On Writing—NaNoWriMo and Reflecting On Past Projects

I’ve been writing for more than ten years now.  I’ve written my share of crappy short stories and novels.  It’s par for the course; it’s an initiation process for writers, in a way; the way in which we discover our voice.  In these past ten years, I’ve learned a lot, both about myself, and about the types of stories I want to tell.

When I first started at the age of 15, my first attempt at a fantasy novel was some horrible, pseudo Harry Potter rip off that went absolutely nowhere.  I replotted it after a couple of months and decided to set it in a completely fictional universe, one that I still use to this day (more on that in a bit).  There was a plot that worked (albeit, one with far too many plot holes), characters I kind of liked, and a pretty cool setting.  It was writing this book, and its subsequent sequel, that I learned a bit more about what intriguing characters are made of.  I like the good guys; I want to feel for them, but at the same time, I don’t want my heroes (or antagonists, for that matter) to be absolutely perfect.  One thing that’s been hammered into my head over the years are that flaws are often times far more interesting than a character’s strengths.  Flaws help define characters when faced with their obstacles, which is by no means saying their virtues do not.  Flaws illustrate vulnerability in a way, and that’s a good thing, especially when you want to really feel for a character, hero or otherwise.

Fast forward five years and I’d stopped working on this previously mentioned project.  It hadn’t been going anywhere, and I’d been intrigued at the idea of writing some dark urban fantasy set in my hometown of Tujunga.  I knew the area, and I liked the idea of a forest-centric town where something strange is lurking in the trees.  Combined with an antagonist with a bit of a god complex and the emotional stability of a child, it seemed interesting.  This character, Remulus, was my second attempt at an antihero/villain, and even now, looking at the way I’ve written his arc (Edgar Allan Poe played a huge part in this), I can’t help but be proud.  Again, keep in mind that project (Sewn From Seeds) is on the back burner while I work on some newer stuff, but also keep in mind how many times you’re going to write a novel before you finally get the hang of it.

The same could be said for many of the other characters that populate my currently on-hold Sewn From Seeds trilogy (don’t worry, I plan to finish it when I have time).  Flaws help to better illustrate strengths in a way, and maybe vice versa.

And here we come full circle, back to that original fictional universe I mentioned paragraphs ago.  This realm, Harthe, is where my current novel The Forger is set.  It’s where another new project of mine, Sharing the Knife, is also set, which is another example of things coming full circle.  Advice I give to new writers (and something I learned over the years) is keep everything you write.  You’ll never know when it will become useful.  Sharing the Knife, as an example, has a plot that I drew from a failed attempt at a sci-fi novella about four years ago.  It was a cool plot, but I don’t know enough about science to make all of that technical jargon work, so I reworked it into a fantasy setting, one that suits me better.  It’s still out of my comfort zone, but I often times find that’s what makes writing fun.  When I started plotting The Forger last year, and realized the scale of the story, I admit I was a bit intimidated.  Before completing my first draft, the longest novel I’d written was 73,000 words.  The Forger weighed in at 110,000, which is considerably larger.  Again, it’s just about getting out of your comfort zone.

I’m not sure how NaNoWriMo really fits into this.  It’s more of me plugging the event that I unofficially participate in.  I don’t go to the website; I just chart my progress in my project journal.  I think however a writer chooses to participate is fine.  The basic goal is just to write, to learn how to write, and to have fun.

So that’s it, really.  Save your work, however crappy you think it is, and have fun.  Let your imagination go wild.

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