For me, there is never a point where the story is over. Whenever I think I am writing the next chapter, I always know what is going to happen next. In the case of my latest NaNoNovel, The Eden Experiment, every time I reached my intended stopping point, it felt like I hadn’t told enough of the story. They power shut down because of the riots on the outside. Did I give enough “footage” of the destruction? They got back to the Garden. I finally ended the story with their promise that they would live out the five year plan, as they were supposed to anyway, before venturing out into the world again.
This wasn’t the finishing point, either, but for my purposes, it had to be. The problem is, to me, all these characters have lives and futures. They do not cease to exist after the five days of the story. This protagonist – Opal Finch – has a relatively bright future. She is going to marry her partner Erik in an unconventional, barefooted ceremony, and have two little boys. She is going to finish raising her little sister Rhian, who is going to grow up and become one of the leaders of the new world in her late adulthood. Her boys will explore what is left of America and discover food and other civilizations that outlasted their own and have not fallen into a state of chaos. Even when Opal is gone, her story goes on. But it would take a lifetime to tell her story… and of course, Opal is not my only character filled with life.
However, it is important that I step away from this incredible future and focus on the present. What is happening now to Opal and where is the ending of this chapter of her life? For me, I always choose an ending when things may not be perfect, but everyone is on good terms, and there is a sliver of hope. It’s not happily every after, but perhaps it could be. The problem with this approach, however, is that I always feel pressured to write a sequel.
How do you end a story that seems to go on forever? Do your characters take on a life of their own? Let me know in the comments below!
This is the fastest I’ve every ambled my way to 50,000 words in NaNoWriMo, and that includes last year where I stumbled over about 10k words in a day as Sparky excitedly discovered the delights of a traditional greasy diner.
This is one of the hardest parts of NaNo for me… when the word count stops being the central focus and my new goal becomes “oh crap, where is my ending and how do I hog-tie it before Thanksgiving?”. This is where, like in Strange, I see that I need to hurry things along and my descriptors fall off the face of the Earth.
My goal? Not this year.
I have discovered in a moment of pure delight that I am capable of writing 1050 words in 20 minutes when properly focused and motivated. That tells me there is no reason for me to stumble my way to the end like a zombie, grabbing for a few half-baked ideas to make sure my “once upon a time” gets tied to a “happily ever after”. I am a prolific writer when properly motivated, and I think that maybe, just maybe, I can give Opal Finch a little bit of dignity.
So, here it goes, blogosphere. 50k and counting. We’re going to make sure this one ends with a bang.
I came on here to write a post on how I am illogically participating in NaNoWriMo again until I saw my last post and went, Aww, last time I was here, it was also NaNoWriMo!
And then I scrolled down more. And discovered it was NaNoWriMo a few posts before that, too. After that, I came to a moment of self-realization: my blog is the place I go when I am procrastinating on NaNoWriMo.
I am okay with this. I think I enjoy a little procrastination, and at the end of the day, it doesn’t affect my word count. Yep, that’s right folks! I am a proud Six Time NaNoWinner! This means I am very good at piling up lots of words, and not much else. But hey. I can pile up words like a boss.
So, as per tradition, I am going to tell you about this year’s novel. It’s called The Eden Experiment. It’s sci-fi, based in a post-apocalyptic world, and the main character is named Opal. Things happen at the beginning which causes chaos to ensue, which leads her to a fork in her life path where is is given the choice to end her life, or continue forward in a rebuilding project run by scientists. She isn’t too hot on either of these but decides against the whole “dying” thing. More chaos ensues, but I haven’t written that yet, so I can’t tell you about it.
Also I will give you an image of the book cover that I created two years ago, because book covers are also tradition. I will be changing this, though, so you may get another cover later on.
Other than NaNo-ing, I feel the need to defend myself and say that the second draft of Strange went out to proofreaders this summer in a terrifying (for me) leap of faith and of the three copies I sent out, already one of them has come back. Which will lead me later in the month to discuss my appreciation and frustration alike in the editing process and the difference between how I edit verses how other people edit. Basically, lets just say that I think I should have been an editor at a publishing house because I am merciless. Mais c’est la vie.
I think I’m done with the writing procrastination now. I had a delicious Cinnamon Roll Mug Cake for breakfast, and it’s got me in a cozy, fall mood. I think I may make apple crisp now. Or, you know, do something useful. Like laundry.
Forcing myself to write a story under fierce deadlines with no forgiveness is one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. Some days, it’s fun. I certainly enjoy the challenge, and I thrive for the weight of half-a-ream of paper, with words I have written, to sit in my hands. However, there a moments where I hate everything to do with writing, my characters, and I completely doubt myself.
I daresay that this term of Camp NaNoWriMo was the most difficult I have ever endured.
About halfway through the story, I realized that the plot line was very similar to another story, one which I was much prouder of, with far more development. Additionally, I struggled with the fine line of original story vs. fanfiction in this one. Typically, I go above and beyond the 50,000 word suggested goal – with Sparky Jones, I annihilated it at about a 20% increase – but the last week or so of my most recent work, there was a certain level of plodding along, for the want of a better word. I woke up at approximately 6:30am on July 31st with a mission in mind. You know what that mission was?
