I’m participating! Look, I’ve even got a project set up on the official NaNoWriMo website and everything.
I’ve set a modest 20k word count goal for myself for the month, which I think is attainable as long as I make sure not to stress myself out or over do it. After two days, I do believe I’ve determined that I am at my most creatively productive between 8 and 9am, which is when I’ve been writing my 100 word minimum each day for the last month and change anyway.
Please feel free to add me as a writing buddy! I would love to be your cheerleader as you put down words on your passion project.
I finished the first first draft of the first chapter of a novel this morning!
Word count currently sitting at a very modest ~6,500 words, with so very many left to go before the finish line is even in sight, but I think what I am most proud of with this particular accomplishment is how steady and incremental process made it possible.
I decided, a little over a month ago while I was nearing the end of my mental health leave from work, that I would do everything in my power to write just 100 words a day towards a novel. That’s it; 100 words at minimum every day, no matter what, and I would work on making these words appear for just an hour each morning. When that hour was up, or when I hit my word count minimum (whichever came first), I’d close out of Scrivener, put the project aside, and not think about it at all for the next twenty-four hours.
And… I did it.
I wasn’t 100% consistent; the stats above show that pretty transparently, but what they also demonstrate is a clear commitment to trying again every time I faltered or struggled. Some days (here’s looking at you, May 26 and 27), I just could not get the words to come together the way I wanted them to, and didn’t meet even my minimum required output before my hour was up and I had to call it quits for the day. On other days, as soon as I hit that word count minimum, that was it, I was done, extracting another word out of my brain was akin to pulling teeth, but when I walked away from the project for the day it was nevertheless with a sense of modest accomplishment, that I had kept my word to myself and made progress towards a goal that meant a lot to me.
And then there were days like June 22 and 23: ~800 words! And subsequently, almost 600 words! All accomplished roughly within that hour I set aside for myself in the morning before starting my day job, and many of those words such a delight to write that stopping myself from continuing was nearly as challenging as getting started had been when this process began. But I did stop, and I put the project away again, because this steady, incremental, consistent progress is far better for me than just the occasional day here and there throughout an otherwise creatively barren year where I manage to write a deluge.
All this to say, Self, well done. Good job! I am proud of you, Self, for reclaiming hours from your day to devote to the work that has always been central to your–our–identity. And I am extremely excited to see what we will have to share with the world when June 24, 20201 arrives.
Anyway, enjoy this glorious piece of artwork I commissioned from my talented artist friend, Cami Woodruff, of mine and my husband’s two ragdoll cats, and our temporary foster gremlin, Georgie.
In the doldrums of mid-morning and beneath fluorescent lamplight I have my monitors for company and my task list for accountability.
Here is the work my skill set chose for me--to speak truth to power Through calculated risk factors, regulations and best practices, Records schedules, classification schemes that valuate a virtue, That we are--or ought to be--transparently, precisely what we purport ourselves to be, And where we fall short, see our path towards compliance (Which is, to me, just another word for integrity).
See it all here, Reviewed, proof-read, documented with secondary sources Prepared to be presented, read, categorized and ignored; Watch power lay the foundation for my future failure And, in the same breath, thank me for my continued service.
Idealism in this profession has a short shelf life in spirit If not shored up early by stubbornness and grit.
I’ve convinced myself I’m somehow accountable to my readers for the time I spent not working on this blog, or my projects, over the last several months. I’m well aware of my tendency to project my own negative opinions about myself and my work ethic onto the feelings of others, which is an irrational tendency that 1) hamstrings my productivity, and 2) turns me into a really unpleasant person to be around. So, having at least gotten the impulse out there in the open and called it for what it is, I’ll try to own it and keep it from derailing my future plans for this blog.
Time to get back on track and post the good stuff:
What I’ve Accomplished
Time to take note of this stuff in bullet point form:
I participated in NaNoWriMo ’16! While I didn’t win, I did manage to contribute 18,097 new words to an ongoing space opera draft I have been toying with off and on since October of 2013 (affectionately dubbed New Persepolis). By the end of November, I was sitting at a wordcount total of 33,940 words, and the process it took to get to that point taught me so much about the characters I was playing with, and the world(s) that they inhabited. I don’t know if I will finish that particular incarnation of the story, but the world and characters themselves are so dear to me that I know I’ll come back to it at some stage, if only for my own edification.
