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LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-12.12.14-CompleteWhere I Wrote: At home, in the one room I always use for writing.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Strange. The ending is a complication.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: I remember being really happy. I want to say determined, but that would imply that there was some difficulty. There wasn’t; I woke up, made coffee, and sat down with my tablet, excited to edit the bit of the ending that I had and try again to complete it.

The Experience: I’d planned a return to the New York Public Library on 42nd, but the end of Memory refused to wait for that; on Friday morning, after struggling with the last chapter and epilogue, I woke up, edited, tried another approach, and wound up finishing Memory within an hour or two.

And, yes, you read that right; I finished the novel on Friday and I’m only posting about it today, on Sunday. At this point, I’ve told exactly one person about completing it. My reason: boasting about finishing the novel feels incredibly celebratory. Which would be all kinds of silly as the book is absolutely not done.

In part because it needs to be edited. Sorely. I want to smooth out the pacing. I want to add more interesting descriptions for everything. I want to hone the world of the story. I want, more than anything else, to have the required Naming Session, during which I can finally stop calling my thief protagonist Locke, and–for the love of God–decide on a less awkward name than Memory of the Black Sun.

But also because… the ending for Memory is such a conundrum that taking one possible route with it does not feel like any cause for celebration whatsoever–I have not won yet; I have not figured it out. War of Exiles had a very clear, complete, strong ending that got unexpectedly more powerful for me every time I worked on it–every time I trimmed off excess and added another scene that needed a resolution. In contrast, I’m left staring at a handful of options for Memory, the terms of my Fantasy Story Stats buzzing around in my head endlessly; the ending can be High Spirit (emotionally comforting), or Low Spirit (emotionally challenging), I find myself thinking, only to immediately remind myself that I can find a middle ground–one of the many if’s and but’s that makes the logic puzzle of Memory’s ending a terrible little loop. I’m still weighing the matter with such honest confusion that writing this just feels… wrong.

But I still have to acknowledge that I’m on to the editing part. On to it so hard, in fact, that last night saw me whipping out the tablet on my bed at (seriously) 6AM because I had to write a scene that I knew would help the pacing and reinforce the protagonists’ relationship. I have, at least, crossed over to the phase of writing during which I can–and totally do–jump backwards in the timeline and tweak and edit absolutely everything. I’m up to the point where I can stare vacantly at a wall (or maybe at people in public) while I consider the ending for the umpteenth time, knowing as I do that there is a solution for it that I will find. Being at that phase with Memory is something I’m incredibly grateful for.

It took longer than a month; I took an extra week to put in hours at work and take care of other life things I’d been ignoring and then an extra week after that to actually write the end of the novel without rushing it. But I still, suddenly have a second novel down. If you’d asked me in mid-October of this year–just before NaNoWriMo–when I expected to finish Memory of the Black Sun, I’d have shrugged and half-asked, “2016?”

But it’s down, on paper, now–and it’s good–in a month and change, compared to the… seven years it took me to write War of Exiles?

Yep. I’ll take it.

 

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.30.14Where I Wrote: The Table Tennis Subway Plaza at the top of the lifts at the 190th St. station on the A line.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: It was genuinely good work that put me at ease about the rest of the book.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Weirdly unfazed. Unmoved is probably a better way to say it. It was a mood that led to a strange ride home on this final day of NaNoWriMo.

The Experience: I woke up to find that it was nearly 50 degrees. Excellent. That meant I could forgo an indoor location for this last 30 Days outting.

I decided in favor of a good view.

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This is the Subway Plaza on Fort Washington Ave., directly before reaching Fort Tryon, a place I found on my return to the Cloisters at the very beginning of this last week of NaNoWriMo.

The view of Inwood and Fort George wasn’t amazing here today–not like it was at the beginning of the week–but it was scenic enough to be pleasant and boring enough to make work easy. Not as grand as Linden Terrace inside of Fort Tryon (my second spot from Day 24, overlooking the Hudson), but thus perfect for focusing on work. Particularly convenient with New Leaf offering public restrooms a short walk north (around the back and through a door that looks locked but absolutely isn’t [meaning you don’t have to buy a generic small coffee that turns out to be $4 and change]).

Here, I ironed out more of the kinks with the endgame. To be honest, I didn’t realize there were still problems with my protagonists’ plan, but, after brainstorming way too much the past few days, last night and this morning saw really simple fixes popping into mind. Scenes that would only be possible if the set up for the endgame was like this… and hey, wouldn’t you know it, that works perfectly. I spent a good while at the plaza, working and making those fixes until the weather turned and I realized that the Subway Plaza was in the adjacent buildings’ shadow for the last few hours of the day (making it yet another spot that would be better in summer). I packed up and headed home.

And had a bizarre train ride. I wasn’t sure why exactly, but something bothered me about the day.

Broken down to my simplest reaction to it, I was disappointed. Somehow, I expected everything to fit into place at this point. I’m fine with not finishing the book on NaNoWriMo’s deadline… but I thought the last day of 30 Days would be more spectacular in some way. I saw the weather and perhaps thought that it would be sunny and beautiful–that I’d be able to tell a final, good story.

