Writing Echoes

Delijah's Writing Blog

NaNoWriMo 2016: Final Recap

You’ve got no idea of how hard it is to start writing again today, December 1st. As always, NaNoWriMo finishes and Thank Gackt Is Over and all that. However, this year has been horrible. To the point that I’m actually considering that this should be the last NaNo I attempt.

My first idea was trying to do the 50,000 words in a day, in the whole 24 hours of the first day. Unfortunately that was tampered due to the previous night being completely blank due to insomnia. No matter how much chocolate I ate or coke I drank, it would not work.

On the first day I was feeling not to well, but as it is a national holiday where I live, I puckered up 30,000 words. I decided that I wanted to do ‘diffuse writing’ and just grab a few writing minutes where I could, so there is no that much time following afterwards.

I then had a trip (which I don’t regret at all) over the weekend and most of my writing was done on a train. I reached 50,000 on the sixth, knowing that I was nowhere close to anything, so I continued.

Major depressive crisis hit on Tuesday 8th, and all the fun vanished. In hindsight, I should have stopped there. I should have just stopped the whole bloody thing, but no. I had made a decision, and I had to fulfil the goal because I’m that idiot. So I kept writing at a rate of about 2000 words a day to try to get nowhere.

Note to self. Next year, stop. Or better yet, next year maybe own up that you can’t get to everything and don’t bite more than you can chew. Maybe give in to reality, and don’t start the bloody thing, because this year you did not even have fun.

In the end, there were 105501 words. I’m not even writing the comma because the major high was getting a weird palindrome number over there. Even if I could have written more yesterday.

I feel that this was the worst NaNo ever. There has been no rush whatsoever, just relief that it is over. So I’ve learnt that NaNo is not the best place for creative experiments, it just gets stressy and difficult – unlike what I was expecting, that having a bunch of different subplots could get me slide from one to another if anything got too hard to write, or if I got stuck.

One of the main problems has been the supposed main character. He is bland, pale and he is not attractive at all. he is not fun to write, and I’m thinking if I can go back and rewrite things so I can kill him off. He claims that he is in shock and not reacting correctly though <.<. The rest of the subplots has been developing quite well. Keith became much stronger a character than I thought he would (and his plot twist is going to be very useful), and my kitsune turned out to be a racist idiot, but I hope I can turn her around.

The most interesting NaNoism has been my calling the Giants’ Causeway “Giants’ Castaway” three times in a row, so not even that.

All in all, I don’t feel like a winner. I think that it is because I still have so much to do that I don’t have the story anywhere close to wrapped, and that is a first. even when I’ve done Shourai “books” I’ve always gotten what I wanted to write in. Not this time.

Or maybe it’s my lack of mood and energy talking, because sheesh that sound dramatic as woah. Don’t get me wrong, it was not horrible or anything, it just did not feel as achieving, creativity-wise, as other years. I think, however that it has more to do with the format of what I am writing rather than the actual number of works.

Not sure. I bring you here some graphs that show that no, this was not the worst NaNo ever, it was actually third best. So no need to feel bad.

Hereon the graphs:

  • First day:

    2016nano_day1_1

  • Win day:

    2016nano_day1_3

    2016nano_day1_2

  • Final 2016 Graphs:

    2016nano_calendars_2016_final

  • Comparison with other years (bright blue is this year, because for some reason the legend only printed once):
    • Daily wordcount (DWC) per year: just how many words were written each year on each day.
      2016nano_comparisons_2

    • Cumulative wordcount (CWC) per year: this shows the total novel wordcount each day of the month.

      2016nano_comparisons_1

    • Pile-up of Daily word count (DWC): This graph shows how many words I wrote per day each year one on top of the other so it shows the combined total wordcount per day.

      2016nano_comparisons_4

    • Pile-up: Cumulative wordcount (CWC). This shows the evolution and the total wordcount each year for all the years.

      2016nano_comparisons_3

Live and learn

I built this character table the other day – and posted it before. Afterwards, I looked at it again and I thought about a few things. One of them is OMG I’m old. Some of the characters in Parallel have been in my head for 20 years now, and that is a sobering thought. Then I started thinking about them.

