Update: 3-Day Novel Contest Finished, Sanity Returning

On the advice of a co-worker, I decided to enter the 3-Day Novel Writing Contest this year. He seemed very excited about it and was looking forward to seeing what I would come up with. Since I’ve had a premise and outline for a novel bouncing around in my head and notebook for some time, I figured that this would be a great opportunity to smash into my first novel full-force and immediately gain some serious ground on it. A veritable brettzkrieg of words.

The contest called for roughly 100 pages (of Word document, mind you), which I highly doubted that I’d accomplish in that time. But best-case scenario was that I’d have something I could submit by the time the Labour Day weekend had elapsed, and maybe even win. Worst case scenario was that I’d be x pages into a novel that I’ve been hemming and hawing about for month to start writing. All between midnight of August 30th and midnight of September 2nd.

So imagine my surprise when I realized, about an hour before the deadline, that I was finished.

I took a short break to read over what I could in the last sliver of time, but I was done. Since this was a project that I’d been sketching the architecture of for months, I had a clear idea of my beginning, middle, and end. So I wrote the latter, then the former, and the middle just sort of took care of itself.

Aside from some time-consuming distractions during the first day and the unfortunate necessity of sleeping through the first few hours of the contest, I managed quite a few hours happily tapping away at the keys. Just me and the laptop, interrupted only by essential walks for canine excretion and also to the nearby liquor store for more cheap beer (or as I call it, Brett’s Writering Juice).

It was the second day that the fatigue started to kick in. The unbroken circle of letters started to jumble into a maelstrom stirred by stimulants, depressants, and other esoteric chemicals floating around my body either naturally occurring or introduced. I was tired. Couldn’t I just take a nap? No, no, can’t waste time. Besides, knowing my habits I’d sleep too long and never make up the lost hours.

I started rationing my time more. Instead of pulling many hours at a time and longer breaks, I did shorter rotations on each. Even on breaks, not wanting to go right back to writing but terrified of wasting time, I found my mind almost constantly juggling whatever I was doing with the proceedings going on inside that Word document. It hung halfway out of me, not ready to splash but too early to wipe.

Now, I’m this sort of person anyway. I can’t remember people’s names. I think I might be the closest a person can get to face-blind without having to pay less taxes. I’ve said and done things that I remember nothing of, regardless of how prolific/awful they were or how sober I was at the time.

Why? Because at any given moment I feel like I’m juggling a half a dozen story lines and a gaggle of characters in my head. It’s been getting worse since I started a book of short stories – working on more than one at once, plus the other projects I have, it’s a score of lives before you even introduce the real world I have to live in.

In the first day alone, I wrote 10,000 words of brand-new fiction that for the most part just poured effortlessly onto the screen. The second day was harder, much of it spent trying to restructure what was there, streamlining what would stay from my outline and what would go that just wound up wasting more time than it saved, and I only achieved about 8,000. The final day was a different story again. Fuck edits. I wrote over 9,000 (yes, really) and handed in 105 pages (92 after the proper formatting – Brodie!)

The third day also held a revelation for me. Since my second day felt like a failure, I wondered what was different. Even with the distractions of the first day, I’d done almost double than the next. What had changed?

The answer was structure.

I’m not a man of steady balance – every one of my orbits is elliptic. I have to force myself to sleep by sheer act of will in order to maintain any kind of rhythm. My natural inclination is pretty much to push myself until the point of absolute exhaustion and then sleep until I’ve sufficiently recharged enough to qualify as a living human again. This rollercoaster lifestyle extends to numerous vices and a strong aversion to any kind of real work. Even though I try to discipline myself into a reliable sleep cycle, smoothie breakfasts, hours of writing every day, and frequent gym visits, I’m never very far from bingeing an entire season of Archer and sleeping until 4 PM.

