Writing things from October and into November: Electronic Literature, Can-Con, and Nanowrimo

The election is finally over and only took up 2/3 of the month (yeah), so I can actually plan for more writing time now. (It wasn’t the best case scenario in the end, but it was the I-can-live-it result.)

I signed up for another MOOC (I know, I know, but they’re so much fun…), this time on Electronic Literature. It’s interesting, I’ll give it that (damning with faint praise), but, at the same time, I find the highly experimental nature of most of the work that we have been looking at to be a bit of a turn off for me. Not that I don’t like that sort of thing, I do. Some of it is very cool, in fact (like this). But the lack of explicit narrative in the examples is a source of some frustration for me. It is not really my thing and it does not fit with the ideas I am interested in exploring with regards to electronic-mediated literature. I will stick with the course to see if we get to more narrative ideas or other material that fits my interests, but it is feeling a bit like work right now.

This past weekend I attended Can-Con (the Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature) for the first time. I don’t write much speculative fiction, although I have read an awful lot, but the program looked excellent and the downtown Ottawa hotel it was held at is a 15 minute bike ride from home, so there was little reason not to go.

Prior to the beginning of the conference proper, there were workshops held on Friday afternoon. I went to two of them, both excellent in very different ways.

The first one I attended was “Perceptions, Senses, and Exploring Your Character’s Sensory Environment and Setting” with Derek Newman-Stille. This was so well structured. It was fast-paced, with lots of time for writing and sharing ideas and what we had written. There was a logical progression through different types of sensory inputs. By the end, I felt that I had learned strategies for incorporating non-visual senses and stimuli (as inspiration and in writing), as well as developing multiple story ideas. Derek was friendly and welcoming, creating a safe, interactive space.

The second workshop was “World-Building as a Biologist: The Complexity of Ecosystems and Using them as Metaphor” by Nina Munteanu. This was completely different. The workshop was done as a presentation. The first part was a good, thorough discussion of the basics of ecology, including some of the elements of interest to writers of speculative fiction (eg extremophiles). The second part was about story and Nina included helpful examples from her own writing and then we did an exercise using our own work as a basis, with time to share what we had done with the group. It was really interesting and I believe it will prove to be very useful.

I only attended Can-Con on Saturday. I think that, if I can (it wasn’t really feasible this year because of other commitments), I’ll go to the whole thing, or at least more of it, next year. It was a great day. I managed to restrain myself and only buy two books (this and book one of this). In fairness, the vendors’ room was not huge, although there was a good range of books (from hard sf through fantasy and some comics and such), but not much in the way of non-book things.

The panels covered a great range of topics. I went to some that were very subject-oriented (Ask a Doctor; Biological Engineering in SF and Mystery Writing; Autism and its Portrayal in Fiction, TV and Movies) and others that were more writing process or product oriented (Serialization Past and Present; Writing Fiction and Fact for Analog; Authors and Editors in Dialogue). The best was Blood Splatter Pattern Analysis with a specialist from the Ottawa Police (I learned so much, I can’t wait to include something from this panel in my writing). They were all very well done and I was only disappointed that there some I missed because I had to choose between several in the same time slot.

I love when I come away from a writing event inspired and encouraged and that is certainly how I left Can-Con. Which is excellent, because today is November and that means it’s time for Nanowrimo. I skipped last year with the intent of spending the time I would have otherwise spent novel writing on short stories and that didn’t work out at all. So this year I am doing something unconventional (aka ‘cheating’) and writing the last 50 000 words of the first-in-series novel I have been working on, to some degree, since January (a lot of time has been spent in series and character development, I also have written a 10 000 word ‘short’ story with the same main character).

I don’t know why the structure of Nanowrimo works for me, but it does. I’ve successfully complete six previous Nanos, as well as two Camp Nanowrimos in April and July 2014 (that was a 100 000 word political thriller that I split between the two months).

Anyway, I have the 50 000 remaining words of this damn book outlined at 2000 words per day, to finish on the 25th (best case scenario, I may miss a day or two, that has happened before, that there is that buffer built in). The outline is not particularly detailed, but most of the important decisions have been made. Need to decide on some good clues, though (I’m finding mysteries to be very challenging from a structural/technical point of view).

Along with Nano, I have some short story ideas from Can-Con and previously that I do want to work on and explore for upcoming submission dates (along with trying to post weekly on Sundays — that’s my new attempt at regularity — here).

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