In the original story, Madiq was a high priest in ancient Egypt – while pretty much sure that said gods did not exist. He got turned into a vampire himself by one of the first vampires, and continued to serve in the Queen and King’s palace. Ydemb Arā was a general in the army that would later become a vampire as a reward for his bravery and commitment. Later on, Ydemb Arā would spawn.

But that was 20 years ago and I was a teenager then. Now, as I work on “rebooting” their story, I see that they have changed, and yet they have not – I always think about Ydemb Arā when I walk into any kind of gothic building. Maybe they have grown. They have always been in the back of my mind, the three of them, along with some other vampires from their world.

So I turn thoughts in my mind. Probably Ydemb Arā and Madiq are my first gay couple ever, the first I considered in my life. But a long time has passed since I started wondering about how two guys’ dynamics could work – and probably Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire and The Vampire Lestat influenced the way they interacted. Now, looking back, twenty years and a lot of life experience later, I can do a more complex analysis of them, and how they have changed in my mind.

Madiq is a former slave. He was castrated shortly after reaching adulthood, thus becoming a eunuch. Being turned into a vampire gave him a new dimension of relationships that did not necessarily go through sex. Or turned around the idea of vampire sex, which involves blood and death rather than sexual hormones and organs. Thus, I have gathered that Madiq is what we would call pansexual nowadays. Furthermore, he would be someone without much interest to commit to a long–lasting relationship. From a slave to be sacrificed to the gods, Madiq became a high priest after being turned into a vampire and lived in court.

Ydemb Arā, on the other hand, is mostly heterosexual. His relationship with Madiq is born from obsession, and I am not that sure of how healthy their interactions are. Ydemb Arā met Madiq when the latter was already a vampire, so their power dynamics are imbalanced – Madiq started as a slave and had already outlived his generation as a vampire when Ydemb Arā was born. Ydemb Arā belonged to a rich, military family and logically chose the army career. He was already a general when he was assigned to serve in the Palace, not to protect the Queen and King but the High Priest Madiq. However, at this point Madiq was already pretty much immortal, so it was most pretence than anything else. This is what triggered that part of Ydemb Arā that would later “fall in love” with Madiq. Ydemb Arā would later be chosen by the Queen to become one of the first generation vampires, but this did not equalise the imbalance between Priest and General

For Madiq, vampire Ydemb Arā was not too different from what the general had been. He still considered himself above the other, but he would eventually start warming up to him – even if Ydemb Arā did not really go for a romantic relationship. However, Madiq regularly left Ydemb Arā to wander the world and be alone. During this time, Ydemb Arā’s obsession led him to pursue mortals who reminded him of Madiq. Only one of these would survive the creation process – Idol.

Idol (who is not on the Parallel character table as he is not a main character) had originally a love story, but somehow it never felt right. I was not sure why but it would just not work. Now I have it all figured out – not every character needs a romantic arc, and not every character has an “average” sexuality (read “average” as “the ones that you find most represented in fiction”). The reason why Idol’s romantic arc never worked was that it was not destined to work. Idol is asexual, and thus my teenage attempts to have him in an actual “average” relationship blew up on my face. Sorry Idol, I know better now.

So I’ve learnt about the sexuality spectrum, and what I am learning now is the gender spectrum. I know that I’ve got a transgender character but I don’t know how to present that. In the end, it does not count if it is not “out” does it? I’ll have to wing it somehow, I guess.

NaNo’16 Plan: Final Paralell Timeline (October 25th)

Well, here it is, plot twist aside, we’ve got a one-liner timeline of Parallel. As you can see there are ten colours and they represent the (urgh) ten story lines that should come together to make a whole. Hopefully because I have got no physical time for the middle step.

nano16_paralell-timeline_final

There are 19 characters, out of which, somehow there are 9 male, 9 female and a sexless one, from different ethnicities, cultures and such. I’m a bit on the overwhelmed side, but hey. No guts, no glory.

parallel_character_oct25

And I still have Yuma around, whom I’m not sure what to do about… Yeah, I’ll tell you about Yuma some other day… Maybe in December…

Milestone

Although this is a little bit of cheating, yesterday I wrote ~end~ on the last page of Shourai. Why is this cheating? Because about three chapters around the middle are unwritten and as many need to be completed. And I’m also ignoring the fact that there is a chapter that is three times longer than it should be, and another about twice.