After NaNoWriMo, I longform outlined the first half (or, potentially the first third) of an urban fantasy novel, heavily utilizing Scrivener’s notecard functionality to make moving parts from chapter to chapter much easier. This urban fantasy novel is one I touched on briefly in September of last year, but since then it has taken on considerably more breadth and scope. This outlining process is one I used when planning New Persepolis, and it’s helped me get the barest bones version of my idea down into a document, instead of turning the thoughts over and over in my head without generating any words. The story itself, still without a working title, is cumbersome with many moving parts; when it has frustrated me, I have instead turned my attention to fic.
Courtesy of Audible.Com, I’ve managed to listen to eight more books since November of last year. Maybe a small thing to feel pleased or proud of, but my work schedule and other obligations make finding time to read so difficult now that I really value my time spent on the subway and bus listening to my books in the mornings and evenings now.
An inter-dimensional time traveler on the run from the god who is infatuated with him. A newly minted and certified archivist stepping into the shoes of his predecessor, who discovers that fulfilling his life’s dream is not all it’s cracked up to be. The unlikely convergence of these two lives could change not just their worlds, but all worlds that have ever been, and ever will be.
This is a story about love, consent, obedience–and God. Possibly even your God.
Are you interested? I hope you’re interested. Because I’m pretty dang stoked to start this piece of purely self-indulgent fantastical fiction.
To prepare, I’m sticking with prep that I know works (for me): an outline and some character vignettes. Whether I choose to share some of those here in the future or not is TBD, but I will keep you all posted.
In the meantime–time to make sure the radio still works on this thing. It’s been collecting dust.
Howl’s Moving Castle (Howl’s Moving Castle #1), by Diana Wynne Jones. Narrated by Jenny Sterlin.
This one has been on my list since I first watched the iconic Hayao Miyazaki film/anime adaptation of the novel back in 200-somethingsomething, and the story absolutely captured my imagination. I will say that the movie is a pretty stark departure from the source material, but it is easy to see shades of Miyazaki’s Howl and Sophie in the characters that inspired them. I suspect that folks who love the Studio Ghibli version of these characters may be a bit disappointed, but I’ve personally enjoyed getting into Sophie Hatter’s head.
Since writing the excerpt below, my vision for this world and the characters within it has changed considerably. Even in this iteration of the narrative, the characters and the story itself are different from what I envisioned in November of 2013. But I want to celebrate writing that I am proud of, and part of that celebration involves sharing it with you today.
Not knowing Republican Shee hadn’t been a hindrance in the disputed territories, but inside a government run hospital staffed almost exclusively by Shee physicians it was proving to be a real liability.
Corelli Jones stared uncomprehending at the paperwork in front of him. His skin felt hot and cold under his clothes and the terrified lump in his throat was making it hard to breathe.
The Shee attendant, who had been sitting with him patiently for three and a half minutes of unbroken silence, finally betrayed a hint of discomfort and twitched one of the long quills that had been laying comfortably still across the scaled crest of her scalp. She stilled it and said, gentle as she could, “Water? Would you like?”
It was an English word Corelli recognized. He forced a closed mouth smile and put the pen down to shift the sleeping infant in his arms. “Please,” he said. The attendant got up from her seat and left the exam room, closing the door behind her, and only when he heard the latch did Corelli exhale raggedly and lean against the table. He bore the heel of the hand not supporting Gabriella into his forehead. Alone, he bit his lip and smothered the sob before it could come out.
They knew. They had to know. No human on New Persepolis grew to adulthood without fluency in the dominant Shee dialect unless they were from the disputed territories. Crossing the border into Republic territory without submitting to immigration processing was grounds for execution. Humans with counterfeit identification papers–or none at all–were as likely to be terrorists as refugees, the prevailing thought was. Better to err, with extreme prejudice, on the side of caution. The attendant had probably gone to page security–immigration, if Corelli was very lucky. An agent if he wasn’t.
Gabriella would end up a ward of the state and grow up with no knowledge of him. There was no way to ensure she made it to Diederik without implicating him in their dangerous and illegal border crossing, and the cache of funds they’d stashed outside the city would end up in the Republic’s coffers long before it would ever be of any benefit to Gabriella. This gambit had been a risky one, but Corelli thought he had prepared for everything.
Evidently, assuming that humans would be presented with human language intake papers at the hospital had been one assumption too many. What a careless mistake.
(NB: I’ve noticed I’ve acquired a few new followers since beginning regular updates of this blog. I just wanted to let you all know that I’ve seen you, and I’m so pleased to have you along on my journey. Hi! Hello!)
During my commute in to work this morning, I caught myself mulling over similarities between one daunting experience from my degree program, and a past attempt at NaNoWriMo. I figured I’d jot the thoughts down quickly.
