Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 38

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 37

It was instead, a young woman with white eyes and skin to rival Ursa’s in its paleness that barely reached Leonard’s navel. She had a simple smile on her face and held out a tray with a annie-spratt-227757.jpgmodest meal and a mug of some liquid with a sweet scent; the refreshments that Osric had said would be along.

“Uh- Thank you,” Leonard said with an uncertain smile as he reached for the tray, unsure if she could see him.

Her dainty fingers released the tray into Leonard’s hands. He was about to turn and place the tray on his bed when a voice as soft as feather pillow halted his movement. “Dip in the tea, much tastier,” she said with a big smile, pointing without looking at what appeared to be a large hunk of bread on Leonard’s tray with.

“Thanks,” he replied lamely, returning her smile. She saved him the struggle of finding something else to say by turning and skipping down the black hallway, seemingly without a care. She too was soon swallowed by the darkness.

Leonard shook his head with a chuckle and shut the door with his foot after reentering his room, his hands occupied with holding the tray level; the mug was filled nearly to the brim and in danger of spilling over.

He lowered the tray carefully then took a seat beside it with equal caution and examined his meal. Besides the bread, there looked to be a couple of pieces of some sort of dried fruit that Leonard had never seen before and was sure did not grow on his own world.

Leonard tore off a piece of the bread, then tore it in half. He popped the first piece into his mouth and chewed the rough and mostly tasteless morsel, unable to keep from making a face. He looked at the piece in his waiting hand and dipped it into the mug while he swallowed the last bits in his mouth, hoping his delivering friend was right about the tea making it better.

With a shrug, Leonard ate the other piece; the difference was night and day. The sweet scent of the tea translated to a rich and satiating flavor that tickled Leonard’s tongue. The bread had soaked up the tea the way sponges do water, making each bite a rush of flavor. He broke off another piece and dunked it, grateful to his unnamed benefactor of a more pleasant meal.

Leonard was reaching for the mug, intending to try a sip of tea on its own, when another knock shook the door. For a brief moment he thought it might be Osric, but the rattling of the door from the force of the knocker convinced him otherwise.

He rose slowly and inched towards the door, which continued to shake from another forceful series of raps. Leonard cleared his throat and took a deep breath before pulling the door open.

Wolfhart’s untamed and alarming appearance loomed in the doorway, pushing the door open with a boorish shove. Leonard was forced to step back to allow him in or be shoved backwards. Wolfhart closed the door with a heavy thud, surveying the room briefly before turning to Leonard.

“You know, it’s more polite to wait for an invitation before entering someone else’s room,” Leonard said, unable to help himself as the mountainous man glared at him.

After a solid minute of hard staring, Wolfhart severed eye contact and turned to the weapons tucked in the corner. Leonard’s heart beat faster as the other man pulled Leonard’s sword from its sheath. Wolfhart weighed it in his hand, shifting it deftly from one hand to the other.

Leonard’s heart found its way into his throat.


Click here for Part 39!

Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 37

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 36

Though he had not asked Ursa to stay, Leonard was so surprised at her cavalier entrance as if she belonged there that he shut the door as if he’d invited her in himself. He was still trying to shift his thoughts from Coppa’s enigmatic visit when Ursa demanded his attention.

“So you’re the Letterman, huh? How long did you say you were in Palloria before coming here?” Ursa was right next to Leonard as he turned from the door, causing him to jump half a step back. They were standing so close he could feel the warmth of her breath as surely as he could feel the weight of her stare.

Being nearly the same height as Osric, Leonard had to look up slightly to look Ursa in the face. He took another causal half-step back, the better to take in the overwhelming presence before him. She stood with her legs wide, anchoring her to the spot like she expected someone to attempt to thrust her from it. Her arms were crossed in their characteristic shield over her chest.

“Well, I was there for an evening, maybe later afternoon or so….stayed there overnight, and then came here first thing in the morning,” Leonard answered. He reminded himself that he’d done nothing wrong and had no reason to be defensive, but Ursa’s accusatory scrutiny made him uncomfortable.

“And how long have you been corresponding in some way with anyone from Palloria?” from her tone, and a shrewd look that reminded him of Wilhelmina, it was evident that Ursa believed she’d caught Leonard in some sort of falsehood.

He was surprised to find that Ursa’s skepticism of him hurt and tried to brush it off; they were practically strangers, after all. He also declined to remind her that Osric had given everyone a brief summary of his and Wilhelmina’s arrival.

“A day? I got a letter on my route yesterday, which led me to a pond, that was afternoon my time, and the pond took me to Palloria. As I said, I was there for the afternoon, the evening, and the earlier morning hours, and have been here ever since.” Leonard tried to keep his tone even, hoping to invite conversation that would sow a seed of confidence instead of suspicion.

Ursa did not relax her posture, but her face took on a shape that Leonard was unfamiliar with at that point; she softened the most austere edges of her expression; her lips were no longer the flat line of a tug-of-war rope being pulled at both ends, her eyes no longer narrow slits with daggers at the ready. She almost looked like a different person, certainly a shade more approachable without the threat of decapitation emanating from her.

Before speaking again, Ursa examined Leonard by sight from head to toe, like she was searching for something tucked into a pocket or behind his ear. It gave Leonard to urge to start patting his pockets for something he hadn’t realized was there.

“Why did you decide to come?” her tone was not unkind, more concerned or curious than derisive. Her head had a slight tilt to the side.

Leonard was stunned into silence for a few seconds. He would never get used to the question when it had such an obvious, humane, answer. “I was asked for help…”

Ursa nodded in approval, though Leonard had the impression that he’d somehow answered more than the question she’d voiced. She uncrossed her arms and reached out to put a sizeable hand on Leonard’s shoulder.

You, I will help,” she vowed, voice low and sincere. Her fingers gripped his shoulder with a gentle squeeze before retracting. “Keep sharp, we’ll get through this, yet,” she added before turning on her heel and pulling open the door.

“What’s that supposed- Wait!” Once again Leonard found himself scrambling to follow his visitor into the hallway, throwing out words like hooks in hopes of reeling them back. But Ursa would not be caught; by the time Leonard had stepped into the dark hall, he’d lost sight of the ghostly figure.

Leonard scratched and shook his head. Giving way to his frustrations for a moment, he reentered his room and shut the door with considerably more force than was necessary. Leonard crossed his arms over his chest and leaned heavily against the door.

He had only just started to review his recent brief and strange conversations when another knock interrupted him. Leonard jumped away from the door, the vibrations from the would-be entrant giving him as much of a start as the interruption.

