Possible Upload Area for Next Nanowrimo

One of the problems I had with Nanowrimo (apart from sucking, which can’t be blamed on anyone, not even the Romans) was where to put the text that I had written. I used Google docs to compose, but then trying to move the Google Docs documents into Google Blogger was a mess.

Ponder among yourselves whether that’s ironic, coincidental or just lame.

So I was looking at this Google Docs competitor called TextFlow, which looked pretty good–I’m always looking for ways to give businesses better alternatives to buying a lot of expensive hardware and software–and found Scribd.

I think I’ve stumbled across it before, but I also think it’s somewhat more interesting than it used to be. Worth a browse, anyway, and my crap would feel right at home with all the other crap that’s up there.

Post Mortem: Death of a Barbarian, pt II

Pity the poor Trooper, out there prepping Lee Lee’s Valise for Black Friday and possible movie-stardom, but who took some time to critique my Taylon Doon story. Thanks to Darcy, who also read it. And anyone else who read it, if anyone. It’s not clear to me from the WordPress reports.

Trooper gave some great feedback; as a voracious reader, he knows writing like I know biting.

Writing in that style is not as easy as it is cracked up to be. A real pulp writer who wrote great stuff like Robert Howard or John Norman are people with a lot of talent who decide to write in that genre. That’s not to say you don’t have a lot of talent, but I think it tends in a much more modern post ironic way while the novel you were attempting requires belief in the conventions not a tongue in check bow to it. Someone like Raymond Fiest or SM Stirling or Harry Turtledove writes in a more sedate version of this style, as there are very very few writers who could pull off a full blown saga in the style you were attempting to use.

Hmmm. I really wasn’t trying to be “post-ironic” but I suppose I can’t exactly help that. I wasn’t exactly trying to mimic Howard or Norman because it’s hard enough to write in one’s own style under the gun.

But what certainly happened was that as I created the story, I had trouble seeing how I was going to get the reader to understand what was going on. Taylon, as a barbarian, by necessity doesn’t know what’s going on. Doc has a better idea and I figured that using Taylon as a contrast, Doc could let the reader in on what was going on as he learned.

The other way to go would’ve been to go from Taylon’s POV or a neutral 3P but that felt too limited. On the other hand, it directly led to what Troop observed next:

I think the problem was you were describing action rather than just plunging in. You were Robert Altman instead of John Ford. You wouldn’t be corny if you weren’t afraid to be corny if you know what I mean. Less is more in the action genre. Don’t describe, just do.

Yes, I had this problem a lot. The subsequent action scenes were more immediate, but I suspect the problem comes from wanting to keep a little mystery.

That’s easy for me to say I have always wanted to write but have never had the time. Although the rise of alternative historical fiction has given me so many ideas that I think my head would explode.

Well, I join Troop’s readers in encouraging to take it up as a serious avocation.

Post Mortem: Death of a Barbarian

I got about 60 pages into my nanowrimo entry before giving up.

There were several factors. Not getting the pages up and formatted, for example. If I had them up and someone had read them, I probably would’ve gone on in spite of it all. But nobody read even the opening page. Boo-hoo.

No, no, you all have lives, more or less. And it’s okay. The main problem is that it wasn’t very good. I could easily finish the book even now. But it’s unpleasant to do bad work. I think I will put up some other writings later, however. Maybe, if I can get my chops up by next nanowrimo, I’ll take another swing at Taylon.

The actual writing was enjoyable. Which probably means I was doing it wrong.

Taylon Doon and the Impending Deadline

Hoo-boy, I’m way behind. Waaay behind. May not even be possible for me to finish.

Well, that’s not true. I certainly can. But is it worth it?

It’s funny. For a guy who never did much rewriting when I was making a serious go at it, I’m finding myself rewriting like crazy.

Anyway, as it turns out WordPress doesn’t screw up the format, so here’s the start. Comment away.

Well, Crap.

I’ve got the first chapter of TD ready to go. I created using Google Docs, a courier font, and the exotic “italic” attribute (not profligately, I hope).

But when I upload it to blogspot, it looks like shite. How much does that suck!

The HTML ain’t pretty but it should work. That’s sorta the point of HTML.

I’ll have to think of a different approach. Open to suggestions.

Taylon Doon Update

I’ve found it challenging to release my words without some rereading. And rewriting, even, though I’ve never been a big rewriter, frankly. Quite possibly the key to my lack of success. Still.

So I’ll be releasing each bit I write 2-3 days after I write it. The critical thing being that I can stand to read it without altering it tremendously.

The first day went fine, not so much on the second. This is day three; we’ll see how it goes. Tomorrow, I’ll release the first day or two.

Update: Day three went pretty well, and day four is looking good. I’ll have to make up some time for day 2, and I probably should overshoot for those days where I get compulsively edit-y.

It Took An Hour To Write…

I thought it would take an hour to read. (Apologies to Philip J. Fry.)

So, Saturday begins the NaNoWriMo. I’ve got cold feet, of course, but I’m going through with it.

My initial plan was to release whatever I wrote in a day, but I’m a little nervous about releasing unedited, unproofed copy to the world. (I’ve always taken Strunk & White to heart about having pity on the poor reader.)

So, I’ll leave it to the…what, four of you? Every day? By chapter? End of the month?

You make the call.

