Month: November 2011 Page 1 of 3

NaNoWriMo Week 5: Now what?

If you finished your National Novel Writing Month writing project–group hug!
If you wrote 50K but you didn’t actually finish your novel–group hug!
If you met your goals, whatever they were, even if they didn’t involve 50K–group hug!
If you didn’t finish but wrote a lot–group hug!
If you didn’t finish and didn’t get much written–group hug!
If you signed up but chickened out–group hug!

If you’re trying to figure out how many more words you can get in before midnight Wednesday–no touchee, you might bite my head off.

At any rate–what next?

Because your body responds to stress in a fight-or-flight pattern, and because surviving to the end of that stress is what your body counts as a FREAKIN’ MIRACLE, after NaNoWriMo, you’re probably tired and smiling. “We lived again,” says your body. “Whee!”

So, number one, whether you “won” or not, celebrate!

Two: the second biggest hurdle to most beginning writers, after actually writing a novel, is getting it sent out.  “Ha ha,” you say, “isn’t that logical?” but it’s true: if 90% of the people who say, “I’d like to write a novel some day” never do, then 90% of the people who write a novel leave it in their drawers, collecting dust.

The problem here is two-fold: to be able to achieve critical distance from your novel without actually getting so far away from it that you abandon it.

Agents and editors will be able to tell you, from first-hand experience, that their slush piles get flooded this time of year, as people who are still high on the endorphin rush of sheer survival send out their manuscripts without bothering to spellcheck them or do any kind of critical thinking about them whatsoever.

But what they don’t see is that these are the people who succeeded overcoming hurdle #2, even if they didn’t do so in a professional manner. Really, if I had to pick erring between sending out a novel too early and never sending it out at all, I’d say send it. What’s the worst that could happen? Somebody rolls their eyes at you and sends out a form rejection, then complains in public forums about doing what they were going to do anyway: reject 99%+ of everything that comes across their desk.  Whoop de freakin’ do.

Ideally, though, you send out a professional manuscript, or at least the most professional manuscript (or self-publish the most professional ebook) that you can.

What we really need is a National Novel Editing Month, except it would probably take more than a month, because really, you should have someone else with a critical eye read the thing, so what we really need to set up is:

  • National Novel Writing Month
  • National Novel Manuscript Preparation Month
  • National Novel Reading Month
  • National Novel Polish Month

In National Novel Manuscript Preparation Month, you would:

  • Formatting (either standard manuscript format or ebook–formatting makes big uglies pop out)
  • Going back and filling in the spots you meant to write but hadn’t got to yet
  • Spell check
  • Line editing
  • Don’t think too critically about it yet (“Don’t torture yourself, Gomez.  That’s my job.”–Morticia Addams)

In National Novel Reading Month, you would:

  • Send out your novel to six readers who write the same genre you write in
  • Read their novels–quickly, without too much analytical thought (reading for fun!)
  • Exchange comments

Take a month off and think about it…

Then, in National Novel Polish Month, you would:

  • Fix any big uglies that your readers caught, that you agree with wholeheartedly, after a month
  • Spell check
  • Line editing*

And then, get it out!

What’s the worst that could happen?  You might get some rejections (or it might not take off as a self-published ebook).  Ack!  It’s embarrassing, but it happens to everyone, even (especially) to professional writers.  You might even define a professional writer as “someone who got so many rejections that they got published by default.”  It’s not entirely true, but true enough.

Above all, don’t let the complaints of agents and editors around this time of year about horrible NaNoWriMo novels getting submitted throw you off, and don’t let the news articles about a mountain of epublished crap taking over the self-publishing world stop you, either.  You don’t see it hit the news when anyone else starts out in a field–“Can you believe that cube warrior?  He screwed up and wrote a lengthy business email with typos and all caps in it. He’ll never make it in this line of business.”  “You should see the mountain of crappy PowerPoints out there…it makes me never want to read a PowerPoint again.”  Sure, you should get better at your job, but you shouldn’t let the old hands dissuade you.  Gotta start somewhere.

