Friday, December 31, 2010

Farewell to 2010

Out with the old, and in with the new.

I hate change.

When it comes to new years, however, I'm often willing to embrace the changing over of a calendar year. It feels like wiping the slate clean and starting fresh with a world of opportunities and a wealth of time available.

So, it is with enthusiasm that I wish this year adieu. Welcome, 2011. May you help me learn.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Year of Words --- Informing

Fifth goal for the Year of Words: post an update to this blog at least once a day.

Really, this should be the first goal. Feedback is an important part of writing. The only way to receive that feedback, is to open yourself up to other readers. In an effort to do this, I'll be posting regular status updates concerning my various writing projects. Obviously, I'll be discussing a lot more here than just my writing. But I want to make sure I mention the writing regularly. If only so that I'm giving opportunity for others to give me some feedback.

Also, this provides an opportunity for others to learn something from my meager writing experience by following along with the process. I'm bound to make a lot of mistakes. The best way to avoid mistakes is to make them yourself; the second best way is to learn from someone else.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Year of Words --- Studying

Fourth goal for the Year of Words: read one writing book each month.

This goes a bit further than simply reading the book. It also allows time for examining and practicing the various ideas and techniques presented in each book. It requires me to put into practice what I'm reading. It requires me to turn the knowledge I'm gaining from this goal toward the books I'm reading for goal two. In this way, I will be able to evaluate the skills used by authors past and present in the hope of shaping my writing for the future. (Yeah, trite little threesome there.)

If the reading lists for my classes in Kingston are to be believed, I'm going to read a lot more than what I've set before myself here, but I'll just let that be bonus knowledge.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Year of Words --- Learning

Third goal for the Year or Words: follow one writing blog each month.

Learn from the best. I cannot measure the amount that I have learned about writing by reading the thoughts and comments of author's like Brandon Sanderson, Stephen King, and Holly Lisle, among others. So, in an effort to learn more about the industry, the craft, and just the lifestyle in general, I'm going to religiously follow and examine a different writing blog each month. I'll read each day's entry for the blog and then consider how/if I can apply the thoughts, tips, ideas, etc. to my own craft.

I'll probably post a preliminary list of blogs in the new year, but I'm open to suggestions. If you know of a fantastic blog that discusses topics in writing, let me know and I'll consider it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Year of Words --- Reading

Second goal for the Year of Words: read one fiction book every two weeks.

"If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or tools to write."
-Stephen King

I wanted to make this goal "read one book each week," but I decided that such a goal would be:
a). Too ambitious. Between my own, glacial reading speed and all the reading I need to do for school, I decided reading through an entire book each week would be a little too much to accomplish alongside my marathon writing goal and general homework.
b). Too easy to create loopholes. I'm going to be doing a lot of reading for school, but I want to create an opportunity/reason for me to study writing techniques outside of my assigned work. By further limiting myself to fiction, I also force myself to examine the use of writing styles within my own genre.

I'll probably post a preliminary reading list in January.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Year of Words --- Writing

First goal for the Year of Words: write 500,000 words in one year.

Perhaps the best way to learn more about the use of words is to practice using them. I'm  on the edge of 100,000 words for this year, and that only took about three months at a slow pace. So I'm going to be a bit ambitious and aim for 500k next year. I think it's doable. Along the way, I'll post some updates as to what I'm working on, the challenges I'm facing, and maybe even include a few excerpts.

Partially related to this writing element is my trip to London, the Mecca of writing for the English language. I don't know if it's going to be inspiring, stirring, moving, or whatever else for me to be treading the ground and living in the city of so many great writers, but I know I'm going to get a lot out of it regardless.

In addition, the aforementioned creative writing classes that I will be taking at Kingston are going to help me reach this goal through both study and practice of writing.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

Merry Christmas, everyone. Today we celebrate the physical incarnation of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High God.

Let us please bow our heads in silence for a moment in remembrance of this miracle.


Thank you. Now, onward to my Christmas announcement.

Actually, there are two.

First, for those who haven't learned yet, I'm going to be studying abroad in London, England next semester. It's going to be a fantastic and intimidating trip. The school I'll be studying at offers several creative writing classes, certainly more than they offer at my home university, so that will be an exciting learning opportunity. And of course, it goes without mentioning, London is a fantastic city and it will present a number of travel opportunities. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to this.

