Sunday, December 1, 2013

post-NaNo victory lap

Total word count: 50,014

I think I only missed writing one day this month, which I’m hugely proud of and is maybe the most important takeaway for me. I’ve written long stories before (though only screenplays, and they’re a different sort of beast), so crossing the finish line didn’t bring the kind of elation you get winning a poker tournament in Monaco or anything. For me, ‘winning’ NaNoWriMo brought more of an overall sense of satisfaction, like finishing a lengthy run and taking in a giant breath of fresh air.

A bunch of people have asked me how they can read ‘Nightmare 1.0.’ Firstly, y’all are awesome for offering! Just delightful. But the gift of having interested readers is not something I take lightly (because, like, who reads these days?!). Writing 50k words in one month does not produce a great, or even good book. Great stories of any length take a lot of time and effort, rewriting, editing, and whiskey. Anyway, this particular story requires a lot more time in the oven, a lot more blacksmithing or what have you, for it to be worthy of readership, or visual adaptation, or toy lines and t-shirts and video games and midnight book store parties. Because without midnight book store parties, WHAT IS THE POINT.

I’ve printed the draft out and put it in a box along with the last screenplay I wrote (also a first draft). I like writing these long form works and putting them away until my brain wakes up one day and is all like IT’S CLOBBERIN TIME! In the meantime I’m working on a few different projects in the short term: some short stories, The Micros, and a stoner poker comedy. Some might argue The Micros is a stoner poker comedy, but hey, that genre’s got plenty of room.

Thanks for cheering me on! It totally helped.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Day 12

15432 words. Observations:

1. Writing a novel is fing hard
2. Writing a science fantasy novel is really fing hard.
3. It is hard to write super fast and write good sentences. Counterstrategy: each day write down a random sentence from a book, spend all day trying to measure up.
4. I’m really happy I took this Coursera Fantasy and Science Fiction class last year. 
5. Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood’s first episode is brilliant. Band of Brothers is amazing.
6. An iPad mini makes a sick reading/writing/music instrument of destruction.
7. Coffee?
8. The process of writing a novel seems like it could have lots in common with playing a ton of hands of online poker. Long, tilting, some days you win.
9. I’m behind pace, but 50k words and a complete story is happening. Lockdown? Lockdown. LOCKDOWN!
10. This draft will be a POS, but progress is progress. Writing a good story is like getting out of Shawshank.
11. The structure of a novel is a completely different problem than the structure of a screenplay.
12. Do better.
13. Fuck

I wish I were able to shelve every other responsibility for November, but we’ve had some exciting BET RAISE FOLD developments. I’m not making 3 hours+/day consistently, but I’m almost always getting at least 2 hours. Weekends are tough but I’m growing the beard to remind myself that I’m supposed to be a hermit.

goals for this week:
More writing
More reading
Keep better time tracking/word count on sessions

Thursday, October 31, 2013

November: in which I write a lot of fun stuff really fast

I'm about to start NaNoWrimo - national novel writing month. The goal is to write a 50k word novel in one month. I read lots of books, and I’ve tried this before, but I have too much respect for people who actually write novels to say that I’m writing one. I’m writing a 50k word "exploratory draft" of a science fiction story! The last time I tried to do something insane like this I wrote a screenplay that reads like a Wes Anderson movie crossed with Kung Fu Hustle (coming to Google Glass in 2018?).

I don’t know how much blogging I’ll do during this, but it’s much easier to crush this kind of thing when you make your goal public. Because it’s so incredibly shameful if you fail. So this blog post is my failsafe. 

Also, I have a side bet with Kristy Arnett - if either of us finishes, the other has to make a video dancing on 5 strangers in public for 10 seconds each, and buy them a $100 book/writing gift. There is no way I will lose, Kristy!!! At least one of us is going dancing. (edit: unless both of us make it, then the embarrassment bet is a wash but we still get each other presents!)