You’ve already made that 90% cut once–do it twice, and you’re already ahead of 99% of the people who want to write a book someday.  Keep writing; you’ll get good.

*If you can’t do professional-level editing on your own, I’d get help here, either way.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-11-27

  • The end of NaNo approaches…the end of the book approaches…I wonder if these two things are related or if I'll have more to go in Dec. #

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Fiction: The Procrustean Mirror

New fantasy story inspired by Tom Waits.  Not specifically by Tom Waits, just by the very existance of Tom Waits.  If I made a movie and Tom Waits had a cameo in it, this would be the short story that inspired the movie that had the Tom Waits cameo in it.

The press would ask, “Mr. Waits, are you the devil in this movie?  You’ve been the devil several times in your acting career, and we’re wondering whether you’re starting to feel typecast.  Can you comment on that?”

He snorts at “acting career” and says, “Define ‘devil.’ ”

Now at SmashwordsBarnes and Noble, and Amazon.com.

The Procrustean Mirror

by DeAnna Knippling

Tom tracked his wife as far as the Zorcico before he ran out of leads.  Now the bartender’s trying to tell him he can either have what’s in an old wooden box, or he can find out what Betty was coming to the dive bar for.

“What’s in the box?” he asks.

“Your marriage.”

Blue smoke curled from the end of the bartender’s cigarette like the wrist of a card shark practicing in slow motion. The waitress’s mirror shades flashed in the light from the open door.

Tom said, “This is the Zorcico, right?”

The waitress pulled beer mugs off a table and jabbed at a puddle of beer with her dirty towel. Tom shut the door behind him. The glass had been painted out and the handle was sticky with handprints. A jukebox tinkled a song orchestrated for piano, musical saw, and howler monkey. The customers, mostly men in greasy blue jeans and baseball caps so filthy you couldn’t tell their hometowns, had already gone back to playing craps.

“Turn that shit off, Larry,” one of them said.

“Screw you, Foley,” the bartender rasped. The tip of his cigarette jerked and the blue smoke went jagged. “You want something else, drop a fuckin’ quarter.”

Tom walked to the bar, sat on one of the cracked vinyl stools.

The bartender said, “Whaddaya want?”

Tom handed him the picture. He picked it up and held it to the light, like he was trying to see through it.

“Seen her before?”

“Betty,” the bartender said. “You the schmuck?”

“Yeah,” Tom said.

“She’s gone.”

“I noticed. Where is she?”

Behind him, the door opened. Tom took a quick glance out of habit and saw a silhouette of a big man holding his head off-kilter. The door closed.

“The usual?” the bartender asked.

The big guy nodded. The more Tom’s eyes adjusted to the dark, the worse the guy looked. Cancer? Tom wondered. The guy’s clothes hung off him like there was nothing but a skeleton underneath.

“Shit, Cavanaugh,” one of the other customers said.

The bartender jerked his head at the waitress. She dropped off the mugs at the bar, wiped her hands on her apron, and said, “It’s time.” She had a terrible voice, a flat, gravelly monotone just this side of a voice box. She and the big guy disappeared down a hallway on the other side of the bar.

Tom said to the bartender, “My wife?”

The bartender bent down to get something under the bar. Tom saw himself in the smeared mirror behind him, and he was reminded of why Betty had left him. He was fat and bald and had beady eyes and a stupid expression on his face and his mouth never quite shut. He looked like a bulldog with a mustache. Tom wiped the dried spit from the corners of his mouth, and then the bartender stood up.

He hefted a small wooden box, just big enough for two decks of cards, and set it down with a thump. The box was a cheap import carved with a caged elephant and inset with pieces of yellowed mother-of-pearl.

Tom picked up the box. It was heavy. “She leave this for me?”

Fiction: The Procrustean Mirror

New fantasy story inspired by Tom Waits.  Not specifically by Tom Waits, just by the very existance of Tom Waits.  If I made a movie and Tom Waits had a cameo in it, this would be the short story that inspired the movie that had the Tom Waits cameo in it.

