The End is Here!!!

December 1st. 24 days till Christmas, 29 days till 2011. Winter is here at last and - for those of us that decided to be insane for a month - so is the end of NaNoWriMo!

I know I was horrible about keeping you all updated on my progress, but this year was way more hectic than last year, so I figure I'll just take this time to sort of recap the whole experience... and what an experience it was!

Week 1 (Nov 1-7): Getting started was difficult. The first day of November, for whatever reason, was trying, and I don't think I got any writing done that day. The whole first week was discouraging, to be honest. I was behind on my word count week after week because I just could not find time to write. Day 1 I should have had 2K, and I had 0. Day 2 I should have had 4K, and I think I had about 500. So on and so forth so that by Thursday, I was a whole 7 or 8K in the hole.

And when I did get the chance to write, the words just wouldn't come, and I couldn't figure out why. I knew my idea inside and out, I knew my characters, and I had a basic outline of what I wanted to do, but it just wasn't working. Astrid was talking to me easy enough, as was Colin, but Kara was giving me a bit of attitude and Caleb just was not giving me anything to work with. I hadn't even dealt with Haylie yet, and I wasn't looking forward to it.

I entertained the idea of dropping out a number of times, but one thing kept me going: the opening. It's difficult for me to be impressed by my writing, but I loved my opening, and so did a few friends who read it. My writing has improved, and I felt I owed it to myself to at least see to it that this story, in its entirety, saw the light of day. That's difficult, however, when you're close to 10K behind.

Week 2 (Nov 8 - 14): I tried something different for week 2. Instead of jumping head first into my writing and forcing each word onto the paper, I stepped back and did something that has always helped clear my mind: I read. I had started Stephen King's On Writing prior to NaNo, and didn't finish it until a couple days into week 2. Not only did that help clear my mind, but it gave me a few ideas as to why my characters weren't talking to me.

For starters, I was thinking about it too much. I was focusing on following the outline I had put together so closely that I forgot the point was to tell a story. I was treating my characters like literary objects, and not as people... which is what they are. It's what they have to be, if your story is going to capture anyone. Once I accepted them and my story for what it was, the words came a little easier.

It was during this week that I found my muse, as well. Everyone's is different, and it doesn't always have to be an actual person. A lot of times, a muse is just a part of yourself that will help you to flesh out ideas, get your characters to talk, and keep the story moving along. I wouldn't go as far as to say it's an extra personality, because it isn't that. It's just the thing that answers back when you ask yourself, what do I do now? Where is this going? Why is this character acting the way they are?

My muse happens to be quite rude, and a bit sassy. But he kept the words coming.

The other thing that changed how I write was the release of the Doctor Who Season 5 soundtrack. Murray Gold is responsible for a lot of my week 2 writing getting done. It's incredibly difficult to not be creative when listening to his arrangements.

Week 3 (Nov 15 - 21): At this point, my characters have figured out who they are, and it doesn't really matter if I know anymore. They know, and my muse knows, and once that happens, you might as well buckle up because author or not, you're along for the ride just like everyone else.

This was the week my characters started doing things they weren't supposed to. Such a thing is frustrating in it's own right, but pretty amazing, too. It's like meeting a new friend and learning stuff about them.

The story itself began to take on a life of its own, as well. I knew the basic idea of what I wanted, but filling in the blanks was fun because I had no idea what to expect. The basic "he said but he's a liar" idea I had evolved into a full on conspiracy, and my characters began to interact and build off each others strengths and weaknesses. Writing became less about the daily word goal and more about finding out what happens next.

I kept up my reading as well, and tore through Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil like it was nothing. I stuck mostly to non-fiction, so as to not subconsciously rip off anything from any fiction pieces I might have read. I was about 5K ahead of the set NaNo goal by the end of the week.

I didn't notice.

Week 4 (Nov 22-30): I was within spitting distance of 50K by Thanksgiving, and actually reached the goal by Saturday.

