March novel, second attempt – started

I actually worked on the plot for this novel a bit the other day, but I started writing it tonight.

Not much to say, really. I know how the story starts and I know who the basic characters are. I know more or less what they’re going to end up doing, but not how they’re going to do it. I didn’t plot this one past the hook; I decided to wait until I actually have a chunk of the story written.

I picked 40,000 words as an arbitrary word count goal for this story—because then I can still honestly say it’s a novel, even if it is a damn short one—but I have the feeling that’s going to grow once I flesh the plot out. If it doesn’t grow, maybe I’ll actually finish it before April so I can have a clean Camp NaNo.

This story is going to be very heavy on action and not so much on character growth, and I write action very quickly, sometimes approaching 2000 words an hour if I’m really rolling. With 13 days left including today… almost exactly 3000 words a day from here on out. Doable. Just not likely. If I do get it done, I suspect it’s going to be one of my messier first drafts.

Well, I’ll give it my best shot.

Time spent today: 0.78 hours
Total time spent: 1.63 hours
Word count: 1064/40,000 words
2.7% complete

Novel Update #6 – admitting defeat (for now)

I don’t know how to write this story.

I really like the idea. I think the plot is solid. But the story revolves around an unusual relationship I don’t know how to sell, and without that… there’s really no point in writing the rest of it. Without that relationship working well, there’s no motivation for the main character. And without believing in the main character’s motivation… I can’t write good scenes.

I’ll come back to this later for sure, but the point of my “write a novel straight through” project is to build good habits (e.g. writing consistently, writing to completion) and break bad ones (e.g. starting new stories when I’m stuck just to hit my daily wordcount goal). I don’t think it’s valuable to force myself to grind away at a story I’m not ready to tell. I’m not exactly short on ideas, after all, and I’m not very far into this one.

So I’m going to switch to something new, to a story I do know how to tell, while I let my subconscious figure out how to tell this story. I’m not sure if I’ll start from scratch or continue one of my shorter works. Starting from scratch is more in the spirit of the thing, but we’ll see. I have several short stories that stand okay on their own, but could very easily be turned into hooks for novels, and after reading through those last night I’m pretty tempted to take that path.

Novel update #5 – took the day off yesterday (1.0%)

Okay, I’ll be the first to say this looks like a really bad start to writing a 60,000 word novel in 24 days. Three days down and I’ve only written ~600 words. But ya know, sometimes I just need to take some time off to chill out and watch anime.

I didn’t take the day completely off, but I only worked for about an hour. I spent some time tweaking the time-tracking application’s style and then wrote 355 words in 20 minutes. That’s just about on pace, and quite good for the beginning of a story. I’m happy with a 1000 word per hour pace, but normally the first hour or two in a story is more like 500-600 WPH because I have to think up a lot of stuff on the fly. This time, when I need to invent something unexpected it just comes to me. Feels good.

Time spent today: 1.03 hours
Total time spent: 6.88 hours
Word count: 595/60,000 words
1.0% complete

A theory about the block-happy e-celeb mindset

There’s a particular kind of behavior I’ve noticed over the last couple years that manifests itself in e-celebs, and it essentially goes like this: the e-celeb says something that prompts an interaction, possibly the first interaction the individual asking the question or making the comment has ever had with said e-celeb, and the individual is immediately blocked.

I recently made the public assertion that I had been blocked by “almost all” of the e-celebs I’ve interacted with, but on reflection, that’s not true. It’s actually completely wrong and the more I think about it the more I realize how many positive interactions I’ve had vs negative. But in the moment I was thinking about just those negative interactions because that was the subject at hand.

For example, Mark Kern has always been cool, both to me on the handful of times I talked to him and to everyone else. Tom Nichols, for all he’s an enormous douchebag, didn’t block me for calling him out about his arrogance toward rural people, and I respect his willingness to mix it up with the crowd. I’ve had very positive interactions with various veteran semi-e-celebs. OTOH, Razorfist blocked me for talking to someone else in a comment thread, because I expressed exasperation with Razorfist’s tendency to call popular media properties ripoffs based on weak evidence. If you’ve followed the guy at all, you know what I mean. There were a couple other insta-blocks by e-celebs whose names I can’t recall precisely enough to mention them. And most recently, Vox Day publicly smeared me by pigeonholing me as an obsessive butthurt gamma self-appointed fact-policeman over a single imprecise paragraph in a comment, despite having been around his blog for years without issue. That escalated into him deleting another comment and misrepresenting it when I angrily defended myself against the insult, alluded to its kafkatrap nature, and pointed out I had been around since at least 2016 and nobody had ever pinned the gamma label on me before.

