The Fourth NaNo 2018 Progress Report (Pulling Victory from the Ashes with Short Excerpts)

Lifetime NaNo Stats Up to 2018Last week, I clung to the delusion of possibility like a raft in a vast ocean. This week, with four days remaining, I have conceded the battle. Even with the almost 7,500 words of my journal, I’m nowhere near the 50,000 words necessary to complete NaNo. Even worse, 7,500 is about what NaNo lists as how many words I need to write per day to pull out a miracle.

This is a harsh reality for me. The image to the left is from my NaNo author profile (note: the wordiest day is validation, not completed on that day). I have won every year since 2003 sometimes with a huge margin and sometimes cursing as I scrambled to add more words when the validator stripped some compared to Scrivener and dropped me below the mark. It’s been getting harder, and writing as a whole has been difficult this year, but I’d counted on the energy of NaNo to fill me up and make it happen.

It didn’t.

On the other hand, I achieved something I have quite likely never done in any previous NaNo and certainly haven’t during the rest of the year.

I have written every day this month so far and plan to write for the last four days (including today). Considering the obstacles thrown in my path (nothing as grand as the California Camp Fire, but similar in scope on a personal level), that’s an amazing achievement and one I’m proud of.

However, I failed to maintain my journal, even knowing I needed it to pull out a win. The last entry is dated the 22nd. This is, however, not surprising. I’ve rarely kept up with a journal. I much prefer to lose myself in fantastical tales than catalog events. This does make it a little harder to learn from what happened this year, but then I’m not sure the lessons are ones I can affect.

Some thoughts on the rewriting though.

I chose this path in the hopes it would be easier. I think that was a poor assumption. The changes are so subtle, and yet significant.

To move forward, I had to understand and absorb the original, wait for the connections to fall into place, then write something similar to but completely different than the reference text. Instead of raw draft, I was creating a second or third draft…with raw issues still to clean up. I might have done better to write something new just because of the freedom of a true raw draft.

Live and learn. If I feel the siren call of NaNo next year, I think I’ll jump on one of my ideas still waiting for their first run. I have enough of them to choose from.

Of course, at this rate, I’ll still be working on Destiny’s Path. Beyond keeping progress going, rediscovering The Flyers series is definitely a victory. My parents (among the few to have read the earlier version) have been pressing me to return to it, and now I understand why. Not that I ever forgot the story, but there’s a rhythm to the world that matches well with my own.

And so I don’t leave you on a down note, I did mention I’d do another “before and after” snippet comparison. I almost reneged, thinking it would be a spoiler, but the best part tells you only enough to leave you wanting… A cruel act, perhaps, but it’s also a perfect illustration of the kinds of changes the text required. This might even give you an idea or two for strengthening your own text.

Here is an excerpt from the original scene of Sara undergoing the testing. This is a ceremony where children become adults and are assigned the role they will have for the rest of their lives (after completing an apprenticeship):

Each time the rock pulled at a child, Sara’s mind stirred slightly, breaking through the trance. She did not awaken, but rather became aware of her surroundings in a way she’d never been before. Her body ached from the long time squatting and her bare feet stung against pebbles in the dirt. She longed to shift, but found her mind could not control her body.

Instead, to distract herself, she focused on what happened to the other children. She watched as one after another stared into the rock and slowly drained of energy even as the rock remained unchanged. The resonance rising from each of them in the one moment they connected to the stone startled her. It disappeared as soon as the rockminder severed the contact.

Almost as if it knew she’d broken through the trance, the beat of the drum became louder, pulling at her attention until the outside world faded once more. It seemed only seconds later when the yellow glow caught her eyes and drew her in.

This is the new version. The biggest change is going from abstract to personal. (You will have met Timonl by this point, though he is a minor character.) Do remember this is now raw rough draft, please:

Sara’s mind stirred every time the rock pulled at one of the other children, breaking through the trance maintained with the drumbeat. She did not awaken and felt no need to move. Instead, her consciousness stretched out to make Sara aware of her surroundings in a way she’d never been before.

