It begins. I woke up at 12:05 Friday morning and typed a sentence: 51 words of my 50K target, 1/1000 of my goal.
Though I got some work done on the governmental form for my story’s featured city, an important piece of the plot, I did not write as much as I wish I could have.
One of our dogs slipped out the gate when my back was turned and I didn’t notice she was gone for about 30 minutes. By that time, being a runner, she could have been half way across town. I searched, by car and on foot, but I knew after the first “Bella, come!” and no dog showed it was a fools errand. We’ve just moved and she’s only been on a few walks. I doubt she’s imprinted on “home” yet.
Honestly; after that, I really didn’t feel like writing. A terrible no-good fucked up day :-T
This is where a lot of bloggers apologize for having been gone for so long from their boards. I’m not going to do that as I’m reasonably assured no one has been pinning away due to a lack of my oh, so witty repartee!
“When is André going to post more of those deep insights that make my day? I wonder what his latest frustration is–he always makes my life seem a bit better when he posts about the things that bother him…I don’t feel so alone.”
I mean, honestly, at this stage in my writing adventure, my blog is little more than a message-in-a-bottle meant to help me feel (as illusionary as that might be) that I’m part of a larger community of unpublished writers rather than due to any delusions concerning an eager audience. Somehow, the act of posting, trusting to the Fates and tossing it out into the cyberspace sea, is a comforting one. The illusion is enough and at this stage, I ask no more of it.
Due to the madness that is part and parcel of a high school English teacher’s typical Friday, as well as the fact that I have no inspiring story calling out to me, I did not make my word count goal for the day. I’m not too surprised, nor am I unduly worried. Today is a Saturday. My wife is at work and I and the dogs have nearly all morning to write. Still, write what? is the question.
As November approached, I reflected on what I’d done in the past. I had successfully completed four WriMos, two of which were NaNoWriMos. I had proven several times over then that I could both reach 50k and sustain a story idea that could use at least that many words. What had yet to be accomplished was a fully finished first draft, something I could proceed to revise and refine. Thus, I decided this year’s NaNoWriMo strategy needed to be a bit different. I would not start a new manuscript and write another 50k that would in all likelihood end up simply being another unfinished story. What I needed to do was rebel and make this NaNoWriMo experience a bit more utilitarian.
I decided I had several options.
A.) I could write 60 30-word Holly Lyle “Sentences”. Though it would most definitely not result in 50k, it could subject my right-brain muse to just the right exercise to identify a story idea about which I was passionate.
B.) I could review my unfinished manuscripts and write up 30 in depth character profiles, each about 1,500+ words long. This was a win-win idea considering that if I did, I would easily have 50k, but also, knowing my twisted mind as I do, it most likely would lead to jump-starting an old story or conjuring up a new one long before the 30th profile was reached.
C.) I could do 50k of world-building. Presently I have multiple on-going projects. I could easily crank out the required wordage and end up with something concrete for both my gaming and writing worlds.
I ultimately decided on a fourth option: D.) I will take the Brandon Sanderson option with an eye toward finishing the draft and continue an existing manuscript for another 50k. Maybe not as glamorous or NaNoWriMo-script-conservative as a new story line, but preferable to an additional orphan “under-the-bed.”
Tomorrow then, should see me beginning the 04:00-cycle and working on The Kraters of Ivory and Jet II.
Though at the close of November the voyage of this particular novel idea is far from complete, I made several personal observations during this year’s NaNoWriMo that should help me plot a course toward finishing it and will help me prepare for my next adventure.
Observation One: Writing without a solid outline is less fun than writing with one.
I can understand the draw of writing by the seat of one’s pants. I imagine it is akin to riding a literary rollercoaster or taking what amounts to a compositional drug-trip. Who knows where the plot will twist today? Let it flow. Who knows where the characters will lead? Follow them. Pansters claim it works and who am I to question it?
I just do not have the mental and creative constitution for it. This month I started writing with only “The Sentence” (30 words) for direction, and not the outline I usually create. I did not enjoy the process of mental grasping-about that followed. I just need more structure than most. That being said, I am always open to my muse and inspiration. I am not slavishly locked into anything. It is, after all, my subconscious doing the talking and I need to make sure my conscious is listening.
Regardless, from now on, at the very minimum, I’ll have an outline finished before I start, whether its a skeletal Hero’s Journey, a version of Freytag’s Pyramid, a thumb-nail Three-Act Structure, a modified Kishotenketsu or simply a bloody list of what’s next, but no more vague idea for a situation and a character or two and feeling for the rest as I go along.
Observation Two: True “cheering sections” are rare.
