When I say that this Camp NaNoWriMo month was like no other, it’s an understatement. I’m talking literal blood, sweat and tears.
Biting my chapped lips out of stress until they bleed. Concentrating on plot problems until I sweat. Working out character arc problems until I burst into tears.
Pin if you can relate.
Instead of letting this month’s writing struggles defeat this determined warrior spirit, however, I completed my goal by 200% despite unexpectedly losing a week in which to work.
Writing undefeated for the win. ?
Let’s jump right in to what I’ve worked on, what I learned, and—true to the featured image—snippets I’ll bet you can’t survive. >:)
(I documented my first week of Camp here, if you’d like to check it out too.)
All kunoichi warrior Ari Kireina wants is for someone to deem her worth something. But when she willingly fails her most important mission yet, she ends up on the run and then on the hunt for the man she failed, deems her worthless, and wants her most—with the help of a samurai warrior torn between his hatred and his love for her.
For April Camp this year, I wanted to put 60 hours toward the first macro edit of my historical fiction epic Warfare Book I.
I’ve drafted this four times, completely rewritten it twice, but am only now conducting a plot structure, theme, and character arc edit known as the macro edit.
Hours These Days: 2
Hours Total: 13
My family is beyond all levels of awesome, but we all fail to communicate.
This resulted in me having to take an unexpected two weeks off of my online projects and almost a week off of writing, which put me really behind. I was able to squeeze two hours of reading up on character arcs in one day, but that was it.
Before then, however, I was able to build my revisions list.
The real revisions list is much longer, but this looks prettier.
I also discovered the epic, dramatic music I love is actually its own genre: epica.
If you’re ever in need of epic music, try Two Steps from Hell and Brand X Music. If you want dramatic music with equally dramatic lyrics, try Tommee Profitt.
Hours Today: 7
Hours Total: 20
First up on the revisions list was determine Rasako Deyuan‘s place in the plot.
I added him in the first draft so Ari (my protagonist) could have a long-lost older brother, but he was adding nothing to the plot and I hated his character anyway, so I cut him out.
He could be an important link to Satsujin-sha in the later books, but Kira is already a major link. He’s not that important.
He did, however, inspire something else entirely; a male shinobi academy.
So now the kunoichi (female ninja) academy and shinobi academy are rivals. And there’s nothing I love more than boy vs. girl rivalries when they end up falling in love!
Literally, my very first story was a boy vs. girl rivalry and then they fell in love. It’s a theme I just adore. It’s in, like, every single one of my stories.
Every single one.
Hours Today: 2
Hours Total: 22
I was still behind and wasn’t making as much progress as I needed to.
Next up on the revisions list was to redo the Big Epic Mission (yes, that’s what I refer to it in plotting ?) that comprises the majority of the plot.
To start that, I had to make all the conflict thematically-pertinent. To do that, I had to know what the theme was.
Then I realized my protagonist’s character arc wasn’t in relation to the theme very much.
Oh, Lord, save me.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how “big” is the Ghost?
LET’S MAKE IT BIGGER.
Hours Today: 3
Hours Total: 25
I hate crafting character arcs, and they hate me back. But they’re vital and necessary to creating a story with a powerful theme.
They get to the door, the only thing they can’t be quiet about. Once they break it down, it’s a matter of seconds before they’re captured, so they have to move like lightning.
They put the bomb on the sliding door lock and hide out of the way BUT A CUTE LITTLE SAMURAI TODDLER is walking by it.
Hours Today: 4
Hours Total: 29
By now, I was still super behind in blog posts, emails, comments, projects, promises, giveaway packages to send out (!!!) and my dear Camp NaNo goal and writing.
I was beyond discouraged. But faint heart never won a fair book contract.
If there’s one thing I know, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish the race.
So what did I decide to do? Not only was I going to make my goal, I decided to double it.
5 hours a day and 9 on the weekends? Let’s grind that goal into the dirt.
look at my chubby little German nose! (I’m 25% German.)
We want this to be AAAP—as awesome as possible.
AHAHAHA THEY DON’T RECOGNIZE MARUKO OR KNOW THAT HE’S MARUKO AND EVERYTHING THEY DO TO HELP HIS FRONT ACTUALLY HELPS HIM AND THEN PLOT TWIST!
Hours Today: 5
Hours Total: 34
This is where I spent the majority of my April.
