30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 30: An Ending and a Beginning

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.30.14Where I Wrote: The Table Tennis Subway Plaza at the top of the lifts at the 190th St. station on the A line.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: It was genuinely good work that put me at ease about the rest of the book.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Weirdly unfazed. Unmoved is probably a better way to say it. It was a mood that led to a strange ride home on this final day of NaNoWriMo.

The Experience: I woke up to find that it was nearly 50 degrees. Excellent. That meant I could forgo an indoor location for this last 30 Days outting.

I decided in favor of a good view.


This is the Subway Plaza on Fort Washington Ave., directly before reaching Fort Tryon, a place I found on my return to the Cloisters at the very beginning of this last week of NaNoWriMo.

The view of Inwood and Fort George wasn’t amazing here today–not like it was at the beginning of the week–but it was scenic enough to be pleasant and boring enough to make work easy. Not as grand as Linden Terrace inside of Fort Tryon (my second spot from Day 24, overlooking the Hudson), but thus perfect for focusing on work. Particularly convenient with New Leaf offering public restrooms a short walk north (around the back and through a door that looks locked but absolutely isn’t [meaning you don’t have to buy a generic small coffee that turns out to be $4 and change]).

Here, I ironed out more of the kinks with the endgame. To be honest, I didn’t realize there were still problems with my protagonists’ plan, but, after brainstorming way too much the past few days, last night and this morning saw really simple fixes popping into mind. Scenes that would only be possible if the set up for the endgame was like this… and hey, wouldn’t you know it, that works perfectly. I spent a good while at the plaza, working and making those fixes until the weather turned and I realized that the Subway Plaza was in the adjacent buildings’ shadow for the last few hours of the day (making it yet another spot that would be better in summer). I packed up and headed home.

And had a bizarre train ride. I wasn’t sure why exactly, but something bothered me about the day.

Broken down to my simplest reaction to it, I was disappointed. Somehow, I expected everything to fit into place at this point. I’m fine with not finishing the book on NaNoWriMo’s deadline… but I thought the last day of 30 Days would be more spectacular in some way. I saw the weather and perhaps thought that it would be sunny and beautiful–that I’d be able to tell a final, good story.

But there was nothing. And as I rode back home, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d missed some opportunity. That I’d gotten the bad ending. Which led me to the strange thought…

Well, I guess there’s next year.

Next year… to have a perfect outting? As if… I couldn’t just keep going out this year? As if I now had to return home and turn sedentary again? As if life was a video game or a meticulously composed plot? As if I’d lost anything at all?

As if I’d learned nothing from 30 Days of NaNoWriMo?

No. No, I won’t do it. Fuck you.

Because this is how life works. Life is all about throwing the curve balls at you. 30 Days has ultimately been about me repeatedly dealing with, learning from, and avoiding those curve balls. I knew that–I have for a long while now. Just like I know that the one major lesson of 30 Days is to…

Just… keep… working. To not give up. To not surrender to distractions. To not give in to the reflex to walk away from a story. To not wait for writer’s block to go away, but to keep hammering at it until it yields. To never let a piece of your work cool for so long that it turns dun and lukewarm in the open air. To not give up–ever.

And, for me, personally, to never ignore what I want and never lose faith in what I can do.

Because Memory is a chapter from being finished. I lost NaNoWriMo. Okay. I’m fine with that.

But I won myself back. For the first time in years, I finally feel like myself again and not the horribly depressed person that the last 3 years of circumstance made me.

So, this is my grand ending. I will end 30 Days with this 30th day, because I don’t want to prolong it. I don’t want to drag it out.

And because I know that regardless of challenges and deadlines and every other curve ball the world throws at me, I will finish Memory in the next few days. Nothing could stop me from doing so. I will post when I do and then take a short hiatus to handle a ton of things I need to do for myself.

Until then, thank you to everyone who’s read. Tons of thanks especially to those who Liked and Followed during the month, but also, of course, thanks to anyone who stopped here, whether you’ve come back or not; even if you never read this, thank you.

And to any writer who’s had a remotely similar experience to mine–who’s struggled like I’ve struggled–never give up. Never wait on your ideas. Never smother them with lethargy. Never write for anyone other than yourself.

But most of all, never add qualifiers. Never strictly regiment what you write. Never set standards that will break you if you don’t meet them.

Instead, just write. Don’t wait for a particular month. Don’t wait for a particular mood. Don’t wait for everything to be perfect because it never will. Write often. Write from the heart. Write in places that you love and places where you’ve never been. Write until it’s a strange addiction that you find you’re suddenly terrified to lose.

Write until it feels like maybe it’s unhealthy. And at that point, do not stop.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 28: The Beginning of the End

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.28.14Where I Wrote: First at a small lounge on the western end of Vesey St., overlooking a ferry port. Then the Winter Garden just a short way east on the same block.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Glad and grateful that yesterday’s writing issues were solved today.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: So goddamn ready.

The Experience: Today was so good.

I didn’t wake up early, but I got out at a decent time and headed for the Winter Garden, yet another entry on my short list of no-bullshit writing spots. I haven’t been there before, but it was a place that was guaranteed to be open, indoors, and have both seating and restrooms.

Of course, getting to where I thought it would be and finding signs for construction was a bit disappointing. Not completely disheartening, but just, “Of course.” Having a weird kind of sense for shenanigans now though, I decided to keep walking west; I knew that there were a ton of entrances to Brookfield Place–the building the Winter Garden is in–and that those entrances led to different parts of the building in different states of disrepair.


