…There’s Fire (Excerpt)

A recently discovered cave used by the Knights Templar

Last week, I was very surprised to find out my throwaway, I’m going to kill you at the end of the prologue character, Solaes, had quite a few fans. This included my alpha readers, as I call them, my mom and my boyfriend (AKA my story guinea pigs). As soon as he finished reading, my boyfriend said, “You better not kill her.” At first, I laughed it off, but as the week progressed, I realized I liked her too.

This created a whole slew of unexpected problems… How do I fit her into my story? Who is she? Where is she from? How is this going to affect the story I’ve already written? It even made me rethink the entire structure of the Church of Bael, but I think there’s a lot of depth to it now.

It solved other problems as well, like explaining things my MC wouldn’t be able to witness along his path. A new viewpoint is opening up some previously frustrating problems.

I had already started to write this piece. The first line came to me while I was trying to fall asleep one night, and about a third of the High Priest’s speech I had written before I knew where this was going. But it didn’t have a path or a point of view character. Then, suddenly, I had a character who might have a reason to be there: Solaes got roughed up and is trying to find out WHY.

So this is sort of a continuation of last week’s piece. There’s quite a jump in time, though. I’ll be filling in the middle soon.

The image above was an inspiration for the setting in this piece. A farmer discovered a rabbit hole that led to a cave that had once been used by the Knights Templar. Fascinating stuff.

I hope you enjoy this piece as much as I do. I’m really excited about Solaes’s addition to my WIP.

~ Effy

…There’s Fire

Far from the eyes of the fair-weather faithful, the Baelish prostrated and prayed until the candles guttered low. Then they prayed more. They prayed to their two-faced god in deep underground grottos and waited.

Solaes made the motions, holding her hood tight around her face and wishing it would end. She still disguised her appearance but took no chances. The other handmaidens ignored her, focused only on the idol at the room’s highest point, flickering in the candlelight, light and dark, half-man, half-dragon.

A robed man came from the hidden darkness behind the idol. A cowl covered his face, hiding all except what the candles lit, glimmering eyes and gleaming teeth. He looked predatory. Solaes had never met him before but knew him to be the High Priest by his starkly contrasting half-white, half-black robes.

The gathered Baelish let out a collective murmur of excitement and the High Priest waited as they calmed and grew silent. A whispering shadow, High Priestess Favalie appeared behind him and settled to his left.

The High Priest addressed the gathered Baelish:

“As champions of Bael the Grey
We must walk the fine line
Between Darkness and Light
Between Inferno and Elysium.
For how can we save those
Who fall to the Darkness
Without being intimate with Shadow?
How can we preach Light
When we know only the Sun?”

Whispered agreement rippled through the Baelish, accented by nods and bobs and clasped hands. “Embrace the light. Embrace the dark,” came the collective reply.

“For far too long
We’ve denied our nature
Our human nature.
Bael accepts humanity
The good and the bad
The Light and the Dark.
He embraces it.
Bael is the Light.
Bael is the Dark.
Bael is the shades of grey
In between.”

“Praise be to Bael,” the Baelish said. Solaes shivered at the unanimous monotone and the hairs it raised on her neck.

The High Priest’s eyes seemed to meet hers, and Solaes’s heart skipped a beat. He couldn’t know her, even if she had been without her disguise. She tried to look cow-eyed and enrapt.

“Our purpose as priests of
Bael the Grey,
The two-faced god,
Is to save souls.
Save them from
Fiery Inferno
And lead them to
Everlasting Elysium.
We do this daily–
We feed their body
And nurture their mind.”

The High Priest gestured to High Priestess Favalie, and she nodded, never unfolding her arms from where they crossed in front of her chest, forming a haphazard slash of black and white on the front of her robe. The priestesses and handmaidens around Solaes rose their voices in praise of their High Priestess. “Feed the body. Nurture the mind.”

The High Priest’s eyes grew hard as he continued, his voice more urgent.

“But Bael seeks
To test his faithful.
For magic has come
To our fair kingdom…”

The gathered Baelish murmured in a distraught moan at the word “magic.”

Solaes’s chest tightened. The young man she had seen pulled off the street and beaten in an alley flashed across her mind. Unlike with her attack, it was in broad daylight. The Baelish didn’t even try to hide anymore. They didn’t have to. She had tried to rush to his rescue, but one of the priests had struck him in the temple before she got there. She flinched remembering the sound and the sight of the light leaving his eyes.

“Dark magic and
Those who use it,
They seek to
Test our commitment
Test our strength
Test our loyalty.”

His voice rose and quickened with each proclamation. The collective response rose to match it, and someone shouted, “We are loyal!”

“Yes, we are loyal.
We walk in the
Word of our god
But many stray–
Our flock is vulnerable.
They walk in the path of
Bael’s dark eye.”

The Baelish resembled a stormy sea, a ripple of grey movement, as they agreed with growing fervency.

“Bael’s distress
Shows in the weather…
A harsh, bitter winter
That killed many
Through its bite.
Now a sweltering summer
Parching with drought
Searing with heat.
Our livelihood withers
In the field and
On the branch.”

One of the handmaidens began to cry. Solaes heard her wailing to her right. She thought it might be Jordana, but she didn’t look. She dared not bring more attention to herself.

“Yes, sister,
We all mourn.
But we must do more.
We must destroy
This evil blight,
Destroy this magic,
Before it can
Destroy us.”

A cheerful sob escaped the handmaiden and the gathered raised their voice in praise.

Solaes tensed, and her arms quaked beneath the heavy folds of the robe, fatigued with holding her weight up as she knelt on the dirt floor. She felt as if she were at the center of the room, though she was not, and retreated deeper into her hood.

“How do we destroy it?” a priest asked, desperation in his voice. Others agreed in a collective nod and a whisper of, “Yes, tell us.”

The High Priest smiled, and to the gathered Baelish it was surely a reassuring smile, but to Solaes it dripped with malicious intent. Once more, he looked the predator. She became mesmerized by his dark, glittering eyes. She felt he looked straight at her and into her soul.

“Brothers and sisters,
We must root out
Magic’s source.
We must save those
Who don’t know they
Need saving.”

“Bael, save us!” a handmaiden cried.

“We must save ourselves!
Duke Victus was not
Strong enough
To see the truth.
He fell because
He ushered doom
Into our land.
He welcomed it
Into his home,
Into our home.”

The Baelish became agitated. The response became a cacophony of noise, mixtures of crying, sighing, swearing, and moaning.

“Fear not!” At the High Priest’s sudden booming voice, the collected Baelish silenced under it like a command.

“Fear not,” he repeated quieter, and all hung on his words, leaning closer.

“Bael has prepared us.
We do not go
Forward alone.
Together
We are mightier
Than the enemy.”