I finished up my masters degree in archives and records management this year. In order to fulfill the requirements of my degree program, I visited my alma mater library and archives’ off-site storage facility. Off-site storage is essential for most libraries and archives due to the volume of materials acquired and accessioned during the lifetime of most institutes. It provides an adequate temperature controlled environment for material that isn’t requested with as much frequency, or material that is too fragile to circulate.
While I was there, the sheer immensity of the space was so arresting that I had to stop and take some photographs. (After obtaining permission, of course.) Please pardon the terrible quality of the pictures; my phone’s camera isn’t the best.
To allow the facility’s staff to store and retrieve materials, each range is constructed with a specially designed rail system to accommodate a forklift. You can see the rails near the ground; they’re the strips of metal next to the orange stripes. While I was there, the facility director asked if anyone wanted to ride the forklift all the way up to the highest point of the range. And while I’m not normally a daredevil, something in me made me put up my hand and volunteer.
So, up I went.
It’s a good thing I’m not afraid of heights, because that forklift rattled and shook unsteadily the faster and higher we went. Turning around to look back down at my colleagues, who from that height I could see but not hear at all, I realized just how far from the ground I was, and how it was only by the grace of a few strips of fabric that I was affixed to the forklift and not falling thirty feet to the ground. I was more frightened than I’d expected I would be, because like I said, I’m not normally afraid of heights–but I was also really proud of myself for vaulting myself dramatically out of my comfort zone in order to experience this new perspective.
…That’s an understatement. I’ve actually got any number of ideas cooking at any given time, but most of them just hang out on the back burner.
But anyway, about this particular idea: Witches in the city. What sort of life would a trainee witch experience living in a run-down urban tenement? What work would she do to pay her rent while eking out precious time for her craft? What kind of friends would she have? Family? …A cat?
Definitely a cat.
I like this idea a lot, which could be a problem, because at present I have morethanenough other ideas simmering in various states of incomplete-ness over at my AO3 account. Interspersed amongst time spent on those fics are various and sundry original ideas that have taken the form of both short stories and outlines for longer works. Many of these ideas I have chosen to let go, and I do this in large part thanks to an article I read some time ago on the concept of idea debt. Here’s the most salient point from that article:
“Idea Debt is when you spend too much time picturing what a project is going to be like, too much time thinking about how awesome it will be to have this thing done and in the world, too much time imagining how cool you will look, how in demand you’ll be, how much money you’ll make. And way too little time actually making the thing.“ -Jessica Abel, “Imagining your future projects is holding you back“
The concept of idea debt hits home for me because it has been applicable to almost every creative endeavor I’ve ever undertaken. …or, more to the point, every creative endeavor I’ve devoted lots of thought towards undertaking, but barely managed to scratch out more than a few hundred words towards an actual draft. In my experience, it’s a terribly intoxicating headspace to occupy, and I compare it a lot to worrying: my brain turns the project ideas over and over again in my head to such an extent that I feel as though I have accomplished something towards completing my project (or solving my problems). But in reality, just as with worrying, when I stop thinking about my project and don’t begin working on it (or solving my problems), I’ve made no tangible progress. And sometimes–or, in my case, nearly always–the guilt sets in, and I create nothing.
You can imagine how that guilt builds and builds upon itself, the more idea debt I accumulate. …possibly it has this in common with actual debt, but that’s a bit beyond the scope (and emotional capacity) of this blog.
So how does one alleviate some of this debt? The solution as outline in Jessica Abel’s blog is deceptively simple, and is one that she obviously struggles with: let the ideas go.
“But,” some corner of my brain protests anxiously, “what about This Idea? This Idea is so good! You’ve had This Idea for so long! You just haven’t had the chance to properly explore and work on This Idea! Don’t throw it out just yet!”
I strongly believe that the answer to this needy corner of my brain is, on the whole, a very firm no–but! I do like that Jessica Abel explores a very important aspect of the debt allegory by discussing idea investment. Because she highlights two things that distinguish idea debt from idea investment: a work plan with steps in it that the writer actually completes, and the production of a deliverable.
So, to bring this meandering detour of a blog post back to the original subject of my city witches idea–which is it? Idea debt or idea investment?
At this point, it’s kind of hard to say. (To be fair, it’s hard to determine which is which with my WIPs on AO3, too.) But that’s why I’m going to follow Jessica Abel’s model and make a plan, even if that plan is just a promise to myself, on this blog post, that I will:
continue working on my AO3 WIPs as I am able; I am a full-time, part-time writer, after all.
decide whether my city witches idea debt might pay off this November during NaNoWriMo. Did I mention that I’m participating in that this year? Hey, I’m participating in that this year!
…and with that, I think I’ve just about reached the end of this blog post. Let’s end by highlighting what’s on the radio.