2016 Writing Goals Review – March /April

It’s time for some much needed self-accountability.  I laid out goals for 2016.  My review of progress for the first two months of the year was painful.  Let’s see what’s been happening since then.

Goal #1:  Write 1,250 words a day.

Grade:  FAIL – I’m getting better with this one.  I did just leave my second job a couple of weeks ago to allow more time for writing and its been paying off.  A lot more writing, but I’m not hitting 1,250 as an average.  Switching to outlining was supposed to help me make more of my limited time resource but so far, not so much.  Since the average is below the goal, I have to grade it as a fail.

Goal #2:  Develop an outlining system.

Grade:  PASS* – Last time, I graded this as a pass. * I’m reworking the system again, to figure the best way to use Scrivener for it.  

Goal #3:  Publish a story every other month.

Grade:  FAIL (AGAIN) – With more time to write and actual writing happening, this will be a pass on the next review.

Goal #4:  Blog post at least every other week.

Grade:  PASS – The posts don’t come like clockwork, BUT I’m maintaining this as an average.

Goal #5 – Regular building of my author platform (Goal formally known as: More Twitter)

Grade:  PASS – Working on a number of things for this to help planned book launches later this year, which include building a newsletter, new website, etc.  Stay tuned for news on that, as it develops.

GRADE FOR THE YEAR TO DATE – Technically a PASS since I have a PASS majority, but the most important goals are still fails.  There is a lot more work to be done.

Till nest time…



“BEYOND” Reason

I’ve seen a little bit of news about Star Trek Beyond here and there lately.  Not that I paid much attention to it.  I was so put off by the trailer, a couple of months ago, I haven’t given it second thought.

Seriously.  I thought it was that bad.

But I noticed the news and it got me to thinking about the state of Star Trek.  I watched that trailer again…and I facepalmed.  Mr. Roddenberry, do you know what they’ve done?

Fans have their own impression about the thing they’re passionate about, and I get that it’s not going to be the same forever.  It will evolve for todays audience.  People baulked at the idea of the J.J. Abrams reboot.  I know I was apprehensive, but I would give it a chance.

In 2009, we were given a popcorn fun, action oriented, special effects bonanza with a story that centered around Mr. Star Trek, himself.  The relationship between Kirk and Spock came across (to me) much like a cop buddy movie, Lethal Weapon.  It tried to pull on the emotional strings a bit with the destruction of Vulcan.  I don’t think that would have worked as well without Leonard Nimoy.

It was okay.  Serviceable.  Not an intellectual treat, but tolerable.

Star Trek  – Into Darkness (2013) borrowed from the most holy of canon material, and continued with the alternate timeline started in the first movie.  On a side note:  I do have to say, I liked the convenient explanation, worked into the first movie, for this new timeline that basically allows these movies to exist.  So rather than repeat The Wrath of Khan, they switched a few key details to try to give us a different take on that story.

It didn’t carry nearly the same emotional weight, though, with those events happening without Kirk and Khan ever having met (See Star Trek: TOS – Space Seed).  Rather than being pissed at Kirk, he was pissed at Robocop…uh, I mean Peter Weller and hilarity ensues.

I should point out that Gene Roddenberry was forced out of the production of Star Trek II and I don’t think he had much, if any, involvement with the film franchise after that.  So technically they’re not Roddenberry Star Trek films but even still, the remaining films did have very Roddenberry-like themes:  Friendship, loyalty, responsibility, death, and even social themes that the original series was known for like prejudice and religion.  And at the center of these stories – some were pretty damn bad (I’m looking at you Star Trek V) – there were still characters that we could largely care about.

One of my chief complaints about these new films is that they move so damn fast.  Sure they may have a lot of ground to cover, but its like they speed through any character development so they can get to the next expensive effects sequence.  They try to give every character their “moment” in each film, but everything happens so fast its like each of these characters steps on to the stage just long enough to perform a trick and they’re gone again.  And I mean to sound critical of the cast.  I like the cast.  I think they’re doing a good job, on the whole…with what they’ve been given to work with.

So now we get to do it all over again this summer with Star Trek Beyond.

*Sighs deeply*

I know basically zero about the story except for what the teaser trailer has shown.  The Enterprise looks like it gets destroyed (again).  The crew is stranded somewhere in the middle of no where and somehow there is a motorcycle on this planet???  And when did the Beastie Boys in Star Trek become a thing?

When the trailers for the first movie came out, I was curious because it was a reboot.  When the Into Darkness trailers came out, I was curious because Khan was supposed to be in it.  When this trailer came out, I was…”Meh”.

I just think the heart has been ripped out of Star Trek and Beyond isn’t likely to do anything at all to repair the damage.  Notice I didn’t say “franchise”.  A franchise is what we have now…and that’s the problem.

There was one thing in the Beyond trailer that I did identify with, though.  A possibly prophetic statement that may be on the minds of audience and Paramount Executives alike:


“Okay.  Let’s never do that again.”

Scrivener – First Impressions

If you’ve followed me on Twitter at all, you know I’ve recently started poking around with Scrivener.  Like many, I’ve been an MS Word user.  It’s what I use at work.  I’ve used it for years, going back to Office 97.  It’s what I know.

The writing masses:  “…but Scrivener…”

Yes, I know.  The one-stop shop writing application.  Outline, characters, manuscript, E-book generating all in one package.

Like a lot of writers, I’ve been in kind of a funk that is usually rectified by changing something up.  I just left my second job this week, which gets me a gets me a couple extra hours to write, daily, after doing other regular life stuff I’ve had to neglect while working 70+ hours a week.  I’m trying my hand at some serious outlining to (hopefully) increase my output beyond what I was doing as a semi-pantser.  And the last piece to the “shake things up” puzzle is moving out of my comfort zone (MS Word) and trying what the likes of Scott Sigler and many others recommend:  Scrivener.

