Let’s Talk About: Cursing in a Fantasy World

I think about cursing a lot. Actually, you can cut that down to, “I curse a lot.” I’m not exactly proud of it, but I’ve come to accept cursing (and let’s say “swearing” from here on out, or else things’ll get confusing; we are talking about fantasy, with its actual curses after all).

Whether you like them or not, swears are a prevalent feature in modern language, and even a person who doesn’t like swearing will do it anyway in the right moment–much like how an atheist will still shout, “Oh, God!” on occasion. There are words for every moment–mental niches that we fill with automatic phrases–and that’s where swears fit.

The thing is, in my experience, swears . . . don’t translate super well to fantasy. At best, writers use our own set of swears–particularly the gold standards: shit and fuck.

At worst–and this is just my opinion by the way–fantasy writers fall back on a set of token fantasy swear phrases that everyone uses.

“By _______’s _______!” as in, “By Odin’s/Escribyr’s/Whoever’s beard/hammer/whatever!”

“May the _______ take you!” as in, “May the Rot/Demonspawn/Whatever take you!”

“You _______-damned fool!” as in, “You Rot/Escribyr/Whatever or Whoever-damned fool!”

Now, these trends aren’t necessarily bad, but they often take me out of a reading experience regardless, just by how familiar they are. Just by how many times I’ve seen them recycled in the fantasy genre.

It all winds up just feeling . . . easy. And I hate easy.

So, what are the alternatives?

Well, I’m no expert; I’m just a guy who’s been published once (go check out “Aixa the Hexcaster” at Mirror Dance Fantasy if you haven’t–#shameless), but I can at least tell you the ways I’ve tried to make curses feel more believable and unique in my fantasy worlds.

1. Settle into the Lore

A lot of times, fantasy writers have super dense lore that they’ve created for their worlds. Gods in particular will have interesting and very specific characterization, even down to something as simple as, “This god floats through the earth, shifting the ore in the mountains, bringing it to those miners who she deems worthy.”

And let’s keep rolling with that example. We’ll call that god . . . Russell Stover . . . Look, the box of chocolates from yesterday is still here–gimme a break.

Now, the easy positive swear upon finding a rich ore vein would be, “By Russell Stover’s blessing!” It works, but it sounds a little typical.

Settling in though, really putting myself in the shoes of one of these miners, however, I can come up with a more interesting and natural sounding, “She favors me!” The frantic, concise cry of a miner (probably a prospector) who’s found a sizable chunk of gold, or experienced any good fortune really.

I know, it doesn’t sound like a swear, but it falls back on the whole “taking a god’s name in vane” thing.

Anyway, what I’m saying is, take more time–with your world’s lore–when coming up with your story’s curses.

2. Brevity Sounds More Natural

A big part of the reason why we fall back on swears–particularly negative ones–is that they’re super concise. Because we want them to be. “That son of a bitch!” is often whittled down to a frustrated, “Sonuvabitch!” “God damn it!” can shrink to, “Goddammit!” and then, “Dammit!”

What I’m trying to say here is, although there are absolutely times for long fantasy swears, people aren’t going to say, “You Rot-damned fool!” every single time. Humans, by their nature, would cut it down to “Rotted fool!” or maybe even just a forcefully spat, “Rot!”

For the sake of variety, find more concise versions of your curses and work them in where they fit.

3. Earth-Modern Swears Are Fine if They’re Universal

Fuck. Shit. Cock. Bitch. These are words that, for the most part, apply to all fantasy worlds.

But, not all earth-modern swears work in every fantasy world. Even “bitch” is risky, meaning that if your fantasy world doesn’t have canines, would the word “bitch” even exist?

The most common pitfall with this is “hell.” “Hell” appears in a ton of fantasy novels, even if those novels don’t have a hell myth. It’s an easy mistake to make, because “hell” is such a staple of earth-modern swears.

But, if hell doesn’t exist in your fantasy world, the word “hell” shouldn’t exist either. And neither should the notion that you can tell someone to go to any other mythical or religious prison if there isn’t one for them to go to.

