Throwback Thursday #11: NaNoWriMo

This will be a slightly different version of Throwback Thursday, because I’m tackling multiple past/current projects!

My NaNoWriMo timeline, under the name musemorgan (which you can become writing buddies with if you want!) goes as follows…

2010: My very first NaNo. I was a sophomore in college, taking Organic Chemistry and Calculus II at the same time, and it was probably the worst time I ever could have competed in NaNo, lol. But I ached to rekindle my writing skills, especially because I was also attending Bret Lott’s creative writing class that semester. I jumped in on November 1st with nothing except a few characters and a loose concept. It was the first iteration of Paradisa, back then called Crusaders. I failed the challenge with only 32,000 words, most of which was outline. Because as I realized, I can’t work without an outline. Only about three chapters of actual prose was written, and barely any of it became part of Paradisa.

2011: Skipped NaNo. I was in Physical Chemistry and Instrumental Analysis. My junior year was hell.

2012: Senior year gave me a lot of free time, so I tried my hand at NaNo again. This time I did have an outline, but I also had the benefit of living my story. The Shadow of Saturn was a memoir about my internship at NASA, because what happened to me at NASA was often so serendipitous that it all could have been scripted. A lot of natural parallels between people, etc. This was the first year I won NaNo, just barely eking out 50,000 words. If you’re wondering what happened to that story, well – I never finished it. I got about 10 chapters into a rewrite, and nailed out a final, full outline, but it is a massive story. If I ever finished it, it would probably be 150,000 words. But I hope to finish it someday, and perhaps self publish.

2013: This year, I wanted to actually finish a novel. Because I knew that if I half-finished one, like in 2012, it would sit in my drawer forever. I outlined Paradisa and set a goal of 100,000 words. Unfortunately, November is INSANELY busy for me, with AtomaCon, Thanksgiving, and a week-long business trip I took in 2013. I did not make my 100,000 word goal, but I still topped out at 65,000 words. I took December off and finished the first draft of Paradisa in January 2014.

I’m still working on Paradisa, as you all know, but I’ve decided to throw myself into something new this November. I’ve uploaded the basic details of Wake, which I’m in the outline stage for.  I’m setting my goal word count at 70,000 words, because I think that’s what it will take to finish this novel. It’s going to be a short, simple book. Or it might not be, in which this post will probably show up as a Throwback Thursday next year :P

Throwback Thursday #9: “Thin Air”

Sometimes I scrape the bottom of the barrel for these Throwback Thursdays. Not because the pool of old ideas/excerpts is dwindling, but I’m encroaching upon stories that I may still write one day. I try to keep my Throwback Thursdays very noncommittal. Very “well this is something I worked on as a kid and I’ll either be really vague about it so it can’t be ganked, or it’s too dumb/derivative to ever visit again.”

“Thin Air” is one of those concepts that may be worth pursuing for me, eventually. But if I’m honest with myself, I wouldn’t be terribly upset if anyone came along and stole the concept. Yes, it’s been in my prompt notebook for 10 years. Yes, it’s got that marketable YA paranormal romance thing going on. But if I was really passionate about it, it would be written by now. So what will happen will happen and I don’t mind telling you about it!

I never actually wrote this book – any of it. I never even gave the characters names. It was always just a concept, but it’s a concept that I’ve never let go of.

Basically, in the 1980’s, a depressed student publically ends his life by jumping off the roof of his high school. The small town mourns, they erect some memorials in his name, and everyone moves on. Except him. Because rather than going to some sort of afterlife, or vanishing into oblivion, he becomes a ghost tied to the school.

For the next twenty-five years, this guy haunts the hallways, invisible to all human eyes. For the first few years, he tries escaping – but the pull of the campus is magnetic. By the time the 21st century rolls around, he settles into playing pranks on bullies, maybe saving a few nerds from the mean kids. He sees everything and, in his own strange way, becomes a guardian angel for the teenage underdogs. All the while, no one can see him or know he’s there.

That all changes when, for the first time ever, someone sees him.

Of course it’s a girl. Of course she falls in love with him, and he with her. And she probably seems normal on the outside but she’s got some underlying issue that he has to help solve, and it probably ends with him being liberated from his ghost life. And then it’s sad cause they loved each other and all, but the only way it CAN end is with him moving “into the light.” And I feel like it would be important for the girl to have a life after him, you know, carrying with her the changes he helped her make. But it’s not like she defines herself by him. She has to be able to live without him unlike Bella.

