Thursday, November 29, 2007

50,000!

I did it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was at 49,754 words at 11:30am when I had to leave for an appointment. Agony. I returned, sat down, and got over the hump.

I'm actually into the third part of the story. William died at 49,754, and we are now back to the story begin voiced by a narrator. The journal has been discovered, it is time to re-visit William's life in reverse from his own perspective.

I have, I believe, the last line of the novel:

Honey, I think I'd like to go and talk to Marcus. Would you mind coming? We have a lot to talk about on the way.

Monday, November 26, 2007

45,592

Less than 5,000 words to go.

At this point, there is no way William dies before I get to 50,000 words. I at least managed to get his wife to file for divorce today, but I have to get some transition out of this phase of everyone's lives before he can die.

At least I now know that I could get to 50,000 in one more sitting if I had to.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

42,435

5 days left to write. I think I'm going to make it.

I not longer believe that I will kill William before the month ends. The novel will only be at most 75% complete when the competition ends, but at least I will have a whole story and 50,000 words.

I'm very excited.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

40,273

Today is 80% of the month. The target would be 40,000 words.

Somehow, I manage to continue to avoid writing the lat section of the story. At least I have my main character in Boston, where he will be dying very soon (soon as in pages, he will actually live 3-4 years, all of which will be summarized).


But he isn't dead yet, and until he dies, I cannot start the last section.

Maybe tomorrow.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Writing on Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving.

35,000 words. I need to get to 36,666 by the end of today to keep on pace.

The current part of the story scares me. I am writing of my pastor character's first deep insight, and I really want to get it right. I've written about 2,800 already today, it doesn't feel like that. I thought the writing was going slowly, but that's actually a lot of words. It gives me hope.

While writing my pastor's monologue of self-discovery, the structure for one of my other writing ideas came into focus. It is a story I really like, and now I think I know how it goes.

I'm not telling, so don't ask.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

32,273

Today, the pace is 30,000 words. Only 12 more days left in the month.

I am writing of the "conversion" of the pastor character. It is an interesting process for me; I do not want my novel to be a "Christian" novel, so I do not want his recovery to be expressed primarily in religious terms. But at the same time, that would be a part of what I would want to have happen to him in this story. Right now, I am attempting to use little religious terminology to describe his internal conflict. I figure that if I do not like the final product, it can be re-cast in editing.

Sometime in the next couple of days, I will write the last significant event in William's life and send him off to his death for the second time in the novel (the first chapter ends with his death in the hospital). Then I work back through his journal, using that as a mechanism to really explore William's own life struggles, and to use them to bring about the redemption of my final character.

Should be a piece of cake. :-)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

30,538

28,333 needed to be on pace. I'm also over 100 pages in Word. Wow, will there be a lot of editing if I pursue this story any more. I'm thinking about changing the name of my main character!

2 great quotes, purportedly from Hemingway:

"The first draft of everything is garbage."
and
"There are no great writers, only great editors."

The Premise of God (a follow-up)

My earlier post on my analogy between dark matter and God generated an interesting comment (interesting not least of all because it showed that someone is still reading). I did not think I could do justice to the substance of that comment in the space of a followup comment, so I have commenced a new post to address the arguments therein.

[your post] mistakenly assumes a creator is the simplest solution...
We start with a very slippery confusion about what it means for a designer to be the simplest explanation for the appearance of design in the universe. My reader takes issue with the notion that God (or any designer) could be simple. But that is not my point. It is irrelevant whether the actual designer is simple or complex, it is not the nature of the designer that I am calling simple, simple, it is the fact of the designer as an explanation that is simple. To repeat the argument: in every instance in this world where we see the appearance of design, there is a designer responsible for it. The ambiguity in what is meant by design has lead design theorists, of late, to speak in terms of information content rather than design. Stated another way then, my argument is that systems which contain large amounts of information are always, in our current experience, designed. Information does not generate at random by any currently known process. And the laws of physics seem to imply that we will find no such process.

