Day 31: Now bring me that horizon

So here we are, at the end of my little experiment. 🙂

My title today comes from a movie about pirates, because I love pirates and the inherent hope in sailing towards something you can’t quite see. That makes my romantic version of piracy a suitable metaphor for this blog and the novel that goes with it…after all, there were many other ways I could have spent this month, and a myriad of excuses that would have absolved me of my guilt if I had decided to give up along the way. But this project breaks the cycle: this novel was a leap of faith in the face of my entire life history of looking for newer and shinier things. No matter what comes next, that will always be awesome.

However, as it is the final day of the month, now is the time to acknowledge where I stand and what comes next. As soon as this novel is done, I am going to give myself a little vacation as a reward. Even when I took breaks this month, they did not last long and the novel wasn’t far from my mind, so I think it might be good for me. Because my school semester will not have started yet, I can use the first week of August to breathe and enjoy other people’s stories for a change. I plan to go back to knitting and other computer-free hobbies that I used to enjoy, while watching TV shows not on a computer screen as much as possible.

After my break, I will come back to writing and editing, but hopefully in a less-laptop-obsessed way. I’ll be trying to achieve more of a balance for my own health and the happiness of my family. 🙂 My first priority will be passing my terribly-rough draft to my partner for an initial read-through. I don’t read as well on a screen, so he’ll flag whatever he sees for me to look at in my first revision. My second priority will be plotting and writing the prequel to my current draft, the first story in the series. I’m going to strive to fit that in around my other responsibilities because when November’s NaNoWriMo comes up I’d like to be able to write something completely different and already have my MirrorWorld stories progressing.

I do not intend to abandon this blog, as it is my first really successful one, in terms of continuous progress. I will be taking the first week in August off, though, because I won’t be working on my novel–and then when I return, I will be posting a bit less frequently. You can expect to see 3-4 posts here per week instead of one every day. They will deal with revision and constructive critique as well as the continual process of writing. You can also find more of my work at In Want of a Reader, the short story blog I contribute to, and I will be posting there more regularly once my first draft is done.

After my first giant revision is complete based on my own observations and my partner’s wonderful help, I’ll probably expand my early readership to the readers and writers who’ve asked/offered to do so. I think that after that second round of feedback, I could be ready to do what comes next–which for me is probably researching literary agents, query letters, and all of that.

Honestly, the only goal I cared about was writing a novel before I turned thirty. With focus, looking out for my health, and good time management, it’s possible I could actually have two or three written instead before that deadline arrives. But that would just be a bonus, because I faced my nonspecific fear and wrote a novel, so nothing will be harder than that for me. The fact that I feel like there’s potential buried deep in it is even more wonderful and unexpected.

I finished my first draft at exactly midnight. If I hadn’t stopped to look up a word, it would have been done at 11:59, but I’m okay with that. It was an important word. Now that my first draft is done, this blog will be re-branded to follow my journey beyond the first thirty days, as I muddle my way through whatever comes next. In case I forgot to mention it before, thank you so much for reading. 🙂 Having company as I went along meant the world to me.

Today’s word count: 3,862

Total word count: 76,492

Today’s excerpt: For most of her life, Elle had been a solitary practitioner. Other than family rituals, she had never joined her power with another witch’s magick, and it was incredible. She held on to that feeling, used it to bolster her energy after the attack, and braced for the next. They were strong enough to do this. She believed that with everything inside her, and she would fight until they made it happen.

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Day 31: Now bring me that horizon

Day 30: Small town charm or far off places?

It’s time to talk about setting. 🙂 My current story is set in a small town, because that was my only frame of reference for being a teenager, back when I was one and envisioned this story. It suits the plot fine, too, since I wanted to focus on a relatively small group of characters in a sort-of run down area.

The next story that I write, not-coincidentally, I want to set in Salt Lake City, because that is the city I am most familiar with, and I want that city vibe even though my character spends most of her time at home. That story will involve much less action and much more technology, but it could also use a little downtown flair.

I have never written stories set in places that I am unfamiliar with. Even though I’m terrible at setting a scene anyway, I’ve simply never tried. I know that theoretically I could research a city, or a country, and place my character inside it, but the idea just makes me oddly sad. If I’m going to write about Ireland, or New York City, or Chicago, then I want to have some personal experience with that place before I write it. Maybe it’s the way my brain is different, but I feel like no amount of research could endow me with the feeling of a place I’ve never set foot in. Sure, my character could eat at the local places or work at a downtown shop, but that by itself doesn’t create authenticity.