Solaes swallowed at the dryness in her throat. It felt packed with cotton. The High Priest remained fixated on her, spoke straight to her. She retreated further into the shadow of her hood, wishing she could meld into the shadows.

“That enemy who is among us!” The High Priest said it so suddenly Solaes flinched.

A collective cry went up and every acolyte, every priest, every handmaiden, every priestess, looked around them, to their neighbors, desperation in their eyes.

Looking for the enemy.

“Who is the enemy? Point us!” someone begged.

Solaes couldn’t convince her legs to obey her. She knew she should run. She knew the High Priest’s focus before his finger pointed her out. But where could she run? She was surrounded, and as soon as the accusatory finger settled, hundreds of feverish, rabid Baelish descended upon her.

Robed bodies crushed her, clawing and punching, and Solaes summoned air to her lungs without thinking about it. She gasped it in, though she couldn’t expand her lungs fully.

Panic overtook her, and she retreated inward. Blows fell, bruising her. Panic changed to angry self-preservation. Solaes burst upward, lashing out in an explosion of fire, radiating out a sphere of flames.

Screams rained around her ears but the press of bodies receded. Only the smell of burnt flesh and hair surrounded her.

Solaes forced her legs beneath her and ran, clutching her chest as fire burned within her breast.

The High Priest’s voice rose above the confusion:

“Capture the magician!
Smother the flame!
Your salvation lies
In her demise!”

Solaes ran through a maze of corridors. Each looked the same. Each carved from the dirt and rock. Each formed of the same curving archways. Each lined with flickering, candle-crowded alcoves.

Her previous descent was a blur. She couldn’t even know what direction she headed. The corridors were flat. They didn’t rise. Solaes didn’t either. The surface was impossibly far.

Each corridor continued on in an unending mirror of the previous.

Footsteps, multiplied by a hundred, echoed behind her. They grew closer.

Solaes hesitated where several corridors met. She gasped the stale earthy air. She glanced behind her. She went left.

She met a dead end and exhaled a sob.

The stampede of feet slowed, and it was the High Priest who first came through the archway, a press of bodies walling off the way through. He smiled at her and didn’t speak right away. He merely looked Solaes up and down, taking in her borrowed robe and her borrowed face.

“Drop the masquerade, my dear,” he said, his voice a dangerous purr.

Solaes did.

“Ahh, the fire dancer.”

She didn’t know how he knew her, but kept quiet. She waited, expecting him to continue, but he did not. She blinked back the hot, angry tears that stung her eyes as she held his gaze.

The High Priest gestured and two priests came forward. “Do better this time. Don’t let her get away. But don’t kill her or you’ll answer to me.” He disappeared through the packed bodies of acolytes and priests. They expanded around him and contracted back into place, crowding the archway and cutting off her escape.

The two priests grabbed her arms and Solaes struggled. Fingers pressed into her flesh like steel clamps and twisted her arms behind her until she cried out in pain. She flared her skin with fire, but the priests wore gloves this time and merely blinked at the flames and sneered at her.

She looked up.

The priests looked up.

The ceiling above began to rumble. It started with a few pebbles, then larger clods of earth and stone, and then the entire smooth-carved ceiling above them crashed down around their ears.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Solaes awoke in darkness.

She swore. She was still alive. She hoped she had at least taken out those two priests.

Cold metal bound her wrists and ankles, clanking as she moved her arms and legs. They kept her from standing.

Metal. A material she couldn’t manipulate, but maybe she could heat it.

She focused on one of the links until it began to glow red in the darkness. The molten red metal began to drip. Half a dozen drips fell as Solaes tried to hold her concentration. Perspiration sprung on her brow. Her chest became uncomfortable, but she tried to ignore it.

She pulled her focus away, panting. She’d misshapen it, but not even broken through the single link. Getting through one chain would take forever. All four? She slumped against the wall, the shackles clanking.

“You awake in their, girlie?” a voice from outside her small space said. A yellowish light appeared before her as a window in the door opened.

Solaes hid her hands and blinked in the light as she watched the eyeballs studying her. They were wide with most of the white showing, and they swiveled in their sockets searching the darkness where she sat, helpless but hidden from his sight.

She didn’t answer.

“You want some food? I can get you some food. You’re allowed that.”

She still didn’t answer.

“Okay then.” The window closed and the light disappeared.

“Wait!” Her voice cracked, and her throat felt like she’d swallowed razor blades.

The window opened a tiny bit.

“I want something to drink.”

“Okay then.”

The window closed. There was silence and Solaes thought the jailor had left. She was about to shout again when metal clattered and the door opened. Her jailor’s eyes fell on her as the light from the corridor intruded, making her squint. She couldn’t raise her hand enough to block it.

He opened the door wider, letting more light into the cell.

He approached cautiously, as if he thought she might already have slipped her bounds.

He crouched and dropped a tray to the floor with a clang. A bowl of colorless sludge slopped around, some splattering out. Solaes was more interested in the cup in his hand.

“Water, please,” she croaked. Her tongue would barely work, dry and thick in her mouth. She raised her arms and they jingled a discordant tune, only half-raised before the chains stopped her.

“Okay then. You behave and I’ll give you this.” His other hand held a staff, oaken and metal-shod. His boots slid across the floor, one at a time, inches that took hours.

Solaes realized the man was scared of her. Or scared of her magic.

She took the cup when it was finally within reach and guzzled it. It caught in her throat, and she coughed half of it back up until she was gasping and her throat was screaming worse than before.

“Now, now. That’s no way to drink it.”

Solaes glared at the jailor as she fought to catch her breath.

He dropped back a step. “Okay then. I’ll let you eat in the dark.” He scooted out faster than he had come in. The door clanged behind him.

The cell went black.

Food didn’t interest her, only escaping before she had to face the High Priest again.

She waited for an opportunity to attack her jailor, but he didn’t come back. She fell into a restless sleep, leaning against the wall in the only comfortable position she could manage, which made her neck sore.

She awoke with a start when the jailor began to speak. Her head rolled on her neck as she tried to shake off sleep. The words were muffled, whether by the door or her sleep-fogged mind, she wasn’t sure. She realized with a sigh that he wasn’t talking to her. There was a second voice, a second jailor.

Jailor number one left. Jailor number two stood silently outside the door.

He opened the window a crack, and though it pained her eyes, Solaes was glad for the light. “You be good and we’ll have a nice quiet night, you and me.” Jailor number two was younger and the fear in jailor number one’s voice was absent.

An idea came to Solaes. She hoped she could summon the energy.

She disguised herself and her voice. “Hey! Lemme outta here!” she said in what she hoped was a good enough impression of jailor number one.