But there was nothing. And as I rode back home, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d missed some opportunity. That I’d gotten the bad ending. Which led me to the strange thought…

Well, I guess there’s next year.

Next year… to have a perfect outting? As if… I couldn’t just keep going out this year? As if I now had to return home and turn sedentary again? As if life was a video game or a meticulously composed plot? As if I’d lost anything at all?

As if I’d learned nothing from 30 Days of NaNoWriMo?

No. No, I won’t do it. Fuck you.

Because this is how life works. Life is all about throwing the curve balls at you. 30 Days has ultimately been about me repeatedly dealing with, learning from, and avoiding those curve balls. I knew that–I have for a long while now. Just like I know that the one major lesson of 30 Days is to…

Just… keep… working. To not give up. To not surrender to distractions. To not give in to the reflex to walk away from a story. To not wait for writer’s block to go away, but to keep hammering at it until it yields. To never let a piece of your work cool for so long that it turns dun and lukewarm in the open air. To not give up–ever.

And, for me, personally, to never ignore what I want and never lose faith in what I can do.

Because Memory is a chapter from being finished. I lost NaNoWriMo. Okay. I’m fine with that.

But I won myself back. For the first time in years, I finally feel like myself again and not the horribly depressed person that the last 3 years of circumstance made me.

So, this is my grand ending. I will end 30 Days with this 30th day, because I don’t want to prolong it. I don’t want to drag it out.

And because I know that regardless of challenges and deadlines and every other curve ball the world throws at me, I will finish Memory in the next few days. Nothing could stop me from doing so. I will post when I do and then take a short hiatus to handle a ton of things I need to do for myself.

Until then, thank you to everyone who’s read. Tons of thanks especially to those who Liked and Followed during the month, but also, of course, thanks to anyone who stopped here, whether you’ve come back or not; even if you never read this, thank you.

And to any writer who’s had a remotely similar experience to mine–who’s struggled like I’ve struggled–never give up. Never wait on your ideas. Never smother them with lethargy. Never write for anyone other than yourself.

But most of all, never add qualifiers. Never strictly regiment what you write. Never set standards that will break you if you don’t meet them.

Instead, just write. Don’t wait for a particular month. Don’t wait for a particular mood. Don’t wait for everything to be perfect because it never will. Write often. Write from the heart. Write in places that you love and places where you’ve never been. Write until it’s a strange addiction that you find you’re suddenly terrified to lose.

Write until it feels like maybe it’s unhealthy. And at that point, do not stop.

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.29.14Where I Wrote: Again, not by plan, but entirely at home.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Good.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Exhausted after a day of trying to find a spot.

The Experience: I tried really, really hard today.

I definitely didn’t want to have another post from home on the second to last day of 30 Days, but there was just nothing to do for it. I’d made a silent clause with myself after my experience on Day 25, a vow that I would always be ready to go home the instant one spot did not work out.

However, when I got to the City Bakery today and found that, even later in the day, it’s a mad house, I was not willing to come straight back. I really–really–wanted to get to work outside if only because I didn’t want to have another brainstorming session about an endgame I could not possibly brainstorm anymore (I’ve had Taking a Stand stuck in my head for the past two days and, although its amazing, it’s starting to drive me insane).

In all seriousness, there’s a point when planning doesn’t help because you need the random elements of freshly written progress to provide fuel for the brainstorming; in my case, I needed a very particular answer that I just couldn’t work out until I found it in the flow of a new scene as I was typing it. I desperately wanted to get to that new scene.

So I wandered Manhattan for a good two hours looking for a spot.

I considered Bourbon Coffee, but found it also totally full.

I passed on Crocodile Lounge again because beer is always, unfortunately, the last thing I need when I sit down to write.

I passed on Think Coffee, which I’d considered until I read a sign out front that said, “I Think therefore I drink great coffee.” Maybe you find that charming–and that’s fine. But I hated it enough to nonsensically glare at Think Coffee as I walked past it. Do I just hate being scripted? “You’re not stupid, right? So you like this coffee then–it’s decided!” I don’t know.

I eyed a handful of other eateries from fast food places (passed on because I’m never hungry for fast food and just… refuse to write at a McDonald’s for 30 Days [cause… fucking… no]) to a suspiciously empty cafe (I mean, not a soul was sitting in a cafe near 14th St. [a sight that’s insanely damning]).

The second to final straw was finding a decent cafe that only accepted cash and… Paypal?

The final straw was winding back around to Bourbon and finding that it was absolutely still full.

At this point, that silent clause I mentioned–the Bullshit Clause–was in full effect; I’d wasted so much time that the sun was going down. Writing outside wasn’t an option and I had a lot to try and get out. So I rushed back home.

And finally got some of my ideas down and figured out a handful of important answers. I encountered a new problem instantly and corrected that, but then hit an exhaustion wall really hard and way too fast. It felt like I only wrote 200 words, but somehow, I still went over my old goal (still stopping too early at this point).

