Saturday, November 2, 2013

Another NaNoWriMo, Another Fine Mess

It's that time of year where I feverishly write and write and write until December 1.  Each year I take a different approach.

My personal approach to the 50k this year hit me hard when the characters were just sitting there staring at me all day November 1 with their arms crossed and a scowl on their faces.

"We're not telling you jack," one of them said to me.

"Seriously, you're on your own," my heroine piled on.

What the?

I hit 1700 words of tell, not show (cardinal sin number one for a fiction writer) late Friday night and had a headache when I was done.

This year's quest started 6 months ago at the Waltham Watch City Festival (the steampunk weekend in Waltham).  I was having dinner with my family at a local restaurant we occasionally enjoying visiting.  (They have a lot of good, local craft beers on ice and fried foods - ummmm what's not to like?)  Looking at the placemat of Waltham during the Revolutionary War, it hit me: what if Waltham and Lowell were competing city-states in a steam punk world?  Boston was more like Beaumonde in Firefly: a steamy underbelly of a port; while Salem is the NYC of a port.  Waltham is aligned with Boston and New Bedford while Lowell is aligned with Salem.  The Americas are still British, Spanish and French colonies (the Spanish own west of the Rockies and the southern regions while the French have the Midwest and the British are East of the Mississippi).  There are empires, city states and other rather odd collections for things but the focus here is on Waltham vs Lowell.

I researched the hell out of this one: reading up histories of the two cities, going back to my American History and Western Civ notes and texts about the Industrial Revolution and Francis Cabot Lowell's dream of Utopia via the Waltham/Lowell system.  I jotted down 6 months of notes in my writer's journal.  I created a mythology - all the things good writers do with such things.  This year I was READY with a capital R (followed by all caps EADY).

I found myself struggling on day one in spite of the research and notes because - as I figured out this morning - I have a large number of stories going on in this universe.  At some point it became Firefly without me realizing it.  But not just Firefly, it became Wagon Train, Lost Ark, Star Trek and all those episodic stories having to do with the wild west in a variety of settings.  The backdrop is truly the battle between Waltham and Lowell but Tara, I mean, Miranda, I mean Amelia, I mean... oh what the hell...Victoria (Victoria?) kept bobbing and weaving through my visions of this world.

Joss Whedon and Nathan Fillion on the set of Firefly
Curse you Joss Whedon for your inevitable greatness of story telling and vision.

This is what I get for getting ideas watching Firefly marathons on the science channel over the summer or Castle reruns on TNT (yeah Nathan Fillion - you're not blameless in this debacle either).

So what to do?  Do I follow one core group of characters?  Do I tell of a key battle from different angles?  But what about Auntie and Uncle and their small farm in Waltham that are core of everything?  What happened at St. Patrick's school for young women in Lowell when the evil puppet masters controlling Mayor Elisha Huntington try to shut the school down, arrest Amelia's mother (or was it Victoria's blood sister?) sending poor Edmund, Tara's brother (or was it Amelia's) back to the farm to make sure his twin sisters were safe?

You see my confusion.

So today I will make some decisions but it looks like this is shaping up to a "Lythande" or "Tales from a Space Port Bar" situation.  That series of stories around a time and group and still keep it upper MG or YA so my students can read this at some point when I'm ready to unleash it on the world.

If I remain frustrated, I still blame Joss Whedon because, well, truth is he would tell this story so awesomely and I can only hope that one day I will be equally as awesome.

So I'm about to sit down with my coffee and think... and think some more before I write off yesterday as something to be revisited and begin anew.  Thank heaven for tomorrow's write in when I will have a chance to fix this mess.

One Post Script here: if you have no idea what Firefly is or how awesome it was, I suggest you go to Netflix and watch the episode "Trash" (my favorite) or start with the first episode (Serenity) and watch all of the ill fated season that the Fox executives had no idea what to do with so they cancelled it after showing episodes out of order.

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