Winning (NaNoWriMo)

It is 12:42 AM on Sunday, November 27th, and I am proud to announce that I have officially won National Novel Writing Month 2011!

It’s been a long month, but I’m happy to say that it’s finally over and that I accomplished what I set out to do.  In the end, my final word count was 50,148 words.  When I went to validate my word count, it actually gave me about a thousand extra words, mainly because it counted all the repeated headers on every page and the titles to chapters that hadn’t been written yet.  I actually knew it would do this going in, but I wanted to do it the right way and not cheat with a bunch of filler, so those 50k words are absolutely legit.

Now, that’s the good news.  The bad news is, according to my outline, I’m less than halfway done with this novel.  So while I did technically win NaNoWriMo and write 50,000 words in a month (27 days, actually, but let’s not split hairs), I did not write a full novel in that month’s time.  Honestly though, that’s fine with me.  It’s good to know that I still have more to look forward to, and it’s certainly a heck of a start, so I can’t complain too much.  I think before I tackle the rest of it though, I’m going to take a couple of weeks off of writing.  I need a break.  Getting some time to actually read again will be a welcome change.

How about a final excerpt?  In celebration of the win, I offer you an entire scene from Chapter Eight.  As usual, rough draft, go easy on me, blah blah blah…

 

The only sound Echo could hear was the whiz of his arrows cutting through the air and striking the thin trunk of a lone cottonwood tree.  He preferred to practice at night when the sole illumination source was the residual light from the Summit.  The arrows he had already fired stuck out of the tree in a perfect vertical line, each spaced a precise ten centimeters from the one above it.  He slotted another arrow and started to pull it back when he heard movement through the grass behind him.  Echo listened for a long moment, gauging the interlopers position, then turned and prepared to fire.

“You really shouldn’t be out here after what happened last night.”  Liam strolled toward Echo, who let out a deep breath and lowered his bow.

“That’s a good way to get a hole in your skull, mate,” Echo said.  He quivered his arrow and walked over to the tree to gather the others.  “You should know better than to sneak up on me like that.”

“From the look of it, I wasn’t doing much sneaking.  Then again, I never was one to beat around the bush.”  Liam stuffed his hands into the pockets of his thick overcoat.  “You need to come back inside.”

“Bugger that, I’ll do as I bloody please.”  One by one, he yanked the arrows out of the tree trunk.

“I know,” Liam said, “you always have.  Still, I would hope you have enough common sense to realize that hanging out around here is pointless.  They aren’t coming back, not tonight anyway.”

“That right?  And how would you know that, Mr. Chairman?”

“Call it a gut feeling,”  Liam turned around to face the Summit, his profile emanating a soft glow from the lights of the city.  “She looks like she’s dying, doesn’t she?”

“Pardon?”

“The Summit,” Liam said.  “It’s like the life has drained out of her.  I guess that, in a way, it has.  I’d give anything to go back to last night and stop those beasts.”

“I learned a long time ago not to dwell on the past,” Echo said, brushing the tips of his fingers across the burn scar on his cheek.  “It will drive you insane eventually.  Believe me, I know.”

Liam turned back around to face Echo.  “Do you trust him?”

“Who? The walker?”  Liam nodded.  “No, I don’t.  Then again, that’s not saying much.  I don’t trust you either.”

“Ben is convinced that he had something to do with the attack last night.”

“Hmm.”  Echo slung the bow across his back.  “I don’t know, it doesn’t feel right to me.  There are some ghosts in his past, certainly, but he hates the Giants as much as we do.  I think he would rather die than help them.  On that note, believe me when I say that killing that boy would be no easy task.  When he first came here I was skeptical of his story.  How could anyone go through that and survive?  Now though, I understand.  I’ve trained with him every day, and even in the short time he’s been here, his abilities and dexterity have increased beyond my wildest expectations.  I no longer wonder how he survived the Giants; now I’m more curious how the Giants survived him.”

“You’re that confident?” Liam asked.

“I am.”

“Echo, I hope you understand how much we have riding on this.  If Micah isn’t ready…”

“At this point, I don’t think it matters whether he’s ready or not.  We need him.”

