Brant on NaNoWriMo Day 8

Before I get into my post today, I want to give a shout out to Kathryn.  Most of the posts out of the this blog have come from her lately.   Kathryn’s informative posts about what music inspires her and where she has been focusing her writing on a day-to-day basis have provided me insights of my own, as well as links to some beautiful music.  Great work Kathryn.

My Current NaNoWriMo  Status

  • Suggested Daily Word Count: 1,667  (Works out to 50,000 words in 30 days.)
  • Words Written Today: 1,800
  • Suggested Cumulative Word Count by Day 8:  13,336
  • My Actual Cumulative Word Count: 17,807
  • Average Words per Day: 2,226
  • At This Rate I Will Finish On: Nov 23
  • Days Remaining in November: 22
  • Total Words Remaining for NaNoWriMo: 32,193
  • Words per Day to Finish on Time 1,464
  • Current Page Count of (Mostly) New Material: 64 

The short hand of these statistics is that I am well ahead of schedule.   I have a comfortable buffer that I can build on to make certain I actually do 50,000 words in 30 days.

A Song That Inspires Me

Song of the Seahorse by Miriam Stockley is a song which I listen to often.  Its sweeping melody and melancholy lyrics makes me think of many different things, but with regards to my story I feel it captures something essential about my character, Artemis Arrowsmith. 

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Song of the Seahorse, by Miriam Stockley

The lyrics dwell on the death of a lover and the how the person feels because of their loss.   This is central to Artemis’ character and the subplots that revolve around her.    The music also captures a sense of beauty and even wonder, other elements central to her character.

A Lesson Learned From NaNoWriMo: JUST KEEP TYPING!

Seriously, don’t dwell on anything.  Just keep typing.

“What am I wanting to accomplish in this chapter/with this character?”  Don’t worry about it, just keep typing.

“Wait…isn’t this character supposed to be dead already?”  Don’t worry about it, just keep typing.

“What color did I say her eyes were a few pages back?”  Don’t worry about it, just keep typing.

“Wasn’t this character a different sex in and earlier chapter?”  Don’t worry about it, just keep typing.

The Result Is An Interesting Mishmash.

On scenes I have reasonably well mapped out in my mind, I blend descriptions and actions and dialogue together in reasonable proportions.   Not great, but workable text.

Then there are areas where I know I want or need a conversation on a subject, but I don’t have the details well thought out. 

This writing tends to be various people talking in an undefined area with characters appearing out of nowhere.  Where are they? Who knows?  What led up to the scenes?  Who knows?  All I know for certain is that there are elements in those scenes that I definitely want to keep somewhere in the overall story.

A Funny Thing Happened While Trying to Write A Story

Along the way, I was forced to deal with the motivations for the character of Demiurge in a more concrete way.  Given that the title of the second book is …Demiurge, Unbound,…, this was unavoidable.

But his origins are located behind a shroud of the distant past, which meant I needed to think about that past in the way he would.  I.e. Discovering the voice of Demiurge required thinking about my story’s mythology as he remembered it.

This led to a multipage “tell” that turned into a surprisingly clean summary of events explaining how the world ended up in its present state.  

Details became clear to me that I had glossed over in my mind, and with those details I realized I needed additional information about the world’s geography that I had never considered before.

The downside:  The new geographic details affect what I have already written in the first book.  On the bright side, what I need to add, while major, can be done by placing a few key sentences in a handful of  areas.  One particularly vivid description in chapter seven in the first book could be the foundation for significant reveals in the second book.

Rather than add those elements to the first book, I noted what I needed as part of my NaNoWriMo efforts.  i.e. I just wrote it in a a major, ugly, info dump.

And while I was doing that, I had a second major insight to the working of my world. 

How magic works and what its limitations are is a subject I have wrestled with often.  Now many of those details are clear to me, and I see how it has affected the path of Artemis and Damon both. 

These insights led me to know how the second book will end, and what scenes will comprise much of the third book of the series, …And Damon Roth,…

In particular, I now know why Damon first became interested in Artemis, and what he had to go through to find her.  Once again, I decided to jot down these thoughts as part of my NaNoWriMo efforts.

After these insights, I was able to return to a more linear narrative focused on scenes I had long thought of but had written little about.  Once again, I am writing less mythology and info dumps and more of a blend descriptions and actions and dialogue together in reasonable proportions

Insights Learned During NaNoWriMo.

