Hello friends! Not much to report this time around. It’s November 9 and I am, predictably, knee-deep (or possibly neck-deep) in NaNoWriMo. It’s going well so far! Well. As well as NaNo ever does, which is to say the words that are gushing into my document are disjointed and confused but occasionally good enough that I can convince myself that I might, actually, know what I’m doing. I am regretting the fact that I didn’t have time to plan this one out like I did last year’s project, as I suspect it would be making a number of things significantly easier, but the little bit I had structured out in my head is holding pretty steady, and I’m liking a lot of the possibilities with this project. So yay!
So, apparently, November begins in less than a week. Goodness.
Naturally (read: Faith is addicted and can’t really help herself), this means that I have less than a week to get herself in a passable headspace for NaNoWriMo. The good news is that I do know what project I will be working on, and I have at least a modicum of planning done to help me through. The bad(?) news is that between… everything, but especially starting a new job in a new state and all that, I haven’t done nearly the amount of planning I did for last year’s NaNo.
Which maybe isn’t entirely bad?
I still love what planning out a novel in advance can bring to the table. And it’s not like I’m going into this completely blind– in fact, I’ve got a decent idea what I want the main beats for the story to look like. But aside from that? It’s all a blank page. And that’s an excitement all its own.
Anyone in the business of storytelling will tell you that conflict is what makes a story a story. It drives the action. It moves the characters and makes them fight for what they want. It makes them grow as (fictional) people. It’s what gives us the compelling stories that capture our imaginations.
And while it’s not a perfect correlation, a lot of us could also tell you that when those bumps appear in our own lives, they’re opportunities for us just like they are for our characters. Trouble is, knowing that doesn’t always make it any easier emotionally to handle those disappointments. Not when something takes you in a different direction than you expected to be going. Not when it feels like your slow, steady climb towards your goal has taken a sudden turn to the left. Not when you start questioning whether you made some mistake along the way that will delay you terribly if not prevent you entirely from reaching where you thought you were going.
Is this melodramatic? At least a little. (I write fiction for fun; what were you expecting?) Do I have a marginally unhealthy expectation that my life will follow a roughly sensible character arc, with obvious steps forwards and backwards, all moving towards a single concrete goal? Possibly. Oops. But can I still take advice from my favorite characters? Absolutely. Especially when all of them keep pushing through when there’s no easy way to get where they want to be.
For those of you who have been following this blog/reading the stories that show up here every now and again, you’ve probably noticed that, despite the fact that I’m more than happy to use the shorthand of “science fiction” for the genre of number of them, even though it would usually be far more accurate to go with “space opera” instead.
And that’s okay! A perfectly valid choice. I love space opera, and despite the distinction I made above, I have no problem throwing it under the broad umbrella of sci-fi, if only because the popular understanding of the term often boils down to “adventure in space”. Overly simplistic? Definitely. Helpful enough? Yes.
All this to say that I’m lately finding a ton of enjoyment in actually reading up on various topics pertinent to the worlds I enjoy creation. Like, for example, The Case For Mars by Robert Zubrin, a book that presents the argument that we could actually put human beings on Mars within ten years using technology that already exists or could be developed in that time period. Aside from being a fascinating read all on its own, the number of ideas the book is giving me for the Tanner and Miranda stories is nothing to sniff at. From a general history of how humans made it out to colonize other planets to the infrastructure that they would have set up on all their colonies, including Verdant, it’s giving me the tools to help fill out the universe of the stories.
AND IT’S SO MUCH FUN.
Does this mean I want to turn the Tanner and Miranda stories into hard science fiction? Heck no. I’d be the first person to tell you my favorite part of writing about their shenanigans is exactly that: the shenanigans. But if drawing from the real world science (ish) that relates to the setting I’ve created helps me create a more immersive fictional world, gives me more ideas and, forces me to come up with interesting and different answers to the questions raised by the plot, then I am all for it.
Slowly but surely, I’m settling in. This last week in particular has seen me neck deep in boxes, with the end result being a (mostly) unpacked room. After all the chaos of moving, it’s so nice to have a space that’s starting to feel more like my own.
I’ve also been managing more writing! It’s a slow slog back to where I want to be, but it’s definitely progress. So far, most of the words have been more a random scattering of ideas than anything connected to a specific project, but it’s proving to be a decent way to get myself back into the practice of regular writing, so I’m more than happy to go with it.
Also! Since deadlines and I seem to get along so well, and since September is starting tomorrow, it seems like the perfect time to give myself a wordcount goal for Tanner and Miranda. If all goes to plan, expect to see snippets from my work on their next adventure in the coming weeks. Until then, all the best!
