NaNoWriMo: A Retrospective

Posted on : 02-12-2006 | By : Brian | In : Musings, NaNoWriMo


After having participated in NaNoWriMo (and after having thought about it for a couple of days), I have a few thoughts. First: it really wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I made it my goal to try to write about 2000 words per day (a goal that I sometimes kept and sometimes didn’t), which, if you don’t dilly-dally too much, is only about an hour to an hour and a half of actual writing time. Not too bad. I do think I had a pretty big advantage in that I already had most of the broad strokes for my novel in my head, so I knew generally where I wanted things to go. I think, once that’s done, a novel actually can pretty much write itself; that’s what it felt like a lot of the time.

I think the hardest part of NaNoWriMo, for me, was the last 2500 words. One reason for this was that I had already pretty much finished the entire story arc by the time I got to that point, so I was using those last 2500 words to just expand on previously written scenes and otherwise pad my word count a little bit. The other reason is a little more personal (and I won’t be sharing it in this forum), suffice it to say that NaNoWriMo was way down on my list of priorities during those last couple of days; it just didn’t seem as important.

Anyway, now that it’s done, I’m reasonably happy with how it turned out. That said, my book still needs a fair amount of work. I wrote the book as two separate narratives from the perspectives of two different people, and I have yet to integrate them into a single work. So there’s still that to do. Also, I’m sure there are certain parts of what I’ve written that I won’t be using, and other parts that I will be expanding upon. The thing is, despite the name of the contest, I don’t think I wrote a novel. It’s a complete story, to be sure, and it’s longer than a short story, but I think that 50,000 words is really more of a novella than a novel; I think you’d need at least 75,000 to 100,000 words to really be able to call it a “novel”. The thing is, though, I’m fine with that. I’d like to eventually get this thing published, and I’m just as happy getting a 100-page novella published as I would be getting a 300+ page tome published.

So who else out there finished NaNoWriMo? Who tried but didn’t quite make it? I’d like to hear some of your stories, too!

I won

Posted on : 28-11-2006 | By : Brian | In : NaNoWriMo, News


Well, I finished NaNoWriMo, a couple days ahead of schedule. You can see my winner’s icon over on the right-hand side of the page. I’ve got some personal stuff to deal with right now, so don’t expect a retrospective right away, though I will post one eventually.

The Weave

Posted on : 24-11-2006 | By : Brian | In : NaNoWriMo


His eyes snap back into focus and he looks at me for a couple of moments. “It comes down to the difference between how yer kind experience time, and how the Folk do. Yer limited to yer own experiences, right? Ye got yer own memories, yer own past to draw on, plus whatever anyone else has told ye, right?”

I nod.

“Well, it don't work that way fer us. All us Folk're connected in a way. If one of us experiences somethin', that somethin' goes into the Weave. The Weave is like a collection o' memories, except that they're memories from lots o' different Folk, and we can all remember 'em. I knew you'd been to see Josephine because she knew it. Just like I knew Japhed had survived his fall because the Green Lady knew it, an' because Tesh and Nephra knew it. It ain't like I was there or nothin', but I was aware o' what had happened.”

“So this Weave . . . does that mean that you remember everything that's ever happened to any of the Folk . . . ever?” My mind boggles at the implications. I have a hard enough time trying to shut out the thoughts and emotions of people around me sometimes; I can't even fathom the maddening effect of being aware of everything that every human in the world is aware of.

“It ain't that simple, Cor. Sometimes things fade out o' the Weave, and sometimes things get distorted or covered over. Sometimes they don't make it in in the first place. It ain't like a science, there ain't really rules fer it. But yeah, I guess that's the long an' the short o' it.”

Six or Seven

Posted on : 22-11-2006 | By : Brian | In : NaNoWriMo


“Six? They couldn't muster any more?” I'm impatient and anxious and I can get a little snappish when I get that way.

Whitehorse looks at me and grunts. “Case you hadn't noticed, this ain't Bastion. Most o' these folk are miners or craftsman, and it ain't like they can afford to spare too many o' their young men to the law. Anyways, there's seven.”

I blink. “I count six, Whitehorse.”

“Nah,” he says, shaking his head. “There's one over there, just beyond that row o' bushes.”


“Right there,” he says impatiently, pointing. “Hold on . . . where'd he get to? Aw, shit.”

We don't have to say it; we know what happened and we're both running in that direction as fast as we can. I get there first—Whitehorse hobbles up a few moments later—and see exactly what I expected to: a man in uniform, face down on the ground, a dark, wet spot in the earth just beneath his throat. I kneel down and turn the man over to see if there's anything I can do, but his throat's been cleanly slit and he's lost way too much blood. It's likely he was dead when he hit the ground.

