Drive Book Review

Thoughts on the novel Drive by James Sallis.

I finished reading Drive by James Sallis last week, and I have some mixed feelings about it. I think it’s an okay read with some fundamental issues.

I enjoyed the shorter length of the novel. I think it works well for the story being told, and the writing flows nicely. The atmosphere seems to be spot on in the way that the grittier parts of L.A. are described.

I disliked that there were essentially zero consequential female characters. I think the film does a better job than the novel of developing the character of Irina/Irene. I found the plot difficult to follow, with each chapter jumping back and forth in the timeline. There were shifts in tense throughout the book, which felt awkward. Maybe it was intentional, but I found it confusing.

I read the book pretty slowly over the course of a few weeks. I think this made the book more difficult to follow. Because of the shorter length—only 192 pages—I think Drive would have been better suited for reading over a few sittings back-to-back.

The film adaptation of Drive is one of my favorite movies from this decade, so I was excited to read the source material. All-in-all, it’s an okay read but not one that I am enthralled with. I get the feeling that I just didn’t get it, so it may be a novel worth revisiting in a few years.

Favorite Album of 2016

Musical highlights of 2016.

A handful of new albums came out in 2016 that I really enjoyed. A few albums are from artists I have been listening to years, while others are recent discoveries. My taste in music tends to orbit around indie rock, with some ambient, jazz, and Japanese dance music mixed in.

The highlights from this year for me were the following albums:

  • Blanco by David Bazan
  • Ruminations by Conor Oberst
  • 22, A Million by Bon Iver
  • LP2 by American Football
  • Art Nature by Tomggg

While I have enjoyed the aforementioned highlights, my favorite album of 2016 is Plays the Music of Twin Peaks by Xiu Xiu. It is a cover album of Twin Peaks music, and Xiu Xiu totally nails it. The interpretations of each song are a bit darker than the originals, which works to great effect.

My favorite songs from the album are:

Blue Frank / Pink Room — A combination of two songs from Fire Walk with Me, which go together like cherry pie and a cup of coffee. It’s one of the heavier songs on the album, and listening at a high volume is recommended.

Audrey’s Dance — The horns and animal calls mixed with the xylophone and ambient noise are spot on.

Falling — Jamie Stewart’s soft and emotional vocals are powerful in this cover of the opening song from the show. It gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it.

Plays the Music of Twin Peaks has been on repeat for me since its release. It has me so excited for the new series coming next year. Also, Xiu Xiu’s live performance that was commissioned by the Gallery of Modern Art is incredible:

The First Day Retrospective

Reflection on The First Day and my experience writing it.

Last week I released The First Day, my first piece of fiction that I have shared publicly. It is also my first work of interactive fiction (a.k.a. choose your own adventure story). Both had me feeling excited and nervous. Since releasing it, I feel proud about The First Day and happy with how it turned out.

Continue reading “The First Day Retrospective”

How I Backup My Writing

My approach ensuring I don’t lose what I have written by backing it up regularly and securely.

It’s very important to me that my writing projects are backed up regularly, securely, and easily. Whenever I start writing, whether it is a short story or a novel, I save the file in Dropbox so that it automatically gets backed up. That way if something happens to my computer, like the hard drive fails or it gets stolen, all of my writing is backed up to a separate and accessible location.

I have used Dropbox for years and haven’t had any issues, but other file syncing and backup services probably work just as well. The free tier of Dropbox has 2 GB of storage, which is plenty of storage for writing projects. Hooray for text files being small in size!

I also have an external hard-drive that I plug into my laptop at my desk that automatically backs up the entire hard drive using Time Machine, the built-in Mac OS backup utility. If something happens to Dropbox and my laptop, it feels reassuring to have a physical device in my home that I can use to get the file. This extra layer of backup may be unnecessary, but redundancies are important when it comes to backing up digital files.

I don’t think backing up one’s writing needs to be any more complex than that. It doesn’t require emailing files to oneself or using a flash drive. All it requires is setting up a syncing service or an automatic backup utility—or, better yet, both.

Prioritizing Creating Over Consuming

Musings on creating before consuming and what it leads to.

I want to make things. That has been clear to me for most of my life. For years I wasn’t happy with my creative output, which led me to wonder what I was doing wrong.

About a year ago I stumbled across the thought of What if I prioritize creating over consuming? That question has been my guide when deciding what I spend my free time doing.

Do I want to read this book or write a novel?

Do I want to read this comic or draw a comic?

Do I want to watch this TV show or write a script for my own show?

Do I want to play this game or make on my own game?

