This week has felt pretty busy. There’s just been a whole lot of content to work through in FFXIV (Deep Dungeon & YoKai Event), along with my struggles to complete Camp NaNoWriMo before the month ended.
Last night, I was able to really sit down and figure out what all the FFXIV YoKai event is about. I knew that I wanted to get all of the minions, since I just collect them by default. I also knew there were a few weapon skins that I liked and wanted to work towards. I also knew that I wanted to continue leveling my Gladiator to the best of my ability using the FATE trains that I knew would be around.
This is just what happened. Vix and I organized some FATE running because she also had some weapon skins she wanted to earn. I was more focused on earning minions, and managed to get all but four last night, along with the Scholar book skin, and a few levels of Gladiator. So, much was accomplished!
Last night was also the final night of Moogle beast tribe quests to boost all of my crafting classes to level 60. So, I earned the Grandmaster of the Hand, and achieved the final of my crafting goals for this month.
Now that this is done, I’ll probably still keep doing Moogle quests because they are the main source of relic items for me at this point. I don’t have any real desire to go chasing down crafting gear yet, though. Just leveling was enough for me.
And, finally… I completed my 15K word count for Camp NaNoWriMo today. For a while, I didn’t think it was going to happen, which would have been a bummer. It would have been the first time I set out a NaNo goal I didn’t accomplish. Seeing that I couldn’t break my track record, I really pushed out the writing this week and made a lot of progress.
I still need to sift through it and put it under some editing, but I’ll be getting some new content up for Shadows of Zot sooner rather than later! I’m also working on other page changes to Zot/Shimmer, but I’ll discuss those at a later time, once I have them more complete.
July was supposed to be a Camp NaNoWriMo for me, but I’ve really been dropping the ball on writing this month. I set a goal of 15K words (which is super low for me) to get some writing started on Shadows of Zot. I kicked around a few chapters earlier this month, but due to work stress and just feeling low in creativity, I didn’t get much else done.
So here I am staring down the barrel of the final week of the only NaNo event that I’ve signed up for that I may not complete. This is not like me. I’ve had a lot of creative struggles lately, which I put into words in a post not too long ago. I hoped that writing something “on rails” like Zot would help me flex that fiction muscle that seems to be having so much trouble. I didn’t expect 15K to feel really impossible. Part of me doesn’t want to fail.
Then something funky happened. I had a dream. The best way to describe the dream is some kind of modern day urban fantasy, and it was really neat. Sometimes I think we see so much fantasy and sci-fi that we forget the wonder we used to feel for the genres… but this dream felt really awesome since it was almost like I was there as it was happening. When I woke up, I felt a little inspired and I said to myself, “Wish I could write a story that could capture something that felt that amazing.”
Then, yesterday I was kicking around on YouTube and a video reminded me that I have a rather neglected Crunchyroll account. So I looked through my massive queue there to see if anything caught my attention, and I ran across the anime Erased. I haven’t watched anime in a while, but I heard this was good (no spoilers), so I started watching it.
It was just what I needed to see to kick-start some stories in my head, especially since the anime has a lot to do with children… and Zot also has main characters who are children at this point. I’ve only watched two episodes of Erased, but I’m looking forward to watching more as I’m super interested in this story.
Anyhow, a blend of these two influences somehow helped me break the writer’s block that was dragging me down. I have a lot to do if I want to catch up with where I need to be to finish my word count by Sunday. It’s a reality, though, thanks to the 5K words I managed to write today.
Let’s see if I can make it! Even if I can’t, I’ve at least written a number of new chapters for Zot that I can post. So that’s a good thing.
I wasn’t going to write for the July Camp NaNoWriMo. I was pretty discouraged after suffering through April’s NaNoWriMo, which was decidedly one of the worst NaNo experience I’ve had yet (no fault of NaNo, it was all me). And then I felt that all the effort went to waste as I didn’t even post anything I wrote in the end.
For the past few months, I’ve really wondered if I’ve lost my skill for fiction writing. Sure, I can spin a blog post like this in little to no time, and shoot out technical articles for work without batting an eye. But there’s a huge difference between inspired fantasy writing and conversational or technical writing. They’re all writing, but they use different muscles.
