I Won Camp(!) + Discussing Battle Song’s Problems & Positives + Too Much Parenthetical Commentary

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Photo by samsommer on Unsplash–thank you!

Okay, so my Camp NaNoWriMo goal was less than any other NaNo goal I’ve had in the 4.5 years I’ve done it (only 20,000 words). But it’s been over a year since I won a NaNoWriMo event, so just winning felt awesome and like I could do amazing things.

Screenshot 2017-08-01 at 4.16.21 PMLook at my lovely chart…. Clearly, I did not do very well during the first half of the month (partly because I went on vacation for an entire week), but I pulled in by the very last day. (Go procrastination!) Not quite as awesome as the NaNo where I wrote 12K the last day to win, but still pretty great.

Also, this draft (rewrite?) is turning out much better than the first one–and also very different. It’s become more emotional (I hope) and a lot more centered on war and fighting and the results of that/how that affects people. But also still about family and religion and love and all of that fun stuff. (Not sure if I told you this, but there’s an actually semi-decent synopsis/blurb on the Battle Song page! *nudges you to check it out*)

But there’s still some stuff that I have yet to figure out. My biggest problem right now is figuring out what exactly Amrya traded with the sea witch. You see, the whole idea of this novel came about from the idea that the little mermaid traded in her beauty instead of her voice. But then…that didn’t work. It didn’t affect the story at all because it’s not about beauty or about a society that really cares about beauty.

So then I decided that she was going to trade out her fighting skills, but that didn’t work because when I began writing this second draft, Amrya’s personality changed a bit. Rather than liking being a warrior, she hates fighting and killing but feels honor-bound to do it. So giving up her fighting skills was not going to challenge her enough.

When I wrote the scene between her and the sea witch, I had her trade some heartscales, which are like tokens of war + mer currency, which worked but also doesn’t affect her after she becomes human.

Now I’m wondering, should I just have her lose her voice like the original? It would better follow the original fairy tale narrative, and I think I can make it work and still have decent character development, but I still don’t know if it will affect her enough. The story isn’t about not being able to communicate; it’s about not wanting to fight. And though having her lose her voice could work, I’m afraid that it’ll detract from the point I’m trying to get across.

(What is that point? you may ask… Well, probably something along these lines: life has value + war is sometimes necessary + family is important + faith + true love and friendship + something else maybe? But that’s what it seems like it’s heading toward.)

So…what do you think? Do you think that it’s okay to have her not trade anything that really affects her (considering that the part that really affects her is that she has to marry one specific person)? Should I have her lose her voice at the risk of it sounding like it was just put there because of the original fairy tale or would it work because it’s from the original fairy tale? Or maybe she just loses it partly (like only the magic part or only for a certain amount of time)? Or do I need to find something else entirely that would make it hard? I don’t know, but I just really need someone’s opinion besides my own.

Okay, we’ve talked about my issues with Battle Song; what about the good parts? Well, there are actually quite a few.

1. The mer culture decided it wanted to be something different and it was awesome. Like, it’s still the same basic warrior clan idea thing, and there’s still a lot I have to develop more fully, but there’s magic that’s awesome and relates to singing! (Points for reference to the little mermaid’s voice being important.) And I kind of figured out why they’re fighting…which kind of leads to the next point.

2. The big problems with the mers got figured out and incorporated into the plotline! The problems were:

  • Where did the mers come from?
  • Why don’t they have immortal souls while the humans do?
  • Why are they always fighting?
  • And I also figured out why the humans are fighting, so points for that too!

And I can’t tell you the answers (because spoilers) but they’re pretty great and are actually important to the plot.

3. The minor character becomes more important. So in the original, after the little mermaid saves the prince, some girls from a convent/temple find him and he thinks one of them was the one to rescue him (and the little mermaid can’t tell him otherwise because she can’t talk). Of course, he thinks he’ll never see her again (she is in a convent, after all), but–surprise! Turns out she’s a princess from a neighboring kingdom, just put there to learn “every royal virtue.” And then the prince falls in love with her and the little mermaid turns into seafoam and that’s the end.

