Tag Archives: The Project


Originally I started to write this entry and titled it ‘Mission Accomplished’ because, in a way, that’s true – I did get a complete draft of The Project done on the schedule I set in my last post and sent out to the Eager Volunteers.  However, I think for all time the words ‘mission accomplished’ will forever recall George Bush on the aircraft carrier and maybe that’s a useful association because a lot of times when our impulse is to think that something is done it is far from it.

So it is with this writing project.  While I am genuinely pleased that I have – for the first time ever – ‘finished’ a novel-length piece of writing, in the sense of continuing on with it until it is (in a broad sense) a complete story, it isn’t done.  I mean, you can read it through from the beginning to the end and it isn’t missing any bits or have any of my beloved ‘COME BACK AND FIX LATER’ notations in it.  However, I am also conscious that it is very rough, likely needs a lot of work to make proper sense to anyone that isn’t me, and probably needs a lot of additional love and care to make into something that might read well.

‘Finished’ is therefore an optimistic exaggeration and so would ‘mission accomplished’ have been.  In a way (and I remember this from the thesis writing process) the next steps will be potentially harder because, for me at least, editting is not as satisfying as the raw creation process of writing from scratch.  But it’s probably (again judging from the thesis) more important in its way.

I am fortunate in already having something to get started on – one of the Eager Volunteers already read the thing and sent back some very thorough comments.  Now I have to find time to spend on them and the writing, and that will be the next challenge for the next while.

However, going to try to stick to not finding time, but making time.  I’ll let you know how it goes.


p.s. If you’re wondering about the time lag (and lack of posts) between last time and this time, the answer is ‘a lot of germs’ and ‘bedridden’ and I am going to give myself a pass on that one.  So there.

WORD COUNT: 88, 551

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Thing 1 and Thing 2

A couple of things from the last little while working on the project.  The first is that apparently the principle of inertia applies to writing as well.  What I mean is that on days (and there haven’t been that many) when I absolutely do not feel like writing, but make myself do it anyway (avoiding internet scolding) there is a tipping point past which the feeling that I don’t want to write goes away and things start to move along just fine.  It’s overcoming that relatively brief stage of not wanting to do it that is the hard part.

I guess this may always have been true, which makes me wish I had been a little less laissez-faire about things in days gone by.  On the other hand though, I think it may be that my experiences spending summer days with the microfilm machine or reading articles all day every day to get ready for a seminar or supervision may have given me a level of persistence I didn’t have before.

Either way, it’s kind of a nice thing to have figured out, now, because now when I don’t feel like writing at all, at least in the back of my mind I know that if I drag those first few sentences out of me, eventually things will improve.

Thing #2 is kind of a happy accident.  One of my Eager Volunteers let me know that a scene in the second chunk I sent out that I thought had problems did indeed have those problems.  So that’s mostly not good news, although at least I was right about the problems!  The good part is that when I sat down to go about fixing it I wrote some stuff that at least for now I feel is pretty good.  (We’ll see if Statler and Waldorf get to work on it, but for now they’re quiet.)  The scene still isn’t fixed, of course, but I wrote some stuff that I wouldn’t have if not for it being screwed up in the first place, so overall, I will take it.

Word Count: 36,885

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William Gibson and Writing Crisis #1

Slightly over a week in now.   Things are going all right although I did have to push today to get to the 1,000 words.  That’s good though, that’s the point of the exercise.  Anyway I still don’t know exactly what to do with this blog outside of word count updates so here’s something I wrote about one of my favorite authors.


Somewhere out there (and I fervently hope the answer is “in a landfill”) is a purple spiral-bound notebook containing numerous probably (and perhaps fortunately) illegible stories written by a 17 year-old trying very hard to be William Gibson.   Gibson was probably my first ‘favorite author’ in the sense of an author who I admired for their style of writing and their skill at the craft as opposed to just thinking ‘hey that was a good book so this person must be a good writer I guess’.  I mean I remember writing down Terrence Dicks and Malcolm Hulke as favorite authors for something at school once but that was because they did novel adaptations of Doctor Who and Doctor Who was about my favorite thing at the time.  I kind of doubt I would have gotten the same level of enjoyment out of something else that they wrote, I just liked Doctor Who and so books involving Doctor Who were my favorite ones.

On the other hand William Gibson, once I got reading his stuff, I enjoyed on just about every level and even though the stories I read first were cool SF-y adventures (and thus, more or less in my wheelhouse), after the first one I was actively looking for more William Gibson to read, not more cool SF-y adventures.  So he’d be the first author I think I genuinely admired for themselves or their own work.  Maybe Susan Cooper should be in there, although again I haven’t read anything of hers outside of The Dark is Rising series and never felt any inclination to, so again, it’s not really the same.

