Hitting Goals and Changing Things Up

I hit a milestone in my novel this week. Between the material that I have handwritten and have begun typing and the new material I started typing in October I have surpassed the 52k word mark! That doesn’t seem like a lot, but I’m planning for this novel to be roughly 100k words, and that means I have passed the halfway mark. I still have over half the handwritten material to transcribe, and I also need to rewrite the entire beginning (sigh), but I will get there. On Tuesday this week, I wrote the scene that will be the catalyst to the rising action, leading into the climax of the book, and that scene gave me a renewed motivation to write. I hit such a big wall with this novel a few weeks ago, so I put it away to let it rest until Tuesday this week. And even on Tuesday, after letting it rest for over two weeks, I still stared at my screen for hours before any words came to me. Thankfully, they eventually came, and I was able to push through the block and progress to a good point in the novel.

To combat this block, I took motivation from MerMay to get back into drawing. I used to draw constantly when I was younger, but I all but stopped once I reached college. I did take an art class my last semester of my undergrad, which helped me rekindle my drawing passion for a while, but then grad school happened and mostly stifled that creativity again (sigh again).

Well, fast forward to May 1, and I cracked open the sketchbook that I keep in my office for moments of boredom or stress. I’ve done something artsy every day in May, which feels so nice. I spent several days working on the same drawing of one of my main characters, Veronia, trying to build up colors with my less-than-stellar colored pencils. I also started drawing another character, Samara, but my blue colored pencil broke, and it took me forever to get a sharpener, so she’s still unfinished. I’ve also been playing with markers to see if I can make them work (see below, and don’t judge. Literally first time ever using markers and the set had no browns, so I had to make brown with yellow and purple, so I think it turned out pretty good considering…), and I bought a calligraphy set to play with as well. Overall, I’m pretty excited about being artsy again.

© 2018 Robert Hallowell

I have discovered that when I’m stuck in my novel, doing something else artsy really helps stimulate my creative juices and makes me want to work on my novel. I’m really grateful that I have the ability to practice my drawing to distract me from my writer’s block. My problem now is that I want to draw more than I want to write! So now it’s a matter of balancing the creativity that I engage in to stay well-rounded with it all. The good thing is, drawing my characters has made me realize how terribly I described them in my novel. It’s hard to draw detailed characters that have little to no description besides hair and eye color (nervous laughter). So starting to draw my characters is making me a better writer.

Sorry that this blog is all over the place. I’ve had an overall creative yet only somewhat productive few weeks, but I hit the milestone of being halfway through this third draft (but second full draft) of my novel, and I’m very happy about that. I’ve found a renewed joy to be creative, and I’m looking forward to finishing this draft by fall (fingers crossed).

Why I Am Actually a Dwarf

If you’ve read anything I’ve written on here, it should be fairly obvious that I love Tolkien’s works and Middle-earth in general. And I have loved elves for as long as I can remember. They are elegant, graceful, tall, and beautiful, and I have wanted to be one my entire. I even bought metal elf ears at a fair! But the older I get, the more I realize that I could not be any farther from being an elf. In fact, I believe I am actually a dwarf. Thanks to an amazing gaming session over the weekend and throughout this week, playing Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 with a dear friend on my old school PS2, I have discovered that I have more in common with dwarves than elves, and here’s why.

I’m short yet strong.

So according to the Tolkien Gateway, dwarves are between 4.5 and 5 feet tall. Now, I am 5’1, so by this standard I would be taller than average, which would be a first for me. I was taller than average throughout my childhood, but when I reached puberty at a fairly early age, I basically stopped growing—up that is. However, I strongly believe that my height adds to my lower-body strength. I may not have the strongest upper body, but my lower body is quite strong, which I attribute to my low center of gravity. I’m pretty hard to push over if I’m rooted.

I’m stocky.

I’ve been chunky since the later years of my adolescence and throughout my adult life, and my weight in addition to my height make me appropriately stocky and dwarf-like. Gimli had it right when he explained to Legolas that dwarves are natural sprinters and very dangerous over short distances. See, I participated in track when I was in high school, and I was a thrower (and not very good if we are being honest). My coach liked to have extra relay teams to get extra points for our team, even if the second relay team came in last place. I was usually on that second relay team of misfits (misfats really). But on the 100, I was able to at least stay close to the other runners because it was a sprint, and I can sprint! But, alas, these short legs tire out quickly from carrying around my robust figure.

