Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Tag: camp nano

A Tentative Idea for Camp NaNo

With the April session of Camp NaNoWriMo just around the corner, this is basically the prime time for planning out some ideas for a new writing project. Unlike the November version, the April and July challenges are more relaxed and half the time, I don’t finish the challenge (I’m old school and keep my goals at 50,000 words–so even if I reach 25,000 and “fail”, I may have still written more than others who win with smaller goals.) I primarily use this time to test out ideas.

My thought was to play around with a written form that is usually not thought of as a straightforward storytelling device. Specifically, I want to tell interconnected short stories through entries in a fictional museum catalog. The museum and the artifacts within will be fictional. Through a curator’s voice, I want to hint that there’s something odd going on aside from the boring work of researchers and archivists through the stories and myths behind the objects on display.

For the past couple of days, I’ve been doing some pre-writing, trying to figure out what kind of narrative voice to take. I don’t think I’m quite there yet, but I’m veering towards “apparently neutral yet deeply unsettling”. I have also been trying to get a firm visual in my head of the museum–I haven’t decided yet on whether to set it in some kind of historical palace or a modern building, but I definitely want to convey a sense of vastness, sort of like Borges’ The Library of Babel

And as for the artifacts populating the museum? I think they will come from all sorts of fictional times and eras and places and cultures. But mostly they will be MacGuffins, only serving as entryways into something else altogether.

Gearing Up For Camp NaNo

April’s Camp NaNoWriMo session is just around the corner and like every other die hard participant, I signed up for it. I also signed up to do NaNoWordSprints again so I’ll be metaphorically cracking the whip on Twitter to get people writing. In a fun way, of course.

This time, I decided to do a bunch of science fiction short stories. We’ll see if anything pans out. My planning this time primarily consists of gathering ideas and doing outlining depending on how complicated the idea is. So without further ado, some possible ideas I might end up using next month:

*Cluck. Based on my first tweet, a murder mystery taking place on a Dyson sphere where the investigator also has to contend with alien possession. I’m still not sure whether I want to eventually put this up as an interactive fiction or not–if I manage to finish this.

*Histone Corps. Basically, fairy tales in space. The monsters are genetically engineered creatures and/or aliens and the main characters stumbling upon this science fiction version of fairy tale tropes are named after famous fairy tale collectors and writers. (Grimm, Anderson, Perrault, d’Aulnoy, Lang, etc.)

*Hair Apparent. This one takes place in Restoration England. People start acting funny. It’s due to mind controlling parasites hiding in wigs. My original intent was to lampoon wallpaper historical romances, but the more I think about it, the more serious it gets…

*Fred. This is a murder mystery told from the point of view of a pet python owned by a psychic who denies her abilities by stubbornly running a gag shop. It takes place in the same steampunk universe as another idea I’ve been trying to develop for a full fledged novel.

*Back to Nowhere. The main character needs to go back to her home planet–a backwater mining colony–because of reasons (I’m still trying to figure this out). It’s a parody of a small town romance. But it takes place in space.

*Tooth and Claw. Humans are insignificant. Shapeshifting dragons secretly control the planet. The shapeshifting is not the result of paranormal woo woo but due to movement in higher dimensions. Think: the Sphere passing through Flatland. The plot for this one is kind of up in the air at the moment, though.

So, those are some ideas in a nutshell. The titles are all tentative–they’re just place holders for now to help me keep the ideas straight. Unfortunately, my problem isn’t coming up with ideas but the execution…

Mid-Month Update

Mostly, I’m posting this to see if this “sharing” thing to Twitter is going to work. But it’s also a brief update.

Camp NaNoWriMo is in full swing this month. As of this post, I’m up to 40k. The reason why I’m writing like crazy now and not pacing myself is because I’m trying to finish before I go on vacation. If I can’t get 10k done between now and Friday morning, I’ll probably keep writing while I’m waiting around in airports. Otherwise, well, I don’t plan on doing any fiction writing while on vacation.

I’ll probably do quite a bit of travel writing though. I don’t know if I’ll be able to post any of it while I’m abroad. It depends on whether or not there will be an internet connection around.

