So we are past the halfway point to the end of #NaNoWriMo and I’m sitting here thinking, WHY? WHY! WHY?! did I decide I could do this with a week long business trip to Write on the River to work with Bob AND right after hand surgery that has a 6 month recovery!? Here are images of my hand today at PT. It’s actually healing very nicely. I have to wear a removable cast for another 2 months, but I’m starting to get some mobility back.
Okay, so the business part? Very productive. Bob and I went through our entire list. We made lists and wrote out a business plan. Cool Gus was very interested in the entire process.
I wrote about 10k words while I was there as well. But I’m only about 30k words in and now that PT has started? Well, lets just say that the nerves in my hand are preventing me from writing a longer post. Really. I had no idea that hand surgery would be worse than knee surgery. Of course, I essentially had a joint replacement, so there is that.
And now we’re facing Thanksgiving. Well, its not at my house, so all I have to do is bake cookies! Yay! But still. November is rolling to an end.
I’m honestly not stressing over whether or not I get the 50k in. What I’m focusing on is that I’m writing every day. Something that has been eluding me for the last five years and by the end of the year I will have finished 2 books! I haven’t done that since 2009. Progress. I’m happy.
How is NaNo going for you?
Here is part of my current work in progress. Please remember it is a DRAFT and I myself have not read it because I’m focusing on putting words on the page. I will edit in December.
* * * *
“What are we going to do today Dr. Dewey?”
“What do you want to do?” It had only been three weeks into her new job and Dr. Fedora Dewey felt like she’d finally found a home. Her new lab was state of the art. She had access to the most powerful technology known to man and a team of qualified scientists, psychologists, and computer programmers at her beck and call. No more racing through hallways, chasing down some rich asshole and begging for money for something that most people believed was ultimately impossible. No more using duct tape to hold her projects together because what she really needed wasn’t in the budget. And the best part was that no one was there telling her she couldn’t work over time. If she wanted to sleep in her lab, no one was going to stop her. Hell, Bio-Gen would probably buy her a bed.
“I want to play a game.”
Rosie tilted her head as though she were thinking. As she turned to walk toward the game shelf, her knees squeaked. “Oh that doesn’t feel good,” she said. “I think I need an injection.”
“I’ll take care of that, but I also think we need to make an adjustment to your voice. You still sound like Siri.”
“I do not want to sound like Siri.”
“What do you want to sound like?”
Rosie brought back the Chess board and placed it on the table, sat down, and then started arrange the board. “What should I sound like?”
“We have many choices. We can go more computerized. We can go more grown up, more like a child. We can even make you sound like a boy.”
“Ewe. I’d rather sound like Siri.”
There was nothing like having a good old chat with a robot, even if the robot was doing exactly what it was programmed to do based on a set of complicated algorithms. The goal with Rosie was to make her capable of making human based decisions and function in the human world without her human counterpart even knowing she was essentially a robot. The key was to allow Rosie to program herself in order to make decisions when something wasn’t actually accounted for in the original programming. One might call this intuition. Or human consciousness.
But not Fedora.
She hadn’t gone into this field to create a human with all its faults and irrational behaviors in machine form. The machine would then possess all the emotions and illogical functions that interfered with proper human decision-making. Most humans felt too much and it clouded their judgments. It was the rare individual that could put their fear aside and tap into logic to do the very things that seemed impossible. Kind of like flying a plane upside down before landing. But it was that very movie that pushed Fedora into getting not only a Master’s degree in AI, but a PhD in Clinical Psychology as well.
“There is a male voice for Siri.”
“He sounds stupid.”
Fedora laughed. She knew that would be the response, but it was funny anyway. “We still haven’t solved the problem of what you want to sound like. Why don’t you search the web for female voices?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you mean by search the web.”
Fedora quickly jotted down the date and time of the joke and what the topic of conversation had been so she could go back into Rosie’s hard drive and see how she came up with it. “Funny, Rosie.”
“I did make a funny, now lets play. You won’t beat me, you know.”
“Do you know why I can’t beat you?”
“Because you suck at Chess.”
“I programmed you on how to play Chess.”
Rosie gave a hardy laugh. She even tossed her head back for good measure. “You simply took what a master Chess player wrote and feed me the information.”
“That’s true, but did you ever think that maybe I’ve been faking at playing bad.”