This is an observation that is plain to nearly every human being that ever lived. Even to the skeptics. The search for intelligent life in outer space depends on the absence of information content outside of intelligent agency. In fact, the argument of the naturalist appears to be that life is too complex to have been designed. I am not sure how that follows: everything of sufficient complexity in our everyday experience is designed; except the most complex of all. That must, of necessity come about by accident. Or, to use Dawkins' favorite illustration, by a series of tiny, improbably steps. But there aren't enough steps, and there isn't any reason to believe in a near-infinite process of accidents as a better explanation. Unless you choose to.

So I assert again: given the appearance of design in the universe, the presence of a designer is the simplest explanation for that design.

Now to the question of the complexity of the designer. The second half of the first paragraph of the comment in question makes the point (again due to Dawkins) that if there is a designer, it must itself be so complex that it is in much greater need of its own designer. Thus begins an infinite regression of designers. Isn't it just easier to assume no designer and to cut off the regression before it begins? The answer, unequivocally, is 'no.'

The error here is one that has been made with regards to this particular argument for centuries. The argument that the world needs a designer is one of the classical arguments for the existence of God. That it has not been effectively countered is evidenced by the fact that this new generation of evangelistic atheists feels compelled to offer a new counter-argument. But the problem with the new counter is that it is, in fact, the same as the old ones. Universally, the actual argument is simplified and misstated. This makes sense, it is easier to counter an argument if it is oversimplified and missated (we all make this mistake). My commenter recognizes this flaw, but attempts to sweep it away with a joke and another misstatement.

To the point: the classical theodicy states that "Everything that is caused has a prior cause." Put another way, "everything that is created has a creator." Or again, in terms of design, "everything that we see in this world that has high information content is the result of a designer." In each form, there is a built-in, necessary limitation to the regression. In the first form, we limit the regression to those things that are caused. This is not merely a trick, or a little joke to get out of a tight spot; it is a necessary characteristic of the argument. For we cannot speak of things that are outside of our experience; we know only about the laws that govern this universe. It is true that in this universe, our experience is that all effects have a cause. But if the first cause were itself outside of our universe, we can say nothing about the necessity of its causation. It operates under rules about which we cannot say anything meaningful. Again, do not think of this as some sort of philosophical nit put in place to shore up an otherwise weak argument. In fact, this is one of the most striking differences between the God described in the Bible and the gods of the rest of mankind: the God described in the Bible is truly transcendent and separate from His creation. Thanks to the skeptics, we now understand that logic and the laws of the universe require this of Him. If there is a designer, he would have to be like the God of the Bible in this sense. For another approach to this argument, see this article.

There is no use at this point arguing that if the designer is wholly different then it is meaningless to talk about him. I will concede the point only to observe that the Bible has already made it for us. The story Jews and Christians tell is of a God so different from us that He has had to speak in symbols and analogies just to give us a fighting chance at knowing anything about Him at all. If you do not believe in any God, then the notion that one might try to talk to men is purely ridiculous. But to land on your presuppositions at then end of an argument is not logic, it is fallacy.

The second paragraph begins by misstating the purpose of my post. I do not care one whit that science is using a plug, they are welcome to their plug. When you run up against the end of all you can observe and there is something missing, you have no choice but to guess about what else is there. Rather, my point in my post is that science is being less than forthright when they complain that the hypothesis of a transcendent designer is not scientific. I believe that the design hypothesis is of the same sort as the dark matter hypothesis: it is a good fit, given the data we have, for explaining a phenomenon which we cannot otherwise explain, one which produces causes which appear, to our instruments, to be uncaused.

It is a vast overstatement of the current science to say that dark matter conforms to the laws and structures of the universe: the actual form, composition and distribution of dark matter is so completely unknown that it exists only in the equations of relativity and quantum mechanics. There is no single, widely accepted interpretation of these equations; to say that dark matter follows the laws of physics is to say that the laws of physics follow the laws of physics. Dark matter is an interpretation of the laws, naturally it follows them. Except, of course, when it doesn't, and then the theory is neatly modified to make it fit. This is not dishonest, it is the nature of cosmology. What is dishonest is trying to make it more than it is.

