The Way Forward

So, I spent about a week making sure the edit of “Aixa” was perfect. It took way longer than I thought it would.

But, as stressful and difficult as that edit was, I enjoyed doing it . . .

. . . because it felt important.

And it felt right.

It was something that I needed to do–a clear task that I attacked with very clear, realistic results in mind.

And the experience of that edit–the satisfaction I got from it–melded with a conversation I had at work last week.

Coworker: “Hey, man. How’s the writing going?”

Me: “It’s alright. Kind of struggling with the YA thing I’m writing.”

Coworker: <narrows his eyes> “That the same one you were writing back in December?”

Me: <blinks, and in that moment, he realizes that, Holy shit. I started this novel last November. And I was so sure I’d be done with in a month. Then two months. Then February. Then March. He realizes that none of this would matter if he was far along with the manuscript, but he’s not even close to half-way done. Because this has always been the “YA novel that’s kind of kicking my ass.” The one that’s “supposed to be fun, but my life isn’t amazing right now, so it’s hard to make it feel like a carefree romp.” The one that’s been difficult to write from the beginning because it’s so “comforting” and “easy-going.”> “. . . Huh. Yeah. Yeah–it’s the same one.”

Obviously, that conversation stuck with me, but it also paired with the experience of editing “Aixa”–seeing it again. They became a catalyst for a simple question: “Wait . . . What am I doing?”

“Why did I start a new novel without getting my last one ready to submit?”

“Why am I not sending out that last novel?”

“Why do I have a short story that’s an edit or two away from submission quality, but I’m just . . . ignoring it?”

“Why am I not working on any of the short stories I want to finish when they’re gnawing at me constantly . . .

“. . . and H&T just . . . isn’t coming along?”

H&T, a novel that I had a hard time even deciding to write.

In short . . . how did I let my priorities get so wildly and completely out of whack?

To a degree, I think it was maybe just peer pressure; I’m not saying anyone is at fault; just saying that I got wrapped up in the need to produce. Do a million impressive things, like participate in another NaNoWriMo and come out the other end with a new novel I love. A great idea . . .

. . . until you get to the part where I finally got a short story published. I finally have a platform–an incredibly tiny one, but it’s there; the beginnings of a professional career. And, instead of immediately buckling down and sending out the batch of other short stories I have (seriously, I’m sitting on four more good ones in varying stages of completion), I decided to . . . write a completely new novel that I knew, from the start, would be a pain in the ass.

It almost seems like . . . I’m stalling. Like I’m afraid of actually succeeding. Of putting more out in there.

And if that’s what my problem is, then, oh man, fuck that.

I love a good challenge; that was the actual reason I decided to write H&T. And, of course, my love for a good challenge hasn’t changed. But, when the way forward is full of challenges, it’s easy to get lost in them without a good plan.

So, here’s mine:

  1. H&T is going on hiatus. I’m not abandoning it–there are still scenes I’m eager to get to, but there’s also a ton of worldbuilding and brainstorming required to get it to a point where I can just write it.
  2. Finish editing and start submitting Memory. I was having a hard time working out the first chapter and that was really frustrating, but it’s been long enough–I can come back to it with a clean palette. I can get it done.
  3. Finish editing and start submitting “Lokisday.” This story is probably three editing sessions away from submission. It required a really intense addition (the one-paragraph-that-will-influence-a-bunch-of-intense-dialogue kind), but, again, I can handle it.
  4. Rewrite “A Nameless God in a Silent Realm.” A short that was always missing something. I’ve come to think of that something as “truth”–a fundamental experience or feeling that drives a story, gives it meaning. The old version of “Nameless God” drummed up feelings but didn’t direct them at anything. I know how to fix that now.
  5. Rewrite “Respawn,” my sci-fi story. Also from the drums-up-feelings-with-no-direction era of short stories. I also know what to do with this one.
  6. Do all of this while worldbuilding for H&T, so I can get back to it with a firmer grasp of the world . . . and hopefully more published work under my belt.