Goals for NaNo:

1. Finish it, 50k words or more
2. Write for 3 hours+ for 30 straight days.
3. Be dramatic, comedic, and entertaining.

made a Pinterest board with some tools 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pacific Rim is the best summer blockbuster in years

As a child I spent many a weekend gorging myself on summer action adventure blockbuster movies (and sour candy). Those escapes into the cool theater were a favored way to pass the time with my younger brother and father. Star Wars was our absolute favorite, the king of the hill, but we saw all the others in the hopes that something could match it and let our imaginations run wild. Nothing really satisfied (the first Indiana Jones movies, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Independence Day and the first Matrix the exceptions). As I grew older my viewpoint on these kinds of movies grew more cynical. Nearly everything Hollywood spat out seemed like an excessive waste of money, a retread of the same old story, and a gross failure to deliver on what makes these movies resonate (the escapist thrills, a sense of fun, adventure and wonder, larger than life heroes and villains and meaningful conflict portrayed on an epic scale). This was our pop culture cinema, Hollywood was the only entity with the machine in place to create this particular kind of dream, and they were (and still are) failing miserably. 90% of blockbuster movies basically steal your money, feed you cancerous snacks, and leave you psychically violated with a primal urge to rant on Twitter.

So my childlike curiosity sent me looking elsewhere, in books and on television. Some of my favorite stories came out of the East, in the form of the giant robot/mecha genre of sci-fi. Maybe it was because Voltron was just so super cool!, maybe it was because Robotech offered a layered tapestry of characters set against a philosophically sophisticated war saga, or maybe it was the nightmarish traumas splashed across the colorful, trance inducing images of Neon Genesis Evangelion. This stuff coming from Japan was much more imaginative than the stories the West was producing, and I lost myself inside these worlds. I often tried to imagine what it would be like to see them realized using live action and visual effects. I assumed it couldn't be done, or that if Hollywood went for it, they’d fall flat on their faces (case in point: the Transformers movies).

I’ve seen Pacific Rim twice now, and Guillermo Del Toro and Travis Beacham fucking did it! The first time I saw it in IMAX 3D. The 3D was impressive, but we sat too close (rookie mistake), and my high expectations for the storytelling were disappointed when I realized the script played more like a campy Saturday morning cartoon than an epic philosophical meditation on the nature of war against monsters and the kinds of people who have to fight them. But they got SO MUCH right! In doing so they cracked my mask of adult cynicism and returned me to the silly state of a boy smiling in pure wonder. It’s an amazing achievement.

This movie delivers astounding visual images of heroes (real heroes who leap into action, not the emo, brooding kind found in most superhero movies) being heroic. The Battle for Hong Kong is one of the greatest action sequences I’ve ever seen in my life. It's so fun! This kind of pop culture cinema is important for our future. These are the dreams burned into the imaginations of the next generation, and Pacific Rim offers a humanistic, cooperative, positive dream.  It doesn’t match the resonance of Star Wars, but it’s so visually intelligent, bursting with detailed love for this kind of operatic cinema. There were literally people whooping and cheering, bursting out of their seats in both screenings I went to! It gives me some hope that we can go to a movie theater in the future and have a great time again. 

If you like blockbuster movies with amazing spectacle, and think GIANT ROBOTS vs GIANT MONSTERS sounds pretty cool, you have to see Pacific Rim on the biggest screen possible. Watch it as if you were 12 years old again (or bring a 12 year old with you if you know any), Discard your cynicism, have fun with the story. Be an optimist again.

Also, Idris Elba (aka Stacker Pentecost - how awesome is that name?!) is a goddamn BOSS in this.

*The new Star Trek, INTO DARKNESS, is pretty good too. It's really entertaining and features some crazy images and fun sequences. JJ Abrams is going to hit a home run with Star Wars 7, imo.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Applied Game Theory

I'm part of a new video series with Josh "sthief" Plotkin on DeucesCracked called Applied Game Theory.
Applied Game Theory is your introduction to applying game theory to poker. In this series, you will learn to calculate EV tables, analyze equilibria, apply toy games to NLHE, and plug your own leaks. Join KRANTZ and Josh in learning about the ways that game theory can complement an exploitative approach to poker. Follow along they review Jay's fundamentals, discuss practical examples (including some high-stakes hands), and walk you through the slow, but rewarding steps to using math to improve your game. 
The first two videos, "Introduction" and "Foundation", went up today.