My NaNoWriMo Novel

So I’ve decided. I’m going to attempt NaNoWriMo this year. National Novel Writing Month. Writing a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. This is the first year I’ve been in a place where it sounded like a good idea (click for my thoughts on the subject a year ago). It’s a whole month where I won’t be working on Wanderlust, true, but I’ll be getting great writing practice, learning how to fit writing into my schedule, and maybe even making some writer friends in this area. I think it will be a lot of fun.

And you probably want to hear about the book.

It’s…

Well.

It’s something that I’m personally really excited about, and that I haven’t been able to get out of my head for the past year. Yet even as I’ve been world-building, collecting pieces of plot, and making exciting discoveries about how everything comes together, I didn’t think I’d actually be able to tackle the project for years and years. For a number of reasons. You see, it’s about these two guys. With Wanderlust my main focus right now, it doesn’t seem entirely wise for my secondary project to be ANOTHER story about a couple of guys—even though they (Cor and Tristan) are entirely different characters from Taniel and Vanya, and their story is a completely different sort of thing. The second thing is… it’s high fantasy. Swords and sorcery. Battles and blood. I have read a lot of high fantasy, and it’s one of my most favorite genres, but there’s a lot of it out there, and a lot of it is crap. I… this is probably my own issue, and I’m probably accidentally discounting some really good work, but I have trouble asking people to take me seriously as an aspiring author writing high fantasy when I know there are so many people out there writing books in LOTR inspired worlds with all their made up, fantasy-sounding names and it just isn’t any good. I wanted to establish myself with the urban fantasy, maybe that dystopian kinda book I’m working on, before I ask anyone to take my high fantasy seriously. And this project… It’s not just high fantasy. It’s high fantasy with history, with lore. The actual storyline I want to write deals with the aftermath of the big war ten years before. Beyond that, there’s some really long-ago history about why this [special] [magical] country functions the way it does. And farther back, the mythology. Looking forward, I even have an idea for the thousand years later story when all the magic has faded from the world (… or so everyone thinks!).

And those are the reasons I find my own story problematic for me, myself, right now. They’re also the reasons I think it will make a great project for NaNoWriMo. I need something that I’m not under too much pressure to take seriously, especially if I’m going to be banging out 50,000 words in a month. I also tend to have a really scattered writing style on a first draft anyway, and (not sure if this is entirely kosher with the nano rules, and I don’t really care) I’m giving myself permission to work on the lore, the backstory, all the connecty bits, whenever I want to, even if I’m not sure how they fit into the main narrative. It’s all part of the project, and I’m going to let all of that count towards the 50,000 words. And this really is a project I’ve been putting a lot of thought into, despite everything, and I’m excited to see where it goes if I let myself get to work.

The project. I haven’t even field-tested the title, you know? What if it just sounds dumb? I called it Tredaf back in high school (yes of course this is a resurrected project, but it’s really honestly changed A LOT since then and anyway I’m starting over from scratch) but that’s the name of the magical country and I think the country itself needs a name-change. The current working title is… badadadum… The Legend of the Blood Tog King. Or just The Blood Tog King. And here’s my question; a real, serious question. You can put your answer in the comments. Does it sound dumb?

It’s about this guy, Cor Daggerhand, who is blood brother to Tristan, the king. It’s a country where bonds between people have magical properties, and none more powerful, or more dangerous, than a blood bond. [These bindings are symbolized by tokens, worn around the neck or pinned to clothing. Over many years of use, the word “token” degenerates to “tog”, which now describes the whole concept.] Ten years ago Cor and Tristan won the great war, and Tristan reclaimed his rightful throne. Days after the victory, however, Cor skedaddled, and left his brother and the entire country behind him. Upon his grudging homecoming (the start of this book), he discovers that the past ten years have changed Tristan into someone almost unrecognizable—someone with terrible plans for the nation they both call home. Can Cor battle his own blood-brother to keep his beloved country free? And has the king truly turned evil/gone mad, or can Cor save Tristan from himself?

Someday I will finish this sketch.

Tristan and Cor (an unfinished sketch)

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What I’ve been Reading Lately

Clash of KingsClash of Kings by George RR Martin

It took all summer, but I knocked out the second book in a Song of Fire and Ice by George RR Martin. It’s cool how engrained in pop culture this world has become, thanks in large part to the HBO series that I am not watching because I wanted to read the books first. It’s cool that the more I read, the more apt I am to understand a gazillion memes and facebook references. And while the books are brutal and often hard to take, they are also (or have been so far) consistently compelling, which is a surprise when there are SO MANY characters and plot points to keep straight. The narrative jumps around all over the place, but I’m just as interested in (almost) every piece of it.

ShadowsShadows by Robin McKinley

We’re skipping a few books I read in the interim (and I re-read Dragonhaven, also by Robin McKinley, in the past few months as well), but Shadows is the NEW Robin McKinkey book. The new ROBIN MCKINLEY book. More people should be excited about this. I went to buy the book in hardcover on the day it came out (I’m actually a little ashamed of all the Robin McKinley books I’ve picked up used and at a discount, since she is a living writer that I adore and really want to support) and was sort of expecting that the bookstores would make as big a deal about the new release as I was making about it. You know, like there would be one of those window displays or something. But the local bookstore didn’t even HAVE the title. To their credit, it was ordered, and would be there on Monday, but that was WAY not soon enough. Luckily I was going to the mall anyway, and Books a Million did have the book on release date, but it was nonchalantly just back there on the teen Fiction shelf under M. You know, like it wasn’t even a big deal.