Liam cleared his throat.  “Alright then.  We’ll see you off in the morning.  Just remember, there are other enemies out there besides the Giants.  I want to believe in the walker as much as you do, but he is cut from a different cloth than you and me.  You need to be prepared for anything.”

Echo smiled.  “Would you expect anything else?”

 

Last, but certainly not least, I want to give a huge thanks to Jennifer and Claire.  I haven’t been too available for them during this month, and despite that they’ve been nothing but supportive.  When I needed to be left alone, they did so, and when I needed encouragement, they gave it to me.  I couldn’t have done it without them.  Don’t worry, I’ll make it up to both of you in December!  Love you!

That’s all for now.  Expect your normally sporadic and random updates to resume in a week or so.  Until then, fine readers.

The Home Stretch

NaNoWriMo is speeding ahead, faster than I can keep up it seems.  I have still managed to stay on top of my word count, but it feels like I could fall behind at any point.  As of right now, I have ten days left to get to 50,000 words.  Right now, Im at about 35,000.  Bottom line is, I still have a lot to write.

So, not much to discuss today then.  I need to get back to writing.  Before I go though, I leave you with your weekly excerpt.  As usual, keep in mind the super rough first-draft disclaimer.

 

Bea lied in her top bunk bod and stared at the ceiling, waiting for sleep to come.  Every time she closed her eyes, the image of the Giant appeared before her.  The scene played out in slow-motion: the crosshairs in her rifle’s scope centered over his face, and when she pulled the trigger, the bullet passed into his forehead and then out through the back of his skull.  The last thing she saw before he fell down out of her view were his dead eyes, like two polished glass marbles.  In an instant, she had erased him from existence.

What did it feel like?  One second he was full of life, and the next he was nothing but a dead sack of meat.  So much power in a tiny slug of metal.  Bea opened her hand and a brass casing rolled onto the sheets.  It had held the bullet that she used to take her first life.

She was scared.  It wasn’t that the event had shaken her or that she feared the threat of future attacks.  She was scared because she longed for the opportunity to do it again.

 

Hopefully, the next update I post here will include a winner’s badge.  Stay tuned to find out!

Halfway There

We’re quickly nearing the end of week two of this exercise in masochism known as NaNoWriMo.  I’m getting to that point where it feels like nothing is happening and I’d love to just throw in the towel.  It feels like just about everything I’ve written so far has been background and boring dialogue, and I’d probably feel great if I moved it to the trash folder and never looked at it again.

That said, I press on.  The good news is that, according to my outline anyway, good things are coming.  A big turning point is about to happen in the story that will move us into Act Two, and I’m really looking forward to being there.  I think week three will be a good one.  Overall, as of right now I’m sitting at about 21,500 words.  Ahead of par, but just barely.  I still can’t afford to fall behind, so the next few days will be essential in terms of not falling behind.

Last time I gave a quick synopsis of the novel, and I’d like to talk about that a bit more right now.  I mentioned that one of the main aspects of the story are these supernatural beings that start showing up after a worldwide plague.  In the events that have happened over the last week, it’s revealed in the story that these beings are the ancient hybrids of angel and man spoken of in the Old Testament – the Nephilim.  For those who aren’t aware, Genesis 6 speaks about how a group of Angels came down to earth and took human wives, and their offspring began to inhabit the ancient world.  It’s assumed that one of the reasons for the great flood was to wipe these things off the face of the earth.  They were an abomination, going against God’s will and plan for humanity, and so they were destroyed in the flood.  End of story, right?

 

 

Not quite.  The nephilim are mentioned again in Numbers, when Moses sent out several men to scout out the land of Canaan.  They returned and claimed they saw the Nephilim there.  The question is, how did they come to inhabit the world once again after the flood?  The Bible never really explains that part.  There are plenty of theories, but all we know is that they were there.  This actually confirms the original passage in Genesis, which says that there were “Giants on the earth in those days, and also after that.”  The “after that” part is very intriguing, as the time period being referenced is the antediluvian period before the great flood.  So in essence, it acknowledges that they existed again later on, after the flood.  Crazy huh?