Walking west eventually led me to a small public lounge looking over the ferry port at the end of Vesey St. There’s a fantastic chance this place has a name (very likely, it’s part of Brookfield Place), but all I really cared about was nabbing my picture, grabbing a seat, and getting to work.

The first part of today’s writing session was fixing the mess I left for myself yesterday. To recap, it was a single scene that I Frankensteined the fuck out of; I wrote the entire scene one way, replaced only the first half of it with an alternate approach to the scene (essentially changing my protagonists’ plan for the endgame) and then ended the scene with an extremely important decision that I made hastily yesterday and had to make for real today. When I stopped yesterday, it was genuinely because I didn’t want to ruin the scene even more. That makes it sound like I was super defeated, but I wasn’t; I know well enough when I’m too out of it to make sense of a confusing scene, so I called it quits with the certainty that an evening of brainstorming would help sort things out.

And it did. When I got to this lounge, I knew exactly what needed to be fixed and changed. I also knew exactly what the answer to yesterday’s important decision needed to be. All of this I hammered out in an hour or so before migrating for a restroom and a drink.

Lo and behold walking back the way I’d come and taking a longer look into an obnoxiously large entryway I’d only glanced into earlier–a large room of white marble that, aside from escalators in the middle, looked exactly like an area I’d just written a few days ago in Memory (making it so strangely inviting). What really made me enter, however, was a sign declaring that this place had restrooms. I asked the first guard I saw about them.

And he said, “Oh yeah. Just make this right, then the only left you can make. From there, you’re going to go down the first escalators you see, then go straight through the Winter Garden, up the escalators on the other side.”

Ah, I thought. Yes… Yes, the Winter Garden. Of course… Excellent.


The Winter Garden turned out to be mostly under construction, which, coupled with its already being night time (and the fact that there were no light cycles to be seen or ridden anywhere, despite the sign pictured above) made it a bit… strange? I think I saw it in its worst light, is what I’m trying to say. There were palm trees and a skating rink outside. There was an extremely elaborate food court (probably the nicest one I’ve ever seen anywhere), but the combination of people huddling for warmth under palm trees in a courtyard made of marble but lined with construction ply wood made for the most confusing, disjointed first impression. Also, I didn’t find coffee anywhere. I am not complaining; I don’t want to come off sounding like one of the spoiled bastards I mentioned in the last post, but coffee is a pretty important part of my writing process these days–the means by which I either stay awake or go so insane on caffeine that the crazy fantasy ideas keep coming.

That’s all to say that of all the writing spots I’ve tried during 30 Days, the Winter Garden is likely the one I won’t return to–for writing, that is (I’ll very likely be back some time to actually shop, read, or eat).

Here, I determinedly decided to catch my characters up to the second to last chapter. When I left the ferry lounge earlier, I was intending to either find restrooms and a new spot or go home. Thus, the moment I found the Winter Garden, I was determined to continue writing. I had one extra scene to finish–a that scene ends with my protagonists leaving for the final conflict.

And that scene came about as easily as the average scene in my book–I felt it out as I wrote it, now easily trusting my sense for things I don’t like. This led to an even faster turn around than yesterday’s scene; within an hour, I worked the scene into something I liked, dropping weird, weighty elements and, despite thinking that it was an interesting idea at first, ultimately deciding against giving my protagonist a new weapon, preferring to keep him with his pistol and its handful of remaining rounds (because I’m a big fan of higher stakes and realistically bad odds).

Here, however, I finally stopped, wanting to get home and in bed at a decent time for the Dawn of the 2nd Day. But I also wanted to brainstorm the next chapter especially hard, to try and make tomorrow’s session go as smoothly as I could. That bout of brainstorming on the train was so intense and in-depth that I’m sure I looked like the weirdest weirdo to the people sitting next to me, who totally heard me laugh and whisper at least one line to myself because totally forgot I wasn’t alone.

But regardless of that going well, it is time to admit something that I’m only now sure of.

I’m probably not going to finish this book by the 30th.

There is a chance I’ll go ape shit tomorrow and Sunday and tear through the last chapters very, very easily (I have brainstormed them so hard that I wouldn’t be surprised if this happened). But there’s also a fantastic chance I’ll hit a huge hurdle that I absolutely promise I will not rush over. Because as much as I love NaNoWriMo and think it’s great, I have absolutely no qualms about failing the actual challenge to produce a better book. It’s my first time NaNoWriMoing and I’m super glad I accepted the challenge, but I will only disappoint myself by forcing the rest of the story–disappoint myself and impress no one.

But what I do promise is this–30 Days will continue until Memory is finished, because that is the victory that I want, and I refuse to stop until I get it. Very likely, that will only mean an extra day or two (Days 31 and 32 of 30 Days) on which I won’t be writing outside (unless I find that I can’t produce without being outside those days). Regardless, I will continue posting here.

But… will I soon be eating my words? Will I, in fact, go all-in tomorrow and belt out the rest of the book in one monster session? Will I only have a final, epilogue chapter to write by Sunday?? Will I freak out even more people on the train?? You can probably bet on that last one happening, yes.

