• Fictionlet

    Brigid stalked the edges of the party, looking like nothing so much as a panther looking for a baby rabbit to gobble down. Finally she spotted the rabbit in question, to wit Greg, who was in the center of a cluster of people, holding them spellbound as he told them some ridiculous anecdote. She instantly made her way to him.

    “…and so she pulled out a lighter and said, ‘Lean down here so I can set you on fire,'” Greg was saying, as Brigid elbowed her way through the crowd.

    “C’mon,” she said, grabbing his arm. “Let’s go.”

    “It’s only 9:30,” Greg said.

    “Yeah,” said Brigid, “which means I’ve been here a whole 45 minutes and my oath not to commit murder is wearing thin. Let’s go.”

    “Fine, fine,” said Greg, and turned back to the faces eagerly hoping for more snappy stories. “Sorry, all. But She Who Must Be Obeyed speaks, and I’m the one driving the car. Good night!”

    Coats retrieved, they slipped out into the night. “I do get tired of you wanting to end every party before it begins,” Greg said. “You realize these binges are my main point of contact with the outside world, right?”

    “Sorry,” said Brigid, as he unlocked the door. “Work has been bad. We’ll stay longer next time, I promise.”

    “I’ll hold you to that,” said Greg, as they got in the car.

    “For all your time spent alone, you know how to work a crowd,” Brigid said as they pulled out into traffic.

    “Well that particular crowd was not a particularly discerning bunch,” said Greg. “I’ve learned that the secret to success, is to only hang around people who are easily impressed.”

    “Uh huh,” said Brigid.

    -The Gneech

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  • Fictionlet

    “So,” said Greg casually, “what did Zelda say when her would-be rescuer was zapped by a strength-draining ray and couldn’t pick up his sword?”

    Brigid just looked at him, on the grounds that it was a no-win situation.

    Greg grinned. “You are the weakest, Link!”

    “Goodbye,” she said, and made for the next room.

    -The Gneech

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  • Fictionlet

    Greg shook his hand in the air. “Guh, you wouldn’t think stirring cookie dough would hurt so much.”

    “Worry not!” said Brigid, shoving her finger into the bowl and pulling it out covered in dough and chocolate chips. “Your sacrifice shall not have been in vain!” She greedily gulped down her prize.

    “You shouldn’t eat raw cookie dough!” said Greg. “You could get sick from it!”

    “No I couldn’t,” said Brigid. “It’s never actually happened to anyone in the history of ever.”

    “Of course it has,” said Greg. “There’s the well-known case of Silas Gunderson. In 1874, he was making cookies to comfort himself after having accidentally slashed his arm open on a sewer grate while trying to fend off the diseased rats who chewed off two of the fingers on his left hand. Took one bite of raw cookie dough, and dropped dead on the spot.”

    “What?” said Brigid. “That’s stupid. Even if you hadn’t just made that up on the spot, all that would mean was that he died while eating raw cookie dough, not from eating raw cookie dough.”

    “Well, yes, but still. Better safe than sorry, don’t you think?”

    “No, I so don’t,” said Brigid, scooping out another dollop with a large spoon.

    -The Gneech

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  • The First Rule of Write Club

    For the past two weeks, when not sending off job applications, most of my time has been spent writing another novel. I had intended to hold off until November and do it as a NaNoWriMo project, but for whatever reason the book said, “NOAP, you will write me NOW!” and so I have been. As of last night, I hit 20,000-ish words at the end of chapter seven, and I’m taking a “creative recharge and look back at the progress so far break” today before attacking chapter eight.

    I have to say, I am very pleased with how the book is coming along, and as far as this story is concerned, it’s about damn time. This story started out as a nugget of my Arclight Adventures comic project, then morphed into my Coventry idea, then emerged as its own thing, then got shelved, then informed the creation of Rough Housing, then got shelved again, and now has finally re-asserted itself with forcefulness that will not be denied. Verity and Tanya want their story to be told, and they want it to be told in the right way, dammit! And when characters yell at me that loudly, well, I’d be a fool not to listen. The book is coming fast, and solid, and fun, but also with a lot more depth and texture to it than I expected. As I tweeted last night, I think this is going to be my best book yet, and this is the one I finally feel is a good candidate for publication.

    The revamped Brigid and Greg novel is another good candidate, actually, and I may put that into the NaNoWriMo slot if this book is finished by then. That one would probably have been finished by now if the house sale hadn’t knocked me out of my groove.

    A major factor in this level-up of my writing craft has been Scrivener, which has turned building an outline/story structure from a horrendous pain into an absolute joy. For both the B&G book and the new one, I have started with five notecards:

    • Act One: Setup
    • Act Two: Conflict
    • Act Three: Rising Action
    • Act Four: Catastrophe/Falling Action
    • Act Five: Denouement

    Drilling down from each of these, I put in 4-6 more notecards with major story beats. On each of the story beat notecards, I then drill down and put 3-5 short scene summaries– not even whole sentences, just things like “Brigid and Isadora argue”. That whole process takes me a few days, and by the time I’m done I have a nice and solid skeleton to start hanging my story on. From there, it’s just writing out each scene as described in the summary, usually in a 500-1,500 word chunk, of which I can write around three on a “normal” working day and more on a really good day. Just looking at the math, you can see what happens: four scenes of 1,000 words each make a 4,000 word chapter; five chapters of 4,000 words each make a 20,000 word act; four acts of 20,000 words, plus a denouement that’s probably one or two chapters tops, make an 80,000-90,000 word novel.

    (Of course, nothing ever goes completely to plan. In the current story, in order to twist the emotional knife on a particular scene, I decided to elevate something that was basically speed bump in my outline into a major catastrophe, which in turn made complications that had to be coped with, but which had not been factored into the original plan. Using Scrivener, that was relatively easy to fix, basically by just shoving in some more notecards for new scenes or chapter. Since it’s just shoving little pieces around at the outlining level, it doesn’t feel like major plot surgery.)