By this point, I'm hardly even aware of the word count. I don't think to verify that I've won until a couple days later. I am that involved in the story. I begin to stress over the well being of characters I like, begin to get angry and characters I hate. It is not unlike reading.

My music has shifted from Matt Nathanson, Francesca Battisteli, Laura Marling, The Hush Sound, etc. to Ludovico Einaudi, Helen Jane Long, Murray Gold, David Nevue, Laura Sullivan, Loreena McKennit, etc.

The conspiracy has now come full circle, and everything is starting to click into place. But the story is far from over. There is still a long way to go with this... however, I have now invested a month and nearly 60,000 words in it. I am more likely than not going to finish it.

I have started three other books, bringing my "currently reading" total to 4. They are all works of fiction. I simply cannot stay away from it. But they are not similar types of fiction to the one that I'm writing, so I think I'm safe.

What's more is, writing this has ignited a bit of a fire under last year's NaNo, which has been sitting in limbo for a year now. Once the first draft of this is over, I plan on editing that. And once I'm done editing that, I should be refreshed enough to start my second draft... a process I'm really looking forward to.

But first things first, I need to finish the first draft.

Congratulations to everyone who completed their goal! I hope you recognize how amazing it is to have written 50K in just 30 days!! And thank you to everyone who kept me going, pushed me on, and told me my opening - or any bit, really - of my story was good.

Special super uber thanks to Jordan and Stephanie, without whose encouragement I would have quit.You guys are awesome, and I could never put into words how awesome, but just know. Just know. You are awesome. Also, a shout out to Jevonne, who engaged me in a word war, pushing me over 50K in no time. I am e-mailing you what came of that, I promise!!! XD

And now, for those of you that may want a taste of The 11th Hour, here is the first draft of my opening (under the cut). Enjoy! [WARNING: mild language]

