Rob Smith

An Active Observer, an Aspiring Writer

Month: October, 2013

Thoughts on NaNoWriMo

Chuck Wendig inspired me to write about my own experiences with NaNoWriMo after his below blog:

For those of you who know nothing about it, which probably is everyone, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) occurs every November.  It is, exactly what it sounds like. Start and finish a novel during the month of November.  I partook in 2011, only to discover what a daunting task that can be.  Granted it is only ten pages a day that would result in a fairly good sized novel—300 pages 90-100k words; but this is a very daunting task, unless you are a professional writer or unemployed.  For the majority of us, this would require a miracle.

I am not saying it isn’t possible to have a day job and complete a novel in a month.  I just can not do it–  or even come close.  At the best of times recently, I can knock out five pages on a work day, forty on a weekend.  Given those parameters, NaNoWriMo this cycle has 21 work days and let’s call it 5 weekends. If you do the math, I could produce 305 pages in that time frame.   The flaw in that thinking is that I would need an ideal thirty day period.  I can’t even manage a good stretch at this point.   Realistically, what I would be able to produce would be somewhere between a quarter and a half of that output.

….and that is the 2013, me. The 2011 version only managed 30 pages.  I was not exactly crushed as an artist, but I was highly discouraged if I was really cut out for this sort of endeavor.  It did sadly take me a little longer to bounce back then I would have desired.

Two years later, I still have not completed a thing. The big difference is, I am no longer discouraged.  I know I have it in me…  and I know that even the anticipated 2016 version of myself probably could not complete a book during the course of one November.

My advise to anyone participating in NaNoWriMo is this; treat it as an experience to learn something about yourself.  Set the goal of completing the novel during the course of a month.  When you get to page 150, with no end in sight come November 30th– walk away knowing that if you plug away, it will be done by the middle part of January.  The success is that you are finally writing now.  It will be finished someday.

…and oh yeah—be sure that you have a plan going where the book and the characters are going before midnight tonight.  That is more then a third of the difficulties you will encounter finishing the book.

To Orion in a Bathtub

Ir’s a little depressing that after 60 or so years, the Orion capsule is pinocle of space program.  I envision this as nothing more than an Apollo capsule on steroids; sympathizing with the future astronauts who will have to spend months aboard. Part of me realizes that this reaction stems from a desire to rush  more quickly into a future already imagined. Science fiction geeks, me in particular, need to take a step back and understand that humanity has only just taken its first steps in what will hopefully be a grand journey.

If the goal is to get a human to Mars, just to do it- with little or no secondary mission objectives, the Orion will do the job. The American people have other things on their minds than a broader dream.   It is our job as writers to inspire these dreams.  At the same time, we provide an escape from the day to day concerns which ultimately bog down humanities will to get bigger things done.  A slippery slope.

Cold Arctic Air

The cold Arctic air has started descending upon Buffalo.  I am looking forward to this winter as activities that occur outside of the home become limited, affording me plenty of time to focus on the 500 or so pages I would like completed by the thaw.  Never mind that it will be nearly spring weather again by the end of the week.  That will just be fleeting.

The meeting with “my editors” went a little too well.  Yes, as any reader of the blog will know, I produce quite a few grammatical errors on a rather alarming consistent rate.  It is one aspect of myself that I always thought to be endearing.  I provided the same text to my brother who was going on a trans-Atlantic flight, that I had provided to these editors.  As we were going through each page, line by line, I kept imagining him trapped on an airplane with this as his only source of entertainment.  Poor planning on his part, yes.   I couldn’t help but feel bad for him none the less. For him,  In memory of that harrowing experience he had, I will strive to make more of an effort going forward,

Sadly, beyond the gramatical errors, only a few items need to be changed.  I say sadly because the first part of Axiom is closer to being completed than I had anticipated. Pasts two and three are so closely married together that it has become difficult to finish one, with out finishing the other.  They combined equal a short novel in their own right.

Getting a little more regimented in my process is the only solution I came up with.  Better time utilization is something we all need to do in order to fit everything in to our busy lives.

Sunday Sunday Here Again

I woke up yesterday with an idea burning a hole in my head for a short story.   I wrote it from start to finish in twelve hour period, which I thought was a little ambitious for me.  The title is “At the Precipice of Middle-age: A Cautionary Tale”

Further more, joined Twitter, which was something I swore never to do- as it is the Internet version of a Short Story,  the blog being the equivalent to a novel.

