30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 11: The Old, Old Ways Then, I Guess

The notebook trick didn’t work today. Actually . . . I didn’t write at all.

And, I don’t know why.

Actually, I do know why–I just didn’t write. I just, on multiple occasions, hit the point where I could’ve written, and instead of doing that, I just didn’t. Not my proudest confession, but I’ll own it at least.

What I need to do . . . is find my rhythm. Find it . . . and keep it. Figure out a way to settle myself into writing every day.

Because, NaNoWriMo is awesome, but it’s also just training. Writing is an art, and a skill. You only get better if you do it every day.

I have no idea how many words are good for each day (and I imagine that’s the kind of thing that would be different for everyone–the same way some writers can only belt out chapters on a typewriter while others need a computer), but I feel that, no matter who you are, it’s undeniably good to write every day. Sure, when I’m writing all the time, consistently, I can establish break days.

But, right now . . . I need to figure out a methodology.

What is it that makes me want to write? What can I rely on to keep me consistently productive?

I know that going out absolutely helps, but I know that I can’t go out every single day. So, how do I convince myself to write when I can’t go out?

Eh. “Convince.” Wrong word. Motivate. How do I motivate myself to write?

What I’m sure about:

  1. Being outside motivates me. Why? Possibly because it’s the closest I can come to having an office? I step out of my home, set up shop somewhere else, ready to get to work?
  2. Having coffee, tea, any staple, hot beverage motivates me too. Why? Because it’s just . . . the writer’s way? Both an incentive of and compliment to the writing process?
  3. Having a starting scene–an anticipated line of dialogue–also motivates me. And this one’s easy; it’s just always great to sit down with a clear idea of what to write first.
  4. I like writing in the morning. Why? Because, as the day goes on, I go into Just Got Home From Work, Time to Relax mode. Also because, if I wait until night, the chances that I’m going to feel like I already wasted the day skyrocket.

So, looking at all of this . . . I’m thinking, establish a small workplace at home. Have coffee, my tablet. Start in the early morning, beginning with a line I already have in mind . . . but stop when I still know what’s coming next–try my best to leave an exciting, clear line to begin with the next day.

We’ll see how it goes.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 10: The Old Ways

I seem to have forgotten the old ways.

Today, I had a day off. Actually, today was the beginning of my last chain of days off for the year, before the holiday season hits at my job.

I’d told myself I was going to start off with a ton of work. I wound up doing 400 words and a bit of editing on a different project.

The thing is . . . my third eye was opened when I realized that a simple change made the writing became easy.

See, when I have a day off, I sit on my couch, with my laptop. Starting to write turns into a wash of distractions. Make coffee. Check gaming news. What’s up on Twitter? Youtube! . . . I had a few false starts.

And then I picked up my note pad and walked to a different room.

Immediately, the words came. And it made me remember the old ways. 30 Days 1, writing at different spots all over New York. The searching for a spot was always time consuming and there were just the days when I wasn’t having it, but I remember coming out of that experience thinking, “I have to write outside. It’s the only way I can get things done.” Two years later, I’m convinced there’s no one way to write anything–outlines work, but eyeballing scenes also works; typing at a computer was my bible, but 80% of my current words on H&T were done freehand–so, my reflex is to challenge the writing outside thing.

But I think that a nice alternative… would be sticking with that note pad. Maybe buying a new one using one of the countless spare notebooks I have as a dedicated H&T draft book. One that I can just grab, walk to another room with, and write–away from my computer and my PS4.

We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.

Words for the Day: 400

NaNoWriMo Total: 2,865

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 9: Calm in the Storm

It rained today.

Of course it did. Never has the weather felt so wildly appropriate.

The thing is, it would have been so easy to not write at all. It would have been so natural to just wallow–take another day off.

But . . . it rained. And, because everyone was sad, there were no visitors at my job. And that meant . . .

I got to spend a few hours with my notebook, no one bothering me. I still didn’t turn out as many words as I feel I should be, but I did start on a scene I was super excited to get to.

And I did get back some of the faith I’ve been slowly losing in myself as a writer–the sinking sensation that I’ve been a hack this whole time, or that the one short story was my prime and my work already has a receding quality line.

Remembering that I’m writing a first draft–and that my first drafts always need a lot of work–helped bring me back. Aspiring to reach the plot points I already have planned helped get past the hurdle of uncertain transitions. I managed to do both of these things today, stopping at a point where I know exactly what’s coming up (instead of being worried about absolutely everything that came before). On a good day, that’s progress.

On a day like today, you better believe I’ll take it.

Words for the Day: 733

NaNoWriMo Total: 2,465

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 8: Sprucing Up

So, after much deliberation about a transition, requiring me to find an old outline and read it over, I decided to spend the day working through what I already had, seeing if it worked with the solid themes I wanted to keep from the outline. I also added dynamic worldbuilding details as I went (my initial sprints were really bare bones, which I thought would be okay until I reflexively started adding clumsy bits of expository worldbuilding as I went; better to avoid that and add key details where they make sense).

Anyway, for the most part, the answer is yes, what little there is of the story so far supports the original themes I had in mind for it . . . for the most part. Sydney Tempest still needs a tonal overhaul to her introduction, which I’m fixing with the addition of a new, short scene instead of drastically rewriting what’s already there (i.e. adding in her chronic exhaustion and frustration next to her original humorous intro, tweaking the laughs so they’re not too intense or campy for her portion [because having humor in Modis’ intro and then no humor whatsoever in her intro would feel a little jarring to me]).

But, also, hey, welcome to what I do with my stories sometimes. The few times I’ve edited other people’s work, I’ve always had to warn that I emphasize flow. Flow is the heart of my style–I always want things to read well with minimal distractions. Emotions always have to feel natural, and plot points have to roll into each other.

