Monday, December 24, 2012

a life full of changes… christmas 2012

Christmas Tree.  Fair Oaks, California.  December 24, 2012.

My brain is all over the place this morning.  It is Christmas Eve and that kind of sucks this year.  I am very far from my children and will miss spending the day with them tomorrow.  Sure, I am down in California taking care of my mother, but I miss them.  We’d hoped to make it up there for Christmas but that just didn’t work this year.

We should be out of here in a couple weeks.  Time to get to work, time to get this show on the road.  A lot of hard work has been done, a lot of hard work remains to be done, and then, once we get mom moved out of here, we have another move to organize up north.  Moving from our too small apartment to a location as yet to be determined.

There is a lot of work ahead.

I’ve been a little in denial about Christmas.  Last night mom suggested setting up the small tree, and my first reaction was that I did not want to do that.  But I thought about it for a few and decided that it wouldn’t hurt.  It is not a very festive holiday down here, considering everything going on, but I think it did help, setting up the little tree. 

Obviously, this is not the holiday we’d hoped for this year.  Instead of having everyone together down here, which was the original plan a couple months ago, we are separated.  And we’ve lost someone.  It is not a happy holiday this year.  I am in the house I wanted to be in this year, but without the people I wanted to spend Christmas with.  Of course, mom is here, but I am sure she feels quite the same as I, and much worse considering her loss.

Turned 40 a few days ago, the day before the world was supposed to end.  Funny how things work.  Not a huge deal, I think I had my freak out last year when I turned 39.  That was the year I went through the “OhmahGodIamALMOSTFORTYandIhavedoneNOTHINGwithmyLIFE!” fit. 

I am pretty grateful about where I am in life, this year.  I have the time and opportunity to take care of my family through some difficult times, and I can see light on the horizon, I can start to sense where, when, and how all of this work over the last couple years will pay off. 

But I can still get a little bitter from time to time. 

Earlier this morning I was reading about a 20 year old photographer on flikr who started a Photo of the Day project a little over three hundred days ago and has turned it into his full time career in under a year.  Brat.  Then I remembered, 20 year olds have a lot more time to work on Art than 40 year olds with a family in seemingly perpetual crisis.  He probably also has a “real” camera.

His life is also scaled a little differently than mine.  He was able to walk away from his day job delivering pizzas.  If I do not return to my old career when this phase of my life is over, I will be walking away from quite a bit more than pizza delivery…

I have to also remember that photography has not been my career goal the last couple years.  I may have been able to find such small success if I had been able to invest more time and effort into the art, but the main thing photography has done the last couple years for me is to keep my sanity intact through everything. 

Pictures are small, bite sized things that did not distract me from my family (too much); small projects masqueraded for the most part as hikes for sanity and exercise, outings and vacations with the boys, etc.  And, unlike writing, I can edit photos and videos surrounded by family chaos and not need to be alone, isolated in my room away from everyone and everything.

Yes, I would like to start making some money from those efforts, but that is still in the future for me.  I do see myself hanging that shingle out in 2013, though.  I was looking at a photographer’s website earlier today who specializes in family portraits and started thinking, yes, I could do that. 

But I need to get a “real” camera first.  Realistically, it doesn’t make much difference as far as the photos go, but it is everything when it comes to “Professional Appearance.”  If I show up at someone’s home with my little Powershot and want to charge them hundreds of dollars…   Well, it’s really about the time, talent, and 30 years of experience, not about the camera, but most people don’t understand that.

So, while dealing with the moving and the everything, I need to be looking to get a better camera running, and I need a little time to really consider what my photography goals for 2013 are before I make any decisions there. 

To be honest, the camera I want is not a professional looking DSLR, and it would be, perhaps, even better than a DSLR for what I use my camera for most, at this point.  However, if I really want to start generating some income, I may have to upgrade to a DSLR.

Of course, I could always go with a sneaky little Plan B that has lurked in the back of my mind for years.  Just get a new lens for my old but awesome Minolta film SLR and use it as a stunt camera, an accessory worn around my neck, and then just use my little digitals to actually shoot.  Or I could even go back to film.  Or…

Or I could take the time to actually put a plan together and implement it.

This is where I am really feeling it this year.  Time.  I have too little.  I need more.  All I really want for Christmas is 36 hours in each day.

I need time to sit down and put a business plan together.  I need time to sit down and figure out what I want to be when I grow up and the family’s perpetual crisis is finally as resolved as it will ever be (hopefully a few months after all the moving is done). 

But these are enigmatic things, I also need time to edit my One Day On Earth videos, I need time to select some photos for some contests with end of the year deadlines (and not get distracted by editing everything in the batch looking for hidden treasures)…  I need time to finish my novel, to revise it, to plug into the Portland writing community so I can workshop it… 

I need time to pursue all of these things, which, when put together, should add up to something that looks pretty damn close to a self supporting career.

Bite sized chunks.  Right now, I’ve got my priorities.  Work on the contest photos (in a more focused manner than yesterday), work on the videos… I have less than a week for the former and 19 days to get my videos uploaded. 

Then, when those things are done, I can return to the novel and get the first draft completed.  Until then, all the writing goals are pretty much beyond my reach.

Even those tasks are secondary, though.  What I really need the time, focus and energy for right now is with shepherding my family through two moves in two months.

When mom and I finally get out of here, and when we get settled into a house up in Oregon, then I may have time to really settle down and to take a look at 2013 goals.  Until then, well, there are time critical tasks that just need to be knocked down.