But, as I said yesterday, I’d rather take my time than force this at all. I’m a bit worried I’ve spent too much time with the endgame and will have to heavily edit it when I’m done, but that’s a problem I’m willing to deal with when I reach it.

For now, I’m gearing up for tomorrow’s session–a combination of two scenes that are pretty intense and happening simultaneously. They end in a transition to one last scene that shuts out the conclusion–to say things in the vaguest way possible. I’m excited for it and a bit worried, but it should be fine.

Still, to whoever’s out there reading this, please wish me luck; I know I still got a good amount done today, but if tomorrow went smoothly, that would be amazing.

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.28.14Where I Wrote: First at a small lounge on the western end of Vesey St., overlooking a ferry port. Then the Winter Garden just a short way east on the same block.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Glad and grateful that yesterday’s writing issues were solved today.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: So goddamn ready.

The Experience: Today was so good.

I didn’t wake up early, but I got out at a decent time and headed for the Winter Garden, yet another entry on my short list of no-bullshit writing spots. I haven’t been there before, but it was a place that was guaranteed to be open, indoors, and have both seating and restrooms.

Of course, getting to where I thought it would be and finding signs for construction was a bit disappointing. Not completely disheartening, but just, “Of course.” Having a weird kind of sense for shenanigans now though, I decided to keep walking west; I knew that there were a ton of entrances to Brookfield Place–the building the Winter Garden is in–and that those entrances led to different parts of the building in different states of disrepair.

11.28.14-WhereIWrote2

Walking west eventually led me to a small public lounge looking over the ferry port at the end of Vesey St. There’s a fantastic chance this place has a name (very likely, it’s part of Brookfield Place), but all I really cared about was nabbing my picture, grabbing a seat, and getting to work.

The first part of today’s writing session was fixing the mess I left for myself yesterday. To recap, it was a single scene that I Frankensteined the fuck out of; I wrote the entire scene one way, replaced only the first half of it with an alternate approach to the scene (essentially changing my protagonists’ plan for the endgame) and then ended the scene with an extremely important decision that I made hastily yesterday and had to make for real today. When I stopped yesterday, it was genuinely because I didn’t want to ruin the scene even more. That makes it sound like I was super defeated, but I wasn’t; I know well enough when I’m too out of it to make sense of a confusing scene, so I called it quits with the certainty that an evening of brainstorming would help sort things out.

And it did. When I got to this lounge, I knew exactly what needed to be fixed and changed. I also knew exactly what the answer to yesterday’s important decision needed to be. All of this I hammered out in an hour or so before migrating for a restroom and a drink.

Lo and behold walking back the way I’d come and taking a longer look into an obnoxiously large entryway I’d only glanced into earlier–a large room of white marble that, aside from escalators in the middle, looked exactly like an area I’d just written a few days ago in Memory (making it so strangely inviting). What really made me enter, however, was a sign declaring that this place had restrooms. I asked the first guard I saw about them.

And he said, “Oh yeah. Just make this right, then the only left you can make. From there, you’re going to go down the first escalators you see, then go straight through the Winter Garden, up the escalators on the other side.”

Ah, I thought. Yes… Yes, the Winter Garden. Of course… Excellent.

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The Winter Garden turned out to be mostly under construction, which, coupled with its already being night time (and the fact that there were no light cycles to be seen or ridden anywhere, despite the sign pictured above) made it a bit… strange? I think I saw it in its worst light, is what I’m trying to say. There were palm trees and a skating rink outside. There was an extremely elaborate food court (probably the nicest one I’ve ever seen anywhere), but the combination of people huddling for warmth under palm trees in a courtyard made of marble but lined with construction ply wood made for the most confusing, disjointed first impression. Also, I didn’t find coffee anywhere. I am not complaining; I don’t want to come off sounding like one of the spoiled bastards I mentioned in the last post, but coffee is a pretty important part of my writing process these days–the means by which I either stay awake or go so insane on caffeine that the crazy fantasy ideas keep coming.

That’s all to say that of all the writing spots I’ve tried during 30 Days, the Winter Garden is likely the one I won’t return to–for writing, that is (I’ll very likely be back some time to actually shop, read, or eat).

Here, I determinedly decided to catch my characters up to the second to last chapter. When I left the ferry lounge earlier, I was intending to either find restrooms and a new spot or go home. Thus, the moment I found the Winter Garden, I was determined to continue writing. I had one extra scene to finish–a that scene ends with my protagonists leaving for the final conflict.

And that scene came about as easily as the average scene in my book–I felt it out as I wrote it, now easily trusting my sense for things I don’t like. This led to an even faster turn around than yesterday’s scene; within an hour, I worked the scene into something I liked, dropping weird, weighty elements and, despite thinking that it was an interesting idea at first, ultimately deciding against giving my protagonist a new weapon, preferring to keep him with his pistol and its handful of remaining rounds (because I’m a big fan of higher stakes and realistically bad odds).

Here, however, I finally stopped, wanting to get home and in bed at a decent time for the Dawn of the 2nd Day. But I also wanted to brainstorm the next chapter especially hard, to try and make tomorrow’s session go as smoothly as I could. That bout of brainstorming on the train was so intense and in-depth that I’m sure I looked like the weirdest weirdo to the people sitting next to me, who totally heard me laugh and whisper at least one line to myself because totally forgot I wasn’t alone.

