Thursday, December 20, 2007

Not a leper

This is a (relatively) brief post, just to let anyone know who might be looking for signs of life from me that I'm still working on my project. The GRE is taking up most of my time right now. Math is killing me. I'm too old (41) and it's been too long since I've done any of this! I have forgotten EVERYTHING, and the Princeton Review is explaining things by way of "new math". So I'm truly learning everything new. Eek!!

I've struggled with the identity of my main character for years. Ever since coming up with the idea that there is a disease, or what appears like a disease, infecting certain people in the "fantasy world", I've felt that the only real way to resolve that problem was to bring a sick person from our world into that world (for reasons that are too involved to be mentioned in a brief post).

Knowing what or who my main character had to be didn't make it any easier to establish his identity, because one of my favorite authors, someone I've followed for twenty-seven years, wrote a fantasy novel where he brought a leper from our world into a fantasy world. This author's world wasn't sick when he brought the leper over, but the idea of leprosy and health were initial starting points for this author's themes.

How could I possibly use a sick person from our world, when one of my favorite writers, in one of my favorite fantasy series, has already done so?

Well, because I have to. The story demands it. For years I've tried to come up with a different solution, but there isn't one.

So I posted my quandary to a discussion forum dedicated to this authors work, and asked a group of writers what they thought I should do.

Their answers were unanimous: if my story needs a sick person from our world, then that's what the story needs, and who cares if a few (or more than a few) readers think it's similar to this other work?

While posting, I realized that I don't need a sick man - I need a dying man. I'd always known this as well, but never made the distinction. And he HAS to have AIDS. Again, for reasons that are too lengthy to get into. I asked this same group of writers/fans what they thought of a gay main character in fantasy series who had AIDS, and was surprised when every single one of them, even one who said that homosexuality repulsed him, again voiced nothing but encouragement, essentially believing that attitudes toward homosexuality have changed enough where it's not as big of a deal now as it would have been twenty years ago.

Why does the character need to be gay? Well, he doesn't. The story only demands that he be from our world and that he have AIDS. Because of the population of AIDS patients, and my own sexuality (which I've never hidden, and if I were so insanely fortunate/lucky to publish, would likely be known), if I were to write a huge story like I'm planning to, and wrote the main character as being anything but gay, I would essentially saying that I was afraid of writing the character in the way that seemed best and most comfortable to me.

So the story demands that he have AIDS, and my own sexuality and what I perceive as my responsibility to the gay community and to myself as a gay man, demands that he be gay.

My main character is from our world, has AIDS, is dying, and finds himself transported to this "fantasy world" with only a month's worth of medication to take. Sticky.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


After giving it considerable thought, I've decided to work on writing the backstory of this whole mess as if I were writing a poor man's The Silmarillion. Nothing that I'll think about publishing, but something that sets the record straight, for me, on the hundreds of pages worth of notes that I have, and the thousands and thousands of hours I've put into creating them.

So that's my goal. And it's going to be in narrative form, not scene outtakes and other useless crap like that. As I said in the post below, either an entire narrative separated by chapters, or as short stories (or novellas - in terms of length).

I'd like to say that I wish I would have done this years ago - and I do! - but I don't think that I would have been ready to. And it's not better late than never - it's best to do it when you're most capable of doing it right. I think I'm closer to that point right now than I've ever been. And it's within reach.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

NaNoWriMo exhaustion and withdrawal

Well, the month is over, and it was an interesting month! I resurrected my "epic" and breathed some new life into it. Found a possible beginning, and solidified the backstory. The backstory is going to need more work, and I might focus on writing just that part of it until it's settled. It's rather complicated and involved, and I think knowing exactly how everything happens will only help me write the series better.

I was discussing various backstory concepts with Chris yesterday, and while I was trying to explain to him how everything works and fits together (though it doesn't all fit together yet), it struck me again that my starting point might not be the best starting point. I think the only way for me to know that is to write the backstory. Not as if I were writing a novel, but more long hand than short hand, or perhaps as a series of short stories.

