and they will know us by the trail of frustration but there is a light in the distance

It’s easy to get frustrated. At least it is for me. Yesterday’s post was largely out of frustration. Not so much about pictures of ballots–though that’s all people reacted to!–but about the election in general. It’s been a vicious and caustic and divisive cycle that’s gone on for far too long.

Honestly, I’m tired of all of this. It’s exhausting. So much hate constantly being spewed out by everyone about everything. Usually everyone just blames the conservatives for being dicks–and they’ve never been more racist and sexist–but the progressive side has been worse than ever before. Snide, caustic, jingoistic, classist, and xenophobic. All adjectives they’d like to think don’t represent them.

Anyrate, the election is tomorrow so some of this will soon be behind us. We’ll be left holding a lot of this baggage for years to come. It’s very likely there will be violence tomorrow, and when Clinton runs away with the election, Trump and his thugs will call for some insane kinds of action. His supporters are already carrying guns and making jokes that aren’t jokes about using them on Clinton.

This is terrifying, mind. Like, you can hate Clinton all you want, but this level of hate goes beyond insanity.

But, for all the hate and pain and terror, there are things to be hopeful for. There have even been aspects of the election that have excited me.

I’ve seen more and more people invested in the political process then ever before. People I know care about the issues, care about the future of the country.

I’m fortunate to be part of the generation that’s working to civilize this country. Of course, if you read any major publication, they publish thousands of hot takes and thinkpieces about how my generation is the worst and ruining the country, but we’re the most inclusive generation. As much as people deride university students for wanting safe spaces, they’re making waves that will be pushed beyond the university borders. Workplaces will need to start accommodating people of various genders and sexualities and bodies with varying degrees of mobility.

It’s an interesting time to be alive and I’m excited to see how active people have become. Because the real work really begins when Clinton takes office. If you want progressive movement, you need to take action. Push her administration to fight for indigenous rights, for environmental protection, for worker’s rights, for equity for people of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds, of all genders and sexualities, for people of all striations of class.

So I encourage you to vote–though you likely don’t need to hear that from me. I don’t particularly care how you vote, but I think you should. And if you’re too disgusted with the various presidential candidates, you don’t have to vote for any of them!

I know someone’s going to shout at me for saying that, but the president doesn’t matter nearly as much as everything else on your ballot. There are constitutional amendments, senators, representatives, and on and on. If you need a cheat sheet, check out Ballotpedia and enter your address so you can learn about who is running for office in your town.

Anyrate, another benefit of this cycle is that someone brought Matt Taibbi to my attention. His election coverage has been hilarious and insightful and definitely worth checking out. Especially his most recent piece.

And so though I’m frustrated and annoyed–as I’m sure most of you are with this election–it’s worth remembering that not everything is the worst.

So go vote in your local elections and get ready to fight for the causes you believe in. It takes time and effort or money. Slacktivism is all the rage–and it’s not a bad thing–but you need to do more to make the change you want.

But, yeah, carry on.

politics as performance art

Every time I see someone post a picture of their ballot, I’m reminded of how shallow politics have become, how they’re as much a performance as they are a representation of our personal values. No one benefits from seeing your ballot, that you voted for Trump or Clinton, but you get to feel a part of something. Whether it’s a group that you want to be included in or one you’re choosing to be excluded from.

There’s a powerful draw to performing and receiving affirmation–which everyone does through likes and emoticons and dope memes–or even receiving antagonism. We get high on it. Or at least those of us who enjoy arguing on the internet. Or, if not enjoy, can’t help themselves from arguing on the internet.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I suppose. It makes sense that a nonstop news cycle of nonsense combined with the nonstop sharing narcissism of social media would collaborate in making politics annoying, shallow, pointless, and callous. We’ve turned the presidential election into a sideshow. Despite what everyone’s saying, this is not something new that Trump brought. We’ve been racing towards this celebritization of politicians for decades, but we’ve been turning it into a reality show since Bush ran against Clinton, and then especially when a different Bush ran against Gore, and then it reached peak–or so we thought–nonsense when Haircut Romney ran against Obama.

But now we’re taking that national sideshow and making it personal, putting it on display like baboons in heat, so that everyone can see how we’re taking part in the freakshow that is american politics.

Regardless of who wins on Tuesday, we’ll only see more of this. I honestly think this is the most annoying, toxic, and debilitating election I’ve ever witnessed, and every single one going forward is going to be worse, more annoying, more toxic, and more philosophically crushing than this one.

That’s not even to mention the existential threat both candidates represent. One is a walking disaster flailing in all directions and the other is a highly targeted typhoon. Regardless of who wins, a lot of people will suffer both in the US and abroad, but especially in impoverished nations across the world.

