The middle of October. Around this time, people are making their plans to partake in the NaNoWriMo 2016. Some are making outlines. Some are roughing out characters. Some are doing research. Some are forming writing groups, support groups, challenge groups, and FSM knows what other groups. Some officially join, committing to the effort of writing at least 50,000 words during the month of November.
IF I decide to partake, this will be my fourth effort. I’m currently two-for-three, meaning I successfully met the 50,000 words minimum for two of the past three years.
Mind you, I did finish all three novels, but the first year, 2013, I failed to finish NaNoWriMo. I had a good excuse . . . a Florida vacation, with a visit to Disney and everything. That novel was eventually finished in June of 2014. Should anyone want to read the raw novel as written, it’s HERE. Yup, it’s password-protected because I’ll eventually clean it up and try to sell it. If you are a new reader to this blog, don’t know any better, and want to read the novel, leave a comment below and I’ll shoot you an e-mail with the password.
I easily made the 50,000 words goal for the Second NaNoWriMo, but the novel itself was not finished until January of 2015 because we took a cruise in December and then the holidays and stuff got in the way. Should anyone want to read the raw novel as written, it’s HERE. Yup, it’s also password-protected because I’m trying to sell it. A few chapters from that novel were included with my Viable Paradise application. After many editing passes and some rewriting, I’m using that novel as my as-yet unsuccessful attempt to find an agent.
Last year’s effort also had me reach the 50,000 words goal by the end of November. I made what I thought was a clever joke about it, and some people took it seriously. I guess it was not all that clever after all.
That novel was a thriller with mostly female protagonists (Gin is a bad-ass) and I finished it in February of 2016 and presented it in yet another password-protected post HERE. That’s the novel I’m currently editing and will eventually shop around in the non-SF markets.
Now, it should be noted that — despite the name — I don’t have to write a novel for NaNoWriMo 2016. I could, for instance, write a number of short stories whose combined word count is 50,000 or more words.
In fact, if I NaNoWriMo, that’s what I’m likely to do. As I explained in a recent post, I ain’t got no village helping me raise my novel from obscurity to having someone publish it. The plan, as described in that post, is to sell a number of short stories and leveraging those publishing successes into snagging an agent. Not just an agent, but a good agent. One reads horror stories about crappy agents. I don’t want to be a part of one of those stories.
Some might have noticed that I am a bit out of practice when it comes to writing. Beginning in April of this year, my focus shifted from everything else to moving from Colorado to Hawaii. That was accomplished in June, but only insofar as we are physically here. We are still somewhat in limbo as we look for a place where we might settle and get back to living a normal life.
I wrote a quick story a few posts back, but it was more of a lark than a serious effort into writing something commercial. I mean, it would be nice if the story would sell, but I ain’t holding out much hope toward that happening.
But, while I’ve not been writing much, I’ve been thinking about my writing and about how to improve it. I’m working on being more conscious of what I write. Thinking about exposition, characters, actions, plot . . . almost like a real writer might. Still not outlining anything, though . . . that’s still not me, Bob.
Not with NaNoWriMo in mind, but wanting a bit of practice in case I do partake, I decided to write a scene. It’s 1,150 words or so. It’s posted below, for them who might be interested in reading it. After, I’ll go through what I was thinking as I wrote it . . .
© 2016 E. J. D’Alise
“Clean Your Boots”
Meya looked at the sign and then down at her boots. Sighing, she picked up the coarse brush and cleaned the dried mud from the sides of her boots before wiping the bottoms on the bristles mat. She stomped her feet a few times and then entered, her eyes taking a moment to adjust to the lighting.
For a second, she was the center of attention, people’s hands automatically nearing the hilts of their swords or daggers. Once they deemed her innocuous, they turned their attention back to their drinks. Her eyes surveyed the patrons as she made her way to the counter. Two, maybe three who might pose a challenge should it come to that.
