Now at 22k words (not counting 10k that went into the trash) into TSS 2.0!

It's been a while since I posted, but I see that some people at least have continued to visit everyday. Thanks for that. I've been involved in school and am currently in a post-procrastination rush toward finals. With only a week left, I find myself horribly unprepared, so this will be a small island in a sea of non-existent posts.

First off, any of you who come to visit me and also participated in NaNoWriMo, congratulations (if you succeeded)! Even if you didn't make the 50k word goal, you should pat yourself on the back, then keep going! Finish it!

As the post title says, I'm currently at 22k words into my rewrite of TSS. I had planned to do NaNoWriMo, but only started mid month, so I guess you could say I'm on track so far to hit my 50k mid December. With school though, I'm looking at the middle of January as my goal. This particular rewrite is shaping up to be a lot longer too, possibly into the 110k range as opposed to TSS 1.0, which was 86K words. The story is progressing nicely, and oddly enough, becoming more mature and complicated, despite having made my characters 2 years younger than before.

Just a small note before I take off. If you writers out there haven't looked into a program called Scrivener, you need to do so, now. Click here and watch the videos, download a 30 day trial, and prepare to be blown away as it changes your writing forever.

Well, I'm off for another week at least, nose to the wheel and shoulder to the grindstone and all that. Thanks for stopping by!

Giving in to NaNoWriMo.

I officially signed up for NaNoWriMo last night. Yes, I know I'm half way through the month already, and I've only been writing for a week, but their little word count graph was just too much to pass up. I'm currently at just below 16,000 words, and need to step up my daily writing to finish 50,000 by the end of the month. My current goal was 2k per day, but now I need to do 2.3K to catch up. Will I succeed? I dunno. Finals are coming up in a few weeks, and I have a massive research paper in my Art History class, so I may be doomed to failure. However, it's important to me to know where I sit, and shooting for a goal will help motivate me, even if it may not be possible. So here goes.

I'll try to link my graph somehow....

Opportunities to write... Are they really that few and far between?

Lately I've been bemoaning my lack of time. With work and school sucking down minutes and hours like a hungry hamster, it seems like the day is over before I can manage to type a word. Even on the days where I manage to find an hour or two, I feel like my brain will explode if I don't veg out in front of Frazier on Netflix, or catch up on that MMO I've been playing.

Thing is, I'm looking at it all wrong. Writing is hard, but it isn't work. At least it shouldn't be. I've personally found a lot of pleasure and pride in the things I've written (crazy, but true), so why do I treat it like a chore? I think the answer lies in my organization of priorities. I've chosen to put TV and MMOs in a place of importance when it comes to relaxation, when really, I should be developing writing into my main source of enjoyment. And here's the thing, writing is totally fun. It really is. But sometimes our brains have to be taught that fact. Even us bookish types have been indoctrinated all our lives that the definition of recreation is watching the tube or playing video games. On a related note. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim comes out tomorrow, and I won't be purchasing it. Why? Well, the $60 price tag is part of it, but mainly, it's because I want to remove that lazy temptation to fall back to video games from my life. If I'm bored or stressed, I should go write, and if that means radically changing my way of thinking about it, then so be it.

Writing can be fun, and it should be. No one, and I mean no one, should be writing novels or stories because they think it's a smart career choice. What about you? What things are you letting get in the way of writing?

I've officially started the first draft of a new The Sometimes Sword.

After converting the existing (straight fantasy) prologue to fit with the current incarnation (urban fantasy), I have completed the first chapter--nearly 6k words--so far. It's going surprisingly well. Despite my misgivings, I'm staying motivated and positive, and I think it's reflected in the material. Entering the modern world as opposed to a pseudo-medieval one in my writing is something I've never done before. It feels odd to reference things like TVs or iPods, but it's also kinda fun. Writing about high school and friends seems natural to me, and a character that previously lacked a fully-formed personality has since come busting through the screen at me.

I exceeded my daily goal of 2k words by, well, 2k words, for a total of 4k today alone. If I stick to it, I will easily have a 90k word book by the end of the year, ready to be edited and revised, possibly even submitted by summer 2012. (Once again, in case you missed it, this is a rewrite of The Sometimes Sword, an already completed novel running at 86k words. I am rewriting it to convert the entire thing into urban fantasy, a task too large for simply revision.)

Here's hoping this holiday season is a productive one! What about you? What are you working on right now?

Converting a draft into a new story.

I'm going to try and start writing shorter posts, to make it less of a chore for you to read. So here goes.

I'm in the first steps of tearing apart The Sometimes Sword, mostly just thinking about it. I have yet to do any actual changes to the words, but I'm making progress nonetheless. Yesterday while I was walking into the Tech building for my math class, I had an epiphany of sorts. It wasn't a specific idea for the story, more like an over-all revelation. It occurred to me that I wasn't thinking big enough, despite my intentions to reorganize the book. I needed to completely re-imagine the whole thing, from the ground up.