I have a beard.

Thanks to my dark, hairy genes, I have a visible mustache and sprouting beard that I unsuccessfully manage with tweezers and questionable hair removal products. I’ve been teased for my dark mustache my entire life, but as I approach 30 it bothers me less and less. My husband loves me regardless, even though my mustache and beard rival his own, just life a dwarf woman.

I’m reclusive, stubborn, and jealous.

Much like dwarves, I would stay alone in the dark forever if I could, hidden away from the world with the things I treasure most. I’m a natural introvert and feel recharged by solitude. Of course, there are times when I want socialization but usually only with people like me. I am stubborn to a fault and would rather learn something the hard way than do something a certain way because someone else told me I had to do it that way. I’m also very jealous. If anyone so much as looks at my husband with a lingering eye, or if he smiles a bit too brightly at another woman, I feel the monster beginning to rise in my chest. I’m loyal to a fault and expect my people to be as well. Although I hate to admit it, I’m not just jealous in my relationships. Jealousy is possibly my biggest vice.

I’m good with my hands (Get your minds out of the gutter).

From an early age, I would take things apart just so I could put them back together. I truly think I missed my calling as a mechanic of some sort. I have fond memories from my adolescence of building contraptions in my room until the wee hours of the morning. To this day I love crafting and making things with my hands. My most recent exploits have included making steampunk accessories, which I would say have turned out pretty well for my first attempts. Check them out below!

© 2019, Robert Hallowell

There are more points I could make to confirm that, despite my obsession with elves from an early age, I am actually a dwarf. But this seems like a fairly good list for now. And now that I consider all the wonderful elements that bless elves, namely their elegance, grace, height, and beauty, I am quite resentful of them. I am awkward, clumsy, stocky, and plain, but I’d say those things make me a pretty good dwarf. What are your thoughts? Do you think I qualify as a dwarf? What Middle-earth race would you classify yourself as?

The Beginnings of The Elven Dilemma

As I mentioned in my last blog, I began writing this novel over 18 years ago, which is something that completely blows my mind. I was 11 when I wrote the first draft of this novel. 11. Who does that? Me apparently, and even though 11-year-old me was oh so naïve, 29-year-old me still appreciates those humble beginnings and has been struggling to get this novel to publishing quality ever since. This is my 3rd rewrite thanks to technology issues and overall growing pains throughout the years. So I wanted to share a little of my history and where this novel came from.

Growing up, I walked to school every day, and my absolute favorite part of the day was going to the library after school. My elementary school took up the majority of a city block, and the library was across the street. My parents both worked, so neither one of them minded that I would spend an hour or two in the library every day. I usually made it home before them anyway.

Now, when I was in 4th grade, my teacher had the class sit in a circle and read aloud together every day. Her book series of choice was the Magic Tree House series. I fell in love with the series, and I found myself checking them out from the library so I could read more and more. At some point between 4th and 6th grade, I saw an Anne McCaffrey book in the same area as the Magic Tree House books, and I thought, hmm, it has a dragon on the front. How bad could it be? And that was the beginning of Marie Lenore the author. Those Pern novels fueled my desire to write my own stories, and I did just that.

To be honest, I’m not sure where the idea came from to make my characters elves in this novel, but my best guess would be video games. I loved playing games like Baldur’s Gate and Champions of Norrath and Dark Cloud (anyone else play that one? I don’t think any of the characters were elves, but Toan looked like one). My favorite race to play in games was always the elven race. I loved how graceful and beautiful they were, and as a clumsy girl whose awkward stage lasted way too long, I yearned for a life like the ones I imagined them having. I also watched a lot of anime, specifically Sailor Moon (still my favorite). The alien characters, Alan and Ann, in Sailor Moon R sure looked a lot like elves, and I recall drawing them constantly and designing my original protagonists based on them. And then of course The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was released right after I turned 12, so no doubt I drew continued inspiration from Tolkien.

From the time that I initially started this novel to now, the title has changed twice, all but three of the characters’ names have changed at least once, and the plot has changed twice. Most of this is simply because I grew up as I wrote it, and while I don’t have the very first version of it anymore, I do have the cringe worthy version from 2004 that somehow turned the characters into vampires (I blame Anne Rice).

In all, I’m grateful for where I started. I know that my experiences throughout life have led me to this point, but if I hadn’t started this novel as a naïve 11-year-old girl, I don’t think I would have the same appreciation for writing as I do today.