October 24

It’s that time of year again

Jack-o-lantern

Jack-o-lantern (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All down the lane, pumpkins are hung with care. Little boys and girls, their faces covered in mock blood, drift to sleep. Visions of overflowing bags of candy bring the children peace. While nearby, burrowed in their alcoves, huddling behind their keyboards, the season’s true denizens stir. Steamy mugs of caffeinated bliss leave ringed stains on makeshift desks.

Words!

Words!

They fly through the night, seeking homes. Words forming sentences, sentences forming paragraphs, dialog, and thought. The season of darkness is upon us!

It is NanoWriMo once more!

For those of you new to the blog, or at least unfamiliar with Nanowrimo, every November there is a friendly little contest known as National Novel Writing Month, or Nanowrimo. The idea is that for one month (November), folks gather around and try to hack out that novel they’ve always said they were going to write. To win you just need to reach 50,000 words before December 1 – not necessarily finish writing, but 50k. In the last 5 years, I’ve made it twice, failed twice, and abstained once.

The question before me is: am I going to do it this year? Unlike past years, this year I’m working from home, which means I don’t have to deal with the trials of a commute sucking at my time. In theory, time has always been the biggest hurdle for me, and I technically have that time this year. I want to waffle and say I have nothing to write about, but I know that’s not true. That’s just me trying to avoid writing the novel. Ironic, since I just explained that the point of Nanowrimo is to get off your duff and write that novel you’ve been avoiding.

Bah.

I have a little over a week to decide, but I think we all know how this ends.

October 23

Asimov on Creativity

This has been making the circles this week, but just in case your circles don’t include some of my circles, I thought I’d share. An article Asimov was hired to write on creativity for Allied Research Associates back in the late 50’s has recently surfaced. Reminiscent of other Asimov essays, I thought you all might enjoy.  Speaking from personal experience, it’s true that sometimes the best new ideas come as a result of sharing what’s already known with a small likeminded group. I’d just hate to think that means meetings are worth it.

A person willing to fly in the face of reason, authority, and common sense must be a person of considerable self-assurance. Since he occurs only rarely, he must seem eccentric (in at least that respect) to the rest of us. A person eccentric in one respect is often eccentric in others.

via Published for the First Time: a 1959 Essay by Isaac Asimov on Creativity | MIT Technology Review.

I know I reference Asimov occasionally on here, and I’d like to (briefly) explain. It’s not that I think he is the penultimate in writers – he was as flawed as the rest of us. No, I admire both his proclivity as well as the breadth of his written works, combined with his simple, straightforward writing style. While a fantastic science fiction author, he didn’t let genre – or fiction – limit his writing. The article on creativity doesn’t bring much new to the subject, although it predates some of the group meeting styles I’m familiar with.

October 18

Putting it all together at last

Over the course of the last ten years, I’ve written close to 400,000 words that all take place in the same space opera universe. What truly boggles my mind is that I’ve never tried to collate it all so that it was at least internally consistent.

Until now.

I’ve heard other folks say that the secret to a consistent milieu is to make a wiki, but all my past attempts ended quickly and dismally. I’d get a few pages deep, then find myself floundering about until the project was sidelined for something more constructive. So what’s different this time?

Click to embiggen

I’m not creating the wiki empty handed. Using all of those novel drafts, wannabe novels, and short stories I’ve written, I’m indexing and organizing the major characters, factions, events, and places in each story. To do this I’m using tiddlywiki with the Firefox extension for in-place saves, but you don’t need to use Firefox, and you don’t even need to use tiddlywiki. Google is your friend when it comes to finding personal wiki projects that can work for you.

Of course, it’s only useful if you do it consistently, so I’ve come with a simple template for each of my stories that captures the Synopsis, Cast, Factions, Races (it is space opera after all :) ), Places, and Ships. Tiddlywiki lets me tag each page, so I’ve been using a combination of tags (+Place +SOMESTORY) so that on the story pages, I can just use a simple line of code to display all of the stories that combine the two (places that appear in multiple stories will get +Place +SOMESTORY +SOMEOTHERSTORY, etc.).

For this first round, I’m more interested in the data capture than I am in the meshing of the data. I know, for example, that the name of one human government changed from story to story, sometimes referring to folks centered around Earth, at other times to the mysteries aliens from the far edge of the galaxy.  I think I’ll wait until I’ve indexed all of the existing stories into the wiki before going back to make them line up with each other.

The benefits to this are more than data cohesion, though. As I work on this, I see stories I never told, or meant to tell, floating and bubbling along the outskirts. My hope is to have all of the data entry done with with time to spare before Nanowrimo. Ideally, I’d like to use this encyclopedia I’ve written to help me write a short novel in November.

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