Now, it’s widely believed that, just as the flood was meant to wipe the Nephilim from the earth, Joshua and his army were charged with killing the inhabitants of the promised land for the same purpose.  The question is, did they succeed?  Again, the Bible gives hints to this answer here and there, but never explicitly says so one way or another.  Many speculate that the descendants of the Nephilim may have lived for many generations after that.  Some say that Goliath, for example, could have been one of them.  Perhaps even the Greek myths of the Titans were based on these creatures, or the figures from Norse mythology, or any other number of cultural legends.  In the end though, we don’t really know, nor do we know what ultimately happened to them.

 



In my story, this thought is taken one step further.  What if the Nephilim still lived today?  What if they’re among us, hidden in plain sight, waiting for their chance to regain dominance over the human species?  A worldwide plague, one that their unique gene structure may be immune to, would be a perfect catalyst for this to happen.   This concept is where my story begins.

Now of course the question is, do I actually believe that these things are still alive today?  No, I don’t.  Remember, this is a Fantasy novel.  I’m not writing it to pose a theory or claim that this is what could actually happen.  It’s meant to tell a good story and maybe strike a theme with someone in the process.  We don’t actually believe that a magical world of Centaurs and talking Lions exists inside a wardrobe, but that doesn’t stop us from reading and enjoying C.S. Lewis’ most well-loved series.

I would hope I don’t have to make that point explicit, but you never know these days.  It’s a fascinating subject, which is why I wanted to write a story around it, but I certainly do not claim for it to be truth.  Far from it.  The Bible says very little about these creatures, and some today don’t even believe the passage was talking about Angels in the first place.  Point being, I’m no expert.  Nobody is.  It’s fantasy, don’t read into it more than that.

Okay, now that the disclaimer is out of the way, how about another excerpt?  Remember, this is rough first-draft type work, so please don’t hold it against me.

 

“Leave us,” Oshurel said.  Within seconds, the room cleared out.  Oshurel stood, and Korin marveled at his stature.  Even for one of the Ancient, Oshurel was a titan among them. He walked around to the other side of the desk, limping on his one good leg the entire way.  Korin turned his eyes away, not wanting to acknowledge the impediment.

Oshurel tapped the thigh of his bad leg with an open palm.  “You know, sometimes I think it is getting better.  I will wake up and convince myself that it no longer hurts.  Then I come to my senses and accept the truth.  It is not healing, and it never will. I have simply forgotten what two working legs felt like in the first place.”

“Father-“ Korin began, but Oshurel held up a hand.

“I understand why you killed him.  There was a time when I may have even done the same.  But Korin, you must learn to control this anger inside of you.  You have lived with it for so long now that it has become a part of you.  Can you even remember what it is like to feel anything but rage?”  Korin said nothing, and Oshurel hobbled over closer to him.  “We have been given a gift.  Our ancestors were washed away in the great flood, and upon their graves, humanity flourished.  Now we have been given a second chance.  No longer must we hide ourselves away.  No longer must we bow in submission.”

“If that is so, then why do we hide in this city like scared children?  Why don’t we take the fight to them?”

Oshurel turned around and limped back to the other side of the desk.  “You know that is not our way, Korin.  Each of us contains a spark of the divine.  We are Gods unto ourselves, and no God can have authority over another.  You may have those who believe in you and rally to your cause, but in the end, all of us are free to make our own choices.  It is who we are.”

“Do I not submit to you, Father?”

“Only because you choose to.”  Oshurel sat down again.  “Look around you.  Humanity is defeated.  We can do with them as we wish.”

“What I wish,” Korin said through clenched teeth, “is to destroy them.  Every last one.  Beginning with the walker.”

 

As always, thanks for reading.  Until next week!

Chugging Along

So far, NaNoWriMo is going fairly well.  I’m slightly ahead of where my word count needs to be, my plot is beginning to develop, and I’m happy with where the story is going.  Then again, things started off the same way last year, and look where that ended up.  Needless to say, I”m not letting my guard down.

My novel this year is a bit more fantastical than last year.  As I said in the previous post, it’s set in the semi-near future after a world wide post-apocalyptic event.  Here’s the synopsis I have posted on my NaNo profile:

 

The end of all things has come and gone.