Well, thanks for reading. This post was a little weird for me because it feels like War of Exiles all over again. That novel was also difficult to write, so it’s hard to not compare these two experiences, even though they’re wildly different; WoE was bad and messy, but H&T is challenging and really poorly timed on my part. Regardless though, I have my plan. I just have to remember that I’m learning from my past here, not reliving it.

My name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was published last year in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process–still trying to figure it out–which means posting here every week, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting updates by email – a new post from me delivered right to your inbox – then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.

Seriously, even if you’re just stopping by, thank you so much. And, as always, write well.

Let’s Make: A Fantasy Beast

Holy shit am I cheating right now.

If there’s one thing that all of my manuscripts have, but almost never actually benefit from, it’s a list of beasts. “Beasts” in this case meaning “animals.”

Why not just call them animals? Cause Bloodborne ruined me. Whatever.

My point is, all of my worlds come with long lists of native creatures that are different from monsters. Because it always feel important to distinguish between the animals that always existed in your fantasy world, and the hellspawn (or what have you) created by your big bad.

How does this mean I’m cheating? Well, as H&T revs up, I’m continuing to worldbuild for it, getting down into “probably won’t affect the plot” territory. Which means making up a new list of beasts that won’t appear anywhere in the novel.

Come on–let’s do it.

Step 1 – Choose a Niche

I make a lot of land beasts, a moderate amount of flying creatures, and almost no aquatic animals (cause, personally, I’m terrified of deep water–like, phobia terrified). I’ll try to work on that balance, I swear.

But, for today, we’re doing a land beast. Because, if for no other reason, they’re the most accessible to the average cast of fantasy characters–the most likely to be encountered while traveling.

Step 2 – Choose a Behavior Model

Scavenger, predator, prey? Solitary or pack mentality? Aggressive or skittish? Territorial or migratory?

I already had it in mind that I wanted pack scavengers. Migratory seems like a good fit, but I also want them to be aggressive in packs. [Edit: I wound up switching to ‘territorial’ when I was done creating these things.]

Basically, they’re already assholes. This is going well.

Step 3 – Choose a Body Type

I’m feeling canine. Or, rather, I’m feeling that fur on a quadruped is the right call for this scavenger.

Step 4 – Add the Fantasy

We’re not just making dogs. We have to change it up–make it weird.

My reflex is to give these things long, dexterous arms, but if I’m not careful, they’ll dip into creepy hellspawn/whatever monster territory.

So, maybe just slightly longer front legs. Sharp claws on small hands with distinct fingers. Generally thin bodies with patches of grey fur.

Man . . . These things are just turning out creepy anyway. Again, I blame Bloodborne. But eh. Maybe they’re just lil creepers.

Oh . . . Goddammit. I just had an idea I like, but . . . I mean, it’s so creepy. Ugh. Whatever.

They have no eyes. Not in a gruesome way; there aren’t empty eye sockets or anything–they just don’t have eyes, period. Their skulls are flat bone where their eyes would be. I have no idea why, but they must’ve evolved that way. Obviously cave dwellers, fond of much deeper burrows than the average beast. Maybe native to that environment, only coming up to scavenge. [Definitely native to that environment, and territorial in the sense that they’ll take advantage of other creatures falling into their dens–a free meal, helpless in the dark.]

They communicate [and echo-locate] with creepy wails (because let’s just go all in on the creepy angle), bellowed out of beak-shaped mouths full of small, sharp teeth.

Beyond superior hearing, they also have a keen sense of smell and can detect body heat from great distances.

Of no threat on their own, but capable of hunting and killing humans in a pack–particularly lone children.

Step 5 – A Name

“Wastrel” immediately pops into mind. It happened so fast that I need to Google it–find out if it’s already being used for a fantasy creature somewhere.

A quick search says no. Double checking the meaning of “wastrel” reminds me that it’s not a perfect name, but I’m willing to allow it; “waste” combined with an “-rel” ending similar to “mongrel” feels appropriate.


And, bam–there you have it. A new creature for my current WIP. And one that I’m probably going to use too; Modis is a kid after all, on the run, in the wild.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed hanging out for my monster-making process. If you did, please let me know with a Like; I’m trying to get a feel for the posts people like on this blog, and I realize I can’t do that without asking for feedback.