With a steadying breath and a sigh, Leonard went to open to door. Surely it would be Osric this time.

He was wrong.

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Click here for Part 38!

Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 36

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 35

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photo from Flickr by IceBone

 

Leonard turned away from the door, resisting the temptation to pull on the circular handle to be sure it would open. He focused instead on the walls, littered with shelves of books and papers, and the single-person bed tucked into the far corner. None of the texts or furniture had the opulent touches that were present in the various rooms he’d seen in Palloria; it made the room friendlier to Leonard.

There were no windows, and the only door was the one that Leonard had entered through. The chamber was lit by an oil lamp attached to the left wall, just over the foot of the bed; the bedframe was some strange dark wood that Leonard could not name, and the mattress a well-worn but cozy enough affair, which Leonard sank down onto.

He set his pack on the mattress behind him when he noticed his bow and weapons belt leaning against the wall, all its occupants in their places. He was up on his feet seconds later, reaching out to touch the hilt of his sword, the curved edge of his bow, to be sure they were his. Once satisfied that all was accounted for, Leonard turned his attention to the books.

He ran his fingers over the spines cluttering the shelves creaking from their weight. Most of them were in languages he could not read, some of them he could not recognize at all. Leonard paused to scan the titles of those he could decipher; most looked to be history books, atlases, or notes on flora, tools, and weaponry. There were a couple of titles that might have contained some form of fiction, but a knock on the door pulled Leonard’s attention away.

His heart sped up. He hadn’t even had a chance to wonder what Osric might want to speak with him about, yet.

The knock came again, this time in a friendlier rhythm, as if it was trying to convince him to open the door.

Leonard took the two short steps to reach the door, pulling it open an inch with a perspiring palm. Instead of finding stately Osric, Leonard found Coppa’s youthful grin.

“What are you doing here?” Leonard asked, holding the door further open in his surprise. He poked his out into the hall a moment and saw that it was empty, except for the sharp-featured, slightly-freckled face in front of him.

“Well, I-I fancied a chat with yeh, a brief one, if you don’ mind.” Coppa grinned sheepishly, his eyes flickering to the open space over Leonard’s shoulder. The sincere expression in his face settled things; Leonard stepped back and gestured Coppa inside.

With two people now in the room, it was considerably smaller and no longer looked able to contain much in the way moving bodies. Leonard shut the door and propped himself on the narrow foot of the wooden bad frame; it supported his weight without protest.

Coppa tucked himself up against the many shelves lining the right wall, across from Leonard, but within arm’s reach in the enclosed space. His tipped ears peeked out beneath his auburn hair, but there was a downward tilt to them.

“So, what did you want to chat about?” Leonard asked as he leaned forward with an elbow on his raised knee, foot propped on the lowest rung of the bedframe under him.

“I noticed you didn’ say much earlier and, well, I wanted to see what kin’a chap yeh are, since we’re set to be workin’ together and all,” Coppa said with a nervous chuckle and a smile that reminded Leonard of a child’s. The young man seemed genuine, searching Leonard with a curious expression on his face.

“Is there something in particular you wanted to know?” Leonard asked, unable to suppress his amusement at his unexpected visitor.

“How long yeh known the Lady Pond?” Coppa tried to sound nonchalant, riffling through the pages of a randomly selected book while pretending not to be waiting for Leonard’s response.

“Not long,” Leonard replied warily, following the auburn-haired imp’s every movement in search of explanation. When he seemed in no hurry to reply, Leonard added, “Is there a reason you ask?”

Coppa’s eyes leapt from the page and locked onto Leonard’s; it was then that Leonard noticed that not only did Coppa have green and yellow eyes, but his pupils were vertical like a cat’s. He wondered how he’d missed that before.

“Look, I like yeh, Leonard. I think you’ve the makin’s of a good mate and”- Coppa began, but Leonard interrupted, unable to help himself.

“I thought you came here to see what kind of person I was.” Leonard smiled as he said it to make it clear he was joking.

Coppa returned a pained smile that had more than a spoonful of pity sprinkled over it. “Leonard, I think you’re a genuinely good person, comin’ all the way here to help strangers…yeh don’ even have a clue what this place is like yeh- well, lads don’ generally volunteer for Krosis duty if they’ve another place to go,” he said pointedly.

He licked his lips before continuing, the book he’d been pretending to look through clutched absentmindedly in his hands. “What I’m tryin’ to say is, I believe why you’re here, and I’m here because of that.”

Leonard felt a pinch in his forehead from his furrowed brow as he tried to decipher Coppa’s words into something that made sense. He was saved the need of forming a question just yet, because the other man continued.

“You’re probably drownin’ in information so I don’ blame yeh if you’re ready to go along with whatever the Lady says, and I’m not tellin’ yeh to necessarily go against her or anythin’! I’d just like to encourage yeh, as a mate, to listen. Listen and make your own decisions.” Coppa finished heavily. His strange eyes glowed, giving him the appearance of a misshapen ginger cat.

Leonard was still absorbing these words when Coppa spun and replaced his pilfered book before making for the door.

“Wait, you”- Leonard said in a rush to his feet, grabbing Coppa’s shoulder to prevent him from slipping into the hallway.

“Please, just think about what I said. Have to go for now, but I’m sure we’ll talk more soon,” Coppa said, cutting off Leonard’s words. He clapped Leonard on the back convivially before breaking the hold on his shoulder and gliding into the hall.

Leonard thought about going after Coppa, but as he pulled the door further open, he found the hallway completely deserted. Shaking his head, Leonard closed the sturdy door again and returned to the bed.

He was starting to wonder if the encounter had been some strange dream when another knock shattered the silence; this one was not a friendly knock. Whatever had happened before, it was certainly not Coppa on the other side of the door this time.

After a second’s hesitation, Leonard retraced his steps to the door. He grabbed the handle, bracing himself, then pulled it open.

The pale and disgruntled Ursa met his surprise with a shove of her shoulder as she invited herself inside.


Click here for Part 37!

Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 34

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 33

“Your sister?” Coppa exclaimed, his eyes roving over Wilhelmina as if looking for someone he’d once known.

“The Letterman,” Xandi intoned with another thin smile, her voice slow and deep, rich like a decadent dessert.

Silence fell over the motley band, giving Leonard the impression of the calm before a storm. He was not wrong.

In a surge of motion and sound, as if a match had struck and caused each to explode into action, Coppa, Ursa, and Wolfhart rose from their chairs, voices crashing into and over each other to be heard.