Where blogging had begun as a way to keep me writing consistently between my fiction sprints, it’s now become so, so much harder for me to write fiction in general. I’m not going to lie, I’d almost decided to give up on all of it. But then I get the little unexpected encouragements like…
@Aywren I’m working my way through Shadows of Zot right now 😛 It’s crazy good!!
Merrybelly… you just don’t know how I almost cried for joy to see a kind compliment during a dark time in my creative landscape. Thank you. 🙂
It also got Shadows of Zot back on my writing radar, which is something I’ve wanted to do anyhow. So, yes. I have four days to re-read the 14 chapters I’ve already posted and refresh my creative palette to try and give this fantasy writing thing another stab.
April is almost here, which means the spring session of Camp NaNoWriMo is coming back around. I participated once last year (was shooting for twice, but it didn’t happen), and had a pretty good idea that I was going to write again this year.
I seem to keep getting myself stuck on plot momentum for Runne, and due to feedback and some reader questions, I’ve decided to pick Shadows of Zot back up this April.
So, if all goes well, look for new Zot updates starting April/May!
Runne Feedback Needed
For those who read/have read my ongoing fiction, Runne, I need a little feedback.
Here’s my problem. I have a few years worth of Runne material written and ready to post. I’m really not kidding. I have a lot of stuff written.
I don’t post stuff because I struggle to get the chapter art done. I don’t want Runne to go artless, however. The design of the site is made to showcase chapter art, and it makes me sad to think there would be nothing on a chapter page. Plus, I just think it’s more exciting to see art with writing.
I’ve been trying to find a compromise, and here’s one thing I thought of.
Maybe I could draw artwork to represent the entire segment and use it for all the parts of that segment. So instead of having to draw, for example, 8 different pieces of art, I can draw just one for the entire expanse of segments.
Kinda like drawing cover art.
There still are chapters that I’d like to highlight by drawing individual pieces (because important things happen sometimes), but I’ll do that as I feel like it.
If I could consolidate art to just cover artwork per segment, I could easily hold down a weekly update schedule and get the site caught up to more current writing. That, in turn, would probably encourage me to write some more come fall!
Writing fiction is one of those strange, untouchable creative endeavors. Sometimes you struggle to put anything on a page. Sometimes it just flows out of you from some unknown source, a beautiful and perfect stream of prose. Just like with any other NaNoWriMo challenge, I experienced both of these on my way to finally completing the April 2015 Camp NaNoWriMo.
Part of me is glad that my word count is complete and the “novel” is now validated. Though writing 25K words is no where near as rigorous as trying to complete 50K, it’s still a lot to swing when you work as a tech writer IRL. I also took a bit of a break from blogging during this time, which I hope was understandable.
Thoughts on Fiction Writing
Fiction writing is a different beast from business writing or blogging. It’s all putting words on the page, that’s true. But when you finish a blog post, you don’t need to worry about whether characters developed, plot stayed consistent, or if you need to completely cut what you wrote because it was a bunch of drivel that didn’t further the story in any valuable way.
I’m not saying that it’s not a challenge to devise a solid, informational or entertaining blog post. It’s just a different sort of focus. One that I’ve gotten used to since I’ve started blogging more regularly here.
So when I tried to wrap my head around fiction writing again, it was a pretty tough challenge for me in many ways.
This is the fourth year I’ve written a continuation to my fantasy story Runne. I started writing this in November of 2011, and completed three full 50K NaNoWriMos in a row. However, I found myself walking away from NaNoWriMo 2013 with a problem: I had hit a dreaded plot block.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know where the plot was going. I had a good idea of the major plot points I needed to hit. I just didn’t know how to connect the dots between point A (where I currently was in the story) with point B (where I needed the story to get) in a clever, logical, yet organic-feeling way.
Pantsing It Up
Over the years, I’ve found that the best writing method for me is to write as a light pantser (yes, this is a word). I do believe in sketching out a loose outline and knowing important plot points I need to hit. I don’t believe it allowing that outline to dictate every chapter I write, however, as this constricts my writing style and what the characters do. To me, that’s a recipe for a very wooden story, devoid of organic growth and change.