The press would ask, “Mr. Waits, are you the devil in this movie?  You’ve been the devil several times in your acting career, and we’re wondering whether you’re starting to feel typecast.  Can you comment on that?”

He snorts at “acting career” and says, “Define ‘devil.’ ”

Now at Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.com.

The Procrustean Mirror

by DeAnna Knippling

Tom tracked his wife as far as the Zorcico before he ran out of leads.  Now the bartender’s trying to tell him he can either have what’s in an old wooden box, or he can find out what Betty was coming to the dive bar for.

“What’s in the box?” he asks.

“Your marriage.”

Blue smoke curled from the end of the bartender’s cigarette like the wrist of a card shark practicing in slow motion. The waitress’s mirror shades flashed in the light from the open door.

Tom said, “This is the Zorcico, right?”

The waitress pulled beer mugs off a table and jabbed at a puddle of beer with her dirty towel. Tom shut the door behind him. The glass had been painted out and the handle was sticky with handprints. A jukebox tinkled a song orchestrated for piano, musical saw, and howler monkey. The customers, mostly men in greasy blue jeans and baseball caps so filthy you couldn’t tell their hometowns, had already gone back to playing craps.

“Turn that shit off, Larry,” one of them said.

“Screw you, Foley,” the bartender rasped. The tip of his cigarette jerked and the blue smoke went jagged. “You want something else, drop a fuckin’ quarter.”

Tom walked to the bar, sat on one of the cracked vinyl stools.

The bartender said, “Whaddaya want?”

Tom handed him the picture. He picked it up and held it to the light, like he was trying to see through it.

“Seen her before?”

“Betty,” the bartender said. “You the schmuck?”

“Yeah,” Tom said.

“She’s gone.”

“I noticed. Where is she?”

Behind him, the door opened. Tom took a quick glance out of habit and saw a silhouette of a big man holding his head off-kilter. The door closed.

“The usual?” the bartender asked.

The big guy nodded. The more Tom’s eyes adjusted to the dark, the worse the guy looked. Cancer? Tom wondered. The guy’s clothes hung off him like there was nothing but a skeleton underneath.

“Shit, Cavanaugh,” one of the other customers said.

The bartender jerked his head at the waitress. She dropped off the mugs at the bar, wiped her hands on her apron, and said, “It’s time.” She had a terrible voice, a flat, gravelly monotone just this side of a voice box. She and the big guy disappeared down a hallway on the other side of the bar.

Tom said to the bartender, “My wife?”

The bartender bent down to get something under the bar. Tom saw himself in the smeared mirror behind him, and he was reminded of why Betty had left him. He was fat and bald and had beady eyes and a stupid expression on his face and his mouth never quite shut. He looked like a bulldog with a mustache. Tom wiped the dried spit from the corners of his mouth, and then the bartender stood up.

He hefted a small wooden box, just big enough for two decks of cards, and set it down with a thump. The box was a cheap import carved with a caged elephant and inset with pieces of yellowed mother-of-pearl.

Tom picked up the box. It was heavy. “She leave this for me?”

 

 


NaNoWriMo Week 4: Behind

If you’re on track, then you’re at the point where all you have to do is keep going: which is not to belittle the stress and effort of such action, but to point out how simple it is.  If you’re on track for your word count, you’re past the point where doubts really mean anything.  What if the ending sucks?  What if my characters are flat and totally unbelievable?  What if I finish early? WHO CARES?!?  Type “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” as many times as necessary and call it done, right?  Right?

But what if you’re not on track?

Most NaNoers are not.

This is where the hard choices are.

If you are within a reasonable distance of 50K (or whatever your goal is), do you push on through with extra wordcount or not?  And what if you’ve given up a long time ago?

I can’t give any advice here; I can only say that this is a test.

Are you the kind of person who sets goals and then meets them?  Or not?  Are you the kind of person who bites off more than they can chew…then swallows and digests?  Is it come Hell or high water?  Do or die? How badly do you want to write, anyway?

It’s okay.  You don’t have to pass the test yet; you can still call yourself a writer if you don’t slide through 50K in time, or even 1K.  If you signed up for NaNoWriMo and didn’t write word one you can still call yourself a writer.  But it is a test, and if you didn’t pass it, you should find out why.

