Finding the Systematicity of Language in the Structure of Perceptual Experience

Consider these words you are reading, arbitrary collections of sound whose connection to the actual experiences they evoke is tenuous at best. Yet working from that huge, interconnected jumble of experiences juxtaposed with bits of language that you have had over many years of life, you have been able to learn distinct words, rules of grammar, and systems for effectively communicating with language in endless novel situations. Trying to reproduce this feat of richness and flexibility, many artificial intelligence researchers today are considering neural networks, modeled after the human mind. But neural networks struggle to generalize grammatical rules and structure out of the webs of linguistic information they are trained with. I propose that artificial neural networks can face this challenge and better learn and process the systematic grammar of natural languages by drawing on the rich structure of the real world in perceptual information, because the structure we discover in our perceptual experiences is what we use during our human language learning process to build up systematic concepts around the new words we encounter.

That’s the beginning of this final thesis defense paper that I wrote for an Intro to Philosophy class in 2017. It explores some ways that computer scientists and linguists are trying to model the human mind in a computer so it can understand language, and the challenges these models have in capturing the full flexibility and structure of language. Then it outlines a new philosophical approach, where I try to combine a naturalistic view of language as useful labels for perception with a Christian dualistic view, where language can access absolute truth. Maybe computers can discover some of the structure of language by exploring the structure of the real world around us.

It’s 14 pages long and I’m trying to mash in lots of concepts in that suddenly small space, but it’s also meant to be something that any curious educated person could read and learn a few things about language, philosophy, and computer science from. If you’re up for my philosophizing, you can read a PDF of it here.

An overanalytical Rogue One fan reviews Rebel Rising

Star Wars: Rebel Rising
Author: Beth Revis
Series: Part of the new Disney Star Wars EU continuity
Pub Date: 2017
Pages: 304
Format: Audiobook

Spoilers will be hidden with JavaScript magic.

Oh, I wanted so much to appreciate this book…I loved Rogue One and so I was eager to look past every flaw I could just to get something to scratch the itch for more Rogue One. What I like best about Rogue One is its characters, most especially Jyn Erso, and so what I really wanted from this novel was solid character development. Mounds and mounds of character development. Sacrifice plot, worldbuilding, pacing, whatever – just give me pages and pages of intense character study.

This book does, in fact, sacrifice pacing so it can focus more on character study. And yet, sadly, it still doesn’t work. The characters in this story just did not do it for me. Maybe I have too much headcanon at this point. Maybe listening to it as an audiobook exacerbated the writing and pacing issues so they distracted me too much. I don’t know. But this book mostly left me feeling sad at all the opportunities it wasted for character goodness. There are so many kernels of great ideas, starts and hints at fascinating character arcs, but they never seem to quite pan out.

Saw, for starters, feels very blurry, even inconsistent. You see bits of how he cares for Jyn and tries to train her, bits of his charisma and the way he inspires his followers, bits of his anger against the Empire and his willingness to resort to questionable methods to fight it. But it never quite comes together. Most of the time you’re just being told that Saw gives Jyn special treatment, or everyone wants Saw to notice them, or Saw is being paranoid and dangerous now. There are little flashes of showing, actual good descriptive storytelling: the way others look up to Jyn as Saw’s mouthpiece, the scene where he risks his life to punish a suspected traitor by delivering him to the Empire. But Saw in this book still feels more like a list of character traits than an actual living person.

There is maybe one scene in the whole story where I actually felt moved by his and Jyn’s interactions. Which meant that I had almost zero emotional investment in their relationship to care when Jyn desperately wants his approval, or when she begins to distrust him, or when she finally turns her back on him. I wanted to be heartbroken by those events: they are teeming with narrative potential. But instead they just felt like more things being checked off the list.

Jyn doesn’t really feel true to the movie or the novelization until maybe the last part of the story. For one, she just feels too…soft, uncomfortable with violence and unfamiliar with the regular precautions and deceptions of people outside the law. I could understand her being soft at the beginning, having been raised in relative comfort by loving, sheltering parents, but by the time she’s been living in a terrorist organization for years you’d think she could at least kill somebody or effectively hide her identity. (Does she kill anybody in this book? She at least tries to once, but then is glad when traps set by other people actually finish her target.)