The alternative? Drop into the lore again. Is there a terrible place in your world where people can be sent? Keep in mind, by the way, that place doesn’t have to be otherworldly.

And, returning to the Russell Stover example from earlier–for a religion-based insult that has nothing to do with telling someone to go somewhere–“she finds you unworthy” would work as a base insult for our culture of miners. Although, naturally, it would be shortened to a knowing, “Unworthy.”

Well, that’s all I’ve got when it comes to fantasy swears. There are other standards of them, but I think they’re well known, or obvious. Don’t use earth-modern gods unless your world is set in earth. Try giving each culture in your world some unique curses of their own.

But, what I want to stress overall here is, don’t just fall into the habits of other writers. I think fantasy is at its worst when our writers copy each other. Of course, the same can be said of any genre, but I feel creative shortcuts are particularly damning in fantasy, where we’re meant to be creative about absolutely everything.

Take your time. Don’t rush. Give all of the small details love. No matter how fucking vile they are.

~~~

I’ll keep working on fantasy swears myself, because mine definitely don’t feel perfect. But I hope this post helped out a fellow writer, or at least gave them a few things to consider.

Regardless, thanks for passing by. And, as always, write well.

Writer’s Workshop #1 – A Box of Discounted Chocolates

It’s Fuck It Wednesday.

What’s that? Never heard of it? Well, let me enlighten you. Fuck It _____day is the day after Valentine’s Day. A day when all of the romance is over, and what matters is that Valentine’s Day chocolate is super discounted. And hey, maybe you’re on a diet.

But eh. Fuck it.

Why am telling you this? Well, I woke up today with an intense urge to turn one of my writing habits into an ongoing series here on the site.

You see, sometimes, I want to write, but I don’t have my WIP handy. At those times, I buckle down and write something insubstantial anyway, just for practice. As a really intense editor, one of my favorite aspects of writing is problem solving, so I often take these WIP-less moments to try to describe something I see in one clear, evocative sentence. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

But either way, I’m here today, on Fuck It Wednesday, to share a box of chocolates with you by trying to describe a few pieces in as few sentences as I can. Just to warm up before the day’s writing session.

My rules: I’m going to take more than one sentence here, because I think it’ll make for a better read. I’m also going to pretend I don’t know what some pieces are, because I’m a fantasy writer, not a food critic; my entire deal is describing new, strange things, not reporting on the quality of $9 nougat.

My hope: I get the one really, really gross piece before I’m done.

Let’s get to it.

First Piece:

wwi-firstpiece

Immediately, he knew he’d made a mistake. The first bite was anti-flavor embodied, coming in slow rushes as he chewed, making his own mouth betray him. There was chocolate, yes, but inside of it waited a clinging mass of chemicals. It tasted like a color. He decided that color was Pink 12, and somewhere, in the heart of a factory, a machine had been too generous with it.

Comments: Oh God. That was it–immediately. I got the gross one. I think it was supposed to be cherry, but it never is. Ugh.

Wait. Hold on. The box has one of those cheat sheets . . . “Roman Nougat.” There it is. When in Rome, eat disgusting candy.

Okay. Moving on.

Second Piece:

ww1-secondpiece

He expected to bite it, but broke it with his teeth instead. A fragile piece of candy that was oddly mute. Safe. Meant to be a buffer between him and its brethren, perhaps, but incapable of impressing on its own, without a doubt. It was only arguably remarkable in the shadow of other chocolates.

A strange thing for a piece of candy, he thought.

Comments: I think that was nougat? Wait. Checking the cheat sheet. “Chocolate Butter Cream.” Hmm. If you say so.

By the way, it feels weird to be giving this much attention to a box of chocolates. But, to be honest, I had no idea what I was going to write for this second chocolate, so at least I’m actually warming up.

Third Piece:

ww1-thirdpiece

It refused to be eaten.

He tried his best, even mouthing a determined grunt as the chocolate fought back. Eventually, he won, rewarded with a mouthful of chewy molasses, clinging to his teeth so long that he wasn’t sure the chewing was ever truly over.

Comments: That one was clearly caramel, so the challenge was not just saying, “It’s caramel.”

Although I’m finding it interesting that I’m getting weird with all of these. I guess it’s just my reflex to make descriptions strange? To personify chocolate and make it contentious?

Whatever. I’m having fun.

Last Piece:

ww1-lastpiece

He was off guard the moment he started chewing.

The candy wasn’t bad, but he had no idea what was in it. No, it was somehow worse than that. The candy didn’t want him to know what it was. There was a crunchy bit that made him think of almonds, but there was only the one–a ghost in a sharp affair of other flavors, all of them rushing in, too strong for him to taste anything but sweet.

Comments: Oh yeah, that’s my last piece. I’m assuming it was almond something? . . . “Chocolate . . . Butter Cream.” What the hell? Well, that was the last thing I expected to happen here. I realize now that this piece does look like the second, but they genuinely tasted really different.

Maybe that means the second piece of roman nougat isn’t as vile? I’m not gonna find out.

This last piece says a lot about paying attention to individuals in a group. Of not assuming that one leaf, for example, will look exactly like another leaf. I’m a big fan of paying too much attention to everything, so I’m glad to put an admittedly bizarre example of uniqueness out there–especially because experiencing it was so easy to miss.

Maybe I’m just being weird, but I would’ve had a much more boring experience if I’d just looked at the cheat sheet and known this last piece was chocolate butter cream before eating it. I’m glad I didn’t.

Especially because I think that, as humans, we naturally do that all the time. We know that each leaf is different, but we dismiss them as identical on a daily basis. I don’t want to get all meta here though, so I’ll just say this:

Don’t forget the small details. They’re beautiful and they matter.