So my first announcement for next year is that I'll be maintaining a weekly photo blog here. At least once a week I'll upload a selection of photos from my recent travels and activities and include some brief commentary with each one.

Second, my purpose behind starting this blog was to provide structure to my usually scatter-brained interests. My goal is to select a subject, project, or activity each year and devote regular time to studying and practicing that subject for the entire year. During that time, I'll post regular entries detailing my progress, both what I'm learning and what I'm doing.

While my primary goal is to provide a means and incentive for me to channel my unquenchable thirst for knowledge in all things, I also hope that this process will provide some level of insight into the creative process (as many of these topics will be tangentially connected to my work), as well as bring to light a number of otherwise-obscure pieces of knowledge.

So, this coming year has been dubbed:

The Year of Words

Over the next few days I will detail what this means by setting specific goals and expectations for me to reach throughout the year. For now, my stated goal is to study the use of words in as many facets as possible before this time next year. This will include: reading, writing, grammar, definition, and metaphor, among others.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Few Notes From This Semester

Here are a few excerpts from my notebook this past semester. They're just some ideas that I would like to use in my stories at some point.

--> Fantasy in space. Fully and completely. Not just, "Oh, Star Wars is basically fantasy in space." No, I'm talking elves, dwarves, dragons, magic swords, straight-up D&D archetypes mixed with aliens, space cruisers, strange planets, etc. Maybe even use the classic "Chosen One" setup with an intergalactic setting.
Yeah, it'd be ridiculous. But it'd be a lot of fun as well.

--> Elemental magicians are able to speak with their elements as though they're people. For example, a fire magician might talk to the flame of a candle to learn about its feelings, but then cry when the candle is snuffed out. Obviously, an idea that makes more sense in execution than in theory. Makes for some interesting character developments.

--> What if the Chosen One (TM) was never found until he was in his mid-40s, complete with a wife and kids and everything?

--> What if the Chosen One (TM), after years of trying to be the Hero, turned out to be an ordinary person?

--> What if the Chosen One (TM) was chosen for Evil purposes instead of Good ones?

--> What if the Scrappy Rebels (TM) tried to overthrow the Evil Empire (TM) and unintentionally founded a More Evil Empire (TM) in the process?

-->A man goes on a killing spree because he WANTS to be thrown into jail. Why?

So a lot of potentially subversive approaches to the Chosen One idea. I guess I've been thinking about the typical fantasy setup lately.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Birthday Shoutouts

Happy Birthday, Rebecca!

This post is dedicated to my sister, whom I love very much. She is twenty years old today and on the other side of the world.

I miss you, Becca. Hope you're having a wonderful time and I can't wait to see you again. Study hard, stay safe. See you in June/July.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

And So What We Have Learned...

Shorter post today. Wanted to take a moment to reflect on a few things I've learned about my work habits over the course of this past semester.

First, the bad.

Late Night Writing Is Not Effective

There were several times this semester when I made myself stay up until I finished an assignment. It didn't work. Usually, I would tell myself to work on the assignment, but I'd end up distracting myself with online crap, fiddly work only semi-related to the assignment, or just general moping about how much I still needed to do on the assignment. In the end, I hardly ever got the assignment done, and I would have to walk into class the next morning with little or no sleep and my tail between my legs. It was a humiliating, depressing, and humbling experience. Essentially, I need to work more on planning ahead and, more importantly, working ahead of schedule.
Larger projects are best dealt with by working at it over a long period of time. This is a concept that I have practiced repeatedly with my fiction writing, yet I can never seem to master with my academic writing. So that'll be something to improve in the coming year.

Okay, now on to the good stuff.