So I spent some time thinking about everything (you might begin to detect a common theme here about thinking...): what I like to read, what I want to write, whether or not I had pigeon-holed myself, etc. I came to several conclusions, one of which was a pretty big deal. I've always been a fan of urban fantasy, and wanted some of that feeling in my book, but at the same time, I don't want The Sometimes Sword to take place in our world. So as of right now, I am in the process of converting an existing character into a modern-day visitor to the world of TSS, sort of a Narnia/Harry Potter type infiltration of a magical This changes so much existing material that I will essentially be rewriting the book as opposed to revising it, regardless of the scale. It's a monumental change, but since I'm writing it as a new book I will hopefully make more headway than if I had continued editing.

Perhaps this will give me the motivation I need to get some real progress made toward my dream of being a writer, and as winter break approaches, perhaps I'll have the time too.

Research and Writing.

Why should writers/authors do research, and what benefits does it have? I'm sure opinions on this subject vary wildly. I wanted to give some of my thoughts, along with recent experiences while working in The Sometimes Sword.

I've never been a research buff. I've always fancied that, in Fantasy at least, the author's mind should be sufficient to provide details in the world they themselves made. (Makes sense right?) Well, not so much. recently I've been taking advantage of research more, and I wish I had started earlier. First though, let me define research, as there are two parts in my opinion. First, what most people think of: basic fact finding such as discovering the different parts of a horse's saddle, looking up what different metals were used in weapons in medieval societies, or the names of the individual pieces in a set of plate armor, etc. Second, there's the research for story, character, and setting ideas (this one is especially important).

It's true that an author can invent most anything they want to, and a really smart author can bluff their way through many details, or just make them up on the spot. Writing in extreme High Fantasy makes this easier than say, modern crime thrillers, but for those of us who want to ground our fantasy world closer to home, we need to introduce some solid facts to forge that link. For instance, back when I first started The Sometimes Sword, I knew I wanted to have a horse in there somewhere, but knew nothing about them. Not wanting to treat a horse like a motorcycle (as Howard Taylor of Schlock Mercenary fame phrases it in several Writing Excuses episodes), I had to find out something about them. What do they eat? How much do they eat? How fast can they run, and for how long? Do my characters need to worry about the cost of maintaining their mount? Do they sleep standing up or laying down? These things were important. Even though the story I was writing might have been okay without them, I knew I needed to have those details to give it a sense of reality. So I jumped on the Internet (yes, it really is that easy) and looked up a few reputable sites dedicated to caring for horses and began to read. Truth be told, it ended up being pretty dang interesting all by itself. I took some notes and added a few bookmarks.

I've done the same with pieces of armor, and terms for different weapons and styles of swords. These details, when integrated seamlessly into your story, help to flesh the world out, and give the illusion that you really know what you're talking about. After all, telling a story is all about creating illusions, because an effective one hides everything that doesn't make it into the book, along with any failings the author might have in say, horsemanship.

The other kind of research is a little more involved, and ultimately, serves a story better than fact-finding alone. I'm talking about using the world's thousands of stories as an inspiration for yours. There's a lot more of this than we realize, even from the greats: Lloyd Alexander's Horned King came from an old legend in Ireland (I think) about a spectral hunter with antlers on his head called Herne the Hunter (much of his world is loosely based on Welsh legends). Banshees in countless tales come from another set of Irish legends. Sherlock Holmes's(?) case "The Hound of the Baskervilles" is based on the legend of the Beast of Bodmin Moor. Nearly any modern witch you read about has some characteristics tie back to Black Annis, the English legend of a witch in Cornwall. (Feel free to correct me about these facts or add to them, I haven't actually done research for this blog article, pathetic I know.) J.K. Rowling with Harry Potter and Brandon Mull with Fablehaven use countless fairy tales and mythical creatures from our world to fill their own.

Don't be afraid to do some searching. Need a crazy creature to put your reader at unease? Look no further than the some of the anal-fixated monsters in South America and some of the American islands, or the old crazy stuff Japanese freak the crap out of their kids with. You can find legends about everything: kings with curses, sorcerers who turn people into animals, witches who eat children, demons in disguise, etc. Now, I'm not saying you have to lift details straight from them (though you definitely can) or that you have to base your story on an existing legend. What you can do though, is research these things to give yourself a kick in the pants, or to find something that sets a spark in your brain. When you feel completely squeezed dry of creativity, it helps to take some time looking for stories that intrigue you, then determine what qualities made them stick out, and convert them to something you can use. (I know I've always been fascinated with the old school creepy stuff, hence all the talk of witches and old Irish legends.)

