Camp NaNoWriMo 2021: Week 1 – I Can’t Believe It’s Working

Hi.

And also, seriously, I can’t believe the Promises Outline approach is working as well as it is.

If you’re new here, I’m Louis Santiago, a writer from New York who’s been trying to perfect his writing process for sixteen years. Before that, I was in the Post-Its phase of writing (all worldbuilding, no actual writing–outside of a few embarrassing short stories).

But in 2005, I started my first novel, which was extensively worldbuilt and very heavily outlined. It didn’t work; the outline was so detailed that it fell apart the moment I veered off course in prose (the terrible ripple effect of, “Well, let me alter the rest of the outline so it works with this change I just made–and now that I’ve taken 2 days to do that, let me go back to the novel and . . . what scene was I writing again??”). The end result was bad, even after a bunch of edits and a 2010 rewrite.

In 2014, I went the total opposite direction and tried discovery writing a novel. Which was a lot of fun . . . but ultimately very, very messy. I felt like I was getting somewhere, and even submitted that 2014 novel after a few edits, but after a handful of tries, I stopped, because something was still off.

Now, on July 8th, 2021, you’re joining me right at the point where I actually think I’ve figured out my process. It took listening to class sessions that a highly successful, published author posted on his YouTube (Brandon Sanderon is a saint), and a bunch of sessions with my private writing group, but I think I’ve finally got it.

And it’s such a positive, optimistic moment in my life that it’s actually scary.

The answer appears to be both pantsing and plotting. Kind of.

The pantsing part of my brain is sated by worldbuilding and (I know this is going to sound weird but) outlining; I still write detailed outlines so I can hit all of the same dopamine highs, but I also leave those outlines wide open to change.

So the plotting side of my brain can follow a roadmap of possibilities to a finished product (although I’ve discovered that part of my brain loves to just have details cleanly laid out so he can just knock out scenes).

And that is the part that I cannot believe is true, because I was so sure it would be a massive hurdle.

I thought I would get to the first scene and be like, “No. I want this to be completely different,” thus falling into the trap from my first, 2005 novel.

But, even though that has happened . . . I still managed to make the outline loose enough to totally allow for it.

As of right now, I am 11,278 words into Memory, a really heavy rewrite of my 2014 novel. And, yes, the fact that it’s a rewrite makes it easier to belt out–totally.

But whatever. Let me have the giddy disbelief that my excitement from last week’s post didn’t die 20 minutes into July 1st.

Especially considering there have been those tough moments:

On Day 2, I got crazy over-zealous and wrote two day’s worth, absolutely burning myself out for a day, which has made me hyper aware of and respectful to my internal reserves of Write Energy (it sounds less weird than “Write Juice”).

On Day 4, after a break, I struggled with a scene that had a strange flow in outline; I assumed I would be able to use some elements from the original novel, but they really didn’t fit the tone of the rewrite, so I had to make a bunch of tweaks.

Day 6, was an absolute nightmare because I didn’t clarify the location where a scene took place (to specify, not the immediate setting, but where that setting was located in a city). I spent the entire day contemplating extremely esoteric details of a scene that amounted to two pages.

I cannot believe that went through that gauntlet of momentum killers, and I’m still in it. That I have a functional process. I didn’t just give up on Day 6 and turn on video games. I didn’t convince myself I needed a week away just to come back having forgotten every last plot thread.

Sixteen years and I finally found a way to reliably write something whole–in roughly 2 years.

I am so goddamn excited for the next steps. The goal is going to be making that 2 years canon (with worldbuilding, outlining, writing, and editing).

But I’m also going to have to work out an outline for the rest of the Memory series. And then Aixa. Hand and the Tempest.

Just naming those projects made me starry-eyed.

I’m going to end this post here.

And hope that the next time I write to you, it won’t be to report that the other shoe dropped.

Camp NaNoWriMo, July 2021, Feels Like Fate

I know that’s a little dramatic . . .

. . . but I just finished editing my outline. Not rushing or stressing. Just at my normal pace, I just so happened to finish editing my outline an hour before July 1st–giving me exactly enough time to write this post.

And that outline didn’t need massive changes–the finale was just good.

And the tweak I made to an earlier scene yielded a significantly better scene.

