Mandate Update & Unreleased Tidbits!

Since most of my public updates on Mandate, my novel, have come in the form of quick Twitter posts and status updates, I figured I’d actually write down some more than 140 characters to let everyone know where I’m at. And while I’m at it, I’m going to let slip a few things that no one knows yet about the novel as it reaches it’s halfway point.

First of all, Mandate’s first draft is officially halfway finished as of now. It’s been just over 2 months since I started writing, and my plan as of now is to have the first draft written by Labor Day. Revisions will then begin, and if all goes according to plan (who knows if it will), I’ll have it ready to go by mid-October. You guys will obviously know more than others, since you’ve been following since the beginning.

My schedule has actually deviated a few times, and it’s taught me some valuable things about writing fiction (as opposed to the non-fiction I normally write for work). Namely, inspiration is everything. Case and point? I was on a Chapter a week schedule until mid-June when I took a week to travel to Salt Lake to see my friend Steve. While in Salt Lake I had absolutely no desire to write, and so I didn’t (Felt a little guilty about that). Upon coming back, I had another heavy week and found myself 2 weeks behind schedule. On June 27, I should have been working on Chapter 7. In reality I was working on the beginning of Chapter 5. Ugh.

This week, the week according to my goals set in mid-may should have seen me working on Chapter 9, actually saw me finishing chapter 6 on Monday. But then for whatever reason, I got inspired. Chapter 7 was pounded out in just 3 days, and I am now about 20% through Chapter 8. By mid-week next week I’ll probably be on Chapter 9.

One might wonder why I’m tracking my progress in this way. After all, a novel is a creative exercise, why burden myself with chapter deadlines of my own whim? When it’s done it’s done, why keep a stringent regiment of writing for an hour each day? And why even have a chapter outline forcing myself to put certain plot elements in at certain times. That doesn’t sound very creative, expressive, or spontaneous now does it?

Damn right it doesn’t sound that way – because if I did just sorta “go with the flow”, there is a great chance that this thing would never be done. We’ve all probably seen the following Family Guy clip, but it’s worth watching:

When I originally watched that, years ago, I thought it was funny. Now it gives me what some would call the “douche chills“. I don’t know how other fiction writers with 1 book under their belt feel, but as a writer in other contexts I know that if I don’t have some sort of structure to my own work, I could easily become like Brian in the clip above. Incidentally in a recent episode Brian finishes his book, after many years. I don’t want to take that chance, I want this damn thing to be done at some point! So in order to do that, I’m keeping on a schedule, and posting regular updates.

Second of all, I’ve decided to let you guys in on a few pieces of info regarding the book. Why? Well to keep you interested damnit! I realize my “only tell you the title” thing is a bit annoying. Originally this was because I was going to incorporate reader ideas into the book and didn’t want you to try to answer in a way that would change the plot. Not that I think it would have occurred – but I figured I’d keep it vague to encourage spontaneous responses from you guys.

Well for the most part, asking questions flopped. I have a few good ones which I’m saving and will probably put in during revisions of the book, but in general I stopped asking when people stopped responding. Some even thought I abandoned the project all together, which thankfully I did not.

So what tidbits am I going to tell you? Well I’m going to answer a few questions on here that others have asked me before.

Question: So you’re writing a Science Fiction novel right? you’re a computer geek yourself, and a Sci Fi fan, so that’s what it’s about right? I bet it’s set far in the future!
OK, this one amazed me since more than one person asked it. I’m sad to say this to all you sci fi hopefuls, but the book is not Science Fiction. It does feature a highly improbable plot (Of course if it featured a probable plot it would be pretty damn boring right?), and it IS set in the future. How far in the future you ask? About 2 years. Sorry, not much has changed in my 2 years in the future history.

Question: Is it about you?
So the story is written in the first-person, which means through the eyes of my main character. While he shares a few things in common with me (for example, at the start of the book his job involves some of the things I’ve done in the past to make a living), he isn’t me. For one thing, he’s older. They say you should write what you know, so in that sense many of the characters have aspects to their personality that are like me, but I wouldn’t say anyone in the book is patterned off of me or anyone I know. That being said, I do have one character engage in some rather odd behavior I once witnessed a friend do. Why? Because it was funny to watch at the time and thus funny to write about from a slightly different perspective.

