Lately a lot of writers whose blogs or social media I follow have gotten messages from readers saying that they should “stay out of politics” and stick to writing. Every time see a message like that I think back to all the reviews I’ve read that have described a book as political or politically-themed. I wonder where all these authors are whose work isn’t political. How do you write without writing about politics? It is the thing that structures the very reality around us. Perhaps this seems obvious to me because opting out of political thought hasn’t ever been an option for me.
One of the best things I’ve done as a novice game dev is get involved in game jams. Itch.io’s Finally Finish Something Jam motivated me to finish the alpha of my largest Twine project to date, Wreath of Roses, and submit it for feedback. After that was done I took a short break to focus on short stories, and just as I was wondering what my next project should be, I remembered that March is NaNoRenO.
I’ve blogged about NaNoWriMo before. It’s a month-long challenge to complete a novel draft, which has been running for years and engaged thousands of writers. NaNoRenO takes its inspiration from there, but is a rather more modest affair. The challenge is to create a visual novel or story-driven game, in one month. While some people can work alone to create all the writing, code and art for their game, most people prefer to work in teams and focus on their strengths.
I promised an update after NaNoWriMo, didn’t I? And now it’s been nearly a month since I wrote my fifty thousand words, and I still haven’t written anything. A lot of things got put on the back-burner for November, and so December has been pretty busy. I didn’t find a lot of time to set aside for contemplating the nature of my chaotic little manuscript, and how to move forward with it. Although I’d been meaning to break my habit of adopting overly ambitious story ideas, and then getting stalled trying to solve them…
Tomorrow November begins, and with it NaNoWriMo, the yearly celebration of writers getting together and vowing to hold each other accountable to one promise: write fifty thousand words in a month. I tried participating in NaNoWriMo once or twice in the past, about ten years ago. Although I had free time aplenty and I pushed hard on my novel idea, of which I was very fond, I didn’t win either time. Neither did I get a complete manuscript from it. In fact, I’ve never successfully completed a novel.
For a while, this was a source of great stress to me. When I envisioned my writerly future as a kid, it involved a shelf lined with books with my name on them, and the books were invariably fantasy novels. Novels were are are most of what I read. I didn’t adjust to regularly reading short fiction until quite recently, and I learned pretty quickly that it’s no use trying to write something that you don’t read. Every fiction magazine will quite rightly expect you to read a few of its issues before you even consider submitting.
Last year during NaNoWriMo I was unemployed and dedicating myself to writing more or less full-time. Ostensibly, that would have been the perfect time in which to make my next attempt. But I had determined that my mind was shaped for short fiction, and I was making my stand on a fictional universe built out of interconnected short stories. It was a fairly bold project in its scope, and ended up being less of a success than I’d hoped, creatively or otherwise. It did force me to stretch my muscles, though, and I learned a great deal about what was missing from my writing toolbox.
Now I have determined that it’s time to make a similar attempt, but more consciously. Going into November, I hope to put down fifty thousand words of continuous narrative, but I don’t fully expect to get a novel out of it. In fact, since I’m entering the race with almost no preparation, I expect the result to be rather an inelegant mess. My challenge right now is nothing more complicated than to start at the beginning and make it all the way to the end. It just so happens that this is one of my major vulnerabilities as a writer, and I’m beginning next month’s challenge partly in order to address this unacceptable gap in my toolbox.
Another challenge I’ve set myself is to write unselfconsciously, to turn off the inner editor, which is exactly what NaNoWriMo is designed to do. I like to produce polished material, of course, but as the saying goes, perfect is the enemy of done. Turning off the inner editor means you relegate her job to an outer editor, which is the person most qualified for the job to begin with. I hope this drive for unselfconsciousness will help me touch on some more sensitive issues, that I have been avoiding writing about for a long time.
Meet me back here in a month or so to see what sort of results this experiment produced.
Crossposted to Dreamwidth.
It is the story of Thalia, a princess on her way to an arranged marriage. The story follows Thalia as she arrives at the kingdom meant to be her future home and gets to know her future husband, tracking her responses to her environment, positive and negative. As the wedding nears Thalia can choose to explore the castle and get to know some of its inhabitants, and at the end of the game the player makes a decision based on Thalia’s overall impressions: to go through with the wedding, or cancel it.
This early version of the game is fully playable and features character customization and four different endings.
An excerpt from the game’s opening will be available on my Patreon later this month.
It’s been a little over two years since I first signed up for 750words.com, a site based around the idea of morning writing exercises. One of the classic pieces of advice that professional writers give, is to start every morning by writing three pages, stream-of-consciousness style. This helps unclutter the mind and gets the writing brain into high gear. For people poor at planning it helps set an agenda for the day. For people prone to anxiety or rumination, it sets worries on paper and out of the mind. This exercise has many different uses. One page fits on average 250 words, hence the URL as given. 750Words.com.
On Monday evening I returned home from a grueling evening class, intending to “just quickly” check my social media before turning in. Now, normally I am a lot less active on Twitter than I am on Tumblr, but I like to check in and make sure that my account has something on it other than links to my blog posts. It was on this occasion that I discovered the hashtag #OwnYourOwn.
Own Your Own was started by the YA lit blog Interrobang and championed by Kaye M., a Muslim American YA writer and intersectional feminist activist. The core concept of OYO is to further the discussion of diversity in publishing, highlighting the perspective of writers and creators from marginalized communities. To own your own is the ability to write your marginalized experience into your creative work, without fear and without apologies.