Her body ached from the long time squatting, and the pebbles in the dirt stung the soles of her feet through her sandals. Any other time, she would have shifted to relieve these sensations. Now, she understood them from a distance, and when she tried to move after all, her mind could not control her body.

The realization should have terrified her, but the trance held her calm even if it no longer held her captive.

Unable to react to what she experienced, Sara turned her attention to the force that pulled her from the trance itself. She gave in to the pull until she sat as an invisible flea in Timonl’s hair.

He stared into the power stone, for what else could the glowing rock be, and slowly drained of energy even as the rock remained unchanged. She felt him tremble, she felt him sway, but most shocking of all, she felt within him a resonance, the echo only flyers held.

The rockminder severed his connection, and Sara snapped back into her own body, disoriented and confused. Timonl had not changed the stone. She’d been there with him and the color glowed a steady yellow. He should not have hummed with the resonance of a flyer. He would never number among them.

Almost as if the drum knew she’d broken through the trance, its beat became louder, dragging at her attention until the outside world faded once more, and she barely noticed the next test or the one after. It seemed only seconds had passed when the rockminder stood before her and the yellow glow caught her gaze.

Here are the stats up to yesterday. Amusingly, while still not enough to be a NaNo day, my productivity has been up since I decided to accept the inevitable. I am running 22,261 words behind now (adding the journal is somewhat pointless), further behind than I have written. While I’d love to reach 25,000 and halfway, I’m not counting on it. To give you some concept of how long this rewrite is likely to take, the original draft is around 120,000 words, so I’m just over 1/6th of the way through (actually less because the rewrite is longer).

Day New Words Running Total
1 356 356
2 1,379 1,735
3 1,538 3,273
4 435 3,708
5 204 3,912
6 2,247 6,159
7 5 6,164
8 1,547 7,711
9 442 8,153
10 2,049 10,202
11 981 11,183
12 2,255 13,438
13 47 13,485
14 809 14,294
15 186 14,480
16 270 14,750
17 505 15,255
18 221 15,476
19 1,338 16,814
20 397 17,211
21 1,171 18,382
22 200 18,582
23 142 18,724
24 369 19,093
25 943 20,036
26 1,045 21,081
Posted in Challenges, Excerpts, NaNoWriMo, News, Writing Process | Leave a comment

5 Interesting Links for 11-24-2018

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Properties (Bacteria)

I’m one of those people who attracts static electricity not because I shuffle but just because I am. This article makes me wonder if bacteria might be the cause.
https://www.livescience.com/63569-gut-bacteria-produces-electricity.html

For Fun (Music)

Because everyone should take a moment out to exercise your musical tendencies by playing instruments through a cat. (Via Jane Friedman’s Electric Speed)
https://bongo.cat/

Names (Writing)

A fun way of doing a character name generator.
https://blog.reedsy.com/character-name-generator

Teens (Reading)

This is a rant, but a well-articulated one that has a lot of good thinking points, especially for authors like myself who write series styled for younger YA readers. It is written by a teen about how teen voices are not being heard.
https://vickywhoreads.wordpress.com/2018/11/01/how-ya-isolates-teens/

BookBub (Marketing)

How recommending books on BookBub’s site can make you more visible as an author.
https://insights.bookbub.com/perks-recommending-books-bookbub/

Seeds Among the Stars: A Science Fiction Adventure

Posted in Art, Music, Crafts, etc., Interesting Links, Marketing, Reading, Science, Writing | 2 Comments

The Lady Travelers Guide to Deception with an Unlikely Earl by Victoria Alexander

The Lady Travelers Guide to Deception with an Unlikely Earl by Victoria AlexanderI requested this novel because I have a proper period fascination with Egypt, a country I have yet to see despite my time in nearby regions, and the description promised a fun frolic. Between the meddling of the three irrepressible old ladies cough lady travelers cough, and two honorable people having made shady decisions in their pasts or not so long ago, the book lived up to my every hope.