But on the rest, I’ll keep you posted.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 26: The Prep Session

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.26.14Where I Wrote: The New York Public Library in Bryant Park. In case that means nothing to you (it sounds so bland), it’s the flagship of the NYPL system–the striking Beaux Arts building with the two stone lions out in front, just a short walk from Times Square.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Really good.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Excited!

The Experience: After the insane success of yesterday (and its negligible degree of total failure), I was really excited to get back out there today.

As will probably be the standard with the rest of NaNoWriMo, I brokered no bullshit with my choice of a writing spot. In fact, as it was hailing outside (which I guess is what you’d call today’s soft, thick, slushy snow drops that pattered to the streets with the rain’s exact rhythm and tempo) I brokered no bullshit so hard that I did it twice; the first time, I chose the most straight forward and definitely open and comfortable of the spots I have left. And then, when I got to 42nd St. on the way there, I super brokered no bullshit by bailing on that spot in favor of the NY Public Library at Bryant Park.

The weird thing is, I’d never actually been to that library; in the weird way of many New Yorkers, its a giant, impressive landmark I’ve walked past many, many times without really even looking at it.

But, if I learned anything from the NYPL at Lincoln Center, it’s that big Manhattan libraries are always amazing for writing. You go in. You find a seat among other people who came into a library, of all places, in the heart of Manhattan. You all sit there, mutually agreeing to leave each other alone and make as little noise as possible. Always good.

I was instantly thrown by how amazing the library is though. I’ve become acutely aware of how easily I’m impressed by certain architectural feats and landscapes. I’m definitely aware that I go into full Lame Dad mode when I see a weird-looking building (“Wow, kids! Wouldja look at that building? What an adventure, huh?”). And, really, I’ll own that–I am a nerd who loves architecture and landscapes like he loves earth sciences and D&D. Fuck it. You got me.

But all of that is to just set up that holy shit have you been to the library in Bryant Park? My… God that place is amazing. I feel bad not capitalizing “library” when I write about it. I mean… I walked through its revolving doors and found that the elaborate stone work that was outside… was also inside–everywhere inside.

I refuse to try to put it all into detail or this post will just be way too long. Instead, I’ll explain it with a single emotion: it felt strange to be there because it felt like I was in a foreign country, standing in an ancient building that’s still in use. Of course, that’s what the Library pretty much is, but if you’re a New Yorker, you’ll understand how rare that feeling is because you’re so used to flat cement and hastily-painted ply wood.

I found that the main reading room was closed unfortunately, but thankfully, shenanigans did not escalate.


I found this reading room on the second floor, which afforded the same experience as the reading room I used in the library at Lincoln Center (although thankfully without the exhaustion). I sat down and got to work reading and editing everything from my late addition to the middle of the book to the start of its endgame (a personal term for a great, exciting third act).

And I was glad to find all of it good and enjoyable, but not perfect (as odd as it sounds, I would’ve been put off if it was all perfect). There was some solid editing that needed to be done and, of course, small additions to tie my new second act to the rest of the novel. The editing session was not without its bumps. It honestly took hours.

But I did finish editing the rest of what I’ve already written. And I added a small scene–a brief check-in with the villain that helps establish the endgame more firmly.

When I finished that scene, I knew it wasn’t perfect, but I was glad to add something new–glad that yesterday’s love for writing persisted today without effort. I had to stop myself from adding more, certain that I needed to get back into the mood of the conclusion first.

And now, a train ride of brainstorming later, I’m excited for tomorrow–the beginning of the endgame. The fourth-to-last day of NaNoWriMo. #BringItAlready #AirHorns

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 24: Regrounded

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.24.14Where I Wrote: The Cloisters followed briefly by Fort Tryon Park.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Really good.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Excited. I figured out how to fix my current fight scene last night, so, despite knowing that the first step of today’s session would be deleting a few pages, I was absolutely ready.

The Experience: Today was an awesome quest.

It started when I woke up. Immediately, what I now identify as persistent lethargy “challenged” me to go out later and still get a good amount of writing done. In reply, I showered and left without even turning on my computer, sticking 100% to my original plan; the weather was as nice as the forecasts said it would be, so it was time to return to the Cloisters.

A trip that is strangely complicated for me. The entire commute starts with a bus through several extremely congested areas. Then a train. Then either many hills or another train station’s elevator (only) and a lot of walking.

This all augmented by not eating or getting water. To solve the first problem, I opted for a 7 Eleven peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which I only mention here because I’ve been trying to describe it with words since my teeth first met it. I would like to provide that description for you now:

Imagine that scientists found a way to make a loaf of bread out of a loaf of bread. Imagine that they found some way–perhaps boiling and drying in the sun–to not just condense several loaves into one, but to create a new strain of bread that is as tasteless and dry as it is dense. A Master Loaf, if you will, or perhaps Loaf Prime. Now imagine that they found a way to create a vein of peanut butter and jelly in that loaf. Imagine that it’s mostly peanut butter–more than enough to push the Mouth Drying factor to a dangerous level, but still with just enough jelly to make your coffee taste like tar. That is what 7 Eleven’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich was like.

That is what I ate in a hurry as I refilled my Metrocard and continued to forget that I would need water.

I grabbed my bus, transferred to my train, and got off at 191 St. on the 1 line.

And remembered why the northern end of Manhattan is my favorite part of the city–easily the spot I would live in if I had my pick. Not because it’s convenient.

But because it’s so goddamn weird.

