Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My NaNoWriMo 2011 Experience

I'm an official NaNoWriMo winner; as in I wrote 50,000 words by November 30th on an original work that I didn't start before November 1st.

I decided to just write from the beginning and see where it took me. No character sketches, no outline, no notes, not nothing, just one word in front of the other.

What I learned was:

1) I can actually do it, write a longer form story.  I've written short stories, but never anything longer than I could write a first draft of in a day.

2) I actually liked quite a lot of what I wrote.  I enjoyed the dialog between my characters.  I put my super-powered protagonist through several challenges and I enjoyed the way he interacted with his family and friends.  I wrote a bit of romance into the story, and it helped serve the plot as well as the

3) There is a lot that I need to really fix. I really wasn't happy with the last 10,000 words.  I think that what is going to work best is to end the story at my 40,000 word point in the draft and flush some things out.  I should be able to use some of the last 10,000 if I ever write a sequel.  I need to really punch up what I think is going to be the end.  I like the character of the protagonist's daughter, but I left her out of the last half of the book. I think I need to look at what I want that character to do and flush her out more.

4) I can write 4,000 decent 1st draft words in a day.  These are days off of work, but with my typing speed, that's not bad.

So will I do it again next year? I definitely want to.

So what am I going to do with the 1st draft of my novel (more of a novella, I think)?  1) In a week or so, I want to take an edit pass just for grammar and spelling... maybe reword where I've used the same word too close together.  Essentially what I'd call light editing.  When I do, I'd like to take some notes for the next pass.

Since NaNoEdMo (edit for 50 hours) is in March, I'm thinking that will be when I make that pass. I think after pass number 2 it will be ready for beta readers.  Then I'll take an edit pass keeping their comments in mind.

After that, I don't know.  I may self publish it in e-book for the exercise of it.  This will depend on how well it is received.  I may work on one of the two other book ideas I have.  If I can get into a two book a year cycle, that would be great even if I don't do anything serious with them.

If you want to check out my progress over NaNoWriMo, you can go to my NaNoWriMo page.

You can check out some of my first draft samples from my book here.

If the samples aren't enough, you can find the pdf of all 50,000 words here, I'll be updating it as I make changes.

Finally, I have my book in a competition at Curiosity Quill's NaNo-Virtuosos Competition, feel free to read a short sample and comment (negative and positive comments are welcome) here.  You can find all 31 works in the contest here.  You can scroll down to vote.

Thanks so much to everyone who everyone who encouraged me.  It really was a lot of fun.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NaNoWriMo: My Opening

Here is the draft opening two scenes in my NaNoWriMo novel:

Wed Jan 20 9:05PM
Robert Andrews trudged through the cold night, heavy bags in hand, heading toward the parking lot where his equally cold car awaited.  It was game night at his favorite comic book store so he stayed to watch the players for a couple of hours after paying for his books.

Construction near the store meant that the car was even further than usual.  Robert hated parking in the far lot.  The few operating street lights never seemed to actually help one actually see, but rather highlighted the disrepair of the adjoining buildings.

He rested his shopping bags on the ground for a moment to fish the car keys from his coat pocket. But before keys could meet the door lock ….. WHAM! …. Rob found himself on the ground, glasses thrown from his face.  The next breath caused his ribs to complain bitterly.

“What is THIS?” … Rob grabbed his glasses in reflex and turned toward the voice. 

“I SAID, what is THIS?” … A young brute of a man had fists full of crumpled comic books.  The rest of the books were scattered on the icy pavement. 

“How am I supposed to get any money for THIS?”.  Rob thought to himself that he himself had just spent quite a few dollars on the 3 weeks worth of comics lying at the thug’s feet.

The light bespectacled Robert was no challenge for the bigger man to pluck from the ground and heft against an SUV.  Robert’s feet almost dangled as his attacker's eyes burned.

“Gimme all your money!” the thief demanded.

“I’d really rather not” was the meek reply.

“What DID you say?”

“Sorry, I’ll speak up … I’d really rather not.  For that matter, I must insist that you back off.  If you do, then I’ll let you go in peace. Otherwise, I can’t promise anything.” Robert said in a shockingly calm voice.

“....” After a long pause, the brute blinked.  Shock gave way to anger and frustration.

A fist drew back.  The small man grew heavy and feet dropped to the pavement.  Rob’s expression changed to one of defiance.  The mugger just wanted to end it.

