Saturday, November 21, 2015

Suede Recap: The Nano Challenge

We're into the final ten days of NaNoWriMo, and I've been averaging around 1700 daily words, right on par for finishing on time and on target with the words. I've already had to bench a cheap nylon ribbon on account of drying out, and just now, I finished re-wrapping the platen in another sheet of suede-finish/velour-texture paper from the craft store. I've been using in it lieu of a backing sheet this year, and back before Nano got going, wrapped the platen of my main machine in tape, sticky-side-out, with a cut sheet of paper adhered to it.

The Good:
  • It's super-grippy, and seems like a quick and cheap solution to slippery worn platens. I'm running about 6-10 pages per day through the machine, and not a one of them has come through crooked. I've never had this kind of luck with a backing sheet.
  • Still an incredible bargain, especially when you coupon-stack and pick numerous replacement sheets from the craft store. Plus, it comes in zebra print which I was not quite bold enough to try (yet.) The color really dresses up the machine, which is in desperate need of it. Royal knew how to make them ugly.
The Bad:
  •  It is, fundamentally, paper, and as much as I want to pretend it's something more durable or cushioned, it's no replacement for a fresh grippy platen. The one on the Royal is a little rough from many past years in the Typewriter Brigade (this is year #8) and it's now featuring noticeable vertical banding along the rubber from all the impacts. Even with a backing sheet or two, this platen works hard.
  • Applying this is still tricky, and getting the seam flat where the ends of the paper meet requires either three hands or a better grasp of geometry. In theory, one should be able to cut right to size. In practice, I just wrapped-and-trimmed. It shows.
  • In time, my rough-and-ready tape job showed through. Not by wear in the paper, which held up admirably, but in the wrinkles from the tape surfacing on the paper itself, leading to uneven type. As in many things: take your time and take care.
The Mystery:
  • Is the fancy paper more cushioned? At least at first it seems like it is. Repeated strikes over a few weeks, though, hammered the surface into oblivion, leaving only the area outside the margins free of problems.
  • Has the platen suffered any less damage than it would without paper at all? I don't know. As I subscribe to the backing-sheet-always school of typing, I don't think it's a bad thing. It's made it over 60 years now. Any TLC is probably worthwhile.
The Photos:

I'd hoped to peel the old sheet off somehow and have it laid next to the new one for comparison. This did not happen. Since I'd practically covered the platen in tape, the only way to remove the paper was to tear and peel in a long spiral.

Here you can see the platen on the left -- note the banding from years of typing, some of the paper on the top (the blue-tape side), and fragments that I managed to salvage. Can you tell which part of the green paper was outside the margins?

Velour-wrapped platen: unpeeled

Here's another comparison of original texture versus the three-weeks-in side. You can see how bad the worn surface was wrinkled at the end. I had wrapped the platen like a barber pole in tape, spiraling down it completely.

Three weeks of daily typing took their toll

The replacement going on. I backed off on the tape this time, going for four loops instead of a complete surface. Nothing is stuck to the rubber of the platen: the tape is fastened only to itself on the ends and slides freely.

Preparing wrap #2

The new red wrapper, pre-trimming.

Covered in red

I creased along the edge where the paper meets itself, and then used a sharp pocketknife to slice down the crease to remove the excess. It's still not as good as computing the actual size or the paper needed. There's still a bit of an overlap in the final product, but it's less than my original.

Trim to fit (mostly)

This whole experiment has me looking at other sheets of material at the craft store, too -- nylon sheets, maybe actual felt instead of faux-felt... upholstery fabric? The possibilities are endless. I don't know if it has much real merit beyond short-term writing projects like Nanowrimo, or maybe the occasional photo shoot, but I'm still happy with the results.

Now, if someone just sold a wrapper that made my plot better...

Sunday, November 1, 2015

November again

November dreaming

Right on schedule, November is here again, and with it the trembling anticipation of drafting another novel. (Trembling in part because I'm surely fueled on a breakfast of coffee and leftover Halloween candy.)

If you're participating, then what are you doing on the Internet? Get back to work! And may your rhinos run straight and true and in interesting directions. Stay strong, Wrimos.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Easily Suede

The green veldt demense of the Nano Rhino

typecast 20151030

Suede style

Aside from the obnoxious wrinkle in the paper, I think it looks pretty good.

Suede backing

And it certainly cushioned the blows, too. And no punch-outs on my paper, either. Now we see how it does in the face of a 30-day marathon typing extravaganza.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Join the Club

In a way, I'm a bit sad.

I've been sticking with the Don't Break the Chain approach to revising one of my old drafts -- a book that optimistically combines love, sex, religion, drugs, death, magic, biodiesel and video games under the unlikely title of The Ballad of Congo Willy.[1] This was the product of NaNoWriMo for me in 2011, and I have attempted rewrites and restarts every few months since the keys cooled from the original draft, always fizzling out for one reason or another.[2] But I'm actually almost nearing the end of it now, three months into making myself spend some time with it every night. I can't say that it's actually good, but I know at least that it's improved from its previous form, shoved in a box on a shelf being ignored.