My characters (I often call figments) have a life of their own… some who totally balk the idea of being dictated to by a greater, fixed outline. I swear I can’t force them to do anything they don’t want to do. If I DO try to force things on my figments, it rings hollow in my ears and seems out of character for them. Some of the most interesting and unusual plot lines have come when I simply let my figments tell me their stories… not when I dictate to them how the story goes.
So, I kinda sit down to write with an overall goal for my chapter in mind, then let the figments respond to the situation I create. It’s kinda like… playing DM in a tabletop adventure! You don’t know how the players are going to respond, and they are the ones that make the game interesting based on their reactions.
Likewise, I don’t always know how a character is going to react to things. Sometimes, they do things very surprising to me… and then I’m left wondering how I’m going to move forward with a plot that just got turned on its head. Most of my creative excitement comes from these random moments of surprise. It’s what makes writing so rewarding to me.
Suffering With Plot Block
I was super stuck with plot block in my attempts to plan and write for Runne since November 2013. In fact, I was so blocked, that when I decided to try Camp NaNoWriMo last year, I choose to work on Shadows of Zot instead of Runne. I just didn’t have any idea how to keep the story moving forward, so I totally avoided writing for it at all last year.
Over the winter holidays, Syn and I sat down and worked on a very large and over-arching outline for Runne. We spun a lot of great ideas, things that really excited me about the future of the story. However, when I finally worked up the courage to sit down and write for Runne the first time this year, I found myself still staring plot block in the face.
Sure, we drafted some neat future-scenarios… but I still didn’t know how the heck I was going to move the characters from point A to point B. Ugh!
I struggled with it… a lot. I putzed around the first few chapters trying to set a tone and establish plans for the characters. I thought this was totally dull, but thankfully, my figments weren’t content to let me write too boring of a chapter before they threw in their own little twists. Once I’d written myself as far as I could in that direction – I even explored characters I loved to write but don’t often get to write about (TsuMeTai) – I decided to fall back on the dreaded fail safe of bored writers.
I created new characters.
New Characters Save the Day
I try very hard not to fall into the trap of character bloat. This is what happens when a bored writer keeps introducing new characters over and over and over again, hoping one of them will spark that inspiration they need to keep writing. Usually, a new character will help inspire a writer and make the story fresh… at least, for a little while. So, it’s not bad to consider a new character now and then, as long as you know how they fit into the existing story.
Runne is an interesting beast in that I designed it to allow me to write in what I call segments. These are short groups of chapters where I can spend time visiting one section of plot or group of characters, then bounce to another plot or group of characters with the next segment. It also allows me to skip large expanses of time, since Runne is a story that spans a whole lotta years. If I were to try to write every little day in chronological order, it would be impossible.
So, jumping focus to a pair of new characters – in this case Bahamut (no, I’m not talking about Binding Coil) and Kei — was very viable and didn’t interrupt the flow of the rest of the story. These chapters actually helped me to explore some world building, too. I learned a bit about the bigger picture of the world of Runne as well as theories of magic and history that I wasn’t totally aware of. Plus, the characters were just fun to write and will factor heavily into the future of Runne when they come in contact with the other established characters.
Once my little foray into new-character-land was done, I found myself right back to point A with the same problem. I had a nice and inspiring diversion, but I wasn’t any closer to point B than I was when I first started Camp NaNo. How frustrating!
I did a little bit of mini-planning to see what resources I had available to me. I realized it had been quite a while since I had visited a certain set of figments (Fu and Nikko), and there were some important developments in their relationship and in world building that I wanted to touch on. What I didn’t realize was that this chapter was going to lead me a different direction… when another character, TsuMe, decided to make an unexpected move and interact.
Now, for anyone who doesn’t know these characters (that’s probably most folks still reading this), these are two extremely blunt, headstrong, stubborn and angry characters. I’m talking enough pent up rage to strike the fear into the heart of 4chan. While they are both usually pretty anti-social and untrusting, they are both raging against the same thing (evil, corrupt governing body).
