Innards #16: Expanse

Some time ago I got it in my head that I can write well because I enjoy it. These days I’m not so sure. Self-loathing is a thing, gnawing at the back of my head. Wouldn’t go away, no matter how much I shoo it off. That’s alright. I like some self-loathing, keeps me sharp, in some way.

In any case, besides sulking in the corner like a whimpering cretin, I’ve sorted out my writing a bit. Things are looking somewhat hopeful, with the baby on its way and the job hunting and all that shenanigans, all things considered, my writings just got the refresh it much needed.

Year of the Red Whale23%

23% is as much as I can give to my current WIP. As of this writing, the Red Whale has about 50,000 words. The prime original word-count was 120,000 and then I decided to cut it down to 80,000. I’m dancing between the two, since I’m going to self-publish anyway. I can go crazy and push through that 120K, or chop things off with clean 40,000-word novellas. Sounds intriguing. But I don’t want to do that. “Year of the Red Whale” is a self-contained story. My challenge now is deciding to maintain the single protagonist perspective or add a few POV characters. There are four candidates to help expand a ton of things. I hope to finish the final draft of this book by the end of February.

Project Ashes: 15%

Oh, humbug. I have 40,000 words written in the first book of Project Ashes. I have parts of the beginning and parts of the end, with little details in between. This is a grimdark tale that is part of a much larger epic. I’m really excited to devote more time into the completion of this story.

Mindfly3%

Crap. Crap. Crap. Project Mindfly is a novella I’m working on for this month’s Apex Publication’s open submissions. I’m not sure where to put this story, if it’s fantasy or horror. I’ll just say it’s weird. Missing person. Body horror. Time travel with a twist. All that gritty stuff. I’ve began writing this story about two years ago but somewhere down the line I stopped to focus writing Project Ashes, which was, ironically, pushed back because of the Red Whale.

Project Sherlock10%

Every now and then I look back at this WIP. I love it and to me, is a fine project after Project Ashes. It’s got miscreant heroes, adventure, a bit of romance, conspiracy, street gangs, assassins, and an epic showdown in one of the unlikely places. It might involve a little bit of magic and if it does, it will probably be tech-based. Like Jedi lightsabers. If magic does get tangled into the mix, then, Project Sherlock will be part of a much larger world I’ve crafted up. The entire concept is really cool and exciting, so I’m putting a lot of thought into it.

Project Sword0%

Holy shit Jon, what the flying fuck is this? A new project? So soon? You still have a bunch of commitments like Project Ghost, “Tunnel Crow Town,” and “The Conductor.” And there’s a whole lot more. What is this Project Sword? Well, it’s a standard sword and sorcery. I wanted something that’s a little bit traditional. Just a bit. I have the characters mapped out and how some of the scenarios will play out. Yes, it will probably begin in a remote village farm. Yes, it will probably involve a main character who wants to live a normal life but is instead force-fed a destiny with big-ass responsibilities. Yes, it will probably have elves and dwarven folk, talking trees, and the such. And yes, it will probably have a pub scene, which is very important to fantasy stories. I got it covered though and I plan to twist ’em all up. My main concern is two of the characters resemble so much from the ones in Project Ghost. So, I don’t know. Should I merge them or what? We’ll see.

I guess that’s it for now. Here’s Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Tell me, baby”

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Innards of An Erratic Writer #7

I know, it’s too soon for this Erratic Writer stuff or a new blog post, but whatevs. The past few days were stressful that it affected a lot of aspects of my life. It was also fun, exciting, and fever-inducing – but not invigorating, sad to say.

I have, much to my dismay, shelved all my current works-in-progress, and started writing on yet another new project. Something I think is cool, fun, and maybe hip, something inspired by Daft Punk, Dream Theater, Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man and Batman and Man of Steel OSTs. Something that had to do with music. So, I typed away, not caring the fuck what came off from it. And 8k words later, I’m pleased with this new shit. I’m not saying my previous WIPs aren’t cool, fun, or maybe hip for me, but this one is, somewhat different from everything else I’ve written so far. Not really sure how to five-second pitch it, but I’ll get there, with a lot of prayers and hope.

Which kind of brings me to my main topic. Outlining versus Pantsing. I’ve known a couple of writers who decide to just go with the flow or spend countless time in using index cards, post its, even diagrams, and a ton more other things. The thing is, I’ve done both, and my heart finally rested in between the two.