“-didn’ you tell us your sister was-“

“-is the meaning of –“

“-far more of an explanation-“

-was all that Leonard managed to catch in the swarm before all three abruptly halted. Wolfhart looked most abashed by his outburst. His eyes darted to his father, who remained calmly in his chair, observing Leonard and Wilhelmina with a new, searching look. Wolfhart slowly sank into his seat, recovering his statuesque posture, a red tinge creeping up the side of his neck.

Coppa looked sheepish and scratched nervously at the back of his head, also taking his own seat again. He gave Osric an apologetic smile before resuming his surveillance of Wilhelmina, igniting Leonard’s curiosity about the young man’s persistent interest in her.

Of those that had taken their feet, only Ursa remained standing. Shea rolled her eyes again and crossed her arms over her chest, leaning heavily to one side so that her hip jutted out. She looked bored, but her narrowed eyes told a different story.

“There is much to discuss, and though we must work swiftly, we cannot be hasty in our actions, but the time has come, my friends. The truth must come out and we will put an end to the destruction, and the portals, once and for all,” Osric emphatically imparted to the room, looking each in the eye in turn.

Most everyone in the room seemed to take heart from Osric’s words, but Leonard noticed that neither Ursa nor Wilhelmina appeared altogether pleased by them. It gave Leonard an uncomfortable sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.

“Here’s as good a place as any so….” Osric gestured to the open chairs at the far end of the table.

Wilhelmina brushed past Leonard and her brother and took the open seat at the head of the table, smoothly swinging her pack from shoulder to lap in one easy motion. She settled back in her seat and smiled at Ursa, who looked like she’d swallowed something vile.

Without missing a beat, Osric walked around Wilhelmina to take the open chair on her left that would place him between her and Ursa. He gave her a reassuring smile before sinking into his seat, waiting for Ursa to follow suit, before waving Leonard over to take the last empty place around the table.

Leonard hoped he didn’t look as much of an imposter as he felt. Sitting among proven fighters and magic wielders, those with formidable skill and power that would be useful in the days to come, Leonard feared he had already served his only purpose, and that his presence would all too soon become obsolete; this left him all the more confused and swimming in convoluted emotions and thoughts, torn between the desire to be safe at home where things made sense, and being able to help the obviously dire situation.

“I realize we all have questions and feel our own are the most pertinent,” Osric began, cutting off Leonard’s more self-deprecating thoughts and redirecting his attention to the moment at hand.

“But I ask that you be patient. Everyone will have a chance to speak. Collectively, I believe we have the same, if not similar goals, though perhaps with different motivations. As we move forward, we must be open with each other, willing to trust each other, if we have any hope of seeing this through.” Osric ended with a pointed look at Ursa, who sat with a sour look on her face as if she’d sipped old milk.

“Do we blindly trust those with a supposed Letterman, now? Disregarding our own eyes, ears, and intellect?” Wolfhart asked in a low, challenging tone.

Osric’s face hardened as he leaned over Ursa to better look the other man in the eye. “Do not spin my words into your own malformed creation, Wolfhart.”

Sitting back in his seat, Osric continued, addressing the entire group, “We have reason to believe that we have been given false information, and so we must reevaluate what we know to be true, and what should be called into question, before we can act accordingly.”

A strained moment passed while the information was absorbed, burrowing into their hearts until the stillness was broken.

“Whose words are choosing to doubt?” Nox calmly inquired from his place at the head of the table, opposite Wilhelmina.

Osric looked uncomfortable, dropping his eyes to the table and taking a steadying breath before returning his companions’ gaze and replying in a low tone, “Etta.”

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photo from Flickr by Mustafa Khayat

Click here for Part 35!

Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 33

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 32

He took barely two steps until he was looking down on Leonard and Wilhelmina, surveying them with a glare. Standing this close, Leonard was acutely aware of how tall the other man was, who seemed to even have an inch or two on lanky Osric. Leonard was eye to chin with him.

Leonard swallowed with difficulty as the hazel eyes of the older man continued to bore into him. A scar ran down the right side of the man’s face, growing out from his gray hairline in faded scar tissue, down until it met the curve of his chin. Leonard found himself wincing at his earlier rush for action, the judgmental way he’d viewed Osric’s response, even if the words “come up with a plan” still sliced at his nerves like razorblades. He swallowed again, and still there was only silence to accompany the unyielding gaze.

At last, the man’s lips parted to release a grave and gravelly voice. “Would you so willingly and recklessly send friends, family to be tortured, killed, when you knowingly lack information and possible tools necessary to be of any help?” there was no accusation in his voice, which surprised Leonard. Instead, there was only a deep and weary sadness clinging to space his words had taken up, and in the forest of his eyes.

Leonard’s insides withered. He felt like an impulsive teenager trying to race off and save the day, or someone too young to understand the importance of patience. Though he was tempted to point out that his family was one of the ones taken, as Leonard looked at Wilhelmina, and even Osric and the strangers in front of him, he knew he’d never be able to send them into danger…at least not without knowing it would be worth it, which it would have to be.

The older man nodded silently at some change he saw in Leonard’s face before turning his hard gaze to Wilhelmina. Leonard looked over as well and saw her standing with her arms crossed and jaw set, but her face had a crumpled look to it that illustrated her own second thoughts.

“Good. When there’s plan, I will help you,” he said approvingly with a nod before turning and reclaiming his seat. The younger version with black hair did not look pleased.

Osric beamed momentarily at each face in the room, then clapped his hands together and said, “Well then, let’s have introductions. Then we’ll work on that plan.” The last part Osric said to Leonard pointedly, and with a sincerity that moderately calmed the urgency in Leonard’s veins.

“Here we have,” Osric started, nodding in the direction of the gray head, “Nox, his son, Wolfhart. Both are the best strategists and fighters this side of Krosis.” The woman with white-blonde hair rolled her eyes while Nox inclined his head in acknowledgement, but his younger version remained as still as a statue, complete with stony expression.

“That lad there is Coppa,” Osric gestured, with a tilt to his lips, to the chestnut-haired young man, who looked like a mischievous character, emphasized by the slight point to the tip of his ears.

“Coppa has a knack with any kind of technology, and can engineer or fix almost anything.” Coppa rubbed the nails of his left hand against his tunic then blew on them with a carefree expression and an impish wink. Leonard thought he heard Wilhelmina chuckle softly.

“Coppa is also studying with Xandi,” Osric continued, this time pointing to the woman with her hair wrapped around her. “Xandi is a gifted sorceress.” She gave them a thin smile as she stroked the black river of hair that flowed across her chest. It was impossible for Leonard to tell how old she was; every time he blinked, her features appeared older or younger, never constant enough to form a true mental image of what her face looked like, but always with the same regal countenance. Leonard’s mind filled with questions and curiosities he wished to ask her about, but his attention was recaptured by Osric speaking again.