A clash between a treasure hunter turned serious Egyptologist Harry Armstrong and the little traveled but well studied Sidney Althea Gordon Honeywell forms the heart of this tale. Sidney never set out to deceive, but readers are ever deciding fiction must be nothing else but fact. Harry lashed out in a fit of pique when his writings were found wanting while hers were adored, and though he heartily regretted the compulsion, is too prideful to back down.

This brings Sidney (along with her three elderly companions) to the land that has owned her every dream for most of her adult life. There, she attempts to prove a falsehood not of her making based on second-hand knowledge and much of that two generations old. I enjoyed seeing Egypt through her eyes and laughed at Harry’s factual but jaded offerings.

Where I expected a romp with lively personalities, though, I did not anticipate the story showing glimpses of the true contradictions and complications of a country like Egypt. It dismissed many fanciful notions held by the Western world even today and made the visit feel tangible.

Then there are the lady travelers. If Sidney has a knack for deception, which by all accounts she does not, she earned it at the knees of her dearest friends. The trouble they get her into…and out of…makes for half of the fun.

Really, I don’t know what to say beyond a wholehearted recommendation. It’s not life altering though the story does raise questions to ponder. There are definite growth moments and times of self-reflection providing interesting fodder to those with similar traits. But most of all, it was a joy to read. I’ll miss hanging out with these characters and discovering whatever else they manage to get themselves mixed up in.

P.S. I received this ARC from the publisher through NetGalley and am delighted to offer my honest review.

P.P.S. Two other things I should mention: There’s a bit of a history dump for Harry in the beginning, but it will smooth out and is worth it. The second is that despite the rather Georgette Heyer tone, there is at least one ahem descriptive intimate scene and some rather blushingly indiscrete conversations.

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The Third NaNo 2018 Progress Report (Not Much Hope, But Not Giving Up Either)

This has been a trial of a NaNo, and it may be, even after I add in the “bonus features” of my process journal, I still won’t manage to get the 50k. On the other hand, a few good days, and I could be within reach, so what you see here is an exercise in determination and blind hope. The one shining light in all of this, though, is the story itself. Whether I reach the 50k, whether I get anywhere near a logical end point, the fact remains that every time I sit down to write I am caught up in the world and the characters. This is a beautiful thing.

The story is as powerful as I’d remembered. It has twists and layers threaded throughout that take the events unfolding in front of you and tie them back to these people’s pre-history and forward to an unknown future full of challenges they may not be able to face. Though seen primarily through the perspective of a young girl focused on her own destiny, the story steps into their world at the beginning of their second big civilization decline. Not everyone recognizes what is happening, but neither is it a spoiler for the reader as the hints are laid from the start. It’s an interesting thing to write when the point of view character is all full of hope and excitement about the future while the death knells reverberate in the background (I do exaggerate slightly, but the contrast is marked).

I hadn’t realized until writing the above how much the two sides to the book parallel my NaNo experience. Funny that.

This past week was more of a beast than any before it. The week was loaded with real life stuff to the point that exhaustion hit hard. Whenever I turn around, I’m falling asleep still.

Despite that, because I had managed words every day of NaNo (only five words one day :p), I didn’t want to break the pattern. I even used such terms as a token effort or fake out. Here’s the actual text (raw draft) from my journal for the end of last week. You might find it amusing, or maybe even encouraging, who knows?

Wednesday:

So…I had one more cup of tea to drink so I thought I’d try to write something at least while drinking it. It’s now 2:01, my tea is half drunk and cold, and I finished the bridging scene that snuck up and surprised me. Tomorrow, I should get to the “easy” set of short scenes…please? It wasn’t enough for a NaNo, but much better than nothing.

Thursday:

It’s almost 1am but darn it I don’t want to miss a day, so I’m going to try for some words. Okay, did a very spare update in my journal about the past two days then started the next scene with 186 words. It’s 1:08 and I need sleep.