The pace of writing has forced me to abandon quality for quantity.  To pour words onto the page as fast as they appear in my head.  Misspellings abound.  I use the same word in sentence after sentence, creating a repetitive feel that is, frankly, boring to read.  Grammar, the bane of my existence, is sacrificed for rambling sentences that often make little sense even to me.

Fast and furious writing forces you to make decisions that ripple through your overall work.  Earlier text that you think has settled and needs nothing more must be modified.  Plot strands for the future become clearer and more defined.  

Good ideas also end up on the page as details I hadn’t considered until now become facts of the world.  The story evolves and becomes substantially better.

I must admit to a temptation that this style of writing has inspired in me.  Namely to write my whole seven volume story in one gigantic effort as fast as possible. 

Yes, the final product would be craptacular, but it would also be a complete first draft.  After that I could focus on the long slow editing process where turgid text is replace by compelling prose. 

I’m not certain this would be a better approach that my normal style of write-edit-edit-edit-edit-edit-edit-edit-edit-write some more.  But my experiments with NaNoWriMo makes me wonder if writing the whole story at once wouldn’t yield rewards I can’t fathom at this time.

Brant’s NaNoWriMo Musical Inspiration

One of my favorite pieces of music to write by is actually a trailer produced one year for the British science fiction series, Dr. Who.  The song is called All The Strange Strange Creatures

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A montage of Dr Who scenes played against All The Strange Strange Creatures

It starts off  with a slow creepy buildup before exploding into a sweeping melody that combines both action and a sense of wonder.   Every time I listen to it I see in my mind a montage of scenes from my story.  Iconic moments that I either have written or intend to write.  This music helps me see the epic arc of the main story I am trying to tell.

Day Three of NaNoWriMo

The goal of 50,000 words in 30 days is quite challenging.  This works out to be about 6 pages of new material I need to write per day. 

I decided to use NaNoWriMo to work on my second book, …Demiurge, Unbound,…  Over the years I have tossed various notes and snippets of scenes into the book in preparation for one day turning the confused jumble into an actual novel. 

The end result is that I start off with a slight advantage, about twenty pages of material that I can use with little correction or editing.  i.e. I started NaNoWriMo with about three days of leeway. 

On day 1 I wrote 6 pages of new material, interwoven with the existing text.  Day 2 I managed about 4 pages.  Right now on Day 3 I have already managed about 5 pages (I woke up early and dove into writing first thing.) Right now I already have over 7300 of new (or mostly new) words on paper.  Not a bad start.

In a later post I will talk about how the need to write fast and loose affects my style and is shaping my story.

Dithering in Space and Time

I have been delaying writing my next post, not because of a lack of subjects but because a lack of time has intersected with my propensity to dither. 

Time is Not on My Side

I have previously written about a few of the distractions I am currently coping with.  There are others as well, various personal commitments that individually don’t require significant amounts of time, but which collectively drain away the minutes and hours of the day.

Even poor writing requires time and effort.  Lately I find that when free time bubbles to the surface of my schedule the idea of settling in front of computer to spend hours writing seems to require more effort than I can summon.  It is easy to say, “Not today, maybe tomorrow.”  And tomorrow becomes the day after, and the day after that, then next week, then next month.  Once I managed to let the days go by one at a time for so long that two years passed without me writing a word on my story. 

My self-imposed requirement that I maintain my blogging efforts has forced me to return to the keyboard.  To stare into the unforgiving white page and cover it with words.  It isn’t fiction writing, it doesn’t directly advance my efforts to tell the story that dominates so much of my mind.  But it is writing, and the effort alone counts for something.  Only so many days are allowed to go by before I must express a thought or emotion, describe an event, or simply write something and publish it to the world.

NaNoWriMo Is Not Something Mork Said

This is National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo.  (No, I have no idea why they went with that terrible abbreviation.) The idea is that you are suppose to dedicate yourself to writing 50,000 words in the month of November.  This equates to about 175 pages of prose.  Given my tendency to verbosity, that is a long chapter for me.  I exaggerate, though not as much as those unfamiliar with my writing might think.  One of my chapters qualifies as a self-contained novella.

The point of NaNoWriMo is to write as fast as you can.  To pour words onto the page with abandon.  To not worry about whether you use the right words or write characters consistently or believably or any of the other issues that can slow writing to a crawl.   To just type as fast as your fingers will allow.

