Archive for November, 2014

NaNoWriMo Day 30 – Victory!

And so, it is complete. I have defeated NaNoWriMo for only the second time in my life. Yesterday I rather fittingly decided to hunker down at the same Panera Bread where I beat it a day early all the way back in 2008, though this was one of the few times when I could have done so over the past few years – I’ve been all over the place since then. Last November found me in Colombia, the several before that found me in Central Illinois as a reporter. The very first one I defeated happened just as Barack Obama won election to the presidency the first time, and now here we are miles into his second term.

I have a few observations about this go-round. Firstly, I feel okay about what it is I wrote. I have the distinct feeling some things will ultimately be done away with, but I also feel as if the greater majority will remain. This writing also helped me get through a deeply muddy time in the book, when literally every character is moving in concert and it becomes difficult to keep them all straight. That is going to be a major difficulty moving forward, but it’s also important that it be done: The story is partly one of a town, and not just the three main characters. Some advice a girlfriend (at the time) told me was that I should peel back the other stuff, and she’s right. I think I overdid it in some scenes, but cutting is easier than producing, and if we must cut later, then we will.

Writing this in concert with reading The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub was also weirdly instructive in a few ways:

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NaNoWriMo Day 27 – I am not thankful for this novel


Authority changes hands. | Kenneth Lowe via Notegraphy

Okay, I won’t bitch any further about hating writing this thing. After an evening where I lost my lead again because I dicked around, had a friend over, and couldn’t be bothered to remain conscious long enough to write more than 1,000 or so words, I was finally able to power through and produce a good day’s writing today.

Part of that was circling back and adding in a clarifying scene in the past, one which should pay off here in the future in a little bit. While what I am writing now seems scattershot, it really is clarifying the whole book to me. These 50,000 words, you’ll notice, are going to be somewhat more than a quarter of what I’ve written over the past several years so far, and they’re solidifying the imagery, some of the characters and their relationships, and really setting up the bad guys, who don’t get much detail in the first chunk of the book. All told, while I worry that I may have created a jagged mess. I’ve also dumped on a lot of raw material that I am totally willing to rework.

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NaNoWriMo Day 25 – In which I can’t believe it is Day 25

One of the few lines I can remember verbatim from my own damn book. | Kenneth Lowe, via Notegraphy

I keep composing these on my phone instead of when I have my manuscript in front me, so the result is I haven’t posted excerpts lately. Last night was the perfect exemplar of how stunningly tired I am of the whole enterprise – I wrote maybe 1,000 words, just enough to be over the Day 24 goal, and then called it a night.

It did not help that the heat in my apartment is out and that I could barely think straight it was so cold. I am resolutely sick of Chicago, sick of a winter that hasn’t even properly begun yet, and sick of hearing of the awful violence in the wake of the Ferguson grand jury as I simultaneously get grief from family members about the possibility of going back to Colombia after this is all over. Which country is more dangerous, I have to wonder?

As I compose this, I am on my way to an official function where the president will be speaking. I am excited, but also exhausted, and an ice-cold apartment and this relentless novel await me when I do finally get home from this thing that is only going to start at 4:30. (Update: Turned away at the door… it was so packed they were declining VIPs.)

Fatigue, I have been assured, is a real thing when it comes to writing. More and more lately, I have come to appreciate that writing is work and not solely diversion. I am fiercely determined to finish though, so tonight I am going to push back ahead.

And then tomorrow I’m going to my fucking mom’s house, where the godshitting heat works, possibly until this tedious fucking return to my blighted homeland is blessedly over with.

NaNoWriMo Day 21 – Viva la grind


So Cuban, Andy Garcia is playing on the TV. 90 Miles Cuban Cafe, Chicago, Nov. 2014 | Kenneth Lowe

I had a truly grueling writing experience last night, literally lying in bed with my eyes closed and composing 2,000 words I am truly surprised make any sense at all.

This was after a flurry of activity at work and a long train ride home. Those scenes were mainly filling in earlier parts that have only now come clear to me as the writing begins to shape this prolonged second act of the story. So the result was, I squeezed scenes into the middle rather than tacked more stuff onto the end. This lead to truly perilous situations where I was scrolling through past sections adding stuff that had never been there before. Somehow, it made sense when I opened my eyes to look at it.

I am now imperiling my 200-word goal lead, which I only won by writing above goal for three straight days, by going to a writer’s workshop. I have never been to it and know only one person there, and there is a long train ride ahead of me at the end of the evening and it sure would be nice to play Diablo III.


NaNoWriMo Day 17 – Oops


Oh, no, this just happened. What could I have done differently? Lucky Strike Chicago, Nov. 2014 | Kenneth Lowe

Well, it seems we won’t make word count today unless we stay up far, far too late. This is what I get for being social and wanting to see one of the four movies I haven’t gotten around to yet. At least I was at a surplus (though not enough to not be behind).