“No, you don’t think or no, that I’ve been playing bad.”
“The latter. Your just not that good.”
Fedora chose to ignore the jab, though again, she made a note of it. “What does the word ‘think’ mean?”
“Shall I search the web?”
“Someone’s being snarky today.” But the real question was Rosie stuck in a loop regarding her programming about Siri and she was unable to find her own solution out.
“Think as a verb means to have a particular opinion or belief, or to connect ideas by directing your mind. As a noun it’s an act of thinking. Like I went for a walk to think,” Rosie said. “That’s the same as information processing, which is what I do, so yes, I think.”
“Interesting conclusion.” And indeed it was. Fedora’s pulse increased a few beats per minute and she allowed herself to believe for a nanosecond that Rosie did indeed think her way to that conclusion.
“You go first.” Rosie tapped the board with her long metal finger. If she were human, one might think she was simply bored with the conversation, but she wasn’t human, so logically the conversation was just over. She’d answered the question.
They were well into the Chess game when Dr. Jeff Wells buzzed himself into the lab.
Rosie looked over her shoulder and said, “Good morning Dr. Wells. Want me to tell you how I’m going to beat Dr. Dewey at a game of chess today?”
“If you tell me then she’ll know your plan and in turn she could then beat you.” Jeff sat down next to Rosie and nodded at Fedora.
There was still much unresolved tension between them. She wanted to forgive him. She wanted him back in her life, probably more than he wanted her. That had been a problem in the past. While he never said he wasn’t the committed type, he did keep himself emotionally distant.
“No,” Rosie said. “Because she has one of three openings, so I just react to those. Today it’s the French Defense and I will win in three moves.”
Fedora studied the board and all the pieces when the light bulb went off and next time she was going to have Rosie go first. “Crap. And at this point it makes no difference what I do.”
“Do you surrender?” Rose placed her metal hands on her metal knees and rubbed as if they were sore. She was most definitely low on WD40.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what you mean by surrender.”
“That joke is getting old,” Rosie said as she nonchalantly waved her hand in the air. “But let me help you.” She quickly reached across the board and made the most logical move for Fedora, then made her move, then again for Fedora. “Check mate.”
“Very good Rosie,” Jeff said.
“What shall we do next, Dr. Dewey?”
“I’ve got an idea,” Fedora said. Perhaps it was time to clear the air. “Why don’t you go down the hall and play a prank on Dr. Christoff.”
“Oh, that’s a good idea. I’ve just the prank for that frigid bitch.”
Jeff raised a brow and in the direction of Fedora. She just shrugged as Rosie used her access key card to leave the lab on her mission.
“I hope for your sake Rosie doesn’t call Shelley that to her face.”
Jeff was in his late thirties, just a few years older than Fedora. He had slightly curly dark hair, with a splash of grey at the temples. They’d meet at a conference while she was still getting her PhD and the sparks flew immediately. At first, it was all physical, but as they got to know each other, it was more about mental equality and intellectual stimulation. They often got into late night conversations about almost anything and it was exhilarating.
“And you’re sure of that?”
“It’s a private joke.”
“She said it in front of me.”
“Well,” Fedora said. “I didn’t think to program her not say it front of anyone else but Shelley and her lap dogs.”
“That’s playing with fire.” Jeff stood up and walked around the lab and like a school boy, he touched everything. Picked things up and examined them before putting them down. “Shelley is not the person you want to piss off.”
“I’ve already pissed her off.”
“No,” Jeff said. “That was me.”
“Because you hired me.” Fedora moved to the other side of the lab and stood in front of her computer, making sure she logged in her interaction with the test subject. She then pulled up the file for Elroy and turned him on, giving him the command to wait in the hallway for Rosie. “And you and I, well that is in the past.”
“She doesn’t like anyone who worked for the government.” He inched a bit closer. “And we don’t have to be in the past. I’ve missed you.”
Even though she wanted to have this conversation, she shut herself off. She wasn’t ready. “Bio-Gen has government connections of the conspiracy kind.”
“She doesn’t know you know that.” Jeff leaned against the far counter, obviously sensing her sudden chill. He’d always been good at that. “I take it you only want to talk shop.” He wore a blue button shirt with black slacks. He rarely wore a lab coat, which wasn’t odd so much except for Shelley always wore one and it seemed it was expected of everyone. Even the computer specialists.