To break my logjam, I decided to throw my hat into the NaNoWriMo ring and begin work on the second book in my Gods Among Men series, …Demiurge, Unbound,….  The first book, At the Lady’s Behest Comes…, is written, though much of it is still terrible.  (No, this is not false modesty, just an honest appraisal of the vast bulk of the novel that has not been properly edited.)

My reasoning when I started was that, while I have plenty of ideas and requirements  for …Demiurge, Unbound,…  precious little of it has actually been written down.  If I were to generate 50,000 words on that novel in a short period of time then at least I would have something that I could edit and improve on later.  Plus, I thought the effort would help me practice  pantzing character interactions, something I had been planning to do anyway.

So How’s That Working Out For You?

I think it is safe to say I will not achieve the stated goal of 175 pages by the end of the month.  Ignoring the fact that I started late, the truth of the matter is I have too little time.   My slow typing speed alone is enough to prevent me from putting 50,000 words on the page in the remaining time.  With dedication and effort I might reach 20,000 words, but even that seems unlikely to me.  Still, it is a goal worth trying for.

In the process of writing on …Demiurge, Unbound,…, I was struck by a thought.  It was a glancing blow which, no doubt, will heal in a few days, or perhaps a few weeks.  In the meantime, the aftereffects of this thought bothers me enough that I continue to pick at it in my mind.   If I am not careful it will leave a scar.

The thought was simple enough: Why limit myself to the end of the month?

I want to be clear here.  I am not trying to break the idea behind NaNoWriMo.  (Seriously, whoever came up with that abbreviation needs to avoid both writing and marketing as their chosen profession.)  I am seeking to expand the idea and incorporate it into my writing methodology. 

A Time to Edit, And A Time to Write

I have been struggling for some time to discover how best to tell my story.  To call it a “work of a lifetime” is is not quite correct.  At the rate I am currently churning out finished pages it will take considerably more years to finish writing Gods Among Men than I likely have left to live. 

I am faced with the clear fact that I must write faster or Gods Among Men will never be complete, meaning actually written down.  I don’t think it ever shall  be complete in the sense that I will be fully satisfied with my telling of the story, but it is possible for me to write the story arc in its entirety from beginning to end.  To construct a first draft that expresses the plot, describes the characters and their relationships to each other, and reveals the world that consumes so much of my waking thoughts.

I want to go beyond arbitrary deadlines (50,000 words by the end of the month, so many words each day, etc…)  and avoid the bog of infinite editing.  I want to bring the phase of endless planning to its long overdue end and find a structure that forces me to move the story forward at a steady pace.  A way to whittle down the mountain of complex plot and characters and construct a draft that has all the elements required to tell the story, even if it is not told particularly well.  I want a structure that forces me to write and removes the excuses that allow me to dither and delay putting words on paper.

Oops, There Goes Another Rubber Tree Plant

To that end, I am going to perform an experiment pulling together several threads of thought that I have been toying with for some time now.

In essence, I am considering broadening my idea for writing character vignettes.  Instead of limiting myself to out of context scenes, which I was having great difficultly doing, I would instead spend time each week crafting a first draft of Gods Among Men.  To write as quickly as possible and tell my story from beginning to end.   I would not edit any of the new material at this time, just strictly focus on the flow of the story and the character interactions.

To keep myself honest, I would regularly post what I have written.  Perhaps not every word; I reserve the right to keep the worst tripe safely hidden until I can replace it with something better.  Still, if once or twice a week I am required to post something then by incremental steps I will make concrete what currently exists solely in my overactive imagination. 

This also allows me the opportunity to practice the various skills in which I am less than adequate at the moment, most notably character interactions.  Also, it would let me write my mythology out as part of the story in which it fits.  To weave the relevant details into the dialogue and descriptions in a way that hopefully would be both clear and natural.

I would continue to edit my existing chapters as well, polishing that text until it is of acceptable and perhaps even publishable quality.  But, while I am improving on what exists, I also need to create new material that completes the story arc the existing work begins.

I have Issues. Yeah, I Know, You’re Shocked 

There are two questions which I must resolve before I begin this effort. 