But it feels chaotic, and I hate that.  It is bugging me.  And it is Christmas and my family is broken this year and that is dragging me down a bit, making the chaos feel even more obnoxious, distracting and confusing.  Overwhelming. 

And I am really feeling like all the time I have spent writing, filming, and editing the last couple months is wasted time.  Time spent on hobbies, not on “real” things, distracting me from the very real job I have of getting my mother and children into a healthy, stable environment as quickly as possible.

Of course, these artistic projects are not “hobbies” but part of the foundation I am trying to lay to build the rest of my life on, to build a real career on once my family’s immediate demands on my time are lessened and I can actually pursue a career once again.  So they are important tasks.  But they do not come with immediate rewards.

These are not easy weeks in our lives. 

The end of 2012 was supposed to be a couple month long celebration of my family’s success the last couple years.  I finally thought I would have the ability to take on larger projects- National Novel Writing Month and more complex videos for One Day On Earth.  Then we’d all come down to mom’s for a really great Christmas with her and Mario. 

2013 was supposed to start with a first draft completed, some well shot videos being finished up, the boys settled into school and doing well, and myself being in a place where I was really starting to work on the next stage of my life.

Instead, everything got a lot more complicated and darker on November 8, when my stepfather Mario unexpectedly passed away.  The end of this year and the start of next year took a huge turn in a strange direction.

While still a period of transition, the changes are much more dramatic and the work is a lot harder than anything I’d been planning on. 

Even the family pieces, the boys’ stability, school performance, etc… has been rocked by these events.

The Big One was pulling straight As and Bs the first term, this term he is heading into break with Cs and Ds.  The next step, in early November, for The Little One was to be starting on getting him caught up academically, and truly determining what his best school placement will be at this stage in his life, which is going to still be the next step in January, when we get back up north, and will be a huge project to start while house hunting and moving out from out apartment. 

So, that probably puts everything else I had planned for early 2013 on hold until the Spring, at least.  Which is frustrating and discouraging.

But, and this is a huge but…  These things are all good things for the family in the long run. 

When we are set up in a house, when we are all settled in, the family should be in the most stable place it has been in for quite some time.  We will come out of this transition period much stronger than we’ve ever been.  It will be very good.

It has just turned out to be a harder, more complicated process getting through from here to there than I’d expected.  And more painful.  We’ve had a devastating loss.   Because of that, it is difficult, in the moment, to see how this is all going to be good in the long run.

So tomorrow it is Christmas, whatever that will be for mom and I this year.  Watch the kids open presents on Skype.  Eat dinner later with some relatives.  Miss my children.  Miss Mario.

Forgive me if my enthusiasm and optimism has been waning a bit the last week or so.  It will be back, but this is a hard time in our lives right now.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012: Plans for 2013

From Rubble: NaNoWriMo 2012: Plans for 2013

Fullscreen capture 12172012 12336 PM.bmp

Someone in the PDX NaNo group asked about our writing plans today, and it gave me a chance to sort of take stock of where I am with my novel at this point…

My response:

Finish the first draft of the NaNo novel by Feb. 1. I want to make this a fairly hard deadline and it may require November style efforts the last two weeks of January to make it possible.
Since I am going to have a lot of downtime on the writing front between now and then, I will probably begin revisions at that point, since I will have "been away" from the first chapters for about three months by then, giving me some space from those early words.
I am not sure if I am going to do an entire re-write or just edit the existing draft at that point, I will decide when I read it and have a chance to triage the thing. I will be doing a full rewrite eventually, but if it is holding together somewhat, I may just do heavy edits and then send it off to readers first.
I suppose I would like to be at that point, sending it off to readers, by some time in April if I am editing, or late May/early June if I am rewriting. Then, after I start getting some feedback, I'll go back to the drawing board and make further plans from there.

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December Is a Cruel Month

From Rubble: December is a cruel month

Two images tell most of the story…

Fullscreen capture 12172012 112748 AM.bmp

Against the Dying Word Counts.xlsx 12172012 111710 AM.bmp

The first is a countdown on the One Day site for the deadline for us submitting our films.  The second is progress on my novel.  See a connection?

On top of this, I am not on some sort of artist’s retreat down here is Sacramento, I have a lot of hard work to do to get my mother and I out of here by the time my kids’ winter break is done.

Finally, I have a couple of days’ worth of prep work on some photography contests with an end of the year deadline.  I will probably be using pictures from the big August camping trip, most of which I have not looked at since, well, August.

So, a while back I set a sort of deadline for myself…  I would like to have the first draft of the novel done by February 1.  This is still achievable, even if little work is done until the last two weeks of January. 

We have 21 days or so to get the move done.  And I have 26 days to get my video done, which should go a lot better than last year’s since I have a better computer to work with and “better” clips shot with a better camera.

It is a much more complicated video, I suspect, than last year’s, and I am breaking it down into segments, the first of which I’ve already completed (long weekend).  The only thing really intimidating me about the video right now is how many clips I have to run through and organize, and some untested, by myself, editing techniques that I hope to use with some of them.

And the arts work will be morning and evening work with the days spent working with mom on the move and assorted other issues.

I can do it, but I need to stay focused and I need to remember…  The next couple of months will be full of hard work, but the rewards will be tremendous when it is all complete.

Here is the first completed segment for the video, though it may be the last piece to appear in it.  I’ll also post it as it’s own post later for my own indexing purposes…

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Sunday, December 9, 2012

One Day On Earth: 12.12.12… So it begins

From Rubble: One Day On Earth: 12.12.12… So it begins

312755_3876785042879_505673581_nFullscreen capture 1292012 14207 PM.bmp Fullscreen capture 1292012 12843 PM.bmp Winner-180x180

Pretty much the same post I threw up in late October about NaNoWriMo 2012. 

