I’ve added a page for NaNoWriMo 2013. You can find the link at the menu up top. Rather than bore the people who read this blog with regular updates, I’m going to place updates and the occasional excerpt there. That way if anyone is interested in reading about the experience, you can find it there. I will post at least once a week (hopefully more often), but I don’t think it will be the same day every week. I’ve got too much traveling to do to be that consistent.
I’ve been debating this for a few weeks, and I’ve finally decided that I’m going to give NaNoWriMo a try this year. I participated two years ago and managed to finish a novel, although it’s not in any shape to be seen at the moment. I gave the program a pass last year because I had too much on my plate.
I suspect that’s the case this year. I’m seriously behind on some review commitments, and there are some blog posts I need to write that require some research. Plus there’s a blogging announcement in the post that immediately follows this one. But I don’t want to limit my writing to blogging. Don’t get me wrong. Blogging is a lot of fun, but I want to write fiction as well. Writing a blog post is a lot easier than writing fiction, though, and I tend to take the easy way out when I’m tired or there are too many interruptions. Participating in NaNoWriMo will force me to make fiction writing a priority. I hope.
I’m going to deviate from the stated guidelines in NaNoWriMo, though. You see, the problem is that I don’t have a novel ready to go. I’ve got a crime novel I want to write, but it’s still in the gestation stage. I need a secondary plot to screw up the schemes of the main characters, and that hasn’t come together yet. I could write the sequel to the novel I wrote two years ago, but I need to work out some details of the worldbuilding that will become problematic in the second installment. Plus, I just need to clean up the first draft.
So what I’m going to do is write a novel’s worth of short fiction. For NaNoWriMo, I recall that being 50k. I tried to check a few minutes ago, and the site was down for maintenance. Anyway, I’ve got a list of short story ideas that could fill a book. I need to get started on them.
There have to be some ground rules, though. To keep from violating the spirit of the program, all stories need to be completed in November, start to finish. In other words, works in progress aren’t allowed. Otherwise, I’d just work on the deep space disaster novel. Any progress I make on something I’ve already started will be in addition to what I do for NaNoWriMo.
The advantage of writing short fiction is that if I get stuck, I can just work on something else for a while. I’m something of an organic writer to begin with, so this approach works for me. I may not make it, but I’m going to try. I’ll keep you posted on how things go.
I say in spite of myself because I turned out to be my own biggest obstacle. This is by far the longest thing I’ve attempted. I didn’t plan it out in detail well enough. I usually have a general idea of where I want a story to end up. Getting there is just details. The devil, as they say, is in the details. This novel has three viewpoint characters, four if you count the captain who only appears in flashbacks at the end of the major sections. The characters are in separate locations when the book opens, and I alternate chapters featuring each of them. I found myself writing more than one chapter about a character, depending how well I understood that part of the character’s story arc in relation to the other story arcs. I would then go back and insert chapters where needed. I found this to be both a stressful and liberating way to write.
Anyhoo, I’ve not been blogging much in the last couple of weeks because I was trying to make the deadline. I’m going to step away from the novel for a few days, finish up a fantasy mystery novella that’s about 1500 words from being done, start reading some of the books that have been piling up. I’m also going to think about some details I didn’t work out very well before I started writing a month ago. I hope to finish the first draft of the novel over the holidays, get it to the beta readers, and get to work on the second book in the series. I’ve learned a lot about writing and how (not) to approach a novel, and I’m eager to put some of those things into practice.
I should be at 25,000 words today to meet the 50,000 word “finish line” or 30,000 to meet my self-imposed goal. I’m at just over 19,000. I think I can catch up if I don’t miss too many days. I knew I would fall behind during the first part of the month when I started and planned on catching up over the Thanksgiving weekend.
Here’s the second excerpt from the novel. The storyline concerns the crew of a starship who wake up from coldsleep on a planet. They don’t know where they are or how they got there and have to survive. I’m alternating chapters between three viewpoint characters, who are on different parts of the planet when the book opens and whose storylines progress more or less simultaneously. At the end of each major section, there will a flashback chapter involving a fourth character, the captain of the starship. Where the captain is and what happened to her is going to be one of several mysteries the other characters will be dealing with. The flashbacks featuring the captain will not be chronological, but instead will give a different perspective on events and discoveries in the section of the book each flashback concludes.
In the acknowledgements to this first novel, the author states that the first draft of the book was written during NaNoWriMo 2007. That’s encouraging because I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this year, and I can only hope to write something half this good.
This is a dark, at times disturbing, adventure story with villains who are deliciously evil, yet have believable motivations. The heroes are young, flawed, make mistakes, grow, and learn about themselves and the world.