But regardless of that going well, it is time to admit something that I’m only now sure of.

I’m probably not going to finish this book by the 30th.

There is a chance I’ll go ape shit tomorrow and Sunday and tear through the last chapters very, very easily (I have brainstormed them so hard that I wouldn’t be surprised if this happened). But there’s also a fantastic chance I’ll hit a huge hurdle that I absolutely promise I will not rush over. Because as much as I love NaNoWriMo and think it’s great, I have absolutely no qualms about failing the actual challenge to produce a better book. It’s my first time NaNoWriMoing and I’m super glad I accepted the challenge, but I will only disappoint myself by forcing the rest of the story–disappoint myself and impress no one.

But what I do promise is this–30 Days will continue until Memory is finished, because that is the victory that I want, and I refuse to stop until I get it. Very likely, that will only mean an extra day or two (Days 31 and 32 of 30 Days) on which I won’t be writing outside (unless I find that I can’t produce without being outside those days). Regardless, I will continue posting here.

But… will I soon be eating my words? Will I, in fact, go all-in tomorrow and belt out the rest of the book in one monster session? Will I only have a final, epilogue chapter to write by Sunday?? Will I freak out even more people on the train?? You can probably bet on that last one happening, yes.

But on the rest, I’ll keep you posted.

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.27.14Where I Wrote: Home. I should’ve mentioned this earlier, but I never intended to go out on Thanksgiving. I mean… it’s Thanksgiving.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Exhausted. Not horrible, but absolutely tired out.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Fine. Definitely a bit distracted though. It’s just that kind of day.

The Experience: There’s not much to write when it comes to NaNoWriMo today. I enjoyed a last minute respite before the final three days of 30 Days (what I’ve come to assign a Clocktown, glaring and snarling Moon kind of vibe to).

But writing itself was a bit… messy. I’m writing a discussion of the protagonist’s plans for the endgame and its been clumsy–the pressure to get enough out today definitely led me to write out one version of the plan I wasn’t sure about and then back track, and (after the last 26 days of experience) immediately reevaluate it from a safe distance. Was this the plan I wanted to write? No. Is this way better than the original version as you envisioned it? No. Is there a way to write that original vision? Yes. Then write the original vision.

But figuring out the details of that vision came a little rough; I wound up finishing the scene first before going back and taking my second stab at it. The problem became that, halfway through, I wasn’t sure the second version was cutting it either. This AND the end of the scene wound up having another huge, tonal decision that I rushed… and then decided not to rush; I wanted to write more but forced myself to stop before that decision became remotely difficult to reverse. So, in the end, I have the first half of the second version of the original planning scene, the second half of the first version, and a concluding line with serious consequences that might change. More… than a little messy.

But I kind of feel like it was worth it. Today, I stood home because I wanted to spend time with my mom. Not because I never do.

But because we’ve both had really shitty deals when its come to life. I’m still reluctant to go into details about myself (and I absolutely won’t go into details about her life here), but I can say that she’s had the misfortune of having a son who’s a writer. A writer who wants to help her get out of debt, so, really, the worst possible result for her because I could not have chosen a worse profession. A profession that has yet to pay off at all. I made a promise to her a few years ago that I would help with her debt–a promise that I made to myself ages ago, when I was just a kid, because she told me she knew I’d be successful some day. I have yet to make good on that promise.

And that’s part of the reason I jumped into NaNoWriMo. It’s not a static attempt to pay off someone’s debt–I promise that this was never an attempt to knock out a really horrible manuscript to pawn off for quick cash (because, of course, that would be the dumbest and worst scam of all time as writing an entire novel is neither quick nor lucrative).

But this is a kind of desperate attempt to figure out how to write more often, more efficiently, and (for fuck’s sake) more frequently. In essence, I jumped on NaNoWriMo because I want to figure out how do something I love so well that I can finally make good on the promise I made to her.

And, on a day like today, that’s what I want to focus on. The tablet I’ve been using for the past 26 days? My mother got it for me last year. This tablet that cost so much that I was genuinely upset when she gave it to me. And on the wrapping, a simple, short message: she got it for me because she knew I would get published one day.

Today, I’d like to just be thankful that I have her, of all people, for a mother.

It’s easy to feel like we’ve grown into a culture of ungrateful bastards. We complain about the speeds that our handheld, mobile computers access the entirety of the internet. We bicker, heatedly, about which video game systems are better–video game systems which are designed, ironically, to be sources of fun have almost become grounds for physical violence. It is, to understate it, absolutely ridiculous.

So, one day–today–seriously, just acknowledge something, or someone, who is amazing and always has been.

Mom, thank you. Thank you always. And I love you dearly.

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.26.14Where I Wrote: The New York Public Library in Bryant Park. In case that means nothing to you (it sounds so bland), it’s the flagship of the NYPL system–the striking Beaux Arts building with the two stone lions out in front, just a short walk from Times Square.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Really good.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Excited!