Like I said, maybe this is just my headcanon getting to me. But I expected her to have a little more of Saw’s fiery anger and competent coldness (especially when this is specifically remarked on in the novelization); some more intense, impulsive compassion or nobility like you see when she saves the girl in Jedha or speaks up at the Rebel meeting; more of the apathy and even genuine fear of being involved in something that makes her attack her own rescuers. Instead, in this book she seems more sad than angry about what the Empire’s done to her, and is more inclined to stay at Saw’s camp forging codes for missions she knows very little about than to seek revenge in the heat of battle. She’s horrified at the atrocities she witnesses, whether they’re committed by Saw or the Empire, but she just passively observes, gets out with herself intact, and then never brings it up. No desperate efforts to save people caught in the crossfire or angry words with Saw about why he did those things. And as for apathy, this Jyn falls in love with bland strangers and lives with them for months without any apparent issues trusting them, even after she’s been betrayed by both her other families.

The Jyn of this story is just a little bit too passive, too nice, and too trusting to really bring out all the intensity and sharpness that makes movie-Jyn so fascinating (and moving, when she finally finds a meaningful home for all her intensity). I was left feeling like the author was trying too hard to make her likable, and thus toning down all her interesting extremes that I wanted so much to get into.

(This isn’t just Jyn. I mean, Cassian has smiling eyes and looks like he’s good at making people laugh? What? Did we watch the same movie? This is dead serious, sacrifice my soul for the Rebellion, don’t tell anybody what I’m really planning, spy, assassin Cassian. That’s what makes his admittedly beautiful eyes so striking, and his arc in Rogue One so compelling. I get just as attached to sweet characters as everyone does, but there are other routes to my heart.)

The other characters seem to exist only to further Jyn’s character development. I started to crack up in the first third or so when every person Jyn talks to apparently wants to discuss how much Saw actually cares about her, or needle Jyn into proving what a badass fighter she is. Do these people have lives that don’t revolve around either being friends with or outdoing Jyn Erso? You can certainly use other characters just to support your protagonist’s journey. But to actually be a good foil character that really pushes forward the protagonist’s development, you have to be pretty well rounded yourself. A flat character has no strength to push with. These characters are thin little strings of flab, and thus poor Jyn is left somewhat flabby as well. They talk with Jyn, they fight with Jyn, they die in front of Jyn, and supposedly this all has some kind of lifechanging impact on her, but I don’t really see it and I certainly don’t feel it.

This is unfortunate, because hidden in some of these characters’ checklists of traits are some really interesting ideas. Take Idryssa, vaguely-substitute-mother-figure who eventually parts ways with Saw to join the Rebel Alliance. How could that have shaped Jyn’s perception of the Rebels, and her loyalty to Saw? How could Jyn’s complicated relationship to her mother – who bravely stood up to Krennic, but also abandoned Jyn – have played into it? I guess I’ll just have to make up more headcanon. Or Hadder – yes, their relationship as written has so many problems, but there is a core of something good there. Jyn, freshly abandoned, meets a pleasant, innocent, idealistic young man who compassionately takes her in and includes her in his family. She is torn between her attraction to his idealism and naivete, and her painful knowledge that the world is not that simple. As their situation gets more desperate, she’s forced to decide whether she’s willing to trust his idealism – and if she can’t, if she’ll destroy his innocence in an effort to keep him safe. There, a foil character actually making Jyn confront her internal conflict between idealism and cynicism, even if it’s with a somewhat cliche plotline.

The basic lines of that story are all in the book. But they get lost in how very nice, pleasant, and relatable Jyn is (surely she’d be at least somewhat irritated by Hadder’s incredible naivete?), how cute Hadder is supposed to be (half the dude’s family is dead, maybe he should be a little more serious?), and how stereotypical, out-of-character, and chemistryless their romance is. The Jyn I know from the movie and novelization has major problems with trust and commitment, but also a fierce desire for family. A romance could have been a great way to explore that – if you were willing to actually acknowledge Jyn’s major problems and the way they clash with her deep attachment to people she loves. This book seems to just want Jyn to fall in love with a boy because apparently all teenage girls do, and because it makes the ensuing events marginally more dramatic. It lets Jyn and Hadder remain safely familiar and nice with their happy relationship, and thus passes up the opportunity to actually dig into some interesting character development with a relationship that may have been less pleasant.