Also, I realized that I need for the "hero" to come from the real world, although not the 'only one man can save the world' kind of hero; I think those heroes are crap - it always takes more than one person to do anything. There's something that he has in his own "blood", let's say, that is necessary for the development of the entire story, and is why I would start telling the story with him as opposed to some perfectly interesting ideas in the backstory that could just as easily be fleshed out and written by itself.

That frustrated me, because that's not what I wanted to happen.

But I've learned quite a bit this month: in order for me to fix the problems with my ideas, I can't just sit around and think about them. I need to put the seat of my pants in the seat of my chair and write about them. Eventually, everything will work out. That's what I learned from my work at The Story Studio, and what I learned this month.

So what's next? Having to write 50k words in one month was terrific. I needed the pressure of having "writing buddies" who could see my word count, and other people I could talk to that had been through this. And while some have said that they're so burnt out they don't even want to think about writing, I think that means this is exactly the time to think about writing. If we're serious about wanting to be authors, not just writers, this is about the pace we should expect to work at. 25k-50k words per month isn't outrageous, and it's probably what guys like Stephen King do when they're writing.

So I've thought about starting a website where I can post a daily word count, and keep the blog going to serve, at least, as a diary for my work. I'll probably set a goal for around 25k a month until school starts in next fall. Then - I'll be trapped by academia!

NaNoWriMo has posted only one official statistic about the month, and the rest should post soon. I'll post them here when they're available.

The official statistic posted was the total collective word count: 1,098,496,066. That's amazing!

Some other, unofficial statistics:

Top 15 word count by region

RankRegionTotal Wordssort iconAverage WordsDonations

1United States :: Washington :: Seattle15,542,59927,655$4,550.00

2United States :: Maryland15,128,56827,209$2,450.00

3Europe :: Germany & Austria12,221,24931,018$1,475.00

4United States :: Minnesota :: Twin Cities12,219,94926,739$1,940.00

5United States :: California :: Los Angeles11,640,56823,659$3,035.00

6United States :: Illinois :: Chicago11,228,04525,576$1,865.00

7Europe :: England :: London9,440,59724,713$1,280.00

8United States :: New York :: New York City9,422,50028,466$1,660.00

9United States :: Oregon :: Portland9,360,60924,763$1,155.00

10Europe :: England :: Elsewhere9,197,79827,212$890.00

11United States :: California :: East Bay9,041,27327,150$2,750.00

12United States :: Massachusetts :: Boston9,037,11525,673$1,755.00

13United States :: Virginia :: Northern8,528,41024,228$2,970.00

14Canada :: Ontario :: Toronto8,307,65026,542$830.00

15Europe :: Holland & Belgium8,277,22429,456$685.00

Total word count by genre
RankGenreTotal Wordssort iconAverage WordsDonations
1Fantasy 242,414,81224,685$23,625.00
2Other Genres104,288,52721,632$8,840.00
3Science Fiction 91,721,43723,829$13,955.00
4Literary Fiction 84,344,35823,415$14,140.00
5Mainstream Fiction 83,774,07324,617$12,970.00
6Young Adult & Youth 70,104,49421,360$6,960.00
7Mystery & Suspense 57,001,53525,266$9,005.00
8Romance 48,293,38624,243$5,400.00
9Horror & Thriller 40,437,41022,641$3,780.00
10Adventure 35,276,54721,897$4,193.50
11Satire, Humor & Parody 30,595,40120,396$5,345.00
12Historical Fiction 26,980,72025,192$4,030.00
13Chick Lit 25,713,20920,537$3,300.00
14Erotic Fiction 11,444,41623,355$1,135.00
15Religious, Spiritual & New Age 8,698,86621,747$730.00

Fantasy accounted for 24% of the total word count. If you include Sci-Fi in that, then that category, lumped together by booksellers, accounted for 33%.

That a LOT of competition. So I've decided that I want to be a writer, and to top it off I've chosen the genre that, apparently, is the most competitive. Yipee!