2017 A Writing Post Mortem

Since “post mortems” are all the rage, I figure 2017 deserved one.

Actually, I figured NaNoWiMo deserved one.  And then more time passed as work added up and I fell further behind, and I figured November and December both deserved one.  So why not 2017 as a whole?

Catching Up on the Classics
I did heavier reading this year than I have in past years (discounting 2016’s rough excursion through A Summa of the Summa), and two classics welcomed me into their lush worlds: The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Prydain.

The Lord of the Rings was a long time coming.  Despite being weaned on The Sword of Shannara and innumerable Dragonlance titles, and even the enjoyable, if lacking, cartoon versions, I never read Tolkien’s epic.  I saw the movies in theater when they released, and quite loved them.  And yet, outside of The Hobbit and a brief attempt that never made it past Biblo’s party, I never read them.

Wow.  It’s a heavy read, but it’s a great read.  It will definitely be indulged in again in my lifetime.  For more thoughts, check out my posts on The Lord of the Rings!

Prydain is one I was less-familiar with, beyond being vaguely aware of a lackluster Disney movie, a yellowed copies of the books sitting on my parents’ shelf.  As it turns out, The Chronicles of Prydain are fantastic!  I still find my mind wandering around Prydain, and will be rereading them before too long.  Naturally, I have more wordy thoughts on Prydain as well.

Fantasy Adventures Volume 1
But on to writing itself.

Perhaps my biggest excitement was my first actual publication: a collection of short fantasy stories.  As of right now, it has no reviews, and has only put about four dollars into my pocket.  But when you’re doing it out of passion, that’s all right!  Being able to look myself up on Amazon and see a book right there is utterly thrilling in itself.

While I can’t tell who actually read the book out of the handful of purchases it received, a Kindle Lending Library/Kindle Unlimited reader actually read 117 out of the total 135 pages!  I’d love to know what they thought of it, and why they stopped.  Was it a specific story that didn’t do it for them?  Did attrition take it’s toll and the last 18 were just too grueling?

If you–or anyone else who read my short stories–is out there reading this, let me know what you thought!  No offense will be taken here–criticisms are chances to grow as a writer.

NaNoWriMo 2017:
I had high hopes for this one: the third attempt at a story I failed at twice already, with a world and characters fairly solid in my head and a general outline to follow.  With my social media presence stronger than ever and my blog getting more hits each month, it was going to be a blast!  I was going to post chapters as I finished them, and become a two-time NaNoWriMo champion.

Oh, did that fall short!  Who knew that a full-time job that thrives on the holiday season would crank out 50-60 hour weeks and leave me pretty darn tired?

This all lead into an unintentional semi-hiatus from social media.  Beyond a few Twitter posts toward the end of November, the chapters never came to fruition, I never made it to any meet-ups, and my time became all about moving boxes and preparing for Christmas.

But that’s all right: we only fail when we give up, and I certainly have not!

What’s Coming in 2018
A New Novel
: The whole idea of sharing a book as I write the first draft still seems like a lot of fun, and I’m thinking it might be worth another go, with the same story.  I’m leaning toward somewhere between March and May, with the same word and time goals as NaNoWriMo.  I’ll keep you posted!

An Old Novel, Completed: I actually have two novels that are coherent and in the later stages of drafting.  The writing is there, the outline is locked in, and there are just scenes here and there to tidy up.  Both of these had their early drafts completed in 2014, and I think it’s about time to get them ready to roll.

Fantasy Adventures Volume 2: No, the first one will not be one of those myriad titles that claims to be part of a series that never arrives.  Sure, the first one is not yet a million-seller, but short stories are a lot of fun!  They’re a great chance to play around with new characters, worlds, genres, and ideas.  A few of the heroes from the first one will still be around: I’d like Rax in particular to become a continuous, Conan-like series of primarily short stories.

And whereas novels require so much attention and focus it’s hard to ever feel them “ready”, these short stories are a little easier for me to send off on their own.

And the Rest: Several novels exist in lesser forms.  I have a chapter or two done of a story about warring immortals, and some vague outlines for the first book in a sweeping quadrilogy of kingdoms at war.  Pages here and there exist in a third novel centering on a fantasy world trio of a cowboy, a samurai, and a knight.

Beyond that, a few sci fi stories bounce back and forth in my head, one being a space epic aiming for novel-length, and another a series of short stories featuring a bounty hunter talking derelict ships, peculiar aliens, and the more human struggles of a vast, lonely universe.

 

Big year behind, bigger year ahead.  Let’s do this!

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NaNoWriMo Progress #1

If you’re struggling with NaNoWriMo, it’s still early!  Don’t give up.  Even a mere 500 words a day hits the 50k mark in under four months.  A “failed” NaNoWriMo is really just delayed success.  It’s awesome if you can get it done in a month, but it’s awesome if you can finish in December, January, or February, too!

As for me, how much have I written?  Short answer: very little!  I’m only rocking around 1500 words.  It’s been the battle we all face.  50-60 hour work weeks (yay for writing challenges during peak business season), family dropping in for the (or, rather “my weekend”: Monday and Tuesday!), and general weariness.

Does this mean it’s over?  Of course not!