There’s a long tunnel that leads out of the 191 St. station. An inconveniently long tunnel. It’s wet and full of people walking from and toward the station, occasionally giving each other looks of, “This fucking tunnel, amirite?”

And then, when you get out, you’re on the northern side of Manhattan, which means you’re surrounded by buildings suspended on giant girders; maybe there’s another part of Manhattan where buildings were stubbornly built on top of cliffs, secured in place on giant, rusty stilts, but I’ve only seen it in this area. These buildings are magnificent with their terraces looking over Broadway. The whole area is strange, oddly fantastic, and beautiful. It is the only part of Manhattan where a glance gives me pause because I’m suddenly looking at a wide strip of gardens, hidden behind buildings; or an alley that ends in a cliffside of raw rock; or a street of buildings that arch to a strangely beautiful point at a fork intersection. I see these things and think for a moment that I’m in an RPG or a foreign city–somewhere far away from the flat grid that makes up most of Manhattan.

But, of course, this area is also full of hills. It was when I was halfway up the hills on the wrong side of Broadway that I regretted not getting water. It was genuinely hot even without the non-stop climbing in the sun.

But I still enjoyed myself–still walked back down to Broadway and up to Fort Tryon Park. And, despite complications, I got to the Cloisters with enough time to wander and take pictures.

If you haven’t been to the Cloisters or the park surrounding it, both are beautiful and rife with writing spots. Even just the park is worth it, with some of the most scenic views you’ll find in Manhattan–whether its the city’s north end (the view to the east of the park) or the Hudson and New Jersey (to the west). But, as the Cloisters accepts donations for entry, it’s also absolutely worth it. There are only benches (their seasonal cafe is currently closed) but the museum itself is still amazing, inspiring, and beautiful.


I took many, many pictures, but I opted for the bench I wrote on the most–one of the few I jumped between for the hours I was there (I needed to stretch my legs and [particularly] my back a few times).

Writing went really well even though my first step was, yet again, deleting a lot of what I wrote the previous day. Still, last night, with the comforting knowledge that I would be writing somewhere inspiring and taking 30 Days back to its roots, I was able to step back again and reconsider the fight scene objectively. The result: I recalled the exact moment when everything went wrong–the introduction of my second “boss” character. From his very first line, he was not what I intended. So I brainstormed, trying to figure out who he actually was. Taking the problem from that angle made the solution clear; I decided who that boss was–made him far more realistic and less complicated at the same time. And I finally–finally–got a few solid pages down. The fight scene is now half finished and the rest should come tomorrow.


I hope. I’m not frantic about my deadline yet, but the rehashed fight scene still took some working out, the last touches of which I hammered out on a bench in Fort Tryon Park (pictured above [a shot taken before entering the Cloisters because I knew it would be too dark for my tablet’s camera when I got back]). Tomorrow, I will reread today’s work and make sure it makes complete sense. Even after my parting bit of sprucing, I got home and made a few more tiny tweaks to the entire addition, seeding certain ideas and adjusting others. It may be too late for me to objectively edit the entire addition (I may be way too close now), but I’ll still try more tomorrow. At worst, I’ll finish the scene and come back to it when I edit the entire book after NaNoWriMo.

And even if it comes to that, I’m fine. For the first time in a few days, I feel great. I’m excited to get back out tomorrow. Excited to reread today’s work, knowing, at least, that I definitely, finally found the right footing for the scene–the right foundation that can’t be swayed. It’s grounded now.

And finally, again, so am I.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 23: Writing Fighting

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.23.14Where I Wrote: Pelham Bay Park. It was a much nicer day than I expected, so I decided to forego another indoor lounge and go for a public park instead. Nice, but the temperature didn’t hold up.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Good. As I said yesterday, I was expecting to finish my addition today and get to editing tomorrow. However, today wound up being as careful and pensive as yesterday was–I was a bit too eager to finish this fight and wound up adding and deleting repeatedly. In the end, I got out a solid bit of work and crested what’s probably just the first of many hurdles in this fight scene. Now, after having stopped early on the last day of Week 3, I’m fully aware that my deadline for NaNoWriMo is officially tight. But I’ve always been fine with tight deadlines.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Fine. Much better than yesterday although I pressed the same boundaries I did then.

The Experience: I woke up to emails from friends. Immediately, this made today better than yesterday.

I read those emails, had breakfast, played some games, and, once again, didn’t worry about where I was going. I let the excitement for writing my scene simmer a bit and then headed out when I heard (a little belatedly) that it was almost 50 degrees outside. Mental note made: check the daily forecasts. And although being relaxed is fine, waking up earlier affords more flexibility and more choices for the day, making things even more relaxed… The first hint of something I wasn’t realizing about my mood.

The early-start point was driven home by getting to Pelham Bay Park a bit late.


It was beautiful and I got to write there for a while, facing the angel monument. But I Definitely would’ve liked more time–would’ve preferred idling and taking even more pictures and exploring the park more thoroughly. The day was about writing, of course, not exploring, and write I did, but still… The second hint of something I wasn’t realizing about my mood.

I started my fight scene a little too eagerly and a little clumsy, making sure to take my time when I found myself rushing. Actually fighting myself to make sure I put the right words down. I’m wasn’t sure why this fight scene was so much more difficult than the first one. I knew, definitely, that I was tired–that the physical fatigue from earlier in the week turned into mental fatigue.