Fist met face … and the fist lost.  The big man snatched his hand back in pain.  Obscenities flew.  Robert brushed off and walked calmly toward his attacker.

A fist drew back slightly.  The young man shrunk back involuntary. The punch to the chest stunned and dropped the criminal to the ground.

“Now we are even.  Please, let’s not do this again.”  In the dark, the predator fled his intended prey.

Rob leaned back against his car and rested for a moment ... a cracked rib mended and bruised tissue healed.  Bending down, he picked up the remains of his purchases and got into his car.

Wed Jan 20, 9:45PM

In his small apartment, Robert laid out the comic books on the table. All were damaged, but most were readable.  “Darn it! Why did he have to destroy the new ‘Power Team #1’?  Now I have to avoid the Internet until I can get another copy.” Robert sighed.  He made a short list of the comic books he was going to go back for tomorrow, this time during lunch to avoid another potential altercation.  This was all distraction and Rob knew it.

Robert Andrews walked into the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror for long moments.  A lined face with graying hair looked back at him.  He was just a 50-ish IT guy with a failed marriage, a poor diet, and a daughter he only saw every other weekend.  Why did he have these … powers he couldn’t explain?  Sure they just saved him a load of pain less than an hour before; but he was a peaceful person.  He really didn’t feel good about hitting someone, even in self-defense.  Or was it defending himself, he wondered, if in less than a second he could … he had no words for what he could do ... DID do.  He needed someone to talk to someone.  The whole thing was crazy wasn’t it … or maybe he was.

Regardless he needed to confide in someone.  Perhaps even if he were crazy, it would be better to know that than not, right?   Jason … perhaps Jason could handle it.  His cousin wasn’t just family but a life-long friend.  Tomorrow he’d call Jason and schedule a meeting to talk about … everything.  But now it was time to get some sleep.

Robert unfolded the couch into a semblance of a bed, put a pile with the day’s mail and about a third of the comics beside him.  He didn’t remember falling asleep, just walking up at 3AM with the television playing some infomercial.  He hit the mute button on the remote and rolled back over to sleep for a few more hours.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Sample from Chapter 12

Now that I'm deep into my NaNoWriMo book, there is very little I can post without there being spoilers or without confusion from lack of context. This is some buddy banter between the super-powered protagonist Robert and his cousin Jason. Jason is the first person Robert confides in, and this scene is set at Jason's house out on his family's farm. Enjoy: 

Jason and Robert watched TV while they ate.  Jason had recorded a college football game from earlier in the day and they had both diligently refrained from any news source that might have spoiled it for them.  Jason preferred watching his sports this way, so that he could skip though half-time and commercials.

 Half way into the second quarter the action slowed into a back and forth ground battle.  “So how’s Maggie doing? Did you tell her about your being the hero and all?”

Rob replied, “She’s fine. And I told her over dinner last night.  We went to this Italian restaurant and …”

“So you two went on a date.” Jason interjected.

“Not a ‘date’ date, we were just two friends eating dinner out.” Rob tried to re-direct.

“So the place wasn’t romantic?” Jason probed.

“Well, kind of, but we just needed a place where we could talk privately ….” Robert hoped to divert the interrogation that was sure to come.

“Oh!  A secluded booth in the corner I bet …” Jason was enjoying how this scene was playing out.

“It wasn’t like that! We just didn’t want anyone to overhear …” Robert countered.

“Was it your idea or hers?” Jason pressed.

“Well hers, … I guess” Robert knew this wasn’t helping and there was precious little he could think of in defense.

“Oh, I see.  And what did you two do after dinner?” Jason wanted to know how far the evening went.

“Went home.” Robert hoped to end it at that.

“So you drove to your apartment and she to hers?” Jason knew there was more than Rob wanted to say.

“She wanted to have a couple of drinks so I drove her home in her car.  Later I glided back to retrieve my car.  Then I drove home.” Robert hoped that that would satisfy Jason.

Jason would have none of it. “So she picked out a nice romantic place for you too to eat. Then she had a few drinks and you drove her to her place. So give with the rest of the story.  You know you are going to tell me so drop the coy act.”

Robert sighed and told Jason, “Yes, we had a lovely time talking at the restaurant. And yes, she had more to drink that she would have if she were going to drive herself.  I walked her to her door; she went in, end of story.”

