Thursday, December 30, 2010

Space Available: Parameters.

I figure it would behoove me, as I set on the creation of Space Available, to lay some ground rules, some parameters as I embark on this experiment. Just a little something to make the challenge more challenging and to make sure I stick to my vision. It's always a good idea, when writing, to place some accountability out there, to let others know what you're doing, how you plan on doing it, and when you plan on having it done. Trust me, writers: this is to your advantage. It's far too easy just to waste time when you sit down to write, deceiving yourself into thinking you're using your time well ("I really SHOULD check my Facebook homepage again, even though I just checked it two minutes ago; what if someone made a status update I can use in my book?!"). Having some accountability keeps you honest.

Okay, so the rules. There aren't many, but here's what I have so far:

Writing. Writing must be done using only the Twitter interface. Writing it beforehand in Microsoft Word or any other program, and then copying and pasting it into Twitter is cheating and counter to the whole experiment. I'm not using Twitter to transmit my novel; I'm using it to create it.

Format. Since I'm writing it specifically in Twitter, I'm going to attempt to incorporate the methodology of Twitter into the story. I don't know exactly yet how this will happen, but it's a goal and something I want to let you all know about ahead of time so I don't get cold feet and bail on this particular challenge.

The Account Itself. Starting January 1, 2011, through December 31, 2011, my Twitter account of @AdamAuthor will be used exclusively and solely for writing Space Available. In other words, I will not coexist on Twitter with my book. I will not respond to "at" tweets and I will not retweet anything. If you want to communicate with me, you can do it the old-fashioned way: through Facebook or by sending an email to adampalmer 75 [at] gmail (dot) com.

Perspective. The reader must remain in the main character's head at all times. In other words, no switching around through multiple characters' points of view. I did this already in Knuckle Sandwich, and it was a conscious choice. In one respect it's limiting, in that it takes away the omniscience many authors enjoy, but on the other hand, it gives a concrete platform to work from. Also, on a completely practical level, I'm going to write it in first-person, a first for me. Why first-person? Because I have so few letters in each tweet, I don't want to waste any of them by constantly typing my main character's name over and over when I can just type "I."

Editing. For the time being, what's there is what's there. Obviously, I can't go back and edit previous tweets, but I'm also not going to go back and edit by selectively deleting any previous tweets either. For better or for worse, the book, in 2011, will be what I tweet as I tweet it. Now, when it comes time to go to press, I'm 100% certain my publisher will want to edit it (and I'm also certain it will need it), which makes it all the more important for you to follow along in 2011. The published version will differ, I'm sure, from the tweeted version. And besides, you only live once, right?

Blogging. I intend to write a semi-weekly-or-so post here on Dregs explaining some of my thoughts as I continue on with Space Available, just to keep track of my headspace throughout the year, and hopefully answer any questions you may have. You're welcome to ask those via the comments section here or by shooting me an email at adampalmer75 [at] gmail [dot] com. Hopefully these posts will be insightful as to the writing process and stuff like that. Maybe not.

Well, that's all I can think of rules-wise for now. It's going to be a grand experiment, for sure, and I'm humbled that so many of you are heading down this road with me. As I told someone else, I'm equal parts pants-wetting excited and pants-soiling frightened. And I think that's a good thing.

See you in 2011. I should probably think of a first sentence now.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Space Available: The Cover.

[Many thanks to my good friend Sean Lorenz for his most excellent cover.]

Monday, December 27, 2010

Space Available: My Expectations.

So, now that I've announced my upcoming Twitter novel, Space Available, I thought it'd be a good idea to lay down some expectations both for myself and for whomever winds up reading the thing. Just some thoughts and ideas, some of the ways I see it going and some of the ways I can foresee it changing. That sort of thing. Oh, and maybe some preemptive answers to possible questions about the writing process in general. So. Here goes.

Plot. I've written two other novels, and with both of those, I had a plot in mind before I began, but nothing really set in stone. With Mooch, I knew I wanted to write a heist caper, and I had the setup pretty firmly established (rich guy dies/ buried with fortune/ our heroes want to steal it), but I didn't really know how deviously mooch-y Jake would wind up being. And I had absolutely no intention of making it as much of a love story as it became--that just happened as I was writing it. I guess I'm just a hopeless romantic and couldn't help putting that stuff into it.

Knuckle Sandwich was a different bird altogether. Here's how I originally pitched it to NavPress:

A local Christian rock band known as Knuckle Sandwich is doing their best to make it to the big time. They work hard, rehearse three times a week, play any and every show they can, and save up their money to record a demo. Then they finally get a gig opening for a major Christian act, and everything changes.

This one’s been percolating for some time, and it would ideally be a blistering (but loving) satire of the entire Christian subculture. Topics examined/lampooned: Christian music vs. secular music, bumper-sticker-deep faith, the recent explosion of selfish and self-centered Christianity, and the galling idea of the Christian celebrity.

What the book actually became was a coming-of-age/faith story about a college kid who realized that his idea of Jesus had been too small all along. Yes, some of the Christian subculture satire is in there, but the book became much less about that and much more of an examination of a kid who'd grown up in that subculture and who therefore had only an intellectual relationship with God.

Looking back at my original pitch, I can see that there wasn't a lot of plot to begin with--it was really just a kernel of an idea that lent itself well to becoming a character study, which it did. As I got deeper into the writing, I began to realize more and more the trajectory my characters were headed on, and I started to see some plot machinations I wanted to throw at them to see how they'd handle it. I didn't have a plot outline, but I did create a sort of timeline to keep track of the two years or so that the novel encompasses.

