Nanowrimo is going well…

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… just now getting to the point where I can think clearly. For a refresher, I’m working on the Spellpunk series, finishing up HEX CODE … and, since I discovered last time that I was actually writing all three Spellpunks in the same manuscript, there’s a small chance I’ll finish HEX CODE itself this month and move on to BOT NET. More news in a bit. That is all.

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From My Labors Rested

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Well, another Nano has come to an end. I’ve added over 50,000 words to the HEX CODE manuscript, succeeding at the month’s 50K as of a few days ago, and last night I added the framework for the last few scenes that the revised story still needed, putting me way ahead of the game. Calling it done … for now, that is.

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It’s interesting to compare this with previous months, as I did before. Even after the huge push near the end, I didn’t quite catch up to the last time that I worked on HEX CODE. I must have been going gangbusters!

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I’d love to keep going, but I now see why in the past, whenever I hit the limit, my writing rate dropped off. By my calculations, I have five novels due over the next two years – one down into the final edits, one in rough draft, one (HEX CODE) almost complete, and two more in lesser stages of completion. So it’s good to take a breather … after climbing the mountain.

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Now, back to CLOCKWORK ….

-the Centaur

Viiictory the Twelfth

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As of this afternoon, I have completed an additional 50,000 words on my Cinnamon Frost novel HEX CODE … making me an official winner of the Nanowrimo challenge twelve times. Woohoo!

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This was a good Nano, in that I stayed ahead of the game more than I thought I had. Even a couple of days I got physically sick helped me, as I holed up with my laptop and typed. Paradoxically, some of the best-feeling personal days I had this month I got no writing done at all. Yet, in the end, I managed to stay ahead, way ahead.

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But, while analyzing this data, I found out something else … I haven’t tackled Nanowrimo twelve times with one failure; I’ve tackled it fourteen times. You see, I remembered all the times I tackled Nanowrimo in November, and all the times I tackled Camp Nanowrimo, and even Script Frenzy. But ever since 2009, I’ve kept day-to-day word counts, and I found at least one more time I’ve tried Nano, in December of 2010. I was apparently having so much fun with CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE that I decided to keep going. Putting all this data together revealed something very interesting: this hasn’t been my best month at Nano.

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In a recent post, I said I thought I’d never been this consistently far ahead for this long, but was I wrong. Way wrong. In 2011, when I was tackling HEX CODE for the first time, I was so far ahead it’s crazy: several thousand words ahead of my best times on all the other months. Apparently I was going gangbusters. This month was close, up till Friday and Saturday where I fell off a bit and then had to take a day of for writing business stuff, but today after writing 4,500+ words I ended up only 8,000 words ahead, but at this time in November of 2011 I was almost 13,000 words ahead.

Cinnamon is such a delightful character, it doesn’t surprise me – though it does hurt your brain writing tens of thousands of words in broken English. Still, I’m really happy with how this book is developing. I realized, partway through this month, that this manuscript is actually the whole of the Spellpunk trilogy, and I reorganized it so the parts of #2 BOT NET and #3 ROOT USER were downstream of where I was writing, letting me focus on the story of HEX CODE #1, giving its own problems and climax. I think it’s gone quite well, giving the story room to breathe, making certain events more rational because they can happen over time in a natural sequence … and giving Cinnamon even more time to shine.

I’ll probably keep going on HEX CODE for a few more days making sure I core dump the rest of my story ideas, but then it will be back to editing THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE in time to send it to Debra, then revising SPECTRAL IRON in time to send it to beta readers, plus two stories for an upcoming anthology, then an essay, plus conference travel, oh finishing the Hugo reading and voting, plus that wedding, and wait shouldn’t I pay my bills aaaaaa ….

It’s a wonderful life. Back to it!

-the Centaur

Soaring on Thermals

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As you may be able to see above, I’ve managed to do something I don’t recall having done ever in Nano: consistently stay ahead of the curve for the whole month to date. By my count, I’m almost 8% ahead of the game at the halfway point … over two full days.