For those of you who follow my Twitter account, I’ve probably dropped enough hints in the last couple of months for you to know where I’m headed. And for those of you who have the sense to abstain from scouring through most of my (admittedly inane) tweets for the clues, I’ll leave my itinerary as a surprise.

The Circuit Diagram Outline

While working on the outline for Camp NaNo, I decided to do something different for some of the prep. Below is a scan of just part of the outline in “circuit diagram” format.  It’s kind of nifty since it allows me to see where all my characters are temporally as well as their physical locations.

I like trying out different types of outlining techniques, particularly visual ones, to see what works and what doesn’t. And I’ve found that I tend to avoid the verbose techniques (like the snowflake or phase methods) because nothing kills creativity and spontaneity like writing out every single detail ahead of time.

Some Ideas for Camp NaNoWriMo July 2013

Well, another Camp NaNoWriMo is coming up soon which means it’s time to get organized on all of those ideas. Or attempt to, anyway. I find myself oscillating between feeling like the idea is so silly that I might as well use a lorem ipsum generator and that it’s so crazy it might just work.

The current working title I have is Six Persimmons. It’s more of a placeholder, really. I’m not sure if there are going to be any persimmons in the story, let alone six of them. And as for the ideas and themes floating around:

  • Mashups. I really like fairy tales especially for the way they explore archetypal themes and characters. One fairy tale that I’ve always found intriguing is The Snow Queen. So if I were to compare my nascent story to a fairy tale, that one would be it. But that said, I am definitely not adhering to the original story. There will also be quite a bit of inspiration, theme-wise, derived from The Shining and shows like ×××Holic and Iron Chef.
  • The cat house. So, this is my nickname for the fictional apartment complex where most of the plot takes place. It’s named that because every single occupant in that apartment complex is a shapeshifter of the cat persuasion. And like real cats, these characters are all crazy, neurotic, and inexplicable. They don’t particularly like playing nice with each other. And since they’re going to be snowed in, they’re going to be even crazier than usual.
  • Obsession. This will probably be a major theme. Every character will have an obsession of some sort. For example, the main character is a translator of foreign language novels and has an obsession with finding the right word or phrase to express a concept. Her apartment looks like a dictionary factory had just exploded.
  • Gentrification of neighborhoods. Like other minorities who form their own ethnic enclaves in the cities, the shapeshifters traditionally live in segregated neighborhoods. However, the human yuppies are moving in, driving up the property prices–so it’ll be interesting to explore a bit of that conflict.
  • Unnatural weather. I sort of covered this theme before in my 2009 NaNoWriMo novel but I’m going to have another crack at it this time at a different angle.

So, that’s what I have at the moment. Now onto some semblance of an outline…

Mid-Month Meanderings

Update on Camp NaNoWriMo progress: I am behind. Extremely behind. By 20,000 words. So I’m going to have to really kick it up a notch for this second half of the month. As to whether or not I’ll be able to reach the 50k goal–maybe. But I have other things that have more priority at the moment, like preparing for the ASM general meeting next month.

And speaking of ASM, sure it’s kind of stressful if you’re going to be presenting anything there, but it’s fun, too. If you’re a microbiologist or want to become one, I highly recommend attending the conference at least once. And even if you’re not, there are plenty of interesting talks. (I saw that they had a cool workshop for do-it-yourself whole genome analysis, but it’s already sold out.) Most of the talks can get pretty technical, though, so you might get lost if you’ve never taken any biology courses in college.

* * *

If you’ve followed me on Twitter, you’ll know that my website, gamalei.net, got wiped out last month when the hosting server suffered a catastrophic hardware failure. I wasn’t too worried about this since I had my website backed up elsewhere and otherwise, I’ve never had many problems with the hosting company for the approximate decade I’ve been with them. However, I did take it as an opportunity to streamline the site as it had grown rather labyrinthine.

