An Auspicious Start: NaNo 2016

I approach every NaNo season with a mix of excitement and apprehension. This year, those feelings are even more so. My last book, The Blood Contract, was released November of 2014. In the two years since, I’ve written a total of three chapters, if that. I have no great excuse for my absence from writing. I believe in part I’ve been in a quasi state of mourning, lamenting the loss of my daughter who was moved across the state after my divorce 3 years ago. I dealt with the situation the best I could on my own and, failing that, I turned to drugs. No, not the good kind that may have actually helped, but rather the prescription sort my counselor and I thought might get me through. Whatever good they did me, they also served to wholly seal off my creative thoughts. I spent many months unable to write a paragraph or a verse. Not to make it sound overly melodramatic, but losing my creative mind felt like losing a good portion of myself. I decided I would rather deal with the panic attacks and mental fatigue than lose myself again.

It took months and no small amount of effort but I managed to regain who I was. It came about first in songs, as a lyric would pop into my head, accompanied by a melody. Before long, I had recorded my first song in months and had many more verses and tunes at the ready. Working on my books took a little longer. A song is nice because on a good night, I can spend a few hours and have something tangible I can listen to. It may simply be a draft, but it’s something I can enjoy. Books are longer, more time-consuming and in some ways, have less of a reward. I reread my stories because I’m editing or rewriting them. Not, generally, because I intend to enjoy them over and over, unlike my songs.

But the music served as inspired lubrication for my mind and soon, I found myself mentally prepared to write. Any quiet moment (and some not so quiet), plots and characters and dialogue and scenes churned away in the back of my mind, puzzling out dilemmas, interacting in ways I hadn’t before considered. It was the way my brain typically worked, the way it had always functioned for as long as I can remember. It felt like home again.

Though my mind was willing, time was not so giving. During the sabbatical I had taken for my mental well-being, I had shifted jobs. Though this came with some advantages and seemed to me to be the next logical step forward, it was also burdened with one huge caveat: no more lunch time. Ergo, no more time to write at work.

I tried to write at home but found myself too easily distracted. It’s hard to focus on plots when a cat is crawling all over me and when my guitar is sitting there, just begging to be played. I considered writing at work after I was done for the night, but often my days were 10-12 hours long, and I found I just didn’t have the desire after staring at a computer screen all day.

I say all this because it is the past. I am determined now to get my life back in hand. There are so many ways I’ve let it slip away from me, but writing is something I can not and will not sacrifice. I wrote long before I ever decided to publish, and if I was forbidden from publishing ever again, I would continue to write. It is the steam I vent to keep the pressure within me from building, the spark of sanity that sends the dark creatures within me scurrying.

With that in mind, I decided NaNo 2016 would serve as my rebirth.

For those of you not familiar with the idea, NaNoWriMo is a sort of self-imposed contest writers take in an attempt to finish 50,000 words during the month of November. It has to be a new book, one that hasn’t been worked on previously, though the author is allowed to sketch out plotlines and characters ahead of time. I’ve participated since 2010 and have only passed it once. In 2012, with World of Shadows, the third book in the Unseen Things series. Then, it was known as a trilogy and when I published the second book, The Shadow Within, I was sure the third was soon to follow. In the four years since, I have rewritten several chapters of the book and split it into two.

For the past two years, I’ve had all but the last few chapters written in World of Shadows. I apologize to those who have been waiting for it. I decided to focus on AfterLife, the fifth Only Human on the Block book after the release of The Blood Contract, because I was on a roll and the ideas were coming hot and heavy. But then the mental funk hit and… well, I’ve already explained that in detail. Suffice it to say, the last two years have not been among my best.

I wrestled with the thought of which book to work on for NaNo this year. I even made a list of potential titles, listing the pros and cons of each. In the end, the answer seemed obvious. The book to bring me back into writing, back to NaNo, should be the follow-up to the one I went out on. Even though I haven’t yet finished the last few chapters of World of Shadows, I know and have known exactly how it will end. And the fourth book comes with a substantial time jump and a POV shift (each of the books in the series have been from a different POV), which was the reason I wanted to split the third book into two in the first place. So I came to find myself typing the words TWIN SHADOWS BY S.L. MADDEN to begin my foray into NaNodom.

