Posts Tagged ‘National Novel Writing Month’

The Monthly 50,000

Posted: November 30, 2014 by writingsprint in Nanowrimo
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Nanowrimo 2014

Raffa climbed over and lay in front of her, her bare breasts against his back, her legs wrapped around his. He rested his head back on her shoulder. Risha liked how the weight of his body felt, the musky scent of him. She kissed his hair and the side of his face. He looked back and they kissed each other, a taste of the heat they had shared earlier.

Nanowrimo wrapped up tonight with a love scene between Risha and Raffa and their pillow talk afterwards. The love scene taught me a few things as a writer. I’ve written love scenes before, mostly short erotica, but nothing I’ve put into a novel. After spending 48,000 words getting to know how resourceful and tough they are, this gave me a chance to see them relate to each other as lovers and just as human beings rather than heroes.

I learned a few things. I’ve gotten much better at this than my first Nano when I wrote a schlocky fun zombie story called Zombies at the Gates. I even had a better plan then. The quality of the prose was better this time and the overall story development was better, even when I didn’t know what was happening next. It’s because I knew the characters better. In the worst moments, when I had no clue what I would write that night, I was still able to think of the holes in my characters’ guts that I needed to fill. The characters from Zombies felt more like paper dolls in comparison. Risha and Raffa have been in my head for the better part of two years. Long before my first piece for the Nano, I’d written short scenes with them just for fun that helped me get to know who they are.

Confusion is nothing to be afraid of when you’re writing a novel. In fact, it can be one of the most powerful dramatic engines in a story. If you’re like me, you hate living in the in-betweens, when you can’t decide between “less filling” or “tastes great” in your light beer. Fictionally, though, all feelings are fair game, especially the awkward ones that we hate to deal with. Characters have doubts. Not knowing what to do can tear someone apart. Ever heard of a little movie called Casablanca? Ingrid Bergman made film history playing a character who couldn’t make up her mind between two men she loved.

Write in small chunks if you have to. If you don’t know the next scene, write a few paragraphs. If you don’t have a few paragraphs, write one sentence. If you don’t have a sentence, write a bad sentence. You can always make it better later, or if it doesn’t work at all, seeing why it doesn’t fit will give you insight into the direction you should take instead.

Music is powerful inspiration. Four times I wrote scenes where all that I had was the characters, a general idea like “this is where they fall in love” and a song that fit the moment. A good song can help you feel what your characters are feeling when your imagination doesn’t know where to begin. You may not know what the next step is in the plot. That’s okay. Just show the characters talking and interacting with each other in that moment. Plots are what happened, but characters are why we care about what happened. The characters’ actions drive the story. As you become more connected to the characters, you’ll have a better idea what happens next in the plot.

I have a lot of work to do on this story. I need to know these characters and their world much, much better. The final story will be far broader and deeper than it is now. At a minimum, I’ve only written half of the story. It feels more like a third, or even a fourth if some of the layers are deeper than I realized.

But that’s for later.

Tomorrow there will be a glass of champagne and chocolate cake. For now, I’m going to take in the applause!

Brad Pitt applause

Tina Fey high five

golf clap

Breakfast Club high five

applause Dwayne Johnson

applause Obama

HIMYM high five

Billy Dee Williams applause

Shepard shuffle

PS: weird research of the day:
Cigar flavors wheel
Violet promise tattoo

Image credit: 2014 Nanowrimo winner from, used with permission. All the animated gifs in this post are used without permission.


Improvising Blues

Posted: November 27, 2014 by writingsprint in Nanowrimo
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Risha and Raffa sat in Raffa’s cabin. Raffa plucked away at a blues riff on his guitar. Risha nodded in time with the beat. She blew a sweet stream of cigar smoke. She hummed to find a good key, then sang,

“I wrote about you… in my book, last night…”

Raffa smiled. He nodded, getting into the rhythm of the music. She kept going,

“Say I wrote about you… in my book… last night…
It takes a special kind of man…
Writing words
On my heart
All right…”

Make no mistake, I don’t play blues guitar and I am no songwriter. Raffa likes to play, and Risha’s a good singer, and I wanted to put in a scene of the two of them hanging out doing a sweet, sexy love jam, just the two of them. It was fun to play with.

