A Whole Lot Of Nothing

No, I haven’t dropped off the planet — at least not yet, thought I can’t say the thought isn’t tempting. The last year, or even year and a half, has been … strange. To go into detail would be boring and self-indulgent, so I won’t.

My fiction writing, though, has suffered; to that much I confess. Although I still write every day, I’m not writing what I truly love to write.

I got about halfway through NaNo last year and, between life’s interruptions and escalating computer problems, I just lost my momentum. I still had the hodgepodge of scenes, about 60,000 words worth, in Scrivener from the year before. That one, I’d tried writing piecemeal just to get words on the page, and wrote scenes out of order all over the place. They are still out of order all over the place. I’ve tried arranging them a few times, but keep getting sidelined.

Last year, I thought starting an entirely new project, a story that was trying to get out, would get me going again. Well, it did get me going. It just didn’t keep me going.

Sometime between the two, I gave in to Microsoft’s nag to update my Windows 8.1 laptop to 10. A perfectly good, efficient computer turned into a mass of problems after the update failed. Things got worse until, a year later, the poor thing was unusable. I wound up doing  a factory reset of Windows, which worked for a while, and then it began having different problems that led to a hardware failure.

Cutting the story short, I now quite like my new-to-me Mac Mini. It’s taken me a while to get life reinstalled, though I must say the process has actually been quite smooth. I’ve got the Mac version of Scrivener up and running, and have, in the last week or so, skimmed through both the 2015 NaNo draft, and the 2016 start. There is a tiny spark of enthusiasm growing (now that I’m not continually battling lock-ups and shut-downs). That spark led me back here, to the blog I’d nearly forgotten about.

I’m very grateful to the dear friend who generously sent me the computer he was planning (before learning of my plight) to retire to a closet. I might put that 60,000-piece puzzle-trying-to-be-a-novel together in the right order yet.

NaNo 2017, though? Maybe not.

One challenge at a time.

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NaNo Again, 2016

I hadn’t planned to NaNo this year. Heck, I still have last year’s NaNoWriMo winner sitting in pieces in Scrivener, waiting to be assembled and the gaps filled in. It’s mostly all there, just not quite a first draft yet, because I wrote it in chunks.

Normally, I’m linear as a writer. I guess I’m what is called a Pantser for the most part, though I do usually start out at least with a rough outline.

This year, I had nothing. Not even a smidge of an idea had been born, and I planned with all good intentions to skip NaNoWriMo 2016.

Then, this evening, I was washing dishes. Suddenly, there was a story knocking at the inside of my brain. It wasn’t just the bare concept of a story, but actually had the rudiments of a plot, some interesting characters, a conflict, potential danger…. It wasn’t enough to be a full-grown book, but what book starts out fully grown?

So, today reached 2,300+ words, and I am still not even sure where the story came from. The working title is The Burden of Proof, but that’s probably not going to be what the book is called once it’s done. In fact, I’m pretty sure that one’s already been used by someone, somewhere. It was just something to type in where they asked for a title on the NaNo dashboard page.

Will it see 50,000 words? Will I still be writing on November 30th? Will the story evolve into an actual novel? Who knows? Not me! But I’ll keep clicking and clacking away at the keyboard and see where it leads me!

 

Final Ten Days of NaNoWriMo

Some days, the words flow freely. You hit that goal mark effortlessly, and float away from the keyboard to bask in the literary sun.

Others, every darned word takes a sump pump to extract. You stare at the screen for hours, and that word count just won’t reach 1,667 no matter how you plead.

Today’s somewhere in between, but close enough to the latter that I needed to take a break before jumping back in to take another lap.

I am, however, doing pretty well. A heck of a lot better than last year, anyway. I’ve got almost 40,000 of the target 50K words written, and ten days to go. I’m going to make it; I really do believe that. For the first time, I will actually “win” NaNoWriMo.

In the past, several of the losses were on a technicality, though. I actually finished the first draft of two novels during NaNoWriMos past. However, both were mid-grade mysteries, written for kids in the 5th to 7th grade levels, more or less. The 50,000 word count is just too high for a genre that rarely reaches 30,000. (Don’t tell J. K. Rowling that, of course.) This year, though, I’m writing for grown-ups, with grown-up attention spans.