Between working on this project and finishing the NaNoWriMo novel (I did get over 50,000 words in during November to “win” the event), I won’t be posting much on the blogs until 2013.  Well, I’ll probably throw a thing or two up here on Rubble, but as for the other blogs?  Unlikely.

I wanted to do something quick and easy for One Day since the more complex idea a friend and I had will be impossible, since I am in Sacramento and not Portland, but things happen and after doing some planning and discovering that there is a theme for this years event, my idea for this year will be pretty complicated to edit.

Of course, I won’t be filming until Wednesday 12.12.12, but before then there is some prep work, and after there is going to be a whole bunch of editing.  And a whole bunch of writing on the novel.  And a whole bunch of major life stuff.

So the blogs will remain on hold for the time being.

Yes, this is being reposted everywhere…

One Day on Earth - Film on 12.12.12 from One Day on Earth on Vimeo.

One Day On Earth - 11-11-11 - Gresham and Portland, Oregon (720p) from A. F. Litt on Vimeo.

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One Day On Earth: 12.12.12… So it begins

312755_3876785042879_505673581_nFullscreen capture 1292012 14207 PM.bmp   Fullscreen capture 1292012 12843 PM.bmp   Winner-180x180

Pretty much the same post I threw up in late October about NaNoWriMo 2012. 

Between working on this project and finishing the NaNoWriMo novel (I did get over 50,000 words in during November to “win” the event), I won’t be posting much on the blogs until 2013.

I wanted to do something quick and easy for One Day since the more complex idea a friend and I had will be impossible, since I am in Sacramento and not Portland, but things happen and after doing some planning and discovering that there is a theme for this years event, my idea for this year will be pretty complicated to edit.

Of course, I won’t be filming until Wednesday 12.12.12, but before then there is some prep work, and after there is going to be a whole bunch of editing.  And a whole bunch of writing on the novel.  And a whole bunch of major life stuff.

So the blogs will remain on hold for the time being.

Yes, this is being reposted everywhere…

One Day on Earth - Film on 12.12.12 from One Day on Earth on Vimeo.

One Day On Earth - 11-11-11 - Gresham and Portland, Oregon (720p) from A. F. Litt on Vimeo.

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Monday, December 3, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012: Won but not Done

From Rubble: NaNoWriMo 2012: Won but not Done

11:59, 11-30-12So, I won.

Around  9:15 PM on November 28, I crossed the finish line with 50,276 words.

Plowing through to the end of the month, at about ten minutes to midnight on November 30, I reached 66,724 words. 

Winner-180x180The last day, since I was not able to participate in the Black Friday 10,000 Word Challenge, I had my own, and I made it with 10,011 words by midnight on the last day of the event.

So what does this all mean?

Well, winning just means that you validated with the NaNoWriMo website that you have written 50,000 words by the end of the month.  It works on the honor system, so yes, I could have pasted 50,000 words in to the widget from an eBook and validated for a win, but I did not, I wrote them all.

It does not mean that I am done.  I still have to finish my novel, which is only a little over halfway done as I write this, though I am certain that I would still be on the first chapter or two if it were not for NaNoWriMo.  Especially considering everything going on this month.  It was a very tough month.

The evening I won, I shared this on Facebook:

Yes, I am excited because I wasn't sure if I could do it, especially considering what a month it has been.
But, I did not and will not finish the novel itself this month because it grew, a lot, since I started working on the outline last October. So while I have written a piece of fiction that is the minimum length for a novel, I have not actually w
ritten a novel yet.
Still, 50,000 words (approximately 144 paperback pages) in 28 days is a pretty decent accomplishment and one that I should be proud of.
Finally, it is kind of lonely. Strange, huh? This is a solitary accomplishment, as it is a solitary art, and while everyone looked up from what they were doing here to say "Good Job," no one else quite felt like dancing around the room shouting, "Hells Yeah!"
Considering what everyone in this room has been through the last few weeks, I didn't feel much like doing that either. Which is kind of a shame.
But when I actually finish the novel? Jumping around the room and yelling?
It's on.

Honestly, I looked on with envy as many people in the Portland NaNo Facebook Group rolled up to the end of their novels.  There was also some fear there, because I was (and am still) not sure if I will be able to finish the novel. 

NaNoWriMo 2012 - Winner (1)Sure, I know the way to the ending, and I look forward to getting there, but now that November is over, will it drop so far down on my priority list that I never actually get around to the ending?  Because of NaNoWriMo, though, those fears are pretty small and weak right now, but they are still there.

And then, all the editing and rewriting. 

I busted my ass to get to where I am with this book now, and I am no where near done with it.  There are months of work ahead, maybe years.

To be honest, over the weekend this started psyching me out a little.  I spent almost every waking free moment I had in November working on this project.  I read nothing, I watched almost nothing, I took few pictures and edited even fewer… 

Fullscreen capture 1232012 113049 AM.bmp

This weekend, it really sunk in.  I cruised ahead to a word count of 74,848 by last night, but it was a full day’s work both on Saturday and Sunday to continue that progress. 

Unfortunately, after November, what I probably needed more than an expanded word count was a couple days of real rest, and I did not get it.

So this is an important week for me.  I need to figure out what role this novel will take in my life as I move ahead from here.

