A. L. Buehrer What I Write and Why

Monday, December 5, 2016

Seven things I learned from NaNoWriMo


This year was my first attempting National Novel Writing Month’s great 50k words in 30 days challenge. I’ve been hanging around on the sidelines wondering if I have what it takes for several years now, and abruptly—here in the middle of my senior year of college—I decided it was my time.

  And I did it. I actually surpassed 52k on November 30th, claiming my official win plus. My odds actually hadn’t been that great. If I was like a lot of participants, attempting their first novel, I doubt that I could have done it. But even if I hadn’t been able to pull it off, I think it would have been well worth the try, because doing something that extreme teaches you things.

  So, without further ado, here’s what I learned on the front lines of NaNoWriMo.

1.    I learned how to save images I edited in Photoshop so that the internet would acknowledge their existence. Big revelation. I figured out how to do this when saving my cover image for my NaNo novel. You “save for the web.” Never would have thought of that. Ha. I’m so techno-savvy.  But I’m glad I got this figured out, so now I can edit title images for this blog, and stick them on Pinterest and stuff. Better late than never.


2.    Better late than never. That’s something else I learned. I was 10k words behind up until Thanksgiving break. I kept seeing people on the forums freaking out over being 2k behind, or so. I gritted my teeth and caught up suddenly in the home stretch. It was totally possible!


3.    Along the same lines, I discovered the hidden true moral of “The Tortoise and the Hare.” We were supposed to win NaNo by way of the tortoise’s strategy. Just one foot in front of the other, 1,667 words a day. But if you look at my chart of daily word count throughout the month, you see that’s not what I did at all. There were about ten days where I hit and exceeded the target word-count. I worked in hare-like sprints. Guys, the only reason the hare lost the race was because he fell asleep. Therefore, the true moral of the story was: no sleeping.


4.    Stopwatches are better than timers. This is a crazy fact that I discovered, and it may quite possibly be only true for me. When I set a thirty-minute timer, I was lucky to get 500 words down in that time. I thought that was my limit. Then I set a stopwatch. When I hit 500 words, I stopped it--always between 15 and 12 minutes. Crazy.


5.    All dialogue should be argumentative underneath. This keeps it from getting boring and loosing connection with the plot. If there’s always some sort of conflict of interests underneath the conversation, it becomes a lot more logical, and easier to know what the character should say next. Even if the conflict is very small and petty, it’s going to help.


6.    Collapsing bridges and crashing helicopters are good things. I think this is self-explanatory. I mean, everybody knows this, right?


7.    And lastly, writing is not supposed to be as serious as we try to make it all the time. I wrote this novel to prove that to myself once and for all. We novelists spend so much time agonizing over unattainable perfection. I’m done trying to take myself so seriously. We have one of the most fun occupations in the world. It’s time to cut loose and enjoy it.



One more thing before I go. Here is the cover of my NaNo project. It’s never going to be published. I mean, it’s written from the perspective of my childhood imaginary enemy. I’m in it as a character and mentioned by name, and portrayed in a rather negative light, I must say. I needed to write a piece of literature with absolutely no pressure hanging over it, so that’s what I did.

  But now, back to reality. I’ve got to try to attain perfection with the draft of a dystopian novel I’ve got scheduled for release in February 2017.

  Serious business. 


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Introducing "The Art of Lightplay"

  I’ve finished the first draft of a new novel. This novel is a bit of a land-mark, being about thirty-thousand words longer than my previous record-holder, “End of the Saros.” I can’t remember when I started it—I don’t keep track of dates, but I know it didn’t actually feel like it took forever—which is probably a good sign.


  Here’s a quick run-down of the stats of “The Art of Lightplay” as of now.

  Length: 139,826 words

  Genre: Hard to say. Gothic/alternative reality/fantasy/sci-fi…?

  Audience: mostly Christian Young Adult

  Stage of production: first editing round

  Hopeful Release Time: September 2016


“The Art of Lightplay” Synopsis:

The only strange thing about Fiireah’s quiet island life seems to have finally settled in her past, until she goes to explore a deserted neighboring island and discovers that things are not always how they appear. There, three young recluses have set themselves apart from the world to devote their time to the study of a little-known ability on the razor-edge of science—the art of lightplay.

  As Fiireah joins them in their pursuit of lightplay’s use and meaning, she finds herself in the midst of a deeply personal controversy. When something terrible awakens from the past, sides must be taken—even with a dangerously incomplete understanding of what it all entails.


  I’ll be working on editing and polishing “Lightplay” extensively this month, before passing it to a few beta-readers for further input. It’s been a lot of fun, and I hope to produce something out-of-the-ordinary for you all sometime at the end of this summer. We’ll see how it goes.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Antihero: a protagonist characterized by lack of traditional heroic values

There’s a dictionary-style definition for reference. Examples of this kind of character range from Disney’s Elsa to Marvel’s Loki. There’s probably an even wider spectrum than that. For some reason, people are drawn to characters who wreak havoc. I’ve come across several articles suggesting why.

  “They embody our hidden desires…”

  “They allow us to embrace the darkness in us…”

  “We identify with them because they show us who we really are--”

  Okay, stop. I used to think I was a cynic, but looking around, I seem to see humanity in a slightly more positive light than the average know-it-all writing on literary subjects for trendy blogs. Is it really just me, or is there something about these statements that doesn’t quite ring true?

  I kind of doubt somehow that we actually love antiheros for their moral shortcomings. I mean, if we really liked evil that much, there are plenty of villains that could be said to “embody our hidden desires” a lot better than any antihero ever could. Because of arguments like the above, Christian fiction tends to cautiously avoid antiheros. I think that’s a mistake. I think we need them. At least with those of us that are trying to stay on the right track anyway, I believe that the sympathy that antiheros arouse may come from the good part of our nature—that elusive “image of God” that we are all created in.

  Here’s what I mean:

1.      We have all know how it feels to wreak havoc

Think about it. Sometime in your past haven’t you run off in a fit of panic and thrown all Arendelle into a devastating mid-summer freeze? Haven’t you ever killed eighty people in two days? I mean on your own scale, of course. Our own mistakes are always the worst. Who doesn’t know how it feels to tear things up? Is it because we really, deep inside want to tear things up, or is it because we know how it feels and can imagine it so vividly?

2.       Stars shine in the dark

I’m a fan of high-contrast. The thing about antiheros is not that there is evil in them, it’s that there is good in them! That’s actually what makes them compelling. The realization that there is something buried inside a character that gives them a chance is what keeps us hanging on, white-knuckled. If you’ve seen Thor: The Dark World, you know it’s peppered with hints at this element in Loki. That singular moment when he shields Jane from the aether shines almost bright enough to blind you with hope.

3.      Desire for redemption

Hope for what? For Darth Vader, for example. Okay, Darth Vader is crossing over into villain territory. Still he illustrates the point. Even though that robotic black mask isn’t half so affecting as Loki’s incredibly emotive face, let alone Elsa’s highly expressive animated visage, Luke’s not alone when he feels the conflict in the once-good villain’s soul. It seems that there is something in us that thirsts to see redemption even after horrible things have happened. Especially then.

  How’s that for a hidden desire?