To celebrate Family Literacy Day (Canada) Between 8AM and 8PM today, January 27, 2015, ChiZine Publications is making PDF copies of these eBooks available for FREE, including Picking Up the Ghost
To celebrate Family Literacy Day (US) they’ll be giving out DVDs.
And the only one who can do anything about it is me. So I gave the Magic Spreadsheet a try (almost). The gamification of writing.
The rules as I understand them:
- Write at least 250 words (equivalent to a page) everyday. Every 250 words is a point.
- Keep score with continuous blocks of goals met. Ex. If you’re written 250 words a day for a week your score is 7. 500 words a day for a week, 14. But if you miss a next day your score drops all the way back down to 0.
As this chain builds and your score gets into the two or three digits it taps into the compulsive part of the brain, the seed of game addiction. Using that nasty bit of neurology for good instead of evil.
So far I’ve only played by the first rule with a macro-less spreadsheet. Eventually I aim to write a full web app to calculate the score. In the meantime I’ve written up this basic version using ZingChart.
Setting a daily goal of 500 words a weekday and 1000 a weekend I managed to get 27,922 words written these last two months. That’s almost half of my total words written so far and I didn’t make my goal everyday, not by a long shot. I was only a third in, now I might be done by mid February. The desire to fill cells on the spreadsheet is a great motivator.
(Note: This isn’t a fair comparison. I was work-shopping as I wrote the first 40,000 words. They’re in their second draft, while everything I’ve written since November is a rough first draft. But the goal is to get the first draft done since that’s the hardest part.)
The Third Act is my Complication
No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy and neither did my outline survive contact with the third act. Changes I made in the first act invalidated large parts of the third. Major characters had their roles changed and needed to be replaced. Motivations no longer lined up with actions. Moles reconsidered their treason. Characters that died lived and vice versa. The warranties expired on my MacGuffins. I hit that wall and I spent Christmas weekend re-plotting the last five chapters. Gotta blue that print, measure twice, and proper that planning if the words are to flow.
Because done… done is beautiful.
It took a lot of raw meat and a lot of grinding but the San Diego Comic Fest schedule is finished. As much as a schedule can be finished. No plan of attack survives the battle.
As Programming Coordinator for San Diego Comic Fest I saw an opportunity to bring the process into the 21st century. A lot of conventions are still relying on email and MS Word:
- Collect availability and panel ideas via email
- Create a list of programs
- Send this list in a Word doc to all the panelists with a pair of square brackets, , by each item
- Spend days processing these docs by hand, figuring who’s interested in what programming and juggling the availability of over a hundred people
The bulk of the time is spent manipulating clusters of guests and their schedules, trying to avoid conflicts, and keeping it all in your head. But me, I like to crowdsource and I use computers to make my life easier. Here’s my process:
- Collect availability and panel ideas via Google Forms
- Schedule the panels
- Release the schedule on a second Google Form to the guests. They manage their own availability. This is the step that saves the most time
- Upload to Sched.org which handles future communications and all presentation.
That’s saves a whole lot of data entry. But there’s a lot of transitioning between mediums. From Google forms, to post-it notes, to Excel, to Sched, and email, email, email. Sched is good for presentation, but not for inception, and it could be a whole lot better at conflict recognition. I think there’s room here for a better tool. One tool to take the convention from conception through presentation with support for print.
I know what I’ll be working on this year.
But this year I’ll be Moderating How We Write on Friday at 2pm and Pop Culture Professionals: Writers Sunday at 3pm. The main upside to scheduling a con; putting yourself on whatever panel you want.
Hopefully I’ll see you there!
This week I won a course in Contract Management in a raffle. My biographers will pinpoint this as the moment the thug life chose me.
Man, I thought it’d be cool to live in a loft and swing down on a rope.
At 7 or 8 I was all about Mork & Mindy. My first non-fiction book was a cheesy, 80 page, paperback biography of Robin Williams. There wasn’t much to it. What was there to say at that point in his career? “Robin grew up, went to school, performed stand up, and landed on a hit TV show.” But I still carry the memory of that book. Robin’s been there my whole life.
From Mork to the movies and TV stand up specials. I never had to follow Robin’s career, he was always there. A ubiquity that I should have worn its welcome. The rapid fire pop culture references in Aladdin should have played out after a single viewing, but I still pop in that DVD at least twice a year.
Like most stand ups he was public with his troubles. The manic performer had a depressive private side. Recently, there’s been money problems, then there was the Parkinson’s disease which comes with it’s own bag of depression. Darkness on all sides.
It’s right there when Mork & Mindy met Robin Williams..
Robin: "I guess I want people to like me, I hate myself for that."
Mindy: "If you learned to say no you'd have a lot more time to yourself."
Robin: "Maybe that's the last thing I want."
Entertaining people was how he felt loved and valued. With the onset of Parkinson’s he must have felt those days were coming to an end. If he couldn’t entertain us anymore he’d lose us and have only himself. He’d always been giving; USO tours, Comic Relief and stories of him stepping into people’s lives, just to make them happy, make them like him.