Posing the question as consume this or create that makes it easy to decide. If my goal is to create more stuff, then the answer is obvious.

Priority means doing one thing before the other. That means creating something before consuming. Before reading at night, I make sure to have written, even if it is only for ten minutes. Writing something is more important to me than reading the next chapter in a book. And, most days, I have the time to create and consume, which is a win-win.

The challenge is that creating is almost always more challenging than consuming. For example, watching a TV show is easy. It requires little effort beyond sitting and staring. On the other hand, writing a script for a TV show is difficult. It requires learning the format and structure of a TV script. It requires imagining the characters, settings, and plot. It requires actually writing the damn thing.

I’d rather have written a script for a show that’ll probably never get made than watch a TV show. The feeling of creating is incredibly rewarding. When I got lost in what I am creating, it’s a surreal experience. I can picture the places and the characters. I can see the future. I can see the past. It’s surreal.

What I am talking about is prioritizing, not replacing. I am not advocating foregoing consumption any art or entertainment. Books, movies, TV shows, games, podcasts—they can be incredibly inspiring, entertaining, and educating. More often than not, something I consume gets my brain working in a way that gets me thinking and influences what I create.

It’s about creating before consuming.

Over the last three months, I have gotten a handle on prioritizing creating over consuming. Now begins the journey of trying to create things that people actually like.

NaNoWriMo Advice To Myself Next Year

Tips on how to win NaNoWriMo from a first time winner and new writer.

a.k.a. Questionable Advice from a First Time NaNoWriMo Winner

Since finishing my NaNoWriMo 2016 novel’s first draft a little over a week ago, I thought it would be a good idea to write what worked for this year, figuring it may help me again next year. To my future self, I’d say, “Give these approaches a try to make the upcoming crazy month a little bit easier on yourself.”

Focus

Write first thing in the morning if you can. It tells you that it’s important because you’re doing it before anything else. It is much easier to get the writing done and move on with your day than it is to dread reaching the daily word count goal. Before you know it, it’s 11 P.M. and you don’t have a single word written. Life might get in the way of writing first thing in the morning some days, but it’s a nice goal to aim for.

When you are writing, eliminate as many distractions as possible. Turn off your phone, seriously. Mute your computer’s notifications. Make the writing application fullscreen. Immerse yourself in what you are doing. It helps with maintaining focus, which is critical.

Don’t watch your word count as you write. It can be tempting, but it’s the path to madness, especially on days when there’s much else to do. If possible, in your text editor, hide the user interface element that shows the word count while writing. It’ll let you focus on the next word you need to write instead of how many you’ve written already.

What to Write

Write until you have to stop. Write what comes to mind; don’t filter yourself. Don’t worry about what you’re writing. It’s okay if it’s not clever or funny or emotional. No one else is reading it, not even you, yet. There’s no jury of people judging every word you write, so don’t sweat it.

See where what you write takes you. The words will, surprisingly, lead the way more often than not. If you get stuck, keep writing, even if it is nonsense. You can write yourself out of being stuck, and it’s a lot more fun than pacing around thinking about how stuck you are.

If you want to mark a sentence or section as something to revisit or expand upon something for a future day’s writing, use a unique and distinct marker like “TODO” in your text so you can easily search to find those spots and expand upon it. For example, here’s one I had in my manuscript at one point: [TODO: expand upon how this makes Milo feel]. When I was feeling like I needed a change of pace, I would search for “TODO” in my text editor, find that marker, and expand upon it. It’s a nice way to change up the pace and go back to a previous part of the story.

In the scenario where the plot of your novel wraps up before 50,000 words, write an epilogue at the end that shows what the characters are up to in the future. Heck, write two or three epilogues if you need to. You might find yourself starting a follow-up novel or a short story, and that is awesome.

When to Stop

Stop writing when you feel good with what you have written and know where things could go next—don’t write until you’re totally exhausted. Writing until every ounce of creativity is gone can leave you with pieces of plot that are difficult to pick back up.

As Ernest Hemingway said:

The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck.

And, when you do stop writing, whether it’s for an hour to eat lunch or overnight, leave yourself a little note about where the story could potentially go when you return to it. This helps ease the transition of stopping and starting. You can get the ideas down without much detail and then jump right back in. For example: [Milo talks to Jordan about what happened over a cup of coffee]. That makes it much easier to return. Sometimes you may decide to go in a totally different direction, and that’s fine too. It’s just a reference. It’s not set in stone.

Finally

Be patient with yourself. You’re writing because you’re creating something awesome. It isn’t a 100-yard dash; it’s a marathon.