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.

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5 Random Updates

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I should make all my headers like this…it took me about three minutes. Then again, it’s rather uncreative. But it works in a pinch when you’re tired and want to go to bed.

Well, some of them are random, anyway. They’re less random and more rambly. I should’ve called it 5 Rambly Updates. So, I don’t know what to post about but I decided I should probably post before I leave on hiatus for a little bit.

So randomness/ramblyness (rambliness?) ensues.

#1: Update on Blogging & Hiatus

Okay, this isn’t random, really. But I’m going to be gone next week. *nods* And maybe longer than that because I don’t know what to blog about if I’m not writing regularly. And I haven’t been writing regularly. *hides in shame*

Also, I now have over 100 followers! Thank you, everyone, for reading. It means a lot that you read and (hopefully?) enjoy my blog!

#2: Update on Life

I’ve been thinking a lot about college and stuff and whyyy does it cost so much? Some days it seems so far away and I’m like, “Oh, I’ll just not worry about it,” and other days I’m so overwhelmed and I feel like I’ll never be ready. (I spend a lot of time between two conflicting emotions like that.)

I also don’t want to think about school, so I haven’t started my summer homework. And I have been procrastinating a lot recently. It’s a problem.

I read around 20 books in June…some have yet to see the light of a goodreads review, though. But I’m working on that. Actually, I’m reading rather than writing reviews. Probably not a good thing, but I’ll get around to them sometime.

#3: Update on Self Growth

Hm. Hopefully I’m not getting any taller, but I think I am getting better as a person. More or less. I don’t really know. I’ve been praying to have more charity, and it’s helped, but then I also have days where I get frustrated and take it out on everyone around me.

And I complain way too much. Any ideas? Say two things positive after every complaint?

#4: Update on Musicality

After all, this blog is called The Music of Words. So, what musicking have I been up to? Not much. I’ve been taking voice lessons but I haven’t practiced much since my last one…eep. So I know my voice is probably getting worse as I sit here, not singing.

But I’ve been playing the piano recently, not practicing, but at least playing. Mostly as a form of escapism from the world. I can’t escape through singing…it’s too much of me, I think. I know people hear it and they hear me. But when I play the piano, they hear the music and I hear the music, and I don’t have to worry about improving my voice or how I breathe or that I miss a few notes. I just play.

#5: Update on Writing

*sigh*

Yep, that’s a pretty good description on it’s own. Lots of sighing. Lots of glaring at myself in the mirror (and at my characters if I feel like it). Basically, I haven’t been writing much even though I’ve had time to, and that just makes me feel all guilty inside. Grrrrr.

Plus, Camp NaNo? Ha! Especially since I’m going on hiatus. I’m going to lose again. And it’s because I’m too lazy to write.

But I have made some progress on Battle Song! I’m at a grand total of 8,570 words so far and I’m having a lot of fun exploring the world and some of the magic of the world. (The mers can do magical stuff through singing, which is so fun to play around with. And traumatize Amrya with.)

I want to talk to you about it! Though I’m not entirely sure what to talk about…what do you want to hear about? Characters? Plot? Setting? A Spotlight with an excerpt or snippets? What I’m struggling with? I don’t know, you tell me what you want to hear. I’ll try to oblige, unless inspiration suddenly strikes…


Alrighty, there’s my updates & basically my tired, late night version of a monthly wrap-up post. (What happened to the Dares? I don’t know. I would still like to do them, but the posts took a long time to write, and I never seemed to accomplish much.)

Anyway, how have you been? Any updates you want to share with me? Tell me how your writing is going or what thoughts have been on your mind lately during life. Do you play an instrument or sing? How do you feel about music?

Progress is Progress (a Music + Writing Post)

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It’s all too easy to get discouraged and down on ourselves when it doesn’t seem like we’re progressing: in writing, music, and life in general. In whatever we do, no matter how old or experienced we are, there are days–or even weeks or months–in which we feel like we’re getting nowhere, despite our hard work.

I started taking voice lessons last summer, in June or July, and since then I have learned so many new things. But just a few weeks ago, I felt awful. I didn’t want to practice or sing or do anything with to my voice at all. It felt like I hadn’t progressed at all. We’d been working for weeks and weeks trying to get some vibrato to come into my voice, and it wasn’t coming. I felt like I was trying my best and getting nowhere.

When I went to my voice lesson that next Monday, my voice teacher told me that my mom had talked to her and told her a little bit how I was feeling. For a little bit, I felt a bit betrayed that my mom would tell her something like that, but now, I’m really glad about what she did.

My voice teacher asked what was wrong, and, amidst a lot of tears, I told her how I’d been feeling.

“[Lana], every one of my students comes to me and tells me that they don’t feel like they’re progressing. Especially the students like you, who have been in choirs for years and years, feel like they should be better already, even if they’ve only been with me for a few months. Let me tell you that your voice is amazing and you have come so far.”