Writing can be such a lonely effort. It is a complicated, long term and protracted process paramount to living a monastic life style. That’s why true cheering sections are as important as they are rare.
I had a close friend who used to ask about my writing whenever we exchanged emails or the occasional phone call. Her questions were always story centered. What was I working on now or how was the story going? Once in awhile she’d ask me to read to her, but only if she felt I was ready. She often signed off with a positive, “I can’t wait to read it!” or something along those lines. What I found wonderful was her ability to communicate her happy faith that I would eventually finish my book, her constant focus on story and her obvious desire to encourage me to keep writing.
I didn’t realize how important or deeply effecting that kind of encouragement was until it was gone—people change, relationships change, life changes. Regardless, she will always have my undying gratitude for the long-ago gift of her animated interest.
During my NaNo effort, I had plenty of support from relatives, friends and students, mostly in terms of giving me uninterrupted writing time, which was much appreciated! And to those who contributed financially to the NaNo-cause, YOU ARE CHAMPIONS! There was however an absence of any interest in what I was writing or how it was going, let alone any curiosity about hearing any bit of it that I might want to share. As sad as that was for me, I reminded myself that I compose without it all the time; indeed, I have for most of my writing life. In the end, writing is a solo gig. A cheering section is nice but not required.
Observation Three: Anyone who is not a writer rarely understands what the process involves.
It is amazing how many folk think that being part of the “cheering section” means advising: “Why don’t you just finish it and send it to a publisher?” It is also amazing how many of these people offer their brand of support without really understanding that it is not as easy as “…just sayin’.”
I love these people and they obviously love and care about me, but they need to do their homework or trust that I have. There is so much more to writing than simply recording the story and sending it off to a publisher.
Observation Four: I am far from finished.
Though I knew this going in, it has struck me yet again that finishing a manuscript involves so much more than composing 50k. I have an incredible amount of work yet to do. 50k is, at best, only about a third of the way through the first draft of my manuscript idea. Further, I foresee, at the very least, one full rewrite with multiple revisions and edits beyond that will be required. Once I’m satisfied that this manuscript is indeed something I want published and that I have caught all flaws I can detect, then I’ll take it to a group of local published authors or submit it to Holly Lisle’s very strict and professional revision regime the result of which will involve be even more changes, additions and rewrites
I’m sure! This is what it takes to produce something worth reading, something others might want to read.
Observation Five: I cannot “publish” too early.
The internet has changed the publishing world in nearly the same way it has changed the recording industry and it is a route I intend to take. Artists are no longer required to kowtow to the whims of a massive, labyrinthine and aloof monopoly. They no longer have to sacrifice control over their own work or cater to a subjective middle man who is himself but a puppet of pop-culture. The flip-side however, is that without the more positive aspects of such a filter—amazing and knowledgeable agents, discerning and intuitive editors, demanding and dedicated publishers—self-published writers have produced a lot, A LOT, of poor writing—a substandard glut that must be weeded so as to find true flowers worth reading.
There are NaNo-ers, God bless their little pea-picking hearts, who having written their 50k do a minimal spell-check and, with the encouragement of proud yet ill-informed supporters, add their work to the wild garden with a right-click. I will not do this. Quality is the only thing that will make my writing stand out among the crop of millions (I kid you not) and the only way to achieve such is through hard work, heart breaking honesty and a ruthlessness akin to a combat medic’s triage—see observation four.
I can just hear those who know me querying, “Only five?” No. LOL! Not by a long shot, but these are the five that survived the storm-tossed sea of my seething brain to find a safe harbor after two weeks. Now, onward toward the farthest shore.
Okay…I bought the domain name, opted for under-the-radar personals, trash-canned the ads and signed up for custom design. It’s going to take me some time to get things straightened out. I don’t particularly like the theme I had to go with, some of the options and their limits pisses me off, but until I can get a handle on CSS, I’ll deal with it. I hope you’ll be patient with me.
Ravven, hun, comment away you red headed, creative writing, gaming goddess artist. Sorry ’bout the Blogger BS. I knew this day was coming for a long time now and should have just bit the proverbial bullet and started the process. What is even more insane is that I knew better: I have three other WordPress blogs for my other subjects and interests and, wait for it…here’s the head-shaker…the early posts for TSQ were orginally written for a WordPress site! I don’t know what possessed me to go to Blogger in the first place! The look? The easier clickity to change font colors, etc.? I was too lazy to figure it out on WordPress? I dunno, maybe– Hey wait a minute…my kids…yeah…one of ’em’s got a Blogger site…I can blame them.
It’s her fault.
