Victory Conditions

Victory Conditions

Here’s my list of victory conditions, compiled from a number of sources, from my personal experiences, and my scientific determination of what will make me feel superior for as long as possible.

1. Write every day.

Of all of them, this one is the hardest to achieve. I’m a creature of habit. And when there are five days of the week that are relatively similar, what with work, and school and bathing, it’s easy to keep going. But the weekends roll around and everything is different.

No alarms, no real routine (at least with my family). And with the noise and interruptions. It’s just much more challenging to make happen.

Tough one.

2. A daily word count. Like 1000 words a day.

1000 words is a good starting point for beginners, according to Stephen King in his horrible book[1] On Writing.

3. But really, 2000 words a day.

2000 words a day is how many words you should write every day, if you really mean it. If you’re serious. According to Stephen King. He said it in that same hated book.

4. Write a story a week for a year.

Who was it? Ray Bradbury or someone? Anyway, some successful writer said that when you’re just starting out don’t dig right into a novel. You don’t learn enough from a novel. It takes too long. Try to write a story a week.

Find your voice.  Write shitty stories.  Just write 52 of them. One a week. I think he said that no one can possibly write 52 bad stories in a row. I’m setting out to prove him wrong.

5. Write a post a week for a year

I have trouble with articles. So I’m trying to get better. And why not just copy the notion of writing a post a week? 52 posts. That’s not bad. Work out the process of having ideas and then attempting to articulate them into an article.

So those are my victory conditions. Some challenging, some easy, all do-able on my schedule. I can get at least one of them a day, and up to three, and I get another two every week.

So it’s a start. Maybe I’ll add more later.

Let’s see if it works:

Last week, I wrote a story. And I wrote a blog post. I’m two days into my next story. And yesterday I wrote…checking the numberrrr…here it is:

2212 words.

I’m feeling something…yes…yes, the warm glow of smug superiority.

Success!


  1. I hate On Writing by Stephen King. I did read it, and I got some good things out of it, but I don’t like some of the messages it sends about the process of writing. I’ve been trying to put my anger into words for some time now and haven’t succeeded.  ↩
By Hariadhi, myself (Own work) GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Cheating for the win

To review, I quit writing a novel.

I quit because it was broken, and I didn’t know how to fix it. I’m not good enough to make it into the story that I want it to be. So, I need to become a better writer. I need to become a better writer by writing more. More words, more stories, more articles, more stuff.

But…why? There’s no real end goal with being a successful writer. Yeah, money, fame and all that. But really the reward for being a successful writer is that you get to write more. And then, when you’re done, you get to celebrate by starting to write a new thing. It’s a hamster wheel. So there’s no castle at the end with a princess in it. There’s no ceremony, no podium to stand on, no award that means you won writing. You can’t win writing. You just get to keep doing it. And that’s your reward. Ideally, you get to do it until you die.

And this should be a good thing. Right?

Endlessly doing something? Until you die?

This is good?

Yes. This is good.

Sometimes, your weak human mind will have a flash of clarity and tell you that everybody dies, and you could die tomorrow, and why should you spend all your life sitting at a computer waggling your fingers when you should be out in the sunshine! You should be watching TV! You should be playing that new game, or having drinks with your friends, or shopping, or doing whatever that isn’t writing. Because life! It’s for living! Yeah! Cue Mountain Dew commercial! No, no. You’ve got to learn to tamp that zest down. It will only make you do fun things that you will probably enjoy. Unacceptable!

The key, I’m discovering, is to train your mind to take pleasure in work. Fun and enjoyment? Nah. The real challenge is to learn to derive self-worth from doing things that make you feel shitty about yourself for long stretches of time. If you can do that? Then, my friend, you’ve got an endless supply of confidence.

I’m going to rig the game.

So how am I going to do that? How will I ever train myself to take pleasure in thankless, futile labor locked in the damp and fetid chambers of my own mind? Easy. Cheat. Rig the game so that I CAN win. I’m going to win all the time. Like every day. Like every week. Because who doesn’t like to win? People will do anything to win. Right?

Here it is: I need to fool myself into working when I don’t want to work. Maybe what making it easy to win will do is get me that little rush of accomplishment.