I’m not done with Shadows yet. This is not because it is not enthralling. It’s really good, and I’m making it last, because it will be a long time before the next NEW Robin McKinley book comes out. When I brought it home, I put it on display in the shelf in my living room and allowed the anticipation to build while I finished up A Clash of Kings, and a few other books I’d left hanging. Then when I finally started Shadows, I decided that, since it was a heavy hardcover book, I wouldn’t carry it with me all day. I would only read it at night, before going to bed. I purchased some fancy decaf vanilla tea specifically to drink at night while reading Shadows. And then I started reading another book, so that Shadows would take longer. I STILL HAVE OVER HALF OF SHADOWS LEFT. Winning. 🙂

BitterblueBitterblue by Kirsten Cashore

I’ve been wanting to read this since it came out over a year ago, but when I read Cashore’s other two [excellent] books they had already come out in paperback (or maybe I first borrowed Graceling from a library, and purchased it later when I started reading Fire?). I really like how the oversize paperback books look on my shelf, and I didn’t want to ruin it by buying Bitterblue in hardcover. I decided to just wait to read it until I could purchase the copy I wanted for my collection. It took a LONG TIME. Now I’m finally reading Bitterblue, and well over halfway through. It’s just as good and compelling as the books that came before it, and sometimes very funny. I’m going to have to reread Graceling and Fire again, because while these are all stand-alone, Bitterblue gives us a very different perspective on some of the main characters in the other books, and I want to go back and compare my initial impressions of these people with Bitterblue’s observations.

FinderFinder by Emma Bull

I bought this book in North Carolina a year ago (a fact I had forgotten until I found this old blog post) and I’m finally getting around to reading it. It’s been sitting around my room for the past month or so, and half-heartedly carried with me on expeditions where I thought I might be needing a book but wasn’t sure. I’ve finally dived into it this past week because the Bitterblue paperback was too nice (and heavy, it’s one of those big thick ones) to carry in my backpack to work and… because I wanted Bitterblue to take longer. Now Finder has ALSO gotten really good and exciting. And so, I am now reading three really excellent books (in addition to Game of Thrones 3 and some other oddments), and I don’t want any of them to end.

The Creative and the Subconscious

I dreamed the other night that I owned a beautiful book. I’d acquired it at a great discount at one of those places one sometimes acquires beautiful things at a great discount—the bargain bin at NMU’s bookstore, in this particular case. It had a sapphire and lavender cover, the colors fading and drifting into each other like a sunset. Think the cover of Bitterblue by Kirsten Cashore (one of the [many] [really good] books I am currently reading), but shinier. It wasn’t a story book; it had pictures and text and paintings of magical creatures and words about how to write and how to make art and references for mythology and all other sorts of things. Or only a few of those things, or none of those things at all. What I knew was that it was a beautiful book, and full of all the wisdom and inspiration that I most especially need. Something I was glad to have, and something I wanted to hang onto. With a lot of reverence, I placed the book on my shelf—and here, I ran into trouble. The spine of the book held both the title (some word written in silver flowing script, with multiple S’s) and an image of a white creature, either a dragon or a unicorn. When I placed the book upright, so that the title ran the correct way and the book would open right-side up when pulled from the shelf, I discovered that the creature was upside down. Ah, I said. It was a discount book, after all. I flipped it over, so that the creature was upright and centered, braced against the bottom of the shelf—and now the words were upside down, and ran the wrong way. No matter how many times I re-oriented the book, I couldn’t get it right.

Maybe you’ve already guessed my metaphor.

Nothing’s changed. I still want Wanderlust (the writing, the art) more than anything, but I’ve gotten lost somehow. I’m tripping between the pictures and the words, not sure what I should be working on, and unable to accomplish, or finish, anything—and all the time hunched beneath and wading through the pressures of REAL LIFE, and most days too tired (or too engaged in other things) to make headway on creative projects at all. I don’t know which end is up. I don’t know which way to hold it, and I can’t seem to get it right.

I present you with this blog post sheepishly, ashamedly, like a thief who returns a stolen object at arm’s length, ready to run. I haven’t been following your blogs, or reading your tweets or keeping up with any of you, my internet friends and supporters, and some real life friends too. When I withdraw from the internet, I do so pretty completely. Also, I noticed that each of my sporadic posts over the past MANY moths ends with something like, “I promise I’m going to start blogging more regularly. No, I mean for real this time.” Therefore, this time, I make no promises. What I usually forget about blogging, though, is how it makes you write. Writing is writing. All practice helps. And right now, I do need help.

One more thing. Something I’ve been ruminating on for the past few weeks. November starts in, what, a little over a week? I am… eep… considering doing NaNoWriMo this year. You know, that crazy thing where you write a novel in a month. I’m still undecided, but more tempted than I’ve ever been before. More on that to come. Maybe. If we’re all very lucky, and I manage to write another blog post soon.

-G