Writing and Fighting

Hello hello hello dear readers.

Let’s start off with a song to set the mood, shall we?

As fate would have it, this was actually the song that was playing when I officially validated my wordcount and won NaNoWriMo. Certainly a fitting song, and what a fun video, yeah?

Coming away from NaNo, reflecting on the story I’ve written and the month as a whole—it’s kind of hard, and kind of sad. I always miss NaNo in the off months. I know it’ll come back around next year but I always miss the crazy energy that accompanies the event. I miss reading the stories of triumph from people on the forums. I miss that feeling of being a part of this giant movement, of celebrating the art and joy of writing a novel. I also miss the excuse (and motivation) to write a new novel.

As silly as it sounds, I sometimes forget that there are more stories in my head than the “Big Two” that I’m working on. I’ve dedicated a lot a lot of time and thought to those stories, worldbuilding, fleshing out characters, remedying plot holes. Of course, I have to give that much commitment to them. I want to make them the best stories I possibly can and I want to eventually get them published.

With NaNoWriMo, however, one of the “rules” is that you have to start your story from scratch. I abide by this rule very strictly because it means I get to revel in the joy of creating something new, something unique, and something that 100% doesn’t ever have to see the light of day if it turns out crappy. I get to enjoy the freedom of writing an experimental piece of garbage if I want to and it teaches me so much.

This year, my biggest aim was to write an entire novel, beginning to end, using only 50k words. Every other year, my novel went on for several thousand more words (often to 70k) and I had to work throughout the following months to finish it. That was kind of difficult for me, because I wanted to work on one my Big Two novels instead and taking a break on my NaNo novel could spell disaster if I lost interest. So this year I wanted to keep it to 50k if possible. I actually impressed myself—on the last day of the month, I wrote my 50 027th word AND the very last word of the novel, all at the same time.

And it was great, actually. The novel is whole, and finished. I didn’t rush it. (If anything, I probably stretched it out a bit, but we won’t talk about that :P).

I learned about character building as well. With the Big Two, my characters have been sculpted and refined for years to get them just right. These NaNo characters were built in just a few weeks, so I didn’t have as much time to create depth and subtleties. I therefore tried to pick out the one big flaw or limitation that would dictate the character’s actions and thoughts. One character has noticeable glaucoma. Another gets brutal migraines*, making him a useless lump in times of stress. The protagonist is half-deaf and overconfident. And the last character—well, he’s actually quite messed up, the poor fellow. But his biggest limitation is immunity to pain. By choosing these big flaws and centring the characters’ actions around them, it actually helped develop the depth I needed them to have. They’re not completely fleshed out (room to grow), and they’re lacking a lot of the nuances that real people have, but they came together quite nicely, I must say.

The last super important lesson I learned while writing this novel is that I can write 4000 words, three days in a row. That time when I fell really far behind and had to sprint to catch up—that was a crazy learning experience. I thought I would get bored, or stuck, or go insane trying to write so much so often. But I didn’t, because I learned some time management skills that really saved my butt. I learned that I work better when I have several focussed half-hour sessions, rather than one two-hour session at the end of the day. That is a skill I’ll be tucking away for later when I really need to fit my writing life into my school life.

I learned a lot from this novel. I experimented, researched, and cut down my narrative in ways I’ve never done before. It was fun. I feel good, about what I’ve written, and want to write more stories, which is a very good thing since I planned this book to be the first in a series. So hooray for that! It’ll likely be a while before I sit down to edit and eventually publish this book, but it’ll happen eventually, promise :)

Now. I apologize, firstly, that this blog has become very literary over the past month or so. I understand that this is an adventure blog, not a writing blog, but ohhhhh bear with me. For, you see, I have been going on a very wonderful adventure as of late, and that adventure happens to be a writing adventure.

NaNoWriMo was just the start. I needed that novel, not only to get the creative juices flowing and teach me all those lessons, but also to help me finish a novel and get focussed on endings. Because on the first day of December, the very first day after NaNoWriMo ended, I started up a new writing project that is just as intense. I call it my POTS Editing Extravaganza.

POTS is the nickname for one of my Big Two novels, the one I’m currently editing. I’ve been editing it for about 2 ½ years now, and it has been a rough, rough, roughy rough rough process.