    Anyway, I think that with this book, I will actually be making the transition from perennial dabbler to true professional novelist. Not just because of the quality of this piece, but because I now feel like I have the tools and the experience to repeat the performance. I can now confidently build a novel-length story, and I know both what I want out of the process and what the process will need out of me to pull it off. And honestly, I think that when I actually finish something my writing is as good as anybody’s out there.

    Building an audience, translating these books into earning a living, and all that stuff, is something else I will need to tackle, of course, as is integrating all of this with my desire to keep Suburban Jungle alive. But those are all topics for another day.

    -The Gneech

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  • Fictionlet

    Unfortunately, as she snuck out of the building, Brigid’s cellphone began vibrating stridently in her bag, which just told her she had a lot more hell to get through before the day was over. Pulling out the phone, she barked into it, “I’m not gonna say four hours until you give me details!”

    “Well that’s fine,” said Isadora’s voice on the other end. “I don’t want you to say four hours anyway! Why should I? It’s no skin off my nose.”

    “Ugh, sorry Mom,” said Brigid. “I thought you were someone else.”

    “Well I’m not,” said Isadora. “What’s more, I don’t intend to ever be.”

    “What’s up?” said Brigid, hauling her bag up onto the bus and waving her pass in front of the sensor.

    “I’m calling to issue yet another invitation,” said Isadora as Brigid collapsed into a seat. “Your Aunt Edna is hosting a family reunion two weeks hence.”

    “Oh, hell no,” said Brigid. “No thanks.”

    “What do you mean, ‘no thanks’?”

    “I mean Aunt Edna can go hump a pool toy. A team of Navy Seals couldn’t get me to go to that.” A woman sitting across from Brigid turned her head and blinked; Brigid just hunkered down into her seat.

    “Brigid!” said Isadora.

    “No way,” said Brigid.

    “She doesn’t have many years left in her, you know,” said Isadora.

    “You say that like it’s a bad thing,” said Brigid.

    “Don’t be cruel-hearted!” said Isadora.

    “Sorry, sorry,” said Brigid. “I’m just… Mom, I can’t take family right now.”

    “You’re supposed to take comfort and joy from your family!” said Isadora. “That’s what they’re for!”

    “Then I should have a comforting, joyful family for that,” said Brigid. “Not Disdain McJudgealot and the Fifteen Sneerers.”

    “I don’t even know what that means,” said Isadora. “In any case it doesn’t matter. We all have obligations, Brigid, and family is one of them. I understand that you don’t necessarily like them, and that can’t be helped. But you’ll be glad to have them later in life, take it from me!”

    Brigid just squeezed her eyes shut. Then, quickly pulling a bit of paper out of her bag, she rapidly crumpled it up in front of the microphone. “Sorry, what’s that mom?” she said. “You’re breaking up. What? WHAT?”

    “Don’t you try that crumpled paper trick on me you little–” was as far as Isadora got before Brigid had hung up on her.

    -The Gneech

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  • The Write Stuff

    Over the past few weeks, as my seemingly-never-ending house sale sits instead of going through, and my life is mostly packed up in boxes, I haven’t been able to work on art and have instead been working on one of my various mothballed novels (and making good progress, I’m very pleased to add). It is the long-theorized and twice-attempted Brigid and Greg novel, which includes several existing Fictionlets finally put into context, as well as the rest of the narrative that actually makes into a (semi-) coherent story.

    One of the new things I’ve been trying this time around is that I picked up a copy of Scrivener, which is a nifty hybrid of word processor and project management software for writers. The way it works is by creating a virtual corkboard onto which you “pin notecards,” which can be scenes, sections, notes, whole chapters, whatever suits you. You can shuffle them around, put them into “folders,” however you see fit.

    I may have gone a little nuts with it.

    I may have gone a little nuts with it.

    What I started with really was a list of scenes, some of which were existing Fictionlets, others were simply concepts or story beats I knew had to be hit. For lack of a better framework, I then created folders based on the five-act structure, and started putting scenes into them as made sense. Once I had the big picture worked out, I then drilled down into individual acts and created folders for individual chapters, and from there started writing specific scenes within the chapter folders. At the same time, I’ve been maintaining some other notes in Snowflake, mainly using the scene list and word-count database to get a big picture view of how long each chunk of story is compared to the others around it. It seems that the average scene in this book is about two pages long (~500 words), although a few whoppers are seven pages long (~1,750 words). The average chapter is running around 12 pages (~3,000 words), and I expect to have around 20-25 chapters, which should put me well into the 60,000-75,000 word range I was aiming for.

    Considering that even the Michael Macbeth novel I did for NaNoWriMo 2013 just barely squeaked over 50,000, I’m quite pleased with this state of affairs. I keep thinking of the preface to Thank You, Jeeves

    “…Writing my stories, I enjoy; it is the thinking them out that is apt to blot the sunshine from my life. You can’t think out plots like mine without getting a suspicion from time to time that something has gone seriously wrong with the brain’s two hemispheres and the broad band of transversely-running fibers known as the corpus callosum. It is my practice to make about 400 pages of notes before starting a novel, and during this process there always comes a moment when I say to myself, “Oh what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!” The odd thing is, that just as I’m feeling I must be getting a proposer and seconder, and put myself up for the looney bin, something always clicks, and after that, all is joy and jollity.”

    –P.G. Wodehouse

    Given my writing habits, that passage has been of everlasting comfort, to me! And so far, the passage has described my writing attempts very well, to which I say if it’s good enough for Wodehouse, then surely it’s good enough for me!

    -The Gneech

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