Category Archives: National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo ’13 part 1

So, I’m not feeling the NaNo spirit this year. I have a lot of things on my plate and writing a novel in a month is at the bottom of the priority list, but I’m doing it anyway. Since I’m stuck and since the idea for this novel has gotten such great reception, I thought I’d give you the first draft chapter.

Here you go. Arthur 13 (title of the book to be decided upon later, current working title is ” The King Has Returned”.)

Enjoy.

-Kai

 

Arthur 13: The King Has returned

Chapter One

“Territory”

The sound of a tree trunk hitting stone echoed across the valley. It was soon followed by the thunderous crack of stone against stone. The sounds rang out across the night. Arthur sat on a fallen log and watched impassively. He was bored. Territory disputes between trolls were nothing new, and as far as Arthur was concerned, they were a waste of his time and talents.

He heaved a sigh and cupped his chin in his hand as he watched the ten foot tall monsters swing branch and fist at one another. Trolls were notoriously dull witted, despite having huge brains inside their massive skulls. They were primal things, never having evolved much past the lone wolf type of creature that they had been at the dawn of time. No one ever spoke of massive Troll cities, or the wonderful things that trolls produced. They weren’t delicate in any sense of the word. Trolls were massive beasts, some had horns, others didn’t. They were as diverse as the forests and mountains that they usually inhabited. Bridge trolls were the smartest of the lot, and everyone knows how the story of the Billy Goats ended.

They were enormous creatures. Each of the Trolls fighting in front of Arthur had to weigh as much as an elephant. Small elephants, Arthur corrected himself. The kind that don’t have tusks. He shook his head and tried not to fall asleep as the Trolls laboured on, determined to fight each other until some ancient, primal form of compromise or satisfaction was reached. Arthur wished that the old attempts to civilize the Trolls had worked; it would have made his task as Warden a lot easier if there was some form of protocol that he could just shout at the giant things. Instead he was forced to watch, to make sure that no one was injured in the fight. No one else, anyway. Not that there was anyone else around, Trolls were amazingly reclusive and the chances of one being spotted by someone who didn’t know what to look for was marginal at best.

Trolls fought slowly. They did almost everything slowly. They lived life at a pace that even the most laid back humans would find uncomfortable. They lived in hollows, in caves and damp places. They only moved to forage, and these huge things weren’t the kind of trolls that turned into stone in the sunlight. These were creatures leftover from the dawn of time and so solitary that they’d never even incurred the wrath of any mortal, immortal or deity in their long existence. They simply were.

Arthur jumped in his spot as the smaller of the two Trolls swung a fist and connected with the larger Troll’s knee. There was the crash of stone against stone and a howl of what Arthur assumed was pain from the bigger Troll. The smaller Troll stepped back a little bit, moving away from his opponent as he steadied himself and prepared for the next swing. It was like the slowest boxing match he had ever seen. And he didn’t even mention the smell.

The smaller Troll had regained his momentum quickly and was about to make another attack when the Troll with the club swung it around in a sweeping arc, catching the smaller Troll on the side of the head, stunning him in place. Another, secondary crack of the tree the bigger, greyer one of the Trolls was using as a club echoed through the night air. Arthur had to stifle a yawn as the branch broke in half and clattered to the ground. The Troll on the receiving end of the tree branch beat down staggered and dropped to his (it’s? Arthur wasn’t even sure what gender the Trolls were and he didn’t particularly want to find out) knees and grunted once before falling face first into the dirt. Arthur forced himself up from the fallen log where he’d been seated, running a hand through his dusty brown hair as the triumphant Troll bellowed it’s victory to the night sky.

“Are you quite finished, then?” Arthur asked, his British accent markedly picking out each syllable.

The big grey Troll turned dull, glittering eyes to Arthur, as if he had forgotten that the Warden had showed up. The Troll shrugged and grunted.

Arthur nodded. “So you emerged victorious, congratulations. Now, was this your territory to start with?”