So the whole book left me with skeletons of good character arcs and seeds of insights that I was sad to see the author waste. I love the idea that Jyn is convinced Galen is working voluntarily for the Empire. You could take that one way and have her totally give up on him, think he’s a coward and beyond hope, and then be all the more shocked in Rogue One when she discovers he’s been sacrificing himself to work against the Empire all those years. (The novelization tries to go this route.) Or maybe you could take it a different way and have Galen’s apparent choice make Jyn question the Rebellion, wonder if maybe she should rethink fighting against the Empire. That would bring out how much Jyn doesn’t fit into the boxes of allegiance, how unwilling she is to commit to one side, and thus lend even more weight to her eventual decision to actually make a stand and sacrifice her life for something. But this book has one great scene where Jyn painfully acknowledges what her father is doing, and then kind of…drops it. Galen comes up now and again, but the author doesn’t make full use of that great idea to actually shape Jyn.

There are so many other little things. Jyn’s relationship to Saw’s other followers and the way he treats her preferentially – so many stories there, and we just get people like Reece who exists to be petty and jealous and then pop up again to show how sleazy Saw is getting. All the people mentioned in the novelization – Staven, Codo, Maia – who somehow manage to be more compelling in their few sentences there than in the many scenes they get dragged through here. I mean, look at this, here is the only place Maia is mentioned in the whole novelization:

“Maia?” Jyn asked [asking if she’s dead]. But that was stupid; she remembered now, she had been there when Maia died. Jyn had been the one to inherit – and promptly lose – Maia’s synthskin gloves, the gloves that had been so soft and smelled like carbon scoring.

So many good little evocative details there in just three sentences: the way Jyn forgot (suppressed?) Maia’s death, the fact that she got Maia’s gloves (why? what relationship did they have?), the little pang of the detail that Jyn lost them so quickly. You also get a larger sense of how hardened Jyn is to loss, and how cheap life is in Saw’s group. Then in Rebel Rising we get to actually see Maia die, plus her talking with Jyn and wearing the synthskin gloves. The scene where she dies is actually pretty interesting, one of the more striking and memorable ones in the book. Unfortunately, the Maia dying part of it was not the memorable part. Maia dying was the “this is a Bad Situation so somebody has to die, check!” part. Despite all the conversations with Jyn and the synthskin gloves, I just was not invested in her, and thus neither was Jyn. So neither of us were really heartbroken after Maia’s death, and the story that Maia and Jyn could have had is lost in the general blandness of it all.

That all being said, there are a few good things in this book I was genuinely happy with, fleshed out enough to actually feed some of my insatiable need for Rogue One goodness. You really get to see how and why Jyn is disillusioned with both the Empire and the Rebellion, and wants to be left to herself. The later parts of the book in general finally seem to get at the Jyn I know, and her desperate feeling of being trapped that Rogue One plays into with all its imagery of caves and prisons (and glorious eventual release). I especially like the bit about her freeing the slaves, and how it shows her instinctive compassion and cleverness but also her deep, fearful apathy that makes her immediately leave them. I love her anger that both Galen and Saw seem to care more about their work than about her, and how true it seems to the movie, where she is so broken by discovering how much they do care for her. I ate up everything about her relationship with her mother, the way she admires that Lyra took action in contrast to how Galen seemed to give up, and how Lyra’s words of trust and hope keep nagging at her. Then there’s the little detail that Jyn wears her scarf to hide the kyber crystal necklace, which made me irrationally happy – now Jyn has a canon excuse to wear the awesome scarf! And on a meta level, the whole book is made better by a wonderful audiobook reader, Rebecca Soler. Thanks to her, I had to think that much less about how terrible the dialog is, since she does an admirable job putting life into the voices of the characters she was given.

I am glad I read this book. All those good ideas are going to keep me thinking about and revisiting Rogue One for a while now, searching out further depths. But I think I’m going to go reread the novelization instead of Rebel Rising when I’m looking for the depths, because this book just is not willing to do the difficult, risky storytelling that Jyn Erso cannot be herself without.

Originally posted on Goodreads.

The hiatus is over for now

In the 673 days since my last post on Sheesania, quite a number of interesting things have happened to me so that Present Alison is a little different from Past Alison:

  • I had two birthdays. Or more accurately, I had a lot of days between two birthdays, because the birthdays themselves did quite a bit less to change me than all the other days in between.
  • I finished high school and started college in the cornfields of Indiana, studying computer science at a Christian liberal arts school.
  • I had two internships doing software development work and learning how awesome LINQ, ReactJS, Scrum, and having money are.
  • I met Brandon Sanderson, talked to him, and even got to play Magic: The Gathering with him.
  • I knit an entire mistcloak, using more than 3 kilometers of yarn.
  • I watched Rogue One. My soul hurt. Enough said.
  • I started working on several new worlds in addition to Sheesania, some of which actually have magic or other significant speculative elements.
  • I discovered that I need to write short stories to stay sane at college. I am quite content with this price for sanity.