She has never understood the appeal of a man in uniform. Maybe she could have, had she been born in a different time. But she wasn’t. She was born in this time. The uniforms she knew were always hiding something, and usually that something was bad. Still, it is apparent she is trying her damndest not to show it. She smiles and clasps her hands loosely in front of her, letting them rest on the table. Her back is straight, elbows at a 90 degree angle. She has done this before, and though she has never met these men, she knows she has the upper hand. They do not feel she is a threat. They’ve been trained, and the woman before them is harmless. She’s a mother of two, in her forties, and they’re fresh out of the academy. She drops her head slightly, tilting it. She knows why she is here but she will not speak first. She licks her lips and opens her mouth, as if to speak. One of the officers does the same. What comes out of his mouth is the beginning of a question. What comes out of hers is a noise. Nothing more. Her lips part and she grins, flashing teeth. She flicks a hand, urging the officer to continue. Her attempts to get them to speak first are successful. The officer speaks.
“Emily.” Her ears perk at her name. She licks her lips again. “I’m sure you’d like to get back to your children, so we’ll make this quick.” She laughs.
“Not too quick, I hope.” Her voice is solid and lined with humor. “I quite enjoy the break.” That draws a smile out of them as well, and her own widens. They do not see the menace in it. Why Emily, what big teeth you have.
The officer speaks.
“I trust you know why you’re here.”
“To be honest, no.” They have been looking at a file and now their eyes return to her face. She interlaces her fingers, the only tell she lets slip. It isn’t her fault, however. Genetics is to blame for that one. The strangest things seem to run in the family.
They do not know her, however, and nothing is given away. She continues.
“I mean, sure I’ve got an idea… but you didn’t drag me across an ocean to ask me questions I’ve already answered.” She tilts her head to the other side. “Did you?” Her inquiry appears genuine.
“I’m sorry ma’am.” She is irritated.
“I have a child that’s afraid of flying,” she says. She leans forward and brings her hands to her temples. She is very irritated.
Down the hall is another room. In it sits a colleague of Emily’s. He is a few years older and has 2 less kids. There are three more rooms that tell similar stories: 1 more male and 2 more females. Some have kids, some do not. All are going to be asked the same question.
The officer speaks.
“I understand your frustration, Emily.” His attempts to calm her by using her first name only serve to irritate her further. It is hard to know if she is faking it or not. “And I understand that you’ve answered question after question pertaining to this topic. We know when this went down, we know why, and we know where. But what no one has asked you – what we plan to ask you now – is how.” She stops rubbing her temples. Her eyes open slowly and she looks at the men in front of her.
“You want to know how.” It is not a question. It is not a statement. It is merely a thought spoken aloud, perhaps subconsciously so. She stares at them blankly for a moment, then all at once she smiles again. She slams her hands on the table, causing the men to jump, and makes a gun shape with the right hand. Closing one eye she aims and pulls an imaginary trigger. “I guess with a gun.” This sends her into a fit of laughter.
She is once again in control.
The other officer speaks at last.
“No.” Her laughter continues, then tapers, then finally ends. She wipes away a tear and smiles at the other officer.
“Not that this game isn’t fun,” she says. “But perhaps you’d like to elaborate?” She points at Officer number 1. “This one said you’d make this quick.” There is still humor lining her voice.
“We want to know how it came to be, how it all unfolded. We want to know how you managed to do what you did, and still spend a few years abroad. We want to know how you’re sitting in this room, being interrogated, but ultimately free.” His voice is cold. She leans forward. Her eyes are murderous and crazy; her smile damn near maniacal.
“You want to know how I – how we – got away with it.” Officer number 2 nods. “You want to know how we pulled it off and yet, you want to make this quick.”
“Problem?” Officer number 1.
“You’re going to have to pick one because, if I answer that question truthfully – and I fully intend on telling you the entire, uninhibited truth – then we’re going to be here a while.”
“We aren’t asking you for your life story.” Officer number 2.
“Yes you are.” She regards them carefully, then proceeds. “Maybe not my whole life story but… no one wakes up one day and says, hey, this looks like a good day to overthrow a government.” She frowns. “A corrupt government, I should say.”
“We’d like you to keep your personal opinions out, if you don’t mind.”
“That isn’t an opinion.” It is the first time she has snapped at them. “That’s a fact.”
“Some might disagree.”
“No doubt, but I’m fairly certain I killed them all.” They think she is joking. She is not. The first officer speaks.
“And you’re okay with that?” She interlaces her fingers.
“Yes.” They do not know her well enough to recognize the look in her eyes for what it is: pain. Officer 2 smirks.
“So you claim you want what’s best for people, yet your method of helping involved murder?” She wants to slap the look off his face, but doesn’t. She has done this before.
“How old are you, son?” The officer winces, but does not get the chance to answer. “Twenty one? Twenty two?” He nods. “Twenty-two. Fresh out of academy, I’m sure. Ready to instate justice at every turn. Ready to put the bad guys behind bars.” She leans back and drapes an arm over the chair, regarding them with a look that is equal parts pity and envy. “When I was your age, I felt the same way. Only difference was, there was no definite good or bad. People didn’t know their asses from a library book. Things that you take for granted every day – food, clean water, soap – were unavailable to most. Democracy? Unheard of. Freewill? Forget about it. People did what they were told, no questions asked. He’s saving us, they all said. He’s helping us help ourselves.”