I can almost guarantee this story has been written by someone at some point. Beautiful Creatures is pretty close, and I’m sure there are dozens more. And for now, I think YA paranormal romance is saturating the market to the point where an agent won’t even look at it. There’s nothing much about this concept that’s unique, but wouldn’t it have been interesting if I wrote it about 10 years ago? Maybe if I’d been older and more skilled? Something like this might have been swooped up in that craze.

The most interesting thing to take out of this is – write what you want to write and don’t censor your ideas. Your random plot bunnies could fall into the Next Big Trend. There will certainly be novels that you write which will go in drawers and can be dusted off if their concepts are relevant later.

Throwback Thursday #8 – My 9/11 Story, or The First Time I Was Published

I felt a strange mix of interest and humility when I realized that September 11th falls on a Thursday this year. Because it sets up today’s entry perfectly, but I feel strange to have positive emotions about 9/11.

I suppose that’s how I felt at age 10, the first and only time I was published in the newspaper, from a submission of my 9/11 story.

On September 11, 2001, I was 9 years old. That probably makes some of you feel ancient, but I know a lot of friends and fellow bloggers were also children on that day. You should probably know from all my Throwback Thursdays that I was an avid writer, even back then. In a couple years, I would also grow to be an avid journal-er. I liked writing down important events of my life as a method of record-keeping. Obviously, we never forgot 9/11, but perhaps I didn’t realize that at the time.

Rather than recounting my “where was I story” from my 22-year-old voice, I’ll let my 9-year-old self tell it instead. It is a little raw, and perhaps a little triggery, because 9-year-olds don’t filter much or have a full scope of understanding. They’re unreliable narrators. But I feel like its worth posting as-is because….well. It’s true.

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Throwback Thursday #7 – “Beyond Boundaries”

Now that I’ve burned through most of my abandoned childhood projects, I can talk about some that still lurk in my idea box. Beyond Boundaries – which is a title that’s ultimately meaningless, but hey, I was 11 – was my first hard science fiction idea. I’m not sure what spawned it, but it was written in a similar tradition to Edgar Rice Burroughs or Robert Heinlein. As far as “humans leave Earth and populate Titan or Mars with unrealistic comfort” stories go. Also, I really loved Deep Impact and Independence Day. Oh, and the television series Earth 2.

In Beyond Boundaries, the world literally slows to a stop. An asteroid hits our moon, breaking it into three large pieces that mess up Earth’s rotation on its axis (again. I WAS 11. The science wasn’t exactly sound!) After the asteroid catastrophe, NASA realizes it has about 4 years to build arks for humanity, and to find us a new home, before the Earth stops turning. There’s a fair amount of literature about why this would be a very bad thing, although impossible.

Luckily, my tween protagonist Andromeda had a NASA scientist for a dad. And Andromeda’s dad would do anything to get her safely off the planet. The story opens with a tsunami during Andromeda’s trip to the beach, which she and her friends barely manage to escape. The tsunami is one of the first signs that Earth’s time as a habitable planet is waning. Elsewhere in the world, earthquakes and radio communication suffer. I only wrote the first three chapters before abandoning it (as I usually did back then), but I intended for the first book to be a natural disaster/coming of age YA tale. Then, the second book would explain how Andromeda gets settled into her intrasteller home, including an encounter with an alien race, etc.

This is all stuff you’ve probably seen before. But despite the clichés, this story was unusually well-written for my young age. Perhaps overwritten, but the opening lines still impress me to this day. It doesn’t hold a candle to what I can do now, but I appreciate the “level up” this story symbolizes in my writing career. It was one of my first stories that 1) wasn’t a self-insert like The Flying Chameleon Clan or The Shanin Adventures, and 2) wasn’t completely derivative like The Chronicler or Agent Adrenaline. It was cliché when you look at the broader world of science fiction, but I can’t say “this is basically just X-Men or Star Wars with me in it.”

And I still keep the idea in my back pocket. It will be a very long time before I take it into serious consideration, but who knows? Maybe the idea isn’t so preposterous. There have certainly been more preposterous dystopias, utopias, and apocalyptic scenarios presented in YA.

Throwback Thursday #6 – “No Magic Here”

In 8th grade English class, I was given a seemingly simple assignment – write a memoir about an important or memorable event in my life. Ideally, 2-5 pages double spaced.

Mine was 36.

This novella, “No Magic Here,” chronicled a trip to Disney World that I’d taken with my Girl Scout troop. That seems boring, doesn’t it? How could I write 36 pages about a bunch of 5th graders running around the Happiest Place on Earth? Well, to this day, that Disney trip is one of the most memorable vacations I’ve ever taken. There were some positive highlights, but it mostly sticks with me for being godawful.