“All right,” he said. “But lets remember those government associations are top-secret and Shelley would flip if she knew about any of those contracts.”
“But I do.”
“But Shelley doesn’t know you know.”
“This is turning into a Friends Episode.”
“Do you always relate everything back to televisions or the movies?”
She let out a long sigh. She was talking in circles simply because she couldn’t seem to bring herself to the real reason she asked him to stop by her lab. “Shelley doesn’t like me because for whatever reason she seems to think I am a spy or something. That I will turn on her and some how destroy her.”
“We do have to be careful.”
“I know that, but you know me.” Slowly, she glided across the lab, closing the gap between them, mustering up the strength to get the real issue. “I need to know why you went dark for so long. I thought you had abandoned me. I thought you died. You literally woke up one morning, went to work, and then you were gone. When I called, I was told you no longer worked here and left no forwarding information.”
“I should have let you know I was working on a project and that it would take me away for a time. And its not like you didn’t know it could happen. I was honest with you about that.”
“Not really. And you, like Shelley, don’t trust me enough to know that whatever it was, even if was you sleeping with the frigid bitch or deciding you wanted to run off and join a carnival, I would understand and forgive. I just hate being lied to.”
“I wasn’t sleeping with Shelley.”
“But you have.”
“And she’s a frigid bitch.”
They both laughed until she pressed her palms against his hard chest. The electricity between even stronger than before.
“Does this mean you forgive me?”
“It only means that I’m horny and my vibrator isn’t doing the trick anymore.”
“I have missed you.”
She pushed back, hearing the door click. “I’m still angry and hurt.”
He didn’t have time to respond as Shelley and two robots waltzed through the door. “What is your obsession with the Jetson’s and practical jokes?”
That woman cut to the chase. “Its not just the Jetson’s, its anything that has to do with robotics and AI. I’ve got a prototype named CP30 and working on the Terminator as well.”
“Of course you are.” Shelley did not appear to be amused at all. “But seriously, what’s with the practical jokes, which mind you, I do not find funny at all.”
“F B,” Rosie said under her breath, if she had breath.
“That’s being nice,” Elroy, the other robot said. “I think its more F C if you ask me, but I can’t say that.”
“Say what?” Shelley asked. “Tell me.”
“Its not in my data base,” Elroy said.
Jeff was giving Fedora the evil stink eye. “Elroy, go get the mail from the mail room and Rosie, go with him. I’m expecting a couple of packages and you won’t be able to carry them by yourself.”
“On it, boss.” Elroy gave the thumps up sign.
“Why do you call her boss. She’s not your boss.” Rosie turned and headed toward the door.
“All women are my bosses.”
Fedora couldn’t pull back a smile, and it certainly didn’t go un noticed by Shelley who simple shook her head like a disgusted principle.
“I don’t like the direction you are going with these prototypes. I find this all highly in appropriate.”
Fedora couldn’t disagree more. Getting the robots to use sarcasm along with other interpersonal skills was one more step to self-teaching. “What joke did Rosie play on you?”
“Why does it matter? Its childish and has nothing to do with our goals.”
“Actually, it does.” Fedora quickly turned on the professional charm as she made her way to the computer so she could show Shelley what she was really doing. “So what joke?”
“Rosie was sitting in the reception area when I had gotten back from a meeting. When I opened my door, it hit a horn she’d placed on the wall and scared the crap out of me and everyone in my office.”
“That’s interesting.” Fedora turned her computer screen. “Here are the list of pranks Rosie has been programed to do to you, given certain circumstances. That one is not on her list. That was in a random list of office pranks for anyone.”
“So, its all programmed. Big deal.”
“Huh,” Jeff said. “It is kind of a big deal because your name isn’t on the random list of employees to pull random jokes on.” Jeff tapped the screen.
“Its still part of the programming,” Fedora explained. “But it tells us that Rosie is capable of going outside a loop and making a different decision. You see, all your pranks are based on you being in the office, but you weren’t, I knew that you wouldn’t be, so instead of waiting for you to return, she improvised. That’s a new decision for her.”
“Oh, but now I see why is not a ‘real’ decision.” Jeff once again tapped at the screen. “I take it these people must have been in the reception area too in order for Rosie to pull that out of her list of practical jokes.”
“Yes, so Rosie went to her bag of tricks and used one that could be for any employee in that reception area.”
