My writing projects for the past ~7 months

I finished up a novel that began with a story I wrote three and a half years ago called Tracks (which is the working title of the novel as well).  I went over it once for editing then set it aside and began something else.  Unless I like Tracks a whole lot better when I go back to it for a second round of editing, I don’t think I’ll publish it.  It doesn’t feel cohesive and has what I feel is too much confusing exposition in the dialogue.  I do really like the first chapter, though, and it stands alone just fine as a story if you’d like to read it via the link above.

The other work I began writing is yet another story I started a couple years ago that has a working title of SASPER.  It’s probably my most ambitious work of fiction thus far, mostly because it’s cyberpunk, which is technically science fiction, and science fiction can go horrendously wrong if you don’t pay attention to details, do proper world-building, use real science amidst the fiction, etc.  One thing I’m doing with this novel that I don’t normally do is use real places by name, and another is to generally not care about chapter lengths.  Anyone remember that chapter of As I Lay Dying that’s just a single sentence?  I’m not doing anything that dramatic, but you get the idea.

SASPER feels like it’s somewhere between a third and a half of the way done, but I don’t ever set length expectations for total number of words or anything like that, other than 50,000 or more since that’s technically the minimum for a novel.  When finished, SASPER will be my fourth completed novel, and if I feel like it’s good enough to publish, then probably my second published novel.  So far, I feel like it’s on track to meet that goal, unlike Tracks.

Another interesting thing of note is that I wrote Tracks in first person perspective in past tense, but for SASPER, I switched back to third person present tense like I used in the novel I wrote based off of The Redwoods (which is my one published novel).  I really like something about this particular perspective/tense combination, even though there are times when it’s really hard to stay in the right tense.

Writing: History, Style, Improvements

I remember very clearly getting the idea for my first novel, and bits and pieces of when I began writing it.  I was fascinated by social engineering at the time, mostly from watching some of Kevin Rose’s old videos as “The Broken” and reading some stuff about Kevin Mitnick as a result.  It was the summer of 2006, and I got this idea for a novel with a premise initially based on social engineering.  I had read that my favorite author used outlines to write his novels, so I decided to make a very brief outline myself (I later realized upon writing different things that I am not an outliner, but a gardener, as George R.R. Martin calls it).

The male leads were named after the singers in some of my favorite bands at the time, and the female leads were female names I really liked, and one from another band.  I wrote a good bit of the (then) first chapter or two in the back of my brother’s SUV on the way to L’Auberge in Lake Charles, and I remember having been so excited after completing just 16 pages of it (final page count was 140, both numbers going by however Microsoft Word paginates).  It was more than I’d ever written.

I’ve written here about that novel before, and also written about how I had plans to rewrite it, but I sit here still with only the prologue and half of a chapter done.  It’s crazy for me to think about how so many things changed in that novel; how I went back and added chapters, edited it time and time again, wrote in new characters, changed the entire direction of the novel – I literally did everything imaginable to it, both good and bad.

It’s really a horribly written collection of 56,567 words, with a very awkwardly held-together plot.  I think I could fix it if I really tried, but there’s so many new things I want to work on.

I invite you to read both versions of the prologue, if you feel like it.

Original Prologue

Rewritten Prologue

Hobbies

I’ve been examining my hobbies lately and realized they’ve gotten less diverse.  If you’d asked me in 2010 what my hobbies were, I probably would’ve said, “computers, cars, writing, and anime.”  Since then, I’ve only really added “fashion” to that list.  Anime has remained true, and my interest in cars has grown exponentially, but my writing bug has all but died.  And the most I’ve done computer-related in my spare time anytime recently was priced out a budget media PC build that would potentially fit inside of an NES shell.

I guess the latter of those is to be expected since I work in IT and I deal with computers all day, but I don’t think that’s really the reason my interest has dropped.  My opinion is that it has more to do with the lack of anything really exciting happening lately in the industry, and also because even if I wanted to buy a new laptop or build a new desktop PC to replace my already completely adequate computers, I’d rather just save that money toward car stuff.  I mean, recently, the question I’d ask myself was “do you want a new MacBook Air, or do you want $1,400 toward an FR-S/BRZ?”  And now, even though I have the BRZ, I’d still rather spend that money on mods or save it toward a project car or a Z06 or something.

