NaNo – National Novel Writing Month

For the last several years I have flirted with participating in NaNo and every year (especially last year as I was finishing school) I forget until the middle of November (or the third week of February) when it is a little too late to start.

I am sure Stephen King could wait until November 23rd and then start but…

While I have notes and stuff all over the place of ideas and such, I have been sort of in limbo since finishing school so I have nothing mixed to put in the pot. I literally just remembered two hours ago. This is going to be fresh off the flesh of my forebrain.

It could also be terrible! But, hey, let’s play!

I have read a number of “articles” (i.e., blog posts about people I do not know and a few who are admittedly not writers) that try to dissuade people from participating in this event. They say that it is artificial, social media oriented. First it is artificial in that you don’t, in the real world, bust out a 50,000 page novel in a month that is ready for market. Nobody says that either. What the contest is (and it is with yourself, not others) is for you to put down 50,000 words of a novel. It is a writing goal within a month’s timeframe.

That part is not artificial and there is a real world parallel called the deadline. Most writing programs nowadays have little widgets or windows where you can enter daily and project target goals. NaNo merely makes the same thing into a public spectacle. In reality, you are still stuck there, alone, in front of your computer with a goal to achieve. There is nothing artificial about that. It is better to look at NaNo as a public event where you can make a very good headway on your writing project. That’s all. You may have December thru next October (or beyond) to continue writing your project, rewrite it, edit and reedit it, etc.

The social media complaint is just dumb. It is 2017, authors have to promote and their personal means is largely social media.

Another complaint is the high failure rate of participants getting to the goal of 50,000 words in a month. So what? The failure rate for restaurants in the first year is 90-95%. Does that mean you should not open up a restaurant? Maybe a lot of people find out they actually don’t like the process. Maybe a lot of people learn they can’t produce that fast. You know, some authors (and you can look this up, there are a number of them) only write a novel once every several years, some go a lot longer. Maybe November isn’t a good month for them to have started such a project (it is the beginning of the holiday season after all).

The failure rate can be broken down by the expectation of the goal. 50,000 words in 30 days breaks down to 1666 words a day. Let’s say you devote four hours a day during November that works out to a little over 400 words for each of the four hours. Given that there are 60 minutes to an hour, that breaks down to about roughly seven words a minute.

That isn’t too bad and is probably in the ballpark of what the average paid writer does.

The lamest complaint I heard was that it produces a lot of crap (even the NaNo site itself says you’ll likely produce a lot of crap). Most of what I write is crap. But far be it for me to volunteer to be the standard, most writers I’ve read who have discussed their craft say most of what they produce is crap. You just don’t see that in the published work. Or, to be fair, they try not to let that be in their published work.

The familiar scene of the writer sitting at his typewriter in a battlefield of crumpled paper at his feet testifies to that. You know who wrote those scenes? Writers.

Some people talked of it as if it spelled the death of literature (as if we weren’t postmortem already). Does it? Let’s say of the supposed half million people that participate (number from 2015) 99.999% of it is crap written by people who should not write. Let’s remember, Random House has no obligation to publish any of this stuff. Is it perhaps worth it so that some 16 year old kid somewhere finds that, having participated, he has found his calling and produces great work later?

Can’t paint? Don’t go to art class then. Writing is for writers and if you are not already a writer, then don’t bother. I say stuff it elitist snob. It is completely harmless. Even if, and I would suspect there are some, you were only to participate once every year with no expectations of ever publishing something (you just enjoy the activity, the sharing, whatever) what of it?

Some people poo poo anything.

And I should actually start thinking about a project!


The Muses

I was watching the Tom Petty Documentary on Netflix the last two nights (it was four hours long). First, it was really good. Second, I didn’t know the man was such a bad ass – when he wrote “I Won’t Back Down,” he knew of what he spoke!