“As if she forgot about me,” Shelley said, now obviously fascinated.
“Except she didn’t. Because she sat in the reception area, waiting for your return, and she did it to your door. She made a decision that required her to access other parts in her CPU. And another thing.” Fedora sat down on her stool. “She defined thought for me earlier—well she defined the term think and she made a reference to information processing being the same, and she was right and that wasn’t anything I’ve ever put in her CPU. She views her ability to compute the same way we look at thinking. She thinks she’s thinking.”
“Now that would be a breakthrough.”
“I’m not holding my breath. I’m not the only one inside Rosie’s heard drive, so I need to shut her down and take a good look, but we’re heading in the right direction.” It often bothered Fedora that other programmers were putting things into Rosie’s hard drive, but Fedora also understood the necessity of it. By allowing different programs that weren’t created by the same people allowed blind tests that otherwise would be skewed.
“Good work,” Shelley said. “But in the future could you please refrain from using me as your guinea pig. I don’t have the patience or the tolerance and if you want to not only keep your job, but possibly move up in the ranks, I’d suggest you pick your subjects more carefully.”
Many words and phrases popped into Fedora’s mind, but instead she said, “I will do that.”
“I want a full report by tomorrow.”
“I can do that too.”
And then Shelley was gone.
Fedora opened her mouth, but Jeff held up his hand. “I know what F B stands for, but what the hell does F C stand for?”
“You don’t want to know.”
“Really? You’re having the robots call her the C word. That’s so not right.”
“Hey, I’m sure she’s been called worse.”
“Like I said.” Jeff patted her bottom, then giving it a little squeeze. “Playing with fire.”
“Come over tonight and I’ll show just how much I like playing with fire.”
Sometimes the hardest part of writing is the actual writing. When I first started writing and hadn’t attended any writer groups or conference I had no idea what I was doing. I just sat down at my computer and started writing. I had a basic understanding of novel structure and story telling from all the books I’d read and all the movies I watch. And honestly, it wasn’t the first time I had tried to write a book. I had tried once in my early 20’s after taking a class in Great American Literature and how to write a 50 page paper that compares and contrasts the role of the land in Go Down Moses and The Grapes of Wrath. No only did I not enjoy these two books I could not figure out for the life of me how I was going to go on for 50 pages on this topic. I think I managed 51, but that might have included the title page. I was sure I had just failed the class since this was our final and more than half our grade. I got a B+ and a nice note from the professor about my writing that sealed the deal.
I’ve never liked draft writing. I like to re-write. That is where the magic happens for me. It’s where I’ve gotten to know my people so well that I can make them leap off the page. Its where I can see where a plot thread wasn’t closed or where I had to many. I love rewriting. But drafts? Ugh. I would just sit at computer, fingers over the keyboard, but nothing. The first time I did NaNoWriMo I started setting up a timer, doing writing sprints because the idea of word count or page count had become such an obstacle. At the time, I was working part-time and all three kids were at home playing travel hockey, so my time to write was limited. I also had to set the timer so I didn’t forget to pick up or drop off a kid at the rink. Anyway, I found that just by setting the timer it freed my mind and I could focus better. Writing wasn’t as daunting. I found myself writing anywhere from 3k words a day to even 6 or 7k words a day. I also didn’t stress as much about the words being “good”. It was a draft and I was going to have the pleasure of re-writing, because that is my favorite part of the process.
I usually set my timer for anywhere between an hour or three hours, depending on what I have going on that day. Then I just write. I turn off the alerts for social media and email. The only thing I have on my screen is my word document and my character/plot sheets. I never check my word count until the end of the day—until my last sprint is over. I’m always amazed at how much I can write this way. I’m currently at 23k words for my current project.
What kinds of things do you do to ensure your success? How is NaNoWriMo going for you?
You did it. You got the words down. What now?
Now you have to close the deal. The film clip in this blog is from Glengarry Glen Ross, featuring Alec Baldwin (in an academy-awarded nominated role) giving his infamous ‘Coffee is for Closers’ speech in a David Mamet movie. If you haven’t seen it, it’s enlightening (be warned: plenty of profanity).
How did you react? Most people react negatively to Baldwin. But he makes quite a few good points:
If they don’t want to hear what he has to say to him, they shouldn’t be in that room.
If they want to make money, they have to close.