We’re three days from the end of Nanowrimo. I had hoped to have a strong foundation to The Lost Princess by the time it was all done. Instead, I’m going to have 50,000 words and a lot of questions. This is a different kind of good thing.

Weird research of the day:

  • There’s a song generator out there if you need help writing one!
  • After five minutes of Google research, it looks like the average case of M16 ammunition holds 840 rounds.
  • A full suit of kevlar armor will run you somewhere around $1,000, more or less, based on the different pieces I saw on eBay.

The Quiet Jobs

Posted: November 27, 2014 by writingsprint in Nanowrimo
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He dropped off the crates, took the money, and got them the hell off the planet as soon as he could. He didn’t feel better until they jumped back into hyperspace. He spent a full hour on the heavy bag, until he was dripping with sweat and burning over every inch of his body.

Kal leaned into the cargo hold. “You okay, boss?”

Raffa rubbed his face in a towel. The poorly-washed cotton scratched his face. He felt better, but he still remembered that feeling like someone was watching him. “Sometimes I hate the quiet jobs more than the loud ones,” he said.

About 1,700 words tonight. Four days to go. If I can get some quality writing time in tomorrow — look at the time, it’s 12:30 — today, Friday and Saturday, I’m hoping to wrap it up then.

I was going to say more but OS Yosemite is doing strange things again. Now my window is three times bigger than it should be, like I’m seeing impaired, and I can’t see all the controls in the window. *roll eyes*

“Captain! A little bird told us that you have our guns. We’d like them back.”

“Beg to differ, there, mister. I don’t know what you’re talking about. This is a shipment of light bulbs and bed sheets.”

960 words today, well below goal, but I’m tired and need to get some sleep. I’m planning to finish hard over Thanksgiving weekend.

I re-did the novel’s post-it wall with one sticky per scene, to give myself a better idea of what the big picture looks like and where the gaps are. One big gap was an arms shipment that Risha hired Raffa to do early in the book. Originally I planned to have things go haywire when he dropped off the guns.

But they’re in a yard filled with storage containers.

And there are cranes nearby.

Guns. Cranes. A ship captain with a sense of humor. Think of the possibilities!

So I added a comment in the margins, “just for fun,” and I started going crazy. Maybe it’ll make it into the book, maybe it won’t, but this is the kind of fun stuff the story needed. The author sure as hell needed it.

Weird research of the night:
Vital statistics of a Firefly-class freighter
Vital statistics of a Chinook helicopter

Vance Sedrin was a balding, elderly man with a Greek accent. He was a true gentleman if you ignored that he also trafficked in slavery. His weapons were high end, sometimes the kind that were still on controlled access lists.

1,031 words today. That’s 636 words below goal. I spent a good chunk of the night writing 760 more words that were soul searching on who Risha is and where she’s going. It doesn’t make it into the story so it doesn’t count. The good news is I’ve figured a few things out. Next, I need to work out how that will unwind in the story. And the next one. And the next.

When I said I’d write the novel in 100-word pieces if I had to, man, I wasn’t kidding. Spilling out words night after night without research to frame it is slowing me down. I’m going to give everyone a heads-up now: when Nano is done, I’m going to keep blogging progress on the novel rather than new fiction pieces, which may or may not add up to 400 words in the posts themselves. There’s research to be done, books to read, libraries to sit in and storylines to organize.

Weird research of the day: Santorini, Corfu, and Brindisi, because I needed a colorful merchant city, and a gallery of international arms dealers, because I needed one of those, too.

Relax, Man

Posted: November 23, 2014 by writingsprint in Nanowrimo
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Lady and her contact headed into the hotel behind them. Like the hotel where the king was staying, it was a colossus, an amazingly appointed work of art that reached half a kilometer for the sky. Lasers painted vapor holograms on fountains that graced Italian marble floors. Lady smiled and nodded at the hotel staff that obediently waited for her and her escort to pass by.

1,667 words on the nose today. Is it true that 80% of success is just showing up? Today I came to the keyboard with a lunch pail and a toolbox. Since I knew Risha a little better after the writing I did yesterday, I wrote a quick piece where she runs a scam to humiliate her worst enemy in the public eye. It went well. The story felt seedy, which I suppose was the point, but it wasn’t the kind of fun I have in mind for the overall feel of the book. Maybe I need to put a more comic spin on it.