The first question is whether this blog is the proper place for this material, or should I start a separate blog dedicated to posting my fiction, à la Kathryn’s blog about her story, Moonlit

As originally constituted, this blog was about writing in general and the efforts of the Magic City Writers’ Group.  I am the most prolific of the posters on this blog, but I am not the only person contributing to it.  And, while I have often indulged myself by posting material relevant only to me and my story, the effort I am proposing may be inappropriate for this site.  Which raises the question that perhaps I should move all of my story specific material to my own private blog.   But doing so would require a fair amount of effort, and would mean that I would have to maintain two blogs instead of one.  In a word, yuck. 

The second question concerns the content of what I post.   Namely, should I also post completed or recently edited sections from the first book, or constrain myself to just new material as it it written.  My purpose is to create a complete first draft of the whole story, which would suggest posting only new material. 

But the new material would be confusing to those who have not read the earlier material, which includes everybody other than me.  (The writers’ group has read only the early chapters, and even Kathryn has not read the last several chapters.)  In addition, the blog (whether this one or a new one) shall over time become a reference source for me.  A place I can go to find scenes and other materials that I have stored with tags to make them easier to find.  These facts suggest that I should include the older material for the sake of completeness.

No doubt I shall dither and dally over this a bit more before making my final decisions.  I am interested in the opinions of others on these questions.

Until next time, have fun.

The Big Picture, Part 4: The World of Tomorrow

Foreword:

This post is part of an ongoing series laying out essential elements for understanding both the complex plot of my epic fantasy, Gods Among Men, and the byzantine plans of its protagonist, the wizard Damon Roth.

Here are links to earlier posts in this series.

The World of Today

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I see Gods Among Men as being set on earth in the very distant future.  At some point where Arthur C. Clarke’s adage, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” has finally come true.  

In my last post, I explained how in my mythology the faerie world exists, but broke off most contact with humans in our early pre-history.

Adopting this mythology lets me both claim that supernatural entities—and hence supernatural or magical powers—exist, and explain why mankind at our current moment in history would be largely unaware of that fact.

It also, however, begs the following question: From this point, meaning our present, how does our modern society twist and turn to become my fantasy world of the future?  A world that draws heavily on Medieval and Renaissance imagery with Gothic overtones.  A place where Greek mythology and Shakespearean tragedies are plot elements in a battle of wills between the protagonist, Damon Roth, and the antagonist Demiurge.  The kind of world where spacecraft coexist with spellcraft.

Where Do We Go From Here

It is my belief that certain trends in mankind’s past will continue into the future.  First and foremost, there will be scientific and technological progress.  Mankind will learn more about biology, genetics, physics, and a host of other subjects.  Computer technology will advance, as will space travel, engineering, and the like.

Take these assumptions forward an indefinite period of time; a thousand years or more, tens of thousands if need be.  What might be possible at the furthest reaches of these broad trends?

In my mythology, in the far future there will be practical space travel within the solar system.  There will be many colonies on asteroids, moons, and planets that are functionally self-sustaining. 

Nanotechnology is perfected and able to operate down at the atomic and possibly sub-atomic level. 

Genetic engineering has reached the point where building custom life forms from scratch is possible if one has the right tools. 

The differences between quantum mechanics and relativity theory have been resolved, and we have discovered how to draw vast amounts of energy from the universe itself.  (Or from alternate universes or parallel dimensions or the space between universes or some other techno-babble explanation.  The details here are not important. What matters is that there is nearly unlimited energy that can be tapped and converted to a myriad of uses.)

The Daemons in these Details

But I do not have a utopian view of the future.  There are now, and will continue to be, those who oppose progress of the nature I describe.  We have terrorist and dictators now who seek to disrupt the stability and peace of our world.  Who, if given a chance, would cast us into a dark age. 

I doubt the current batch of thugs have much chance of success, but suppose that desire continues to burn in one form or another for generation after generation.  Suppose evil itself has a form, perhaps intangible, that will return over and over, searching for a way to break the foundations of civilization. 

In my mythology, at the very height of our technological prowess, those who would do great harm found a way to do so.  A way beyond their imaginations or ability to control.  These evil men and women destroyed themselves, and unleashed forces that sent earth spiraling into a new dark age. One which isolates people on earth from their brethren in the space colonies. 

In the process, the destroyers of civilization unleashed Daemons on the world of tomorrow.

Daemons are hybrid humans whose descendants will be called Wizards because of the powers they command which appear to be magical.  Powers rooted in the merger of quantum mechanics, relativity theory, computer science, nanotechnology, biology, and genetic engineering.