That being said, I honestly don’t care who you vote for. I do find it astounding that people would vote for Trump, but I also think the only reason Clinton seems preferable is because Trump is a paralyzing nightmare that becomes more ridiculous with every day that goes by.

We’ve all made politics stupid and worthless. We can’t even have meaningful conversations about politics at this point.

But maybe the funniest thing about all this is that people are finally paying attention to wikileaks and caring about what they publish. No one cared about the previous six years of publications that reveal modern imperialism and all its catastrophic consequences. What will be funnier is when they stop paying attention come November 9th.

Or maybe the funniest thing is that Democrats are universally onboard with going to war with Russia due to the absence of evidence. I’d make comparisons to Rumsfeld and Bush, but that would be too on the nose. I’d even mention how Obama has done more for peace between our two nations than maybe any previous president, but that would contradict the new party platform–which Obama ridiculed Haircut Romney for in 2012–of MyCarthyism. Especially because the US has no interest in actually fighting a nation that could conceivably fight back, but it’s useful to have a boogeyman, and Putin’s an easy target. At least after you’ve knocked out guys like Gaddafi and Husein and Bin Laden. But especially when you have the lack of critical thinking that comes when you treat political parties the same way you treat professional sport teams.

Anyrate, we’ve been ruining the planet for a long time, ruining other nations for even longer, but for a few decades we’ve been really trying to ruin our own nation, and we are seeing it play out in front of our screens in the most obscene ways imaginable. “A racist rapist pedophile billionaire and a war criminal walk into a bar” would be the beginning of an awful joke, but it’s a terrifyingly accurate way to frame our national discourse.

But this is publicly funded performance art. It’s the last breath of our dying empire, but first it flails its crippled limbs through the middle east, displacing and destroying millions of lives for generations to come.

I suppose we’ve done a swell job.

Anyrate.

six months

After six months, I’ve finally finished the first draft of Songs of my Mother! For some reason, the following song is the first thing that popped into my head upon completion.

 

captureThe wordcount ended up being just shy of 300,000 words, though this will expand at least a bit–if not a lot–over that when I edit/rewrite. Well, here’s the total wordcount and pagecount.

This has been quite an ordeal for me, as people who come to this site well know. But now the hardest part is over. What comes next is adding in scenes I didn’t know I needed, rewriting scenes that may not have turned out the way they should have, and just general editing.

Luckily, the first 120,000 words are more or less in final draft form. Or at least finalish form. So are most of the chapters that take place in the present. So the bulk of the work will be in the rest, which is probably like 150,000 words. Still a lot, mind, but a lot less than 300,000 words.

At this point, it’s probably time to write some kind of a synopsis or whatever.

The novel takes place in the same world and on the same continent as Twilight of the Wolves, though it takes place several centuries before that, so there’s no overlap. The bulk of the novel takes place in a single village deep in the forest that covers most of the continent and it deals with life there. It’s about culture, life, and relationships, really. What it means to be a member of this village and how this village changes when one of its people becomes a god.

Luna is a child. Her mother and fathers are outcasts in their clan and the first section of the novel is, in many ways, a family drama. What it means to be an outcast, what it means to watch your society not accept you because of the decision your parents made before you were born. More than that, it’s about what it means to be a family. What kind of love exists between men and women, between parent and child. How we try to protect our children from our mistakes and how our children are far more perceptive than we believe they are.

Then a dragon comes to the village and Luna’s mother kills it. This is really the pivot of the novel, and everything spirals out from there. In killing the dragon, she becomes a god to her own people and the rest of the novel deals with this event.

It’s sociological fantasy, in the vein of Ursula K Le Guin or Samuel R Delany’s Neveryona series. The novel deals with mythology, philosophy, art, culture, love, sexuality, social conventions and structures, mysticism, pacifism, violence, apotheosis, deicide, suicide, motherhood, childhood, love, death, and what it means to be a person, what it means to be alive.

There are characters who are gods who have lived for thousands of years and characters who become gods while still too young to understand what that means. There are tragedies, moments of humor, violence, and the grotesque.

Basically, there’s a bit of everything. All my various obsessions–including cooking–find a place in the novel. But I think, at the heart, it’s about a few things.

The impetus for much of this was the disorienting sensation of being confronted by power so much greater than what you can conceive. And then being forced to accept that power and live under its shadow.

But the novel really finds a heart in the relationships between people. People children and parents, between lovers, between friends, and how power can turn these people into opposition.

