My Life In Neon

Sci Fi / Fantasy writer Autumn Nicole Bradley – Dream in digital, live in neon

Archive for the tag “NaNoWriMo”

Lewis Mulligan and the NaNoWriMo Post Mortem

Lewis Mulligan and the Pandemonium Engine wasn’t an official winner, sadly.

I am still working hard on it to finish it sometime this coming week or two. Follow me on Twitter to keep up with the progress.


That was the big number. 11:59PM on November 30th, that was where I was cut off. I didn’t reach the 50000 goal but I’m still marking this one in the Win column. That’s faster than any other writing I’ve done to date. My prior record was ~30,000 one month while writing Root of the First.

I fell behind early. I got off to a good start, but I went through a few days in the first week where I didn’t do enough to make time to write. So from that point forward I was racing to catch up. I ended up in a burst-and-break pace where I’d crank out around 2000-3000 words in a day (the goal is 1667 per day) and then go through a few 500-800 days in a row. The last day, I jumped from around 40k to the final number, so that’s 20 pages in one day. Not quite enough to close the gap, but even I’m impressed by how much I got done.

On the whole, I’m pretty satisfied with the work I’ve got on the page so far. There are sections that I know I’m going to cut, and others I’m planning to expand later. There are some curiously bad phrasings of sentences scattered throughout that I will need to clean up later.

This is a pretty large deviation from my normal writing pace. I usually work steadily at around 1000 words a day, but I make them count. I tend to give a lot more consideration to my words while drafting normally, and that saves me a great deal of time revising because I’ve already got what I want the way I want it, at least as far as line edits go. The place I lose time normally is in the structural editing, where I have to cut, move, or change my carefully worded sections in order to accommodate a shift in plot or pace.

NaNoWriMo has been the opposite. I’m spending far less time than I feel I should on the wording. It’s very dry, and very generic, voice-wise. And I’m not sure the pace helps with my plotting. I gloss over plot holes because I need to move on, but I know from experience that fixing those plot holes in revision will probably mean major edits. It isn’t usually as simple as just editing a few words here and there, or tossing in a sentence to explain something. That’s always the hope, but the reality is that the earlier in the book a structural change needs to happen, the less of the rest of the book you can leave unchanged. Butterfly effect, and all.

The end goal for this book is around the 65000 word mark. I’m thinking I will finish this first draft near the 55000 word mark and expand from there. Needing to expand a revised draft is always a nice position to be in. Certainly better than needing to cut 50000 words like last time!

I anticipate finishing the first draft sometime early this month. For those on the preview list, believe me, you don’t want to see this thing until I’ve gone over it at least once, which means sometime in January.

Lewis Mulligan and the Pandemonium Engine Update

Progress is slow, but only in relation to the NaNoWriMo goals. I have already written more than I have in any single month before.

So far, we’ve met a Frankenstein’s Monster (the sixth such creation), Nicola Tesla, a witch-hunting priest, an investigator with the Royal Irish Constabulary, and heard the voice of the villain.

Yes, you read that right, Nicola Effing Tesla.

“Let the future tell the truth, and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future, for which I have really worked, is mine.” – Nicola Tesla

In my world, this quote has been cut down to his company’s motto: “The future is mine.” In context, it is more daring than ominous. It’s not a declaration of conquest, but more of a Tesla coil-shaped middle finger to Morgan and Edison.

NaNoWriMo Update

At the half-way mark by the calendar, I’m just a little shy of the half-way mark in word count. I fell behind early due to some travel stuff, but I’m hoping to catch up the last week of the month when I go home for Thanksgiving. While the holiday means Thanksgiving Day is pretty much out, the entire rest of that weekend is going to be staring at the walls and catching up on Boardwalk Empire. So, plenty of time to write.

I know I promised character profiles, and they are coming, finally. I had contacted an artist a month ago to do some sketches to accompany them, since I really have a hard time finding profiles compelling without a reference image, and I am a student of the “If I like it, I assume someone out there likes it” school of thought, so I figure it’s worth the wait. When I do things, I like to do them right.

The original artist dropped the project to work on hosting an art festival, so. . . valid excuse. Can’t really fault them for not finding the time. But I have a new one working on it as of yesterday, so they will be coming soon.

They’re also working on a sketch of the ship, so hopefully I can replace the Blackjack in the background of my site with my own creation.

As for the novel itself, I’m about to cross the 20000 mark at the end of act 1, so I’m thinking I won’t finish it during NaNo even if I hit the 50000 by Nov 30th. Now that I’ve got the rhythm and the pace, I’m guessing we’re going to come in at right around 65000, give or take 10k in edits later, which is right where I want to be for Young Adult.

Creativity Without Discipline

There’s a notion I’ve encountered in my time as  both a gamer, a writer, and even as an actor that states that any rules or discipline or direction “stifle creativity.” The reasoning goes something like: “Maximum creativity is achieved when you are allowed to express any idea, no matter what. Anything that constrains that amounts to censorship.” And usually, the use of the word censorship, with all its Big Brother connotations ends the debate almost as quickly as calling the other person a Nazi results in an invocation of Godwin’s Law.