Writing is hard. That’s one of the first lessons you learn when you decide to become a writer. It’s hard to believe that your words are worthwhile, hard to imagine that they’ll ever amount to something, hard to convince yourself that you’re not writing a bunch of crap. Some days are better than others. But the very worst days I’ve had weren’t when I was writing, per se, but when I was editing.

Editing can be glorious. I love discovering new things about characters, or making a scene more significant and meaningful than it was before. But editing is also the worst experience I’ve ever put myself through. There have been so many bad days, so many moments of despair and disheartenment and disillusionment and distress and other bad words that start with D. There have been times when I actually had such a bad day and felt so badly about my novel, I didn’t want to touch it for days, weeks, or even months at a time.

That’s why it’s taken me almost three years.

But, as one must be when pursuing writing, I am tenacious. I want this novel to happen. I want to publish it. I want other people to read it. And so, I must keep editing it. And that’s what I’m doing this December. I’m going to be editing my little heart out, until I’ve got a finished second draft.

I actually could’ve finished it in the summer. I had it all planned out, how many pages I would have to rewrite/edit per day to get to the end, and I could’ve finished it early September. But I fell behind, got discouraged, and struggled a bit. That being said, I still made great progress, I just didn’t make it to the end. However, I now have only a small portion left to write and I’m confident I can finish it.

If I push myself.

I’ve been doing this Extravaganza for, what, five full days now? And already I’ve been pushing myself.

Last night, for example, suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucked. I was in a horrible mood, and I just hated it. I hated the story, the narration, everything. I wanted to give up, throw it away, scream and cry and crawl in a hole. But I need to write this. If I want to finish on time, I need to write every day, as much as possible. Even when I have a crap day. So I ranted about it on Tumblr, got out my black tourmaline**, and wrooooooote. I wrote all the way through a vital scene. I wrote all the way to the end of the chapter. I made brilliant progress, despite the odds, and am here now with a better temper and a lead into the next chapter.

See, finishing this draft is the one thing I want most right now. After all this work, after all this suffering, I want to be done. I want to move onto the next stage. And I have this vision of me sitting on Christmas Eve in the quiet house, drinking a glass of eggnog to celebrate the completion of this draft. I can taste the eggnog, I want it so badly. And this vision, this simple image, is driving me on like nothing else.

I have to do this. Agh.

This blog is all about adventures, and my life has really become my greatest adventure. Fighting through the trials and tribulations of writing this novel, I am a brave warrior fending off the demons of doubt, racing against the clock, to save the kingdom and win the war. It’s hard, but that’s part of the beauty of it. I have to be strong, stronger than I’ve ever had to be before, but that’s part of the growth.

I will finish this.

I swear.

Haha, so now that I’ve gone on a geeky/writerly monologue for almost 2000 words, I regretfully have to end with an apology… I, ah, probably won’t be around much this month. As you can imagine, I’ll be busy. So you probably won’t hear from me all that much till January. Which, by the way, is when LotSF is coming back, and when I plan to launch my mailing list. So that’s exciting!

I will definitely post on Christmas though, because I couldn’t possibly neglect to wish my dear readers a merry Christmas! And there’s the last Hobbit movie coming out! Aggh!

Anyways. I hope that this adventure will be a success and that I will be able to bring you good news. I hope all is well in your lives, you lovely lovelies. Take care.

Wrimos—how did the month go? What did you learn? Non-Wrimos—any fun adventures going on in your lives?

May you be brave on your quests and not be afraid to push yourselves.

-Alex


* While researching migraines (I’ve never had one) I wanted personal testimonies, not just a list of symptoms. So I asked people on the NaNoWriMo forums. The response was overwhelming. If any of you get migraines, I sincerely sympathize with you. They sound terrible :S

** My sister got me this stone the other day :D It’s good for keeping away negativity.

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11 thoughts on “Writing and Fighting

  1. “Writing is hard. That’s one of the first lessons you learn when you decide to become a writer. It’s hard to believe that your words are worthwhile, hard to imagine that they’ll ever amount to something, hard to convince yourself that you’re not writing a bunch of crap.”