The comment asks why not state that magic is the cause of the phenomena now attributed to dark matter? From what I understand (and I admit to only a layman's understanding) that is not far from the truth. There is little difference between magic and dark matter. Dark matter and energy are nothing more than the remainder of a sum that has yet to be completely solved. It may be the right remainder, or it may not (it is looking like a good candidate though). But an honest look at history will recognize that it began its life not so different from magic.

Finally, as the comment winds down, we encounter another one of Dawkins' favorite analogies: comparing the hypothesis of God to the hypothesis of a mysterious, unseen teapot encircling the earth (or perhaps orbiting the sun in the same orbit as the earth). If we carefully define the teapot, goes the argument, then we can never disprove its existence. For every counter-point made to the teapot hypothesis, its defenders cleverly devise a new explanation, each more inaccessible than the last, so that finally there is no evidence that can be brought to bear against the teapot. The problem with this analogy is that it only acknowledges one side of the issue. The teapot in question explains nothing outside of itself. Those who reject the existence of the teapot have a simpler, neater world. This is not the case with God. The analogy ignores the fact that God answers certain nagging questions that remain intractable in his absence, design being only one of them. And while it is certainly fair for the skeptic to say "convince me," it is not an argument, it is a request. I believe that the evidence says that God explains a good deal more of our experience as humans than does naturalism. Lewis makes this point in several of his books; and I have yet to see convincing arguments against him. Again, for a different spin on this point, see this article.

The comment states that magic is not on an equiprobable footing with dark matter; I contend that atheism is not on an equiprobable footing with theism. At least, none of the neodarwinist atheists that I have read so far have managed to make it so.

27.968

26,666 needed to be on pace.

I started yesterday with the second section of my novel, written in the voice of my second character, recounting the last decade of my main character's life and the impact he had on him. I wasn't sure it was going to work, but I am thrilled. The voicing is so natural, I think it would have been tedious to read if spoken by a narrator. I have three main episodes I need to get into this section: William's (the main character) marriage, his learning about the downfall of the man who ruined him at NASA, and his divorce. I then can move him to the main city where he re-connects with the third major character and dies. As of right now, William is newly-married.

I think of my story in words now. I figure I will wrap this portion of the story in less than 10,000 words, leaving me 12,000 or so to finish up. Since I expect the final section of the story to be nearly as long as the first two combined, I shouldn't have any trouble hitting 50,000 words.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Halfway

Today is November 15th, the halfway point in the month. I have been on the ragged edge of being sick for several days, so I have not stayed up late to write. That meant, in order to get to 25,000 words, I had to write nearly 6,000 today.

I'm at 25,116.

I have been asked for my profile information. You can find me here: http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/232474.

I have finally made it out of the first part of my story. As a narrative device, I have decided that the novel will have three sections: in the first, the story is told by a narrator; in the second, it is told in the voice of the burned out pastor whom my hero befriends; in the third, it is told by a combination of a narrator and excepts from my hero's journal. As I approached the transition between parts 1 and 2, I became nervous about the effectiveness of this idea. Then I realized that if it doens't work, I can just quit and go back to the narrator.

But my last 1000 words tonight were in the pastor's voice, and I am really liking it. Once again, at great personal risk, I am including a (very) lightly-edited excerpt from this section. I hope you enjoy it.

Besides, I couldn’t ever get away from the fear that maybe, even though I didn’t believe it, what I was saying was actually true. I could see that many of the people in my congregation who left each Sunday and tried to live what I said seemed somehow happier than I was. I tried to convince myself it was simply because they were simpletons who could be satisfied with easy answers to the hard issues of life, while I was the sophisticated and wise pastor who knew the truth behind the words. But even that explanation didn’t ring true for me. I’m sure it didn’t help that my wife seemed to be one of the simpletons. Especially since I had met and married her at Princeton, and knew her to be more intelligent than I.