I’ve written some of my favorite scenes in this novel. Also some of my darkest and maybe some of my funniest. It’s an emotional journey, and it lasts Luna’s whole life.

We begin when she’s just a child, but we end with her thousands of miles away, much older and after much loss.

 

captureIt’s a novel in five main parts. There is a throughline that takes place in the present (Prelude, Interludes, Postlude), where Luna tells a person the story of her life. The story of her life happens over the course of four distinct sections (Dragonslayer, Savior, Goddess, Forest) that are broken up by scenes in the present. It looks like the picture on the left.

Despite the majority of the novel happening in the past, quite a bit of narrative movement happens in the present. It’s something I was uncertain about at first, this framing of the narrative, and I planned on abandoning it if it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to.

Like, I didn’t want it to just be a story in the present and a story in the past. I wanted an interaction between the past and present that would make the narrative twist and bend into surprising directions, both for me and the reader.

I think I succeeded. I’m very happy with how it came out, anyway.

But, yes, I’m immensely proud of it and it’s taken me half the year to get it all written down. I’ve talked about the process a few times in recent months, so I won’t go through it again. But it hasn’t been easy! This is the longest I’ve ever worked on…anything. Not just a novel, but any single project.

And though it’s not ready for the eyes of the world, it will be soon. Hopefully sooner than later. But definitely by the end of November.

With that in mind, now’s the time to let me know if you want to be a beta reader! I’ll be reaching out to certain people, but I’m really looking for various eyes on this. I’ve never written anything even close to this long so I have all sorts of fears and concerns about pacing and structure.

But, yeah, reach out and let me know if you’d want to take a look at this monster.

I’ll be celebrating for tonight and probably the rest of the weekend, then probably taking next week off. But come November, I’ll be wearing my editor hat and trying to make this novel shine the way it should.

how do you solve a problem like my idea

Getting a real Sound of Music kind of thing in my head right now, which explains the title.

Anyrate, I may actually be finished with the novel I’ve been writing, but I’m not sure yet. See, I began Part Four about a week or so ago, but the further I get into it, the more I think it may actually be unnecessary. Or not unnecessary, but just a poor place to end a novel, especially one of this length.

It sort of feels entirely like denouement. For that to go on for 200 pages isn’t a good look, especially when you’ve already journeyed nearly 1,000 pages into a novel.

Either way, I’m going to finish this section, because it might still be worth it. But what if this is just a bad place to end a novel?

I’ve been thinking, too, about the possible necessity to write a direct sequel to the novel. This is all predicated on me actually selling the novel. The way I see it, a standalone 1,000+ novel isn’t an easy sell, especially from an author whose combined sales over three books is fewer than 1,000 copies. Maybe fewer than 500, which is depressing to remember.

Anyrate, if I do need to write a direct follow up, it makes sense to keep the novel ending I have planned, so that it will pick up right afterwards. I don’t know if the rest of the story will take another 1,000 pages, so it may be a very lopsided duology, but that’s just how it goes.

Of course, if the sequel isn’t necessary, I may just end this novel at the 260,000 word mark and call it a day.

As it is, I’m straddling 285,000 words. Staring down 300,000 words is still shocking to me, but it’s where I’m heading. I’ll probably be there by the end of the week, since that’s not so far from here.

I’m well on track to finish the novel by the end of the month, despite taking the previous three days off. I’d be ecstatic, actually, if I could finish Part Four this week. That would give me plenty of time to write the postlude, and then more than enough time to edit/rewrite this beast before the year’s over.

Because I do really want to begin submitting this before I turn thirty. It’s coming up fast and this novel will take a long time to perfect.

Anyrate, still looking for volunteers for beta readers. Maybe I’ll even give a full synopsis when I’m finished.

Later, gator.

you don’t need to write every day

Because that’s hard. It’s too hard, I think.

I wish I could write every day. I know people like that, who can sit down and just consistently get words down on the page. Day in and day out, week after week, month after month.

I can barely sustain that for longer than a week at a time. I’m constantly taking breaks. Constantly letting those breaks drag on into months or years, which is why I have more abandoned novels than I do finished ones. I’ve probably written 300,000 words total stretched over thirteen or fifteen different novels that are in extremely different states of completion. Some never get more than 1,000 words before my attention or time gets pulled away for the day. And then I don’t find the time to get back there until months and months later, by which time I know I’m probably never doing anything with those words.

Those are the good kind of abandoned novels.

But I have one that’s over 130,000 words. A few others that are around 30,000 words. Novels where I’ve put in 50%-90% of the work and something happened that caused me to just never get back into it.

