good morning, cyberspace!
I told myself I wasn’t going to do weekly update posts for NaNoWriMo this year. I told myself that I was going to focus solely on my book, that I had a whole mess of other things going on in November, and blogging about the whole writing process was just too much for my smol little self to handle.
I promised myself I wasn’t going to do weekly updates for NaNoWriMo this year.
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Welcome to my weekly NaNoWriMo update, peasants.
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PART ONE . . . A Bumpy Start
It never ceases to amaze me how stupidly naive I am.
For the longest time, I thought first drafting was My Thing. I thought pumping out 50,000 words of absolute creativity was my absolute favorite part of the drafting process. I thought it was what I was good at. I thought it was my One True Love in the world of writing. If editing and revision is the bane of my existence, then first drafting was the fuel in my veins that gives me life.
blood, tired Kenzie. you could have just said blood.
And above and beyond that, I thought the NaNoWriMo project I’ve chosen to write for this year was THE story. You know, the story that is absolute perfection. That has literally no errors or plot malfunctions whatsoever because it is just so glorious and magnificent when you think about it in your head. My heart had thoroughly convinced me that, since I was taking a rather impromptu break from everlost in order to give it some space before diving into its fourth (third? I don’t even know anymore) draft, it was officially time for me to start writing this book.
I had somehow managed to convince myself that since this story had been simmering in my mind meats for the past year or so, the entire thing would be an absolute snap to write.
And hoo boy was I wrong.
Day One of NaNoWriMo was a complete shocker for me, as most things typically are. As per my usual tradition, I stayed up well into the Halloween night so that I could get started on my first chapter right at the stroke of midnight. However, as I began tapping out what my heart was certain was an absolutely magical and perfect story, I quickly realized a glaringly obvious flaw in my new baby novel that I had somehow missed.
I had literally no clue who my main character was.
For any of you who haven’t read my NaNoWriMo Fanatic Tag post, my main character this year is a young starving artist named Todd. He is shy and quirky and in most ways completely unlike all of the loud, obnoxious, and relatively bizarre characters I’ve been writing for the past two years. I’m sure this sounds kind of odd for me to be saying about my own characters, but. . .I really love the cast of everlost. Those characters were the very first that I have ever created that I actually liked. There’s just something about them that feels so real to me. They’re my
imaginary friends, and they have stood right beside me for the entirety of the past two years. Ever since NaNo of 2016, it has been Adaline and Peter and Bella and Thao. That’s it. Just them.
However. Now that I’m giving EV a break and focusing my time and energy into a new novel, I’ve had to completely switch gears and slip into the mind of a NEW character. A character I have never actually allowed myself to talk to before.
A character who is so unlike every single character from everlost that it was a literal battle to even get the poor soul to talk. Or think.
oh no I’ve killed him oops
It was like Todd’s head was just this empty shell of a deflated balloon. No matter how hard I poked and prodded and pried, there was literally nothing to latch onto. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
It was as hollow as
my soul an abandoned hermit crab shell up there — a fact which became painfully obvious as I began to write the first few chapters over the course of the first week of NaNoWriMo.
I have never, in all my years of writing, disliked writing an opening to a novel more than I did with this one. I used to think beginnings were my absolute favorite part of the story to write, but after this first week of NaNoWriMo, I’m really not so sure about that anymore. Between having a lump of a muffin for my main character, forcing said lump of a muffin to sit alone in his empty apartment for minutes on end simply so that he can draw a sketch that will come into play later in the novel, and also potentially pounding my forehead ferociously against the keyboard in the hopes that I could pad my word count with the poetic musings of my face, the first few scenes of The Girl and The Goblin King dragged by at the pace of a snail suffering from a caffeine crash.
But then, my friends, then came the unexpected.
Then I met Carmichael.
You know that one character that’s only supposed to make a very minor appearance in your story? You know, the plot device. The butler who opens the door or the old woman with the apple to feed your starving child bean. It’s the character that’s supposed to come and go, making only the faintest of ripples on the pond that is your character spreadsheet.
For me, that character was Carmichael, a.k.a. Todd’s boss.
