The Hardest Cut

Jennifer dared me to participate in National Novel Writing Month, and, so, of course I signed up. Producing fifty thousand words in thirty days? What the heck? I dug out some notes on an old novel that I was planning on writing about three years ago and began to outline, but at the last minute — about 11:45 on October 31, to be exact — I decided to write something completely different instead. So I’ll be writing the novel Unfallen, which is based on a role-playing game that I ran a couple of years ago. It was one of the players from that game who suggested it. "Because I really want to know if I was my own evil twin or not!" she said.

So on Thursday I sat down and started writing Chapter One. This morning I finished it and began writing Chapter Two. So far I have about 4,000 words written. I’m almost 10% done!

The scary thing, though, is going through my old notes from the game and realizing that there’s no way I can possibly include everything that I want to in just fifty thousand words. The plot that I had developed for the game is marvelously complex, spanning several centuries and continents and with as many twists and turns as I could possibly devise (of course, I was creating the plotline for five players, and I have always had a policy when running role-playing games that every player deserves to be screwed with as much as possible). Now that I’m writing the thing up as a novel, I’m discovering that I can’t make the plot nearly as complicated and intricate as I really want to. I have to cut a lot out, and while I know it will actually be a better novel for the reduced intricacy, it still hurts. It’s like giving up your children for medical experimentation or something.

Overall, though, NaNoWriMo has been a lot of fun. So far, at least. Now I have an excuse to actually stay up late, drinking coffee until almost midnight. And my wife — on the principle of "darers go first" — is doing it with me. I’ve read chapter one of her novel, and I think it’s quite good.

On another note, I just finished reading a horror novel called Black Dawn by D. W. Stern. My tastes in general do run towards the apocalyptic, and this novel is about as apocalyptic as they come. I admit that I was disappointed in the ending; there are times when I think a novelist just gets tired of writing something, and winds up rushing the ending. Loose ends get left untied, and the narrative pace gets choppy. There were about twenty pages left to the end, and none of the major plotlines had been resolved; I had determined that this book was part one of a series, even though there was no advertising to that effect on the cover or in the summary; and, yet, the author ended the novel with no room for sequel.

On the other hand, it was a pretty well-written novel, and I admire the author for having the guts to kill off major characters before the novel is even halfway done. Many writers are reluctant to do that.

I admit that I was reluctant to read an apocalyptic novel, with the world in the state that it is currently in. Of course, I know that we’re not facing the End of the World, but anyone who knows me will attest that I’ve been a worrier since childhood (in fact, I remember going into deep denial when I was ten or so, refusing to accept that there might be a black hole at the center of our galaxy — I actually had nightmares about that). But Black Dawn was just too intriguing for me to pass up. I’m glad I read it; it wasn’t a spectacular book, but it was decent enough.

Being unemployed is a nice feeling right now. I have plenty of productive things to do while I look for a new job: plenty of reading to catch up on, plenty of writing, plenty of learning. I’m enjoying participating in the stream sampling field research. I’ve got three major creative projects going on at the moment — Unfallen, my novel for NaNoWriMo; Worlds’ End, a Dungeons and Dragons campaign that I’ll eventually be running; and Outer Darkness, a science fiction/horror role-playing game that I’ve been developing with Evilpheemy for a couple of years now.

And, of course, when I get a new job, something will have to be dropped from my list of things to do. Will it be the writing? The reading? The field research? Just like the intricacies of my novel’s plot, something will have to be cut. I only hope that my new job will be worth it.

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