Among one of the semi-hidden corners of the old site, I had a section titled “Linkrot” where I had stashed a bunch of links that I thought were interesting but not interesting enough to be taking up permanent residence in my browser’s bookmark folder. It was all hand-coded which after a while, got rather tedious.

So, what to do now? Well, I’ve decided to stick all those extra links on Tumblr. Technically, I’ve created two Tumblrs. Textual Curiosities contains cool stuff I’ve found on archive.org. Its sister site, Strange Interlinks, contains everything else. The thing about Tumblr is its simplicity. I can just dump a link into it and tag it to help categorize it rather than spending too much of my time manually adding to my old page. And since it’s now on Tumblr, other people can follow and/or share these links if they wish. Of course, if no one else does, I don’t mind. This is more for my own edification and organization than anything else.

After reading some opinions on Tumblr, I was thinking about how my own views about the blogging platform has changed over time. When I first encountered it, I couldn’t really understand why anyone would have one in addition to a weblog on, say, Blogger or WordPress or LiveJournal. But I think, in some ways, simplicity is a good thing. And it also depends on what sort of project you’re working on and what sort of platform is best suited for it.

When I first started blogging, I had also included random links I’ve discovered on the internet in my posts. Sort of like Kottke.org or Rebecca’s Pocket. But eventually, I ditched that format and concentrated on writing posts that were a little more focused and coherent. So that’s sort of how I view this blog today: a journal-like site containing long content or commentary (in text or in pictures) generated by me. And while Twitter and Tumblr can in some sense also be blogging platforms, they’re both more ephemeral in my mind. I like using Twitter because it’s quite amendable to quick observations (which can be extremely cumbersome on a traditional blog) and it has an instant messaging-like capability that doesn’t quite have as much stress as an actual instant messaging program*. And as for Tumblr, you have the ease of chucking things in there without the worry of moderating comments. And these days, I find that ease has a lot to recommend it.

*Aside: One thing I hate about the electronic age is the expectation of immediacy. Some forms of electronic communication, however, have greater expectations of immediacy than others. Like instant messaging, for instance. I once had instant messaging eons ago, but I am prone to multitasking and getting distracted by more important things than random chitchat. This, of course, pissed off people I was IMing with so I ended up not doing any sort of instant messaging at all. E-mail, on the other hand, is more flexible. I respond fairly quickly if it’s from family or work, but otherwise I can put it off for a couple of days. Or respond not at all. (Or pretend that it got lost in the aether if it’s from someone I don’t really want to talk to.) Twitter is a mix between the two. While I like the IMing aspect of interacting with other people online in a semi-immediate way, I don’t think many people would get really angry with me if I get distracted and respond two hours later.

Another Close Finish

Maynowrimo, another one of those binge writing spin-offs, is now over and I can say that I squeaked by with 50,377 words.  I can say with some confidence that it was mostly procrastination.  I started out in the month of May hoping that I would be regularly writing, but lab stuff, as usual, got me sidetracked.  So I ended up writing about almost 40,000 words over the last three days–almost 10k on Sunday, almost 20k on Monday, and about 11k on Tuesday (yesterday).

I’m pretty drained after that writing marathon, so I guess for about the next month, I’ll turn my attention to other things.  However, there are other writing things after June that I’m vaguely contemplating about:

Last year, I did Julnowrimo (in July) and Augnowrimo (in August).  After August was over, I felt pretty burned out and semi-vowed that I wouldn’t do it again.  But then again, real writers write every day and it sort of seemed like I would be wimping out if I didn’t do it again.  However, this year is complicated with Camp Nano, the summer version of Nanowrimo that is also organized by the same people.

As a municipal liaison, I sort of feel that I have some sort of obligation to organize some things in my region.  This may also involve setting up write-ins which can be kind of tricky since the people in charge of Camp Nano still don’t know whether or not this is going to be for July or August or both.  In any case, it will involve some time committment from me.

I’m also thinking about the 3-day Novel Contest in September.  I’m really toying with the idea that I might actually submit an entry this year.  You know, with all of the last minute writing that I’ve been practicing lately, it shouldn’t be too hard to write a coherent novel in three days, right?