So naturally, I did what every good man does who knows that his life is a lie and that, whoever else he may be fooling, he isn’t fooling himself. I threw myself more wholeheartedly into the lifestyle. I had left Princeton a teetotaler, not on any moral principles, but simply because I had seen the foolishness of my peers who allowed themselves to become too enamored of string drink. But the social circle in which I now travelled demanded a sophisticated appreciation of fine drink, and so, slowly at first, I began to have a glass of wine, or an after-dinner drink, just to be a part. I wish my story were more original, I have always wanted to think of myself as my own man. But the reality is that after 10+billion human beings, there aren’t any new ways to ruin one’s life. I had never kept alcohol in the house, since we never hosted any of the parties, but I began to keep some “good” liquor, and some of the more highly-regarded beers of the region, just to help me “relax” at the end of the day. At least, I told myself that that was the reason; I now understand (as I’m sure you already guessed) that the alcohol was to mask the pain of my meaninglessness. Serving as a pastor for so long, I met a great many frauds. The most important of them were given the opportunity to sit in my office and confess their sins to me, as I sat wisely nodding and offering them what absolution my faithlessness and the theology of my church allowed.

The irony was that as I sat there, something inside of me longed for someone to whom I could confess, someone who could offer me absolution. As I sat there as the high and lofty judge of the poor, lost soul who was before me, I was actually giving them what I could not find for myself. So I did the only thing I knew, I drank.

My wife knew, I’m sure she did. Like I said, she was more intelligent than I, but she also believed. I’m certain she had seen through my fa├žade a long time before, and she didn’t believe any of it. I suspect that she prayed for me daily. She went to all the parties, she drove me home drunk at the end, and she generally made sure that I kept something together for the sake of my congregation.

You have probably noticed by now that I speak of her in the past tense. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 47. When she went in to see the doctor, he estimated that she had actually had the cancer since her early 30s. These days, mammograms and self-exams might have saved her life, but we didn’t have or know about such things back then, and she died within months of the diagnosis.

Monday, November 12, 2007

19,107

The robots at NaNo say that I have 19,125. Either way, I'm almost 40% of the way to my goal.

I really didn't feel like writing today. I wasn't able to write the last 2 nights, so I went from ahead to behind and now back ahead (to be on pace, I would need 18,333 words today). Thankfully, after about 15 minutes I got into the flow, and cranked out about 3,200 words. NaNo has pep talks from famous authors every couple of days, Sue Grafton (whom I have never read) talked today about writing just to write. She even encouraged us to plan on never letting this see the light of day to reduce the need to produce something presentable. We shall see, I still like my story so far, although not necessarily the writing. I know there will be massive editing and re-writing needed.

I'm in the midst of destroying my character's hope right now; I definitely need this life to be shortened. I may end up killing him off in his late 20s - he's 19 at this point in the story.
So the beginning of my store will need a complete timeline revision. Assuming I every go back.

Friday, November 09, 2007

15,877

I wrote a lot today. In fact, I could keep going, except that it is midnight and I need to get some sleep. It's a good thing I wrote extra today, as tomorrow my son's band has to play at a football game 40 miles away from here, and we will be out very late, probably too late for me to write tomorrow. Right now, I have enough words to remain on track even if I write nothing tomorrow.

I decided to introduce one of my other significant characters early. I have morphed the burned-out Psychiatrist into a burned-out Neurologist, and have brought him in at this stage to do some preliminary examinations. This has allowed me to do some foreshadowing with regard to his future situation, and to enable Will to seek him out later. I have also developed the conflict that will result in Will to leave his first position (currently at NASA, that will probably change in the editing); I expect him to leave in the next 5,000 words or so.

I also feel like I am finding my voice. I noticed a couple of days ago that my vocabulary seemed to have shrunk while writing this story, but today I found that a broader range of expression came more easily. Hopefully, that trend will continue.

3,000 words was a nice amount. It felt like I had time to really enter the story, if I have time, I may shoot for that number rather than the minimum 1,667. Besides, I know that I won't be done at 50,000, so I might as well write more.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Still writing

12,233 words. 45 pages in Word 2007 with 12 point Calibri.

Today's goal is 11,667, so I am 600 ahead. The problem is, I have now decided that my timeline (in the novel) is too long. I originally planned that my character would live about 60 years, so his early adulthood would occur in the early 1960s. Now I think I need him to live only 35 or so, so I can move his life into the 80s. But I chose for him a career at NASA during the space race. While I can keep him at NASA and move him to the shuttle years, I'm afraid of how much work that will be. Plus, I don't have time to go back and edit right now, so at some point I either change timelines and leave the issue to be fixed, or I finish the current timeline and re-do everything later. Not sure which way to go.

