three days and running

My independent progressive version of nanowrimo began the way Eliot said the world would end–not with a bang, but a whimper.

so it goes

I mean, simply, that it didn’t live up to the hype.  The reckless energy, the sense of ecstatic release at finally actually writing, the long hours struggling to meet a word count, the frenetic writing madness, vast amounts of caffeine and insomnia–all these things were strangely absent from my life.

At least, as absent as they ever are.  Which isn’t very.

I discovered, with some disappointment, that I slightly overestimated my powers of productivity.  Apparently I’ve accustomed myself to a writing stints of 1000-1500 words.   My chapters tend to be about that long as well.

I also discovered, with some glee, the reckless, inordinate, numinous way that fantasy writing gets into the blood.  There’s a subtle independence to story, that draws life from the writer-self.  Or, more correctly, the intersection of the writer-self and the individual moments, the fusion of thought and setting.

Which is a clever way of admitting I didn’t outline first.

It’s true, though.  Something numinous takes over, and that exact combination of words and imagination could never happen except in that moment.  Even major plot decisions are, to some extent, influenced by when I’m making them.

For instance, I opted out of both the training sequence and the fight with the wildcat this weekend.  I looked at my characters–protagonist and teacher.  It’s a venerable pairing, used in almost every fantasy since Star Wars.   I could think of about seventy excellent cliches to put them in.

That wasn’t encouraging.

I backed away from the setting, stock as it was, and began asking myself about the particular characters.  How would the one train the other?  Not just, what would he say, what would he do?

And, I wondered, what made him suddenly so vindictive all the time?

I forced myself to write.  Away went the wildcat.  Away went the sparring sequence.  In walked the temple raid.

Wait, said my internal editor.  Where did this temple come from?

Truth be told, it had been there all the time.  I found it through the words of the moment, and the decisions I watched my characters make.  Once I understood why the swordmaster had become so vindictive, everything else became clear.

“Remember—you’re loud, you’re slow, you’re incapable.  Run.”

It took a good bit of work.  But I’ve met my self-imposed goal two days out of three, breaking 2k word mark Sunday and Tuesday.   Some stats, for those interested:

  • Day 1:
    Initial Word Count — 19543
    Concluding Word Count — 21580
  • Day 2:
    IWC: 21563 (I edit my previous day’s writing, cutting out around 50-100 words a day).
    CWC: 22755 (Monday.  What can I say?)
  • Day 3:
    IWC: 22692
    CWC: 24840

Total Time Writing: about 8hrs.

This is just the novel, by the way.  I have other project, like The Paradoxes here, that I’m trying to keep going.

In the midst of this all, I’m happy to report that I found time to read Jane Austen, feed my new addiction to Dr. Who, and have a prolonged conversation with an old friend.

(Eating, sleeping, and sundry should be assumed by the reader unless otherwise noted.)

The whimper, in case you were wondering, was mine, upon realizing that my Grand Idea for A Chapter took only 1500 words, and I needed to come up with another.  So, with reluctance, my characters dragged me whimpering to confront the dreaded training sequence.

Temple, what temple?

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4 thoughts on “three days and running

  1. Mine is whimpering as well, mostly because life keeps getting in the way and by the time I’m home with some free time I’m too exhausted to write.

    Fortunately I’ve been writing in my head at every opportunity, and think I’ve now sanded down several spots where there was friction from the plot rubbing against the readers’ believability. I also got my wife to read my first chapter, which she ooh’d and ahh’d over at the right parts, and even picked up on several aspects that I was hoping the reader would pick up on but wasn’t sure.

  2. Why do 99% of Nanowrimoers produce fantasy?

    Outline? All outlining does is keep temples from appearing when they’re desperately needed.

  3. Curious where you found that statistic, Tim. It’s intriguing. I’ve academic, as well as personal and professional, interest in the genre. The predominance of people wanting to write fantasy, per se, seems to indicate what I’ve come to suspect–fantasy is a highly powerful medium of exploration in the post-Holocaust world.

    And, in mild defense of outlines, in the instance where you already know where a story is going, they can help you get there. To block out a little more specifically what choices the character makes along the way. McKee writes about this fairly extensively, if you’re interested.

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