The End

the end

My silly edit from The Musketeers.

It’s the last day of Camp NaNoWriMo, and J and I have both gone well past our goals for the month. J is somewhere in the 6 digits, and I officially have over 34,000 words typed up, but more still lingering in my journal, and I plan to write more today. (My Camp goal was 25,000, so, yes, I “won” by Camp standards.) I think we can both leave Camp satisfied with the work we’ve done.

Because it really has been a productive month for me. I did some work on my modern romance novel, although, I will admit, I would have liked to do more. But I got distracted by two fanfics. One was a brand new idea I got this month, and I just had to run with it. I’ve written 12 chapters in it and have a solid outline for the rest. (I’d say I’m not quite half way yet.) I foresee some serious revision down the road, but this one is really writing itself. More than anything, I’m not further along because of lack of time.

The other fanfic, which I’m hoping to finish up today, is one I’m coauthoring with a friend. It’s been an interesting experience collaborating with someone other than J, and it’s gone well. I think the key to working with someone else is having an outline ahead of time so both parties can be working at the same time with minimal revision later on to smooth over the rough patches. But there will always be some inconsistencies that need worked out in “post,” as it were, even when you write alone. J, bless him, has agreed to read through it for us for continuity, and I have real hope it will be a well-received story.

And that has been my Camp. Between now and the NaNoWriMo in November, I hope to finish some stuff. I’ve got the fanfic and the novel I worked on this month, but I also still have the third Oleg Omdahl novel lingering unfinished from last November. And, of course, I’ll have to start planning and outlining for this November. Not sure yet what I’ll do. I have pretty solid ideas for Oleg Omdahl 4 and 5, so perhaps Oleg 4. Or something completely different in the Myrcia ‘verse. Who knows. But we’ll be sure to keep you updated!

~S

Yet Another Camp Update

Aramis and Anne

Aramis gets busted sneaking into the girls’ cabin.

We’re still at camp, and today we’re at Panera having a write-in with some friends from the local NaNoWriMo group.

S is still moving along, and she’s almost certainly got enough words to win, except that first she needs to get it all typed up so she can validate her word count. If you’ve never done NaNoWriMo, the way you win is to copy and paste what you’ve written into a window that then counts your words and verifies that you’ve got enough. And that’s perfectly simple for people like me, who compose at the keyboard. But for people like S, who prefer to handwrite with a pen in a journal, there’s always the challenge of getting everything typed up.* I’ll be helping her with that in a little while, once I’ve finished writing this blog post.

As for me, my novel has been finished for a while now, and I’m working on a reference file on the history and culture of one of the imaginary countries in the Myrciaverse. We’ve done a number of these files over the years, starting with the very first ones, which we were working on before we even had names for the countries. Somewhere in the basket by S’s chair at home, there’s a journal that still has headings in it like, “Bad Guy Country” and “Other Country.”

Doing the research for this sort of thing is usually pretty fun. All our fictional countries are, to a greater or lesser extent, based on real places. So reading up on, say, ancient Chinese nobility or the types of Viking ships, is always a good time. And, on the occasions when it gets a bit tedious, I can always just remind myself that I’m saving myself time later on, someday when I write a novel that takes place in this country, and I can just open up the file and find what I need to give the story a little local color, rather than trying to make it all up on the spur of the moment.

So that’s what I’ll be working on later today. But for now, there’s typing to be done.

J

*Technically, NaNo allows you to have a friend count the words and then you can use a Lorum Ipsum generator, but that’s a lot of work to put in when it needs typed anyway. ~S

I’m Late!

Whiterabbit_tenniel

Lewis Carroll has been on the mind thanks to Philosofishal, a fellow local WriMo.

What can I say but that I’m running late for another write-in with my local NaNoWriMo group. My Camp NaNo is actually going great. I did some excellent work on my modern novel, The Sorrow Thereof, before I got a crazy idea for a new fanfic. Of course, the original idea was for what we call a one-shot in the fanfic world, meaning it was supposed to be short and self-contained. Then I got another idea, couldn’t figure out how on earth the scenario I had playing in my head could actually work, and then realized that what I needed was a bridge scene between my one-shot and my new idea, and I could put them together in one story. And as long as I was doing that, I thought I should maybe outline a little, give it an actual story instead of making it Porn Without Plot, and the next thing I know, I’m knee deep in a project I have outlined to run at least 18 chapters. But I’m absolutely in love with the story, and the drafting is just flying by, so I’m alright with everything I decided.

I try not to actually cross-contaminate, as it were, the work I do as part of JS Mawdsley with my fanfic, which I write under a completely different pseudonym, but when I finish this story up (which doesn’t have a title yet), I may make an exception. Some fellow fanfic authors who I’ve been chatting with lately about our processes have shown some interest in mine, so I’m trying to be more careful than usual documenting just how I go about writing so I can share the complete beginning to end process I go through with them when I’m finally ready to publish my story on AO3. If I think it’s of genuine value, I just might share it here as well.

~S

 

A-Camping We Will Go

Milady ring

Milady wins the camp scavenger hunt.

Team Unicorn is still at camp this week.  S has been working on The Sorrow Thereof, her novel set in Cleveland and Chapel Hill.  And she just recently got a new idea for a Musketeers fanfic starring Athos and Milady de Winter, which she’s hoping to get started today.  Perhaps she’ll write more later about what she’s been up to.

I’m plugging away at my latest Myrciaverse novel, Joint Command.  It takes place immediately after one of the chapters of My Private War, involving many minor characters from that story, and it required a lot of pretty intensive outlining, just to make sure that I knew who was there and who wasn’t, and which characters already knew each other, and which ones are meeting for the first time.