Writing is still a love of mine.  I fantasize about writing all of the time.  The problem is that I just don’t ever do it anymore.  I need a certain atmosphere to write, and the mood that atmosphere creates has been absent from my life for a while now.  I still get ideas and I still have the desire, but as soon as I’m staring at a blank screen, it disappears.  I’ve flirted with the idea of trying out NaNoWriMo, even though (as anyone that reads my blog knows) I am not a fan of the concept.  I’ve already written two full novels though, so I’m not really in the business of proving to myself that I can do it anymore.

More than anything right now, I really just like the idea of doing things to cars.  I have a list of mods for the BRZ, I still plan on buying that Corvette Z06 one day, and I want a project car at some point.  I actually really like that idea a lot and look forward to having the time, space, and money to have that in my life.

The Power of Words

There are a lot of things about American society that puzzle me.  Some of it makes sense, and some doesn’t.  I get that doing lewd things in public is bad.  You probably should not perform sexual acts in the park, for example.  But something I don’t understand – as a member of society in general and as a writer – is how much some people frown upon cursing, or rather, using words that society deems as curse words, such as ‘shit.’

I personally believe that the function of cursing is in the meaning, not of just a word itself.  Using words as weapons to hurt someone is cursing.  Saying “get up off of your ass” is not.  But, for the purposes of this post, cursing is what society generally defines it as – just using a certain set of words that are deemed inappropriate by said society.

Some people will argue that one should just choose to use different words to avoid the “problem of cursing” altogether, but those people don’t understand what role those words play in a person’s vocabulary.  Saying “I stepped in a pile of dog mess” and “I stepped in a pile of dog shit” is essentially the same thing because they hold the same meaning.  Yet, even in this simple example, you may picture two completely different people saying each of those phrases because of the word choice.

Now let’s take this and apply it to what is generally considered to be one of the “worst” curse words.  Saying “I went home and cried in my freaking closet” and “I went home and cried in my fucking closet” hold basically the same meaning: this person went to their home and cried in their closet, and either out of frustration or for some other reason, they want to emphasize the fact that the crying they did was in this particular place.  As a writer, the power of the word “fuck” amazes me.  When used in the right situation, it can create this emotional response within a person.  A “freaking closet” is not really that big of a deal.  Think about a “freaking closet.”  Trying mouthing it.  Now think about the alternative with the curse word.  Mouth it.  Notice how different it is sounding out the “fr” and the “fu.”  For me, with the latter, my bottom teeth touch my upper lip.  It feels angrier.  It feels more frustrating.  This is the power of words.

Of course, cursing can be and is often overused.  If every sentence you articulate has a curse word in it, then those words lose their meaning, and, to me, it sounds like you’re either just angry all of the time or don’t have a large enough vocabulary to pick an alternative word that is more fitting to the situation.

Penpal

My biggest inspiration in writing had always been Eric Nylund until I started reading r/nosleep.  It’s turned into a place for amateur writers to share obviously fake stories now, but when I found it last September-ish, it was a place, for anyone that did not know the stories were 99% fiction, in which it would’ve been difficult to tell which things were be real and which things were not.  The rule on that subreddit is to suspend all disbelief – that everything is true.  And yeah, you pretty much assume that the stories there are fiction, but at least there was always this feeling of not knowing that for absolute certain.

One of those stories was the Penpal series, which I’ve linked to here before.  That series of short stories singlehandedly got me interested in watching scary movies, reading creepy things, and possibly most importantly, writing creepy things.  If not for that series, I’m not sure I would’ve ever gotten interested in that genre, and I probably never would’ve written and published the novel that I’ve blogged about here.

The writer that wrote the Penpal series, Dathan Auerbach, has expanded upon his series and published it on Amazon, as well as in paperback form.  I feel like I owe it to him to link to it here.

