Hello and happy Wednesday!
Can you believe there are only two days left in 2020? In some ways this year has felt much longer than others, and in others it feels like it’s flown by. It seems crazy to think that 2021 is so close!
Last week, I wrote about some of my 2020 fiction projects, and what I’ve been learning from them. You can find that post here.
Last week I was about 15,000 words short of my 275,000 yearly goal. Today, I’m near 265,000, and back with the rest of what I wrote in 2020! In addition, I hope to hear about your writing adventures from this year!
One Step Away
As I mentioned last week, short stories are difficult for me. I struggle to think up story ideas that are compressed enough for a shorter work, but I believe there’s something very powerful about telling a moving story in few words. The second half of 2020, I’ve mainly focused on writing short stories, to try and gain some experience with them.
This was one of those short stories, and it was written for a challenge I did with some fellow writers. We all decided to press shuffle on our music playlists and write a short story based off the first song that started playing. I got Casting Crown’s One Step Away.
The finished story ended up a brief 5 pages, or just over 1,000 words, but I’m happy with how it turned out. The song One Step Away always reminds me of the Prodigal son in the Bible, so that’s the angle I took with my story. The ending is sweet, and it was a good exercise in creating emotion and crafting a meaningful plot without using lots of words.
To Buy a Bike
Yet another short story, and this was written during The Collaboration of Quills fundraiser I wrote about a couple months ago.1 I was blessed to join a group of writers raising money for Compassion through our collective wordcount, and in four days, we wrote over 45,000 words – almost the length of an official novel!
I personally wrote 14,815 words in those four days, and about 10,000 of them were for this short story, which was one of the works we sent to our donors as a thank-you. Technically, 10,000 words is pushing the official length for a short story, but it’s too short to be considered a novella, so… I still call it a short story, haha.
This was my very first contemporary story (set about 30 years ago, so I think it’s still considered contemporary), about a poor boy whose greatest wish is to own the red bike in his local shop. He resolves to do anything to earn the money for it, but as he gets to know an even poorer little girl at school, he realizes that some things are more important than his own wishes.
With generosity as one of the main themes of the story, it seemed fitting for a fundraiser thank-you, and it was very meaningful to write. I’d never written from a nine-year-old boy’s point of view before, and it was surprisingly fun. Something about stepping into his innocence and optimistic view of the world really resonated with me.
This was my third novel in 2020 (I wrote about the other two last week), and the prequel to my pirate novel, Cabin Girl. After reading Cabin Girl, people kept wanting to know more about the main pirate captain, and asking for more of his story. Though I originally intended for Cabin Girl to be a stand-alone novel, the Captain is my favorite character from that book, and I decided to experiment with a story centered around him.
In November, for my first time participating in NaNoWriMo2, I wrote Gills: the story of a young Moroccan man determined to escape his childhood poverty and make a name for himself by becoming captain of a prestigious ship. The only problems? His ship of choice is the most famous in the Barbary slave trade – and he’s not the only one after it.
This has been an adventure for many reasons. First of all, the challenge of writing a novel in thirty days through NaNoWriMo stretched me, physically and emotionally. The finished rough draft is about 72,000 words, and especially toward the end of the month, it was a struggle to keep going. Throughout the process, I learned to turn away my inner editor while just getting story down, use music and photo inspiration to gain motivation, and not to worry about fixing every detail now. There’s time for that in the editing stages later.
It was also the first prequel I’ve ever written. I’ve heard just about every rant and joke about prequels, and agree with a lot of them. The pressure of getting the story right, when most prequels are known for being bad has made it difficult, but I’m working hard to hopefully write one of the prequels that isn’t an abomination, haha.
And the last major challenge with Gills has been that it’s a book centered around a villain in Cabin Girl. How do you write an engaging and relatable story when the main character is not someone you’d want as a role-model? I’m still not sure, but it’s yet another aspect I’m working hard to achieve a good balance for. I don’t think adding a “kids, don’t try this at home” disclaimer would be enough.
My last complete short story of 2020! This one was written for a secret-santa short story exchange in my writing group, and I greatly enjoyed it. What’s not to like about a dry-humored college guy not receiving socks at a white elephant gift exchange, but receiving a white dragon instead? He doesn’t even like dragons in fiction, so finding out that one exists in real life doesn’t go over so well…
At just over 3,000 words, this was probably too much fun to write. The main character has the wittiest first-person character voice I’ve written yet, and it’s also my first story to involve dragons (something my secret-santa recipient likes to read about). Though it had a plot, it was also fluffier than most of my stories, which was a nice change.
Sometimes short stories can be a great way to test out an idea, and I’ll admit that this one sparked some intriguing ideas for a full-length novel… Maybe I’ll be branching into dragon fantasy some day – though it’ll have to battle some other intriguing ideas first, haha.
House Divided, Unchosen, & Martian Lily
However long 2020 has felt at times, it still hasn’t been long enough to complete all the works I’d hoped. The three titles above are the names of two novels and a short story I’ve outlined, started writing, and hope to finish them within the next year or so.
The first is a Civil War story about a family on opposite sides of the war, the second is a medieval fantasy about a princess who despises her clueless betrothed, and the third is a sci-fi about a girl who gives up her place on a space shuttle in the eve of an alien invasion.
Despite the wildly different genres, I’m excited to write all of them, as well as too many other works I’m in the process of outlining. God willing, 2021 will not be a slow writing year for me, haha. And that’s just the way I like it to be.
Well, those conclude my writing projects for 2020! I hope you’ve found what I learned from them interesting and/or helpful. I’ll be back next week (the first week of 2021!) with some of my writing goals for the new year!
In the meantime, I’d love to hear about YOUR writing! What have you been working on, and have you learned anything new in the process? Please let me know in the comments below!
1. My post about the Compassion fundraiser can be found here.