  • Do you really want to write?  That is, do you really want to invest yourself in an imaginary world so strong that putting the words on the page isn’t a chore but an addiction?
  • Are you hanging onto rituals that block you from going into that world–from favorite pens to favorite plotting systems?
  • Do you honestly have the time you need to write?
  • Do you have the mental resources right now that you need to write–or are you tied up in situations so heavy that you cannot escape into another world?
  • Do you have the consent you need to be able to leave the real world for this other one?  From family, friends, job, social obligations, volunteering…getting this consent is your responsibility, not theirs.
  • Did you pick a world that you really wanted to go to?  That you never want to leave?
  • Are you allowing yourself to make the hard choices your world needs in order to be a story instead of a playground?
  • Do you lack faith in yourself as a writer?  Do you qualify yourself when you say you’re a writer–“I’m not very good, really?”  Do you believe that writing itself is worth making sacrifices for?
  • Are you afraid of what might happen if you succeed?  Will it mean changing something you don’t want to change?

I suppose I could have waited until after NaNo to put this post up, but by now, you know whether you’re going to finish or not (a few people might get close but get held up by emergencies over the next few days, but mostly you know).  Stop for a moment here, if you’re not going to finish, and start nosing around into the reasons why.  I assure you, if you can identify one reason that you’re not finishing and resolve it, then NaNo has been worth it for you as a writer–that is, if you identify one reason that isn’t someone else’s fault.  One reason that you, yourself, are holding yourself back.

Then keep writing.

Okay, you won’t have the support you had in November.  You won’t have people yelling “chug chug chug!”to encourage you.  You might not have the write-ins (although they’re easy enough to organize).  Maybe you need to write slower for a while–writing fast is pretty scary, because it takes a deep investment in that other world.  But keep writing.

If you keep writing, no matter where you end up, no matter how long it takes you, then you have hit that week four feeling that the ones on track are feeling.  In front of you there is nothing: behind you is a story.

 

 

 

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-11-20

  • Congrats!!: Mumsnet 'Book of the Month' thread on Are We Nearly There Yet? by @BenHatch http://t.co/iUzmbLwH #
  • Went to "Literacy and Movement" night at school w/ Ray last night; it was like watching real life game shows. RUN FOR THAT K! RUN!!! #
  • Time for karate! #

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Indypub: BookBaby?

Some good questions came up from Paul Hanson:  basically, why don’t I use BookBaby (or something similar, I suppose)?

  1. I’m DIY in this area.  I like formatting, editing, messing around with cover art, and general book design things.
  2. The expense would kill me (in particular).

Bookbaby charges:

  • $99 to start plus $19/year.
  • Free basic ebook formatting (I’m not sure what this covers–bullet points? special characters? images?)
  • $19 for ISBN registration.
  • $149 for basic cover design.
  • Fees for changing anything, fees for advanced formatting ($150 an HOUR?!?), fees for anything more than basic.

In exchange, they don’t take any of the cut from your book–the retailers still get their cut, though.

My expenses:

  • Time (including learning how to use new programs, etc.).
  • Approximately $1/cover image.

I have, er, I think 37 ebooks up, mostly short stories.

Bookbaby: $3663 to sign up the books, $703 to register them, $5513 to get covers, and no changes whatsoever for $0, or $9879.  And in a year, I’ll have to pay another $703 to keep those books up on BookBaby.

I don’t have my cover expenses for the year put together yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s around $50, certainly less than $100.  I’ve made numerous changes to ebooks, too, as I learn more about what I want inside them and what mistakes I’m making.  I’m planning to go through the lot again soon to make some updates.

I’m not making enough money to cover $9879 (plus extra for changes, and then another $703 a year), but I can cover $100.

Now, let’s say that I’m not DIY inclined, and my time is worth more than the expense of going through BookBaby.  I like that they don’t take percentages; however, I don’t like that they charge you money every year.  If I wanted to go that way, I’d look for a place that charged me everything up front, gave me 100% control over the files if I ever left them, and didn’t charge me fees on a yearly basis.