Question: When will I get to read it?!?
Ah, you want to actually read the book so you can validate all those feelings of mediocrity I feel by telling me it’s “OK”. Sure, we can do that. Once the first draft is done, and the prologue and first chapter are revised, I’ll be making them available for free. You’ll find information on that when it’s time, hopefully toward the end of September.

Third of all, and last, Why the hell am I doing this?

This is a question I’ve gotten and I think it really deserves more than just a paragraph to explain.

So I’m a part-time computer geek and full-time psychologist (Some times I use the fancy term “Behavioral Economist” when I’m actually studying financial decisions, but mostly I’ll just say I’m a researcher or psychologist). On my wall hangs various degrees that look very nice, and buried away I have awards and certificates related to my writing for Windows Phone Thoughts and my enthusiasm for Microsoft products. I also have dozens of odd-ball websites and videos out there. But I don’t have any background in fiction, have never taken a creative writing class, and have never shown any interest in novel writing before. So why now? Good question.

I’m writing this book for 3 reasons:

1. I’ve always wanted to write something substantial (yes, as someone pointed out to me, I suppose I’m not counting my dissertation) and interesting to read. I just never had a good idea before. The author note in the book will lay out how I got this idea, and tortured half-started writing projects on my hard drive and testify that I’ve started projects in the past that have never gotten even 1/20th as far as Mandate has. Call it my “Bucket List” or whatever you want, but at some point I want to be able to say I wrote a novel. It just sounds cool.

2. Here’s the goal that appeals to my computer side. I’m really curious how one goes about self-publishing a book in both physical and electronic form. Is it really possible for Joe Schmo (or Jon Westfall) to wake up one day and start writing, and months later have their product available in respectable book sellers or at least in a form that looks like a real book. If it’s promoted, does it really have a chance of becoming even slightly successful (by the way, my definition of success would be to sell it to 3 people whom I haven’t met – that would be cool). So in order to find out how the whole self-publishing thing works in 2010, I need to have something to self-publish.

3. Here’s the goal that appeals to my psych side: This project gets me writing on a regular schedule and used to sitting down and creating something. After writing fiction, which is completely made up, taking theories I already have developed and tested and getting them written down should be easier. After all, I already know the entire plot of a research paper, whereas Mandate has been developing in a rather looser fashion (In Week 1 of writing I knew the rough plot, but details don’t get filled in until much later, and I’m still not completely sure the details of how the protagonist overcomes the actions of the antagonist). In short, this summer writing project is fun and hopefully helpful. If reason 3 doesn’t work out though, it was still fun.

So that’s why I’m writing.  So to Recap this long post: You now know a bit more about the book than just the title. It’s called Mandate, it’s not science fiction, it’s set 2 years in the future, and I’m not in it (Although I’m seriously considering giving myself a cameo as “guy on the train” or something like that). I’m writing it because I want to, and I want to learn more (Sorta like why I bought a bunch of VoIP hardware a few years ago to teach myself about VoIP technology). Lastly, If you’ve made it through this post so far, you’ll also be richly rewarded for your time spent by getting sneak previews and more tidbits in the future. How so? Well, because you’ll know about the Newsletter I’m starting to blast out Mandate Updates. So Sign up now, and get the inside scoop as a weirdo psychologist geek works on the second-half of his first novel.

Satanic Possession via Justin Bieber

Ye Li, an incredibly talented co-worker of mine who is well versed in pop culture and Internet Meme-ery sent me a link the other day to the “How Many Justin Biebers Could You Take In A Fight” Quiz (It was hot in NYC that day, and apparently that caused a Justin Bieber song to revolve around Ye’s head like a pack of wild wolves revolves around hurt prey). I decided to take the quiz because, well, it was late in the day and I wanted something fun to do after a pretty stressful afternoon. The first question asks you to listen to a Bieber song on YouTube and give your impression of it, with such whimsical answers as “Is that a guy or girl singing” and “OH GOD MAKE IT STOP!”. I pressed Play on the embedded player and got the video going, and Google helpfully provided me some ads in the lower third. The first ad amused me more than the quiz though:

That’s right ladies and gentlemen – if you listen to Baby by Justin Bieber, Google thinks it’s quite possible that you need to take the Demon Test. Gotta wonder what the analytics data was that caused this association to occur!

Happy Weekend everyone – steer clear of possessed Justin Bieber fans and have a great couple of days off!