Month: October 2015

NaNo 2015 Planning: Stumbling Around

Am I Supposed to “Pants” This?

I don’t have a lot of experience writing short stories. Am I supposed to outline them before I start writing? Do I plan? What’s the procedure here?

Over the long course of writing Thirteen Treasures, I’ve discovered that I work better as a “Plotter.” If nothing else, when the plot is outlined, I know what I need to write when I sit down at the computer every morning. Even if I only manage to eek out a few hundred words, I’m confident that I’m on the right track. When I used to work without a detailed outline, I’d sit down and have no clue what to do or what to write next. I almost always ended up with endings that were ridiculous and unsatisfying.

But short stories feel different to me. Maybe it’s because I have Ray Bradbury whispering in my head to write from my subconscious dreamland and let the deep-seeded obsessions of my childhood be my guide, but writing a short story from a detailed outline feels like overkill, as if the weight of the outline will crush the delicacy of the story. Or maybe that’s hogwash. I don’t know; I’m new at this.

Title First, Story Later

So I’m gonna start with my titles and hope that story ideas follow on their heels.

Story #1: “Lightning in the Black Bottle”

Story #2: “The Treasures Three” (this one is going to be in the same universe as my Merlin’s Last Magic serial)

Story #3: “Song Child”

Story #4: “Things” (yeah, I’m getting real creative here…)

Novella Title: Avalon Summer

“Where do you get your ideas?”

I’ve been thinking about Avalon Summer and the story I want to tell for almost ten years. It’s part memoir, part fantasy, and it began life as an R.E.M. song. More specifically, two songs, which came out when I was eleven, and which always makes me think of summers at my grandmother’s and the melancholy that comes with growing up.

“Nightswimming” and “Find the River” have become¬† almost mystical songs for me at this point, telling the story and the mood of a time in my life that is at once real and unreal, actual and imagined, something that happened and something I dreamed would happen, the two¬† sides — memoir and fantasy — swirling together so completely that it’s hard to tease any of the threads apart. “Nightswimming” is about the past, about remembering; “Find the River” is about the end of something, of the river flowing, of the march of time — the bitter-sweetness that comes from searching. It’s hard to describe the effect these songs have on me, but perhaps the best way to describe it is to write the story. After all, “story” is what we create when we can’t explain. Stories are how we communicate the elusive ideas.

It’s pretty obvious from the description of my Merlin serial that I’m interested in Arthurian legends, and it’s an interest that began when I was a kid. Rosemary Sutcliff’s books about King Arthur were transformational, and much of my childhood was spent playing “knights” (i.e.: running around my grandmother’s four acres with wooden swords, pretending trees were dragons).

I know that Avalon Summer has to have a forest in it. There must also be an evening spent eating Chinese food and playing the Dark Tower board game. At some point, an iron-wrought gate must figure in. And a bookstore. These are my ideas, but I’m not sure yet how they hang together, how I thread them into a tale.

More to come, I guess…

The Rebellion Will Be Blogged

I asked my students this morning if they knew what day it was.

“October 1st!” (Yes, obviously. It’s written on the board.)

“Thursday!” (Thank you, Miss Wisenheimer in the back of class.)

“The feast day of St. Therese of Lisieux!” (It’s a Catholic school.)

Finally, one perceptive student:

“One month till Nano?”

Yes, one month until NaNoWriMo starts. A time for planning. A time for anticipation. A time for making grand plans about all the writing I’m going to do as soon as midnight hits on November 1st.

And then, of course, November 1st comes and goes and I barely eek out 100 words because… FILL IN THE BLANK (a. the Noodle has a terrible cold, b. *I* have a terrible cold, c. November 1st falls on my grocery-shopping day and I have to make dinner and grade a stack of papers and clean the house because my in-laws are coming over and the cats peed all over the laundry room floor, d. All of the above).

Or November comes and I start writing my brilliant novel and I’m hitting those word count goals — BAM, BAM, BAM! — and the world is my oyster and life is just grand. Until November 10th, at which point I HATE my novel and the words are dripping out like a tiny leak in the faucet and the world has ceased being my oyster and is only my half-eaten can of pickled herring that expired in 2008.

And so the cycle continues: Every October, I’m gearing up with fevered excitement for NaNo, and by December 1st, I’m crying into my stale beer.

So this year, I’m going to try something different. I’m going to join the rebellion. I’m going to be a NaNo Rebel.

And I’m going to do it all — unfiltered, unedited, unburdened by shame or regret — right here on my website. Every single one of my 50,000 words will be written here, on the blog, as I’m composing them, straight from my brain to you, the readers. No edits. No skipped days. Guaranteed, every day, for thirty days, I will write some fiction on this blog. (I can’t believe I’m promising this…)

“But what makes that rebellious?” (you might ask)

“After all” (you say), “blogging a novel is still writing one, and per the rules of NaNo, it still counts.”

But that’s just it. I’m not going to be writing a novel.

Noveling during November hasn’t worked for me. I’m tossing aside the task of writing a novel.

I’m taking on a challenge I’ve never really taken on before. I’m doing something for which I have had no practice and very little skill. I’m doing something that is (for me) slightly bonkers.

I’m going to write short stories. Four, to be precise.

And a novella. Because that’s what’s itching inside my brain.

All completely disconnected from each other. No shared universe. No shared characters. Each one separate.


For the next 31 days, I’ll share my ideas and outlines and some world-building for these different stories, and then, on November 1st, I’ll begin writing.

Each day, new words. Five different stories (or maybe more). One month. All in real-time.

I’m pretty sure this is madness. But I’m doing it anyway. Stay tuned.

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