Jailor number two spun and opened the window wider. “Jakie? That you?”

Solaes didn’t know his name, but played along. “Yah, open the door!”

“How’d you get in there?”

“That magician. She attacked me and locked me up.”

“How? I just talked to you. You just left.”

“That was her! She must be able to disguise herself, to look like me!”

Jailor number two looked dubious. “How do I know this isn’t a trick?”

“No trick. How else would I be in here?”

Jailor number two didn’t reply.

“Gimme outta here! We gotta catch her before she gets away.”

Jailor number two fumbled with the keys in the door. It opened wide and Solaes blinked, hoping her disguise was holding.

“Jakie, how dumb are you?”

“Okay then, pretty dumb, but it don’t matter. The High Priest will have our skins!”

Jailor number two nodded and sorted through the keys again. “I can’t believe it,” he mumbled. He found the key he was looking for and put it to each shackle.

Still looking like jailor number one, Solaes rubbed her wrists. “Okay then. Let’s go.”

Jailor number two nodded again. He tucked the keys into his belt and walked to the door. Solaes came through behind him.

His staff stood just outside the cell door. Solaes grabbed it, swung, and knocked jailor number two on the head as hard as she could. It made a sickening soft thunk, but jailor number two didn’t drop like Solaes had expected.

Her eyes went wide and so did his.

“You! You tricked me!” He felt the bloody lump on his head. Frowning, he charged her, reaching for his staff.

Solaes let him grab a hold of it and they struggled with it. She drew him close enough that she could smell the garlic on his breath.

She inhaled deeply, and jailor number two’s eyes went wide. He gasped, and his grip on the staff lessened. He fought for breath, his hands going to his throat, clawing there as if trying to pull away squeezing hands.

His face turned red, then bluish.

Solaes took a step back, holding the staff out before her like a shield.

Jailor number two fell to his knees, still gasping, his face turning a darker shade of purple.

Finally he collapsed to the ground. Solaes looked at him for a moment, horrified at herself. She shook it off and dragged him into the cell. Luckily, he wasn’t much bigger than her. She shackled him to the wall, locked the cell door behind her, and disappeared into the corridor.

This time, she blended herself into the shadows and took her time, without a hundred Baelish right on her heels. She’d had more than enough of this place.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This story and all related material are the original works of Awaiting the Muse and Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti. All rights reserved.
Creative Commons License
Awaiting the Muse by Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.

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Where There’s Smoke… (Prologue)

I like prologues. I’m not afraid to say it.

My current work in progress almost got by without a prologue, and then this week it hit me that it could benefit from one. Since it’s deeply from my main character’s point of view, it’s proving difficult to figure out how to tell the story of what the antagonist is doing in the background. I’m hoping to break the ice of that with a prologue.

I’ve been struggling to write this week. So I want to apologize, as I don’t feel this is as polished as I’d like it to be.

Let me know what you think. Would this interest you enough to keep reading the book?

Where There’s Smoke…

Solaes danced in a hypnotic display of skin barely hidden by shimmering orange sheer and complemented by tendrils of flame. Tongues of red and orange fanned before her fingers and reflected in the unblinking eyes of her audience. They rained coins of gold and silver before her, and Solaes traced snaking trails through them with her bare feet.

The music alternated between slow and fast and her body knew every beat–her feet, her hands, her torso, keeping in time. Teasing and snapping, dancing and flipping, sinuous movements merged limbs and fire until they were one. A tap of her foot sent a column of fire spinning into the dark sky. A sweep of her arm twirled a dancing fan that lit her face and her dark eyes.

She watched the flames as intently as those who paid to see her. Faces faded into the darkness beyond until only Solaes and her dancing fire existed.

Slowing again, the music cued her to conjure a new fire. She built it before her until she all but disappeared behind a wall of orange that twisted and swayed to the beat. It took shape until a dragon of fire danced with her. Tempo building, Solaes and the fire dragon followed until its wings snapped open and a roar of flame jetted from its mouth.

The dragon disappeared and Solaes stood there alone, arms raised, skin glistening, chest heaving, in the shadow and afterglow.

Applause exploded and a smile lifted Solaes’s lips.

Then the jeering began.

“Blasphemer!” a disembodied voice called. The voices were always stronger when they hid in the dark crowd. “You dare flaunt Bael’s dark image? His vengeance burns hotter than your evil magic.”

“Come forward and face me, critic,” Solaes replied.

As she expected, the man attached to the voice disappeared. Only her true fans remained, but they had grown quiet.

“Thank you for coming, folks. Tomorrow night I’ll be at the closing of the summer festival. I hope to see you there.”

As they dispersed, Kargen, the innkeeper, approached her. “Let me walk you home. It’s late.”

Solaes gave him a humoring smile. “I’m fine. Go home to your wife and children.”

“Maisy’d put me out if she knew I’d let you walk alone.”

“She worries too much.”

“You worry too little.”

Solaes met Kargen’s unrelenting gaze. “Alright.”

She started walking and Kargen took a few long strides to catch up. He didn’t speak but his presence comforted her more than she let on. Her fans were loyal but her critics were becoming more vocal.

The farther they got from the inn, the darker it got. It was high summer and the sun retreated late, but it was nearing midnight, the darkest time and the best time for her show. The day’s weather had been scorching and the humidity still hung in the air, but Solaes shivered at the warm breeze that brushed her sweaty skin and raised the hairs there.

The cobble streets were quiet and empty, only the buzz of cicadas and the flicker of glow bugs keeping them company.

Several uneventful blocks later, they reached the building were Solaes rented a room above a bookstore. She placed a hand on the railing that would lead her up and turned back to Kargen. “See? Nothing to worry about.”

Kargen grunted. “I’ll wait until you’re inside.”

“I do appreciate the gesture–” A sound cut her off and they both looked into the dark alleyway between her building and the next.

Kargen held up a finger and took a cautious step toward the sound’s direction.

“It’s probably a stray,” Solaes said, but she realized she was whispering. A warm prickle traveled up her neck and scalp and she crossed her arms tightly over her chest.

Kargen was already half-hidden in darkness, sweeping his gaze back and forth. As Solaes watched, a thump caused him to shudder and buckle. A gasp caught in her throat. Four men detached from the shadows, more dragging Kargen’s limp form out of sight. They wore dark clothes and carried metal-shod staves.

Solaes licked dry lips and summoned a small flicker of fire to her palm. The four hesitated. The woman smiled with a confidence she didn’t feel, but she refused to let them know that.

“I suggest you run along before I make you all very crispy.”

Sneering faces looked back at her, catching the small orange light weirdly.