Additionally, I’ve always had a sort of travel-desperation. I don’t just want to travel. I feel like I need to travel, desperately, even though I know that’s hyperbolic of me. So for me, researching a place I’ve always wanted to go like Ireland or New York City (nothing against Chicago, but I could live without seeing it) would be a tad depressing. Learning about it in facts would just underscore what I think that I could love about it.

I have done some stateside travelling in my time. Thanks to the driving acumen of my partner, I’ve been as far east as Illinois and as far south as California, none of which was true before we met. I could probably write very believably about characters on road trips, in fact, just as I could write convincingly about homelessness or poverty. But touching on a state like Iowa (lovely!) or Nebraska (less than ideal!) is not the same thing as living there, so I’ll likely to stick to writing the few kinds of settings that I know: small Pacific Northwest towns, groovy college cities and polite Midwestern metropolises.

Someday, if we win the lottery, publishing or otherwise, maybe I’ll get to experience new places that I can add to my repertoire. For now, what about you? Do you create characters who live where you have, or where you wish that you did? Do you prefer to research your settings or draw from experience?

Today’s word count: 2,021

Total word count: 72,630

Today’s excerpt: “I spoke to Liam earlier,” Mel said after a moment. “He told me what you said, about being an ostrich.”

Rina laughed. “Did he really call it that?”

“He said you called it that.”

“I did, but he didn’t understand it at the time, so that’s funny.” She sighed. “Yeah, that’s what I said. That’s what I figured out.”

Mel stared at the horizon. She couldn’t see it yet, but the sun was coming. She could feel it.

“I really am sorry, Mel,” Rina blurted out. “I couldn’t tell you, about the visions, and about how scared I was.”

“Couldn’t?”

“Okay, I wouldn’t. If I had told you about it, I would have had to face it, and I wasn’t ready to do that. It was too much for me. But hurting you was never something that I wanted to be doing. It wasn’t like me, this last year, and I’m sorry.”

Day 30: Small town charm or far off places?

Day 29: Little balls of sunshine in a bag

If you recognize the title of today’s post as a line from The Golden Girls, then you get extra points for being awesome. 🙂 For those who lack the context, that line is delivered by a character who is extremely sleep-deprived, and begins hallucinating/being adorable. The same character also does a lot of writing during her period of awakeness, which is why the expression is relevant to my topic.

When Blanche of The Golden Girls is exhausted and thinks she has been writing brilliantly, she re-reads her work the next day to learn that it is terrible gibberish. I myself am exhausted and heading to bed soon, but earlier I wrote a little to keep a friend company. And during the first week of this month, when I was writing thousands of words at a time, I wrote while tired all the time. I needed to write, so I learned that I could write even when I felt too tired to focus.

I haven’t re-read my earlier work since I skimmed it for excerpts, which was weeks ago while I was still in the center of the madness. Therefore, I can’t say whether my writing is better or worse when I am writing while tired. I don’t feel like the end result is any worse, but I’m also not sure that I would know if it was–I have no way of knowing which paragraphs were written at certain points during the day, after all.

Obviously, it would be ideal to only write when I am at my most awake and focused. However, the ideal rarely matches up with the reality. I wait for others to join me, or I’m focusing on other activities, and I end up writing into the night when I could have begun in the early morning.

Some of that I believe will improve over time. The more that I write, the better I become at writing on my own and “just starting” without so much procrastination. Beginning in August, I have also promised my partner that I will take longer, more frequents breaks from my (currently) constant computer usage. With extra time spent reading, watching DVDs, or doing puzzles, maybe the time that I do allow for computer access will become more focused when I’m writing.

What about you? Do you write better or worse when you’re tired?

Today’s word count: 2,004

Total word count: 70,609

Today’s excerpt: McKenna flinched, saying nothing. She could remember Coralie when they met, small and frightened. And while she took full responsibility for arming and training her to be a warrior, she still couldn’t stomach the idea of that wilted girl left to die. She saw too much of herself in Coralie, and damn it, she had done for Coralie exactly what she wished someone had done for her when she was alone and scared. She couldn’t be sorry for that.

Day 29: Little balls of sunshine in a bag

Day 28: Love stories, and other Taylor Swift songs

I have always been a lover of love stories. I’ve loved love since I was too young to know anything about it. I was obsessed with fictional portrayals of it long before I ever experienced the real thing. So while now I know much more than I once did about lasting love, the difficult but worthwhile kind, my heart is still a hopeless romantic, and always will be.

My current novel deals with different kinds of love. There’s the doomed love, that shouldn’t exist or cannot survive. There’s unrequited love, though that one is more implied than openly dealt with. And, there’s a love triangle.