Outlines Are Wonderful

I am slowly, very slowly, developing a proficiency with using outlines. My enthusiasm for outlines, however, has never been higher. Late in the semester -- I'm talking last two weeks here -- I finally grasped some simple outlining techniques that vastly improved my writing process. Being so late, and thus lacking any chance to revise, I don't know how much these techniques helped to improve my writing itself, but the process of writing longer papers (particularly at the last minute) became bearable with outlining.
So I'm planning on applying these tricks to my fiction writing as well. Naturally, the basic, overall-structure outline is useful for knowing where the story is going and when certain events occur. However, a smaller, more sketchy outline quickly hashed out at the beginning of a scene or section of the story (or paper) can help to organize the main points I want to make in the following section of writing. This is especially helpful when in the middle or at the end of a day of writing.
I regularly experience the phenomenon of inspiration weaving in and out of the writing process. Ideas stream into my mind for other areas of the writing even as I write the segment I'm working on. Thus, ideas have the possibility of getting jumbled up in the midst of writing. This is especially true when I have a surge of inspiration for the next scene/segment pertaining to structure of ideas or particular turns of phrase that I want to incorporate. I can easily forget these elements as I'm writing the current scene or as I try to write to that point in the next scene. So, sketching out a brief, rough outline for the next section can help me to remember those ideas. Also, at the end of my writing day, when I might have a cluster of ideas for the next day's writing, I can sketch out an outline to remind me of those ideas when I start the next day.
So yeah, good idea.

Productivity Breeds Productivity

This is the one I'm most excited about.
The more I work, the more I want to work. The more progress I make in my writing and on a particular project, the more progress I am able to make. The faster I can write. The better I can write. The more passionate I am about writing. This is the most peculiar phenomenon that has occurred to me in the past six months. Of course, there are rough days and slow days and days that I don't want to press through to my word counts. But in the long run, I'm more excited about writing with each passing day that I write.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Return and Updates

Okay, so it's been a while since I've been able to post anything and it's been even longer since my last update. I'm done with finals, back from school, and all rested up. So it's time to return to work. So let's go through a quick rundown on both and talk about this year's projects in preparation for next year's prospects.

Declaration -- NaNo 2010

This project is done, as I said. At this point, I'm waiting to hear back from some alpha-readers about what they think. I may return to it for some revision later on in my career. For now, though, this project is done. It was good practice and an enjoyable experience. Unless I have some particular nugget of wisdom to share about it or I receive an especially entertaining comment from my alpha readers, I'm going to put this one to rest for a while. You shouldn't be hearing about it at all in the coming year.


As I've mentioned before, this was my semester project for the Fall. It went well, I had a good run that brought me through about half of my prepared outline. Unfortunately, it has since stalled out a bit for a number or reasons. I'm trying to finish off another story arc before the end of the year, but my progress has been slacking. I'm still really excited about this project, but I think I need to sit down with what I have in order to redevelop some of the initial world-building and character development. In any case, this is probably a project that will be put away for most of the new year. I may return to it during the summer or revive it for my Fall project next year, but for the time being I'm intending to keep it under wraps.


Lots of potential here. That's all I can really say about it right now. I've had a number of conceptual breakthroughs on what to do with the story -- where it's at, where it's going, what I need to do to fix it, etc. -- but I'm still only at the read-through stage. I haven't been able to examine it structurally or develop a working outline for it. I haven't been able to nail down any more of its world-building or character development. When am I going to get around to all of these things? I don't know. Right now, I'm just wanting to produce a large quantity of works in order to develop my techniques, styles, and voice as a writer. I want to explore a number of different situations, characters, themes, genres, and ideas before I dedicate two years of myself to polishing up one project. So yeah, right now Runic is on the background, but it's going to get it's proper treatment one of these days.

Other Projects

My goodness, so much I haven't directly worked on, yet has received tremendous boosts of inspiration from this semester. I'm getting much better at conceiving, hatching, and developing a concept, and I'm really excited and (dare I say it?) proud of some of the ones I've found this semester. Maybe I'll do a whole post on that sometime. Sure, it'd make for an entertaining way to follow my own mind from "oh-my-goodness-fantastic" excitement over an idea through "I-can't-believe-I-thought-this-was-good" disappointment over an idea until it reaches "okay-I-think-I-have-something-workable" acceptance of an idea.

Alright, that's all for now. Tomorrow (next time?) I'm going to take a minute to think back on the school semester and see if I can't identify a few things I've learned.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Another Thought on Interdependency

Sorry for disappearing for a few days there. I'm in the midst of Finals Week at school, so things have been a bit busy. I'm back with another thought about series, though.

Upon further reflection, I realized that there was a category of novels that I was leaving out of my original analysis for ongoing series. I don't really have a proper designation for it yet, though it's probably a more accurate representation of the independent style.