A hand grabbed her arm and Solaes jumped in fright. She yanked back but it tightened until she cried out in pain. She tried to twist and aim fire at her attacker but he stayed behind her. Solaes grit her teeth and conjured it all around her, flaring up from the street in a column but not scorching her.

The unseen attacker shouted and stumbled away, freeing her arm. She raised it with a flick of fingers and a spray of flame.

Her remaining attackers scattered.

Solaes gripped her chest as it tightened and burned. Her show had tired her out. Using fire this way exhausted her. Using so much at once hurt.

They seemed to realize this and were already surrounding her as she tried to recover and summon more fire. Her next spray was a weak flicker of sparks. Several hands grabbed at her. Solaes tried to struggle but her arms were like lead and her chest ached. She fought to draw breath but it merely fanned the flames in her breast.

One of the faces came close to hers. “We don’t appreciate your kind here.”

“My kind?” Solaes asked, her voice a hoarse croak.

“You bring your magic and destroy our kingdom.”

“You’re mad.” She couldn’t get more words past the razor blades in her throat.

A grin that seemed to justify her accusation was his only reply. The hands tightened on her arms as the first of many blows from the man’s metal-shod staff bruised her flesh.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This story and all related material are the original works of Awaiting the Muse and Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti. All rights reserved.
Creative Commons License
Awaiting the Muse by Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.

I Didn’t Win at NaNoWriMo… or Did I?

NaNoWriMo 2016 Participant

Welcome to December 1st and the first day after National Novel Writing Month!

I hope if you participated, you achieved your big WIN and have the euphoric ambition to continue with your novel into December and beyond. Even if you didn’t get a NaNo-defined win, I hope you were able to make some solid forward progress and accomplish some personal goals.

Because that’s what NaNoWriMo is really about as far as I’m concerned–making us into more productive, more consistent, more successful writers.

I haven’t had much success at NaNoWriMo previously. Last year, I created an account, wrote one day, and then fell off the wagon. Then for Camp NaNoWriMo, I got through about half of the month before I burned out and spent the next several months not writing and in a state of self-loathing for not writing.

In October, I made myself join and participate in a few Facebook writing groups, namely Ninja Writers and Your Write Dream. I cannot stress how helpful these two groups were for me to get the kick in the butt I needed to start writing again. So much so that I got the bug to try NaNoWriMo again.

In fact, I wrote a post about it here.

1667 words per day sounded like a good way for me to reach the dreaded burnout followed by self-loathing. So I decided to up my normal word per day goal of 300 to 500. I knew going in this wouldn’t get me to 50,000 by November 30th, and I was okay with that.

I pre-planned. It was a truncated pre-plan, because I made the decision to participate in NaNoWriMo literally less than a week before November 1st. I had a solid idea of the beginning, middle, and ending. I wrote about half of the outline. I bought a new set of pens–I decided to try the Papermate Inkjoy pens and found an 8-pack of assorted colors. I bought a new full-size 5-subject notebook–I decided to write my entire first draft longhand. I bought a new half-size notebook–my standard for note-taking.

On November 1st, I started writing. I wrote every day for 30 days straight. A few days, I only managed a few sentences, but I still added to my word count. I aimed for 500 words per day and accomplished that all but three days. I participated in writing sprints with the Ninja Writers group every Sunday–several times during the day we would write as much as possible for thirty minutes and then report back. They were my most successful writing days in all the time I’ve been writing.

NaNoWriMo Ending

On November 30th, I had over 33,000 and a daily average over twice my goal. It wasn’t 50,000, but that hadn’t been my goal. My goal for November had been to write and write every day.

Goal accomplished.

I may not have won in the definition NaNoWriMo uses, but I feel I won because I made a writing habit and I didn’t burn myself out.

NaNoWriMo Writing Tracker

My goal for December is to continue writing every day and to finish my first draft. I’ll also be working through pre-planning another novel in the Plotting Workshop.

The premise for this novel?

A chivalrous knight has his black and white world turned upside down when his lord and lady are murdered and their daughter disappears.

Between that and writing a book for work (among other projects), I think I’ll have a fairly busy winter.

~ Effy

End Note: I’m not impressed with the Papermate Inkjoy pens. They write nice and even but I don’t think they lasted as long as they should. About 130 pages in and five of the eight are already dead, with two more close behind. Some quick math and I estimate each pen only wrote about 20 pages each.

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The Dark Tower series, by Stephen King

The Dark Tower series, by Stephen King

I’ve learned many things from the writing of Stephen King (both reading his novels and his great book On Writing). Among those lessons, he’s taught me that fantasy and science fiction need not be segregated, but can be present in the same fictional world at the same time. It can be done. It can work. It can work well.

Aside from the Dark Tower series by Stephen King, I’ve come across this idea elsewhere too–from Anne McAffrey and Terry Brooks, to name a couple. I also found the idea fascinating in the 80’s cartoon movie Wizards.

Go then, there are other worlds than these. ~ Jake Chambers

Go then, there are other worlds than these. ~ Jake Chambers

This has been one of the cornerstones of my fantasy world for a long time. One of my first tries at writing a novel (in middle and high school) included a human from Earth ending up in my fantasy world of Dadreon. Over the course of the story, she learns the horrible truth, that Earth was destroyed and this alien fantasy world eventually sprung from its ashes. The horror of it struck me enough to think of it as a good enough segway.

Then, I grew up and I noticed the glaring holes in my worldbuilding. I’ve spent the past few years stitching up many of them, but I had started to think I would drop the “far-future Earth” idea because I wasn’t sure how I could make it work. I feared it had become my “darling” and one that needed killing. (More advice from Mr. King.)

Kill your darlings... ~ Stephen King

Kill your darlings… ~ Stephen King

I had my pantheon of gods. I had the protectors that served those gods. I had mortal races that had “normal” day to day lives, like real life, but in a fantastic world. These characters all make up the side of “order,” and on other side of that balance coin, the forces of “chaos.” But I still hadn’t figured out how to make the fantasy and science fiction elements blend. I didn’t want some blah reason for Earth to die. I didn’t want to make some statement of how awful we are as a human race and have us blow ourselves up in a nuclear war (which was my original thought, but never satisfying).

Then everything (finally, after almost 30 years) started to come together.

When I started my blog, I used it as an outlet for the fan fiction stories building in my head. Stories for my World of Warcraft characters. They were set in a known world, so I had that part done for me, very safe, but it’s such a wide world it gave me the latitude to get creative. Eventually, realizing I would never (realistically) be able to publish fan fiction (except on my own tiny corner of the internet), I shifted back to working on fiction for my own fantasy world of Dadreon again.

About 30 years after creating it and about 10 years since I’d even looked at it.

I filled in lots of worldbuilding holes. I made great progress.

But I missed those great fan fiction stories I had started.

