Flash Fiction – Monster invasion!


Part of the indomitable Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge over at terribleminds

It didn’t go down as anyone expected.
They just appeared one day. No asteroid impact, no emerging from the bottom of the sea, no scientific experiment gone awry. No story. They were just… there, on the edges of major cities, out past the suburbs. Jets were scrambled, tanks rolled in, and you know what the monsters did? Nothing. They just sat there, and watched, and waited. We’ve all seen the movies, expected some gung-ho commander to launch an attack without orders, some nervous private fresh out of basic to pull the trigger, but… nothing. No one fired first. I mean, seriously, are you going to start something with that?
So the beasts just sat there, and watched, and waited, and slowly the world returned to some semblance of normal. It’s amazing how quickly people can adjust to things, can live in a sudden, hulking shadow, can live under the gaze of an impossible creature’s unimaginable intelligence. We’d been doing it for years after all, living with CCTV and airport body scanners and governments reading our email.
After a few months they started to talk. At first the cable news channels went wild, realised that maybe this was indeed the end times. But they talked about the most banal things, learned the basics of our language and culture, even started doing a few interviews. Of course when asked where they came from, or why they were here, they pretended not to understand the question, but they could talk about popular culture, offer opinions on politics, even give fashion tips. A few people started to get a grasp of how vast these creatures were, not just in terms of size but in age and intelligence. They did everything with a slow, purposeful preponderance.
They started taking jobs. Offering to help with mining, demolitions, even construction. BP were one of the first to take advantage, using a quadrupedal creature who called himself Detheron to transport an oil rig from the pacific to the atlantic. They helped in disaster relief too, rescuing people and shielding them from landslips in Bangladesh, with pictures of these enormous creatures scooping people into their maws and carrying them to safety at UN refugee camps.
They were smart though. They stayed out of the military, never entering war zones, staying politically neutral and being sure never to explain themselves in too much detail.
I remember in the fall, four years after they appeared, the Onion ran a story about how they’d start unionising next, petitioning for workers rights and the minimum wage. Once again, they predicted the future, and life became even more absurd. They unionised, got wages for their work — six dollars an hour in most cases, despite the fact that they finished most jobs in an hour. They bought stocks, buoying the economy at a time when it needed it.
Some of them got into white collar jobs, accounting, finance, even law. Hyperalon became a high profile defence lawyer working pro-bono in new york. Goldman Sachs got renamed Goldman, Sachs & Kellagor. They became managers, and got excellent performance out of their teams — not out of intimidation or eating anyone who didn’t perform, but out of implausibly good people skills. Before long Detheron, the immense creature who had transported oil rigs cross country, was CEO of BP.
A year after that, Detheron bought out his own shareholders, paying cash for the oil company that he was in charge of. This was just the first of a host of buyouts and mergers, and before we knew it just about every major corporation had a monster somewhere on its board.
Life isn’t so bad. Fine, scraping out the spawning tanks takes a while, and Gerry from down the block says the obsidian blocks they’re using to build the pyramids are really heavy, but hey, I just got the new iPhone, and you know what? Not one dropped call yet. Couldn’t say that when there was a human on the board.



AAAAAAAH


In other news, I am also doing Nano again this year, and still panicking.



Post-Nanowrimo


So the dust has settled and I can see through the haze now. What was that all about, eh?

I finished a day early, after a marathon session of about 4,000 words. Really I wasn’t going into this thing with the expectation of coming out with a novel: I wanted a learning experience instead. So what did I learn?

1. Write.
That sounds obvious, and it was a lesson I thought I’d learned years ago, but I gained a whole new understanding. All through writing Titans, Magocracy and Apostate I had the approach that the best time to write for me was morning and later on in the evening. This was fine when I worked in a coffee shop or was a student and my schedule was flexible, but now I’m in a 9-5 working as a programmer that tactic just doesn’t work – this is why I fell behind in the first half of the month.
The solution was to sprint – to sit down a write 500 words every hour from the moment I got home. It wasn’t always perfect, but I did end up with words on a page (well, in a file).

2. Cookies
I’m finding reward systems more and more beneficial for anything involving self discipline. I put a cookie on a plate, and put the plate in my eyeline while I wrote. I found this useful whenwriting at a coffee shop as well – a Latte in my eyeline, a sip every hundred words, and suddenly I developed laser-sharp focus.