But I wrote ~end~ and it felt good because in a way it brings the story I wanted to tell to a closure. To bulk figure, we are talking about… ah, scratch about, I’ll copy paste the figure from the tracking spreadsheet (have I ever mentioned about my OCD? No? Ooookay.)

At the moment, counting “end”, there are 319,938 words on version 6. That does not count the original development nor the five previous versions that have been scratched and rewritten. Part of the problem, I’ve always thought, was that it was not clear to me where to end the story, so it kept stretching and twisting to infinity and back. But while it is not done yet, it is finished. It has found the moment that I can stop, and that is a relief. To be honest, it’s a strange feeling.

It is finished, but not done. I know I’ve written it before, but it feels the right way to put it: I know that it will not scratch into infinity anymore, there is an ending now. I know where the story goes and now I only have to smooth the path to get there. It has become significantly easier to write some points of view, but at the same time, it’s more difficult to write in so many different points at the same time, without killing consistency. I think I have the same “revelation” in three different chapters now, but that is part of editing. I’ve built a story and that is good. It feels good.

On the other hand, it’s hard, as I have mentioned, to keep up. It is a very long and complicated story, so there are many angles to take into account, especially when moving around different time spots. The characters evolve and change throughout the story (yay) so they don’t react in the same way to the same stimuli and situations. This is specially true about Shota, whose personality shifts most dramatically.

That’s it. I wrote “end” and it feels good, but at the same time, I kinda feel “urgh, so much work left”.

NaNoWriMo 2016 Prep: Three pictures

Three thousand words? I wish. Here’s how the prep is going at the moment. Nine stories in one developing in parallel but mixing at points. Possibly about 12 points of view. We’ll see.
nani16_nanoprep_oct3_3

nani16_nanoprep_oct3_2

Timeline:
nani16_nanoprep_oct3_1

My board and a (quite late) mid-year update

There are a bunch of things on the board in front of my writing station, behind my computer screen. Some postcards, seals, visiting cards and the so-called Japan kit, which includes member and discount cards for several places in Tokyo, along with my passport and the commuter’s pass. There is my organ donor card, and the postcard I wrote to myself from Tokyo Tower.

There are also some notes to myself, my screen resolution for making walpapers, a fosilissed shark tooth, and a silly pictures with friends at a concert line. And things related to writing.

There is a rusty Welsh pound that I found on a dry streambed in Tokyo, and I’m waiting for it to tell me its story (not its history, which was probably a random British person throwing a coin into a body of water for luck, which they do sometimes). But there is a story there, and sometimes I look at the coin and wonder. It will come.

There is a Tengu ex machina note, just because. The term ocurred to me while working through The Last Yōkai War of Edo. It’s like the Deus ex machina, but… with tengu. I went back and corrected the whole thing, but I left the note, as a reminder.

There is also a reference to Setsubun, a Japanese festival for luck. It conjures luck and chases the oni away. But I don’t mind the oni. As a matter of fact, I like writing yōkai, so my note reads は外!も内、 福は内! Oni wa soto mo uchi! Fuku wa uchi! It means, let the oni in too, not only the good luck.

Finally there is a small note, right in my line of sight, that reminds me that in 2016 I have to focus on writing Shourai, the Hyakki Yagyō verse and the Shikigami verse. There is a tick mark next to the Hyakki Yagyō line. That is because I have worked a lot on that this year. The original idea was only writing these three verses, along with the blog articles and finishing Atlantis in January for the climate fiction contest (Atlantis did not get anywhere in there though, unfortunately). The note has little laughing signs around as I deviated from this plan…

A little over a fourth of what I’ve written this year till now has been Hyakki Yagyō. Not only the main work I had to do, also a few short stories that will need some revision to fit in to the main timeline. That makes about 66,700 words on this verse.

Shourai has taken almost 33,000 words, which does not feel that much, but it almost 13% of the written material this year and 10.5% of the written total. I’m nearly done with the arc, I’ve decided. I’ve chosen an ending point, and now I have to backtrack and fill in the gaps (and actually write the last chapter), break down chapters and so on. there is a lot of green in the planning now. But editing this is going to require a lot of effort. I’m kind of toying with the idea of finishing all the writing before the year is over… but we’ll get to how I can’t keep to decisions later…

There are around 24,000 new words on the final Shikigami book. All the main points are planned and addressed, but the small, driving story is what I’m lacking. Although the character is important and I like him bunches, it is difficult to factor his POV in to have him drive the story. I need around 25,000 words more on this book, and again, it’s difficult to juggle how, even if I do want this finished this year.