Anyway, this princess (Malena is her name) made a brief appearance in the first draft of Battle Song, but she becomes much more important in this draft. Not only as the character from the original fairy tale but also as Amrya’s friend and the one who introduces her to the religion of the island (which I just now realize should probably get a name). And I wrote a scene with her yesterday and I learned some deep stuff about her and she’s a great character.

So yes, I have been having fun with it (despite all of the struggles)! Somehow I doubt I will finish this first draft before the end of summer…but I do want to keep writing every day and make this story as awesome as it can be!


let’s talk!

How much do you think I should write this August? 30K? More/less? And please help me and give me some advice for what Amrya should trade! (Or at least commiserate with me and offer me chocolate?) And what did you write for Camp NaNo (if you did)? How did it go? And have you ever read the original little mermaid fairy tale, and what did you think of it and its ending?

Also I hope you enjoyed the rambling because I did and I will probably ramble more about stuff in Battle Song, hehe.

Spotlight #3: Yay, Battle Song Excerpts!

Today you shall behold wonders.

You shall behold first-draft, unedited, totally fabulous excerpts from my NaNoWriMo novel.

You shall behold that there was great sarcasm in that last sentence. Although, I will only be including my favorite excerpts, so maybe there will be some fabulous bits in there…we’ll see.

So, quick review if you weren’t around, since I still haven’t made a page for Battle Song yet: Little Mermaid retelling where she trades her beauty instead of her voice, is trying to get an immortal soul, is fabulous at fighting, and there are two adorable princes. Got it?

Great. Let’s get to the excerpts, then! Just be forewarned that they may be random and confusing…



“Have you seen the beauty of the ocean? Have you seen the rippling of the sand and the swaying of the seaweed? Have you seen the fish swimming past you in schools, close enough to touch? Have you seen the light streaming through the water and the bubbling of the currents? Have you seen the deep blue that grows so dark light cannot penetrate? These are sights that no human has ever seen. We come here to experience the beauty for a short time, even if it ends sooner than not.”


She [Alavar] bit her lip. I knew it even though I couldn’t see, because that’s what she did whenever she was worried about something. “There was a battle, and you were gone.”

“I…why did we attack them?”

“We didn’t. They attacked us.”

My heart froze as I thought of the implications. “But there wasn’t a storm.”

“That doesn’t matter anymore. Now all that matters is keeping us safe, which means staying together. We needed you there—Tarisah got hurt, badly.”

“Where is she?” I was suddenly frantic. Tarisah, my sister, hurt. I had to find her, had to apologize for not being there, for not protecting her. She was the third youngest, but she’d always been smaller than either I or Kariven. Always the weakest, always the one who needed to be protected, and I hadn’t been there to fight the other mers off.

“That’s not fair,” I said, as I followed Alavar out of the hut and into the blackened ocean. “They’re not supposed to do that. They’re not allowed to.”

She laughed softly, derisively. “You think that matters to them? Now, it doesn’t matter. We’ll have to be on the watch all the time, night and day, on all sides, waiting for attacks from anyone. You think our clan will survive? No. Not us. We lost all power and authority the day Mother died.”


“No, Alavar, you don’t get it. You don’t understand. You think I’m like you–you think I’m like everyone else! I try to be, but it just doesn’t work. I fooled you, but I can never fool myself. I hate fighting. I want to explore. I want to try new things. But you all expect me to be the same and I’m just not!”

She swam back from me slightly, as if my words had physically pushed her away. “What are you talking about?”

“I hate fighting. I never liked it. But I did it because everyone expected me to. I did it because it felt like my only option. And now, my only option is to stay here and be sentry because maybe then someone will trust me again and think I’m a normal mer instead of who I actually am.”

She didn’t say anything, so I kept talking. “You want to know why I spent so much time practicing how to fight? I did it because that’s what Mother and I always fought about. Maybe I thought that learning how to be a warrior would bring her back, but it never worked because she’s just seafoam and I’ll never get to see her again and tell her—” My voice broke suddenly, clogged up so much that I couldn’t speak. “Tell her how sorry I am.”


