30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 4: Avoiding the Influence

Phew . . . So, today was a busy day. Didn’t wind up getting many words, but I’ll be able to make up for it tomorrow (which is fine because it is NaNoWriMo’s Double-Up Day anyway). Particularly because I already know where to add a bit more to the extremely short exchange I wrote earlier.

What matters is that I did figure out how to introduce Sydney Tempest in a way that flowed well. Small additions and adjustment in tone will make it into something I love (I went a little comical with it because Modis’ intro was comical, but that just doesn’t fit Sydney as well).

Anyway, I had a low word count today because of errands and Doctor Strange, which was surprisingly enjoyable.

Thankfully though, it wasn’t so enjoyable that it shook the fabric of my style. It’s been a while since something has, but whenever I watch something new that has potential to be cool and unique, I’m always grateful if I come out of it without immediately questioning my style.

A long, long time ago, the first Pirates of the Caribbean did that to me. I actually remember walking out the theater and being genuinely upset. A friend asked why, and I remember sighing.

“I’ll never write something that fun.”

I don’t even love that movie. I don’t do pirate battle reenactments or anything. In fact, I’m probably the person who’s happiest that Talk Like a Pirate Day isn’t a thing anymore.

But I still look back on the first Pirates movie and just . . . man. The spirit of fun they managed to capture with it was insane.

Novel-wise, The Abhorsen Trilogy did the same thing to me. That trilogy made me question how I was approaching the entire idea of magic in my stories. It took a classically super-evil form of magic and made it into the most awesome, ancient magic in the world.

And, no spoilers, but Garth Nix can stretch out ten minutes of story time for hundreds of pages and make it the most tense, action-packed thing ever. That’s insane. I could never do that!

In contrast, Doctor Strange just revitalized my desire for making magic look and feel unique.

I guess what I’m wondering here is, when other writers sit down to watch something, do they ever get worried it’ll impact their standards in some way? Or is that just something that happens when you show up looking to learn from whatever you’re watching/reading, no matter whether it’s good or bad?

I can’t help feeling like the alternative–showing up, ready to criticize every moment of what you watch/read–is worse. Maybe because I was that kind of person for so long.

But, at any rate, it’s late and I’m rambling. Thanks for reading, and for those of you taking part in NaNo’s Double-Up Day, godspeed!

Words for the Day: 289

NaNoWriMo Total: 1058

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 3: A Good Intro

So, as I’ve continued growing as a writer, one of the things I realize I’m not perfect at is writing intros. Often, I get excited to start a story in one way, and then, no matter how little sense that one intro makes, I stick with it, trying to make elements of the story work with it. This actually turned out to be the major problem with my second novel, Memory; editing it boiled down to reworking the intro into something entertaining that also made sense.

So, this year, sitting down with H&T, already aware of how the plot would shake out and already knowing my tendency to write my intros with blinders, I was able to find a first few pages that . . . I at least hope work. They’re entertaining and they hit major emotional beats that I think the story needs to start with, so I’m satisfied. I know I’ll need to round out the first few pages–make sure the dialogue flows well and the world feels unique–but I’m glad to have found an intro that is engaging, casual, and natural. Instead of going for one that’s action-packed and super confusing.

That’s the thing with my style though; I always want to create interesting, unique worlds, but I also always want to jump right into the action. In my earlier days, that meant starting stories out of sequence–some grandiose moment first, then going into the past to talk about how a character got to that moment. And that’s a nightmare; that just never ended well.

It was also bad when I used to invent confrontations to start stories with–throwaway confrontations that, at best, introduced an aspect of a protagonists’ life . . . but still went on for twenty or thirty pages because, “Whoa, this monster he’s fighting is wicked sick.”

So, today, I wrote an intro that didn’t do that. And it feels like a victory, which is awesome. Especially because I still don’t dive into heavy worldbuilding immediately, which is something that I’ll still always be against (not worldbuilding itself, but the fantasy tendency to flood an intro with worldbuilding exposition first thing).

Now, with a few actual pages under my belt, I just have to keep it rolling. Today’s part of the intro was all about Modis. Tomorrow, it’ll be all about my second protagonist, Sydney Tempest. Hopefully, my ol’ NaNo tradition of spending-the-day-imagining-a-scene-until-it-basically-forces-itself-out-of-my-head-and-onto-paper holds up. Cause, at the moment, I have absolutely no idea how I’m actually going to introduce her. I love her–possibly more than Modis–but her actual first scene somehow escaped me (I was probably too busy fawning over her big emotional moments).