And there was a thunderstorm as I edited the last bit (and, seriously, if you don’t know, rain and thunderstorms are my ideal setting for writing because of Jurassic Park [a major inspiration for me as a baby writer]).

And a heat wave just ended–on the eve of Camp NaNo.

I don’t know if that’s the requisite amount of things to qualify for auspicious, but it sure feels like it to me.

I would have nerves . . .

. . . if I wasn’t so goddamn pumped to write this novel.

My Camp NaNo 2021 Info

My name on nanowrimo.org is “LouisSantiago.” Feel free to add me if you’ll also be toiling away on a project this July.

My project for this Camp is Memory, a rewrite of a novel I originally completed in 2014. I spent the interim seven years working on other projects, learning more about my novel-writing-process, and outlining the rewrite.

My word goal is 50,000, the lowest total you can select because, at this phase of my writing career, I am extremely concise. There is a chance I won’t write a full 50,000, but we’ll see.

My daily goal is going to be 1,666 words, which would be a bad omen but, ha ha! Fuck you, world! I was a Goth in high school! Your supposedly evil numbers mean fuck all to me! Ha ha!

My weekly total is going to be roughly 5 chapters (the outline tops off at 19), which is probably less lenient than it feels. But, hey, I will at least accept the shoulder-tension-release I’m getting from that potential wiggle room.

~~~

That said, I’m ending this post here, because my ritual lately has been waking up super early and getting to work right away, and I refuse to break that–especially tomorrow.

This will be my post for this week because I want to give Camp NaNo and Memory all of my attention. I figure for this month, I’ll switch to Thursdays, and then go back to business as usual in August.

Until next time, stay safe, stay hydrated, and, please, no matter what happens, don’t let other people slow you down. I don’t mean that in a weird, lone wolf way. I just mean that if there’s anyone in your life who’s constantly telling you not to do the things you want to do, or manipulating you into second guessing yourself, fuck them. Your dreams don’t have to conform to what they want–ever. Be yourself. Live your truth.

And let’s fucking do this.

I Finished the Outline for Memory

Finally.

I can’t explain how good it feels to finally get over that hurdle. To finally be one step closer to writing anything else.

I love Memory, and I’m excited that I have ideas for its sequels, but man am I ready for the next steps in my process: making a few tweaks to the outline, and then using it to write Memory next month for Camp NaNoWriMo.

And, after that, moving on to a new project for the first time in six years.

There’s some additional tweaking and retallying I need to do between now and July—in particular, I need to bolster the one plotline and add additional stakes to the finale—but I am still in what I’m now calling “forced celebration mode.”

Which means I’m continually loading up my outline, staring at it, and realizing that I can’t work on it because I’m knee deep in what I call Recovery Mode, which is when I’ve just written a bunch and I know from years of experience that, if I push myself to do more, I’ll just be writing nonsense that I’ll have to delete later (no shame if you can push yourself, and I’m not advising anyone else to do this, but I have a finite amount of Write Juice [or whatever you want to call it] and I know to respect when it runs out session). Usually, that dearth of Write Juice (I like it) just means I stop writing for the day, but when I hit a milestone, I usually like some breathing room for a few days.

Which mean I keep telling myself that it’s okay—that I don’t have to work this weekend—and then I just kind of . . . wallow? No—wrong word. It’s not a sad thing.

“Not-work!”

Not-working is what I’ll call it.

Never in my life have I experienced it, but yes, I am in a perpetual state of not-working, where I just kind of roll around my apartment, lying and sitting in different places, thinking about the outline, excited to get back to it, but also accepting that I need a break.

Things I have done in my determined quest to just fucking relax for a minute:

Watched Escape from L.A. for the first time.

Played through Superliminal for the first time—in one sitting.

Read a ton of Ultimate Spider-Man, which I’m trying to catch up on after finishing Spider-Man: Miles Morales. There’s something addicting about experiencing all of the different iterations of Miles in succession (I just finished Spider-Man: Miles Morales recently and I watch Spider-Verse all the time). Every version of Miles’ story does some things better than others. For example, the video game version of his mother, Rio, is the only version with an actual personality. Video game Uncle Aaron is also the best. The comics have the best version of Ganke (the video game version of him is such an over-the-top, app saavy genius, that the moment he suggested monetizing the app he made–so people could contact Miles and ask him for help–I couldn’t get over the idea that he’s a silicon valley monster waiting to happen). When it comes to Miles himself though, there is no beating Shameik Moore’s smooth, reluctant-nerd Miles from Spider-Verse; I love comic book Miles’ reluctance to be Spider-Man, and I appreciate video game Miles consistently speaking Spanish (the only one who actually feels Afro-Latino), but cool, confident (eventually) Spider-Verse Miles is such a departure from Peter Parker’s routinely-beaten-down-little-guy, that he’s definitely my favorite of the now many, many Spider-People out there.