Ugh I have no idea.
UGH THIS IS SO CONFUSING! It’s epic but it feels so random?
NO I CAN’T BACKWARDS OUTLINE.
My highly uncomfortable writing spot and the frustrations in my plot made me very grumpy.
Hours Today: 5
Hours Total: 39
Konran smirks. “Can’t take the insults, termagant?”
Hinoki steps in front of Ari protectively. “Only I call her termagant.”
During the sequel, Ari kind of decides Hinoki has a point. When they’re putting their horses up, Ari is like, “It would be nice to take a mission on something I’m passionate about, regardless of whether it makes me useful for people.”
Hinoki grins. “First mission on something you’re passionate about: give me a hug.”
Hours Today: 5
Hours Total: 44
Ari screams for Hinoki, BUT HE DOESN’T COME. She really made him mad this time!
And they’re like ? [spoiler name] wasn’t really dead!!
They see water and fire and are like, hey let’s do this. AND THEN BAM THE LETTERS ARE GONE.
Hours Today: 9
Hours Total: 53
Ari hugs him, but Hinoki gently pushes her back. “It’s not like that between us.”
Ari is shocked, and sad. She whispers, “Why can’t it be?”
And Hinoki responds, “It just can’t.”
Ari takes the two swords… and with a deft throw tosses it to the guard next to Maruko, who stabs him. The room erupts into chaos, no one knows what they’re doing, they’re all after Maruko but he escapes, yay us.
Hours Today: 8
Hours Total: 61
We’re done with the BEM Scene Outline Test #1!
Finally. I finished re-brainstorming the BEM and moved onto the next thing to knock out:
I didn’t give Maruko a full-fledged arc in the fourth draft because he wasn’t even onscreen until the climax.
But now that I’ve re-brainstormed the BEM and made him more involved, I got to murder some more stupid character arcs. 😀
… just kidding. I got so frustrated that I burst into tears and quit for the night. Don’t let my smile above fool you.
I’ve never cried or even teared up (negatively) about anything related to Warfare but character arcs.
Have I mentioned that I hate character arcs?
Hours Today: 5
Hours Total: 66
Thankfully, the ever-patient Josie Beth was willing to take pity on me and graciously share her writing wisdom, no matter how many times I bombarded her with questions.
Go tell her she’s awesome by subscribing to her blog.
Maruko Character Arc
Lie: Complete worth is gained by complete power.
Truth: Complete power doesn’t give you worth from those you’re ruling.
Hours Today: 10
Hours Total: 76
What do you want readers to find most sympathetic/interesting about Maruko?
Maruko Characteristic Moment Summary
Kira gives the Masatoshi assassination mission.
In it, she talks all about Maruko; his strategic patience and cleverness, his huge goal and passion, and his need to be absolutely respected.
She walks in bearing a fresh scar (ACTUALLY—maybe he shattered her face or something and she has multiple scars and her wrist is broken! >:D) and someone asks about it and wonders if she disrespected him.
A few gasp and giggle, but Kira keeps up her straight expression. She returns a smart comment but in the subtle way she returns it we can tell that yes, she got the scar from Maruko.
“He’s too old for you, Sensei.”
Kira frowns. “For the record, he’s seven years older.”
“Ooh, you even know his birthday.”
Hours Today: 5
Hours Total: 81
What event occurs at the end of the First Act that causes Maruko to leave the Normal World and irreversibly engage with the main conflict?
Ari Kireina and Hinoki Ajin’omto—who would’ve thought—want his help to track down his own warrior. In exchange, they’ll most likely take him to Nijo! He accepts.
In what way might this be surprising even after the Inciting Event?
Who would’ve thought?
Hours Today: 5
Hours Total: 86
How is Maruko demonstrating confusion or frustration about why his old Lie-based methods are no longer working for him?
This makes me giggle no matter how many times I read it.
And for one that makes me sad:
How will your final scene be a downbeat one that demonstrates the broken dreams and ideals Maruko was forced to sacrifice to a dark Truth he couldn’t fully handle?
Maybe he silently cries an itty-bitty tear in Hinari’s resolution scene and Ari pities him. His dreams have been destroyed. He couldn’t handle the Truth.
