And now for someth-

I had planned on starting a weeklong series of protagonists on Monday. Basically, something to get you, my wonderful readers, thinking before National Novel Writing Month starts in just seven days.

Unfortunately, life in rural Idaho struck. Or, more precisely, got disconnected.

Yesterday (Monday afternoon, to be precise) our Internet access went out. Dead connection. We couldn’t get any e-mail or research done, because we had no way to bring in signals from the outside.

And where we live, it’s not like we have a whole lot of options. Out here, we get wireless high speed Internet – a whopping 6 Mbps. Yes, that’s laughably slow for some parts of the U.S. (I’ve heard some people can get speeds up to 50 Mbps. That’s just inconceivable to me). But hey, it beats dial-up.

Yes, I’m old enough to remember dial-up. We’re not doing that ever again, if we can help it.

But that’s the challenge of living in rural Idaho. Sometimes, you lose your Internet connection. Sometimes, you even lose power. For days at a time! That’s why it’s good to be prepared for these kinds of eventualities.

Wood heat is nice. It’s good to have a wood stove. But make sure you have some firewood to put in it. Otherwise, it’s just an expensive, immovable conversation piece that squats in the corner.

So that’s why I haven’t started on the series yet. Maybe I’ll give it a go tomorrow, or perhaps on Thursday, and continue it through Halloween.

I’m probably going to be busy with my next, great novel after that. For around 30 days or so. I hope you’ll be willing to join me!

 

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Where are the white hats?

I’ve been thinking about a conversation that I had with my wife a while ago. One of the problems she had with one of my earlier stories was with the main character. “He’s not realistic,” she said. “He’s too perfect. He doesn’t have any flaws or problems. No one will be able to relate to him.”

She may have a point. After all, the world is getting increasingly dark. It seems like society (at least here in the United States) has gotten to the point where everything that was once seen as evil or wrong is being celebrated. At the same time, those things that are viewed as moral, decent or good are denounced as obstructive or obsolete. With this attitude, can we say that society is getting better?

I’ve already mentioned in a previous post how we, as writers, should try to do our part in our contributions to society. We should try and do our part in creating the utopia or culture that we want to live in. And a big part of that would be in creating characters that help to make this utopia a reality.

In classic Western movies, you could easily tell who the good guys were because they wore the white hats. But it was more than just their fashion sense. They fought for what was right. They stood up to that which was corrupt or evil (often typified by those wearing black hats). They were gentlemen to the “womenfolk” and contemptuous to those who tried to break the law, or harm others. In short, they were heroes in every sense of the word.

In my opinion, we need more heroes like that. Not just in our literature, but in our society. Good, moral and virtuous individuals, both men and women, who we can look up to and admire. If we present them in our artwork, perhaps we can encourage more people to follow those example, and also strive to be good, virtuous and heroic.

So I think that might be the next series I’ll offer to you. It’s a good thing to consider before National Novel Writing Month, too. What kind of hero or protagonist will you have in your next masterpiece? I’ll go ahead and present a few different archetypes for your consideration. See if you can write a story, if not your novel, with one of these in mind. It’ll be a fun experiment, at least!

 

So awesomely bad, it’s truly awful.

It’s very important to introduce children to classical music. That way they get a better appreciation for music, its complexity, and its history.

However, for a well-rounded education, you have to introduce the bad along with the good.

It hit me tonight that my kids have never heard what has been described as “the worst song ever recorded.” So I pulled it up on YouTube to let them listen to it.

For those of you that don’t know, the song is William Shatner’s cover of “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” If you’re brave enough to experience it yourself, click here. My girls are well acquainted with the original Beatles version, so they knew the song. About halfway through the Shatner version, they were screaming for me to turn it off.

I’ve told them that if they ever have trouble getting up in the mornings, we’ll have to play it specifically for them. Yes, sometimes being an evil parent can be fun.

We are doing our part to expose our children to all sorts of cultural and musical influences. Whether they like it or not. Really, it’s for a better future.

 

The future is in your hands – so what are you waiting for?

I was talking with a friend online a couple days ago. He’s been having trouble at home, and was looking for someone or something to help him out of his mess. Since I live more than 2,000 miles from him, I couldn’t be there to help him out, other than give him advice.

But the advice that came to my mind is something that has taken me a while to learn. It’s possible that someone could come along and save you from your circumstances. More than likely, though, you’ll just be sitting there, waiting, while the miserable situation you’re in continues to get worse.

As wonderful as it sounds, there isn’t going to be a knight in shining armor riding through the castle gates, slaying the dragon, and sweeping you off your feet. You can’t rely on being rescued.

So you had better do it yourself.

Sometimes the only one who can help you is yourself. You need to take that initial first step. If you don’t like something about your situation, then you need to be the one to change it.

Change your job. Try a different hobby. Stand up to that bully. Have a serious heart-to-heart with your significant other. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Patience is a virtue, true. But you’re not going to change anything by sitting around waiting for something to happen. Quite often, action needs to take place in order to initiate change. So consider what’s happening and decide how to act.