“No Magic Here” was a narrative account of The Disney Trip From Hell, including such plot points as

  • Waiting til 5 PM to leave for a trip to Orlando, stopping for bathroom breaks and food every hour, and then getting into the villa at 1 AM!
  • Cramming 17 people into a villa!
  • My depressing waits outside every thrill ride they rode without me! (I wasn’t very daring back then)
  • Spending an entire Park Hopper day on Animal Kingdom, which we were only at for 3 hours!
  • My cousin Tiffany having her underpants stolen!
  • Fellow Girl Scout Chloe having a massive nosebleed over everyone when we went to see Festival of the Lion King!

And those are just matters of circumstance. The real pinnacle on this disastrous trip was Mrs. Christine, a weird and evil mother who did the following weird and evil things –

  • Used up all the batteries in fellow Girl Scout Danielle’s Discman.
  • Blew up tea leaves in the microwave
  • Fought with our troop leader, publicly (remembered as The Showdown at The Land), over separating the troop across multiple parks
  • Swayed two parents over to her side by buying them Disney merchandise
  • Made her daughter sleep in a closet
  • Allowed Danielle and Alyssa to separate from the group, then reprimanded them for it
  • Made my grandfather steal sugar packets from every restaurant in EPCOT so she’d have something to sweeten her coffee
  • Made another parent go on a 4AM grocery run to get creamer for her coffee.
  • Upset my mother greatly over something, but I’m still not sure *why*

There’s more to be sure, but I don’t have my notes in front of me. In hindsight, most of these are silly and petty, but the high stress environment of 17 people sharing 5 days together surely amplified things! And recounting “The Crimes of Christie” in a dramatic mock tribunal made for a swift, hilarious drive home.

I ended up making an “A” on the assignment, despite my teacher’s helpless look when I set it on her desk. I still reread it every couple of years, usually when I make my annual Disney sojourn, in hopes that no trip will ever be as bad as that one.


Throwback Thursday #5: “The Flying Chameleon Clan”

As weird as this book was, it’s still not as weird as it sounds.

When I was in 4th grade, I formed a club at recess with three other kids – Lyndsey, Tiffany, and Tristan. We called ourselves “The Flying Chameleon Clan” and devoted ourselves to reptilian welfare. This came about from 1) my desire to emulate The Babysitters Club dynamic in real life and 2) I was going through a lizard phase.

Thing is, we never actually DID anything for reptilian welfare. So I wrote a book where we did. Even more, this was a book I actually finished!

In my book, I was the leader of The Flying Chameleon Clan, and we were offered a trip to Hawaii to do some lizard research. Our group traveled to Honolulu, somehow without parents (I believe it was even a private jet). From there, we traveled by ferry to a smaller land mass called Komodo Island, which was infested with lethal Komodo dragons. The head of the research group was a man named Jonathan, and he escorted my friends and I through our daily activities. Unfortunately,  the Flying Chameleons had dangerous encounters with quicksand, man-eating lizards, and…..Jonathan himself, who turned out to be the bad guy!

I honestly don’t remember why. I think he was trying to make Komodo dragons go extinct for some reason, and he lured us to our deaths because we were doing too much to help reptiles – we stood in the way of him and his poaching. If I wrote this story now, it would probably be some Fern Gully tale of “I want the unobtanium on this island and I don’t care if I have to kill every dragon! MUAHAHAHA!”

But honestly,  I kind of dig a bad guy who’d just straight up murder some harmless 4th graders. It’d get me points for originality! (jk of course. That’s probably not cool.)

Oh there was also some romance between fiction!me and fiction!Tristan…because wish fulfillment I guess :P

Throwback Thursday #4 – “The Chronicler”

You know the influx of YA books involving gods, superpowers, and fallen angels which have emerged in the past 5-8 years? Well I thought of it first, darn it!

Just kidding. A little.

When I was 11, I worked on a book called The Chronicler. This story followed five teenagers with X-Men-like nicknames – Tempus, Striker, Soyuz, Spark, Marina – who had powers granted from “the gods.” Long long ago, the various pantheons bestowed their elemental abilities upon humans, and descendents of those humans could also manifest those abilities. Tempus had Chronos’s Gift, or the ability to stop time. Spark had Hephaestus’s gift, or fire. Marina had Posieden’s gift of water, Soyuz had Hermes’ gift of flight, and Striker had two gifts – both Hades and Zeus, light and death.

