11 December 2016

The Year End Review

Dear Blog Readers,

As another year comes to a close, I like to sit back and let loose several well-deserved sighs and reflect on what the past twelve months have wrought. It is often an uncomfortable process, a cruel exercise in profundity, yet I vow to press on knight-errant-like and achieve my goal of faithful absolution.

One year ago I could sit back and feel blessed, having survived a year fraught with obstacles, hassles, and expected stressors. There were worries about family issues, career moves, health concerns, and as always the stories to write. Yet nothing bad happened. With a full line-up of events seemingly designed to disrupt my peace, I got through them with relative ease. I counted myself lucky. After all, I had a new book out, A Girl Called Wolf, and felt proud of how well I had managed to translate a real person's life into a fictionalized account. And through that, I made a new friend.

This year, with far fewer dramatic turns expected, I expected an easier time, as well. That turned out to be true, thankfully. You see, what troubles there were were mere mole hills against the mountain of life. Though I immersed myself in writing, alighting upon the keyboard for hours at a time, consuming only drinks of lemon and lime, I have not managed to get the big book published within this calendar year. Oh, dear! I put down 198,000 words on my hero's quest, let him meet many an interesting guest, then crafted a novella of 37,000 words about a little princess. Then I merged them together for the win--yes! Whether or not that works well, I'll leave for the reader to tell. That does not mean the year was a total loss, only that as my own boss I have been exceedingly busy yet not particularly dizzy despite all I've had to do. That's still good, true?

In my life, the years ending with 1 or 6 have tended to be jinx years, so I've held my breath as best I could for most of the weeks in 2016. I stayed focused and kept my nose clean. I expected the worst yet I was cursed with bad rhymes at times. In other ways the days were full of dragon slays, which was the focus of my novel, indeed, a challenge to sense and sensibility, wherein I placed my hero in harm's way. That is to say, I accepted said challenge and struck forth with verve. Indeed! What nerve! I kept straight to the plot and did not swerve--not much, anyway, or so I say. And now it sits on the 'forthcoming' shelf leaving me a waiter, and sooner rather than later, it shall be available to dragonslayer admirers everywhere.

This coming year is certain to be the best yet, as each step brings us closer and closer to death. It may not be a wholesome thought, but as they say here and there, until you do arrive you have arrived not. So make haste with your dire plans! And speak well of those that flitter through your life. Bickering, whickering--shall we end such strife? For they that tarry and hound you may spend eternity seated next to you, and you just might be given the middle seat on Afterlife Airlines. Funny how there are no security lines! I can end this year full of merriment and mirth because I am now further on from my birth than I ever was before--and that's nothing to ignore! The older you become, the more you feel glum.

So smile if you can, if that is your plan, each and every day. And by the way, read books despite their looks, for what is a cover worth? If that's not your turf, then peruse inside, let the words abide, then read on until the hero has died. For I can tell you with near certainty, that all protagonists die in the end, whether the end comes by the last page or somewhere beyond. Or, if you're not fond of an end past the last page, some advice that's sage, is to never reach the final line. Not until it's your time. Save the end for another day and crack open a new book and have a new look. That's the sure way! 

And now I take leave to sleep and perchance to dream of the coming year and all I fear. I shall hope for more of the open door, stepping through to pleasures unbound. You see, I've found that the more one expects good, and one certainly should, the more we might enjoy a new, sacred toy, and every day see whatever can be, what we might call 'possibility'! May you and yours have many delights, minimal fights, and safe flights, and I shall strive for the same. I know it's lame, but it seems I can dabble in babble at the drop of a hat. How about that? I'd better end this now, take a bow, and say goodnight. After all, it will too soon be midnight.

Happy Holidays! 
And books make great gifts!