Now, Carmichael had a very simple job to do. His sole purpose in life was to call Todd into his office, fire him, and then promptly send him away into the unforgiving jaws of poverty and eviction.
What he was NOT supposed to do, however, was have a personality as big and charismatic as a whale, give a very tear-jerking speech about burnt toast, and promptly become one of my absolute favorite characters in this entire novel.
I can’t remember when, exactly, Carmichael appeared — I think it was around day three or four? — but ever since that bizarre little human turned up, there was just this inexplicable sense of, “Oh, yeah. . . THIS is why I love writing so much.”
My love of writing doesn’t come from first drafts or beginnings, but from from the unexpected, the little bits and pieces that you couldn’t possibly plot out, because you don’t actually know they’re supposed to happen until you physically start writing. Carmichael was supposed to be nothing more than a way for Todd to get fired, but in just a few paragraphs, he became a fully fleshed out personality that put Todd’s hollow shell of a life to shame. And thanks to Carmichael, I finally remembered why on earth I was so passionate about this thing called writing.
However, that isn’t to say that all of my issues with the first opening chapters of this novel were completely erased in light of Carmichael’s unexpected amazingness. After Carmichael’s scene ended, I still struggled to plow through Todd’s perspective for a few more chapters. His mind was as hollow as ever, his thoughts as impossible to pin down, and his dialogue was almost nonexistent. Sure, Carmichael had been a bright little spot of joy in an overall crumbling plot, but that still didn’t negate the fact that I had to figure out who Todd was. Unlike Carmichael, who was a relatively open book that was slightly obsessed with burnt toast, Todd was shy. He had locked his heart away inside of him and wouldn’t let me anywhere near it, and though I knew it was going to be a rough, bumpy, emotional roller coaster of a ride, there was only one way I knew to bring him out of his shell.
I had to write.
Even though I didn’t have all the pieces of his character worked out, even though he sometimes refused to talk for pages on end and I had to rely on the other characters in the storyworld to carry the conversation, even though it was painful and gritty and sometimes felt like I was pulling teeth — I knew that the only way to press forward, the only way for me to truly begin to understand his motivations and emotions and thought processes and dialogue quirks, was to write the story as best I could and hope (and pray) that eventually he would begin to talk to me.
And I’m not going to lie to you, guys. It was a rough few days. Chapter 4 of this novel seriously ranks way up there in the Worst Chapters I’ve Ever Written list, right alongside Chapter 19 in everlost. Every day I had to force myself to sit down and write. Every day I tried to dive a little deeper into Todd’s head. Every day I pushed myself forward, even when all I wanted to do was pull back and write something else. Anything else. Do literally anything besides sit down for another hour and try to write the inner monologue of a character who refused to talk to me.
But then, my friends, after days and days and days of struggling to write beginnings and stubborn characters, something absolutely magical happened.
(and no. it wasn’t Carmichael this time.)
On Friday, November 9th, I woke up with a plan. I had just finished the absolutely atrocious aforementioned Chapter 4 the evening prior, and though I was quite confident in the fact that it wasn’t anything like what I had envisioned in my head, I decided to just leave it be for now and focus on writing Chapter 5 as if I’d written the previous chapter correctly. (this is actually something that is SEVERELY hard for me to do since I’m a die-hard chronological writer, but somehow I was able to pull it off without my brain throwing a tantrum?? it was a miracle of the highest caliber.) And so, ignoring the fact that Chapter 4 was quite possibly the worst piece of fiction I have ever written (excluding that Lilo and Stitch thing I wrote for school that one time. . .aha.) I opened up my manuscript, put my fingers to the keys, and. . .
. . .found that Todd was talking. Todd was actually, physically talking to me. He was thinking. He was breathing. He was becoming an actual human, rather than a rock that I had to forcibly move from scene to scene. It was the most rewarding and magical writing experience I’ve had in a long time, and even as I write this, I have the worst fear that it was just a fluke in the system, that I’ll try to write him again tomorrow and he’ll be back to his closed off self again.
