Uncle Josh Limps to the End of NaNoWriMo

This experiment has not been a successful one, but I know the external factors that led up to this failure: The election took a lot of wind out my sails. OryCon slowed me down, but no more than the other days.
The internal failures were consistency: I scheduled a 6-7 am writing hour every day and didn’t follow the schedule for a whole week in despair; and I often didn’t get up on the weekends to write. I didn’t make up that writing time, either.
The other internal failure was tracking my progress. I decided to write this one non-linearly. I had a rough outline of what I needed to write and let my mood for each day dictate which scene I worked on. This made for some good writing sessions and for some good drafts. When I knew what I needed to write and let myself go, I wrote fast. 1,800 words in one hour is pretty good, and rereading that material confirms for me that it’s not crap. I think it will hold up through edits.
The not-so-good sessions happened when I wasn’t sure exactly what would happen in the scene and had to pants it a little too much. I also let the despair of the world invade my space, and the despair of being twelve years into this with six sales for maybe $30 total on my biography. The endless stream of rejections has stopped because I gave up submitting. I have no critique group and no beta readers. I have no feedback community. All of these things came into my morning hour and all of them slowed me down.
Because I wrote this out of sequence, my nightly task was to organize the text in a separate file, already prepared with 18 chapters that just needed to be filled in. I did not review my daily work, copy it to the appropriate channel, and take notes. So while my daily writing practice has been somewhat successful and consistent, it has not been a focused writing review. There has been a loss of intention in the process. The best book to every explain zen to me is Zen Guitar by Philip Toshio Sudo. I need to re-read this book to re-connect with the content, but I remember something about focused practice, playing with a focus in mind, and I frequently spent my first few waking minutes deciding what to write that day.
Instead, I should have gone to bed knowing what I was going to write, letting my brain sort out the best phrases and the coolest images. On the days this worked, it worked well. I went to bed trying to sort out a Lovecraftian dream sequence and I was able to get up the next day and crank it out. It is not as pretty as I’d like, but it surprised me.
That is something else that did work this year: I surprised myself by my own writing. I invented a character on day two that has to be there in the in the opening chapters, but she never showed up in the outline. A second character showed up as well, brand new and unnamed (like my first-person narrator) and he needs to exist for world building purposes. I didn’t know he was there, and he’s only in one scene but I think he plays a vital role in shoving my guy through the portal this fantasy deals with.
Overall, I think the non-linear technique worked from an inspiration standpoint. Now I need to focus on the process around my writing hour to keep track of the story as a whole.
I asked several published authors about non-linear writing and none of them do this. They can start at the beginning and work their way through. They’ve also written lots and lots of books and sold or self-pubbed them, so their processes are probably kink-free. I’m still reinventing myself, losing focus on the longer stories in front of me and trying to re-write the longer stories behind me.
So I will keep on with the morning routine, and try to keep the weekends in the routine, and I will work on the evening side of things doing the necessary paperwork.
And one day, maybe, I’ll submit a story for rejection.

Uncle Josh Limps to the End of NaNoWriMo was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Uncle Josh Metawrites

At OryCon and getting some good practical stuff on writing and process, and some silly stuff that involved losing a rhyming challenge. Ah well. I have fallen into the trap on not writing fiction, which seems to be a constant in my life but it always has that extra special sting during NaNoWriMo.
This year I am finding inspiration in my simple desire to be a panelist. I have to check myself from kibitzing through panel after panel after panel. It’s worse when I know the real panelists personally. I like to teach and help other people that’s what I think I’m doing when I’m just being that guy who’s going to help you fill out or ConBingo card.
So to mollify my need to pontificate, and to help myself get a framework of my own process for writing and editing, I’m going to work on a series of essays about writing that follow two basic tracks: The Reader’s Journey and The Writer’s Journey.
The Reader’s Journey is the creation of the writer for; the Writer’s Journey is the process of creating that journey.

I’m planning several essays and tying them together. Hopefully this can tie into my old Better Writing Through Reading series.

Hopefully this will help get me writing again.

Uncle Josh Metawrites was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Uncle Josh does the NaNoWriMo thing again

This morning the plan was to get up at 6, make a cup of coffee, and start writing for NaNoWriMo. My body decided that I needed to be up at 5:30, but I wasn’t aware of the time and after failing to fall asleep, got up about ten till six and made my coffee and managed to start writing by 6:08. Not bad.

One hour later I heard Stephanie up and about and so I called it a day and checked my word count: 1,714.

That had to be wrong. I don’t write that fast. Yes, I’m a fast typist but I average 1,000 wph when drafting. I have a new computer. It’s possible the program I’m using (Focus Writer, damn fine tool) wasn’t calculating it correctly. It’s possible something went wrong with the file. I opened it LibreOffice and it confirmed the count.