After Maruko’s character arc (which I had to do twice because I messed it up) came the fourth thing to fix:
One of my settings is Nijo Castle, which was home to the Tokugawa dynasty in Edo (now called Tokyo), Japan.
Nijo Castle is where the advisors of Japan advise the shogun of Japan, and where the shogun usually lives… if he’s not assassinated, of course. Which he is.
XD Tokugawa Ietsuna actually died prematurely, but in my story, it’s because one of my characters assassinated him.
The first couple of books in my series take place during the one-year power struggle that ensued in 1680 before the next shogun finally came to power in 1681.
Hours Today: 5
Hours Total: 91
See that crossed swords icon? That’s the symbol for the Warfare series.
If I’m taking notes in church and the pastor says an epic line, I’ll draw that symbol to let me know it could be a good line for Warfare.
It’s an emoji, too: ⚔
I’m thoroughly convinced I have the best brother in the world, no matter how times I call him Russell Duane the Insane.
He buys me candy and doll-sized trinkets just because. I had a grand time eating these Skittles while working on the next revisions list item:
(Not an hour after I wrote the above two paragraphs about my brother, he came home from MMA and plopped a bag of Sour Patch Kids in my hand, saying, “I bought something for you!” ?)
I may or may not have gotten a little carried away drawing stick-figure ninja, shuriken, katanas and the face of my protagonist, Ari (that masked woman with curly hair). ?
Despite how worried my mom is about my caffeine consumption, she made me a mocha every day to help cope with sleep loss.
Hours Today: 5
Hours Total: 96
Next came a bunch of stuff:
I re-outlined my story’s climax and upped its emotional stakes…
How will Ari’s new resolve and understanding about herself and the world be challenged one more time?
Maruko will be like, “Why are you doing this? You’re not proving anything to anyone.”
How will Ari respond to this challenge?
“I am. I’m proving it to myself.”
… made my protagonist’s strengths more prominent…
Bc Ari is a shinboi, she should also make clever, sneaky decisions … decisions that think ahead and are planned & timed well that involve sneaky spy shinobi stuff hehe. She needs to be an active player in the conflict, not just an emotional wreck along for the ride like she was in the fourth draft. ?
(Yes, I actually draw emojis in my outlining XD)
… and verified the pertinence of the head sensei of the male shinobi academy in the plot.
So Norin is in the plot for leads for Kazanawi bc it takes a shinobi to track down a shinobi. And for Hinoki’s Characteristic Moment.
I’ll have another!
Hours Today: 5
Hours Total: 101
No, really. His arc was so bad, he earned the name Freaking Flopping Fish from my alpha readers. ?
I have hopefully redeemed him with my outlining.
What went wrong?
The scene disasters were inconsistent and not foreshadowed all the way through. In short, he was a freaking flopping fish.
How can we fix it?
Tighter foreshadowing and no more I-hate-yous and I’ll-kill-yous after the Midpoint.
I proceeded to update his character arc.
Now that the main conflict has been resolved, what is Hinoki planning to do next?
Pursue a relationship with Ari. He’s just too paranoid to ask yet!
How will this choice for a new life contrast the choices Hinoki would have made back in his first chapter?
HAHA it contrasts dramatically. He would never have decided it then. He’s a changed man for sure.
Then, I jumped back and fourth from strengthening the theme, figuring out relationship characters, upping the story’s emotional stakes, and making sure my plot and theme were working together.
It was a very confusing time. 😀
After that, I outlined the main ship’s romance.
Inciting Event for the romance:
When Hinari dances. They could be so right together, but they’re not ready yet.
Time for a pop quiz: what’s almost as bad as character arcs?
*screams and pulls hair out*
It was the Great Tribulation. There was weeping and gnashing of teeth.
I spent a frustrating two days brainstorming the epic possibilities, reading all K.M. Weiland’s posts on subplots forwards and backwards and striving to grasp the concept, and realizing I know even less of what I’m doing than I thought. ?
But that means I’m only going up from here.
When I X things out, I really X things out.
Hours Today: 10
Hours Total: 111
I ditched the subplot idea and just found out what I liked about the idea and incorporated that into the main conflict instead.
Warfare alpha/beta readers: spoilers ahead!
• I think it would work better as just foreshadowing. Kira does kill Tallinn.
• After we find out Kira is married to Maruko, right before the Second Pinch Point and after Konran swipes the letters, we hear the dramatic “I am your shogun” scene and then they kiss and Ari is like ?? “Maruko!”