No, make that four. Meya focused on the young woman carrying a short sword across her back and a side-sword sporting an ornate guard. The handles on both swords were as worn as of those of Maya’s own swords, but the young woman could not be more than half her age, barely twenty if even, she judged, with an air confidence about her that reminded Meya of herself at that age. More important, the men in the tavern showed no interest in her. In this tavern, that spoke volumes.
She headed for the bar and motioned one of the people behind it over to her.
“I’m looking for this man; seen him lately?” she asked as she unrolled the scroll, holding one of the sides flat with her hand.
The man stepped back and looked at her with suspicion.
“Where are you from?” he asked.
Meya’s peripheral vision alerted her to being the center of attention again, a fact confirmed by a corresponding drop in the general din of the place. By the time she answered, her voice carried in the near quiet of the place.
“The Center,” she replied as she moved her coat to clear her side-sword. The white and black emblem on the hilt was visible to the bartender and to a few of the people at the bar.
“You have no jurisdiction here,” the man continued.
Meya put some steel into her voice as she replied.
“Neither do I have the usual constraints.”
Her hand fastened the other flap of the coat to the hook on her hip, exposing her five slender throwing daggers and her short sword.
The bartender blanched at her words and stole a furtive glance to the back of the room. Specifically, to the door at the back of the room. Meya headed to the door as a few people got up and headed for the exit. They were the smart ones; the ones who wanted to maximize the chances of still being alive tomorrow.
The not-so-smart ones, two men and one woman, stood up from their tables and blocked her path.
“We don’t like Clippers,” one of the men said. All three had their hands resting on their swords.
Meya stopped. A second later, her hand and arm having moved faster than most could register, the hollow-sounding ‘thud’ of one of her daggers embedding into the door behind them had all three of them turn . The message was clear; the dagger could have just as easily have found a different target on the way to the door.
Before they recovered, the door opened, and a hand dislodged the dagger from the wood.
“I’d recognize this calling card anywhere,” the man she had been asking about said as he stepped into the room. “Hello, Meya. What brings you to the Outlands?”
The three people between Meya and the man looked from one to the other and with as much dignity as they could muster, retreated to their respective tables.
Meya ignored them and walked up to the man with her hand outstretched.
“You, Leor,” she answered as he returned her dagger.
“Interesting. As I recall, your exact words were ‘I never want to see you again.’ That was followed with a threat to Clip me. “
“Times change, Leor.” Meya looked around the room before continuing. “Got a place we can talk in private?”
Leor pointed back to the still open door, and Meya led the way into the back room, Leor following. Inside the room, she held the door open for Leor and was about to close it when the young woman with the two swords slipped in after Leor and made her way to one of the corners.
Leor did not seem surprised. Meya checked if anyone else was coming in and then closed the door as she focused on the young woman settling on the bench by the window.
Meya stood looking from Leor to the young woman and made the connection, as incredible and unsettling as it was.
“You are married?” Meya asked, letting incredulity tinge her voice.
She registered the quick shadow come and go across Leor’s features. She looked at the young woman just in time to catch the fleeting moment of sadness, her smile now gone. It lasted but a moment before the woman’s face settled on a more serious expression.
“Was,” Leaor answered. He then pointed at Meya and the young woman in turn before continuing. “Meya, meet Serel, my daughter. Serel, say hello to Meya.”
“Are you out of your mind?” Meya directed her question at Leor, but her eyes were fixed on the young woman. No, not a woman; a girl. Meya mentally adjusted her earlier age estimate to no more than sixteen. That was based on last having seen Leor eighteen years ago.
“What is it you want, Meya?” Leor asked ignoring the question and letting a bit of irritation creep into his voice.
“What I want? I wanted to tell you your mother has died without naming a successor. I wanted to bring you back for the formal transfer of The Seal to the head of the Council of Regents. Now I want to tell you to get as far away as possible and take her with you. “
“Shit.” Leor put little emotion behind the word. It was more of an assessment of the situation than an exclamation. “Ronek.”
“Exactly,” Meya concurred.
The girl got up and came up to them.
“What’s going on,” she asked, “and what does it have to do with me and who is Ronek?”
Meya looked at Leor who nodded.
