The Substitute, Part 1

Although it’s rather late, I hope you all had a lovely Christmas, and that those students among my readers had a lovely break.This story is the first part of two, the second half of which I’ll post on Tuesday. I hope you enjoy!

Brutus Regium was a legend among men. He was a beast slayer, a rare example of a man of pure courage and will, who strode out into the wilderness and beat it at its own game. He wrestled with bears and won; he out-shouted trolls; it was even said he outran wolves, though doubtless some stories cropped up that were either embellished or had nothing to do with him originally, just because of what a popular figure he became. When he arrived at a town, all the men cheered for him, and all the women fawned him; he was the kind of man where men proudly pointed to their scars after loosing to him in a barfight or a duel.

There were also a number who desired to emulate, or even impersonate his fame. Among this group was Torun Bravis, a man who loved Regium’s popularity and revered state, but had no desire to do any of the things his idol had done to become famous, like kill monsters. He’d much rather join rich people in their halls and common folk in the taverns to celebrate and have a good time. Being Regium made him someone – otherwise, he would likely have become a farmer, and he had no intention of tilling the earth for his daily bread.

In all honesty, though, Bravis revered Regium above other men – the man was his hero. And yet, ironically, he dreaded ever meeting the famous warrior, since any conversation between the two of them would likely involve the fact that Bravis stole Regium’s identity. Personally, he thought it was a miracle that he hadn’t run into his mentor already, especially with them both traversing the countryside independently and unknowing of the other’s location.

As of now, Bravis was headed to Paltoren, to grace the Lord Karkomin with his presence. The noble lord would declare a celebration to welcome his arrival, and then Bravis would have all the alcohol and women he desired.

The catch with pretending to be Regium was that Bravis had to look like him. Now, not exactly like him. There were precious few pictures of the rugged warrior, and few more who would recognize him on sight. But Bravis had to look like he was a real warrior, with a long fur cloak, a large sword strapped to his side, and a buff physique. It was unfortunate that he had to work to maintain this body, but it was well worth it.

As he entered the city, the townsfolk all looked up in astonishment at him, captivated by the sight of such a powerful man astride a tall and beautiful horse. They parted down the center of the street, and he rode unhindered up to the gates of the castle at the crest of the hill. Only then did he halt and dismount, and the guards at the door approached him.

“Who are you, and what is your business with Lord Karkomin?” asked one of the guards.

“I am Brutus Regium,” replied Bravis imperially. “Perhaps one who knew that name would not be so presumptuous.”

“Pardon, sir!” The guard bowed apologetically. “I had no idea that it was you! Please, enter!”

The guard brought him inside the castle. The guard bade Bravis to wait in the atrium, and then hurried off to fetch his master. He was not gone long, and soon Lord Corval Karkomin entered, his arms wide to receive the perceived hero.

“Welcome, Regium!” he said. “I did not think you would honor us with your presence, but I am glad that you have come. You shall dine with me tonight!”

“Thank you, my Lord,” Bravis replied, bowing. “It would be an honor.”

The meal was a large affair, and it was attended by every resident of the castle, an impressive number for that part of the country. Bravis had rarely seen so many people at one table, but he also avoided the larger cities, where people were more likely to have seen the real Regium. He was surprised that the hero had never visited the prosperous land of Paltoren.

Among the guests was Karkomin’s large family, including his wife and his seven children, all ranging from twelve to three years in age. They were anxious for stories of Regium’s exploits, especially the two eldest children, Timaen and Gavin. It tested Bravis’s mind considerably to remember stories of his hero’s adventures and to create some of his own, but it entertained the children, and that made him happy – partially because they bought his lies.

Telling these stories also placated the adults in the room: those young men eager for some great deeds to aspire too, the older men seeking news of other realms, and women looking for a reason to dote on him. Bravis focused his attentions on this last audience, when the other two and the children would allow him. And it was all going quite well, until the door burst open and a harried, burnt, and exhausted man stepped into the room.

“My lord!” he exclaimed. “The town Giastones burns – dragon!”

