Regarding NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo Avatar

Every year, NaNoWriMo comes and goes, and for the past several years I haven’t been able to make it work. Part of this is due to the ever-fluctuating changes in my freelancing schedule, part of it is due to the fact that I wasn’t ready to dive into plotting a novel for submission on spec, and the last bit (of course) is any number of excuses.

This year, I’m doing it because I’m ready. I know it might sound anti-climatic or even lame, but I had a lot to work through, personally, to get to this point. Now, it’s finally time. I’m participating this year, with gusto, and have the main story and its twists plotted out. It’s been unpacking, very slowly, in my brain through dreams and other mind pops. I can hear the narrator whispering, and I can see the characters; both of these things usually precedes a deluge of words for me. I’m excited about all my novels, but this story in particular is important because it’s a new step in a longer journey.

I’m off to a slow start, due to work, but as a full-time writer I feel it’s definitely time to get novels done and out the door to my agent. Yesterday, I tracked my word count and I wrote 5K and revised 8K for non-NaNo projects, but I know I can do the 50K this year, because I’ve produced that much word count before in less time. Just not in November.

Special thanks to my research crew (Eryn H.) and new friends (Jacqueline B., Crystal W.) for last minute help. I hope to do them proud.

If you’re so inclined, please feel free to friend me on NaNoWriMo. Let’s do this together!

    Mood: LET’S DO THIS THANG
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Starbucks DoubleShot Energy
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: I… Wow. Yeah, nothing.
    In My Ears: Tron soundtrack
    Game Last Played: Kingdom Rush: Frontiers
    Book Last Read: Howl’s Moving Castle. Starting on the sequel!
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Once Upon a Time. OH, DARK SWAN!
    Latest Artistic Project: STILL EDITING.
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Gods, Memes, and Monsters
    Latest Game Release: Dread Names, Red List for Vampire: the Masquerade and Ghosts in the Black for the Firefly RPG.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update and My Departure from the Conan RPG.


For the Love of Story

The Tick Weapons Lab Avatar

I’ve decided to keep Raymond Day in my novel. I feel the story is going to suffer greatly without it; he needs to be there. Day, who first appeared in The Queen of Crows, is a problematic character for a few reasons. First, his origin story dates back to the Westward expansion in the 1830s era. He is a vampire (not spoiling anything by telling you that) and how he became an undead being that can only survive on human blood is the stuff of nightmares. But that particular detail, mind, is tied to what happened historically. Yes, it’s alternate history. However, to make his Native American character believable, certain details reflect what happened at the time. I haven’t settled on a specific tribe yet, as he played a minor role in the short story, but thinking Cherokee might be the best fit.

I have a stack of books on the subject, and the one I started reading last night is by Peter Nabokov. It’s called Indian Running, Native American Testimony: From Prophecy to the Present 1442 – 1992. I’ve decided to take the academic approach, by reading first-hand accounts, to make Day’s character believable — but also handle one of the trickier bits about him. That is, often when Native American characters are presented in fiction (if at all), there’s a tendency to put them in a historical context as if they are invisible in the modern world. (This is a PolicyMic article that gives a brief overview of some of those issues.)

On the flip side, there is also a tendency to lump every tribe together, so a character becomes representative of all Native Americans; much like when whites are all lumped together and the distinction between the French and the English, for example, is completely erased. Saying that all tribes got along just fine is like saying all of Europe is one big happy family. Really, the lumping occurs from a lack of knowledge. It’s easy to categorize when you don’t know the details, and as a writer it’s my job NOT to do that.

Am I obsessing about research? Oh hell, yes. I’m going to get parts wrong, but at the same time? I would rather be smart about characterization, which is often embedded in the style of language and descriptions I use, than be like: “Oh hey, here’s this pulp-y character that comes along and is there to move the plot forward.” There are very few Native Americans in modern-day fiction. Few. I can’t remember the last time I saw one in a film; The Prophecy, maybe? Native Americans are not fantasy elves with mystical powers that have their own form of magic because of their deep connection to the land. Beliefs? Yes. Aliens from outer space? No.