I put the work in over the weekend because I wanted to make sure that I continued after November 30 and I wanted to get to a certain point in the novel where I felt like the end was closer than the beginning, and both of those things are going to be critical if I ever hope to finish this thing.

However, I cannot necessarily continue through December like I did through November, I need to slow down a bit.  Or do I?  Maybe I should just continue as if it were still November and pound through to the end?

But that may mean setting aside some photography projects that I really want to accomplish by the end of 2012.   Also, I have a lot of hard work ahead over the next couple months helping my mother through a lot of difficult life transitions.

Of course, as I wrote yesterday on Facebook, this month, December, is supposed to be about hard work, and if I really dial it in, I am sure that I can accomplish many of these goals.  Maybe not ending December with a finished first draft, but being pretty close. 

And the photography projects are not huge ones.  Of course, One Day On Earth: 12.12.12 could be a huge project, but my participation is scalable, and being in a relatively unfamiliar part of the country, I may need to scale it down anyway.

I do not need to figure all of this out at once.  Writing this is merely a piece of that process for me.   A lot of it will be determined for me by life events beyond my control, as well.

That all being said, it was one hell of an experience.  While this is the 3rd novel I’ve started, it is now, by far, the most complete one I’ve written and NaNoWriMo was definitely responsible for that, and for getting me over all the humps and though to the point where I know this is a valid project worth dedicating significant time to and worth seeing through to the end.

Personally, I think the final result, a couple drafts down the line, will be pretty solid and worth taking to the next step, trying to get it published.  Of course, no one, including myself, has read it yet, but I do know what I have written was interesting enough to keep me parked at my keyboard through some long hours last month, so it feels like it is off to a very good start.

I will be writing one more post about this year’s NaNoWriMo, maybe later today, maybe tomorrow, and then that will be it for the 2012 event for me.  Work on the novel will continue, but I will spare everyone my daily Facebook updates and my semi-regular check ins here. 

The time I’ve been taking to write those words and to post those posts will be spent elsewhere, working on some other interesting things.

One last quick note, someone in the PDX NaNo Group found this: NaNoFiMo – National Novel Finishing Month.  I registered but I do not think I will be attempting this in any sort of formal way.

I would like to finish by the end of 2012, but it is not my most important priority for December.

Instead, I will be trying to stay focused on writing a little every day, most days, and I’ll be setting smaller, short term goals that, hopefully, sooner rather than later, will carry me through to “The End.”

NaNoFiMo – National Novel Finishing Month

1. Your mission is to finish your NaNoWriMo novel or any other unfinished novel from 2012.
2. The official goal is 30,000 words and writing 'the end' on your manuscript.
3. If your novel needs less than 30,000 words (or more!), you can also set your own personal goal. The most important thing is reaching the end.
4. All word-counting is based on the honour system, so when you report your total just tell us what your own word-processor is telling you.
5. Be nice. This is a friendly, all-ages site. No swearing, mature content or aggressive behaviour will be tolerated.
6. No, there won't be Personal Progress Threads. Instead, we have daily reporting. You can check the 2011 archive to see what this looks like.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012: Writing the books I want to read

From Rubble: Writers on Writing: Writing the books I want to read

“I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it.”  Toni Morrison

It will be awhile before I can type the metaphorical "The End" on mine, but yes.  And I hope that I end up writing several more that I want to read.  Whether or not they are novels anyone else wants to read will be determined later, but I cannot picture doing work like this any other way and, in the end, I really don't care. 

The odds of ever making a living wage from writing fiction are so long that if it is not a labor of love, there is no reason to do it at all.  And I suspect that the only people that I actually care about reading it will read it if it is published or not.

Don't get me wrong, I'll try, and it would be wonderful if all the hard work pays off with publication, but that cannot be my motivation for actually doing this or I never will.  What is driving me is not the desire to start collecting rejection letters, but the simple desire of seeing how the story actually ends, not as I plan, but how it works out through the actual process of putting words onto a page, one at a time and seeing how they fit together and where they ultimately lead.

As for the novel I am working on now for NaNoWriMo…

It does not look like I'll get much writing done until Thursday. I am 5K away, which for me is about two solid writing sessions or one long one. Would have liked to have validated for a win already, but life got in the way, so it looks like its going to be something of a squeaker this year.

But, the ball is in my hands. It is up to me if I win or lose. The great thing, when I started on November 1, this was my first year and I had no idea if I could do this or not. 26 days later, I know I can, whether or not I get the last 5K in on time or not, which is a pretty awesome feeling, especially considering what an insane and heavy month this was for myself and my family.

As I’ve written, here or elsewhere, I am not sure, this is the third novel that I’ve started.  The first one was a fairly formulaic fantasy novel that I wrote about 140 pages of in high school.  The second one was a complex, strange thing that was both semi-autobiographical and a dive into magical realism (though I never quite got around to writing those parts)… 

The second one kind of broke my heart.  I was in a transitional place in my life and took about six months or more to just work on the novel.  And then it died on me.  I just couldn’t find the thread of the thing that pulled it together and pushed it towards any sort of resolution.  Really, I knew this then and over the 12 years since then, I can see this even more clearly, I just wasn’t ready to write that book yet.  I did not have the life experience I needed to pull that one off yet.  Someday.  I still have a hard copy, though the word files died on a hard drive several years back.

That was a tough experience, though.  I put a lot into that work only to have it die on me, unfinished and unfinishable.  It may, in fact, be why I have done almost no creative writing since then except for a few poems back around 2005 or so and a few song lyrics back in 2008.  I didn’t want to risk another broken heart and I didn’t want to risk a six month or longer investment on a project that could die with no real returns on my investment.