That same feeling you get when you manage to get up one morning and you exercise and spend the rest of the day strutting around the office, feeling superior. That little smirk on your face. That wonderful smug feeling. We’ve all felt it.

I think I’ll need it every day. Every hour sometimes. So I need set up many ways for me to win. Many ways for me to get that feeling whenever I need it to get going. I need victory conditions.

By the way? I wrote 2324 words yesterday.

So.

I’m better than you.

Ahh. That’s the stuff.

Frank_Leavitt_wrestler1

52 for strength

My novel died in February of 2014. It died because I wasn’t good enough to save it.

I spent a long time with one set of characters, with one set of situations and one, albeit large, plot.
Writing is like exercise, they say.

So writing my novel was like I just got on the bicep machine and worked a bicep. It’s big. 200k words. So that’s good. I learned a lot, too. I don’t regret it. I learned how to write every day, and what it felt like to write 2000 words. How to be committed, and how to trick myself into thinking that it’s actually fun to write.

But it was time that I recognize that I’m all bicep and no core.

I got lots of valuable stuff out of the experience, but what I didn’t get to do was practice. Practice writing different types of characters, scenarios, settings, moods, themes, etc. The core muscles, to continue with the exercise thing.

So how does one go about building up that core of writer strength?

I’ve taken writing classes and seminars. I’ve read books on writing. I’ve watched videos. I have writing software (Scrivener). I’ve got a great keyboard, the best computer, and time and space that I can use to write. But none of these things make a good writer.

Only writing does that. Writing lots of stuff. All the time.

This is where a quote from Ray Bradbury comes in.

“Write a short story a week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad stories in a row.”

I like those odds.

So, in early February, with my novel wheezing it’s final breaths on the screen before me, I started thinking about my story a week project, or 52 for Strength.

I did a little googling for some help with strategy and for any info that might come in handy to know before setting out on a big long journey like this one, and I found a pretty good guide.

Something published by writer Jay Lake. It’s just a six-page PDF called Jay’s Guidelines for Writing Fiction outlining his writing process. But it was exactly what I needed.

It’s just a few simple rules to stick to:

  1. Write a story every week.
  2. Finish everything you start.
  3. Don’t self-critique while you’re writing.
  4. Work on one thing at a time.

I like it. Simple. Common sense. Nothing too elaborate. He goes on to flesh these things out, and it just made sense to me. So I’m doing it. Now there’s just one thing missing…

The stories.

Where does one get 52 story ideas?

A novel breakup

So, that novel I was working on? Yeah. We broke up last month.

We were together for two years. Two years is a long time. But when it’s not working, it’s not working.

No, no. It was good. A good break-up. Mutual.

It told me that I had problems, and that I need to work on them. And it’s right about that. But it also recognized that it had its own issues to work out. And to do that, we both need space. Time apart.

So I’m moving on. You know. Doing stuff. Keeping busy. Reading.

And I’m still writing. Seeing other stories, carving more notches on the literary bedpost.

But I’m good. I’m good. Really good, in fact. Like a weight has been lifted. And the best part is that I’ll get better because of it. I mean, the experience, the pain, the time lost. The failure. But also because of what comes after. Letting go. Moving on to the next one.

And then the next one.

Wordnik.com is better than the dictionary.

I just found out about this site called Wordnik, and it is now the place that I will go to find my words, to define my words, and to learn new words.

Stick your word in the search field and Wordnik will go to work for you.

It'll give you the definision of a word from several different online dictionaries and encyclopedias and other collections of lexcical1 information.

Hyponyms? Hypernyms? Wha??

Some of these things I did't know what they were, but now that I know about them, hell yes I want them in my fricking dictionary! Why weren't they there before?

Synonyms, hyponyms, hypernyms, rhymes. Words that are found in similar contexts. Examples of the word in use. All very useful to have available when doing some serious word work.

And a great resource, the Reverse Dictionary which I used to look up what the study of insects in order to distiguish between Entymology and Etymology, the study of the history of words. Two words I confuse often.

This is now the place that I go to find my words. Incredible free resource.


Wordnik via some link blog that I can't remember now.

  1. A word that I had to look up to make sure it actually existed and meant what I thought it meant.