“Well then,” replied Karkomin after a moment to take it all in. “We must organize a force to meet it at once. Regium, surely you will lend us your expertise?”

But Bravis said nothing, merely staring in shock at the messenger. Why did he have to come now, of all times? How could anyone expect him, Bravis, to fight any such monster? It was unfair! He wasn’t cut out for that kind of work!

He couldn’t quite explain that to the present company, though, now could he? Not when they expected him to help. How could he get out of this mess?

“I, uh, don’t think I can help,” he said, struggling for an excuse. “You see, I have a previous engagement that I really must be getting to-”

“Surely it’s not so important that you can’t hold it off to save lives,” Karkomin cut in. “After all, if it goes well, it shouldn’t take more than a couple days, if you’re only worried about time.”

No, he wasn’t just worried about time. A dragon, of all things!

“Just, let me think about it tonight,” Bravis said. “I shall have my decision in the morning.”

“Very well.”

When he got into his chambers, he paced back and forth. He had absolutely no skill that would help slay a dragon, but, pretending to be Regium, he was expected to act as Regium would. All Bravis wanted to do was escape, which was the other option weighing heavily in his mind. He looked out the window.

“Why did Karkomin have to give me a room so high up?” he muttered.

“To make the decision more difficult,” came a voice from some dark corner of the chamber.

Bravis wheeled around, to see the pale face of Lord Karkomin refecting the moonlight.

“What – how did you get in here?”

“I have my ways. I also know you aren’t Regium.”

“But, how? Have you met him before?”

“No. But a hero like him wouldn’t make excuses and buy time to not save lives. But you have done both. Tell me, why do you desire to be like him if you do not desire to be like him?”


“You can’t pick and choose his life. Either you must go through the struggles and the celebrations, or partake in neither. You cannot enjoy the festivals without earning the peace through hardship.”


“No. Surely Regium would be ashamed of you if he ever met you. Surely you know that. But now you have the opportunity to do something good. So make the decision that your hero would make. Help me.”

Bravis considered this a moment. “Fine. But I take no responsibility if this goes ill. I have no skills of any value to this.”

“You have a sword, and the nerve. Perhaps that is all you will need.”


The Fire Sword

Endremzo’s feet pounded against the tough dirt as he ran north as he entered the wide plains of Theslin. Behind him were the foothills of Morbaren, and if he would bother to stop and look back, he would see the last slope of the Mesgraven Mountains, which separated Morbaren from Lanuman. But Endremzo would not pause for such a trite fancy, and was set on his course.

He wasn’t fleeing anything, and he was in no particular hurry. He only ran for the pure exhilaration of the wind in his face, the earth under his face, and the excellent sleep he got every night. This wasn’t to say his journey wasn’t purposeless – on the contrary, he was headed to the famous smithy of Adenso, the equally famous blacksmith and inventor.

On his previous adventure, Endremzo had slain a troll terrorizing the local villages. In the process his family sword had broken, but the troll’s treasure trove yielded no weapons that might replace his honorable heirloom. He had found plenty of other treasures, but he had distributed these among his friends, neighbors, and the victims of the troll’s villainy. Keeping only a small portion for himself, he had then begun his adventure north, to replace his sword by means of the greatest smith in the world.

So Endremzo ran, passing over the plain in his brisk pace, stopping only when night descended on the earth. Sometimes he slept at an inn in town, but usually he rested in the middle of the plains, his back in the dust and his eyes toward the stars.

After nearly two weeks of travel, he at last came to a large building standing solitary on the plains, flanked by the bend of a great river. The building stood at least two stories high, with a colossal chimney reaching up to the heavens and billowing dark smoke from the fires within. On the side of the building, a great wheel churned the water. On the other side was an open door, and Endremzo approached this as he slowed to a walk. He peered inside, and saw the famous smith hard at work in the center of the spacious shop, decorated with various mechanisms and creations.

“Good afternoon,” came the voice of Adenso, who did not look up, though he did pause in his work. “How can I help you?”

“I need a sword,” replied Endremzo as he stepped into the shop. He gazed around at all the beautiful things on display, but he turned to the smith again as he felt Adenso’s gaze on him.

