Sunday, July 20, 2008

Change, For Better or For Worse

No, that's not a reference to Lynn Johnston's brilliant comic, but rather a mundane announcement regarding a software change to this site. All the comic pages used to be served dynamically, using Python CGI. Under the hood, this involved a fair amount of processing, including XML parsing of the ComicsML data for each cartoon. I have rewritten the site to generate static HTML pages for each comic - this only affects you, the reader, if you have previously linked to any of the archived comic pages. If you have linked to a comic image, not a page, this will not affect anything.

I am generally against the practice of changing URLs, but I was always bothered by the limited scalability of my dynamic pages - especially since even the index page was generated dynamically (and my web host's machine isn't exactly a powerhouse). So I decided to bite the bullet and take the plunge. For the one or two people this may inconvenience (it's likely that no more than that many people actually read this comic), I offer my sincere apologies.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Writing the Not-So-Great American Novel, Part 2

Happy Fourth of July! It is a day to remember and appreciate the freedom we enjoy in this great country, such as the freedom I have to produce my humble educational comic strip.

My birthday has come and gone, and I have to report that I have not completed my goal of creating the first draft of a novel. I have however breached the 10,000 word mark, which is further than I've ever gone before, and I fully intend to continue this endeavor.

Lessons learned so far: I have found that it is really easy to lose motivation. This is probably the worst enemy of completing the 50,000 word challenge. After a few days of frenzied writing, my day-to-day life catches up to me: going out with friends; work projects; social obligations; Battlestar Galactica; etc. I found myself putting off writing one day, then two days, then three days at a time. After a while my head was no longer in my book, and that is when my inner editor pounced with a litany of doubts and fears: my plot is dumb; my characters are flat; I don't know enough about my subject matters... why bother continuing?

I found the best way to combat this creeping despair is just to force yourself to write at least a sentence each day, even if you don't feel like it. No matter how tired or uninspired you feel, you can write a sentence. This forces you to keep your head in the story. You end up thinking about the plot, settings, and characters at least a little bit each day, and you avoid feelings of futility by knowing you can quit after one sentence.

This calls to mind a great blog post I read about the power of daily routine. Think about it: if you wrote just one sentence per day since that moment when you first thought, "I could write a book," you probably could have written a book by now (probably not a good one, but hey).