On the way to work, Stephanie and I went through the mental math to figure it out: I hit “flow”. I found that spot where I could just keep on writing at a steady pace without worry. We figured I was going at about 30 wpm, which is a slow typing speed. It’s maybe 2 to 3 keystrokes per second. If that pace is kept up and consistent, 1,800 words in an hour is feasible. The scary thing is this means if I was really on fire and really knew what I wanted to say I could get 3K in an hour, and that seems ridiculous. It’s the sort of thing that makes me want to do the math all over again.

30 wpm @ 5 cpw  = 150 kpm = 2.5 kps. (@ 6 cpw = 180 kpm = 3 kps.)

30 wpm × 60 m = 1,800 words.

Shockingly, this works.

I am taking a different tactic this year. Usually I start at the beginning  and crap out mid-way through. After extensive work with Mark Teppo’s Planning, Plotting, and Progress I have a pretty good idea of the pace of the novella and where things need to happen. This year I decided to start right after the midway point where the standard plot crisis occurs. I don’t plan on writing this thing in order, which should help solve my perennial problem of not knowing what happens next.

So, with a sample size of one day, I’m going to look forward to NaNoWriMo this year and I think I’ll have a successful year.

Uncle Josh does the NaNoWriMo thing again was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Uncle Josh Fights for the Commons (Multnomah County Measure 26-184

The “American Commons” is a phrase I use to describe my ideal political party, although at this point it’s really about being in full support of Democracy as opposed to Oligarchy or Monarchy. One of the things we need to do, as a country but also at every level down to the neighborhood, is apply Democracy to the election process. One way to do this is to publicly finance campaigns, letting each serious candidate draw from a stipend during the official three-month campaign season and have the state buy advertisement slots which can be distributed evenly among those candidates.

In the meantime, we have Measure 26-184, which puts strict restrictions on how much any individual can donate to a county-level campaign. To win broad appeal, political figures will need to make a broad appeal instead of getting one or two special interests with deep pockets behind them. I am for this measure.

I believe that we will not be able to fix any political process problem until we get the effect of big money out. I know many wealthy people prefer anonymity, but they still manage to turn the world to their personal liking. See Gawker Media for the latest example of someone imposing their will on thousands of other people just because he could afford to do it.

As I also noted on Facebook yesterday, this year’s pamphlet seems low on arguments and those arguments are very one sided. Measure 26-184, however, has a great argument in opposition. There is only one argument in opposition, and it is well worth the read.

The online version can be found here (PDF version). The argument in question is on page 35 of the online document.

Uncle Josh Fights for the Commons (Multnomah County Measure 26-184 was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Uncle Josh goes all Aaron Burr (Oregon Measure 94 post)

Thanks to Hamilton, most Americans know a story of Aaron Burr. Burr does not always act to better his position, but waits for someone to realize his virtue and give him status. When he does decide to make a move to get into “the room where it happens” he finds the last available seat is taken up by Alexander Hamilton.

Imagine (or remember) a time when the only way to learn about new movies was to read the news paper (which came to your door every single day) and scan the ads. Sometimes there was a movie reviewer, and some times an ad on TV, and sometimes schoolyard scuttlebutt. You are twelve years old. You see a bunch of movies that look good (they aren’t, but you’re twelve! What do you know?) and you look forward to a whole summer of catching movies.

Then a new rating comes out: PG-13. You may be allowed in, but you hear society telling you “wait until you’re older”.

A few years later you get into college, because a college education is the way to a good job and financial independence. Then a ballot measure to limit property taxes goes up and your per-credit costs triple in a year and your books get five times more expensive. You hear “wait a little longer” for financial independence.

Then you enter the work force just as people push to raise the retirement age, keeping the best jobs in the hands of the more experienced workers for longer. You hear “wait a little longer” for job promotions.

You work and start to think about retirement, and are told that social security is going to be gone, or you’ll have to wait longer to see any benefits, or work well past the retirement age to build a nest egg stable enough to retire on.

You end up thinking your 65th year will see a rash of “mandatory retirement” movements that kick you out of the workforce with an estimated thirty years to live and only the savings for ten, and you really can’t work anymore.

This is what I think about when I read Measure 94. The measure would remove the mandatory retirement age of 75 for our justices. Not replace, mind you: remove.

There are no arguments in opposition.

The argument in support is that no other government position has mandatory requirements, and we have a new way of looking at age, so 75 isn’t seen as “old” anymore. This is a fair argument.

On the other hand, it also makes younger people “wait” for a chance to be elected to the judiciary if that’s what they want.

I suspect I will vote for it, only because my only argument against it that I can come up with is the wallow of self-pity for my generation. The only thing that could make me vote against it is if any of our judicial positions at the state level were lifetime terms like the US Supreme Court. This page claims this is not the case in our state, so I guess I have no reason not to vote for it, and voting for it adds an element of consistency to our state government.

