NaNoWriMo 2017 – Semblance

NaNoWriMo 2017 – Semblance

I’m thick in the weeds of NaNoWrimo. I had been kicking around a bleak story set in a dystopian anti-science future, but for some inexplicable reason, my heart is not in it this year. Instead, I think I will attempt something with a lighter and weirder heart.

In a near-future, a graffitist named Nicole “Nix” Weaver is accepted into a secretive art school (hidden within another college) to learn an entirely new art-form (called something dumb, like Semblance) that involves mentally manipulating mysterious airborne semi-sentient nanobots (called motes). In this future, motes have permeated the earth’s atmosphere after an unfortunate attempt to counter global warming (Oops, there’s that dystopia sneaking in again). Now the motes are an invisible part of everyday life. Some people, like Nix, can tap into their collective power. Semblancers condense and craft the motes into non-solid and temporary depictions of objects (sort of like a floating particle-based hologram). Need to escape from the campus police? Project a dumpster around yourself and hide out. Part science fiction, part urban fantasy, part freshman journey, maybe kinda YA? Will there be shenanigans? Yes. An order of friars? Yes. Two rival orders of friars? Oh yes. A headless cat-pillow companion robot. You bet. I haven’t really outlined this one, so I have no idea where it’s going. Exciting. But terrifying. Mostly terrifying.

Tediad Postmortem

Tediad Postmortem

Finish Line

The Tediad is now a year old. I see the date in my calendar, but the realization doesn’t quite settle in. I’m not sure who is in charge of the passage time, but this doesn’t seem correct. The Tediad was bound to be a project that I would talk about finishing for the rest of my life. All the warning signs were present. It was a rookie’s first-time novel. It was large and unwieldy. It was weird and personal. It had a deadline that was more fluid than the Amazon River Basin. Every year seemed like a plausible year to finally be done. In 2016, I put my foot down. Actually, I just let it hover a few inches above, because I could see the ground, and it was littered with countless footprints of other past proclamations. I scheduled the release for May, then unfortunate life events occurred, so I pushed it to June, then sometime in the summer, then into the late summer, and then definitely in August. It shipped in September.

I hit the submit button. The world didn’t shake.

Completing that project stirred up a lot of emotions. The story had become my close companion through several different cities and different lives. Before going to bed, I had become accustomed to closing my eyes and rearranging scenes in my head. Certain songs had become intimately tied to the story (for example, Ruby Falls by Guster, which I played slightly less than ten thousand times). Whenever I had a new idea, the story was there to receive it. Seeing it finished filled me with joy, but the experience was also a bit melancholy. The work was done and was therefore locked down. It was no longer receiving ideas. I would continue to grow and have ideas, but that story was closed off from me.


Until a sequel…

That said, the supreme relief of being done far exceeded everything else.

Did I fulfill my expectations? I think I accomplished my main goal, which was to complete a large cohesive creative project and put it in front of people. I broke through a lot of personal walls. I finished something.

Mistakes and Lessons

Here are a few personal revelations that came to me while working on the Tediad. Heed my warnings young traveler, for I have sailed through the Strait of Despair and the Sea of Agony and barely made it out alive.

Don’t let resistance beat you. In Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art, he describes an entity called resistance. Resistance is the internal and ever-present nemesis of the writer or artist. One of its sinister characteristics is that it becomes strongest near the end of a project. When a writer is within sight of the finish line, resistance goes into overdrive. When I first read that passage, I mostly just shrugged at the idea, until I experienced it myself. Oh boy, it is true. Resistance is a bastard. An almost finished book does not want to be finished. One more pass, just one more pass. Maybe you should check all the footnotes again, just in case. You know, it’s late in the game, but we should add a new sub-plot. It took every ounce of strength to push this thing through to the final lap.

Don’t take seven years. It’ll feel like seven different people wrote your book.

Don’t go to graduate school. Wait, I’m not saying don’t go to graduate school. Definitely go to graduate school if that is what you want to do, just don’t plan on taking on any other huge creative tasks while you do so. While I worked on my thesis, the Tediad leaped from back burner to back burner until it ended up simmering on some forgotten dorm room hotplate. Going back to school definitely extended the Tediad’s gestation by a few years.

Get laid off. As much as I hate to admit it, getting laid off, one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, was probably the best thing to happen to the Tediad. Lots of unscheduled free time, crushing isolation, and a burning desire to put just one miserable check into that year’s win column were the perfect ingredients for completing a laborious book. I don’t know how I’m going do it again as a full-timer.

Don’t change writing programs four times. I started writing in a little indie program called Microsoft Word, until that is, I discovered that the spell check stopped working at a certain word count. Frustrated, I migrated to Google Docs. I spent weeks carefully adjusting the formatting. While at Drexel, I became familiar with an online editor called ShareLaTex, which I was using to format my thesis manuscript. Since the Tediad had elements of a pseudo-academic document, I thought this would be a good idea. I migrated the story over to that and again spent weeks fiddling with the formatting. I then acquired an iPad and fell in love with a program called Ulysses. I found Ulysses very intuitive, easy to organize chapters, and great for tracking word count progress. Again, with the fiddling and formatting. Just stick with one program. Though, maybe I should jump to Scrivener. No. Stop it.

Don’t include time travel/prophecy/oracular visions. It’s so hard to keep a plot cohesive. These devices make it ten times harder.

What’s next?

An excellent question. Finishing the Tediad has encouraged me to continue working on other stories, though hopefully, they will be shorter stories with finite timelines. I hope to keep doing it.

I have a few in the chamber. I have taken part in two NaNoWriMo’s (soon to be three). I have a fun story about a crappy drummer and his talking drum (tentatively called Drummerboy). I have another about a paleontologist that makes a fantastic discovery (tentatively called Blood, Sweat, and Plaster). These will take some time to clean up and make coherent.

I have a few miscellaneous short stories in the works. Coming soon is a short story about a self-driving car that goes rogue and starts giving rides to random people (tentatively called Boti).

Having fallen far out of view, I do recall there were parts to a sequel to the Tediad hanging around. Early in development, I split the original body of work into two books. The first part was expanded and eventually became the Tediad. The second part was set aside for a potential sequel. During 2014, I briefly placed the Tediad aside and began polishing the sequel. I remember how excited I was to revisit it after stewing on it for years. I think I will return to it again someday.

I would also like to do an audiobook version of the Tediad. I have access to the equipment and the software, but I’m not sure if I have the vocal endurance to carry it out myself. Also mouth sounds. I will admit, I have been secretly practicing character voices in the car.

Beta Readers

I’ll just put this out there: If you’re interested in beta-reading any upcoming projects, please let me know. I’d love to have your feedback.




When I was a part of the Avalanche Write Club (before the studio closed), one of our exercises was to write loglines for our projects. A logline is a sentence-long distillation of your story. It’s essentially the description you would see in a Netflix menu. It is obviously quite challenging reducing a full story to a single sentence, but it does help you determine the main thrust of your narrative. Here are a few attempts, including one for my upcoming story The Tediad. The rest are potential future projects.

Continue reading “Loglines”

Coming to Town

Coming to Town

The elevator doors slide open slowly. Across from me is another set of elevators. Upon the metal doors, I can see my reflection staring back. I look both old and young, like a child wearing his father’s jacket. I also look like I’m about to carry out a holiday bank heist. I see myself, what I have become, and suddenly all my nervous excitement disappears. It’s all very real.

This was a mistake.
Continue reading “Coming to Town”