Novel Progress: Chapter One Finished!

My New Year’s Resolution was to finish my first novel in 2017, and I’ve just taken a big step towards that: I completed the draft of the first chapter. It’s a little over 6,600 words and takes up ten and a half pages in Microsoft Word (12-point, Times New Roman, single-spaced, one-inch margins). If that seems a little long… well, it may need some trimming. It is, after all, only a draft. On the other hand, I am writing in a genre (fantasy) where long chapters are not exactly uncommon.

I’m pretty excited about this, because even though it’s just one chapter, it feels so much bigger. In my personal experience, I’ve found that the first chapter is almost always the hardest to write. Once I’m over that hurdle, the rest follows much more naturally, even when I end up going back and fiddling with what I’ve already written. I suspect that the effect is psychological: having a chapter already fully drafted makes it that much more believable that I can write the rest. It’s still daunting, but having an example helps me to stop second-guessing myself.

This was actually the kind of process I saw when I wrote my senior thesis. My thesis was an examination of mythical themes in Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura, a didactic text of the Epicurean school of philosophy (which, among other things, holds that myths relating to gods are almost entirely untrue). I spent a great deal of time outlining, but what really made me feel capable of finishing was that moment when I put the final words on the introduction. The first chapter was a much bigger milestone in terms of content analyzed and points made, but having a whole section done made it real.

Of course, novel writing is necessarily different from academic writing. I still have research to worry about, but I don’t have to include quotes. Footnotes are a non-issue, and contractions are much more acceptable, but suddenly I have all sorts of styles to choose from. It can be a rough switch.

In the interest of fun, though, I’ve decided to talk about some things I’m already observing about the draft. First, I think I’ve identified one of the floweriest similes:

Her long, wavy hair was the color of freshly-cut oak heartwood, though the evening darkness and bright torchlights lent it a richer cast of polished mahogany.

It probably needs some trimming, but I do want to keep the “wood” theme in the final draft, since the scene in which this occurs is set in a logging town. If it had been a mining town, I would have exchanged the oak heartwood for a simple “brown” and said that the highlight made it appear gilded.

(And to think I used to be all snooty about how I didn’t care that much about figurative language, and how we should all just let stories be stories… gah, I was so pretentious as a teenager.)

Although I try to keep off the self-praise, one thing I’m kind of proud of is that I think I did a good job of establishing the main character’s introversion without making her seem like a doormat. She gets lost in crowds, and her extroverted childhood friend pulls her around a bit, but she still manages to be pretty forceful on her own or with people she knows, even calling out said friend when she got a little too pushy. She also takes initiative on her “quest,” so to speak, and it’s established that those close to her knew that she would do that. She has her nerves, but when she makes up a mind to do something, she gets it done.

I also really like writing her dad, even though it can sometimes be hard to come up with his lines. He’s very reasonable. I want to trade stories with him over a nice cup of tea.

One thing I definitely think could use some trimming is a bit of description surrounding the moons. The world of my novel has three moons, which has resulted in a rather interesting form of astrology. I went into this a bit because the midsummer festival described in the first chapter ties into it; however, I think what I have now is a bit too close to an infodump, and I’m not quite sure how to fix it. Getting carried away with details I find interesting is kind of an Achilles heel of mine. It probably comes from the same part of my brain as the Random Research Projects.

Chapter Two is now in the works; in fact, I have almost a page of it written already. I don’t know how long it will be relative to Chapter One, but I do know that it will take much less time to write.

From now on, I’m shooting for the Stephen King 2,000 Words Per Day Minimum. I had already greatly exceeded that quota for the day before I started on this blog post, but really, what’s the point of cutting it off at the minimum?

The answer, of course, is none. None whatsoever.

I am going to keep going while I’m ahead, and I am going to DO THIS THING.

Keeping My Mind on Writing

I want to be a writer.

Technically, I suppose I already am a writer. It’s what I spend most of my time doing, and I daresay I’m rather good at it. What I should have said is, I want to be a professional author. My dream job is to make a living writing books and blogging on the side. When I imagine my ideal life, I picture myself living in a nice high-rise apartment just big enough for me and my cat(s), earning money via royalties, with my books on sale in Borders and Barnes & Nobles everywhere.

Of course, writing a novel is a tricky process. Right now, I’m almost done with the fourth draft of the first chapter of the first novel of a planned trilogy (it started out as a single book, but then the idea exploded outward and, well, I liked it better that way). My personal process is a bit odd, because while my inspiration is sporadic, my brain does not enjoy shifting between mindsets. I often end up writing a scene, but then getting stuck at a transition with a nice momentary bout of writer’s block and not wanting to stop writing because my brain is still in “writing mode.”

That is pretty much where this blog came from.