As for the first novel, in some ways the novel I am working on now is a direct descendant.  I never really let those ideas go and over the last quarter century or so, those ideas have morphed into another, complex and long novel that I will probably write in the next couple of years.  I’ve actually spent years researching and developing the world that novel is set in. 

My NaNoWriMo novel is not that book, but it is set in the same universe. 

So, as I head back south to California today and finish my 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo tomorrow and Friday, I am remembering.  Yes, this may be the first novel I finish (or have a fair shot at finishing), but it is not the first, and while I may not have been writing much for the last decade or so, the process of being a novelist has been happening the whole time, quietly in the background. 

I am very excited that all that work is starting to actually pay off with some words on a page and, in another month or two, I look forward to finishing an actual draft of a book.  While I might not actually write “The End” on the last page, it will feel damn good when I reach the point where I can, if I choose to, write those words.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012: Halfway Point

From Rubble: NaNoWriMo: Halfway Point

November 15, 2012.  Halfway Point. Participant-180x180-2November 15, 2012.  Halfway Point.

Today is the halfway point on the calendar.  I am a little behind, but one solid day of writing today or tomorrow and I will be right on target for reaching 50K words by midnight on the 30th.

20,062 as of this morning.  No writing yet today, those 278 words were from yesterday, I just updated my word count.  It would be nice to hit 25K by the end of today.

Even still being within reach of 50K is a miracle considering how hectic my life has been this month.  If the month had gone as planned, I’d probably be close to the 50K mark already and well on target for reaching the 80 – 100K goal I have for this manuscript.

But that is all right.  Important things are going on and I need to divide my efforts.  Over the next few months, it looks like I will have plenty of time to write, and probably more in December than in November anyway, so I am not worried about finishing this draft in a fairly prompt manner.

Reaching the 50K mark, though, will be still be a challenge considering everything that is going on. 

I know that there are probably a week’s worth of days before the end of the month where I will have little to no time to write.  Even on the less crazy days, finding time to keep up with the book with everything else going on is bound to be difficult and because of the nature of these “distractions,” the book is definitely a secondary goal.

Of course, writing three or four blog posts this morning would seem like a tertiary goal, and it probably should be, but I needed some time to sit down and take stock of things.  Keeping an eye on another project I am working on, One Day On Earth, and just to check in with myself and others. 

And I’ve cleared my schedule today of as much as I can.  Today is a work day.

Some thoughts on the draft so far…

It is going well.  All the work I put in during the last couple weeks of October is really paying off.  So far, most of the draft has veered way off of my planned outline, but not really.  It is telling the story I planned, just in a way that is a little different than how I thought it would.  And the original outline is still handy, because I will be looping back into it some time during the next 10,000 words or so.

A lot of the story that I thought I would be filling in later on is just being told earlier in the book than I expected, and as I write, it feels right.  Plus, I was worried about needing to break up the plot with flashbacks, etc. later on that I will not need now, which is probably going to be a good thing.

As I was organizing my outline in October, I was a little worried that I would be writing too much to the outline anyway, and this is definitely not happening.  I was worried that I would not be following the flow of the story but rather herding the narrative so it would fit the outline. 

From past experience, I did not think that following the outline more than the natural flow of the story would be a good thing.  Plus, I originally planned for this to be more of a fun, seat of the pants writing experience than it seemed to become after all of my outlining and plot development in October, but that sense of fun and of watching events unfold, almost as a third party reader, is still present as I write, which is usually what happens when I produce my best work.

So, bottom line, things are good. 

Slogging through the middle of the month, I am at the point where a little more discipline is needed.  The novelty of the project is wearing off and now it is feeling more like a chore; a fun chore, but still a chore. 

I expected this.  These feelings also tell me that I am probably right where I am supposed to be with this project at this point in time.

And so forth…

Update: 10:15 PM

I've got one scene to write before I am done with the unofficial first act of my novel and I am eager to write it, but at the same time I am tired, it is getting late, and it has been a long day. To be honest, I am trying to figure out if the scene will be stronger if I write it now, when things are flowing well but I am tired, or in the morning when I am rested, but still warming up. And it is a fairly important scene (but I suppose all of them are or they shouldn't be in the book at all).
Going to take a short break before I decide. In case I call it a night, today's stats...
Your Average Per Day 1,704
Words Written Today 5,785
Target Word Count 50,000
Target Average Words Per Day 1,667
Total Words Written 25,569
Words Remaining 24,431
Current Day 15
Days Remaining 16
At This Rate You Will Finish On November 29, 2012
Words Per Day To Finish On Time 1,527
Yes. Officially halfway to 50K. Back on track. It has been a long day.

Also thought I’d share this semi random comment I wrote as a reply to another comment when I posted tonight’s stats on Facebook.  A friend asked me about my professional writing, and I replied…

Unless you've spent time as semi-slave labor in Malaysia, working as a copy boy for an evil corporation, as a data entry geek for ten year dead dot com, or other such hells, you wouldn't have read any of my "published" professional work.
This is my first serious swing at fiction in over ten years. It's National Novel Writing Month where the goal is to complete 50,000 words, at least, of a first draft, and hopefully a complete draft, in 30 days. This is more of a motivational thing for fiction writers than a real competition, but its fun and hopefully I will produce something that I can try to get published a couple more drafts down the line.
Next spring, after I finish a second draft, I'll probably be looking for volunteer readers to give me some notes on the thing, so let me know then if you would be interested. I won't be keeping it a secret that I'm looking for readers when I am ready for them.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012: Some Thoughts…

From Rubble: A photo & some thoughts on NaNoWriMo

For Weak Women!  Barn.  Jackson Highway.  Washington.  August 12, 2012.  Featured: October 30, 2012.

