Goals.

I’m going to write another post about where I am, what’s been happening lately, and where I’m going with my non-writing life pretty soon, probably in the next week. I’ll give you a teaser for it here: I move out of home in 6 days to go to school.

This post, however, is going to talk about where I’ve been, where I am, and where I want to go in my writing life. I’ve decided it’s time to assess where I am, see if I like it or not, and see where I want to be a month, a year, a decade from now.

I’m working on a new project. A friend and I are working on an online game. He’s doing most of the coding, though I’m helping with that where I can. One of my majors is computer science, and trying to struggle through the code is good practice for me. But my major role in the project is the story. Many small games just have basic stories, or even no story at all, and they’re there only for the game. I understand these games; I play a few of them. I want our game to be different. Some of the large games–RuneScape, World of Warcraft–have novels that go with them. I don’t know if I’ll get that far, but I am writing background, flavor text, and some short stories to go along with the game, so that your progression actually makes sense, and so that there’s another level for the players to enjoy, if they choose to do so, and that they can ignore if they want to. I wrote my first short story for this two days ago, and I really enjoyed it, clocking in about 3,000 words in a single day, pretty much non-stop. I ran a quick grammar revision over it, and let a few gaming friends read it. So far reception has been pretty positive. My goals here are to get the game launched in a reasonable time-frame, and to continue writing short stories and back-ground text. I would like to have several ready to go when the game launches, and a new one every month or so as the game progresses, maybe less often. I’m not sure yet.

I’m close to finishing my NaNoWriMo novel. I’m 60,000 words in, and in the middle of what I think is the ending. My immediate goal is to make it through the novel, and set it aside/send it off to a few friends for comments. I hope to do this before classes start, and it’s what I’ll be spending all of my writing time doing for the next few days.

What will I work on after that?

What are my long-term, 10-year+ goals? I want to be a published author, with books in the bookstores. (Yes, I’m optimistic that bookstores will still exist in 10 years.) That is the ultimate goal, I guess, and I want to take steps toward that goal, not away from it.

Let me take a minute and explain that goal. My true goal is to be a writer. I’ve done that already, I’ve written a novel, several short stories, and I’m almost finished with a second novel. But my drive to be a writer consists of two parts. First and foremost, I want to tell stories. I have more ideas than I have time to write, and I want to write these ideas down, get them out of my head–though this mostly seems to just make room for new ones. But I also want my stories to be read. That’s the purpose of a story, to entertain others. I read books to be entertained, and I would love for my books to be able to do the same thing. That is why I want to be published. (I’m not under any delusions that I’ll get rich from it. Not in the slightest.)

So what am I going to do? I could just keep writing novels until I feel they’re good enough (My second one is much better than my first, IMHO, and I hope this trend will continue.), and hope to get in that way. It’s one of the traditional ways, and lots of people have done it. I have considered it, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.

But I also enjoy writing short stories, and reading some of them as well, at least of types that fit my tastes. I don’t want to write only novels. Some parts of writing, some aspects of the craft, can be practiced in short stories, and I intend to keep writing these when I feel like it. In addition, some ideas are better suited to short stories, and wouldn’t work as complete novels, and sometimes, it’s refreshing to start and finish something in a day or a week, instead of it being a months-long process.

So on my path to submitting novels and writing more of them (I’m not going to stop doing that. Period.), I’m aiming to submit and have published some short stories. I don’t have any right now that I feel are ready to submit (I really like the one I wrote for the game, but it’s for the game, not submission. There’s too much back-story and interconnectedness for that to work, even if I wanted to.). Thus, my immediate goal is to write some more short stories. Today is August 17. My goal is to have 1 done by the end of this month and being read by some writer friends for feedback. I want to have that one revised and sent off somewhere to be rejected by the end of September, and I want to have another one written by then. I want to do at least one new one per month until the end of this year (I might take November off if I decide to do NaNoWriMo), and have at least one rejection letter that I can print out and hang on my wall before the end of the year.