That last interaction is what clued me in to what was going on.

Vox clearly did not know who I was—I’d changed my Blogger name since 2016 and had been commenting much less frequently than I used to—because if he had, he could not have reasonably labeled me the way he did. I don’t mean I’m obviously special and he would recognize that or anything silly like that. It’s just there’s far too much evidence of me not acting like a gamma for the slur to hold up. As I alluded to in the comment he deleted from his blog, it’s like accusing a former infantryman who was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge and who saw a fair amount of combat of being a coward. He knows he’s not a coward. Everyone else knows he’s not a coward. You can’t then relabel him a coward because of a single comment he made. If you’re intellectually honest at all, you have to stop to ask if maybe he misspoke or maybe you misunderstood him.

So here’s my theory: the block-happy e-celebs don’t actually view the people they don’t know as individuals. They view the people of the world in two blocs: the group made up of individuals whose names they recognize and have at least some feelings about, good or bad; and the faceless mass of humanity that makes up everyone else. The second bloc is just a nebulous other, and the actions of one other are attributed to all. So when you ask the wrong innocent question as an other, when you express dissent or do anything else that annoys them when they don’t know who you are, such e-celebs don’t stop to ask what your intentions are or if maybe you’re someone they should listen to. They assume they already know that your intentions are nefarious, that you’re just a nitpicking asshole timewaster, that you’re a meltdown waiting to happen, and it’s better to just remove you from the equation now. After all, that’s what the other always does.

Except, of course, the vast majority of the people in the other are not like that at all, and acting as if they are makes you look like a fucking nutcase. Of course people are going to react negatively to you if, the very first time they ask a question, you attack them or block them. But the problem isn’t with those individuals, it’s with you. You can’t handle the attention of large numbers of people. You’re demanding that everyone else conform to your expectations instead of accepting reality as it is and putting up the necessary shields to avoid the inanity of the masses. And that’s just crazy.

I’m not blaming the e-celebs who block people willy-nilly for their visceral reaction to the masses. I think it’s a fairly natural one, though obviously it’s not universal*. Humans aren’t designed to interact with thousands of different people; we’re designed to function in small, close-knit tribal groups.

What I will blame them for is wanting to have their cake and eat it too.

If you open yourself up to the masses, then demand everyone else follow your rules even if they don’t know what the rules are and punish them by cutting them off before they can even get their feet under them, you’re the problem, not them. And you’re just fucking yourself over by doing it, because you’re turning away customers**. Failing to answer a question or ignoring a comment is perfectly understandable when you’re a big name. Hardly anybody will attack you for doing so, because they know you get tons of questions and comments. But blocking people over nothing? They’re going to remember that as a childish overreaction, and they’ll be reminded of it every time someone retweets you and they can’t see the content.

As far as actually attacking people verbally over minuscule unintentional offenses… Well, expecting people to just accept abuse because you’re a big shot and they’re nobodies is crazy, and using their negative reaction to your abuse as proof that they deserve to be abused is downright psychopathic.

This post isn’t just about other people, by the way, because I’m confident I would fall into the block-happy group myself if I had enough people talking to me and if blocking was the only option available. But it isn’t. If that’s the kind of personality you have, you’re better off recognizing reality and using different tools to manage your interactions than just cutting people off willy-nilly or, worse, openly attacking them over a single comment in punishment for the accumulated sins of the other.

*Perhaps it is near-universal and other people just have more self-control. Hard to say. I’m not a mind-reader.

**Or you might attack the wrong person and lose your NASA internship like that nutter did when they attacked Homer Hickam last year for daring to suggest the intern-in-waiting tone down their language in public when discussing NASA.

Novel update #4 – I wrote a time-tracking program

I didn’t write any fiction today, and I’m about to go to bed.

I’m just dog-tired and have been all day. I finally got to sleep around midnight last night—so I was up for 23 hours ignoring the light nap I took in the early evening—then woke up at 4:30 AM. What the hell is that? Four and a half hours is a lot less than the eight hours I need, brain.

As strange as it may sound, even though I can’t write for shit when I feel like this I can still program just fine, so I spent a few hours writing a time-tracking application. I want to track how I’m spending my time working on this novel to a ~5 minute granularity and this application removes a lot of the manual bookkeeping friction. Programmers… we’d rather spend three hours writing an application to make a repetitive task tolerable than spend one hour doing finicky drudge work*. Since I wrote the application specifically for this project, it counts against time spent on the novel even though I didn’t write a single word of fiction or otherwise work on the story today.