~~~

And also, if you have a box of chocolates, why not have an existential crisis over it? That would make a weird afternoon, you say? I agree.

But eh. Fuck it.

As always, thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this one; there will be more Writer Workshops in the future for sure.

Until then, thanks for passing by. 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 27: The Timeline of Silestein Grey

Yesterday’s scene was… amazingly refreshing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words for the Day: 470

NaNoWriMo Total: 11,815

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 26: Priorities

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Five minutes. Goddammit.”

“Three minutes.”

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

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

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

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

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

Go to bed in a few minutes.

Wake up, get dressed, have coffee.

Figure out the last line of today’s scene.

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

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

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

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

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

Words for the Day: 798

NaNoWriMo Total: 11,247

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

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

I was extremely confused.

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

It almost felt… healthy.

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

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

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

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

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

I’m grateful for that.

I’m also… super intimidated.

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

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

Well… Okay then.

Let’s do this.

Words for the Day: 452

NaNoWriMo Total: 10,349

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 24: Freshly Reset

So, today, having a day off with good rest… I completed the Double Scene experiment I’d come up with over a week ago. I woke up today, edited heavily, then waited for a few hours and got a second session in. And it didn’t feel like I was straining at any point; I didn’t have to slog through the scene I just wrote–I only had to be careful about writing it before I got tired (or drunk–I got wine and pie for Thanksgiving).

But, of course, I did have to write a second post today, because I realize that, now, in the final stretch, I have to go in hard on the new writing schedule: wake up really early, write before I go to work, then write a post when I get home. That meant posting twice today, or else 30 Days would actually be 29 Days.

It’s weird to think that I only figured out this schedule now, on the home stretch of NaNoWriMo 2016. One more week, and then it’s back to silently toiling away with my writing projects.

Which just means that I’m going to be continuing to write this novel (because hitting pause part way through a novel is like sending it out to die; there’s no way you’ll return to it in the same state-of-mind, with the same feelings and intentions). Already, it’s a huge contrast to 30 Days 1; at the end of my first NaNoWriMo, I had a complete novel that needed a lot of work.

