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.

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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 15: Can’t Stop Won’t Stop

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.15.14Where I Wrote: The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Really good. It’s not perfect (as I was packing up my tablet, I thought of an addition I had to make). I honestly might cheat a bit tonight and add a handful of tweaks to the major dialogue exchange in today’s scene, but, overall, that scene achieved a few things I was hoping it would (and a few others I wasn’t expecting). It was a really emotional day for my characters and, although it was a struggle to realize that at first, I eventually got it to shine through naturally.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: It being an emotional day for them made it extra weird that I was insanely exhausted today. I do not know why; I woke up tired, rallied for Isaac (because, ya know, a man needs energy to fail a few Rebirth runs, I guess) and then passed on coffee I didn’t think I actually needed on the way to my spot. Turns out, yes. Yes, I really actually needed that coffee.

The Experience: I did not take pictures of the Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. There were many people there, but I probably should’ve gone for it regardless–snapped a picture of the exterior at least. I probably should have bothered.

But today… was not the day for bothering.

I had no trouble getting out of the house. I had no problem hopping on my train. I had no issue landing a seat on said train and enjoying more Clariel for most of my ride.

No, the problem began near the end of my commute, when I genuinely started to nod off while reading.

Empirical Fact #1: It was not Clariel.

Empirical Fact #2: Today was one of those weird days when I woke up to find that the bags under my eyes actually black. I know other people must experience this too, but my first bout of life this morning was a trip to the bathroom, a distracted observation at the mirror that I looked like a raccoon, and a prompt return to sleep.

Empirical Fact #3: When I got outside, I found that my left leg hurt. Weird. My left leg never hurts–it’s my right leg that sucks. I believe I actually thought, Huh. It’s almost I’m over-exerting myself or something, but that’s silly.

Empirical Fact #4: I had coffee before leaving. So… why even with the exhaustion?

I convinced myself I didn’t need coffee because of that final fact and proceeded to ignore the second and third… And the fact that I’d slept maybe five or so hours in total after last night’s work marathon. Five hours. Not bad when you’re sedentary.

Horrible when you get outside every day.

I wish my brain had not been an unfocused blob today. I wish that I wasn’t so wasted that I actually turned on wi-fi and checked Kotaku for a few minutes in the middle of my writing session.

I wish especially that I’d had the energy to explore more of the Performing Arts Library, which I’d only been to once, years ago–so many years ago that it seemed like a completely different place. I wound up heading right up to the second floor–which I think I saw the first time (please forgive–still tired)–but where I expected to find generic library cubicles, I instead found a sleek, glass encased sitting room with massive tables and chairs that were so comfortable that they definitely didn’t help with the exhaustion. I’m absolutely sure there are other great spots in that library (and as it’s absolutely free in a beautiful location with outdoor seating and coffee shops galore, I’ll absolutely be back to find them).

But today, I just clung to the one reading room for dear life–satisfied that it was literally the first thing I saw after riding an elevator up to the second floor. Particularly unwilling to migrate when I found bathrooms directly next to the elevator I’d just stepped off of. I found the chair farthest from everyone else, sat down, started writing.

And hit a block. I honestly wasn’t falling asleep (it wasn’t that bad), but it was insanely hard to work out any details for any part of my story. Everything I clumsily smacked onto my keyboard was vague and simplistic. I knew that today would be a little tough–I knew I hadn’t plotted out every detail, leaving myself some decisions to make this session–but making those decisions was like pulling teeth. I was checking my progress after 300 words. And then I was online, actually reading articles and other blog posts. I was contemplating having another sub-1000 day.

But then I actually got a little annoyed at myself. You can do it. You’re just not doing it, I actually told myself. I took a deep breath and sighed a sigh that was dangerously close to being a whiney “Fine-uh!” sigh.

But it was an, “Alright. Let’s kick this pig,” sigh.

I buckled down; reread the last two days’ work; spotted small tweaks that needed to be made; made them; kept reading; discovered that, with today’s exhaustion, I’d missed an emotional beat for my protagonist that really needed some seeding in yesterday’s work. I went back. Added. Ironed. Straightened. Got to new content and rolled right into one of the first scenes I imagined for this story (a year or so ago, when it had a completely different conclusion). By the time I was done, I’d almost hit NaNoWriMo’s quota and definitely surpassed my own (which is hovering around 1000 words these days).

And, more important than anything else, I was up to a huge, emotional payoff that leads right into the conclusion–a fact that feels strange to me even now. Because just last night, I’d blinked and remembered that Memory of the Black Sun is a play off of Shadows of the Black Sun, the title of the very first, insanely generic Fantasy story I made up when I was… God… 13? 12? It was wildly different now–Memory isn’t even comparable to Shadows. The original was supposed to be a multi-part epic. Memory is shaping up to cap around 200 pages–a novella by Fantasy’s standards.

But now, suddenly, after a snap decision made 15 days ago, it’s almost done. On a whim. I easily could’ve pushed this story back another year while postponing my last edit of War of Exiles. But now, Memory’s almost done and, against all reason, I’ve actually started to get excited for the edit of Exiles. Outside, I spot reminders of it and its unwritten sequels and my breath catches because I know I’ll be back in that world soon. I’d been terrified of a focused, straight week of editing, done quick so that I could keep all of the plot threads together instead of procrastinating and losing track. But now, that editing week feels more and more like it’s going to be child’s play; silly to fret over–sillier to silence my world for.