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While there were a few days I didn’t get any writing done, I was always ahead of the game, so I never fell behind … meaning the “Current Debt” column was always positive … meaning I’m always in the black. Huzzah!

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This is a good feeling, but there’s slightly more to it than that. I made a discovery. I’m not actually writing HEX CODE.

I’ve been writing the whole damn SPELLPUNK trilogy.

As I wrote, the story kept getting bigger and more bloated, while at the same time it was missing something. Threads left out. Pieces which didn’t quite fit. The magical computer virus of the title, the “hex code”, appeared in strangely spotty ways. And there were all these other threads, threads about the Werehold, the new werekin home.

I was thinking through how to fit these things together, and then started to notice something. I always had three titles in mind for the SPELLPUNK trilogy: HEX CODE, BOT NET, and ROOT USER (originally the last two were swapped, but whaddya know). And then I noticed: the first part of the book deals with the “hex code”, then later a “bot net” appears, then later, in the last part of the story … a “root user” appears.

Am I writing the whole trilogy? I asked myself. I pulled in the 700 words I’d written on the second novel. I reorganized some sequences. I started fleshing out more and more pieces. Finally, I allowed myself to write a sequence that I had considered dropping, when I thought I was writing just one young adult novel. But if this part of the book isn’t a part of a book, but an entire book in and of itself, that sequence was needed, was logical, was even demanded …

And 1400 words immediately popped out of my pen. (Well, keyboard, but you know).

So I’m even further ahead than I expected, not just on this month’s Nanowrimo thanks to this burst of creativity, but now on the next few years of my life. I knew I needed to get three books out in the next year – THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE, HEX CODE, and SPECTRAL IRON – and five in the next two years – PHANTOM SILVER and one or more sequels. But now, I’m closer to the end of HEX CODE proper than I’d ever thought I’d be, I have a huge jump on the sequels, these books will all be shorter than the 150,000 word behemoths that I’d been turning into Debra … and they’ll have an inter-book cohesion that I’ve never attempted before, but which falls out naturally from the nature of the story.

In short, the story gets to breathe … and so will I.

At least, that’s the theory. I still have five novels due in the next two years. So, back to Nano. I have almost 22,000 words to finish for this month, after all. But now I’m not just flying above the mountain; I’m soaring above it, rising on thermals to new heights. Now, beyond what I have due, I also have a ray of hope – and a plan for success.

Onward!

-the Centaur

Reading the Manual after Jumping from the Plane

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Still plugging away at HEX CODE. But even in the middle of Nanowrimo, when I’m desperate to make my word count before my upcoming adventures, even when I have a good feel for what needs to happen in the next scene … it still helps to do research. Above you see a pile of books fairly typical for working on Cinnamon Frost stories, plus one recreational one (I’ll leave it to you to figure out which one from the negative space of the context) and here’s how they have helped me. For those just joining us, Cinnamon Frost is a teenage weretiger with Tourette’s Syndrome who grew up basically on the streets, and …

