NaNoWriMo Update – Day 1

Aka I get honest about my writing

So… Day 1 did not go exactly as planned.

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I was up at 11:30pm on 31 October as planned. Started writing at midnight as planned… and realised my opening scene did not work at all. No, it wasn’t my inner editor being picky… it just sucked because I used the wrong POV. I tried finishing the whole scene, but it still sucked. So I went to bed at about 2, hoping that things would look better in the morning…

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Surprise, it didn’t. It looked worse. I hated every word. I wanted to tear it up. If I didn’t need it for my word count I would have deleted it then and there. Honestly, I wanted to cry. All the preparation, all the excitement gone with the opening scene. I had written about 3000 words, but they just seemed wrong somehow.

Lucky for me the JoziWrimos have my back and talked me back into pushing through the hating-every-word-and-hating-myself moment to skipping a few scenes ahead and ‘starting over’. It really helped and I feel like I’m on my way again. It also nearly had me ugly crying happy tears in the office. Which would have been awkward.

Lift

I was up early this morning and the writing flowed a bit, which was awesome. I also don’t feel like chucking out the whole outline and starting from scratch. I know that makes me sound like the biggest drama queen in history. But hey, if you saw that first scene you’d understand.

Jumping in at the deep end when you can’t swim

I can’t swim, so just that sentence fills me with dread. But perhaps this is more a matter of I have too much self-doubt (Can I even write?!)* and have no idea whether or not I can pull off the sprawling story I have brewing in my head (The Ruon Chronicles). But, I guess if I don’t try I won’t know. And the really silly thing about it all is that all the feedback I’ve received about the Chronicles has been very positive. So, I guess along with the writing, I should work on that nagging self-doubt as well…

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And now, onwards with NaNoWriMo and Charms of Life and Death.

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*This after I won second place in the story of the year division (with INK, an Afrikaans writing platform) with a Ruon Chronicles story.

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NaNoWriMo, Patreon, and the Saga of the Flooded Apartment

An End to the Saga of the Flooded Apartment

What a whirlwind!

These past two weeks have flown by at a breakneck pace for me (which is partly why I haven’t been able to blog properly). But the good news – at least for me – is that The Saga of the Flooded Apartment is finally over. What started in May as a surprise when I came home after a weekend away finally ended when I got new carpets and tiles! Yay! So now my place looks like a home again (mini makeover included!) and I feel like I have space to live again after having stacks of stuff everywhere to get it out of the way of the water. Now all that’s left is getting all the books back to the living area and rearranging some things in the kitchen. Because I kind of also went into Spring Cleaning Mode. Which, I guess, isn’t a bad thing.

Being back to normal also means having my writing space back – whoohoo! And a good thing as well as I’ve started prepping for NaNoWriMo.

The Epicness of the NaNoWriMo Novel of 2016

copy-of-charms-of-life-and-deathFirst off, this year my NaNo novel prepping will be a lot more structured than last year. While pantsing did work well for some parts of the story (and I seem to do worldbuilding well when I’m discovery writing), the story morphed into a much larger story and I need to plan everything out – or at least most things out – before I get three quarters of the way and realise that I am stuck.

I’ve never sat down and planned such a long piece from beginning to end, so to help me I got K.M. Weiland’s outlining and structure books. This month will therefore be spent working through those books and getting everything ready so that I can just start writing – and rewriting in some cases – the first book of The Ruon Chronicles.

 

Patreon Fiction

Besides the NaNo prepping I’m also working on the October Patreon fiction. Because the story also takes place in Airtha-Eyrassa, it’s really helping with worldbuilding a part of the world I haven’t really touched on before. Rather than just going – well those guys over there are the bad guys – I want to get into the culture and mindset of the people so that it’s clear that they’re not just there to fulfill the role of the guy sitting in a large chair stroking a white cat.

Deadlines, deadlines, everywhere

So, all in all, October promises to be a very busy month (I’m also heading into double-deadline-crunch-time at work*), but I hope that it will all pay off in November when I can finish the whole first book to such a degree that only editing will be needed and not another rewrite!

* The “double deadlines” mean that, instead of having one deadline a week I now have two for a couple of weeks as we get closer to December and to Christmas when the printing of the mags go into overdrive to get everything finished. (I work in magazines, btw.)

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this year, how is your planning going? I’d love to hear!

Ps. Blogposts will be back to normal from next week.

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Go Ahead and Publish

On Having the Guts to Publish

Last week I read a very interesting blog post by Ronel Janse van Vuuren (who blogs over at Ronel the Mythmaker) about rejection, the choice to self-publish, and the endurance you need when it comes to getting your work published.

Rejection and Success

I do not think that there is any writer on earth who will tell you that it is easy to get your work rejected or that it is easy to forget about bad reviews of or comments about your work. Of course there are those rejections that may give you clarity on ways to better your writing (which almost makes the rejection worthwhile), but for the most part you simply get a “no” when your stories are rejected. Perhaps that is also why it is so difficult to talk about rejections – you start to doubt that you can even write one sentence, nevermind write a whole story or a whole book.

I also do not always say on the blog when I submit stories for publishing – one reason also being that you sometimes wait a month or more to hear whether it has been accepted or not and I think I may bore my readers – but in not telling anyone when I submit it takes some of the pressure away. It is only in the last few months that I have felt comfortable enough to say what it is I’m working on at any specific moment. And, while I am sure I can give a lot of reasons, the main reason is fear. Fear of being seen as a failure or being seen as a fake. “After all,” fear says, “you can’t possibly think that you will ever amount to being a real writer, do you?”