At one point near the end he was reflecting on ideas and where they come from. Like most artists he was rather vague about that. He was explaining how he had the basic guitar part for a song down (I can’t think of the song right now) and he’s playing the part in the interview. And he says he just had that, only that for weeks. He knew it was good and so he just kept playing for weeks on end at night, so much so people were banging on their walls for him to please play something else!

Then weeks later something came to him and the rest just snowballed into place.

Now this is normal, I have heard that said by numerous people. But he also said he never wanted to examine that aspect – about what exactly happens – for fear of scaring it away. His point was that there is a mystery to it, and if you look into it, it will go away.

[Note: I think I may be combining many different interviews during the documentary into one, but they belong together even if he never said them together.]

I used to be of the exact opposite opinion. Back when I was an Objectivist there were these tapes that Ayn Rand had made in the 1950’s called the The Art of Fiction. This was basically an informal gathering of her acolytes as she pontificated on the artistic process. The tapes were made available for sale from the Ayn Rand bookstore and I purchased them. Her view was entirely the opposite of the “mystical” view or even the time-honored “Muses” view.

Her view was that you should know exactly where your inspiration comes from. That you purposefully and explicitly stuff your subconscious to get the results you want.

Rand was an avowed enemy of what we generally mean by inspiration which has at least some part spontaneity. And there was certainly no such thing as just sitting down and jamming something out. No, you had to have something first, you had to have a plan. She deliberately mocked some writer for saying she liked to take a group of characters and toss them in the air and see what they say and what they do.

I grant that such a writer would probably produce some loose, not very interesting stuff unless extremely talented. But there has to be a happy medium there somewhere.

It was the front end that was bad in her advice. You had to have a purpose, a theme, a plot. You had to have your miners cap on and your microscope piercing every single aspect of your project.

The problem with her advice was she made the pre-writing stages mechanical like preparing a dissertation. Art is not essay, although there may be an art to the essay. So mechanical that I rarely reached the stage where her advice was rather good – actually the only way you can actually execute writing itself.

The whole twelve hour course had this good piece of advice:

β€œTo master the art of writing, you have to be conscious of why you are doing things β€” but do not edit yourself while writing. Just as you cannot change horses in the middle of a stream, so you cannot change premises in the middle of writing. When you write, you have to rely on your subconscious; you cannot doubt yourself and edit every sentence as it comes out. Write as it comes to you β€” then (next morning, preferably) turn editor and read over what you have written.”

Now this is entirely true. Whatever preparation you have or have not done, whatever research you have done or not done, how clear you are on what you are doing or how confused, when it comes time to clack that keyboard you have to go with what you have or you cannot write.

At some point the crowd and the band are waiting and you have to take the stage or fail the grade.

Knowing the difference between preparation and execution was the only good piece she offered in that. The rest served to stifle the mystery that is the spark itself.

It was not until years later that I noticed (and this was not until after I decided that I didn’t need a fucking pre-thought out theme and plot to start writing) that no one that packed that apartment of hers in the late 50’s ever achieved anything at all in the field of fiction writing. Not a single one. So-called Objectivists releasing fiction didn’t occur until the 80’s and they were too young to have attended those courses. And I read some of those books and they were AWFUL. They were as awful as the 598th hair band of the 80’s!

It was many years before I rejected her teaching on this subject. It was too self-focused. Too process focused. Not enough diving into the river and being driven by it. Too much self. Not enough giving over of self to that which drives. Which, at this point in time, I am happy to say is the Muses. Why not?

I know endless people that have the same approach in regards to others. I call them the eternally lonely. So possessed are they of their own proclivities and likes and dislikes they can never connect with another person. They cannot be taken. Others are always giant intrusions to the buffeted self, the important self.

Presentism: Lightening Brainstorm of Time Theories

[With quick break to look up script for Spaceballs!]

I was reading an interesting theological article about time and eternity. It starts with defining three theories or ontological views of time: Presentism where only the present is real, Growing-block where the past and present are real but the future is not, and Eternalism where the past, present and future are all real.

