Wednesday, 28 September 2016

NaNoWriMo 2016 Options

It’s becoming extremely likely that I will do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year. What with not needing to do report cards, or in fact even teach. I'm leaning towards it not because I need more time to write (I’ve maintained two weekly blogs for over a year while teaching before - often buffering in November) but rather because of the community and the motivation I might find.

Long time readers of THIS blog might even recall my deconstruction of JulNoWriMo 2012, where I talked about not being able to turn off my edit-brain. "Just write" is not my style, but I need to experience shared suffering, or something.


On his blog, Scott has looked at some of his story possibilities (so check that out, see what you think of his ideas too). It motivated me to do the same here. I’m looking at three possibilities. I’m mostly interested in which one might actually be READ, whether by you or ANYONE, which is ALWAYS my problem. But if you see something else, be it style, personal growth, other, chime in too.

OPTION 1: MATH NOVEL


Three years of personified math as a serial flopped in terms of widespread audience interest. A year of webcomic, with redesigned characters? Fared worse. How about a novel? Shall we try a novel? It’s similar stuff, but no pictures.

The basic idea would be a female college/university student drawn into the world of my character functions - for some reason. Maybe along the lines of “The Phantom Tollbooth” or “The Number Devil”, obviously without copying those. Not necessarily my setting's High School Zone either, could be Fractal City. Maybe I could even do my “Resurrection of Sine” plot. (Yeah, Sine died, but her return was always an option.)

Pros: I know the characters and the setting well. From a “CanCon” panel, I have some random ideas in an envelope. It gets me back into math, I’m doing less of it lately.

Cons: Need to stat out the protagonist and give her a sensible plot and character arc. The story’s based on non-fiction (the math part at least) so I’ll need to do actual research as I write. And this whole universe has been hugely invisible so far, so why would I be expecting readers?

OPTION 2: TIME TRAVEL


“Time & Tied” has been doing pretty well, comparatively... it gets comments from more than two people. Book 3 is running now, I’ve spent two months editing Book 4, and can probably finish that by the end of October - meaning “Book 5” is the next logical step. I already started it over a year ago (but didn’t get far, summer ended).

The basic idea is Carrie Waterson, temporal paradox girl, in her first year of university at UOttawa. Where she encounters someone else, who seems to have the same powers she does, which should be impossible. And they want her dead.

Pros: The temporal issues are such that I’ll really have to write the whole thing, then go back and reverse fix, before I can release anything - and NaNoWriMo is a forum (THE forum?) for that style. New setting and characters means less to back check of what I wrote in prior Books, plus I already have a decent handle on Carrie’s roommate, Katherine.

Cons: The secondary characters need to be fleshed out, and there’s a bunch on her floor. I also need related subplots (aside from Crystal’s plan to make a magical girl) and motivations. And I need to finish Book 4 in October first, so possible burnout, T&T has been so constant lately.

OPTION 3: MAGICAL BECKY


“Last Magical Girl” was a 52,000 word story I wrote in August 2010 (based on an idea from 2003). I only got halfway into the plot I had in mind, so another 50k would probably get that out of my system. If you’ve read “Epsilon Project”, this was Simon Black’s origin (he appears on that site in Story2, ‘Wish Fulfilment’).

The basic idea is a world suffering from a rapid aging disease. A magic obsessed guy named Simon tracks down Rebecca, the “Last Magical Girl” - and the military track him, they want her for themselves. Because (while she’s from the late 1600s) she’s now got many magical forms “downloaded” into her (old, young, various races, etc) who each have a unique ability. Might one have the cure?

Pros: I still have the file on Becky’s forms, and she was a fun character. It would get this story out of my head (the way JulNoWriMo 2012 dispensed with Virga Mysteries), too many stories are in my head.

Cons: I’d need to re-read the first 50k to get my brain back in gear, and even then I suspect I’ll have only the same vague scenes I did then. Would there be enough new stuff to get another 50k? And is this even that unique of an idea lately?

SUMMARY


You might have noticed that these are all continuations of some sort. I don’t want a completely new project, I have FAR TOO MANY PROJECTS as it is. (Projects which almost no one reads already, I know, but still.) So, which “continuation” is most likely to be read at some point? Or simply seems the best? Or conversely which is the worst, the one to strike out and then let the other two battle? Let me know, thanks! Gives me a month to tool around with them.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Not Teaching: Week 12

Back from vacation. It’s technically Fall now. And I still feel like I have more than enough to keep me occupied through December, even without the teaching, in particular because I’m pretty sure I’ll do NaNoWriMo. For the community they have, if nothing else; I don’t really have a writing community outside of “Web Fiction Guide” (for serials).

So there’s extra prep to start doing; I should probably stop watching so many Stargate reruns during the day. Teaching sidebar, “Daily Show” had a good media bias bit last Thursday, I need to update my Jon Stewart stuff.


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Item counts run Sunday (September 18) to Saturday (September 24).

Step Count: About 67,900.
Four days with over 10k, three while in BC. First week that all days were over 7500 since the end of July.

School Email Count: 76 New (1 sent)
A chunk of that is committee stuff about the math social.


There's salmon in Peachland! And us.

Writing/Art Related Items (from Sun to Sat):
 -Completed T&T Part 84 *and* 85, effectively one full episode.
 -Final touches to Commentary 20.

Non-Writing Items for the past week:
 -Finished vacation in BC. Bit more reading in “Temporal Element II”.
 -Finished Volume 3 of “Buffy Season 8”, started Volume 4.
 -Medical appointment Wednesday.
 -Yoga Thursday.
 -Caught back up with serials (LoN, Sanctioned & Redwood).