The suspense is intense at times, and the passage across the mountains, especially after the blood mage attacks, is downright nerve wracking.
The story opens in the country (city state?, kingdom?, the political structure isn’t clear) of Ninavel, a haven for mages. There is no restriction on the type of magic a mage can practice in Ninavel. All are allowed, including blood mages, whose magic requires human sacrifice. The neighboring kingdom is Alathia, where just the opposite situation exists. Magic is strictly proscribed, and only government sanctioned (and controlled) mages are allowed to practice, and then only in the service of the country. Most forms of magic are illegal and practitioners strictly punished. This is especially true of blood mages. Neither is a place I would particularly want to live, for totally different reasons.
The story opens when Dev, a young smuggler, is told by the man who gives him his commissions that on his next trip into Alathia he’ll be smuggling in a young man named Kerin, who is trying to escape from some of the local banking houses due to certain poor financial decisions. Dev is suspicious but needs the money. He promised his dying mentor he would buy the man’s daughter from the crime lord who owns her before she changes. It seems a common trait among children in Ninavel is the Taint, which is basically telekinesis. Slavery is commonplace, and there are a number of crime rings which use children as thieves. The Taint goes away at puberty, and the children are sold to whoever wants them, no questions asked. Dev was a slave to the same crime lord until he changed. When this girl changes, she’ll be sold to a brothel with a really nasty reputation. Dev is doing everything possible to raise money so he can to buy her first. And so he takes a job against his better judgment.
Dev is right to be wary. Kiran isn’t running from a banking house. He’s running from a blood mage, one he happens to be indentured to. Kiran has no stomach for the torture and murder that are a part of being a blood mage. Did I mention most mages in Ninavel regard those without magical ability to be little more than animals? This is especially true of blood mages, who tend to be possessive, vindictive, and ruthless.
Kiran and Dev travel with the first caravan over the mountains. Dev is a regular guide on these treks, and Kiran is posing as his apprentice. It doesn’t take long before trouble follows after them. They don’t trust each other, but soon they have to flee the caravan and depend on each other for survival. Dev is one of the most experienced guides around, but he can’t fight magic. Even if they make it across the mountains and pass the border crossing, their troubles will be far from over. Just being in Alathia is enough to earn Kiran a death sentence.
Courtney Schafer is a rock climber, a passionate one. It shows in her writing. She brings the passage across the mountains alive. The suspense, not just from the pursuit of the villains, but from trying to survive against the elements, gets intense. Maybe I’d had too much coffee and not enough food, but I found that whole segment of the book to be one of the most nerve wracking things I’d read in quite a while.
This book has some serious themes running through it. Betrayal, conflicting commitments, situations in which there are no choices that won’t leave innocent people dead. Both Dev and Kiran have to learn about trust. Both have to decide what kind of man they want to be and then pay the (excruciatingly high) price to be that type of man. In many ways, this novel is a coming of age story, albeit a grim and bloody one.
I recommend it highly and am eagerly waiting for the sequel.
On the whole, though, I’d say the first week has been a success. Taking a day or so off shouldn’t kill my momentum. I need to think about what each of the three viewpoint characters is going to go through next to get them where I ultimately want them to end up.
I’ve written what amounts to three chapters introducing three of the main viewpoint characters. I’ll introduce a significant fourth viewpoint character later in a flashback, whose present whereabouts will be a mystery for a while. None of the three characters I’ve introduced have any idea where they are or how they got there when we first meet them, nor do they know anything about the nature of the planet they’re on. Discovering that will be a major portion of the storyline. I don’t have a working title yet, still kicking a few ideas around.
Anyway, here’s what will probably be the first chapter, in rough draft form with little to no editing.
So far, so good. I won’t post a word count every day, but I will from time to time. When I get a good chapter done, I plan to post it as a sample. I’ve got several different viewpoint characters on different parts of the planet when the novel opens that will have to be introduced, so I’ll pick the introductory chapter I like best. Tonight’s chapter isn’t quite done, so I figure at the rate I’m writing, a chapter every couple of days is what I’m most likely to get done.
In case you’re wondering what my novel is about, it’s a sword and planet adventure with a lot of hard science thrown in. Think of a blend of Leigh Brackett, Robert E. Howard, and Larry Niven with a dash of Jack Vance. At this point, I’ll be focusing on two or three different characters from the same space ship trying to survive at different places under very different circumstances on the same alien planet. Of course, I could change my mind and give each character their separate novel. I’ll just have to wait and see.
Fifty thousand words is the minimum required to “win” NaNoWriMo. I know I can write that much; the thing that will be hard will be writing that much in one month. Thankfully the Thanksgiving holidays should allow me some time to catch up if I fall behind.