And, if this is your first time here, I’m Louis Santiago, a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. One of my short stories, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was recently published in Mirror Dance Fantasy (which you can find here). However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process. Still trying to figure it out. Part of that means posting on here every weekday, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting an email every weekday–a new post from me delivered right to your inbox–then please hit that Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.

Regardless, thank you for reading. And, as always, write well.

Let’s Talk About: Fantasy Side Character Names

So, last Friday, a friend wrote to commend me for my recent spree of posts.

In particular, he mentioned last week’s Let’s Talk About, saying it actually helped him, because he was considering writing some fantasy but was afraid he’d unwittingly use a few genre tropes.

So, with that in mind–and because I love writing about fantasy’s pitfalls–I decided to talk about the names of fantasy side characters and why it’s really easy for them to be super terrible.

The thing is, fantasy is a genre that requires its writers to create everything. Characters, settings, languages, trends . . .

And, naturally, names.

Now, all of us go in hard when it comes to making up the names of protagonists. If you’re a fantasy writer who’s anything like me, you usually put your favorite sounds into main character names.

In fact, I often find myself reserving those sounds for main character names, even if I don’t realize it.

And sometimes, if I stumble onto a good name, I save it . . . for main characters.

And I know I’m not the only fantasy writer who does all of this . . .

. . . because of names like “Len.”

And “Kel.”

And “Tam.”

Names that make up the pantheon of monosyllabic, fantasy side character names.

Now, despite all of the evidence to the contrary, I’m not trying to name names here; I never want to pick on particular writers, so if these names are used in one of your favorite series, apologies in advance–I didn’t know.

I’m also not talking about nicknames here (I know “Kel” is short for Sanderson’s “Kelsier,” and I love that character and super respect the man who created him).

More than anything, I’m not saying that I’m the Name Master–I basically just explained how I horde names for main characters, and I meant that.

What I am saying though is that the fantasy genre has a crappy-single-syllable-names-for-unimportant-side-characters problem. Particularly such names that are only three letters long–sometimes four, but with one letter repeated.

And, because I don’t want to keep making statements that sound like horrible, sweeping generalizations, I’ll relate all of this to myself from now on.

I struggle with this problem.

In the best novel I’ve completed so far, Memory, there exists the protagonist’s friend, Penn. Before that, in War of Exiles, I had a bunch of side characters with incredibly lazy names, my favorite of which was, and still is, “Cel.”
Now, this isn’t to say that I can never give side characters short names, but, in my experience, a short name like Penn or Cel . . . almost guarantees that the character attached to it doesn’t matter. In fact, there’s about a 95% chance they’ll be dead in two chapters.

I mean, being real about it, Penn is absolutely dead before Memory even starts.

Cel didn’t die over the course of War of Exiles, but I believe she had only one line of dialogue, at best.

It’s so bad of a trend in my fiction that the exact opposite is also true: having a rad-as-fuck name almost guarantees a side character will survive. In fact, I once texted someone about it, joking about how I just couldn’t throw away a cool name like that (and I believe I was talking about WoE’s Yodesmar, who lives on to this day).

And, maybe it’s just my hatred for spoilers, but I find that seeing all of this in fantasy fiction–finding a short side character name in a novel–while not always disruptive, absolutely destroys my immersion. Not in a “Why is that knight named Marty?” way, but in an “I just got a glimpse into the writer’s mind and hold on while I say goodbye to ‘Jek'” way.

Now, not all fantasy writers indulge in throwaway names, but I will say that some writers do. Even published ones, although they’re more likely to create side characters with lazy-sounding names that are still powerful and meaningful to the plot.

But, regardless, what I want to say here is that it’s incredibly easy for any fantasy writer to broadcast their intentions with monosyllabic side character names.

Significantly less easy: making sacrifices for realism.

Fixing It

The easiest solution for me was to start taking down names that I hear in my day-to-day. If I like it, I write it down.

And then I use it.

For any character it suits.

The Hand and the Tempest is currently riddled with such names, and the effect is awesome; everyone sounds like a living person, no matter how far in the background they are.

