Nine Months Off and then… NaNoWriMo

It has been a busy nearly nine months since my last post.  In March, my organization hosted a conference that has provided many business opportunities for our small production team.  Lately, we have been particularly busy as all of our clients are looking to get their projects in before businesses close for the holidays.  I have been writing, but not nearly as much as I have written in recent years.  This month, I have started my fifth consecutive NaNoWriMo, and will finish with over 50,000 words by month’s end.  This month has been my least productive NaNoWriMo, and I have counted upon a weekend with over 9,000 words written in a two day span to go from 35,000 to 44,000 words.  Right now, I am resting at just above 50,000 words, but I still have a long way to go before this novel is finished.  In the process of getting back onboard with NaNoWriMo, I’ve had to give up a number of pastimes over the past month, including: sleep, NBA Live, binge watching shows on Netflix, athletic pursuits (mostly the result of a lack of sleep), and watching/listening to basketball.  Real life goes on, and the results of those real life events continue to impact my writing even as I have made a concerted effort to amp up my word counts.

Due to the wishes of the parties involved, I cannot speak to some of the things that have been going on in my private life over the past month.  Needless to say, it has involved hospital visits and hours of writing “lost” due to thinking about things.  It has been particularly difficult, as I consider the people affected by this to be friends, family, and heroes.  To distill this to something most essential and about as cryptic as you’d like: this is a four of a kind that you don’t want in your hand.

NaNoWriMo has been halting for me, due to both personal and professional responsibilities.  As mentioned, I have 50,000 words in the bag (close to 51k, but I’m accustomed to greatly exceeding that figure, too).  I have a cacophony of characters all screaming for attention.  It’s like having 15 shooters on a basketball team, where even if you give them all the playing time that they need, there’s simply not enough shots to go around.  Pretty soon, I may have to start making “cuts” to my characters.  I just need to figure out where these “cuts” might best serve the narrative structure of my work.

Since the last post, I have also read several free novels on Amazon, but haven’t had the time to properly review them.  One, Teacher Beware by Charlotte Raine, deserves some attention, because it has a compelling plot and a likeable main character, and this is a storyline that I could easily get picked up by a movie studio, but the narration and the characterization simultaneously need more meat on their bones.  Another, Tim McBain’s Fade to Black, was a novel that was stylistically somewhat difficult for me (not a difficult read, per se) because it seemed so ethereal. However, I stuck with it and found an ending that I can appreciate, which left me with a positive overall impression of the book.  If these are still free, you might want to dip your toes in.

I have recently picked up another ebook from writer Jason Halstead. While I can clearly see the root of many of his critics’ issues with his writing, I have found his writing to be somewhat entertaining, and I was hoping for more of the same from the most recent book that I’ve acquired, Vitalis.  So far, his critics have been validated.  As a reader, I don’t mind when things get a little “blue,” but there needs to be some reason for it.  Granted, I’ve written a smutty scene, a sordid detail, and the like in my day, but these aren’t without reason (i.e., a character doesn’t go from holding another character in contempt to practically ripping off their own clothes to be with them).  However, the aforementioned ebook goes from one extreme to the other in the first several pages, and it does so a way that does not seem to be in accordance with what little we know about the main character.

With this update of so many disparate parts, you might be wondering if there is a thread that connects these all. Work, NaNoWrimo, personal heartache, my current novel, free ebooks, understanding reader criticism… if this post isn’t a laundry list of a post, then what is?  All of these things, from personal matters to work to understanding reader criticism, are about putting in the time to analyze them, to understand them, and ultimately to learn from them.  At work, for instance, one could look at a particular data point and say, “yes, indeed every good boy deserves fudge,” but why do they deserve fudge?  What constitutes good? And, more importantly, what factors played into those good boys deserving fudge?  Whether professional life or personal, being capable of taking in information, analyzing it, and then retaining both the information and the resulting conclusions are essential capacities or skills needed to translate reality into fiction.

More importantly, the dissemination of these little tidbits that you have about the characters and people that you encounter in your life are all about timeliness.  If, for instance, Halstead took his character through some rigors, built up some sort of tension between the two characters in his first “blue” scene, or created something that was slowly simmering in the background, his critics might not be so adamantly opposed to what they’ve read.  Similarly, if you’re writing a novel about space pirates on Venus, you better make sure that, if those pirates decide to change their ways and become space monks on Mercury, that you are capable of analyzing their motives and have connected the dots in such a way that your readers are, too.

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