Whatever. My point is, wish me luck, and thanks for reading!

Words for the Day: 769

NaNoWriMo Total: 769

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 2: The Hand and the Tempest

“Why did you do that?” Sydney asked, staring into the fire she’d made, aware that Modis was just pretending to sleep again.

He didn’t turn around. “You shouldn’t hurt people.”

“I have to hurt people. It’s just the way the world works, kid.” She crossed her arms, her long, leather gloves keeping her from the friction of it–her scars were always sensitive in the cold.

“That’s not true.”

Syd sighed. “It is.”

Modis sat up, turning around in the same motion. “You just keep–”

“What? I just keep what? Saying it? Yeah, because it’s true.” She was on her feet now, pacing. “You just keep telling yourself that everything’s nice–that everyone will be nice and everything’ll work out if you just… let it. But you don’t know that.”

“Yes, I do! People are nice to you if you’re nice to them!”

“You’re ten, Modis! You are ten years old! And that is insane!” She turned around, hands on her hips, looking out into the dark woods surrounding them. “Look at where we are! In the middle of nowhere! And why? Because there are people out there who want to hurt you. Because they think you want to hurt them. And why? Because you’re powerful enough to? Most of them don’t even know that–not really. They didn’t see you do anything… and even the people who did…” She shook her head. “Will any of them stop and think about it? Will any of them ask what they’re afraid of?”

“Yeah,” Modis chimed.

And Sydney spun around. “No! No, they won’t!”

“You did.”

“That’s right. I did. I did because I hate everyone. Because everyone sucks. Everyone wants what they can’t have. And they take it. By force. They’re violent. People are violent, Modis. And they’re liars. And bastards. And–”

Modis cried out, shifting away from the campfire, a pillar of white flame burning the grass that was near it.

Oh no.

She shut her eyes. Breathed. Felt the fire, quickly finding the heart of it with her Talent. She cut it, releasing a shell of it that rolled up into the night before she pulled it apart in a multi-tailed flare.

What was left was their campfire. Small, golden.

Sydney found her breath. “People… are violent, Modis. We all have it in us. We’re all terrible. Trust me, when I say it. They’ll hurt us if we don’t hurt them first.”

“Sydney… That’s just… It’s not true.”

“Kid–”

“You are the most… violent… terrifying person I’ve ever seen.”

Sydney raised an eyebrow. “… Thanks?”

Modis shook his head, swallowed. “What I mean is… You… throw fire around everywhere. You… control it.”

Sydney breathed out, squeezing her scarred forearms with gloved hands.

“You… are it. But, when it came time to hurt me… to save the whole world… you couldn’t. You can say that’s because you hate everything as much as you want. But… that’s not it. I know it isn’t.”

Sydney turned away. “How? Because you know I’m a good person? Is that it?”

“Yeah,” Modis whispered.

“Well,” and she turned away, “sorry to tell you, kid… but I’m worse than you’ll ever know.”

~~~

For this year, I’ll be working on The Hand and the Tempest, Option 2 from yesterday’s post. I’m certain in part because writing the test scenes, mentioned yesterday, went as so:

  • I wrote a quick bit of Option 1… and then immediately became annoyed that I had to make up a ballroom in the city of Errsai–instead of knowing one by name and location. I also got tripped up when I realized that Errsaian culture wouldn’t have a typical medieval caste system of lords and ladies.
  • I then wrote the above excerpt in a natural rush that took maybe… 5 minutes? 10? I’m not actually sure, but it came out so easily and naturally that I just said…
  • Fuck Option 3,
  • Fuck Option 1,
  • I’m writing The Hand and the Tempest.

Now, this winds up being interesting for me because this is a story… that I’ve been toting around with me since high school. So, for almost decades, I’ve had Modis in mind. Sure, I thought up “Shadows of the Black Sun” around the same time, but that was just a title that I turned into Memory: Shadow of the Lord Sun, a completely new novel, years and years later. Modis though… I have drawings of him. I talked to high school friends about him. He’s changed (and his original companion, a knight named Exidian, turned into the far more interesting Sydney Rose Tempest), and the plot is new, but the heart of the story is still the same. A lifetime later, Modis’ theme is still “Gau’s Theme.” Modis is still pushed into an adventure because of a prophecy he doesn’t understand. He’ll still change the world. And the theme for all of this is still “Time’s Scar.”

I guess what I’m saying here is, after a rough start, it’s nice to feel confident and excited about what I’m writing this month. Finally.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 1: I Don’t Know

Hi there, and welcome to the first post of 30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2. It’s been two years since I participated in NaNoWriMo, and . . . a lot has changed. Two years ago, I had a work-from-home job that allowed me to make my own schedule. To go out for all of November, writing in public and then blogging about my experiences. Two years ago, I was excited to use 30 Days to find interesting places to write all over New York City.

Now, it’s 2016 and I have a job that is very demanding of my time. And I’m also . . . not . . . too in love with the idea of writing about writing-friendly places.

What I’d much rather do . . . is write about writing.

I did love the first 30 Days and, if I ever have the freedom again, I’d love to return to hunting for writing spots all over the city, but this year, I’m going to take you on a different journey–an incredibly in-depth look at my process. This year, 30 Days will be a way-too-honest journal. One that I hope other writers can relate to, laugh at/with, and hopefully be inspired by.

And, goddammit, since there’s no bad time to be inspired, let’s jump right in!

