Friday, December 7, 2018

NaNoWriMo Shenanigans // Part Two

And now for part two of my NaNoWriMo update. If you're looking for part one, you can find it here

After finishing draft two of HIRAETH, I had plenty of NaNoWriMo stretching out before me and, in the spirit of the month, I wanted to churn out a ton more words. But I had a serious book writing hangover. I wanted to be working on HIRAETH. I wanted to be reading HIRAETH. I wanted to crawl inside it and let it seep into my blood. Other books felt dumb and boring in comparison. So I did what any rational person would do—I decided to tackle the project that has, every time I’ve touched it, given me the worst case of writer’s block ever. It’s name is BMT.

This book and I, we’ve known each other for four years. I spent a whole year daydreaming about it before we got together. We’re that couple that everyone gapes at and then asks themselves, “Why are they even together?” BMT has begun to feel like a running joke to me. Am I feeling bad about my writing? I can always pick up BMT and feel worse. Do I want to turn my brain into sad writer soup? I know where to turn.

It was almost NaNoWriMo suicide. Every day, I felt my gaze wandering from BMT to other projects, other words. I wanted to cheat on that book so bad. I did have a quick fling with a short story, but it was over in a day, and then I was back, staring at BMT’s ugly mug. Sometimes I think that my continued dedication to wrestling this book into submission is proof that I really do dislike myself.

I ended up editing a lot of what I had edited in 2016 and 2017, just running the story through my fingers, trying to get the threads, trying to figure out what went wrong, where it went wrong, where it always goes wrong. I drafted some stuff, too, in an effort to break from my normal chronological headspace and write out of order like I did when I was drafting HIRAETH in 2016. (To clarify, I wrote a full rough draft for BMT in 2015, but most of it is rancid garbage and so I am trying to start fresh.)

Eventually I had to rip off the bandage and look at the ugly, infected sore I’ve been dancing around for four years. I hate this book. I hate almost everything about it. Nothing works. The colors are wrong, the feel is wrong, everything is wrong, wrong, wrong, but there is just enough right, hidden beneath it all, that I have not been able to walk away, still don’t want to walk away. I wrote a super long list of all my problems with the story, everything that makes me want to stop writing and, instead, knit sweaters for snakes in the Arizona desert (you know, so they won’t get cold at night). Then I took that list of problems, and I brainstormed ways to address each issue. It seems obvious that I should have done this years ago, so maybe I lose some writer cred in saying I didn’t think to do it sooner, but I didn’t think to do it sooner.

Some of the issues were easy to address. For instance, I needed to establish clear rules within which my time travel world was going to operate. My story has been plagued with inconsistencies and plot holes spawned mainly by my inability to put up a fence around my playground. I’d waffled, writing one scene where time travel works one way, another where it works differently, and this zig zag running made it difficult to head in any set direction. It was starting to feel like that whole “sound and fury, signifying nothing” scenario. The quote feels especially apt, because most days I end up feeling like BMT is more than just a little melodramatic.

Here’s another fun confession. Lazy writers make ugly art, and I was making ugly art. I spent so much time avoiding scenes that I knew I needed to include, and it left my story flimsy and overwrought. I avoided those scenes because some subconscious part of my brain that I wasn’t willing to look at or address kept telling me they were too technically challenging to write, that I wasn’t the sort of writer who could write scenes like those, so there was no point in even trying, and the hilarious thing is that I think I spent so much more energy trying to write around those scenes, trying to write out of sinkholes I wrote myself into, than I would have if I’d just done the work. Lesson learned. Don’t be a lazy, fearful writer. Do the hard thing. It probably won’t kill you.

The topper on this sad wedding cake of a relationship is that I don’t like the characters. No, that’s not accurate. I don’t like the color beige; I don’t like the smell of lilacs. I hate the characters, every single one of them. I can’t expect any reader to love these characters if I don’t even want to look at them. I can’t write this story if I don’t want to spend time in its world. I’m still brainstorming solutions for this issue, because it’s extensive, and I may need to do some character transplants, if that’s a thing. But I’ve named the monster—I know what it looks like. Now all I have to do is cut off its head.

There are more issues, but I think everything else can be dealt with by plotting and planning and taking notes, and since I am no longer allergic to outlining, even though it isn’t what comes most naturally to me, I don’t expect that will be much of an obstacle.

As for what the story itself is about, I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll summarize it here: When Ember’s attempt to use black market time to save her boyfriend fails horribly, she kidnaps a time traveler and sets off to undo her mistake before time runs out.

Here, have two completely out of context snippets. Also, please note that Vince and Fred are stand in names until I think of something better.

She turns to Vince. “Tell me about the scanners.”

He glares at her.

Her hand rests on her gun, still tucked into her shoulder holster. “You know, the sooner we save Fred, the sooner I set you free and you can go to a hospital. I would get to work, if I were you.” As she says it, she sees the thought she has tried to hide from herself, only lets her mind touch it for a moment before wrenching it away, back to the task at hand. If she lets him go, he will tell her grandfather, and it will ruin everything. She does not think she will be able to let him walk away from this, even if she wants to.

“Tell me how we’re going to find him, then.” Ember tries to focus on the word he used, disintegration, how it sounds too much like decomposition. Until now, the solution has seemed fairly straightforward to her. Grab Fred from the time vortex, pull him out. She hasn’t considered that they might be working with a very small window in which saving him will matter.

“Finding him should be easy enough,” Vince says, and she has to focus on his words to understand them, her thoughts are so distant and scattered. “The scanners are always on, always tracking and recording activity in the vortex. So they will show when he entered and where he’s been since he did. We can extrapolate from there where he’s likely to end up next, and how long he’s likely to hold together. A lot of it will be guesswork, but we’ll have a starting point and a framework to go on.”

Ember nudges him aside and takes a seat at the desk. Almost without thinking, she traces her hand across the screen, feels the fuzz of static beneath her fingers. For an instant, as she watches the hundreds of blips, she feels as if she could will them all to safety, clear out the time vortex with nothing more than wishful thinking.

She doesn’t know why they are all there, but there are so many blips, more than she could have ever guessed. The longer she looks at them, the more they seem like bacteria on a slide, stained blue and viewed through a microscope. They move in imperfect circles, intersecting, bouncing off each other, every blip its own center of gravity, like they’re hitched onto one point in time, and they’re spinning around it in ever widening revolutions. It’s not as clean as that, but that’s how she prefers to look at it. Which one is Fred? She massages her temples, tries not to think about how good a strong cup of coffee would be right now.

She turns away from the scanner, her pulse a jackhammer in her throat. “Okay, so tell me which one he is.”

And that’s it for today, Coffee Beans. Have you ever spent a long time working on a project you don’t like? Have you ever conquered writing a story with characters you can’t stand? Teach me your ways.


  1. I haven’t had a story yet with characters I hate but I have had stories that keep giving me problems but I love the characters so much I keep getting drawn back to it. I’m glad you diagnosed the problems with the novel. That’s the first step!

  2. For what it's worth, your snippets of BMT definitely intrigue me! I love time travel, and that premise is a neat one!