Or rather, I would have, except my computer booted up with a blue screen of death. I fired up the laptop while I ran a restore on my desktop. Ultimately, it worked and my PC was usable (meanwhile, the laptop was still loading Windows…sigh), but by then, I was out of time and had to get ready for work. Not the best first day of NaNo.

Between home and work, however, I came to a decision I had been mulling over for awhile. I decided to take a lunch break.

I’d considered it before but told myself I’m already working long enough hours. Why prolong them? Yet giving myself an hour to write not only helped me accomplish my daily word count (well, close enough), it helped give my brain a little breather. It’s too early to tell if it’ll help long-term, but short-term, I’m willing to give it a try. As a result, I have 1482 words written. And I feel great.

I’m going to finish NaNo this year. I’m going to finish World of Shadows and finally publish it alongside Twin Shadows. And I’m going to complete AfterLife (I haven’t forgotten that book, I promise!). I suppose it could be argued the 1200 or so words I typed here would have been better spent working on the book, but I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to blog. I’ve been out of touch in more ways than one, so I wanted to reach out once more before I immerse myself back into writing.

As always, thanks for reading (and for your patience),

 

S.L. Madden

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The White Towel

After much deliberation, soul searching, throwing my hands in the air like I just don’t care, and many salty tears, I have officially given up on both NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo this year. I could go on about all the things going on in my life but we all have things we’re dealing with. The world won’t stop for us every November, so we have to find a way to squeeze all of this in without missing a beat. I’ve done a horrible job of that.

I still intend to work on this NaNo book, The Waking Dream, though it may have to wait until I (finally) finish The Shadow Without and AfterLife.

Best of luck to those still in the race. I’ll see you at the starting line next year.

S.L. Madden

Did I Miss The Gun?

Four days into NaNo and I’m still at the starting gate. I got in my first 1,000 words and since then…nothing.

It’s not that I’m uninspired by the story I chose. On the contrary, I’m excited to rip into something a little different from what I’ve done the last several years (although I must admit this book has some similarities to Ascension, the first book I published. I was almost tempted to set it in that same world at one point). No, I believe my lack of forward momentum can be attributed to one (or all) of the things below:

Times They Are A’changin‘: my schedule at work recently underwent a drastic change due to someone leaving. While I’m filling in (and if I end up eventually getting that job), I know longer have a lunch period. Which is, unfortunately, when I was able to get the vast majority of my writing done. It was a dedicated hour per day where I could don my earbuds and (hopefully) tune out the world. Losing that means I’ll have to write at home, which has plenty of….

Distract–ooh, shiny!: how do you cat lovers out there write at home? I know the sound of my computer chair is like a summoning bell for all things furry at my place. And even when they eventually tire of my lap, I still have a budding music studio begging for attention, plus the Internet, games….

Here/Not Here: okay this excuse may all be in my head…or maybe it’s not. That’s the point. I recently started taking Prozac to help with my anxiety. While I can’t be sure it’s helping (or hurting, for that matter), I have found I’ve been extremely fatigued lately. But then again, I started using a (defective) cpap machine at the same time and switched my schedule around. 

So I’m not sure what exactly is to blame for my tiredness. I am worried the Prozac is taking my creative edge off. Normally, I spend my free time running through plot points, character interactions, action pieces, etc. I listen to music and play the scenes out in my mind, letting the emotions take me where they will. That way, when I sit down to write, I will have felt out the scene already.

Lately, I’ve felt… Nothing. I can think of plots and specific beats I need to hit, flesh out characters’ backgrounds, but I don’t feel any of it. Now, this could certainly be attributed to the fact this is a new story with new characters, but I’ve been working on this book in my head for a few years now. And a few weeks ago, I was raring to go on it. Ideas were pouring in and I was excited. Right now…not so much. Maybe the pill is an easy thing to blame, but whatever the reason, my heart isn’t in it right now.