“That might be the end, but I’m thinking that you probably left out some of the middle.  Did she ask you in?  Any good night kiss?  Any …?” Jason pressed until interrupted by Rob.

“She did ask me in, but not for what you might think.  It was late, so I passed on it. …. And I did kiss her …” Jason tried to interrupt at that but Robert continued. “… on the cheek.  It was totally platonic.  Immediately after that she went in and I left.  Beginning, middle, and end of story … done.”

“Did she hesitate for just a small bit before walking into the apartment?” Jason had to ask for just one more detail.

“JASON!  Now stop it!” Robert had already said more than he wanted to.  He did remember a slight pause and a little backward glance as she went inside.

“She likes you.” Jason declared.

“We are friends, so I hope she likes me at least a little.” Robert was exasperated at this point.

“Ask any of your other female friends, they’ll tell you.” Jason said with a sense of authority in such matters.

“I don’t have any other female friends.” Robert retorted.

“So you are just going to have to make due with me.  Trust me, for the next good night kiss, make it on the lips.  Oh and next time she invites you in, say ‘yes’. To tell her ‘no’ twice in a row would just be rude.” Jason remembered something from a magazine that he had to endure when he last waited at the dentist’s office.

“Oh, so now you are an expert in etiquette. You should do a column for the paper.” The barb was a feeble attempt and Robert knew it.

“Alright, let’s just focus on the game. Please?” Robert surrendered.

“Okay, but only because my team is winning.” Jason relented.

As Robert drove home from the farm later that evening, he would have no memory of the rest of the game.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Sample from 11/19/11

Another romantic scene, I think I'm trying for the record of the number of times my characters sleep together without having sex, of any kind.  I wrote a lot of other stuff today, but most of the rest would make no sense out of context, so ... :

Margaret let herself into her apartment to see Robert sleeping on the couch.  She hated to wake him, but she knew that if he didn't want her to he would have gone to his own apartment.

She took a moment to admire how cute he looked to her as he slept.  Then she leaned over to kiss him on the forehead.  “Hey you.” Robert said as he stretched.  “How are you doing?”

“I'm fine.  I slept in this morning, so I was late getting back.  That and I was starving, so I stopped at the first restaurant on the way back.  I never knew fried catfish could taste so good.” Maggie lipped her lip slightly at the memory.

“I know what you mean.  I'm not even sure I ate at all yesterday.  As I finished up my errands this morning, I stopped at a buffet for an early lunch.  I took the 'all you could eat' as a personal challenge. Then I came straight here, I hope you don't mind that I let myself in.” Robert hoped.

“Not at all.  Not every girl has a super-hero boyfriend that can walk through walls when he needs to.  I don't even need to give you a set of keys.” she winked. “By the way, if I ever lock myself out, I'm calling you and saving the locksmith bill.”

“I am at your beck and call, m'lady.” Robert said with a flourish in his tone.

“And don't I know it.” Maggie took her pocket book from around her and snuggled up with her man.  Playful kisses were exchanged,  Robert could have sworn he heard giggles.

“You know, we were on our way back here when we got interrupted Friday night.” Maggie remembered.

“So, were we going to take it to the next level or not?” Robert probed.

“Probably, but we are both way too tired and we don't need to rush things.  It is just truly a joy to be with you.” Maggie kissed him again.

“You, my darling, are turning into a big softy.” Robert teased.

“I can still bring it when I need to, Ghost-boy.  I'm just happy that we are both safe after the other night. That; and for a big geek, you can be pretty sexy sometimes.” Maggie bantered back.

“Like when?” Robert kissed her gently on the lips again.

“Like when you try to help someone. Even someone who tried to fry you with lightning ...” she brushed his lips playfully “ … sort of, kind of, by mistake.” Her lips met his again briefly.

“Any other times?” Robert continued.

“I'm sure there are others, I'm just way too sleepy to recall right now.” Maggie gently poked him on the tip of his nose. “You know, my bed is much more comfy; and it's right over in the next room.”

Robert shifted and lifted the auburn tressed woman in his arms. “I can take a hint.” Robert gently laid her on the bed, pulling back the covers as he did.

Robert lay down beside her and commented “I'm not sure couples sleep together any more and just sleep. I guess my age is showing.”

Maggie pushed him to the side to spoon him. “That's okay, you are my old man, and I like you this way.” She ran her fingers thorough a particularly white part of his hair. “Now go to sleep.”

“Yes, ma'am.” Robert felt himself beginning to drift off even as he spoke.