All of those abandoned novels still kind of eat at me, though. I convince myself a few times a year that I’m going to go back and finish this one or that one.

It never happens.

My lack of discipline is why I write fast. It works for me. If I can knock out a novel in a week or maybe even just over a weekend, I know it’ll work out. Some of my best work’s been written over extremely short time periods. Because if I take a day off, I’ll probably never get back to it.

Of course, this current novel has been plagued by breaks. I’ve tried to be very workmanlike about it. Sit down and pound out a couple thousand words a day. Maybe just 2,000 because that’s not so much. It’s very doable. If you write 2,000 words a day for a month, you end up with a 60,000 word novel by the end of the month!

It’s easy! You should be able to write a novel every month!

There’s a reason most of us aren’t that productive. And a lot of it just goes into the individuality of the creative process.

Even those writers I know who write every day, most of them are lucky to finish a novel every year, which, in the grand scheme of things, is more or less the same rate I go at it. The difference is that I usually only put about a week of solid work in that year to writing the novel. The rest of the year is spent doing whatever it is I’m doing when I’m not writing.

But I think about how fast I can write a novel a lot. Because it should not be difficult for me to write, like, six short novels a year. If I spent a week every other month writing a novel, this would be how it happens. And it’s not lack of ideas! For every novel I’ve written or abandoned, I have a dozen more novels I hope to some day write.

The problem is a bit of laziness, a bit of procrastination, but also just the way I’m wired, I think.

A novel is draining. Whether it takes you six months or six days. It takes a lot out of you. It’s full of ecstasy and agony. It consumes bits of your life and exhausts you. But when you finish or when you finally get that scene written just right–it’s glory. You’re full of beauty and perfection.

I’ve tried to write every day. Often.

It never works for me. I’ve had to be the most persistent with this current novel. I mean, I’ve been working on it since January (kind of), which is a staggering amount of time to me. Even if we just put the start date at May, which is when I really started putting words down, that’s still five months of writing.

Some people will roll their eyes at that and say something flippant like, Five months is nothing! I’ve been working on my novel for five years!

Those people are dicks.

Thing is, five months is an eternity for me. If I averaged out the lengths it’s taken me to finish every novel that I have finished, I’d probably come out around six days. So me going into my sixth month of writing the same novel is a huge jump.

Imagine you’ve written several novels. Let’s say more than five. Each novel has taken you about six months, give or take a few months. Now imagine you start a novel today and don’t finish it until 2021.

It would feel like a big deal, probably.

And so even though I haven’t written every day of these five or six or twelve months (depending on how you count), there have been stretches where I have. Like, month long stretches. But then I look at last month. I wrote 120,000 words and probably took off at least two days of every week.

That’s just how things work for me.

I don’t know. I don’t have a real point here. I’m just thinking about something J David Osborne and I talked about recently. About productivity.

My novel is, at this moment, at 270,000 words. Most of my novels are between 40,000 and 50,000 words. This novel, by itself, represents the work of five novels. By the time it’s finished, it’ll be more like six or seven novels. But instead it’s only one.

I remember when I challenged myself to write 52 stories in a year (this was 2013). I ended up writing probably 70 stories that year, but it still felt like a really unproductive year. Partly because I didn’t know what to do with them. My short stories are not great (in my opinion) and so I had a bunch of little nothings finished, but no whole of something.

Maybe that doesn’t make sense to you, but it felt like I had a year’s worth of fragments with no complete project. Forget that I wrote a novel, three poetry collections, and two graphic novels that year as well.

The novel was too weird. Too…everything. The poetry collections are–well, I simply don’t know what to do with them. No one really wants a poetry collection written by me. Or at least I assume as much. And then the graphic novels will never see the light of day because of reasons that are strange to explain. But they just won’t.

So even though I had a lot of content, it felt like a year where I had done nothing.

Oddly, this year is the year I feel best about the work I’ve done. When I finish this big giant stupid novel, I’m going to be ecstatic! I’m already so excited to share it with people that I have to keep fighting the urge to send it to friends. But when I have a complete draft that I’m happy with, I’m going to be reaching out for readers.

The first draft should be finished this month. I have a hard time believing it won’t be. But then I need to add a few scenes to Part Two, a lot of scenes to Part Three, and who knows what Part Four will need.

I passed 1,000 pages today. I think the novel will end up being fewer than 1,200, but not by much, and possibly more than that. At this point it’s kind of silly for me to guess, because I’ve been consistently wrong on every prediction going back to before I even started writing it.

I thought I was going to write a trilogy! The first book (this one) would be around 80,000 words. The second book would be around 30,000 words. And the third would be around 80,000 words.