PROBABLE PROJECTS in the coming week:
 -Post about NaNoWriMo options
 -Do some recap work
 -Math social on Thursday


Wes Tjet wins as far as recent airlines go.

WOULD BE NICE items:
 -Actually turn this into more of a newsletter? (*NEW)
 -Deal with full memory card on camera (*NEW)
 -French Citizenship project
 -Post recap about OAME (from May)
 -Post recap about Math PD (from Feb)
 -Post recap about Anime North (from May)
 -Post recap about CanCon 2016 (from Sept)
 -Do more editing on my T&T story
 -Catch up with web serials I’ve enjoyed
 -Write a TANDQ article on Decision Fatigue
 -Write a post about types of praise/encouragement
 -Organize all the paper clutter from school
 -Organize all the electronic clutter from school
 -Weed through/organize emails
 -Do another Parody Math Video
 -Actually market some of my creative stuff
 -Binging Anime (Magical Index)
 -Binging Anime (Steins Gate)
 -Binging Anime (RWBY borrowed from Scott)
 -Catch up more on “Bones” (no spoilers past S11.14!)
 -Get back onto tumblr.
 -Read some of the books sitting at my desk

Treading water here for a bit, not much coming off, but no major new things. Kind of nice that’s a thing, albeit unusual.


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Saturday, 17 September 2016

Not Teaching: Week 11

On summer vacation this week. My July trips were to “Twitter Math Camp” and “Con Bravo”, neither of them being with my wife, who then worked the equivalent of about 30 days in August. So, summer vacation. (It’s not yet fall.)

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Some thoughts of school this week though, because I was at a math meeting on Monday. Also thoughts of renaming this “weekly newsletter” to Timelines. Thoughts?

Item counts run Sunday (September 11) to Saturday (September 17).

Step Count: About 76,300.
10k on 4 out of 7 days (I walked to yoga after doing yard work, then walking around British Columbia).

School Email Count: 45 New (2 sent)
Nothing too significant, sent out minutes from the meeting.

Kettle Valley Steam Train
Celebrated 21 years today

Writing/Art Related Items (from Sun to Sat):
 -Attended writing related CanCon panels on Sunday
 -Finally completed T&T Part 83, and started 84
 -Minor point, but rewrote the starting sentence of T&T
Also submitted song to Math Museum competition after all. What the hell.

Non-Writing Items for the past week:
 -Math meeting on Monday & typed minutes
 -Met with friends Monday evening
 -Yoga Tuesday
 -Medical appointment Wednesday
 -Currently in BC, on summer vacation. Have seen much hockey and wine.
 -Started reading “Temporal Element II”, collection of time travel stories.

PROBABLE PROJECTS in the coming week:
 -Medical appointment Wednesday
 -More reading on Buffy Season 8 Volumes

Motel in Pinticton

WOULD BE NICE items:
 -French Citizenship project
 -Post recap about OAME (from May)
 -Post recap about Math PD (from Feb)
 -Post recap about Anime North (from May)
 -Post recap about CanCon 2016 (present)
 -Do more editing on my T&T story
 -Catch up with web serials I’ve enjoyed
 -Write a TANDQ article on Decision Fatigue
 -Write a post about types of praise/encouragement
 -Organize all the paper clutter from school
 -Organize all the electronic clutter from school
 -Weed through/organize emails
 -Do another Parody Math Video
 -Actually market some of my creative stuff
 -Binging Anime (Magical Index)
 -Binging Anime (Steins Gate)
 -Binging Anime (RWBY borrowed from Scott)
 -Catch up more on “Bones” (no spoilers past S11.14!)
 -Get back onto tumblr.
 -Read some of the books sitting at my desk

Not sure where this is all going any more. Still stuff offline to add here. Anyone actually out there reading, or is this blog for me? (Which is totally fine, it’s the writing ones I’m agonizing over, I’m posting twice as much for half the views.)

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Saturday, 10 September 2016

Not Teaching: Week 10

Sometimes I feel like the next 10 months are sinking in, other times I’m still so busy doing the things I’m trying to get done now. At least I have the time for them, what with still not teaching. Writing and cooking and reading and doing any number of other things though. Vague plans for a redesign here to have a better “brand”, after a panel at CanCon.


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Item counts run Sunday (September 4) to Saturday (September 10).

Step Count: About 49,500.
Over 10k on Labour Day with the parade. Under 3k on Thursday, because I knew I’d have to leave the house for the next 10 days, so spent that day at home.

School Email Count: 57 New (1 needed reply)
-New self-attendance system I’ll need to learn upon my return. New procedure for concussion tracking.
-Prior to today, I only checked email through Tuesday, so I should keep this tally up to make sure I check in once per week.


CanCon 2016 Opening Ceremonies

Writing/Art Related Items (from Sun to Sat):
 -Three CanCon 2015 posts, including editing from notes.
 -Wrote a somewhat detailed response to a post on “Math w/ Bad Drawings”
 -Work progressing (incomplete) on T&T Part 83.
 -CanCon workshop “Get Plot” on Friday, and other CanCon events.

Given the 3 scheduled posts per week (two T&T, this one) plus the recaps, I’ve actually put up at least 16 posts over the last 16 days across both blogs.

