My NaNoWriMo Failure

I decided this year to participate in National Novel Writing Month for the first time. I was excited. Until I sat down at my computer and tried to pants a novel.

I’m not a pantser. I need to know where the story is going before I start. Otherwise, I bog down trying to figure out which path is the best for the overall work. That’s if I’m careful and lucky. If I’m not, all of my ideas and projects crumble like shoddy architecture, burying me in weeks of excited frustration. I’m still digging myself out (and battling on heck of a cold).

Where did I go wrong?

I wanted my first project to be the portal fantasy (The Journey until further notice). Out of all of my projects, this is likely going to be the one that I go all in for. I really want to write this novel. But in my drive to write, I crashed head first into a world building road block that did not crumble.

I’ve written about the problems I’ve had with world building The Journey. I have the basics down. I know that the first part of the novel/ series is set in a city-state which is a mix of Venice, New Orleans, Rio de Janiero, Cyrene, and Singapore. The city lies at the mouth of a river which serves as the major transportation hub for the entire region (which I’ve come to call the Bloody Coast). The city also holds strategic control over a bay within the the Bloody Coast.The city is one of many independent colonies dotting the coast. There are also a number of indigenous states on the coast and into the interior. All good.

The problem lies in the inspirations for the indigenous states. Originally, in keeping with the New Orleans inspiration for the main city, those states were inspired by the American South. But the city is also parts Rio and Singapore, so I find myself interested in exploring the Americas and Asia further for inspiration. Right now, I’m leaning towards a mix. Some states will be inspired by the Maya, others the Aztecs, and a few based on the South (one definitely on Texas). This is okay, I guess.

(I’m working on a secondary world which will utilize numerous inspirations in construction. Therefore, I’m worried about cultural appropriation. Is it okay for me to use the Maya, the Aztec, China, Japan, the Zulu, Zanzibar, etc. for inspiration? The cultures I create won’t be xeroxed copies. The cultures and states will likely be mixtures of influences. But I’m still worried. And that worry is crippling.)

Language is also proving itself to be a pain in my ass. Right now, the city is named Delphin. Delphin, lying at the mouth of the Delphus River, has a special relationship with dolphins, both in the river and in the bay (which might be called the Bay of Delphin). Nearby colonial states are named Suchos, Uto, Porphyria, Kalamos, etc. Other states would have been named Barbatos, Paimon, Thevru, Toaur, Chloropetras, etc.  Most of the names are sourced from real ancient languages. The names of local characters are similarly sourced. Horrible.

Basing naming on corrupted or mutated forms of ancient words is okay if I were writing an independent secondary world. But I’m not. The protagonists come from Earth, so the fantasy world cannot have names that are blatantly based off of Earth languages, no matter how remote or changed. This world does. I should change it but I don’t have the time nor do I want to sound silly. Hence my conundrum.

I desperately want to write this novel, as much as I still want to write the superhero story, even with all of the problems it is causing me.

But a part of me wants to reverse the portal fantasy and write Two Cities. Hence things begin to snow ball. And I haven’t even touched on the collapse of Black Magic.

This whole month has been one pain in the ass. Hopefully, what I make of this mess will be far better than what I had before.

A Little More Than a Month: Coming Out on Top

I can’t wait! Coming Out on Top will be released in a month and a few days! Damn it, I want the game now! But a month isn’t so bad.

I plan on reviewing the game shortly after I download it and play it. I will play the game to completion at least once. So it may take me a little while to get the review up.

I’m sure I will love the game. But I will criticize the game as needed.

However, I will try to avoid the constructive criticism that is, honestly, too late to impart except as it relates to advice for future games in this genre. An example would be my second Coming Out on Top post. Or, if you don’t want to go and look for that, here is an example: I have an issue with the introduction of Phil in the demo. The intention is humorous (Mark is not expecting a crazier white male Penny not a hot, African American marine). The joke fails with some unsettling implications. A better solution would have been to make Penny herself African American. The joke now works and the lack of people of color is addressed.

Again, I cannot wait for this game. I must hold out until then.

NaNoWriMo

For the first time, I’m going to participate in NaNoWriMo. All I need to decide now is which project I’m going to be writing.

Will I Write It?

Over the course of this month, I have focused the majority of my posts on four projects. Will I write any of them?