So this is what I was supposed to write this year, fiction wise. Blogging and articles are factored in, as I need to improve non-fiction writing skills. All in all, there is 61% of planned writing actually being done. The problem thus lies on the 39% that I was not supposed to have been writing, mainly Body and Soul, weird urban fantasy, The Studio, which tried to be a gothic ghost story, and One shot kill, a retake on the story my writer from Untitled was working on. These and a couple of short stories almost account for 100,000 words! And there is still NaNoWriMo to come, which probably will be something completely random decided on a whim in October anyway… At the moment I’m pushing to lock down One shot kill after it got slumped for two months and hope to be done within the month.

That’s it, I’m officially declaring 2017 an editing and rewriting year. I should have done it this year, but then on a whim I decided to go for 366,000 words in total I’m on track for that goal, too – generally with new material, except for the revision of The Last Yōkai War of Edo, which was quite a rewrite of most of it anyway.

Have some pretty graphs to look at:

aug162016_stats

aug162016_stats (1)

P.S.: I’ve taken down the Archives page, because I was not keeping up with it anyway. You may now search using tags and / or categories and I’ll make sure to keep a good tag system current.

Introduction to ScreenWriting + Body and Soul

Last week I started a FutureLearn course called Introduction to Scriptwriting. I’m busy as hell these days but I figured out that I could dedicate some time to it for the two weeks it lasted, or afterwards, or just forget about it if it was not interesting. I was surprised because I did find it quite interesting – albeit I probably need to watch more films as I could not find anything they proposed that I had watched ^^””

Although sometimes the “teaching team” seems to be just brushing and patting their egos at times, there are quite a few interesting things that they mention.

One of the things I liked was this quote: “Stories happen because somebody wants something and has trouble getting it” ( David Mamet). While it’s common enough to be (uncredited) even in TVTroopes, I came across it at a time when I was ready to toss the story I was compassing through – more about that later – and it actually helped, even if it caused an unexpected twist. The idea is simple indeed; it just summarises character + goal + conflict, but at that time it felt refreshing on what I was working on.

Then the educators propose a way to pitch or summarise a story in five parts (fingers): genre, main character, goal, problem, and theme (they call it “something important”). While I’m not convinced about the need to define the genre beforehand, as half of the time I’m not even sure of how to classify what I do, I am thinking that I can adapt the method somehow, even with my own categories – after all I write ‘yakuza’ in the NaNo page under genre most of the time. Or I can just substitute it with ‘universe’ as lately it seems that most of what I write is linked to something else.

All in all, I like the insight I’m getting from the course. I really hope it keeps up – both the second week and the future ones they claim they’ll do.

For now I can say that it did help me finish Body and Soul, though. I’ve been compass-ing my way through that since the characters bombed the timeline I had organised, and the plan went to hell, but now it’s done. The problem is that a while ago I agreed with myself to start that and while I was working on that figure where I was taking Terazuma’s character arc to incorporate into the Shikigami verse, guess what I didn’t do. Exactly. Work on Terazuma.

I’ll never change.

Body & Soul: To fantasy or not to fantasy…

As it happens now and again I’ve lost drive on Shourai, so I need to take a break from that. My other option / homework for this year, working on the wrap-up on Shikigami book needs some more planning (I’ve got the first act written, and the last act thought, but I need to make some serious planning for the act in-between.

So while I plan, think and consider, I write other things – sometimes Shourai, sometimes other stuff. Last month, for example, I had the ‘brilliant’ idea for a classical Goth ghost story, on The Studio. My reasoning was that since I had been writing Japanese Ghosts for so long, maybe I could give it a try to the old ghost genre. That did not work as well as I had expected, but it was an interesting take nonetheless. Unfortunately the ghost had more character than my mains so… rework is needed. The truth is that the plotbunny bit so suddenly that I did not really plan anything, just jumped into it.