The Experience: After the insane success of yesterday (and its negligible degree of total failure), I was really excited to get back out there today.

As will probably be the standard with the rest of NaNoWriMo, I brokered no bullshit with my choice of a writing spot. In fact, as it was hailing outside (which I guess is what you’d call today’s soft, thick, slushy snow drops that pattered to the streets with the rain’s exact rhythm and tempo) I brokered no bullshit so hard that I did it twice; the first time, I chose the most straight forward and definitely open and comfortable of the spots I have left. And then, when I got to 42nd St. on the way there, I super brokered no bullshit by bailing on that spot in favor of the NY Public Library at Bryant Park.

The weird thing is, I’d never actually been to that library; in the weird way of many New Yorkers, its a giant, impressive landmark I’ve walked past many, many times without really even looking at it.

But, if I learned anything from the NYPL at Lincoln Center, it’s that big Manhattan libraries are always amazing for writing. You go in. You find a seat among other people who came into a library, of all places, in the heart of Manhattan. You all sit there, mutually agreeing to leave each other alone and make as little noise as possible. Always good.

I was instantly thrown by how amazing the library is though. I’ve become acutely aware of how easily I’m impressed by certain architectural feats and landscapes. I’m definitely aware that I go into full Lame Dad mode when I see a weird-looking building (“Wow, kids! Wouldja look at that building? What an adventure, huh?”). And, really, I’ll own that–I am a nerd who loves architecture and landscapes like he loves earth sciences and D&D. Fuck it. You got me.

But all of that is to just set up that holy shit have you been to the library in Bryant Park? My… God that place is amazing. I feel bad not capitalizing “library” when I write about it. I mean… I walked through its revolving doors and found that the elaborate stone work that was outside… was also inside–everywhere inside.

I refuse to try to put it all into detail or this post will just be way too long. Instead, I’ll explain it with a single emotion: it felt strange to be there because it felt like I was in a foreign country, standing in an ancient building that’s still in use. Of course, that’s what the Library pretty much is, but if you’re a New Yorker, you’ll understand how rare that feeling is because you’re so used to flat cement and hastily-painted ply wood.

I found that the main reading room was closed unfortunately, but thankfully, shenanigans did not escalate.

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I found this reading room on the second floor, which afforded the same experience as the reading room I used in the library at Lincoln Center (although thankfully without the exhaustion). I sat down and got to work reading and editing everything from my late addition to the middle of the book to the start of its endgame (a personal term for a great, exciting third act).

And I was glad to find all of it good and enjoyable, but not perfect (as odd as it sounds, I would’ve been put off if it was all perfect). There was some solid editing that needed to be done and, of course, small additions to tie my new second act to the rest of the novel. The editing session was not without its bumps. It honestly took hours.

But I did finish editing the rest of what I’ve already written. And I added a small scene–a brief check-in with the villain that helps establish the endgame more firmly.

When I finished that scene, I knew it wasn’t perfect, but I was glad to add something new–glad that yesterday’s love for writing persisted today without effort. I had to stop myself from adding more, certain that I needed to get back into the mood of the conclusion first.

And now, a train ride of brainstorming later, I’m excited for tomorrow–the beginning of the endgame. The fourth-to-last day of NaNoWriMo. #BringItAlready #AirHorns

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.25.14Where I Wrote: Not the Continental Center. Not under the Brooklyn Bridge. Not at either of my South Street Seaport spots. Although not for want of seriously trying… I wrote on the train for the very first time in my life. And then… at home.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Fucking ecstatic.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Very tired. But very ready to get down to business.

The Experience: Full disclosure: I failed at the 30 Days part of today.

But today was still a truly amazing success for me. The additional encounter is finished. Tomorrow, I edit the rest, make a few small adjustments, and then jump into the endgame. I feel amazing.

And all this for a day that started with pretty heavy failure. I don’t know how that works, but I’m glad it does.

I got out at a decent time. I chose a writing spot that was no frills, knowing that I needed as few complications as possible; I had a ton on my plate today when it came to writing. Deep down, I was worried that it would be a bit too much and that the pieces wouldn’t fall into place. In prep, I got a bag of chips at Chipotle (because my love for their burritos is equal only to my total inability to eat them anymore [I think I’d just die the same way I’d just die of flavor if I ever eat another Cadbury Creme Egg]). From there, I grabbed coffee.

Coffee that was still untouched when I stood outside of the Continental Center and saw that only its lobby was intact.

Mental note: make sure your spots are still there and opened before you go to them.

But that was fine. I could just go sit under the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s not that cold outside.

Yes, it is, I discovered. It is that cold.

For the short while I was under the bridge, I was determined. I was not going to go home. I had too much to write. If this did not work out, I’d sit at Pier 15 again. Or in the Canon’s Walk again. Two other spots that were also outdoors.

And maybe that’s what did it–maybe it was the idea of hopping to different, uncomfortably cold writing spots that broke me.

… Why the hell am I forcing myself to do this outside?

Don’t get me wrong–I still like the challenge and I’m still going out tomorrow. A post will follow that. I am not dropping 30 Days when I’m already 25 days in.