“She will share her magic with you, but for an exorbitant price, far more than one wants to pay. But she teases it out of you, hiding everything she can with half-truths. She’ll tell you she’s mended her ways, she’ll say that she only wants the best for you, but what she really wants is the best from you. It’s said she’ll steal your tail from you if you’re not paying attention.

“Down in the darkness of the deepness of the ocean she dwells, waiting for any unwary sea creature to come her way, into her grasp. Some are lured in by visionary sights; others choose to bargain. Only those who come knowing what they want manage to leave again at all, but you can never really escape.”


Her [the sea witch’s] voice became soft now, rippling through the water like how the wind caused ridges in the water and the sand. “I know what you want, Amrya, more than you do. I can see into you, to your deepest desire, the reason why you came here. Do you want to know why you are here?”

My heart was already broken; I had no idea why I would have come, so I uttered an emotionless “Yes.”

“You are here because you want to be human. You are here because you have to cling to something and that something is a soul. You want to last longer. Haven’t you thought to yourself that you wanted to be human? When Alavar laughed at that, you wanted to show her that she was wrong. She is, Amrya. There is more beauty up there that you will never see if you stay here your entire life, and all of it will last so much longer. There is no sea up there to decay the houses, nothing to wash away all the life you have known. The human world is so much more permanent than ours, and that is why you want to go.”


After I’d exhausted my spears for the fifth or sixth round, I went to go pick them up. I bent to grab one, and when I stood up, a man was standing there, holding out two of the spears I’d thrown to me. I squinted at him, at the light blond hair, the plain clothing, and then I remembered where I’d seen him before: talking to the prince on the riverbank the day of the fireworks.

“Thank you,” I said, after staring at him for a moment, and took the spears into my arms.

“What’s your name?” he asked, a glint of surprise in his blue eyes…blue just like Alavar’s.

“Amrya,” I replied, picking another spear off the ground, and waited for him to respond with his name, but he never did. Instead he grabbed the last spear, handed it to me, and walked back the thirty-or-so paces to where I had been throwing with me.

“Where did you learn to use a spear like that?” he asked.

I wasn’t sure how to answer. The way he asked it implied that this wasn’t how he normally saw spears being used…either that, or he thought it was impressive and also rare. Either way, saying anything specific might give something odd away. “My mother taught me.”

He looked at me even more oddly than before. “Your mother? So do all the women in your family do it?”

I nodded. “I have five older sisters.”

He looked at me in surprise again, and I wondered if he would ever look at me normally. “And they all can throw spears like that?”

I shrugged. “More or less.”


“What are your plans, then, for your future?” he [the king] pressed.

Before I had time to even think about answering, Aeren put his glass down on the table, a little harder than necessary. “Amrya has just been in a shipwreck that took the lives of her loved ones. Do you expect her to have an immediate plan for her future? She’ll figure everything out, I’m sure, but she needs time, not more stress than she already has.”

“Calm down, Aeren,” said the queen. “We’ll talk about this after dinner.”

Aeren still looked angry with his parents, but his spine, which had stiffened during his outburst, relaxed slightly.


I judged the situation cautiously. I was supposed to be nice to him [Rhys], to try to get him to fall in love with me, but I couldn’t help be a little bit annoyed with him. “You enjoyed that, didn’t you?”

“What?”

“Playing with them. Lying to them.”

He raised an eyebrow and looked at me coolly. “I’m not the one who should be talking about lying.”

I looked away, at the dancing, but I didn’t really focus in on it. “What did you tell Aeren?”

“Why does it matter to you whether he believes you or not? I thought I was the one you were trying to impress. You’re just like all those other girls. You only want the crown prince in order for my money, or worse, to become queen. Or, alternately, you could be a spy from Althair who merely heard about the story of the mysterious girl who saved me from the ship.”

“I’m not a spy, and I’m not like the other girls.” I looked at him levelly and gathered the courage I had. “I told you the truth when I said I was the one who saved you. The only reason I told Aeren differently is because you didn’t believe me, so I knew he wouldn’t.”

Rhys returned the same gaze. “I don’t know whether I should trust you or not.”


We walked in silence for a long moment, both of us looking out at the ocean and the sunset as the light died and drifted into darkness. The palace glowed with faint, yellow light, and we headed toward it. “When are you planning to go back to Althair?” asked Aeren suddenly.