Anyway, Gibson knocked my socks off.  I spent many lunch hours in high school in the library reading their copy of Neuromancer, which I would stash in a potted plant so that no-one could borrow it before I had a chance to finish it.  (This eventually led to a tragically damaged copy of Neuromancer after it turns out someone watered those plants from time to time.)  I’m not sure why I didn’t borrow it myself – perhaps the idea of bringing home a book that has an orgasm in it was not something I was prepared to contemplate at that stage – but anyway I didn’t.  But I did read it, love it, and set out to read everything by Gibson that I could get my hands on.

Eventually, Neuromancer did make it home because I did an OAC English project on it, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive, which may or may not have been crap but I was super into this writing.  I eventually reached a point where I owned two copies of Burning Chrome, and I still don’t exactly understand how that happened.  But both copies travelled with me through several moves and sat there next to each other on the shelf because it was William Gibson and you don’t just get rid of that stuff.

Unfortunately (as I see it now) in admiring Gibson so much I set out to write stories that were basically William Gibson stories, and filled that spiral-bound notebook (along with various other places) with my own attempts at near-future cyberpunky dystopian tales that even at the time I had a deep and nagging certainty simply did not work, though I didn’t understand why.

I didn’t figure it out until very much later, although in retrospect I think the answer had been coming for a while.  The final penny drop was related to a story I wrote called ‘Virtually Dead’ which was supposed to open in Vladivostok.  I have no clear recollection as to why I chose Vladivostok except that a) that sure was far away b) the name is cool and c) (although I’m sure I would have denied it at the time) Gibson stories take place in  Unusual Locations.  Anyway my creative writing professor immediately observed that what I had described was ‘nothing like Vladivostok’.

Now my first reaction was to wonder what, exactly, were the chances that I would end up with a professor who had been to freaking Vladivostok, but as this criticism (valid, I do not doubt) percolated a bit I realized the problem.  I had never been to Vladivostok, and just had a vague idea of a story that I wanted to be international (also for vague, Gibson-tinged reasons) and so threw it into an international location I knew almost exactly nothing about.  And herein was the problem with trying to write William Gibson stories (leaving aside the whole problem of being a derivative parasite of course) – Gibson’s stories about shady underworld characters and the margins of society work because he actually spent parts of his life with shady underworld characters from the margins of society.

My stories had an indelible taint of lameness all over them because I had grown up in a reasonably affluent bedroom suburb in Southern Ontario and the closest thing I had yet come to an underworld character was that one guy in my Grade 7 class who shoplifted M.U.S.C.L.E. Things from Zeller’s.  (Although he was pretty hardcore about it – he got the big boxes that had like 50 of them in it, not the little ones)  Basically I was trying to write about things that I had literally no experience at all with, had no idea what they were like (aside from what I had gleaned from William Gibson novels of course) so what I was producing was like a bad photocopy of someone else’s depictions.  This clearly Would Not Work and Had to Go.

This became Writing Crisis #1 – can I write interesting stories that are not based on shit I know nothing about?  Because honestly I have not had that exciting a life so perhaps there may be a problem unless I wanted to write about life in a suburban town – which I emphatically do not.  Anyway somewhere in the midst of my undergraduate period (after the creative writing classes) I decided the answer to Writing Crisis #1 was “no” and promptly didn’t write anything for a long time.

I have since revised my answer, perhaps obviously.  In part, the solution is just the ‘smoke that baby’ directive with which I began the blog – write the story, don’t let yourself be ‘carded’ by people who have been to Vladivostok, there is no admittance requirement for this particular ride.  However, there was still a problem with trying to write William Gibson stories – they weren’t my stories.  This is the key thing to smoking that baby, it seems to me.  Make sure it is, in fact your baby.

I was trying to emulate stories that I liked a lot, not creating a story of my own.  They were set in seedy urban environments and involved shady characters making questionable decisions because this is what happened in cool stories that I liked, but there wasn’t much of me in there, just ‘me too!’.  Ultimately I had to figure out a story I wanted to tell on its own merits, and then decide if it really needed to be set in Vladivostok, or not (It doesn’t).

So even if my efforts to write my own Neuromancer were ultimately ill-fated and ill-conceived, I still love William Gibson’s writing.  Even Distrust That Particular Flavor, which is a collection of columns he wrote for various publications, is great reading.  It is (I imagine – this is another on the long list of experiences I have not actually had) kind of like hanging out with an inscrutable learned master of some elevated philosophy, waiting for the next unprompted utterance to meditate on (Japan, again?  All right…) and determining what you’ll take away from it.  It’s an unquestionably odd experience, but well worth doing.