I still plan on writing those other two books, but it’s just ridiculous that this book is already bigger than what I thought the entire trilogy would be.

I think the second book will still be around 30,000 words, but the third book is probably more like 140,000 words. Unless, you know, they both balloon on me.

Anyrate, just some nightly rambling.

your brain still works when you’re sick

Sick. In my lungs. Makes breathing a bit of a struggle. Congestion is what I mean. Have a humidifier going and green tea coming.

The last time I posted, I talked about productivity, which is kind of appropriate, because I then went on to writing 20,000 more words before the month ended. I got 120,000 words in September, which is probably a record somewhere.

Anyway, because of that I ended up taking the first week of October off. Figure I deserve a break. Then this weekend, I was able to get another 8,ooo words into the novel, which serves as the last interlude chapter. Tomorrow, I plan on starting section four, which is the last section. Hoping real hard that it only runs about 40,000 words so I can finally be finished with this thing.

I’m currently over 260,000 words on the novel, which is, you know, a lot.

But everything just keeps getting longer. Section three was meant to be 50,000 words, but ended up at 70,000 words.

And then, in this week taken off, I’ve found scenes that need to be added to the novel, which might push section two over 100,000 words and section three up closer to 80,000 or 90,000. So the novel keeps expanding and expanding. A novel I never thought would be even near 300,000 words is now going to traipse right past that number.

But, yeah, big fat novel getting bigger and fatter.

Something else I did while I was not writing my novel is come up with a pretty solid definition of the next novel I’m going to write. It’s a world where two ancient species fight a war that ends when a human wizard obliterates all life on that continent. Then we jump forward about 500 years to an anarchist industrialized world without magic where people are super into occult techniques, though everyone knows they’re not real. A man who believes that the world now has a god is ridiculed and thought of as a quack. He wants to go to that other continent, where the ancient species were made extinct. The novel follows several people as they go to that other continent to find the wizard who annihilated whole species.

So that’s the gist of it, but I also developed a Tarot deck and a new set of Zodiac symbols.

It’s going to be fun to write.

But! I thought this would be a nice short novel to follow up this big giant one. I can already tell it’s going to be much bigger than I initially thought. Hopefully not more than 100,000 words, because that’s a stupid size novel.

But, yeah, just some dumb writerly stuff today. Don’t worry about it.

 

 

an unusual month

A lot has happened. Part of me wants to write about the travesty that was the first presidential debate. The solitary confinement of Chelsea Manning comes to mind too. Or maybe something real topical: the blatant and casual racism of Bill Maher.

But smarter people will talk about that. Have talked about it. Will keep talking about it.

So I’ll do something selfish and talk about myself!

It’s been a good month in certain ways and a terrible one in other ways. Discovered how much fixing our plumbing is going to cost. Meeting with my contractor soon. Had to have my deck painted, which also wasn’t nothing. So the bummers are mostly just financial, which is a big deal, but we’re fortunate enough to be able to come through and pay for it all. Oh, and our sweet little Viggo needs to be neutered.

It diverts us from our financial goals, but that’s just how it goes, I guess.

Anyrate, the novel has been going well, so there’s that. Also, I’m seeing Sigur Ros tomorrow, so that’s pretty awesome too.

Last night I reached and passed 100,000 words for the month, which is kind of a lot! It’s nearly half this novel. While I hoped to be finished with this novel by my birthday, there’s way too far to go for the two days remaining. But hopefully I’ll be finished next month. But, as is typical for this novel, everything gets longer. I’m already nearly at the point that I was certain the novel would top out at. I had a hard time thinking I’d reach 250,000 words, but here I am, just 15,000 away from that with a lot of story still to go.

My only goal this week now is to finish this section of the novel, which leaves me one more section–the last one–and one chapter between them, with one that follows section four.

So there might be upwards of 70,000 words to write, which means the novel is going to be even gianter than I ever could have expected.

I’ll also be crossing page 900 this week. Maybe even today, depending on how much I’m able to write today. Probably it’ll be tomorrow. Either way, I seem to be writing a brick of a novel, which is just the hugest bummer, but also kind of exciting.

Then comes the editing. Editing may take a while and the novel will either shrink or grow. Knowing how my editing usually goes, it will probably expand a bit, or significantly.

But, yeah, my only real goal is to have this completely finished this year. Sending it to beta readers as soon as possible and then rewriting/editing once more in order to send it out to agents and publishers next fall.

I’ve had a few offers for beta readers, but I’m always looking for more! If you have any interest in reading this giant novel about gods and demons and dragonslayers and kingkillers and the like, let me know!