Eyes Upon Us

This post is a response to November 2018’s mid-month short story challenge. Click on the link in the previous sentence to read the prompt, share your story, and read those written by others.


The beauty of frequent airport travel is that you begin to learn the best places to sit in your home airport before your flight. For me, this is completely contingent on what I’m doing. If I have a lot of work to get done before my flight, I’ll find a corner near my gate where I can camp out with an outlet and put headphones in. If I’m travelling with others, I find that it’s most efficient just to get to your gate, find seats for everyone, then send off small parties for food so as to save seats.

Today, I’m flying alone for work, but I have nothing to do before my flight. This is my favorite time at the airport, as I can sit and people watch. For the early morning flights that my job necessitates, this means the optimal place to sit is a small grove of black tables and yellow chairs near the Starbucks and McDonald’s in the D concourse. This placement is great because I can see people leaving both restaurants, all while still watching the four gates across from the food area.

My morning begins with a rambunctious child announcing himself by sprinting ahead of his parents, a tiny suitcase thrashing wildly behind him. His parents lag some twenty to thirty steps behind. Mom appears to be on the phone with some family member making plans while dad pushes a stroller housing a small child with one arm and drags a larger version of the child’s suitcase with his other. Their story is not particularly interesting. I see it nearly every time I come to the airport. Grandma/grandpa/distant cousin Louis has died and the young family has a funeral that they need to go to either out of caring for that family member or obligation to avoid hearing whining from the family members that do care. It’s a coin flip which one is the case.

Behind them, a young woman in sweatpants and a pajama top carries a duffel bag over one shoulder as she stares down at her phone. Her crimson dye no longer covers all of her hair, sandy blonde roots poking out at the base of her skull. She strolls into the Starbucks and takes her place at the back of the line, still deeply engrossed in whatever is featured on the screen in front of her. This type of traveler is growing increasingly common. While I certainly find myself doing this on many of my own trips, it’s much harder for me to imagine their story when my view of them is nothing more than a face and a screen in the crowd.

After a short lull in the early morning foot traffic, I’m greeted by my first real opportunity of the morning. A middle aged couple — at least I presume they’re a couple from their matching non-corporate suitcases and laptop bags, similar styles of wedding rings, and general disdain for one another — came walking up the ramp that led to my area of the terminal. The woman walked five to ten steps ahead of the man, her pace only slowed out of annoyance when she allowed him to catch up.

The man’s name either Oliver or Shithead. I assume the former, though the woman referred to him by the latter much more frequently. If their roles were switched — the woman looking frightened in the face of a truculent man verbally berating her — it’s likely that one of the several passersby in the airport would have said something. Instead, everyone looked at the couple with worried eyes and scared faces.

Oliver took a seat on the ground near the giant window between gates D21 and D23 that overlooked the tarmac. He shouted after the woman — her name was Amelia — asking her to get him a coffee, black with sugar. Whether or not she heard him was unclear. Amelia joined the line at Starbucks, three people behind the crimson haired girl. Through all the shouting, said girl was the only person that I noticed who didn’t look up at Amelia and Oliver. Personal sound bubbles created by headphones are a hell of a drug.

A giant blue, red, and yellow plane tail made its way past the window, driving its way down to a gate further along the concourse. Oliver’s head turned to follow the plane’s path, watching it until it made its way out of sight. As his head turned all the way to the left, I noticed a tear rolling down his face, hitting the shoulder of his gray t-shirt. Oliver opened his laptop bag and pulled out a small bottle of pain killers. He popped the lid off, dropped two of the pills in his hand, then quickly consumed them.

I heard a gabby pair of gentlemen walk out of the McDonald’s behind me and make their way back toward the main concourse area. The taller of the two men — a slender fellow with ash brown hair and a black duster — paused their walking by elbowing the shorter man in the arm. The tall main pointed towards Oliver with two fingers, leading the shorter man to nod and walk off without the taller man. The tall man removed his coat, folding it over his arm, and begin walking towards Oliver.

