Monday, October 22, 2012

A November Without NaNoWriMo

Even a few weeks ago, I was still deciding whether to take part in National Novel Writing Month. Though I knew I would be insanely busy and had another novel to work on, NaNo still hovered hopefully on the horizon, tempting me with thrilling possibilities. Eventually, sense blocked it out. In light of my need to concentrate on my current novel, I decided to let NaNoWriMo go.

I've participated in NaNoWriMo for four years. The last three, I've won. I also did Camp NaNoWriMo this summer, bringing my completed novel drafts up to 4 (the last two were the same novel, Void.) A lot of my writing energy gets saved up for November, so I can launch myself onto one story and concentrate all my abilities on it. This may not be the best way, but it's the way I usually do it. Spending November doing anything but madly writing around everything else sounds strange to me. That's one attitude that came to mind when my cousin told me last year that she wasn't doing it.

 "NaNo had just become part of the year. In November I'd write a novel. That was a five year streak!" she said.

To which I replied, "I will NaNo until I die from it!"

Right now, I'm not interested in killing myself trying to write a new novel and fix an old one at the same time. Still, I'll miss the breakneck pace, the creativity, the obsessive word count updates. I'll miss knowing that thousands of writers all around the world are striving for the same goal as me.

So, no 50,000-word goal. But I can still give myself writing goals for November. 50,000 words in a month comes out to 1,667 words a day. That's usually about 3 single-spaced pages for me (doesn't sound so scary now, huh?). I can try to revise 3 pages a day. This is a useful, practical goal. Some days I may be able to do a lot more than that, and others it'll be hard to measure due to plot threads that need major doctoring. Some days I may actually end up writing a lot. In any case, this draft should be alpha reader-ready by the end of November.

Those of you doing NaNoWriMo this year, good for you. Go crazy. Sometimes it's the best thing that can happen to you or your novel -- it was for me.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Deadlines are Magic

A month and a half after I finished writing it, I've finally completed a readthrough of my current manuscript for Void. At first, I wanted to take a break and step back from it, which is good for writing. It gives you perspective so you can come back to the story with sharper eyes. Still... I should have finished this a while ago. I have self-imposed deadlines, after all.

Deadlines... about those. The big, scary, far-off one is February 15th, my 20th birthday. That is the day I will send a completed manuscript to a publisher. (I'm hoping Tor, but I need to do some research first.) However, to get to that point, I'll need to set myself some smaller, but still challenging ones. Good thing deadlines are magic.

I think I can give myself until the beginning of December to work over what I have and get my story ready for alpha readers. At the very latest, I could let it slip till Christmas break. This is when I'll beg writing and story-savvy friends to tear apart all my words and tell me what's wrong with them, and pray they won't tear out my heart in the process. I may actually have to limit myself on the number of people I have read it, though, just to make sure the input is focused and I can handle all of it. If you're reading this and are interested, please let me know.

In the meantime, I will be rewriting. Considering the quality of the draft I just read, the time frame I have to work with is mildly terrifying. This is what you get for procrastinating, I suppose. And considering that this is my first time taking a novel to this level in the editing process (my first time finishing a novel-length second draft), there might be better ways to go about it. Like, doing better research before starting. Right now, I have to come up with a semi-plausible-sounding way to modify a dying nuclear generator so as to set off an EMP, as well as consider its ramifications. I have to make the mechanics of character development, dramatic reveals, and the operations of a secret underground society go smoothly and believably. And I have to fix big glaring mistakes (oh, yeah, I forgot that character existed...) and find all the tiny, sneaky ones.

I will be spending the month of January at home, possibly working, but it will also be my time to work on the issues my early readers find and polish all the words. NaNoWriMo has proved to me that I can spend an entire month focused on a story; this January, I'll see if I can finish one instead of start it.

Then I'll have two weeks in February to make sure I'm happy with everything before this challenge I gave myself over half a year ago is over. (Yeah, over half a year. Again, procrastination.)

Am I scared? Yes. Can I do it? I'm certain. Tight deadlines can be awful, but they're also the reason I've managed to write first drafts for three different 50,000-word novels in the first place while having rehearsal every night (November tends to be a heavy month for theater), as well as a 60,000-word second draft. These next four months might be terrible (especially if I decide to be insane and do NaNoWriMo again), but I can do it.

Why? Because I love this story. It's the reason I wrote it in the first place.

Heaven help me. Bye for now -- I've got work to do.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Tech is a dirty word

I've been busy enough lately that one of the things I've not been working on is my novel, Void. I think I'm starting to suffer separation anxiety. I hope to give it a larger portion of my attention soon, but in all my busyness elsewhere (theater, notably), my mind has still been wandering back to it.

In the story, technology for the common people has been suppressed to the point that engines and electronics have legendary status. So, when trying to come up with a mild "curse" word that would be consistent with this world, I decided that "tech" was the word to use. I first considered it because I thought it was funny -- haha, tech sounds like heck. "To tech with that!" "The tech do you think you're doing?" Eventually, this evolved into the adjective "tecking."

After awhile, it stopped being what was basically a funny placeholder for until I thought of a better word. I started to realize how it fit in the consciousness of the people of Void's world. It's a part of the culture I've created, and it's become a symbol and watchword for other points in the story.

However, the thought process that brought me there is kind of weird for me. I don't cuss in real life. Really. Not at all, unless "darn!" and the occasional "crap!" count. I grew up in a house where nobody cursed (at least not in my hearing) and I didn't start absorbing foul language until middle school. By then, other forms of expression were habit enough that I could block it out. During high school and working in various places, I was shocked by just how much profanity was tossed around. The f-word? It's ridiculous! It doesn't even make sense, and I've listened to people who use it three or four times a sentence.

So why use even fake curse words in stories?

Firstly, my characters aren't me. They don't come from the same background. They come from difficult lives where they've absorbed a lot of stress, pain, and in all likelihood, cursing. It can be a descriptor for the people, a normalizer, and another way to flesh out the story. (Brandon Sanderson's "Stormfather!" and "storm you!" in Way of Kings is a good example of this.) Also, I think there are times in stories when its absence can be conspicuous. Simply mentioning that a character cursed without saying the actual word can be awkward when done too often.

Lately, though, I'm wondering if the use of "tech!" was subconscious for me. "Tech" in the theater world is short for "technical" -- the rehearsals that happen just before a performance, in which everything goes wrong. Actually, it's when all the technical aspects have to come together. Lighting and sound cues, makeup, props, set, everything has to be finished. To the cast and crew, tech week is about as fun as hours of intense boredom mixed with little sleep, random bursts of intense physical activity, and frustration when, as said before, all the things go wrong.

Last week was tech week for Taylor theater's production of Waiting for Godot. The frustration that comes with tech was very much on my mind. Still, it was a good week for me. I got through lots of work and obstacles and survived intact. Now I'm looking forward to going through some of the same processes in Void.

So, fantasy writers -- leery of stooping to profanity? Trying to come up with suitable modes of expression to portray intense anger or frustration? Be classy; make something up! The right word might already be swimming around in your head.