Redwind is problematic. I want to write an epic fantasy set on Earth. I think using superheroes makes for one of the best possible approaches. However, there is also an unquestionable glut of superheroes on the market. I am, therefore, disinclined to write superheroes, even if a part of me still wants to write tales of costumed adventurers.

Black Magic is not problematic. I will write this book. It will be a lone novel with no sequels. It might be my first book.

I do really want The Journey (the portal fantasy) to be my first book(s).As much as I want this, I recognize that I have a number of problems with this text. I need to work on world building. I need to get over my fear of making up words. I need to figure out what I want. And I need to be mindful of the politics. All of that point to this series being pushed back.

Hobbes County, then, is likely going to be my second book. Like Black Magic, I will write this book. It will be another lone novel with no sequels.

I will say this, though, these four projects are not the only ones I have a mind to write. And, in the end, I may very well change my mind on all of these.

The Series Post

I’m going to write a series. I just don’t know if it will be composed of novels. I’d rather write a comic book series. To be honest, I prefer comics, manga, and television series over novel series. Especially when it comes to fantasy.

Fantasy novel series tend to be big, fat books (unless they can standalone). Take Brandon Sanderson’s latest super series, The Stormlight Archive. The first two books (The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance) are individually over a thousand pages each. If that trend continues over ten novels, there will be over ten thousand pages. And how much will not be bloat?

That is my big problem with gigantic fantasy novels. A good proportion of the novels do not advance the plot. Rather, the novels meander or worse, stand still over the course of thousands of pages. I detest this kind of fantasy.

Which makes me wonder, if I detest the dominant form of fantasy, do I really dislike fantasy? Sometimes, I do have to wonder if I’m not just wasting my time. But, I must remember, I am a harsh critic who rarely likes anything I read. That is certainly true of most contemporary fantasy fiction.

Perhaps the answer is more straightforward. Unless I gorge myself on a series, I spend an hour of my time on any one television series at a time. For comics and manga, I can read a volume in less than an hour. When it comes to those big, meandering novels, it can take me weeks. I have to devote a large amount of my time for something I might hate.

That is why, honestly, If I am going to write a series, I’d rather it be a comic book.

That said, it might be tempting to challenge myself into writing the kind of novel series that I want to read.

Texas Gothic Part Three: Autobiography

Hobbes County (the name of my Texas Gothic project) is a fantasy novel. There is no question about that. What is at issue is how autobiographical the work is going to be.

Hobbes County, a fictional county in Texas, bears resemblance to McLennan County in Central Texas, Cushing in East Texas, and Santa Fe on the Texas coast. All three communities influenced Hobbes one way or another.

McLennan County is the primary influence on Hobbes. I grew up in McGregor, Texas. And my conflicted feelings about the place drive the interior conflict of the narrator. Also, it helps that McLennan County is rich in folklore and urban legends.

My grandparents used to live in Cushing, Texas when I was a child in elementary school. Their small farm layed outside the small town by some miles. Indeed, rural is a good way to describe it. What I remember most about my grandparents’ old farmstead is the rickety old bridge that, to my child’s eyes, spanned a chasm impossibly deep with a sickly green river meandering on its way. I also remember me and my myriad cousins trooping over to the cemetery next door. All in all, my grandparent’s old place (which was sold off years ago) was something else.

For about a year, my family moved to Santa Fe, Texas to be closer to the rest of the family (my grandparents had moved back to Santa Fe by then). The move was an unmitigated disaster. Indeed, once we moved back to McGregor, it would be another decade before we visited them again. I hated Santa Fe with a passion. But, in hindsight, I can’t help but wonder what would have been.

What of my past will be included in Hobbes County? That rickety old bridge for sure. Definitely that old farm. And maybe speculating on what might have happened if I were bolder.

I must now conclude my Texas Gothic series. For the next three days, I think I’ll play around with topics. Until then. . .

Texas Gothic Part Two: The Small Town Blues

Long ago, the editor of the local paper of my small town declared small town living to be the best place to grow up. I didn’t believe her at the time. I don’t quite believe her now.

I get what she was trying to say. Small towns provide a stronger sense of community than large cities. Small towns are, by and large, inherently safe.

But from my perspective, I never truly felt that sense of community. I was the outsider condemned, as much by choice as anything else, to never really belong. I experienced the small town I lived in as a pit of loneliness. There were bright spots, but never enough to scare away the darkness.