These days I’ve given into an old plotbunny that is quickly developing into a mix of several ideas I’ve turned around my head before (Provisionally named Body and Soul). At the moment I’m considering developments and jigsaw-puzzling. I’m juggling four characters, but I know that the story has more of them, with greater or lesser importance. I’m thinking about switching the sex of at least one of the main characters in order to make him a she, but not sure which one –as I write these lines, however, I’m more and more clear on who, how and why though, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to rant about this.

There is another question in here and that is whether I want to sprinkle the story with a bit of fantasy or I want to keep it realistic. I want to decide about that early on, because random ‘magic’ (using the word ‘magic’ loosely) in the middle of the story would feel inconsistent, I feel. Both fantasy and non fantasy angles have their appeals, and both have their put-offs. On one hand, fantasy can explain certain events, on the other hand, it’s hard to balance fantasy when two characters work in a hospital… Science and magic, that’s strange to mix, and how to introduce the edge early on is also tricky.

Ah, decisions, decisions…

On another topic, I’m on the right track to complete this year writing goal: 366,000 words. For now. I’ve gotten Edo up to par, written a new story and gotten Terazuma’s character arc rolling. Not too bad, but I want to do some more editing this year. I’m considering Houritsu.

Transmedia StoryTelling course – Review

I’ve recently taken I’ve recently taken a Course called `Transmedia Storytelling’ through the platform FutureLearn and I’ve been thinking for a while that I wanted to write a review. The problem was that I was not sure what to say about the course. I mean. It was not bad, and it did follow what it said it would do in the introduction page. And yet… and yet it was lacking something, and I am not sure of what. I think – after quite a bit of wondering – that it lacked the practical approach, or the case studies, which were only mentioned in the last week, where ‘successful example of transmedia’ were mentioned.

The course, by Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) , provided quite a lot of information and definitions, but I’d say it was a bit locked – it barely spoke about anything that was not cinema-based, with some mentions of video games, and books only were brought up to speak about adaptations. And yes, while the Avengers have been a massive success, they haven’t been the first example of transmedia in the world. it surprised me that even if the course was taught by a South Korean institution there was no mention to the platform jump between cartoon – real life drama – films – comic – novels etc that part of the Asian creations seem to take quite easily.

The most interesting part was the differentiation between the idea of adapting a concept to different media and creating a world that can tell different stories in different media. This is an intriguing concept.

On the other hand, it focused a lot in the ‘consumer as creator’ angle, which I am not sure I understood. I am guessing it referred to videogames, especially building ones. There was a non-committal silence regarding fanfiction, too.

The course gave me the idea, however, that the creator was relegated to someone in second place, and I don’t really agree with that. Gee, I wonder why.

All in all, I took the whole course, although I won’t buy the certificate because it’s quite expensive… But it made me want to compose music for the story I’m working on… and I have discovered music is hard…

The Last Yōkai War of Edo – Final First Draft

Back in 2014 I gave in to the plotbunnies and started working on the wrapping of the Hyakki Yagyō universe, or what at that moment I thought it would be – the Last Yōkai War of Edo. Apparently, it is one of those things that runs out of control. At that point, the story added up to roughly 40,000 words. Looking at it, it was clear how I had barely written the skeleton of a story – character development was next to inexistent, the main character just switched from trainee to well-trained in a chapter, without any real progression. The antagonist / villain was bad just because and had no motivation whatsoever. I knew that such a thing needed to be worked on, and the story told in a coherent way.

I’ve been doing so for a few months now. And thus the 40,000 have turned into 100,000. Around 10,000 of those had been written in snippets throughout a year or so, things that I wanted in but I had not really woven in.

So I put all them in a file and started working. The first thing was finding a good timeline, one that worked according to the development of the main character’s power and reactions. Then I had to work through the story to get from A to B, to C and then towards the end as I had first imagined it.

I had really not thought that I would be doing so many changes. About 20,000 words were completely retold – not an edit, a complete rewrite of the same events. On top of that, about 10,000 words of the finale were scratched out and re-done. As in the finale now has the same players but the events unfold in a completely different way. It was strange, reworking some parts like that.

All in all, the first go gave me a story skeleton, and this second run a first draft that more or less makes sense. Now I will let it rest for a while before I tackle an actual edit – and not a re-writing!

As I like working with track changes, I can show you how most of the document looked towards the end of edit. I’m shaking just thinking about how it might end up as… So yes, I have a “final first draft”, a complete story that now requires polishing!

edo_rewrite