Lots. I did Camp NaNo, and at first I set my goal at 20,000 words. That’s the upper limit for the Rooglewood contest submissions, which is what I was planning to do, so it was nice and easy. Then I wrote most of the novella (which was so short it’s a novelette, and the words mean the same thing in their respective original languages but not in English, which is English for you) in five days. Except the ending, which is problematic. So then I turned to other writing, which was mostly on Of the North, and raised my word count to 30k. (I counted in my word count a really long discussion post that may be the seed of a later essay.)
There’s something weird about being a writer, I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed. We hate writing the first draft because it’s not perfect, so we tell ourselves we can make it, well, at least presentable in editing. And then we hate editing because we’re so close to everything we hated about it, and we’re focusing on the bad things * and wading in the general muck of our flat, preachy, plotless, cardboard-character-populated story, but we tell ourselves, when we’re done, we can start a new story and go back to the freedom of the first draft. And then we do enjoy the first draft because that’s our only chance to see the idea untouched, unmarred by our clumsy hands, in those first moments or days where we’re in love with it. Because we start writing it because we are in love with it. And then we enjoy editing because it’s a chance to take what’s good and make it better, but more than that, to spend more time with our characters as if we never said goodbye, living the same (or at any rate similar) adventures over again, this time, though, with the certainty that it will be all right in the end. What’s even weirder is that I’m not describing two different stories. All four of these things will happen in the course of working on one story, sometimes all in one day, if the editing process involves writing brand-new scenes.
* For this reason I like to do an anti-edit when I come back from taking time off the first draft: picking out all the things I know are good, and still like now that the euphoria has worn off and I’m looking at things realistically again, as a standard to raise the rest of the book to. Though what ends up happening is that by the time I get to those parts, enough has changed whether in the plot or characters or my writing style that they get bulldozed. (The lines-to-keep-verbatim thing isn’t working out, in case you hadn’t already guessed.) This whole thing is an illustration of paradoxes, I guess.
The document with the Revised Of the North is, as of this moment, 48,606 words. Now a little bit of that is notes of things to check, but not much.
My total writing for Camp NaNo is, according to Google Docs’ way of calculating words, 35,739 words. Camp NaNo says I wrote 35,909. Close enough.
I have a document of scenes for that story which I wrote for Camp NaNo, to keep track of exactly how much I wrote for it, which is at 22,455 words.
In one month I wrote as much in OtN as in the previous two months combined. Which is good, because I have a long way to go still if I want it ready to pitch by Realm Makers (which is still a distant possibility, in that I don’t know it isn’t possible yet).
Besides that, I added another story. The Colour of Life is 12,709 words, a rough draft with two possible endings sort of sketched out. It also has dwarves who may have stolen the show. My sister, when asked to describe the story, said there was a witch who donated her ordinary stepdaughter to the local thrift store. Make of that what you will. (According to her, it also features a chocolate ball named Yuri.)
For now, I like the story. For now, I think what I have written is good. But I think things are missing. It needs some space in between the big happenings. I heard something somewhere about why people break the speed limit. They’re in a hurry to get to a place, and thanks to the speed of cars and the fact that their main purpose is to get you places, being in a car helps you focus on getting from where you were to where you need to be. You don’t think of the time in between as a time of its own. You don’t do serious thinking during it, because you need to focus on the road, and situations which change quickly and can be dangerous. And you can’t do things with your hands, besides driving. It’s an in-between spot. Now, Of the North has lots of scenes, especially in the second half, where AEschild is doing a lot of thinking and the plot slows down so we can see how she’s changed. Instead of just driving from this action scene to the next as fast as possible, I make her walk, and notice things, and how long the road is and how far she has to go, and do things with her hands, and think and think and think. (Come to think of it, walking places more often might be good for our own character development, thinking of the in-between times as scenes of their own, not just a piece of life to skip as fast as possible.) The Colour of Life skips those parts.
The problem is, I don’t know what to do for the in-between things. I don’t want them to be just filler, but I can’t think of what they should be.
* * *
Have a snippet from the new Of the North:
She passed under the shadow of the trees with the silver pennies in her hand. It was cool and dim in there, but not as wild as a proper wood; people looking for firewood had cleared the brush from between the trees, and a narrow path wound through it, up and down the slopes.
