Monday, August 12, 2013

Doctor Who's Hammer

Feeling the urge to mock Doctor Who , that great British Science Fiction Fantasy Sitcom. Despite its uncommon popularity, much about the show remains a mystery to its watching public.

The Doctor (as he is always called; the show is too modern to use surnames) is an alien who is exactly like humans in every way except he can reincarnate without having to come back as a bug. "Time Lords" are lords of time that suck at controlling it, since they all died out except for the Doctor, which leaves a lot of questions about the intelligence of the race.

Any species which thought these hair styles a good idea couldn't have been on the right side of natural selection

The main villains in Doctor Who are cyborg woodchucks who threaten to eat the TARDIS, the Doctor's flying phone booth time machine. "Phone booths" were strange little buildings where people cloistered themselves to use cellphones that where tied to the ground. They were in fact used for this purpose before ever being drafted into service as time machines for wandering humanoid aliens.

The Doctor's primary weapon of defense is a screwdriver modified to do everything with no explanations or limitations. Little known to most fans, however, is that the Doctor originally wielded devices such as a Radical Wrench, a Japanese Jigsaw, a Dampened Drainplug, and a Wholesome Hammer.

"Pass me the Japanese Jigsaw, Miss Anna Beth Tyler-Moore-Smith! The universe depends upon it." 
- Early Doctor Who Quote

Every Doctor Who plot arch ever: The doctor acts like a 12-year-old and destroys the lives of all his companions. For someone as old as he is, he gets shown up by a lot of girls in their early 20s. Girls whose lives he shatters in revenge.

The Doctor isn't finished with his friends until he can leave them in convulsing grief or death

But the main problem with Doctor Who isn't the corny monsters, suspensions of logic, or hyperactive exposition. It's the gap between the show's quality and its fans' fanatical devotion. Firefly, anyone?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Novel Update: Lessons from My Magician

I'm still typing away on my 2012 NaNoWriMo novel, currently called The Magician. Since November, it has grown from 50,000 to 66,000 words, and I am only now beginning to draft the peak of the action.

Here are a few things I've learned this year from my magician and his world:

Stick with Simple Edits

Once a month of 1,000- to 3,000-word days has drawn to a close, a change of pace is almost mandatory. My way of doing this is reading through the manuscript and finding all the fun little fixes. This includes a few types of errors:

  • Spelling
  • Homonym
  • Grammar
  • Wording/Style
  • Continuity

Every time something catches my eye, I mark it on a printed manuscript. So many marks. Once I finish this process (some time in March this time around), I enter in all the corrections that take under a minute or two into my Scrivener project file. Any edit or gap in the prose I skip finds its way onto a sheet of lined paper.

Find the Big Edits and Put Them Aside

That piece of paper becomes the list of To-Dos for the book. It also represents a great temptation. I had made it halfway through the easier edits of the list when I realized I had fully yielded to that temptation, that is, to rework my writing before it's written.

These more structural changes are important, but they need to take a back seat to the completion of the story. Spend time understanding how they can change your plot's outcome, but don't spend all your time getting that first 50,000 words to be perfectly formed before finishing the story. Which brings me to the main lesson I've learned about writing:

Just keep writing

It always comes down to this. If you want to write a book, then write that sucker. Not only is this more productive than grappling with all the frustrating passages that just don't sound right, it's also incredibly rewarding. Maddeningly so. I never feel more alive than when I'm spinning out a scene where everything seems to be clicking and the action and characters are melding just as you wish. The intensity of this feeling makes me regret I don't spend every day writing cool stories.

This is why writers don't need drugs.

As I continue to plug away at the last chapters of my book, I've promised myself I will only go forward. No edits until the end. Until then, however, I'm turning off the internet and breaking out the coffee and tea.