Well, theoretically, anyway, though I must confess I know quite a few twelve-year-olds who can read circles around some of my adult acquaintances.

My book, if you can call it that, is written in a hodgepodge of disconnected scenes. I’ve jumped from beginning to end to middle a dozen times, with a large assortment of disjointed scenes in between. I hope and pray that, once November and the first draft are basically done, I can stitch it all together in a way that actually makes sense. I keep praying for Agatha Christie to channel through me, make this task a bit easier. I’m pretty sure every other mystery writer who has signed up on nanowrimo.org does the same thing.

Methinks our literary inspirations in spirit all have learned to take November off by now.

But, for your enjoyment (or not, as the case may be), before I dive back into the water, I’ll just copy and paste here the last couple of paragraphs that I wrote today, before my brain screamed that it needed to come up for air.

The sketch artist looked all of fifteen. She wore no makeup, jeans with a hole in the knee, a faded tee shirt featuring some huge-eyed anime character, and bright red hair in braids that hung nearly to her waist. She introduced herself as Siobhan in a voice as sweet and fluffy as cotton candy.

Tara stared at her, before realizing the girl had reached out for a handshake. The grip was hard, firm, and strong enough to make her wince. Appearances what they were, she was guessing this kid probably had a black belt in something … she glanced at the shirt … Japanese.

Happy November, all. If you’re in the US, and I don’t get back here before next Thursday, a Happy Thanksgiving, too.

And then there were none….

Well, not precisely “none”. They’re all still there, those 35,000-plus words in the latest writing project. However, as I was cranking them out, letting them lead me, I got wrapped up in the story and the characters. Then, as happens all too often, I got sidelined for a very long time. Nearly a year, in fact. Although I have picked through it quite a few times in between, most of my actual writing time has been spent revising another project (written under another name) and working on shorter pieces.

This week, my daughter and I attended the first installment of a three-part mystery writers workshop at our local library. Despite the fact that (due to the above sidelines, in large part) the last thing I want right now is to be around people I don’t know, I actually had a great time. Our presenter (Frankie Y. Bailey) was bright, witty, a great teacher, and really knows her subject.  She presented the intro in an entertaining and informative way. While I learned nothing new (technically), I did get a chance to look at the old from a fresh viewpoint, and it was inspiring.

It was, in fact, inspiring enough to encourage me to pull out The Manuscript and read through what I have so far.

What I have, is a mess. Frankie was talking a lot about characters, and with her words in mind, one of my own really stood out as I read through the hodgepodge of words that sit in Scrivener, begging me to untangle them and continue. He stood out because he doesn’t work.

At all.

He doesn’t fit the tone of the story. He doesn’t fit the goal I have in mind. He doesn’t fit the mood or the other characters. Naturally, I wound up getting sidetracked by this almost comic-book pseudo-being, and realize as I re-read that I have somehow managed to turn him into a key player and weave the entire blasted plot around his little devious fingers.

My choices now? Go back to page one and rewrite him, completely, starting from scratch as I try to repair a bunch of tangled ends and get the story back on track. Or ditch the whole darned thing and start from “Once upon a time”.

(Don’t worry, it doesn’t really start “Once upon a time”.)

Maybe I’ll re-title the working draft, start fresh with NaNoWriMo this year, and just try again from as close to square one as necessary to fix this little dilemma. (NaNo worked out so well last year, after all, did it not? Sigh.)

It’s hard right now to be enthused about diving into such a massive undertaking.  The workshop, though, was inspiring, and I look forward to the other two segments. Maybe I’ll wait till after next week’s workshop, which will continue on the subject of characters, and see if it gives me any brilliant ideas.

Edit and Addendum: We’re going with the final thought. The draft has been re-titled, I’m starting with not much more than the outline, and I will try to keep my demons (that was literal) under a tighter rein this year. Wish me luck!

I’m Not Dead Yet

Well, that went well. Not.

If you peek in at my last post, all the way back in November of last year, I was still doing my best to plug away at NaNoWriMo. There was also mention of a strange “bug bite” and infection. It turned out that the bite wasn’t a bite and the infection wasn’t an infection. An old auto-immune disorder had resurfaced and took me down hard not long after I last blogged. Still, I kept fighting my way through the daily writing, made it to about 30,000 words, and just … lost it.