For an uber quick summary of the two. Outlining is where you plan ahead of time the plot of your story. Pantsing, in Writing Excuses‘s explanation, is discovery writing. You just write, and see for yourself how things turn out. The latter of the two is as fun as setting out to your first adventure to find hidden treasures or damsels in distress.

I have a friend who did extensive outlines and gargantuan world building (well, not really) and he never got a single word of it down on paper. Guess it’s as addictive as air after almost drowning. Dive too deep and you might end up floating like a bloated carcass. Keep your pants ball-crushing tight, and there’s a good chance to get smacked into a dead end.

In my own experience. I did massive world building for Bonsai and Scar City. I’ve planned the sequence of events, the plot twists, and everything that Bonsai turned from a trilogy to a 10-book epic. The thing was, I may have planned too much and my characters are stubborn douche bags that don’t want to listen to my directing. Suppressing them in a totalitarian-style, only made things worst, many of them rebelled, some were subdued and press ganged back to dear ol’ papa. It stagnated my writing progress and the cost of time was the equivalent of spending trillions of euros on military weaponry and war campaigns.

I kept my pants on during Tunnel Crow Town and one of my lead has ended up in a very bad position. The thing is, some of my friends who did had similar issues, decided to rewrite the half of what they’ve accomplished so far, just to find another route. I do that too, honestly. But sometimes, the dead end is so pretty – or ugly, depending on your perspective – you just want to smash that fucking wall, build a bridge over that piranha-infested swamp, dig underground with a spoon to escape that prison – you’ll never know what wonders may lie ahead. Take risks. George R.R. Martin did, and see how that turned out. Yes, I’m leaving that statement ambiguous.

So, as I’ve said, I’ve found a place somewhere in between outlining and pantsing. I’ve planned directions from Point A to Point B, and my fucking hippie characters, will just have to find their way there – I’ll try my best not to kill some of them off, but if it comes to that, even the main protagonist will not safe. I wouldn’t bother on putting up memos either, unless it’s really important. Whatever happens, happens. Of course, I still have power to make revisions on the next draft. The main goal is to build a skeleton to put all that meat on and see what monstrosity will be born from it.

Through that style of writing was chilling and adrenaline pumping. You know where you’re going, but which path you take is a wild card. And that’s pretty scary, truth be told. But the passion will be there.

On other news, my friends and I are working on a website – well, blog for now (we’re like, broke). It will focus on citizen journalism (mainly in the Philippines – but hey, any foreign page viewer will see the country’s fucked upness), creative writing, photography, tech & geeky stuff, which includes literature, film, games, and so on. It’s quite ambitious to make something of this size. We’ve got nothing to lose anyway. More info soon to follow.

My buddy, who lives in Wisconsin – as far as I know, has started his own publishing company. I haven’t talked to him about it yet, but it’s great that he started something so early. More info soon to follow.

Now listening Give Life Back to Music by Daft Punk.

Innards of An Erratic Writer #2

It is, detestable, to have made very little progress over my WIP. Which is why I’m writing this, in high hopes once I’m through bitching about my self-worth as a writer, I can finally get my ass up and work at full capacity. Well, here goes…

Scar City managed a few edits, a full chapter haul, a few more edits, and nothing to move the story forward. At the very least, I’m seeing a clearer picture where this is all going and how to get there. The characters are revealing more about themselves and actually suggesting a few odd things that just might work. A friend suggested I do research on certain topics just to get a better grasp of the situation as things were quite similar to Scar. I did what she said, more thorough, and the outcome had me puking in front of a toilet until I turned into a half-witted cretin begging to die. Reality is indeed, a lot fucking stranger than fiction.

Tunnel Crow Town is worst. In a way, I’ve called for a hit on my protagonists and even though I know how they will get by this, I just can’t seem to set the scene right. So, I’ve skipped the entire first part and moved on the second part. It’s pretty weird, like missing an entire season of Lost, and you don’t want to go back yet because the current event is pretty darn interesting, regardless of the confusion. I’m just hoping it will just sort itself out eventually.

Bonsai‘s first chapter is a quarter from completion. I’m pretty much stuck at this point, I just have that one big battle in my head. I’ll probably just write that and be done with it.  And from four POVs, I’ve decided to cut one out, and save him for the sequel. And, yeah, next topic.

* * *

I have shelved three new ideas that are on my must-do list. I’m very excited to get them done, one of them has a few quick chapters and so far, it looks good – I hope. Thus, this piece shall be code-named, Harry. Because one of the main characters is named Harry. He’s a 15-year-old kid that’s pretty messed up in certain ways, like, Dexter Morgan messed up, and his freakishly hot best friend is just as fucked up, like, Hannibal Lecter fucked up.  See how excited I am with this? Well, it’s not as macabre as how I just described it, it’s just a story about Harry and his father coping with the loss of a dearly loved woman.