“Damnit.” That's twice he's gotten away from us, and twice more he's killed. I estimate the body count's up around fifteen or sixteen now, and that means that no matter how passionately I speak on his behalf at his hearing, he'll be hung. If Whitehorse doesn't shoot him first.

What has to be done

Posted on : 20-11-2006 | By : Brian | In : NaNoWriMo


Whitehorse and I are sitting on a bench outside the Sheriff's Office; he's smoking his pipe and massaging his leg, while I'm just waiting.

He breaks the silence with a question, one I've heard him ask before. “You ready to do what needs to be done, Cor?” It's the first time he's called me by name, as far as I can remember.

I look at him and sigh. “I want him taken alive. I want him to go back to Bastion and stand trial for his crimes, and if a Justicar says he's to be hanged, then I'll see that happen, too. But that's not what you're asking, right? You want to know if I'll shoot him if it comes to that. And I can't answer that question yet, Whitehorse. I don't know.”

He nods, leans forward and blows long, twin jets of smoke from his nostrils before speaking again. “I can respect that answer. It's easier to shoot a man if you don't know him. But I'll tell you what, I met this fucker once, and he broke my damn nose and stabbed me through the leg. I ain't got the kinds of moral issues you're wrestlin' with. If I see him again, I'll tell him to stand down, like I been trained to. If he don't, I'll put a bullet to him without thinkin', 'cause that's just my way.”

Order of the Dawn

Posted on : 19-11-2006 | By : Brian | In : NaNoWriMo


The Order of the Dawn was founded somewhere around thirty years or so after the War of Attrition ended. For a long, long time, we'd been united in our common enmity toward the Folk, our common goal of expansion, and we'd forgotten the petty crimes and little cruelties that had filled our day-to-day lives before. They returned, and it became clear that we needed some way to keep the peace, some way to administer law. We founded the Order of the Dawn to achieve that end.

The Order was divided into two distinct halves: the Justicars, who presided over hearings, decided the truth of things, and sentenced the guilty to their penance; and the Wardens, whose job it was to find the guilty and either punish them or bring them in so that justice could be administered. Back then, every member of the Order of the Dawn was also a lay priest of the Fane of the High Sun, and it was said that their authority came directly from the High Sun, itself.

Over the years, the two halves of the Order drifted apart until they truly were separate organizations, and it became less and less important for members to be lay priests. A few of us still adhere to that old standard, though. That's why I went to Ressen. I spent two years studying the scripture and learning the doctrines, and I went to Ressen for a month, to the Wardens' Chapel, to complete my final initiation into the Fane and become a lay priest of the faith. I don't advertise the fact, but I have been ordained.

Passing the time

Posted on : 17-11-2006 | By : Brian | In : NaNoWriMo


About a half hour later, I've packed my gear up and dowsed the fire, and the two of us are walking through the woods. We're walking side by side, but I'm letting Josephine take the lead whenever she feels like it, since this is her home ground. A question has been gnawing at me for a while, and I figure she might have the answer, so I ask it while we walk, if only to pass the time.

“My friend—the man I'm following—fell out of the sky, from a ship. He fell more than a thousand feet, and he seems to have walked away from it. How is that possible?”

She glances at me, then returns her gaze to the trackless land ahead of us. “Lots o' things possible, 'specially in the middle of a place like this.”

“A place like this? You mean the Crying Forest?” She's being cryptic, and I'm probably playing right into her game, but I don't really care at this point.

“Some bit,” she says. “This place, the Forest, it be a focus point. They be all over this land, but you and you kin no can see them. You think these trees done growed up on this spot, overnight, 'cause o' nothin'?”

“I figured the Folk did it, when they saw that the Empire was going to force them north. Don't all you people have magic powers?”

“What power we got, 'cause Sister Moon shine her light down on this land, more than others. An' some places shine brighter than others. Sure, we kicked it off. We was mad. But why you think we picked this place? This be a focus point, and that make all manner o' crazy things possible. Hm. But that ain't what saved you friend, the one you chasin'.”

I stare at her for a moment, wondering why she led me in a circle only to come back to this point in our conversation. “Then what did?”

“That be a story. You willin' to hear a story?”