Non-Writing Items for the past week:
 -Did some organizing of email (LinkedIn, pls stop)
 -Scanning of some medical documents
 -Two more “Bones” episodes
 -Walked in Labour Day Parade
 -Blood work done on Tuesday
 -Finished reading JLV’s “This Is Not A Test”
 -Read (reread) first two Buffy Season 8 Volumes, started the third
 -Niece’s birthday with relatives on Saturday

PROBABLE PROJECTS in the coming week:
 -Math meeting on Monday
 -Yoga Tuesday
 -Medical appointment Wednesday
 -Packing before Flying to BC


Actually saw this ep again on TV this week...

WOULD BE NICE items:
 -French Citizenship project
 -Post recap about OAME (from May)
 -Post recap about Math PD (from Feb)
 -Post recap about Anime North (from May) (*NEW)
 -Post recap about CanCon 2016 (present) (*NEW)
 -Do more editing on my T&T story
 -Catch up with web serials I’ve enjoyed
 -Write a TANDQ article on Decision Fatigue
 -Write a post about types of praise/encouragement
 -Organize all the paper clutter from school
 -Organize all the electronic clutter from school
 -Weed through/organize emails
 -Do another Parody Math Video
 -Actually market some of my creative stuff
 -Binging Anime (Magical Index)
 -Binging Anime (Steins Gate)
 -Binging Anime (RWBY borrowed from Scott) (*NEW)
 -Catch up more on “Bones” (no spoilers past S11.14!)
 -Get back onto tumblr.
 -Read some of the books sitting at my desk

I need to take time off recaps. I plan on this coming week to be a bit of a break.
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Wednesday, 7 September 2016

CanCon 2015: Day 3

I learned about the Conference on Canadian Content in Literature in 2013. I blogged about it that year, and then again when I returned in 2014. I went in 2015 as well, again got distracted by life, and started this post in February of 2016 (between Semester 1 and 2). Didn’t get very far... so now I’m back at it less than a week before CanCon 2016.

Let’s see how much I can pull together from the schedule and my cryptic handwritten notes. Day One was the time travel panel. Day Two was largely about writing. Day Three, Sunday, November 1st, has more about critiques and art below.

CRITIQUES & REVIEWS


Sunday: Much like Saturday, I made it back to the Convention by noon. I might have spent the morning grading papers; if not, it’s almost certain I spent it procrastinating on grading papers.

After arriving, I bought some items from the Dealers including “The Temporal Element II” from Bruno Lombardi (time travel adventures; I had bought the previous volume two years prior) and “Random Dingoes” by Ira Nayman (with a time agency). Alas, I have not found time to read them yet. (I was reading “Outlander” at the time, I finished it last month. They’re in the queue.) I arrived at the following panel at 12:15.

“How to Build a Productive and Sustainable Critiquing Group”. Panelists (right to left): Barry King (mod), Madona Skaff-Koren, Kevin Quirt, Su Sokol.

-When you critique, be respectful, even if your feedback is negative. Don’t try to write the person’s story for them; if they want ideas, you can brainstorm. (Screenwriting is different, it’s a collaborative effort.)
-For meetings, could rotate through different people’s houses. A school wasn’t as comfortable. Meet on a monthly basis. Yahoo group possible for coordinating.
-If all online: Three days to read something, four days to respond with at least 150 words, then on to the next person. (group of 15 people)
-Don’t bring a piece of work in if it’s not as far as it can go. Don’t get into minutiae of grammar. Suggested a half hour per person. Reading aloud is harder than you think, and the person BEING critiqued can only ask questions, not “try to explain what I meant”. When one person is talking, no one else interrupt (avoids fights).
-Another option is send work ahead of time (vs read aloud). Written feedback possible after meeting. Distinguish written from discussion.
-Find the balance between being kind and constructive and in good faith - but also supportive.
-Groups? SciFi/Fantasy/Both. To ensure commitment from start, send 10,000 words. There’s a need to impose rules on yourself for professionalism (and to lessen personality issues).

PROBLEMS
-Fragile people who freak out, poisons the atmosphere.
-Different people who critique pieces of a full book, lack context.
-Horror/Hard SciFi backgrounds won’t necessarily help each other. A person may write to appease the group, not their story; the more specialized your writing, the more important it is to find like-minded people.
-Need to be openminded to learn other genres, poetry... if “you don’t understand”, say so, rather than a bad critique (not relevant).
-May have to ask people to leave. Can’t cause problems in the whole group for the sake of one person.
-If you can’t write, that’s understandable, life happens, but don’t be distracting.
-Once you have something going, how do you bring a new person in? Is that just as disruptive as removing someone? Personalities are more important than genre.
-Consider culture of the group. Trial period. Let new people know what to expect the first time. See how they respond to critique. No judgements - if not working can still be a good experience.
-Possible stigma, the “new member” is there for ten years.
-Recognize it’s not just chatting, it’s work.
-Submit 2,000 words. Everyone has a chance to say yes/no. Almost nobody rejected once they’d put forward their statement: make the commitment.

BENEFITS
-Can draw pleasure in the success of others; a bit your success too. Also can see something useful for the story of another. (Network, advocate?)
-Keep the humour going, writing is hard enough. Pull out crazy headlines and in 20 minutes, write a scene/short story.
-Get better at writing, at getting ideas across to people, and at community editing.
-Broad base of experience: Women read differently than men. Individuals with other experiences can advise (e.g. know where to hide things)
-International possibilities, video (Google+) versus text... possible scheduling problems (UK vs N. America). Online groups, good to have rules up front, then can relax after.
-Tips for writing group terms: Turkey City Lexicon (SciFi).
-Careful, some people just WANT to write, aren’t writing. Online lurkers, people who want to take credit?
-People waiting in the wings (for opening in group that’s not too big) could always form their own group.
-SIZE: 4 is too few. 9 is too many. 5 is about ideal (person 7 won’t have much new to say).