She then took out my notebook and listed three columns: what I’d been good at before I started learning with her, what I’d improved on since then, and then what I still needed to work on to improve my voice.

And she was right: I had come far. There was so much that I’d learned and improved on. Of course, there was still more to do, but seeing how far I’d come helped me realize that I had progressed, and that I would continue to progress in the future (and I have).

It’s the same with writing and everything in life. There are days when you stare at the screen and don’t know what to write next. There are days when scenes don’t work and your writing is horrible and, no matter what you do, you can’t seem to figure out that tricky character’s voice. There are even days when you think you’re not cut out to be a writer at all.

But that’s when you’ve got to realize that progress is progress, and you’ve made it. It’s good to realize how far you’ve come, how much you’ve learned, how amazing your voice is. When I think of how much I’ve learned since I started writing…the results are tremendous. About characters and plots and realism…

But, after you’ve realized how far you’ve come, you have to create that third column. It’s no good to realize the progress you’ve made if you don’t do anything about it. Once you find out what you’ve done, you have to decide what you’re going to do–and try to do it. Keep practicing, a little at a time, a tiny fraction every day. And you will progress, but you may not notice unless you take the time to look back on it.

It takes time, but you will progress. You have progressed, and however far you still have to go, that’s amazing.

The Essential Details

I’m in a three part women’s choir at school, though we do split into more parts occasionally. Out of the three parts (1st Soprano, 2nd Soprano, and Alto), I was assigned to be a 2nd Soprano, which means that I sing the note right in the middle of everyone else.

Sure, everyone says 2nd Sopranos are essential, but I was kind of annoyed that I didn’t get to be a 1st. I mean, the melody–usually sung by the 1st Sopranos–is the most important thing in a piece. Plus, singing 2nd Soprano is a lot harder than the other parts, since the outside parts are easier to hear.

But look at this. Here is an example of a basic melody with three part harmony.

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Here’s what it would look like if the 2nd Sopranos suddenly disappeared.

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Since WordPress doesn’t allow me to upload recordings, I know you can’t actually hear it, but you can at least see the empty space that it leaves. And if you listened to both, you could hear that empty space in the second example. It does sound kind of interesting, but it just doesn’t have the full, rich tone the first example does.

You know what? 1st Sopranos really are the most important. Without the melody, all you have are a bunch of random notes strung together…that, or you have a totally different melody than you wanted in the first place. The Altos are important too, covering the bottom of the chord. And the 2nds? Well, they’re pretty important too.

You all know the three most important pieces of a novel: plot, characters, and setting. So, I’ll assign plot to the 1st Soprano part, because that seems to be the most important, and characters can go to the Altos. That leaves the 2nd Sopranos with setting, but I think I’m going to change it a little bit and have it be details instead.

Details are just as essential as 2nd Sopranos are–that is to say, not essential to have a choral song, but essential to have a good one. Without any details, your story happens in a white room with faceless characters and a plot that really doesn’t make sense. Without enough details, your story happens in a vaguely beige colored room with a decent plot and some randomly-featured characters.

With the right amount of details, your setting becomes vibrant, your plot developed, and your characters realistic as well as relatable. In short, your story becomes alive.

Let’s look at some examples.

He stood there, gun in hand, pointing toward Vane, and the realization hit me like a ton of bricks.

“No.” My heart felt cold. “You…you betrayed us.”

He glanced over at me, toying with the gun, a smile creeping onto his face. “Of course I did.”

Yep, that looks pretty much like my regular writing. It’s not necessarily “bad”, but it could definitely be better.

The flickering lights played along his face, shadowing each indent darker and colder, drawing my eyes to that ragged scar on his cheek before they fell to the gun in his hand. A pistol, small and black, pointed toward Vane’s exposed back. His finger twitched toward the trigger.

No…

My heart was numb–numb and heavy, holding me where I stood. “No.” My voice came out no more than a whisper, a weak struggling against the tiny, powerful bullet he could release from its cylindrical prison at any moment. “You…you betrayed us.”

He barely looked at me, his eyes flicking over my face before returning to Vane. As he twisted the pistol between his fingers, a deadly smile crept up his face. “Of course I did.”

It’s not perfect, of course, but obviously much better. It’s the same scene, the same melody, but it now has details added in. They give the reader a sense of what’s going on, who the characters are, and an engagement with both the characters and the plot that they wouldn’t have had before.

Even though I don’t describe exactly where they are, adding the details I did allows the reader a chance to imagine the setting that they didn’t have before. The details give the mood, and from the mood grows the reader’s imagination.

Writing with details is hard. Especially for someone like me, who doesn’t write with enough details very often. To write like I did in the second paragraph, I had to mentally focus on writing the details the whole time. It took a lot more time and a lot more effort to write that way.

But, honestly, it was a lot more fun to write that way, and I think it is a lot more fun to read too. The details are what bring something to life, instead of leaving it empty and boring.

Yes, details are essential. And so are 2nd Sopranos.