Finishing My Book

Several months back, I mentioned I’ve been writing a pseudo-Victorian novel for 3 years.  I talked about the literary inspirations and characters – not to compare my writing with such greats (hardly that!), but to give you a gist of what the story’s like.

April is Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and my plan is to make a final push to finish the rough draft. (I know, I said that in November, but work life had other plans. ) 

Would any of you be interested in reading the rough draft?  By “rough,” I mean lightly edited and fully readable.  However, because I wrote it for NaNoWriMo (word-count marathon), some parts are overly wordy and others parts are admittedly corny.  😛

It’d be quite motivating for me to complete the ending if there were readers waiting for it.  More importantly, I’d be grateful for your comments, especially honest, constructive criticism.  At this point, I’ve spent so much time with this project, it’s lost much of its sentimental value, so I’m eager and ready for other perspectives.

The only qualification is you must be a current, regular follower of the blog (i.e. someone I recognize) and promise not to copy/plagiarize/publish/share the story in any way, with anyone else.  That’s it!  Also, there is no deadline or commitment for “when to read” or “how much feedback to give”…it’s totally up to you, and there’s no obligation to finish it, either.  (I would hate for anyone to struggle through it; I’d rather hear at what point you stopped reading it and why. :))

If you’d like to participate, please:

  • Leave a comment
  • Send me a message using the Contact Form (left sidebar), with your name and the email you’d like to be contacted with.  Your email won’t be shared with anyone, including other readers.

You’ll receive a PDF file of the story serially (about 5 chapters weekly), for about 6 weeks starting in April.  The complete draft will be about 300 pages.

No pressure to join, but let me know if you’re interested!

Reading, watching, and writing updates

Reading
Something not immediately evident from this blog is that I’m a recent “fan” (for lack of a more precise word) of Soren Kierkegaard‘s writings.  His book Works of Love changed my life in 2016, but being so profound in topic, it was not a book I felt comfortable writing a review on.  I did review Fear and Trembling, though once again, not delving too deeply as I felt myself inadequate of completely analyzing it. 

I approach philosophy as outsider, not from the “ground up,” so many cross-references are a bit lost on me.  However, there’s something addictive about Kierkegaard in particular that makes the struggle worthwhile.  It’s like listening to the ramblings of a friend who would be incredibly obnoxious if he weren’t so incredibly brilliant, even obviously to outsiders like me.   


The Concept of Anxiety has sat on my bookshelf for a while.  Right now I’m going through a great deal of anxiety (though not the worst I’ve ever experienced, by any means), and it just seemed like the time to read it. 

I can tell you right now I will not be reviewing this book, because once again, it is a bit over my head.  Actually, this is the toughest book of his I’ve read.  I don’t know if it’s the translator or the material itself, but it makes Works of Love and Fear and Trembling seem simplistic by comparison. 

Anyways, as far as I can discern, Kierkegaard’s theme here is multi-layered, but one motif that stands out to me is the idea that anxiety preceded original sin. Maybe “uncertainty” would be a better word for this context.  Really what he’s suggesting is that Adam experienced “the anxious possibility of being able [to sin]” (p. 54) before he ever actually committed sin.  This is equated to freedom or free will.

And that is the simplest takeaway I can offer from this book, thus far.  (I’m over halfway.)

Watching
The other day, I rewatched Horatio Hornblower: Duty (2003), finishing out my campaign to introduce the series to my brother. 

I’d remembered this as my least favorite episode of the eight-episode series, which follows the early career of a Royal Navy officer in the Napoleonic Wars.  Rewatching it much later, I realized it’s not a weak film per se, simply misplaced as the final episode in the series (its being the final episode is clearly unplanned, if the screenplay is any indication). 

The trouble with Duty is that it shows all the faults of a protagonist we’ve come to admire, with minimal distraction to offset the painful human interactions.  Hornblower has never been particularly deft at “soft skills,” but here he’s rather abysmal for nearly the whole ninety minutes, whether he’s (mis)communicating with Maria, his loyal wife, or managing his unwanted political passengers.

On the other hand, if this had merely been the middle episode of a longer series, I think its focus on Hornblower’s faults would be seen as the middle of a character arc, as opposed to somewhat of a letdown.  In fact, trying to forget it was the ending to the series, I could actually appreciate the human drama. 

In other news – I’ll be picking up the extended editions of The Hobbit from the library today.  Haven’t seen them yet, so looking forward to binge-watching them over the weekend (or maybe next weekend).

Writing
By NaNoWriMo standards, I’m quite a bit behind, but my goal is not to reach 50k this year, just to finish my novel.

The trouble I’m having now is that I just finished a major scene but had forgotten I had an outline for it (sigh).  So I either need to rewrite/extend the scene or try to move on without those additional plot twists.

My gut feeling is to move on because I’m starting to get novel fatigue – I have been working on this for three years, so at this point it might be wise to get right to the ending and fill in details later.

My NaNoWriMo Inspiration

Thanks to all who expressed interest in my NaNoWriMo project!  The challenge officially starts at midnight, tonight, but I probably will start tomorrow afternoon.  My goal is not necessarily to reach 50k words, but to finish my long-running novel in progress.

Tales of Calantha is the code name for the novel – a story that originated in my head about ten years ago and which I’ve been seriously writing for the past couple of years.  Lately I’ve described it as half-spoof, half-serious combination of different Victorian tropes and themes, especially from Gothic novels. 

In this post, I thought it would be fun to go over different elements of the story and some real Victorian novels that inspired it.

Setting

Brimshaw – Inspiration:  Thornfield Hall from Jane Eyre
An old house situated on a cliff in an isolated forest.  Inside, it’s a mishmash of Baroque architecture, collectibles, and curiosities…plus the obligatory secret passage! 

The Conservatory – Inspiration: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Abandoned, overgrown, and dangerously derelict, the conservatory is a character in itself.  You don’t really know what (or who) you’re going to meet.

The Exposition – Inspiration: The real-life Great Exhibition as portrayed in North and South (2005 adaptation)
This festive event and technology expo brings together an ensemble of characters into sort of a “calm before the storm.”  Things get kind of Dostoyevskian here, with plenty of inner (or outward?) monologues and dramatic encounters.  Good times.

Characters

Sylvia – Inspiration: N/A
Eccentric and complex, Sylvia grew up ostracized from society due to her family’s misfortunes, then became an unexpected heiress.  Her wealth becomes a double-edged sword, surpassing even the best of intentions.

September – Inspiration: The quintessential Victorian narrator, e.g. Watson or Walter Hartright from A Woman in White
He’s well educated, well meaning, and – like all good first-person narrators – just a little bit nosy.  September has always been close to his cousin Sylvia and, after some harrowing events, begins to grow concerned for her safety.

Nicholas – Inspiration: T. E. Lawrence
A decorated colonel in disguise, Nicholas is tasked with intelligence gathering for a neighboring superpower nation.  He meets Sylvia almost by accident.

Julian – Inspiration: All the Byronic heroes, starting with Mr. Rochester
In terms of origin, Julian is one of the oldest of the characters (villains usually are).  While maintaining an outward moral high ground, he’s really a scoundrel who will do whatever it takes to get what he wants.

Plot

I don’t want to give away the plot, but I can say that Verne, Hawthorne, and (of course) the Brontes figure heavily in the inspiration for it. There’s a voyage, a natural disaster, some strange events, and plenty of conflict on the personal and societal levels. 

I’ll be honest, I still don’t know precisely how it ends, just some of the scenes.

Mood
I went all classical for last year’s soundtrack, and it’s still a good one.  You can listen to it here.