In the past, this mostly led into “side projects” that I would write in Google Docs and pretty much abandon because I had nowhere else to put them. Now that I have this platform, though, a lot of them are going to come out. Generally, they come in a few categories, the most common of which are below in no particular order.

  • Random Research Project: I latch onto a detail of something I have read, watched, or heard recently, and run with it until I know everything about it. This is the kind of thing where I see a scrap of Ancient Greek or Classical Latin and absolutely must translate it. This kind of side project often happens in “breaks” where I actually get out of writing mode, and serves as the vehicle back in. It can also happen as a product of research for any piece of writing, if I end up finding something to be abnormally interested in along the way.
  • Bout of “Literary” Criticism: I have a tendency to be rather sensitive to poor writing and an insatiable urge to correct perceived inaccuracies. With those traits combined with my love of writing, it’s no surprise that I end up writing extended critiques of bad media. Note that although I say “literary” criticism, it isn’t necessarily literature that gets criticized: film, visual arts, and music are fair game too. Random Research Projects may end up integrated into these on occasion, e.g. if critiquing poor science involves an explanation of why x scientific inaccuracy is so wrong.
  • Short Story: I have a great many random ideas floating around my head at any given time, so when I take a break from writing my novel, one easy road to go down is writing one of my other concepts as a short story. Sometimes it grows a bit too much, and I end up with a linked series of short stories, or something that might grow into a future novel; however, many of these do end up as legitimate short works. A related field is…
  • Spitefics: I am a huge fan of the sporkings of Das Mervin and co. As a result, I occasionally write “spitefics” about the things she’s reviewed, drawing either from my own ideas or from her critique.

In the interest of adding content to this blog, I may end up posting some of these side projects here. Spitefics are more likely to be posted on Mervin’s spitefic comm, but the rest are certainly fair game, particularly the Random Research Projects and Bouts of Criticism. Bouts of Criticism even has a few projects that might become ongoing series: in particular, I’ve been working on some sporkings of creepypastas, and an extended chapter-by-chapter critique of Stephenie Meyer’s The Host (in which I have been careful to not simply repeat Mervin’s points from her still-unfinished recap).

I may also post updates on my novel’s progress. This would include pieces about my writing process, discussions of the setting, and perhaps even introductions to some of the main characters. Samples may come eventually, but they’re far off; I want to make sure that everything is nice and polished before it hits publication, whether traditional or on the Internet.

If you have any suggestions for topics I might want to consider in these little side projects, I’d love to hear them!

Of Course My First Comment Comes from a Spambot

Wonders of the Internet, amirite?

I check into this blog, just to see if it’s gotten any hits, and there’s a pending comment on my first post. I can tell from the wording that it’s completely unrelated to anything I wrote, and it’s attached to a Twitter handle. Out of curiosity, I tweaked my firewall settings to gank any and all conceivable viruses, right-clicked the Twitter link, and selected “open in incognito window.”

Unsurprisingly, it was a porn feed, and not even a good one at that. Definitely a bot. (Who the hell even gets their porn on Twitter? It’s a social network; unless you have an account specifically for finding pictures of people fucking, your friends and relatives could find out what you like looking at… and even then, you’re still pretty likely to get busted.)

So, that concludes that little experiment. The comment in question will not be approved for public viewing. From now on, all spambots will be blocked, though I may showcase any particularly hilarious non-sequitur comments on the blog just for fun.

I Swear My Thought Processes Make Sense

A couple weeks ago, I was talking with a friend over Skype. In the background, I heard a faint “caw.”

“Are there crows on your end?” I asked.

“Yep,” said my friend. The conversation paused, and for a moment there was nothing but ambient road noise coming through my headphones. Then he chimed in with, “They’re mocking me.”

My brain immediately went through roughly the following process:

  • Birds are mocking my friend
  • My friend’s sister once made a Facebook post about how he looks like Nicolas Cage
  • Nicolas Cage is the origin of “my hair is a bird, your argument is invalid”
  • The birds must be making fun of his hair.

This makes a lot more sense than the way it went down in my brain. The actual thought process went down both the “birds” and “Nicolas Cage” routes at once, and I only figured out the role of that one Facebook post in retrospect. Half the time I can’t even identify what triggers the specific leap in logic that my brain takes and decides to run with as if it’s the baton in an Olympic relay race.

I clumsily mumbled something along the lines of, “They must be making fun of your hair.” That felt awkward, so I immediately topped it off with a disproportionate amount of explanation, desperately trying to trace my bizarre thought process. In the end, I think we both came out feeling awkward and confused, and I only say “I think” because I can’t fully speak for my friend. He sounded confused, but I might have been projecting.

In any case, we quickly changed the topic to D&D.