So yeah, I still really enjoy William Gibson and he is on the short list of writers whose books I will buy without knowing what they’re about – I just take it as read (har) that whatever it is will be good.  However, I don’t think I’m trying to be William Gibson anymore, which is probably just as well.


Word Count: 10,278.  Keepin’ on.

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100% Success

I really will not be updating this thing every day, but I thought I should make it clear that I didn’t immediately screw this thing up and did in fact achieve my goal for today.  It’s amazing, though,how immediately writing became A Thing once I had a daily quota to reach.  Getting started was genuinely a bit daunting as well now that it is officially for a project rather than just screwing around.

The good news is that I wrote a chunk of stuff, which I probably wouldn’t have otherwise done today.  So far, the plan (such as it is) is working.  I really will need to figure out more interesting things to write in the blog updates though.

Incidentally thank you to everyone who has read this and especially to everyone who has already given me encouragement and/or threats.  They’re much appreciated.


Word Count: 3,719   So there.

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Smoke that Shit

So this is all really Stephen King’s fault, if you are looking for someone to blame (this perhaps directed especially to my Eager Volunteers).  Those of who who have known me for a while will know I have written fiction on and off but nothing much of late, for a whole fleet of reasons we may get into another time.  However, I guess about two years ago I finally decided to read the Dark Tower series and even before I got to the part where the man in black fled across the desert and Ka is like a wheel I got to this foreward King wrote, entitled ‘On Being Nineteen (and a few other things)’.

Now I kind of figure Mr. King had a somewhat younger target in mind for this thing than me, but this essay (or whatever) really grabbed me by the throat.  Broadly it’s about following your heart and your passion (both of which are foremost in your mind at age nineteen) but he talks about writing specifically (no surprises) and the process of finishing The Dark Tower.  There’s a lot of stuff in there but his advice for young artists is pretty fantastic.

‘Let it rip regardless of what anybody tells you, that’s my idea, sit down and smoke that baby.’  This is something I wish I read when I was 19, or really ‘a while ago’ in general.  (Now I’ll accept that I may have been sent this message, or one much like it, one one or several occasions, and failed to hear it for whatever reason.  However, you’ll forgive me if I write this in a way that puts me in a slightly less dumbass light, won’t you?)  Even so, even if I was coming to it a little late, this had my attention.

I mean, there’s about a million reasons not to spend time writing fiction, including Writing Crises that will probably appear in later entries, but King’s advice to just smoke that shit is great.  Sure, there may not be any money in it, and you probably aren’t writing The Dark Tower or The Brothers Karamazov or whatever, but if you feel you’ve got that art in you then sit down and bang it out, regardless.  Ok.  All right.  Who am I to argue with Stephen King.

All of which to say: I have taken on a project, and the project is this:  Spend this summer writing a novel, and specifically to write a minimum of 1,000 words a day (roughly 4 pages) a day doing it.  I have told many people that 1,000 words is a mere nothing, so this should be easy, right?  Right.  I imagine some days I will grimly grind out precisely 1,000 words and then throw my computer into the street, and other days I will dash off higher amounts.  Either way, although hopefully there will be of the less computer-throwing days, by the end of the summer I should have 90,000 words, or thereabouts, which will be the bulk of a novel-length hunk o’ writing.

The purpose of the blog here (one of them anyway) is for me to be publicly accountable and liable for Heaping of Scorn if I fall short.  So every time I update (at least once a week) there will be a word count.  If I fall behind I overflow with confidence that I will get the static I would then so richly deserve.  This is to help me with overcoming the Problem, which we will discuss before long.  I have also enlisted some kind and eager volunteers to donate their time to editting and kicking the crap out of the work as I go along.

The endgame of the Project, though, is that once the it is finished, it will get e-published for anyone who wants to read it to be able to do so.  Now I read somewhere that e-publishing is separated from vanity publishing only a thin green line (e.g. you aren’t paying to publish) and I’m not sure I would argue that; I certainly will not claim to be Published should (when!  say ‘when’!) this is finished and e-published someplace.  That’s not what the Project is about.  This is a challenge to myself to write something to completion, and then I want to stick it somewhere where people who are interested can take a look at it and tell me what they think, and hopefully they will have enjoyed it or part of it or what have you.

Anyway I appreciate your indulgence in using you as a crutch to help keep myself on task.  I’m not entirely sure what I will write for updates but I’ll try to keep them readable.  With your assistance, this summer I will smoke this baby.


Word Count:  2,587.  This means I can take the next 2.5 days off!



Just kidding.