Last blog before NaNo! Now, if I was really organized and professional and all that, I would have built up a buffer to get through November so that I didn’t have to worry about it while aggressively noveling.
I am not. And so I didn’t.
And if I’m honest, even this one is more me rambling than writing anything structured enough that I could generously describe as an essay. Which, to be clear, is fine by me. Mostly, I’m really excited for next month. Which I think I’ve been saying on and off for the last two. Oh well. It’s still the truth.
This will be my twelfth time participating in NaNoWriMo. (Get a hobby, you say. I already have one, I reply.) I’ve reached fifty thousand words eleven times. The one time I didn’t, it was the year my college campus got hit by one of those infamous California wildfires, so I’d argue that I had a good excuse. Now, here’s where the numbers get a little less ideal: of those eleven manuscripts, I have… one that qualifies as a proper draft. Three if you count the two that gave me the skeletons for the various Tanner and Miranda stories.
Like I said: less ideal.
That’s not to say I consider those other eight (or nine, counting the unfinished one) to be failures. If nothing else, they greased the gears and got me writing. So what if none of it is much good? You can’t edit words that never made it to the page, and you don’t get better without practice. And considering that I participated in my first NaNo when I was sixteen, that counts as a lot of practice. And a lot of encouragement from an exuberant writing community. And a lot of exposure to all kinds of different writing advice and methods. Enough that I had a lot to work with when figuring out my own.
So here I am. 2021. Doing it again and trying to take it a step further. We’ll see how it goes.
What about the rest of you? Anyone doing NaNo this November? How are you feeling here, standing on the brink? Ha!
It turns out that writing a stand-alone short story for a contest was the kick I needed to start making progress on the Tanner and Miranda stories again! (Also, keep an eye out for the contest story in a few weeks’ time, since I’ll post it up here as soon as judging is over!) Anyway! I spent most of yesterday putting together synopses for the various stories that will make up the collection of their adventures for their first real book, and figuring out the overall flow for the book in general: what order they should go in and what tweaks the stories I’ve already written will need to match up with the rest. Continuity is a beast, you guys.
This is the first time I’ve been working on this collection in a while, since all my Tanner and Miranda related energy (such as it is) has been going towards The Dalton Job instead, so this is actually a nice change of pace. Plus, if it goes well, it will give me a great, solid base for all the planning that still needs to go into Dalton.
Also! My plan is to give you at least a little Tanner and Miranda related content most weeks, since I hope you’ll find it enjoyable (I do!) and it’ll help keep me honest. And disciplined. Ish. Particularly since I know I’ve been sketchier than posting lately. (Something something work, something something pandemic, something something SKYRIM…) Either way, keep an eye out for more excerpts, bits of world building, or even just descriptions of settings or characters. Also! If there’s anything you’re curious or want to hear more about (oh, the hubris), let me know!
But for now, here’s those synopses I was working on! Let me know in the comments below which one you’d like to see the most!
THE FIRST JOB or: We Encounter the Native Fauna
Tanner and I head out on our first job together: finding an expensive (and experimental) AI drone that went missing while mapping a section of the Badlands in preparation for a road between a couple of the colony cities (Coville and Oriole). It’s a simple job but it pays well, and it’s a good way to introduce me to Verdant. Or it would be if we didn’t end up having technical difficulties and getting stalked by the local wildlife. What kind of planet has carnivorous sheep anyways?
THE DELIVERY JOB or: The Rocky Road to Oriole
It’s been a few weeks, and I’m getting used to life on Verdant. The road to Oriole is coming along, and they need someone to help guard an important generator that’s getting delivered since they’ve had some recent trouble with bandits. We’re there mostly to provide backup for Oriole’s own Ava Loesan, but naturally, things don’t go as planned.
THE EASY JOB or: Murphy’s Revenge
We’ve had a rough go of it, and as much as I’m loathe to admit it, we could use an easy job. One of Tanner’s rancher buddies has us go along with an old-fashioned cattle drive just to throw us a bone: it shouldn’t require much real work from us. Of course, literally everything goes horribly wrong.
THE TRACKDOWN JOB or: To Catch a Thief
There’s a thief in Verdant! Or rather, there has been for a while, but the Rangers have only recently been able to close in on him, and now they’re asking for our help. He goes by the name of Blue, and he has an irritating knack at getting into places he shouldn’t be able to without being seen. Now that we’ve finally had a chance to actually rest and recover, our friend Paul Tarjian (Tarj) enlists our help in setting a trap and finally bringing Blue to justice.