At first glance, the tall man looked like an odd cross between on Old West gunfighter and an evangelical Midwestern preacher. I blame the duster. But the more than I looked at him, the more he seemed like a kindly person than either of the negative stereotypes he initially appeared to be. The man walked over to Oliver, held out his hand, and helped Oliver to his feet.

Oliver began talking to the man, though from the distance they were away, I couldn’t make out anything they were saying. Oliver mostly nodded, the corners of his mouth fighting their hardest to avoid being in a frowning position. He sighed heavily and sat down in a nearby chair, holding his head in his hands. The tall man stood closer to him, placing his hand on Oliver’s back and rubbing it in small, circular motions lightly.

After a few minutes, Amelia exited the coffee shop, a cup of coffee in each hand, and walked toward the window. She handed Oliver his coffee, then began talking to the tall man. I wondered if she would continue her shouting at Oliver in front of the man or not. It was clear that she didn’t have — or at the very least chose not to use — the restraint not to do so earlier. Would she do it when she was more than just a (very noticeable) face in the crowd?

Instead, after a brief conversation, Amelia handed her coffee to Oliver, then wrapped her arms around the tall man and hugged him. Their embrace didn’t last long, though it was evident that there was some sort of pre-existing relationship between the two of them. My best guess would have to be that the three of them were mutual friends at some point in the past, though at this stage, the tall man was much closer to Amelia than to Oliver.

As I watched their embrace, I had failed to notice that the shorter man from before had taken a seat the table beside me. He wore a black suit with a white shirt and silver tie. On the left side lapel of his jacket, he wore a small pin of an orange fox. The shorter man too was looking on, watching this scene from afar.

“What’s going on over there?” I asked him as I took a sip of my coffee.

“Who?” he asked, “me?”

“Yeah. Do you guys know the lady that was screaming at that man earlier?”

“Kind of,” he replied. “The man over there holding his jacket is the head of Cyngreen Research.”

“The company trying to find out how to access the Halycon Realm?”

“That’s the one. He’s always trying to meet people he runs into that don’t act like typical humans.”

“Hoping to meet a being from Halycon?” I asked.

“Precisely.”

“Any luck?”

The shorter man shuffled in his seat and smiled as he turned towards me.

“Of course,” he replied. “Where are you flying to today?”

“Boston.”

“What a coincidence. How would you like to join us for dinner? We’d love to hear more about the Halycon Realm from someone who is from there.”

I laughed to myself as he reached out his hand to shake mine.

“You have a good eye,” I said. “How about Al Dente in the North End. 7pm?”

“It’d be our pleasure, mister…”

“Ka’la Banon.”

NaNoWriMo Tips: You Did It! Now What?

Welcome to the final post of my NaNoWriMo tips series. For other tips in this series, as well as a schedule for future posts, take a look at the links below. Today’s tip and my discussion of it can be found immediately below the schedule.



First off, it’s time for some really large font and capital letters. Because caps lock is cruise control for cool.

CONGRATULATIONS! YOU DID IT! YOU WON NANOWRIMO!

The fact that you were able to finish a 50,0001At least. word novel in 30 days is a really exciting achievement. I know that I was incredibly excited — and somewhat relieved — both times that I finished. It felt like this immense weight was lifted off of my shoulders. It wasn’t a bad weight either. Just a weird, oh lord, did I just do that, kind of weight.

We’ve reached a point in the NaNoWriMo process that I admittedly know very little about. That is, what should you do after NaNoWriMo. You’d think I’d know a lot about it, having won NaNoWriMo twice before. With that said, I’ve done the same thing following the project both times — in that I’ve done nothing. If your entire goal for NaNoWriMo was to just see if you could write your novel during these thirty days and nothing more, that may very well be the best follow up for you. You’ve completed your project, you don’t plan to do anything more with it, so sit back, get yourself a celebratory dinner, and enjoy the fact that you did it.