“You need a sword? I really doubt that. But why come to me for such a simple tool?”

“I wanted a proper replacement for a weapon that once belonged to my family, but broke in combat. And I’ve heard that you make the best weapons.”

“Well, you would be correct. But I don’t just hand out such devices to anybody.”

“I can pay you well.” Endremzo presented the small sack of the troll’s gold that he still possessed.

Adenso laughed. “Gold is not enough to receive my services. Tell me, boy, for what purpose is this tool meant, and for what purpose shall you use it?”

Endremzo considered this question for a few moments. “Is a sword not to be used in defense? So you are saying I must use it only to defend myself?”

“A good, if incomplete answer,” replied the smith, smiling. “Yes, it is for self-defense, but it is also for the defense of others. Ordinarily, I abhor the creation of such weapons, but I sense that this one shall be critical to events yet to unfold. I shall render you a service by making this tool, but I ask you render a service to me.”

“What is that?”

“Your oath: only to use the sword that I shall make for you in defense of the innocent and the protection of the weak, against those who would seek to ruin and destroy the lives of others. But whatever justice you deal must be tempered with mercy, lest you lose sight of your cause. Will you do this?”

Endremzo swore so, and the smith smiled again. Then he set to work.

He moved a small portion of his shop outside, under the blazing sun. He took lumps of steel and set it through the crucible, tempering it until it was stronger than any other metal. The next day he took a barrel of water and spoke some words over it. Endremzo watched the water, never letting his shadow cast over it at the behest of Adenso. As the day passed, the water caught the light of the sun and, come night, blazed gold. The next day the smith really began his work.

He took the steel and fashioned it, bending it and twisting it between the hammer and the anvil. He heated it over white flames and dipped it in the shining water, and somehow it changed the metal. The steel was no longer silver, but was now golden.

The long blade complete, Adenso next fashioned a handle, wrapping it in red leather and embedding a deep ruby in the hilt. At last it was complete, and the smith presented it to Endremzo.

“This sword is named Casecaron,” Adenso said. “For it carries the flames of the Sun, and thus it shall smite the forces of darkness. Look!”

He took the weapon and plunged it into a wooden beam. Immediately, the beam burst into red flames, licking the air with greedy tongues. Endremzo hesitated a moment, surprised by both Adenso’s move, and by the power of the blade. But then he seized the handle, which was not a degree warmer for standing amidst the flames, and pulled it out, holding it aloft as it reflected the glorious Sun.

A Review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I have been waiting a long time to see this movie – ever since it was first announced that Peter Jackson would be doing it. I don’t think, however, that I ever expected it to turn out the way it did. Jules Bass did an animated version in only 80 minutes, so surely Jackson wouldn’t need more than two and a half hours. I was surprised, then, when Jackson announced he’d be making another film, and then a trilogy based around The Hobbit. I was also excited, because Jackson was promising that he would delve in into the Appendices for additional story.

Now, I’ve read most of Tolkien’s works, and the posthumous books published by Christopher Tolkien – including a small number of The History of Middle Earth 12-volume series and The Children of Hurin. So while I couldn’t carry a conversation in Elvish, I could discuss the history of Middle-Earth for some time. I could also talk about where Tolkien got many of his ideas, having read the Norse literature that Tolkien did. (That was a fun college class).

That being said, I think I’d need a second viewing in order to evaluate this film as its own entity. I firmly believe in judging how a film works on its own (though of course I’ll compare the strengths and weaknesses of various amendments), but the first viewing kept distracting me with canon.

Now, again, canon changes will only annoy me if I feel that they detracted from the story, or if they were unnecessary. For example, the addition of an evil orc champion pursing the company sets up a nice connection between the trilogy – though I didn’t like the identity of that orc champion, specifically because canon was consciously contradicted to include him.