But today, with my original spot a bust; with only repeat, outdoor spots nearby; and with a ton of work to put in, staying outside just felt insanely silly. That tiny bit of writing I did in the cold under the bridge was fun enough to make me smile. I really wanted to write more and I was just hampering that desire with another distracting, currently bullshit challenge. If the Continental Center had been opened, I’d have a picture for this post–I’d have rocked it there. But it wasn’t. Not… entirely my fault.

So instead, I hopped on the train, struggled in just… the most fun ways with my tablet as I continued writing on it, and then got back to my apartment and took to the one room again.

Where I totally did delete a small bit of yesterday’s work and replaced that section of the fight with actions that felt far more natural. Actions that finally pushed it from a stiff, formal encounter to a realistic event that my characters were genuinely experiencing. I don’t know the best way to explain this, but if you’re a writer, you know what I mean; there’s the boring, basic way a scene can go–the version where everyone’s standing in place and talking to each other without moving. And then there’s the dynamic version, in which your characters aren’t just disembodied voices talking at each other but people. This change made the entire scene so fun to write that I just didn’t stop.

Not until my addition was finished. All of it–even the post-encounter scene that tied the addition firmly to the rest of the novel.

I know that I kind of failed today. I’m aware that this post is the worst when it comes to showing off a nice writing spot.

I also totally don’t give a shit.

Today was amazing. It was so stupidly validating that all other failures–even the ones possibly waiting for me tomorrow–mean absolutely nothing.

Writing’s so good. So goddamn good.

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.24.14Where I Wrote: The Cloisters followed briefly by Fort Tryon Park.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Really good.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Excited. I figured out how to fix my current fight scene last night, so, despite knowing that the first step of today’s session would be deleting a few pages, I was absolutely ready.

The Experience: Today was an awesome quest.

It started when I woke up. Immediately, what I now identify as persistent lethargy “challenged” me to go out later and still get a good amount of writing done. In reply, I showered and left without even turning on my computer, sticking 100% to my original plan; the weather was as nice as the forecasts said it would be, so it was time to return to the Cloisters.

A trip that is strangely complicated for me. The entire commute starts with a bus through several extremely congested areas. Then a train. Then either many hills or another train station’s elevator (only) and a lot of walking.

This all augmented by not eating or getting water. To solve the first problem, I opted for a 7 Eleven peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which I only mention here because I’ve been trying to describe it with words since my teeth first met it. I would like to provide that description for you now:

Imagine that scientists found a way to make a loaf of bread out of a loaf of bread. Imagine that they found some way–perhaps boiling and drying in the sun–to not just condense several loaves into one, but to create a new strain of bread that is as tasteless and dry as it is dense. A Master Loaf, if you will, or perhaps Loaf Prime. Now imagine that they found a way to create a vein of peanut butter and jelly in that loaf. Imagine that it’s mostly peanut butter–more than enough to push the Mouth Drying factor to a dangerous level, but still with just enough jelly to make your coffee taste like tar. That is what 7 Eleven’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich was like.

That is what I ate in a hurry as I refilled my Metrocard and continued to forget that I would need water.

I grabbed my bus, transferred to my train, and got off at 191 St. on the 1 line.

And remembered why the northern end of Manhattan is my favorite part of the city–easily the spot I would live in if I had my pick. Not because it’s convenient.

But because it’s so goddamn weird.

There’s a long tunnel that leads out of the 191 St. station. An inconveniently long tunnel. It’s wet and full of people walking from and toward the station, occasionally giving each other looks of, “This fucking tunnel, amirite?”

And then, when you get out, you’re on the northern side of Manhattan, which means you’re surrounded by buildings suspended on giant girders; maybe there’s another part of Manhattan where buildings were stubbornly built on top of cliffs, secured in place on giant, rusty stilts, but I’ve only seen it in this area. These buildings are magnificent with their terraces looking over Broadway. The whole area is strange, oddly fantastic, and beautiful. It is the only part of Manhattan where a glance gives me pause because I’m suddenly looking at a wide strip of gardens, hidden behind buildings; or an alley that ends in a cliffside of raw rock; or a street of buildings that arch to a strangely beautiful point at a fork intersection. I see these things and think for a moment that I’m in an RPG or a foreign city–somewhere far away from the flat grid that makes up most of Manhattan.

But, of course, this area is also full of hills. It was when I was halfway up the hills on the wrong side of Broadway that I regretted not getting water. It was genuinely hot even without the non-stop climbing in the sun.

But I still enjoyed myself–still walked back down to Broadway and up to Fort Tryon Park. And, despite complications, I got to the Cloisters with enough time to wander and take pictures.

If you haven’t been to the Cloisters or the park surrounding it, both are beautiful and rife with writing spots. Even just the park is worth it, with some of the most scenic views you’ll find in Manhattan–whether its the city’s north end (the view to the east of the park) or the Hudson and New Jersey (to the west). But, as the Cloisters accepts donations for entry, it’s also absolutely worth it. There are only benches (their seasonal cafe is currently closed) but the museum itself is still amazing, inspiring, and beautiful.