Anyway, I also suffered through Tenet (which I might rewatch to do A Writer Watching—I have so much to say).

I tried Goat Simulator, which I played for longer than I thought I would, but got tired of pre-e-e-e-etty quickly. The weird thing about being me and taking forever to play / watch / read anything is experiencing trends out of sequence. So, to me, Goat Simulator is just bad Untitled Goose Game. I know Goat Simulator came first—I know it birthed both the trend of wacky animal games and the trend of intentionally bad sims, but it is impossible to divorce myself from Untitled Goose Game.

I started Rime, which is absolutely beautiful so far. Having just finished Superliminal and intending to move on to Okami (which, yes, I’m playing for the first time), Rime turned out to be the perfect transition.

But the thing that I’ve done most recently to celebrate is ending this post here. Just keeping it light, possibly going back to sleep for a bit while it’s still cool. I have this last day to relax before rolling into edits and Camp NaNoWriMo, so I’m just gonna kick back.

And, yes, I will be posting here about my Camp NaNoWriMo run. I’m not going to write a series like I have in previous years, but, at the very least, I’ll share my profile name here so anyone else who’s doing Camp can friend me. We can cheer each other on!

Anyway, if you enjoyed this post and want to know when I’ll be posting an absolutely fierce, needlessly brutal takedown of Tenet, you can give this blog a follow on the left side bar (on PC) or the top right drop down menu (on mobile).

Until next time, stay safe, and I’ve been saying it for a while, but seriously, stay hydrated for the Summer. You can absolutely do that however you choose to, but I’ve found that, since going full Summer Mode (no coffee, just ice water and caffeine-free iced tea) I’m so much better at dealing with high temperatures that it’s insane. Seriously, I feel like an idiot: for two years, I lived in AC that facilitated me chugging iced coffee, not realizing that doing that made me a Grass type Pokémon; anything over 80 degrees was super effective against me. Kicking caffeine takes some work, but I’m so much more functional in hot weather now that I’m like, “Ah. ‘Summer Mode’ is going to be a rest-of-my-life type thing, huh? Got it. Cool.”

Anyway, bye!

Let’s Talk About – My Writer Quirks

So, if there’s one thing my writing group has exposed to me by accident, it’s my collection of what I think of as “Writer Quirks”: illogical standards / habits that dictate how and what I write.

I mean, I knew they were there, but some of them have been discovered by my writing group, so I’m thinking about them more this weekend.

And, since I woke up to some serious snowfall, I thought ‘why not just take a chill snow day and talk about my Quirks–the things that make me the weird writer I am?’

Yeah. Yeah, that could be fun and chill, so let’s do it.

Number 1 – I love writing in inclement weather.

There’s something about rain in particular that gets the creative juices flowing for me.

And, to be totally honest . . . I think it’s because of Jurassic Park.

Please don’t tease me, but one of the first stories I wrote was about me and my cousins trapped in my old apartment with my cats, who’d become Velociraptor-sized for some mysterious reason.

I was, like, 10 and had just seen Jurassic Park, so cut me some slack.

Anyway, yes, that movie was massively influential for me, so whenever it rains (like it did in the T-Rex scene), the urge to write hits really hard.

And, even if it isn’t raining, I can find an ambient rain sounds video on YouTube, put on headphones, and just go.

Number 2 – I love mustache-twirling villains.

Despite evidence to the contrary on this site, I do love villains. But not the misunderstood, “morally ascendant” ones.

No, I love obviously evil mustache-twirlers.

Like, the more ‘comically evil visual cues’ they toss out at first glance, the better. Is that villain in a black leather coat? Great. Is that villain in a black leather trench coat with shades on, and eyes that are burning so fucking red you can see them through the shades? Fucking glorious.

Paramount among them (obviously) is Albert Wesker as he appeared in Resident Evil 5, where he takes “obviously evil” to the ultra max.

Like, “Guys . . . I don’t want to jump to conclusions here, but . . . I think this guy is evil?”

Making him look like a stern, Aryan man was not enough; he had to be a stern, Aryan Terminator in (what looks like) head-to-toe snake skin.

