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Tag: camp nanowrimo

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

Yeah, it’s another long time no see. At this point, this blog is probably going to be an occasional thing unless I get my butt in gear and start posting regularly. If you haven’t already guessed, most of my daily stuff is mostly on Twitter anyway.

This year’s first session of Camp NaNoWriMo is coming up fast–it’s next month–and I’ve been waffling about what to do. At first, I thought about starting a new project, but I’ve been also feeling bad about some of my previous projects which I’ve started but not finished. So I’m going to do something different this time and actually continue an existing project. Right now, the best candidate is the project I started during last year’s July Camp NaNo since it’s the freshest in my mind. April is probably my best chance at trying to finish that story. I can’t depend on the July session since I am already anticipating that work stuff will be especially crazy then and will be eating up my free time (and sleep time).

Recently, I’ve also been contemplating on my lack of motivation to write. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m still writing whenever I have free time. I have tons of cool ideas I want to get onto the page. But I’m also feeling a crippling sense of…inadequacy. I mean, maybe I think my ideas are cool, but in the grand scheme of things most people (and more importantly, agents and editors) will think they’re stupid and my writing subpar, at best. Part of it, too, is the realization that I’m at a point where most people my age have already accomplished so much and in comparison, I don’t really have much to show. I’m probably destined to remain in the dustbin of mediocrity for the rest of my time here. It could be worse, but it is also a bit frustrating to put in all the work and have nothing pan out.

The Next Camp Is Coming

I’m sorry I haven’t posted very much in this blog lately. All I can say is that most of my activity has been on Twitter and aside from that, I’ve been very busy with work (as always).

Anyways, the July session for Camp NaNoWriMo is coming up in a couple of days. I’ve been invited to do @NaNoWordSprints again, so expect prompts to be posted here in the next month. I’ve also been invited to an ML cabin (basically a mini-chatroom on the Camp NaNo site where all the other members are municipal liaisons) and I’ll see how that goes. Hopefully it will give me motivation to finish the July project, unlike the April project.

As for the April project, unfortunately it’s still not at a stage where I feel that I can finish at least a rough draft of it in a month. Sometimes ideas are like that. They stall out and you either have to plan some more or wait until you get a second wind.

The idea for July’s writing project struck me out of the blue earlier this month. The basic premise: what would it be like to live in a city which was built as a giant astronomical instrument, where the streets disappeared and reappeared from a different dimension depending on the movements of the heavens above? Here’s the vague blurb of the idea I put up on my Camp NaNo profile:

When the Stars Are Right

The streets of Venzza disappear and reappear according to the celestial movements. The inhabitants of the city use the Almanack to help guide their daily movements in their home. But so do those who want to hide secrets until the time is right for their reveal…

This is a science fantasy where science underpins everything, but I’m making a conscious effort to make it sound like fantasy. The title is a not so subtle hint that there will be Lovecraftian influences. The name of the city is also a hint that this will take place in an alternate reality Venice. About four years ago, I attempted to write another story set in Venice, but it stalled out after three or four chapters. I’m hoping that this second try will go better.

Unlike many of my previous stories where the characters came to me fairly early, the characters for this story were far more difficult to suss out. I came up with the basic plot even before I knew who they were or their names. I don’t want to talk too much about my characters right now, but what I do want to say is that I came up with scientific reasons for their existence and they aren’t random creatures I’m throwing in there just for the heck of it.

I’m still working on the outline. Let’s hope I finish it before July 1 rolls around.

Inspiration and Outline

Sometimes, an idea hits you and just won’t let go.

Earlier this week, I was looking through All of Bach, an unfortunately horribly designed website for a musical group in the Netherlands attempting to perform all of J.S. Bach’s works, when I wondered what would happen if all that music wasn’t just music but also magical spells. And that was when the concept for the novel I’m doing for July’s Camp NaNoWriMo was born.

The first thing I figured out was who the characters were. But I couldn’t really do them in isolation without the plot. I ended up with three time lines:

1. The Historical Time Line (1750-1871): This starts at J.S. Bach’s death and ends just after the death of Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg, the founder of Steinway & Sons. I’m taking massive liberties with these historical figures, but I’m imagining them in a parallel fantastical universe where music is magic. This time line details how Bach’s Folio, containing the fictional Devil’s Oratorio gets from Germany to New York.

2. Mid-Century New York Time Line: As the most focused of the time lines, this takes place entirely during 1952. It’s about a classical pianist, loosely inspired by Glenn Gould, who discovers the Folio in his new home (a former Steinway & Sons piano factory). He becomes obsessed with the Folio and slowly descends into madness.

3. The Present Time Line: Set in modern New York City, the protagonists are Juilliard students working on a project for their music history class. The main character is a jazz student who does moving work and rap contests for extra money. He hears rumors that the Folio was stolen from Christie’s before it could be auctioned. Meanwhile, he tries to figure out why one of his friends, a Jim Morrison fan, is suddenly interested in country music.

With three time lines, it became natural to structure the outline around one of Bach’s three-part inventions.

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So, with the outline done, I’m off to read up on history, New York, and music in general. And after that, I’ll probably let the idea percolate in my head until July rolls around.

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.

Planning for Camp NaNoWriMo April 2013

This is the first year that Camp NaNoWriMo is being held in April. I suppose they’re doing this to replace the now defunct Script Frenzy which sadly didn’t see all that many participants. (I’m guessing the low numbers may be due to the high barrier to entry–writing scripts require a special format which isn’t exactly intuitive.) However, script writers are welcome to write scripts for Camp NaNo. And there are even flexible word count goals.

Anyways, I’ll be doing this as I’ve always done ever since Camp NaNo was started. I’ve already changed my mind once on the plot which means I could very well change it again later. But so far I do know it’s going to be squarely in science fiction. I don’t have any concrete ideas, let alone an outline, set in stone yet but there are some themes that I want to explore in both a serious and satirical manner.

  • Beauty pageants and dog shows. This will probably take up most of the novel. Basically in this universe, an alien species called the Collectors are in charge. They view other species, including humans, as we would view pet cats and dogs. Through “indenture contracts” and other means, the Collectors acquire other species to show off in conformation trials–hopefully to win some prizes. This is also why this writing project is tentatively titled Reserve Winners.
  • Xenobiology and alternative relationships. The Collectors are extra-dimensional and sentient fungoid creatures. Humans can only perceive part of them in three-dimensional space. And that part sort of resembles a Lovecraftian fungal monster. Their thought processes are decidedly alien which makes the reason why they have all the conformation trials much more interesting. Because it really isn’t the equivalent of a beauty pageant or dog show to them. It’s for a completely different purpose. Also similar to some fungi on earth, these Collectors have hundreds of different mating types. So relationships between the Collectors will be very complicated.
  • Names. A lot of characters will be named after Roman emperors and empresses. It’s a fad just as it’s a fad today to name your kids Jacob or Sophie. In some ways, this is going to make naming characters pretty easy if every other person is named Augustus…
  • Genetic engineering. Just as humans have done selective breeding on domestic animals, the Collectors have done some subtle (or not so subtle) nudging with other species.
  • Looking beneath the surface. Appearances and motives are never what they seem. The trick, I think, is not to turn this into a mystery or some kind of evil versus good cliche. Things aren’t repulsive, unnatural, or malevolent. Just different, depending on your point of view.

That’s my ramblings about my April writing project so far. How will it gel in the coming days? Who knows. But I’ve been reading a lot of papers on fungal biology so at least I’m learning something.