Now, to go against that, I do use Smashwords, which does take a cut for distributing books to other sites, and charges you no money up front.  Why do I do that?

  • With my biggest sources of ebook sales (Amazon and B&N), I go directly through them, at a cost of time + overhead + ~$1 cover art per ebook.
  • Smashwords, with all its distribution, does not equal the sales of either of those sites for me, but I like having 1) a wide reach with minimum effort (they go to more retailers than BookBaby does, by the way) and 2) a wide variety of ebook formats available for someone who needs something other than Kindle or epub.
  • If I identify a major source of sales through Smashwords, I will research that source to see if it’s worth the time to go directly through them; if it is, I will switch over to them directly.

In short, I’m letting Smashwords have  a small bite out of my pie ($.10 on a $.99 ebook [plus $.30 to the retailer, like Apple] through the Premium catalogue; incidentally, their cut is $.43 on $.99 for non-affliate SW sales, and $.47 on affiliate SW sales, plus $.07 standard affiliate profit) to cover all my bases and do market research for me.  It may not be as profitable to do this if my business scales up significantly; if so, I’ll adjust.  At this point, the money vs. time spent is worth it for me.

A side note: I feel that Kobo will be a significant source of sales, if they get off their bums.  Right now, it’s like pulling teeth to get books onto their site, either with or without using Smashwords as a distribution partner (I talked to them about signing up with them directly at one point…a lot of hoop jumping would have been required. But they aren’t getting SW books posted, either; the ones I have up are due to being a pain with their customer service over about two weeks).  However, they may be opening up easier indie channels in 2012.  I hope so.

 

 

 

 

 

Fiction: The Cliff House

New fantasy story inspired by the Garden of the Gods and Colorado Springs’s continuous water issues, now available at Amazon.comSmashwordsB&N, and OmniLit.

The Cliff House

by DeAnna Knippling

Ardahl loves his land, even though he’s been crippled in its service and trapped in the Cliff House to work the magic that brings water.  But using the magic twists the land so tightly that it must break, sooner or later…

There is something wrong with the valley. The roads, once laid straight from the Hill into the valley, have become sinuous esses of dry, red gravel. The red cliffs, blades of rock standing free in the valley, have bent like ribbons in the wind. Trees spiral like corkscrews until their bark and heartwood shatter. Every breeze kicks up dust devils, the air itself bemused.

It’s dawn. The rose-colored ley puddles against the twists in the valley, no longer able to hold them straight. The cold morning air bites my nose, but it will be hot as an oven by midday.

My godsdaughter Mira walks the dirt road from the Hill toward my cliff. She has blond hair that shines pink under the ley overhead. She carries a heavy basket that towers over her; she grasps it by the straps on her shoulders and leans forward to balance the weight.

The lid of the basket flops free, and a half-dozen loaves of bread tumble forward past her face. She leans further forward to pick up the bread, and more tumble out.

I smile. I’ve grown so used to dirty bread that I would miss the taste if she didn’t drop it.

Mira puts down the basket, picks up the loaves of bread, brushes them off, and returns them to the basket. She snaps off a twig, jams it into the basket lid to hold it shut, and shoulders the basket again.

She takes a few steps and vanishes. I wait. After a few more steps, she emerges from a twist in the land, a hundred yards closer to the cliff.

I can hear her panting under the weight of the basket now, the crunch of her boots on the rock as she climbs the path to the cliff. Finally, she’s directly underneath me.

“Good morning, Ardahl,” she calls up to me.

“Good morning, brightness.” I throw the rope down. She loops it under the basket’s shoulder straps and ties it.

I lift the basket up, hand over hand. I have a pulley attached to the ceiling, but I don’t use it. My arms have become strong over the years. I set the basket aside and toss down the rope. This time, Mira ties the rope under her arms and starts climbing the hand- and footholds up the side of the cliff. I no longer have to lift her; the rope is for my peace of mind only.