I feel a little bad about that last one, because it is, in fact, a love triangle involving one brunette girl and two brunette guys, and you can see that almost anywhere you look, especially in TV. My books are not vampire-based, but Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel: the Series, and Vampire Academy alone feature that same dynamic, and those are just within that subgenre of entertainment!

In my defense, I came up with the idea long before several of those shows/series existed, and absolutely before the love triangle exploded into YA culture. It’s always been a thing, but it wasn’t central to most plots when I was a teen myself. Secondly in my defense, my love triangle is a girl caught between two guys who are essentially the same guy, just from parallel worlds. That, I hope, is a little less common.

Doomed love exists for me in more than one of my story’s pairings. I enjoy tragic love, the kind that you love until it rips your heart out, because a story that hurts you has made you care, and as the genius-god Joss Whedon taught me in my youth, it’s better to be heartbroken by an artist than indifferent towards their work.

Unrequited love can be beautiful too, but it’s probably my least favorite, and thus not really explored in my story. There are a couple of happy endings in my book, and a few terrible ones. But unrequited is not the same to me as deeply felt but not acted upon, or mutually understood but never spoken.

To me, exploring a character’s feelings when they love someone who will not ever return them is simply unrewarding. I think that in real life, that is not the case, but I feel that way as a writer, at least with these particular characters, so I wouldn’t know how to write that love story if I tried. I did allude to it where it existed, though, because while my characters had more important things to deal with, it did feel necessary to note.

Do you have a favorite type of love story? What kinds do you write most often?

Today’s word count: 2,009

Total word count: 68,605

Today’s excerpt: Coralie lurked, thinking about what a good ninja she would have been. Or a spy. In another life, maybe, she could have used her new powers for good, gained through horror but unleashed to fight evil. She could have been a superhero, if only she hadn’t been destined to be a villain instead.

Day 28: Love stories, and other Taylor Swift songs

Day 27: A flash of inspiration

Today, as I was writing, I had a sudden insight into my ending. Those storylines that I needed to weave together presented me, as if by magic, with the perfect way to make that happen, and it was right there all along in the plots that I had been moving forward. Obviously, since this is a first draft and I’m not comfortable thinking of it as good yet, when I say “perfect,” I mean serviceable. But even a serviceable convergence was more than I had before, and it was an amazing feeling.

I have never finished a story before. Even my short stories tend to be left hanging in the air, because that’s the way that I think and write–wrapping things up, ending them, even temporarily, makes me sad as someone who likes to live in worlds indefinitely. This is relevant today because I have never reached the climax of a novel and had to create a convergence before, so I wasn’t entirely sure if I could.

Those inspirational moments are the epitome of writing magic for me. My current story began when I was so young that a lot of the basic structure of it came from the people around me. I asked a friend for an idea that she thought I should write, and it sparked this novel, which never left me even when I wasn’t writing it. I turned my friends and classmates into characters, giving some the choice of what their characters should look like or do. One character is even based on a friend’s grandmother who I barely knew, simply because I was in a car with her and she answered that her character should “help everyone.”

Most of these early ideas were edited out over time. My brunette main character became a blonde, my blonde main character became Jewish, and my female villain is no longer an Australian redhead paired with a Scottish antagonist that was basically a taller Ewan McGregor…as wonderful as I thought that original pairing was. My characterization has hopefully matured along with me over time. Even my main villain in this novel was originally meant to be female, than planned as a boy instead, then switched back to being a girl when I started really writing.

However, in those very early stages, I occasionally had wonderful moments, when a friend would tell me that they wanted their particular character to be a certain way, and I would think, “How on earth will that work with what I’ve already got?” Then as I pondered it, it would click into place in a way that solved a problem I was already facing, or that sent the story in an even better direction. Those were my favorite moments, even when I wasn’t really writing the story. That click as things slide into place, and your novel resettles to accommodate them, and you like the result even better than what you already had.

That is probably my favorite part of the writing process.

Today’s word count: 2,128

Total word count: 66,596

Today’s excerpt: Elle sighed. “With luck, those crazy kids will get it out of their system so we can get things done and everyone can go home happy.”

Mel smirked. “Or they won’t be able to sit in the same room together and we’ll all be doomed.”

“Even odds, I’d say,” Elle agreed, looking up as though she could see them through the ceiling. “But I prefer to be optimistic.”

Day 27: A flash of inspiration

Day 26: Writer’s block, blogging edition

Writer’s block is one of those things that people argue about, like writing muses. There’s a “it exists and is important camp,” and a “it’s a myth/excuse and the only way to write is keep writing” camp. Honestly, I don’t belong to a particular camp, as I think writer’s block is a very personal thing and I’m not interested in putting my opinion upon other people. But I did want to discuss it, because it was a major worry of mine before beginning this project.

