Saturday, May 31, 2008

MayNoWriMo: The Final Non-Progress Report

So MayNoWriMo is over, and I've hardly written a thing in almost three weeks. Furthermore, I haven't posted an entry here in Spanner's World in almost two weeks. So here's the final word count for the month:
  • Black Science: 7,501 (goal: 50,000)
  • Bad Company: 9,988 (rewrite for second draft)
So what went wrong? I came down with a nasty case of writer's block, that's what. Now it's gone away, but too late to save my MayNo.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Panic Time!

About this time every WriMo, I reach a point where I look at the date on the calendar, then look at my shockingly low word count, and panic. "Gasp! The deadline's only two weeks away!" This is when I stop procrastinating and start writing. In fact, it's usually in the last two weeks that I do most of my writing, period.

A good example is last month. The end of Script Frenzy was only two weeks away, and I had written only 40 pages. As almost always happens, I got off my duff and started writing. My final page count was 171, and I'd finished a amazingly good first draft compared to the absolute messes I usually create during a novel-writing month.

Now consider this: there's two weeks left in MayNoWriMo. The word count for Black Science currently stands at 5,790. Clearly I've been procrastinating. Part of the reason is that I spent too much time working on Bad Company instead: the character dynamics of that novel fascinated me much more than the less complicated stuff in Black Science. I guess there's simply more emotional kick-in-the-gut in Bad Company,. Another reason is that I simply took a week off. I didn't even touch the computer for a week. There's weird reasons for that, which I won't get into. The result is that I'm way behind in writing Black Science.

I know what comes next. I start writing. I write up a storm so that I surpass the margin of victory. I write my butt off at times. Then, after 50,000 words, I put the novel aside and turn to the next project. What do I have scheduled for June? I plan to complete the second draft of Bad Company, and the easier job of writing the second (and probably final) draft of Spanner. But first, I have about 45,000 words of Black Science to write. Here goes...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Black Science: MayNoWriMo Progress Report #1

I'm not getting very far into Black Science yet. I have none of the historical interludes yet. I'm struggling with the opening sequence. I may have to pad the word count with cancelled versions, though I hope not. I've still only written about 4,700 words. Still, I have the idea from last post, which basically boils down to terrorist war between eugenicists and creationists. But once again a book has completely changed a story while I'm writing it. The book this time is Monkey Trials & Gorilla Sermons: Evolution and Christianity from Darwin to Intelligent Design by Peter J. Bowler. It's basically a history of the theory of evolution and its repeated clashes with creationists since the 19th century. Since in it Bowler shows that Darwinism wasn't the dominant theory of evolution in the early 20th century (until the new science of genetics merged with it) and that the "intelligent design" people frequently clash with the hardcore fundamentalist young-earth creationists, the opening to Black Science now looks petty and malinformed. I can no longer add onto the opening, like I normally would in a first draft. I must replace it completely, or Black Science simply cannot be written at all.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Simple Conflict to Complicate: Dragonites vs. Enders

I was reading a book on the Book of Revelation (also known as the Apocalypse of John), called A History of the End of the World, by Jonathan Kirsch. He shows that the last book of the Christian Bible is a rage-fuelled mind bomb so potent that it has all but dominated Western culture at least since Emperor Theodosius turned the Roman Empire into Christendom by decree in 391. But the most important point I'm drawing from it in this entry is the extreme dualism the Apocalypse embodies. From at least the middle of Black Science all the way to the end of Spanner, America is torn apart by an apocalyptic duel between two factions determined to put an end to American democracy and replace it with an apocalyptic theocracy: the Gnostic fundamentalist Dragonites, the ultra-elitist conspiracy of self-described supermen who want to reimpose the old totalitarian caste system based on a cult of blood; and the Christian fundamentalist Enders, that group of militant cults determined to put an end to the world by force. Actually, the Enders don't have to be Christian; the Islamists and the Jewish Messianists are also Enders. Both factions see the world in ultra-stark black-and-white, either-or, with-us-or-against-us terms. If you're not for one faction, they believe, you are by definition part of the other. This is a "Gordian knot" that desperately needs to be cut before it destroys the world. In my dialectical worldview, there must be a third force dedicated to disrupting both forces. This force I call the Spoiler. But the Spoiler's disruptions are useless unless (s)he fights alongside, and for the sake of, the common enemy of both Dragonites and Enders: the people.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Family Feud, 4: Eleanor Richter vs. Drusilla Becket

Perhaps the most titanic battle in the entire Spanner cycle is the recurring magic war between Eleanor Richter, the Richter-Thomas matriarch, a shaman and witch, and Drusilla Becket, channeller and designated guru to the Becket clan and their cult. Their first matchup in the series is during the middle of Bad Company; their battle, occurring in what in Spanner I call "dream reality", is over the souls of Nelly's lost granddaughters and Dru's prodigal daughters, the main characters of the novel, Charlie and Desiree Richter-Thomas. No doubt the two bitter enemies, rival leaders in the New Age movement, at least in the Seattle area, will have several rematches and grudge matches before the cycle ends. Who knows — they might even deserve their own story dedicated entirely to their decades-long war, somewhat in the tradition of the Thing vs. the Hulk in superhero comics.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Family Feud, 3: The Cromwell Beckets, and Why They're Such a Menace