“Ronek is your father’s cousin. She’s ambitious and unscrupulously power-hungry. She currently serves as Regent of The Center and heads the Council of Regents of the surrounding provinces. She was next in line to the throne, something she has waited for all of her life.
“Serel, as granddaughter to the Queen, as of a week ago, you are Queen of The Center and of all its provinces, and Ronek is not going to like that one bit.”
Meya watched as Serel’s confident demeanor was replaced by confusion and uncertainty as what Meya said sunk in.
End of scene
Keep in mind that is a rough draft. Also, know that I originally envisioned a Western scene, but decided to change the setting/time period. We don’t know if this is on Earth, but most people will assume it is so.
One more thing . . . it’s not that the following analysis reflects my conscious thinking as I wrote the scene. Stuff just flows out of me, but as I envision the scene, at least a part of me is choosing words and actions that mesh with what I see in my mind’s eye. Hence, for instance, using the word tavern as opposed to bar or saloon.
So, the opening. Openings are meant to grab the reader and plop them down into a chair, holding them there until the story latches onto said reader and forms an addictive bond. There are a few ways to do that. I chose the mundane detail option (clean your shoes, muddy shoes), also using it to establish something about the scene. It’s not set in a modern era.
The bit about the lighting serves to indicate poor lighting but it also gives me an excuse to have her look around. The bit about swords and daggers sets the era as pre-gunpowder (at least for now) and the fact everyone is wearing them also speaks to what kind of place it might be, as in people feel the need to walk around armed. Finally, her taking a measure of the people in the tavern for possible threats puts her in the bad-ass category.
The bit about The Center and the emblem on the hilt hints at authority and some kind of official organization. Jurisdiction is a word that on its own implies law enforcement. The bit about constraints reinforces the fact that she is a bad-ass and so is her organization, whatever it might be.
Side note: I struggled for a few minutes to come up with the word “Clipper” (and the subsequent “Clip”) because I wanted a derogatory/common name for her position as a way to indicated both how folks thought about her and her kind, but also to set up stuff for later on. While not yet explained, the thinking was that yes, she is law enforcement, and as part of being convicted for something, one would have their earlobe clipped. Getting arrested again would mean losing the other earlobe. Third time, you are done for. The thinking here is that it’s an easy way to keep track and identify criminals in your midst as well as forming the basis for a record that would travel with the person and make them easily identifiable.
About this time, I decided this might easily be pushed toward the YA market and lowered the age of the young woman as well as introduced the conflict. My earlier thinking was to have Leor and Meya be brothers and sisters, but that would then negate that whole succession path I’m laying out.
That’s something that I often do when I write. I start out with the beginning of the scene and it then evolves into something I had not planned at all.
From here, I could have Serel and her father run, or have Serel accept the post as queen. I would likely have her accept the post and set up the conflict in the court. In fact, if I were pursuing this story, I would get into court intrigue, the forming of bonds between different factions, set up a few loyal allies for Serel to counter the threat from Ronek.
There would also be the opportunity to do a bit of exposition through the Serel’s eyes as she would have to be trained in the ways of the court. The training would also offer an opportunity for both humor and romance.
It also occurs to me as I write this that Serel’s mother might be from a lower class of people, currently oppressed and mistreated by the provinces. Her mother might have died because of said mistreatment and a lack of proper care. Serel’s quest might be to become queen and right the wrongs of the society that chooses not to see the struggles of those “not in the know.”
What I just fleshed out would be a long book, and I find the premise interesting for exploring a number of socioeconomic issues.
Note that none of this was thought of or envisioned as I wrote the opening lines. I started with the rough idea of a Western-like saloon confrontation and sailed forth into uncharted waters from there. In doing so, I *think* I have three fairly interesting characters readers would want to know more about and eventually care for. I could be wrong.
As usual, feel free to add additional feedback in the comments below.
By the way, you can click on the photos for a larger version. The originals are in THIS SmugMug Gallery. That gallery will contain all of the photos from the NaNoWriMo 2016 update posts. I guess that means I will be partaking in the annual event.
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