At 1pm, I went to “Reviewers and Reviewing”. Panelists (left to right): David Hartwell, Amal El-Mohtar (mod), Christina Vasilevski, Jonathan Crowe.

-David reviewed for FanZines before being an editor. Amal is a reviewer for NPR and more. Christina reviews books and tea. Jonathan does map related books and edits for FanZine.
-Greg Cox has written an essay on how to review a book (“The Samurai Vampire Novel”), see David’s website: http://davidghartwell.typepad.com/nyrsf/writers-guidelines.html
-Not a “favourable” review, but a “good” one that covers the basics.
-Power is in reviewing unknown authors. Different venues have different criteria.
-Ethics: Amal can’t review for friends on NPR (but Lightspeed is okay with her doing that). “Publishers Weekly” is read by bookstores, for resale, not readers. Don’t review in advance, only for published works. NPR needs deniability.
-Author sending a reviewer a book is nebulous. Who benefits from reviews?
-Harriet Klausner’s 40,000 reviews for Amazon (she passed away earlier in October).
-Don’t go out of the way to mention spoilers... but must put story in context.
-“Thank you for critiquing my writing, not my sexual identity”.
-Blog reviewing noted no ethics yet needed, full disclosure, note when it’s posted.

THE WRITING
-Who is audience reading the review? Write a review for people who may want to read, versus those who have already read. Two levels of reader. Our reader experience is made visible.
-Secondary audience: The author themselves or publisher. Less critical detachment. A higher level of critical analysis and deconstruction; what makes it good for you?
-Start a review by recapping story without copying the cover flap. (Aside, “The cover copy is supposed to lie.”) Different experience in reading, not the same as what goes on the jacket copy.
-Ebert’s reviews had a philosophy: Take it in the spirit of which it was made. “Generosity of spirit.” (He came out of fandom in the 1950s)
-Avoid bringing in outside view, prior biases towards vampires or SciFi. Set aside what you personally enjoy.
-Has something failed in the book, or is it my failure to understand the genre itself?
-Reader appreciation VS. editorial appreciation. Noted a serious reader wants no spoilers, reading for pleasure is different.

FINDING SOMEONE
-Unless a reviewer has their own site, DO NOT approach them directly. (Go to venues.)
-Amal: Is fine with being sent promotional stuff, pitches books to NPR.
-DO NOT say “send me a copy”. Danger of implied contract. No obligations.
-Balance various publishers. There are more unethical reviewers than ethical ones. (“Unethical” seen as giving personal opinions, no substance within review.)
-Controversy: Even negative reviews sell books? Evokes emotional response. Also “if book does this-and-this and I hate that” others who read that review may instead love this-and-this.
-“Every book that approaches near perfection is completely different from every other book that is approaching near perfection.”

WRITING + ART


With that hour up, I went to the 2pm panel. “Making Comics: A Talk for Writers” Panelists (right-left): Jay Odjick and Silent Dom (Dominic).

-Writing comics - not that different from writing for TV? In terms of business, just say “yes”; it’s interesting what you can come up with when under pressure.
-Do try the different aspects of comic creation to know what the other jobs entail. When you hand over the script, you’ll know what questions to address in advance (time of day, etc).

PROCESS:
-Have knowledge of your own strengths and weaknesses in terms of drawing. Know what is happening, using dialogue to accentuate the art, not drive the art. Lots of dialogue can detract from the experience. (“West Wing”) Dialogue balloons with tails, you lose track.
-Make it like a letter to the artist. Don’t say exactly what to do, say so that the artist understands things. Collaboration at all times.
-Break the story down into “scenes” or “beats”. You need conflict in every scene, and how does it lead into the next scene. Can raise or lower the pace (avoid a constant pace) but have some rhythm to it.
-Keep a page of comic on a page of script, to have an easy reference. (Label Page #, Panel #, Narrator) Putting number of panels on a page is not necessary but may be helpful; can still add a panel if artist thinks it’s a good idea.
-Telling someone a story with text is different than with text and images. Even sketch stick figures, be aware of needed space for word balloons, can cut down time for artists.
-Pacing: In a comic, we can SLOW THINGS DOWN. A guy fires a gun, that’s over in a second. Could sandwich that with pulling it out, bullet in air, simultaneous reactions around the room. “I always do thumbnails.”

-Marvel Way: Outline-Art-Script. Determine what characters are doing. Gets sketched. Then sent back for dialogue. Faster. Stan Lee sketching things out with Jack Kirby. Some debate of whether artists deserve a co-writer credit. (Scott Campbell with Gen13 liked this style.)
-DC Way: Script-Art-Revisions. Very detailed script, artist starts with finished version. Lettering now same time as panels, a more “European” way of working (can be all one person). Recommend this way if you’ve no artist in mind yet.
-Confident Tone VS Neurotic Tone. Latter not recommended (constantly revising narrator).
-Some things that work well in the writing don’t work as well (or can be better) with the art included. Process can depend on nature of the product. (Jay has some sample comic scripts online.)
-Understand your options (monthly book, 24 pages, graphic novel, ... trade paperbacks are different). That choice is going to dictate your ARCS. Overarching continuity, but with volumes people can pick up? Don’t stop a narrative partway.
-Started drawing, fell into writing by necessity. “If this doesn’t sell, my life doesn’t change.” Drawing is the most powerful visual medium for the least means, but takes a long time to master. Art is a lifelong process.