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I took many, many pictures, but I opted for the bench I wrote on the most–one of the few I jumped between for the hours I was there (I needed to stretch my legs and [particularly] my back a few times).

Writing went really well even though my first step was, yet again, deleting a lot of what I wrote the previous day. Still, last night, with the comforting knowledge that I would be writing somewhere inspiring and taking 30 Days back to its roots, I was able to step back again and reconsider the fight scene objectively. The result: I recalled the exact moment when everything went wrong–the introduction of my second “boss” character. From his very first line, he was not what I intended. So I brainstormed, trying to figure out who he actually was. Taking the problem from that angle made the solution clear; I decided who that boss was–made him far more realistic and less complicated at the same time. And I finally–finally–got a few solid pages down. The fight scene is now half finished and the rest should come tomorrow.

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I hope. I’m not frantic about my deadline yet, but the rehashed fight scene still took some working out, the last touches of which I hammered out on a bench in Fort Tryon Park (pictured above [a shot taken before entering the Cloisters because I knew it would be too dark for my tablet’s camera when I got back]). Tomorrow, I will reread today’s work and make sure it makes complete sense. Even after my parting bit of sprucing, I got home and made a few more tiny tweaks to the entire addition, seeding certain ideas and adjusting others. It may be too late for me to objectively edit the entire addition (I may be way too close now), but I’ll still try more tomorrow. At worst, I’ll finish the scene and come back to it when I edit the entire book after NaNoWriMo.

And even if it comes to that, I’m fine. For the first time in a few days, I feel great. I’m excited to get back out tomorrow. Excited to reread today’s work, knowing, at least, that I definitely, finally found the right footing for the scene–the right foundation that can’t be swayed. It’s grounded now.

And finally, again, so am I.

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.23.14Where I Wrote: Pelham Bay Park. It was a much nicer day than I expected, so I decided to forego another indoor lounge and go for a public park instead. Nice, but the temperature didn’t hold up.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Good. As I said yesterday, I was expecting to finish my addition today and get to editing tomorrow. However, today wound up being as careful and pensive as yesterday was–I was a bit too eager to finish this fight and wound up adding and deleting repeatedly. In the end, I got out a solid bit of work and crested what’s probably just the first of many hurdles in this fight scene. Now, after having stopped early on the last day of Week 3, I’m fully aware that my deadline for NaNoWriMo is officially tight. But I’ve always been fine with tight deadlines.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Fine. Much better than yesterday although I pressed the same boundaries I did then.

The Experience: I woke up to emails from friends. Immediately, this made today better than yesterday.

I read those emails, had breakfast, played some games, and, once again, didn’t worry about where I was going. I let the excitement for writing my scene simmer a bit and then headed out when I heard (a little belatedly) that it was almost 50 degrees outside. Mental note made: check the daily forecasts. And although being relaxed is fine, waking up earlier affords more flexibility and more choices for the day, making things even more relaxed… The first hint of something I wasn’t realizing about my mood.

The early-start point was driven home by getting to Pelham Bay Park a bit late.

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It was beautiful and I got to write there for a while, facing the angel monument. But I Definitely would’ve liked more time–would’ve preferred idling and taking even more pictures and exploring the park more thoroughly. The day was about writing, of course, not exploring, and write I did, but still… The second hint of something I wasn’t realizing about my mood.

I started my fight scene a little too eagerly and a little clumsy, making sure to take my time when I found myself rushing. Actually fighting myself to make sure I put the right words down. I’m wasn’t sure why this fight scene was so much more difficult than the first one. I knew, definitely, that I was tired–that the physical fatigue from earlier in the week turned into mental fatigue.

But it wasn’t just that. Pushing myself out again near nightfall, forcing myself to be okay with things I’m not usually okay with, I somehow wasn’t getting that those things were wearing me out. That those things were making me fight my writing. Some part of me has been silently protesting the changes; I want to be okay with going out later. I want to be okay with writing around loud, rowdy idiots. But the fact is, I’m not. Maybe its my associating the night with drinking and partying that makes it harder for me to write after sunset. Or maybe it’s the promise that getting home will be a pain in the ass on public transportation. But no matter what it is, pushing myself to accept these later writing sessions and a handful of changes meant I pushed in a different direction–I got home and just gamed when I should’ve been working and doing other things.

Essentially, I started sabotaging myself without realizing it. I’m not an expert on my own psyche, but when I packed up to use the park’s restrooms and get out of the cold, the thought, “You can always just write tomorrow,” came too easily. I was rounding back to being sedentary. Which meant I was rounding back to the idea of giving up on NaNoWriMo. Back to staying in and choosing to game instead of write. In the same flash, I thought, “Even if you don’t finish it by December, you’ve got time.”

No. No, fuck you.

When I got home, I threw down my tablet in one of my favorite rooms and continued my scene until I had to break for the night–in direct opposition to the reflex to just stop, post, watch videos online, and essentially give up.

I will not give up.