So I began to wonder if there were a way to translate those stories from the Warcraft world to my own.

What I came up with was sparked by Effraeti’s “Descending Twilight” series. So I brainstormed and I wrote a teaser:

Earth, the Near Future.

Humans have been advancing their technology and learning the science of time travel, but not in time to save themselves. Dark old gods have emerged. They and their demonic minions lay waste to Earth.

In one last effort to save humanity, scientists flee through time both backward (to prevent) and forward (to escape), trying to find their salvation and discover what might stop these awesome, destructive beings.

But something goes wrong. Dr. Gabi Graf is caught in a temporal vortex and nearly killed. Somehow she is split in two and ends up in two times and places, each half aware something is missing…

Can she survive in the distant future? What will Earth have become at the hands of these dark old gods? And will she find what she’s looking for?

Gabi has become her own alternate timeline.

Okay, okay, so the blurb probably doesn’t need the last line, but I really like it.

Now, instead of working on my four book series Jadeflare (specifically Book 2) for NaNoWriMo, like I had originally intended, now I want to work on this. I have so many ideas in my head.I’m currently working to straighten them out in my head and on paper with the help with

I’m currently working to straighten these ideas out in my head and on paper with the help with Kristen Kieffer’s awesome Pre-Writing Story Bible. (Kristen also runs a great Facebook group called Your Write Dream with a great writer community if you’re interested in something like that.) Once I get every question answered in the Story Bible, I’ll do a chapter outline. Then I’ll enter those chapters into Scrivener. Then, I should be ready to start writing.

I love the idea of NaNoWriMo, but I doubt I’ll aim for 1667 per day (for a total of 50,000 between November 1st and November 30th). I’m thinking of doing something more lowkey and attainable, like 500 words per day, which was suggested by Shaunta Grimes who runs another awesome Facebook group called Ninja Writers, which is also a great writing community.

The Facebook groups are great support, but also a huge distraction sometimes (like when I’m unconsciously trying to avoid writing).

500 words are still more than my average, so it’ll still be quite a stretch.

But I can do this.

And I’ll work on this new novel idea (which I’m affectionately naming Split Personality until I come up with something better) until I get stuck like I did with Jadeflare. Then, I’ll switch and keep going with that.

I’m trying to tell myself that multiple projects are okay. It might slow me down, but if it keeps me writing reguarly, it’s worth it.

Wish me luck in November! If I’m not stressing too much over word counts, I’ll try to post updates. Otherwise, I might not pipe up here again until December 1st.

~ Effy

A Series-ous Problem

sprouts

I had an epiphany while getting ready for work.

I’ve been trying to plot out book 2 of my series with little luck. It has a plot of its own—Lakeerae is trying to learn more about her Jadeflare, but an assassin amongst the Avar is complicating things and now wants her out of the way.

However, I can’t seem to form that into a coherent outline. In fact, I can’t even get myself to start. I keep distracting myself with other things—like maps, or blog posts. 🙂

Then I realized why.

Book 1 of my series was super easy to outline. It’s basically the Hero’s Journey, which worked great to give it a clear cut beginning-middle-end path. I meander along the way, no doubt, but it’s a nice, organized 3 Act play at the heart. Yay, organized.

Book 2 won’t conform to that. Now Lakeerae is between her initial journey and the overarching goal of the series which is only just becoming clear to her. So now I have to rethink my strategy, and it seems I’m being lazy.

I have to wonder if this is why the second book/movie in a series is usually less spectacular than the first. Often, the second seems to just be a means to an end. It’s not our introduction to the character, and it’s not him/her reaching their ultimate goal. It’s just some of the stuff that happens in between.

I had this epiphany after reading an article from Ink and Quills about book series. It wasn’t directly related to my problem, but it got me thinking enough to get me here.

Her suggestions for making a series that works:

  1. Make sure you have enough story. I know I have enough story. I’ve actually expanded from 3 books to 4. We’ll see if I can fill all that space, though. But from what I’ve planned currently, I think I can.
  2. Plan it out. Yes, yes, I need to plan. Apparently I need to plot all three of the remaining books, not just because of this advice, but to make myself feel better too.
  3. Don’t add filler. I don’t plan to. My goal is about 90k words per book, but if I end up under that with a story that’s satisfying, I’m okay with that.
  4. Don’t rush the ending. This is what editing is for! Currently, book 1 feels like I rushed to the end and half of the book exists in the last handful of chapters. All will be fixed soon.
  5. Focus, focus, focus. Yes, this is the goal. Unlike the original incarnation of this novel, which accomplished the goal about halfway through and then wandered through Neverland for the remainder, I have an overarching goal and an individual goal for each book. I just have to outline and plan and stay on target!

This makes me feel a little more confident about getting back to it.

My plan now is to just start outlining book 2. If I hit a snag, I’ll have to figure something else out, but for now, I’m going to plot out the chapters the way I did for book 1. I found this great group of videos from Autumn Writing, and using the Three Act Structure, it’s fairly easy to plot out chapters. It’s what I did for book 1. We’ll see if it works as well for book 2! I’ll let you know!

~ Effy

Three-Act-Structure-780x400

It Only Took Me 20 Years

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My May update is a little bit early, because…

Drumroll please…

I finished the first draft of my novel!

May Flowers Tally

May-Writing Tracking

The numbers:

  • Starting May 1st: 29,773 words
  • Ending May 19th: 41,496 words
  • April Total: 11,723 words
  • Average: 651 words/day

It’s pretty amazing to think that I wrote more words in the first three weeks of May then I did in all of April. But as hard as it was to get to the finish line—it sure seemed to go real, real slow at the end—I was sucked into the story at this point. Similar to when you get near the end of a book you’re reading, I kept at it and I kept coming back. I was able to sit down nearly every night and squeeze a few words out.

The end even took a slightly different turn than I expected it to, which was a pleasant surprise. Though, it will probably mean more editing in the second draft.

What This Means

As crazy as it is to think about, I started writing this novel in middle school. That means this novel is over 20 years in the making! It’s an incredible feeling to be at this point. I’m not finished, but this is the furthest I’ve ever been with anything more than a few thousand words.

To think that I’ve had these characters in my head for that long. To think I got the crazy idea in my head back in January—after months of looking at houses and going through a huge move—to pull out my old, original manuscript (hand-written by a pre-teen) and reread it. To think I started pre-writing with no idea what I was doing with a novel, because I’ve only ever finished short stories. To think I just started writing it in February. To think that now, in May, it’s a start-to-finish piece of writing—rough, but finished.

I’ve gone through a name change of my main character’s magical power—from Magefire to Jadeflare. This came about in large part because of the suggestion of Philip Athans, whose Worldbuilding class I took. He mentioned it seemed a little overused, and though I couldn’t find it used exactly anywhere, I knew it was a good suggestion if it even felt generic.