It’s just so over-the-top. I love it.

Number 3 – I love writing outside
(but I hate writing at coffee shops).

I know–I should hand in my Writer Card right now.

But, seriously, I must have missed the window where it was comfortable to write in a coffee shop.

Because, every time I try, the “You can only sit for 30 minutes while eating” sign blares at me. Or the overhead music does. Or there’s a group in the corner, laughing and talking loudly about whatever. Or there are the people around me, working on/looking at who-knows-what on their computers (porn being a very real option from the Starbucks stories I’ve heard). And, real talk, that mystery of “What are they working on/looking at?” emboldens people to just stare at your computer screen while you write; seriously, the last time I wrote at a Starbucks, the woman sitting next to me went zero-fucks and openly started reading what I was writing.

Yeah. Thanks–I’m good.

However, I do like writing pretty much anywhere else outdoors–the more secluded, the better.

And this all came from my first NaNoWriMo, where I discovery-wrote Memory in different spots all over New York. The first post in that series, (which I called 30 Days of NaNoWriMo) starts at home (which was not the plan), but what followed was a fun, 30-day romp where I searched for places I could viably write, ending with the Cloisters. And I think that romp ruined me forever. I can (and still do) write from home, but I will almost always write more enthusiastically outside.

Unless it’s at a coffee shop.

Number 4 – I was heavily inspired by
Samus Aran from Metroid.

I’ve probably talked about this on here before, but a major influence for my strong female protagonists was Samus Aran. In particular, the above diagram from the Super Metroid Nintendo Player’s Guide.

My Samus is and always will be 6’3” and 200 lbs.

That said, Samus is only one side of the “Strong Female Character” spectrum; on the other side is Mabel Pines, who I’ve wanted to write an entire post about for a while. For now, suffice it to say that I love Samus for being a strong woman who’s massive, imposing, and badass . . . and I also love Mabel Pines for being a strong woman who’s nerdy, boy-thirsty, and hilarious.

Samus was an awesome gateway for me and I will always love her, but it’s important to say that she is not the end-all example of what a strong woman is.

Number 5 – FFVI made me want to write Fantasy.
FFVII guaranteed I’d never write anything else.

I was massively inspired by Jurassic Park, but my desire to write awesome stuff was forever turned from “no-frills American action movie” to “Fantasy” when I played Final Fantasy VI for the first time.

The Magitek Armor (made weird and fluid by the art of Yoshitaka Amano), the presence of fae-like Espers (who were not simple analogues of traditional deities), the variety of characters (who reach into pretty much every extreme a crew can have [from a spunky kid to a weary old man]), and the 11th hour twist that the villain succeeds in destroying the world (and you have to fight through the aftermath) made me irrevocably invested in Fantasy’s potential to be unique.

But I didn’t really understand Fantasy’s range until I played Final Fantasy VII.

I don’t want to rant about that game, so I’ll just say that it was the first time I experienced a Fantasy story set in a modern city.

And, as a kid growing up in the Bronx, the idea that a Fantasy story could be based in a modern city–that the slums under a giant city could be the starting point for an adventure with otherworldly monsters and magic–blew my goddamn mind.

I wouldn’t trade the bizarre potential and impossible range of Fantasy for the world.

Number 6 – I have a special designation for music
I want to write stories for–“righteous.”

Last thing–I take crazy amounts of inspiration from music, which I think a lot of us do.

However, I often find songs I want to write for. And, at some point, I started thinking of those songs as “righteous.”

I don’t know how this “righteous song” thing started, but most of the time, those songs will never fit into any of my WIP’s. For example, “Spectre” by Radiohead is the intro theme for a story I am not writing. What is that story? No idea, but I want to write something that fits “Spectre” so badly, and I don’t know why. It just triggers a part of my brain and evokes emotions that I really want to make into a story. I used imagine it as the theme for Aixa the Hexcaster, but it doesn’t fit Aixa’s tone either, so it will forever float as the intro theme for . . . something in my brain.

Once in a blue moon though, the visceral muse of certain songs does inspire entire stories; “Time’s Scar,” from the intro to Chrono Cross, is directly responsible for The Hand and the Tempest, the big project I’m working on after Memory. I heard that song in high school and created an entire story from it. Well, I was in high school, so really, I imagined a CG intro for a story, and then, 15 years later, made that CG intro into a workable plot, but still, if a = b, and b = c, then something-something-math.