Afterword: This page (An Introduction to the Courts of Oregon) has a lot of good information about how our courts currently operate.

Uncle Josh goes all Aaron Burr (Oregon Measure 94 post) was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Uncle Josh is Half the Man He Used to Be

Well, not literally, but I am a writer and allowed to bump the baseline, as the song goes. But I am feeling smaller, and I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that.

This is the end of Day 13 of our Whole30 and on top of getting sick and tired thinking about and working for our food. It seems like all our free time is going into food prep and cleanup. I carve out enough time to work out three times a week, and I feel like I’m  losing ground.

I started serious strength training on June 20, 2013. I did my first set of squats (5×5) at 25 lbs. On September 16, 2013 my squat was 215 lbs. It maxed out at 290 lbs that November and had read Starting Strength on the recommendation of a chiropractor, so I only needed to do three sets of five, but I did them. I tried to go higher but my standard bar was full and the plates popped off once and there was another dangerous incident where I bottomed out and could not get out of the squat and had to roll the bar over my neck to escape.

Strength training has come and gone, but I am back at it and did a 215 lb squat today, almost three years after I first hit that milestone. My squats are okay, but my press is deteriorating and my deadlift is crawling up and getting dangerous. I need some serious checks on my form and perhaps some special instructions to avoid the–ahem–soprano maker deadlift.

In all this lifting, in this rebuilding of my strength, I don’t feel strong. I used to feel strong. Maybe what I felt all that time was muscle soreness and constant inflammation and that’s the sort of thing the Whole30 is supposed to be fixing in my system. No inflammation, or at least heavily reduced, leads to faster recoveries. Gains in the gym are included in the Whole30 success stories. Perhaps the diet and heavy protien is helping. Although I haven’t counted protien in a while. I counted the first couple of days and didn’t get enough according to the strength training advice for building muscle.

Considering I’m hungry a good portion of the day, perhaps this is the case.

Besides feeling smaller and not feeling my strength, my mood swings have stabilized but my energy level seems to putter around 75%. I just don’t have the oomph to get started on anything. This is mental as well as physical. I tried getting up early to write and so far I have done that three times this month.

According to the Whole30 timeline, this is normal. I should be getting my energy back next week. I miss it. I miss feeling strong. Granted, my strength is there when I need it. I felt it when I put Stephanie’s spinning wheel in the car. I felt it when moving a television table to the garage. Sitting at my computer, I don’t feel it, and I used to.

Uncle Josh is Half the Man He Used to Be was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Uncle Josh breaks a mayonnaise

This is day 6 of our #Whole30 and it was a tough one. I was tired all day no matter how much coffee I drank. I ate everything I had taken to work and was hungry by the end of the work day. Tonight was also a lifting night, and I was afraid of what the iron would do to me.

I had to run and errand during the day and I turned a corner to see the sign of a sub shop and my first thought was “she’ll never know.” I was tempted. Hungry. Worried. And there was the promise of forbidden foods that would make me oh-so-very happy. I even persisted in the illusion that I could hide it. No, that’s not bread and onions on my breath, not at all. Gee, hon, I don’t know how that sub shop charge landed on our bank account. 

I was, in short, thinking like a heel.

The sub shop was closed anyway. A Mexican joint is under construction in that place. 

So I came home and had some almonds and raisins and went to the bar. Whole30 leads to some strange snack options. I gained my scheduled ten pounds on my squat, and did worse on the overhead press than last time. This has me worried. Then again, I looked at some Starting Strength workout logs and people with twice my squat are doing about the same in the overhead press. So maybe I’m okay there and should work to maintain a weight while everything else returns.

Our dinner plans were foiled by a lemon. This was the result of a series of discoveries that rivaled a Douglas Adams text adventure. After dinnet I went to the store to get the lemon so we could make a mayonnaise so we could make a ranch dressing so we could make something resembling one of our favorite fallback recipes: chicken ranch wraps. Of course, being on the whole30, it was to be unwrapped ranch chicken wraps.

And so I made a mayonnaise. We’ve made two batches already and I tried for the third. We don’t have a food processor, only an immersion blender. The first batch we tried mixing in a mason jar. it was okay but the shape or the jar fought the emulsion. Then we tried the plastic mixing cup for the blender. It was okey at first but fought us net the end. The emulsion was so thick we had a heck of a time getting the last quarter cup of oil integrated. (But it tasted great. We used half of it to make the ranch dressing and I fell in love with a food all over again.) The next experiment was to use a small mixing bowl, but this didn’t work as well as we’d hoped. The oil flies to the edges and the mass of mayo doesn’t come together. I finished it, but I don’t think it will hold up.

Now I am tired, and I’m going to bed.

Uncle Josh breaks a mayonnaise was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much