Aside from canon, though, I felt that a lot in the film was determined by the fact that this trilogy is being treated as a prequel, rather than the original. This certainly affected the movie, largely in its tone. The professor who taught be about the works that influenced Tolkien stated that how Jackson treated the elves’ song as the dwarves came to Rivendell would be the ultimate signifier of the tone of the films. And he was right – because the song wasn’t included at all. In fact, out of the five songs included in The Hobbit (over the time covered by the film), only two are sung.

The dwarves are perhaps the most affected by this tone. Rather than the bumbling sidekicks who really complain about everything and who can’t handle anything except when they have Gandalf, Thorin, or Bilbo to lead them, they’re presented as a group of fearless warriors who would take on an army of orcs if they had to. (Despite my dislike for this aspect – in the book, I believe Thorin was the only dwarf who was actually armed – I did like the film for breaking the stereotype that dwarves only fight with axes). This change in character doesn’t do well for the story, since when the dwarves don’t need any help, why recruit Bilbo in the first place? They’re even confident that they don’t need Gandalf!

There were also a couple moments where it was very obvious that the writers were trying to insert a “Gandalfism”, or a “Samism”, where one of the main characters (usually Gandalf or a hobbit) says something that reveals a deep truth on life. Now, these moments by themselves aren’t bad – I’m calling them Gandalfisms and Samisms because of similar moments in The Lord of the Rings. The difference is in that in The Lord of the Rings, these moments aren’t forced, and flow naturally with the scene and the tone. Most of these Gandalfisms in The Hobbit are also not found in the book, which further worsens the message in that the quote may not line up with Tolkien’s purposes (in essence, though, they do).

The plot also takes advantage of a number of very convenient moments. Now, Bilbo was very, very lucky in The Hobbit, and Tolkien knew that one of the qualities of a hero is good luck, but several happenings in film go beyond luck to just lazy convenience.

The content from the Appendices is a different animal from the majority of the Hobbit, largely in that Tolkien never wrote what kind of conversations occurred around these subjects, like the Necromancer. Jackson tries to put the dwarves’ quest in the larger context of Middle-Earth and the power plays going on in case Sauron returns, but I didn’t feel he did it very adequately. Saruman and Elrond never give a good reason to discourage the dwarves from their quest, and Saruman drones on and on about nothing at all.

On the other hand, Radagast’s scenes in Mirkwood, and the scenes delving into Thorin’s past are great. It was nice to be reminded that Thorin, even if the others aren’t supposed to be, at least he is a mighty warrior and knows what he’s doing.

Once again, Gollum was a great character, and the riddle game was fun. And despite all the issues I have with this film, I did laugh at its jokes. While it’s tone is darker than the book, it is its own entity, and should be treated as such. And as its own film, I think it’s generally solid. The changes made to the canon were made for a reason, and it’s easy to see where all the plot points are leading for the rest of the trilogy. Again, as a canon snob, I saw largely flaws with the canon, and I would love to watch it again, not only to complete my analysis, but just because I did enjoy watching it.

The Alliance

This is a continuation of last week’s The Vanguard’s Decision. I hope you can excuse the irregularity of posts the last few weeks. Exams have finally come, and once they finish, I should be able to return to a more regular schedule. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this piece!

The sky blazed like fire as the sun set amidst a host of black clouds and Ambard entered the chief tent of the army of Miris. There, within the white walls under a tattered banner sat the Prince Virys, the young commander of the force in place of his father. He leaned forward in his seat as Ambard entered, surveying the bloodied warrior carefully.

“Well met!” said the prince. “It is lucky you found me when you did – much longer and we might not have been standing.”

“You’re welcome,” Ambard replied. “Though I must say I was surprised to find you where we did. Most of our men went a different direction searching for you – did you not take the usual route?”

“Of course not. We prefer to keep our movements unnoticed, but it seems that we were spotted and tracked, for we were set upon rather suddenly and without warning.”

“Perhaps you must look to your spies. But that is not why I am here. I must ask a favor of you, noble prince.”


“I would have two horses – as I said, we did not expect to see you this way, and half my group sought for you along the main route. Also, Paltoren is not far behind us, only about a day or two on foot, and we must tell them that we’ve established contact with you.”