But it wasn’t just that. Pushing myself out again near nightfall, forcing myself to be okay with things I’m not usually okay with, I somehow wasn’t getting that those things were wearing me out. That those things were making me fight my writing. Some part of me has been silently protesting the changes; I want to be okay with going out later. I want to be okay with writing around loud, rowdy idiots. But the fact is, I’m not. Maybe its my associating the night with drinking and partying that makes it harder for me to write after sunset. Or maybe it’s the promise that getting home will be a pain in the ass on public transportation. But no matter what it is, pushing myself to accept these later writing sessions and a handful of changes meant I pushed in a different direction–I got home and just gamed when I should’ve been working and doing other things.

Essentially, I started sabotaging myself without realizing it. I’m not an expert on my own psyche, but when I packed up to use the park’s restrooms and get out of the cold, the thought, “You can always just write tomorrow,” came too easily. I was rounding back to being sedentary. Which meant I was rounding back to the idea of giving up on NaNoWriMo. Back to staying in and choosing to game instead of write. In the same flash, I thought, “Even if you don’t finish it by December, you’ve got time.”

No. No, fuck you.

When I got home, I threw down my tablet in one of my favorite rooms and continued my scene until I had to break for the night–in direct opposition to the reflex to just stop, post, watch videos online, and essentially give up.

I will not give up.

Tonight was the last night of pushing for extra challenges–the last night of trying to make myself deal with a new set of uncomfortable changes to my life while also doing NaNoWriMo. Because I will not sabotage this. I will not heap a ton of other objectives on top of finishing this one book. On Day 12, I talked about how I dropped photography and design and other hobbies to write.

Well, I’m officially dropping my sudden need to go out later and write under waterfalls or whatever the hell else I think up. No diners. No returns to places where people interrupted me. No uncertainty. No trying to change myself now, of all times, when there are 11 other months I can work on my neurosis.

For the rest of NaNoWriMo, there will only be NaNoWriMo.

For the rest of NaNoWriMo, there will just be me, a book, and a deadline.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 22: Reinforced Calm

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.22.14Where I Wrote: Sony Plaza on Madison, between 55th and 56th.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: It was a bit tough and I realized after a while that I was in danger of being completely generic, something I avoided very well with my characters’ first encounter. I realized that before actually getting generic, thankfully, which resulted in an early stop and very determined brainstorming on the train (I didn’t even read Clariel, so you know I meant business). The result: I now know exactly how to handle the rest of my mid-book addition.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Reinforced calm.

The Experience: I did not wake up late today. I woke up pretty early.

And then relaxed. For hours.

Relaxed without really knowing where I was headed. I have said time and again that I’m not out of places to go in the city, but late November weekends are a bit of a mess for 30 Days. Going somewhere like the Museum of Natural History–really going to any popular attraction–is out. Any of the outdoor spots I had planned are now out because of the cold (although I might take a chance on one more this Monday [or maybe Tuesday] when it’s supposed to be warmer). Unless they’re the worst of the worst, restaurants, bars, and coffee shops are likely full on the weekends as well.

I knew all this and still just played Rebirth for a while. A long while. The sun was seriously on its way down when I finally stopped, got ready, and looked for a list of public spaces. I found one easily, took a few screen grabs from Google Maps, and headed out without really deciding on which one to go to. Without knowing if they would be closed by the time I got there.

And the entire way, I pushed down a weird and constant discomfort. I wasn’t sure the places I picked would work out. I’m always headed back home when the sun’s setting. I’m always inside again by the time it’s dark. In particular, I’m always out of the city on a Saturday night, aware that, although they’re not violent, drunk and/or rowdy assholes will be all over public transportation. For the past 21 days, I’ve been home preparing posts by 6 at the latest.

I wanted to challenge all of that. Especially because it put me in a shitty mood. There are daily modifiers to which I’ve been extremely susceptible: late starts, not enough brainstorming, the need to be home at a certain time for work even though I make my own hours. I wanted to defy those boundaries.

The result, however, was that I was in an oddly bad state-of-mind. It shouldn’t be surprising–I was forcing myself to do a bunch of things I hated. I was asking for a bad experience. Standing on the train, I found myself thinking of people I hate and haven’t seen for years, strangely imagining that they would be at whatever place I chose. I know–completely unrealistic and bizarre. But I’m writing it here because it’s true–a strangely self-damaging survival tactic, I guess.

I did not go back home though. I got off my train, headed in the vague direction of the spot I chose moments before getting to my stop, found that there wasn’t an obvious entrance for it, and then changed course the instant I spotted Sony Plaza across the street, with its sign promoting it as a public lounge–exactly what I needed.


It was indoors. It was quiet. It was pretty. It was a little dim. Most importantly, despite it being Saturday evening, there was no trouble finding a seat and no one got loud or blasted music. The presence of security may have had something to do with that last bit. With public restrooms and a Starbucks adjacent to the Plaza, I was glad I accidentally chose it. It is instantly a place I will come back to–especially on a weekday morning when I assume I’d be almost completely alone.

