Fiction

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
WORDS TODAY: 2,075
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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NaNoWriMo Day 4 – Don’t Be Stanley

Stanley is sleeping in on Election Day. Stanley doesn't vote in mid-term elections. Don't be Stanley.

Stanley is sleeping in on Election Day. Stanley doesn’t vote in mid-term elections. Don’t be Stanley.

He had needed to fall asleep, he had had to fall asleep, not even grief or rage or any of it could stretch the endurance of a six-year-old beyond the point of endurance and when he fell asleep it was like a kind of unconsciousness, not like nodding off but actually falling beaten and broken from the church spire to crash through the glass dome below, and landing there in his misery he found himself falling still, plummeting through the sky alight with stars and moons of colors he had never seen before, and they sang with her voice. He knew then, even in the dream, that it was not her, that she was never coming back, and that this was some message left behind for him in the full knowledge that he would find it and take something from it. And when he reached the ground he realized that he had been falling like a feather, cradled by a warm wind like the breath of the woman whose bossom he had clung to in his first moments in the wide, cold, senseless nightmare place that was outside, the place with its unfair rules and its twisted, mean people. His feet touched the carpet of grass as if he’d taken no more than a step. Abe looked up with a smile, and he wasn’t green but true, immortal brass, and along the base of the statue was a winding vine from which sprouted white flowers. As he watched, it snaked downward and the ground sprouted more, the plants forming for him a pathway that lead down the hill, faster and faster, faster than he could run on his legs, and as he feared he would lose this messenger it stopped and from the ground ahead of him burst the trees and bushes and underbrush that parted as he sprinted into it and came to a scraping stop. There in the center was a statue—


I promise, I was writing yesterday. Tonight, as I wait for the election results to roll in, I am staring at a whole day of writing that amounted only to 1,679 words. I continue to mash my way through a long, complicated scene that is actually two parallel scenes intercut, and which will end in alarm on both ends. Unfortunately, my plotting was such a mess leading up to it that I have also been going back and adding some stuff to build up to this scene.

The source of the problem here is that I have for the past two freaking years or so been writing this very intermittently. Now that I’m diving into it, there is so much stuff that I wrote aimlessly or with no clear plan. This is the tangly, hard-to-pin-down part of the book, where many threads are going at once and a lot of the main characters are not yet truly confidants. That will resolve itself soon as I approach a unification of a lot of these threads, but it is such a tangled thicket in the meantime that I feel as if I am bludgeoning my way through it out of sheer meanness.

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NaNoWriMo Day 2 – Writing > laundry

Longer shadows. Chicago River, South Branch, 2014. | Kenneth Lowe

Longer shadows. Chicago River, South Branch, 2014. | Kenneth Lowe

He was talking, but it wasn’t words. Broadcasting, whatever. It was just … meanness. Just bad things. He had eyes like a wolf. Tattoos all over him, his neck, his fingers. And he just looked straight at me and put a finger to his lips, and he got in his car and left.

And my dad was inside with his head in his hands at the table, just bawling. My mom and Tommy weren’t anywhere. And he just looked up at me and told me we had to go.

“I did a bad thing, Daddy did a bad thing, sweetie,” he said. “If we don’t go now she might find us. We have to go before she finds us.”

He wouldn’t say who “she” was. But we were packed that night, just him and me, and then we were gone.


I did a bad thing. I brought another character into the narrative, one who hasn’t even existed before. I would say I hope this doesn’t complicate anything, but I know it does. I am not very disciplined at this, am I?

Still, for sheer word-count as well as successful-completion-of-scene, I had a pretty decent writing day. It took me a while to ignore digital distractions and hunker down and really write, but once I did, it flowed out. And man am I ahead of word count. Let’s take a look at the stats:

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Let the NaNoWriMo-ing begin!

Halloween is over. Archer Avenue, McKinley Park, Chicago, ca. October 2014 | Kenneth Lowe

Halloween is over. Archer Avenue, McKinley Park, Chicago, ca. October 2014 | Kenneth Lowe

I have resolved to finish this novel I have been writing for years now. I don’t think another 50,000 words will quite get it there, but it will definitely get it closer. I’ve already posted an example or two or three here, but I notice that it really doesn’t give you very much in the way of what the novel’s true, sinister tone will be like.

For those just beginning, Long September is a story about a group of young friends who live in rural Illinois, in a small town where the sudden and unexplained death of another girl shocks the community and then drives the entire town into a cycle of recrimination and suspicion based on it’s deepest secrets.

