In two days the month will change from October to November when the clock strikes midnight and National Novel Writing Month will begin–and it’ll also be time for me to re-evaluate my goals for another month. November is oft a time of intense chaos, and not just because of NaNoWriMo, so I figured I’d cheat fate and make this early as opposed to late.
I’ll begin at square one: My goals for this month.
I’ll get to the nasties of NaNo after that.
First, as always is important, are my health and fitness goals–which I have been severely lacking of late, if I allow myself honest introspection. Yes, I walk around campus a good deal, and yes, I do in general eat healthier options, but I could still do better.
(As an aside, I think we can always do better, and this I feel is a fault of mine: I’m never satisfied by my own efforts, no matter how much I improve upon them–because I always know there is more I could do and higher heights I can reach for. This being recognized, I must be critical of my own analysis for my intent is to gain good habits, even great habits, but not the unattainable perfect habits I ideally would obtain. So, yes, my habits so far have been good, passable, fair–and now I’m aiming to make them better, desirable, great.)
With hydration, I’ve been drinking a lot lately, water mostly, but occasionally juices, milk, or teas. Keeping fluids flowing helps your system pass things faster, and with my mind constantly bombarded by irrational–or perhaps all-too-rational–fears of having an allergic reaction to everything I eat, keeping things passing fast is a small comfort. For this same reason I’ve also taken to eating more fiber-rich foods, which are also good for overall health and wellness regardless. However, I still indulge too much in sweets and unnecessary carbs and fried foods. I don’t need to eliminate these things altogether, but I do need to consume them with more moderation or ensure I’m balancing the additional calories with additional exercise.
When it comes to that, exercise, I have a lot of room to improve. It always seems when the semester begins, my exercise habits are admirable, but they wane as the days go on. I need to make a conscious effort to exercise at least once a week, preferably two or three times, to complement and build upon my fairly steady level of physical exertion just from walking everywhere. I need to do push-ups, pull-ups, run and swim, stretch, and on the days I can make it, join the Parkour club for a fun and challenging workout I always enjoy.
Emotionally and mentally my health couldn’t be in any greater disarray than it is right now–mostly because of all of these allergy scares I’ve had lately. It’s driving me insane, but there’s nothing I can do about it, nothing at all, other than watch what I eat and keep close tabs on any physical sensations I might have. Hopefully, I pray, something will make sense and I won’t have to live every day wondering if my next bite will be my last.
That said, I can and do need to indulge myself in these areas: I must play more music I love, to relax and center myself. I must write in my journal again, just to let my thoughts flow freely and to remove the stress that I hold onto without realizing it, the stress that I can only purge through the written word. And I must sleep, sleep to dream, sleep to rest, and most importantly, sleep enough each night I can rise feeling rested and invigorated for another new day.
And if I can do each of these things, I have no doubt I’ll be working toward being in the best shape of my life–mentally and physically–and that’s where I want to be.
So then comes my November goal: NaNoWriMo.
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it explicitly here or not, but my novel this year is special for two reasons. First is that I plan to write this year’s story entirely by hand–or rather, my intent is to write during the day by hand and type everything up, expanding upon it where necessary, when night falls. Second, this story is the next book in my mythology–the story I hope to make my literary legacy.
This mythology of mine has five great books. The first, also the smallest, recounts the instance of creation itself. I’ve written two complete stories telling this tale, each slight retellings of the other, a symbiotic whole that can just barely capture the magnificence I imagine in this celestial moment, and in time I intend to write a more epic, poetic recounting of these events. But that element is for another day–since as I’ve foreseen it, it shall be more than a mere poem, but an entire prophesy of the entire mythology, and I can only compose that when all else is written.
So, with my work on Creation categorically complete for the time being, this month I’m moving onto Book Two: The Gods.
In years past, I’ve usually had a great idea of my NaNo story from early October with a rough outline in my mind of where I’ll begin and where I’ll end–and the adventure is finding how these two points connect. This year is different: I don’t know where I’m beginning, I don’t know where I’m ending, and all I do know is the period in which my story is placed–a period linking Creation to the Immortals, the players of the third book, which I wrote in an early form some eight to ten years ago. (The writing is atrocious, but the story is mostly complete.)
So in a manner of speaking, I know the moment before I begin and the moment after I’ll end–but this is an open interval and there’s an infinite number of points I could pounce upon to proceed.
I have vague ideas. There’s a war between celestial beings that features somewhat prominently in later sections of the mythology, and since this is the Book of Gods, I feel the gods should of course have their rightful place as key figures in the story–but how can I write stories from the perspectives of the gods themselves? Given what I’ve already composed about them, such a story would be trite, forced, too much emulation and not enough new creation.
I also lack a central conflict. I have characters–but no conflict. And there isn’t a story without conflict.
I thought for a few days last month the key in moving forward would be to dissect the world at the end of this period into the tribes I know will form and then writing the book in three parts, each devoted to each of the tribes as a personal retelling of their local folklore and histories. However, this would fail on account of the shared origin of these tribes and also because it would border on the textbook, not the fantastic. As swiftly as this idea arose, it crashed.
Then the other day I stumbled upon a name: Timur.
And a moment: He’s shaken awake when the sky begins to fall.
Then I stumbled through a slideshow of spooky words and when it spoke of “berserk,” another name cried out to me: Bjorn.
And in this name I felt another story brewing somewhere inside it.
It occurred to me that in the Greek and Roman myths, the gods were rarely ever the main protagonists–they were there, always there, but there were players through which we learned about them, faces through which we were brought into the embrace of the gods. This same structure was used in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians books, which I adored reading, and I think it’s the approach I must take with this story as well: I cannot write from the perspectives of the gods themselves, but this first age is marked by the presence of gods and humans intermingling, and it’s at the interfaces of these parties where this story must naturally arise.
I was making my way back home today when I made the most important realization of all: I must focus not on the mythology, but upon the man.
What makes any story great is the character we get attached to, not the universe in which he lives. Think of Harry Potter–we love Harry, Hermione, and Ron, but the conflict that brings them together falls away when we realize we only care about their story, not the general story of good versus evil. Or the Lord of the Rings: We fall in love with Frodo and Sam, Legolas, Gimli–not because they’re enraptured in a battle for Middle Earth, but because we get to know them, we get to feel them, we get to be their friends as they fight to survive.
If I can capture the man, I’ll capture the myth.
As soon as I realized this, things became clearer. I could begin to see some structure in my forthcoming story. It will, in fact, be another collection of stories, but they’ll intertwine and intermingle in ways I can’t yet discern. I know also that there are a few major points of history I’ll be writing in, starting with Timur and the celestial war and continuing to the birth of the great founders who set the stage for the third book. And all these other nuanced details I know, these essays about culture and religion and language I’ve written, they’ll be stuffed in my appendices for all the nerds like me to read–but the story, the story itself will be able to stand by itself.
So… Will you join me on these new adventures?