“Last, and certainly not least, we have Ursa. Her stealth and reconnaissance abilities are unmatched. She’s also an excellent, experienced fighter, particularly close quarters.” Ursa looked much happier after her own introduction.

“Everyone,” Osric said to the group around the table, “this is Wilhelmina and Leonard.” There was a pregnant pause, the seated occupants looking expectantly from one face to the other before settling back on Osric’s.

He took a deep breath before saying, “Wilhelmina is my younger sister, from Palloria, and Leonard, is the Letterman.”

From the expressions around the table, it was most unexpected news.

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Click here for Part 34!

Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 24

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 23

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photo from flickr by ohsoabnormal

“Antidote?” Wilhelmina’s voice was soft, but it filled the room. “…are you saying that someone tried to-to poison me? Me? When I was ten?” Wilhelmina’s eyes swelled in size from genuine surprise, a note of indignation mixed in with her bewilderment. It was evident that it had never occurred to her that the delirium inducing sickness she recalled was not a run-of-the-mill, if dangerous, illness, but something far more sinister.

Leonard snapped his mouth closed, realizing it had fallen open, as if to better swallow the shocking news.

“So it certainly seemed,” Osric replied with a worn expression. Silence attempted to spread out between them and lengthen time as moments passed, but Wilhelmina was having none of it.

“’So it certainly seemed,’ that’s all you have to say?” Wilhelmina’s hands went to her hips, elbows pointed out dangerous as her eyes clouded over with something darker than rage; something from a place of deep hurt and confusion.

Osric eyes had a glassy sheen to them as he met his sister’s gaze. The towering man seemed to shrink beneath the weight of what he carried. He licked his lips as he spared a momentary glance for Leonard before focusing again on Wilhelmina. He looked pained as he spoke.

“You were incredibly ill. I was told everything was tried, everything possible. When no one, no healer or physician, no medicine or elixir offered, was of any help in Palloria, your guardians, the ones appointed by mother and father specifically, turned to me,” Osric began, turning away from them as he raked a hand through his hair.

“It was in secret,” Leonard heard Osric murmur over his shoulder to them. Osric did not turn back around before continuing, making his voice more muffled, and causing Leonard to tilt forward to be sure he caught every word.

“Your symptoms were described to me, and I was asked for anything that might be of help…I recognized what it was almost at once, though I hesitated in believing it to be possible. After all, it was a poison derived from one of the most venomous and dangerous creatures that roams free only on Krosis.”

Osric turned to look at Wilhelmina again, his voice heavy with emotion as he said, “I brought the antidote and insisted on administering it myself.”

Something passed between the siblings, a shift in the energy between them, an added glisten to their locked gaze that made Leonard feel like an intruder.

“I knew within moments of giving it to you that I knew I had been right, and that it was working, that you would recover. With any luck, it would be fully. It seems luck indeed smiled on you,” Osric said, a tilt to his lips as he looked hungrily at his sister, waiting.

When Wilhelmina remained resolute in her silence, Osric cleared his throat and continued. “We were all sworn to secrecy, your guardians and I, we all swore to each other to keep the truth quiet. They agreed to let everyone think that it was one of the other medicines given to you that made you better. This was after I explained that the poison could only have come from Krosis…” he let his voice trail away, letting the implications hang in the air with his words.

“Why did you want to give me the antidote personally?” Wilhelmina’s expression matched her shrewd question. It was asked kindly, with only the barest drop of accusation to tint its edges.


Click here for Part 25!

Things to Remember When Your NaNo Won’t WriMo

It’s almost here, the end of NaNoWriMo is within sight at a week away. The ability to officially count your 50K+ is now available; collective breaths are on the verge of being released after a month’s flurry of work…

Unlike last year, I am not certain of a NaNoWriMo Official 50K victory by November 30th. In fact, as you can see…

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…I am still working on hitting the 1500 word mark…

To state the obvious, progress has been slow. For a while (to be read as still trying not to), I beat myself up about not keeping to my goals and finishing another book this year. As is typical for me, I began going all over of the things I hadn’t managed to do this year as it comes to a screeching close; berating myself as only I know how, for all the ways in which I was behind….

Then I reminded myself of a few things….yes, even I need to be reminded of the fact that I live with chronic illnesses . I hold myself to standards that would be difficult even if I was in perfect health and put my all into every moment, let alone with what my day to day living is with spoon math, migraines, chronic pain, and brain fog.

Next, I reminded myself of the fact that I’ve been on and off different medications this year that have really affected me, one of which I’m only just now off, but will take time to work its way completely out of my system. It’s messing with my ability to concentrate and thus to work, often making me feel dizzy (ah the joys of withdrawing from prescribed medication…)

I also had to remind myself of my emotional state, and the fact that it’s fair to take that into account. PTSD can be a tiring battle with moments of quiet followed by a bombardment of symptoms and demons. The upsurge in symptoms recently has a handful of causes, all of which contribute to issues with my health, because it’s a joyous circle.

Then…there is all that came with the election…but I don’t want to turn this into something political, but needless to say, as have countless others, I’ve been deeply affected by it, and I’m petrified…

So, finally (again to be read as still attempting), I decided to give myself a pass.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t given up. It may be incremental amounts, but I’ve slowly been adding to my novel Not That Kind of Unicorn. Who knows what may happen between now and next week? Or now and the end of the year?

But for those like me that hold themselves to outrageous standards, here are some things to remember:

  1. By starting, by even attempting, you’ve gained something– I know, it sounds corny, and in my more cynical moments, I don’t believe either, but it’s true. If you’ve put any amount of planning into it, you’ve made progress; if you’ve just added a few words, you’ve made progress; if you’ve advanced an idea related to your novel or one of the characters in it, you’ve made progress, and you deserve to celebrate too.
  2. You can always keep going after NaNoWriMo– nothing says you have to stop. In fact, after some rest and celebration, there’s encouragement to dive back in. Ask your new (or old) NaNoWriMo friends for some inspiration and motivation to keep you going, even after November is gone.
  3. Regroup for Camp NaNoWriMo– if the group challenge and idea of writers attempting the same goal en masse helps you to write, then don’t wait for November next year when you can join Camp NaNoWriMo for April or July. Use what you’ve gotten from now and start again after some time away.
  4. You’re not doing yourself any favors by pressuring yourself into oblivion- I doubt I’m the only one that does this, adds the pressure and the need to finish something I’ve started on so heavily that I suffocate myself, often the point of being unable to get things done. (Admittedly, a lot of this for me personally comes from trauma related lack of self-worth, but that’s a different story). But pressing your nose to the grindstone that hard is more likely to result in a broken nose (and in my case glasses), and probably a few nasty scrapes than it is to bring about a novel. You aren’t going to accomplish anything by putting too much pressure on yourself. Life happens; it sucks, sincerely, when we’re thrown off course, but it’s good to know when to give yourself a break.