So, suddenly, I have two fairly snarky characters starting to talk for the first time. And they each realize, “Hey… I’ve just met someone as pissed off as I am… and he’s pissed off about the same things and at the same people!” And, suddenly, I have this alliance of two fantastically pissed off characters putting their heads together to do something about the things that piss them off. I was so totally stoked at the strong character interaction that I had to rush home from work and draw art about it!
Now… now… I was getting somewhere! I may not have all the details still, but I have characters who feel strongly about something who are spearheading plot motion from point A to point B. And I totally never even considered putting these two in the same room before this. Go figure.
Have you ever RPed or written fiction and had unexpected characters do unexpected actions and led to really awesome things?
Tomorrow is the first of April (beware April Fool’s Day), and also the first day of April’s Camp NaNoWriMo for 2015.
What is NaNoWriMo?
For anyone who hasn’t heard about NaNoWriMo, this stands for National Novel Writing Month. This is held every November, and challenges writers to join a community with the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel within 30 days.
The first time I heard about it, I thought it was nuts and that I was nuts for signing up for it. But not only did I manage to write over 50K words my first NaNoWriMo of 2002, but I went on to win the challenge for 11 years total. During that time, I completed a four-novel fantasy series, Dreigiau, and started on my shorter form loose fiction, Runne.
I wrote a good deal of that back when I was in college, but once I started working full time, trying to swing a NaNoWriMo, especially during a crazy November month, became more difficult. When I heard about Camp NaNoWriMo, which has much more lax rules, and is held during spring and summer months, I decided to switch to writing during these events instead.
I like that you can set your own word count – I choose to do 25K words, but to do it twice a year for a total of 50K words. You also get assigned to your own little cabin – a group of writers who are also taking the challenge, often put together based on a common writing interest (mine are fantasy writers, for example). During the month, your cabin mates are there to discuss progress, encourage each other, and work as a sounding board through frustrating times.
And while this is geared towards fiction writing, you could take this challenge for any kind of writing, I’m sure. So if you’re interested in taking part and challenging yourself, there’s still time to sign up at the site! If you miss it in April, there’s another in July.
Chances are, since I’m participating, I’ll probably be blogging a good bit less during April. Unless it inspires me to write more about the process, somehow. XD
I’m a little on the nervous side to be writing fiction again, especially since I haven’t visited my story, Runne, for way over a year. Last year, I skipped writing for Runne because I was stuck at a plot point that I didn’t know how to overcome. Over the past Christmas holiday, Syn and I brainstormed a ton of great ideas. I just have to figure out how to move the stopping point from the last chapter I wrote to mesh with these ideas, and that has me a little frazzled.
But I always get the nerves right before a NaNo event. Then, once I’m in there and writing, things somehow seem to work themselves out in unforeseen ways…
Is anyone else writing this year? If so, good luck!
As some folks might know, I’ve written many, many years for the NaNoWriMo challenge. This is how I worked through the Dreigiau series and how I’ve started writing Runne. The past three Novembers, I’ve pushed for 50K by writing Runne segments. However, this year, I decided to try something different: I’m doing NaNo in July!
Several years back, I did something I called a Mini-NaNo, which was a challenge to that helped me complete Darkstar during one summer month. This actually worked for me, though the word goal was nowhere near 50K. I was basically writing until I got it finished.
Camp NaNo feels somewhat the same. Instead of 50K, you can set your own goal — I chose to attempt 25K. There aren’t any real hard rules, aside from “Write.” You are also placed into a cabin (think summer camp theme) with other writers, who you can choose or allow to be randomly assigned. You associate with these writers through a shout box interface on the cabin page, which is pretty neat! It’s cool to have these short chats with other writers, see their novel pages, their word counts, their goals, and ultimately cheer each other on.
I’ve written myself into a dark place in Runne, so I decided to try a new/old story: re-writing Shimmer into a novel, which I call Shadows of Zot. It’s the first time I’ve tried to transplant a story from one storytelling tool to another. This allows me to touch on a lot of things in story and character that I never could in the original comic. Who knows… I might turn the novel into a comic one day if I like it better than the original (a joke).
For those who are taking this challenge, good luck! For those who are curious and want to try, I don’t think it’s too late! It’s just the first day.