All Signs Point To: of course, the most obvious answer is that I’m just being a lazy ass. I love writing but when under the gun, it changes from a helpful creative outlet to work. And right now, I’m already working my ass off. I’ve been pulling ten and eleven hour days plus working a few hours on my day off. Makes the notion of staring at a computer screen for a few more hours at home not so appealing.

So there’s my list of excuses for why I’m lagging on day four. I suppose I could’ve taken this time to write more on my chapter, but it’s hard to type a novel out on your phone. Just because I’m dropping excuses however, don’t think I’ve given up. I’m determined to cross the finish line this year.

At least I’ve been keeping up on this blog.

Thanks for reading,

S.L. Madden

The First 1000 Words

Day two of NaNo and I’m already well behind the recommended word allotment. By more than two thousand words! I’m not sweating it however. After all, I’ve already cleared one major hurdle just by starting the damn thing. And opening scenes have never been all that much fun for me.

Sure, I’ve had this scene in my head for years now, down to the minutia of how I wanted each phrase worded. But when flesh hit keyboard, what came out was something that resembles what had been in my head but was, in fact, wholly different. It’s like making up a song you hum all the time and can hear the instrumentation in your mind, yet when you record it, the end result isn’t quite the same.

One thing I find once I start writing is that for all the nuance and detail I think I have in each sentence, there are plenty of things I haven’t thought of yet. Maybe the narrative has been fleshed out, but I haven’t given dialogue much thought (in my case, it’s usually the other way around). Or somebody in the scene responds to something in a way in which I didn’t anticipate, yet fits organically. Now the other characters have to play off of that reaction. Whole chapters (hell, whole characters and plot threads) have been created this way.

So while I don’t have a whole lot written so far, I’ve pushed my mental boulder to the edge and gravity is taking over. New scenarios, character relations and key plot points are coming to life. I’m not sure what the end result will be but whatever it is, it’s being shaped by those first thousand words.

Thanks for reading,

S.L. Madden

Into The Fray Once More

I hope everyone had a safe and fun Halloween. I divided my time between working and contemplating work to come. Not only is tonight a celebration of all things spooky, it also marks the night before NaNoWriMo begins. 

For those of you not in the know, NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month), is a yearly marathon of the writery kind. From November 1st (which, by my clock, it now is) through the 30th, the goal is to produce at least 50,000 words in a brand new, fresh out the brain, novel. It doesn’t have to be pretty or complete, but it does have to meet the goal.

At the same time, NaBloPoMo is happening. That stands for National Blog Posting Month, just in case you thought I laughed so hard while eating alphabet soup, these letters came out of my nose. The goal there is to post every day on my blog in the month of November. I generally take a stab at both, because I prefer to fail at multiple things simultaneously.

Since I’ve passed into tomorrow (or today… However you choose to look at it), I suppose this counts as post number one. So far, so good. Now I just hope my new novel goes as smoothly. I’d tell you all about it and some of the challenges I’ll face this year trying to meet the goal, but I have to save something to blog about for the next 29 days.

Thanks for reading,

S.L. Madden

No Apologies

I debated what to post today. It’s an internal monologue I’ve struggled with for the past several…months? I honestly have no idea when my last post was.

The truth of the matter is, I haven’t had a lot to report recently. The old adage of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” could apply here. It’s not that I have particularly bad news. I haven’t given up writing. My health is generally good. I still have a full head of hair. I just haven’t made much progress these past few months.

I could give you a list of excu–err, reasons why that’s the case. But honestly I feel like that’s all this blog has turned into: a published account of my failures to hit my deadlines and the subsequent apologies.

So instead of apologizing (which being sorry is built into my DNA), I’m instead going to list the positives:

I have made progress on The Shadow Without. I’m still not quite where I want to be but after a few years of spinning my wheels on this book, I’m finally getting some forward momentum. I’m determined to have the rough draft finished by the end of October, leaving me free to work on my NaNo book.