See, there's this whole sub-genre of stories like The Dresden Files and a lot of mystery novels, such as the works of Agatha Christie, where you have a single protagonist spread out over several books, but the stories are otherwise generally unrelated. Sure, you might have a character here or a plot element there that played a minor role in one book take center stage in a later one, but that has more to do with the author mining earlier works for inspiration than it does with an effort to craft an overarching, interconnected tale.

With this in mind, I suppose it's worth re-evaluating the different designations I provided and/or re-categorizing some of the works that I filed away in that post (Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings especially.) For now, though, I think I'll just leave off with the brief recognition of my ignorance above.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Interdependence in a Series

Alright, now we're finally getting around to what I wanted to talk about with the start of my reaction to the Tor article last week.

To recap, I talked about endings in novels and the necessity for a book to have a self-contained story. Then I talked about how everything in a novel is dependent on what you say elsewhere in that novel. Main idea I'm getting at here is that everything is interconnected.

Obvious, I know.

Now we come to this question though: Does each novel absolutely have to stand alone?

The way I see it, there are at least three distinct ways to deal with a large, multi-book series. A series can be comprised of independent elements, interdependent elements, or codependent elements.

In a series made up of independent elements, each novel stands on its own as a more-or-less complete story. Each book, however, also includes elements that contribute to the overarching story that is being told across the series.
The best example of this in recent memory is probably Harry Potter. At its core, each book covers the span of one year and features its own distinct plotline, independent of the overarching series. For the most part, you can read each book without much introduction or surrounding context and come out of it with a solid understanding of what happened. Yes, some of the later ones begin to contribute more to the larger story and thus require a little bit of context, but they're still structured to tell a story with a distinct beginning, middle, and end. You might think, "Hey, don't all stories do that?" Well... we'll see.
(By the way, from what I know about it, The Wheel of Time largely behaves this way as well. Each book in the series presents a specific problem and the characters spend their time trying to deal with that problem while others arise and further world/character/story development takes place around this main event. Thus, it is very episodic in nature -- which is another way of describing this style of storytelling. However, I have not yet read The Wheel of Time, so I can't comment further on its use of this technique with any authority. Once I have, however, I may return to this discussion.)

In a series made up of interdependent elements, each novel has a relatively clear arc, but the plotline is a bit less distinct. In addition, there is a lot more "bleed through" between the individual books. It's clear very early on that the story won't end with the first book. Thus, although each book has a noticeably-contained plot, none of the books are expected to stand on their own. The resolution of one book sets the stage for the beginning of the next book, constantly building the series toward the giant, cataclysmic climax at the end of the series.
The best example of this from recent fiction has been Brandon Sanderson's work. While Mistborn is his only series that has been completed, The Way of Kings sets the stage for this kind of story even better than The Final Empire did. There's definitely a climax to each of his books, but it's very clear that that ending is nowhere near The End for the series. Heck, even the end of Hero of Ages started setting the stage for a sequel trilogy (which Sanderson has said is coming at some point.)
(Again, from what I know about the series, the later books from The Wheel of Time might fit well into this category. And again, once I have gotten around to reading the series, I will have more to comment on this.)

In a series made up of codependent elements, the entire series should be treated as one novel. There is so much "bleed through" in each book that you can't even take a break between each one. You have to keep reading from one into the next into the next in order to keep track of what's going on and where everyone is. There's no definite story arc in any book (though there are major events that occur, they aren't always at the predictable points in the three-act structure), and there's no clear end in sight until you actually reach The End. This makes the series much more difficult (as in "requiring more mental effort") to read, but also much more immersive, as the story is often hidden beneath layers of world-building and character development.
The absolute epitome of this style of story-telling is George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. I can never tell where the next turn of the story is going to take me, and I don't care because I'm so absorbed in the characters' lives and emotions and the rich conflicts and settings that he weaves together throughout the series. Yes, there are memorable, major events that occur throughout the series, and many of these are often situated near the end of each book, but it's not structured or told in a way that makes us feel like we're getting a big "action set piece" at the end of each book.
Another reasonable example of this from recent memory is J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. This isn't as apparent as Martin because you are constantly aware of an eventual goal, instead of being swept away in the immersion. However, the simple fact is that no one part of The Lord of the Rings can stand alone. It's basically one book broken up for the ease of publishing.
That's probably the most important element of a codependent series, it's essentially one book that's been separated into multiple parts for one reason or another.