~~~

I don’t know what to write.

Two years ago, with zero preparation, I decided on my first NaNo project instantly; the moment that I learned about NaNoWriMo, two days before it started that year, I immediately knew what novel I was going to write–Memory: Shadow of the Lord Sun. At that point, it Memory of the Black Sun, a handful of scene ideas, hastily duct-taped to an incredibly rickety framework of plot. Powering through it was an exciting exercise in improv, resulting in a fun novel . . . that needed a lot of maintenance.

I wound up skipping NaNoWriMo last year, intent on editing and writing shorts; a risky, lethargy-inviting move . . . that actually paid off recently when one of those stories got published. Now. . . I have a follow-up for that published story. And I also have lots of ideas for other short stories. I have a bunch of novel ideas too. And a table top game idea. A graphic novel concept.

I have all of these ideas with the knowledge that I can get them done, and–finally–that I can get them published . . .

. . . And somehow, I still have no idea what to write.

Is it personal? I don’t know. Is it writer’s block? I don’t know.

All I know is, on this first night of NaNoWriMo 2016, I’m torn.

My options:

  1. A fun, suspenseful, fantasy, crime drama (-ish?) ensemble piece. I’ve done a good bit of the plot for it, but not enough worldbuilding. Well, not enough to feel like I’m done worldbuilding; I’m still in that phase where I see something mundane (i.e. a bushy plant with colorful flowers) and lose five minutes thinking, “What color flowers are on the plains outside of Errsai?” These questions assault me daily, along with the nagging sensation that this project won’t be authentic if I don’t worldbuild enough for it.
  2. A fun YA fantasy novel. This one also has enough plot work done, but it also feels like it has enough worldbuilding as well–the point of Option 1 is to create a super immersive, believable world, but this YA novel isn’t the same beast. It’s a standalone adventure with strong emotions and strange magic. It’s also a genre I haven’t written in yet, which means that completing it would widen the field I can pitch to. So, basically, it has all of the things going for it. Only . . . its major themes include friendship and family, two things that don’t exactly fill me with inspiration at the moment. I’m not sure I can sell the emotion or muster up the right feels for this one. Not this month.
  3. An emotionally intense adult fantasy. It feels right and absolutely all of the worldbuilding is done, but the plot has never come to me. Or, rather, the root of it–the important, beautiful truth of this story–just isn’t there yet.

I look at these three options and, somehow, I draw a blank. Most of last month, I was excited about Option 1. But then, last week, when I realized that I wanted to keep worldbuilding for 1, I got excited for Option 2. But now, after a long week, I find myself not in the right state of mind for Option 2, realizing that I am absolutely in the right state of mind for Option 3, but I don’t feel like I’d do it justice–not without more writing experience under my belt.

So, that’s where I am right now. Confused.

But I am not . . . giving up.

I’m taking night one as a test. Tonight, I try out a throwaway scene from each story. Whatever works–whichever feels comfortable–is the one I’m going to work on for the month. If I at least start off by going with my gut, I can figure out the rest as I go along.

I can do this. I can write something awesome this month.

I just need to figure out how.