Josephine of the Woods

Posted on : 16-11-2006 | By : Brian | In : NaNoWriMo


I'm staring into the flames, savoring the smell of cooking meat; it's a welcome change of pace from the olfactory cacophony that I've been experiencing for most of the day. I see some movement—so slight it barely registers—on the other side of the fire and I look up, blinking, trying to get my eyes to adjust faster to the darkness, trying to make some sense out of the inky void beyond my little circle of light. Slowly, a shape resolves. It's human-sized, but its shape is hard to gauge. It seems indistinct somehow, and I'm wondering how that could be when it suddenly hits me: whoever is standing just outside the radius of my campfire is wearing a robe, dark-colored from the look of it.

“I been here twenty minutes, city-man.” The voice is rich and dark, smooth and melodic and very, very female. “You jes now notice me?”

I stand up, trying to lay my hand on the hilt of my sword in a casual, understated kind of way that won't provoke a fight but makes it clear that I can fight if I need to. I'm not sure I pull it off, since she doesn't really react like she notices.

“You gon' invite me to sit?” There's impatience in her voice.

“You're waiting for an invitation? You've already got the drop on me; why not just come and sit?”

She shifts restlessly and crosses her arms. “That an invitation or what, city-man?”

I hesitate a moment, unsure of what to say. Finally, I just say, “Yes.”

She ambles into the light and sits down at a log a few feet from the fire, on the side opposite me. I was right: she's wearing a robe, and it's a deep, dark blue. There's no cowl, though, so I can see her features just fine now. She looks human enough, though she's got some markings on her face that would make her stand out a little in Bastion. Her hair is short and red, and her skin is a dark brown, like mahogany. She has delicate features which are only accentuated by the swirling blue tattoos etched across her cheeks and on her forehead. The thing I notice most, though, are her eyes. They're a vibrant, vital green, and they seem to catch the light like a cat's eyes. There's clearly a sharp intelligence there, and there also seems to be a wild, mocking laughter, like she knows a joke that nobody else is going to get. At a loss, I just sit back down.

The right thing

Posted on : 13-11-2006 | By : Brian | In : NaNoWriMo


“You followin' a scent or somethin'?”

We're riding through the streets of Bastion on horseback. Everyone gets out of our way, recognizing us for what we are, knowing that we're not to be crossed. This is going to take some getting used to.

“Yes and no,” I say, keeping my eyes on the street, hoping that I remember the way. “The scent tells me that he's afraid. My familiarity with him tells me that he's going to seek a friendly face so he can regroup before he takes off. I know his only other friend, so that's where we're going.”

I can feel his stare, and I can smell his disapproval, despite all the background interference. “This gonna be a problem for you, kid?”

I look over at him momentarily, then back at the twisting roads and rusted signposts. “I want what's best for Japhed, but I don't think that conflicts with my job. Right now, as I see it, what's best for him is for him to be brought in, before he does anything really stupid. He may go to prison again, but I'll speak on his behalf.”

Whitehorse makes a guttural snorting noise in his throat, obviously not impressed. “'Scuse me for sayin', but you've got yer head up yer ass. If this guy's runnin', means he don't care too much what happens to anyone else, long as he gets off. In my experience, cases like this end in killin'. Just a matter of when, and how much. You prepared for that?”

I don't know how to answer. Whitehorse is far more experienced than I am, and he probably knows what he's talking about. But I have a hard time believing that Japhed is capable of cold-blooded murder, let alone killing me. He's killed, to be sure, but in both cases events were spiraling out of control, and he simply made the wrong decision in the heat of the moment. If he were faced with a choice, a deliberate choice, between killing me and turning himself in, I have to believe that he'd do the right thing.


Posted on : 12-11-2006 | By : Brian | In : NaNoWriMo


Where in the name of the Prophet's left testicle am I? I'm on the ground, fully clothed, and I'm definitely not in my bed at Widow Jolien's house. I'm not even in Barnard's Lot anymore. There's a river not too far off; I can hear it flowing out there in the night. I push myself up to my knees and rub my face with my hands, but I stop when I feel something warm and sticky against my cheeks. I look down at my hands, confused. There's something all over them, all over me, but my mind can't process what it is. It's dark, and all I can see is the dark wetness against my skin and clothes. I bring my hand up to my nose and smell the metallic acridity of blood. Oh, fuck me.

I'll have to assume that it's my blood, and that I'm injured. I don't feel injured. Nothing hurts, and I'm able to stand just fine. I'll have to assume that it's my blood, that the locals decided they didn't want me around for some reason, and that my newfound gift for healing at a ridiculous rate saved me. It's either that, or I'm killing people in my sleep now. Like I need that.