Taylon Doon and Appaloosa

Watching Ed Harris’ character in Appaloosa was interesting. There were a lot of similarities between his Cole and my own Taylon Doon. (Note the slight spelling change. I’ve always been pronouncing it that way and had violated my “Berlitz” rule.)

Cole is a polite man, even a friendly man, but besides being a stone-cold killer, he’s completely guileless. He’s so straightforward that even light teasing prompts him to be the crap out of someone who doesn’t really deserve it.

That’s sort of how I envisioned Taylon, but I see a character arc for him that requires him to be a little less sensitive to his intellectual limitations. In fact, he’s born of political guile, after a fashion. The way I have the story worked out in my had, that happens before Chapter 1, though.

Chapter 1 begins (barring some change) with the narrator’s first encounter with Taylon.

The NaNoWriMo begins in less than two weeks, so we’ll see how it goes.

Creating New Worlds

Part of the fun of writing–and a big part of the reason I gravitated to D&D, I’m sure–is the building of new worlds. Tearing down worlds can be fun and interesting, too, and any society is growing and dying at the same time, in different ways.

The USA, right now, shows incredible growth in terms of small business and a growing consciousness of independence, as well as death in its institutions and religious tradition. (In institutional terms, “death” is less about non-existence and more about atrophying in a way that strangles society.) This intricate balletmosh pit is one of the things that draws me to simulations as well.

In writing, however, the interesting part is figuring out how society would emerge given a particular set of conditions. One of my first novels was focused on robots, and how humanity would deal with a world where robots did everything and what sort of humans would interact with this world while at the same time rejecting it. This was done in a hard-boiled detective style–probably overly derivatively so–but Troop might have liked it, because one of the premises I came up with was that human servants (and particularly hookers) would be a tremendous luxury.

I wrote another short story that prefigured The Matrix. Only the way I had it worked out, humans hadn’t been enslaved by machines, they had just preferred virtual reality and retired into it. (The Matrix had a better movie plot, for sure. I had the Devil’s own time creating drama out of a planet of couch potatoes.)

Since I can’t put (metaphorical) pen to paper yet on my Cowboy Barbarian Sex Yogurt Unicorn novel, I’ve been thinking about the sorts of societies that would exist, given the conditions I’ve set up for the story.

I don’t want to spoil too much so let’s look at, say, Deadwood. David Milch went over the top in his portrayal of the town, which was far more civil–and certainly didn’t swear like that. (But I realized instantly, and have since confirmed, that the whole point of the swearing was because the actual swearing of the time would have created outright laughs at critical points.)

But the basic premise–what a lawless 19th century city would’ve looked like, especially with some seriously ethically impaired characters in power–was solid.

I’m looking a lot to the 19th century for the “cowboy” part of the story, and thinking of how morally rigorous the Old West was, at least in places, but also how the morality adapted to the times. For example, most people know that Mormons traditionally allowed polygamy, but few people seem to realize that one of the chief stimuli for it was the limited options a woman had when her husband died.

Another important issue: In the Old West, there was more space than anything. The Cowboy Mythology, like Horror Mythology, relies on isolation. (In Horror it’s usually an isolated individual or small group.) The great empires of Europe were densely packed by comparison and had a lot of trade traffic, at least relative to the sparsely populated Old West. And America was less held together in the early years by the circulation of officials and more by the idea of America.

In other situations, the same space would yield what? Fiefdoms, I’d imagine, or small communities much like the little towns of the Old West, but perhaps with walls like medieval Europe (depending on the hostility of the surroundings and the level of technology).

But the technology is the thing, isn’t it? Old West communities didn’t have walls, unless they were forts. However hostile the Indians and outlaws might have been, it wasn’t enough to (in most cases) keep people from settling out in wide open spaces. Guns are probably to thank for that. So what if they didn’t have guns?

In D&D, magic is primarily focused on stuff that comes in handy while adventuring. But if magic technology were something that could be developed, and if there were artifacts to be found, the most prized magic would be the stuff that emulates industrial and post-industrial revolution technology: You’d have spells for more crops, disease and wound curing, transportation–well, what in D&D were largely clerical spells. (D&D and other RPGs introduce a kind of mass-market magic without ever really exploring how it changes the world.)

It’s not just high fantasy, of course: If we had Superman available to us, wouldn’t we use him to help bail out the economy? 10 years until we could get oil? Ha! Superman could get it in 10 days, and he’d know exactly where to drill, thank you X-ray vision!

Now, here’s an interesting question for the Economics types: What are the defining circumstances of a situation? In other words, given a universe with a particular set of properties (fecundity and variety of animals, plants, humans; quality and quantity of physical space, materials, technology; nature and depth of philosophies, religions, morals), what creates a particular community?

For example, the Jews were able to do in Israel what the Arabs never cared to or were able to. The new Israelis had nothing other than a mindset–including a sense of ethnic survival risk–that the Arabs didn’t, or couldn’t have gotten. (The Palestinians even trashed what the Israelis had build when it was turned over to them.)

Or, the Native Americans had two huge continents to roam over, yet settled in only a few places, and evolved a bloody and pessimistic worldview. Or did they have the worldview, and that kept them from settling?

Of course, sometimes I just sit down and write without thinking of any of this kind of crap. But there are still 3 weeks to go. Heh.