I'm currently doing this for The Sometimes Sword, and I'm finding that so far it's helping to pump some excitement back into the writing process, along with informing some changes to fundamental characters. So next time you sit down to write and feel a little bored, think about doing some research to liven up your story and increase the illusion of reality.

How we should all be viewing our "first drafts".

Lately I've been in a funk. Yes, I just used that word. At some point in the last few months, I realized that I don't know myself as well as I thought. I'm not able to gauge when my depression will kick in, and unlike a few years ago, I can no longer turn it off and on like a switch by listening to some posi-core. Right now I'm feeling better about writing, and a few fun ideas have popped into my head about The Sometimes Sword. But I can't guarantee that next week I'll feel the same. It's a reality I need to face in order to overcome it someday.

As for my blog, I think I may just need to suck it up and write about writing, not the lack thereof. Who knows, maybe it will eventually bring me back into the right state of mind. Today I wanted to focus on editing, specifically when you realize that the editing you are doing is a dead end. At some point a writer might stop in the middle of the second or third edit, sit back, and realize that the story they wanted to write has never been further away from reality than at that exact moment.

You wrote your first draft, maybe you gardened it, watching as it grew and took shape. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way the story also got away from you. Perhaps it still turned out well enough, but your original vision got lost in the metaphorical grocery store. Along with the usual horrible prose, shudder-inducing dialogue and other things that plague first drafts, you find yourself trying to find where your vision went. A lot of time can be wasted with this process, and even worse, you may find yourself struggling to deal with a fragmented and revision-heavy manuscript, purely dead weight. I found myself in just this situation a month or so ago. At the time I decided to give up the book indefinitely and move on to something else. I've since changed my mind, for many reasons (you can read about them in some of my previous posts).

So what do you do when you suddenly find yourself in this position? Some people give up, thinking they just aren't good enough writers, others move on to something else (like I almost did), and some people just keep plugging away at it, endlessly revising for years and years. I like to think there is another way. Chuck Wendig at has these wonderful lists he does, usually titled along the lines of "25 Reasons Why Writers Blank" and so on. Recently there has been a theme throughout them (possibly because of NaNoWriMo coming up) where he focuses on the purpose of a first/rough draft. I think many writers, myself included, think of the first draft as the stepping stone to the second draft, then on to the third and so on; something to be improved over time, incrementally revising each version until it shines. Naturally, this can lead to the aforementioned years of editing, or giving up.
Nowadays, I'm suddenly not so sure that this is how it's intended to work. What if--and stay with me here--what if the first draft was meant to be a practice draft, and no more? What if a writer sat down and pounded out a 60k word manuscript just to clear his/her head? We all know what it's like to have an entire world, story, and several characters floating around all schizophrenia-like in our brains, especially when we first develop a story. It's sometimes painful, often confusing, and always frustrating to have so much information stored away without an outlet. What if that first draft was the outlet, and not the first step toward the final result? Crazy huh? (Maybe it's just me, maybe you all knew that back when you were five years-old, and I'm simply horribly behind the times.)

This is something I want experiment with on The Sometimes Sword. What will happen if I take a machete (metaphorically) and hack this book apart, ruthlessly throwing away any crap I encounter, and trim it down to its elements? I'm hoping this will relieve the dead weight, destroy the fragmentation, leaving only the scenes with worth, ready to be studied and arranged how they need to be (maybe even into a new book). Perhaps I can bring my story back to the original vision I had, before it got away from me.

I haven't actually done this yet, but I've been thinking a lot lately (thinking about a story is almost as important as writing it) and I think I have some fun ideas that will add a lot: considering new characters, introducing new plot lines, redefining the antagonist and her motivations, rearranging events, changing character personalities and backgrounds, etc. Another thing I want to bring back is the description of the world and locations, which fell out along the way. I want to dive into the history of the world and highlight the crazy creatures and individuals within it. This last bit is actually why I initially began to write the story, but in the course of devising plot and (struggling) to develop believable characters, this fell by the wayside. (I admit, Fablehaven was the series that sparked this particular desire. I've always had a soft spot for the "magical menagerie" type fantasies, and I wanted to write one myself). I need to bring it back, because it was what made writing The Sometimes Sword fun. Without it, I ended up where I am now with the book, depressed, bored, and pessimistic.
Back to the main point of this post however, my first draft has been treated as a diamond in the rough, as opposed to the wet clay sculpture it really is. There is no cutting and polishing of a precious gem, only demolition and rebuilding, mixing it back into itself. Now that the ideas have been vomited onto the paper, and my brain-clutter cleared away, I can begin writing the real first draft, the one that will eventually become the final manuscript. At least, that's the plan.

What do you think? Are you stuck in a draft that you think is the diamond in the rough, but in reality, is simply the first clay pot that you need to mix back in and start anew?