And yet, here I am, plugging away at the keyboard every day, jotting down ideas which come into my head, and still sending out the odd short story for publication. But fear keeps on gnawing, it never really seems to go away – even for those who are already successful.

Don’t Listen To Fear

Not listening to that fear is perhaps the most difficult part of putting your writing out there. It’s the lies fear tells us that keep so many people not just from writing, but also from creating other art or showing their art to the world.

But, still, when you go to look on Goodreads, you will inevitably find that your favourite author has received various one and two star reviews, while you can’t understand for a moment why anyone would think that their literature isn’t the best the world has ever seen or ever will see.

Feedback

When you get negative feedback it is often difficult to remember that the artwork you’ve created or the story which you have written just isn’t to someone’s taste and not that it is the worst thing that anyone has ever created in the history of man. Constructive feedback, of course, is a whole other thing altogether. You can work with constructive feedback! (The problem is getting constructive feedback and not just a “I hate this” kind of feedback.)

Still, when you know the kind of hateful feedback you may get when people read your work and don’t like it, makes you think twice about posting it on the internet, self-publishing it, or even publishing it through traditional means. So you may ask how do I then publish a blog or ebook and put myself out there?

The Power of Others

Well, the short answer is “other people”. When I see friends and people I look up to share their work with the world, it makes me want to share mine as well and helps to give me the guts to publish when I see how they are handling and enjoying it. I also want to share my stories and make a difference with them. And to do that you need to throw caution to the wind (up to a point) and just go for it. You never know how your work will perhaps inspire others to also share their work.

And, even if you do fail, try and learn something from it so can do better next time.

Hersenskim is meant not only as a place where I can pen my thoughts and post my stories, but I also want it to be the place where I show my journey as a writer. And, to that end and inspired by Ronel, I will do more to make you, my dear readers (and you are very dear to me), join me on this journey with its many ups and downs, the rejections and the successes!

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Things I Saw In the Graveyard

The graveyard is old and some of the graves date back to the 1800s. That is why, on the last day of my vacation, my family and I slip into the cemetery to have a closer look at the graves. I have my camera with me, armed with new batteries and more stuffed in my pocket.

The wall is low, all around the small cemetery, but I decide to enter from the side street and not to walk to the main street and enter there. Someone must have seen me scoot over the knee-high wall, nearly tripping as my dizziness took over for a moment and laughing at my own clumsiness. The smell of the sea infuses the air and sticks against my skin.

I imagine that I step on the ground lighter inside the cemetery than I do outside. Outside is everyday ground. Inside it seems hallowed. Holy ground where loved ones, who are now nothing but bones, buried their loved ones. It is difficult for me to imagine I’m walking between – sometimes over – the bones of the dead. It almost feels like I’m walking between those sleeping a hundred years’ sleep. Hands folded, dressed in their best clothes, eyes and ears closed to the world. You would think that sound, too would be muted here in this holy place. But perhaps it is not holy enough. As far as I can tell only everyday people were buried here. Some have simple stone crosses for their tombstones, but others have grand iron railings. One has a beautiful white marble angel who watches over the whole cemetery, who watches over all the graves, especially those of the children and babies. Those are the ones that touch me the most of all.

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Some of the people buried there had full lives. They died at a ripe old age – though perhaps not of old age – but there are many children who lie buried beneath the grass-covered soil. Unlike the old their graves seem mostly unmarked. At least not nearly as well marked as those of parents and grandparents. But sadness and pain, after all, cannot truly be expressed in stone and the size and extent of your grief may need a whole mountain of white marble to convey while in reality you can scarcely afford the plain stone which must have had a name on in the past.

Then there are the trees growing beside or out of graves. One grave had aloes growing out of it. The other trees are all white, stunted, and dead, like the bones of the dead beneath the earth. They look like something made for a cemetery.

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There is one mound that I spot that looks new. Unlike the other undulations in the ground this one seems to have been made not too long ago – but long ago enough to be completely covered with grass and small white flowers.

I walk over to it and take a picture while the whole time I just think of the plant simbelmynë, which grows on the graves of the kings of Rohan in The Lord of the Rings.* I wonder who is buried here. There is no grave marker, no tombstone. No stone angel. Just a grave, just a mound of dirt. Just green grass and white flowers. Or perhaps much more than that. Someone’s child. Someone who once walked upon the earth but now slept below it. I still wish I knew who it was and why that old cemetery was chosen.

Perhaps they, too, did not have enough money to give an outing to their pain and grief so nature did it for them and arrayed the ground on that spot with flowers.

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Vandals had also visited the cemetery. They probably slipped over the low wall and hurried between the graves, though they most likely did it under the cloak of night and not during the lunch hour as I was doing. They brought with them cans of spray paint with which to write letters and patterns in an unsteady black spray. I wonder what their intentions was with defacing graves in a cemetery it seemed no one visited anymore.

We, we left our own touch behind. A fallen marble cross was put back in place as best possible. A marble angel placed upright. We cannot mend it, but hope that the small attempt at making it better will ripple out to the world outside the cemetery.

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*Simbelmynë:

“How fair are the bright eyes in the grass! Evermind they are called, simbelmynë in this land of Men, for they grow where dead men rest. Behold! We are come to the great barrows where the sires of Théoden sleep.”

The Two Towers, The King of the Golden Hall, p496.

Tolkien, J.R.R. (1995) The Lord of the Rings. London, Harper Collins Publishers.