Maybe my new-found restraint helped, but it isn’t quite the structure I was talking about. Writing something this quickly required me to just let it flow. My habit of juggling these elements in my head became something stronger, coalesced into a whole. It felt like I was looking through a telescope of my own construction – my juggling wasn’t facts anymore, but holding a series of lenses into an array so that thought and action could pass through them in sequence. When they aligned, I felt like I was holding a universe between my hands, just a vessel for the words until they left me to become ones and zeroes.  I watched the story unfold on loop inside my head.

It’s a hard feeling to describe, but the end result was that I wasn’t frustrated with a lack of material, at the word count in the bottom corner’s stubborn refusal to increase demonstrably. I was frustrated because the novel in my head could only come out as fast as my fingers would get it out. Curse these stubby digits!

It was a tremendous experience. I discovered that I don’t need to schedule hours and hours of time to write, as if my own brain were a lover aching for foreplay. Instead, I can treat my brain like the dirty slut that it is and write whatever I can in the time I happen to have available, hammering away furiously and leaving without so much as a thank you whether it has finished or not. The sheer volume of work I can put out with enough time and focus is way beyond what I’ve thought myself capable of.

Conversely, it took me ages to write this 1000 words. So maybe I didn’t learn anything at all.

Update: New Article Up On The Huffington Post, The Rifter #66 Inbound!

The new post I hinted at a short while ago has arrived. I’ll repost it on this blog eventually, but for now you can find it on the Huffington Post here. It’s a heroic tale of man vs. meat, replete with bad decisions and unflappable willpower.

In other news, Palladium Books’ The Rifter #66 (containing a short story by me, Skipping Stones) will be shipping soon! You can order it from their online store here.

I’ll be updating soon with new developments, maybe some more writing exercises from my adoptive group here in Vancouver. I’ve verified that they are indeed legitimate writers because we all procrastinate like champions. Keep an eye out, but don’t hold your breath!

Movember Wrap-up: Hair the Wild Things Are

MOVEMBER LOG: DAY 30

Well, Movember had to come to a close sometime.

I raised a total of $75.00 for men’s health, lost a fair amount of self-respect, and made a newfound vow to never shave my face down to the skin ever again. I’ll be getting back to my safe world of warm face coverings, beer foam trying vainly to escape my grasp, and follicle-fuelled narcissism. It’ll be a pleasant change after a weird, smooth month of pseudo-shame. 
Growing my Decembeard is going to be like getting into a hot tub with an old friend. Or it would be, if I did a lot of hot tubbing with my old friends (and if my old friends and I filled hot tubs with hair). So it might be nothing like that. It’ll be more like a moustache with a 30-day head start on a beard. Which is maybe equally sexy, and almost as ticklish.
In all honesty, I enjoyed the novelty of shaving around a ‘stache all month. It was interesting to say the least. Rejoining the ranks of bearded bros will be nice, but I’ll remember my moustachioed mates fondly. 
In other news:
  • After some unexpected delays, The Rifter #64 promises to ship this Tuesday, December 3rd. I can’t wait to see the entire issue, including some amazing artwork by Chuck Walton to accompany my short story!
  • I’ll be performing at Dum Dum’s Sports Bar in Brampton on that very same day (Tuesday, December 3rd) for a Comedy Night to benefit the Peel Regional Toys for Tots campaign. Bring a new, unwrapped toy for the kiddies or just PWYC at the door! 
  • Also on December 3rd, I’ll be putting up a new post. There’s a few alternatives I’m editing and putting together, so it could be anything from some new fiction, to something else very close to my heart.

I have other news I’d like to share with you, but first I need to ask a question. Don’t you hate it when someone says that they have other news they’d like to share with you, but can’t because they’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement? Me too.
Sorry about that. To make up for it, let’s go on an animated Movember journey together!

Movember: Week Three – Making a Strand

MOVEMBER LOG: DAY 21

It’s been a productive week. I’ve performed my first set of stand-up comedy, had some writing projects take off in a big way (details coming in the future), and I’ve changed up my routes for afternoon walks and commuting.