Tonight was the last night of pushing for extra challenges–the last night of trying to make myself deal with a new set of uncomfortable changes to my life while also doing NaNoWriMo. Because I will not sabotage this. I will not heap a ton of other objectives on top of finishing this one book. On Day 12, I talked about how I dropped photography and design and other hobbies to write.

Well, I’m officially dropping my sudden need to go out later and write under waterfalls or whatever the hell else I think up. No diners. No returns to places where people interrupted me. No uncertainty. No trying to change myself now, of all times, when there are 11 other months I can work on my neurosis.

For the rest of NaNoWriMo, there will only be NaNoWriMo.

For the rest of NaNoWriMo, there will just be me, a book, and a deadline.

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.22.14Where I Wrote: Sony Plaza on Madison, between 55th and 56th.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: It was a bit tough and I realized after a while that I was in danger of being completely generic, something I avoided very well with my characters’ first encounter. I realized that before actually getting generic, thankfully, which resulted in an early stop and very determined brainstorming on the train (I didn’t even read Clariel, so you know I meant business). The result: I now know exactly how to handle the rest of my mid-book addition.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Reinforced calm.

The Experience: I did not wake up late today. I woke up pretty early.

And then relaxed. For hours.

Relaxed without really knowing where I was headed. I have said time and again that I’m not out of places to go in the city, but late November weekends are a bit of a mess for 30 Days. Going somewhere like the Museum of Natural History–really going to any popular attraction–is out. Any of the outdoor spots I had planned are now out because of the cold (although I might take a chance on one more this Monday [or maybe Tuesday] when it’s supposed to be warmer). Unless they’re the worst of the worst, restaurants, bars, and coffee shops are likely full on the weekends as well.

I knew all this and still just played Rebirth for a while. A long while. The sun was seriously on its way down when I finally stopped, got ready, and looked for a list of public spaces. I found one easily, took a few screen grabs from Google Maps, and headed out without really deciding on which one to go to. Without knowing if they would be closed by the time I got there.

And the entire way, I pushed down a weird and constant discomfort. I wasn’t sure the places I picked would work out. I’m always headed back home when the sun’s setting. I’m always inside again by the time it’s dark. In particular, I’m always out of the city on a Saturday night, aware that, although they’re not violent, drunk and/or rowdy assholes will be all over public transportation. For the past 21 days, I’ve been home preparing posts by 6 at the latest.

I wanted to challenge all of that. Especially because it put me in a shitty mood. There are daily modifiers to which I’ve been extremely susceptible: late starts, not enough brainstorming, the need to be home at a certain time for work even though I make my own hours. I wanted to defy those boundaries.

The result, however, was that I was in an oddly bad state-of-mind. It shouldn’t be surprising–I was forcing myself to do a bunch of things I hated. I was asking for a bad experience. Standing on the train, I found myself thinking of people I hate and haven’t seen for years, strangely imagining that they would be at whatever place I chose. I know–completely unrealistic and bizarre. But I’m writing it here because it’s true–a strangely self-damaging survival tactic, I guess.

I did not go back home though. I got off my train, headed in the vague direction of the spot I chose moments before getting to my stop, found that there wasn’t an obvious entrance for it, and then changed course the instant I spotted Sony Plaza across the street, with its sign promoting it as a public lounge–exactly what I needed.

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It was indoors. It was quiet. It was pretty. It was a little dim. Most importantly, despite it being Saturday evening, there was no trouble finding a seat and no one got loud or blasted music. The presence of security may have had something to do with that last bit. With public restrooms and a Starbucks adjacent to the Plaza, I was glad I accidentally chose it. It is instantly a place I will come back to–especially on a weekday morning when I assume I’d be almost completely alone.

I sat down and rode my satisfaction with the locale into my writing–threw it repeatedly in the face of doubts. I worked remembering yesterday’s mantras, pushing nearly-typical elements far enough away that I could stare at them–consider them like individual pieces of my story’s puzzle. There was a lot of writing, deleting, and readjusting tonight, but I finally felt good by the time I ended early. As I packed up, I was confident about the work I’d done and about stopping when I had–trusting that I knew when not to force myself to produce more content. A second fight scene was about to start and I wasn’t going to manufacture any part of it without properly loving it first, something that sounds really bizarre, but it’s the best way to put it. I had, I realized now, spent the entire day reinforcing my calm. But that was a good first step towards actually believing it. Especially because I want to believe in that calm instead of manufacturing it.

On the train ride home, I obsessed (in the best way) over the rest of my mid-novel addition. I have but one detail to research after publishing this post. Once I have it, the addition is fully plotted. It will take a day to write it all, another day (at most) to edit and adjust the rest of my work, and then I’m caught up again–at the endgame that I’ve been slowly refining this whole time. It was a really good commute back. I felt centered again. Glad to have my story to focus on. Glad, grudgingly, that I’d pushed myself.

Because, from the beginning, NaNoWriMo wasn’t just about writing another novel for me–it was about getting back in touch with outside. There’s only so much I can do; the overwhelming majority of my closest friends still moved away a few years ago, so there’s still a strange distance to these outings–I’m still a lone wolf out there.

But it’s nice to contest my reflex to confine myself.

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