As far as this pertains to Space Available, I've decided it would be a good idea to outline as much of a plot as I can, while still allowing breathing room. My other novels I wrote in a month--they consumed all my time for thirty straight days. This time around, I'm writing it in small bursts over the course of an entire year, and that's a recipe for an extremely wandering and unfocused plot. So I'm mitigating that as much as possible by creating an overarching outline.

I've actually started to think of this almost episodically, not unlike my favorite television show of the past few years, "LOST." Once they got to season three and negotiated an end date with ABC, the creators outlined the entire arc of the rest of the series, episode by episode, to make sure they doled out the necessary information in a smart and satisfying way, and to make sure they treated all their characters fairly. I'm thinking along those same lines.

Characters. In both my previous novels, the characters sprang into my mind almost as I started writing. For example, with Mooch, I based Jake (loosely) on myself and Louisa (not-so-loosely) on my wife, and then added the other characters as I needed them. Jake needed a boss, so here comes Del. All good heist capers need a team of crack experts that each bring their own special skill, so here come Jeremy and Chiffon. In fact, I based Chiffon on a reality show personality who just happened to be on the television as I wrote her first scene.

Sometimes characters change the entire course of a book. The first time I thought through Knuckle Sandwich, I thought it'd be an interesting dynamic to have Matt and Jeremiah both be vying for Liz's affections. But when it came time to introduce Liz, I decided to do it at Club David, the Christian dance club they happened to be visiting, and I realized that this cool girl Liz would not be there by herself. That would be out of character for her. So I invented her friend Amanda, and adding just that one character changed not just that situation but the story itself. (And changed it for the better, I might add.)

The problem with Space Available is that I've locked myself into a certain plot structure, so what happens if I introduce a character who can make the story better in a direction I didn't foresee? I'm sure I'll have to balance out sticking to my outline and exploring more interesting avenues that crop up as I write. I anticipate this will be my most difficult challenge.

Plus, I abhor having the plot dictate the characters. That's really a backward way of writing, and a great way to write something completely boring. It's really fascinating to get to know your characters and let them take over your story. Fascinating both to you as the writer and to your eventual readers. I really hope to be able to let this happen as I create Space Available.

Again, I think of "LOST." While they had their overall plot planned out years in advance, they also built in room to adjust (or perhaps they'd say "course-correct") to the many, many different trials and challenges of producing a network television show. For example, they'd written a multi-season arc for one character, but the actor who played that character hated being in Hawaii away from his friends and family and wanted off the show. His arc was important to the mythology of the show, though, so they had to give his entire arc to a different character and find a way to make it work. That's sort of thing I'm anticipating needing to do, and I'm trying not to soil myself with anxiety thinking about it.

Medium. My previous two novels were written with the vomit-it-into-your-computer-and-clean-it-up-later method endorsed by the folks at National Novel Writing Month. I've had a blast writing like that, just pounding the coffee and then pounding the keys, letting whatever hops into my brain leak out onto the page, knowing that I'll go through with a big, fat, red pen and fix it all later on. It's freeing.

That obviously isn't going to work here. For starters, this is for keeps. Everyone is reading along, as I write it. I can't go back. There are no do-overs. Every tweet is final.

So how can I write with abandon while knowing that I can't go back and edit? I'll let you know once I do it. If I do it.

Next post: The rules of the game. What impositions and boundaries I'm setting up for myself as I write Space Available. Should be fun.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Announcing: Space Available.

It's official. The papers have been signed and countersigned and my next novel, Space Available, will be published with Marcher Lord Press.

What will it be? Perhaps this handy checklist will pique your interest:

__Science fiction.
__On Twitter.

Hopefully I can hit at least two of those.

Watch this space for more info! I'll be jotting down some thoughts and expectations as I head into bold unknown of writing a novel on Twitter.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A New Project.

So, I signed up for Twitter a couple of months ago as a means of using yet another social media platform to market my writing services. When I first started using it, I assumed it was a narcissistic way to vomit your immediate thoughts onto the internet, but as I began to navigate Twitter's waters, I began to realize: this is a marvelous construct to hone the craft of writing.

I began to "follow" (oh, how it galls me to use that word in this context) people who I knew to be good writers, mostly comedians, and began to gape in awe at their ability to fashion perfect zingers. The character limitation forces out every unnecessary word and distills the thoughts down to their powerful essence. Maybe Shakespeare was right when he wrote that "brevity is the soul of wit" (Or the Reduced Shakespeare Company when they wrote in their play The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged): "brevity is... wit").

And in my mind began to form a challenge. One I would give to myself. And the more I thought about it, the more insanely fun and difficult it sounded. And so, I am proud to announce, in conjunction with Marcher Lord Press, that I am going to spend the calendar year of 2011 writing my next novel...

...using only Twitter.

Okay, I'm positive this has been done before, but not by me, and so therefore I'm also positive that it's going to be a blast. A challenging blast, but a blast nonetheless.

Keep an eye on this space in the coming days as I expand on the challenge with format announcements, self-imposed limitations, expectations, extra stuff with Marcher Lord Press (so excited about them!) and more. And as I continue on with the project, I'll be offering a running commentary here on Dregs with my thoughts about the novel as it's taking shape.

In the meantime, click here to visit my Twitter page and, if you're so inclined, follow along on this wild, wacky ride into the abyss of... I can't think of a way to finish that sentence.

Write on!