What I’ve found is a bit more common amongst those who participate in NaNoWriMo is that they want to do something

I will say that my personal recommendation — regardless of what you’re looking to do as follow up with your story — is to take a little bit of time to relax before you get into whatever it is you’re doing with your story next. Remember: you just wrote 50,000 words or more in 30 days. Even taking a day or two off to relax can be refreshing, giving you the energy to help take on whatever your next task is with your story. Making progress is important, but so is your mental health. Don’t neglect the latter in favor of the former.

I Want to Edit My Book

For a first-time NaNoWriMo winner, this is likely the most logical next step to your journey. Since you wrote your story so quickly, there’s likely a lot of work you’ll need to do on it. How much you do in the editing process, particularly if you don’t plan to publish it, is somewhat up to you.

One of the best articles I’ve read about self-editing a book comes from New York Book Editors. I’d encourage you to click on the link in the previous sentence and give that a read if you plan to do any level of editing to your book. In addition to what they say in that post, I’d offer two pieces of advice that have helped me when I was editing.

First off, focus on minor edits such as typos and consistency within individual chapters. While this is admittedly a smaller part of the project, you’ll find that you’ll be able to make a ton of progress just within your first pass or two in the book from this strategy. Second, take a look at your book from a broader view and see if you can keep track of the various plot lines in the story. This will help you to identify if you’ve been consistent throughout your story, not to mention potentially identifying plot holes you may have created in writing quickly.

If you plan to get serious about your editing — particularly in anticipation of publishing or self-publishing — I’d strongly recommend hiring an editor. While I’m an editor myself — and I’m currently available for a limited number projects if anyone needs their NaNoWriMo book edited – I actively sought out an editor when I was going through the publishing process for my first book. When you’re self-editing a book, there will b

I Want to (Self?) Publish My Book

In a probably-not-all-that-shocking statement, publishers and self-publishing sites get flooded with new content following NaNoWriMo by authors looking to get their book published. As you might expect, this can not only cause publishers to be backed up in reviewing content, but they’ve also commonly needing to review poorly written, lightly edited works that aren’t fit for publishing.

If you’re serious about publishing or self-publishing your book, I encourage you to take your time. Be thorough about your editing, beta reading, and what not as I mentioned above. Find someone you’re willing to pay for good cover art. Give things a little time to die down following the NaNoWriMo rush. I’ve talked a bit about my self-publishing experiences in the past here if you’re curious, though I’d encourage you to seek out other authors on Twitter (such as Eve Jacob and Rebecca MacCeile) who have gone through the self-publishing process for their thoughts as well.

I Want to Lift a Character from My Book for a New Book

This strategy is admittedly one of my favorite things to do with short stories. I’ve taken characters from various short stories and turned them into a basis for my 2011 and 2015 NaNoWriMo projects, as well as my current work in progress. It’s a fantastic strategy, as it lets you do a trial run with the character prior to doing a full-fledged story with them.

Someone recently alerted me to the idea of potentially using your NaNoWriMo project as a way to trial various characters that you may want to use in a later story to see how you feel about them. Basically, you take a side character from your NaNoWriMo project, then make your next book or short story a focus on them. I hadn’t really thought about this potential angle for a project in the past, however I do think it could have some benefits. The only potential downside to this is that you did just write a 50,000 word story as a trial for a character that might not have even been the main character of that story. So long as you’re okay with that, I say go for it. While I’ve not tried this longer path to developing a character myself, I will say the turning a short story character into a novel character has worked amazingly for me. I’d have to imagine this idea would work well too.

I Want to Turn My Book Into a Series

One of the best NaNoWriMo books I’ve read was the 2011 NaNoWriMo book by my friend Erin. She posted it chapter by chapter on her blog2Just as I did with mine that year. and by the end of the month, I was clamoring for her to do a sequel to the book3Mostly because I really wanted to know how the ancillary characters in the book were going to deal with the fallout of the death of one of the book’s two main characters.. Though Erin hasn’t yet done a follow up to that story4Possibly because she killed off the functional main character of the story., there are tons of people who use NaNoWriMo as a springboard to writing a series of books. 