I sat down and rode my satisfaction with the locale into my writing–threw it repeatedly in the face of doubts. I worked remembering yesterday’s mantras, pushing nearly-typical elements far enough away that I could stare at them–consider them like individual pieces of my story’s puzzle. There was a lot of writing, deleting, and readjusting tonight, but I finally felt good by the time I ended early. As I packed up, I was confident about the work I’d done and about stopping when I had–trusting that I knew when not to force myself to produce more content. A second fight scene was about to start and I wasn’t going to manufacture any part of it without properly loving it first, something that sounds really bizarre, but it’s the best way to put it. I had, I realized now, spent the entire day reinforcing my calm. But that was a good first step towards actually believing it. Especially because I want to believe in that calm instead of manufacturing it.

On the train ride home, I obsessed (in the best way) over the rest of my mid-novel addition. I have but one detail to research after publishing this post. Once I have it, the addition is fully plotted. It will take a day to write it all, another day (at most) to edit and adjust the rest of my work, and then I’m caught up again–at the endgame that I’ve been slowly refining this whole time. It was a really good commute back. I felt centered again. Glad to have my story to focus on. Glad, grudgingly, that I’d pushed myself.

Because, from the beginning, NaNoWriMo wasn’t just about writing another novel for me–it was about getting back in touch with outside. There’s only so much I can do; the overwhelming majority of my closest friends still moved away a few years ago, so there’s still a strange distance to these outings–I’m still a lone wolf out there.

But it’s nice to contest my reflex to confine myself.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 21: The Bizarre Act of Writing in the Past

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.21.14Where I Wrote: TKettle on St. Mark’s Place.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Good enough that it kind of worried me. I felt like today’s session should’ve been harder because it’s not something I’ve pulled off before. However, it went well.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Good. It was another day completely lacking in bullshit and mistakes. I did have a really, really weird dream that might become another story, but ultimately, good.

The Experience: TKettle is a weird little place. They specialize in bubble tea, something I enjoy every so often. That isn’t what makes them weird though.

What makes them weird are all of the small things that make me gravitate back there, repeatedly. There’s the general… disrepair of the place. The graffiti on the bathroom mirror. The dirty window in the back, two curtains trying and failing to cover it up, creating a stark contrast to the locale’s general brightness.


There’s also this long hallway that completely splits its two seating areas. There’s the one in front, where social people almost automatically sit down and chat. And then there’s the one in back (pictured above), still colorful and inviting but… tucked down a long hallway.

Easily the thing I love the most about this place is how rarely anyone uses that backroom. Maybe I’ve only come at weird times, but regardless, I’ve never come at a time when TKettle was jam packed. That absolutely makes me question their food, but as their bubble tea is made right in front of you at the very front of the shop, it at least feels like a safe choice for the writer in need of a pit stop. A pit stop that has a 90% chance of being solitary and relatively quiet.

Thus why I abandoned plans to go to the coffee shop I’ve been meaning to try, and decided to go to TKettle instead the moment I remembered it. I walked by said coffee place and it looked awesome.

But today was not a day for random variables. After Day 20’s nonstop nonsense, today was a day for getting work done.

I got a red bean bubble tea–the strangely lasting meal of the bubble teas–and got to work.

Work writing completely in the past–something I’ve never done successfully because I’ve never written a project as quickly as I’ve written Memory. I have tried–with the first version of War of Exiles–and have, repeatedly, butchered the tone and pacing.

But, as seems to consistently be the case with NaNoWriMo, the old writing hurdle that I used to struggle with just wasn’t there today. Instead of hastily rereading a scene I wrote months previous and trying to remember every tiny nuance and emotion my characters sported at that moment in the plot, I just… remembered, clearly, how my protagonists felt in Memory. Because I believe that today I picked up… where I left off on Day 13, just barely over a week ago.

Picking up from there was smooth. Too smooth. Easy enough that it definitely kind of worried me. Easy enough that I was on red alert for padding–a good thing as I stopped the moment I stopped being inspired to started filling out my scenes with nonsense to hit the NaNoWriMo quota. I packed up instead. Got home so early–after getting the morning start I promised myself–that it was strange.

And, of course, there were the usual expectations–I thought that I would hit a hurdle–maybe hate an old scene. I especially thought that I would not be able to find more plot to keep working with.

But it’s 21 days in–absolutely time to start putting some fears to bed and picking up personal mantras.

Even if things go really poorly for one or two or eighteen writing sessions, they will pan out. If they don’t–if you can’t figure the story out–then you didn’t love the story enough anyway. Because figuring it out just takes obsessing over it, which you will do naturally if you love it.

Many of the problems you’ve experienced with writing novels has come from procrastination. You’ve sat on ideas so long that you forgot critical parts of them or completely let them slip. You’ve waited so long between writing sessions that you completely lost the mood of the story and were incapable of getting it back. You’ve waited so long between edits that you’ve forgotten important twists and subtle nuances, making your manuscript a mess of conflicting ideas. Absolutely no more. You write every day because even if other writers don’t, this is how it works for you. This is how it works best. Writing every day almost makes it too easy.

The amount of words you hit for a day of NaNoWriMo does not matter. All that matters is that you put down any words. Actually, even if you don’t, trying to figure out a scene or plot point or character is enough.

Stop expecting your work to be horrible. Whether you look back and it is or you look back and it isn’t, you’re going to worry regardless. Just don’t worry. If it is bad, you’ll know and you’ll fix it. If it isn’t, you believe it isn’t. Own that.