Maggie listened to the sound of his breathing as she fell asleep herself.

Friday, November 18, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Sample from 11/18/11

My last NaNoWriMo sample was romance. Here is a hint of horror from today. And yes, my novel is a super-hero story.:

Electra was sure that she had killed herself. She scolded her stupidity, while waiting for whatever the afterlife held for her. She lay in the dark, restrained unable to move. What horrors did the demons of hell have for her, she wondered. Perhaps this anticipation was part of their torture.

Suddenly a sliver of light appeared. Just as suddenly, most of that light was blocked as a dark figure approached from where the brightness originated. She could only fear what would happen when it touched her.

She screamed the cry of the damned.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

From My NaNoWriMo Work in Progress - 11/17/11

"You are truly beautiful, you know.” Robert spoke across the table to the striking woman. They sat in the corner booth of an Italian restaurant. The lovely odors of wine and marinara complemented her perfume.

“And you know, one of the best things about dating, is that unlike before; you tell me things like that.” Margaret replied, casually brushing her hair aside with a flirt.

“I've complemented you before.” Robert defended.

“Yeah, but now I know you mean it.” Maggie teased.

“That I do. And is there anything you want to tell me.” Robert fished as he straightened himself in his chair.

“Yes, Robert. You have … the most impeccable taste in women.” Maggie batted her eyes.

“I see this is getting me absolutely nowhere.” Robert sighed.

“I don't know, I find a man who can take a little teasing in good humor to be awfully sexy. That and you have a pretty well developed sense of humor yourself.” Maggie had the slightest purr in her voice at “sexy”.
“Moi? Surely you jest.” Robert said in with a mock air of distinction.

“Oh, it's subtle; but don't think I don't know.” her eyebrow raised slightly.

“There's no sense denying it then; I'm adorable.” Robert grinned.

“I've created a monster. But at least you are my monster.” she broadened her smile in reply.

Monday, October 31, 2011


I'm going to try NaNoWriMo this year.

I don't have a title (right now it's "Untitled Superhero Novel").  I have a very rough premise - a middle aged geek gets super powers from aliens, now he has to figure out what to do with them.  I'm going to try just starting from the beginning and see where it leads.  All the while trying to write ~1700 words a day.

I'm going to try to put what I write up on this site as I go.  It will be ugly but I hope some of you have fun.  If nothing else, you should feel better about your writing after perusing some of this.

My NaNoWriMo user name is "mainframe" so feel free to check my progress at http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/participants/mainframe

I just signed up today, Oct 31, so expect things to look rough.

Feel free to take a look at the work in progress at http://dl.dropbox.com/u/5246143/Reluctant_Hero-Beginnings.pdf .

You can make comments here or on Twitter.

--Richard Green aka "Mainframe"

Monday, September 19, 2011

You Are SOOOOOOOO Wrong!

You are wrong.   And the sad part is you have no idea how wrong you are.

There are things you'd practically bet you life on that are just plain wrong.  Yes. there is that one word that you have been mispronouncing all your life .... it's still wrong.  There is that one thing you would swear you know exactly where it is ... and it just isn't (good luck finding that thing, by the way; you are going to need it).

O.K. there are a lot of things you are wrong about that just don't matter.  You are not off the hook.  There is that thing you really think that would solve a societal problem, but if it were implemented it would harm so many people that it would keep you up at night if you knew.

Being wrong has its consequences.  Look at history for thousands of examples.  That darned "medical" theory of the four humors led to who knows how many of cases that were treated by blood letting ... when it was kind of the exact opposite of what was needed.  By the way, eating food and drinking water contaminated by lead ... not a good thing, and more than one major leader has made some really screwed up decisions because of it.

And that's just science, how about philosophies that devalued other groups of people to a point that genocide has been "justified".  Yeah, being wrong doesn't just hurt you, it harms every one around you.

I see that top honor graduate in the back smirking.  What was your average on your tests in school? 99?  Outstanding!  Then perhaps you can comprehend just how many different systems totally break down with a one in one hundred error rate.  Trust me if your smart phone was that "wrong", it would barely function at all ... to dial another number (forget the rest).  That phone seems a whole lot "smarter" now, doesn't it?