First meeting sit down with all of “my editors” all at once today. I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say about that in a bit…..  stay tuned.

Disjointed Friday

            I was asked to give a description of Axiom to someone and was totally flat footed. It is a totally reasonable question, but thus far anyone I discussed this with had only wanted a very general sense of what genre it fell into; never prying deeper.

            Writing a summary of a book is really tricky in that you don’t want to give too much detail. At the same time, you can not say enough, for fear of not painting a detailed enough picture.   Haunting questions such as did I give away all of the plot points or did my summary leave an impression that this was some boring work of science fiction that the non-science fiction fan can not connect with?  It’s a fine line.  I have read many summaries of a book on the back cover that either totally misrepresented what I was going to read or on the opposite extreme, gave away too much information so that it read as if it was a summary of the entire book- leaving me with nothing after later digesting hundreds of pages.

            I want to think of it as a totally unique premise that has to be experienced and can not be concisely summarized.  This is probably totally inaccurate as I haven’t read everything under the sun and someone is bound to think it resembles something else.  All I am left with is describing what it is not.  It is not a vampire love story, although some characters as soul suckers.  It is not hard science fiction, probably.  There are no zombies, sorry. It could never be labeled as cyber punk, even with the social commentary interwoven.   

We’re just going to go with the following for now:


Axiom is defined as a premise so self evident as to be accepted without question.  What if what was occurring outside of our periphery, though having little to no impact on our day to day lives, would have a huge impact on our destiny as a species?    In the tradition of many great science fiction authors who attempted to expand our world view with ideas of “what if,” Axiom takes you on a journey of a world that might and probably needs to exist Beneath the Surface soon; lest humanity will leave no long lasting mark on this Universe.

Unlike other tales, this will story will not be told from the stand point of readers who are familiar with science fiction. Instead it will be focused on bringing the reader “up to speed” at the start of the journey. 

Ir’s Friday and I am Exposed to the World

After posting the link to this Blog on Facebook, and upon realizing it has been only full of myopic musings of the writing process to date, I am committing to posting various nonsense I find interesting along with commentary, when appropriate– or possibly inappropriate.  Primarily, this is to create some level of interaction between myself and the world, totally outside of the masturbatory interaction between MSWord and myself.

Tonight”s topic, the concept of Friday Night for someone pushing 40 —

I had always been the type of person to push the limits on a Friday night.  Staying up dancing til well after dawn.  Reading, writing, drinking whilst writing.  At some point over the last five years, I realized I was no longer physically capable of such activities.  I would find myself passing out in a chair at 1am, laptop still in place on my lap… occasionally with a long extinguished cigarette between my fingers (always safely outdoors mind you),   I have been fighting against this for ages now… only to get nothing much useful accomplished between the hours of midnight and 6am, only to wake up at noon, one or even two the next day  totally spent.  This is not a good starting point for a Saturday.

At some point over the last year, it dawned on me that my whole weekend was being compressed by my Friday night activities.  Such that pushing the limits after a busy 50 hour work week on Friday was only leading to a long recovery period on Saturday.    The majority of the time, I would double down on aggressive activities to only render myself totally unable to function come  Sunday morning, which occasionally for me might mean 3pm.

Gawd forbid I make any sort of modifications to lifestyles bases on this insight.  This is the only time, outside of insights about relationships, that I probably can look back and admit I have ever been in a true state of anything resembling denial.   I can’t even explain my displaced emphasis of pushing limits on Friday nights….

Maturity is realizing that there are so many hours in any given week—  and when you realize it might be high time to call it an evening, you probably should do so instead of doing body shoots off of some barmaid who only looked passably attractive a few hours back.  It could even be an entirely different person for all you know.

What is certain is you are probably standing in vomit, you have no idea how you will safely make it home and you have no idea why you continuously do this to yourself.  This is the moment where you stop being ‘fun’ and become a ‘productive’ member of society.

….and on that note, I bid you all a good night

Learning to Write for an Audience

The first pass by my editors has not gone as smoothly as I had imagined.  It may have left me a little shaken about my work, but what it has taught me about myself is invaluable.

First and foremost, of the three people I have editing for me, all three have completely different things they look for in a book,  One, we’ll name Editor Two, probably  wouldn’t read any of my work past the third chapter if they didn’t know me personally and were provided a free copy.  The writing style is not their cup of tea.  The other two would fight through any of their issues with style as they would look at it as a challenge.