“Screw this. I just need to finish the novel so I can win. I’ll fix it later.”
Even as I was writing some of the worst writing I have ever contrived, I was unhappy with it. There is a sickening feeling about finishing a book and knowing you are capable of better. It’s like finishing a dinner, but serving it without beverages.
After much ado, I am not-so-proud to present Beyond the Silver Screen: the tale of Hattie, a flutist from the golden years, who finds herself running through sixty years of cinematic achievement in search of her friend, who seeks to breach the portal between fiction and reality.
Meanwhile, I rest at ease knowing that no NaNoNovel sees the light of day without my permission first, and she will be well edited before being released to any of my peers.
Have you ever found yourself in the position to choose between a deadline and preserving the quality of your work? What did you pick?
For all of my enjoyment and indulgence of X-Men, I have always hated Jean Grey, aka, Phoenix. This has nothing to do with Famke Jenssen’s performance in the live-action films. In fact, given her codename is Phoenix, you think I would love her. But I don’t. Why?
She’s too powerful.
Okay, so I know she has this whole tragic back story thing, but her telekinesis and telepathy is off the charts. Stan Lee really did a good job of keeping her in check through morality and the basics of control, but I just can’t get over the fact that if Jean Grey decided to, she could have us all floating in midair. Or fill us all with so horrible a depression that all humanity kills itself. Or she could take the Earth’s molten core and toss it as Mars for kicks and giggles.
Okay, perhaps I’m being a little dramatic, but I just don’t think that kind of power is warranted in a first-stage evolution.
That said, in allowing abilities to my empaths and psychics in Strange, I have limited them considerably. Because I don’t want a Jean Grey on my hands. However, it recently occurred me that there are a lot of ways to limit an individual’s power. And when I focus too hard on limiting my characters potential, well, it’s kind of boring. And maybe that’s why so many people like the Phoenix – because she has the potential to be a major badass and it’s scary and exciting. But in order to do that, she needs to overcome her own character faults.
Therefore, in writing miss Tuesday Milano, I’ve decided to allow for a few exceptions. Her power shouldn’t cripple her all the time; she’s grown up with it and has learned, through torment mostly, a bit of control. Sure, some things literally blow her mind. But Tuesday is anything but weak.
She’s the girl that will teach everyone not to judge a book by its cover. So I had better stop worrying about the Phoenix effect and let her live up to her potential.
As I have been editing Strange I have been more and more aware of my believed inconsistencies in Ariella’s character. I want to her to be off-type for the characters that I usually create, but sometimes I feel as I write her she becomes mush or reverts back to what I am comfortable with. That bears the question – is it better to write something you are comfortable with, or something that is in-demand? When is it better to challenge yourself to write differently verses writing believably? If it doesn’t feel believable because it isn’t comfortable, does that make you a poor writer, or misguided?
I read Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce recently. I grew up on Pierce’s books and she is one of my most beloved authors. I realised, as I was reading the end of Beka’s second book, that many of Pierce’s lead characters feel similar to me. Don’t get me wrong – I like them all (Ali is my favorite, by the way). Pierce always presents a strong female lead with high morale fiber, despite her motivations. They are always smart and ambitious, cautious and courteous of those around them, and most times admittedly shy when it comes to relationships. They exist in all sorts of situations, and yet, they are very similar people. I don’t respect and love her writing any less for that fact – in fact, I love it all the more because I know I am going to love her characters regardless of their situation.
So as I think about it further, perhaps there is nothing wrong with writing what I am comfortable with – as long as it is not cliched, I will write it better. I would rather tell a better story than create a world that I cannot stand and get stuck in it.
As for Ariella, I know where her journey will take her and much like Pierce’s characters, the lives of many will rely on her high moral fiber to make the right decision for everyone, not just the easy decision for herself. And I can twist her quirks and personality any way I want, but in the end, I am proud to have a strong female lead.
I think that one of my favorite things about writing is getting to create the covers. There is something terribly exciting about seeing the visual representation of your novel – after all, they say a picture is worth a thousand words. The cover of a book is so incredibly important – it is the first thing that a reader sees and the cover design can easily win a reader. I’m not a professional graphic designer, and I have no intention of self-publishing, so my personal cover designs will not matter… but nonetheless – seeing that glorious picture in attachment to the words is exhilarating.
Then again, maybe my attachment to the cover is related to a writer’s greatest dream – to have a book published. A cover is halfway to production, after all.
When Borders was going out of business, I had the good fortune to have my hand in cleaning them out of books, a duty I took very, very seriously. Maybe of the books I ended up bringing home with me were not authors or series I had heard of before. My choices were based on three aspects: my current available money, the blurb, and the cover.
Of all the books I picked up, unarguably the prettiest cover was a book titled Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev. The artwork was stunning, the texture of the book jacket was wonderful – from all angles it is truly a beautiful book cover. And I enjoyed it – from one cover to the other! If not for that alluring, beautiful cover, I would never have purchased or read it.
It makes me wonder – how often do we skip over a book because its cover didn’t stand out to us? And, of all those missed books – how many of them could we, perhaps, have loved? The artwork used on a book covers is invaluable in that way.
Do we really judge a book by its cover? What book have you picked up based on its cover alone?