Inspiration was hard to come by for this one, and instead of getting itchy fingers at the approach of November this year -- time for a carnival o' writing! -- I'm feeling kind of... dry. Empty. Not used up, necessarily, but not as eager as in years past. A bit sad, even, because there's no way I'm not doing NaNo this November, and more than I'll allow myself a night away from C.W.. Writing even terrible fiction is such a sea change from my day job mucking around with databases and code,[3] and I enjoy the oddball camaraderie of the Typewriter Brigade and the general festival nature of NaNo. For someone who slips into his habits easily and stubbornly refuses to get out, a month of creative chaos is a welcome and necessary part of my life now.

But what to write about?

I know that I'm not a (seat of the) Pantser come November. I don't just sit down at the typewriter and bleed. I need at least a sketch of a character or two, and a situation to toss them into: the basics of an outline, which I adhere to or drift from over the course of the thirty days. This flawed exercise is my capital-p Process, such as it is. And usually I am coming into October with just exactly these basics, having scrawled them down in notebooks and index cards during the summer. But I've spent all that time this year rewriting and revising, not sowing. So just as I'm forcing myself to Get Creative Daily, Dammit, I'm going to cutover into Full Bore Planning Mode in October.

The Internet[4] attributes this quote to Jack London:
You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.
After three months of enforced hill-climbing, I completely agree. There are days when rewriting C.W. was mental agony, and days when I couldn't get out of the way of my fingers fast enough. And I know that book is far better[5] overall for the attention it's been paid this summer, especially when the going got tough. And now I'm looking at the hill that is November, and realizing that I need to climb this thing yet again, and the only way to do this is to grab hold of both sets of bootstraps[6] and go.

But it's friendlier with more.

So here's a challenge to you, dear reader. Who's with me? Who's willing to head out and club up some inspiration? Who needs to break out of their daily rut a bit and write four weeks of bad prose? "I have nothing to write about" isn't an excuse.

Who's going to join the club?

[1] I did say I was being optimistic.

[2] Just one reason: pure unadulterated slacking off. I've tapped a vein of the stuff and mine it all day long.

[3] All of which is flawless, of course.

[4] "The Internet is always right." -- Abraham Lincoln

[5] And much, much weirder. I'm happy with that, too.

[6] Not sure this is physically possible. Not worrying about that, either.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Two In, Two Out

The daily beast is getting fed. This is a good thing, generally. Two months of daily writing down, a scant two more months to go before NaNoWriMo begins. Muse willing, I hope to actually have a second draft done by then, fully digital, and ready for an editing pass and then farming out to beta readers. Even with school happening now with the kids, I'm able to at least hide for 15-30 minutes and keep my toes in, creatively-speaking.

Feedly the Daily Beast in 2015

November will happen regardless. There's no avoiding November.

Peeved Rhino

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Chain Unbroken: Feeding the Daily Beast

The way up

So, it's been a month. How's it been going?

The daily writing is definitely a thing that's happening. Like NaNo, the first week was exhilarating, the second was suck-laden, and the third and final weeks have been feeling more downhill-ish. This is probably a good thing. I'm rewriting my 2011 NaNo draft, an effort that I've started and abandoned many times before. I've dug out the draft and have it standing by, but so far have not needed to refer to it. Somewhere along the trail of aborted rewrites, Things Changed Direction, and now the typescript is more of a ghost of Once Was than a skeleton of What Will Be. But it's still comforting to have around, totemic in a way, and of comforting heft.

View from the top

So I'm not exactly at the top yet. In fact, I'm not sure I'm quite halfway. But I'm happy with one of the big decisions -- putting most of the book in first-person present tense -- and have come up with other things that I want to incorporate when this is finally in digital form, for at the moment, it exists on paper, in my head, and in various iterations of Chapters 1-Through-3 sprinkled across my hard drive and my email folders. The Inner Critic is loose, alas, since he only gets chained up during November, so he keeps whispering in my ear that This Is All Boring Tripe and What Gives You The Right and so on. I'm trying to rise above, mainly by putting my main characters through hell and/or making them more mentally unbalanced than originally drafted. I don't know if this is a healthy approach to deafening the self-criticism. It feels a bit sadistic. I'm not sure that I'm supposed to be enjoying that.

At the start of the month, I ran off a simple* 6-month calendar for myself to cross out. For July it looks like this:

     July 2015
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
          X  X  X  X
 X  X  X  X  X  X  X

 X  X  X  X  X  X  X
 X  X  X  X  X  X  X
 X  X  X  X  X 31

The chain remains unbroken, but there's many more links to forge. Time to grab the AlphaSmart and a quiet corner** and hammer on some words.

* Thanks to the excellent cal program built-in to Linux and Mac OS X: cal 2015

** Ha ha three kids ha ha "quiet corner" ha ha ha