And I decided to get some of the things I’ve been working on together so I could post them here, and make Sheesania a better reflection of Present Alison. So over the next few weeks I’ll be posting a variety of stories, programs, essays, and other miscellaneous things that I’ve created in the last 673 days. And then we’ll just have to see what else I manage to come up with after that.

Letter to Kaladin, or a musing on the peculiarity of fiction

You should be able to understand the gist of this piece even if you haven’t read the Stormlight Archive; you just won’t get a few jokes and some of the more specific irony. But do be aware that there are some indirect and some small spoilers for The Way of Kings.

Dear Kaladin,

I would like to introduce you to somebody very important. His name is Brandon Sanderson, and he is the source of all your miseries.

Photo by Captain Demoux

Brandon was the one who killed Tien, and who made Amaram murder your spearmen. Brandon was the one who decided to bring Roshone to your hometown, and Brandon was the one to give Roshone the idea to force Tien into the army. Oh, and Brandon also killed Dunny, Maps, and Narm, and he’ll probably kill you too someday. Unfortunately, Brandon lives in an entirely different universe, so you can’t do anything about it. (But at least he’s darkeyed.)

You see, I hate to break it to you, Kaladin, but you’re actually a fictional character. You kind of don’t actually exist. Somebody made you up in his head and wrote down about it, and now little copies of you live in lots of people’s heads with slightly different physical features based on the age and gender of the person involved. (If you have trouble believing this, ask Hoid. He knows a lot of other very interesting things, too.) It’s sort of like a shared hallucination. Come on, isn’t that cool? You’re a shared hallucination! I can’t say that about myself. Anyways, so this guy Brandon Sanderson has a kind of overactive imagination, so one day he created you and decided to start making all those agonizing things happen to you because he was bored and besides, he needs to make money somehow and he didn’t want to be a surgeon.

The nice thing about being imaginary is that you’ve got an all-powerful creator watching over you who can turn your life around whenever he wants. For instance, you may be interested to know that in your original incarnation, you took the Blade and Plate of that Shardbearer you killed, and it was okay. In fact, you got to go to the Shattered Plains and have an entertaining time outdoing everyone in the army with your awesomeness while becoming best buddies with Adolin, then finally saving the Kholins from treachery in a whirlwind of magical Shardbearing coolness. But then Brandon decided that was too boring and made you an enslaved bridgeman instead. Now that particular example may not be particularly encouraging, but just think, Kaladin – if Brandon could make your life horrible just because he decided to, he could certainly make your life wonderful just as easily!

But you shouldn’t worry about it anyways, Kaladin. Your almost being driven to suicide was really all for the best. Because now you have a huge fan club over in this universe! Tens of thousands of people pay Brandon so they can watch you be “forced to forsake healing to fight in the most brutal war” and “struggle to save [your] men” as the advertisement on the back of the book says. Some of us use your woes for entertainment when we have to go on really long train rides and we can’t stand looking at the scenery and sitting on seats without nearly enough padding anymore. Others like to watch you narrowly escape death while they’re stuck in their houses because it’s raining so hard outside that they might actually get wet if they went out. I, for my part, had a lovely time reading the scene where you see Tien die while I was baking cornbread and had to sit and keep an eye on the oven temperature, because I own an awful oven that can’t even hold its temperature. (The cornbread turned out very nicely, by the way.)

But this might make it sound like we don’t really care about you or take you seriously. Oh, no! You can be sure that many of us care about you deeply. Some take your future welfare so seriously that they spend hours and hours thinking, writing and drawing about who you should marry. (I think you should go with Shallan, by the way.) Others are more concerned about your health, so they diagnose the exact mental and psychological disorders that you face and prescribe what you need to do to handle them. We also tend to get into arguments over these subjects, because after all, it’s extremely important to be right and to convince everyone else of what’s right so we can best help you. Who knows what terrible damage could be done to your soul if some idiots ship you with Syl!

Then there are the fans who admire your grit and determination and want to be like you, so they dress up as you and go to big meetings where they have to wait in really long lines for Brandon to write his name in copies of books he wrote about you. After all, he’s the one who gave you reasons to display your grit and determination. And then there are those of us who are so committed to you that we put Bridge Four sticker decals on our cars. Never mind that they decrease the resale value of those precious objects – as we sit and drive around the country in air conditioning, and as we stop at gas stations, rest stops with public bathrooms, and fast food chains, we are showing that we stand with Kaladin Stormblessed in his pain and suffering and his commitment to making the world a better place. Even better, we can pay Brandon to get hats with your slave brands on them so we can wear the hats and advertise our choice to be nerdy and cool whenever we want!

