"I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all."
-Richard Wright, American Hunger, 1977

Monday, October 26, 2009

My NaNoWriMo Plans

In the "brag to everyone you know" spirit of NaNo, I thought I'd share this year's plans with you all.

I've not been writing much for the past year and, as such, I'm horribly out of practice just putting words on the page. When I do sit down to write, I'm usually writing only about 200 - 300 words per hour. I will also (hopefully) be moving house during the month of November, and I'll be going into surgery a month later. I know already that there is no way I can try to write a serious novel at a NaNo pace. So I've decided to do my very first truly traditional NaNoWriMo.

Here are my plans:

- At midnight on November 1st (or at the last point I have internet access on the 31st, since R------ doesn't have wireless) I will go to the Dares thread on the NaNo board and look at whichever dare is the first listed. This will be my prompt to start writing on 11/1.
- First thing every morning through the month of November I will return to the Dares thread and look at the topmost dare listed. I will have to include that dare in some form in that day's writing. Passing references count if I have something else specific I want to write that day.
- I will read the daily cards from my No Plot, No Problem Toolkit and follow the prompts given. I'll also email them out daily to anyone who's interested in seeing them but doesn't have the kit. Let me know!
- At some point, the Plot Ninjas will make an appearance in the book.
- I will also include the Travelling Shovel of Death (tm) at some point. (Search the NaNo forums if you don't know what the TSoD is. :p You might use it, too.)
- I will write everyday, even if I only manage 5 words or if I have to include lengthy song lyrics verbatim, dream sequences, extended description, really bad analogies or breaking the fourth wall in order to do it.
- I will take 10 index cards and write the numbers 0 - 9 on them, one per card. Everyday I will draw four randomly and put them down in order. The number given, anything from 123 to 9,876, will be my target word count for that day. I got this idea from R------, who found it on the NaNo board.
- I will post each day's output to my LJ, behind the writing filter. Not that the filter matters, since I'm never going to do anything with this "novel" later, but at least then I won't be spamming friends who aren't interested in my writing and risking their eyeballs melting from the horror of my prose. :)
- If the story stops working and it becomes difficult to keep writing I reserve the right to kill off the main character, switch to a more interesting secondary character and veer sharply into a new story that might excite me more.

I don't have a plot other than expounding on the idea of "anything that can go wrong will go wrong." (After the October I've had, I just want to make a main character go through something as bad.) Partly this is an experiment - Chris Baty swears that a plot will coalesce spontaneously after about two weeks of writing and based on previous novels I think this is plausible. So I want to see if, starting with nothing and using random dares and prompts to keep going, I end up with a coherent plot. For some value of "coherent", anyway.

I am developing the basics of character and setting, but I just started today, so I'm only spending a week on it. I decided I wanted a comedy of errors, a novel completely full of chaos and misunderstandings and characters working at cross-purposes. If anyone has read Connie Willis, I'm kind of hoping for a similar feel to what she puts in her novels, Bellwether especially. Only, you know, a lot crappier. Because of this, I want a whole bunch of minor characters who are almost more scenery than real characters - annoying coworkers, crazy housemates, demanding patrons, panicking family members, bossy classmates and interfering repairmen. I'm probably only going to have 3 - 4 really important characters, but I totted up my general cast and I have 40 characters who will make recurring appearances throughout the book. Now I think I'm insane. (No comments from the peanut gallery, please.)

So at this point I have a title and a first line, and I hope to do some very broad sketches of the recurring characters in the book in the next week. And I think that's enough to be getting on with.

My main goal is threefold: 1) to win NaNo, 2) to get back in practice writing, and 3) just to have a rollicking good time.

Oh - and while doing some basic internet research on stuff I need to know about my main character's job I think I might have, uh, stumbled onto a future career path. Apparently bizarre and unlikely plot twists during NaNo aren't limited to happening only within the stories written. Oh, irony, thy name is NaNo.

So, what is everyone else planning on doing this year?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Isaiah, 2YN Week Four: Goals and Conflict

This assignment was easy for me, as well. I knew what the primary conflict of the story was going to be from the beginning, and since the type of story I decided to write fit most closely with that original concept, I didn't have to change it. Choosing the conflicts was a bit harder, and defining them well enough to put them into a concise sentence was the real challenge. I finally have something I'm happy with, though, and I'm very pleased that I've done two assignments in two days, without feeling like I'm doing a half-arsed job on them.

The assignment is posted here: http://skadhisgydhja.livejournal.com/36328.html. I also included something Zette did herself in this chapter, but which wasn't part of the assignment. It was a basic, three part structure (beginning, middle and end.)

While thinking conflicts out, though, I also jotted down a preliminary timeline so that I could see what I thought would happen when. That's available here: http://skadhisgydhja.livejournal.com/36570.html

This assignment made me realise something else, though, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. I write primarily fantasy, which tends to have larger-than-life conflicts. The world is almost always at risk. And I really like that about fantasy. I enjoy reading it, and I enjoy writing it. But repeatedly in my own work, the threat to the world seems like it's always secondary, a MacGuffin. It looks important, but really what matters is the internal conflict of the main character. For example, in this story I'm still not sure who the antagonist is or what's going to be happening (other than in my character's head) at the climax of the book, but it doesn't seem to matter. All that stuff is, really, is a catalyst for the change of the main character, which is the real point. It's like I'm writing introspective fiction disguised as action stories.