Turning a book into a series can be a great idea, however if you went into this NaNoWriMo without much of a plan as to what you were going to write about, I’d strongly encourage you to take some time to make a general plan of where you’re looking to go with your series, its plot, your characters, and any other relevant information you’ll need to make your NaNoWriMo project into a series. I recommend going through a bit of editing of your original manuscript prior to trying to start that series as well, as the edits you make may help drive the direction of your series (not to mention your edited story).


Thank you so much for reading the posts that have been part of my NaNoWriMo Tips series. This was a lot of work to put together, but it was definitely worth it. I do want to give a thank you to various folks who helped me with this series in some way5Intentionally or otherwise., be that promoting it, reading it, or anything else.

  • /r/nanowrimo
  • Erin M.
  • Eve Jacob
  • Rebecca MacCeile
  • C. Laidig

Finally, I want to give a huge thank you to Stephanie for hearing me out and helping me think through this series from the beginning, even when it was just an idea that had no footing. Her guidance to the word vomit of ideas I sometimes spit out is invaluable. I don’t think most of the writing I do — particularly my fiction writing — would have as coherent of a thought process as it does without her input.


Like my NaNoWriMo tips series? Have questions for me about the topics posted daily? Do you just want to talk about your story and have nowhere else to do so? Leave a comment and join the discussion.

Support my writing on Patreon by pledging at this link.

NaNoWriMo Tips: Ending Your Story

Welcome to the penultimate post of my NaNoWriMo tips series. For other tips in this series, as well as a schedule for future posts, take a look at the links below. Today’s tip and my discussion of it can be found immediately below the schedule.



It’s so close you can nearly taste it. The sweet smell of victory is less than 48 hours away. You’ve been writing since the beginning of November with one goal in mind — to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. But in addition to that, if you’ve been sticking with a theme running through these posts, you’ve likely spent the better part of a month writing the story that you w

That means that you’re to the two parts of the story that are, in my opinion, the two most difficult parts of the story to write: the climax and the ending. I’ve grouped them both together for purposes of the title of this post, but that’s only because ‘climaxing your story’ sounds more suggestive than it likely is. Unless your NaNoWriMo project is erotica, in which case, more power to you. Climax the hell out of your story.

For most of you6And even those of you writing erotica, I would assume., however, the climax and ending of your book are likely going to be different pieces. Those who strictly follow the five act dramatic structure will recognize that the climax precedes your ending (also known as the denouement), with the falling action in between then. That said, the chart you’ll see describing this structure could lead you to believe that the climax occurs in the middle of the story, with the falling action comprising a good portion of the book leading up to the ending.

In practice, however, the climax, falling action, and denouement can all occur over the final 3-5 chapters of a book. One of my favorite recent reads — An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green — begins its climax7Or at least what I could say is the climax of the book. approximately 91% of the way into the book, with the denouement not beginning until the book was 96% completed8I’m going off of the page numbers and percentages from my Kindle app, so this is a rough estimate.. I’ve read several books in recent years that follow this similar pattern, where the climax to the story doesn’t hit a peak until the story is over 80% done, only to then have a short falling action and a relatively short ending.

If you’re writing a story that is intended to have a sequel to it, this isn’t necessarily a bad route to go. You can afford to keep your ending a bit shorter if you’re planning for a sequel, because you can take advantage of cliffhanger or ambiguous style endings to build anticipation for your follow up book. With that said, if you’re looking to make your NaNoWriMo piece more of a standalone story, it might behoove you to extend the ending of your story by a little bit to tie up any loose ends to your story.

With that being said9><~~_, how do you differentiate the items that you should tie up in your climax versus what you should finish talking about in the denouement of your story? While the answer to this question might not be a cut-and-dried answer, I do have some thoughts where you might be able to draw the line.

Items to Tie Up in Your Climax

  • Your primary conflict: While this likely goes without saying, if there’s a problem your main protagonist(s) has been facing throughout the story, the climax is the place to wrap it up. This is likely slaying the big bad or overcoming some sort of adversity for the final time in the story, however, it could also include some of the following items.
  • Your protagonist’s primary lesson: If there’s something your main character is supposed to learn over the course of the book — be it the power of friendship, some moral lesson, that it’s okay to use an illegal kick because no one likes Cobra Kai10Except me. — now is the time for them to use that lesson to resolve that conflict.
  • Final deaths: If anyone else needs to die in your book, now is likely the best time to finish killing them off. There’s an outside chance you can get away with someone dying in the falling action, but they’d likely have to be someone that has been redeemed throughout the climax, now dying as a hero instead of as a villain. Think Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi.