Kaladin, I am truly sorry for all you have gone through, and it really is a shame that Brandon had to do all that to you so he could make some money. Alas, happiness doesn’t sell. But I want you to remember, no matter what you go through – no matter who dies or who you fail, no matter who you lose or who betrays you, no matter what apocalypses, catastrophes, disasters, agonies come your way – you’ve entertained thousands of middle-class suburban nerds, not to mention a few urban ones, and they’re cheering for you. Cherish that, Kaladin. Don’t let anything get you down, because you’ve got a fan club. And after all, Brandon Sanderson’s going to die someday and leave you in peace.

Updates & Changes

A month ago, I rewrote some category descriptions, moved some things around, updated some information, applied a new theme (finally getting a WordPress child theme working), and…well…that was it. I haven’t posted anything since. In the past I’ve generally tried to post something every week, but that hasn’t been happening for the last month and I don’t think it’ll happen in the future. I’m at a point now in most of my pursuits where I have the skill and confidence to take on bigger projects…projects that don’t as quickly produce presentable results. For instance, I’ve been working on a new imaginary planet for several weeks, developing its geography and climate, and now have this beautiful map to show you:

What, you can't read it?

What, you can’t read it?

So I’m thinking that in the future I will be posting less often, but I’ll hopefully be posting better and larger things when I do. At the moment I’m working on multiple arrangements and songs I’ve written, a story that is rapidly approaching novella size, the planet portrayed in that somewhat busy map (my first world with magic in it!), and a tutorial with lots of pretty screenshots. So I have not disappeared! I am still committed to working on and presenting here my various creative projects.

Other Places You Can Find Me on the Internet

I may not have a Facebook account, or a Twitter account, or a Pinterest account, or a LinkedIn account, or an Instagram account, or anything else very trendy, but there are a few other places on the Internet where I do have a presence:

  • On Ravelry, I’m knitnatty. This is a site for knitters and crocheters, so I keep some notes there about knitting projects I’m working on or planning. Emphasis on SOME notes – I don’t keep track of everything I should.
  • On Amazon, I’m sheesania. I post my longer and more intelligent book reviews there, but I don’t buy anything, keep wish lists, or do anything else on that account.
  • On Goodreads, I’m sheesania. I pretty diligently keep track of the books I’m reading on my own there. I also post book reviews, including some too short, too subjective, or too strange to post here or on Amazon.
  • On the Holy Worlds forum, I’m…also sheesania. This is a forum for Christian fantasy and science fiction writers, and it is one of the best forum communities I’ve come across: small, diverse, friendly, intelligent. There’s a lot of stuff I’ve posted there about writing, worldbuilding and Christianity, as well as the occasional tidbit about Sheesania, that is not posted here.

A vacation

My family recently flew to the United States, where we’ll be taking a break for the next two months. I’m going to be busy seeing friends, visiting colleges (!), and reading piles of books, so I won’t be posting regularly for the next two months. (Indeed, my posts have already been getting erratic, since I’ve been busy finishing up schoolwork and packing.) However, I’m still writing a (very long!) review of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn: The Final Empire, and I’ve been working on Arandui language and culture. So I might still post during my vacation, but don’t expect anything.

For now, though, let me leave you with a very exciting preview of a song I’m working on.

See you in December!

Memory in G Major

Most of the songs I write begin when I’m humming absently while doing math or reading a book. I’ll make something up for a little while, then find myself transitioning into a real song I know, and then start to improvise based on it, and then find myself transitioning into another song, and so on. Occasionally I make up a tune that sticks for some reason in my head, and then it becomes a theme that pops up now and then as I’m humming much like those real songs do.

“Memory in G Major” is something of a conglomeration of these different themes. The main theme suddenly appeared one day while I was playing around on the piano. It feels faintly familiar, but I can’t quite place it; it’s probably something I made up some time ago, or something based on a song I heard once. Then the second theme, which appears in four quite different forms, is actually the same as the second theme in “An Inciting Incident in E Minor“. It’s an old theme that’s been floating around my head for some time; I think I made it up, but I certainly can’t remember when. One variation of this theme is the same as the central motif in “An Experimentation with Chords in D“. And then there are several other little tunes and motives in there that I’ve played with many times before.

