This is it: NaNoWriMo 2012!

(c) Ken McCulloch, 2012I’ve been putting it off for a very long time, but this year marks the first NaNoWriMo I will participate in. I’ve long since stood on the sidelines while others’ fingers bled throughout battlefield November, but not this time. I’m in!

I suppose the big reason that I didn’t enter before was that I already had a writing gig and didn’t feel the need to be published in a traditional manner, even though I did write for myself from time to time. This last year has seen a lot of changes, both personally and professionally, and now is the time to saddle up the horse and head for novel-dom.

So, what’s in the offing? Well, I have been writing my novel-in-progress pretty aggressively over the last few months, and as I develop it, I realize that it will need a lot more effort to make it “work” than I previously thought. Its shaping up nicely, but ultimately, I think its going to a sort of chill and think about books, rather than what I need to get sold. My NaNoWriMo entry will be a sort of mid-level historical-fantasy kind of thing, entitled “The Vale of Odin.”

About four years ago, my work on the video game ‘Too Human’ was coming to an end and I was still in the midst of viking fervour. I had been doing research on trans-humanism, as well as Norse lore, history, culture and language. I needed a creative outlet for it. Oddly, the most recent version of the Dungeons & Dragons RPG had come out (the cursed 4e!) and I was excited for it, so I began to craft a story to run a campaign. My aim was to recapture the feeling of the very first games of D&D I had played, way back in 1982, with people as new to D&D as I way back then. I wanted to exploit the fact that these people knew very little about what was what in the D&D world, so I was looking to reinvent old archetypes in new ways. The campaign featured a viking-styled medieval land, based on Iceland itself, under the threat of a foreign version of paganism that was subverted by an evil fertility goddess. So, basically, historical Vikings, Conan-style Celts and action, D&D stuff (magic, monsters, etc) and H.P.Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos all wrapped up together. The campaign only ran for 5 sessions, but we got a good story out of it. Since then, I’ve always hoped to run some more episodes, but life began to get away and well, its still here. However, the rest of the campaign is partially planned…

(c) Ken McCulloch, 2012… well, planned enough to form a few novel outlines. 🙂 The people behind the characters of the campaign have graciously given me permission to use their alter-egos in a novel version of the campaign and that is what my NaNoWriMo entry will be. There will be some alterations though, required by the adaptation of interactive play-form to a fantasy novel, but I intend to keep the spirit of the characters intact, since they are a great foil for the innate evil that I draft into all my villains. I feel good about it – very excited, as I usually am when any good idea begins to percolate inside my cranium and before hard work begins to erode that energy. Hopefully, I will be able to keep it up. If nothing else, at month’s end, I will have at least a few chapters to polish and even ship around to agents and publishers.

I’m really not a fan of the modern trend of multi-book series, even though I’ve enjoyed trying to keep up with some of them. Series like “A Song of Ice and Fire” is very abusive of its readers in that any payoff for their investment in time is a very long way off, often unsatisfying or worse, leading to other plot-lines that won’t pay off for an even longer time. I feel the ones that treat their readers the best are ones where each book is a complete story, which are each part of a larger arc that ties them all together. Sadly, there aren’t enough of these – at least, I’m not aware of many of them. My own recent personal foray into fantasy writing -“The Ear of the King” – was a reaction to the success of these series. I wanted it to be short, sweet (or in that case, bitterly ugly) and self-contained. It might lead to other stories (and inevitably a novel outline) but each story would be its own thing. Even as I wrote it, I felt the siren-lure of the desire to keep adding stuff to it, making it bigger and bolder and its inception even longer and longer. I wonder if G.R.R. Martin heard that same call and didn’t (or couldn’t) resist. Anyway, the Vale of Odin is, I guess, a reluctant first book in a series, but it should wrap up nicely enough to satisfy the reader without them having to read the next, and the next, and the next…

Back to NaNoWriMo. I’m pretty confident I can make the 50k word count so long as I keep my head and don’t “speed write” through certain areas, that is, go too quickly through bits of prose that need more description and exposition, something which tends to happen quite a lot on the first draft with me; I get excited and think I’m putting more in than I really am, which can lead to confused readers. My own goal is around 75k, which is my idea of a full – but short, novel and a good read, IMO. I’m also worried that I might be putting “PSA” my novel in progress on hold while writing “The Vale of Odin” and losing momentum on it. I was hoping to get the first part of PSA drafted before NaNoWriMo started, but it wasn’t happening: I’m about 3k words and a few needed polish sessions before it gets that first draft status, which would put me a few days behind in NaNoWriMo. I guess if I’m very lucky, I’ll get both done, but… hahha, well, here’s hoping.

I will try to keep up with the regular articles on the blog, too, without having to fall back onto writing updates as filler.

In the meantime, here’s a viking inspired poem I wrote sometime around 2008, entitled “The King’s Table” about a viking warrior who seeks a game of Hnefetafl (the titular “The King’s Table”) with an old chief.  In a way, this was a dry run for parts of “The Vale of Odin”, a way of “getting my head” around norse medieval culture. It is written in the style of the first poem in English Literature: Beowulf, or at least, my attempt at doing so. I found it very hard to imitate the style, as its rather advanced despite being so archaic to a modern mind and to someone who hasn’t studied it very long. It is intended to be read left to right, one line at a time. The gutter in between is a pause – there are not two columns, just one big column per page. I hope you enjoy it, and if not, well, at least there are weird pictures. 🙂

(c) Ken McCulloch 2012

Oh yeah, its Halloween… Or, if you’re a traditionalist, Samhein!  Respect the dead, or fear their wrath!


Image Credits: Pencil sketches by Ken McCulloch