Here’s my Blog Battle entry for this week, in the genre of fantasy, with the theme word of “selfie.”
I especially enjoyed writing something placed in my own fantasy setting from my novel Diffraction.
I hear their voices long before I see them. Footfalls echo in the
halls. Laughter and commentary resounds off the palace’s high ceiling and polished marble floors.
“Look at this piece,” the man says. “Astounding… like what a falcon
in flight must see from on high over the City’s towers.” He sounds
refined, educated, a man of wealth and relative ease. Probably one of the City’s many so-called Ministers–men and women whose title implies service, something of which they are invariably found only on the receiving end.
“So real,” his companion replies, her soft voice hushed in awe. “I
feel almost faint, as if I might fall through and plummet to my
death.” Too chipper for my taste, too airy. I imagine she’s the upper
class equivalent of dancing girls in the Outskirts–there for show,
not insight. Her voice calls to mind a songbird displayed in a cage,
able to delight for short durations, but insufferable if permitted to
make constant noise.
“Still better to you than the portraits?”
“Much,” she says. “I don’t like the faces. The landscapes at least are
“Reminiscent of Serathil’s work,” the man says. “I know that’s what
they all say of Marwen’s paintings, but I had no idea the similarities
would be so striking.”
“Perhaps Marwen leanred some of the same techniques… or more likely stole them.”
Or perhaps I fought for years to master my craft, you coddled child.
What do you have that wasn’t given to you for no other reason than the fortune of your birth or the depth of your bosom?
And then I remember the Visitor years ago–his unhinged personality, inhuman predatory eyes, and alluring offer.
Why did I ever agree?
(continued in the original post)
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This year I set a goal of writing at least 1,000 words per day. Ideally, that means writing every single day, but the sad fact is, real life happens and it’s rarely on friendly terms with our goals.
I stayed just ahead of January and February, but the first week of March beat me down. I want to pretend I tried hard, but I succumbed all too easily to a combination of upper respiratory congestion, heavy duty medication, and—worst of all—a really exceptional new PS4 game. (Read about the culprit here.)
One of the keys to carrying out the goals we set is accountability of some sort. Telling a friend or declaring a new effort on social media is one way of improving our chances. Our commitment is out there for others to challenge. Are we going to follow through on what we said?
Today was one of those days someone asked about Book Two, and I found myself equal parts embarrassed and grateful—glad for someone who asks the question since that’s encouraging, but disappointed by my failure to make progress.
So with all that in mind, I go to my inbox and find reminders for Camp NaNoWriMo which starts in April.
If you’re not familiar, National Novel Writing Month is an event every November where writers crank out new fiction novels of 50,000 words or more, and I’ve participated three years now.
After November, the organization doesn’t just take the rest of the year off; they run less formal events in April and July. Unlike November’s event, Camp NaNoWriMo participants can write whatever style of material they want – musicals, plays, scripts, novels, non-fiction, poetry, whatever. And instead of a hard goal of 50K words, participants set their own goals based on whatever commitment they can make.
The site has incorporated new trackers and resources: you can log word count, or pages, or hours spent if you prefer. Their writing resources page covers a surprising variety of topics from planning to revising and everything in between.
Here’s my commitment: I am going to participate this year, and I’m going to pour my effort into the sequel to Diffraction. NaNoWriMo’s 50K is a bit much. However, if I’m keeping up my normal effort, then I should be writing 30K words throughout April no matter what (including any side projects, blog posts, and personal journal writing). So my happy medium is going to be 40K words put into the draft of Book 2.
This year I aimed to log a daily word count, and this blog post will place me right above 215,000 for 2016. (I should go home and write a thousand words or so, in order to get 216K for 2016… Obviously!)
The management principle is you can’t achieve higher goals without changing what you do, you can’t change what you don’t measure, and you can’t measure what you don’t track. Hence the love-hate relationship many office minions have with spreadsheets, trackers, databases, and anything involving counting beans.
215K per day divides up to under 600 words a day. I know there are programs dedicated to encouraging a minimum 500 words per day, so yay, I met that (on average). Of course my goal–realistic or not–was to hit 1K per day, so I’m way off.