(C) Copyright 2010-2016 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

03 December 2016

The End of #NaNoWriMo as I know It

Another NaNoWriMo has passed and many of us are somewhere along the spectrum from elation to dejection. For those bloggers who don't know what that means, I'm referring to the National Novel Writing Month competition (hereafter called "NaNo"). However, competition may not exactly be the right word for it. The "experience" is really a competition against yourself and all the excuses writers may have to keep from writing that novel that's been stuck in their heads for a while. It is a just-get-her-done kind of motivating vehicle. I know many writers who finally got a novel written because of NaNo. Not me, of course; I'd write it anyway, NaNo or no NaNo, no?

I had been aware of NaNo for several years but it always was in November, a busy time of the year for me in my day job, so I declined to participate. Then I did, just for the heck of it. I sucked it up and dove in. I had the start of an idea for a sci-fi novel (The Masters' Riddle) and thought NaNo would be a "low-risk" way to push myself to write it. So I did. 

I "won" NaNo by achieving the 50,000-word threshold for calling it a "novel". I reached that milestone before the Thanksgiving week holidays that year, the time when I had expected to make my big final push. By the time the month ended, I had reached 55,000 words but not the end of the story. Then December arrived, end of the semester tasks piled up, and then the end-of-year holidays distracted me from finishing that sci-fi novel.

Last year (2015) I did not participate because I was busy with the novel I had just finished, A Girl Called Wolf. This year (2016), I decided to dive in again. Initially, I expected to start the sci-fi novel where I'd left off and go forward. But I had completed my newest novel, Epic Fantasy *With Dragons, during the summer and still glowing from the thrill I thought to continue in a sequel. That became my NaNo novel: Epic Fantasy 2 *Without Dragons.

I posted my word count every day for the first week or so. Seeing it steadily rising was motivation. Then came the inevitable distractions from the day job. There were days I could not write at all for lack of time or energy, much less post a word count update. I grabbed a few minutes between teaching my classes, some more time in the evenings. I talked up my participation in NaNo in my classes to motivate my students to write more--just for fun! Yes, writing is (can be) fun! But a half-hour here, an hour there was enough to keep me going. Never go 24 hours without writing something, even if only one sentence! As I told a colleague, I am always writing in my head; I just need enough time to download it through my fingers and keyboard. 

Then I had some good weekends with a bunch of keyboard slapping. We're talking 4 hours at a stretch, thinking and writing, not stopping to revise or edit. I was tossing out such crap as I never would have believed--as I never had let myself write and still move on. It was heartbreaking at times. But every word counted! I did not even write and validate after I won. I got lazy.

That's the idea: get a draft done, no matter how bad. Anything can be fixed in revision--after the competition ends. The goal is to complete a manuscript, but like in 2014, I reached the 50,000-word threshold without finishing the story. When I validated at 52,077 words, I got all of my cool winner graphics to paste all over social media to announce my achievement. But I knew when I began that I would win it. I would make myself win. I am known as a verbose writer, after all. When I mention "50,000 words" to my students who balk at writing 1000-word paper, or I tell them my new fantasy novel is 235,000 words (not atypical for the genre), and they seem in such shock, almost as though I had just eaten a live snake in front of them, I have to grin. It is difficult to put the grin away.

Despite the distractions of election vitriol and the day job's hecticness ("hecticity"?) and the holiday obligations, I still managed to win NaNo once more. Now let the revision begin! (See you again next November--if I get another story idea.)

P.S.- Just for fun, here are the opening sentences from Epic Fantasy *With Dragons and Epic Fantasy 2 *Without Dragons. Yes, I intend them to be nearly identical.

Corlan scratched his whiskers and grinned. A dragon clan was approaching. Brushing his wind-swept hair out of his face, he kept his eyes on the clan as he reached for the dragonslinger and prepared the weapon. Eleven of them in a tight formation. It would be a good day for hunting.

Corlan scratched his whiskers and tried to grin. He brushed his long auburn hair out of his face and focused on the quartet of minstrels approaching the dais. With his rusty dragonslinger resting heavily against the wooden throne, he fought a yawn and prepared to hear yet another petty complaint.

(C) Copyright 2010-2016 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.