~~~

Okay. it is now the late afternoon, so I’m going to clean up what I have and post this. I hope everyone is doing well, and if you liked this post, I’ll be posting again next Sunday . . . or Monday, depending on how insane next week is. I’m potentially landing a freelancing contract, so I will either be bummed but relaxed next week, or happy but wild-eyed and hyperventilating from the effort of making a design project perfect.

Either way, stay safe, enjoy the rest of your day, and eat your oatmeal.

. . .

I started eating oatmeal again recently and found that my old man taste buds think it’s delicious, so I’m on that kick now . . . Anyway, bye!

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 30: Reflection

Well… I made it. Day 30.

Somehow, even though I didn’t struggle to write posts this time–even though I didn’t spend hours finding writing spots, getting pictures, working on the MS, and posting afterward–I’m way more relieved now than I was at the end of 30 Days 1.

I’m not sure why. The obvious answer would be, “Well, because you can spend more of your writing time actually working on the novel.” And, sure, maybe that’s it.

But maybe I also just need a break. Especially after today. A brief summary:

  • After feeling my throat getting sore yesterday, I woke up in the middle of the night and vommed.
  • Woke up hours later, determined to go to work and write, although, for the first time ever, I really, really wanted to call out.
  • Got to work, told a manager I might need to leave early, and they told me it was alright if I just left immediately instead. Which was awesome.
  • Basically stumbled home, thinking both, A) “Man, I’m so glad I didn’t get sick earlier in the month,” and B) “But WHY TODAY?”
  • Got progressively dizzier and grosser as I stumbled home. Does this happen to anyone else? It was 60 degrees or so outside, but it felt like summer. Like hot, deathy summer.
  • I went to the supermarket to get soup, tea, and honey. I then struggled those things home, which should’ve been easy, only I was multi-tasking–struggling soup, tea, and honey home while also dying.
  • Realized that the weird, unwieldy set up I had going to carry all of my junk (coat slung over umbrella, held in one hand, sick person goods in the other hand) was a terrible idea, because everything that was in my inner coat pocket had fallen out. Everything in this case meant money. I don’t even know how much. And I don’t wanna think about it.

So, this is the part where I make an excuse, right? This is when I’m like, “So, with all of that bullshit, I just refused to write.”

Words for the Day: 1,326

NaNoWriMo Total: 14,366

Against all odds, I wrote over a thousand words and finished up chapter 2, as planned, leaving me with the rest of the book–the adventure–to work on in the next few months.

And… to me, saying all of that was the best possible way to send off 30 Days 2. Not by just talking about what I learned from it, but illustrating it.

With 30 Days 1, I learned what I consider the basics of my writing approach. My personal How-To write a novel. I do it quickly, writing every day, editing important things as I go, focusing on completing something clean that I like, without stopping.

But what I learned from 30 Days 2 is that I don’t ever have to stop. If NaNoWriMo 2014 taught me that I could write a novel when I had a free a month, NaNoWriMo 2016 taught me that, no, fuck that “free month” bullshit. If you’ve got it, great, but if you don’t, there’s a way to do it write a novel while you’re incredibly busy.

And that way is simply… finding your schedule.

As stupid and easy as that sounds, all it takes is sitting down and thinking, “Well… when do I like to write? In what condition do I do my best writing? And how can I make sure I’m in that position every day, regardless of what the world throws at me?”

For me, it’s early in the morning, before work. Or, well, early in the “whatever qualifies as morning” (today, it was early in the 1 PM when I woke up from my gross, sick-person coma). I learned to respect those times–those hours of my day–as writing time.