The other day, I went to the gym with a couple co-workers, and made a suggestion. “Whatever else we do, let’s try a pyramid of push-ups and sit-ups,” I said, since those are two of the four components of the Air Force fitness test. If you haven’t done a pyramid before, it’s one push-up, one sit-up, then two of each, then three… Up to some number (ten, I suggested) and back down to one.
I hadn’t done one of these in years, and honestly wasn’t sure how well my ponderous flesh-husk could handle the challenge. The answer was “not well.” I found out right quick where my limits lay.
In the writing arena, much like that pyramid, maybe I bit off more than I could chew by setting a goal like 1k a day. I don’t know, because I never tracked my word count before. Now I have data, so at the end of next year, I can see “Am I doing better? Am I doing about the same? Did I slow down?” To be fair, I understand there can be explanations and reasons for those ups and downs, and I’ll take those into consideration. But having some baseline gives me something to compare against.
It’s the same reason I do well on a diet or fitness plan when I log what I’ve been doing and eating. “I walked the other day, and I did a sit-up of sorts when I got out of bed. I only ate half that pizza. Doin’ pretty good!” I’m far too kind to myself when I don’t have the harsh reality of data challenging me.
Sometimes the word count tracker showed the results of a tough effort. That’s great–part of the benefit. NaNoWriMo of course is a good example (58K in November), and when I tried Camp NaNo in April, that momentum carried into May, my second best month (just under 24K). Sadly, those months of “high” effort are offset by too many relaxed months where I barely topped 10K. I’ll log word counts again next year, even though there are swaths of blocks with a big angry 0.
I know this is a time for new resolutions and personal commitments. A big part of setting that goal is finding a way to track progress — the ‘M’ in the SMART goal setting acronym is ‘measurable.’
Whether you aim for something new, something familiar but better, or simply contentment with where you are right now in life, I wish you a happy 2017 and thank you for hanging out with me here throughout the year.
50,000 words of a brand new novel, all written in the month of November. I crossed that finish line today during the All-Japan Virtual Write-In. Good thing too, since my next three days at work are wall-to-wall busy.
Update: I added up my efforts today and realized I also crossed 200K words for the year… which may sound impressive, but consider that a full quarter of that happened in the last four weeks. Such grand plans I had… But I digress.
Of course, the blog suffered as a result of NaNoWriMo efforts. #sorrynotsorry and all that.
This is my third NaNo and third victory, so I’m quite pleased. It’s a wonderful chance to play around with something different from your normal writing style or genre. This year I went with 1st person present tense urban fantasy, something I’ve never tried prior to the preparation for this novel.
On top of that, I found an awesome site that spurred me toward that ever-increasing word count: 4thewords
They’re a NaNoWriMo sponsor, so I wanted to help them out. The site is a writing system that incorporates game elements like an RPG. You create a character and go on quests against monsters that have word count goals instead of health points. The gear you find and equip gives you bonuses to attack (counts additional words written), defense (gives you additional time to fight the monster), and luck (increased chance of finding better items).
While the short burst style of writing in sprints of 250 – 1500 words has its drawbacks in the form of continuity problems, poorly thought-out ideas, and plot holes, I would have those in a first draft no matter what I do. What matters to me is, does it get me writing more? I could be wrong, but I definitely feel like the game elements encouraged me to write more than I might have if I was depending on internal motivation alone.
I still have a good chunk to finish on the first draft before I can type “the end.” It’ll be a long while before this one hits the streets, and it might be with a pen name. Also it’s a partnership with a friend in the States, so there’ll be more back-and-forth in the refining process than if I was just going to self-publish.
Meanwhile, Blog Battles have taken a hiatus, so there also won’t be any Grant & Teagan popping up until next year.
That said, I have some plans for December that I’ll call attention to here, and I hope to continue using 4thewords to see if it will keep me moving forward on Diffusion (fantasy book 2) and God’s Shooter, an Old West project involving a gambler prophet. The latter will probably start popping up in scenes on WattPad and WordPress before the end of the year.
And of course, I’ll post the occasional rant or update on my life, because hey, it’s my blog and I add those into my overall word count. Plus I need something to distract me from politics on Facebook.