I suppose calling this song a “memory” fits because it’s made up of lots of little memories of themes and motifs and tunes. Yet I’m not quite sure that’s the title for it. I think the song has a strong feeling to it, but I can’t put my finger on what it is…just like I can’t recall the origins of all the themes in it, I guess.

Anyways, much like my other songs, it’s not very impressive…but like my other songs, I love it nevertheless. Below I have a recording of me playing it, as well as some sheet music I wrote up for it. I hope you enjoy it.

The sheet music

An Inciting Incident in E Minor

This almost-six-minute song marks my second wild venture into the world of instrumental composition. I first wrote it for a piano, a D pennywhistle, and a low A pennywhistle (a version that’s currently in F# minor). But then I recently arranged it for piano, D pennywhistle, and cello, and decided that version was superior and therefore definitive. In this song I experiment a bit with modulating between keys and including notes outside of the key signature (how bold!), and I’m also a little more adventurous in my harmony than I’ve been before. This being said, I do not think my harmony is adventurous by objective standards; the pennywhistle and the cello, for instance, spend a great deal of their time switching off, and one hand of the piano spends it days just playing simple chords over and over. And in general, I really don’t know what I’m doing. I know a few basic things about what chords are and what intervals are supposed to be consonant or dissonant…but I certainly have very, very little in the way of training in composition or even in just plain music theory. I have only my ears, a piano, a pennywhistle and some music notation software. As usual, I would happily accept constructive criticism or any other help with my songwriting if you are willing to give it.

I call this song “An Inciting Incident in E Minor,” and there’s a bit of a story behind it. A woman (the pennywhistle) and a man (the cello) are fighting (the key of E minor), even though they can both see how they might be able to be happy together again (G major). What they don’t realize is that there’s something far more sinister (B major, represented by its emissary the B major chord) that’s looming over them, something that they should be working together to combat. I imagine this song being the first part (the first movement?) of a larger work – it is, after all, only the inciting incident. The second part would be about the woman and her backstory; the third part would be about the man and his backstory; and finally the fourth part would be about them confronting the key of B major. I already know about both their backstories (because who doesn’t have backstories worked out for the instruments in their compositions, right?), but I doubt I would be able to write the fourth part anytime soon with all its harmonic instability and key mushiness. I already have a germ of an idea for the second part, though.

So here is a recording of my song and the sheet music for it. Unfortunately, I don’t own a low A pennywhistle and I don’t play or own a cello, so at the moment I can’t record an actual performance of it. I’m hoping to eventually get my hands on a low A pennywhistle and record the two-pennywhistles version, but I doubt I’ll be able to record the version with the pennywhistle and cello unless a friend of mine that plays cello wants to learn it. So for now you’ll have to make do with an MIDI version of this song. Below I have an MP3 recording of the song as synthesized on my computer, and I also have a link for downloading the original MIDI file if you want to synthesize it yourself. Finally, you can download the sheet music if you want. And if anybody is interested in the version with two pennywhistles, please comment or contact me, and I would be happy to post it or send it to you!

The MIDI file
The sheet music

I won Camp NaNo!

2014-Winner-Facebook-CoverThis month I’ve faced many trials: stubborn narrators, confusing symbolism, disobedient characters, writer’s block, fear that what I’m writing is rather boring, and most of all, tricky questions of font choice. But in the end I managed to write 30,000 words as I challenged myself to at the start of July. In fact, I wrote 30,135 words, and I did it in only 25 days!

My resulting draft is only the beginning of the novel – there’s still a lot more to go – and it has a lot of problems. I need to do some major rethinking about how I’m going to present some aspects of the story, and I need to wrangle my narrator into shape, too – he sounds much too young and much too gloomy. (I have discovered that it is very wearing for me to write a story that’s so serious all the time.) But I still like the idea, and I feel like my draft has some promise. There are scenes in there that I’m proud of, even if they’re kind of awkward right now.

So can I read it?? you ask. Not yet! Not nearly yet! This is probably the most unpolished draft I’ve ever written, but I’m proud of that fact – I generally find it very difficult to put something bad down on paper, but this NaNo I managed to keep going, keep writing, keep pressing on even when I wasn’t completely sure that last paragraph actually had anything to do with anything. However, I’m hoping to keep working on this story, and if I manage to finish it and get it into decent shape, perhaps you will be able to read it.

Anyways, now that I’ve finished Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ll return to posting something here at least every week. As always, if there’s something you’re particularly interested in hearing me write about – something about Sheesania, something about books, something about religion, whatever – let me know.