  • Chelsea Cain’s “Wild Child: Girlhoods in the Counterculture” helped me get in touch with something entirely outside my experience … growing up as a teenage weretiger in essentially a werekindred commune.
  • Brooks Landon’s “Building Great Sentences” audio course (of which I have the printed notes above) reminded me to keep vary the patterns in my sentences, which helps me (in my terms) “solve problems” as I try to deliver the information I need to keep the plot moving while maintaining the right rhythm.
  • Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf” also helped me get in touch with the experiences that someone in a marginalized community might have, though I wasn’t able use this idea in today’s writing session, it might come up soon.
  • Patrick Newman’s “Tracking the Weretiger” is just damn fascinating, and is helping me flesh out the plot of the rest of the “Dakota Frost, Skindancer” / “Cinnamon Frost, Spellpunk” / “Quarry” series.
  • The Jesus Seminar’s “The Parables of Jesus” is helping me flesh out the moral dimensions of the story, by deriving the moral stances of the more “heroic” characters from the more “authentic” parables (at least, according to the Seminar) and deriving the stances of the more morally gray characters from the more “questionable” parables. Of course, all Scripture is profitable for instruction … but some parts of it do seem to get Jesus’s message more on point than others, and by assigning a spectrum of goodness to different characters I get to play with a lot of interesting moral conundrums.
  • Mitzi Waltz’s Tourette’s Syndrome: “Finding Answers & Getting Help” is also useful for helping me portray the subtle aspects of Tourette’s Syndrome, which Cinnamon suffers from, but which is notoriously difficult to portray correctly without it devolving into caricature. It has given me new plot ideas for the whole book and actually makes some of Cinnamon’s weird behavior seem much more understandable, but I need to work it in.

As for the last book, for now it’s fun, but who knows, she’s a math genius, so maybe it will work in.

I didn’t read all of these over lunch, but I got a chapter or a half dozen pages of each, and as a consequence: I found out some interesting other conditions people might suffer from, gave them to a character, creating an instant conflict, and gave Cinnamon a new coping tool, leading to more conflict.

Easily three to five hundred words popped out of today’s salsa of reading, putting me way ahead:

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I’m doing my level headed best to not rest on my laurels though, as I have a LOT more to go:

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Still climbing that mountain. Still reading the manual as falling out of the plane. Still writing 1666+ words a day.

Onward!

-the Centaur

Still flying above the mountain…

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… trying to get a good buffer before the crazy that is Comic-Con starts. That is all. Oh wait, an excerpt:

“So … how’s the investigation going,” I asks warily.

Mom chews, thinking. “Like shit,” she says. “One round of emails, mostly to my friends, but neither Philip nor Jinx nor Avenix were able to track the emails back to the source. They’re arguing now whether it’s Korean or Russian hackers, based on plaintext in the binaries, but—”

“That could be, like, contract work, or a smokescreen,” I says, tryin’ to keep up.

“Either one would be scary,” Mom says. “There’s more thought going into this assault than at first I thought.”

“And you’re still cuttin’ me out,” I says, scowling.

“Until Jinx gets us a way to look at the material without getting killed, yes.” Mom says. “After we have a better grip on what’s safe … actually, I would love your mathematical expertise on this one, Cinnamon.”

“Why?” I asks suspiciously.

“The mathematical patterns in the display code,” Mom says. “Jinx says they remind her of your cat’s cradles—”

“I did not have anything to do with this,” I says hotly.

“I know, I know,” Mom says, “but you are familiar with dangerous magic. I … I just don’t want you hurt, but you might be able to help us.”

“Fine,” I says. “Math is supposed to be fun, not a chore.”

“You don’t have to help,” Mom says.

“I’ll do it,” I says. “I … sigh, can I lay the cards on the table, Mom?”

“Sure.”

“I feel better, and want to go for a run tonight,” I says.

Mom purses her lips.

“I’ve already asked a friend from the werehouse, like you asked,” I says. I juts my chin out in defiance. “My boyfriend. Tully.”

Mom frowns.

“Whatdja got to say about that?” I asks defiantly.

Mom shrugs. “That … is what I said, isn’t it. Run with a friend from the werehouse—”

“It sure as hell is,” I shoots back.

“What about that thing on your ankle?” Mom says.

“I’ll be sure not to take it into any Edgeworld locations,” I says. “I ain’t stupid.”

Lots going on there. More to come. That is all.

-the Centaur

Happy Freedom Day

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That’s not a flag, but it is my Nanowrimo word count for the day, so I’m off to enjoy the Fourth of July holiday with my wife. If you’re American, celebrate this moment – by convention, commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but by connotation, commemorating our liberty. If you’re not American, hey, you can still take this moment to reflect on the ways in which you are free … and how important it is to preserve those freedoms. Enjoy the day!