“So you were poor.” She laughs at this.
“No, sweetheart. We were worse than that. We were locked in poverty, and nothing we could do or say would release us. We were forced to watch as that man made decision after decision, forced to watch as our parents were ripped from us for daring to think for themselves. We weren’t poor. We were damned.” They are now listening, jaws slack with interest. This pleases her, but only minimally. Her father is at the front of her mind, and it is hard to be pleased when she is thinking of him. Finally, the second officer speaks.
“Okay, so you had a rough upbringing. That still doesn’t make it alright for you to kill anyone.”
I didn’t.” They are confused. She does not want to proceed, for fear that what she is going to say will make her sound insane. “I’ve read that authors – you do know what books are, right?” She laughs lightly. “Sorry, spent the past couple years in England and never actually found out… are we allowed to read yet? Or is that still illegal?”
“Interim President Hastings had that bill passed last year.” The first officer.
“So you know what books are?” They nod. Officer 2 looks annoyed at the question. She sees this. “Sorry if I’m insulting your intelligence, but most of my generation didn’t. Anyway, I’ve read that authors will sometimes create alter egos to help them write the stuff they can’t stomach. That’s much of the situation here. As I was then, with what I was dealing with and how I was raised… I couldn’t have killed anyone. But Astrid is another story.” They consider what she has said.
“So you created another persona in order to murder people?” Officer 2 scowls. “If this is some attempt to get off on a temporary insanity charge, forget it.”
“If Nicolae’s Nazi police force couldn’t put me behind bars, what makes you think I’m afraid of you?” Officer 2’s scowl deepens. “Besides, by the end of this story, a little extra personality residing in the old noggin will seem perfectly normal.” She pauses. “I guess I wouldn’t call her an alter ego… Astrid is really no more than a name change. But once I was free of my name... once my actions could not in any way hurt my father’s legacy, I felt free to do what I wanted. And what I wanted was revenge.” Officer 2 glares at her. She merely smiles. “You want to know if it was me.”
“It seems to be the question you never fail to dodge.”
“Oh, I answer it. I always have. People just don’t pay attention.” Her hands are on the table, but apart. She is telling the truth. “They don’t like paying attention. That’s what got us in this situation to begin with… people stopped paying attention. All the evil in the world was right in front of them, and they ignored it. By the time they thought to pay attention, it was illegal to do so. Nicolae had everyone convinced that their situation was of their own doing. Never mind that he was the one that passed the bills and implemented the tax plans. Never mind that it was his idea to pay people the way he did. Never mind that it was him that turned everyone against one another.” She pauses. “Well, I suppose that isn’t fair. It was our own greed that did that. But he capitalized on that; capitalized on all our faults. There’s an old saying that goes something like, ‘if you don’t like what you see in the mirror, change it’. Well, he convinced us that it wasn’t worth looking in the mirror anymore; that we should just assume that we will never like what we see until we accept that we have destroyed our own lives and followed his rules to fix them.” She pauses again. There is a pitcher in the center of the table, and she takes it and drinks directly from it. “I suppose that’s why the game was so popular. It was a way to show everyone that we wanted to change our reflections.” She takes a deep breath and looks at the detectives. “Do you know how to pay attention, detectives? Do you know how to listen? Because I’m about to tell you what I’ve never told anyone else. I’m going to tell you what happened. I will tell you everything I know and I will tell you the truth. I will hold nothing back. It is your job to get out of it what you will. It’s your job to pay attention.”
In four different rooms, four different people have said the same thing. They will tell everything they know. They will tell the truth, they will hold nothing back. It is your job to pay attention.
She turns her head. She is now facing a wall. Her reflection stares back at her, but she is no doubt aware of the eyes that hide behind it.
“There are two things you need to know about my father. The first is that he was arrested and sentenced to death by President Cain. Crimes against the nation, also known as ‘refusal to kiss my ass and sing my praises.’ The second is that he taught me everything he learned from his days in the CIA, not the least of which was the art of concealment, a technique he mastered. That mastery was passed on to me.” She takes another drink.
“These two facts are important, and you must never forget them.”
“Why?” Officer number 1. She turns back toward him.
“Because every story has a beginning, and that’s how this one starts.” She takes a deep breath. “Are you paying attention?” They nod. “Good. Now listen closely.”

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Maxii said...

I know just how awesome I am. But then again, so are you!



Jevonne said...

Talent, you has it.
Honestly, that hook at the end really got me. I felt like i was beginning one of those amazing books that you know you will never ever be able to put down until you have read every last word.

^^^^^^ all of that is code for SEND ME MORE