“Then by all means, take the horses. We have precious few, since many were slain in the battle, but I will give to you the fastest, so that we might be joined all the sooner.”

“Thank you.” Ambard bowed low, and went from the tent. Outside, the darkened sunlight fell on the dark grass of the hill, shining with red blood. All around, more white tents had been erected and more banners placed around the makeshift camp at the top of the hill. His men were waiting for him, and followed as he walked down to the place where the remaining horses had been tied up. Releasing two of the horses, he selected two of his men and sent them on their way, racing north and east toward their goals.


Several miles east, Rodden Karkomin rode atop his dark horse, surveying the landscape in the last light of the sun. It had looked ashen and barren before, but the red sunlight made it seem almost volcanic. He rode at the head of twenty thousand soldiers, along with nearly a thousand refugees from Randein who had desired to stay and help fight.

He was very worried, and as such pressed with the other captains to continue as far as they could while daylight remained. They set up camp in the dark, and Rodden only slept fitfully.

They were up again with the dawn, marching through rough roads soaked with rain from the night before. The dark clouds still dominated the sky, and far off in the distance they could hear the rumbles of thunder and see the flashes of lightning. Rodden felt more exposed with every mile they traveled. The enemy had yet to appear, and save for the few refugees they now seldom met on the road, the land was completely empty. He was anxious for the fate of the vanguard he had sent forward to scout the land – they hadn’t sent any word in four days, and he hoped they had not run afoul some patrol of Evorin soldiers.

So it was in this state of mind when he first perceived a horseman earnestly riding toward them around late afternoon. He ordered a general halt, and it wasn’t long before the horseman was upon them, and an expectant grin spread across his face.

“What news?” Rodden asked. “Where did you get so fine a horse?”

“We have made contact with Miris,” the warrior of the vanguard informed him. “They are about a day away from us, and they are marching with all haste to join us. When we arrived, they had engaged an army from Evorion, though we managed to rout that force.”

“This is both good and ill. How many is Miris then?”

“About twenty thousand, I would estimate. If we can join them we would have a good chance at beating anything Evorion throws at us.”

“Then we must hurry.”

They marched until dusk, and when the next dawn came, they marched all day. About midday Rodden ascended a hill with one of his scouts. There, across a wide valley, he could barely make out a large, blue banner swinging in the breeze: it was Miris.

“But look,” cautioned his scout, pointing toward the grey valley. There, spread out on the floor like insects, was a third army, with black banners and red campfires: Evorion.

Rodden stared in shock. How had they managed to cut between the two armies just as they were about to join? And it was such a large army too, probably as many as fifty thousand, more than both Miris and Paltoren combined. But how had they known the place the two armies would meet? Was it true their movements were tracked, or that there were spies in their ranks?

“We should attack them at once,” said Rodden. “For now we have the better position from which to drive them out. Let us assemble the troops!”

They arrayed themselves on the hills over the valley while, opposite, Miris did the same. The blue banners faced the orange, with the black below in the center, staring coldly up at both. The two armies gave the signal at the same time, and men charged down toward the army of Evorion. It was perhaps the first battle in a long, long time initiated by the enemies of that dark nation.

The first assault was met with hard resistance from the spears of Evorion, but Rodden kept his men pressing forward, and slowly the line of defense crumbled beneath the incessant onslaught as the soldiers of Miris and Paltoren stepped over their fallen comrades into the enemy line.


Grenheim made all haste as he backtracked up the road that had led him off the trail, following his companion that had arrived from the Miritan camp. His six men raced to keep up with him as he ran, regardless of the weight of his gear or his lack of sleep.

He was utterly exhausted, and while he would never allow such a petty thing as it any importance, it was straining him now, and it was sure willpower that kept him going to rejoin with the two armies coming to a glorious head.

However, when he finally saw their compounding, it was anything but glorious. Banners of orange and blue spanned most of the rim of a large valley, where in the center lay a swarm of black. But the circle was not complete, and even now the black was climbing up the sides to swallow both forces.

“Come!” said Grenheim. “We must help Miris and Paltoren meet!”