Friday:

Okay, I lied [about going to bed early]. I’ve managed something on NaNo every day, and I’m not going to miss this one. I’m drinking my night caffeinated tea to help with the migraine, and the screen is really dim, so… Managed 270. It’s pretty easy, but still requires a bit of thought, and I don’t have the endurance to continue tonight. Still, not wanting to break a pattern is a big incentive.

Saturday:

Really want to write so will do a fake out, but crashing, so it’ll be a token effort at best. Ugh. Have to go track down MicroMar [my laptop]. Left it all set up for writing so Scrivener has the file locked. Leaving this all up and ready to go tomorrow. Too tired to exist. Will poke at NaNo, then crashing[…]Got caught up in the story, but too exhausted so didn’t last long. Got over 400 completed (mostly maintaining the original) though.

I’m still not done with the “easy set of scenes,” but I have written two of the three and started the third. They were neither as short nor as easy as I’d thought. Maybe next week I’ll show you the difference between the beginning of the third in original and new form. If nothing else, it demonstrates the value in rewriting older novels, even ones I believed were ready for the big time.

This is why I end up doing NaNo every year. It’s a last-ditch effort to finish out the year on a high note. That’s especially true for this year. Whatever happens, I’ve already written more than any other month. How long it will take me to rewrite this whole novel, though…well, that’s so far up in the air it’s headed for Mars.

Here are the stats up to yesterday. As you can see, this past week had no good days at all, but I almost made a proper NaNo total yesterday. As of yesterday, I’m running 14,859 words behind.The total with the bonus features added (like a DVD collection) would be 23,222 words or 10,118 behind.

Day New Words Running Total
1 356 356
2 1,379 1,735
3 1,538 3,273
4 435 3,708
5 204 3,912
6 2,247 6,159
7 5 6,164
8 1,547 7,711
9 442 8,153
10 2,049 10,202
11 981 11,183
12 2,255 13,438
13 47 13,485
14 809 14,294
15 186 14,480
16 270 14,750
17 505 15,255
18 221 15,476
19 1,338 16,814
Posted in Challenges, NaNoWriMo, Writing Process | Tagged , | Leave a comment

5 Interesting Links for 11-16-2018

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Formatting (Publishing)

A selection of free font-based symbols to use in decorating your books. (Via Jane Friedman’s Electric Speed)
https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2018/10/110-type-ornaments-to-use-in-your-book-plus-a-free-download/

History (Language)

For those wordsmiths or just the linguistically curious, Merriam Webster has a page where you can explore what words were coined in years from 2016 to far back in history. Everyone knows what a watercooler is, right? It’s the emblem of modern office gossip. Surprisingly, the word dates from 1807 and refers to a method of dispensing refrigerated water. The word definitions are available by clicking on any word in the list. Enjoy, have fun, and maybe challenge yourself to a period story where two or more of these words pops up.
https://www.merriam-webster.com/time-traveler/

Fantasy (Reading)

A quick retelling of Cinderella that is lovely in execution and meaning.
https://dailysciencefiction.com/fantasy/fairy-tales/m-k-hutchins/shod-in-memories

“Ground-Breaking” (Music)

It’s fun to see serious people having a sense of humor, and you have to watch the video. I can’t imagine the work it took to put that all together. (Via my dad, hence it required a pun.)
https://www.sfchronicle.com/entertainment/garchik/article/Bulldozer-ballet-performed-at-groundbreaking-for-13346402.php

Wild Cats (Animals)

It may look like a cute little house cat, but the black-footed cat is considered the deadliest cat because of a high metabolism and an impressive 60% hunting success rate. This threatened wild species lives in three African countries.
https://www.livescience.com/63992-deadliest-cat.html

Forged: A Fantasy Short Story

Posted in Art, Music, Crafts, etc., History, Indie Toolbox, Interesting Links, Language, Publishing, Reading, Science | Leave a comment