    This. This paragraph is exactly how I feel about writing all the time. Every time someone asks me what I want to be and I say “a writer” I have to justify to myself and them that it will be worth it. That I’m not doing it for money or fame, but to keep my sanity. And that’s hard because we’re our hardest critics and I think you stated that perfectly here! :)

    • Thank you, I’m glad it resonated with you :) It certainly isn’t an easy path to take, not with our own minds intent on beating us down sometimes. But as you say, it’s the only way to keep our sanity. I couldn’t imagine how I’d behave in public if I didn’t ever write :P

  2. Look at your die-hard spirit. Aren’t the creative types unstoppable? ;) It is miserable, though. Writing is self-inflicted torture. I think George Orwell summed it up impeccably: ‘Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.’

    But jeez, don’t fellow writers know the feeling. I was editing Times of Old earlier on in the year, and I got so bogged down by it all I haven’t actually looked at it for about a month, stopping completely around 211 pages in. Bloody story. Bloody Ilimoskus. Nightmare. And actually writing Book 2 MY GOODNESS WHAT IS THIS. *grumbles indistinctly*

    Seriously though, well done for winning NaNoWriMo! And sticking to what you intended. I’m utterly hopeless when it comes to keeping the word count down; I’m not even half way through Book 2 and it’s already over 80k. But, it’s a big story – we all know this, it’s cool ;) I was in the shower this morning wondering to myself what on earth possessed me to write a story with approximately nine thousand character in. I just… It’s painful, to be perfectly honest. But never mind, eh ;) We’ll both whoop writing’s arse, just wait and see, world :P

    • Mhm, what an insane struggle! And what a true quote. As unbearable as it can be to go through the taxing struggle of writing, it is so much more unbearable to not write anything at all.

      Mmm, and doesn’t it suck? :/ *sigh* But I think it can be healthy, at the same time, when you take those breaks. I think the fact that I’ve spent almost four on-and-off years with this story is what makes me love it so much. The knowledge that I can leave it untouched when I’m struggling and yet still return to it later is really a comfort.

      So chin up, keep ploughing through, and you’ll get there eventually. On your own terms :)

      Thank you, thank you :D Aha yeah, there are some stories that refuse to be contained! Your world is absolutely alive, and all those people living in it just will not stand to be ignored. Makes it hard for you though, to have to keep them all in line :P We will, we will! We shall conquer this battlefield that is writing a novel and both be dancing in victory when we finally reach the end :D

      • Ugh, tell me about it. I haven’t been able to write anything for a couple of weeks now and I am starting to get so moody about it! I swear, there’s such a thing as writing withdrawal symptoms.

        Yes, that is a very positive way of looking at it! And very true. It’s like a true, old-time friend, right? No matter how much time you spend apart, when you meet up again it is as though you had never been apart at all.

        I shall certainly try to keep my chin up. Things have been tough this end for a while, though. I have a heavy head, and a severe lack of motivation to even attempt to keep it up at the moment.

        Haha, refused to be contained all right! I wouldn’t want to irk the individuals in my world – imagine all the angry knocks on the door I’d be getting if I didn’t let them have their way! ;)

        I imagine some Hobbit-esque singing upon the tables of the pub with pitchers in our hands will be required upon our victory. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0-zS5i-jnE
        Now I’m pining over my endless love for LotR, and how those films will forever be eternally better than the disgrace of the Hobbit ones. You know, I was thinking about those films the other day, and how I cannot believe the Fellowship came out in 2001. Gaaahh, the nostalgia!! How I remember seeing it at the cinema like it was only yesterday :( Stole my heart, it did ;) ‘Tis love in the purest form, no? :P I love how dated the films look these days now, though, for it only adds to their authentic charm.

        Sorry, I’ll shush about LotR now (; I just cannot help myself.