And most importantly, find more places with guaranteed seclusion to write. The dingier the better.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 19: Today in Writing Memory, My Memory Totally Sucked

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.19.14Where I Wrote: The Dancing Crane Cafe at the Bronx Zoo.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Awesome. After the last few days of struggle, I feel amazing about putting out new words–genuine progress.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Fine. Ultimately. Woke up unsure if I actually wanted to go out today, but by the time I got to my spot, I was fine.

The Experience: If I had to characterize my mind, I’d give it a cup of coffee. Not a mug–a disposable, paper cup. With a “java sleeve.” My mind would always hold this cup of coffee and take comically long, loud sips from it after saying douchey things–that way you know he’s definitely a douche.

“Sure you wanna get up today?” my brain asked as I rolled over and checked the time. And then, “slurrrrp.”

“So you think you got out of that writing loop you were stuck in? You’re probably right… slurrrrp,” as I walked to the Bronx Zoo.

The douchebaggery stopped for a while when I got to the zoo, another place where I used to work–although, unlike the Time Warner Center, I worked at the Bronx Zoo so long ago–and enjoyed it so much both before and after working there–that old experiences never skew my love of it.

At worst, I’m guilty of making it too familiar in my mind and then being surprised when I visit again and get a reminder of its beauty and size. Particularly today though, I was surprised to rediscover a bunch of potential writing spots inside of it. Much like the Botanical Gardens’, those spots–mostly outdoor benches–are unusable for the winter, but there are still benches to be had in the zoo’s exhibits.


Tiger Mountain’s Pavilion B, for example, has benches tucked far enough out of the wind that it’s oddly hospitable even on a cold day like today. The Zoo Center is (thankfully) an exhibit again and features a bench people probably don’t use. Another location that I’m actually going to selfishly withhold, is particularly amazing and secluded.


But the most accessible and writer friendly location is the Dancing Crane Cafe, where I, in all-business mode, went first, determined to have a solid writing session before going into distracted photographer mode. I got there quickly, bought a coffee and a pretzel, sat down, and…

“Oh hey. Seems you forgot to save a copy of your work from last night to your tablet. Didn’t you remind yourself to do that? I remember you reminding yourself to do that… *slurp*.”

Oh… Well…

Do I just… walk around the zoo now? Do I rush home and write there? Do I go home, write a post about how I failed and just… wait til tomorrow? Also, is, perhaps, a table flip in order?

“You could just <sigh> write or something… *slurp* I mean, do you need that file?”

I… didn’t. I knew that yesterday’s fix was fine. The only question was whether a decision I made in my last 400 words was a good idea or a bad one. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t write–I could just create a new file here. I knew what scene came next and how to start it. I just had to employ safety strats; that last-400-word-decision was a simple change that has a huge tonal impact on the story but a super tiny, easy to alter footprint, so I could just write the safer version of the next scene and decide later if I should switch it to the unsafe version.

What all of this equated to was a super liberating, “Fuck it.” I sat there and made actual progress and enjoyed writing Memory for the first time in a few days. And, when I reached the end of my session and the transition for the tomorrow’s session came effortlessly, I was ecstatic.

With an hour to spare. I walked around the zoo, checking out largely empty exhibits and brainstorming. Being genuinely crazy-person-weird by saying dialogue aloud when I thought I was alone (I wasn’t alone).

And, somehow, that was it. After struggling for the past few days, with the same scene, I was expecting the hammer to drop–to get home and find that the scene was a total disaster somehow. Or, failing that, to find that my computer–and only my computer–had burst into flames while I was gone. But that never happened–I reread the scene and it was fine. I considered last night’s addition and decided in favor of the unsafe version (because, of course–why the hell would I ever go safe?).

And that was that. Today’s disaster was weak sauce, easily–almost abscent-mindedly avoided. A bullet effortlessly dodged. Writing done. Victory had.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 18: All the Fun of Writing in Circles

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.18.14Where I Wrote: The Dining Concourse at Grand Central Terminal.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Laughably bad. I should be horribly depressed and defeated, but there’s something hilarious about being stuck in a writing loop, trying one scene over and over again to no avail… and then finding a ridiculously simple solution.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Absolutely expecting to jump into the beginning of the endgame of the novel but totally stymied by my gut; I followed it to a semi-random spot at the last minute… and then followed it right into what I thought would be a quick reread of yesterday’s work.

The Experience: Today was all about the gut feelings.

When I woke up, I was pretty sure I’d be launching into the next chapter of Memory, having ended yesterday’s scene with a solid cliffhanger. I took my shower, planned my destination for the day–a coffee shop I’ve heard about repeatedly and thought I’d try. A random variable (something I want to start including in my outings regularly).

But then, the gut reaction. It’s already almost 12. You’re going to try a coffee shop at lunch? There might not be seats and it is… stupidly cold outside. Right… No. Whatever. Blazing ahead anyway. That one coffee shop, here I come.

And then I was on the train, reading, when I heard “Grand Central Terminal,” and, again, the gut reaction. That coffee shop will SUCK if you go now. Remember how insane the City Bakery was? Besides, you wanted a random variable–you haven’t been to the Dining Concourse in a million years. You might still find failure there if that’s what you really want.

And somehow, that swayed me. I jumped off the train, oddly… not excited, now that I remember it. It’s almost like I knew what was coming–hinted at by my suddenly runny nose.


I got to the Dining Concourse, grabbed coffee, and found a small table under one of its weird, low archways. I popped out the tablet.

And… the gut reaction. You don’t know how to start the next chapter. Maaaaaaybe… you should reread yesterday’s scene?