Hope your holidays thus far have been restful and productive.
Friends and readers, it’s that time of year again: NaNoWriMo, a.k.a National Novel Writing Month. All over the world, lunatics dedicated writers are setting off on a one-month journey toward a 50,000 word novel.
My first year out, I wrote and completed my first novel, Not to the Swift. Prior to that, I had written over 100,000 words on a single fantasy book, but I never quite reached the point of typing “The End.” NaNoWriMo helped me complete a novel from start to finish, which in some strange way felt liberating when it came to my pet projects. I was able to finish and release Diffraction a few months later.
My second year, I had the thrill of serving as a Municipal Liaison. Basically, that’s a person committed to facilitating meetings, handing out swag, posting encouraging notes, and representing NaNoWriMo in the local area. I plowed through 50,000 words of a sci-fi military novel very loosely based on my job experience… Which eventually led to a required review of the draft to make sure I didn’t say something or release information I shouldn’t. So that year’s project is on hold for an unknown length of time.
In between, I’ve put some effort into the sequel to Diffraction, and completed a novella on WattPad called Echoes. I’ve started a few projects I hope to turn into books or novellas down the line, and I’ve had a blast writing BlogBattle entries using a recurring duo of characters.
But all that goes out the window for a month, in the hopes of cracking 50K once more.
Got a story to tell? It’s not too late to jump in and catch up.
I wrote this at a lovely Creative Writing workshop I attended this past weekend. The facilitator sang a series of haiku he had written years ago, accompanied on his acoustic guitar with something like a Spanish sound. I pictured a carousing and carefree pursuit during a fiesta through dusty, packed-earth streets in a Mexican town. He invited us to write our own haiku to show the variety of meanings and thoughts that could still fit the same rhythm and song.
I debated whether to go in the first place. My dance with my writing muse has been far from a cat-and-mouse, let alone something so intimate as a tango. More like “go sleep on the couch while I make an appointment with the divorce lawyer to draft the necessary paperwork.”
About a month’s worth of word count entries read ‘0’ and the status of my current projects remains unchanged. Scheduling a writers’ group has been problematic, and the pace of work only seems likely to increase.
But the Muse crooks that painted nail at me and flashes that smile, and like it or not, here I go again.
I’ve been listening to Brandon Sanderson’s recorded lectures on YouTube during down-time, and Stephen King’s On Writing audiobook in my car. Though the base library version is scratched up a bit–“theme is what unifies a novel into a plea- plea- plea- plea- pleasing whole”–there’s still so much down-to-earth insight that I can’t help but enjoy it.
He talks a lot about writer’s block while at the same time talking about–in his own life–putting his nose to the grindstone and pumping out several pages a day, every day, seven days a week, all year ’round, Christmas and the 4th of July included.
He and his muse must get along a lot better than mine. (Actually he also talks about that, and his muse sounds like quite a jerk.)
The end result of the weekend is my little group of three or four writers can connect with a larger community in the initial forming stages on island. And I wrote a snippet of dialogue for Fantasy Series Book 3 (when book 2 is barely started). And there’s that poem.
But the word count didn’t show zero that day, so I’ll take it.
I saw this political image making the rounds on my Facebook feed this week, and it got me thinking. Or rather some of the responses did.
One pastor seemed quite incensed that “under God” wasn’t in this version. To that individual, this image shouldn’t be shared as a result… despite the image caption making clear the intent of showing the Pledge as originally written.
In fact, the original Pledge by Francis Bellamy is even more different: I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
I thought about the power of those two words, “under God.”
In Supreme Court decisions on the subject, the Chief Justice argued that “under God” is an acknowledgement of the religious heritage of the nation but is at this point essentially a secular declaration.
The ‘God’ referred to is generic and devoid of any religious context. You can say it’s a monotheistic God, so it’s probably tied to an Abrahamic religion. But I don’t think that’s the Court’s intent or point.
I think they recognize, like we should, that two words in a pledge do absolutely nothing to impose any religious standard of behavior or belief upon anyone. No one draws nearer to God in a spiritual experience by reciting the Pledge. It’s not a hymn or worship song, it’s not a prayer to say by rote like Our Father Who art in Heaven or Hail Mary.
