A Writing Challenge

This year, in an effort to get myself writing, I have decided to commit myself to National Novel Writing Month, which begins tomorrow. The goal is 50000 words written in November; I’m going to try to top that, and aim for 60000, which is a slightly more proper length for a novel, and gives me a goal of 2000 words per day.

What this means, however, is that I will likely be posting occasional updates on my progress. I will not be posting the work itself, since the goal for the month is quantity, not quality. And if, when done, it turns out good enough to share with the public at large, well… I’d look for a publisher, and it would vanish into slush piles for years at a time.

Now, my purpose in doing this is two-fold: the aforementioned effort to get myself writing more (in this case, “more” being “at all”), and to break me out of many time-wasting habits. If I am to produce 2000 words per day and still get the work I’m supposed to be doing done, then a lot of my online time-wasting is going to have to be cut. Of course, I’m not going to entirely eliminate my online diversions, but rather streamline them.

Thus, for example, rather than checking the online comics and blogs that I read first thing in the morning, and again and again throughout the day, I’ll check in the evening when the updates are most likely to have been made already. That said, I will cut out Wikipedia entirely — apart from novel-related research — so that I don’t get trapped in ever deeper searches of pop culture from my youth.

The hope is that, by the end of November, I will not only have acclimated myself to writing daily (and continue thereafter at a reduced rate of output), but will have also eliminated some of my more egregious time-wasting habits.

I guess we’ll see how it goes.

Why Start This Site?

When deciding to start up a new site — especially one that includes a blog component — the most important question to me is “Why?”. It is important because it determines your editorial slant and your motivation for putting together the site, which can also determine how well you’ll maintain it. So it seems reasonable to me to start this new site off with a little discussion of why I’m starting a new site, what it’s going to be about, and some of my philosophy behind it.

This site is meant to project my public persona to the world. Not that I expect to reach the world, per se, but rather that if the world comes looking for me, this site will contain the stuff that I don’t mind them knowing. So this site will try to convey my sense of humour (starting with the title), my interests, and my work, all in one reasonably entertaining package.

In some respects, my work and my interests overlap, as I am pursuing my PhD in Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto. Thus, as you might expect, I am interested in many aspects of technology, ranging from cool software and gadgets to computer security and high performance computing. I am sure that from time to time my opinions on these topics will come up as entries on this blog.

This interest in science and technology also extends the impact they can have on society. I have certain hot-button topics you may hear about — links between video games and violence, ignorant laws relating to technology and security, and copyright terms — but that’s about as political as this place will get.

I’m sure it will strain my credibility when I mention that I — a computer engineer — am also interested in science fiction and fantasy. This interest crosses all media — books and magazines, television and film, comics and anime and manga, video games, websites, and what-have-you. I do have some degree of discerning taste, however, and do enjoy things outside of those genres, but as I try to deepen my understanding and appreciation of these speculative works, you can expect I’ll write a lot of content on these subjects here. Commentary and reviews of books, television programming, short stories, movies, comics… I’m sure I’ll cover them all.

That said, I’ll cover them with one caveat: I’m mainly going to cover the good stuff, at least with respect to written science fiction and fantasy. My reasoning for this is two-fold.

  1. As John Scalzi has suggested in this post, written SF gets dumped on quite a lot, in general. And thus he feels it is his job to be a booster for the genre. Of course there are going to be bad works of written SF, but why dwell on those? It seems a lot more sensible to talk up the good stuff, so that more people find it. So, while my discussion of SF will (hopefully) not be simply gushing praise, the stuff I do talk about will be the good stuff, and the bad will be quietly ignored.
  2. I do have aspirations to produce written SF myself. And I really don’t want to be the dick who slagged off another writer’s work when I could conceivably meet them at some point in the future.

Admittedly, the second reason is a lot more self-serving that the first, but hey, my heart is in the right place. And you needn’t worry about this turning into writing advice blog — I figure I should actually achieve some measure of success at writing before I start dispensing advice. Thus, while there may be occasional posts on writing, it will mostly be a discussion of the troubles I’m having with it, and follow my efforts to overcome those troubles.

From time-to-time I’ll also produce little essays about some of my favourite things in various media — ideally, things that are not already widely acclaimed or popular, but that are really good nonetheless. In some cases they’ll be projects of people I know, but usually it will be stuff I’ve been fortunate enough to stumble across that just really spoke to me.

This site will not go into much detail about my personal life and relationships, beyond an abstract level, anyway. The people who need to know about my personal life are involved in it, and can get the information first-hand.

With that, I think, I have set the stage for what this site will become. Over the next little while I’ll probably adapt this entry into a more coherent About page, and start detailing my academic life. I’m sure I’ll also be tweaking the look of the site for a while, until I find something I’m really happy with. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to figuring out how things will develop.