On Being Quick And Dirty

the only way to find the treasure is to get yourself all mucky crawling around in the jungle.
—K. M. Weiland, Outlining Your Novel

My plan for this blog is not to be a perfect place for reference, but to serve me as a tool for exploring and learning. I am convinced that through the act of recording my discoveries, I strengthen the lessons and learn new things.

Just like the fact that there is no better way to learn a topic than having to teach it, I hope that nothing better to cement my learnings than by recording the raw path.

As I like to say: It’s about the journey, not the destination. The journey is the destination.

I Am Planning For Somebody Else To Write My Novel

Yes, I am planning for somebody else to write my novel.

I was just reading Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland and the second chapter introduced an interesting idea for starting your outlining process: writing the perfect review for your future book. This is a glowing review of your finished book that highlights all the merits of the story. Whatever one writes in this review is the high level goal for the book.

I’ve been thinking lately how to better organize or schedule the writing of my book. As somebody who relies on calendars and schedules to complete my projects, I would like to find a similar approach for fiction writing.

So Weiland’s book got me thinking about an approach for planning my book: Creating a plan for somebody else’s work. In other words, prepare the scheme for the novel as a series of steps and directions to be followed by somebody, anybody, not necessarily me. My hope is that this will force me to be more explicit about the work that needs to be done, and like with the review, have a more clear defined goal that’s easier to achieve.

So, I am planning for somebody else to write my book, and I will just carry on the plan myself.

New Year’s Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions

 

Do more, think less: Anything that can help me break the habit of perfectionism and the consequence of paralysis by analysis. Another slogan favorite of mine: “Done is better than perfect”

Daily writing: No idea how I’m going to pull this one off1. What I learned last year is that I need to read fiction to learn the genre and I need to read non-fiction books about writing to learn the craft. It is hard to accomplish a high daily word count if I also want to read (not to mention other things in life, gym anyone?).

Finish my first book: I had a few failed attempts last year. Failed is a strong word, but I’m not hesitant to use it. I learned a fuckload last year, some setbacks along the way are necessary. Mandatory I would say.

Focus on what’s worth: This goal sounds simple and too abstract but it is really the key to most things I expect to get done. I want to get rid of everything that I don’t care for or I don’t need. I want to apply the sort of minimalism that I already follow for house items and clothes2, to everything in life. By getting rid of distractions I hope to be able to focus on what really matters, make room for new things and reduce stress.


  1. Maybe use Tumblr blog for daily shower-thoughts, and WordPress blog for longer form writing. Or, post for one month on tumblr, post for one month on WordPress. Compare notes on March 1st. 
  2. No. I’m not a uniform kind of guy (yet) 

The Brain Is A Pattern Matching Machine

The Brain Is A Pattern Matching Machine

In the book How to Make a Mind, Ray Kurzweil proposes the intriguing idea that the brain behaves like a massive pattern recognizing machine. The beauty of the concept is that the brain–or the neocortex to be more exact–is entirely focused on this single task and all activities within the brain can be explained as examples of pattern recognition.

When we see a friend, we first see curves and shapes, then we identify a face and finally we recognize the significance of this face. This hierarchy is, from beginning to end, a pattern recognition exercise (shapes turn into a face, and a face turns into a friend). Ideas, behaviors, responses, etc, all can be understood as the brain finding these patterns and matching them with similar patterns stored in the brain in the form of memories.

I love the idea that the amazing complexities of the brain are ruled by one “simple” algorithm.

Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049

When we left the movie theater years ago, my buddy said to me “I didn’t understand what that movie was about”. We were still in highschool and had just came out of watching a remastered version of Blade Runner. I thought I had understood the movie, but my buddy was smart, so I knew that there was something more to understand that I had completely missed. Something more than meets the eye.

And now we have more.

Have you seen the new Blade Runner trailer? Blade Runner 2049. Of course you’ve seen it. It is a full package of hope wrapped up in Harrison Ford nostalgia and Ryan Gosling LA-ness.

The trailer features a deserted korean building with a piano and Vangelis-like music. Reading on the limited dialog and action it looks like Ryan might be after the girl or after Deckard as a suspected replicant.