Yet the Righr, ever fearing that War on Christianity, focuses attention on those two words in the pledge, as though they constitute some magic cute to social ills that concern us.
Maybe if kids say “under God” then it’ll show what a good, Christian nation we are–regardless of the immorality we approve, condone, or even actively participate in.
I don’t think it works that way. Not on a national level, where we claim some divine favored status–spiritual immunity perhaps?
I’m positive it doesn’t work this way on an individual level, where so long as I say the right words now and then, all my faults and failures get a wink and an understanding grin before being brushed aside.
After all, I’m part of the good Christian club, right? I ‘liked’ that image that 93% wouldn’t, and shared that poem about footprints in the sand. I voted for the guy who quoted the Bible in his speeches. And I totally got behind defending “under God” from those atheist social justice warriors.
To paraphrase Jesus, perhaps today He’d tell us, “On that day, many will say, ‘Lord, did we not post in Your Name? And did we not block the atheists on social media, and fight against the growth of Islam in Your favorite nation? Did we not defend the Christ in Christmas, and stand up for the massive cross monuments on public property?’
And I will say to them, ‘Depart from Me. I never knew you.'”
It’s easy for me to sit and criticize. So I’ll be honest and admit that I’m just as in danger of missing the whole point as those whose opinions I decry here. I just don’t want to be content flailing about in a cloud of religious / cultural chaff and controversy.
If I really believe what I claim, then it’s too important to get hung up quibbling and griping over minor details, caught under some illusion that I’m fighting the good fight for the faith.
My writing word count spreadsheet mocks me. So many zero entries in the last week! I just finished a 6-week Mandarin Chinese refresher course, which might explain some of the lack of effort–except there was hardly any homework to occupy my off-duty time.
No problem, I told myself. I’ll do amazing writing things over the 4-day weekend for Memorial Day.
Yeah, not so much.
Problem-but-not-really 1) Overwatch is amazing and I want to play it just about every waking moment even though it’s basically run into battle, use whichever character’s amazing powers, then die and do it again.
Seriously, it’s fun. Evil fun. Like “lock up the PlayStation 4 so I will maybe write a word in the near future” fun.
Problem-but-not-really 2) I did some other creative things instead. A couple weeks ago, I picked up the handy talnts app (which I keep reading as ‘taints’ and I really don’t like that mental image but there you have it). It’s basically LinkedIn for creative people. The app has an option to share YouTube videos of which I had none. But a family friend asked me to record a worship song for her, and I marked “pianist” as one of my talents in the app… kill two birds with one stone? Sure why not!
While my Christian friends might appreciate the rendition of Indescribable, I have a lot of other friends who won’t care. But I know there’s a special fondness in the heart of many gamers for the music of Final Fantasy VI, particularly the Opera Song. So here’s that one too.
Final Fantasy VI Opera Song
All in all, my word count is shameful to behold over the last week, but it was a nice break. I’d already written more words in May than in any previous month this year, so I don’t feel too bad.
May is off to a good start on the ol’ word count tracker.
Roughly a thousand words a day, on various projects, for the first half of May. I can live with this.
Additionally, I enjoyed some opportunities to hone my craft and improve my understanding of all things writing. I picked up Sol Stein’s much-lauded classic, Stein on Writing, and I attended a workshop on story structure led by an award winning sci-fi author who for various reasons retired and decided to teach on Okinawa, Japan.
Not only that, but my local writer friends and I finally held the first full-fledged, in-person critique group that we’ve been talking about off and on for over a year. Getting fresh eyes on a segment of Diffusion chapter 1 helped me identify what’s working well and what I should clarify.
Also I discovered–to my chagrin–as far as readers are concerned, I named a character “G-Mail.” One of the things I love to do in crit groups is read portions of everyone’s submissions out loud. Your ear catches things your eye glosses over when reading silently… like the fact that Gemail (pronounced in my head as guh-mail) turned into Gmail.com for everyone else.