-There are rules to a TV format that isn’t needed in comics. eg. “Complicating incident by page 5. He needs to be in costume by page 8. And we need to put a commercial break in there.” (Short scenes are better for flexibility in commercials.)
-As a writer, what do you need? Script samples. Knowledge of what publishers want.
-To break in/start off: Make one issue, on one character, one action/story. (How a schizophrenic man sees the world?) If minimalistic, plot very “end heavy” go graphic novel. In a series of books people may say “no, will wait for the trade” (individual issues won’t sell).
-Noted that the Network leases the show from Jay, they don’t have the rights.
-If you enter screenwriting, you will hear about “Jake the Cat”, which outlines all the formulaic beats.
-Have faith in yourself and your process. Write what you like and trust in yourself.
-For finding an artist? Make sure you’re seeing comic pages in their work, not merely pinups. Can this guy tell a story? Art is nice but comics depend on flow of story. Bones on a skeleton. (They’re not all alike.) “Depressing but true.”
-Digital art? Jay does all digital, but one can use pencil and ink then digital tones. Don’t need to be fancy (XKCD, Order of the Stick).
-Drawing style can be a nice contrast to the writing. A cartoony style for post-apocalyptic setting.
-“Even if I don’t consider myself an artist first but a writer first, I like making stories.”

My quartic and circle functions.

And that was the last panel of the day, things began closing down at 3pm. Hopefully you enjoyed reading! If you like comics, I do a webcomic, personified math. If you like critiques, I'm always interested in feedback on my time travel serial. If you like recaps, keep following this site, I registered for CanCon 2016. Feel free to leave a comment, see you around the internet!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

CanCon 2015: Day 2

I learned about the Conference on Canadian Content in Literature in 2013. I blogged about it that year, and then again when I returned in 2014. I went in 2015 as well, again got distracted by life, and started this post in February of 2016 (between Semester 1 and 2). Didn’t get very far... so now I’m back at it less than a week before CanCon 2016.

Let’s see how much I can pull together from the schedule and my cryptic handwritten notes. Day One (Oct 30, 2015) I only made it to the Time Travel Panel, you can find it in the post linked there. Day Two was Oct 31, 2015.

ON WRITING, AND SERIALS


Saturday Morning: Pumpkin Carving at my house. I’d missed Halloween in 2014 to see my sister’s wedding, I didn’t want to miss it for two consecutive years. I did make it in to the Convention by noon, with plans to return home that evening in time to hand out candy.

Regarding the first panel here, at noon, on the subject of "NaNoWriMo", it’s something I’ve always been interested in, but November is literally the fourth worst month of the year (beaten only by the OTHER report card times in January, June and April). Also, I knew someone on the panel.

“National Novel Writing Month - Strategies & Emergency Inspiration”, panelists (left to right): Lisa Toohey, Scott Delahunt, Leo Valiquette

GOALS + PLANNING
-Lisa (one success, some fails) from Hamilton, Scott (nine successes, former municipal liaison) and Leo (freelance nonfiction).
-NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words in a month, so 1,667 words per day. 200 words is a full manuscript page.
-How to meet goals? Just sit down and write. Connect with local groups for WriteIns. “Word Wars”. “IntraRegional Challenges”. Pacing yourself, to not burn out. Fluids, not junk food, go for walks, sustain energy levels.
-LEO: Don’t spend time going over what you wrote yesterday. It's not about having a published copy.
-When you hit “the lulls”, friend for accountability?
-“Planners” vs “Pantsers” for plotting? A plan doesn’t survive the first 10 minutes of battle. As preparation, an idea in mind?
-Tabletop Roleplaying Games help; adjust plot lines as a GM. D&D exploration.
-(Audience member:) There’s different skill sets. People who do writing for a living. Connections make you a stronger writer and can further your writing career.

DURING THE PROCESS
-Linear Writing? “Books are not linear.” Can move to next chapter, fill in a piece later. Don’t fear this. Avoid “look up this one thing” trap. (Person walks to the edge of the temple... then 20 min to find term “crepidoma”.)
-Empty square brackets to add information later. Scott D used “Main & Washington” in Cleveland (as most cities have those roads) for placeholder.
-Partly Finished story, do more during NaNo? Or start fresh? Many need the right headspace for a previous work. Could finish story and start new one (50,000 words not same story). Backfilling within pieces, bumping up draft.
-Should one have few characters or a large cast? Depends. Primary viewpoint characters or not? Trouble getting into head of other characters. “Words count”, whether the perspective stays in the final novel or not. (Write a chapter from "this guy"’s perspective?)
-Keep a file, ongoing, so a character doesn’t have eyes of 3 different colours. Interview your character? Have characters interview each other?
-“Don’t get dependent on anything to get you in the mood.”

FINISHING
-Do whatever adds words to your total.
-Scribner (paid) or Wikipad, if you like to plot, or yWriter. Test in advance what works for your writing style.
-Follow NaNo Website & Facebook. 
-Someone said “Write your novel, then cut the first three chapters”. Start where you need to start. Stop writing while still happy; don’t burn out.
-Know what’s coming next as you go (can leave notes)
-There is a write-in today at midnight (Nov 1).