After the Fall, no nation is left unscathed. What is left of the human race marches closer to extinction with each passing day. Worse, a mysterious breed of super-humans rises from the ashes, and they are intent on finishing the job that the plague began. These beings will stop at nothing to wipe the human stain from the face of the Earth.

Yet, there is hope. Legend speaks of a walker in the wilderness, a champion who will lead his people to freedom from their oppression. Micah is heading south when he comes across a band of humans barely clinging to their survival inside of an old abandoned prison. Some believe him to be their savior, while others wonder if he is the enemy. Soon, Micah must decide what it is he believes, and this choice could mean humanity’s salvation or its ultimate annihilation.

 

I’ll probably tweak that at some point.  It feels awfully generic right now.

In any case, these “supernatural beings” are at the crux of the story.  I’ll talk more about them next week, but here’s a hint.  They aren’t vampires, they aren’t zombies, and they raise the story to a level of biblical proportions.

That’s all to report for now.  Oh, you’d like an excerpt?  I don’t’ have much yet, but here’s a little sample from the Prologue.  Just keep in mind as you read, this seriously first draft type of work.  Don’t judge me too harshly.

 

Abraham turned the volume down slightly and tried changing the station.  The same alert repeated on each one.  He looked back at the road just in time to see a young mother with a runner’s carriage darting across the street and swerved to miss her.  All around him people swarmed out of their houses and down the sidewalk, packing bags into their cars and rounding up their children.  Abraham lurched as a coughing fit came over him.  He pulled a small handkerchief from his pocket and slumped over the steering wheel as he hacked into the white cloth trimmed with lace around the edges.  Pam had made it for him before they were married.  As he caught his breath and lowered it, he noticed several small flecks of red dotting the otherwise flawless linen.  He stuffed it back into his coat pocket before his son could see.

“Dad?” Micah’s voice trembled.  “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know.  It’s bad, though.  We need to get to your Grandpa’s house.”  Abraham felt in his other pocket for his cell phone and cursed under his breath.  It was still sitting on the counter back at their house.  It was too late to go back.

“Why Grandpa’s?  You heard the man on the radio, he said to stay where you are, right?”

“Yes, but… look, you’re just going to have to trust me, okay?”

“Okay.”  Micah looked out the passenger’s side window at two men fighting on their front lawn over a small gasoline container.  One of them pulled out a long pocket knife, and Micah turned away.  “I’m scared, Dad.”

Abraham turned to look at his son.  He was still so young.  Too young for all this.  He reached over and clasped the boy’s little hand in his own.  “I’m scared too.  We’re going to be okay though, I promise.”

Micah gasped.  “Wait, what about mom?  She’s downtown at the hospital!”

“Don’t worry,” Abraham said, skidding around a corner and just barely missing a little girl riding her bike through the intersection.  “Let’s make it to Grandpa’s first.  Then we’ll go get your mother.”

 

Thanks, see you back same time next week!

NaNoWriMo Again

Against my better judgment, I’ve decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) once again this year.  I know I said only a couple of posts ago that I wasn’t a big fan of simply writing for the sake of getting as many words on the paper as possible, and that’s essentially what NaNoWriMo is.  However, I have to admit that some good things came out of it last year.  I may not have “won” by finishing my 50,000 words, and I did end up totally scrapping the novel, but two of the short stories I wrote in preparation for the month last year ended up getting published.

More importantly, it made me a better writer.  I started to figure out what works when writing such a long story, and what doesn’t.  I used many of those learnings as I completed my first novella earlier this year, now under review at various publications.  So in the end, it turned out to be worth it, even if I had little to show for the piece I was mainly focused on at the time.  My hope is that, even if the same thing happens this year, it will once again be worth the effort for the same reasons.  Of course, it’d be nice to actually finish the novel too.  We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

As for the story itself, I’ve been plotting it pretty extensively over the last few weeks in preparation.  Even if I didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo, I knew this was the next story I wanted to tell.  I’m pretty excited to get going on it.  For those interested, it’s a Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy novel.  Yup, it’s a mouthful, but it’ll make more sense at some point, I promise.  With any luck, I’ll be posting updates throughout the month about my progress, and maybe even some snippets from the novel itself.

It’ll be a long month, but I have to admit… I’m looking forward to it.