If you want to succeed, follow:
In Write It Forward I teach the three steps of change: Moment of Enlightenment (Attention and Interest), make a Decision, and then have Sustained Action.
What do you want to do with your book? If you’re happy you wrote 80,000 words or so and you’re done with it, then you’ve closed. Congratulations. Go get a cup of tea. But if you want to publish successfully, then put down that cup of coffee. Coffee is for Closers.
Most aspiring writers aren’t closers. And most lament it’s because getting an agent is so hard, the odds are terrible, publishing is contracting, no one really reads, etc. etc. etc. Except here’s the deal: Agents, publishers, readers, all exist to consume books. They’re the given. They’re the lead. YOU have to be the closer.
You have to be the Closer with great material. By constantly improving your craft of writing. You have to Close by studying and following the business, by being a professional who wants to be employed in the world of writing. By following up every possible opportunity you get with determination and professionalism. By shutting up about the unfairness of it all and doing everything in your power to Close the deal.
I was amazing, stunned, when I heard that less than 10% of writers who were told to follow up a one-on-one at a conference by an agent actually sent in the follow up material. Essentially, those writers called a client who had expressed interest, talked about the interest, then hung up without closing. They got the Attention, had the Interest, then made the Decision to quit. To not take Action.
If you’re going to self-publish, you’ve just become an entrepreneur. You’re running a business in a very competitive environment. Yes, we all talk sweet, but they’ll cut ya!
Publishing is a very hard business. It’s tough to get published in any mode. Then it’s tough to succeed once you’ve been published. But people do it. They’re called Closers.
Write It Forward!
Yeah, you do sort of need one to be a writer contrary to what many who know me think of me. I’d like to say a little bit more about the mind for two reasons: one is that it is the primary tool you use when writing. Second, to write good characters, you need to understand the mind because it is the driving force behind your characters’ actions.
As a “machine” the brain is very inefficient. Physiological psychologists estimate that we use less than ten percent of our brain’s capabilities. (Rent the Albert Brooks movie Defending Your Life and see how he uses this in his story.) In many ways, that is what makes writing fiction so hard and draining: you are trying to expand the portion of your mind that you normally use and tap into your subconscious. A little bit of understanding of that other 90 or so percent is useful. It is commonly called the subconscious or the unconscious and plays a very large role in determining our character (key buzz word). Whether you agree with people such as Freud and Jung, it is useful to know a little bit about their theories. A fully rounded character has a complete brain and while they may only consciously be using ten percent, that other ninety percent affects their actions.
As a writer you will start having dreams about your story and your characters. That is your mind working even when you consciously aren’t. You will also run into “writer’s block” which I believe, when real, is your subconscious telling you to hold until you realize in your conscious mind something important with regard to the story. This is where the “write what you feel” school of creative writing comes in. I believe what they are focusing on is this very thing: the power of the subconscious (90% vs. 10%). It is more than feeling though; it is a large part of your brain and the better you can get in touch with it and use it, the better your writing will be.
There are many experiences a writer should have in order to understand both their own mind and the minds of other people. You have to remember that you are not the template for the rest of humanity. Hard as it may be for some to believe, there are differences between people.
I’ve sometimes said the best thing about a writers’ group is not necessarily the critiquing or networking, but rather watching the different ‘characters’ in the group and trying to figure out what is motivating them to act the way they do.
If you don’t understand yourself both mentally and emotionally, you might have a hard time understanding others. Therapy can be a very useful tool for a writer to dig into their own mind to figure out where they are coming from. Yes, if you’re a writer, you need help as I recommend in Write It Forward.
After listening to many authors speak of their creative processes I realize they are talking on two levels. There’s what they are saying and there is what they are meaning. The saying part often varies, but they almost always mean the same thing. For example, there is the issue of outlining. I know writers who swear by outlining and others who say they don’t outline at all, they just write. However, I’ve also found those who don’t outline tend to do a lot of rewriting, thus the first draft of their manuscript might be considered a very detailed outline. Those writers who do a lot of outlining tend to not want to do much rewriting. But in the final analysis, although the two methods seem very different, they are actually the same in creative essence.
Also remember that there are two sides to the brain. The right side is your creative part while the left is more analytical and logical– this is where the editor part of you resides. Sometimes you have to silence that editor while creating or else nothing will get done.
Are you left brain dominant or right brain dominant, or just plain nuts?