Next panel at 1pm was “The History of Science Fiction”, with host David Hartwell. I listened more than took notes, but here’s what I have:
-“Science Fiction has to be written consciously, not by accident.” So Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) didn’t write what David would call SciFi, but he did influence the genre.
-Precondition of genre: Write a book ‘like that’ for some audience. Early 1870s, big decade. Carlisle translations. 1872: 10 books on wars. Proposing government other than monarchy. Oliver Cromwell, 17th century, “thought experiment” as scifi?
-“The Scientific Romances”. 1890s. We don’t know enough to know what the principle language was. French? Russian? Polish?
-SciFi in 20s/30s/40s was as a “gorgeous umbrella” for fantastic things in fantasy, horror, etc.
-In “the literary establishment”, those of the time had to be “experts” and define what would be left out, not worthy of expertise. Removed Children’s Literature first; their science tended to be psychology. William James (1842-1910).
-“Science fiction could not be first rate literature.” Such a literary attitude endures now, the literary establishment has not lost power.
-Olaf Stapledon (1886-1950) wrote “Wells-ian novels about evolution” and the SciFi community were the ones reading his books. He was bewildered.
-SciFi is an odd genre, no real consensus or agreement. It exists as a feedback loop between authors and audience.
-It’s lasted because “it does something they don’t”.

At 2pm was the panel “Serialization Past and Present”Panelists (left to right): Linda Poitevin, Robert J Sawyer, Marie Bilodeau (moderator). I’ve been writing serials for almost 20 years now, before I even knew that’s what I was doing. I didn’t want to miss this panel.

-Analog Publishing, started in the 90s; best selling English-language SciFi magazine (readership has been down). Does serializing. Robert J Sawyer holds record, in 24 issues.
-Linda’s grown an audience on Wattpad. Owned all rights to self-publish, generates interest there. When eBook came out, Wattpad audience trickled out to buy the book.
-“There’s nothing worse for an author than obscurity.”
-Hold onto your serialization rights. Take contracts seriously. A traditional contract, default language gives publisher control (to publish an excerpt). Non-fiction. Very little in fiction, but some (like Analog) will do full text (not abridged). They take half the money.

-What does serial give to reader? Why the big deal? Mobile platforms and commuters. Smaller print, shorter attention spans, time constraints.
-People like anticipation and waiting VS. binge watching/reading. Can be fun in the waiting.
-Not a new concept, a resurgence (from Charles Dickens).
-Roughly 2,000 words over 52 chapters, trying to generate sales at the same time. “A season of your book instead of a day”; “Staying in readers’ minds.”
-China and Korea have serializing platforms (never in eBook format). “Manga” format?
-Analog has a 4 ACT structure. (3 act is a lie : 25% Act I, 50% Act II with epiphany in middle, 25% Act III). Structuring makes it serializable.
-MARIE: Planned a 5 part structure. Fairy apocalypse. Each part solves or reveals SOMETHING, and has a point of emotional intensity, but ends on a cliffhanger.
-Study aid: Textbook out in chunks to more easily digest. (Academia is reacting.)

PRACTICALITIES & PITFALLS
-Two ways to serialize. Do it all first, or write as you go. Similar to outlining vs flying by seat of your pants. Does former result in better experience for reader?
-Great way to release a completed project. Though if you see a sequel, in Book 3, can’t take back what happened in first book!
-Interactive voting seen as popular with the younger crowd (seen in gaming).
-*I recall making a remark at around this point, to the effect of how my “Epsilon Project” had readers voting for the plot every week. Linda thought this was great, but Robert had reservations, in that your audience may not know what they really want. Who votes for the sad ending? (See next point) Something I’ve done with that is an attempt to foreshadow what may be “better” or “worse” and ask the question obliquely. (I always get less than 10 votes anyway.)
-If popular opinion had allowed Bambi’s mother to live, the movie may have been forgotten. But would readers feel too upset by things they cannot change?
-Possible solution is the “RetCon” to reconsider things. Tolkein did it (ring).
-SM Carriere (who’s downstairs) was referenced. Also noted “The Chronic Argonauts” was the first version of “The Time Machine”.

-Pitfall: Those who read for free won’t buy a paper copy? Ideally they become your Ambassadors!
-There is a certain anticipation that it’s going to chunk into parts, which doesn’t work for all stories. (A courtroom drama becomes a court tease, expectation of objections.)
-“The thing you need to deliver is each part is a microcosm of the whole.”
-Need a chapter hook (to get impulse buys). Need to deal with possible difficulty of finding Part 1 (magazines sold out). 2nd/3rd/4th instalments could have a “The Story So Far” (can help make a synopsis for the whole thing). sfwriter.com for how to write outlines.
-Some minority want the whole novel in hand to read - but that happens even in a book series.
-Wattpad does require consistency. Linda posts Friday mornings. Other publishing, need editing and quality.

MAGICAL FINISH


At 3pm, I went up to the ConSuite, where “Pop Seagull Press” had been doing a Book Launch for “Robotica”, an anthology examining relationships and sexuality with artificial life. They started at 2pm, but it was still going on, I heard part of a reading. There are some questions about Transformers which I had never considered asking. Things wrapped up by 3:30pm, and I went back down to catch the last part of the following panel.

“Writing Fiction and Fact for Analog”, panelists: Trevor Quachri, Eric Choi, Andrew Barton, Derek Kunsken (moderator).

