Mar 072012

Lima, Peru.

“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
“Life is like a bar of soap, once you think youโ€™ve got a hold of it, it slips away.”
“Life is like walking through snow. Every step shows.”

And many more at: Quotelicious

The one I would like to add to this:

“Life is like writing a book. There are too many damned choices to make!”

I’ve been in Lima for a week now (for now. I’ve been in Lima many times before, as I seem to go back here always. But I’ve been in Lima for a week after getting back from Ecuador). That’s the week I planned to be here. And I’m not ready leave. Not yet. Just a bit longer. Don’t want to say goodbye…

But I also want to go and see a few more things. I’m to meet up with my parents in the beginning of May in Santiago (Chili). I want to meet some friends in Pisco. I want to see Arequipa, Lake Titicaca, La Paz, Sucre, Uyuni. And those are just the must dos (mustn’t do anything of course, but I would really like to do these). And I hate to rush things.

So what to choose?

And then there’s this other project I got myself into.

Write a book I said. It’ll be fun I said.

And it is fun actually. But it’s also hard…

A reminder in my wallet for my goal for this month.

What’s the world going to be like? Covered in ocean, ok cool! But what does that mean for society. Can’t just pluck your average run-of-the-mill, every-fantasy-book’s-got-one medieval society and kinda spread it over a bunch of islands. Ok, perhaps you can, but I can’t…

A bunch of islands leaves far less space for mining, meaning that metal will be rare and thus expensive. Meaning that anything like a miner’s guild would be very powerful. Meaning…

Do I want to include magic? Is it common or rare? How powerful should it be? And again, what are the consequences to the society it’s embedded in?

Perhaps I should’ve made a different choice than a bottom-up approach? Because a single choice has far-fetching consequences.

So what to choose?

Should I stay or should I go (hey, this sounds familiar…)? Should I drown a world in a kilometers deep ocean? Important questions!

But I guess in the end it’s less important what choice you make, than that you make a choice. Different things will happen. And I’m quite certain a lot of good will come, regardless of the exact path taken.

Lima is great and I’ll have a super time if I stay a bit longer. I’m sure La Paz will be awesome and I’ll have a superb time when there.

A world covered in desert has a lot of potential and a great saga will develop in such an alien world. And a story told of vast expanses of empty water with only small pinpricks of solid land will surely give rise to truly magnificent adventures.

It’s difficult to cut away a thousand possibilities and to focus only on a single one. But not making a choice is a choice as well. It just won’t get you where you want to go. And I’d rather be the one steering the boat then have someone else drive my camel!

Leave me a comment
I love comments. So if you read this, have something to add or to ask, don’t hesitate!

Mar 032012

Lima, Peru.

March is three days old. Meaning that my goal to write the first chapter of my book is three days old. Meaning that I wrote for three two days for two hours at least per day.

Friday was too full of fun and stuff and things to do and sleep and people and enjoying myself and good conversations. So I didn’t actually write.

Not bad huh, failing on my own personal promise on the second day!?! ๐Ÿ™‚

But, to make up for it, I did write for close to 4 hours today! Or maybe I should say that I spent close to four hours very actively thinking about what I wanted to put on paper. The actual writing took perhaps 2 of those 4 hours. But it’s amazing how much thinking you can do when you’re going to the shop for a baguette for your lunch. This is good! I can do “work”, whilst doing completely different things!

As an example of what I’ve written so far:

The world
Endless (working name) is an old world. It is geologically in-active: No vulcanos, thermal vents, etc. No new landmasses are formed. There are no plate tectonics.

Endless’ orbit is highly eccentric, meaning a large difference between aphelion and perihelion. A year takes about 40 days. The temperature difference between aphelion and perihelion is large, on average some 20 degrees.

Gravity is somewhat higher than on Earth. It means that anything that falls (like rain) comes down harder.

Results so far:

  • A high-level description of my fantasy world (the star system my world is set in, geology, atmosphere and weather, oceanic currents, etc.). Total words: 800
  • Description of the meta-physics of the world (can’t have a fantasy world without magic, right?). Total words: 720
  • Description of the biology of the world (interesting flora and fauna and trying to build up a somewhat believable food chain). Total words: 730

Total number of words written: 2250. Total number of words for the story: 0.

It feels very useful to write all of this background. I love it when a book has a very consistent feel to it and not just stuff dropping out of nowhere because the writer thought it a good idea. Also this bottom up approach is helping me to generate a believable story line (in my opinion). Geology creates geography. Geography and biology indicate what the economy might be like. That in turn then gives rise to history and politics. Which of course are very important backdrops for interesting and believable characters and back-stories.

So, yet to be written: History, Economy and Politics (highly intertwined, so maybe I’ll make one file out of it).

And of course this is just a way of putting off the real work. Which is writing an interesting story. But it’s good to do some stretching before starting your big game, right? ๐Ÿ™‚

So far I’ve been having a lot of fun writing this. Let’s keep it up!