        • Ewwww yes, it has to be some sort of medical condition, it just has to. It feels so good to get back into it after a long time away though. I remember one winter I spent a week with my friend in the province next door, and I didn’t write anything until the very end, and just the feel of my pen on the paper was the most wonderful thing. I don’t know why I remember that moment in particular, but there it is. Sometimes I feel like an addict in need of a fix :P

          Mmm, a heavy head is a difficult thing indeed. But a heavy head can be propped on a sturdy arm to keep it from hitting the desk, so never fear. You only need prop it up long enough for your head to lighten. :)

          Oooh, yes, dancing upon tables would be quite appropriate indeed! We shall make like the hobbits and party with the best of them :D Aww, that’s awesome. I wish I’d been older when they came out but I am just a few years too late to this world, darn it. So I have very vague memories of my dad watching it at home on DVD and that’s about it. They really are such charming films though. It would be such a crime if someone ever got it in their heads to remake them. You can’t remake nostalgia :(

          • Ha, well I’m not convinced even my arm can bear the load right now. I feel so tired and drained. Probably not helped by my accursed insomnia *shakes fist*. The rare nights I actually sleep all the way through feel like miracles. But no, I’ll be okay. This will all pass :) As will my apparent impasse on writing at the moment.

            It is nothing short of a tragedy that you were born just a few years late. Genuinely a tragedy. They are more than just charming, they are most glorious films ever created. Not biased or anything ;) Imagine if I had not seen those films when they first came out in the cinema. I very much doubt I would have fallen in love with fantasy as I have. Fantasy is my life, quite frankly. And it’s all thanks to Lord of the Rings <3 It's a love story, as you can see ;)
            I very much doubt anyone would attempt to remake LotR to be honest… Firstly, they're classics now, and secondly, no one really wanted to touch the story for film adaptation in the first place. I remember when they came out people talking about Peter Jackson's ambition and how many doubted he could pull Middle Earth off etc. But he did. What a grand job he did. And then he just threw it all away with the Hobbit -_- But never mind, eh. LotR will always be what it is, and no one can change that.

          • Ah well, perhaps you’re in need of a good nap with your head lying on the desk then ;). Mm, insomnia is rough :/ But it will pass! The North Wind shall come and blow away this storm and it all will pass away.

            Haha yeah :D Fantasy is such a wonderful thing <3 Mhm, that is true. Ahh me and a friend were talking yesterday because she watched the last Hobbit movie, and we were both distraught about how it's over :'( I kind of hope he will make more movies in the future, if only so my kids could have the same experience that we have. It's going to be sad next December when there's not another Middle Earth movie for my dad and grandparents and me to watch together. I don't know what I'm to do with myself :P

          • Indeed it will pass. I go in phases. At the moment, I’m actually managing to sleep through the nights again. Hallelujah! It’s the simple things ;)

            Aw, yeah, I see what you mean. If my kids could experience what I did when LotR first came out… Magic <3 But alas. Still, there could be another fantasy film being made that they could fall equally in love with. Not Middle Earth, by any means, but better than nothing, right?
            I still haven't seen this latest Hobbit film! I normally see them with a particular friend, but he can't do it this time, so I am currently at a bit of a standstill. He said, "Well if we can't watch it together, we can at least bitch about Peter Jackson afterwards :P" Hahaha. He too is not a fan of the Hobbit films, yet still neither of us can say no to Middle Earth. It's just impossible.

          • Ahhh sleep is always good. Lots of sleep. Good sleep :)

            *sigh* Yes, but it is still very painful to let go of that wonderful world, haha. I wouldn’t mind something new though. Like a whole series of movies (really good movies, mind you :P ) that aren’t based off a book or anything. It seems like it’s been forever since I’ve watched a movie that isn’t a film adaptation of a book. Hm. Haha I saw your tweet about how you didn’t hate Battle of Five Armies as much as you thought you would :P At least the series managed to end on a sort of mediocre high note for you eh? ;)

          • All the films you are seeing these days are from book adaptations because Hollywood is running out of ideas. True story. And so they pounce on any remotely popular book to make it a film and claw in some money. Have you not noticed how they seem to be endlessly remaking past films, or regurgitating previously told story in a slightly different way, as opposed to making new ones? That is further proof they are running out of ideas.

            Or at least that is my theory ;)

            Haha, hmm, ‘mediocre high’ may be too lenient, I feel. I would more likely say it was ‘tolerably awful’, as opposed to just plain awful. I said that to my friend, you know, and he goes, “We could expect no less.” Oh, how moaning about these films makes us chuckle. I also said to him that the most tragic moment of the film was when Thranduil’s elk died. Tear-jerking stuff, that was.

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