But I also learned to respect everything-else time. I learned that you can’t just shove away recreation–that there’s no quitting it cold turkey; I need to unwind after being productive. I need to play video games, watch a movie, hang out with a friend, watch YouTube, look up pictures of shaved animals, which I did yesterday (hairless chimpanzees are about 1,000,000% more intimidating than they are with fur, btw). And I learned that doing those things isn’t something to be ashamed of. Because feeling bad about doing any of those things isn’t fair to me.

And because it’s the start of the procrastination cycle: “Well, I didn’t write last night, so I feel like shit today and want a distraction even more, so fuck it–I’m going to write later tonight. And now I am writing, but it’s hard again, because it’s late, I’m tired, and fuck this shit–I’ll do it tomorrow!”

I guess the best way to put it then is… I learned how to write and be happy… at the same time.

Which means I’ve learned to write consistently. Tomorrow, I don’t stop; I wake up, shower, write, then deal with whatever the rest of the day throws at me.

And having that–learning how to do that–is something I’m incredibly grateful for. If I could tell any writer to do anything, it’s this: learn how to write on a schedule that makes you happy. Because that’s a schedule you can keep forever.

~~~

Well, that’s it. 30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 is officially over. I’d like to thank everyone who read, liked, followed, and commented. I genuinely wouldn’t have made it without your support. Even if I somehow slogged through the last 30 days without backup, these posts would’ve gotten so much less happy, so much more frustrated. So, really, thank you.

I’m probably going to take a month off from posting, in part because I need a break and December is the perfect month for that, but I’ll be back next year, bright and early, to update and talk about the different facets of writing fantasy.

Until then, thank you again for reading! And, as always, write well.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 29: The Need to Improve

Today’s writing session went extremely well. I was able to figure out the scene that’d given me grief yesterday, bringing me well within range of finishing the second chapter tomorrow. Which is awesome. Especially because it turns out there’ll be a fight scene between Sydney and someone else at the end of the chapter. I am excitedly cracking my knuckles. Fight scenes are my jam, and although this one will be very short, writing it is still going to be really comforting and familiar.

Also comforting and familiar–although maybe it wouldn’t seem awesome at first: spotting clear room for improvement.

At this point in my writing career, visible room for improvement is amazing. Because the alternative, flaws that you totally can’t see, is far, far worse.

As I wrote today, here were some of the mental notes I made:

  • Review Sydney’s motivations. Because they’re super important and need to work beautifully.
  • Add more descriptions for Greenfield. Make it feel like a place, not a background.
  • Find the perfect level of “Modis’ friends,” which currently feels a bit too far on the “He has friends?” side of the scale.
  • And, of course, as always… review names! From “Greenfield” all the way down to “Modis,” with its awkward possessive apostrophe situation.

 

 

There are, of course, other tweaks I’ll have to make, but they’ll all come easily as I write the book.

Whether they come easily or not though, it’s nice to see that whole part of the process in the distance.

And it’s amazing to be really excited for finishing this novel and reaching to the point where I get to edit it.

Because feeling any of this means I’ve come full circle again. Before NaNo 2016, I’d been so worried about editing other things, slowly burning out on how much I could improve. Struggling with important edits that I knew needed doing. Now, with something new to work on, I’m in love with the process all over again.

And I’m hopeful, which is something I definitely wasn’t when 30 Days 2 started. I’m hopeful that I can make everything work.

Tomorrow’s the last day of this journey. It’ll be a long few months to get the novel done.

But, no matter how long it takes, I’m going to complete another novel. One that I get to edit until it’s mind-blowing. Until it’s as epic as I imagined it being when I was 15, but as meaningful and emotionally powerful as I imagined it being ages later, when I redesigned it (without the killer clown doll).

And, that said, I’m gonna get to bed. Because I’m extremely tired…

… and I can’t wait to get to Day 30.

Words for the Day: 991

NaNoWriMo Total: 13,030

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 28: The Perspective Shuffle

Well, today was a bust.

I hit a hurdle, but it’s one I was able to figure out eventually. The solution required me to scrap today’s work and start over though, so I’m just saving that for tomorrow morning. Today, I realized a problem and was able to figure out its solution–that’s enough for me.