Which leads me to my second positive: NaNo! I have my potential projects narrowed down to three choices that have been begging for release. I’m still not sure which one will get the final honors but I’m determined it will not be a book that belongs to an existing series. As anxious as I am to wrap up Only Human on the Block and Unseen Things, I desperately want to work on something new. NaNo is the perfect forum for that, a month where I can throw myself into the unknown.

So that’s it. Not a lot of positives not progres, but it’s something. As I approach the final quarter of the year, I’m coming to realize 2015 will be less a time of production and more a period to set myself up for success in 2016.

Thanks for your patience (and for reading!),

S.L. Madden 

To My Friends and Family (And Fans)

Somehow along the way I’ve become that guy who says he’ll call, yet you don’t hear from him for weeks. Or the friend who offers to get together then never shows up.

Only in this case, I say I’ll post more often before I fade away from existence.

I’m not exactly sure why I do this. True, last month was a bit of a cluster as I juggled NaNoWriMo (bombed it), NaBloPoMo (not even close) and releasing The Blood Contract (hey, I did something right!) but that doesn’t give me an excuse for dropping the ball.

For instance, did you know I ran a $.99 sale on Ascension a few weeks back? You might if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, but why didn’t I make it known here? I honestly have no idea.

The best I can tell, I’ve been in a bit of a rut. Down. Troubled. I hesitate to use the word depressed because I know people who suffer from depression and I don’t want to make light of what they go through by equating my feelings with theirs. But when I read up on what depression is, I have to say, it sounds pretty similar.

At odd random moments, my mind will wander and not come back for a time. Someone will say something perfectly innocent and it’ll completely crush me and I find myself trapped under that weight for the remainder of the day. At times I feel a pressure building in my chest, like a lead weight that makes it impossible for me to function. Worst, in my opinion, is a dulling of my senses. The humor I typically find in pretty much everything is conspicuously absent, and both music and writing have felt like a chore.

Now having said that, I should point out, I’m not like this at all times. In fact, I’ve been feeling especially good these past few days, a sort of appreciation for all the calm after the storm. But I have no reassurances the darker days won’t come back.

I’ve tried thinking my way through them, approaching the issues logically. I was determined that if I could only puzzle out this discordance, I could somehow fix it. As my therapist pointed out (yes, I opted for a second opinion) this need to solve the issue is a big part of my problem. I tend to fixate on an issue until I can solve it. And this particular problem has no easy solution. No logical outcome.

Without going into great and boring detail, I miss my daughter. It’s been over a year since she moved away, yet she remains in my heart and on my mind at all times. And there is no easy way for me to see her. I need to accept I’ll play a greatly reduced role in her life from now on but I’ve been unable to get myself to that point.

Still, knowing the solution isn’t something I can come up with on my own has somehow helped. As I said, I’ve actually been in better spirits these past few days. I’ve been told I’m more like myself. I started working on a new song (that wasn’t completely depressing) and I’m feeling pretty good.

So for those of you who know me in person, I apologize in advance if I seem distant or withdrawn. If I’m there yet not present or seem on the verge of tears, I assure you, it’s not something I can help. Though it is something I’m working on.

It has nothing to do with you, or really anyone. We all have our issues we’re contending with. I’m just letting mine get the better of me lately.

Thank you for your understanding.

S.L. Madden

Stumble At The Starting Gate

I’m 2607 words into NaNo as I type this. That’s roughly 651 words per day, well shy of the 1667 required to break the 50,000 word mark. Of course, the month is still early and I have time to catch up.

I should be able to get some writing in tonight, but I plan to focus on trying to finish up The Blood Contract instead of adding more words to its sequel. I really should have had the book out well before NaNo, so it’s my own fault I’m running into this issue of having to choose between the two projects. I remain confident in my ability to catch up. I’ll only feel good about it once The Blood Contract has gone gold.

I’d also like to thank everyone who took advantage of the free giveaway for The Four-Year-Old Guardian last week. While I didn’t push out hundreds of copies like I wished, I was happy with the results. Hopefully you’re reading the book and not this blog post.

S.L. Madden