Now, having written three books–two of which were terrible–it’s nice to be confident about the progress I’ve made on a new novel. Confident… and tolerant about how I make that progress. Because, for a while, I was caught up worrying that I wouldn’t be able to write something that I liked more than Memorythat it was going to be the one project I cling to desperately. That I’d keep throwing it at publishers, hoping it would get picked up. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to write something new. And I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that a lot of writers probably have fears like these at one point or another.

I guess what I’m saying is I’m grateful that, at least for tonight, I can just smile about the novel I’m working on. Tonight, I get to be excited. I’m back to loving what I do instead of being afraid of it.

And that’s worth  30 days of hard work.

Words for the Day: 659

NaNoWriMo Total: 9,910

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 23: Giving Thanks for Editing

The nap worked. Well, in the sense that sleeping for 10 hours is technically a nap, it definitely worked.

After yesterday’s post, I went to work, thinking up another route with the exchange I was worried about.

And then I worked on my feet for an entire day, until my legs were killing me. I walked home like that, hips actually aching, worried my one bad leg would give out.

But it didn’t. I got home, had dinner, relaxed for a bit, laid down to a nap without worrying about how long it would take.

And then I woke up today, refreshed, excited.

I proceeded to read and edit all 40+ pages of my manuscript in one sitting, editing for a consistent tone as I went, adding new names and changing terms to make the MS cohesive. It was a little sad to hit the points where I’d obviously written while half-asleep, made obvious by question marks in really strange places.

But it was a huge relief to get to the exchange I’d written last and immediately realize exactly what was wrong with it.

With life being so tough the last few days, the first version of that back and forth between Modis and Sydney was incredibly tough. Serious and heavy. And sad. Modis got upset enough to cry and Sydney got angry. It just didn’t match up with the first 30 or so pages, in which Modis is generally light-hearted, smart, and determined, and Sydney is tough, curt, and untouchable.

So, without even really trying, I rewrote it, bringing myself right to the end of the MS with a ton of excitement to spare.

What I’m really trying to say with this post is, if you’ve been struggling with a part of your NaNoWriMo project (or any writing project really)–if it’s been difficult to make time and you have to push yourself to write when you’re exhausted–maybe just don’t write when you’re exhausted. Maybe rework your schedule so you’re writing when you aren’t tired. Because, having just experienced the two back to back, writing when you’re completely refreshed is significantly better than doing it when you’re worn out.

And, I mean, of course, right? Duh. But I say this anyway because I think that it’s easy for us to get wrapped up in being productive regardless of how we feel. We’re writers; everything has to be done on hard mode, even if we don’t realize it. It’s incredibly easy for us to be too hard on ourselves, especially if we’re working toward a word goal, like NaNoWriMo’s. At a certain point, writing becomes more about getting x-amount of words and less about the quality of those words. And I’m not blaming NaNoWriMo; I’m just saying that, as eager writers, we’re all in danger of stumbling into the word goal hole.

So, if you don’t already know, just keep in mind that, regardless of word goals, there’s a limit to what conditions you can write under as a responsible writer. Our brains are our tools, so if you have a choice between working with a dull tool or a freshly sharpened one, go with the sharpened one, for your novel’s sake.

Words for the Day: ?

NaNoWriMo Total: 9,251

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 22: Fundamentally

Something’s not right.

This isn’t the post where I start talking about the walls making funny noises–I promise. I’m not completely insane yet.

But something’s fundamentally wrong.

My job hasn’t gone 13+ hours mode yet, but these days, when I get home, after eating and watching something–after taking a moment to relax and not work–I’m finding it impossible to write well.

And, instead of beating myself up about it–about not writing at all last night, for example–I’m going to figure out why.

It’s not the story. It’s not the drive. I like this story and I can absolutely get behind the themes it supports. It’s also a novel I’ve wanted to write for ages, so I’m not reluctant about actually writing it.

No… It’s something else, fundamentally wrong.