My plan from here is to keep going, even as I move on to other projects, or return to old ones. I always seem to be needing to regroup, since I want to finish EVERYTHING at once the moment I start, which creates an interesting amalgamation of chaos.

I will do my best to enjoy the holiday upon us tomorrow (Happy Thanksgiving!), I will leave some art on Black Friday to Flood the Streets with Art ; I will soak up some book and movie goodness, start my Christmas baking after this weekend, and otherwise refuel and write/art on. Which is all you really can do.

What about you? How is NaNoWriMo going for you?

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An Interview with the Horrifically Wonderful Jette Harris

I’ve said it before but it deserves to be said again, I never thought I would be thankful for Twitter and being part of the Twitterverse, and yet I am. I’ve met some really wonderful people through Twitter…and my TBR list has never been longer. One of the best parts about Twitter is getting a chance to connect with authors as they get published and continue on their own writing journey. As long as people are willing to put in the time and effort to connect instead of sell, it’s a wonderful thing.

I’ve now been on Twitter for over a year (I can still hardly believe it), and I’ve met a variety of interesting people, many of which are fellow authors. I’ve had the pleasure of reading some, talking with many and even interviewing a few. I’ve chatted with and interviewed traditionally published Susan Crawford, as well as Jewel Leonard about her self-publishing experience.

Today, I’d like to introduce another wonderful Twitter-found author friend and share an interview I did with her about her own unique publishing journey. Without further ado, Jette Harris! (Please keep in mind that since we are discussing her books, some of the content discussed may be triggering to some people; her books come with a trigger warning)

Jette Harris.jpg

DM: So, your first book was Colossus, right?

JH: Well, my first published novel is Colossus. I wrote one other novel which was, I mean… I thought it was good, and then I thought it was bad, and now I’m realizing it’s unrevised. So, it could be good, I just haven’t touched it since 2006…so that’s sitting in a drawer….

DM: Is that kind of in the same genre or in a completely different genre?

JH: They’re…kind of the same genre…it involves a serial killer, but it’s more like a romance thriller

DM: Your idea for Colossus, what’s the first thing you remember getting for an idea, or where the idea came from?

JH: So what happened was…and this is kind of embarrassing in hindsight, but, I was watching HBO’s Rome, and the guy that plays Mark Anthony is James Purefoy. He seemed unremarkable beyond his character up to the point where, (if you’re not familiar with Rome it shows the rise Julius Caesar and Augustus)…so, up to the point where Julius Caesar dies at the end of the first season, I didn’t really think anything special about him. And then, when you see him discover that Julius Caesar has been assassinated, he gets this facial expression, which I thought was absolutely remarkable for an actor; it showed a real depth of talent, and I was just like, you know what, I’m going to take him, and I’m going to write a character for him.

I also had this really crazy dream where I was listening to Kesha sing “I Only Want to Dance With You” while a man, who is not Avery Rhodes, or James Purefoy or anything like that, was raping a teenage boy…

DM:…that…is definitely an interesting dream….

JH: Yeah….so, I combined all of those concepts and came up with a…at the time I wanted to work on short stories, I didn’t want to write a novel. I was going to write a series of short stories of a girl, Heather Stokes, fleeing this man who, at first he was just cold and calculating, unfeeling…he was just flat, a very flat character. As I wrote the story, or as I was writing the first few stories, I realized I needed to write an inciting incident, and so I started writing the inciting incident and it just kind of grew out of control.

DM: Gotcha. Bit of a snowball effect there.

JH: Yes. And so it turned from a series of about seven short stories, to a series of about seven novels. And then I also gave Avery Rhodes his own set of novellas of growing up and how he became the…I don’t want to say “monster” because he’s very much a human, but the serial killer you meet in Colossus.

DM: And that’s the Phoenix Rising and….

JH: Yes. There are two of those out right, and I have two more of those in revisions.

DM: Are you planning to put those out by next year or by later this year?

JH: I don’t know what I’m planning on doing. I’m just kind of at that point where I’m debating whether I want to keep tackling the Colossus novels and the Phoenix Rising novellas, or whether I want to set those on a back burner and come back to them at some future date.

DM: How long do you think it took you to write Colossus?

JH: So to write it…I would say it took a year and then a month to write and then revise Colossus… it was about late September-mid October that I came up with the idea for it, and then about April or May I thought I was completely done and I sent it to an editor. He had a lot of awesome suggestions and so I revised it, but at the same time I was writing material for Two Guns, which is the second book. I was also writing material for the Phoenix Rising novellas; I was also writing material for the other books that would follow Colossus and Two Guns, to get that series finished up. So I was working on a lot at the same time. So now I have chunks of several different novels in the same universe and all of these novellas. So it took a little over a year of inconsistent writing and revising.

DM: When you went to publish it, what route did you take originally for that? I know recently I saw that you had pulled it from where you had it but I wasn’t quite sure…..

JH: Yes, and, I haven’t really pulled it, which is a technicality….so, what happened was, in the summer of last year, I started talking to @EllaThomas22, which is a Twitter character account for Ella, who is a Stephen Moran character. Stephen had formed his own publishing company in order to publish his own novel, and he was also hoping to get other authors.

Ella is about a female serial character, it’s very savage. It’s a bit more…I don’t want to say gangster, but it’s a bit more money oriented than I like my thrillers to be, but the characters meshed very well. So, he asked me if I would make Colossus his first non-self-published book, and I thought that was pretty cool. He mentored me through the process, so basically what happened was that when I published it, I published it with his name on it, but at the same time it was self-published. So, publishing it under him was a technicality, but he’s also on my ISBN. When I decided that I wanted to shop Colossus for traditional publication for a wider release, because his company is very small, he has very small reach right now, and I wanted…more, so when I decided I wanted more, I pulled his name off of everything, but his name is still on my ISBN. So, I haven’t gotten myself a new ISBN yet, so I just kind of half-assed pulled it from them.

DM: So, you said you were going to try for traditional publishing for Colossus?

JH: Yes. I’ve been querying and I haven’t gotten any replies back, and for some of those it’s to the point they’re just not going to reply because they’re not interested….querying is hard hard pout face.gif

DM: Yes, yes it is, oh my gosh….