Red Blood for Weak Women.  Barn.  Jackson Highway.  Washington.  August 12, 2012.  Featured: October 30, 2012.

But will it help weak writers?  Probably.  But probably in ways counterindicated for people such as myself.

Posted this up on Facebook a minute ago:

Novel update: A part of me just wants to dive in and start writing. Another part wants another two weeks to flesh out the details before I start. Another part is pretty sure it's all crap and will fall apart as soon as I finish the first chapter. Another part is certain that this may be the greatest piece of literature produced this decade and, because of that, it will write itself with practically no effort.
The truth is some blend of all of that.
This morning, as I get to work, I am focusing on trusting the process.
I have a plan. I know from experience that it is a good one. I need to trust myself enough to follow it.

WTF am I doing posting a picture when I have a month to write a frickin’ book!?!  Keeping myself sane.  I’ll be doing this from time to time.  The pictures will probably be of things that remind me of the settings of the novel. 

I may do this often, or this may be the only time, over the next month. 

Today, sitting down to get to work, I was feeling a little scattered after running around like a chicken with my head cut off all morning dealing with the boys’ issues (one sick, the other needing a check in with a couple teachers at school) and, well, the book was just sitting there staring at me. 

Posting up a picture seemed like a good way to get settled down into work mode.

And after dealing with the frustration of slow interwebs and slower computers, writing will feel simple.  Just typing, not waiting on the little spinning circles and hourglasses as I hover on the edge of insanity.

(5 minutes later, still waiting on everything…  Oh, yeah.  This is definitely working.  Typing versus this?  Oh Hell YEAH!)

One final thought, inspired by an old friend.  He pointed out that “most creative work fails not because of any lack of talent or ability, rather it is never finished.”

That is my biggest fear heading into this, and one of the issues that I discussed yesterday. 

It's also why I decided to do NaNoWriMo this year.  It’s a great motivational tool to get a solid draft done on this project. I've been avoiding work on creative writing for over a decade and it is time to get back to work, but there is also a lot of fear of failure heading into it.

That is fine, but I need to be sure that fear of failure does does not become an excuse to walk away from this.

Products featuring photography by A. F. Litt:

deviantArt: Prints, cards, mugs, mouse pads, magnets, puzzles and other products. – Quality Canvas Prints

Cafe Press: Calendars, etc.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012: Word Counts & Goals

From Rubble: 2012 NaNoWriMo: Word Counts & Goals

2012-10-29. 01.

This morning… Spent some time working on household budget issues with the ex one, spent some time organizing my work space, spent some time getting cleaned up for this afternoon’s appointments, and now I am writing a blog post?  Gonna need a little more discipline to “win” NaNoWriMo!

But this is not entirely off topic.  In fact, it is right on topic.  I need to spend a few minutes thinking about my goals for November.

My original goal: write a 50,000-60,000 word novel by the end of November. 

I had a great idea that started as a short story in April, then after one night of writing 4,500 words I realized that it wasn’t a short story, that it was probably a novella…  At that point I realized I had something for NaNoWriMo and I threw the whole project on the shelf, so to speak, until about a month ago when I started scribbling some notes down in preparation.

About a week ago I started my serious prep work.  One of the first things I did was, first in the preliminary notes and later using the NaNoWriMo template for Scrivener, was to set up an outline based on word counts with a target of about 55,000 words.

For the story I had in mind, this seemed about right.  It seemed about the right length for the project and it hit the “win” mark for November.

That was about a week ago.

Stepping back a bit…  My goal for NaNoWriMo this year was to sit down and have a finished draft by then end of the month.  Not a great draft, but a finished one.  This is something I’ve never done with a novel.  I’ve written well over 50,000 words of a novel a couple times, but I’ve never actually finished a draft. 

This is all I really wanted out of this experience.  I made it my priority for a month, to have a finished rough draft.  I know I am beating this like a rented mule, but it was really important to me when deciding whether or not to take the time to do this in 2012.

For a completed draft, I decided it was worth it.

Today, as I sat down and spent a few minutes working on my outline a little bit, incorporating a lot of the new ideas I’ve been working on, I realized that I was in trouble.  This project is going to be significantly longer than 50,000 words.

Not having written an actual word of the draft yet, I may be wrong.  Looking at those 4,500 words from last April, I know I am right.  (PS: Totally rewriting those, so I am not cheating!)

I am a novice with the novel length word counts.  I really wasn’t picturing what a 50,000 word novel would look like, and really, it’s barely out of the novella length.  It is about the absolute minimum length for novel consideration.  This morning I thought I’d do a couple internet searches to try to get a better idea of how long my book might be when comparing it to other novels. 

The links are below and worth a look.  Interesting.  But what I found is that I am, at the low end, probably looking at  80,000 words for this guy, and possibly around 100K.  Now the good news is, according to the bottom link, this is probably right in the sweet spot for this type of book.  The bad news?  That’s a lot of words to knock out by the end of November.

Now, obviously, this may really shake my goals up for NaNoWriMo.  If I want to complete this draft by the end of November, then I have to drastically revise my daily targets.  Or if I just want to hit 50,000 by the end of the month, I can keep the current targets and the rely on my own self discipline later on to finish this thing. 

