Tag Archives: series

Guest Post: No Mountain is High Enough

Sometimes when Novice Wordsmith and I write, we try and beat a wordcount bar; whether it’s the 50K of NaNoWriMo or some other arbitrary number, it’s a goalpost to shoot for.

I’ve had years where I’ve done really well, pushing 100K words, and other times where I barely made it over the bar.
But like the climbers that just finished a 19-day free climb of El Capitan, the reasons for doing it are to have a direction to climb.    What we find sometimes is that a story can’t be quantified by ‘X words’ — it demands more.  A short story becomes a novella; a novel becomes a trilogy, because ones words just can’t be contained by a wordcount _limit_.
Similarly, at times the words just don’t come.   They’re lodged in our unconscious writers’ block of iced out ideas, and we just stare at the blinking cursor or blank page and nothing happens.  We start stressing because time is ticking, and our wordcount average is falling behind.
And yet we’re capable of superhuman authoring bursts of thousands of words in a single day — when the story demands it.   When the time is short.   The ‘right’ way to win NaNo is to meet or beat your daily average, since there is a defined ‘stop’ time at the end of the month, but for me, once November is over, I used to stop writing no matter where I was in the month.
Fifty thousand, sixty thousand, fifty four thousand two hundred and one — it didn’t matter.  I’d stop cold, and say, “I’m taking a break from this.”
The mountain of words was too high.
But the thing is, not everyone can reach the summit of a novel.   Sometimes the avalanche of words comes crashing down and you think your novel is a confused mess of words without resemblance to the perfect climbing path, with waypoints and scene interludes just _gone_, and you don’t know what to do next.
Other times, the way is clear, the steps to get from point A to point B are crystal clear in your head and make it onto the page — or you discover an even better route to the top of the peak — that ability to place that ‘Finished/The End’ flag there with triumph, and you can look back down at the beginning of the novel and go, ‘wow.  I wrote all that?’
But really, don’t see your novel and your writing as one mountain.   There are several large mountains in the world that people attempt to climb every day; there are also small hills, rocky outcroppings, and the tricky climbing wall of haiku or a screenplay to tackle.   Every person’s writing ascent is different, done for their own rationale and reasons (or lack thereof) and finding what challenges you to keep writing — and your wordcount climbing — is something you find within, rather than without.
Moreover, whether you’re at the top or at the bottom, you should always be looking to the horizon, to see what the next mountain in your path might be.

“The Sequel Always Sucks”

I don’t know how many times I’ve said it, but I know I’ve thought about it a lot, and the phrase itself bothers me for a few reasons, one of which is personal.

When people say that the sequel sucks, often times they mean movies. At least, that’s been the most I’ve heard it with. The reason that is, I think, is because those movies are driven more by a need for money, ratings, profit, than a desire to be a storyteller in their own way, to create. It’s especially seen in situations where the sequel had never been pre-determined when creating the first; they just saw the ratings go through the roof and went, “ooh! We should try that again.”

When it’s a cohesive story, say, Hunger Games or Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, to name a few favorites, it’s a different situation. It’s about telling a story, then, to the best of their ability, and if the sequel sucks in that series/trilogy, it’s blamed more on the story not being as great or capturing as the first movie/book.

The personal side comes from writing a trilogy on my own and thinking, “Oh crap. I really hope I don’t screw this up.” Then again, movie making and writing are two very different avenues, with many different audiences. Though, the phrase about sequels doesn’t come between books and movies, it comes more between whether it’s an extension to the story, or if it was already part of the story from the beginning. So maybe I’m safe after all.