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NaNo 2010 reflections

In case you missed it, November’s over, and so is National Novel Writing Month. Before the clock hit midnight on December 1st, I managed to write 47,877 words… this close to the 50K I needed in order to win.  Oops.

Don’t feel too sorry for me, though, because so far as I’m concerned, I won. I may not have made the requisite word count, but I did finish the rough drafts of “Areopagus“, “Spyder, Spyder“, and “Strength of the Fallen“. Each of the three projects now has an ending, if a sucky one.

I’m not too concerned about suckiness. The goal of NaNo is not to be perfect, it’s to be prolific – to suck, but to suck impressively. At this point, the hard part – the “getting words down” part – is over. What is left is the perfectionist’s dream. When editing, I can be as detail-oriented as I please, from the perspective of a writer, a world-builder, a reader, and a feminist. Revision brings out a polished shine to my impressively sucky words, and adds depth and thoughtfulness to an otherwise-flat world. Yes, revision is definitely my favorite part of the writing process.

But first, I get a break. I had homework to do December 1st, but on the 2nd I had my first taste of freedom. I got more than 6 hours of sleep (during the entire month of November I only managed this once), and when I woke up, I did whatever I wanted. So I really just played Pokemon in bed all day, but hey, that’s what I wanted!

The days to come will be slightly less fun, as I have one more week before finals. Still, I will be without a long-term creative project for at least a few weeks. Maybe I’ll do some art. I have a short autobio/journal comic planned for Winter Break. Nothing epic in scope, thank god.  I’m even too pooped to start thinking about Multiversed again. The goal for now is simply to recover. When I return to the drafts of the three projects, they will be new to me again, and more importantly, as exciting as they were when new. 😛

So that’s the interesting stuff. What follows is a rundown of my NaNo 2010 experiences. If you like stats or listening to me blathering on about process, feel free to read below the cut.

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Twelve characters, three stories, one kick-ass month

NaNoWriMo goes well so far.  I had a very stressful time last week, and I’m still recovering from that.  So I’m behind in my word count, but the last two days I’ve managed to pull off 2,000+ words.

This NaNo seems to be oddly easier, even with the setbacks.  It helps having established stories to work off of, I suppose, and the fact that I can switch between stories once my steam runs out.  I’ve written 5,744 words so far, about half in Spyder, Spyder, and half in Areopagus.

I found this awesome 12 Characters meme on the NaNo forums, but they’re down at the moment, so I thought I’d post mine here.  It’s crossover-tastic, as one might expect.  Later in the month I’ll probably be writing crossover-fic due to NaNo desperation, but for now, this scratches the itch pretty well.

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Spyder – okay, you know what, I got nothin’

Couldn’t think up an appropriate play on the title of the third NaNo project, Spyder, Spyder. ^^;;

The premise… is best explained by the project page linked up there. I really don’t know how to explain it in fewer words. It’s a story about gendered professions, a world just starting to come out of the shadows of patriarchy and superstition, but mostly it’s about three kids who are trying to live with one another while finding their places in the world. It’s kind of a love story, but mostly not. It’s kind of a YA novel, but kind of not.

Spyder is hard to describe because the worldbuilding is folded into the story in a way that SotF and Areopagus aren’t. It’s about the charmcrafting, it’s about the techno-mages called ‘spyders’, and while the characters are prominent, the magic – whether ‘female’ and symbolic, or ‘male’ and scientific – might as well be a character in itself. It’s hard to describe.

To be honest, when I was writing it the first time, I was constantly upset that all I seemed to be writing was drama, the mushy stuff. Rereading the script, I saw that wasn’t quite true. The worldbuilding is more present than I thought. As a result, there aren’t any large sections to cut. The whole damn thing is plot, or worldbuilding, or both. It’s like that the whole. way. through. 70 pages of pure (if editable) plot. I have no idea how that happened.

Nice thing about that, is I have no canon-rewriting changes to make. I don’t have to choose what foreshadowing to follow, because it’s all important and there’s only one way the plot can go from page 70. The only question is how far to take the conclusion.

Okay. National Novel Writing Month starts in 20 minutes. Wish me luck!

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Sitting judgment on Areopagus

NaNo’ll be here tomorrow! I’m so excited and nervous. But not too flighty to talk about Areopagus.

The premise: A mild-mannered secretary named Kyle Newman falls asleep on the train one day and wakes up to find that he can see the sins of all those he locks eyes with.

Reading this draft wasn’t nearly as painful as I thought it would be. True, it’s the least polished of the three projects. It meanders and only starts building towards a climax at page 50 (of 87). And even then, there are half a dozen obvious Chekov’s guns, and god knows if I meant them all to go off at once.

But while I remembered the meandering and uncertainty about where the plot would go, I didn’t count on the meandering feeling… kinda worth leaving in. I won’t pretend that the characters are particularly creative. The main characters can be (mostly) summed up by the titles “shy English major”, “blunt feminist”, and “Crazy Asian Man” (the latter is actually used in-story, but it’s apt (okay, maybe not as apt as “Crazy Nerdy Type”)). They’re over the top in some ways, embarrassingly me in others… but the meandering plot gives them a bit of subtlety. Not a lot, but enough.

Speaking of, I clearly had a lot of fun writing from Kyle’s point of view. He, uh, narrates like an English major. Lots of metaphors and such, not to mention introspection and a flair for the dramatic. It’s kind of hilarious.

As for where to continue – like I said, the plot doesn’t pick up until late in the draft. I’ll take those cues, and one or two of the Chekov’s guns, and just write. I still don’t know how to end the story, unfortunately. But I think I can meander a little more on this one if I need to.