So, that means these moments will happen; I feel something doesn’t work, and finding a solution doesn’t just mean removing Element A and dropping in Element B–it means removing Element A, backpedaling, and seeding Element B so it feels natural. I can’t just make the improv world building better, I have to scrap it and find natural spots to add worldbuilding, delivering only as much as feels natural for the moment.

Doing things this way eats up time (my words look no different today than they did yesterday), but eh, it’s just how I do it.

Words for the Day: N/A (I just spent my writing time editing)

NaNoWriMo Total: 1732 (I ultimately lost words, but progress is progress)

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 7: Not Going Well

Words for the Day: 0

. . . I feel like if I explain first, it’s just going to sound like an excuse.

So, hey . . . I didn’t write today.

There was work.

There was forgetting to refill my metrocard and needing to walk home after work.

There was a bit of writing time, taken before work, at the library, as planned. However, that started off well with the intended research… and turned into getting a sudden email from someone I didn’t want to hear from. Responding took the rest of my writing time, required that I hurry to work, thus forgetting to refill the card. Thus taking an hour longer than usual to get home. Thus getting home, having time, but being exhausted and bitter.

I’m pretty good at writing in a lot of annoying situations these days. I can write on the train, for example. I can write sitting out in public. I can write with other people in the room, not worrying about the awkwardness of my silence.

But, I have a really hard time struggling with depression in the first place. So, when something goes genuinely bad–when I hear from the wrong person or get the wrong news–that is a day I can’t write on.

But, whatever. I say “can’t,” I mean “don’t.” Of course I can. I just have to try to. Add “not writing when in a bad place” to the list of tendencies I need to overcome.

At the very least, I did find the outline I mentioned last time, and it was beautiful. It was part of an “Idea File” for H&T. Can’t be sure how many other writers have these, but it was basically a type of document where I record every idea I have for a story, from its theme down to character habits. My idea file for H&T was super thorough, detailing plot nuances I liked but forgot about. So, I’m excited to take that information and use it tomorrow.

But not today. Today’s just a bust.

Words for the Day: 0

NaNoWriMo Total: 1837

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 6: Well on My Wrong Way

 

Barely wrote today. Not the triumph I was hoping for.

On one hand, it’s because I met up with a good friend, saw a movie. Afterward, he found out he was potentially getting stood up for a date and I just . . . refused to shrug and say, “Whelp, I gotta go write! Sorry! Good luck being sad, bro!”

So, we had dinner, chatted. I didn’t look at the time.

When I finally did, it was while I was waited for a train. Intent on writing something, I grabbed a seat, pulled out my notebook.

And found myself in the kind of weird, transitional scene I often don’t plot.

And these . . . can be a problem for me. Sometimes, the transition is essential, but I take the most boring angle possible with it. Sometimes, the transition is essential and I find an awesome way to do it. Sometimes, the transition is totally non-essential, but I do it anyway.

Usually, I write a transition blind, stick with it for a few thousand words, then decide I hate it and scrap it.

So, the moment I started writing this one, I got wary. My reflex was to use it as a way to drop a bit of lore, and that feels right . . . but I’m immediately not sure.

So, tomorrow, before work, it’s a stop at the library with every scrap of outlining and worldbuilding I’ve ever done for this story. I have flash cards for nearly the entire plot on the wall in my room, and I thought that would be enough, but a quick check through a random notebook earlier today reminded me that I have a detailed outline somewhere (from the days when I rolled with those).

I figure it’ll at least help me decide if I actually want to go in the direction I took earlier. Before I drop another few hundred words going that way.

Words for the Day: 289

NaNoWriMo Total: 1837

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 5: They’ve Always Been There

So, I didn’t meet my word goal for today. Actually, signing on to NaNoWriMo’s website to give a donation reminded me that I’m supposed to be logging my progress there… which in turn led to the realization that I’ve just been… super easy-going about my word goals this entire time.

So, I’m going to try to step it up. Manage my time better. Because I have to challenge myself.

Although, in my defense today . . . I was doing research for the second chapter of H&T.

ls-bronxriverkayaking2This is a photo I took on the Bronx River, while kayaking at the New York Botanical Garden. Their Fall Forest Weekend included a brief tour of the river, which I felt was incredibly convenient; chapter 2 involves an escape by boat.

So it was awesome to remember the initial terror of stepping down into a kayak–the difficulty of just sitting down in a boat that wants to tip as you move.

And, of course, the slow-blooming relaxation that follows that initially tenseness–for someone who’s never out on water, at least. For a bit, I was clammed up, not out of sheer terror of falling in (the Bronx River is super shallow), but just because I didn’t want to worry the person rowing with me (he was a volunteer with the Bronx River Alliance, so we spent the whole time chatting about crazy stuff he’s found in the river, the tendency of couples to fall apart when faced with the challenge of tandem rowing, and a bunch of other stuff). When I got over my fear that he’d lose patience with me, the beauty of the woods and the inherent gentleness of the water set in. I watched the banks roll by, snapped a few pics, chatted, and took a few moments to imagine escaping pursuit like this–putting myself in my protagonists’ shoes. Picturing them calming down as they drift, but only because they’re exhausted from running.

I didn’t wind up writing directly after that (I had to work a short shift right afterward), but it’s awesome to have sat in that scene for a moment, feeling it.

The day’s work was actually done before going out on the water, under this bridge:

LS-NYBGBridgeUnderpass

Troll style, with a little notebook I keep in my pocket.

The thing is . . . if I can figure out how to manage my time better, I could make every day like today. I have to figure out how to make that happen.

Because, the Bronx River? That bench? They’ve always been there.

Words for the Day: 488

NaNoWriMo Total: 1548

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.