I am waiting for a later showtime than I thought, but at least the AMC on Illinois Street has a combination restaurant/bar/bowling alley to keep a man occupied.

Stay tuned for the gripping drama of how I get my groove back!

Balls, but it’s cold


Standing guard beneath a tarp. Statue in front of the Iglesia San Francisco in Popayán, Colombia. Nov. 2013. | Kenneth Lowe

Seriously, how do you gringos stand it? Above image is from about the same time last year, when I was galivanting around Colombia and not hiding under a blanket because my apartment leaks heat like the NSA’s underpaid code monkeys leak awful security secrets.

I did have another successful night of writing last night. As usual, I seem to stumble along at first, then get to the truly exciting part and just unleash my limit break.

I want to write more about what this experience is teaching me about just forcing myself to produce no matter the mood or time constraints, but I fear I have little insight into what it practically means. It has instilled some confidence in me; the feeling that I can just push ahead and deal with the loose ends I’ve left behind later is particularly liberating.

At the same time, it is depressing how much more needs to get done when set against how long I have been writing this damn thing. This isn’t even the first time I have declared myself in it to win it, but it is the most serious single push I’ve made on it ever, I think.

Anyway, more to come today as we hit the halfway point. I was up above 24,000 words last night, so meeting the halfway goal will be a cinch.

NaNoWriMo Day 12 – Dysphoria

It had been a girl once, not yet quite a woman. The little white choir gown it wore was fouled with stains; Winters could not tell if they were from the rusted chains that encircled its body and ran through the pitons driven into the back wall and floor of its cramped little cell, or if they were long-dried blood or filth. The hands and feet were desiccated, the flesh drawn back so far that the nails looked like claws, the individual bones of the hand and foot glared out under the patchwork light the cell let in.

Over its head it wore a shredded canvas bag, but holes in it let out two matted cascades of tawny, malnourished hair.

“Rhonda?” Winters whispered into the cell. “Rhonda Younge?”

It had been looking downward, but as it raised its bagged head, Winters realized the bottom had been clawed at, frayed away enough to expose the chin. It opened a black mouth filled with shattered teeth – but no tongue, Winters would remember later as she tried to sleep in her savage triumph. The scream that came out was the scream of one for whom words have never held meaning, a wretched howl that beat against the walls of its cell.


Don’t worry, I’m still writing. I did completely screw off on Day 10 and wrote barely 900 words on Day 9, but it is still all right, since I was more than a day ahead to begin with and the last couple of days have kept me just barely ahead of prescribed word count. That video up there is sort of the cultural “it” thing of the moment, and you’ll notice it is incredibly disturbing after a certain point.

That sort of ties in with what I’m writing about now: A weird place that occupies the ideal of something but is in fact a creepy backdrop for a total psycho killer. In my current storyline, the woman a shady group of people have sent to track down this creepy killer has reached that killer’s hiding place. I’m not sure if it came through or not, but I wanted to invest in her just a little bit of the heroic as she tries to navigate this sinister, dark place and is finally shaken by the terrible things she finds inside. Of course, that wouldn’t make for a good rest of the book, though. What will happen next is a treacherous alliance between the two of them, as he offers her the secrets of the townspeople, who are more important than she’s realized. This is a big turning point in the story, and I’m nearly coming to the end of it, thankfully.

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NaNoWriMo Day 8 – Rocking the House


The House, DeKalb, IL | Kenneth Lowe

I’m in DeKalb this evening for a friend’s birthday party, but I still managed to get in 1,462 words toward the total today while sitting around at The House with a bagel and a mocha. Considering I am more than a full day ahead of goal, this is hardly a failure.

So who is the man? I am. I am the man.

NaNoWriMo Day 7 – Probably went overboard

I spent too long writing and I fear a great deal of it will get cut. But that’s how it goes. I gave some more time to the weird old detective character who is a part of this book, too. I am trying to look at this as not wasted time for writing too much, but we’ll see how I feel when I edit it later.

Here’s today’s stats:

NaNoWriMo Day 7
START: 151,577
END: 153,652
GOAL: 14,144/50,000

I continue to shove myself ahead of goal, something I realize I’m going to need as I’m looking at a few busy days on the road in Springfield later this month. Let’s hope it doesn’t derail anything. Too tired even to post up a picture on this one. Oy.

NaNoWriMo Day 6 – Villainy

That was pertinent, I promise.

Today I got a bit later of a start to my writing than I ought to have, but I did get out another big chunk. I think I’m more than a full day ahead now, amazingly. This is probably entirely a function of me having so much of the story already figured out and the rest of this just now naturally flowing.

“Flowing” is a fitting descriptor here, considering that the bad guy I am employing here resides in a twisted sort of nightmare world where water is an aesthetic bit of creepiness as well as a very real hazard. Today’s scene had him cleaning up a weak link in his organization, because he’s evil you see. Like (my now favorite [fictional…?] depiction of) Shia LeBeouf, this is a devious, dangerous cannibal.

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