The Troll nodded.

“You understand me all right, do you speak English?” Arthur pressed, trying to keep the annoyance he felt at having to deal with the whole situation out of his words. He didn’t feel like ending up on the receiving end of a Troll’s ire, especially not one who had just handily incapacitated another Troll.

The Troll held up his hand, pinching his thumb and index finger together in the universal symbol for ‘a little bit’.

Arthur flashed a smile, the same one he’d used to charm faeries off their toadstools and panties off of girls in the club. “Fantastic, so may I please start with your name?”

“Hamish,” the Troll grunted.

Arthur had to blink back his surprise. “I’m sorry, did you just say Hamish?”

The Troll nodded.

“All right, Hamish, erm, since you’ve won the skirmish, you understand now that I am going to call the Round Table to come in and clean up and relocate your… vanquished foe?”

Hamish nodded again.

“Why did this fight begin?” Arthur asked, pulling a notebook and pen out of his woollen trench coat and clicking the button on the pen.

“He came to my house without invitation,” Hamish said slowly, his face screwing up in concentration as he forced the right words. “Said that… Said that he needed to move in because I am too weak and my house is too… What is word?” he asked. “Word for more than not enough?”

Arthur felt his own teeth bite into his tongue to keep the laugh from escaping him. “Plentiful?” he suggested.

Hamish shrugged. “Said I not good enough to have this. That I am too old and that younger Troll need more for mate.”

Arthur nodded, though he’d never heard of Trolls mating and sharing territory. He made a note in his book to ask about that later. “All right, it sounds like this is a cut and dry case of territorial infringement. You need to stay here and when the Round Table comes, they’ll have to ask you a few more questions. You’re not in trouble, you’re clearly in the right.”

“Thank you,” Hamish said, bowing until his bulbous nose touched the ground. “You are a kind and noble king.”

Arthur snorted at that last comment. “Did you use that line on my last predecessor?”

“Three of them,” Hamish rumbled.

Arthur’s eyes widened in surprise. “Three?” he croaked. “You look good for your age.”

Hamish smiled, revealing his craggy, broken, obsidian teeth. “You are a kind a noble king to say such good things to Hamish.”

“I’ll remind you that you said that next time I need a favour,” Arthur joked.

Hamish nodded amiably and settled back down to wait for the Round Table operatives to arrive.

Arthur shrugged to himself and walked a few paces away, putting away his notebook and taking out his cell phone. He pressed a speed dial button and held the phone up to his ear. “This is Arthur. I need a clean up crew at my location. GPS coordinates will be arriving momentarily. It’s a Troll territorial dispute, bring transport.”

Arthur hung up the phone and tucked it into his pocket. A small cough caught his attention.

Standing right in front of him was a lithe gentleman in a long, grey cloak. Arthur knew who he was immediately, though the man’s name escaped him.

“You guys sure move fast when there’s Trolls involved,” Arthur pointed out.

The man in the cloak smiled and bowed. “Sir Lorrin at your service.”

“You’re not one of the regular guys,” Arthur pointed out. “You’re from the magic department. No laws of magic were broken here.”

“No, no! I know, that’s not why I’m here,” Sir Lorrin explained.

Arthur eyed the lesser wizard suspiciously. “Then what are you doing here?”

“Forgive me, sire, but I’m here to escort you back to Camelot.”

 

 

 

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A thing about Constructive Criticism and Buzzwords

I know that it’s generally bad form to respond to any kind of criticism in a public manner, and so with that in mind, I’m going on record to say that this isn’t directed and any person or entity (Unless there’s a god of shitty buzzwords that do not quite mean what everyone seems to think they mean, then we’ll have to have a discussion later.) This is a post about what makes constructive criticism and why buzzwords aren’t always helpful.

Constructive criticism is essential to honing and perfecting a craft. It’s one part opinion, one part learning tool and it is 100% up to the person receiving the criticism whether they want to take the criticism to heart or to ignore it.

