Whoah, we’re halfway there….

I just passed the 25,000 word mark for National Novel Writing Month, and am still progressing like a steam train! Woo woo! I’ve been trying to get at least two chapters a day written, and so far I’ve stayed on track. It’s the 10th of November, and I’m about halfway through Chapter 20. If I keep this up, I should have 60 chapters by the end of the month, and will have easily hit the 50,000 word mark.

Since I’m planning on releasing this novel, one chapter a week, that will give me plenty to work with. How exciting!

But in addition to reporting my progress so far, I wanted to point out a useful tool. I’m sure that many experienced writers have already used this, but for other amateurs, hobbyists and enthusiasts, this might be a fun trick to know about.

I decided to use actual locations in this part of the novel, and I’m having my protagonists visit relatives in Independence, Kansas. This is a location that’s practically in the middle of the country, and it’s a fairly small town. So it seems like it would be the perfect setting for this part of the novel.

However, I’ve never been to Independence. I’ve never even set foot in Kansas. For goodness sake, I’ve never been farther east than Yellowstone National Park. How in the world am I going to write about a location that I’ve never visited, let alone seen?

Welcome to the world of the Internet. With access to the Web, I can go pretty much anywhere I want. And with tools like Google Maps, I can use its 3D view to walk along its streets like I was actually there. I can see the individual houses, tell how far they are from restaurants and grocery stores, and even how many trees are along the streets. Using the information from Wikipedia, I can even give rough guesses about what the weather is going to be like at certain times of the year.

These are tools that authors didn’t have in the past. They would have to rely on their own memories and notes, as they visited the actual locations as part of their research into their novels. There is something to be said about visiting the actual locations, though. For example, I can’t tell what the traffic noise is like in a specific neighborhood, or how the streets smell when the wind blows from the direction of the bakery.

Or the sewage treatment plant. Maybe Smell-O-Vision isn’t such a good idea.

But programs like Google Earth are an invaluable tool to use. It’s important for authors to use these kinds of tools to bring in added realism to their stories. And sometimes it’s fun to look up these sorts of random facts, too. For instance, during the course of this novel, I had to look on Volkswagen’s Web site to make sure that the Golf comes in red.

It’s “Tornado Red,” to be precise. Huh. Didn’t know tornados came in red.

There’s a whole toolbox to be found on the Internet. Don’t forget to use it! And keep on writing!

National Novel Writing Month is under way!

It’s Day 2 of NaNoWriMo, and I just passed the 5,000 word mark. How are you doing so far?

If you haven’t started yet, don’t fret – it’s not too late! To hit that 50,000 word mark, you need to write 1,667 words per day. So you only need to write 3,334 words to be on par right now. That’s only about four pages.

You don’t know what to write about? My daughter was wondering about that, too. She was brainstorming ideas earlier today, and while we were driving to an event at church, she ran down her list. She had written seven or eight down, but there were three that really struck her as interesting.

“OK,” I said. “How many ideas do you have fleshed out so far?”

“None of them,” she admitted. “They’re just the initial ideas.”

“Let’s start with the first one,” I suggested. “A scientist discovers a relic that leads to an ancient civilization. Here’s the question – what’s the relic?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, let’s brainstorm that one. Could it be a snow globe, or a key? Maybe a medallion? Or a helmet?”

I proceeded to give ideas about each of these items and how they could each be used to take the concept of “relic leads to another civilization” in completely different ways. We even discussed the possibility of taking two of her ideas and combining them into one story. I think it got her imagination kick-started.

Sometimes the biggest challenge isn’t trying to come up with an idea as to what to write about. Sometimes the challenge is narrowing down your options to one.

So what are you waiting for? If you don’t have an idea yet, start writing down ideas. They don’t have to be full-fledged chapters, or even paragraphs. A sentence or two will suffice. Then examine that sentence and see what ideas it inspires.

Then, just start writing! It’ll be fun to see where it takes you!

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!

 

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.