-the Centaur

Climbing the Mountain Again

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Well, I haven’t finished editing THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE in June like I wanted to, but it’s now July, and I’m out of time. So it’s back to another Nano challenge, the Camp nano challenge for July, in which I’ll write 50,000 words of the Cinnamon spin-off novel, HEX CODE.

After much struggling, I have come to accept that this Cinnamon Frost novel, which comes between Book 4 and Book 5 of the Dakota Frost series, can go nowhere else other than between Book 4 and Book 5. if HEX CODE had happened before Book 4, SPECTRAL IRON, the story would collapse: Dakota could solve the problem with one phone call, if that, and my 150,000 word book would collapse to a 30,000 word novella. Same thing with PHANTOM SILVER: if HEX CODE hadn’t happened immediately before Book 5, half the plot would collapse, and I’d need to contrive reasons to do things which are completely natural.

But I still owe THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE to Debra sometime before the end of August for the book to come out this year, and I still need to get SPECTRAL IRON to Debra by January 31st of 2016 so it can come out in 2016, and PHANTOM SILVER to her by January of 2017 so it can come out in 2017 … which means HEX CODE needs to be done in the middle of 2016 so we can get that book out between Books 4 and 5. That means I need to write something like 50,000 to 100,000 words in the next six months, and edit the draft, and send it to beta readers, and edit it again, all on top of everything else I’m doing.

I sure do live in interesting times.

But I’m done with my word count for today, so I’ll be diving back into CLOCKWORK for the rest of tonight. And I’ve got a long weekend coming up, with all next week off leading into Comic-Con, with no responsibilities for Comic-Con itself this year (thank God) other than showing up and having fun, so … perhaps this is going to work out.

Oh, right, an excerpt! I think that’s safe in this case. From today’s first draftiness:

I tenses up. I knows where this is going.

“I,” Mom says, whapping my leg, “am not my mother. I remember fighting monsters and wizards with you. You are reckless and amazing, and I’d love to say you can definitely take care of yourself … but I also remember you’ve been kidnapped, and you nearly set the city on fire.”

“Yes, Mom,” I says. “Sorry, Mom.”

“You are not formally grounded,” Mom says. “But I don’t want you going on a run—”

“Aww, man,” I says.

“—don’t want you going on a run until the situation and your vitals are more stable,” Mom says, pointing at the heartbeep machine. “Not until we can get more security for the house, and coordinate a plan to keep you safe away from the house—”

“Aww, Mom,” I says, “that spoils it. I gotta run by myself—”

“You run with Tully,” Mom says. “You ran with hunts at the werehouse. Did any of that spoil it? Look, Cinnamon, I’m not stupid. I will find out if you have snuck out … but I can’t stop you from sneaking out. You’re an experienced and stealthy street tiger who can turn invisible, and I’m a weak mortal human who needs to sleep. You will get out if you want to. But we’re in a difficult and terrible situation in which our friends are literally exploding and you were attacked so hard it put you in the hospital. All I ask is that you not go for a run until you heal up and the situation calms down, and that if, God forbid, you’re crawling the walls so much you can’t stand it, find a friend from the werehouse and go on a run with a partner.”

I set my lip. I wants to run free. I can outrun anybody. I wants to run free.

“Fine,” I says at last, fuming. But I’m really smart … and I’ve seen the escape hatch.

Mom stares off in the distance. “I know you’re really smart, so I want you to think about what our friend Special Agent Philip Davidson would call operational security. Think about what you can do to make it hard on the bad guys. Change your time, change your route, run with a friend or even a whole hunt—and text me your location. I promise not to freak. In fact, if you’ve done something bad and you need my help, I want you to say that. Tell me, “don’t freak”—but tell me, or I swear to God I am going to ground you until the heat death of the universe.”

Only 48,000 words left for the month of July. Onward!

-the Centaur