On the other hand, I am having little trouble generating words. Those who know me will not be surprised about that. Whether the words are any good remains to be seen.

I'm also in doubt as to whether I can be done in 50,000 words. Seemed like a lot a week ago.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

NaNo update

10,117.

I am 1/5th of the way through the month and still on schedule. Except for the fact that I am way less than 1/5th of the way through my story.

I should have known 50,000 words wouldn't be enough.

Monday, November 05, 2007

My novel, day 5

I don't know how long the average participant in NaNo lasts before giving up (their website has been unnavigable for days), but I'll bet many drop out by now, or at least have begun to fall so far behind the pace that they are effectively out.

I am at 8,844 words. By the end of day 5, you need 8,333 to be on pace for the 50,000. It takes an hour or more every night to crank out the necessary words. They tell you not to do any editing; I don't need the restriction - I no more want to go back and rework this now than I want to try and break the world record for sitting in a bathtub with rattlesnakes that a Texas man just set. No, right now I just want to get the story moving along. I am just about to hit the first major tragedy of my main character's life; I'm a little nervous about plunging in to real drama.

On the other had, I am really liking the story. I'm sure it is severely lacking in depth of presentation (that's what editing is for), but in general terms, I'm pleased with how it is coming along. Against my better judgment, here is a small sampling of my writing:

---------------

After gathering his belongings, Will headed out of the hospital and straight for the General’s office. Space was in short supply in the engineering areas, so the General had a small closet of an office with no receptionist to control access. Will had just started to knock on the door when he heard his name from inside. Against his better judgment, he didn’t knock, but leaned closer to the door to listen.

“… I know Carlisse is sick. But the doc thinks that with some limitations, he can still be involved in our work.” That was the General’s voice; Will was surprised he hadn’t heard it booming further down the hall.

“What the hell good to me is a 17 year old freak who can’t work when there’s work to be done?” Will didn’t recognize that voice. “10 hour shifts! You said you were going to have him do some drawings; I wonder if the doc will let him do some of that in his dorm. And does that 10 hours include his work towards his doctorate? If it does, I’ll be lucky to have him 7 hours at a time. Look General, when you told me you had found just the piece we needed to complete this team, I didn’t expect you would bring me a boy who’s only half a man.”

Will stared at the door, unsure of what to do next. He started to turn, and then heard the door open behind him. He looked, and saw Henry, the guy Robby had told him as the actual team leader, storming out of the office. “Get me someone else, General.” He looked up and saw Will. Without a word, he brushed by and disappeared down the hall. Will turned to look at the General, who had an apology on his face.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

NaNoWriMo

This month, I recently learned, is National Novel Writing Month. Please notice that it is not "Writers Month," but "Writing Month." This is the month, set aside several years ago, in which people are challenged to write a novel of 50,000 words. There is a web site, www.nanowrimo.org, local chapters devoted to helping you get through the process, and lots of resources in the form of books and pamphlets.

As my profile says, I have a deep desire to be a writer, so I decided to take the plunge and sign up. You don't have to pay anything, just sign up and start writing. I attended last night's countdown event, and wrote the first 600 words of my novel.

I hope to blog on the process over the next month. To get to 50,000 words in a 30 day month, you have to write 1,667 words per day. So I may not have any energy to write another word after finishing my writing each day; but if I do, I will record some thoughts.

So what is my novel? At the moment, it is a novel of redemption. My main character is a man of prodigious gifts but a devastating neurological disorder that prevents him from ever realizing his potential. In the process of his life, he builds meaningful relationships with a pastor who has lost his faith and a burned out, cynical Psychiatrist. Through the strength of our hero's character, both men find their lives and purposes restored. It will not be an explicitly Christian novel, although the themes in the novel will reflect my Christian worldview.

Will I publish any of it? I doubt it. It would be nice, but it is probably too much to hope that my first attempt, drafted in a mere 30 days, will be of any substance. But the process will tell me something about myself, and I will share that, at the least, on this blog.