JH: Yeah, so if you’ve read Colossus and are familiar with it, it’s not surprising that most people I pass it to will pass on it…

DM: Yeah, it’s for a selective audience.

So, I think we kind of touched this, how many books have you written and published?

JH: I’ve written three. I wrote Perfect Words in college, and it’s about 53K. Then I wrote Colossus and that got published. Now, I’m actually very worried that I published it prematurely before getting more critical reviews on it, but….I had a lot of beta readers….all of the critical feedback I got I acknowledged, I adjusted most of it.

Now, I got a one star review and a two star review on Goodreads and, it just kind of knocked me backwards. It was stuff that my beta readers didn’t really mention, or didn’t have a problem with so, I’m kind of concerned now that I published Colossus too soon and didn’t let it sit long enough…but oh well..

And then I wrote Two Guns which is the follow up to Colossus, it’s the second book in the series. Two Guns is done, but it just doesn’t feel…right, and this was before I read the reviews, so that’s not what’s holding me back. It just feels like right now there’s too much going on and it’s too disconnected and so I’m thinking about just rewriting that. I’m going to keep most of the material in it and I’m just going to rewrite it in a uniform fashion so it’s smoother. But that’s going to be really time consuming.

Then earlier, for Camp NaNo I wrote a romance. It was a historical romance. It was based in 1800’s South Carolina and, I almost got to the very end, and then that last scene, I just couldn’t get it out. And I just let it peter it, so I have this almost finished romance novel that I’m going to revise. That one I might shop around because it’s more marketable.

DM: So, what do you have to say about your publishing experience so far?

JH: ……uh….fuck…..

DM:  Can I quote you on that?

JH: …I think I was impatient and I may have killed my opportunity to get Colossus traditionally published by publishing with Moran (which would have happened completely self-publishing as well). Then also, publishing with Moran prevented me from entering in any of the contests and competitions for self-published authors. So…I just think I was impatient, and if I had to do it all over again, I would probably shop a lot more agents and publishers before going and self-publishing.

DM: Would you say that the genre of Colossus is your favorite genre to write in?

JH: Yes. Yes, I would say….there’s debate among my readers and internally, in myself, whether or not to consider this a psychological thriller or a horror; because horror, and I read a really awesome article about this, about how horror is more about a monster or a horrifying being, and that’s very much true, but you also have the thriller aspect of everyone’s psychological descent as it were, not just the victims, but also the antagonist. I really do love being thrilled. I love reading something that gives me palpitations. Even though I’m not always happy about it, I always love that sensation.

DM: Is that your favorite reading genre as well, then?

JH:….so I have a confession, that I’m trying to break myself of, that I don’t read all that much…

DM: Really?

JH: Because, I devoted most of time to writing, and so I was writing mostly and I was just like “I don’t have time to read because I want to do nothing but write.” I was using writing to manage anxiety and so I’m not as anxious now as I usually am, so I’ve been slowly getting myself back into reading. I have a…. small…. TBR pile and it’s almost exclusively Joe Lansdale novels because they’re very easy to read and they’re hilarious, and they’re thrilling. They give me that fast heart-beat feeling, and so that’s kind of my stepping-stone back into learning how to carve out time for reading.

DM: Do you have a favorite writing spot?

JH: My desk at work. I actually wrote a blog entry, back when I first started writing Colossus, over two years ago, and I was talking about how, for the previous three or four years I had been wanting and trying to write and I just couldn’t sink my teeth into it. And it wasn’t until I got to the point where I was sitting in the same spot every single day for an extended amount of time, because I got a desk job that I finally got to the point where I could just sit down and write. I’m a customer service analyst for a software company that creates reading assessments, and so our customer basis consists of teachers and principals, and support staff, things like that, so we’re busy when they’re busy; we’re not busy when they’re not testing so, I have several hours of downtime a day at times, and I try to fill that with writing. So it took me a long time to get to where I could not just sit and write, but also to take writing anywhere else. Now, it’s a lot easier, especially if I’m in the middle of a story, I can take it anywhere, and I can write anywhere. But, if I were to start a story, or if I don’t really feel like starting or working on a story, even if I know I should, it’s a chore, but it’s easier now than it was previously.

DM: Are you working on anything in particular right now?

JH: Right now, I want to say no…but really, I should be. So, I also offer editing services, and I’m working on a medical thriller and a romance, or adult contemporary, for two different customers right now (people we know and love). When I’m done with that, if I have time between when I finish those and November, I’m going to pick a few more revisions for Two Guns, and then in November I’m going to write the third book in the Heather Stokes series.  Should be very emotionally taxing.

DM: Load up the funny movies, you know, have the Christmas fudge waiting…

JH: Yeah! The Hallmark channel will be doing their Christmas movies! Could totally do that!

DM: Can you tell me a bit more about the Colossus series?

JH: Two Guns was really fun to write. Two Guns is really funny. Basically it’s Rhodes meddling in the investigation. Colossus all occurs inside the house, it’s all very isolated, you have no idea, unless Rhodes implies something, what’s going on outside the house. In Two Guns, you don’t go inside the house. It’s concurrent, and it’s entirely outside of the house. It’s what’s going on with the families, and police, FBI, and Rhodes is having a field day among them and just kind of….fucking shit up.

The third book is the few weeks that follow Colossus and Two Guns, they basically end in the same place. The third book is called Ruin, which is kind of like a play off the archaic sense of a woman being ruined.

DM: Do you have any writing helpers/minions/or other furry distractions?

JH: Furry distractions. I have a cat and a dog and my dog is probably very upset he’s not in here under the covers right now. I used to have four snakes because they were all wild caught and we’re about to move out of state and it would be very, very illegal to take them out of state, especially seeing as one of them was venomous.

My dog is very distracting. He’ll sit at my feet and he’ll whine and whine and whine until I pick him up or have him sit in my lap. It’s annoying as hell. He’s a Velcro dog, he’s not comfortable being away from me.

DM: D’aww, poor puppy face.

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JH: He’s a spoiled little poopersnoot.

*temporary break and gushing about furry related cuteness*

DM: So, do you happen to have a favorite book?

JH: I have two. They’re very different, and for very different reasons. Richard Adams’s Watership Down, it’s just…I don’t even know how to describe it. I was young when I first read it, fourth or fifth grade, and so I didn’t really get the depth, but I did get the adventure and the character variety, it was amazing. I love them all, and my favorite will always be Dandelion because he was the story teller. I just, I used to read it every year, I haven’t done it a lot recently. I’ve read it maybe twice in the last six years, but every time I read it feels new and different and, I just love it very much.

