The Gap is Gone

For many years, writing filled a gap in my life.

When they came into my life, the characters kept me company in the dark as I tried to fall asleep in my new apartment, totally alone for the first time.

Later, my brain explored their world as my body did physical tasks long since gone mindless.  Their conversations kept me entertained through the boredom of lines, their adventures gave my mind a place to wander when it had nothing else to do.

A lack of challenge, a shortage of stimulation, led me to writing.  A hobby soon grew, becoming a passion, and I was hooked.

For the past year, I’ve barely written.  Blogs are sparse, characters are quiet, and it’s been perplexing to me.  These are my children, this world one of my own making, a place I am always welcome.  There are still lines to stand in, still quiet moments in the dark, still tasks that don’t require my brain.  Where has the story gone?

This week I realized – the story is not gone, but the gap is no more.  Those empty moments are now occupied with work, with stress, with the many things to which I’ve committed my time and energy.  The chatter that filled my mind now dims in down moments; what was once a fairly level din is now peaks of intensity followed by valleys of quiet.

In searching for and finding a more challenging job, I fear I’ve reduced writing back to an occasional hobby.  I’ll have to decide if I want to pursue ways to bring it back; perhaps I’ll find quiet moments again, as this job becomes more routine, and the characters will speak once more.

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NaNo Update, Day 15

Given the fact that I haven’t blogged for two days and assuming you’ve read my NaNo advice this week, you can guess how Mara’s Tale is going right now.

Some of you are probably being generous and thinking “you’ve written a little bit, every effort counts,” because you’re nice people.

Sad to say, you are wrong.  I have written nothing on Mara’s Tale since Sunday.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I have not written since Sunday.  I’ll also be blunt and point out that I’ve only blogged once in that time as well.

I’m not sure what the reason is, other than it’s likely not just one.  I’ve been busy (theater ticket on Wednesday, social event Thursday) and as usual work has been somewhat stressful.  I’ve gotten more involved in a local group that I’m part of and I’ve been playing “pen pal” via email with someone from another state.  There is also the element of setting myself a challenge; I knew going in to the project that dismantling and expanding Butterflies would be difficult.  Even though there is an argument to be made that a new novel would have been easier, I suspect that the story itself is not the problem.  I haven’t had much (any?) inspiration to write this year, Mara or otherwise.

Honestly, my heart isn’t in it, and unless something drastic changes, I will not be finishing this year.  I’m sure I won’t be the only one.

This wasn’t meant to be a pity party, just a statement of fact.  Maybe a little abrupt reality will give me some impetus to get going again.

NaNo 2013 Advice, Part 2

My advice for this week is simple.

You actually need to write.

Needless to say, I have not been very productive recently.

Is your NaNo going better than mine?

Learning to Read

I had to do a little research and a little decision-making tonight for Mara’s Tale.

She’s starting to learn to read, which is awesome and will set up several other scenes to come.  However, she’s learning to read in a fantasy world with technology similar to the middle ages or Renaissance, from a herbalist in the poor district of town.  This means I can’t have her using lined paper and a pencil, the way I learned to read and write.  What would she use?  Slate and chalk?  Charcoal and… what?  The little research I could do online turned up quill pens and ink on paper, or even pencils.  I’m not sure that the poor herbalist would have access to those, at least not to waste on a child’s practicing.  For a few moments I was stumped.

Of course, this isn’t historical fiction, so in the end I decided to use a variation of it.  Rough paper, probably made nearby, and a charcoal stick seemed to work well for the tale and feel like something that the herbalist would have at her disposal.

Additionally, I remembered that spelling wasn’t standardized until much later (at least, in real history) so I made it a point not to have Mara spell out words or refer to letters explicitly.  It made the section a little trickier to write, but it worked out ok (at least for now).

Chapters

As I’m working on Mara’s Tale, I’ve discovered that chapters aren’t really important.

If the year changes (and it does several times when she’s small) I will note the year in the way that one would usually denote a chapter heading.  Other than that, though, I’m just marking changes of scene/time with a hard return and a triple asterisk.  (***)

I’m sure that the book will eventually be split into chapters, but right now that’s not really high on the priority list while I work.

How do you handle dividing a story into chapters?

NaNo Update, Day 8

Let’s start with the bad news: I’m about 6000 words behind on my word count.

Of course, as I mentioned yesterday, I’m working with a couple different layers of goals.  When I look at where Mara’s Tale currently stands, I’m actually quite pleased with the status.  The story starts when she’s born, and follows her growing up.  Right now I have all of the gaps filled, plus some new stuff written, through her 6th birthday.  There’s also a fun new scene that occurs a few months later, leaving one more gap to fill.  (At least I know what goes in that gap!)

I hope that your NaNo adventure is going well, and that you are accomplishing at least some of your own personal goals.  For now, I’m heading back into Mara’s world – maybe I’ll get another few hundred words written before bed. 🙂

Cutting Myself Some Slack

Today I explained to someone who perhaps I’m behind on my word count because my heart isn’t quite into NaNo this year.  The advice I got in return was that perhaps I shouldn’t spread myself too thin, and maybe not participate in NaNo.

The reality is that I’m setting a couple of different goals with regards to NaNo this year.  The first is the obvious goal: 50,000 (new) words and a completed novel.  However, I have another, smaller goal.  I want to work on Mara’s Tale, and without the driving force of NaNo, that hasn’t happened.  Each time I fill in another gap, every day that I write (even a few hundred words) is a success in my mind.  Earlier this week I wrote only about 600 words, but they were important because they completed the last section I had left of a particular part of Mara’s life.  The word count may have been short for the day; the accomplishment was not short.

I think layered goals are perfectly acceptable, don’t you?

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