“Instead of having Jane Foster doing nothing but drooling over Thor, I think it would work better if she used her astrophysicist knowledge to pinpoint how and where Thor or Loki would be coming to touch down on Earth next time and would develop her into a more realistic character” is constructive criticism.

“I fucking hate Jane Foster, she’s a twat and a whiny bitch who only wants to get into Thor’s pants” is not constructive criticism and can be considered abuse.

The first is helpful to a writer’s fragile ego (remember, your writer has spent a lot of time and effort making the thing you’re reading and has put their heart into the work and is probably feeling nervous about sharing with you) and can actually be used to improve the character or story. The second is abusive self-entitled opinions that can actually hurt your writer’s feelings and are not helpful to the writer. The second example can even make your writer never want to talk to you again, let alone share their work with you.

The second example shouldn’t be something that a writer (or artist or creator of any kind) should ever have to “grow a thicker skin” to deal with, and it should not be as common as it is because honestly, it’s just rude. But, this is a rant for a different day.

Now, having had my share of both examples, I have to point out this trend that I’ve been seeing int critiques and criticisms. It’s the emergence and constant use of buzzwords.

Okay, I get it. Buzzwords are things that marketing executives dream up and use their black magic to put in the general population’s minds to sell more things. These are words that become popular terms to describe things.

“Epic” or “Epic Adventure”

“Quirky”

I’m sure there’s a hundred more but these are the ones I hate the most. Especially “quirky”. It’s gotten to the point that I have actually NOT picked up books because the word “quirky” was used in the back cover synopsis. I’ve skipped TV shows that people otherwise seemed to love because a character was called “quirky.”

And now, I find that there’s buzzwords sneaking their way into the writing field, ESPECIALLY int he editing and critiquing process.

The one that gets me the most is “infodump”.

I hate that word SO MUCH. Just writing it makes me grind my teeth and kinda want to throw up. I see red. It’s not even a word. Grr.

Here’s my I hate the word “infodump”: it has become a catch-all, meaningless word used to describe “too much description or back story” which, in most hard Sci-Fi or Epic fantasy is also known as “world building” and is something that every beginning writer is taught that they need to include. Furthermore, I have had several critique partners and beta readers tell me that I have had at least one passage that was “too much of an infodump” in my stories.

I’ve asked every single one of them. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. “How can I change this important back story that you call an infodump into something that isn’t an infodump?”

The usual replies I’ve gotten are “I dunno” or “delete it.”

Think about that.

Usually what gets qualified as an infodump is back story or world building. How can one delete something critical to the continuation of the story?

Furthermore, calling a passage an infodump with nothing else to say about it and no suggestions on how to make it less of one is not constructive criticism. It’s also a lot to do with the genre, too. And let’s face it, we all still read Stephen King even though his style of writing is quite literally having 2/3 of the book be nothing more than infodump world building that leads up to the action.

So please, if you’re gonna use that damn buzzword “infodump” to describe a passage you don’t like or feel needs to be edited, make sure that you’ve got some constructive words to go along with it. Because I’m not gonna let anyone get away with that crap ever again and I’ll never ask you to beta read my work if that’s how you think I’m gonna fix the issues.


Quick Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block (part 1)

In the light of National Novel Writing Month being upon us once again, I thought that I would share the things that I do to help get over the slump and the writer’s block that seems to plague everyone.

If you follow me on Twitter (@RaggedyAuthor) you’ve probably seen me preaching to my friends and fellow writers to go make a cup of tea whenever they’re blocked.

That’s because tea is magic.

It’s very much like the pie trick in MIB 3 (If you haven’t seen Men in Black 3, or have no idea what I’m talking about, go watch it and then come back. I’ll wait.)

I call it the Writer’s Tea Ceremony, It goes like this:

Stop what you’re doing. Step away from the project. Staring at it isn’t gonna help.