There’s something intimidating in that determination. Something scary because it’s so wildly different. NaNoWriMo’s going to end and I’m not going to be able to stop. And that terrifies me.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 12: Too Perfect–Must Take Picture

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.12.14Where I Seriously Barely Wrote: The New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Honestly, kinda meh. I will get it out there right off the bat that I’m not upset about how little I wrote. I am sure though that what I did write needs to be cut down a bit; it was the product of me not having prepared enough, getting to the day’s writing spot, and then being way, way too distracted to work out what came next in the plot.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Now that I think about it (and laugh), I was actually just excited to go to the Botanical Gardens. Little preview of how today’s session went, right there.

The Experience: Turns out some writing spots… are too goddamn good to be writing spots.

In case you don’t know, photography is one of my hobbies. Thanks to a friend from a few years back, I got into it a bit more than the average person–there are tripods involved. Tripods balanced by the fact that my camera absolutely requires tripods to get anything decent (it’s definitely old and falling apart).

I recessed from photography though; pulling away from it was part of a kind of hobby purge I performed earlier in the year when I realized that my desire to be really good at a handful of things was actually detracting from the one talent I was best at. It’s something I still stand behind–I don’t take pictures or do design work on Photoshop or devote my time to online multiplayer in a variety of FPS’s because those aren’t the things I want to be the best at. I’m not a logo designer–I could be, but it’s not what I already am. I’m not a pro gamer although I might hit that distinction if I dropped way too much time into gaming. I’m also not a photographer even though I really like taking pictures.

I’m a writer. I always have been. And, earlier in the year, I realized it was silly and self-defeating to try to be everything but.

That said, I learned a really, really valuable lesson today. My need to take pictures of things can absolutely outweigh my need to write.

When I rolled out of bed today, I was excited to visit the Botanical Gardens because, having been there recently, I knew it would be an awesome place to write. Not a mistake–it definitely is. If you’ve never been, there are benches everywhere here–in a place designed to be quiet, relaxing, and beautiful. And, although I’m sure it’s busier in the summer, it is the one place in New York that never feels crowded–there are only other patrons here to relax or employees who are almost strangely nice. No, coming to the Botanical Gardens to write could never possibly be a mistake.

The mistake was thinking, “I’ll bring my actual camera so I can take nice pictures for once instead of shaky, quick snapshots on my tablet.”

When I got to the Botanical Gardens, it was overcast. I thought it was going to rain, meaning that I went straight for the spot I remembered from my last visit–a handful of canopied benches in the Native Plant Garden, not too far from the Visitor Center. I got there, whipped out my camera, set up my tripod, got a few simple, kind of ugly, overcast shots to post here.

Only, No–there are better shots here, I found myself thinking. I looked for them, lining up the Native Plant Garden’s small river and waterfall with its benches and paths. I tried several spots, knowing there was a decent angle somewhere, getting a few pics that I were just alright.

And then it sank in–time had passed. A lot of time. At least a half hour, sunk directly into trying to find a good shot to use for this site. Alright. Alright. Time to write now, I told myself. I got out a portion of a scene, remembered that it wasn’t where Chapter 4 was supposed to start, backpedaled and started the scene I forgot because I was so distracted.

And then a strong breeze came through and blew leaves off of the trees around me in a large, perfect wave.

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Well, it certainly sucks that I missed that first wave of leaves. That was the shot, but at least I got a few that were dramatic. Should probably leave my camera out just in case. I went back to writing.

And then the sky opened up.

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Well, I mean, come on. I couldn’t not take these pictures. The lighting is too perfect. I sat down again, trying to focus on where I was in the story.

And then, another breeze. I wound up sitting with my tablet on my lap and hand on my camera–standing next to me–staring at the trees, repeatedly turning the camera to different angles, and taking way too many pictures.

It got to the point that I realized I had to find some place less photogenic or I wouldn’t get any writing done. I packed up by sheer will (I seriously, honestly had to push myself to leave), and wound up back at the Visitor Center, just inside of the Conservatory Gate.

Even if the Botanical Gardens was just the Visitor Center, it would still be a haven for writers; there’s a lot of outdoor seating, rest rooms, a small cafe that sells obnoxiously-priced coffee and not-so-obnoxiously-priced hot chocolate (maybe I’m biased, but it was $2.50–far, far better than City Bakery’s $7.00). In that cafe (I think it was called the Pine Tree Cafe), I finished up the scene I’d been working on, trying and failing to keep it concise.

Failing because I realized I hadn’t even brainstormed this morning–I’d just charged my camera and commuted to the Botanical Gardens, only thinking of taking pictures of everything. In my last moments of writing, I let the scene run on because… “It’s better than nothing?” I stood at my table in the cafe, stared at my tablet, arms crossed… and then finally shrugged. “Yep. Got nothing.”

In contrast to the last time I barely got any words out though, I wasn’t upset; I laughed about it here. Because it was such a lesson. Dropping those other hobbies doesn’t mean they won’t nag at you. The obvious example is the way I will definitely consider playing whatever multiplayer game if I’m home. The need to pull myself out of that environment isn’t key, but it’s wound up making writing so much easier during NaNoWriMo that it’s insane. When I’m writing outside, I don’t drop what I’m writing to play Slayer or Skirmish because I can’t.

But, other hobbies can totally, obviously encroach on writing if you unwittingly choose a spot that has everything to do with them. Am I saying not to try the Botanical Gardens? Of course not; it’s amazing. And it’s free on Wednesdays.

But if you’re also a photographer, visiting in the Fall–of all times–maybe don’t bring your camera.

Or maybe do–for a preliminary visit–to try to get it all out of your system. And to pick a nice spot for next time.

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