The Drought

It’s been a long time, far too long, since I’ve seen a good thick storm of ideas. Out in the fields the stories are looking parched, getting skinny instead of big and fat and prime for market.

The stalks of novellas are wilting, and the vignettes have all but dried up and blown away in the dusty hot winds of inevitable disappointment. There’s cactus novels in the hollows, hardy little organisms that can live on practically no ideas, but they’re hard to harvest with their writhing thorns, and harder to sell on the market.

I used to be able to pipe ideas in from the local stream, but that’s almost dried up now, and what remains is brackish with some kind of indigestible and sleazy substance floating across the surface. I tried filtering it but the filter clogs up and the pump burns out, and I’m left standing there in a cloud of broken mental processes and muck.

It’s been a long time, far too long, since I’ve seen a good thick storm of ideas. Even in my dreams the skies are clear and the landscape barren.

I wonder if I made a mistake in trying to be a farmer of thoughts.

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Ulysses and Daedalus Touch: Caveat Emptor

I was hoping that it would be easy to work on a document in Ulysses and Daedalus (when away from home), but I’ve found that it isn’t unless I like to work only with plain text documents, and not even Markdown.

To help understand what I mean, let me explain what I’ve been up to this morning.

I created a simple two document project with some semantic mark up in Ulysses, then I saved it to my Dropbox.

I opened up Daedalus and tried to open the document, then found that Daedalus will only import plain text files from a folder, and only one folder deep.

Since that didn’t work I then exported from Ulysses (Web Export, Markdown) – keeping in mind I had used the default Ulysses semantic markup of // and ++.

When I opened the text file I found that the Ulysses markup had been transformed to Markdown. All well and good, and so I imported into Daedalus.

I did some minor editing on the project in Daedalus, then exported the whole stack back out as ePub, PDF, plain text, and RTF (using the All-In-One option) to see what the output looked like.

ePub exported as the whole stack in one epub “page”, which I didn’t expect, whereas PDF exported as I kind of expected, with separate sheets of paper starting new pages. I had expected the ePub export to be one ePub file with multiple chapters, but a view at the code in Sigil shows that both documents were simply stuck together in the one chapter – there was a TOC which linked to both though.

Plain text was plain text, but when I imported the documents into Ulysses it ignores the Markdown syntax. It doesn’t even give me an option to specify that the file is in Markdown, and won’t open files with a .md extension (after manually changing it in Finder).

Importing the RTF file lost the Markdown formatting completely. I can deal with the one piece of paper as a file, but the loss of formatting is just silly when the RTF file has formatting.

As might be apparent from this post, I’m a bit disappointed. I hate to just whinge but I spent quite some time yesterday getting the impression from the Soulmen’s site and reviews on Google that I could edit a file saved in my Dropbox in either Ulysses or Daedalus and easily switch to the other, using Markdown as the bare minimum formatting option, and then export from either program to a nice clean (albeit minimal) ePub file – replacing the CSS later if need be.

It seems that either program will basically do what I expect it to on its own (aside from Daedalus’s whole stack in one ePub chapter flaw) but there’s no realistic way to work between the two.

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Writing Without Thinking

I’ve heard it said, and I used to think this often, that it’s hard to start writing a story.

Who are the characters? What’s their background? Where is the story set? At what point in this fictional setting are we introducing the reader, and when are we leaving?

All viable questions, but I find myself getting hung up on these details almost before I’ve begun.

Recently I’ve taken a new approach to writing, mainly as practice and giving my writing some inertia. I’ve been giving up on trying to create the details, and simply writing them down.

I’ll give you a moment to think about that and wonder if I’ve gone mad…

And now I’ll explain.

Something I discovered the last time I was sick with a virus that gave me a mild fever was that I could write with ease. The story idea flowed as though I was watching a movie in my head and simply transcribing it into text. Then I got well, and became extremely frustrated. The movie ended, the story stopped flowing, and my writing came to a screeching halt.

I had to wonder about this, and really wonder where the story came from? Re-reading it again, it’s obvious that I didn’t take the whole idea from somewhere else. It has elements of common ideas, such as the concept of magic and typical stereotypes, but the overall story is rather unique. I wrote it, but I didn’t know what part of my mind came up with the thing in the first place.

“John Darian looked into the pond and saw a submarine floating just under the surface, firing torpedoes at the impending doom of his favourite mottled goldfish.”

I wrote that without thinking about whether or not it made sense. I created that just now, without a care as to whether it goes anywhere.

“Bob Johnson and his wife were happy about their lives, but they couldn’t quite console their happiness with the existence of the blue parrot which stole their apples.”

Not sensible really, but it flows. It’s not trying to write a story, it’s letting the mind freewheel.

“I don’t like green peaches with sour cream. Eggs and blue bacon are more enjoyable when watching Io rise over Jupiter.”

Complete nonsense, but there’s a spark of a story in there, a potential trigger to a much larger tale.

Believe it or not, it’s working for me as a way of letting my ideas flow. In the last few weeks I’ve written three full length novels (60,000 to 75,000 words). They’re pure schlock and not really publishable, but they’re there. They exist, where as a few weeks ago they didn’t, and there was no chance for any of them to become an actual proper, publishable story. They have plots, and characters with surprising amounts of depth, and they exist in fictional locations with enormous potential for reuse and fleshing out.

Without thinking about what I’m writing and just letting it happen I’ve been consistently pumping out 15,000 words a day of useable ideas and concepts, characters which could be realistic with a little tweaking, and places which only need a little bit of editing to be almost locatable on a map.

I’ve found my trick to overcoming writers block. I don’t worry about what’s coming next, I just write it and ignore whether it makes sense or not; usually it does.

You’ll often hear people ask,

“How can I get started writing?”

And other people will answer,

“Start writing.”

I want to add a little addendum to this and say,

Start writing without thinking, and don’t criticise your work until the second draft. Become a reader, never quite knowing what’s coming up until your hands have written it, and maybe you’ll accidentally create something really good.

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New Directions

During the last few weeks I have spent far too much time worrying about personalising this site, tailoring a new WordPress theme, and putting my own mark on the web just the way I like it.

The silly part is, I didn’t have a clear picture of what I wanted here, and I shouldn’t have been banging my head against the wall trying to figure it out when there’s books to be written and life to be lived.┬áSo no more agonising about this site’s look and feel.

It’s time for me to stop fiddling about and start doing what I set out to do at the start of the year – write a novel, hopefully the first of many more to come.

I’ve also removed all the old posts, after backing them up just in case. There was too much grumbling and bitching and moaning and carrying on about things irrelevant to my writing goals, and so I’ve thrown them away.

Instead the focus of this site is now to share news of my goals, publish random little snippets of fiction which just occur to me unbidden at all hours of the day or night, announce the publication of my books as they’re completed and put on sale, and hopefully share writing information and tips with other aspiring authors as I gain more experience in the field.

This whole venture is new and scary to me, but potentially wonderful too.

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