Pitted repeatedly against the radical, and usually at least somewhat populist, Richter-Thomases are the aristocratic, elitist Cromwell Beckets Though they usually don't use the name "Cromwell" in their own names (one exception being John Cromwell Becket, oldest of Colonel Tom Becket's five sons), they trace their ancestry back directly to the 17th-century dictator of Britain, Oliver Cromwell, and use him to claim that they are the true royal family of America, whose right to absolute rule was usurped by none other than the Founding Fathers of the American Republic. So they are absolute monarchists as well. By claiming that they can solve all America's problems by destroying the Republic in order to save the American Empire and make it stronger, they have made themselves — and their family business, the private mercenary army known as Dictel Corporation — the darlings of the American imperial elite, and their court intellectuals known as the neoconservatives.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Family Feud, 2: The Richter-Thomases, and Why They Fight

Two strange families dominate Spanner and the Dictel trilogy. One of the is the aristocratic and authoritarian Beckets, the subject of my next entry. The other is the Richter-Thomases, the source of almost all the heroes of my stories. What is strange about them, at least compared to most Americans, is the culture they've assembled out of various European and American cultural castoffs: some from the more culturally radical elements of Weimar Germany in the 1920s, others from the cultural revolution in the US, especially California, in the 1960s and '70s.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Family Feud: Introduction

One of the major conflicts that structures both Spanner and the Dictel trilogy is a long-running family feud. The two families battling over the fate of America and the world in my novels and comics are the Richter-Thomases, a nominally middle-class family with what turns out to be quite the revolutionary tradition, and the Beckets, a very much aristocratic family that traces its ancestry back to Oliver Cromwell and thus claims to be the true American royal family, cheated of its destined tyranny by none other than the Founding Fathers themselves, with the help of some of the Richter-Thomases' more treacherous ancestors.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Sex, Dreams, and Storytelling: My Artistic Philosophy

Before I get to the world building, I first want to state my philosophy of storytelling. The short form:
  1. A story is a collective dream. Likewise, a dream is a personal story.
  2. Storytelling is like sex, including something called a "climax". The lover makes love to (usually) one person, but the storyteller makes love to huge audiences.
  3. Story is conflict. Without conflict, there can be no story.
These three principles are the keys to my understanding of storytelling and my way of writing fiction. (Note: The first version of this entry was incomplete. I have now finished it.)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Spanner: Context and World Building

Script Frenzy was, as you'd expect from the name (and the 100-page-in-a-month goal), frenzied. As I focused on writing 170 pages of the Spanner script in the last 2 1/2 weeks (my total page count till then being 1), I didn't put much time or thought into the full context in which Shira and her friends, lovers, and enemies live, love, hate, and otherwise do their thing. Now that Script Frenzy is over, I'm dedicating the next several Spanner-related entries to world building.

What kind of government do they live under and have to deal with? What are the political dynamics of Spanner's world? The class relations? The economy? Are people starving in the streets and rioting for the right to eat, and why (or why not)? What are the pop culture phenomena in Euro-America in 2014? What technologies and Internet crazes are sweeping the world in the next six years? What is the Euro-American Union, how did it come about, and why is it all but permanently at odds with the New Chinese Empire and the New Caliphate? What religions are vying for supremacy, and to what lengths are they willing to go to achieve it? What is the relationship between the two rising phenomena of secularism and fundamentalism?

These are just some of the world-related questions I need to answer in order to put Spanner into its full context. Also, I need to keep in mind that everything has a history, and everything is connected to everything else. I will not allow anything in Spanner to be superfluous or gratuitous. So I'm dedicating the next several entries on Spanner to answering these questions and filling in the story's context. Once I've done that, and after I've fixed up the script for the first 5 issues, I'll start up again on the character notes.

I intend to create the best comics I possibly can. World building is a necessary step.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Script Frenzy Is Over.

It's May 1. Script Frenzy is now over. I didn't just win. I won with 171 pages. Now, you're probably saying that's a lot of pages for a script. To which I reply: not if the script is for a manga. The first draft of the first four issues is almost finished, with just a few new scenes and one scene relocation to do. And yet I'm still not stopping, even though I have 50,000 words of a novel (Black Science) to write for MayNoWriMo (which is being held by NaNoPubYe) and another novel (Bad Company) whose second draft I want to finish this month. I'm not stopping till I have something I can draw. And then there's the rest of Spanner book 1 to finish, and then there's the rest of the series...

What did I learn from the Script Frenzy experience? For one thing, I found out how much better a scripter I am than a prose writer. In prose, I'm better at nonfiction than fiction. In fiction, I write better for visual media than for prose. The visual medium of my preference is, of course, comics.

But the real challenge for me is to actually draw my comics. I still don't have the drawing skills I need to draw my comics, or even do character designs. So, in priority between writing Bad Science and editing Bad Company, I'm setting a goal of drawing for at least 50 hours this month. If I set and keep this goal, I can then make some major progress in my drawing, something I haven't really done in years.

So now I have a script to edit, a novel to write, another novel to edit, and some drawing to do. I might be overloading my schedule this month. If so, I can sacrifice a goal or two. But under no circumstances will I give up on my drawing. After all, I've wanted to draw Spanner since 1992, and I intend to achieve this goal no matter what. And so I intend to get Spanner #1 published online on September 9.

I've got my work cut out for me. So now I'd better start doing it. Now that Script Frenzy has awakened my slumbering Muse so that she is now on a rampage and becoming insatiable, I think I finally have a chance to defeat my old enemy, procrastination, once and for all.