There are definite benefits to this—I’m writing about characters I already know, for example, and I don’t need to spend much time figuring out who they are.  But there are problems, too.  For example, once I’d figured out which characters could possibly be around, and I’d identified the ones that would be most interesting for my main character to meet, I looked at my outline and discovered I had my heroine meeting three women in two pages, all of whom had names starting with the letters, “MA”: Marcella, Maedea, and Martina.  And the last two are pretty important in the story.

That’s the sort of thing you’d never do if you were able to start picking character names from scratch.  But there’s no way around it, other than to give them nicknames or codenames or something.  I’ll figure out a solution when I revise the novel.

Anyway, our Camp NaNo meeting is getting started, so it’s time for me to get writing in earnest.

J

Literary Fireworks

fireworks_rwb
Happy July 4th a day early, everyone! And to our Canadian friends, Happy Canada Day two days late! Camp NaNo has started up again (there are sessions in both April and July), and if you haven’t signed up and started your writing project, you should go do that right now! It’s good fun, and it’s a good way to keep yourself from getting lazy in the summer. I mean, come on—it’s hot outside. You know you were just going to stay inside in the air conditioning anyway. You might as well write a novel while you’re there.

Thinking of writing and Independence Day (the actual holiday, not the movie), we decided to come up with a list of our top ten favorite and most influential American literary works. These are the novels, nonfiction, short stories, and plays that we read over and over, and use as points of reference in our own discussions of how to write well.

Here they are, alphabetical by author, because it would just be cruel to expect us to rank them:

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Edward Albee
Snap went the dragons! We quote this one all the time. It’s probably one of the most enjoyably quotable plays ever written. It’s our reference point for snappy, well-timed dialog. Also, believe it or not, watching the movie version of this on VHS was our first date.

“Sonny’s Blues” James Baldwin
“For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.” Baldwin’s masterful short story of jazz, addiction, loss, and family hasn’t lost a beat of its meaning. Even while feeling of its era, it has a timeless quality to strive for.

The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
Poor Gatsby. His name has become a sort of shorthand for a certain kind of striving character who doesn’t realize that he’ll never quite fit in and who, invariably, has to die by the end. Stringer Bell from The Wire, for example, or a certain character from our Quartet who is far more morally admirable, but ultimately just as doomed.

A Farewell to Arms Ernest Hemingway
Love and war have rarely felt so real and visceral. Hemingway’s sparse prose isn’t up everyone’s alley (heck, it isn’t always up ours), but this novel couldn’t be written any other way. Propulsive and emotional, this novel is great for studying pace and structure.

A Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin
As we’ve mentioned before, George R. R. Martin is an absolute master of POV. Even if you think a character is irredeemable, once you see the world from his perspective, you understand and sympathize with him.

Long Day’s Journey into Night Eugene O’Neill
Gun to head, if asked to name American’s greatest writer, I (S) would answer Eugene O’Neill. No family is a bigger, more compelling mess than the Tyrones, and while each character is amazing on their own, there are endless lessons to be learned in how people who know each other too well interact. On top of it all, every line sings. “Stammering is the native eloquence of us fog people.”

The Name of the Wind Patrick Rothfuss
Prose as beautiful as any literary novel and worldbuilding to stand with the absolute best in fantasy, the tale of Kvothe, in the frame story and the past, is a masterful mix of mystery, humor, and just damned good storytelling. Watching Rothfuss layer the present, history, and myth is precisely the sort of thing we strive for in our most epic books. Is it Day 3 yet?

The Killer Angels Michael Shaara
Reading this is how we learned how to write battle scenes, basically. Also, it’s an excellent lesson in how to create sympathy for characters on both sides of the conflict, and how to create tension and drama even when the reader knows darn well how it’s all going to end.

The Guns of August Barbara Tuchman
Again, as with The Killer Angels, the outcome is never in doubt. But it’s a fascinating, page-turning read about how that outcome came to be. We drew a lot from this book about the start of World War I when we were writing the start of the war in the first book of the Quartet.

House of Mirth Edith Wharton
Is Lily Bart the female precursor to the likes of Jay Gatsby and Clyde Griffiths? We think she is. An American Anna Karenina, her fate seems so depressingly certain from the beginning, yet it’s a challenge to maintain a dry eye at the end. A challenge we happily lose. It’s the sort of focused character study I (S) am trying to tackle right now in my first modern, non-fantasy novel.

Honorable Mentions
In Cold Blood Truman Capote
As readable as any novel, Capote’s nonfiction gem is a lesson in understanding human beings. Or at least trying to.

Death Comes for the Archbishop Willa Cather
Such a simple tale of a man literally with a mission, the writing is just gorgeous. It’s also a brilliant example of great archetypal storytelling, which I (S) would love to try some day.

An American Tragedy Theodore Dreiser
To be blunt, if it weren’t for how the story gets really bogged down late at the trial, this one might have merited more than just an honorable mention. Even with that pacing issue, Clyde Griffiths’s attempts to find a better life, to get a little bit of the American Dream, is a heartbreaking character study about how striving can go terribly wrong.

Billy Budd Herman Melville
When I (J) was in law school, I took a seminar on “Theories of Justice” where we read this book. It’s a fascinating study in character and motivation. Like The Guns of August on a much smaller scale, it shows people being driven toward a tragic end that virtually no one actually wanted. That sort of tragic inevitability is something we’ve tried to show in a number of our books, particularly the third book of the Quartet.

Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell
We’ve been rereading this one recently for S’s book club, so it’s been on our minds a lot. It’s hugely problematic for a variety of reasons, but it’s great for showing how to keep a romance going on the page when the couple are apart for most of the book. And it’s a masterclass in how to make a heroine sympathetic, even when she’s often not especially likable.

J and S