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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

3 Day Novel – Year 2

Last year I participated in the grueling writing marathon known as the International 3-Day Novel Contest, and it was probably one of the most enriching experiences of my life.  The unrestricted flow of creativity was just what I needed in order to get past the severe writer’s block I was experiencing (You can read more about last year’s experience here).  I was stoked when I ended up finishing in the top twenty in the whole world, so I decided that I had to give it a 2nd shot.

This year’s experience was quite a bit different than last year’s.  My novel last year involved a man getting to know his dead father, and in a way I poured a lot of my life experiences into it.  As a result, the whole writing process was really weighty and dramatic.  This time I decided to lighten it up a little.  I wrote a novel about a man participating in a reality show novel writing contest, and the result was a lot of fun.  There was a lot of strange characters, false start novel attempts, and a good life lesson about the source of creativity.  

I felt really good about this year’s novel, so hopefully this will turn out very good for me.  If you’re interested in a read, let me know and I’ll hook you up.

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…I think this might actually be the case.

Sad, isn’t it?

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A Trip Down Memory Lane

DISCLAIMER: This is a repost of an old blog from when I used to blog on Myspace. I found it today as I was reading through them, and I thought it would be fun to repost. I reformatted some of the links to make it format better, but other than that, I didn’t change any of the text. The original date it was written was April 11, 2006.

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Last night I was putting off my paper on Shield Laws by going through my computer and looking at random crap. Eventually I found myself reading old documents I had on my computer: old newspaper articles from my when i had time to freelance, short stories, poems, and whatnot. And then I stumbled into my “Fanfiction” folder. Fanfiction, for those not familiar with the term, describes fictional stories based on works already created by other people. It’s “fiction” made by “fans.” For example, there are probably 5 billion Star Wars stories where fans imagine what happened to Luke after Return of the Jedi or what Han Solo’s childhood was like, or the gruesome death of Jar Jar Binks, for example. And there are stories like this for just about every tv show, movie, and comic book you can think of. Anyway, I always liked to read when I grew up, and that led to a love of writing, but you can’t really develop that as an elementary school student. So, when I was in junior high, I stumbled onto this world of fanfiction and it became an outlet, a way to write. I started writing based on other people’s works, and that helped me practice my writing and gain enough confidence to move on to another median. So, you may be asking, “What did you write on, Matt?” Well, to be honest it’s pretty embarrasing. But here I go….

Dragonball Z

It’s an anime, for those of you that don’t know, and you can click here.

Yep. From about 6th grade till the end of my 8th grade year I was virtually obsessed with that show. It’s all my friend Taylor’s fault. He took me to his house one day and made me watch it, and I was hooked. It was a sad time in my life, but one I have come to terms with.

So, I wrote fanfiction for this website for Dragonball Z fanfiction. I started out with dumb comic stories, such as stories where the characters in the show participated in the talent show, or went on Jerry Springer. They were funny, and they were mostly written in screenplay format with dialogue rather than actual prose. Eventually I moved on to actual stories, and some of them were ok. I wrote one though that I was particularly proud of. I wrote two twenty-page chapters of what I ultimately planned to be a ten or twelve chapter story. I had it all meticulously planned out, from the beginning to the end, complete with character and setting descriptions and everything. I actually still have my whole story outline somewhere filed away. I re-read it last night, and of course it wasn’t that great because I was probably in seventh grade, but it wasn’t that bad either. Then I stumbled into my “Awards” folder. The website had a contest once where everybody submitted all their stories to about a dozen categories and then there was a panel of judges who picked the winners, and I’m rpoud to say that I went up against a handful of competitors and won three awards:

Award 1Award 2Award 3

Ok, granted these awards are just images that probably took a minute to make. But still, I won them. I won them. I never had a large collection of trophies when I was a kid, like some did. I had a first place soccer trophy once, a 3rd place for a model car race I did with my dad, and some various runner-up sports stuff (mostly soccer and baseball) but they were the kind of trophys that everyone who participates gets. But these awards were mine because I did something I liked to do and other people liked them as well. I wrote, they read, and they liked. And it made me feel good.

I saw those last night and realized that was the point where I really decided I wanted to write. I was in junior high writing about anime. But everything has to start somewhere and I went to bed really happy last night because it restored my belief that I was a good writer.

