The Age of Astra

I’d finally come upon my story: I saw a name and I saw a scene. Snow. Nighttime. The auroras. And then–quite literally–the sky was falling and things were falling into place.

Today began NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. It’s an annual challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in one month–and so far I’ve won each of the six years I’ve participated since 2006. It’s become something I look forward to every year, the only time I truly give myself permission to do something I love just for the sake of loving it without allowing anything–or anyone–to get in my way. It’s selfish, but cathartic: In years past, I’ve discovered the story I write becomes a time capsule capturing my life at its moment of conception.

But I’m not here to preach about why I NaNo. I’m here to start an adventure–and to bring you along for the ride.

I won’t be able to post like this every day, and surely I would much rather write my novel anyways, but I felt it was worthwhile to make a special post today to start things off.

I began writing last night–and this time, by writing, I truly do mean writing: Unlike years past when I only typed my stories, this year I’m handwriting it from start to finish. There’s a certain aside relevant to this as well:

ALL SEMESTER there’s been this handsome mini red leather padfolio in the bookstore I’ve been absolutely dying to have–but not at that price. It began about $50 and was put on clearance for $30. Knowing I wouldn’t purchase the writing pad until my marginal benefit outweighed my marginal cost, and knowing that quantity demanded must equal quantity supplied at equilibrium price, observing the constant number of items left on the shelves, I knew it would only be a matter of time until the price would be reduced further, or else the bookstore would suffer an even greater loss from unsold inventory.

My waiting was rewarded: The price was indeed reduced by an additional 31% and I got the $50 pad for $20. WIN.

In other words, taking Ecomonics has paid off–literally.

This red leather padfolio combined with a white PaperMate InkJoy pen perfectly suits my new writing environment: N.C. State, whose colors are also red and white. It’s very fitting, and I like that. Seems like the stars aligned just for me, and I like that.

So last night I brewed myself some earl grey bravo (as prepared by Adagio Teas), since it’s become tradition for me to begin every novel with a glass of earl grey. It’s rather arbitrary how it started: Back in 2006, I saw a gift box containing tea and this really cool, super big green mug that says “tea” and since I really liked it, I bought it for myself. I just so happened to use it first when I began writing my NaNo story, and being that the tea it came with was earl grey, it’s become a habit that’s stuck. I don’t think I could properly say November’s begun without a cup of earl grey. It just wouldn’t be NaNo without it.

Anyways, I wrote a little more than a page, maybe two, before the medication I’d taken knocked me out and I was done. Having had no more than a sip or two, I moved my tea to the fridge and went to bed.

This morning I woke up early (by about two hours) and after going back to sleep, my alarm didn’t wake me up, so I just barely got to class on time. After my second class, I met with my teacher to go over some of the material we’ve covered lately that I’ve been struggling to grasp intuitively, and feeling more confident after departing, I treated myself to three things: First, a pumpkin pie shake at Port City Java, because even though it was only in the mid-sixties today, it tastes awesome. Second, I took time to sit back and relax outside in the sunshine. And third, I opened my notepad and began writing. I had to have written nearly an hour before breaking, and it felt amazing.

There’s something special about writing by hand. Typing is awesome, but sometimes I feel my typing races faster than my mind, and when I write things by hand, it forces me to slow down and consider details that may never make it on the page if I were to type the story instead.

Then I spent the remainder of my time before my last class catching up with a great friend. After my last class, I went home, made my bed, watched some TV, worked on homework, and then headed to dinner–and on the way, I ran into another friend and we spent maybe twenty minutes chatting. It was great. I love friends, and I often forget how close my friends really are when I don’t get to see them regularly. But, yep, it’s true–I really have made some good friends since I moved on campus, and that’s pretty awesome.

Oh! Did I mention, after my second class this morning, someone asked me if I was wearing a NaNoWriMo shirt? It was fantastic! I wish I’d taken the time to talk with her more, but I had to rush off to speak with my teacher. I’m hoping I’ll run into her again. It’d be cool to know another State Wrimo.

Back home after dinner, I got to writing again. The story’s going well: The beginning began just as I had imagined, and Timur–my main character–discovered the dragon-like creature named ad-Astra in far more words than I had foreseen (and for NaNo, that’s always a good thing). Best of all, the story doesn’t feel forced as I write it–and I’m actually quite excited to see where it’ll go.

What’s odd is this: This whole time, I’ve figured I needed to start with the major gods, Darkness, Light, et cetera. But here I’ve started with a smaller goddess, the Keeper of the Stars, following a character from a tribe that in time will be absorbed into greater nations and all but forgotten. However, with ad-Astra in place, and the tribe’s town on the horizon, I’m beginning to see how these seemingly small characters will indeed play a great role in what’s to come–not just in this book, but in all the books to follow.