Alright. That's done with now. I'm going to let my thoughts settle and get back to you with another topic later.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Runic Progress

Okay, so not an insightful rambling, but still wanted to mention this.

I finished my reread of Runic today. First step of editing: complete.

Now it's time to go through it all over again, but this time with the intent of taking judicious notes.

So yeah, this is exciting for me. Runic is the first novel I ever finished. It's not good, but I think it still has potential. So now it's going to be the first novel I ever revise/rewrite.
Truly, it is an exciting day.

Still, though, I'm kind of disappointed. I had initially planned to read through this text during my first couple weeks back at school, but now here I am about to enter Finals week and I'm just now finishing the read-through.
Oh well. It's not a big deal. And with all the other progress I've made this semester (finishing NaNo, writing so much of Godslayers, reading Way of Kings, etc.), it's hard to be disappointed with what I've accomplished. It's also not surprising that I was a bit too ambitious and that some things had to fall by the wayside during all of this productivity.

From here, it's going to be an even greater uphill climb. I write very sloppy first drafts. Characters are flat, settings are underdeveloped, plots are paper-thin, etc. I generally seem to have a solid concept of structure and theme, even if those things don't always make themselves apparent until the end.
I'm confident of my ability to rework this thing (and if I'm not, I'm still going to fake it for the sake of trying). It's just going to take a lot of effort.

But hey, I knew about that when I signed up for this job.

Back to work now.

Dependency in Novels

I mentioned this at the end of my last post. I realize that I'm probably a bit vague in what I mean when I say "dependency." So, for what it's worth, I will attempt to clarify.

A specific reader's ability to read a particular novel is dependent on several factors within that novel (so not lack of time, or distracting surroundings, or other external factors such as these.) The novel needs to help the reader understand its contents if it wants to communicate whatever story or idea it is trying to communicate.

A few examples. Each novel needs to introduce its characters in such a way that the readers begin to get to know them. If the author assumes that we already know everything about their sassy detective before we open the book... well, let's just say we're going to have a hard time connecting with the character and understanding when he suddenly spirals down into a depression halfway through the story.
In addition, each novel needs to introduce and communicate its setting, explaining the look, feel, and/or layout of specific locations as well as the general feel of society beyond our lead character(s). Without this, we don't really care whether or not the character succeeds because we don't understand how he relates to the world around him. In addition, it makes it damned hard to figure out where or what anyone or anything is and we thus begin to feel like we're simply living inside of this character's head the entire time. Very cerebral, but also rather confusing.

Hopefully that explains a little bit of what I mean about dependency. It's this idea that you need to establish one thing before you can move on to another. And it's the novel's responsibility to help the reader understand what's going on by describing more than just a series of events. (Although, there is a certain level of dependency that applies to plot. Foreshadowing, red herrings, etc. Various tools and gadgets to track the path of our protagonist and the events surrounding him to reach a believable conclusion.)

So if you haven't taken the time to establish that Billy Joe Bob, the detective repairman, owns a gun and has had extensive training with firearms due to his service back in the Gulf War, then you can't have him go off on a rampage through the seedy underbelly of City A in his attempt to rid his neighborhood of crime. It just wouldn't be believable.

There are, of course, some things that are harder to establish than others. It's kind of difficult to prepare your readers for the introduction of a shapeshifting demon as the villain in the second act when you've spent your entire first act examining the protagonist's psychological profile with near-clinical precision. Blending science and the supernatural is always tricky.
In that case, you have to weigh your pros and cons. Maybe it'll turn out that this particular story you want to tell isn't especially telllable. I've scrapped over a dozen well-developed ideas because I decided that they simply didn't work in this medium (or, at the very least, I'm not skilled enough of a craftsman to make it work in this medium.) In other situations, you might decide that you simply need to modify the structure of your story or that the risk of losing some of your readers with a potentially ridiculous plot development is worth it for the awesomeness that you'll be able to introduce into the story because of it.
There isn't really a good answer here. But you need to make sure that you support each and every element of your story in an amount proportional to its prominence in the work. Otherwise, everything is going to fall flat as it collapses under the unsupported weight of your one undeveloped, anti-dependent story element.

It's all connected, after all.

Next time, I think I'm going to talk about how this idea of dependency applies on a larger scale.