I have not studies this issue in depth although the seeming impossibility to a solution intrigues me.

I naturally lean towards the third, Eternalism, only because the first two are so overly problematic. However, looked at from a non-theological view, Eternalism seems an impossible concept. Is there any meaningful way to say the future is in any way real? What would that mean? I predict that upon further inquiry finding a meaningful way to say that would make Eternalism the winner of the three – if these three exhaust the possibilities. Note: I didn’t see offered a view that only the present and the future are real.

I have trouble imagining an argument where the past (with its memories, artifacts, etc) could be said not to be real but the future that has not occured yet would be.

So, the reason (on surface reflection) I would tend toward Eternalism is that the first two choices are really the same choice. And that is because of the deficiency of Presentism. It is comically represented (sort-of) in Mel Brooks’ 1987 Star Wars spoof Spaceballs (I love this scene!)

the radar.

HELMET (mask down) Have you found them yet?

CORPORAL No, Lord Helmet. They’re still not on the scanners.

HELMET Well, keep looking for them. (drinks coffee through his mask)

SANDURZ Pardon me, sir. I have an idea. Corporal, get me the video
cassette of Spaceballs-the Movie.

CORPORAL Yes, sir.

CORPORAL walks to a wall labeled, “Mr. Rental.” The wall
opens. He looks through the selections.

HELMET Colonel Sandurz, may I speak with you, please?

SANDURZ Yes, sir.

HELMET (lifts up mask) How could there be a cassette of Spaceballs-
the Movie. We’re still in the middle of making it.

SANDURZ That’s true, sir, but there’s been a new breakthrough in
home-video marketing.

HELMET There has?

SANDURZ Yes. Instant cassettes. They’re out in stores before the
movie is finished.

HELMET Naaaaa.

CORPORAL Here it is, sir. Spaceballs.

SANDURZ Good work, Corporal. Punch it up.

CORPORAL starts the tape. It starts on the FBI Warning.

SANDURZ Started much too early. Prepare to fast-forward.

CORPORAL Preparing to fast-forward.

SANDURZ Fast-forward.

CORPORAL Fast-forwarding, sir.

Starts fast-forwarding through the ludicrous speed scene. Helmet is
thrown into the panel at a high-speed.

HELMET Nnnnno. Go past this, past this part. In fact, never play
this again.

SANDURZ Try here. Stop.

The movie stops at the exact same thing that is actually happening
now. HELMET looks at the camera, then he turns back to the monitor.
SANDURZ looks at the camera when HELMET looks back at the monitor,
then he looks back at the monitor. HELMET looks at the camera when
SANDURZ looks back at the monitor. When HELMET turns back, he waves
his hand. He turns back to the camera.

HELMET What the hell am I looking at? When does this happen in the

SANDURZ Now. You’re looking at now, sir. Everything that happens
now, is happening now.

HELMET What happened to then?

SANDURZ We passed then?


SANDURZ Just now. We’re at now, now.

HELMET Go back to then.





SANDURZ I can’t.


SANDURZ We missed it.


SANDURZ Just now.

HELMET When will then be now?

Presentism is stuck in a paradox of Zeno trying to Continue reading “Presentism: Lightening Brainstorm of Time Theories”

IT – Postscript


I finally finished IT by Stephen King tonight. Took almost a solid month. But at 1477 pages that is about four regular sized novels in a month so… not bad.

First the bad. I could have done without the chapter with the prepubescent gang bang. I think King must have put a giant rail up his nose that night. The kids lost in the underground sewers after thinking they have defeated IT but they have lost their “magic” upon defeating their foe and cannot find their way out of the maze of tunnels. So Beverly, eleven years old, suggests a different sort of magic. And coaxes her six male friends to take turns fucking her one by one. This serves as the reinvigorated magic that leads them out of the sewer system.

I am not joking. Oh sure, he makes it sound “nicer” than my brief description and uses the word ‘love’ and I suppose they all loved each other in their child-like ways.