In truth, I should have known better. Than to think I would manage even my reduced blog schedule while in the process of moving. Or, in other words, I did not intentionally skip posting for the entire month of July, yet here we are. In August.
Unsurprisingly, this also means I haven’t really managed much in the way of fiction writing, either, though I’m gearing back up with that (and even pumped out several hundred words for Tanner and Miranda just last week!) and am eagerly looking forward to settling into a stable writing schedule once again.
In the meantime, some highlights from the past month:
- My first visit to Yosemite, complete with a hike up El Capitan
- Spending over a week with my family back in my hometown
- A grand roadtrip comprising of more than 4500 miles, epic scenery, and all the summer storms I’d forgotten about because they don’t happen in California
- Opportunities to catch up with various friends I hadn’t seen in Way Too Long
At some point I’ll definitely upload some of the pictures I took in Yosemite before the smoke descended; with absolutely no exaggeration, that park is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. But that will have to come a different day. Today, I’m just going to have to be satisfied with a quick post to infuse a little life back into this blog– and the fact that I’ve actually got the energy to do some writing tonight.
So, it seems like I’ve slipped down unofficially from weekly posts to biweekly, mostly because life is busy being Busy and my braincells are spinning around in all the different places (wheeeeee!). That being said, I’m going to go ahead and make that unofficial schedule official for the next couple of months: at least until my move is finished and I’m a little more settled in in a new state.
I am still here, and still writing (always!) just at a slower pace than I had been. And as proof, let me share one of my recent warmups/writing prompts that I enjoyed! Ten minutes, based off of an AI generated image (how’s that for futuristic?), and lots of fun. If you’re interested, I’ve included the picture the computer came up with down below, too!
So, without further ado and absolutely no editing, enjoy a peek at what happens when I get a time limit and a fun prompt.
The noose was closing. Inch by inch. Moment by moment. It wouldn’t happen today, might not happen tomorrow, but the end was coming. The game was coming to a close, and when it did, Saava would have lost.
Someone else might have used the inevitable end as an excuse to indulge in angst and terror. Or maybe they wouldn’t have had a choice. Others might have turned and used what very little agency remained to them to face their looming death with what the stories called pride and honor.
Not Saava. It would have been easier if she could. But as long as she still drew breath her mind refused to admit defeat. Not even when every logical part of her knew that the end was coming and the horrors it would bring. Not even when she knew she was nothing more than a dead woman walking. Not even when she knew her continued flight would mean greater pain and vicious punishment when they finally caught her.
And it wouldn’t be long now. There were only so many hiding places aboard Citrion Station, and she’d already used most of them. And she had already lasted longer than anyone thought she would. Had thought anyone could. And against some other Hunters, maybe it would have been enough.
Not for her.
Not against Foliak’s Bloodhounds.
Outside, she heard footsteps. And she froze. Even when every cell in her body shrieked that she had to run, she held still. Held steady. Held onto the mantra that had been the only thing to keep her alive these past five months.
Don’t run. Always hide. Let them pass you by.
But the day would come when they wouldn’t pass. Because there would be nowhere further for them to go. Or for her. And then the bloody end would come.
The footsteps receded. She opened her eyes again. And looked up. And she could have laughed. Because the game wasn’t over after all. There was another player. And he was on her side. Or else she read that familiar, fresh white symbol on the bulkhead all wrong.
As of yesterday, I have officially read as many books this year as I did in the entirety of last year. Or in other words, having finished reading thirty five books by the end of May, I am well on my way (and ahead of pace!) for my overly ambitious goal of seventy five by the end of the year. Assuming I don’t get completely derailed when I go through a big move in a month or two. Heh.
On a definitely related note… I’m currently in awe of Connie Willis’s ability to plot out stories. And by “in awe” I mean “feeling marginally inadequate because wow she’s good”. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that her WWII time travel story Blackout/All Clear is flawless, it’s easily one of the best things I’ve read this year and a display of formidable skill. A very slow burn story, but once it gets going, boy does it. And the way she weaves a thousand different plot threads, themes, and references into a sudden and cohesive whole that appears out of nowhere and goes straight for your emotions…
…let’s just say I’m still recovering.
And trying to figure out how I can get that good. Or. You know. Anywhere close to it.
The answer, as much as there is one, is to keep writing and to keep reading. So I guess I should get on that. This next Tanner and Miranda scene that’s causing me so much trouble isn’t going to write itself, after all!