It’s tragic that he drowned in a pool of depression so deep he couldn’t see we’d never abandon him.
It was an amazing Con. I learned a lot and got to see Con friends. Spike’s brain was ripe for the picking on Tumblr techniques. Accidentally wandered into the Grant Morrison Multiversity panel, scored a Map of the Multiverse, and turned it into Reddit Karma. Bore witness to a recording of Pop Culture Happy Hour. Possibly broke a toe on Saturday morning. Did that stop me from walking the Con floor for the weekend, fuck no it didn’t. Of course the one TV panel I wanted to get into left me standing outside, typical Venture Bros.
The Pro Lounge used to be a barren wasteland of free coffee and empty tables, but this year I met someone every time I stopped for a rest. I’m going to spend more time there next year.
The high point, what really recharged my battery: I asked Geoffrey Thorne about leveraging my novel work into comic and TV mediums. His said not worry about that, keep producing quality content and the work will find you.
I’d better get back to writing.
I haven’t posted much since the Conference. There’s hasn’t been much to post. I really don’t do much except work and write. And the world doesn’t need another word count tally.
I had half an insight while writing The Faith Machine: A protagonist was going to die in the first act to show the stakes were high. For this purpose I created Gabby, the hillbilly with poor impulse control who could force a crowd to listen to her talk. But Gabby grew on me. I saw potential to use her throughout the story and stories beyond.
So Gabby got a say of execution. But I still wanted someone to die. So I created 97:4, the Bible-banging electrokinetic with pica. But she grew on me too. Lesson learned;
I make awesome characters that should never die disposable heroes aren’t my thing. Maybe that’s why I fixate on characters who died before their full stories played out, like Thunderbird and Swordsman.
Maybe so, maybe not. Either way, that’s a blog post. See y’all at Comic Con!
I heard the SDSU Writers’ Conference was a good place to land an agent, and that was my agenda. The place was crawling with industry professionals and I did get some interest from one of the advanced readings, but for the most part I’ll have to chalk this one up as a learning experience.
On Friday there were panels on pitching and query letters. I needed a pitch, so that panel was really useful. As for the query letter panel, well I can’t trust anyone who has never seen Star Wars.
Saturday was the day for advanced readings. I sent in 10 pages and $50 dollars for some face time with some agents. One liked the concept of The Faith Machine enough to ask for more. Boom! But all of them said my opening was too exposition heavy. Point taken. I rewrote the first scene with less back story any more animosity. That was a valuable bit of feedback and the rewrite will strengthen a weak plot thread.
I also met a few cool, speculative fiction writers, other attendees. And I attended a few panels that didn’t tell me anything new, but it was good to know that my knowledge of social media and blogging is still up to date.
I’d thought that being published would have given me a bit of a leg up, put me in a position where to attract an agent as a proven writer. But no, I’m probably still going to have to write the second book on spec before most agents will consider a look. However, of all the agents that I pitched too, none of them said that it was a dumb premise and should be abandoned so I got some encouragement out of it, that was worth $600 right there.
In Liberia, Park allows street urchins to pick his pocket while on his way to the US Embassy. Inside, he uncovers information on an abandoned facility that might be the Faith Machine installation as well as information on The Baptist, a local religious leader who may be at odds with whomever is operating the Faith Machine. Outside, he’s confronted by the teen-age leader of the street urchins. The oldest boy’s face is covered in blue from the dye pack that was in Park’s wallet. Park cons the teen out of his knife and recruits the two child pickpockets as guides. They set off to find The Baptist’s ministry in the slum of West Point.
In a luxury hotel Isaac wins a game of poker against wealthy Liberians and Chinese businessmen. After the game he’s threatened by four rough looking thugs from General Mamba, a warlord turned crimelord left over from the civil war. They intend to kidnap him. Isaac calls their bluff, they won’t try anything inside the casino. He casually tosses his poker winnings in the air, escaping in the chaos.
In Kentucky, the team’s newest agent, Gabby, is in a domestic dispute, chasing her ex-boyfriend down a dirt road with an ax. In her anger she’d forgotten that she has the power to stop him in his tracks by talking to him.
In Atlanta, Park and Ainia find Agent Isaac Deal in his luxury apartment, expertly playing a sitar, an instrument he’s never practiced or purchased. Isaac acquired the sitar, and the ability to play it, by mimicking the skills of his neighbors. Park appeals to Isaac’s vanity, and he agrees to come along.
In Cincinnati, Agent 97:4 feels that she can do more good working in a soup kitchen than she can aiding Project Dead Blind, especially after their disastrous last mission. Anticipating her reluctance, Park has 97:4’s family Bible, and the promise of being close to the book compels her to accept the mission.
In Pennsylvania, they find Agent Pollyanna trying, and failing, to use her power of positive thinking to rig the lottery in her favor. She’s too cynical and self-hating, her power turns against her. Pollyanna agrees to the mission for the money.
The teenage Agent Exposition Joe slides into Park’s backseat and accepts the mission with the grace of someone who sees the future. Ainia has misgivings about Joe’s loyalty.