Especially in the book of Elements, the fourth book, there’s a tribe of star-folk I once called Astralians (the name’s a placeholder until I come up with something more compelling) who become the generals of an army led by the Dark God against the protagonists. These Astralians were the only survivors of a war that occurred at the dawn of our world, and it’s in the midst of this war that my story begins. The warring, first confined to the heavens, has fallen upon the earth–and who can say what chaos it will sow before the final blow is struck?

More so, there are names brewing in my mind–Bjorn, Racik or maybe Raczek–and when they arrive, I have no doubt this story will grow deeper, burrowing even further into this history I’m slowly constructing. I know for a fact that the race of dragons has yet to be born, and this too must happen somewhere in the story, for just as the Astralians become the generals in the fourth book, the dragons become the soldiers of the third book and the end-game players of the last story, so they, too, must have their creation to come.

I’ve already imagined their recipe: I just need to find the chef.

But in time, sometime in the next thirty days I would suppose, that shall be clear–and so shall a host of other matters. There are twenty-one deities in this world, and all but seven or eight have living heirs, and being descended directly from a god or goddess imbues one with some level of powers that I’ve yet to conceive for all of them–powers that, in time, become the basis of all magic and humanity. So far I’m following a character from a lesser tribe, and his powers I’ve begun to visualize but cannot yet see–and who else in this land shall I stumble upon, and which other gods shall be made privy in meeting this unseen cast?

That is, perhaps, one of the things that most compels me to write during NaNo: the wonder of what I shall find next. In normal times, I might set aside a story and return to it after the next scene makes more sense, or else it’s a smaller story that’s complete in only a sitting or two. In November I have neither option: The story will be at least 50,000 words and I don’t have the luxury of “later.” Forcing myself to write forces the story to form as the keys are struck or as the pen swings back and forth across the page, and this raw creativity, unadulterated, unfiltered, allows the very greatest sense of wonder one can experience while writing.

It fills me with such excitement I can barely sleep some nights.

But sleep is not a luxury; it is a necessity, and with classes and homework–papers and tests especially–I have not the luxury to stay up all night. That hopefully shall be no great concern, however, since there’s another benefit I had not foreseen in handwriting: I can pick up and go wherever I go. Before class begins, between classes, in those odd moments when nothing else seems possible, I can write down a paragraph or two and slowly build upon the story, piece by piece, always devoting myself to something larger than myself.

And then, in the evenings, I shall type up my pages for the day and be on my way. (It’s important to type them daily to give an actual word count to the system, and it’s a great way to make minor corrections to what I write and keep myself fresh on the entire story–except I need to make it a greater point to write legibly; while I was typing it up tonight, I was quite surprised by how many words I couldn’t discern… It startled me, actually.)

To conclude: A brief summary. I penned a total of twelve pages on the 8×5 notepad housed in my beautiful red leather folio, and upon typing it up, my total count came to 2416 words, a beautiful number. Ignoring the fact that I did expand upon a couple sentences while transferring it to type, that’s approximately two hundred words per page–much more than I had been expecting. What’s good now is that I can use this average to get a feel for how many pages I need to write each day to reach my 1667 minimum quota to complete my novel on time. That’s important, too, because in November, it really is quantity over quality–after all, the most important part of writing is rewriting, but until something’s written, you’ll never be able to rewrite it.

Additionally, my soundtrack thus far has been Nightwish’s Imaginaerum. I expect at some point to listen to their other albums, or at least Once and Dark Passion Play, and I might possibly add some Within Temptation as well; we shall see. And if my naming of ad-Astra isn’t evidence enough already, I’m almost certain I’ll have some Enya in my playlist before the month is over. I never can tell, but I’m always open to hear what’ll happen next.

I bid you a fond farewell, for now. If you’re among those adventuring with me into the world of Wrimos, I wish you the best of luck and all the endurance your wrists can muster. It’ll be a long and oft-chaotic ride, but I have a feeling we’ll make it in the end. And by then, I shall truly have walked with the stars–or at least lived vicariously through many characters who have.

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3 thoughts on “The Age of Astra

  1. I’m loving hearing you’re out there doing what you love. It seems you have a great set of idea pinned down. Keep it up, and remember: whatever it is you’re doing, what you’re doing is enough!

    • Thank you, Jorn–but you know I’m a perfectionist. I will never wholly be satisfied with just whatever I’m doing. But so far, I am loving my story–and I can’t wait to keep writing!

      • If perfecting your story is what you want to be doing, then what you’re doing is enough even so. Don’t let the occasional imperfections be an accusation to yourself; with time, it will be perfect. Eventually, you’ll get all precisely as you imagine it. I know you will. :)

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