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).

TFW Your Standalone Novel Evolves into a 5-Part Series

Hello, fantasy friends!

It has been a while since I wrote anything here, but all is not lost! I have finally made progress on The Elven Dilemma, and I have exciting news! What once was a standalone book has turned into a five-book series! My post about being a Middle-Earth Dwarf made me realize that I had more material than I could cover in a single book, so I have decided to break it into sections.

My struggle is that I’m not sure how to number/categorize the books. The way they are designed, none of the first three need to be read in any particular order, so numbering them 1, 2, 3 doesn’t really work. Any thoughts? I’ve considered A, B, and C, but it just doesn’t give the effect that I want. I could create my own kind of numbering or symbol system, but books four and five do need to be read in order. I’m truly at a loss and would welcome any insight. Thankfully I am still working on book 1, so I have time to figure out the numbering for the rest. I’ve decided on a series name, and I have working titles for books 2, 3, and 5, but they are a secret for now (cue sinister giggle).

In other news, I have continued transcribing the hand-written copy of The Elven Dilemma. Apparently I never mentioned that I began handwriting The Elven Dilemma circa 2007. When Borders was still around, my best friend and I loved browsing the bargain books section. There we would find sketchbooks and journals, and one day I found the infamous sketch journal. This journal had lined pages on the right side and blank pages for sketching on the left side. They are (were) massive and hardbound and everything I never knew I needed. Stupid me only bought one, and I have yet to find another of its kind from any other retailer, physical or online.

© 2018 Robert Hallowell

After losing at least one version of this novel to a computer virus, I vowed to hand write it for fear of losing it again and not being able to retrieve it. I filled the last page of that sketch journal back in September and decided to start typing the novel from then on since I couldn’t find a matching book to continue handwriting in. Since beginning to type my novel, I have typed 29k words, which, I know, does not seem like much considering I started typing it 7 months ago. But with life the way it is, I’m happy for and proud of those 29k words.

A few months ago, I found myself in a rut (I wrote about it! You should check out that blog as well!) and I couldn’t come up with any words to write, so my husband suggested that I start transcribing the handwritten material so I can join the two files at some point. Well, I did just that, and this weekend I hit almost 15k words that I’ve transcribed (and revised as I went along). The crazy thing is that I did a rough estimate of the number of words in that book before the first of the year, and based on word counts from several random pages and the number of pages in the book, I assumed that I would have between 35 and 40k words in there. Surprise! I’m not even 1/4 of the way through this book, and I have already reached 15k, so if my math is correct, there should be around 60k handwritten words in my sketch journal (not to mention the fact that the entire first half needs to be rewritten because 2007 Marie was still quite naïve and smooshed too much into too few pages).

In all, it’s looking like this novel is going to be close to or over 100k words, which is a lot for a YA novel. However, I plan on hiring an editor, who will likely trim that word count for me! I am teeming with excitement about everything surrounding The Elven Dilemma, and I can’t wait to continue sharing this journey with you all!

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?

Disorder

“You are not forgotten” © 2008 Lindsay Inscore

The depression is strong today and the anxiety rife. Words like toxicity and abandonment and failure and quitter permeate my very being, and I wonder why they affect me so. I’ve struggled with depression since middle school, and this demon has taken control of the things I love. Sometimes I’m strong enough to take them back. Sometimes I’m not. Often I sit back and watch as my demon consumes my very life, everything I have striven to make beautiful. And I’m powerless.

But am I really powerless? Or am I a coward? I make things come alive that would otherwise have no breath. I mold nothing into something with only the power of my mind, so how can I claim to be powerless over something like depression that wouldn’t exist if I didn’t give it life? Unless it has become separate from me after years of breathing into it so that it has become a monster born of my own heart. I want no one’s pity. My chest hurts. It hurts to breathe. To think. To feel. But I won’t be defeated by this monster of my own creation. Not today. These words are proof that I’m not giving up on what I love. Depression may make it hard to create words, but I’m going to fight to get them out.

What does this have to do with writing? Well for a writer, everything. The words I want to write get stuck in the net called depression that separates my heart and my mind. You see, I started writing as a child, and my depression hit soon after. It seems like every time I make decent headway on my novel, depression rears its hideous face to tell me I’m not good enough, so I shrink back and put my novel away. Even the simple task of keeping my hands on this keyboard is difficult. My arms feel heavy and want to swing back to their normal stations at my sides. Tears are threatening to spill over my bottom eyelids, but I’m at work, so I have to force them back into my eyes and pretend that I just sneezed so I don’t have to lie to people in the hallway about my mental health and how it sucks right now.

I am not defined by my writing or by my depression, but those two things are at war within me. It’s a war between my mind and my heart, and I honestly don’t know which one is winning. As I think back to when I started writing The Elven Dilemma, called An Elf’s Dilemma back then, I think about how happy I was to write and escape the emptiness I felt inside. An emptiness I couldn’t and still can’t explain. I had a loving family then and still do now, but the emptiness pervades every fiber of my being, wrapping me in its cold clutches, and keeps me from feeling that warmth from my family. I turned to writing back then because it was something I could control. And as I grew up, writing became my salvation, my therapy, a necessity to keep me functioning as a normal teenager is expected to function. When I hit college, writing and reading became chores that I dreaded. I could never write for fun anymore, so I stopped, my muse gone. And the depression took full advantage of me during those years, these years, exploiting my weakness and discontent, allowing me to let things, people, situations into my life that harm me. And here I am today, in grad school with a budding career, fighting against this depression for the energy and strength to continue writing The Elven Dilemma, stubbornness and utter defiance my newfound muses. I will finish and publish this novel to prove to myself and my demon that I can. I will publish this novel in spite of my depression and the toxicity it has brought into my life because I am strong, and I will not let it win. Not yet anyway. Tomorrow is a new day.