“I do not know yet. I’m not sure. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to go back.” No, I knew that. I was a human now, forever, and there wasn’t a way to go back. Either I would stay a human into the eternities, or I would turn into seafoam as soon as Rhys was married.

“You can stay as long as you need, of course. But my father is already impatient…he wants to know why you’re here. He thinks you’re a spy for Althair. A girl just happens to show up at the brink of war, claiming to be shipwrecked, just happening to be taken in by the royal family…he thinks it’s too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence.” He looked at me and his eyes met mine. “You’re not a spy, are you?”

“No. I’m not a spy.” I might have lied about where I came from, but I was not a spy from Althair. It would have been a simple plan, though, had it been so.

“But if war did break out…you would be an Althairian in Sannave. My father doesn’t think that safe, especially because of your training in the spear.” His voice was unsure, and I could tell in his eyes that he wanted me to confirm.

“My heart lies in the ocean,” I whispered. “I have no desire to fight anyone.”

“I believe you.”


Alavar’s voice was more bitter than I’d expected. “Is it everything you’d imagined? Did you find what you were looking for, away from your family?”

“Not yet,” I said quietly, not wanting to confront her, not when I could still preserve our relationship. I didn’t want to lose her like I had Mother.

“I told you blood was stronger than anything else. You won’t find it. You”—her voice broke—“won’t find it and you’ll die.”

I reached out a hand, as if to hold hers, but she wouldn’t come any closer to shore. “I’m sorry, Alavar,” I said. “I really am.”

“If you were sorry, you wouldn’t have ever gone. You would have stayed with us, and this wouldn’t have happened.” She motioned to the stormy ocean, the clouds above that were threatening rain. “It’s chaos down there, Amrya. I don’t know what’s happening. I escaped here because this was the only place I could think of to go. I don’t know where anyone is or even if everyone is alive. The war began and there was singing, but so much of it. As if all the clans were singing, all of them are fighting now. I don’t know if it’ll ever die down, but I can’t find anyone.”

“Alavar…” I whispered, too shocked to say anything else. My breath was caught in my throat. It was hard to think, hard to think about what it was like down there in the darkness. “No.”

“You would’ve been able to fight them off. You would have saved us, at least kept us together. You could have made everything all right, but you weren’t there.” Her tone was as biting as the rain that had just started, splattering against me in tiny drops that stung against my skin. I was already wet, so I bent down and knelt in the water, where I could reach out and just touch the tips of Alavar’s fingers when she reached out her hand.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, and tears rolled down my cheeks just as the rain did. “I don’t know what to do.”

“There’s nothing you can do. You just stay there and try to get your prince to fall in love with you so that you can stay human forever. I…I don’t even know why I came.”

“Because you miss me?” It was more a question than a statement, one that I needed confirmation to.

I thought I saw tears in her eyes. “Because I miss you.”



Can you see why I love this novel so much? Okay, maybe you can’t. I mean, I didn’t even include any of the shippy parts with Aeren and Amrya and the fruit. (Which is great.) But even though I can’t say that all of it is that well-written (these are the best I could find), I love my characters and my plot so much, and maybe in this Spotlight you got to see a tiny piece of that.

7 Lessons I Learned from Losing NaNoWriMo

HELLO ALL OF YOU! 😀 I know I’ve been gone for a long time, and I’ve hardly posted, but I really do want to get back into blogging at least once a week, if not twice a week like I used to do before.

So this November I participated in NaNoWriMo (as I’m sure many of you did also), writing my novel, Battle Song, and I didn’t win. My goal was 50,000, and I only got 37,509 words, which I’m still pretty proud of. But despite that, I think I learned the most from this NaNoWriMo, the one I’ve lost, than from any of the others, so I’m going to share some of those lessons with you (along with some pictures I took, since I was in the mood for photography)!

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Lesson #1: Manage Your Time

This is probably the most important lesson for winning NaNoWriMo in general. If you can stay on track and write the specific 1667 words a day, then you’ll win! Obviously, I didn’t do this. Not only was I busy some of the days, but the other days I procrastinated instead of writing and my time slipped away from me.