If she hadn’t believed before that she really was in the eleventh century, the trees would have convinced her. They weren’t like normal fantasy, where writers reinvented trees and made them strange and exotic, but like Tolkien’s, familiar and homelike. Larches and firs and oaks and such she knew from reading his books, though she’d never been to England before; willows were thick by the brook, and she kept an eye out for an ancient one with cracks in the trunk, but saw no Old Man Willow. It wasn’t quite the same as being pulled into another world to have a book written about it, but she was hardly about to complain. An adventure of the portal fantasy type would likely not leave her much time to soak things in and enjoy them.
When, a little later than she had calculated, she came out of the trees and saw Agenild’s cottage in the distance, she came to a stream also, winding its way between her and the cottage, but with no bridge in either direction.
It was too late to turn around now, and Agenild’s cottage was in sight. It seemed a shame to turn back so close. She moved closer to the edge, looking down between the banks at the brownish water running smoothly below. It was narrow, and the banks weren’t very high. She looked to right and left, and seeing no one, she made a running start, and jumped.
(Readers from before will know roughly what happens next.)
And one from The Colour of Life:
Alyona told them about her mother dying, and of her stepmother, and her father’s recent death, and how she had come to be indentured to Grigori, and that if he found things out of place in the morning he might beat her.
“And he goes out all night and leaves you to do all this, does he?” said Kolya, looking around with distaste. “Does he ever come back before dawn?”
“Let us not be hasty,” Vasiliy interposed.
“Sometimes,” Alyona said. “Why?”
“And he makes you stay up all night, hmm,” said Yuri. “I’m inclined to agree with Kolya, the lazy wretch — not you,” he added, as Kolya turned to regard him with eyebrows raised. “I mean the man. We’d ought to teach him a lesson.”
“But first let’s help her tidy up, so she can go to sleep with a clean conscience,” Vanya added. “If he comes home early enough, who’s in favour of confronting him?”
He raised his own hand, and Yuri and Kolya nodded. Pyotr even looked as though he were considering forsaking his dignity in a good cause. Mitya hopped from one foot to another and glanced from Pavel to Vasiliy.
“I don’t think we’d better, just tonight,” Pavel said. “Seven against one is hardly fair. But Alyona can tell him she has friends in, um, high places, and if he won’t believe her, we can show ourselves to him, just one at a time. Never underestimate the power of a good argument.”
“But on a drunk man at five in the morning?” Yuri said.
“Well,” said Pavel.
(I love those guys.)
The Return of the King, and the Appendices. Some more Pendragon’s Heir, as usual. Plato’s Cratylus. Socrates with a sense of humour, defeating Postmodernism millennia before it got the name, is fun to read, not to mention heroic.
There might have been more, but I didn’t keep a list. Dividing wrap-up posts into four categories is almost more organization than I can handle some days. Especially when a thing could reasonably go into any of the four. Probably the writing and life stuff crowded it out, which I try to avoid because it’s not good at all.
Oh, I did read the Communist Manifesto, which is awfully short, because I got textbooks (with that and it being August now, even though the very beginning, I suddenly feel like school is starting tomorrow. I hate these nomansland weeks) and our Communist Lutheran friend needs justice done to his side. It cost twice as much as The Prince, for the same class, and is one-fifth of the size. And probably one-fifth of the quality. I’m looking forward to The Prince.
The fighters’ practice at the beginning of the month was about it. While our grandmother was here last week I did quite a bit of spinning (and the more I spin the more I wish the whorl were removable so I could get a bigger cop), and the night before she left we showed her our garb and I tried to give her the condensed version of all the fascinating stuff about it. My sister will tell you I failed at the “condensed” bit.
Getting textbooks (I’m looking forward to my classes as of right now; we’ll see if that changes once they get going), doing my sister’s chores while she was at music camp, going to camp concerts, playing hostess to our grandmother. There might have been things earlier in the month, but if so I’ve forgotten, and this post is more than long enough anyway. Let that be a lesson to me to write these posts as the month goes on, so I don’t do the whole thing in one day using time I should be spending other ways.