But censorship is an integral part of the creative process. For example, last night, I had a dream about being an FBI agent tracking a child sex trafficking ring. We had traced it to a warehouse, and we were undercover, but the cover was blown when I refused to have sex with an underage kidnapping victim. So the sting gets foiled, and we need to escape, so we pile into the cars and drive off. While trying to get away, we go off the road and the only path to take is through a marina. Rows and rows of boat trailers were in our path, so the guy driving the car drove right over the top of them, and by the magic of Dream Logic, this worked. Around that time, the cat woke me up.

Now, be honest: How many skipped to this paragraph the moment you read the words “Last night, I had a dream. . .?” And how many went back to read it when they noticed the word sex? (And how many just went back to read it because they missed the word sex the first time?)

Point is, dreams are uncensored, undisciplined creativity. Lots of writers (and non-writers) keep a dream journal for all those ideas, but as anyone who has ever experienced someone else telling you their dreams knows: 95% of the time they are boring, uninteresting crap that doesn’t make sense, is not a coherent narrative, and at best can hope to be mildly humorous. (Yet, most people would never share the genuinely funny ones because they’re embarrassing. ) Therefore, we’ve learned to tune it out as soon as someone starts talking about them.

Granted, it can be useful to journal dreams for idea fragments that can later be developed into full-fledged ideas and stories. For instance, the car chase I experienced could make for some pretty interesting cinema if it were ever attempted,  and the “commit statutory rape or your cover is blown” creates a pretty fantastic dramatic intensifier for a real plot, but it isn’t a plot by itself.

Creating a film, a video game, a novel, or anything, really, requires artistic discipline. It requires working on it even on days when you don’t feel inspiration, and it requires self-censorship of some genuinely good ideas that just don’t work for this project. If you’re a dungeon master running a D&D game in a fantasy world, the crazy awesome idea you had for a spaceship encounter modeled after the movie Alien just doesn’t fit no matter how cool it is. I used to run into this a lot with DMs in our Neverwinter Nights server. They’d have a great idea, but refused to accept the flaws in using that idea unaltered in a setting that it was not appropriate for. It was probably the #1 conflict on staff: “Cool idea, but not appropriate,” vs “You’re stifling my creativity.”

Now, for NaNo I’m facing the same conundrum: lots of great ideas that just won’t fit into 50000 words. But they’re all near misses; I’d need to create a setting that is similar but not quite the same in order to use them since they couldn’t be used for a completely different setting. And that’s just not going to happen. I’m keeping a  record of them in my story binder, but I have a feeling some of them just won’t see the light of day.

Steam Engines GO!

A few days ago, I was debating which of two ideas I wanted to pursue for NaNoWriMo. Well, I have decided:

Lewis Mulligan and the Pandemonium Engine

One day, Lewis Mulligan was a scrapper in a textile mill, and the next day he was the cabin boy and apprentice navigator on the TRA Nevermore, a second-hand airship just leeward of ruin. But while transporting a clockwork contraption known as the “Pandemonium Engine,” the crew runs afoul of Church inquisitors, a secret society of alchemists, and a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Now, it’s up to Lewis to steer the Nevermore to freedom, or at least go down with style!

My goal for the crew of the Nevermore is a steampunk Firefly. Granted: different medium, one story arc vs 14 episode arcs + 1 movie, and I’m not Joss Whedon. But still, if I can get halfway there, I’ve achieved all I wanted for NaNo.

I’ll be posting Crew Profiles for the ship in the next few days.

Fallout: New Vegas comes out a week from tomorrow. Now, if I had done it right, I’d have made my planning schedule end on October 18th, and reserved the 19th-31st for Fallout, and called it “story research.” Instead, I still have benchmarks and milestones sprinkled throughout the rest of October.

The Impasse – Steampunk vs Contemporary Lit

I have reached an impasse on my NaNoWriMo novel planning, and, as of today, I have no useful advice to offer anyone going through a similar struggle.

I now have two ideas to pursue.

Idea 1: This was my primary idea going into NaNoWriMo this year. It’s a lighthearted, probably YA adventure in a semi-historical alternate history sci-fi setting. Unabashedly steampunk but with its roots in mostly legitimate science.

Idea 2: This one was a 3AM idea that forced me from my bed last night to write it down so I didn’t forget. It’s a near-future contemporary literature piece that asks the question, “Why can’t we dream big things, anymore?” Possibly dark comedy satire.

Idea 1 has the strong merit going for it that I have been burning to write a steampunk piece for a long time and needed an excuse.

Idea 2 is just such a high concept piece that I feel it says more important things to a modern audience. It’s topical, which means there’s a shelf-life for the idea that will exist until China lands on the Moon and America collectively craps its pants in realizing how far behind we’ve fallen.

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