The NaNoWriMo goal for 50,000 words is created for a person who actually has a normal life, and there really was enough time for me to be able to do it…I just didn’t. So, yet another reminder that I need to figure out how to spend my time wisely. 🙂


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Lesson #2: Get Enough Sleep

First of all, let’s just admire my adorable little stuffed puppy! Isn’t she so cute?

This was a problem I had, and still have, whether or not it’s NaNoWriMo. Around 9 p.m., I lose motivation to do anything, be it writing or homework or even taking a shower. I would force myself to stay awake, telling myself I needed to write, but I learned that if I waited, I got nothing done, and not only that, I was even more tired the next day.

The biggest lesson I learned from this was really just to go to bed and do better tomorrow instead of stressing about doing it tonight.


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Lesson #3: Love Your Characters

It was about halfway through November, and I decided that I needed to figure out what was going on in my novel, because I’d written less than 10,000 words. Since the walls in my room are mostly full, I decided that I would tape papers and stuff about my characters and plot on my window, just for fun.

I started off by describing my main character, Amrya il Osamarii, and the things she learns by the end of the book. As I elaborated more on the scenes that caused this, I found that I loved her even more than I ever had before. She is so amazing.

After that, I worked on my two adorable princes and how each one of them affected her. (Also, I finally gave them names, hehe. The older one is named Rhys and the younger one is named Aeren.) I also had the cutest dream about Aeren and Amrya and how truly Aeren loved her and wanted to make her happy, and so after that I was sort of fangirling over my characters and it made it so much easier to write the story.


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Lesson #4: Love Your Story

After developing my characters, this step sort of fell into place. I loved my story because of my characters, and I loved my characters because of their story. I think this is such an important thing to remember during NaNoWriMo, to love your story, because if you don’t, nothing is going to happen.

But when you love your story, when you create characters you squee over, when you write in fairy tales and wars and adorable princes because that’s what you love to write about, that’s when the words start coming, and that’s when your story becomes so much better because of the love you’ve put into it.


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Lesson #5: Have Fun with It

This lesson is so important during NaNoWriMo! If you don’t have fun and have a positive attitude, then you’re not going to enjoy the entire month of November, stressing instead of writing. Instead, you have to find ways to have fun. Maybe for you, that means adding inside jokes into your writing or creating characters who make really great jokes. For me, this month, the fun things I did were to tape things on my window and do all of my story development in a rainbow array of Sharpies, not to mention writing scenes that were enjoyable and amusing to me.


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Lesson #6: Be Messy

It can be really hard to let yourself be messy. It was hard for me. I’d been working on revising and planning instead of drafting before NaNo started, so when it did, I was still in the mindset that everything I wrote had to be good. Writing became stressful, and it was really hard, especially when I didn’t know what was coming next.

It wasn’t until I finally allowed myself to be messy, that I told myself it truly didn’t matter  if this draft was terrible, that I began to write as fast as I had during previous NaNos, and even beat some of my own records for writing speed.

Being messy lets you have freedom. Instead of trying to constrict yourself to only writing things well, you can let yourself go…and that’s really when the creative juices start to flow. Sometimes the messiest passages are where you find glimpses of the best writing you’ve ever done.


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Lesson #7: Challenge Yourself

Let’s be honest, NaNoWriMo is a challenge, one that sometimes seems impossible. And setting yourself to an impossible, or even a possible, standard is scary. It’s frightening to think that you might not make it, but you know what? When you challenge yourself, you will write more than you can possibly imagine.

I had two days left of NaNoWriMo and 25,000 words left to write. I doubted I would win, but I kept going anyway. I gave myself as much time to write as I could, and by the end of NaNoWriMo, I kept typing away, ending up with 37,500 words, almost 13K more than I would have written had I given up two days away from the end.

So, I learned to challenge myself, to reach for the moon and land among the stars.


Tell me, if you did NaNoWriMo, how did it go? What did you write about? What lessons have you learned from doing NaNo or just from writing in general? And, lastly, what’s been going on in all your lives? It’s feels like ages since I’ve talked to any of you and I want to know how everyone is doing!