Chaos produces order. Randomness begets meaning.

I’m going to post this here because I consider you a smart bunch of people. I’ll keep it as short as possible because we all have shrinking attention spans.

(I blame you, Internet.)

I write, take pictures, and make videos for a living. I write philosophical sci-fi and fantasy as a hobby. I’ve always been fascinated by quantum physics, but now I’m even more fascinated by chaos theory. Before your eyes glaze over, give me a chance to explain why — maybe it will fascinate you too.

I’m writing a series of realistic fantasy books and one of the characters is the god of chaos. Through this character, in studying to write it with some intelligence, I’ve been led to an amazing fact that is filling me with wonder.

We all spring out of complete and total randomness. Everything that is us and our world, and even our thoughts, are the product of complete and total randomness.

If you can wrap your head around this, you begin to understand that we have a general misconception of what “random” truely is. Apple Computers had to come to this conclusion, oddly, because when they first had a “random” setting on their early iPods people complained that it couldn’t possibly be random because it kept grouping songs together. They had to tweak their “random” algorithm to not be truly random so that it actually seemed random.

I promised I would keep this as short as possible, so I’ll end here, and just let you think about this: what we consider a rational, coherent universe is, at its very heart, complete and total random chaos.

Chaos produces order. Randomness begets meaning.

What does that imply to you?

The Method to My Madness

I’ve been writing novels for most of my life, but the last few years have been more prolific for me than ever, and I think it’s because I’ve found a method which works perfectly for me.

I have ideas for stories and I write them down, but besides keeping idea notes or bits of random scenes, I won’t actually start writing on a manuscript until I know how I want it to end. This forces me to know what the point of the story is, and to foreshadow clues to the ending all the way through.

Jerry in his Misspent Youth

I will create a loose outline of the story, and I’ll have some notes on the main characters — all of which are subject to change. As new characters introduce themselves I keep notes on them after they appear that I can refer to later if needed — this becomes important later.

I use my phone’s camera a lot to take pictures of interesting settings I wander into in daily life. I may never use them, but they go into a stash which I can pull from later.

As the story progresses, I will face blank pages where I don’t exactly know how to get the characters from point A to B, or more likely A to G, because my outline is so open and vague. I’ll draw inspiration from my actual surroundings or, if I’m sitting at home at my desk, I’ll either draw inspiration from Google Maps street view (in the case of something set on Earth) or from where I teleport to randomly in virtual reality (Second Life or Open Sim, etc.) or, more often than not, I either use a memory from my own life, or I pull from the stash of settings photos I’ve taken with my phone camera.For sci-fi and fantasy I get inspiration from virtual reality

I will also pull actual events from my own past, modified to fit the context of the story, so that there is always autobiographical bits and pieces included. Conflicts and sex scenes especially. This way my so-called misspent youth was not entirely misspent, and the story is well and truly my own.

A memory from Jerry's Misspent YouthAs the writing progresses, usually at about the 2/3rd point where I used to bog down, I throw away my outline and create a new one that is more in line with what I’ve actually written. By this point the ending may have also changed — though by now I have fully established a theme, which I do not change. It used to be I’d always bog down at the 2/3rd point because I would be struggling to reconcile the direction of the outline, which had grown stale, with the direction my story was trying to go. Now I go back through the manuscript and and refer heavily to what has transpired to inform my new outline and new ending. This keeps it fresh and exciting for me, as writer, as I expand on what is now familiar territory. Also I’m now no longer forcing anything for the sake of plot. The flow remains natural, and it makes sense.

We're not who we were in the past.The ending of the story will jump out and tackle me as I write it, much like a cat leaping out from around a corner to grab my feet. And then, I’m done. I type “The End” and feel really good about it.

I let the manuscript sit for at least three months without looking at it, while I work on other things (lately, it’s while I work on the next manuscript). But after I’ve let it sit for those 90 days, it allows me to forget many of the details, so that when I go back and do the rewriting I can be more objective, as if I’m refining someone else’s work — because, really, I am. None of us are the same person we were 90 days ago. We’re very similar, but we’re no longer the same person. Time changes us.

Huh … there’s a new story idea right there. The God of Time changes us into new people. Hmm…

I think I’ll put that in my notes.

The Bridge of Eternity

Brandy’s father once told her that being a reaper was much like being an IRS agent. Everyone hates you, but you’re just there to carry out a task that was determined from a much higher power. Just like an IRS agent didn’t make up any tax laws — that was the job of Congress — a reaper does not cause anyone to die. An IRS agent and a reaper are both there simply to make sure everything is in order.

– An important snippet from my current manuscript which I probably can’t use

100 Days into the Latest Novel

Today is the 100th day I’ve been working on Forever and For Always.

I started this new manuscript on Christmas day, and just today I crossed the 40,000 word mark. That means I’m averaging about 400 words a day. At this pace, and if this novel ends at the typical 100,000 word mark, I should be finished right around September 1st.

Then the rewriting begins! ON THREE NOVELS SIMULTANEOUSLY. Why? Because they’re all interconnected:

  1. All You See is Light
  2. A Wild and Untamed Thing
  3. Forever and For Always

Being that is my favorite part of the process, I’m really looking forward to it. Let’s see how accurate a prediction this is … I’m actually hoping I finish sooner, as only 46 days ago I began the practice of writing for a solid hour a day.

While that doesn’t sound like much, the practice has actually increased my output because it’s a solid uninterrupted hour a day, every day.

Michael Chabon and Neil Gaiman talk about Sir Terry Pratchett

Stages of Novel Writing

In the midst of euphoria over finishing the last novel, I jumped headfirst into writing the next, and now, three months later, I’ve reached the stage of, “What the hell was I thinking?”

And yet it progresses.

Most writers seem to have very similiar stages in writing longer manuscripts. Mine generally follow this pattern:

  1. Let’s do this thing!
  2. I’m on a roll!
  3. Wow, this is taking a lot of time out of my life.
  4. What the the hell was I thinking?
  5. I am wasting my time on this piece of crap.
  6. I should take up knitting instead.
  7. Okay, that was cool, maybe I’m not so bad a writer.
  8. Hey, this thing is coming together finally.
  9. The end is in sight!
  10. Yay, I’m done, and that ended completely different than I thought it would!

But being that I’m only three months into it, it’s pretty good (at least for me) to already be at Stage Four.

Monty Python Sketch: Novel Writing

It’s about time I shared this…