Even Becco, Modis’ best friend, who we may never see in the novel, is believable as a real kid who probably loves food.

There may be a simpler solution (mixing long, elaborate  names with short, lazy names to keep readers guessing), but if you have to kill your darlings to write better fiction . . .

. . . then do it.

Later, Becco. I liked you so much that I was considering using you as Modis’ new name.


Well, that was a fun one. I hope it helped someone. I also hope I didn’t just sound like a judgmental asshole.

Tune in tomorrow for I-have-absolutely-no-idea-what!

Until then, thanks for reading! And, as always, write well!

Monday, AM #1 – My Everyday Jam

Hey there, and welcome back to my site for this first in a new series, Monday, AM, or Monday, About Me. The name says it all, really; every Monday, I’ll post updates about my writing progress, along with any news from my weekend, including (of course) too-detailed retellings of weird experiences I had.

The idea: to have a post each week that’s more personal, because, for whatever reason, that feels right. Not sure why. “Progress Updates” used to be a regular feature on the site, so maybe I wanted to bring them back (only without little graphics)?

Whatever. Let’s get to it.

My Everyday Jam

So, if you’ve been subscribed to me for a while, you may have noticed that I’ve started posting everyday except for Saturday and Sunday. This may seem odd to you because, before last Tuesday, my posting schedule was once every . . . two months? Twice every six months?

My point is, I was on working from an “if I have things to say, I’ll say them” angle. And, immediately, let me clarify that I don’t think that’s a bad way to run a blog. In fact, I would still be running this blog that way if I didn’t have a few realizations.

And, I know it sounds like I’m about to be all, “I realized I could write more every day, cause I got motivated! The world is beautiful if you just believe in beauty!”


I definitely did have the revelation that I could write more, but that’s not why I started posting more.

I started writing more every day and posting five days a week because, personally, I need it.

For a long while now, my life has been an absolute nightmare. I don’t want to get into details, because that’s not what this site is for, I’ve decided, but, unlike the average up-and-down roller coaster ride of life, mine just went down.

Just, non-stop, straight down, for about ten years. You can track it through my last decade of posts–from the ones where I openly talked about my depression to the ones where I was super slapstick, pretending shit was just swell.

But, when I recently had cause to consider my life, I realized a few things:

  • My life is finally getting better because I care about myself more than anyone else.
  • I still have a lot to say about writing and I can figure out how to say it consistently, in a way that’s fun.
  • My life is infinitely better with as many distractions as possible.
  • Video games are a very, very stale distraction.
  • want to write more. I always have. And writing has always been the thing I’m best at, so why wouldn’t I do it more every day? Especially when writing is–and always has been–a great and extremely constructive distraction.
  • love a challenge.

Take all of these things, mash them together, duct tape them, and you’ve got the the motivation for my new 2017 jam: posting every weekday. It’s interesting, it’s creative, it’s challenging.

And I love it.

The Hand and the Tempest Update

Yesterday and today were going to be days off, during which I was really going to dive into H&T. But yesterday, I got called in to work. And, today, as you read this, I’m probably at work, asked to come in again because it’s been so busy.

Of course, that’s not going to stop me. I’m just going to get tired sooner, inching my way through chapter 4, when I was hoping to be done with it by today.

Still, I’m glad with the way the novel is coming along. I find myself having to stop to do bits of worldbuilding as I write, but I love the  world that’s being produced.

The most recent worldbuilding hurdle: deciding on money–what it’s called, how it looks, how it works, its potential alternate uses. Really tempted to just lift a system from an older project, but that kind of shoehorning always seems wrong. Besides, I’m enjoying the hurdle.

An enduring feeling though: I’m eager to get to the part of the novel where my protagonists don’t dislike and distrust each other. I’m in the mood for good vibes these days (a stark contrast from NaNoWriMo 2016, when I was super allergic to the idea of writing something fun and playful).

Still, I’ll get there. Just have to keep chipping away if that’s all the schedule lets me do.