More would give too much away, but it’s also about how children are used as a football by their elders – how the young are forced into the genuinely shitty systems that grown-ups insist are the way the world must work. This reinforces awful behavior, encourages people to be snitches, discourages individuality, and may allow evil to flourish because “it’s always been that way.”

The only reason this damn thing has taken so long is because I haven’t buckled down, and the real reason I haven’t is because I’ve been intimidated by the scope of the novel. It necessarily requires a LOT of characters because it is in part about a town and what a town goes through. So there would be no way to get it done in 50,000 words, but that’s fine. I will crank the 50K this month, and that will get us to a place where the rest will seem easy. Right?

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On the agony of editing

I long for greener places. | Valle de Cocora, Colombia, January 2014.

I long for greener places. | Valle de Cocora, Colombia, January 2014.



I was going to write a much longer and more florid post, and in fact I did, but then OmmWriter Dana II fucking ate it after assuring me it had just saved it.

I am taking a sick day today to combat a malady and to avoid public transit when I can very well write press releases from home, and am unwilling to compromise any more time blogging when I could be working further on my current neck-albatross: The Autumn Sword, the next tale about my detective character set in a fantasy, Victorian-coded world where magic and feudalism are jealously guarding against technology and democracy.

I let this story get away from me. It is now at novella length, and this post is merely me complaining about having to keep fucking editing it when I long ago lost any passion for doing so. This is the part of writing that is work, my children.

Picture above is for inspiration on this, the laziest of days.

In-between places (and a novel excerpt)

Orange Line elevated train stop at 35th & Archer, Chicago, 10 Sept. 2014 | Kenneth Lowe

Orange Line elevated train stop at 35th & Archer, Chicago, 10 Sept. 2014 | Kenneth Lowe

That’s my view on the way to the Orange Line each morning. I’m not 100% on being here in Chicago, but I do know that it is affording me some great opportunities that I did not have. Writers trade on experiences. One of the reasons I got into journalism originally was that I wanted to draw a paycheck for writing (heh), but another was that I knew it would give me broad license to go places and meet people that others do not.

As a reporter I met governors and senators and the ragged and unwashed people so many of their policies fail to help. You might recall people sneering about Barack Obama having been a “community organizer” ; I actually met community organizers, still have some on speed-dial, and I see the kind of work they do. I’m less intensive a reporter now, since my freelance is limited to document-driven pieces in the interest of avoiding any conflict of interest in my current public sector job, but I do still find myself feeling the outsider-looking-in feeling that I’m pretty sure every writer feels.

In that regard, one thing about my time living in the various places I have – suburbia, ag-industrial-rural nowhere, urban South America, City of Big Shoulders, &c. – has been my fascination with in-between places. In places like that, we all feel like outsiders.
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On the Ecstasy of Editing

One of my friends asked me to write a little bit about the editing process. Since it’s the hardest part of writing, you’d think I have some deep philosophy about it, but you are about to find that no, I don’t.

But I’ll talk about what I know about it all the same.
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Long September excerpt: purchased (stolen?) eyes

That was why! Yes. She’d stepped in because she was sick of pretending she couldn’t hear, and that Priestly didn’t know he was being heard. That was really the worst insult of all, the pretense of impunity, insularity, whatever you wanted to call it. It was easy to ignore bullshit like “I told you not to talk to him” or “Where were you last night?” or “Look at me when I’m talking to you” when it was at school and there was a ten minute passing period, but this was retail: At least talking out of your ass
occasionally had consequences here.

It came out of Nyssa’s mouth in a way that seemed totally unbidden. The words hadn’t originated in her head, but somewhere around her stomach, and they came out deep and sharp. Like her brother, Nyssa could bark, too.

“Hey. Asshole.”

Nyssa is the hardest character for me to write. Read more…

Saint of Amaranth – On the virtue of writing shorter (and more)

For a few years now I have had the grand idea for a flashy novel of high Victorian fiction that occurs in a twisty world of magic and gaslights. This is not remotely original, but I want to write it anyway, because I am really not that great a novelist, you see.

I don’t believe that just because a genre may employ lots of tropes and conventions that they must every one of them be defied for the resulting work to be original and fun. And I sort of really like Dracula by Bram Stoker, the original incarnation, and there is part of me that likes Vanity Fair and even Tess of the D’Ubervilles, so I guess there really never was any hope for me. I began to bang out a plot outline in a long, long summary of the book. This was essentially because I was more enthusiastic about the idea than I was about actually writing the thing, which I planned to write in florid, overwrought 19th-century prose, you see.

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