My other one is Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic which I read for the first time in the eighth grade. It’s the reason I go by Jette; one of the aunts, her name is Bridget and she went by Jet, and my name is Bridgette. So between eighth and ninth grade I decided I would go by Jette, because I was sick of everyone calling me Bridge, I hated it. It was just so strange to read something where you combine this suburban house-wife kind of thing, kind of very normal family, and then there’s magic. You don’t really know if it’s really magic, but you get a sense that there’s something behind the shadows, and things happen and they can’t possibly be coincidence. It was so amazing to read that, and that was my introducing to, I think it’s called magical realism. It was just amazing how she describes things. Her descriptions are amazing. Her use of hyperbole and her description of things that, you know, otherwise would be normal is just phenomenal. Like, a guy who’s I love is leaning on a counter top, and he’s so in love, he’s so heated and hot for this person that linoleum begins to bubble…it’s just…ridiculous, and I love it.

DM: I can definitely get behind you with that….So, do you have a favorite book that you’ve written?

JH: ….that I’ve written or that I’ve published?

DM…either? Both? Since apparently they’re different?

JH: I think….my favorite thing is going to be the next Phoenix Rising novella. And if I had to choose one that I’ve already written and published…oh god…between the three that I’ve published….I…that’s a real challenge….I think it would have to be…it’s between the Phoenix Rising novellas. I don’t know if I like Salvage more or if I like Flint Ranch more….

DM: It’s okay, I won’t make you choose, haha.

JH: Okay, so, the Phoenix Rising novellas. I think the next one is going to be my absolute favorite because…I just love Thatch’s dad, Wren. He’s so cool, and he’s like so clueless. He has no idea how to raise a kid, but he’s a good man. And so, there was hope there for Thatch being a good man…and then there’s not, and that’s where I will leave that…

DM: How would you say that your writing community has affected you?

JH: I’ve finished a book. I’ve published a book. I’ve finished novellas, I’ve published novellas. I’ve almost finished Sweet Nothings, which is the romance, and they just keep me going, they keep me propped up. They taught me the importance of revisions and the importance of an editor. I would not have finished a book at all if it weren’t for Twitter, which seems like a ridiculous thing to say to somebody who isn’t familiar with the community. They just…that’s where I found my editor, that’s where I found my publisher, it’s where I found almost all of my beta readers.

DM: I was definitely surprised at the community I found on Twitter. I never wanted to be on it, ever.

So, for writing tools, do you have a preference for Word, Scrivener, old fashioned hand writing?

JH: Old-fashioned hand writing. If I had to choose one to live with for the rest of my life, it would be old-fashioned hand writing, as much as my hand hates it. I tried Scrivener for a couple of days and I liked the tools but I felt like…you have to use it for a while to get the most out of it and I wasn’t willing to take the time, to invest my time in it.

So what I do is I write out a scene for as long as I can write, or as long as I have an idea bubbling, and I’ll write it out in pen and paper. Then I will transcribe it either right after I’m done writing it or when I’m typing everything up into Word. I’ve recently become very familiar with Word. I learned how to track changes and make notes and that’s awesome. And that’s really helping my editing as well.

That’s basically what I do, write with pen and paper and then I transcribe. As I transcribe I’m revising and editing. I’ll make little changes, catch where something sounds unnatural. Because writing, typing, and speaking, they all use different pathways in the brain, so even if you’re conveying the same idea, it would come out different depending on what tool you’re using; it’s good to use as many different pathways as you can.

DM: Which author drink stereotype is your biggest vice: coffee, tea, or alcohol?

JH: …um….I hate coffee but I drink it…uh….so, coffee and alcohol, even though I’m not the write drunk, edit sober kind of person, I like to have a cider with my evening writing….I’m very much a soda person actually, I prefer Pepsi or Mountain Dew.

DM: What’s the, or one of the most difficult parts of novel writing for you?

JH: There are two. One is getting started with revisions. After you know what you want to revise and what needs to be done, then it’s really meditative almost, like you’re whittling a statue into shape, or smoothing stone or something like that. But getting to the place where you know what needs to be done is so difficult. That’s where I am with Two Guns, where I’ve revised and I’ve revised it. I’ve cut stuff out and added stuff to it, and it still feels…wrong. And I have people telling me it’s perfect and it’s exactly where it needs to be, but I’m just like no, it just feels wrong. So I’m just going to rewrite it and not worry about that.

The second part is knowing when you’re done. With Colossus, I revised it and I added to it, and I revised those, and then I was chipping away. And my then publisher thought it was ready, it was in publishable condition now, and I agree, I thought it was too, and I think it is, it’s just, there are still flaws in it that I didn’t smooth out.

 

It was a pleasure to interview Jette Harris, she’s a wonderful person and always willing to be there with a kind word. If you’re interested in finding out more about Jette’s works, visit her website here, or  take a look at one of her books!

colossus

salvage.jpg  flint ranch.jpg

 

Three Important Things No Writer Should be Without

Almost no matter what, there are three things I keep with me wherever I go. As an individual, these things have served me well, but as a writer, they’ve been instrumental, which leads me to the conclusion that these are three things no writer should ever be without:

  1. Notebook and Pen (I know, you could argue that would make it four things, but let’s v8a98c0u96just assume the one comes with the other).

    You never want to be without paper and pen (or similar writing utensil and adequate material to write on), particularly as a writer. You know those sensational ideas you have that you swear you’ll remember in five, ten,  twenty minutes, tomorrow morning, in a couple of days?…LIES!!

    Don’t listen to yourself! We all know that if you actually remembered it that it’s some trick of the universe and not an event often repeated. More often than not, you’re left scrabbling for tendrils of an idea you vainly wish you’d had written down…One great way to avoid ever having the conversation where you lie to yourself with complete intention to remember those incredibly evasive and brilliant ideas, is to always have this tool at hand. I’ve scrawled so many ideas in little notebooks that I carry with me that I often have to collect them all in my Ideas Jot List in spurts.

    You can also write if you have a few spare moments. Perhaps a person, a sound, or a smell triggers a line of dialogue or narration, a scene you’ve been working on at home suddenly rushes to you while sitting in the waiting room of the doctor’s office. Having a pen and paper handy can be a huge help, plus, you may not have a napkin nearby to use, best to be safe and bring some supplies with you, it’s only the basics after all.