Last night, my writing session was only minutes long. I opened my MS, got to the beginning of the exchange between my protagonists, started reading, and, already in a haze at 10PM, I absolutely had no idea if what I’d written was good or bad. After telling myself during the day that I could rewrite the scene–and knowing how to go about it–I was finding that there was just something stopping me from remembering how.

And what that “something” was became pretty obvious as I tried to read the entire exchange, editing as I went… and suddenly snapping awake after what felt like 10 minutes of sleeping at my computer.

I’d rewritten one sentence, didn’t give it end punctuation and then rolled on to write half of the next sentence, which I’d started in the middle, without punctuation–without even the prepositional phrase I’d intended to start it with. During the middle of that broken sentence, I’d just fallen asleep.

I actually said to myself, “I… I actually just can’t do this.

“I can’t write like this.”

But… a week ago, I’d had the same schedule and I’d been fine. So, why couldn’t I write now, with the same schedule?

Because, a week ago, I hadn’t been the face of the seasonal event at my job. A week ago, I had solid chances to either sit down and write.

Or at least sit down.

Now, I have to stand up every day. I have to watch people walk around, full of the holiday spirit (which, in America, means that they’re 5,000,000 times more ready to argue with you, as backwards as that is). Now, my job is way more physical.

So, when I get home, I’m way more tired than I’ve ever been after work.

And, while being determined to write is always a good thing, actually writing while completely exhausted is probably a terrible idea. It’s why I couldn’t figure out how Modis got out of that cell a few days ago. And, without a shadow of a doubt, I know it’s why I’m not sure if the tones for Modis and Sydney’s first exchange are right. Possibly because I don’t remember half of it.

My schedule for the first half of NaNoWriMo 2016 just isn’t going to work for these next few weeks.

So, tonight, I figure out a new schedule. When I get home, I’m taking a nap. At worst, I’ll wake up at 4AM to write for an hour or two before work. Or at 12AM. Whatever–the point is, I’ll wake up with a clear head.

Which I need if I’m going to get any more real work done on this novel.

Words for the Day: 0

NaNoWriMo Total: 8,714

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 21: Expectation

30 Days 2 is starting to teach me things about myself as a writer.

Primarily… I’m starting to realize that I have an issue with expectation.

Well, expectation and gratification.

I’m finding it harder and harder to actually feel gratified when I do any writing. At least for this novel. And that inability to feel productive scales with me; if I don’t write, I feel bad for not writing. If I do write, I feel bad for not writing enough. If I write enough, I immediately wonder if it’s any good.

To a degree, I think I do this because of my experience with Memory. I loved writing that book. It was legitimately a blast.

But that was partially because I was still being a little headstrong with it. Some plot lines were stagnant when I was done. The intro was unwieldy. There was a lot that I had to fix about that novel, to the point where I was editing it without knowing if it was good at all anymore.

So, now, with H&T, everything is baby steps. Everything is metered and measured and extremely careful. Everything is second-guessed.

The result of all of this is, on a day like today, when I wrote 600+ words, I feel bad because I was aiming for a ton. I sit back and question everything I wrote. And I think, “Ugh… I have to be back at work tomorrow; I can’t just take another day and figure this out.”

And, really, that’s true for all writers. We all have to just go through the motions–work the day job–then come home and try our best to be productive with our passion.

The thing is, you have to do that and not go crazy doing it.

And not going crazy means not feeling like you lose every single day.

So… Hey, guys. I got 600+ words today, which is pretty good, considering I was at home with a ton of distractions. What I wrote was a little rough–a tense, first exchange between my protagonists–but I’m super familiar with turning a scene I don’t like into something amazing, so I know that I can do it.

That… is how a writer should think. That’s how I need to start thinking.

Because I think I’m starting to just get… scared of writing. I’m starting to make excuses for myself constantly. And maybe it’s because I got published; maybe now I’m just expecting myself to be able to make everything perfect right away. But that’s not the way writing works. That’s not the way anything works. I need to know that.

Because everything sucks in my life, but writing has always been the one thing that didn’t.

I need it to stay that way.

Words for the Day: 618

NaNoWriMo Total: 8,714