National Novel Writing Month 2018: A dark horse re-emerges

A few days ago I was reading the NaNo Technology sub-forum because I like reading about the tech used for writing almost more than writing itself. Just typing that out I can feel the ghost of Harlan Ellison scowling over me.

Anyway, someone described but could not name a thing where words get put into a and are sized based on frequency. These are word clouds, which several other forumites helpfully named. Someone linked a site that generates word clouds based on the text you paste in, so I went looking for some text.

As there was no obvious limit on what could be pasted in, I went to the Novels folder of my All Writing – current folder and grabbed the most recent revision of my incomplete novel Weirdsmith. The site didn’t actually generate a word cloud, probably because I don’t have Java installed, and I couldn’t be bothered to pursue it further. But I looked at the incomplete draft of Weirdsmith–abandoned after only a few days–and was surprised. How can I be surprised by my own writing? I have a bad memory, apparently.

Weirdsmith has been started at least four different times:

  1. As a play. This is the closest to actually being done of the bunch and in it, Weirdsmith is a psychopath who is found injured in the woods by a young couple. He insinuates himself into their lives and things do not go well, as you might expect. This was probably 40% complete when it petered out.
  2. Novel attempt #1: This preserved the main story noted above, but as a novel and with the young couple being switched to two guys. It didn’t make it past the first scene.
  3. Novel attempt #2: This is the one that surprised me. I’ll get back to it in a moment.
  4. Novel attempt #3: This one, like #3, also changes up the story. It starts with a young man driving through a snowstorm to a new city and a new job. He crashes and is left in a weeks-long coma. My work ended just as he starts physical therapy and at a point where nothing unusual has happened.

What surprised me about #3 is that I had somehow managed to blot it right out of my mind. Re-reading it, it was at once familiar again, but it was kind of weird (no pun intended) to have so utterly forgotten about it, especially since the re-read revealed that it was not bad at all.

This one doesn’t start with a car crash or a new job, but rather an IT guy (write what you know) dealing with daily annoyances, struggling with his desire to write (write what you know) and finding little details in his life just a little off. The story hints ominously that the day is not going to end at all in a way he would like. In a rare case of recording my ideas, I actually have a note before the last (incomplete) scene:

William drives to meet a date and that is when he has the crash/finds the book—compare it to shouting “look out” to the girl and how the sequence of events leads to something happening that may not have happened otherwise [edit—or not. There may need to be more initial plot development before going straight to Magicke Book]

The Magicke Book is ill-defined, but I expected that it would somehow shape or predict events, possibly by making things written in it coming true, or something along those lines (I want to say “or words to that effect” but that would be a terrible bit of wordplay).

The other surprising part of finding this third version of Weirdsmith is how it actually grabbed me and showed promise upon re-reading it. William’s personal and private lives are both fleshed out, each with its own travails, so you immediately see a person with flaws, struggling, but seemingly decent at his core. He seems a bit hapless, and maybe deserves better.

As a result, I’m going to spend a few days trying to outline this and see where it goes. Nic suggested that perhaps after finding the book and using it as a journal, William is surprised to find other entries written in it–perhaps in response to what he is writing? Is someone or something trying to communicate with him? and why? Questions!

We’ll see how it goes, but I am thinking this may work out better than the Stage 4 cancer time travel story, which would require more research at the very least.

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