This morning, I’ve been working on the overall outline. I’m a planner with sci-fi and fantasy… and pretty much everything I write, now that I think about it. Planning means I need to know Point A and Point Z, along with several landmarks and stops in between. There’s room for some creativity between these points, so characters can still surprise me as I write. But conflicts and character developments have to lead to certain key events–especially if I want the reader to get to the end and look back, thinking, “Oh, there it was all along, how did I miss that?”
I’m definitely not doing the “seat of the pants” method of “write whatever comes to you.” My multiple Grant & Teagan posts for BlogBattle entries are the closest I can get to that, since it starts with a word prompt that gives me an idea for a scene.
So one of the unrealistic things about fantasy and YA fiction is how the main character just so happens to be the linchpin of the entire world, connected to and holding everything together. And there’s room for that in the genre–it’s kind of expected.
Sure, you have stuff like Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (a.k.a. Game of Thrones),where riveting, beloved characters are killed with extreme prejudice. And as a result, certain fans look down on books that don’t have a double-digit death count of potential fan-favorite characters. But that’s the exception, not the rule.
Still, even if the hero/heroine is the center of that novel’s universe, there has to be a reason for all this attention. And in fantasy, one favorite way to get there is prophecy–partly because it fits the genre, partly because it ties current events to the past, and partly because the myriad ways characters misinterpret it can lead to wonderful conflicts (spoilers for my book 2 and beyond, haha).
Also you get to dabble in poetry, because as TheLego Movie taught us, “all this is true, because it rhymes.”
So, in first draft form, here’s a part of the “Daughters” prophecy that helps explain the motivations of and manipulations by characters in positions of power. It also plays a big part in the growing conflict between Lyllithe and Josephine:
In centuries yet far beyond I see four years of blight
When ev’ry soul is shaken and their hateful foes delight
As all the pow’r of Hell breaks forth with endless appetite
For blood and death and chaos plunging nations into night
In centuries yet far beyond, behold the Naurchoth’s rise
Whose rifts shall tear asunder and darkness blot the skies
Whose wrath—though slowly kindled—shall break forth as a flood
Let mankind’s candle dwindle, drowned in a sea of blood
Daughter of Puremight, hold back no more
On the one hand, that’s more than any of the previous months since I’ve started tracking my effort.
On the other hand, it feels like so little progress being made on any of the various projects outlined in my head or my OneDrive files. Plus I totally failed at my Camp NaNoWriMo goal of 30K on a particular project. (I think I got about 9K done on that draft.)
I thoroughly enjoy the little games we play to get ourselves writing. My NaNo writers’ group tried doing word sprints a few times this month, and I enjoyed the camaraderie. The weekly (now bi-weekly) Blog Battle is another such activity, especially since the misadventures of Grant and Teagan is like a brief vacation for my writing brain.
Great interpersonal interaction helped out this month. I had the privilege of meeting a Japan NaNoWriMo member who lives on the northern part of the nation–she came down to Okinawa for a vacation and was able to attend a write-in. I caught up with an old friend who happens to be in town–a guy who read my fantasy novel back when it was a Dungeons & Dragons campaign in story form. We chatted about character arcs and came up with some better ideas for where all the threads are headed and how they interact with each other. Then I sold a couple books and created a personalized art version of a signed copy.
And it looks like we might get a local critique group going finally.
I left my WattPad novella Echoes pretty much dead all month. I’ve got the last third of it outlined, just need to sit down and write it. I also have the last bits of PERDITION outlined (my NaNo sci-fi project about psychic reconnaissance). Same thing, I need to sit down and write. And I haven’t touched Diffusion (the fantasy sequel to Diffraction), since this month was supposed to be all about finishing off the NaNo draft.
Lots of ups and downs, “coulda, woulda, shoulda” moments, and a general sense of I could have done more.
But April is over and done, no changing that word count. I guess I have to go with my Mom’s old suggestion of “Why don’t you make this activity into a game? See how many (fill in the blank) you can do in an hour, then try to beat it!”
Alright, May. I raise my tasty Jack and Coke Zero to greet you. Challenge accepted. Out of sheer fairness, May, since you have an extra day, I wrote nothing on the 1st of the month. 30 days to do better than 21K. Let’s do this!
What’s your goal this month? Do you have one? If not, why not? Let me know in a comment.