What was I supposed to do when I had nothing to say? What if I couldn’t put my fingers to keys and keep going? What if I got stuck?

While I have a had a few off-days, I haven’t really faced writer’s block during this month. I give credit to the high-pressure environment of a huge goal in a short timeframe for helping me avoid that problem: when you’re just sprinting for your life to hit your word count, writer’s block isn’t really an option. You have to keep writing, even if you’re writing absolute nonsense. You’ll sort it out later, just keep going. That has been my successful mantra this month.

However, while my novel has flowed pretty smoothly–in terms of size, not readability–I realized as I faced Day 26 here that I seem to have developed writer’s block here on this blog. I stared at the screen, unable to think of anything novel-adjacent to discuss, and wondered if maybe I had used up all the words that there were. Forever.

Then I acknowledged that I was feeling over-dramatic and decided to solve my problem by discussing my problem. 🙂

A really good writer, or good blogger, if they had memory problems, would make sure to write things down always. This would give them a store of ideas for the dry spells, allowing them to fall back on their more creative days when need be. Sadly, I did not do such a brilliant thing, instead never thinking beyond the next couple of days’ worth of posts. Thus I present you with a post inspired by a conundrum–if you’ve gotten so used to writing that you’ve run out of novel topics surrounding your writing, what on earth do you blog about without muddying your blog’s purpose?

I don’t yet have an answer to that question, so I will instead leave you with a question of your own. Do you experience writer’s block? If so, how do you cope with it?

Today’s word count: 2,014

Total word count: 64,468

Today’s excerpt: “I wasn’t safe, though,” she said regretfully. “It was stupid, what I did, I can see that now. I was an ostrich.”

Liam made a face, unable to follow her conversational shift.

“Head in the sand?” she tried again. His puzzlement remained. “I was pretending that if I ignored my life, everything I didn’t like about it would go away.”

Day 26: Writer’s block, blogging edition

Day 25: Standalone storylines

As my novel stands now, the eight main characters have formed into three divergent, occasionally colliding storylines. I had not planned much of the story before writing it, and the ending is not an exception to that: I know where things need to stand at the beginning of the book following this one, but that really has little to do with the events of this book, beyond the antagonists of this story no longer being around.

So now I face two issues. First, I need to find a way for my three groups of characters to converge at the climax of the story, even though they are very separated currently. And second, I need to figure out how this story ends. Do any characters die? If none die, how will the antagonists be justly dealt with? Preferably, I will solve those two issues concurrently–that is, the characters converging will naturally lead to a conclusion and a just end for all involved. I just need to work out how I get there.

At the same time, part of this major plot arc may involve bringing back into the picture the two main characters that I essentially spun off from the other six and then completely ignored for a long time. It’s not that they bored me or anything–I love them actually, and their relationship. But in order for their connection to develop, they had to be alone together. That means that it may be difficult to pull them back into the main plot, at least with any realistic feel.

The closer that I get to coming up with my Great Idea for everything colliding and sprinting to a finish, the more it seems clear that much will need to be reworked in order to better lead the characters there after the fact. I definitely didn’t put enough work into a few characters to make their arcs feel believable as I contemplate rushing them back together. I won’t mind fixing it in revision, but I do wish that I’d had an ending in mind much sooner on.

What do you think? Is it common to realize that you need to fill out your characters only once you approach the end of a story?

Today’s word count: 2,002

Total word count: 62,454

Today’s excerpt: Elle tilted her head to the side, confused. “That’s not how it works, you know. Your power came to you as a Guardian, but it couldn’t have been fated to be yours if it wasn’t already running through your bloodline.”

Mel blinked. “My bloodline?”

“Power is hereditary. The Guardian spell amplifies what’s already there, coming somewhere from your family. Why do you think it was you who closed the gates the first time and not Rina?”

“Honestly, I just sort of volunteered, it wasn’t some big conspiracy,” Mel replied, thinking back to how young they were then. “Someone had to do it, and neither of us had a clue. I just thought maybe I could muddle my way through it and protect everybody.”

“Well, not to sound like I’m part of the big conspiracy or anything, but that was fate, not chance. Somewhere inside you, you did know what to do and how to do it. Your Guardian powers just pulled that forth.”

Mel was quiet for a long time, thinking this over. She could replay the last few years in her mind, seeing how dulled she felt around the edges before and how alive she felt after, and begin to forgive herself for what she saw as benefiting from the consequences of an enemy’s death. Maybe it was supposed to happen, maybe it had been fated to lead her there. Maybe she couldn’t have stopped it.

Day 25: Standalone storylines