And that worries me.  I can give a month to this draft.  Can I give more?  I am very afraid that if it goes back on the shelf, incomplete, on December 1, that it may be 10 years before it comes back down off the shelf.  And that is a lot of work for not much.  Potentially 30 days plus a week and a half of dedicated prep time that I may never get back.

Of course, that is the worse case scenario.  And, of course, that is a lot of psyching myself out for having not written a word of the actual draft yet.

So the question is… Do I aim for 50K?  Or do I am for completion? 

Well, it is a pretty simple answer.  I aim for completion while maintaining a bare minimum out put that keeps me working towards the 50K mark.  I know the way I write that, if my prep work is solid, I will probably exceed the 1,667 word daily goal most days (hell, this post is nearly 2/3s of the way to the novel’s daily minimum). 

However, I was planning on using those days with a high word count to take a couple days off here and there…  And for sleeping.  Sometimes.  Maybe even hanging with the kids for a bit, if they trap me in a corner!

Really, I just need to dive in and do this and whatever happens, happens.  If the worst case scenario happens and I have another incomplete draft of an unfinished novel sitting on the proverbial shelf collecting dust, well, that isn’t the worst thing in the world.
And who knows?  Maybe it will be such a battle to hit 50K that I’ll laugh at these worries in a month, or maybe, as I get in towards the middle of the month, the pressure to exceed the “win” mark and to finish the book will push me through to the end. 

We’ll see.  It has been a long time since I’ve written fiction.  Honestly, I really have a hard time predicting how this will go.  And I know there will be a lot more challenges ahead than just banging out the word count.

One attitude that I’ve always pretty much had…  Worrying about the draft’s word count is more a part of the early outlining and preparation process for me.  Once I am writing, I just worry about the story.  It will be the length it needs to be, on the first draft, at least, and I just need to trust the story as it develops. 

Terrible approach to writing when one is working on essays for school, a great one when writing fiction.

So I am going to relax, keep the 1,667 word daily minimums to at least keep me writing almost every day and, hopefully, I can hit both my goals in November.

Great Novels and Word Count « indefeasible:

Word count is one of those things new writers worry about but deny worrying about because we’re not supposed to be worrying about it. According to Wikipedia’s entry on word count, the typical word count of a novel is at least 80,000 words. I’ve heard through the publishing world grapevine than most agents and editors will generally take a query for a first novel more seriously if the word count is between 80,000 and 100,000.

Instead of sleeping, I compiled in an Excel sheet novels I read growing up.

Word Count for Famous Novels (organized) | Commonplace Book:

Word count for famous novels, in ascending order by number of words. Based on this list compiled by Nicole Humphrey Cook. (Thanks Nicole, and sorry for stealing; I wanted to see the list in order.) For average word counts based on genre, see this handy reference. Also, here’s another list I may swipe and add in here.

The Swivet [Colleen Lindsay]: All new & revised: On word counts and novel length:

I sat down recently with several fiction editors and hammered out a more comprehensive list of suggested word counts by genre & sub-genre. As you read through this, keep in mind three important things: 1.) these are suggested word counts; rules get broken all the time; 2.) these suggested word counts will most often apply to debut writers; successfully published authors are the ones who end up breaking the rules, and 3.) if you are planning to e-publish only, and your book will never be printed out on actual paper, these guidelines aren't nearly as important.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

NaNoWriMo…. So it begins


Decided to throw this up everywhere tonight….

Pretty much starting in on NaNoWriMo this week. Not with the actual writing, but with character outlines, plot development, outlining, and a smidgen of research. More than anything, preseason training for writing a novel in one month.

Won't be around here much until December (except for when my laptop seizes up and I am spending time on the desktop waiting for spinning circles and endless hourglasses to work themselves out).

NaNoWriMo 2012: So it begins

From Rubble: NaNoWriMo…. So it begins


Decided to throw this up everywhere tonight….

Pretty much starting in on NaNoWriMo this week. Not with the actual writing, but with character outlines, plot development, outlining, and a smidgen of research. More than anything, preseason training for writing a novel in one month.

Won't be around here much until December (except for when my laptop seizes up and I am spending time on the desktop waiting for spinning circles and endless hourglasses to work themselves out).

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Asperger’s Syndrome & Parenting: A Very Positive Video

Cannon Beach, Oregon.  April 30, 2011.

Recently I was watching some videos on Asperger’s on YouTube.  There is some good stuff up there and, of course, some crap (that is the nature of the beast), but learning more about this condition and about how to help my son learn how to navigate in the world is something I try to spend some time doing from time to time.

Obviously, this is a full time process, not a time to time one, but I like to dedicate a few hours to watching and reading material about Asperger’s a couple times a month. 

Sometimes I learn new things, or re-enforce some things that I already know, and at other times it is more just for my own sanity, to remind myself that these are real things and we are not all crazy.  In that way, these sessions can fulfill the role of a support group, I suppose.

I’ve been meaning to start throwing up some posts covering some of the material I’ve been looking at and writing about my own experiences raising a child with Asperger’s.  The other day, after seeing a video that I will discuss at another time, I found myself writing so much in the comments that I realized I pretty much had already written most of a post.

“Ah ha!”, I thought.  I’ll throw these comments and videos together and I’ll have my first post.

This, however, is not that post.  A few things happened between then and now.

First of all, one of the drawbacks of throwing that post up was that I’d be starting this conversation off writing about a very unpleasant aspect of life raising an “Aspie”, meltdowns.