“Penpal” by Dathan Auerbach

Quick Grammar Tips

I used to have a grammar blog, in which I basically explored random idiosyncrasies of the English language, but I don’t have that anymore, so here are some fun grammar things.

  • If something disturbs you, it doesn’t phase you, it fazes you.
  • The difference between good and well: Superman does good.  You are doing well.
  • If you are using the word enamor, it is almost always followed by the word of.  Example: She was enamored of him.  Translation: She was filled with love for him.
  • Most of the time, affect is a verb, and effect is a noun.  Example: The effect was instant.  It affected her greatly.

On Being an Author

I don’t know that I’ve ever written about this here, but in 2006, I decided that I wanted to be an author.  I don’t mean writing on the side or writing for fun like I have done and currently do; I mean writing (fiction) as a main source of income.  A lot of people have dreams like that from when they were just wee, tiny humans, but I was in college and 20 years old by then.

Obviously, writing is something that is difficult to break into, so I wasn’t about to change my major to English or anything.  After all, I wasn’t – and still am not – very confident about it.  I knew as soon as I made that decision that doing IT stuff would likely always be my main source of income, but that it still couldn’t hurt to try to chase a dream.

I started writing my first novel almost exactly at this time in 2006.  The story was actually pretty good, but the writing was genuinely terrible.  It took me years to finish it (like until 2011), because I wrote it on and off and in between writing other things, many of which can be found on my fiction blog.  By the end of the novel, I knew the writing was terrible, and I still went back and edited it three times for the experience, and I think that was the right thing to do.  Recently, I went back and rewrote the first chapter, and decided that I may even eventually rewrite the whole thing, because I truly like how the story turned out.  But that’s beside the point.

When I started my real job, I fell into what is probably the normal realization of most working people that “Oh God, this is my life for the next 40ish years,” and I realized how important my writing could be to me.  I never traveled when I was younger, and the farthest I’ve ever been from home is North Carolina.  I wanted to go places, and I still do, but work ties me down.  As a writer, I could just pack up and go somewhere, and as long as I wrote, it would be a legitimate work expense.  I still dream of being able to do that, especially now, because that flexibility would be amazing for visiting Sam.

Right near New Year’s Eve of last year, I started writing a different novel.  It’s not the second novel I started writing, but it was the second one I finished.  What I learned from writing the first novel, I adjusted and applied to this one, as well as all of the gradual writing changes I’d made from my ridiculously sappy fiction.  Over the course of five weeks, I wrote an 80,000 word novel that I’m pretty happy with.  I think my writing could still be better and that my storytelling could use refinement and better planning, but I finished it in an incredibly short amount of time (which I believe had no impact on quality, because I still wrote it at my own pace), edited it once, and I wasn’t ashamed of it.

I put it aside for a month, then went back and edited it again.  Then I edited it for the third and final time before publishing it on Smashwords and Amazon in late April.  The day after publishing it, I got an email from Smashwords saying that I’d sold a copy, and I was ecstatic.  Even if that was the only copy I sold, I felt really excited just from the one sale.

I didn’t get any more emails from Smashwords, and never got anything from Amazon, so I figured that was that.  Then this morning, I read Brian’s comment on my last blog post that he’d done some sleuthing, found my novel, and bought it.  I checked my email, and I had no notification of any purchases, so I logged into my Amazon account.  After poking around for a few minutes, I realized that I’d actually sold about three copies of the novel, as well as about three copies of a short story I’d posted late last year just to test out the Amazon ebook publication process.  Apparently, unlike Smashwords, Amazon does not send out emails when someone purchases an ebook from you.

So needless to say, I was pretty happy to find this out.  I sold my 80,000 word novel and my 5,000 word short story for the same price, so this tells me a lot, and I think I’m ready to start taking this way more seriously.  I realize the numbers that I sold weren’t big or impressive, but the fact that six people using Amazon randomly found and decided to purchase things I’ve written is very amazing and interesting to me, especially because both things were published under different pseudonyms and were of vastly different lengths.