What the problem actually was: I went for another new perspective–that of Modis’ dad, Athus. Not because I was eager to add another’s character’s viewpoint, but because that’s what I thought would work best for the scene. And parts of it were good, but problems arose when Sydney and Modis showed up, and I started switching between their perspectives. What was supposed to be a hectic reunion preceding an escape turned into a slog through the feelings of multiple characters.

A sin that I’ve written about, lovingly known as “the Tea Party.”

A few pages into everyone’s feelings, I realized I was a few pages too deep. Not because characters’ emotions don’t matter, but because, as readers, we like variety. And also because there’s logically a time for running first, asking questions later.

Fortunately, this entire realization came with the certainty that cutting out Athus’ feelings would solve things. Not because I dislike him or something… but because he’s not prominent in the rest of the story and I have to prioritize.

As a man who generally keeps a tight lid on perspective, this was an interesting lesson for me. Although I’ve read novels where a bunch of perspectives where handled with omniscient third person no problem, I just don’t like having too many detailed perspectives in one scene, regardless of freedom of perspective. For me, “too many” means more than two. And priority for those two always has to go to Modis and Sydney, even if they’re in a scene with Silestein–currently the only other character who gets the perspective treatment. It’s just cleaner. And better.

And I like cleaner and better. Especially now that I realize there are just two more sessions before the end of 30 Days. It’s actually going to be a struggle to finish chapter two in two sessions.

But, I mean, of course it will be. Why would I think there wouldn’t be a tense deadline at the end of this thing? It’s writing!

But whatever, man. I can do two scenes a day. That’s right–you heard me, deadlines. Fight me on the streets.

Words for the Day: 0

NaNoWriMo Total: 11,887

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 27: The Timeline of Silestein Grey

Yesterday’s scene was… amazingly refreshing.

As I sat down to write, I realized that I should do a scene from the perspective of a very important side character; someone who’s actually essential to the plot (unlike Taurean, who I mentioned in a previous post). The character in question is Silestein Grey. She was created when I re-envisioned this story (so maybe two or three years ago), and thus, yesterday morning, as I wrote her first scene, I got to decide on her Talent (magical superpower) and a bunch of other details about her past–particularly with Sydney. All in all, it was short and essential.

It was also so new that I was actually giddy when I was done.

Because that’s the thing about writing something you’ve been planning since high school–almost everything about the story has been decided for ages, so when you get the chance to get creative with a newer part of it, you lose it.

The extent of my losing it: I thought about Silestein for hours at work. I planned flashbacks for her and Sydney, thought up future scenes that I’m incredibly excited for.

And I also thought it might be fun to lay down a rough timeline of her character–if only to show how I make up some of my characters.

  1. Two years ago, she started as “Sydney’s ex.”
  2. With just that title, I took a while to figure out if she should be a man or a woman. That makes it sound like there was a ton of deliberation on the subject, but there wasn’t; I just imagined Sydney with a female ex for a week or so, then switched and imagined her with a male ex. In the end, a female ex just felt right for some reason. Possibly because I thought it would make the most sense for Sydney to date someone non-confrontational, and the imagined ex-boyfriend was constantly challenging her feelings instead of trying to understand them.
  3. The second chapter opened with “Sydney’s ex” being non-confrontational–talking someone down while Sydney watched. I picked the placeholder name “Zidia.” I hated that name immediately.
  4. On the magical day when I edited the manuscript top to bottom, I opened my pocket notebook and flipped to the “Names,” page. “Silestein” jumped out immediately. In the same way that I love button-downs that are juuust on the edge of “too ugly,” there was something about Silestein that fit.
  5. On the same page, I saw Taurean’s name, and my brain was all, “Taurean Grey! That’s his name!” To which, I thought, “Like Dorian Grey? Pssh. Get real.” About a half second later, my brain was all, “SILESTEIN GREY!” I loved it.
  6. Despite having a last name directly related to her Talent (because that’s how people are named in the world of H&T), I didn’t try to figure out Silestein’s Talent was, certain it would come to me when I needed it.