Items to Tie Up in Your Ending

  • How your main character has changed after the climax: Do they live happily ever after? Did the group of rag-tag heroes that came together to deliver swift justice decide that they’re going to stick together? Did all the pets finally get back home? This is a great time to exposit what happened after that dramatic climax.
  • Planting the seeds for a sequel: If you’re wanting to give your book a sequel, now is the time to leave some ambiguity in your ending. While you don’t need to introduce a new conflict here, making it feel like someone (likely your protagonist) has unfinished business gives you a springboard with which to start your next project off of.
  • The final feeling for your book: How do you want the reader to remember the last few pages of your book? While most stories end on a happy or hopeful note, that might not be what you’re going for. My 2015 NaNoWriMo project had a very bleak ending, however considering the climax that had preceded it, I could have written it much darker. Do you want your reader to end the book with a smile on their face? In tears of sorrow? In tears of joy? Create that lasting final scene here.

Like my NaNoWriMo tips series? Have questions for me about the topics posted daily? Do you just want to talk about your story and have nowhere else to do so? Leave a comment and join the discussion.

Support my writing on Patreon by pledging at this link.

NaNoWriMo Tips: I’m Not Going To Make It. Have I Failed?

Welcome to the twelfth11Can we all take a moment to appreciate how weird the English language is? I mean. How the fuck is twelfth a form of twelve? post of my NaNoWriMo tips series. For other tips in this series, as well as a schedule for future posts, take a look at the links below. Today’s tip and my discussion of it can be found immediately below the schedule.



Today’s post will talk about the one topic I’ve largely avoided bringing up aside from highlighting my own failures and addressing how to avoid them. It’s getting close to the end of November. Including today, you have four days left to write your NaNoWriMo story. If you’re writing based on the average pace needed to finish your NaNoWriMo project (1,666 words a day), this means that you have 6,664 words to go.

That said, if you’re on pace, this post isn’t totally meant for you. For that matter, if you’re not going to finish your story in November, but you are going to hit the 50,000 word count goal within the 30 days, this post isn’t totally for you either. That’s not to say you can’t read the post and get something out of it. If nothing else, stick around and jump in the comments and encourage others. But the post I’ll have that’s more meant for you is coming on Friday12I recognize that’s not in sync with the typical Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday posting schedule I’ve kept for these, but what am I supposed to do? Thirty days hath September, April, June, and NaNoWriMo..

This post is meant for those of you who are coming to the end of the month and are feeling disappointed, despondent, upset, overwhelmed, heartbroken, or frankly, just fucking pissed that you aren’t going to finish your NaNoWriMo novel on time. And although I mentioned a couple of posts back that this series’ post about writers’ block was the hardest one for me to write, this post likely had the most edits to it. That’s because it’s really hard to say the right thing to someone when they don’t reach a goal they really wanted to hit.

When I failed my 2012 NaNoWriMo project goal, it didn’t hit me that hard. At least, it didn’t initially. The idea floated around in my mind for weeks afterwards. While I didn’t finish writing the story in November of 2012, I did work on it regularly throughout December of 2012, as well as January through March of 2013. But then, as you’ll recall from the last post, I gave up on the story because I hated it.

November 2013 rolled around and I didn’t have any free time to do NaNoWriMo. I had just gotten a promotion at my job — one that meant I went from working 40-45 hours a week at an hourly pay to working 60-80 hours a week on salary — and my free time had vanished almost instantly. It’s also one of only two years since 2011 where I didn’t have any involvement in NaNoWriMo at all13Be it as a participant, as a passive reader of someone’s project, or as someone who gave advice to others in some way.. And it didn’t really bother me because I was so busy.