The last one might seem odd until you see the photo. Simply put, I think that it’ll be best to stay away from playgrounds and schools until December.

I have to admit that I sorta like wearing a moustache. As much as I’m looking forward to growing my beard back in December, there’s a serious temptation on my part to just grow this out into the most walrus-ey monster of a ‘stache that I’m capable of cultivating.

There’s not much more to say at the moment. If you haven’t had a chance to check out some of this month’s posts, you can view my thoughts on the downward spiral that is The Simpsons, and see what all the fuss over Toronto hip hop artist AndrewLIVE’s new album is about.

As before, you can check out my Movember profile and donate to the cause here.

Coming soon:

  • My story “A Cold Night, Dead Past” will be featured in Palladium Books’ The Rifter #64, hopefully being released in the next couple of weeks. I’m waiting with baited breath.
  • A new post on Tuesday, December 3 – as well as another end-of-Movember update on Friday, November 29.
  • More news as it becomes available!

Movember: Week Two – Rise of the ‘Stache

MOVEMBER LOG: DAY 14

As I write this, I can feel the strength returning to my limbs. Even the lightest smattering of facial hair does wonders for the ego. Not that my ego needed any more wonderment.

I’m afraid that there’s no grand melodrama this week. Things seem to have normalized somewhat. That’s not to say that I’m getting used to being (mostly) clean-shaven. But I might have given up hope of ever leaving the denial stage of the grieving process. Considering that the brain invents most of its own reality anyway, perhaps that’s not as much of a problem as I thought it might be.

I’m keeping this update short and sweet. There’ll be a new post coming on Tuesday that I’m pretty excited about, and a lot of other stuff to do besides. I’ll also be checking out 3Men2Souls at the Underground Comedy Club tonight, as should anyone else who’s interested. Stay tuned!

The Erosion of Springfield: How Death Cheated Bart Simpson

I don’t really watch The Simpsons anymore.

That said, I didn’t exactly “Hah!” when I heard that Marcia Wallace, the voice actor for Edna Krabappel, had died. It didn’t provoke any particular feeling. I hadn’t thought about her in a long time, and the whole show has sort of been off my radar for a while. So I didn’t really think about it very much.

Then, I read about the opening to a recent Simpsons episode. Bart, still doodling on his chalkboard as long as both my brothers have been alive. Except his message is a simple and heartfelt farewell to Mrs. K.

And that’s awesome.

In real life, anyway.

Continue reading

Movember: Week One – Grief, Interrupted

MOVEMBER LOG: DAY 7



Movember continues, and I remain bravely beardless.

One week in, and I still feel like someone close to me has died whenever I feel a smooth cheek under my fingers. I decided to look up the five stages of grief to maybe better understand the feelings that I’m going through, and came to a disturbing realization. I’m hardly even through denial.

“Denial can be conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts, information, or the reality of the situation.”

I’ve had a pretty decent week. I’ve been writing up a storm, have had some new opportunities coming my way on that front (stay tuned!) and even saw 65daysofstatic live. But the entire time, I’m ricocheting between neurosis and obliviousness. I’ll be just fine and dandy, confidently chatting to someone or pounding away on a keyboard in a cafe somewhere, and the next moment I’ve got eyeballs nervously scanning the room because I’m incredibly self-conscious about my follicular handicap. A minute later, and the worry is gone once I’ve forgotten about it all over again.

My brain is erecting an imaginary shield of facial hair to protect my fragile psyche.

I can only hope that the continued growth of my moustache will help repair my damaged ego/mind/both. I’m walking a very thin line as it is. Healthy people don’t draw beards onto themselves when they snapchat.

This is not the face of a well-adjusted person.
It’s not all bad. I’m transitioning well into the next stage: anger. Which is to say I become infuriated every time I see there’s still just a dirty smudge above my lip. 

What the hell are you looking at?

(If you’d like to donate to keep me annoyed and babyfaced, then you can do so here.)