Get up from where you’re working. Leave your project where it is. Seriously, this is the most important step. You have to leave your work behind. Let it go. Do not take your pen. Do not take a sticky note. Do not take your notebook or laptop. You have to leave your project completely behind. That includes thinking about it. Leave it behind. The thing that is giving you problems is not part of the tea ceremony.

Head down to your kitchen.

Boil the water. And note that here I recommend using a kettle on the stove to boil the water. It takes a little bit longer than microwaving or using an electric kettle and there’s something incredibly satisfying about the low, sad whistle of a kettle when the water is ready.

While you’re waiting for the water to boil, select your cup (I suggest getting your favourite mug because it’s comforting.)

Get out your sugar, cream, or milk, vanilla, cinnamon, whatever you add to your tea.

And your tea bag.

Set it all up on the counter. Put the tea bag in the cup. (If you’re using the microwave, may I suggest getting a second cup so you can pour the hot water over the tea bag? It steeps it better, gives it a better flavour.)

Make your tea, dress it how you like it, and put the things away.

Do this all very slowly and purposefully. Focus more on the fact that you’re making tea than anything else. Remember, you’ve left your story and your writer’s block behind.

I suggest that you take a few slow, delicious sips of your tea before returning to your work space. Let the warmth of the tea fill your mouth and your stomach and just take a few moments to actually enjoy the first couple of sips.

Go back and usually you’ll be able to see the problem clearer and you’ll be able to go on. A lot of the time, I get inspired halfway through making tea. That’s awesome. If it happens that you’re inspired while the water is boiling, finish making tea but hold on to that idea. The tea is magic, trust me.

And, of course, if  you don’t like tea this works with coffee (although French pressing it is better for the “ceremony” aspect) or hot chocolate. Or cider. Whatever, really. As long as you’re not just pouring it out of a container and calling it good. That defeats the purpose. A cold drink needs to be poured and mixed to have the same effectiveness.

Of course, you might get different results, but this is a trick that works about 95% of  the time when I do it.

I hope this trick helps you in your writing and in overcoming Writer’s Block!


NaNoWriMo follow up

Warning: Contains me being positive and uplifting, supportive, cussing AND LOVE. (Taken from my tumblr)
So we’re 6 days into December and NaNoWriMo has come and gone. Holy crap. Time flies. Now though, I’m hearing a lot of people in the writing community complain about their “wins” and “losses” in November. 
Let me put it right out there in black and white for everyone: not hitting 50 k words in November is not a “loss.” IT IS NOT A LOSS. Hitting, meeting, or surpassing 50 k words in November is not a “win.” IT IS NOT A WIN. 
Do you see where I’m going with this?
The numbers and the deadline are arbitrary. Just because you were unable to pump out a first draft of 50,000 words or more in 30 days doesn’t mean that you’re “not cut out to be a writer”, or that “you’ll never make it as a novelist”, or that “you’re not good enough to write,” or any of the other negative things that you’re probably complaining about after your so-called “loss”. It means that maybe 50,000 words in 30 days doesn’t work for you. And that’s all right! Maybe your one story didn’t quite make it to 50,000 words. That’s also cool! Maybe November was a busy as hell month and you couldn’t devote the time to writing that you had anticipated. That’s perfectly all right, too.
And let’s look at the flip side of that! Just because you wrote 50k, or 100k, or, like some insane people that I know, 285k and beyond, well, that doesn’t mean that you’re gonna “make it” as a writer either. It doesn’t mean you’re “good enough” or that you’re “cut out” to be a writer. It means that you had a whirlwind month and one or more story ideas that seemed to magically flow from your fingertips onto the pages of your draft and into your computer or whatever the hell you use to write that many words in 30 days. (You insane, freaky ass cyborgs you.)
While yes, the feeling of accomplishment from finishing the first draft of your novel is a great thing, the point is to build good writing habits that should theoretically stick with you year-round. Making yourself the time to sit and write 1667 words a day (minimum) is the goal. They say that it takes 30 days of repetition for an action to become a habit. Oh look at that. Writing 1667 words per day for 30 days. Huh, seems like they were trying to reinforce the idea of making writing a habit, wouldn’t you agree?
Personally, I do NaNoWriMo every year. I have been participating for 4 years. And I participated in both “Camp NaNo” session this year. I have completed (and surpassed) the 50,000 word goal on every one of them. Out of those 6 sessions, only 2 works have been polished enough to merit submissions to anything. The third one is nearing completion but is getting cut down to around 35,000 words and will finish life as a “novella”. The other three things I’ve written are being completely discarded and reworked when I feel like delving back into them, which will likely never happen.
All of the works I’ve submitted have needed major polishing. Nothing was perfect right out of the gate. And, I’ve managed to keep the writing habit year-round, however. I write other things too, so there’s one good thing about being a “Wrimo”.
The point of it all is this: stop beating yourself up over an arbitrary number that dictates whether you’ve “won” or “lost” NaNoWriMo. Face it. “Win” or “lose”, you still ended up with more words than you had at the beginning of the month. And that is the goal in the long run. 