This thing with my immune system really gets to me. People will say I’m such a strong person, but they really don’t know the way this cripples me inside. I shut down, went to bed, lost most of my income, and set aside the book.

I’m back here now, because I am doing better, and my intentions are to open up that blasted file again in Scrivener, read through everything I’d written back in November, and finally finish that draft.  I’m just under half-way done with the story itself, with a great big sign hanging over the file that says, “Some Assembly Required”.

Normally, I write linearly. I embrace the words of a very wise man:

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

In the case of this book, though (maybe it was the fever and illness), ideas were coming in disjointedly. I would receive (it seemed, from nowhere) a chunk here and a bit there. What I have in Scrivener consists of a mess of disconnected segments from beginning, middle and end. I know how the story ends, it’s all drafted out, but am only loosely aware of how I’m going to get from here to there.

I have been writing in the interim. The output has been mostly non-fiction; I’ve been writing informational articles centered around my other self, my other life. I just haven’t been writing what I really want to write. What I want is what I love: paranormal mystery.

I’m back. Or, at the very least I am bound and determined to return. I didn’t win at NaNo ’14, but I haven’t lost, either. There is a darned good story in there, somewhere. It’s time to open the gates again, and let the words run free.

 

NaNo SlowDown

Well, I’d been cranking along, and then came to a bit of a standstill. I wound up spending yesterday at doctors and picking up prescriptions thanks to a bizarre infection that started with a mosquito bite, of all things. By the time I got home, I was swamped with back-logged animal chores, then so exhausted I wound up in bed early.  Today was my daughter’s birthday. Between preparations, phone consultations with more doctors, and all of the things I have to get done normally, though I wrote for a couple of hours, I only managed to tally up a little over 1200 words. But I did write today, at least.

The best plans I’m laying out right now include an effort to make up for lost time tomorrow. Wish me luck! Dinner out with family and friends in the evening (still birthday celebrating) , but I’m hoping for lots of quiet time before then.

 

 

 

The Ending Scene From Today

So, today was the fifth day of NaNoWriMo. I’ve just topped 12.000 words, so am a bit ahead of schedule and it feels good. Today was crazy. I thought I would have a lot of writing time, but a series of interruptions, some actual paying work that came up, and an infected (is it? I don’t know, but it sure is weird) bug bite that has me feeling pretty crappy came very close to thwarting my plans.

Still, I stuck to my word, stuck it to my words, and ended with the following teaser for the night.

Now, to go check on my horses (did I mention I am owned by two adorable Minis?), tend to all the other critters, and tuck myself in for the night.

Be kind, now, and remember that it’s just first draft stuff being pounded out at super-human speed (possibly augmented by a low-grade fever). LOL Happy Happy, and Enjoy!

Zenko’s form began to shrink, to fold inward on itself. Fur sprouted over his face, neck, slender arms. With a yelp and what felt like a snap of electricity, there was suddenly a red fox sitting on the bed … and then it was gone.

“What the— Ugh!” Nash’s hand flew up to cover his mouth. “What is that horrid stench!?”

Abby, though her nose did wrinkle, responded with a chuckle. “That, my friend, is the musk of a fox. Everyone thinks they’re beautiful, but few people know how bad they smell. But good lordy, whatever you do, don’t mention it in front of Zenko! He’s very self-conscious about it!”

The smell was fading as Nash waved his hand in front of his face. “Where did he go?”

“Lacey was calling him. He went to help her.”

“Wait … what? You mean to the living world?”

Abby nodded. “He’ll bring her back to us.”

“The living world? She can see him there, too?”

“Everyone can see him there, Detective Nash. Haven’t you been paying attention?”

He racked his brain, trying to figure out what he had missed. Nope, there were no hidden clues there. “I have been, Ma’am, but I didn’t hear anything that—”

“Well, aside from the fact that I just told you Lacey isn’t the only one who can be in both worlds, we also told you he is a Kitsune.”

“And how am I supposed to know what a Kitsune can do?”

“Well, we did say they watch over families and homes … the good ones, anyway, right?”

“Yes, I guess so. But I didn’t know that meant in the physical world. I figure they were like angels or something, not that they can, well, walk among the living.”

“And who says that angels can’t walk among the living?”

Nash’s jaw dropped.

This being dead thing was getting to be just a bit too much to handle.