I also named my character Kira “The Epic, Unstoppable Show with Soul-Wrenching Secrets”.
So now we’ve got Hinoki the FFF and Kira the EUSWSWS. I’ll have to think of funny names for the rest of the cast.
Then it was time for amping up my character archetypes, in which I find out Hinoki is a serious multitasker:
Sidekick: Tori, Hinoki
Guardian: Kira, Hinoki
Emotion: Tori, Tallinn, Kazanawi
Love Interest: Hinoki
Hours Today: 9
Hours Total: 120
I had to “kill a darling”—fiction speak for removing one of my favorite parts of my story to make it stronger.
Han’na is the sweetest character forever, and I just loved the idea of Ari having two sidekicks; the spunky, murder-minded, conscience-seared Tori and the super sweet and innocent Han’na.
But… Han’na just wasn’t adding anything to the plot, and having a character just floating around without affecting the story is not good.
So she had to go. It bwoke my wittle heart, but it strengthened my story.
GOODBYE HAN’NA. I WILL EVER CHERISH THE SWEET AND SELFLESS RELATIONSHIP YOU HAD WITH TORI AND ARI! ?
The sobbing emoji is really fun to draw. XD
Oh, but what should return just right after I get over the trauma of subplots?
Minor Character Arcs
K I R A A S H I
Goal: To make her husband Maruko happy
Conflict: Maruko is hard to make happy. Her student is causing him insane amounts of trouble, and Maruko is furious about it. Kira tries to stop Ari, but Ari is relentless and determined.
Resolution: Maruko divorces her.
Thematic Pertinence: Kira gets her worth from Maruko, which is her motive. She even blatantly states it. “I have no problem killing innocent men. But betraying my own country is hard.” Kira swallows. “I’m worth nothing if I can’t make my husband happy. You have to understand that.”
E R I K K O N R A N
Goal: Make Maruko shogun so he can get paid, so he can settle down for a happy life with his soon-to-be wife when this is all over.
Motive: He wants a fulfilling, relaxed life with a family and regrets getting involved with this whole plot.
Conflict: Ari. She never gives up and is on his trail.
Resolution: He is executed, having lost the chance of the life he always wanted.
Thematic Pertinence: Well… none.
AWWW. Ari gets to pretend to be Konran’s fiancée to find out important information, meaning she has to dye her hair and teeth black and paint on fake eyebrows like rich Japanese ladies back then, so that’ll be fun.
Finally, after 30 days of turmoil and determination, I got to the most relieving part.
I returned to the Outlining Your Novel Workbook and flipped through to see what I could do to make this whole macro edit easier.
I got to the General Sketches part and squealed, because I finally get to write down all the scenes I know of so far (I plotted 30 scenes for the Big Epic Mission and was worried about how that would fit in with the 15 scenes before and 15 scenes after).
Now I get to see everything in a linear order.
This clears my confusion and allows me to quickly answer questions about the scenes, if I need to add new ones to fit in with what I’ve got, take some out, re-order them, change them… SQUEEEEE!
I ended April on a high note!
First, a few days off.
My uncle bought me some dinner to celebrate; my favorite cuisine, Japanese (fitting, isn’t it? ?)
I think I crashed and burned, but I’m really happy I doubled up on my goal instead of lessening it due to busyness.
I would’ve much rather shot for the high goal and missed it than have shot for a low one and made it.
Then it’s back to continuing that macro edit on my regular writing schedule; 9 P.M. to 12(ish) A.M.
I have orders from four cabin mates to get some celebratory sleep, to which they’ll be happy to know I am! I slept in until 10:30 yesterday. ?
Speaking of cabin mates, I was blessed to be surrounded by the old Campers and new additions to our Wordsmiths 3.0 cabin.
The following deserve medals for putting up with me:
As well as my lovely family: my dad for leaving me alone even when he missed me, my mom for lessening up on school and chores, my sister for her hilarious sarcastic comments that cheer me up, and my brother for buying me candy, new music, and making sure I wasn’t lonely.
Tell me all about your Camp NaNo goal, because I want to hear. Share with me your favorite snippet, whether you crushed your goal or learned from it, and verify your survival of my snippet-shoving.
Or, if you didn’t do Camp, I’d love to hear about your latest writing project!