In fact, the second reason I am delaying that post is that this is a huge and complicated topic.  In fact, it is probably the one of the most challenging aspects of Asperger’s that parents have to deal with, and even that one post, I realized, was quickly growing into at least two different posts covering several different issues involving meltdowns.

But, beyond all that, I’d rather start off with a more positive topic, especially when thinking about some videos I posted on my Facebook profile a couple weeks back which made some people, I fear, walk away with a misleading view of Asperger’s, making it feel like Asperger’s was a crippling disorder leading to, or even guaranteeing, a life of severe disability and misery.

That is far from the case, especially if it is diagnosed early and the child is raised with the understanding and taught the unique skills he needs to survive in a world where he is just wired up a little bit differently.

In fact, today, I started off watching a very positive video made by a woman who has Asperger’s about the good parts of having this condition and I would like to share that video in this first post, starting things off on an upbeat note.

Before I wrap up for today, I also wanted to point out that, in these posts I hope to be making over the next few months, I am only sharing my own experience, strength, and hope.  What my family has experienced with our child, and the solutions that have and have not worked, may vary.  I have no training other than what I’ve learned through working with my child and his various providers.  So, any thing I say, is pretty much just opinion and not fact.  It should be taken as such.

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Photo of the Day by A. F. Litt: Long Term Hiatus

Today I am posting the 412th photo of of the day.

Is this my last photo of the day post?  It very well might be.  I am using the word hiatus instead of end, but it will probably be a long hiatus. 

Originally, last December and January, I was really aiming to get 366 photos up this year, one every day.  Life was a little more hectic than I expected, and daily posting this year has actually been the exception, not the norm. 

Still, I tried to get back in the habit through the month of September.  But then October happened and, half way through the month, this is my second post.

It seems like it is time to put a capstone on this project and to move on, for now.

When I first started the POTD on February 13, 2011, I was in a very different place in life than I am right now.  I was in a rebuilding phase and, as a part of that rebuilding, I wanted to put more focus on photography as I moved ahead in life. 

As I wrote when I created the first POTD album on Facebook:

I've decided to post one "featured" picture every day that I have internet access. Just for the heck of it. Feedback is appreciated. Some, obviously, will be better photographs than others. What I post will be somewhat reflective of my mood, so I may choose some shots more for their personal meaning to me than for their artistic "worth." It is just something to do, it sounds like fun, and it will kick my butt into gear getting out there to take some more pictures!

Well, if the main goal of the project was to inspire me to take more photos, that is a mission accomplished. 

In fact, one of the main reason that I am taking a break from this project is that I now have thousands of photos sitting on my hard drives that I haven’t ever looked at on my computer, let alone edited or posted anywhere. 

These days, in fact this is precisely why there have been so few POTD posts this month, I would rather spend the 45 minutes to an hour a day it takes to select a photo, edit it, post it, and share it working on editing this back log of pictures than spending all of that time working on one photo.

For the first six months or so of the POTD, I was worried that I’d run out of photos.  That I’d have a hard time finding 360 plus photos worth posting.  Now, it is just the opposite problem.  There are so many pictures sitting on my hard drive untouched and forgotten…  Not all, hell most, are what I’d consider POTD quality, but the good ones are getting lost in the shuffle and I need to start spending more time getting them cleaned up and brought out of the dark and into the world. 

Also, life is getting busy again.  We are entering into a busy phase with one of my kids’ special needs, I want to put at least one calendar up for sale by the end of October, most of my free time in November will be spent writing a novel for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and in December, along with the holidays and long school breaks for the kids, I want to spend quite a bit of time compiling and curating my photos to enter some contests with end of the year deadlines and to start pursuing some new goals with my photography.

Coupled with all of this, I have some new projects I am working on with my blogs.  One, for an example, is over on Suburban Eschatology Part Two where I am starting work on a series of posts about raising a child with Asperger’s Syndrome.  Meanwhile, here on Rubble, I am trying to work through a series of posts I’ve been wanting to complete for over a year now on some local hikes, parks, and geological features.

So, I am busy.  And, hopefully, there will be a lot more going on here on Rubble than just one photo a day, at best, or a couple a month, at worst.

I can safely say that this will be the last Photo of the Day until December, at the earliest.  In 2013, I might return to the practice.  Then again, maybe not.  Only time will tell.  Instead of a Photo of the Day, what I may do instead is throw up a semi-regular Featured Photo post, which is really what the POTD has become anyway.

However, that is the future and this is today.  I can see possibilities where the POTD becomes a gratifying creative outlet for me once again.  However, until that happens, until it is something I am fired up about again and not something where I randomly open up a recent folder and grab pretty much the first picture that catches my eye, I think it is time to put this project to bed.

Whether it ever wakes up again, we’ll see.  I did, intentionally, choose a sunrise photo for today’s post, not a sunset.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The World According To Jason: Treading Water in the 4th Grade – The First Four Weeks

It breaks my heart, but because of the chaos in the little one’s life a couple years back, and the time it has taken to get him stabilized after the chaos, he has started the fourth grade barely able to count or write.

Fortunately, so far this year, he is making some progress, and we are in the process of putting together a plan that will focus on getting him up to speed academically now that he is succeeding behaviorally, for the most part, at school.

As we move through this process, I am keeping track of his writing progress.  I am throwing these up here not only for my own organizational needs, but also because they can be pretty entertaining.

When he gets this writing thing down, he will be very good.  As it is, these little snapshots provide an interesting glimpse into Jason’s view of the world.


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