But dude, these are eleven year-olds! Six boys taking a ride on single eleven year old girl. One of them is actually mature enough to achieve orgasm. And I had to read how sticky and sore Beverly’s thighs were.

That’s fucked up right there. I could have done without that.

The theme is both in the vein of C.S. Lewis and King’s familiar refrain of the importance of friendship and love (which would have stood perfectly fine without the kiddie orgy I talked about above). The Lewis vein is basically the kids defeated IT as children but did not destroy it. They defeated it as children open to magic. However, twenty-seven years later IT has healed or reawakened and by a promise they made they are sworn to come back to their small Maine town of Derry to try and destroy it once and for all. But now they are of middle-age. Can they destroy it now that their childhood magic has left them?

This plays out as best as one can do I suppose. What really worked for the book is the length, so you really got seeped into the town, the history of the town (all tied, in the crazy King way, with the clown Pennywise) and each of the characters. Also the multiple storylines that converged on the climax and the multiple storyline/time shifts so you were following two or three separate storylines paralleled decades apart. I read on Amazon reviewer complaints about this and that it was confusing and messed up the story. Stick to Green Eggs and Ham, kids. That was easy to follow and added tension.

I also liked the way he made the time shifts flow into one another. So, perhaps a chapter ended by one of the characters in 1958 calling, “Eddie!” and the next chapter, starting with Eddie turning around but in 1985. It was not time-travelling merely shuffling between two different points in time. I liked that.

Along with such books of his like Christine and The Tommyknockers King repeats his thematic accent on the importance of friendship and the pain of its loss. Here the touch was bitter sweet because (SPOILER!!) the loss was through amnesia after the defeat of IT. I also like how the amnesia was so woven through both timelines that when the final forgetting and the loss of the friendships started at the end it seems natural, inevitable, and, therefore, sad.

It was a good, long read. You have to be a reader of faith however because the journey is long. I have faith King would pay me off and he did. Even if he turned my stomach with the kid sex thing.

R.I.P. Tom Petty

I know, a little late (see post above).

I can say I was a fan of Tom Petty’s music. I cannot say I was an active fan… until now.

What do I mean when I say I wasn’t an active fan? Well, it didn’t strike me until after he died. I was talking about it with my wife and it occured to me that I had never even bought a Tom Petty album. The man never made a dime off me in record sales. Although he did indirectly throughout the years via radio and television (in the form of MTV in the 80’s).

And that is the point I make here. It never occured to me to buy a Tom Petty album. Tom Petty was everywhere. And, given my age, Tom Petty was always there – from the beginning. He was ubiquitous. When I was growing up, you didn’t go through an hour on your local rock station, and certainly never two, without a Tom Petty song. And this wasn’t a man with a hit album with a few songs we were stuck listening to over and over for decade after decade. This was a man (and the Heartbreakers, of course) that scored over and over and over. And in the 80’s he was on MTV in constant rotation.

His 1993 Greatest Hits album is not only 18 tracks long and contains all actual hits (most “greatest hits” albums are mostly filler) it doesn’t even contain all his hits. Missing is Jammin’ Me, Yer so Bad, Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around (with Stevie Nicks) A Woman in Love and several others.

I went back (because those stations don’t exist anymore even though I still hear some of his songs in the bar still…) and listened again to some of his early songs. I was struck by how good these songs are. A lot of them are about things that people actually care about like a man’s girl as in Here Comes My Girl. Man, if you don’t like that song, we haven’t music to discuss together. Breakdown is another good one. One of my favorites is the song that was an MTV staple You Got Lucky.

And his original band Mudcrutch was pretty good too! That is a name twenty years ahead of its time, sounds like it should have come out of Seattle in 1991.

Anyway, I felt bad about his passing. I feel as if I treated the man like a comfy couch I never really looked at but enjoyed. I’m actively listening now.

Rest in Peace and God bless.