That said, November 2014 was a different story. I did have free time again, so in mid-September or so, I started making a game plan for the story I was going to write. I spent a Saturday afternoon sitting in a Panera near my apartment outlining and writing out a basic plot synopsis, all while coming up with these dramatic, vibrant characters. By the time I left, while I didn’t have a story fully modeled out, I had a great start towards it.

That’s what I’d love to tell you happened. In reality, I opened a Google Doc, wrote down two sentences or so of an idea, plus a short character description for a main character14Though I scrapped the story arc sentences I’d written, I do still have the two paragraph description I wrote for this character saved in my notes. I’ll use her at some point in the future. I think?, then played around on Sporcle for an hour or so until I went home and played video games for the rest of the day. I tried this again a handful of times more before the start of November, only to have the same end result.

I didn’t want to try writing a novel again. I mean, I did. But at the same time, in my mind at that point, I had failed with my 2012 NaNoWriMo project not once, but twice. My initial failure meant I hadn’t met my goal within the NaNoWriMo time limit. Then I had failed again because I had not only given up on my story with a few thousand words to go, I had also come to hate the story itself.

I say all of that to say that I was just looking at things the wrong way, though I didn’t recognize that at the time. Though the fact that I hadn’t finished my novel in 30 days was true, I had managed to turn out a 60,000+ word story with a complex backstory and a fairly significant amount of world building built in. The world building in particular should have been something I was incredibly proud of — even if my characters and the story itself did frustrate me — because it was a tough task that I had never attempted before when writing a story. But I was too caught up in being frustrated with failing two years prior that it kept me from even starting NaNoWriMo in 2014.

So what advice can I give to all of you from my own experiences? While my story isn’t a perfect one-to-one match, I think there’s still some key takeaways that can be made.

1. It’s Okay to Be Mad…For a Little While

If you’re mad or frustrated that you didn’t finish your story during NaNoWriMo, that’s fine. If you have frustration over not meeting your goal, that can be a great motivator towards working to meet the goal eventually, even if it’s not within that deadline. I know I’ve used my own frustrations with failing at projects to do them better the next time I attempt them (or for my next project, depending on the context of the project).

With that said, don’t dwell on your frustration for too long. If you do that, you run the risk of the spiral that I fell into myself in 2014 that I described above. At a certain point, you have to take why you’re frustrated, recognize where that frustration comes from, and make a plan to not have that failure in future attempts, be it with this story or with future shots at NaNoWriMo.

2. Focus on Your Successes

Even if you didn’t get 50,000 words written in November, how many words did you write? 25,000? 30,000? More? That’s a lot of writing! It’s a huge accomplishment to finish NaNoWriMo for sure. But it’s also a big accomplishment to dedicate part (or all) of a month to writing a story.

NaNoWriMo is supposed to be somewhat of a sprint. Authors often spend months or years writing their books. You just attempted to write a book in a single month. And while there will likely be more time you’ll invest into your story if you want to finish it or if you want to do something with it, the progress you made during NaNoWriMo is a great thing. Be proud of yourself.

3. Make a Plan For How You’ll Finish Your Story

If you do want to finish your story out, even after NaNoWriMo ends, great! I’ll be talking more about this specific point in Thursday’s post, though I do want to address for a moment in the context of not finishing your story during NaNoWriMo.

While the concept of getting your ideas on paper within the deadline of NaNoWriMo isn’t valid anymore with the end of NaNoWriMo nearing, the premise that you should get your main story on paper is still valid. Tell your story, start to finish before going back and editing it. Make sure you end your story, regardless of if you’re truly ending the story or setting up for a sequel or series. Then, chart out the steps you’ll take in the plot of your story to get you from where you are right now to that ending. Taking a little bit of time to make this structure (if you haven’t already) can help you to make sure you reach your new goal of finishing, even if it is in a different timeline than you initially planned.