He charged down the hill, the others close behind him, all drawing their weapons. He ignored his bow, and fell upon the enemy crawling up around Miris with his bare hands, wresting their own weapons from them and turning them against their former owners. The black force scattered, but the horseman cut off their escape, his sword swinging down on their backs as the other seven plunged into the ranks of their enemies.

The charges from the hills could not be stopped, though many fell on either side. As Miris and Paltoren pressed forward, they pressed Evorion between them like an insect caught between foot and road. And those trying to flee north found themselves facing the vanguard.

At last, Evorion was so pressed together that those caught in the center couldn’t move, and their enemies cut them down like wheat, blanketing the valley in blood. And then Rodden and Virys met in the center, the alliance complete.

The Vanguard’s Decision

And now for another world-building story. This is a sort of sequel to Enigmatic Emmisary, and I hope you enjoy it!

Ambard was utterly exhausted, after marching with his eleven comrades for three straight days at breakneck speed through the countryside of Randein. The place was utterly ruined, and already resembled the dark lands of its conqueror. The fields were sown with ash, villages were made of piles of stone and debris. The survivors had either been captured or had fled east or south, to the free territories of Paltoren and Alasede. And this touched Ambard and his men only more because it was their homeland.

The twelve of them were acting as some odd combination of scout party and vanguard. They made sure the paths ahead of the army of Paltoren was clear, but they were also powerful warriors and were able to swiftly deal with any who withstood them. They had been chosen out of the refugees of Randein for this purpose, and largely because they had volunteered for it; after all, they knew the territory best.

They attracted a lot of attention from the roving bands of Evorin soldiers. Ambard attributed this entirely to the standard his superiors had forced them to carry with them, displaying very clearly the badge of Paltoren. Now, Ambard knew why they had it – to show the army of Miris when they found them – but he still disliked carrying it around so blatantly.

Still, it had its advantages. Those native Randein who still survived flocked around the banner, and left with the occasional messengers from the king back to the main army. They had met several hundred of such persons, and many had given them aid as well, primarily in the local geography. Ambard knew Randein, but he hardly knew every hill and pond in the territory.

As the third day entered the early afternoon, they passed a group of refugees on the road, who all stopped in surprise at the display of force confronting them.

“Wait till you see the main body of the army,” Ambard told them. “Where did you come from?”

“We’re fleeing from a huge Evorin army marching south,” said a middle-aged man. “They just passed our village of Janinon, but we ran away before they could kill us.”

“That is tempting.”

“How so?” asked one of Ambard’s comrades, an archer called Grenheim. “How large was this army?”

“I’m sure it was at least ten thousand,” the chief refugee replied.

“Still,” Ambard said thoughtfully. “It would behoove us to keep track of their movements, to make sure that they don’t come between us and Miris. I don’t feel comfortable with its movement south.”

“Well, as long as you’re not crazy enough to take on ten thousand, which is what I feared you would say,” said Grenheim.

“Oh, I am crazy enough. But I need a crazy reason, and none comes to mind at this time.”

The refugees departed, going along the road toward the main army of Paltoren. Ambard wondered how far they had fallen behind, since it had been three days since they had heard anything from the main camp.

By late afternoon, they came to a fork in the road: two divergent paths, one leading east, the other south. The signpost between the two stated the first led toward Tasanon, capital of Miris, while the other led to Janinon, and then Alasede. The direction the army had gone.

“It seems we must choose which path to go down, whether to continue toward the army of Miris, or else go south to find this army of ten thousand,” said Ambard.

“Or,” suggested Grenheim. “We could part ways here, and some go to Miris while the others track the army.”

“That seems like a good idea, but who will do what?”

“I have no intention of going after the Evorin soldiers, especially if that’s your chosen path. I know you too well to trust you around the enemy like that. Plus, it was our job to find the Miritian army, not go wandering over the countryside after the rumor of an enemy army.”

“Then let each member of the company decide for himself. If you shall look for our allies, take the standard, and I shall search out the Evoriu. Who will come with me?”

Four offered to come with him, while the others elected to go with Grenheim. Ambard nodded resignedly and handed over the standard.