Small town living, before the internet changed everything, can only be described as boring. Especially when one’s interests do not acclimate well to those of one’s neighbors.

I did not truly find a sense of happiness until I moved to Austin for college. I just felt at home there. That was, and remains, a place I belong. The same is true of San Francisco and the too brief weekend I spent in Portland, Oregon. I yearn to return to those places, permanently.

It is, I think, my conflicted feelings for the town I grew up in that inspires me to spend so much of my time interrogating the concept of small towns. It could also be the fact that I adore Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple stories.

Whatever the true reason, maybe my Texas Gothic will exorcise the memories of the places I grew up, or out of.

Texas Gothic Part One: What Might Have Been

At one time, I dreamed of being an English professor. (The bitterness of losing that dream plagues me still). I had many academic interests. Of special relevance to the project at hand is Southern Literature, and Southern Gothic in particular.

My interests in the literature of the American South is partially explained by my background. Though I am a native to central Texas, my mother’s family comes from east Texas. (Eastern Texas is clearly Southern while there is debate about central Texas). A part of me is genuinely interested exploring and understanding what it means to have a southern heritage.

At the same time, I am apathetic, if not outright hostile, to that same heritage. It is inescapably a part of me. But, much like my relationship to the small town where I grew up, I want to deny it as much as I can.

The internal strife will make for writing gold, I think.

Now, I am not planning for a lot of entries into this series. I’ll have a post on small towns, and I’ll have a post on autobiographical elements in science fiction and fantasy.

Just Another Portal Fantasy Part Seven: The Series Problem

Out of all my proposed work, the portal fantasy is the inheritor of the lineage of projects that can most easily be extended to a series. Indeed, I think the series potential is great. The only problem is my reluctance to work with series, despite my love for the form.

The main drive of the portal fantasy is the quest to return home from one hell of a fantastic journey (not necessarily a positive journey). The quest could last one book or be extended to several books depending on how difficult returning home will be.

Turning this project into a series compliments my temptation to utilize world hopping into the plot. Like I said, travelling to other dimensions/ realms/ realities should not be so easy. It should be fraught with danger and uncertainty. But there should also be the possibility of constant wonder and joy, as well.

Okay. I see that making this project into a series makes a hell of a lot of sense. I honestly don’t see a novel being able to carry several worlds.

However, I am unsure of writing a series. Will I get bored of the project before I finish? Will I end up losing track of major details? Can I create new worlds with each book? I don’t know. It will be a fun challenge.

Yes. I’ll make a series out of this.

This finishes up my posts on the portal fantasy. Next time, I’ve got a Texas gothic fantasy to tell you.

Just A Portal Fantasy Part Six: Tyler Spang

Tyler Spang originated outside of my fantasy work. I created him to fill the role of main protagonist/ narrator in an erotic project. As I have written before, the erotic project existed to prevent my primary work from being too heavily gay porn. Gradually, Tyler gravitated towards my primary work and supplanted Webster Cypress as the gay protagonist of my major fantasy project.

The thing about Tyler is that he doesn’t have magical powers. He isn’t a wizard. Even though Black Magic is all about magic (and this project will have a heavy amount of magic itself), I just don’t see Tyler being an insider when it comes to magic. He just doesn’t fit. I’ve tried.

I don’t know if this is me gravitating away from magic to some degree or exploring the possibilities of heroes without magic. It could also have something to do with the fact that his original project was realistic.

As the superhero Redwind, Tyler did have superpowers. But I look at superpowers as different from magic (though I do like magic when they act sort of like superpowers). Superpowers just are. All that is needed is training. Magic requires knowledge. A vast amount of knowledge at that.

Tyler is, despite now being the star of a fantasy novel with unknown amounts of epic, still very the star of my erotic project.

But who is Tyler Spang?

He is a city boy, in contrast to Jett’s small town roots. He thrives in the hustle and bustle. He is mildly ruthless when it comes to achieving his goals. His passions lay in history and world affairs. He wants to know, to experience. But he recognizes that his knowledge, in many areas, will only ever be surface. He will never have the deep knowledge that comes with a lifetime of living it. He is cautious. I would describe Tyler as being akin to a scorpion in personality.

I have parts of his character arc mapped out (depending if I use one world or many).

Though he originated separately, he has inherited much of the planned stories of his predecessors.

I could blather on about Tyler Spang. But I have work to do.

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