4. Find Someone to Help Hold You Accountable For Your New Goal

One of the hardest thing to do when it comes to writing15Or anything, really. That said, we’re focusing on writing for now. is to stick to goals you make without having some level of accountability towards reaching those goals. In an ideal situation, you’ll have someone close to you who will be willing to help you stick to those goals. If you have that, your solution is simple. Just tell your close person your goal, keep them updated, and stick with it.

That said, if you don’t have someone close to you who cares about your writing goals, this can be a little trickier of a predicament. As much of a cesspool as Twitter can be for various reasons, one of the beautiful things about Twitter is that there are ton of great writers’ groups out there (shout out to Ch21Con) that use Twitter to great effect. As I mentioned prior, resources like /r/nanowrimo on Reddit are great for this as well. You could even try asking in the comments here. If there’s a commentor that has an interest in your story, perhaps they’ll be your accountability person. I might even do it for some folks…though I admittedly can’t take everyone who reads this site. That would just be silly.


Like my NaNoWriMo tips series? Have questions for me about the topics posted daily? Do you just want to talk about your story and have nowhere else to do so? Leave a comment and join the discussion.

Support my writing on Patreon by pledging at this link.

NaNoWriMo Tips: I Hate My Story

Welcome to the eleventh post of my NaNoWriMo tips series. For other tips in this series, as well as a schedule for future posts, take a look at the links below. Today’s tip and my discussion of it can be found immediately below the schedule.



Have you ever been playing through a video game, particularly a long game that relies a lot on the choices you make throughout the game? Let’s say for example that game is Civilization VI, not that I have any experience with playing that for hours on end or anything16Australia is best civ. I will fight you, mate.. In Civilization VI, your games can drag on for hours, if not days, particularly when playing a single player match against multiple other computer civilizations. I had one such game a while back where I was 300-350 turns into my game’s 500 turn limit. I was winning, though not by as much as I would have liked, putting myself in a great, but not guaranteed, position to win the game. At that point, I came to a realization. I was done with this game. So I closed out of Civ without saving and went to do something else.

I felt this way about a novel once too. Remember that ill-fated 2012 NaNoWriMo attempt I talked about in the last post? I did end up working on that story some in December of 2012 before really getting going on it in earnest in early 2013. By the middle of March, that story was nearly 65,000 words long. I had two or three more chapters to write, including the final fight scene where the protagonist who had been repeatedly betrayed by those closest to him would get revenge on the ex-best friend who had been turned against him. I had created this elaborate dystopian backstory set in post-apocalyptic Finland and Estonia, complete with copious amounts of research into the foods of Scandinavia and the Baltic regions17Because the food that certain characters ate at certain times was used for foreshadowing and symbolism. Because reasons..

Yet, despite being likely less than 10,000 words from finishing, I gave up on the story. I was done. I hated this story.
Why I hated this story isn’t nearly as important as the fact that I hated this story (though I will get to the why). It was a first for me. Not finishing a story was one thing. My very first attempt at a novel was one I didn’t finish. I quit six chapters in once I realized that the idea I had picked was not very good and that I had only chosen it to impress my then-girlfriend18Who was far too excited to read my stories. And this is coming from the person writing them.. I had hated poetry and songs I’d written because, truth be told, I wasn’t good at it. This was, however, the first time I hated a full-fledged story.

It’s a really crappy feeling to get deep into writing a story only to realize the story isn’t what you’d hoped it would be. You begin to feel like all of the time you’ve put into the story has gone to waste. This feeling hits especially hard if this happens during NaNoWriMo. If you’re working on your story and begin to hate it outside of a NaNoWriMo project, yeah, it sucks, but you also have time to work on it, rewrite it, or whatever you need to do to get it to the point you want it at19Presumably. Ignore that previous point entirely if you nearing a publishing or editing deadline.. But in NaNoWriMo, not only do you hate your story, you now have to finish a story you dislike with a looming deadline. This prompts the question — how exactly do you handle hating your story during NaNoWriMo?

To answer that, I think it’s important to identify exactly why you hate your story now. After all, you liked your story idea well enough at one point in time that you wanted to write a whole novel based off of it. For my 2012 story, I got to the climax of the novel and hated it for three primary reasons.