    Plus, it’s exceedingly handy to have pen and paper at hand. It’s great for writing down messages, stray thoughts, numbers, etc. from phone calls you’ve gotten.  I often use mine for lists. I love lists. They’re a great way to organize your thoughts, for spit balling ideas or just getting your thoughts going.

    Really, you can’t go wrong having a small notebook and a trusty pencil or pen ready to receive whatever words you have to give whenever you have a moment. Take them with you everywhere you can, or use your phone if that’s your thing (personally I prefer a small spiral notebook and my favorite brand of pen.) Leave a notebook and pen on your nightstand to record your dreams, last thoughts for the night, or first thoughts of the morning. Whatever you end up using your notebook and pen for, you’ll be glad for having it.

 

  1. A Book– While it’s very true that this decision may in part be influenced by the fact that I am a bibliophile and a bookworm, I promise it’s also a great idea for writers….or anyone that loves books. Now, I’m sure this has become more common purely by advent of the Kindle App on most phones; at least a scattering of people you see out and mesmerized by their phones may actually be reading a novel…I can hope, right?

    Like Stephen King says:
    stephen-king-quote-books-and-dead-spots-in-life

    I am one of those people that brings a book for these situations, or any situation. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t bust out a book at the family dinner table when politics takes the holiday dinner chat over, no matter how much I might want to (even though I have a book handy…just in case).

    You never know what’s going to happen in life, and more than once in the past I’ve found myself infinitely grateful for having a book on hand when I wasn’t necessarily expecting to have the time. Even if it’s only a couple of sentences, or a paragraph here and there, it can be wonderful to slip into another time, place, person, for a moment. Or, if you’re reading nonfiction, there’s plenty to absorb and think over if the-magic-of-books-155683you read in these dead space moments

    They say if you can’t write, read. If you’re reading what you love and enjoy, you’ll find inspiration, perhaps when you least expect it. Or read something you don’t like and then be sure you shape your writing voice to avoid what it is you dislike. Either way, you are doing research, so even if you’re reading, you’re working!! (…I can neither confirm nor deny ever using this statement to justify reading when I should/could be writing…)

 

  1. An Open Mind– An open mind is something everyone should keep with them, but since you can’t have everything, I strongly urge every writer to never misplace this vital tool.
    open-mind
    Creativity is an amazing thing and you cannot always control the places it and Inspiration will take you, but with an open mind, those places are far more numerous. There are multiple studies showing a connection between higher levels of empathy in those that read fiction. This makes complete sense if you think about it; what are you doing when you read? Becoming another person, perhaps another species all together, and connecting with the struggles, challenges, and triumphs of the character, a character that the reader becomes, through empathy.

    Why am I talking about empathy when I started off with having an open mind? Here’s the thing, not many closed minded people are able to empathize with others, at least not very well. This is of course because they are unwilling or unable to open themselves to possibilities other than their own thoughts, feelings, or ideas.

    Open mindedness will lead you to far more interesting and fantastical places than a closed mind ever could. You must keep this with you always. As writers, we often use what’s around us as inspiration, sometimes a part of a conversation, or the way someone dresses sparks a character, but with an open mind, you can take a good idea and make it something grander than you first imagined.

    An open mind will serve you well, but if you’re a writer, don’t leave home without it.

What are some tools that you keep with you in your writer’s tool belt?

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Preparing for NaNoWriMo: How to be a Plantser

It’s almost here. In a matter of days, the one month countdown until NaNoWriMo begins….there are generally two basic strategies used to tackle writing 50,000 words in 30 days, being a planner/plotter or a pantser.nanowrimo

As the names suggest, a planner spends time plotting out and planning to write their novel; this often includes research, flushing out characters, testing out plot points, and more. Pantsers, on the other hand, fly by the seat of their pants, going in with minimal to no planning on November 1st, perhaps only the a stray idea they plan to turn into a novel.

As mentioned in this post from last year, my first attempt at NaNoWriMo was very much attempted as a pantser. I went in with a vague description of a character and pieced together a direction to go during the first week. It was incredibly difficult for me. I spent so much of my time trying to figure out the other characters I needed to form and write into the story, as well as creating setting and a plot to follow as I went, that it was maddening trying to write a story that I would want to read.

It was obvious that being a full on pantser did not work for me.

The next time I gave NaNoWriMo a real chance, which I count as last year, I found what approach works best for me; the plantser approach, or the planner/pantser combination.

What does it mean to be a plantser?

Well, it could take any form that works for you, but generally it uses both approaches, and I plan to use it again this year; which is why October is a month of planning and preparing.

In my opinion, the best thing about being a plantser is the fact that I have more of a foundation going into my WIP, which means it’s a lot easier to make things happen in the story. With that in mind, there’s no reason at all not to go off in another direction, if it suits the story, and factor that in as you move forward.

Essentially, that’s why a combination works best for me, and many others, because it’s also individualized. You can do as much or as little preparation as you wish, becoming only as detailed as suits you. For instance, I had copious amounts of jots and notes about various characters, or facts about the novel, some of which didn’t necessarily need to be included in the novel, but helped in the writing of it.

It works best when you know what details you need to weave the story together while you’re writing it, and get those down during the planning period.

The best details to plan include:

  • Character details and descriptions- birthdays, graduation dates, degrees, school names, family names, nick names, relevant history that makes them who they are in the novel, their motivations, etc.
  • Setting details- major settings (or at least one) might be good to establish, especially if dealing in fantasy or other worlds that need more context and description; perhaps you need to research real places first and make specific references to make the setting come to life, etc.
  • Some major and sub plot points- making a note of major things that need to happen throughout your novel is a good idea, it helps you link your beginning and end, and it can help you from getting too stuck in the middle; noting subplot points you want to weave in are also good to note, and you can always change or add as you write
  • Essentials timeline- this becomes more important dependent depending on the kind of novel you’re writing and how many things need to happen in particular order, but a timeline of big happenings or significant dates to characters can save a lot of time later, both in writing and in revising

I personally found these helpful last year and helped me keep to my word count a lot easier since there was less time scrambling for important details. Instead, all I had to do was scan my notes and I was off again. If I decided to make a change, I could easily enough by looking at my notes and doing so.

I definitely strayed from the plot points I originally wrote in October, adding, switching, and altering as needed along the way. For instance, I noted a plot point as simply “vibes and feelings” in relation to another character and just saying “next vision,” leaving the details to come to me in the moment or to be thought on until that time.

In the end, everyone finds what works for them, falling in and out of their stride and, as long as they don’t give up, find themselves winners of NaNoWriMo and novel writers. You do what works for you, and for me, it’s a combination approach. Having a flexible plan is usually what works best for me.

What about you? What’s your style?

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