Getting to Know You

Posted: November 22, 2014 by writingsprint in Nanowrimo
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Dreams take a long time to die, especially in the young.

A little over 2,000 words today, and almost 38,000 words done. It sounds like a lot but I still have 12,000 to go, which is a full third of what I’ve done already.

I think most of the words I’ve written today and probably those I’ll write tomorrow won’t make it into the finished book. I need to know Risha better. I know she’s a princess and a crook, but at the end of the day I need to know more about where she’s going. To do that I need to know what’s driving her. What she wants to make happen, not just as a series of actions she needs to do. It’s like the difference between dancing with someone you feel passionately about versus dancing and stepping on cardboard feet on the floor. I got to know her better as a ten-year-old, just after her exile, and a little better as an adult. We need more.

Complaint of the night: what the hell is up with Mac OS Yosemite? The file I was using five minutes ago doesn’t show up in the “Recents” list in Microsoft Word. Grrr.

Weird research of the day: missing items from the US National Archives.

Left Turn

Posted: November 19, 2014 by writingsprint in Nanowrimo
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1,688 words today, marginally ahead of schedule. Yesterday and today I wrote about a dark moment from Risha’s past that she’s trying to make better. It’s becoming a big left turn in the story. This is the kind of place where magic happens. It also reminds me to work on the “real story,” which is more plot-intensive, and harder to do from the gut in Nanowrimo.

Well, if it were easy, everyone would do it.

Weird research of the day: female names for a thief/assassin. For now, I’m choosing Sable. It connotes royalty, which she isn’t, but in a way, she’s Risha’s mirror image. I may just call her Raven or Kiara, but most of the women have names ending in “a” right now and I’m looking to mix things up.

Have I mentioned how grateful I am to everyone who’s been reading these posts? The hits on the blog and likes mean the world to me. Thank you for your support.


Posted: November 18, 2014 by writingsprint in Nanowrimo
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Jansik crossed the guard room. She and Raffa followed, with the woman covering the doctor and the dungeon cells. The fat guard that she hated, the one with the spotty beard, lay slumped to her left. His skin and clothes looked burned all over. Dari would have gotten sick if she had enough food in her stomach.

1,670 words today — barely enough to make goal, but make it I did. The last 100 words are definitely harder than the first thousand. The good news, though, is that I’m too tired to go down the internet rabbit hole and I’m getting to bed on time. I don’t even have any internet research weirdness to share tonight.

So, g’night all, and see you tomorrow 🙂 . Happy writing!

Rochefort waved his hand and threw Gruber across the chamber. The man landed with a thud of flesh and bone wrapped in soft silk slapping against marble. His skull bounced off the floor. It nearly concussed him. Gruber coughed. He started to get up, when he felt steel talons the size of his arms wrap around his body and lift him into the air. Gruber cried out.

Obviously, Rochefort’s name has to change. “Rochefort” is based on Michael Wincott’s chilling, brilliant portrayal of captain Rochefort in Disney’s 1993 rendition of The Three Musketeers. “Gruber” is based on Alan Rickman’s charming, evil Hans Gruber from the first Die Hard movie. I needed a scary bad guy and a smart bad guy, and those are two of my favorites. This is how my pop culture brain works.

2,000-ish words today, which is the most I’ve done in a while. Today’s writing was a collection of scenes: Gruber’s nasty end; finishing up the scene where Risha and Raffa plan their gig; a scene where Raffa’s best friend asks him if he’s falling for Risha; and a scene where Raffa gives Risha a gift, because, yes, he is falling for her.

I could only do the gig planning in rough terms because I don’t want to spoil what’s actually going to happen for the reader. I wrote the others based on as much as I knew about them. I have a feeling that a lot of my Nano writing is going to be like this from here. Much of the story is only conceptual, so I’m going to spend a lot of time having fun playing with ideas at this point, even if it’s only in 100-word chunks.

Weird research of the day:
The Star Wars Random Name Generator — today I pulled 100 female names
A Google search on cigar scents
What does bergamot smell like?
What does cardamom smell like?
What’s the effective range of an AK-74?

Bonus: a phenomenal Mass Effect 2 fan trailer 🙂 ! The artist caught the spirit of the game. Even better, he used footage of Seth Green and Yvonne Strahovksi, actors from the game, and great shots of others to make it look like a live-action movie.