-What is a story for “Analog”? At it’s heart, *hard SciFi*. Doesn’t have to be physics or space exploration. But not mundane fiction, it needs an element of pushing the boundaries.
-“Beware of soft SciFi creep”. Can’t do time travel stories. Careful with FTL (faster than light) travel. For their readers the HOW is very important. Perhaps we don’t know how a cell phone works, but for the reader, that’s very important. (Similar to how those going to a “Kung Fu” movie expect a fight scene.)
-Andrew echoed, try to be science accurate, make as few requests on the reader as possible beyond the “one big lie”. (e.g. that there is a form of time travel) Not a lot of room for hand waving.

So I'm probably not a match there. The last panel I attended was at 4pm, “Magic and Magical Systems”. Panelists (left to right): Leah Bobet, Kat Heartfield (moderator), Jim Davies, Leah Petersen. When I role-play, I do lean towards characters with spells, and I enjoy Magical Girl Anime. My time travel serial also has Chartreuse, who employs a form of mysticism, so this felt topical.

-Why do we choose to make systems? (Related, why do we find things interesting?)
-Young Adult, can address contemporary issues, what the world is like today; make it subtle. If fantasy world, with important/relevant “magic heavy” system, do something different from Tolkein.
-“Hard” vs “Soft” fantasy; the unexplained (magic works) versus clarity (here’s why) has pros and cons either way.
-People read the same books for very different reasons. For discovery, for familiarity; it depends on the goal for the writer and reader. You can read role-play books for pleasure.
-What you can do with a system is SURPRISE. In a saga, if you have the reader confident something cannot happen, it packs more punch when they’re hit with a loophole or an unknown element. You do need to help the reader build the puzzle. Is magic a constant, or a variable?
-When there is no system you can have “Inexplicable wonderfulness” (Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz) or “Inexplicable awfulness” (Horror genre is creepier when we don’t know). In defining a system, you lose some of the magic, it becomes more “scientific”.
-System itself can be compelling, should have it generate more interest than it solves. Mind says “got X, what next?”
-“Hidden World” stories, could be happening right now. Great for a reader but lazy world building. What if magic truly WAS everywhere? Consequences! (Magic to solve poverty?)
-Harry Potter Series: Some people get magic, others don’t. Why are some privileged? Connected to a class system?
-Does magic scarcity imply class division? You can see a lot about an author in what magic IS or IS NOT. Adademia? Music? Animals?
-Inherent problem: Ordinary isn’t (usually) interesting. So that magic isn’t ordinary, it must be restricted. Magic can be a reflection of our [author] enthusiasms.

-“Spells of the Sky” has different ways of doing magic. Had to sacrifice something merely to get the POSSIBILITY of magic (eg. able to reproduce). Show who gets magic and at what cost? “House of Shattered Wings”
-Magic/Technology Integration: Powder Mage books (Brian McClellan). New magic found in new technology. Still magic; new mages. “Blood and Iron”, divination via an MP3 list placed on Shuffle. “The Librarians”, an app for magic. Also Charles Stross.
-Why have magic? Thematically, what the story is about versus what the story has to say for itself. (Does magic make a good chord, as an add on? Or dissonance? Resonance?)
-The best editors make you justify stuff like that. Why do you NEED magic? Is it doing enough work? Why not robots instead? Why not robots with magic?
-Do I care about the power itself, or only what it does, the result? More the “what if” or the process and consequences?
-Elemental Magic: Inherent unto races. Do you want the system to show? It should always be there. Short story easier, novel length likely some gears. “Iceberg Theory” of fiction: 10% is visible, trust that there’s a system in the other 90%.
-Magical Realism: What’s true metaphorically becomes true physically. Bad/Good luck? How quantified and detailed? Likely want to avoid a system here.
-“The Magicians”: Any rule about what could be a spell? Can put what you want, want to appeal to readers who like the system - but is it a system?
-To render things systematized is “push a spell, get a prize”.
-Once something is scientifically proven, magic definitions change. (“scientific” powers that are magic, like Trek).

I believe at 5pm I went to look around the Dealers area before they closed at 6pm. No purchases, I tend to save those for the last day, after some thought. Following 2014, I’d been interested in the return of “Weather Slapdown” at 6pm, but it was cancelled due to weather (keeping the key panelist away - ironic?). I don’t have any more notes for Saturday, aside from knowing I got home by 7pm. See Halloween remarks above.

This leaves Sunday, which is in this final post.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Time Travel: CanCon 2015

I learned about the Conference on Canadian Content in Literature in 2013. I blogged about it that year, and then again when I returned in 2014. I went in 2015 as well, again got distracted by life, and started this post in February of 2016 (between Semester 1 and 2). Didn’t get very far... so now I’m back at it less than a week before CanCon 2016.

Let’s see how much I can pull together from the schedule and my cryptic handwritten notes. This post will be the panel “Why Do We Love Time Travel Stories?”, partly because I separated out the CanCon Time Travel panel in 2014, partly because it was the only panel I attended on the first day (October 30th, 2015), but largely because Time Travel always deserves it's own post.


PANEL: Matthew, Cenk, Su, Agnes and Christina

The panelists were Su Sokol, Cenk Gokce, Matthew Johnson, Agnes Cadieux, with Christina Vasilevski as moderator. The post will be split up according to the questions that were addressed... since that's how I recorded them.