I’ve spent the last year and a half or so reworking and improving the way my world’s past and present fit together, how magic works, and the magical creatures that roam there.

I’ve worked through the ups and downs of weaving a story that makes sense plot-wise and within the confines of my world’s perimeters—sometimes tearing my hair in frustration and sometimes squeeing in delight at my lightbulb moments.

What Now?

Everywhere I’ve read, it’s been suggested to set aside my manuscript for a few weeks before I start editing it. It is proving very difficult to stay away, I’m very invested in my story at this point, but I’m trying.

This weekend, I wanted to start pre-writing the second book in my series. I quickly realized that it was going to be difficult to pre-write book 2 when I’m not entirely set on how book 1 is going to end up when I’m all said and done. (I still have a lot of editing, including major structural and plot pieces, to do yet.) So I spent some time fiddling with maps and writing down as much as I know so far about books 2, 3, and 4.

If I can at least get down a good idea of what my final plot structure for book 1 will be, I think I can feel more confident about starting book 2.

I’ve thought about working on some short stories or other little ideas I have, but I can’t seem to pull myself away from Jadeflare. As much as I want to put together an ebook of short stories, origin stories, and dragons, I can’t seem to pull myself out of Lakeerae’s head.

So I guess I’m stuck, and you’re all stuck with me talking about my process some more. 🙂

~ Effy

Confessions of an eBook Reader

ebook

Over recent months, I’ve been trying to read more, and more importantly, I’ve been trying to expand my book bubble outside of my comfort zone. Not necessarily out of my fantasy comfort zone, but at least out of my current favorite authors comfort zone. To help with this, I’ve signed up for a few daily ebook emails—eReader News Today, Book Barbarian, Book Bub, and Book Shout. These newsletters bring me a daily dose of new authors, usually the first book of a series, for cheap or free. It’s given me the courage to expand.

Not only has it sparked some ideas for my own stories by pushing me to think outside of where I’ve gone so far with my fantasy world and my current novel, but it’s made me realize a few things about what catches my interest as a reader. In turn, this has helped change some of my ideas of what’s important for marketing a book.

Here’s a few of the things I’ve realized through the process of finding and reading ebooks.

Judging a Book by its Cover

We’re told all our lives that “judging a book by its cover” is a bad thing. With people, I totally agree. But with books, there might be something to it at least I unconsciously seem to think so. I’m definitely drawn to a book cover that capture my attention. When I’m quickly scanning these daily ebook newsletters, there’s only a few factors I have to go by—cover image, title, book blurb, and price. Sometimes there’s a rating too, which I also find helpful. But like with scanning anything, the most attractive cover image is going to catch the eye first.

This is what started me reading the last series I started. Eleanor, by S.F. Burgess, has a simple yet beautiful cover. As it turns out, it was so good, I bought the second book.

So whatever lies between the covers of the book, the cover has to be the first thing to captivate the reader’s attention.

A Captivating Beginning

One thing that getting a handful of books per week for cheap or free means is that I have the ability to scan the first half dozen pages (or maybe not even that far) to see if a book feels worthy of my time and attention. If it doesn’t suck me in right away—either because of a lack of action, uninteresting characters, or difficult to read prose (either because of language or typos)—then it’s on to the next book. Some of these free books I’ve downloaded will probably never be read because of this.

Getting PoV Right

Maybe it’s the control freak in me, but I’ve realized I’m a bit particular about point of view, almost as much as I am about a book being polished of typos.

I prefer the same point of view to read as I do write—third person limited.

The book I’m currently reading is Born of Water, by Autumn M. Birt. I’m greatly enjoying the characters and story, but the point of view is distracting. It’s written in third person, kind of half limited, half omniscient. The person’s head it’s in changes within the same scene, sometimes it stays the same for a few paragraphs, sometimes a few pages. Sometimes I have to double back to see who was thinking what. Amazingly, the rest of the story’s elements somehow override everything else and I’m almost through book one.

For my own writing, I’ve become fond of the third person limited, and changing the point of view at scene changes. To note whose point of view the scene takes place, I always start with the first sentence naming the PoV character. ie. “Lakeerae sat down beside the crackling fire.” It allows me to get deeply into the character’s point of view, and it is important to me to know what the character is thinking and why they think they and others do what they do.

How to Write a Series

The sticky part of writing a series is making it work both as individual books and as a whole. Each book should be able to stand on its own and contribute to and move forward the series. I’m very particular about reading books in order, but it’s also important for a reader to be able to pick up the series from any point and know who’s who and what’s going on.

There’s nothing worse than a series cliffhanger that makes you feel like the author is trying to con you into reading their next book.

Book Hangover

One problem I discovered with my current way of finding books is that I haven’t been paying adequate attention to how many books might be in the series I’m starting. Or whether all of those books have been published yet.

It results in a wicked book hangover and makes it difficult to start a new book series.

I’m also not the most patient person, particularly when it comes to reading part of a series and then having to wait for the later books. I’ve been burned with this a few times, some series longer than others. I got really into the Cinder series, by Marissa Meyer. Three books in, I discovered the fourth book wasn’t published yet. Thankfully, I only had to wait a few months. I’ve waited much longer for book five and now book six of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, by George R. R. Martin.

I’m always worried I’ll lose track or interest in a series if I don’t read them consecutively.

This has made me wondering if I should reconsider how I plan to release my novels when they’re edited and ready for publishing. Should I spare my (future) readers the frustration of waiting for unknown periods of time for the rest of the series? Should I wait and release them all together?

It’s an appealing idea. I don’t need the money. I have a job I don’t plan to leave anytime in the foreseeable future. I know it would push back the timetables, but it might be less stressful—once I release one, I’d feel pressured and obligated to write the others as quickly as possible.

Conclusion: Publishing Ideas

I know I’ve got some time to consider how I want to go about publishing and marketing my books, but it’s never too early to start thinking about these things. So what have I learned that can help me?

  1. I need a great cover and book blurb to convince readers to buy my book.
  2. I need a captivating beginning that makes sure my reader doesn’t put it down.
  3. I need a well-edited book that is as error-free as possible.
  4. I need to write in a good and deep point of view for my book.
  5. I need a complete series that is satisfying both individually and as a whole.
  6. I need to decide whether I’ll release my books one at a time or all together.

I think these are good things to consider as I write and edit.

Speaking of a good book blurb, I have a first draft of it for my first book:

Jadeflare—an uncommon magic fed by the elements themselves.