  1. My main character seemed less likeable than I would have hoped by the climax. It wasn’t as though he was supposed to be a character who worked lived in gray areas either. He was a very Mary Sue-like character that lacked a lot of depth. If anything, the ex-best friend who became the villain of the story was more believable than him.
  2. There was a weird subplot to the story that I had written in based on these child prodigies that had been hidden by an underground network to keep them safe from the dystopian government running most of the world. By the end of the story, they functioned more of a deus ex machina than the actual saviors to the story that they were meant to be. I also named some of the children based off of minor Greek and Babylonian deities despite having limited knowledge of the former and negligible knowledge of the latter, making my analogies forced and inaccurate.
  3. Speaking of that ex-best friend in the story, she stupidly overpowered, both story line wise and in terms of her abilities in comparison to the main character. Her losing to the main character in any capacity seemed unrealistic.

Looking back, my story likely needed a massive rewrite more than it needed to be scrapped. That said, I was so caught up in how disappointed I was with myself that the story had turned out the way that it had that I just gave up. The story still sits unfinished to this day20If I ever attempt to revive any of the previous novels I’ve attempted for NaNoWriMo and turn them into a book, this specific story would likely be my second priority, behind my 2015 project. There’s a character in my 2015 project who I love so much that I need to find a way to work her into my current story. This is problematic in that I killed her off near the end of that 2015 NaNoWriMo story, but that’s not important right now.

So, how do you avoid this same fate for your story, even if you hate it? I have a few suggestions.

First off, if you get to the point where you feel like you hate your story, take a little time (be that a few minutes, an hour, or even a day) and step away from your story. Giving yourself a little space between times writing on your story can help grant you some clarity with how to continue on (or even fix) your story. If you have the ability to sleep on the idea, do so. I came to my initial realization that I hated my 2012 story around three in the morning on a Friday night. Nothing good ever happens when you’re tired and the clock is past midnight.

Second, this is a situation where having people around you, be they NaNoWriMo peers, friends, family, or just someone aware of the project you’re undertaking can be helpful. Even if they don’t totally understand the specifics of your story, talking through the story and why your’e struggling with it can help you better vocalize the struggle you have. I don’t recommend rubber ducking in this case, as having someone there to talk back to you can help to avoid going into spirals of frustration with your work. As someone who deals with these (frequently) myself, I promise it’s helpful.

As another potential way to help yourself turn your hate for your story around, take a moment to take stock of the things you loved about your story idea when you originally came up with it. I mentioned how I should have done this with my 2012 story earlier in this post. That said, I definitely feel like it’s an exercise that could be beneficial to more than just me. If I were writing my notes for why I loved my 2012 story enough to want to turn it into a novel, it’d look something like this (at least from what I can remember from six years ago).

  • The idea of writing a story that was an homage to the dystopian literature I loved reading as a kid (1984, A Canticle for Leibowitz, The Giver, Feed, The Lorax21I would argue The Lorax is dystopian literature, even though I’ve had several people disagree with me on this point. Wikipedia agrees though.) was exciting.
  • I spent the better part of two days hand drawing a map depicting the new political layout of this futuristic world. I can’t understate how much I love maps.
  • I loved the idea of doing a twist ending. There was a planned hard right turn after the climax of the story. I still love this specific twist and may well use it in the future (even in a non-dystopian book).

I know I had a longer list at one point in time, however that list has since faded from my mind. The larger, and more important, point is that I can still remember some of why I wanted to write that story, even six years later. There’s going to be reasons that stick with you about why you wanted to write your story, even well after NaNoWriMo has ended. I think that those reasons by themselves are enough reason to stick to finishing your story this month.

And you know what? If you end up completely rewriting the story in December or at some point down the line, that’s fine. Do that. Tear the story apart and redesign it from the ground up. But finish the story first. It’s easier to edit a finished book than to try to rewrite something you hate as you’re writing it (at least in my experience).


Like my NaNoWriMo tips series? Have questions for me about the topics posted daily? Do you just want to talk about your story and have nowhere else to do so? Leave a comment and join the discussion.

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