Two days blown and I’ve barely written anything. I need to hit ~2700 words a day from here on to finish this by the end of the month. Perfectly doable… assuming nothing too pressing comes up. I just need a solid night’s sleep and I’ll be back on the fiction-horse.

Time spent today: 3.00 hours
Total time spent: 5.85 hours
Word count: 240/60,000 words

*I wouldn’t be too surprised if the application actually saves me time in the long run. It probably won’t be much, but I bet I’ll come out ahead on this project alone. Shaving 10-15 seconds off a frequently repeated task adds up over the course of a month.

I learned two things yesterday…

Thing 1: It’s important to speak precisely at all times, especially on unfriendly ground. If you’re going to be attacked, at least make sure you’re attacked for what you actually meant to say. You likely will not get a chance to clarify your meaning.

Thing 2: Friendly ground can become unfriendly ground in the blink of an eye. Reacting as if you’re on friendly ground after that switch has been flipped will make things much worse.

MeWe is deader than disco

I guess that experiment failed. Le sigh. I liked MeWe a hell of a lot better than Twitter. I’ll actually use MeWe, whereas I refuse to spend time on Twitter. Twitter is poison.

But if I must, I suppose I can at least link my blog posts on Twitter. It’s too bad my main account was throttled for wrongthink because I actually have followers on that one. But there’s no point trying to build that account up, so I guess I need to start over. Fun.

A relevant quote by ESR

From Eric S. Raymond’s 2010 post Kafkatrapping:

One very notable pathology is a form of argument that, reduced to essence, runs like this: “Your refusal to acknowledge that you are guilty of {sin,racism,sexism, homophobia,oppression…} confirms that you are guilty of {sin,racism,sexism, homophobia,oppression…}.” I’ve been presented with enough instances of this recently that I’ve decided that it needs a name. I call this general style of argument “kafkatrapping”, and the above the Model A kafkatrap.

I don’t have to wonder what that feels like anymore.

Novel update #3 – the first words of the hook are written (0.4%)

Do you ever feel so exhausted all you want to do is sleep, but after dozing for a bit you wake up… and while you’re still exhausted, you’re no longer sleepy?

I hate it when that happens, and that’s what just happened to me. I think I dozed for about 90 minutes and then boom, wide awake again. Bugger. I read the second half of Children of the Jedi and ultimately had to get up to eat something when I couldn’t fall back asleep.

But I did write a little bit because of that. Not much, just 240 words, but I broke the ice. It’s always slow going at first, when I’m not sure what the environment looks like, when I’m still building the model in my head as I write. Once I get past the opening scene and understand what the ship my protagonist is on is shaped like I’ll be able to write the hook very quickly.

Here’s to tomorrow, when I’ll get some real writing done.

Time spent today: 2.85 hours
Total time spent: 2.85 hours
Word count: 240/60,000 words

Novel update #2 – the hook is plotted

As the title says, the hook is all plotted. It’s pretty solid, and it should run 4000-5000 words.

I don’t know if I’m going to get any writing done today after all. I’m freaking exhausted. I exercised a lot today, and didn’t get a full 8 hours of sleep after staying up late last night intentionally, trying to shift my sleep schedule back to a more normal one than “go to bed at 4 PM, get up at midnight”.

I suffer from a fairly serious case of non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder, so unless I have to get up for work at the same time every day, my sleep schedule cycles pretty quickly. Sometimes it shifts an hour a day, day after day. I can force myself to stay on schedule if I have a reason to, but there’s a productivity cost to that, since it actually means half the time I don’t get a full night’s sleep. Since I’m doing mind work (programming and writing) and can keep my own schedule, I prefer to just make sure I get plenty of sleep and deal with being on a weird schedule most of the time instead of blunting my mental edge with daily sleep deprivation.

Obviously I should try to solve the problem, and I’m working on it. I definitely need to get it sorted out before I try to start a family, right? Light therapy might work, so I’ll give that a shot as soon as I buy one of those HappyLights. I’m also going to experiment with blue light blocking lenses and spend a lot less time actually looking at a screen within 3-4 hours of my target bedtime. Melatonin is almost certainly off the table, because I’m not interested in lactating (melatonin supplements can increase prolactin levels in men) or otherwise messing with my hormones, and I understand it doesn’t really help sighted people with my problem anyway.

Aaaanyway. I’ll go for a bit of a walk and then write something, but I’m definitely not hitting 4000 words today. I’ll be happy to hit 1000, the way I feel right now. I can barely keep my eyes open sitting in a recliner.

Time spent today: 2.5 hours
Total time spent: 2.5 hours
Word count: 0/60,000 words