The feedback that Editor Two has provided has taught me quite a bit right off the bat about writing for a general audience,  Some lack of details shouldn’t be written off as a stylistic license on the part of an author, but instead are real issues that put up barriers between the work and the potential first time audience.  This issues need to be nipped in the bud as soon as they are discovered.  Though I am not going to change the style in order to accommodate everyone, there is quite a bit of room to tighten things up, especially with this being the first real work that is interfacing with other people outside of my head.

I am also learning quite a bit about my reactions to criticism and what it does to my own moral. The first feedback I received from Editor One, hit home hard and left me fairly demoralized.  After staying away from the work for a day and returning, I reread it, agreed with the insights provided– but also at the same time, realized that “damn, I still really like the way this is turning out.”  With Editor Two, the input was a little more damning, though in a very constructive way.   I fully anticipate being able to fce the work again and feel the same confidence I felt before.

Time to roll up my sleeves and work on a third rewrite.


Some days, you have to relax with the idea that you just don’t have it….. and that you need to embrace brain dead activities to unwind.  


I completed my final first draft of the first section of Axiom.  Submitted it to my editors, who happen to be family.  Received feed back and reworked it into a second draft during the week. 

The one thing that I have found the most surprising is that now that I have put something out there for other people to read and react to,  I have been more open to feed back than I would have believed myself capable.   My feeling is that the 20 year old version of me, hell even the 30 year old progression of the same person, would have fought tooth and nail to retain certain stylistic choices, which probably are questionable at best.  Getting a little older, and maybe just maybe a little wiser, has allowed me to approach this whole process from the readers stand point first and fore most.   The younger writer nearly exists in a state of solipsism, wanting to reader to conform to their approach and not developing the ideas and structure first and fore most from the readers perspective….. 


…and interesting little revelation.

Saturday Night

            Saturday night, and I have decided to turn over a new leaf. I have been writing on and off for the last two decades, true most of it nonsensical drivel.  I have the first 80 pages written of three separate novels.  I have bits and pieces that could easily be 20 short stories onto themselves.   But I have always had a disdain for anything less then a novel.           

            I can’t even explain why this is. I never understood the idea of a short story- it always seemed like an incomplete thought to me. Anytime I sat down and attempted to read a short story, when it ended I always wanted more.  I wanted the universes that I had been introduced to in 30 pages to be detailed further in an epic 1000 page novel.  Hell, I wanted it to not only be that but a series of novels.  I have an issue with enjoying something for what it is and just walking away to experience something new.

            This mindset has consumed my modus operandi as an aspiring author.   A decade ago, I wouldn’t have been happy with anything less then a 1200 page novel that “fully” explored the idea I wanted to pose.  Over the last five years, I had settled on a shorter 350 page novel, which would be the first part in a series of books which fully explored the idea in my head.  Over the last six months, I decided that I didn’t even care if the book was part of a bigger idea–  that I just needed to publish something.   But it was always a novel that was in my mind…  never anything less.

            In passing, about a month ago, my mother asked me why I never considered publishing a short story, just to get my feet wet and to get an audience exposed to my way of thinking.  I had many objections, built up over the years, as to why this made no sense to me.  I tired to express them to her, but I no longer believed my own arguments.   It was at that point that I realized that I had boxed myself in artistically. 

            To date, I have published ZERO. It’s frustrating, but I have finally realized that it is my own self constructed barriers that have inhibited my works, in whatever form, from exposure to the world.  I don’t claim they are “great works.”  But I have a feeling they are unique in their own way and should see the light of day.

            I had already settled a few years back on self publishing via  the available methods–   so now I am going to take and even greater leap for me, and publish the first work as a serialized series.   This is a compromise position where I put the project out there is compartmentalized quasi-short story form in length, but where the end product is a novel.   This gets me the exposure, and the feed back both positive and negative that arises from putting yourself out there, without expending all of my psychic energy on a larger work–  but instead take it bit by bit.

            And I am turning over the additional new leaf of journalizing my thoughts in this process in a blog form. I have always been somewhat phobic of commit words to a page–  and hitting submit for the world to see them.  Hopefully, utilizing a blog format, I can work my way through this issue… lol….


            As always, stay tuned.