I shall go into further details about daemons in a later post.  One point worth noting is that my antagonist, Demiurge, is the last and most powerful of the original daemons.  At the height of his power his name became synonymous with the honorific people hailed him by: God Among Men.

What Is Important To Damon Roth?

The events leading up to the fall of the scientific and technological civilization give rise to the magic that permeates my story.  In a later post I will detail the scientific nature of magic in my mythology, and how its creation resulted in the new dark age.  The key point right now is that Damon Roth and Demiurge are the only characters who have knowledge about the true nature of magic.  This knowledge allows both of them to control people and events in ways impossible for anyone else.

Damon also has detailed information about how the societies on earth and in the space colonies developed.  He knows the strengths and weaknesses in both, understands their history and goals, and is prepared to bend both to his will.

Damon’s plan to confront the future threat he knows of requires those on earth and those in space to unite with elves and other races.  Both humans on earth and those in space must agree to abandon their existing governments and social structures and adopt new ones of his creation.  Damon gives each side the chance to do so willingly, knowing their leaders will refuse.  After their refusal, Damon violently destroys those who oppose him, saving those who are more amendable to his plans.

The details of what happened to those on earth and those in space are important, and beyond the scope of this post.  Later posts in this series will explain what happened to each and how their respective experiences are needed for the survival of humanity and the rest of life on earth.

And On Another Note…

I am approaching the complex hub of my mythology.  The events that foreshadow the tale I am trying to tell in Gods Among Men. Many times in this article I have had to use a phrase like, “In a later post I will explain…”  This is because there is much information that I developed in fits and starts over many long years.  Details which I have never formally expressed in spoken or written words. 

I hope I am clear in my explanations, and the world I describe understandable.  I believe this exercise helps me order my thoughts and answers my own questions about my own work. 

It does take a long time to write these posts, however.  Much longer than it took to write most of my earlier posts.  The amount of time I spend actually writing and editing on Gods Among Men has decreased dramatically in recent weeks. 

I may need to intersperse some smaller, less complicated topics amidst this exploration of my mythology.  But I don’t want to stop writing on this subject out of fear that the clarity I have been blessed with recently will fade if I do.  I am uncertain how to resolve this quandary, so I will have to wait and see where inspiration leads me next.

Until next time, have fun.

The Moment Of Epiphany

I am late with the posts this week  for two reasons.  First because of issues with my back, but more importantly I had and epiphany about my story, Gods Among Men.

It was strange for a plotter like me to admit this, but I had until recently put precious little thought into the machinations at the end of the story.   Which is not to say I did not know the ending, merely I hadn’t figured out how to get there.  The distinction is important.  Knowing the endpoint is a matter of plot, getting there is a matter of character and story.

I had all the characters, I knew I needed all of them, but I was uncertain why I needed all of them.  I knew many things I needed Damon to do, but it was all tactical maneuvers; I was missing a strategy to  tie the details together.

When insight strikes, you notice.   It is like when a puzzle makes sense, or a math proof becomes obvious.  Archimedes may well have yelled, “Eureka” at such a moment.  I, on the other hand, whispered something a trace more vulgar and gaped at mid-air.

I now know why Damon is doing certain things.  And I can explain, simply, the importance of each action to his plan. I understand the twisted plot now in a way I could not before.

And so, for perhaps the first time, I shall jot down what my story is about in a way anyone can understand.

This story is about Damon Roth. 

Its tag line is: One man’s quest to change himself starts with his attempts to change the world. 

The plot is about the fall of one empire and the founding of the greater empire that shall follow it. 

Damon Roth sees a threat so far in the future that for him to even talk of it makes people think him insane.  He takes it upon himself to save the world, even if it means destroying whole civilizations to do so.   The price of failure is his soul.

Damon will destroy the old empire and create a new one dedicated to confronting the future threat.  He will not rest, nor falter, nor turn aside in his quest to become the god of a new age.  To become known as Demiurge, God Among Men. 

But first he must  defeat the old Demiurge and steal his power.   Then he must identify the enemies and traitors who might move against him or  Tara Rihtwis, the woman he has chosen to rule the new empire.  He will empower these enemies until he is ready to destroy them, and in the process slay the old empire.

Damon is the hero of the story.  And he may well be a power-hungry madman.