Rowena

On Wednesday, I finally broke down and bought a copy of a book I remembered my grandmother reading to me on just about every visit to her house throughout my childhood.  It was a little book, only a few pages, with vivid line drawing in only white, black, and teal.  It took me until recently even to learn what it was called: I Can Read about Witches by Robyn Supraner.  (In my defense, for the story that follows, that is not the most intuitive title ever.)

(Spoilers)  (Not that it matters, really)

In the simplest terms, the story tells of a town which has lost all memory of joy and laughter.  It is a town torn by cruelty, derision, and anger.  There are no smiles.  There is no forgiveness.  There is no kindness.  There is no love.  There is no understanding.  There is no peace.  It has all been stolen by a witch.

But one girl, named Rowena, carries the memory of laughter in her heart.  She vows to find the witch and retrieve the stolen joy, no matter the cost.

Rowena ventures into the deep forest alone.  When she stops to rest, she dreams of a fairy who warns her that the witch knows she is coming and will try to stop her.  The fairy tells Rowena that the only way to defeat the witch is to know her when she sees her and to catch her — to hold onto the witch no matter what happens.

The witch disguises herself as a bird and pretends that her baby is caught in a thorny bush.  She cries for help and begs Rowena to crawl into the thorns and rescue the baby.  But Rowena lures the bird close and grabs onto her.  She tells the bird she will not let it go until the witch agrees to grant her wish.

The witch transforms herself into a series of monsters — giant snakes, dragons, threatening to eat Rowena, threatening to turn her to stone.  But Rowena holds on and never lets go, no matter what the witch says or does.

The witch has no choice but to surrender.  She agrees to grant Rowena’s wish and leads her to where she has locked up the hope and joy and love of Rowena’s town.  Rowena sets free the light stolen from her people in a great rush of laughter.

The book stuck with me all the way to adulthood.  And now I think I know why.

Now I have to be Rowena.  I have to hold onto the memory of joy and peace and love.  I have to venture out, bold and undaunted.  I have to beat back the trickery of that which presents itself as bigger than me, or scarier.  I have to hold on and never let go.

I know virtually nobody reads this site right now.  That’s okay.  I’m not putting this site here for the present.  I’m putting it here for the future, for the day I’m a published author and need a “platform.”  And I’m putting this particular story here for the day it matters, even if I can’t guess when or why that might be.

And I’m adding this promise, too:

I promise to hold the memory of all that is right in my heart, and to walk into whatever comes without losing it, without giving up, without backing down.  I promise to resist cruelty and indifference and violence with all my strength.

I promise to hold on, and to never let go.

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2016 Writing Year in Review

Halloween means many different things to different people, from awesome candy party night to elaborate costume-and-decorations time, to serious religious holiday, to day-before-discount-bulk-candy joy.  Halloween has two very different meanings to me — and one of them is the celebration of the end of my writing year.

Which means it is time to see how I did!

Somewhere between 2010 and 2012, I made the decision to commit myself to writing more significantly, both in terms of quantity and quality.  Up until then, I had been happy with the occasional bout of inspiration or the odd oneshot here and there.  But no longer.  Party born out of a push to complete the outstanding works which had been left half-done, and partly because finally I was mentally and emotionally healthy enough to want to create, I vowed to set a standard and hold myself to it.  I recognized then that I can’t change whether or not I have writing “talent,” but I could sure as hell instill discipline and hard work in myself wherever inspiration or innate ability left off.

I’ve written before about my tracking spreadsheets and these were very much born in that time.  By the close of 2012, I was pushing myself to write most every day and I was finishing the projects I began no matter what.  But I also learned something about my habits — I don’t write a whole lot in November and December.

There’s lots of reasons for that 2-month downtime.  It’s a busy season for many people and I am no exception.  Between sometimes two different rounds of travel halfway across the country, holiday gatherings, gift-buying, and bracing for winter, I add onto that sometimes multiple gigs and/or concerts every week from about mid-November until January.  It’s a very hectic time to be a musician, believe me.  And it cuts into the free time I have, as well as my emotional energy.  Writing can be a form of stress-relief, but it brings its own stresses with it, too.  Performing is AWESOME, but it is also very, very stressful.  And these things do not mix necessarily well.  And that’s before there’s any hint of the changes that happen in a person’s psyche when the days get dark and short and you have to wear 18 layers to go outside.

I learned pretty quickly that I could not depend on myself to be able to write a long or substantial work in November and December, and that pushing myself to do so tore the fabric of my well-being.  I could still plot for future works, and I could write a lot of oneshots or short stories, and I could circle back on abandoned projects and give them a last push, but I couldn’t necessarily work through something big and new and difficult.  Which made trying to track progress really frustrating when the last 2 months of the year were something of a wash.

So I adjusted my inner calendar for the purpose of writing.

Now my writing year begins on November 1st and ends the following October.  November and December have become my fallow, planning months rather than a rush to get done before New Year’s Day.  I spend them cleaning up from the previous year to some extent, but mostly clearing the way for what is to come.  Over the course of a year I tend to come up with a lot of ideas for stories; November and December are when I actually sit down and sort them out.  Is this a novel or a oneshot?  If it’s a oneshot, can I get it done right now?  I also tend to get some of my best ideas in about mid-November which then spend December simmering before I dive into them with abandon at the start of January.  I might not write at all for these two months or I might write two short stories a w eek.  But whatever I do or don’t do, it’s the time I give myself to rest before the next push.

And since I have closed the book on my 2016 writing, it’s time to see how I did.

From November 1st 2015 through October 31st 2016, I wrote the following:

  • 4 novels (40,000 words or more)
  • 6 novellas (17,500-40,000 words)
  • 1 novellette (7,500-17,500 words)
  • 7 short stories (fewer than 7,500 words)
  • 2 character background projects for gaming
  • 17 blog posts on this site

…and other random assorted journaling/chronicling, including for gaming and my own personal diary/journal

Not too bad, actually!  I don’t count the blog posts or the random assorted stuff towards wordcounts and my official totals because they don’t involve the same level of creativity — they’re mostly just typing.  Maybe that will change if this blog becomes more robust with time, but for now, we’ll stick with what we’ve got.  Here is the more detailed breakdown by wordcount:

2016-writingAs years go, this one is my second-most productive.  To date, my biggest single year of writing remains 2014 when I maxed out at 517,373 words.  That percentage of Overall Total above proves that 20% of all the creative writing I have ever completed since 2004 was done in 2016.

Note that I don’t count works that I started and abandoned.  They have to be done to count.  This is as much me being persnickety about data as it is a motivating factor.  If I don’t finish, my numbers won’t be as good!

Here, then, is my total writing since 2004:

all-time-writingNow, that number also includes a short story I wrote for Yuletide on Tuesday, because 2017 is already underway.  But the ~6,300 oneshot doesn’t really change much at this point.

Worth noting in the 2016 data is that there are 4 fully original works included.  Three of them are short stories.  One is a novel…that I might try to publish.  That was my last writing project of the year, written in September and October, which tends to be my pair of most-productive months.  I’m going to let it rest for a while before I go back and edit it to pieces, and then we’ll see what all my beta groups say about it.  If it passes muster, well, there might be posts about the joys, ahem ahem, of querying.

But that’s for later.

For right now, I think I’ve earned a small rest for a year well done.

I think I’ll spend it writing another story.

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