Maybe that's just what "character-driven" means. I know I prefer to read stories where what happens to the character is the most important part. While I enjoy plot-driven stories sometimes, if the character's essentially the same, inside, at the end as the beginning I usually don't feel very satisfied. But I worry - does this mean that I don't have enough plot? Am I getting lazy and just not developing the action enough and it really should matter? Am I using this as an excuse for vagueness?

I don't know how to answer these questions. A good story, well edited, makes the events it contains look inevitable. Perhaps it's okay to be unsure at this point, and for the external action to follow the internal action in my mind. These are the kinds of questions and realisations that I was hoping this whole project would bring up, so I'll just be aware of it for now and see where the future exercises take me.

Isaiah, 2YN Week Three: Theme

This one was easy for me. I love working with theme, and that's often one of the first things, after character, that comes to me. It's the touchstone I use throughout the writing process, and it's just naturally the way I think about what I write.

I didn't already have a theme for Isaiah, but it didn't take more than a few hours of brainstorming to come up with one I like, and that I think works with the plot elements, tone and characters I already have. Which is good - I really don't want this to actually take the whole two years!

So, my theme, in one word, is Faith.
Expanded: Faith is the gateway to the extraordinary.

Edit: Before anyone thinks I'm writing a scary religious book, by "faith" I don't mean religion but the basis of religion - a combination of belief and trust. You can have faith in anything.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Isaiah, 2YN Week Two: Genre

Though making these kind of big-picture kind of decisions at the beginning of the process has been difficult for me and felt a bit unnatural at first, I think I'm learning to really like the idea. Taking the time to answer these questions - "What's your idea?", "What kind of book are you writing?", "What do you want to say?" - at the beginning, thoughtfully and thoroughly, is making me really analyse things and not just run ahead with an idea that's not as clear as I think it is. I think I'll be able to write a much stronger book because of it.

Asking for other people's opinions on my assorted summaries was an interesting experience. There was no consensus as to which type of story was the best or mose intriguing - in fact, I got one vote for each before I started to get any repeats. So there was no obvious answer, but everyone's reasons why they liked the ones they did, and their suggestions, were very helpful. In the end, #1 won with 3 votes. I was pleased with this because, based on other comments and my own ruminations, I had pretty much decided to go that route anyway, at least in tone and theme, while still pulling plot elements from some of the other summaries.

So - my genre will be urban fantasy, using magical elements such as shapechanging and vampirism in modern Reno. My tone/subgenre will be mythical.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Today was writers' group day, and since our usual planner couldn't make it to the evening group I volunteered to bring an exercise to share. What I decided was to have everyone try writing a pantoum.

A pantoum is based on a form of folk poem from Malay. It doesn't have a metre or a rhyme scheme, but rather uses repetition to give itself form. It is made up of quatrains, and the even numbered lines from each quatrain (the 2nd and 4th) are repeated as the odd numbered lines in the next quatrain. So the structure of line repetition (each number representing a new line) looks like this: 1-2-3-4, 2-5-4-6, 5-7-6-8, 7-9-8-10, 9-11-10-12, 11-3-12-1. As you can see, in the final stanza the even numbered lines repeat from the first stanza, making the final line of the poem the same as the first line of the poem.

They're actually much easier to write (and to read) than they are to explain. The ideal result is that each line should take on a new meaning when it's repeated, because of context, though the words remain identical. And the first & last line should be the most transformed, because of the shift in perspective over the course of the poem.

The folks at the group were unsure, to say the least, when I introduced the idea tonight. However, by the end, everyone had produced three poems they were at least interested in, and seemed to enjoy the potential of the verse form. I enjoy them because they allow you to play with the meaning and context of phrases, and the structure of the poem kind of inherently creates a feeling of importance and depth to the words - a cyclical, nearly mythical tone.

I've posted the three I wrote here: http://skadhisgydhja.livejournal.com/35640.html.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

One of Each, Please

So I finished my summaries, one for each type of urban fantasy I could think of. The only problem? I like them all, and I want to write them all. :) I'm letting them percolate, but I'm also curious to see what you lot think. Let me know which one or ones are your favourites, and, if you like, why.

Read here: http://skadhisgydhja.livejournal.com/35581.html

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Exploring Possibilities

So this week's assignment for the 2YN plan is to determine the genre & subgenre of your story. I know mine's urban fantasy - that's been clear to me from the first blush of the idea - but to me that doesn't narrow it down enough. Should it be truly fantastical - almost mythical - in the style of Charles DeLint or Jane Lindskold's Changer? Should it me more like a harboiled mystery, like Tanya Huff's Blood Ties series? Should it be dark, nearly horror, like her Smoke series? Should it be lighthearted and romantic, like Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries series? Or could I shift the whole thing and make it science fiction, instead?

This had me completely stumped. How the heck should I know? I thought about it for ages (I actually started down this path during the last assignment, while trying to figure out the central conflict, so I was a bit dismayed to find out that this was the next task.) To me deciding what type of novel I wanted to write - genre and theme and plot - was all one huge dilemma, and I couldn't find any loose threads with which to start unravelling the knot. All of the options had potential, and none of them felt exactly right.

Finally I decided that what I needed to do was actually explore all of these possibilities rather than trying to decide which one was the perfect version of the story before moving on. So I'm writing a summary of the story specific to each - what? sub-sub-genre? tone? I'll just go with type - type of story and, at the end, I'll decide which one looks best or like the most interesting to write. It's actually going really well and it's a lot of fun.

This idea is probably ridiculously obvious to those of you who plot ahead of time, but it's kind of news to me. :) I guess that's why I'm doing this whole Isaiah exercise.