1. Time Travel as someone ‘then’ experiences modern day?
-Depends on when and where. Middle ages was symbolic. Things happening for a reason.
-Consider our mental technology (framework) to see the world. What’s the PURPOSE of technology? “Internet is like a library” seen as less so to others if stories are more of an oral tradition.
-Structurally, humans didn’t look the same in other times. Shorter, different bone structure, heavyset. Didn’t have medical interventions.
-To future from our time, you’ll likely be an idiot. (“Wall-E” movie, floaty blobs)
-Small details may be overlooked. “Time And Again” (Jack Finney, 1970) a story where future tech was fine, but silhouette ART was puzzling.

2. Time travel models?
-More realistic time travel is “the slow way”. People waiting for the travellers to arrive. Changed biology.
-A single story is easier to be consistent. No way that “Doctor Who” can be consistent (many writers too). “Time travel is only as consistent as the story needs it to be.”; follow the rules you set down.
-SU: Time travel isn’t always using technology. There’s genetic, like “Time Traveller’s Wife” (2003). Tech mistakes are distracting - give me an entry I can accept, then do the story.
-AGNES: We think we know more than we do. “Farscape” sucked a human into an unknown situation. (“Einstein” character.)

3. Parallel Universes: A way to “get out of jail”?
-AGNES: Quantum Physics; there’s something there. More to discover too.
-MATTHEW: The problem of alternate timelines is that it removes the stakes. Can’t change your history - so you can still have adventures, but the travel is no longer the engine. It becomes a portal to fantasy.
-The “Great Man Theory” of history becomes a fallacy. Hitler events could happen with someone else.
-Metaphor: Is time a river that corrects itself, or a road with branches?

4. We can’t know major events until they happen - or can we?
-See Connie Willis (“Doomsday Book” and more) for exploring the past.
-Can’t be “close” to something significant. What determines that? Is it natural? Future people deciding it?
-Is time circular? Linear? Omnitemporal?

5. Conservation of mass. New matter in the past?
-Entropy: Movement of universe is towards chaos/disorder. The disorder moving forwards, it can’t cause as much entropy?
-IRA (in audience): Too much multiverse travel, cause/effect breaking down, things happen for no reason. Complexity must also balance out.
-SU: Were things “there all along”? Universe accommodates itself.
-Teleportation has a similar mass issue.
-CHRISTINA: Time travel itself is against (backwards) to our known physics. Don’t eat before you time travel, it gets left behind? Nails and hair are dead cells, they still time travel.
-“Time Travel” takes a science fiction approach, even though it’s closer to science fantasy. Classic Mystery; is time travel simply enabling the story.
-Ref to a ‘Challenger Disaster Story’, where people trying to stop him from changing the past are from the alternate future he made by doing it.

6. The grandfather paradox. (Killing your grandfather, are you born.)
-“The Men Who Murdered Mohammed” (1958), the only affect is YOUR timeline, not other peoples’. Their personal past causes them to be Shades, preventing other time travellers?
-There are no paradoxes. Killing Hitler might be as bad as killing your ancestor - people don’t leave Germany to meet/fall in love? Less tech, including your time travel tech?
-Human fascination with “What If”. Many alternate histories can be just a thought experiment. No travel, more fantasy, less scifi. (Eg. What if... 'longer lifespans'? 'magic'? etc.)
-Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Years of Rice and Salt” (what if Black Death killed all Europe).
-Time travel still has roots in a “PRESENT” somehow, which is what brings in causality.
-Authors recoil from “fate” and “fatalism”, prefer fighting against (Doctor Who)
-Connections to ‘Chaos Theory’ and ‘Butterfly Effect’. “Sliding Doors” (Peter Howitt). “Run Lola Run”.
-Outside of SciFi mainstream, “Slaughterhouse-Five” (Kurt Vonnegut). Easier to do things there, less bound by conventions. Again “We know less than we think we do”. “12 Monkeys”.
-“End of Eternity” by Asimov, minor alternations have huge effects. Stifles human race, we are becoming a society that doesn’t take as many risks (for safety, health, etc.) What worked in the past won’t now.
-We all go through life thinking “maybe I could have” or what got away (love, career, pet). Limbic System in brain, “one fleeting moment”.
-CHRISTINA: If Henry Ford is killed instead of Hitler? Or Thomas Edison, then Tesla flourishes?

7. Microbiology problems.
-We’re vulnerable to their diseases, and them to ours also. Danger of bringing back polio (or smallpox) from past! Getting into ALL such issues may slow the story down. Connie Willis (again).

8. Morality: Lotto win 'Okay' but 9/11 'too big'?
-Bringing objects from the ancient world to fence to people? Exchanging goods & services. Heidi Heilig.
-Changing one person’s life changes a lot. (Quantum Leap) So it’s ALL “too big”.
-My Thought: Possible connection with size of jump allowed? (Quantum Leap within 50 yrs; Stargate 1,000 yrs)
-History written by the victor. Are you killing the bungling general who took CREDIT?
-MATTHEW: Is there a moral difference between killing someone and preventing a birth?
-Question of reincarnation?
-“Our Town”, an art play where can’t affect things. Or “Outlander”, hits mainstream.

9. Last Remarks?
-Allure is the unknown - hope we don’t uncover it?
-SU: Time travel goes both ways. What should we do NOW?
-Time travel won’t happen as it hasn’t happened.
-MATTHEW: “Thanks for coming from your respective futures.”


There's more "Time Travel" related posts on this site, or if you want fiction, I've been writing a time travel serial for some time now - find it at "Time & Tied". I'd love to know what you think.

Thanks for reading, more CanCon 2015 content coming over the next couple of days: Day Two (Oct 31) and Day Three (Nov 1).