Now it is in the hands of a stubborn, reluctant young druid fleeing from a dark creature that is killing others of her kind. With the help of her loyal wolf companion, an aloof hawk, and a sharp-tongued gypsy, Lakeerae must stop the dark creature before it hunts her down. Her journey will take her from the safety of her home to black places ruled by her nightmares.

Will she be strong enough to bring light back to the darkness?

Please let me know what you think. Too much? Interesting enough? Suggestions?

~ Effy

April Showers Writing Update

writing-goal-success-april

I decided to continue on the heels of March’s success and continue to aim for 300 words per day in April.

The Tally

First the numbers:

  • Starting April 1st: 18,770 words
  • Ending April 30th: 29,773 words
  • April Total: 11,003 words
  • Average: 367 words/day

The numbers are pretty close to March’s, but that’s only because the beginning of April went great. The second week of April, I had my best writing week, over 4500 words, averaging more than twice my goal, 654 words/day.

Then, for almost two weeks, I found myself gripped tightly in the claws of the dreaded writer’s block. Writer’s block wasn’t the only issue either. It was a maddening combination of being tired, not feeling good, and lacking motivation. I have to wonder if it was also partly because I’d been pushing myself so hard and had written so much the week before. Or maybe it’s just because I’m getting so close to completing my first draft.

I tried to combat my writer’s block with other forms of self-motivation: reading, drawing maps, and playing with typography and calligraphy pens. In the end, the only thing that really worked was forcing myself to sit down and write.

Trying Out Scrivener

Early in the month, I decided to give in to writer peer pressure and try out Scrivener. I moved over fifteen or so chapters, including my notes, just those attached to specific scenes and lines and words that had been scattered throughout the Google Doc I was writing in originally.

I’m not completely sold yet, because I’m far too fond of having all my documents available in Google Drive for easy access from anywhere—work, my phone, my tablet. I’m the queen of multiple tabs, and I usually have two instances of Chrome (with my two Google accounts) open, both with 5+ tabs. So I only have my actual novel and its in-document notes in Scrivener.

However, if Scrivener makes it easier to turn my novel into an ebook, it will all be worth it.

Nearing the Finish Line

I surpassed 30k words, and I estimate I’m about 80% of the way through my first draft for Book 1. This worries me to a point, because it means my story will need some serious beefing up to make the epic fantasy goal of 90k+ words. Luckily, I found an article that helped me feel a little bit better about this, and it has fueled me with some ideas of what I can do to lengthen it already.

Now, the difficult part has become pushing myself forward to complete the first draft before I start editing what’s already there. I think this is slowing me down from getting to the finish line, as my notebook fills with these many little ideas.

In fact, brainstorming to finish book 1 led to trying to better flesh out books 2 and 3, which led to changing my mind about the titles for all three books, which led to changing how I originally thought book 1 would end, which led to changing this from a trilogy to a four book series. All of this is leading to more edits once I finish the first draft of book 1.

All good changes, changes that excite me because I know they’ll make the whole story more coherent and stronger, but still frustrate me because I keep feeling I’m slowing myself down. I really can’t fault ideas that will make it better in the long run though.

Closing Out April

I’ve had some stumbling points, but I met my goals for April.

I think May might be the month that I finish my first draft, if I can keep up my 300 words per day. I hope for that to be the update I give in a few more weeks.

~ Effy

March Madness Writing Update

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My goal at the beginning of March was 300 words per day on my novel. Despite missing writing completely a few days and not reaching my goals on some others, I still surpassed my goal with the help of the writing I did on the weekends.

The Tally

033116-Writing Tracker

So here are the numbers:

  • Before March 1st: 7505 words
  • Ending March 31st: 18,770 words
  • March total: 11,265 words
  • Average: 376 words/day

Hooray!

So to continue this great success, my goal is to continue my average of 300 words per day through April.

Improving My Efficiency

Late in March, I started tracking my words per hour. I realized that when I write in the living room, which usually means the TV is on in the background, I average about 300 words/hour. I manage about twice that if I “hide” in the bedroom to write, or anytime I’m only listening music instead of the TV.

I’m even more productive on the weekend. Is this because it’s first thing in the morning? Cuz I’m by myself? Cuz I’m not still focused on the work day and how exhausted I am? Or does it all come down to the distractions while I write? I think I’m far more productive to music than having the TV on, which isn’t that surprising.

I started tracking these extra things because of a great book I’m reading right now: 2,000 to 10,000 by Rachel Aaron. Her suggestions for increasing words are threefold:

  1. Knowledge: I’ve been spending 5+ minutes when I first sit down writing about what I’m going to write about. This both gets me into my writing mood and gives me a general skeleton of the upcoming scene.
  2. Time: I’ve been tracking my writing time on a spreadsheet—expanding this to include start time, end time, words, where I wrote, etc.
  3. Enthusiasm: I’ve been trying to get excited about what I’m writing—each and every scene needs to be exciting, because if I’m not excited, readers won’t be either.

When I’m not writing, I’ve been brainstorming in my notebook and reading whatever I can find on pre-writing, scheduling writing time, and maximizing my writing time. I recently read Writing Scary Scenes by Rayne Hall. It had some great suggestions for increasing tension, helpful to my novel because I’m leaning toward making it more of a dark fantasy blended with epic/high fantasy. I also found interesting article called Three Things to Do Before Before You Write a Book. It had some good information and led to an idea I’m still working at incorporating into my novel’s growing collection of documents—the Snowflake Method’s scene spreadsheet. I combined this with a suggestion about scenes from 2,000 to 10,000:

  • Break action down into scenes
  • Group the scenes into chapters
  • Make sure chapter breaks increase dramatic tense

Organizing My Writing

Currently, I’m doing all my writing on my Google Drive. I find it to be the best place to keep all of my writing and documents easily accessible from anywhere—be it my computer or my phone, home or work. It also allows me to write in a “no distractions” mode: CTRL+SHIFT+F to compact the doc controls and F11 to put my computer into Fullscreen mode.