3. Community
Having a community to support me was really, really useful during the process. I didn’t join any writing groups or write-ins this year (I was busy moving house and working my first month at a new job), but I did join in online. Being able to vent during the writing process is really helpful, and something I’m going to put more of an emphasis on in the future.

4. Graphs
I am a gigantic nerd – as such, I really like graphs, and metrics, and things like that. It’s slightly OCD, but it also ties in to the reward thing, as a graph is persistent and more satisfying than a cookie.

5. Write fast
Every now and again I’ll be writing and think ‘wow, that’s actually pretty good’. My natural self editor normally kicks in, but for that briefest of windows I’m happy with my work. This has happened a number of times before, but Nanowrimo really crystallized the conditions for me – it happens when I write fast. If I write slowly, there’s potential for my self editor to kick in, and it has a chance to edit before the words come out – and these words end up stilted and awkward. But once I’m in a real flow state they come more easily, and in better shape.
What about the book?
With regards the actual book itself, I’m largely happy with it as an extended brainstorm-y outline. I’ve thought about writing books like this before – doing a splurge-draft, much of it in narrative summary, to try out the ideas before distilling them into a more detailed outline. Of course I don’t actually do that, because mining through fifty thousand words of diseased mumblings is a lot of work, but it’ll be interesting to see what I come out of at the end of it, right after I’ve finished doing all the other stuff I want to get done. Which is a lot.



NaNoWriMARRRRGH


Ever since I became aware of Nanowrimo I’ve wanted to participate, but I was always held back by (or allowed myself to be held back by) the British academic year. November is when exams happen, and when (theoretically) the final crunch for all my coursework should take place.

And 2009 looked to be no different – although I’d finished uni I started a new job on October 26th, which I had to relocate for – I finally moved in on the 2nd of November, and I’m now trying to sort out my electricity and council tax and all that fun stuff that comes with the joy of being an independent adult.

But towards the end of October I was the the Writer’s Block chatroom with lots of people planning novels. I’d just finished editing Magocracy and was getting ready to re-read Apostate when I thought ‘hey, why not?’. I threw together an outline based as a kind of psuedo-sequel to Titanomachy, wrote up some simple world notes, and started writing.

My thinking was ‘oh, hey, I wrote a 100k novel in two months, that’s like two Nanowrimo’s in a row, so 50k in a month should be easy, right? Right?’

The problem is the outline – it’s very sparse, and I’m flying through it a bit too quickly. Also, I didn’t spend much time with the characters before I started, meaning they’re… well, kind of boring. I’m getting the hang of one (a pacifist monk), but my overall impression of the novel is… eh.

It’s also running short, at just under 10,000 words for the first act. So.

My next plan is to start writing another story once I’ve finished this one (because I WILL finish it, dammit). Probably something a little lighter, and little simpler, with few (if any) zombies. Current working title for the next story is Titanbone.

I wrote 2,000 words yesterday, taking me up to roughly 12k. Still well behind, though.

I might go for some hourly sprints instead – just put some words down, regardless of outline or whether I’m at my times of peak creativity (7-9am and 9-11pm) – after all, it’s only a first draft…



Wordle


So I guess Wordle is pretty neat.

A pretty image of my novel, by Wordle.net

That’s the current draft of Magocracy, with the common words removed. the character names aren’t a surprise, but One? Back? Door? Lots of really dull verbs in there as well.

Also, when the common words are switched on the entire image is dominated by a massive THE. Checking the actual word counts, it turns out that of the 100,000 words in the manuscript, over 5,000 of them is ‘the’. 5% of the novel.

I think I might need to start rewriting a few things.

The the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the the end.



Success!


So the main reason I haven’t been blogging has been due to some sort of backend glitch I’ve been having with my wordpress distro here – I couldn’t edit or add posts for whatever reason. Due to general procrastination I never really followed up.

But then I heard about how old wordpress versions were under attack, and resolved to tear down all three main blogs here (Daily Flash Fiction and LifeLacking being the other two). So now they’re working and I can blog again, and I will. So.

Statuses!

I’m currently about halfway through editing Magocracy into some sort of half-decent shape, after adding some more stuff earlier in the year. I’m currently 57,123 words into the 84,381 word first draft, which may get expanded again if I think it needs it. So that’s a little more than halfway after all.
57123 of 84381

I’ve also completely finished the first draft of Giant Robots Punching Each Other, or Apostate, or whatever I finally decide to call it. Going to let it sit until I’m closer to done with Magocracy.