Why not act now? What are you waiting for? Your future is waiting for you, so go get it.

The temperature is dropping

The other day, a memory from my Facebook feed popped up. It was another of those amusing things that my daughter said that I had to post about.

Her: Daddy, it’s not growing!

Me: Violet, two things. First of all, when you plant something, you can’t expect it to grow right away. It takes days or even weeks before you can expect to see something. Gardening requires a lot of patience. Secondly, you planted a golf ball.

 It’s funny that this came up at this time, because now is not the time to be planting a garden. It’s been raining on and off for the past week here. Thing is, at this time, the rain in Idaho, combined with the dropping temperature, serves as a reminder that winter is right around the corner. The snow will be falling very soon, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up with a light dusting before Halloween.
So, before we know it, this little corner of Idaho will be covered in a white blanket. We’ll have to make sure the chimney is clean and the woodpile stacked, so we can have a nice, warm fire to take away the chill.
And you know what? There’s nothing like a toasty fireplace to sit back and write beside. Word has it that it will be a long, cold winter, with some pretty heavy snowfalls.
Frankly, I’m looking forward to it.

Preparing for NaNo: Just Wing It!

For the past few days, I’ve provided tips and advice to help others prepare for National Novel Writing Month. So you may be asking yourself, which one should I do first? Do I have to do all three in order to be prepared to write my novel? Do I really have to go through all these steps in order to prepare?

The answer to those questions can be simple – no!

Go ahead and forget all the advice I just gave you. They aren’t required steps by any means at all. If you’re the kind of writer who wants to just jump in and write, then by all means, jump in and write! Those prior days were only suggestions, after all.

Really, the only thing you need is a desire to write and the motivation to push yourself to that 50,000 word goal. Although many authors do like to take those other steps, there are others who simply start writing. Whatever it takes to hit that goal, just do it.

I’ve often compared this process to that of a sculptor. An artist may start with a plain, possibly misshapen block of marble. Using his (or her) tools, he carves and chips away at the stone until something emerges that looks like something other than raw material. It could be a simple lawn ornament, or it could be a museum-worthy masterpiece. But he wouldn’t have that finished product unless he had that raw block of marble when he began.

That’s what your first draft is – that block of marble. It’s not going to look like a finished work. It will be ugly and misshapen. But that’s where the editing process comes in – you chip away at the extraneous bits, shape the scenes and chapters into what you desire. Keep working at it until it fits that perfect vision in your mind. Then you can sit back and marvel at what you’ve created.

But you wouldn’t have reached that point unless you had that raw material. That’s where National Novel Writing Month comes in. Over the course of the month, you will create your raw material – your lumpy block of marble. At the end of the month, you’ll have what you need.

For myself, I’ve done each of the suggestions I’ve laid out. That includes this last one – I jumped in with a few scenes in my head and a desire to get it into the computer. So I can’t tell you which is the “right” way to tackle National Novel Writing Month. Nor will I insist that there even is a “right” way. Everyone has a different style to writing, and a different motive. What works for me may not work for you.

But there is one thing in common – a desire to write. A desire to create. When November comes, it will be time to have those desires come true.

Are you ready?

Preparing for NaNo: The Setting

As you continue to plan for National Novel Writing Month, one element you should consider is where the events of your novel takes place. Will it be in a fantasy kingdom? Outer space? A run-down apartment in New Jersey? A remote forest far from civilization?

If you haven’t given much thought to the locales of your novel, now would be a good time to do so. You may have a few scenes in your head, but have you given much thought about the surroundings of your action? Are there objects that the characters can use? Is there some sort of historical significance to this particular location?

Of course, trying to think of the setting can lead to inspiration of its own. Perhaps you hadn’t thought about the living room before, but perhaps this is the same spot where the hero’s great grandfather passed away 30 years before. Will history repeat itself? Or maybe that old, twisted oak tree harbors a nature spirit that’s been watching the neighborhood for hundreds of years. What stories will the tree spirit share with the little girl who leaves Twinkies in the old oak’s roots?

An Internet search can help with inspiration. Or consider the Web sites of real estate agents, and take a look at some of the homes that are for sale. Take a look at photography blogs – like Enchanted Forests – and see if there’s anything there that piques your interest.

Also remember the old adage – write what you know. Many authors have written stories and novels based around their childhood homes, or their current residence, or places they have vacationed. Don’t hesitate to follow in their footsteps. You know your house, or your apartment, so why not have your character(s) live in a similar location? If it’s familiar to you, you should be able to describe it in a way that it will become familiar to your readers as well. As much fun as it might be to jump into a completely alien locale, at least starting from a place that your readers can relate to will help to draw them in.

Like with yesterday’s tip, if you have the artistic talent, go ahead and draw the scenery, or use rendering programs to create the landscape. Sometimes those visual aids can help in generating the words you need to describe it.

As usual, have fun with this exercise! Tomorrow, I’ll go ahead and wrap up my brief ideas for preparing by giving the biggest piece of advice that I have. Are you getting excited for National Novel Writing Month? Then you’ll love what I have to offer next!