I’m glad to say that in Day 17 Louis’ defense, the scene wasn’t bad. Ultimately, it only had one hiccup that made it… awkward. Not confusing, but loose in a way that I hate; have you ever watched a movie or show and noticed a major–but totally silent–jump in a character’s logic? Their knowing something that they shouldn’t? It was that kind of hiccup–a subtle error and easy to miss.

So easy to miss that I absolutely missed it yesterday… and today. My session started with me reworking the entire scene, changing everything else to fit that one logic error instead of just… fixing the one logic error. About halfway through, I realized that the reworked scene was worse, stopped, and stared at my tablet for a long while.

It’s at this point that I finally realized the culprit was a single logic error. It was also this point, sitting and staring and unable to focus, that I realized my runny nose had a hand in this mess–I just could not keep a clear head. But I was not about to give up.

Probably a horrible idea though, because not giving up meant groggily trying to fix everything but the one logic error again. I’m not sure if I forgot or genuinely thought it would be better to change the rest of the scene (I think I had a good few additions that I desperately wanted to work in, but I’m not sure because, at this point, hours later, I am significantly more disoriented).

After running my second circle around the one scene though, I was done. I packed up, determined to do no more damage to the scene by poking at it clumsily.

Only to figure out how to fix it with one sentence on my way back home.

Not willing to just let the day go as a total failure, I got home and fixed the scene in maybe… ten seconds? And then went on to add (apparently) 400 words that I’m worried will be absolutely horrible when I look at them tomorrow.

But, right now, from the bottom of my heart, I can honestly say… whatever. I will take those 400 words. And I will turn in ridiculously early and hope for the best tomorrow.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 17: Dirty Carpet and Gemstones

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.17.14Where I Wrote: The Guggenheim Hall of Minerals in the Museum of Natural History.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Really good. After reorganizing what I wrote yesterday, the rest of the scene I’d been struggling with came with relatively little trouble. There were a few hurdles to get over (it was an active parlor scene, so writing it was a new experience for me), but I think I hit every beat that I needed to (and every one that I could hit without making the dialogue incredibly artificial and overly convenient).

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Ready. After yesterday’s post, I was so ready to accept the balance challenge for this week and kick its ass. This was rounded out by excitement for returning to the Hall of Minerals, my favorite exhibit in the Museum of Natural history since my days as a littlen.

The Experience: Today was a really strong, straight forward bout of writing–a fantastic first step for this week of schedule-honing. I had to be up early today if I was going to get to the museum. And I was. I had to be out of the house quickly, so no Rebirth. Thus, I didn’t play it.

The reward for those small sacrifices was experiencing none of the vague bullshit that will often rise up to oppose plans. I wasn’t rushing, so there was no, “Shit! I forgot to go to the bank!” There was no frantic packing and hustling out the door late, so I didn’t forget to visit the museum’s site and make sure donation rules for admission hadn’t changed. At worst, there was the moment when I got lost in the museum and thought they’d gotten rid of the Hall of Minerals. But then I just took out my map and realized/remembered that the Roosevelt entrance off of Central Park West leaves you on the 2nd floor, not the 1st.

And then I got there. The Hall of Minerals in all of its old, dark, strangely dirty glory.


I don’t know why I love it so much. There is, of course, my general affection for Earth Science; in an alternate reality, there is absolutely the version of me who studies minerals–who’s extremely happy with and vocal about his totally lame love of all rocks.

There is also my fascination with worlds we don’t see–chemical reactions and ancient processes in places we’ll never know. Atoms forming into unit cells. It’s terrifying and beautiful to think that something like rutilated quartz just… happens. A slow, deliberate, silent process.

… But there’s a really good chance I just love it because it’s the least popular part of the Museum of Natural History with the most seating. It’s dark. It’s really plain. The floor is rugs; in fact, nearly everything, with the exception of the minerals and their cases, is rugs. The (poorly depicted above) amphitheater where I set up shop? Also rugs. Rugs that are as strangely dirty as the display cases featuring softer minerals–the ones wilting into powder and wafting down into unseemly deposits.

I love it. It’s so dysfunctional. How could I not love it?

I entered, took in the nostalgia, sat down to write but found myself distracted by the extremely nerdy audio prompts explaining the displays in the amphitheater, and wound up taking some time to view the rest of the exhibit and read. It did not come close to the near-total failure of Day 12 in the Botanical Gardens, but that’s probably because–again–I wasn’t pressed for time. I believe I had four guaranteed hours of freedom and relative quiet in the Hall of Minerals.

And there I worked on the scene I’ve been struggling with… and managed to work it out–managed to tame it into a full, provocative gateway to the novel’s endgame. The beginning of its Conclusion. It took a few hours, but with water fountains and restrooms just a short walk away, I could’ve pressed myself to write more. I didn’t, however, having just fixed the total mess that came from forcing yesterday’s session.

Instead, I packed up, decided against viewing the rest of the museum in favor of coming home, brainstorming (successfully) on the train, writing this post, and getting to work. I still had a bit of time before the museum closed, but today, like the rest of the month, was not about idle browsing. It wasn’t about taking time for simple entertainment.

Today was the start of the end. The acceptance of the schedule and the wherewithal to handle its many conflicting parts. Today was the beginning of making this writing thing work. The beginning of a slow, deliberate, silent process.