I’m also working through the outlining/pre-draft stage for another novel, which will be a psuedo-sequel to Titanomachy (a full on sequel would be more or less unpublishable, but in this case the only character I’m taking over is the world itself). For this I’m using Mike Stackpole’s 21 Days to a Novel ebook/podcast lecture series (here’s the ebook version, it’s well worth it at $20). I always find the processes of other writers incredibly interesting, and I like playing around with workflows.

So there you have it. I have a stupid number of plates spinning in the air, and I’m trying to instigate more bloggery at the same time. To quote a childhood icon of mine, Arggh.



Hello world!


Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!



Stuff!


So I’ve reread Magocracy and found some stuff that could do with extra work to make the book not-suck, and also make it not-a-really-short-novel. Specifically, there were four or five characters who get dumped near the end and I never really picked them up for more detail. So I’m doing that.

There will be four chapters, roughly 2,000 words each, so 8,000 words is my total word count target. At the moment they’ve all been a little underweight, but I haven’t got into the meat of the action yet. Done 2202 words so far.

2202 of 8000 words

Also, I’ve been outlining the pants off my next novel to avoid the problems I’ve had with Magocracy (and also Titanomachy) – specifically running out of stuff to write in the middle. The outline is now 10,000 words long, and I’ve still got a few things to work out, but I’m feeling good – already spotted a few structural problems that normally I would have fixed in the second draft.

I was working under the working title of Apostate. But I’m a little sick of one word, serious sounding titles, and I’ll probably end up altering them anyway (aside from anything else I have no idea how to pronounce ‘Titanomachy’, and I’m not even sure about ‘Magocracy’).

So instead I’m going to call it Giant Robots Punch Each Other, book one in the (probably never to be completed) Giant Robots Punch God Trilogy Quadrilogy Sequence.



Um.


So Yeah. I did finish the book, though I can’t remember the precise date. But I did.

Trouble is, it was underweight – it’s at 79k right now. I’ve gone through to fix some basic spelling issues and a few continuity things, and I’ll give it a read fairly soon – there are quite extraordinary structural snafus in there, even in the second draft. That shouldn’t be the case as normally I try to get all the structural snafus out of the way by the time I start the second draft, but ho hum. I’ve got to cut a secondary character who has an actual viewpoint, I think, and I’m going to add in some more character development for a secondary character.

Of course, can’t really say until I finish my first re-read of the second draft. Got a little bit to do first.

In other news! I’m working on some Dyra’s Pride stories to put up on a new blog, together with a new character series about a historical spy in the same world as Magocracy. He’s a fun character, if a bit angsty – some stuff may need reworking. I’m going to start line-editing Titanomachy at some point as well – I’ll probably put up a writertopia style progress bar, since Brandon Sanderson does that when he rewrites stuff, and I’m always willing to steal an idea if it’s good.

So! That’s me all done, updates should (possibly, hopefully) come more often now.



Blast. Update time.


Gone over to the Writertopia progress meter images for the time being – easier than bothering with the whole screencapping Scrivener -> post to blog thing. This is because I’ve recently started a second job, and as such have been too busy to even get much writing done, let alone writing followed by maeking poast.

Another problem is that I’ve been writing more and more on the Alphasmart Neo, which is an incredible tool, but often means I’m away from my computer when I’ve finished writing, making it difficult to track my word counts on the (frequent) occasions when I forget.

I’ve been attempting to use Parkinson’s Law to fit more writing in, but procrastination is proving an eternal problem.

The Real Problem

The one thing that underlies all of these issues, I think, is that I’m getting towards the end of the book – the final act, the big climax, the hissatsu. This is a problem because I like my characters, and in the end I don’t want to let them go. There’s always potential for sequels or expansion, but I know that in the end none of these characters are going to be the same by the end of the book, and I’ll never have a chance to write them again.

I had the same problem when writing the drafts of my last novel, Titanomachy (which I’ll probably end up title Rise of the Titans if it ever gets out of editing hell) – the second half is always torture up until a point near the middle of the last act. Last time I did the final eighth of the book in about a day, which I anticipate will happen this time as well. I’ll probably just have to take a few days off to get this damn monkey off my back.

Changes are Afoot. Going to start doing some serial fiction, since I think I’ve burned myself out on flash fiction.