As she passes through the ley, she shakes her head a little but keeps climbing. She slides through the cave mouth and into my abode, curling her legs around and under her. The ceiling is low next to the mouth, and she’s finally learned to stop hitting herself in the head as she comes in.

“I’m so sorry, Godsfather. I dropped the bread again.”

“I saw that.”

“I brushed it off.”

“I saw that too.” I push myself backward into the wider part of the cave, pulling the basket along with me. The water skins gurgle.

I have never known a girl with a stronger back, from carrying water to me almost daily. I regret being a burden on her, but even more, I regret teaching her how to carry such heavy burdens.

“Godsfather, I need your help.”

“What is it, brightness?”

“It’s Harken again.” Her newly-married husband, a man I have never met. He sounds like a scoundrel, but what do I know?

We duck and scoot into the main cave, which I have furnished throughout the years as a comfortable nest, one that can be tied down tight in storms or opened up wide in fair weather. Perhaps it smells from my close confinement and inability to wash out the rugs, but I cannot smell it. I can smell newly-baked bread and Mira’s sweat, that is all.

Mira smiles and curls up on a pile of cushions, worn around the edges but embroidered with red and gold thread, stolen from the princessa’s parlor on the Hill. I give her a cup of root tea from the stove and settle back on my own pile of cushions, much plainer and more worn.

“What is it this time?” I ask.

She sips at her tea, wincing back from the heat. “It’s bad.”

I wait for her to burst into tears and confess all, but she only sips at her tea. “Godsfather, can you keep a secret?”

“For you I can,” I say.

“Even from the princessa?”

“As long as it doesn’t involve betraying the land,” I say. I pour myself some tea to clear the taste from my mouth.

“It…what if it does involve betraying the land?” she asks.

“Then perhaps you should not tell me.”

We both sip our tea. I am old. There are many things I do not discuss with anyone but myself or with the princessa. I am used to pretending to be noble to Mira; it keeps me from having to lie to her.

 

 

 

Fiction: The Cliff House

New fantasy story inspired by the Garden of the Gods and Colorado Springs’s continuous water issues, now available at Amazon.comSmashwordsB&N, and OmniLit.

The Cliff House

by DeAnna Knippling

Ardahl loves his land, even though he’s been crippled in its service and trapped in the Cliff House to work the magic that brings water.  But using the magic twists the land so tightly that it must break, sooner or later…

There is something wrong with the valley. The roads, once laid straight from the Hill into the valley, have become sinuous esses of dry, red gravel. The red cliffs, blades of rock standing free in the valley, have bent like ribbons in the wind. Trees spiral like corkscrews until their bark and heartwood shatter. Every breeze kicks up dust devils, the air itself bemused.

It’s dawn. The rose-colored ley puddles against the twists in the valley, no longer able to hold them straight. The cold morning air bites my nose, but it will be hot as an oven by midday.

My godsdaughter Mira walks the dirt road from the Hill toward my cliff. She has blond hair that shines pink under the ley overhead. She carries a heavy basket that towers over her; she grasps it by the straps on her shoulders and leans forward to balance the weight.

The lid of the basket flops free, and a half-dozen loaves of bread tumble forward past her face. She leans further forward to pick up the bread, and more tumble out.

I smile. I’ve grown so used to dirty bread that I would miss the taste if she didn’t drop it.

Mira puts down the basket, picks up the loaves of bread, brushes them off, and returns them to the basket. She snaps off a twig, jams it into the basket lid to hold it shut, and shoulders the basket again.

She takes a few steps and vanishes. I wait. After a few more steps, she emerges from a twist in the land, a hundred yards closer to the cliff.

I can hear her panting under the weight of the basket now, the crunch of her boots on the rock as she climbs the path to the cliff. Finally, she’s directly underneath me.

“Good morning, Ardahl,” she calls up to me.

“Good morning, brightness.” I throw the rope down. She loops it under the basket’s shoulder straps and ties it.