I tend to over organize and I’m very particular. So my novel isn’t the only document I’m using. I have notes and spreadsheets galore:

  1. Novel doc
    • Confession: This is probably going to sound odd and even silly, but I realized that I write better on my novel with a page format that more closely resembles an actual mass media sized paperback page. On the Google Drive docs, I found a page size called “Statement” that is 5.5” x 8.5” and works perfect, rather than the standard 8.5” x 11”. It throws off my page counts and average words per page, but it seems to work better for me visually. I swear my word counts have improved since I did this.
  2. Dadreon World Notes doc
    • Jadeflare isn’t my only work in my fantasy world of Dadreon, and it’s a fantasy world I’ve been building since middle school. In recent years, it’s taken on more dimension and has started fitting together better. This doc includes gods, elements and magic, races and monsters, history, setting, etc.
  3. Theme & Outline doc
    • Part of my pre-writing, this doc includes my theme sentence, thematic words, genre info, target length, and a basic chapter outline.
  4. Scene List spreadsheet
    • This spreadsheet consists of one line for each scene, including scene number, chapter number, PoV, description, and estimated pages.
  5. Story Bible doc
    • This doc worked awesome for getting me started. It helped me ask questions that I would have missed. But now it seems too complicated to refer to regularly, and I’ve been mostly using the Theme & Outline and Scene List.
  6. Writing Tracker spreadsheet
    • This spreadsheet consists of one line for each day, including day of the week, date, start and end time, hours, writing location, words written, words/hour, writing project, and novel total.
  7. Paper Maps
    • I love maps. I love drawing maps. This is probably one of my favorite parts of worldbuilding. No, I don’t draw them in Google Drive, but I’ve started saving the majority of my files here too.
  8. Paper Sketches
    • Whenever I have an idea, I sketch it into my notebook. Sometimes it turns into a color drawing that ends up on the Google Drive.
  9. Pinterest board for Jadeflare
    • I recently read a great idea for organizing thoughts and themes—Pinterest. I wish I could remember where I got this great idea, because I’d love to give her the credit she deserves. I’ve had a Pinterest account for a while now, but this really gave me a great reason to use it. This is a collection of images that relate to my characters, settings, and plot and give me a nice visual reference.

Closing Out March

My birthday month was hugely successful. I’m making great progress in my novel. In fact, Saturday, I hit 20k words!

I think a combination of improving my writing habits and focusing on writing without constantly editing is really helping my progress. If I can stay focused on these things, I think this novel will actually get written!

Expect more updates from me soon.

~ Effy

Why I Don’t Write?

notebook

The other day an author I follow shared a writing prompt to write about “Why I Write.” I realized this comes up often, and that I’ve already written about that, probably several times in several ways. However, I’ve never written about what keeps me from writing—what scares me enough to stop me from lifting a pen (or sitting at the keyboard).

I thought Why I Don’t Write would make a more appropriate questions and post after my long hiatus.

During the winter semester last year (it’s literally been almost a year since I wrote here!), I wrote a lot and I felt my work became better developed for it—my world of Dadreon became more developed. Between Creative Writing (and the huge number of assignments in that class), Horror & Sci Fi, and Mythology, I had lots to inspire me and deadlines to motivate me.

Then, I started Kristen of She’s Novel’s 30 Day Author Up Challenge. It went well in the short lull between my winter and spring classes. Granted, it took up a LOT of time—writing a blog post everyday—but it felt good. Even if many of the posts didn’t feel as polished as I prefer, I had goals and deadlines.

Then, spring got underway. I got busy with both school and work. Spring turned into summer and now here it is spring again. Of course, I bought a house in the interim. But school, work, and house hunting turned into almost a year of my blog sitting untouched.

The wider that gap between my last published post and today became, the more difficult to pick up my pen/keyboard. Even when I did have time, I didn’t use it to write.

Why is that? I’ve always been happiest when I’m writing. I’ve been writing all my life—albeit on and off—and I’ve always received positive feedback on my writing.

I think the process of writing that last sentence says a lot. I had to rewrite and reword it several times. My confidence is not what it should be, that’s for sure.

My work sits hidden on my Google Drive or slightly less hidden here on my blog, in this tiny corner of the internet, obscure and unpublished. Family and friends give me positive reinforcement, and occasionally I have the opportunity to share something with a class. (Max’s class last winter was the most I’ve ever shared my work face to face.) But for some reason, I lack faith in my abilities, lately especially.

It’s easy to lose faith in the lulls it seems.

So I ponder further the question of Why I Don’t Write?

  • Writing is hard and requires a lot of work. Without deadlines I tend to lack the ambition to work that hard, to push myself. After my more than full time winter school schedule, plus working, I think I broke my ambition for a while.
  • Social media is so much easier to waste time on. I can spend five minutes or an hour. I can mindlessly scan and not have to come up with anything witty or even coherent if I don’t want to.
  • I get lost in a loop of not knowing what to write RIGHT NOW. For months, I made progress through my stories. Now I feel like I have to play catch up, find new things to write about, and it’s paralyzing.
  • Because of this paralysis, I’ve become bogged down in negative self-talk: I’m never going to go anywhere with this. I’m not good enough. It’s a waste of time. I don’t have anything worthwhile to say. I can’t make the words fit together right. I’ll never get published. I’m too old.

My first step toward beating back this self-doubt and paralysis was starting a new, hand-written journal. I slowly started building myself back to writing regularly by writing there.

In fact, this blog post started in that little journal.

Another thing to help motivate me was to finally take the advice of several of the writers that I follow to create a schedule and write every day.

After we got moved, I found some of my boxes of books and notebooks. I realized that with all of the time I’ve devoted to writing over the past few years, I’ve not tried to finish any of the novels that have been in my head since middle school. I’ve spent all this time focusing on world-building and short stories.

But those will never make me a true “published” author.

So about two months ago, I reread my original version of the novel (all 200 rambling, handwritten pages of it) and started pre-writing. One of my favorite writers to follow, Kristen over at She’s Novel, put together a workbook for pre-writing. It sparked new ideas and facets of the novel I’d never thought of. It expanded my world further and improved the depth of my characters.

Then, I further improved my theme and outline with the help of Autumn Writing.

At the beginning of February, I started writing my novel.

At the beginning of March, I made the commitment to myself to write an average of one page, or 300 words, per day.

I’m trying to write every night, but I’m finding some weeknights I’m so exhausted that my brain just can’t do it. I’ve been making up my words on the weekend, though. So I’m starting to wonder if it makes more sense to give myself a weekly goal, rather than a daily goal—still aim for writing every day, but give myself a break if I miss a day.

Consistency has definitely been one of my biggest stumbling blocks.

I think giving myself more leeway is the way to keep myself on track. I need goals and deadlines, but if I miss one here or there it can’t beat myself up and fall into the all or nothing trap. That’s usually where I fall off the writing wagon. I’ll start a challenge or make a goal and once I miss one day or one post, I feel like I’ve failed and there’s no reason to go on.

I think that’s the biggest reason Why I Don’t Write.

The best example of this was falling behind on the Author Up Challenge. I turned my failure into ten months of not writing on my blog. I can’t let that happen again.

My novel is my top priority. But I also need to give myself the breathing room to miss a day without crumbling. I also have other options for writing on nights that I’m not feeling the novel—my journal or writing a short story or distracting myself with a blog post.

If nothing else, I’ll keep you up to date here with my novel progress.

Currently, I’m on Chapter 11 and I’m 15,993 words in. Since March 1st, I’m averaging 424 words per day.

~ Effy