And what of those beliefs? Well, you see this is the other reason why research is a requirement for me. No two tribes are alike, and beliefs vary widely. The vast majority of Native American beliefs don’t match European goals and thought processes, either. That’s where these accounts are helping me, because I am reading and seeing exactly what people from the era believed, what they experienced, and how they viewed the expansion. Hey, big hint folks: it’s not what Hollywood has depicted. Ever.

I’m lucky, I suppose, in that there’s no shortage of materials out there. I think the only reason I’m not (lucky), is because it’s going to take me longer to finish writing the book, but once I have his character down it’ll go much faster. I mean, sure it sounds like an excuse. Research can be a way to procrastinate, but the thing is: I’m not reading any of these books or diving in because I don’t trust myself as a writer, or because I’m freezing up, or any of those other “lets-beat-ourselves-up” reasons… I’m reading all this to internalize the information, so that I do the best job I possibly can. With so few Native American characters out there, that’s immensely important to me, and I’d never forgive myself if I was sloppy about it even though I’m writing fiction knowing what I know. Call it pride or whatever you like, but that’s just how it’s gotta be. I LOVE BEING A WRITER. And this? This research? It’s part of my job.

    Mood: Strangely strange.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Quite a bit.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: I moved. Well, kind of.
    In My Ears: White noise. ZZZzzzzzz
    Game Last Played: Ninjas versus Zombies
    Book Last Read: Indian Running, Native American Testimony: From Prophecy to the Present 1442 – 1992
    Movie Last Viewed: Kill Bill II
    Latest Artistic Project: Art classes. SON OF A BISCUIT! That reminds me…
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Mortal Remains
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work, original comics, short stories, and novels.

Book Trailer for Argentum, My Online Serial Novel

This is the first time I’ve delved into producing video. I’d appreciate you providing me with feedback if you have the time to check out this short book trailer for Argentum, Book One of the Violet War series I’m writing.

On Writing a Serial Novel

Violet WarLast Spring, I had announced that I was working on a free urban fantasy website called Violet War. The goal of the website was to promote a series of books I’ve been working on and offer the first draft of the series’ first book (Argentum) for free.

Since starting this project, I’ve found that writing a serial novel comes with its own set of challenges related to the fact that this is a novel of discovery.

In this book, the main character (Sophie Miller) is an exile (think convict) from her magical world. Sophie committed a terrible crime and was later experimented on by the Alchemists then imprisoned by them in a House of Illusion. Those experiments ripped apart her memories, so much so that when the illusion “breaks” she is forced her to deal with the world around her in unusual ways. At first, she doesn’t trust herself but later questions everything she sees.

These questions have turned into information dumps at times, so much so that some chapters rely on discussion rather than action to drive the plot. Fortunately, I’ve been able to catch those moments by sketching out the entire novel from beginning to end. Pacing is really important to me, because as a reader I get very bored when the story doesn’t move, so my chapters are relatively short. They range from one thousand to twenty-five hundred words for that reason.

Another way I’m circumventing those information dumps is by adding chapter breaks which are memories and pieces of info that Sophie knows. Once the “House of Illusion” is broken, she begins to remember bits and pieces of her former life. The things she remembers may seem innocuous at first, but might have a larger impact on the overall story in the end. (*hint*)

Technology has also played a big part in my presentation of this novel. If you look at the physical structure of how Argentum is laid out, you’ll see that there are section breaks in the book. This structure is intentional because of the way this template handles numeric chapters. If I didn’t have a section, then Chapter 10 would have shown up after Chapter 1, which would have made things really confusing for my readers.

I’m pretty excited to have made so much progress on my project this past weekend. This is definitely new territory for me as an author, and I hope you get the chance to read my work.




Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

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