On Ego

I’ve noticed that a lot of writers (myself included) have a somewhat inflated sense of self. Whether it’s ego, or something else, I’m not sure, but I find that so many of my writer friends have this mentality.

I know PLENTY of other writers who think the same way, they’re all cocky, self-assured creatures who have the mindset that they are awesome and deserve ALL the accolades and the worship and paycheck that goes with being an internationally best-selling author.

Whether this is true or not in the public eye remains to be seen.

But the mindset is abundantly clear.

I’m a cocky, self-assured little wench. I think I’m awesome. I think that I have a distinct, unique style in my writing and that my works deserve to be shared (you know, when I get around to polishing everything and editing and all that other stuff.) I know that I use the cockiness as a defense mechanism. I work myself up to the point that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am [insert positive adjective here] and that good things will come to me for whatever reason I choose to maintain the egoism. For me, it makes rejection a thousand times easier. It means that I can get over the disappointment a lot faster and work on improving what needs improving so that I can try again.

Having said that, I’m perfectly willing to have an open discussion about what [needs improvement, what (you) liked, hated, feelings the words evoked etc. etc. etc.] and take criticism, constructive or not.

I am also all about building my fellow writers up and sharing in their successes (and alternately, being there to grieve with them in their failures).

Writing is a lonely, lonely job. You lock yourself away to be in the throes of your imagination for hours on end. Alone. Because working alone is when you get the best work done. You only get social interaction when you’re in the editing/critique/beta reading phase, and usually that’s all business. Then it’s back to revising. Rinse and repeat.

So why, then, is it SO COMMON with other writers to be self-righteous dicks? I’m not saying that I am immune to this, I’m only human, but I do try my hardest not to fall into that trap of ego and self-righteousness. I’m also certainly not saying that EVERY author is like this either. As with any group, there are some bad apples that you would much rather avoid.

Still, I see it all the time. I see blogs that are entirely self-serving (which you know, 99% of blogs are) or I see online discussions where the writers are condescending towards one another, and everyone else involved. I feel like the vast majority of writers are convinced that they are the next Hemingway or something and that everyone else is sufficiently beneath them. It’s a very sad state of affairs. Most of these “authors” aren’t even published and still they treat everyone else with an air of disdain and sarcasm. The worst is when I see other people/authors talk down to others. The biggest rule is that your audience is not stupid, you shouldn’t treat them as such.

Your ego shouldn’t be getting in the way of your relationships with other people. Especially with other authors. You never know when that smug and cocky tone of condescension is going to accidentally burn a bridge that would have otherwise helped you.