The month is still young.  The chapters will still be posted.  The blogs will still arrive (probably!).  Let’s see how far we can take this!

NaNoWriMo Update!

For November, I’m working on a book called “Relic Empire” (a mere placeholder!) featuring airships, magic, and high fantasy.  The protagonists are a couple of young adults, a boy and a girl, who dream of adventure and end up caught in something much bigger than themselves.

Inspired by, and a tribute to, that SEGA RPG classic, Skies of Arcadia, but I hope it becomes a worthy fantasy in its own right, neither derivative nor a tribute in name only.  The spirit is what I hope to capture more than anything, and if I can manage that, I’ll consider it a success.

As for the writing itself?  It’s not going the best, but that’s okay!  Even with just 500 words a day, a novel can be finished in under four months.  So if you’re struggling too, keep in mind that you’re still pushing ever closer to the ultimate goal: a novel, even if it takes more than a month.

For me, as for many, life is busy!  I had every intent of plotting beforehand, which greatly increases my writing speed, because I know what to write.  Instead, I’m working with a mixture of the two: some existing characters and a rough framework from a couple of past, failed NaNoWriMos (but written from the ground up, 0 words to 50k!).

I’m going to try my best to hit the 50,000 word goal within a month, but more than that, I’m going to have some fun with it.  As I finish chapters, I’m going to post them here as blogs.  They’ll be entirely unedited.  Typos will be present, plot threads will be malnourished, and even names, places, and characters might change, or come and go completely, between this draft and the final.

But maybe it will be fun for you to see a first draft, done heavily on the fly without much pre-planning or plotting.  Watch for the first couple of chapters to appear over the next few days!

A Change of NaNoWriMo Pace

“It’s ain’t about how hard you get hit: It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” – Rocky, Rocky Balboa

My blogging, tweeting, and general writing has suffered a bit lately, but that’s okay!  November is almost here, and with that comes an exciting new opportunities to take those next steps toward achieving those dreams.  This will be a challenging period in which to write for a lot of people, but that’s where we take those hits and still take those steps, however small they might be, toward our goals!

I’ve had to make a little change-up to my plans.  I was mulling over writing the first part in a new, four-part series, something more complex than I’ve ever done before.  I’m not quite ready.

Instead, I’m going to revive my failed NaNoWriMo projects from 2015 and 2016: an airships-and-swords fantasy about the excitement of adventure.  I’ve pinpointed a few of the weaker plot aspects that slowed me down in previous years, and I think the intended spirit will be much stronger this time.

The writing will start from scratch, and I’ll be posting bits of the book up here as I finish them–perhaps even each chapter as I finish!

This will be the busiest month in which I’ve ever attempted a large writing project, but it will also be the best I’ve ever done.  That’s the only way to approach it!

The Brilliance of Nadsat

A Clockwork Orange has its share of controversies (like an ending excised from the movie that changes the entire meaning of the book), but it’s hard to deny the excellence of the writing.  A big part of that is Nadsat, the fictional slang used by the novel’s anti-hero and the rest of his “droogs”.

Unlike full-on languages like Klingon or Quenderin, Nadsat is slang mixed within conventional English.  When Alex refers to his “droogs” or the “red, red kroovy”, it’s immediately apparent just what is being discussed.

Part of the brilliance is how seemlessly Nadsat blends within the language.  Rarely is the meaning of a word left in doubt thanks to how well contextualized it all is.  While oftentimes fabricated language is jarring, like a speed bump, Nadsat flows so nicely within A Clockwork Orange‘s framework that it draws in rather than pushes away.

It fills out the world and its culture, one that is similar to ours but just a little off–like Nadsat mixed within the familiarity of English.

Translating Video Games into Text

I have three great loves in life: video games, pro wrestling, and reading.  When it comes to pro wrestling, a keen eye can pick up not just typical story arcs but stories that take place within matches–really, a good match is little different in structure than a book.

But that being said, in my world books and video games have a symbiotic relationship.  Both carry me on dragon wings into fantasy realms that otherwise exist only in my dreams.  And my dreams are filled with ideas from the two mediums.

Even so, each format has its own idiosyncrasies.  In trying to adapt some of my video game experiences and inspirations into written stories, I’ve realized just how different the pacing can be.  Some games are taut narratives, but the best video game epics like The Elder Scrolls series are sprawling, oftentimes meandering experiences.  While numerous distractions would make a book bloated and unfocused, in video games, where you are the protagonist, exploration becomes its own reward.

Dolphin 2017-09-18 00-56-07-56How would you write a story that captures the spirit of a game like Skies of Arcadia?  SoA is all about exploration, about looking in nooks and crannies to find treasure and experiences unrelated to the storyline.  Similary, Suikoden is about searching far and wide to find 108 different characters: when translated literally into book form, it would be like an alphabet soup of names, swirling around the reader and mostly unimportant.  Yet it’s the heart of the Suikoden series.

Having a hero pause to inspect every little nondescript, unimportant cave probably won’t work well in text form.  Yet their essences can be distilled down to general ideas and concepts.  Skies is all about a sense of adventure in a free, open world.  Suikoden is about bringing together a wide range of discrete personalities to unite for a common good.

Find the spirit of a video game inspiration, and go from there!