By the end of next year, I hope to have several short stories to shop around, and be able to collect a nice stack of rejections. My goal, my big goal for next year, is to get one acceptance, though that will probably be a low-paying, easy market. I’ll take what I can get, though I’ll always strive for the best.

I also want to write at least one more novel this year. I have three months, and I’m going strong with 1000 words per day. I can do another 50-60k on a single project, though I’ll be happy as well being 60k into a novel and it not being done, due to the fact that it ends up being longer. This is some-what vague right now, as I don’t know what I want to write next–I’m going to do brainstorming soon.

Next year, I hope to be able to revise the novel I’m working on now, once I have some distance from it, and write at least two more rough drafts, as well as several more short stories.

From there, it gets vague. Keep writing, keep submitting short stories. Hopefully in a few years, I’ll feel confident enough to start shopping a novel around, with the eventual goal of selling one. But that’s all vague.

For the rest of this year, here’s my checklist. I’ll keep you updated as I go through and hopefully hit these markers.

Finish the July novel by Wednesday, August 28, 2013.

Brainstorm and write a short story, rough draft, by September 1, 2013.

Brainstorm and write a short story, rough draft, by October 1, 2013.

Revise and etc. the short story from August by October 1, 2013.

Submit the August story to a market by October 2, 2013.

Get a rejection letter by the end of the year.

Brainstorm and write a short story, rough draft, by November 1, 2013.

Revise the September story by November 1, 2013.

Submit the September story by November 2, 2013.

Maybe brainstorm and write a short story, rough draft, by December 1, 2013.

Revise the October and November stories by the end of the year.

Write at least one more short story for the game project, and whatever else needs to be done.

Write at least 60k words on another novel by the end of the year.

All in all, this would leave me with 4 revised short stories, 1 unrevised, and hopefully at least one rejection letter under my belt, as well as 2 completed novel rough drafts and a good chunk of a third. I think that’s a pretty good goal-set for my first year as a serious writer, while going full time to college. Don’t you? Looking at it all, I’m kind of scared. But if I can get all that done, I’ll be very proud of myself, and well on my way to becoming a published author. I’ll also have established that I can set goals that will stretch me, and I can make myself meet them. I want to continue being able to stretch myself and to grow.

How to *Almost* Kill Your Characters

WARNING: This post contains major spoilers for these movies: The Avengers, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and Pacific Rim. It also contains one for the book, The Way of Kings.

Second paragraph of warning. If you don’t want the endings of those movies and something from the middle of the book spoiled, stop reading.

So if you’re to here, I’m assuming you’ve seen all of those, or you don’t mind me spoiling them for you. Kudos to you. Let me jump right in with what I’m talking about. Almost killing your characters. By this I mean taking them to the point of death, and bringing them back. Specifically, I’m talking about the scene where the main character does something and when we see them again, it’s a secondary character holding their body, thinking they’re dead. And then their eyes open, and everything is fine.

In The Avengers, we get this scene when Tony Stark falls back through the trans-dimensional-wormhole-thingy. Oh, the ending up to that point is spectacularly awesome, and I loved it. But there, they pretend he’s dead for a moment, and then the Hulk roars at him, and boom, happy, alive, and making his quips. The moment where they feared he was dead felt empty, cheated, to me.

In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, we get this scene where Thorin Oakenshield is dropped off by the eagles. Again, his eyes are closed for a moment (Plus the entire eagle’s flight before that), and we are supposed to be afraid that he’s dead, for a moment. And then he opens his eyes. And makes a great speech, but seriously. A moment later he’s standing up and acting like nothing was even wrong with him. I feel cheated by that moment when his eyes are closed.