In the meantime, what about you guys? Read any good books lately?
In the never-ending quest to keep the writing-wheels rolling, I have found another tool. Or maybe I just remembered one of my old ones existed. Namely, journaling. Not the kind where you keep a diary of your thoughts and impressions of the day, though I understand that can help as well. Rather, the kind you put in a writing journal.
In high school, I had an amazing teacher who agreed to advise/supervise me while I spent two semesters writing fiction. (Best. Teacher. Ever. I even got school credit for doing NaNoWriMo that year and I’m still using the advice she gave me.) Required work was relatively limited from week to week– there was some reading and a final project each semester– but the one thing I had to turn in every week was a document with my journal entries from the week: five in total, whatever I happened to write over a ten or fifteen minute period, usually with nothing more than a single word as inspiration.
And she would read them all and give me feedback. Every week. Like I said. Best teacher.
So I’ve started journaling again. Sort of. At least, I’ve been putting the writing sprints I’ve been doing lately with my sister into a single document, labeled with the date, how long I wrote, and what the prompt was. If nothing else, it’s proving to be helpful in getting my (occasionally stagnant) creativity flowing. And now that I’m documenting it all in a single place instead of scattered across several different documents and strewn about my harddrive, I’m interested to see what sort of trends show up as I continue to do it more often. And what ideas coalesce out of the ether. And what strengths and weaknesses become easier to pick out.
And, most of all, I’m looking forward to seeing if an extra infusion of discipline to my writing habit makes it that much easier to avoid getting stuck.
And what about you, fellow writers? What are your tricks for convincing your brain and your fingers to do their writing on days when neither want to cooperate?
Several of the books I’ve read most recently have reminded me of something that I already knew– namely that I really enjoy stories with an interesting, creative setting. You know. In case my preoccupation with science fiction and fantasy hadn’t already given it away. I also can’t remember if I’ve written about this in the blog already or not, so please bear with me if it starts sounding like I’m just rewriting an earlier post.
Anyway! Consider this another entry in my continuing quest to figure out why certain stories grab me and refuse to let go. Because I’m pretty sure this is part of it.
To some extent, I suspect this is why most fans of sci-fi and fantasy enjoy it the way we do. There’s a reason those of us who grew up with it spent so many hours daydreaming of ways to get ourselves to Narnia. And also why we have discussions about which Hogwarts House we would belong to, and why those “who would you be in X fictional world” quizzes are so popular.
I imagine it also helps that when something is well-known, the fact that we can talk about them (giddily) with other like-minded fans only feeds our enjoyment. But then there’s the stories that are not as widely known, or with a less rabid fanbase, that– for me– result in the same level of borderline-obsessive focus.
Like, for instance, David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. The books are definitely fun, particularly the earlier ones, and though I know he’s written more in the same setting beyond the ones that focus around the titular character, I haven’t gotten to them yet. Unlike some of the other stories I’ll mention in this post, Weber does enjoy a pretty decent following. Probably because there’s a lot of us who think that “female Horatio Hornblower in space” is a whole lot of fun. That being said, the books, fun as they are, also aren’t the masterpieces that, say, The Lord of the Rings or Red Rising are. The stories and the characters are fun, but there’s a reason this little gem makes so many of Mr. Weber’s fans laughing.
Then you’ve got stories like Andrea K. Höst‘s brilliant Touchstone series, which I just reread and got a forcible reminder of why I should really look up more of her work. The writing is lovely, and while I know some people don’t particularly like the journal format that the books use, I think it works very well for the nerdy, comforting story she’s telling.
And for all these two series are very different, I found that they have something in common. They captured my imagination. Completely. It’s stuck. Not going anywhere. In Weber’s case, it means that I will happily read for hours on end about the technological advances of the Royal Manticoran Navy’s missiles, and how it changes the way their massive space battles play out. In Touchstone, it means I will read everything about Cassandra Devlin and the Setari and the spaces that I can get my hands on.
And in both cases, that is in large part thanks to the worldbuilding. These authors succeeded in creating worlds so compelling that I am happy to visit them again and again and that I think about them randomly even when I’m not reading their stories. J.S. Morin does a bit of the same, especially with the way magic works in his various Black Ocean series. Fringe does it in the way it creates a world so similar to our own, just with weird science causing all manner of mayhem.
Perhaps all of this is just outing me as an escapist, though even that’s hardly as damning a truth as some people make it out to be. But whatever way you want to slice it, the fact remains that some authors do a remarkably good job at creating strange, new worlds, and it’s a particular pleasure of mine to go exploring them for a while.