So what about your belief system?  Well so much of what you believe is mutually exclusive of what some other person believes.  Add all those points up and the odds that you are right about every single one ... well I don't know, but some really smart mathematician could figure the odds.  Most likely the answer might be off some what, but it would probably be in the right ballpark ... which would be extremely slim to none.  I'm going to round that off to "none" right now and save me the pain.

So you are wrong ... accept it and deal with it.  You are in some truly excellent company .... o.k. and in some really seedy company too (but don't let that part get you down; there's no upside in that).

So with this knowledge, what do you do?   

First off: Realize that just because that other guy is obviously wrong about something does not make him less wrong than you (I've met that guy so I know how painful that is to think about).

Second: Do not live your life without other people to call you on your serious B.S. .  Unless you are going to be a serious hermit ... and that includes staying out of the virtual society too, this is your best bet at being able to cause the least amount of harm ... and it is the best way to maximize the amount of good you can do.  You need friends and you need a community to be a part of.  And do not cut that person out of your life just because they disagree with you.  That person may be doing you one of the best favor anyone can do for you if you are willing to at least consider it ... and if they aren't right this time, maybe they will be the next time.

Third: Since we can't be right about everything, how about if we cut other people a lot mere slack than we do now.  Yeah, they need to do what they can about their own stuff.  But let's stop being more impatient with other people than we want them to be with us.  Let's try to be a little more decent to each other at least a little more often.  And maybe one day even learn to celebrate our differences when and where we can.  O.K. we can't tolerate the murder, child abuse, rape, and a host of other really bad things - but how often are these the reasons we don't value the person next to us? Yeah, I thought so.

Fourth: Realize that apparently being right about everything isn't what being a person is about.  If it's an impossible goal, then it is not part of this thing called humanity.  So search for truth, but realize that we never actually arrive, so there has to be value in the paths to try to get there.  But how about we walk down that road and be glad for the progress we've made more than beating ourselves up over how far we are from the end.

Fifth: ... Hey, I'm just some guy and I'm just as screwed up as the rest of you guys, so why is it up to me to finish this darned list? I've already said more than I really know.  You are most likely more qualified to speak to this than I am.  How about you think about what your response needs to be to the notion that you are wrong.  You'll probably be more profound than I will be.

My only saving point is I know I'm wrong ... as I find out more what I'm wrong about, apologies will be forthcoming.  Oh and there are the times I forget how wrong I am ... that's when I'm the most wrong .... I think

Next time, I'll try to cheer you up with how very right you can be. :)

Monday, April 18, 2011


Vocabulary is important, and I'm not just saying that because some middle school English teacher said so. Vocabulary is about learning words that allow you to talk about a particular subject matter.

This is why just about any field has its own jargon. Yes it helps to shortcut the conversation, letting you get 15 words out of the way and just use the words you need to get down to the real discussion. But vocabulary does more that that.

Secret: Vocabulary allows you to THINK about new concepts. For a LONG time, Mathematics had no concept of "zero". It wasn't that people didn't know when they were without something, but the word "zero" allowed the concept of nothing to be thought of mathematically.

I heard an NPR show, probably "This American Life", where they looked at the difference in a school for the deaf in a developing country where the students developed crude a sign language on their own. These students had no real conversational language before and couldn't read or write in any language. Over the course of years the sign language at the school naturally evolved, rather rapidly. Years later, people had students from multiple "generations" at the school take a series of tests. And there was a cognitive gap between the early students who used the more primitive sign language, and those who used the more advanced later version. These people weren't stupid, but the limitations of their language ... their vocabulary limited the concepts their minds could easily address.

Have you ever read a book, knew you liked it, but really didn't know why? Happens to me all the time. But as I've interviewed authors this past year, I'm just beginning to develop a bit more of a vocabulary about writing and story-telling. In the process, I'm developing a much clearer idea of what I think works in a story, and why, than I did last year this time.

The thing is, they don't have to even be new words per se; but learning new definitions even for old words in a new subject matter makes a difference.

Take the word "low". A "low" baseball pitch means one thing. "Low" when referring to "low fantasy" means something all together different.

So what is my point? Words are important, and the more you understand the vocabulary of a subject matter, the more you will gain an appreciation for the structures inherent to that subject matter. You really do have to learn how to learn.

This is what your teacher, who had you drill a set of twenty words each week for a test on Friday, never told you. Learning vocabularies will increase your enjoyment of what is around you and give you a match to light your lantern so you can see in the otherwise (proverbial) dark forest around you.

Reading, and vocabulary, really are fun-da-mental :)