THE SNATCHBACK JOB or: We Thieve a Thief
After our work tracking down Blue, word gets around that we know how to think like thieves well enough to thwart them, and a private citizen hires us to steal back a particular item with implications for the colony as a whole. The job seems a little shady, but the pay is really, really good. We do it, but only after checking in with Tarj to make sure we get the full story.
THE ETHAN LINDSAY JOB or: Never Trust the Man with the Thousand Dollar Smile
After a few successful jobs, we hit a good rhythm, and it’s easier and easier to get work as our reputation grows. The problem with that, of course, is that we get clients like Ethan Lindsay.
THE PRO-BONO JOB or: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Now that we’ve been on Verdant for the better part of a year and have gotten ourselves nicely established, Tanner wants us to offer our services to a group of colonists heading out to set up a reliable water line to a new town in the Badlands, mostly as muscle while they install the machinery. Trouble is, it looks like someone in our little group has ulterior motives, and might be working for the other side.
THE RESCUE JOB or: Out of the Fire, Back to the Frying Pan
A veteran bounty hunter hires us to help her scour the Badlands for a pair of troublemakers who have managed to get themselves on the wrong side of both the law and a couple of gangs. Oh, and they also happen to be the sons of a prominent local politician. What could go wrong?
THE PERSONAL JOB or: Bearding the Lion in its Den
All our meddling over the past year hasn’t gone unnoticed. That, or one of Tanner’s side projects ticks off the wrong ganger. Either way, someone takes it upon themselves to kidnap Tanner, and it’s up to me and all the favors I can call in to rescue him.
So, the other day I was chatting with my sister/writing buddy, and I started explaining my general premise for The Dalton Job. And, to my surprise, I found that I actually did a relatively good job at explaining it, complete with a few details and the basic gist of the plot. And to my even greater surprise, I didn’t finish and feel like the whole thing was more plot hole than actual plot.
It’s a high bar, I know. But honestly, I’m really excited. Because a bunch of what I was talking about was stuff I’d been grappling with for some time that didn’t seem to quite make sense. I’ve still got a long ways to go, of course, and a basic plot treatment that doesn’t shriek inconsistencies is a long, long way from a complete book, but it’s definitely progress. And that’s nice to see.
I’m watching November approach with the usual levels of excitement and trepidation. I’ve participated enough times that the 1667 word/day goal no longer sounds absolutely insane, though the looks of concerns every time an innocent bystander stops long enough for me to tell them about the chaotic glory that is NaNoWriMo, the looks of concern they give me when I say the phrase “fifty thousand words in thirty days” remind me that this whole undertaking is a little bit nuts.
Fun, for sure. But also nuts.
And usually, I go into it with minimal levels of planning. By which I mean that I have a single sentence synopsis and rough ideas for most of the main characters when writing starts on November 1. And so far, it’s worked pretty well.
I wonder, though, if this year will be different. With one exception, it’s easily the most established story I’ve chosen to work on for the month. It’s also going to be a substantially different format and far more episodic than I’ve done in the past, and honestly, I don’t know if that’s going to make it easier or harder. Or neither?
I’m not saying I’m planning everything out. Maybe it would be a good thing if I did, but I haven’t managed to do it yet, and with less than three weeks before writing starts (!!!), I can tell you right now that it’s not going to happen. But instead of needing one big plot (which I kinda still do if I want to string all these stories together in a sensible manner), I’m going to need a bunch of smaller plots to get me from point A to point B.
Only time and writing will tell how that’s going to work out for me. Wish me luck?
When it comes to writing, I like to think of myself as a panster*. I much prefer coming up with a vague idea and running with it, mostly because by the time I come up with something that excites me, I really just want to go play with it, not hammer out all the details. (In other news, I also have trouble rationing out a stash of candy for any length of time. The two might be related, but I’m not admitting nothin’.)
The problem is, not planning things out in advance generally leaves me with gaping plot holes and/or sticky corners in which to get myself stuck. It would be fantastic, I think to myself, if all of my characters charged down the hill towards the big bad monsters in epic fashion. And so I have my characters do just that, only to realize in the instants before they engage the enemy that such an attack is tactically unsound, and either their leader isn’t the strategic genius I thought they were or they have some sneaky plot up their sleeve… which I’m going to have to figure out before I write much further.
And so, I stall.
So when I tell you that I managed to tame my giddier impulses and actually come up with something of a decent outline for the first several chapters of That Novel I’m Still Working On, I hope you understand why I’m so convinced that it’s a triumph. We’ll see how it fares when I try to force that outline into actual prose.
* (noun) one who writes by the seat of their pants