I mean really, we’re all in this together, right? So why not support each other along? Rejoice in one person’s success and offer sympathy in times of failure, but don’t be smug and self-satisfied about it. And certainly don’t be condescending. We can all get along in the literary sandbox. Right?

Kai Kiriyama lives in Calgary, Alberta with her pet snake Rhaegar and too many books to fit in one room. 

She is a monthly contributor to Zombie Training Magazine, which you can find here if you’re so inclined.

You may reach Kai through email here! 
Or you can find her on Facebook if you’re into social media.
Kai is also on Tumblr here! 
And of course you can follow on Twitter


The Dreaded Slump

Bollocks.

I’m pretty sure I’ve fallen into the dreaded “week 2 slump” that tends to plague NaNoWriMo participants yearly.

Usually when I participate in NaNoWriMo, I’m what our local group affectionately refers to as a “cyborg” — meaning that I can hammer out 1000+ words in 15 minutes. I hate that idea, but when we’re sprinting and doing word wars, it makes for better competition when you have a group of people ALL pumping out 1000+ words in 15 minutes.

Last year, I wrote 150,000 words in the month of November. Before that it was 77,000 while working 3 jobs totaling 70 hour work weeks.

Suffice it to say that only 1 of the stories I’ve written has made it through the editing process without making me wanna barf or with me giving up on the story in general with the intention to come back to it at a later date.

I don’t typically fall for the “slump” of a writing deadline like this. In fact, I typically thrive under the pressure. And, if I do end up with a slump, it usually hits me around the 22nd or so, right in the homestretch.

So I’m a little bit lost.

It isn’t writer’s block. Far from it. I have all the ideas in my head, I know where the story needs to go and where I want it to go. It’s just that procrastination is coming so much easier to me this month than ever. Sitting at my computer means that I’m either filling my brain with useless things or scouring the depths of social media or just doing something completely unrelated to writing.

I just don’t know what’s wrong with me, and it’s frustrating. Not even caffeine is helping. Nor is getting “enough” sleep at night.

I think this is the “slump” that all insane NaNo’ers talk about.

Still, I’m doing something right. I have my butt in my chair and I’m forcing myself to peck out a few words here and there, even if they’re not the huge amounts of words I usually spew forth.

Anyone have any useful suggestions for making the words work?


Today is a day where I really don’t feel like writing. But I’m still sitting here at my computer, typing. The words are coming slower than I would like, it’s a little harder to focus (obviously, as I’m posting this to multiple social networking sites and my blog) but I have put my butt in my chair and am doing what I can.
This is the first step you have to realize you need to take when you’re truly being devoted to your craft: do it even when you don’t feel like it. 
There are times when I have been DESPERATE to write and have been unable to. Those days are worse for me than the days where I feel like I’m not in the right mindset to write. I can press keys and form sentences even if I don’t feel like it, but when I have thousands of ideas floating around in my mind and I’m unable to write them down? That’s the part that kills me.
I guess that this is a very timely thing to write as we’re halfway through week two of NaNoWriMo and a lot of people are starting to feel the dreaded “slump” that comes when creativity flows constantly and so quickly in a mad rush to meet the deadline of 50,000 words in 30 days.
But if you are truly devoted to what you’re doing, to your craft, be it writing, or music, or art or something else, then you will continue on. You will move ahead, and move forward. You will power through the fact that you really don’t wanna be doing this and you’ll make yourself proud to overcome the fact that you don’t feel like doing this.
Believe me. There is very little more empowering than working through your self-doubts and your lack of motivation to meet a goal.
Go forth and succeed. 
Love,
Kai Kiriyama
Kai Kiriyama lives in Canada with her pet snake Rhaegar. She drinks far too much tea for anyone’s safety.
Kai writes for Zombie Training magazine, which you can find here: http://www.zombie training .com
To contact Kai, you can ask her things on tumblr (thekiriyamaheir.tumblr.com) or find her on twitter (@thekiriyamaheir) or on facebook (facebook.com/authorkaikiriyama)