And at the end of Pacific Rim, after our hero (I’ve forgotten his name. Shame on me.) blows up his big mecha-robot thing (Yes, I know it’s a Jäger.) in the alien dimension and then jettisons out (This felt a lot like Stark falling back through after delivering the nuke.), the only female character in the entire movie with a line, as far as I can remember (Gender balance ruling: WAY off), swims off her pod through the ocean (Why was there green stuff coming from hers?) and opens his up. Then we get the entire scene where they can’t find a pulse and there’s no life signs, his eyes are closed, etc… And the boom, open. A moment later, we pan out to them romantically sitting together on top of the pod, both seeming fine. Again, I felt utterly cheated by this scene.

And then there’s a scene in the middle of The Way of Kings. I’ll preface this by saying that this is my favorite book of all time. I’m in the middle of re-reading it right now. I saw Pacific Rim on Saturday, and read this scene yesterday (Sunday), which is what prompted this post. Anyway, it’s the scene where Kaladin is hanging from the barracks after the highstorm. There’s a description of how bloody and cut up he is, and nobody could survive that. And then his eyes snap open. BAM. It was a very powerful scene for me, and I loved it. It’s one of my favorites in the book, after some of the ending battle scenes, and the one where Dalinar holds back the Chasmfiend claw near the beginning. (I would pay to see a movie of this just for that scene right there.)

So why did the first three not work, while the last one was so good it hit me physically?

Let me pause for a moment and note that I enjoyed all of the movies listed. The Avengers and The Hobbit, particularly, are some of my favorite movies, overall. It’s just the one scene that I’m picking on here.

I think it has to do with a few things that surround the scenes. First is placement. In all of the films, the almost-death scene is at the end. After the big battle has been won, everything is over. Now we just wait to see if they hero has survived, and then yes, they did, so there’s no reason to have them really hurt or anything. Just unconscious for a moment and then they’re fine. In The Way of Kings, the scene is almost directly in the middle of the book. We haven’t won yet (That happens in book 10, I think?) so we’re expecting the character to go on. Kal hasn’t even just beaten some big bad guy. I think that these kinds of scenes are better earlier, when there’s still action to come, instead of it all being over.

But perhaps more importantly, it’s about the set-up. In each of the movies, it’s “We beat him.” (Well, not Azog. But that’s because we have to have a bad guy for later, right?) and the point of the scenes are to beat the bad guys. The point of Kaladin’s scene is that he survived the highstorm. His goal was to survive. And I think it was incredibly well set up by the speech he gave a few scenes back, when he’s strung up before the storm, about how he will open his eyes when it’s over. His goal is to survive. It’s not to beat up a bad guy, so whether he survives or not, it’s not an afterthought, it’s the entire point of the scene.

There’s also a magical explanation of why he survived, when nobody else was supposed to be able to. Oh, we don’t get into it for a little while, but it’s still there, and I think that it helped a lot. I’m tired of people surviving things that should have killed them just because they survived. If they have a cool magical reason, to survive, it’s cool (I can be redundant when I’m being redundant.).

There’s also the fact that Kaladin isn’t immediately miraculously well and happy. Gosh no. He’s just been shredded and torn to pieces by a super-mega-uber-hurricane. He’s going to be beat up. His eyes open, and then he passes out again, and we get a chapter where he has to heal up and rest before he can get back to any semblance of normalcy. This made the scene feel much more real to me, made it seem like he actually was in danger from the storm, and he did get hurt.

So, at least as far as I can figure out, that’s why only one of those scenes worked for me. If you have differing opinions, please comment. I may certainly be wrong. And if I’m wrong, I want to know. I honestly wrote this post to explore my own opinions and feelings of disappointment at the scene in Pacific Rim and the sudden reversal I felt in a similar scene the next day in The Way of Kings. I’m a writer, and I’ll want to write scenes like this at some point. And I want them to work, to be as powerful as the scene in The Way of Kings, so I’ve tried to figure out why it works for me, so that maybe I can duplicate that, and make it work for my readers. If you think I’ve missed something, please let me know. I’m just trying to be a better writer :).