I arrived at the Queen Bean a bit nervous. It had started some hours earlier and I as late. Because I’d gotten home late from work I’d barely had time to warm up my fingers before my bagpipe lesson with Aaron Shaw of the Wicked Tinkers (Awesome lesson, by the way!), and I had yet to eat, I almost talked myself out of attending and if Marirose had been home, I probably would not have gone as with her schedule I do not get to spend a lot of time with her, but as it was the house was pretty quiet. Besides, the NaNoWriMo and cool get togethers of like-minded and writing crazy individuals because of it, only happen once a year. Just dooo-it, I told myself.
I went in to grab a bite before I sat down, but unfortunately the Queen had stopped serving meals much earlier. Bummer. As it was 19:30 and I had not eaten since noon, I was hungry. I turned around and headed back to the car with Japanese food on my mind. As I left however, I saw three folk in the corner with their laptops open going for it and figured they were the NaNo contingent, but as they were pretty focused, I didn’t hail them.
After a delicious meal of sushi, miso soup and gyoza at Tokyo Express on J st., I returned to the Queen Been for a cup of Jo and introduced myself to the two remaining NaNo. I recognized one from a forum pic on the Modesto Meet Up site. I sat down, opened up my lap top and had only written a line or two when the barriesta told a customer the café would be closing in about a half an hour. I smiled to myself ruefully, chuckling at how the night had gone so far. I just shook my head and did my best. My new NaNo-friends were having a discussion about various books, fan-fiction, a new spin on Vampires and their own writing goals. I simply listened and tried to key at the same time.
The acting “ML” suggested a word sprint type game in which we randomly drew popsicle sticks pre-marked with a word count—150, 250, 300, etc. (I drew 450) and tried to reach that mark in 15 minutes. The winner was awarded a chocolate. We only got about two thirds of the way through the sprint when, to our disappointment, the barriesta announced that the Queen Bean would be closing shortly! We thought we’d be there until 22:00, but it seems they closed an hour earlier than we’d been led to believe on their Facebook site.
All in all, though I was only there for a short time, it was fun and a foretaste of the larger Write-In at Panera Bread in Turlock on Sunday. I have to say, that I enjoyed the intimate atmosphere of Queen Bean and look forward to meeting there again.
Originally posted in The Salamander’s Quill 1.0 now deleted.
He paused on the stone wharf and looked hard at the bireme. Its crew busy taking on supplies. He readjusted the weight of his writing satchel on his shoulder and felt the weight of his years on his heart.
He glanced back up at the spires and minarets of mighty Atrea city just catching the rosy glow of dawn on their tips. The other storytellers–they are all so young and successful. They all wanted to tell their stories no less than he did, but they had the courage, luck and/or foolishness to try. He so wanted to be part of their company, but…
He watched as the last of the cargo was loaded aboard. I must make the journey, he thought. I must write my story, but I cannot do it with one foot on the land and the other in the sea. I must either travel to the furthest shore…or stay here forever listening to the tales others weave with no hope of telling my own or, worse, re-hashing over and over the whys and wherefores I do not do what I wish to do. Believing my own lies adn exuces.
(indent)“Are you coming or are you staying?” KurTdinovanis called across to him from the fighting deck. Some of the crew, ready to castoff, were paused watching him.
(indent) “It would be easy to stay; it will be hard to go,” smiled the Tyrese merchant prince knowingly.
(indent) “It is my last chance,” he called. “I see that.”
(indent) “Maybe, maybe not,” KurTdinovanis shrugged, “but true or not, it is time to make up your mind about which it is.”
(indent) “I’m coming with you,” he said. The crew cheered and the merchant captain smiled, his white teeth flashing. With a last look at the city, the quill-driver walked across the gang plank.
(indent) “I will try one more time to bring us to the hither shore,” he said, pulling his pilots’ notebook from his bag.
(indent) “Good,” said the captain. “That is good. My men would like to see Stygar and forbidden Arcree. Let’s get there this time, eh?”
(indent) “Yes,” he replied. “Let’s get there this time.”
–Five Months later
“The Sundancian Sea is full of Arcreean ships, but I have seen no war vessels. The ships of Ithium and Heliconian origin are full of suspicious and nervous sailors. We have been hailed, boarded and searched more times than I can count. Kur-Tdinovanis’ crew is unhappy about this. They expected to be back in Atrea by now. Instead they greet each morning expecting a day of obstacle and delay. The Khaldenthean soldiers are also growing restless. They cast sidelong glances in my direction full of questions and narrow looks. Only the captain of the mercenaries and his Autumn Leaves remain patient and stoic.”
As I have planned the story will begin with a chariot race and end with one, but the horses will be going no where unless I begin myself.
Originally posted in the now deleted “Marchers of Khaldenthea” blog and The Salamander’s Quill 1.0