I hope Blade Runner 2049 is a good movie. Or at least a movie that makes me think that there was more to it than what meets the eye.

Top Tyrants from Sci-Fi Movies

Top Tyrants from Sci-Fi Movies

Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Dune series)

You can’t get more evil and disgusting than Vladimir_Harkonnen: a face covered in blistering diseases, killing his servants for pleasure, ruling with terror, appointing his family members positions of power, is a long list.

baron-harkonnen-dune

Emperor Palpatine (Star Wars series)

This guy doesn’t need an introduction. Emperor Palpatine started his political carrer as Senator from Naboo and then manipulated his way up to become Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic first, and then Emperor of the Galactic Empire.

emperor-palpatine-star-wars

Big Brother (1984)

Big Brother is the leader of the totalitarian state in Oceania. Despite the comforting name, Big Brother’s ruling oppressive and despotic.

big-brother-1984

Ming the Merciless (Flash Gordon)

Ming ruled a whole planet, Mongo and was the villain of Flash Gordon serials. To be honest, Flash did land in Mongo uninvited and unannounced (in the original comic strips), so what’s a guy with a name like the Merciless gotta do but retaliate?

ming-the-merciless-flash-gordon

President Snow (The Hunger Games series)

North America has become a dictatorship and President Snow is its ruthless leader.

president-snow

Dr. Doom (The Fantastic Four)

Doctor Victor Von Doom rules the country of Latveria with an iron fist. As it is the case in most megalomaniac dictatorships, the populace is poor and fully dependant on their tyrant.

dr-doom

Plotting Your Book: Story Drafting

Here it is a detailed breakdown of how to draft your novel in phases. If you completed your book planning checklist, you are ready to start with your drafting.

Pre-drafting

Everything discussed in A Complete Guide for Planning and Drafting your Book: ideation, plot arcs and scenes.

  • Time goal: 2 weeks

Draft Zero

This draft is not so much writing as it is planning. Don’t use the voice that you plan on using, but rather a direct, instructional voice in present tense. Don’t use descriptions and be minimal with the language. Cover all the scenes you planned earlier but aim for just 200 to 500 words per scene.

  • Time goal: 1 week
  • Daily goal: 2,000 words
  • Total goal: 10,000 words

Draft One

This is the scaffolding of your story. Write as past as you can, never edit, never go back. The only way is forward. Don’t worry about the style. This draft will be completely rewritten

This is your NaNoWriMo draft if you are into that kind of thing.

  • Time goal: 4 weeks
  • Daily goal: 2,500 words
  • Total goal: 50,000 words

Draft Two

First draft that you will write as if it was final. It just won’t be.

  • Time goal: 4 weeks

Draft Three

This is a pretty good draft. You are now including all revisions and additions from your previous draft, as well as focusing more on subplots, symbolism, themes, etc.

  • Time goal: 4 weeks

Final Draft

This is it. This is the time to do any minor adjustments, pay attention to detail and incorporate any last pieces of feedback.

  • Time goal: 2 weeks

A Complete Guide for Planning and Drafting your Book: A NaNoWriMo Checklist

A short and to the point list of all the things every writer should think of and plan before starting to type their manuscript. This comprehensive list is perfect for obsessive planners, although pantsers should review and have a high level idea of these elements as well.

The goal is to have a blueprint of our story so that we can sit every day to type knowing well what we are supposed to write, and therefore avoid any writer’s block.

Here it is all you need to plan for your book before you start typing your manuscript. This plan is divided in three sections (plus one bonus):

  • Ideation: Covers all the loose bits and pieces that make up your story (theme, characters, world, etc)
  • Plotting Arcs: The character and story arcs as well as all subplots.
  • Scenes: An overview of all main scenes in the story
  • Draft Zero: A quick overview on writing a schematic pre-draft.

The Story Plotting Checklist

These notes have been extracted from some great books on plotting. Mostly this list follows most of the directions in The Novel-Writing Training Plan (a great straight and to the point book on plotting) and also on ideas from Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Save The Cat!, and a few other books.

Part 1 – Ideation

✅ Idea

This is the premise of your book, the core nugget. What is that one thing that you came up with that made you want to write