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The 3-Day Novel Experience

Well, it’s been almost two months since I locked myself in a room and cranked out the core of what I hope to be my first novel.  After a period of self-imposed “reflection time,” I am starting to go through the process of editing and rewriting, and it has occurred to me that I have yet to share the experience with my faithful readers.

First – why on earth would I write a novel in three days?  The answer is the International 3-Day Novel Writing Competition.  I was originally interested in being a part of NaNoWriMo (The National Novel Writing Month, for the uninformed), but it happens to be in November – the month I am getting married – and was therefore, out of the question.  The 3-Day Novel Contest seemed like a much less sane, but less time consuming, option, and I figured it would be good experience.  I expected it to help me break free of my inner critic that keeps me from writing anything more than a few pages; I never expected to write anything that resembled a decent novel.

I had a premise.  A few years ago I took a class that was essentially a “self-guided field trip,” which meant that I drove around the mountains and stopped at certain points to play a prerecorded  lecture on a portable tape player.  It was interesting, and I found myself thinking that it would be fun to do something like this for my kids someday.  And then it hit me – a guy who grew up fatherless gets word that his father has died, and that he has left him a map, some tapes, and invitation to get to know what his life was like, to sort-of get acquainted with the father he never knew.  I jotted the idea down and left it alone, and when it came time to write, it was the best idea I had.

Essentially, I had the idea to combine a rich knowledge of the Central Valley area with an obscure father-son bonding story to produce something that was unique and effective.

However, I discovered that when you sit down to write 100 pages in three days with only a vague outline, your result will be a lot different than you expect.  Maybe I thought the premise was too boring (which was one of my major fears), or maybe my subconscious just took over, but the end result was not quite what I had intended, but I thought it was much, much better.

On the first day I found myself setting the scene with some in-media-res chapters that switched voices and setting frequently and without notice, and I managed to throw in some metaphors that I thought would be able to carry throughout the story.  I also included a dream sequence, because I thought it would be interesting.  I also named my character Joseph, hoping that the correlation between the biblical Joseph forgiving his brothers and my Joseph forgiving his father catches the eye of the reader.  Overall – about 6,000 words done.

On the second day, I started  re-reading the story of Joesph in the Bible.  I start adding more dream sequences, and those sequences begin to thematically mirror the biblical story.  Also, I’m listening to the Beatles, so John Lennon makes an appearance.  The story began to take entirely new detours that were created as I was typing, and I am adjusting to make room for these new developments.  Also, I’m starting to see more of my personal experiences find their way into the story.  Final count – 7,500 words for the day.

On day three I am racing the clock.  The story is writing itself, the dreams are starting to merge with reality.  John Lennon is shot.  I find myself preaching for lengthy periods of time.  I add some characters.  I try to add a little humor.  And it’s done.  Total for the day – 12,000 words.

When it was all said and done, I found myself with a novel that is both realistic and surreal, strikingly biblical in its imagery and themes, at times extremely personal, and is as emotional and captivating as anything I’ve ever written.  I loved it.  However, that doesn’t mean it’s anywhere close to being presentable.  I will probably spend at least several months tweaking, adding, deleting, and editing, but at least I have the core of it done, and that core is much better than anything I’ve ever written before.  I am extremely happy with the results.

From this experience, I’ve decided that any future novels I write will be written in three days (with several months of tweaking, of course).  I loved the creative process of letting a story flow from my heart instead of being manufactured in my head. Besides, if I had to spread that story out by writing a little bit at a time, it would have never been finished.  I almost need that clock ticking in order to put something on paper.

Overall, it was an awesome time.  If there are any writers out there who have any interest in doing it next year, check out the link at the top o the post.  The winner gets published, so everyone cross your fingers for me!

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The New Site

Well, here it is – the new site.  I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a website for a while now, and I finally decided to just go for it.  I was over at Blogger for a while, but after getting a tutorial of all the things you can do with WordPress, I decided to make the switch.

Essentially, this is my blog as well as my web-base for my freelance writing.  I plan on linking many of my articles and other projects for the viewing pleasure of whoever might care to see, as well as adding various other promotional items.  There’s nothing yet, but feel free to check back often.

In the meantime, you can still subscribe to my blog.  I plan on updating it far more regularly than I did with my last blog.

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