(By the way, that story with the psych-profile and the demon actually exists. And it works. Some people are kind of thrown off by the appearance of the demon, thinking that it came out of nowhere. But the rest of the book uses it in a comprehensive-enough way that it makes up for the sudden shift to supernatural. It's called I am not a Serial Killer, by Dan Wells. Check it out. The detective repairman veteran of the Gulf War, or whatever, isn't actually in a story yet. You're welcome to use him if you'd like. Though... now that I think about it, it might be fun to write about such a ridiculous character. We'll see.)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Endings in Novels

So I was reading a review of Brandon Sanderson's newest project The Way of Kings over at, , and I found the author making a relevant point about the book not standing on its own. Now, when I read this I thought, "So? It's going to be a ten-book epic. Who cares as long as it makes sense in the end?"

Then I thought about it a bit more.

It makes sense. Even when a story obviously stretches beyond the tome you hold in your hands, when you've reached the back cover after consuming the contents of each and every page, you should feel some form of ending. You should be able to go, "Ah, yes. We can take a break now. Things have reached a point of tenuous stasis."

Yeah, I know, I know. What about cliffhanger endings? What about foreshadowing into the next story? What about... etc.

That's all fine. However, we should be able to identify a concrete story and arc within the contents of each installment. As readers, we need something to track and follow so that we can identify the disparate elements of your story, whether it's a single novel or an ongoing series of tales. We have to see what happens when in order to identify the change (or lack thereof) within your characters and within your world.

This works at all levels of storytelling.

-Series: Giving us distinct elements (individual books) lets us identify a period of time or a collection of events or a specific emotional state and then compare that to how the overarching story is behaving. Not to mention it helps us remember where "That one part" is.

-Novel: Separating a particularly large book into parts (like Brandon Sanderson or J.R.R. Tolkien do) isn't as necessary for me. However, I would be very much a hypocrite if I didn't recognize that doing so can be an effective tool for shaping your emotional narrative and constructing a specific experience for your reader. Fellowship of the Ring would have been a vastly different experience for its readers if it hadn't had that one page or so identifying a break in sections to make you think, if only for a moment, that Frodo was dead.

-Part: Again, breaking up a particular portion (or the entirety) of a novel into individuated chapters isn't as great of a necessity. Terry Pratchett gets along just fine without, after all. And when it comes down to it, you don't need to break up your story at all. Just tell it in one continuous stream of text stretching on through 800,000 pages. (Your publisher will love that.) In fact, don't even use paragraphs, or punctuation, or even spaces -- all the more to lessen the separation between your thoughts and the reader's mind. (Joyce, ancient Greek, Latin... I'm lookin' at you three sittin' over there.)
Fact is, folks, we need organization to improve comprehension. If you aren't being intentional with it, then it probably doesn't need to be there. Every punctuation mark needs to have a purpose. Every sentence needs to have a purpose. Every paragraph needs to have a purpose. Every chapter needs to have a purpose. Every book needs to have a purpose.
Right, tangent done with. Where was I?
In a similar way to your series, the individual novels that make up that series, and the various parts that make up each novel, each chapter should have present a complete thought, idea, or emotional experience. Each chapter should -- with some minimal explanation of context -- stand on its own as accomplishing something within the greater body of text. It should organize for us, the readers, some subset of your ideas. Whether that subset is clarifying your greater point or going off into a tangent to introduce a new, hopefully contrasting, idea is of lesser consequence than the fact that it is working within the idea framework of your novel (and possibly your greater work as well, which should in turn be fitting into the larger body of literature).

I could go on by further discussing chapter, paragraph, sentence, and further. But I won't.

I could also probably go on further with the topic of how your ideas, as represented in your writing, fit in with those of other knowledge-workers both before and after. But I won't

I could certainly go into further detail about how your ideas should permeate the entirety of your written work. But, again, I won't.

I think I will take some time to talk about dependency in a novel series, specifically the different kinds of dependency, next time.

Monday, December 6, 2010

NaNo 2010 Novel Complete

Well, that's that. The beast is dead.
Even though I "won" NaNo about a week ago, the story wasn't quite finished, so I had to keep it up for about 10k more words.

Today I put the final (optional) finishing touches on the draft. It was quite an experience to actually do NaNo right and finish it out through to the end. (I'm curious now as to how far my other efforts reached and if they would breeze by as easily as this one did now that I have some practice. Maybe we'll see some day.)