But as for right now, I am finally finding myself falling in love with this story. This first week (and two days) of NaNo was extraordinarily tough — probably the toughest beginning to a novel I’ve ever had. But I’ve pressed forward and I’ve kept writing even when it was hard, and I feel like the perseverance and the dedication is finally paying off. My characters are beginning to come to life and spread their wings, my plot is simple yet kind of magical, my settings are a smidgen lacking, but I mean we’re getting there. . . (my previous novel took place entirely in one building. I think I deserve some slack on the whole worldbuilding thing, guys.)
Overall, Week One of NaNoWriMo has been a roller coaster of ups and downs, lefts and rights, and a lot of trying to find my voice for this book. You may have noticed that I have been anything but existent here on the blogs (and even in the Dare Squad, which is slightly embarrassing, if I do say so myself) but I’ve been so absorbed in this new story and with trying to find my footing that I just haven’t had the motivation to get on here all that much.
But I’m going to try and do better for Week Two, folks. I should have known that after having spent two whole years with everlost, immersing myself into an entirely new storyworld would be difficult. But if there is one thing that everlost has taught me over the years, it’s that the only way to truly find where you’re going is to just keep writing. Just keep pushing forward. Work hard and dream big and embrace the difficulties that are thrown your way, because though writing is a complicated and difficult task filled with highs and lows and all-over-the-place feelings, there will always be a moment where something clicks. There will always be another twist, another turn, another surprise that keeps you falling in love with this world you are creating.
And that unexpected feeling of falling in love at every new turn is exactly what makes the difficult, almost impossible act of writing so, so beyond worth it, my friends.*
*was this a pep talk? was this a rambly update on where i stand with my new novel? who even knows anymore.
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PART TWO . . . The NaNoWriMo Dare Squad
i’ll make this quick, i promise
So. Perhaps some of you have noticed that I’ve been kind of failing at the whole “staying up to date on the NaNoWriMo Dare Squad Hub” thing. And this, dear peasants, is because I really really really really really really really really hate the hub.
Like. . .a lot. It’s annoying me.
I don’t like editing blog posts. I like punching that big fat PUBLISH button in the face and watching as a new little baby post is pinned onto my happy little blog. And getting on here every other day just so I can tack on another prompt to the Dare Squad Hub is just extremely boring and not fun at all.
SO. I’ve decided to make some changes. As of today — as you might have already seen, in fact — I’m going to delete most, if not all, of the written content of the Dare Squad Hub, and instead use that sticky page just to post the Dare Squad boards. That way anyone who pops onto Smudged Thoughts will be struck with the glorious miracle that is the Dare Squad and will immediately feel jealous that they are not amongst our ranks, obviously.
actually, it’s just so that the dare boards won’t get lost in the middle of my blog throughout the month, ahahahahahaha #soconvenient
And then, throughout the remainder of the month (because we all know I’ve been extremely awful at doing this for the first ten days) I’m going to be post daily
-ish writing prompts and questions and Check-In’s for anyone participating in the Dare Squad/NaNoWriMo as separate little blog posts. You might have seen the one I posted yesterday. It was pink and it was adorable and I want a whole army of those by the end of November.
So I mean I guess that’s basically it? I don’t like the Hub, I love baby posts, and now apparently we’re going to get splattered with Weekly NaNoWriMo Update Posts by Kenzie, even though I flat-out told myself that I wasn’t going to blog at all during the month of November.
What more could you possibly wish for, am I right?
TALK TO ME, PEASANTS!
So! Let’s talk about your first week of NaNoWriMo, shall we peasants? What sorts of struggles and victories have you encountered thus far? Have the words been coming easily, or have they felt akin to pulling the teeth straight out of your skull? Have you encountered any Carmichaels in YOUR story? What do you think of me completely mutilating the Dare Squad Hub and switching everything up ten days into November? and most importantly, as the 19th is only nine days away. . .
WHAT KINDS OF DARES DO YOU EXPECT AWAIT US ALL NEXT SUNDAY????? (it’s going to be so much fun, you guys, oh my word.)
Let’s talk about ALL OF THE THINGS dealing with NaNo and writing and life in the comments down below! And as always, until next time. . .
*flings cookies in your face and disappears*