The kids start in their ordinary worlds before they’re abducted to Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters  Hogwarts  a school led by women named Bakira (Bast’s gift of shapeshifting into a cat) and Leslie (a genius with Athena’s gift of wisdom). The “chronicler” was a stone slab with marbles which allowed Leslie and Bakira to find mutants kids with pantheon abilities. Basically Cerebro.

It was a fun book to write. I got about four chapters in before some other projects distracted me, then I never returned to it. It’s obviously too derivative of X-Men, and when Percy Jackson and some other “powers from the gods” books cropped up, I shelfed it forever.

I did finish an Artemis Fowl trilogy of fanfics around that time with a similar premise, though. No, I will not link those. They are really really bad!
Note: I drafted this on Thursday but never ended up posting it. Oops! Belated TBTH!


Throwback Thursday #3 – Agent Adrenaline #TBTH

You know what every 9-year-old girl from the 90’s wanted to be when she grew up? A princess? A mom? A Barbie?

Nope. A spy.

I blame Spy Kids, actually. Or Totally Spies. Or The Powerpuff Girls. When you’re a budding writer at age 9, you do a terrible job of sorting *your* ideas from the movies and books you enjoy. Pretty much everything I wrote before I was 13 was insanely derivative and cliché. But, what can you do? Can most 9-year-olds even define ‘cliché’?

Agent Adrenaline was a story idea that I held onto for many years in childhood. It was about a girl named Liz and her best friend Jackson. Both were ordinary teenagers, until Liz lets a secret slip – she’s a spy! Jackson gets pulled into one of her missions, bumbling along like the hapless geek he is, while Liz dances through bullets and bad guys with ease.

By the time I was 10 or 11, I might have realized that it was too similar to existing works…but at least it was a BIT different. However, the nail in the coffin was Kim Possible. They are practically identical side-by-side.

Once the world knew of KP and Ron Stoppable, I officially euthanized Agent Adrenaline for good. Ultimately, I write stories that I’d like to read about. If someone else has beaten me to the punch, I happily withdraw and enjoy what they’ve created. In my mind, they’ve saved me a lot of work! I may have been disappointed to lay Agent Adrenaline to rest at the tender age of 11, but it doesn’t bother me anymore. I never actually wrote the book, which is why I have no excerpts today, so…on to the next idea!



Throwback Thursday #2: “Shanin Adventures”, or My Very First Book #TBTH

One day, when I was 6 years old, I asked my parents for some paper and a piece of cardstock. With that, I wrote my first book. My first five books, actually.

The series was called “Shanin Adventures.” It followed the travels of Tracy and Drew Shanin, twin children from Wilmington, North Carolina (where I was from) whose first adventure was to find the “biggest and most beautiful jewel in the world”…for some reason :P Along the way, they encountered a bitter anthropomorphic ice monster named Bigfoot. In later books, the kids join girls named Teresa and Trasa. Bigfoot also finds other monsters to join his side, such as Grislen, Lizard Eater, and The Devil. XD

If it sounds like Power Rangers or Big Bad Beetleborgs, that shouldn’t be a surprise. Those were my favorite TV shows at the time and they undoubtedly influenced me.

Funny enough, the actual idea for Shanin Adventures has been with me since I was 3 years old. I was so young when I came up with this story that my parents called my characters “imaginary friends.” It was a game I played with my childhood best friends, Robyn and Brandi. In the game, I was Tracy Shanin, Robyn was Teresa, and Brandi was Trasa. There was never a real counterpart for Drew. I think Drew was just my expression of how much I wanted a twin sibling. Anyway, it wasn’t until I was old enough to read and write that I bothered writing anything down.

Unlike last week’s Throwback Thursday, “The Outcasts”, which I will probably abandon as derivative and unsalvagable, Shanin Adventures has been a work in progress throughout my entire life. Some things have changed – Bigfoot is now Fri, and he’s a man reanimated from an icy grave. The world they occupy is no longer North Carolina, but a post-apocalyptic Israel. The main characters are still four siblings with (mostly) the same names. Even the “biggest and most beautiful jewel” comes into play, as the plot revolves around a mystical ruby dagger – which contains a divine shard leftover from the creation of the universe. Yes, Shanin Adventures went from a Power Rangers knockoff to a sweeping epic a la Dune that involves superpowered zombies and Kabbalah.

The original five books were written by hand when I was 6 and bound between cardstock like chapter books. I have transcribed one chapter of the first book below! For ease of reading, I have fixed the spelling and grammar (added quotations, etc). The actual story text has been unaltered.

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