Overall, the experience was highly validating. Which I realize is the point; the NaNo organizers put on this show every year (with all its fantastic support) for the sole purpose of boosting the confidence of thousands of budding (and some experienced, no doubt) writers. And that's a great service to the writing community.

For me, this year it was simply a crazy gamble. About three days before NaNo started I thought, "You know, I'm kind of reaching a dry spot on my current project, I could probably use a break from it. Why not NaNo?"

So there I was, three days to prepare and about to leap off into a whirlwind of production unrivaled by anything I've done before. Sure, I've been writing consistently almost every day since the semester started, but this? This was borderline crazy. November is always one of the busiest months of the school year, especially for English majors. I had to be batty to think that I could triple my word count per day for an entire month, especially November.

Low and behold, the first day came and I produced well more than the required word count. I even had some energy left to go on, but I figured I should do the responsible thing and actually work on that homework I was so worried about.

The first week was fantastic, setting me on track to finish by the 25th or something.

Week two was rough as anything. The momentum from exploring the world and the characters and their interactions was starting to slow and I was having to let them do stuff, like make mistakes and drive the plot forward. (Note to self, something to work on: Allowing characters to drive plot.)

Week three came and I was barely on track with my word count and way off track with my outline. The sci-fi military heist thriller I thought I was writing had turned into a corporate mining drama somewhere in the middle of week two and now week three was devoted to living through the ramifications of that shift in tone.

Week four started out strong, but somebody decided to have NaNo in the same month as Thanksgiving, so I lost a whole day there. Once that was over I was able to get started on the word counts again and, with a little help from the buffer that I hadn't quite exhausted from earlier in the month, I hit 50k by the end of the week. NaNo was over.

...but not quite. I was still trying to pull off my sci-fi military heist thriller, after all, and I was going to get my action-packed ending come hell or high word counts!

So I hunkered down this past week to produce what I estimated would be 5k words to finish off the story and ended up being 10k (of course). But now that's it. The story is told. It's put to rest. It's sent off to friends and family who are clamoring to read it (surprisingly), and now I can turn my attention back to other projects (and homework).

So, a quick forecast before signing off.

"Declaration -- NaNo 2010"
This is finished. It's still in draft form, obviously, but it's a full story, so I'm going to put it to rest.

This will be my main project for the rest of the month. I'm hoping to reach another milestone in my outline before the end of the year, but as I'm easing back into it, I'm wondering if a month was too long to take off. I'm a little disoriented and the characters' voices are a bit thin. On top of that, we ended at a major milestone before NaNo and I'm not really sure how to deal with the fallout from those events. (Two things I learned from the NaNo: 1. Letting your characters guide the story is quite an exciting ride of emotional discovery, but I am horribly inexperienced at it. 2. I have difficulty filling the "slower" bits in between the major plot twists.) I'm going to hold myself to a modest word count for the rest of the month and I'm going to focus that word count on "Godslayers" here, but I'm probably going to have to read through it again and do another month or so of development and outlining before I can really make some significant progress. That'll probably be my project for the summer.

I've only got fifty pages left to read on what I had hoped would be my semester-long revision project. Well, plans go awry. I would like to at least finish reading through this time here and (hopefully) identify some structural concerns so I can start outlining the second draft for me to write over the summer.

Class Projects:
Shakespeare presentation and paper due within a week. Lord of the Rings presentation and paper slightly overdue, but I talked to the professor. I'm hoping I don't botch these up like I sometimes do with final papers, because I really like these classes and I'm actually interested in the topics I'm researching (especially the LotR one).

This is going to be the big one. I need to start developing one of my larger stories to be my writing project while I'm in England. I want to do something that I've been "working on" for a long time. One of those peripheral ideas that I keep holding off on, even though I keep doing bits and pieces of worldbuilding, because I don't think I'm ready or whatever. I want to take the stuff I've learned this semester and attack this project head-on. Unfortunately, that means I need to decide what project it's going to be within the next few days here so I'll actually have time to develop it before diving into word counts for January.

Phew. Alright. Kind of a heavy load. But that's okay. I'm looking forward to it.
I think tomorrow I'll take some time to talk about an author I admire. This one was far too much about me.
Tune in on the 25th for some fun news about next year.