My goal revisited
I got a very good remark regarding my goal: It still isn’t fully SMART. Specifically, when is something acceptable as a first chapter? How many pages or words should that be? I can write a single page and call it my first chapter but that obviously isn’t the idea.

I did some research on the length of books and chapters. A guideline for a novel is about 100.000 words. The length of a chapter then depends on the number of chapters. On average there are 30 chapters in a 100.000 word book. So that gives 100.000 / 30 = 3.333 words for a chapter. This is an average, so I’ll set my minimum a bit lower, at 2.500 words.

Given that I have already written 2.250 words in the last three days, I’m quite sure I’ll be able to make this. ๐Ÿ™‚

So my revised goal:
It is my goal to finish the first chapter of my book, consisting of at least 2.500 words, and post it online, before the 1th of April 2012.

Feb 292012

Lima, Peru.

In one of my first posts I wrote that I was going to write a book and that I would share my first chapter. I wrote three pages on the plane to Lima and haven’t touched it since.

Too busy, too much fun to be had, too much to do, too tired, not feeling like it.

And yet without a problem I crank out multiple blog posts per week.

So, it’s time to, as they say, put my money where my mouth is. I’m going to write the first chapter of my book and post it, for the world to see. And for further motivation, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is some more. I wrote a post about how to achieve a goal and I’m going to follow my own advice.

The steps to achieve a goal

The steps in my post were:

  • Set your goal
  • Research what you need to do to achieve your goal
  • Set aside time to work on your goal
  • Do it!

It is my goal to finish the first chapter of my book and post it online before the 1th of April 2012.

I know what I have to do to write, so I don’t need any research at this moment. It might come up whilst writing, but I’ll deal with that later.

Set aside time
I will work for at least two hours per working day on my book, 6 days per week. I have no other obligations, so this should be doable.

Exceptions can be made for when I’m going on an excursion or for other travel-related issues.

Do it
I have already written three pages (a long time ago…), so a start has been made…

Tips & Tricks for achieving a goal

Next to the steps for achieving a goal, I wrote down a number of tips and tricks to make it more likely to achieve it. I’ll be using all of them to help me do what I want to do.

Formulate your goal in a positive way
Done. I have formulated my goal as something I want and not something I don’t want.

Formulate your goal SMART
Done. The goal is:

  • Specific: It focuses on just one thing, writing a first chapter to my book
  • Measurable: Either I have a first chapter online (for all to read) or I don’t
  • Attainable: I think it is very doable to write a single chapter in just over a month
  • Relevant: It is something I truly want
  • Timed: There is a clear deadline, the 1th of April 2012

Break it up in sub-goals
This is already a sub-goal of the larger goal “Write a book” (note that the larger goal is not (yet) SMART, as there is no clear deadline. I’ll use the experience from writing the first chapter to improve the overall goal).

Remind yourself of your goal
As I am on the move, putting up reminders becomes a bit more difficult. Still, there are some places I look regularly where I can put up a reminder:

  • A reminder text on my screensaver
  • A post-it in my wallet
  • A post-it on the inside of the top of my backpack (don’t know how long that one will last though…)

Share your goal
That’s exactly what I’m doing right now! This also gives you the explicit right to ask how things are going and to kick my but when there is nothing to read by the 1th of April.

Ask for help
If anybody has any general advice on writing a book, I would strongly appreciate it! Also, if you know good websites to help, do let me know.

Make it costly not to achieve your goal
I have transferred 1000 Euro to my father, with the request to donate it to “Natuurmonumenten”, an organization responsible for maintaining the Dutch natural reserves, in case I don’t make my deadline.

1000 Euro is my traveling budget for a month and therefore closest to what I’ve got to a monthly income ๐Ÿ™‚

This gives a bit of a strange feeling, as it feels as though I’ll be earning this money when I finish the chapter. So by pledging a larger amount I could be “earning” more… Hmmm, weird…

I also considered taking another cause to donate my money to, for example one that I really don’t like so that I’d be even more motivated not to see it go that way. It would however involve having to admit which good causes I don’t like and that’s a bridge too far. In the end I think Natuurmonumenten is a good choice as for me it’s not the most important cause (so I don’t mind if the money doesn’t go there) but I still feel it’s good enough to deserve the money.

Visualize having achieved your goal
Closing my eyes…

I see myself, holding a copy of my book in hand, being congratulated by people. The people around me are smiling. I have a big grin on my face and twinkle in my eye.

The money it earns allows me more time to focus on the things I really enjoy (like writing some more). I also get contacted by people who read the book and liked (and disliked) it. It gets me the confidence to go for the next book with more ease.

Take that first step
First step has been taken, my first pages have been written. Albeit a long time ago…

Stick with it
So, this is the clincher? I’ll actually have to stick with it. Let’s see how that goes. And you can be sure I’ll be giving some updates as well (if not, give me a kick in the but!)