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Multiversing Strength of the Fallen

NaNo’s coming up quick, and to celebrate I thought I’d do a post a day on the projects I’ve got to look forward to. First up, Strength of the Fallen.

The plot: the S’riellan (translated as “the Fallen”) are the super-powered soldiers of the elves. But one morning, a S’riellan war hero named Minrei wakes up to find her strength, speed, and senses are those of a regular elf.

SotF is probably my favorite of the three NaNo projects.  It’s got a lot more going on than the stories I usually write, in that Minrei is not a predestined hero, nor a powerful rookie. Rather, Minrei is a physically-strong woman turned weak, an experienced fighter now reliant on smarts and creativity, and a fugitive from a government founded on conspiracies.

I reread the initial draft as prep for NaNo. Predictably, the writing became less well-thought-out as I went through it. I could tell when I started getting desperate for higher word counts, since I stopped using contractions and started adding notes about which swear words to use. (SotF was apparently written after watching Firefly, because I had decided to swear in Fijian. I now regret that decision. It’s too obvious.)

Basically, in the 88 page document, anything after page 40 might get cut. I’ve made a few plot-altering decisions for the coming NaNo already. A big one is that I’m cutting the romance bit that occurs in the last half. It doesn’t fit, and makes Minrei seem emotionally-weaker than I want her to be.

The other big change is that I’m making SotF part of 3PF canon – and by extension, Multiversed. When I first thought up Minrei, I used a similar worldbuilding premise to the one I used in 3PF. If you’re interested in an explanation, you can find it below the cut.

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Tossing and turning the page

I’ve been having trouble sleeping recently. I go to bed and I toss and I turn, and I think about Multiversed. As a result, I’ve made a lot of progress in figuring out the chapter storylines. The prologue and chapter 1 still need some work, but chapters 2, 3, n-1, and n are more-or-less planned out in my head (where n is the magical chapter when shit goes down, yo). I even have chapter titles for some of them. It’s an exhilarating feeling, having solid plot to work with.

And, if you check my Multiversed references page, you’ll see that I’ve posted an update with Damien’s character sheet. I’d hoped to have Valerie’s revised character sheet done by today as well, but… see for yourself :

Heh heh. To misquote “Bend It Like Beckham,” when drawing, I tend to make even mosquito bites look like juicy juicy mangoes. ^^;;

Sleeplessness led to another awesome turn of events besides Multiversed progress. One night I stumbled back out of bed, and went back to my computer. I was looking for a couple of documents in which I keep spare ideas (for incorporating into a Multiversed storyline, say). But instead I ended up reading the beginning of Strength of the Fallen. Then, amazed, I read bits of Areopagus. Then Spyder, Spyder.

They were actually good.

It’s been long enough since I wrote these projects that I don’t remember anything but the barest details of them. It was as though someone else had written them, some writer who knew what she was doing.

For the first time in my life, I agree with my mother that I should try to get these things published. …Which means I should probably finish writing them. 😛

Therefore I’m proud to announce that I will be doing National Novel Writing Month again this year. This time, I will be writing the ends to the drafts from my previous three NaNo’s. This month, my prep reading will be the drafts; my homework to brainstorm endings. I’m incredibly excited for this. NaNo is the most hectic but brilliant time. I feel so alive (if tired) during it, and I’m sure this time won’t be an exception.

(And look at those pep talk guests! Holly Black, Dave Eggers and Lemony Snicket. SQUEE. :3 )

Last but not least, I’m including an excerpt of Strength of the Fallen. There are a few things I’ll change in a later draft, of course, but it reminded me of all the intrigue that’s at the heart of this story. Click to read the excerpt.

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I like sleep. Sleep is good.

I just got in to Chicago yesterday, for Fall Break. I’ll be here until late Tuesday night, hanging out with Sarah and our parents, getting winter clothing, putting together a Halloween costume, and in general not doing homework. There’s still so much to do that’s not school-related, though, and I keep having to tell my brain, “No! No all-nighters! We like sleep.” And I do. I love sleep. Sleep is the best, and I could use more of it.

I’ve mentioned that I’m not doing National Novel Writing Month this year. However, this little part of my brain that schedules things keeps trying to figure out a way to fit it in. I wasn’t sure why at first. NaNo is amazing, but sooo stressful. A NaNo-er’s November is like being through an emotional wringer – you go from enthusiam to guilt to desperation, and on to a few kinds of wild-eyed madness which may at the time be confused with an epiphany of near-religious proportions. A NaNo author has very little free time, sacrificing friends and family for the pen or the keyboard. A NaNo author sometimes forgets meals, instead choosing to wonder where the next thousand words are coming from.

This blog post by Alegra Clarke made me realize why I still want – hell, ache – to participate for my fourth year. And – imagine my surprise – it’s the stress, and the odd habits I develop as coping mechanisms. As Alegra Clarke says:

November is an excuse to live on a diet of chocolate, coffee, and crunchy-salty foods. It is a month to fully indulge the habits of my strange writer-self, such as walking down the street mumbling as I scribble notes and bump into lamp posts. It is an opportunity to buy a pretty notebook and a smooth-gliding ballpoint. But more than that, completing a NaNoWriMo forever changed the limitations I had previously placed on myself as a writer.

And it’s true. I like putting other things aside and just concentrating on being a writer. I like the stress. I like the work of it. I like complaining about my characters and plots. I like being part of a community of people who are putting on their writer’s hats, who are treating themselves to that Chinese food because they exceeded their daily word count goal.

I only wish I could do it this year too, even with the grad school applications, the computer science capstone project, the webcomic idea frothing around in my brain meats. I wish… but since no fairy godmother’s going to drop down with a freeze ray (stops time; tell your friends), maybe next year.