I have to say I like the actual 30 days of use trial.  The cost is very reasonable given what everyone says it can do, should I decide to stick with it.  The learning curve (for me) is a little daunting, but that would more have to do with me being a crotchety old fart, set in my ways.  While I’m not that old, I can clearly see me sitting on the front porch, in a rocker, reminiscing about the days of buying Atari computer magazines for free programs in BASIC I’d have to spend hours keying in and saving on a cassette.  Yeah…no floppy drive on my 800XL.

*Wags cane at kids*, “Get off my lawn!!!”

I have to say that after watching a number of tutorials posted by Scrivener users, I definitely see the value and potential.  Although, most of what I’ve seen cover the Mac version.  Some of the subtle differences between that and Windows have caused me a little grief.

I’ve gone with using the note cards on the corkboard for my first novella I’m writing in Scrivener for chapters and scenes.  I think I like this better than the outline view, right now.

Right now, I love having the Inspector open while writing in the manuscript.  Having the notecard for that scene right there to refer to is very handy and I can make changes right on it, if needed.  I know I’ve only scratched the surface with this application, but I think I’m going to dig it, in the long run.

I do have a couple issues, though.  First, I’ve heard – and it must be true because I can’t find it – that it either doesn’t have a find/replace function or its not very good.  This would necessitate exporting into Word if I had any large scale changes that needed that feature.  This isn’t a big deal, since exporting as a .docx is a native function, but I worry about re-importing it and all the extra poop code that Word adds mucking with file when I compile it into an E-Book.  Which reminds me…

I’ve not touched the compiler yet.  It’s supposed to be awesome.  I hope it is.  A poorly formatted Ebook will kill sales as fast or faster than a bad story.  I mean, it’ll take something special to tear me away from the meany ways to strip that poop code out of a .doc or .docx before formatting and I have a pretty good working relationship with Calibre.

As for my other nitpick – and its no more than that – When typing in the manuscript, I feel like I’m working in freaking wordpad.  It’s just the view.  The manuscript page spans across the full viewing area between the Binder and the Inspector.  I’m used to the page view in Word.  It feels like I’m typing on paper.  If I’m working in Scrivener on a 24″ monitor, I could easily type what would be a short paragraph on a single line.  It just looks…wrong.  I mean, I know it doesn’t matter with regard to Ebooks but it just bugs me.

Speaking of that, I’m off to go get bugged by typing in that pseudo Wordpad.  Any Scrivener tips, would be appreciated.

Till nest time.

“There ain’t no way…”

Superman III – Richard Pryor falls 20 -30 stories off of a skyscraper, wearing snow skies and pink table cloth as a cape.  He lands on the skies, on a slanted roof on the side of the skyscraper, and slides down, flying off and falling some other ridiculous amount of floors, landing – on his skies – on the street and walks away.

Audience in 1983:  “lol”

Audience in 2016:  “There ain’t no way!”

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls – Indy and friends, in an amphibious vehicle, fall down not one, not two, but three high water falls and no only live, but manage to find their way back to the vehicle after each fall.  A vehicle, that doesn’t smash to pieces until the last drop – and I’m not even certain it did then.

Audience: “There ain’t no way…This movie sucks, too”

These are just a couple of examples of today’s audience and how they react to ridiculously implausible things that happen to characters.  These are movie examples, but it happens in books too.  Here’s an example that bugs me:

Angels and Demons – Robert Langdon jumps out of a helicopter, a couple thousand feet in the air (if I remember correctly), using a tarp as a parachute, seconds before an anti-matter explosion goes off overhead…and survives!!!

Me:  “Are you fucking shitting me!”

Today’s audience is exponentially more informed (and critical) then it was before the internet.  Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, is micro-analyzed by armchair police, spies, physicists, engineers, etc.  That’s not to say they (we) are always right when we take issue with implausible, but we like to nitpick.  Judgment may passed on something based on a Geocities page or, worse yet, a Geocities page that someone mentioned in a argument on Tumblr.

In my opinion, suspension of disbelief exists on a very short leash nowadays.

As a writer, I try to be aware of my audience, in this respect.  I think its important to realize is easier than ever that something like a protagonist seeking shelter inside of a refrigerator during a fairly close atomic bomb test, in the 50’s, and surviving, is enough to knock the audience right out of story.  Let’s not forget that, in those days, one would likely be locked inside that refrigerator…but I digress.

Recently I was going through a work in progress and nearly crapped my pants when I realized I had to redesign my protagonists spacecraft, because it’s structure, as I had originally envisioned, would not be able to hold up during the transition from zero gravity to planetary gravity.  I’m not an engineer, but I feel like I know enough from reading about real spacecraft to know I had it wrong.  If I realized this, with my limited knowledge, I’m sure someone else would too and might even make mention of it in a review.

I’ve seen that in some reviews.  “Its a good story, but the writer knows nothing about the subject matter.  If they did, they’d know the story would be virtually impossible to happen.” I’m paraphrasing, but I’ve seen reviews like that.

Having this awareness, about my audience, is good thing.  But its also a roadblock to my own personal progress.

The problem is I’m too aware and I want EVERYTHING to be plausible.  I sometimes can’t help the feeling that I can’t put in a cool story element I think of because I can’t explain it.  It can almost be paralyzing at times.  I’d really like to write something really weird and almost disturbing… Stephen King-ish.  But I haven’t come up with anything that I’m happy with because I can’t shake the “I have to be able to explain it” feeling.

Now some things that are completely theoretical seem to get a free pass, such as time travel (to a certain degree) and Faster than light flight, but even those things come under scrutiny.

How do you other writers, out there, square your stories against the limited suspension of disbelief of today’s audience?

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