I think I’ll call it here for this first Monday, AM. The idea was to go to a writing workshop yesterday and report on how awkward I was, but duty called. It’s not like my awkwardness is going anywhere though.

At any rate, thanks for popping in. Tomorrow, it’s back to writing about the craft with the first in another new series that I’m pretty excited for, Muse Tuesday. That name’s probably taken.

But eh. Fuck it.

Thanks for reading, everyone. And, as always, write well.

The Discovery Writer VS Chapter One

Hi there, and welcome to 2017. I know I’m a little late with that greeting, but I’ve been hanging back, trying to make sure I had some great news for an update.

And I do . . . kind of.

Maybe this has happened to you, maybe it hasn’t. If it’s the latter, I hope it never does.

But, since NaNoWriMo 2016, I’ve been engaged in mortal combat with the first few chapters of my novel. Allow me to explain.

And, because it sounds like this story is going to have a bad ending, let me just say that the novel I’ve been working on is really coming along . . . now, at least.

The road to now started with NaNoWriMo 2016, when I decided to write The Hand and the Tempest, a YA fantasy novel that I originally thought of when I was YA aged. In high school, I came up with the main character, the hook, and the arc of the story, which I reworked about two years ago to make a viable novel.

Off the bat, I struggled with it, despite knowing the characters, the plot, and the tone.

During NaNoWriMo, I thought that maybe it was because I always struggle with the first few chapters of my novels, but that didn’t really help me get past the struggling part.

I had to know why I always struggled with my first chapters.

And, in January, on my way to a Barnes and Noble, reading a Facebook post from Brandon Sanderson, I realized why.

I’m a discovery writer.

Of course!

So, hear me out: being a discovery writer, even to my degree (meaning that I have a plot structure but give my characters a lot of freedom to live in that structure) means that the first chapters of my work . . .

. . . are absolute hell.

They are the parts of the book where I know the least about everything–the characters, the setting, you name it.

With my last novel, Memory, that wasn’t as much of a problem . . . because I hadn’t edited Memory yet. I just went in, heart a-blazin’, and wrote everything that was cool. Of course, I also made sure Memory wasn’t action-filled nonsense.

But, despite my efforts, the first chapter of Memory still wound up being a huge problem. Actually, it’s the problem; all I need to do is finish fixing the intro and I can start submitting that novel.

But, what matters for this post is, the first chapter of Memory wound up being a total mess because I was discovery writing a new novel–from the heart. I went with an intro that seemed cool and then slowly wrote myself out of a world where that intro made sense.

That is something that I reflexively never want to do again.

So, when it came to The Hand and the Tempest, I was approaching it with kid gloves without even realizing it. I was leaving a bunch of details up to future me, trying to make sure that the intro made sense.

And that was really driving me crazy. Because I was trying to make sure two chapters made sense in the context of a world that I wasn’t letting myself create.

In January, after finding that Facebook post and having this revelation, I went back and took my time with the first chapter, filling in all of the placeholder names for towns and characters. I gave myself the time to invent things instead of pressuring myself to get it done.

And, letting myself do all of that–create minor details that I didn’t think mattered–made me feel more comfortable and secure in the world I was creating.

And that absolutely turned the novel around for me. After months of going back and forth between being excited about HatT and being worried about it, I finally feel free and secure about writing it.

Unfortunately, that means I’m only up to chapter 4, because I wound up deleting a lot of what I’d already written. But, the good thing is that I’m still doing it.

And I’m excited to do it. Because, in the backwards way of writers, I’m glad I went through the mess of the last two months if it means that I at least know more about my process and how to improve it.

Granted, this has boiled down to me writing at a solid rate of 50% heart and 50% brain–which means that I often write five pages, stare off into space, delete those five pages, and then write five more pages that I keep (as I absolutely did yesterday)–but being able to perfectly balance those two approaches to writing is what I’m aspiring to regardless.

As I discovered during last year’s NaNoWriMo, every bit of progress counts. Every moment of struggle leads to one moment of success.


Thanks for reading and I hope some of you out there were at least able to commiserate with this one. If it helped you out, that’d be amazing, but even if it didn’t, thanks for passing by.

And, as always, write well.

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