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Fighting and Writing Lessons from NaNoWriMo

Guest Blogger: Shae Hamrick

Well, December is here and NanoWriMo is gone. I learned a lot about myself and my writing.

I learned and created oogles and googles about my world. I know how big the cities, villages, and kingdoms are—how many people and how much land. I know how many soldiers are full-time and how many can be called up for war. I know that cities and villages have little to no full-time guards or peacekeeping force.

And I learned that fighting is a visceral thing. You don’t write everything going on as it slows the pace; instead you write in body reactions and emotions. There are practically no thoughts or words while fighting unless it is a battle cry or there is a break in the fighting for one to think. But fighting is mostly reactions and actions. Only the most rigorously trained will not get hurt—and even then only if the opponent isn’t skilled and doesn’t get lucky.

knights swordfight fantasy fiction

IStockphoto © fotokostic

After a fight or during a long fight, the fatigue of adrenaline rush wearing off or wearing on you (respectively) will cause a drop in energy levels. You can’t keep a heavy fight up forever. Even the most skilled.

Wars were fought after the spring planting and between harvest, or the people would begin to starve. Long sieges were not practical, as supplying invading forces is always expensive and difficult. Most called up to war were required to bring their own weapons and supplies.

I learned about various battles in the past: why they happened, what the politics were at the time, and how they took place. Many battles were a failure on one side or the other because of inexperience, bickering among the leaders of one side or the other, and bad strategies due to not knowing the enemies’ capabilities.

I was amazed to find that a whole battle could be held up because one side’s commander overslept and pulled his men back until he got ready.

I learned why I didn’t like other stories and why I didn’t like the one I was trying to write. I found that I don’t like stories in which I don’t care about what is happening or why. I know that sounds obvious, but sometimes you sit down to write and you have planned a battle out. It just isn’t very interesting, and it’s very hard to care about what is happening when nothing is specifically confronting the character you haven’t decided to care about yet. Yeah, I wrote several really bad chapters before I realized I didn’t care if the character succeeded or not.

So I was reading some other stories and found that they really didn’t pull me in either, as there was no conflict in them that I cared about. That nothing was really going wrong and that it was simply “another day in the neighborhood” for the character. No one’s world was turned upside down. And that was what was wrong with my story. No one’s world was turned upside down, even in the battles. Everything was going as expected. No twists, no calamities, no main characters dying or under real threat of dying. Nothing new under the sun of my character’s normal life.

That is when I decided to quit writing to my plot and start writing exciting scenes where everything went wrong. Boy, did my word count go up. Suddenly, I wasn’t getting up for a drink, a bite, or a stretch. I was going gung ho and getting to the end of the day way too fast.

If only I had figured that out three weeks earlier.

Oh well, lesson learned. For now anyway. I will no doubt forget again later.

And that is part of what I learned during NaNoWriMo. Yeah me!

Shae HamrickShae Hamrick lives in Texas and has had a twenty-year career in the electronics and telecom industries. She writes fantasy and science fiction and says, “My mission is to write stories that show Godly character in action.” Find her at http://www.shamrickbooks.webs.com.

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