“Come men, we’ve got an army to track.”

He and the four hurried down the southern road, leaving the others who turned east. They were quickly lost to sight. Ambard hoped they had good luck, especially because splitting the group like this would make them much less effective, though perhaps more stealthy.

It turned out that Janinon wasn’t very far from the junction, and it certainly showed signs of the presence of a rough, pillaging army there. From here, it was easy to track the movement of such a massive body moving in one direction. They followed it south before, abruptly, it turned north and west, moving in a rather straight line toward some unknown target. But it wasn’t until the next day that the five of them discovered what that target was.

There, on a distant hill, was a great army, tall and powerful, with the blue standards of Miris raised in desperation as, below, the black swarms of Evorion swarmed up like ants. Ambard’s jaw dropped in shock at the sight, and swiftly drew his sword.

“Is this wise?” asked one of his companions, placing a hand on his shoulder.

“It doesn’t matter. We can’t let them fall. Besides, we’ll have an easy ambush.”

“But how much can we five do?”

“Only as much as we think we can do. And I know I can route the whole army here and now, if at least for a short time. Come, help me put the fear of Randein back in these soldiers’ hearts.”

His companions gritted their teeth, but nodded. “Very well.”

They drew their swords and axes, and with a terrifying “Charge!”, they raced toward the enemy. Then indeed Evorion knew fear, and its soldiers scattered like gamebirds from a bush, pursued by the deadly dogs of war. Now indeed there was hope.

Easier Said than Done – A reflection on NaNoWriMo

As I said in this post, I was going to try to write 50,000 words about a telepath running around the US from the government and a terrorist organization. I only wrote…23,262.

In my defense, I also wrote at least 2,000 words on one novel, at least 5,000 words on another novel, plus a total of over 10,000 words for this blog during this past month. That’s a lot closer. Still, that’s all only almost there, and there was two other reasons that I don’t think I finished (which may be a good thing).

First, and most importantly, was real life. As a college student coming quickly on finals week, there was a lot to do that involved leaving the computer off and going to classes and doing homework. All those things I wish I didn’t have to deal with so that I could just write for all eternity. Sigh.

The other issue was only a little less warranted. It largely included the internet, and while I could argue that I occasionally needed some mindless, relaxing entertainment, there is also something to be said about excessive entertainment, which I’m sure I crossed into on a few occasions.

That being said, I’d like my family to know that I have been putting my homework before my writing, and there’s been a lot of that to do.

On the other hand, even when I was writing, I was running into brick walls. This was a particularly difficult story for me to write, largely because of what I’d like to christen “The Middle Gap”.

Simply put, this is the tendency for a writer to create the beginning and the ending of a story – and then leave the middle till they get there. This is something that happens to me a lot, and “Psychic” was no exception. The only problem was that that I never reached the ending, and the fact that I really didn’t know what would happen in the middle caught up with me rather quickly.

Now, generally there’s nothing wrong with not knowing the next step. The problem, for plotters like me, is what to fill in for the time between Point A and Point B, especially in the chapters that contribute less to the main plot.

When people ask me how fast I write, I usually tell them about a thousand words per hour. Honestly, I think this is perhaps the only way of accurately measuring type speed. Words per minute is only for people who know each and every word they will type, five sentences ahead. But that’s generally not how a first draft goes. Generally, word speed changes from a thousand words per hour when the writer knows what’s going on or when it’s a particularly fast paced scene, to around two hundred words per hour when the writer has no clue where to go next. And I found myself in the latter position far too often.

All that being said, I don’t think I’ll participate in NaNoWriMo next year. Even if I did put a gratuitous amount of planning into a story three months beforehand. I had far too many other things to spend my time on this month, and I don’t think that will be any different this time next year.

Not that I’ll stop writing, of course, or even put anything on hiatus. I love putting words on a page too much for that. I did enjoy doing NaNoWriMo, and getting significantly farther in this story than I’ve ever written or thought up before. While I didn’t get to write the most beautiful words of writing, “the end”, I still loved discovering the story.