The other two shelved are still mysteries to me. But I’ve got the basic idea how I want it to go. The first, will be a post-apocalyptic dieselpunk-slash-Fallout and will have all sorts of things in them like epic air battles with zeppelins and hovercrafts, gangsters, flappers, and possibly a Captain America – a loyal soldier who asks no questions, a patriot of the last surviving city, a symbol of hope and strength whose presence alone boosts morale so much, his men are willing to go on fighting even with chopped limbs and all that, plus he’s taking orders from a Red Skull. I’m pretty psyche with this one and filled half a notebook with brainstorm ideas, no solid story yet though, so yeah, this is sure to hit my priority list soon.

The second is basically an experimental novel. Have you seen Christopher Nolan’s Memento? Yeah. Something like that.

Argh. Remember my Itch post? See how destructive new ideas can be. Anyway, Alice in Chains, Alice Cooper, Slipknot, 30 Seconds to Mars, and My Chemical Romance, cycling through my raffle-won Sound Blaster. This thing is freaking loud.

Fiction & Non-Fiction

Just utter randomness. About two years ago, in a Creative Non-Fiction Writing class, our professor asked a very simple question. Is it easier to write fiction or non-fiction? Every single one of my classmates said it’s easier to write fiction – and I thought, bullshit. Not because of their opinion about it, but because I know these people well enough that none of them has even attempted to write a novel, fiction or not.

Their reasoning was very basic. Writing fiction is easier, because “you just make up the things as you go along”. I can’t speak for other writers, but for myself, I was taken aback and quite offended by this. When first drafts are finished, a writer goes over it again to work all the rough edges, loose floorboards, the holey roof, and all that with a touch of wax to make everything sparkle so much you would go blind. This process is repeated up to seven times – I’ve heard others had taken more than that.

Oh, wait. I think I’ve derailed a bit. Too lazy to hit backspace. Anyway, when writing fiction, there is a very good chance of asking certain questions like, “is my pacing too fast or too slow?”, “are my characters believable?”, “is this scene even possible?”, “how many billions I’m gonna make?“, and other stuff like that. If fantasy or sci-fi, worldbuilding is inevitable, and things that must be considered are culture, magic, technology, and overall uniqueness to separate it from all the other SF/F archetypes (when fantasy is said, Tolkien is almost immediately in the mind. If SF, uh, Frank Herbert? Someone please correct me). This is by no means, easy. And it is sometimes staggering.

In short, there are a lot of things one has to consider while writing their fiction. In non-fiction, those things are greatly reduced, but are instead, replaced with massive research. You will still need to research when writing complete fiction, but not as much as non-fiction.

To misquote my professor, non-fiction is a story with fiction elements. By that – the hardest part, is about writing it. Just because it’s non-fiction, should the writing be kept florid and tight or flowery? Personally, it doesn’t matter, it should just be written however the writer intended it to be and make it awesome.

Non-fiction is equally time-consuming with fiction because of all the research the writer would need to do. The writer would need to read diaries, journals, and other documents, conduct interviews, look through seven-foot thick ledgers, blogs if any, maybe newspapers and/or magazines, travel halfway around the world for confirmation/chase gossips or whatever, study them, analyze every detail, fact-check, fact-check, fact-check,  and a lot more, and somehow organize them and write it as coherent as possible. But if that writer knows where to look, who to talk to, and follow the right tracks, well, I’m just going to say a tad easier. But of course, the difficulty of collecting all these depends on your subject. If it’s about the Biblical Moses, may God help you on your quest.

I’m not saying writing a non-fiction genre is easy as Googling or Wikipedia’ing your subject. But I found the process easier because I know what to write, but the struggle would come in how to do it. Either way, it’s fun, daunting at times, and orgasmic when finished.

If my classmates had actually tried to write a full novel whether fiction or not, and take it seriously in hopes to put a couple of grains of rice and potatoes from last month’s storage, I’m sure they would have very different and more intelligent opinions about it.

It could be that playing videogames for the past three weeks has degraded my mind. But between these two narratives, it’s just a matter of preparation with equal amount of imagination.

So, in my opinion, what is easier to write, fiction or not? Dunno. Never really tried the latter yet (you’re probably calling me a prick by now).

Was this a rant? No idea. Earth, Wind, & Fire is making me giddy. Yay for September!