  7. I sat down to write her scene yesterday and realized she needed to use her Talent. So… Grey. I knew I couldn’t force something to fit that name, so I was set to have my session completely derailed by my need to find her a Talent that felt natural.
    It wound up taking all of ten seconds. In part because I quickly got out of the logic loophole of “the Talent has to be based on her name.” No. Not the case–her name was based on her Talent. The Talent came first. A small difference, but it was enough to find an awesome fit.

Which rolled into me staring off into space at work, lost in brainstorming all things Silestein Grey.

If there was some way we could bottle that feeling–the childlike glee of just letting your new character do stuff, becoming real in your mind, we’d all be rich.

Words for the Day: 470

NaNoWriMo Total: 11,815

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 26: Priorities

 

I have to be up by 5 AM tomorrow. I just calculated my optimal time frame for the morning session, and “5 AM” is what mathed out.

That means this post is going to be a little short.

And with it, I’d like to say time’s a bitch.

Today, I wrote a scene that I’ve had planned for years. I think of it as the emotional hook of the story–the moment that defines what the novel will be like, locking Modis and Sydney together. Like anything else I write in first draft, it needs a lot of work…

But I enjoyed writing it so much that the morning’s session became a game of chicken between me and time.

“Ten minutes left?… I bet I can finish this scene in ten minutes.”

“Five minutes. Goddammit.”

“Three minutes.”

“Okay… I should definitely be leaving right now, but I can take an extra ten minutes.”

It got to the point where I just forced myself to leave the last line of the scene, knowing I’d be late if I didn’t. And man was I almost late–one of the only times I’ve ever gotten to work at the new job with minutes to spare.

Somewhere in here, there’s a lesson about priorities. It’s completely lost on me though.

Because the real lesson feels more like, “Maybe wake up with two hours of writing time?” Which is a beautiful pipe dream. Cause I’m not waking up at 4 AM. 5? Sure. But 4 AM doesn’t exist. It’s a made-up time; everyone knows.

Whatever. The point is, it’s 11 PM and I should be thinking about my priorities…

Go to bed in a few minutes.

Wake up, get dressed, have coffee.

Figure out the last line of today’s scene.

And continue on to the end of the first two chapters–the point where the actual adventure begins.

I’m obviously not finishing H&T by the end of NaNoWriMo, but that doesn’t mean I’ve lost. Knowing that is an amazing feeling. The NaNo Police aren’t going to knock my door down and arrest me.

The only thing that could possibly keep me from writing is me.

Just thinking that makes me want to wring my hands and laugh maniacally. I’m sure some disaster will pop up–some hurdle to figure out.

But right now… it just feels like I’m getting away with something.

Words for the Day: 798

NaNoWriMo Total: 11,247

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 25: Let’s Do This

I got home today and didn’t worry about writing. Because I’d already done it this morning.

I was extremely confused.

I woke up an hour early today, showered, got dressed, and hammered out a quick few hundred words before heading to work. It was bizarrely casual.

It almost felt… healthy.

I know I shouldn’t be making light of it–I should be enjoying it actually; I had a late shift today that ended earlier than usual, meaning I had hours more free time than I usually do, so writing on what I keep thinking of as “the schedule” (writing when I wake up, then going to the day job) was a lot easier today. In two days, I’m back on my normal schedule, which means I’ll have to be up before the sun does. And that means… I’ll have to start heading to bed at Old Man o’ Clock. It’ll be worth it.

But it’ll also be more difficult. Getting home at 11PM and waking up at 5 or 6AM is going to be rough.

So, really, I should be grateful that I got to play an extra hour or two of Warframe and watch some things.

And happy that being consistent–writing something every day–isn’t really challenging anymore.

The thing is, knowing that–feeling that lack of challenge–is why I’m thinking of this schedule as the schedule… I think I can actually use it for the rest of my life. As in, “I can imagine waking up every single morning and writing something, first thing. Every single day, until I die.”

I’m grateful for that.

I’m also… super intimidated.

Only for a moment though. Just–come on–let me have this. The veil has been lifted and I’m finding that there are suddenly no excuses between me and writing every day. It’s heavy.

I find myself thinking, “Did… did I work out the stupid kinks? Is this for real? Do I actually just write now? Like… write everything?”

Well… Okay then.

Let’s do this.

Words for the Day: 452

NaNoWriMo Total: 10,349