I lift the basket up, hand over hand. I have a pulley attached to the ceiling, but I don’t use it. My arms have become strong over the years. I set the basket aside and toss down the rope. This time, Mira ties the rope under her arms and starts climbing the hand- and footholds up the side of the cliff. I no longer have to lift her; the rope is for my peace of mind only.

As she passes through the ley, she shakes her head a little but keeps climbing. She slides through the cave mouth and into my abode, curling her legs around and under her. The ceiling is low next to the mouth, and she’s finally learned to stop hitting herself in the head as she comes in.

“I’m so sorry, Godsfather. I dropped the bread again.”

“I saw that.”

“I brushed it off.”

“I saw that too.” I push myself backward into the wider part of the cave, pulling the basket along with me. The water skins gurgle.

I have never known a girl with a stronger back, from carrying water to me almost daily. I regret being a burden on her, but even more, I regret teaching her how to carry such heavy burdens.

“Godsfather, I need your help.”

“What is it, brightness?”

“It’s Harken again.” Her newly-married husband, a man I have never met. He sounds like a scoundrel, but what do I know?

We duck and scoot into the main cave, which I have furnished throughout the years as a comfortable nest, one that can be tied down tight in storms or opened up wide in fair weather. Perhaps it smells from my close confinement and inability to wash out the rugs, but I cannot smell it. I can smell newly-baked bread and Mira’s sweat, that is all.

Mira smiles and curls up on a pile of cushions, worn around the edges but embroidered with red and gold thread, stolen from the princessa’s parlor on the Hill. I give her a cup of root tea from the stove and settle back on my own pile of cushions, much plainer and more worn.

“What is it this time?” I ask.

She sips at her tea, wincing back from the heat. “It’s bad.”

I wait for her to burst into tears and confess all, but she only sips at her tea. “Godsfather, can you keep a secret?”

“For you I can,” I say.

“Even from the princessa?”

“As long as it doesn’t involve betraying the land,” I say. I pour myself some tea to clear the taste from my mouth.

“It…what if it does involve betraying the land?” she asks.

“Then perhaps you should not tell me.”

We both sip our tea. I am old. There are many things I do not discuss with anyone but myself or with the princessa. I am used to pretending to be noble to Mira; it keeps me from having to lie to her.

NaNoWriMo Week 3: Doubt

Some people have better luck with doubt than others.

Some people establish rituals to offset doubt:  rituals that become steadily more complex and harsh.  “Oh, I can’t write unless I have my favorite notebook and tea and absolute silence!”

Some people freeze.  “I cannot.  I cannot.  I must not.”

Some people become giddy.

Some people put on blinders and stick to the plan.

Some people forget the plan, forget everything, cannot make decisions, feel lost and panicked and afraid of everything as it becomes overbright and garish, like being surrounded by monstrous clowns.

Some people are stubborn and blame writer’s block or say they don’t have enough time, or say or think anything that lets the doubt slide by without having to feel it.

But the doubt must be there; otherwise, your characters won’t feel the possibility that happily ever after might be forever out of grasp, or, (if you’re that kind of writer) that the possibility that happily ever after might be within their grasp (oh horrors).

The writing of every story that rises and falls must be afflicted with the passion of doubt, or else the readers will never doubt either.

And no mistake:  doubt can be a passion.

Sometimes we control our passions with rituals.  And sometimes with panic.  And sometimes with excessive twitchiness, or even with horror.  But mostly by denying it.  But a denied passion never disappears; passions must be acknowledged and honored, if not precisely obeyed.

What kind of story is it, without doubt?  –A clockwork story.

The doubt is part of your function as a writer: without doubt, you are no writer, only a hack or a zealot.  There must come a place where the formula is destroyed, all sense is lost, and the path is occluded for not having been yet created, no matter how clear it seems when you look back later.

There is no answer of how to face the doubt.

If you face it: you’re a writer.

If you face it, when you face it.  Years may pass, no blame.  The terror of an instant is no less fiercely felt.

No one can go into the room with the doubt but you; no one can face it but you; no one can answer the riddle of it but you; the answer that you gave last time won’t suffice, no matter how many times you’ve done this before, no matter how many rituals you perform or don’t perform.

 

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