The Legendary Novel Writing Challenge!

Whew!  I somehow managed to survive Camp NaNoWriMo for July 2013.  It took a lot of burning the midnight oil and frantic cramp-inducing typing on my part these last few days, but I made it!  (Day 28 I spent all day, from 8:00am until 11:30pm writing.  I got 8,876 words done in a single day!  20 pages!  Heilige scheisse!)  Just goes to show that the habits of college haven’t worn off yet; I still put everything off until the last minute.

This Camp NaNo was really stressful and I was way behind my word count for about 2 weeks.  Trying to catch up once I feel behind was probably the biggest stressor, and even though NaNoWriMo always stresses that you get major kudos for trying, I still don’t like falling short of a goal I set for myself.  My writing group can attest to my depression and complaining throughout the month.

However, a good thing did come from all the stress.  Well, two good things, actually.

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Guilt, Measurements, and New Projects

Have you ever started something and then wondered why?

I’ve been feeling like that about writing.  I’m one of those people who loves to have written, but often hates the actual process of writing.  The times when writing feels smooth and effortless, when I actually feel happy and satisfied with my writing while actually writing are few and far between.  I usually rely on favs, likes, and comments to keep my spirits up.

And there’s always punishment.  I’m not Catholic, but sometimes it feels like I “got enough guilt to start my own religion.”  It’s not fun, it’s not pretty, and I wish I wasn’t wired that way.  I’ve used fear of punishment for failing to drive myself forward for years, and the worst demon is the one inside your head.

Needless to say, this is not the most healthy way to be productive.  In fact, it’s becoming counter-productive since my energy levels are dropping and my life is more topsy-turvy than it’s ever been before.  Being unsettled means that the delicate schedules I weld into place quickly fracture under life’s pressures, which only acts as further discouragement.  I also have a bad habit of taking on too many projects when I’m feeling good, projects that I can’t always handle when I’m depressed, and when I have to cut back or don’t meet those goals, that only fuels the depression.

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How To End a Story

I was recently given the challenge of writing about endings.  How does one end a story in a satisfying way?  I’m not sure if I’m the best one to ask since I haven’t finished any project of note or scope.  A few of my short stories are complete, but most of them aren’t very good.  However, I’ll do my best.

Stories revolve around conflict.  Sometimes the conflict is very small, like misplacing your keys and trying to find them before you are late for work, or the conflict could be huge, spanning star systems and deciding the fate of entire worlds.  Most stories fall somewhere between the two.  Fantasy does tend to go large-scale with some kind of threat to the world or at least to the local kingdom.

A story begins usually just before the conflict is introduced.  We see what is “normal” and then something happens that creates conflict for the character.  They lose their job, they are taken out of slavery, they become a slave, they gain or lose a kingdom.  The conflict introduced may bring them positive changes, like in Mercedes Lackey’s Dragon Jousters series.  A boy name Vetch is a serf, bound to the land under a harsh master, but that changes when a Dragon Jouster comes to his home and takes him on as a servant to help tend the great dragons.  Obviously Vetch will be facing a new set of challenges, but his lot has improved from his previous state of serfdom.  Or the conflict could be more negative and dangerous.  Richard Mayhew in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere is living a perfectly ordinary life until he stumbles across an injured girl named Door.  He takes care of her and she’s out of his life in less than 24 hours, but as a result, he suddenly becomes invisible to the upper world.  His good deed costs him his fiancée, his job, his money, his home, his very existence as a normal person.  Because of this unfortunate turn of events, he must descend into the dangerous London Below to try to get his life back.

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