I win again, NaNoWriMo!

Screenshot anime Konasuba

Picking up women is overrated. (Screenshot from the anime version of Konasuba, widely seen as the best Isekai parody so far. I am not going to steal the first place this time either. But at least I wrote a whole novel, which is its own kind of heavy lifting unless you have trained long and hard.) 

Purrfect timing, as the resident catgirl of the team would say. On the last day of the (Inter)National Novel Writing Month, I finished the first draft of this year’s project, Crystal Dungeons. A moderately westernized variant of the Isekai Light Novel genre, it fits just fine in 51677 words. I’ve written so many things for so many years, but this is really the first time that I have naturally arrived at the natural conclusion in roughly the allotted size. I mean, the first time in my life, seriously. Usually it needs padding or cutting to get close to the target word count for the type of novel I write. This time, things just fell into place with minimal guidance to the muses. The big boss fight happened where it should, followed by the foreshadowed reveal that throws open the possibility of sequels, while still giving a satisfying ending to the book.
I’m temporarily impressed by myself. I would totally have paid $2.99 for this on Amazon (after proofreading).

Proofreading is tentatively planned for January, if I live and have the health and haven’t forgotten the whole thing. ^_^ If I try to proofread now, I’ll see what is in my head instead of what’s on the screen, because the story is still in there, at least loosely.


Isekai novels are a big thing in Japan, I understand, and there is a certain formula that has become very popular. It centers on a young man, typically teenager or early 20es, who is transported to a magical world or allowed to go there after his death. The world is often similar to a computer role-playing game. Due to some contrived circumstance, he is made superior to other people in that world, with exceptional magic and physical skills, and go around casually righting wrongs and assembling a harem of sorts. (There is usually no actual sex in the novels that are translated to English at least, but it is certainly implied that there will be eventually.)

Naturally you can only write the same story in so many ways before it starts to get stale, so we get a lot of branching trends. Some have female protagonists, who typically assemble friends instead of potential lovers. Some have older people as protagonists, but usually they become young again near the start and things proceed much the same way.

Then there are stories that subvert the trope, as we say: The premise is almost the same, but an important detail makes it all different. For instance, two popular series have the protagonist incarnate as low-grade monsters, a slime and a spider respectively. In the end they soon become excessively powerful in their own way, but it is less instantaneous and obviously their new form puts some limits to socialization…

There are edgy stories like Shield Hero, where the hero is rejected and betrayed by the world he came to save, becomes an outcast and does some morally questionable things before gradually being redeemed.

Finally there are outright parodies, like Konasuba, where things go horribly wrong in comical ways, over and over.


My vague idea for this National Novel Writing Month was a lighthearted half-parody on the standard trope: The main character gets to make requests (wishes) for what powers he wants to have in the magical world, but the requests are interpreted more literally than he expected.
–He wants great magic power, which he gets, but without the ability to actually cast magic spells.
–He wants an ultimate ability that kicks in to let him win life and death fights. This power turns out to be “Death cry”: When he is killed, he revives by draining the lifeforce of those who killed him, basically switching place with their life/death status.
-He wants the chance to pick up women in dungeons. (This is a direct reference to the title of another popular series: “Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?”) This is taken literally by the powers that be, so he ends up carrying around women for one reason or another, and they are rather heavier than he imagined.

In the end, however, while all this is part of the 51677 words I wrote, it ended up not really being a comedy. It is mostly lighthearted, but not laugh-out-loud funny for the most part. There is also drive-by commentary on racism, sexual harassment, worker exploitation, and the fact that the most beautiful people are not necessarily the ones you should trust. But there is plenty of banter, flirting, misunderstandings, and the occasional pun. So, fluffy, but not pure wish-fulfillment.

Looking back at the book I wrote, I suspect that the way the “gods” granted his requests was actually better for all involved than the way he imagined beforehand. So I guess in that one way it is a little autobiographical…

NaNoWriMo 2019

Screenshot anime 3D Kanojo (3D Girlfriend)

“Do your best to maintain your chastity and become a respectable wizard” does not seem like a high hurdle to clear if you’re at a place called Brainerd Magic Science Academy, right? Well, we’ll see about that. (Picture is actually totally unrelated, it is from the anime 3D Girlfriend which I did not even complete watching for free. It has some funny quotes though.)

As usual I have joined the National Novel Writing Month stampede. This year is somewhat disappointing in that they took their remarkably useful and easy-to-use website and changed it to a dysfunctional labyrinth. There was probably some reason for this, but they paid a high price. The community is the whole point of this movement, and making it hard for us to communicate with each other will cost them for each year they keep it up.

That said, I’m along for the ride as usual. This time I was a day or two late getting started, as I had forgotten my original story idea and waited in vain for it to come back. Eventually I got a new one. It is a variant of dicewriting, based on my latest parameters but expanded and changed for faster power progression. It is also set in a new setting.


Basically the story takes an immature 19-year old boy and puts him in an alternate version of Earth, set in 1975, after a science of magic was discovered in the late 1950es, unifying magic, psychic powers and superpowers into a common Magic Science that is available to all who can understand the Laws of Magic as described by Master Storelv. Yes, after the passing of the founder, it has taken on some trappings of religion, with people referring to the founder as Master and treating his books more or less as holy scripture. But as long as people understand the principles he describes and meditate on them, they have a fairly high chance of manifesting some kind of supernatural ability, varying from increased health to the ability to be two places at once. The more spectacular powers – or “Abilities” as they are called – are quite rare. Of course there is also now a political movement, the Right to Rule Party, who push for greater privileges for magic users and influence on political decisions.

Unlike last year’s story, this one is not combat-centered at all. It takes place in a boarding school, the fictional Brainerd Magic Science Academy, in the non-fictional small town of Brainerd, central Minnesota. (As such there is a fair share of stereotypical Nordic and German names, because Minnesota!) There is almost no description of how the school looks (apart from its basic floor plan), or the people, or the town. (This may change if I run out of ideas and start padding the book. I’d rather not others do that unto me, though, so probably not.)

Most of the content so far is dialogue and internal monologue of the main character. Constantly watching over him is Crystal, the voice of the mysterious crystal artifact that transferred his consciousness from Earth to this lower world. She occasionally provides useful information, but mostly seems to regard this as an experiment. Because he comes from a higher world, or perhaps because he is this world’s only hyperlexic, he starts racking up magic Strengths faster than anyone else. This thrusts him into the spotlight and forces him to choose sides in a world he does not understand at all. Religious fundamentalists want to expel or kill all magic users. The Right to Rule Party wants the magic users to rule society. In between are various more normal factions. Government agencies that seek to use them as pawns, for the greater glory of America and the Agency. That kind of stuff. The first 50 000 words will likely only be enough to set up the story. Whatever tension there is, is the usual high school drama. (The main character is aged down to 16 by Crystal and starts over as a freshman.) Girls abound, but the main character is as bad at reading humans as he is good at reading books. (Apart from that he is not autobiographic in the least.)


On a magic system note, I have run with my fine-tuned list of psychic powers, but divided more of them into branches. For instance Psychokinesis now has a Levitation branch which lets you fly, and a Telekinesis branch that lets you move other objects. You can absolutely have both, and they share a Power stat (which determines how much, how fast and for how long) but have separate Skill stats (which determines your chance of success and your accuracy). Pyrokinesis and Cryokinesis are now skills of a single Thermokinesis Power, while ESP has been divided into Clairvoyance, Clairaudience, Psychometry, Precognition and Aura Sight.


My writing tool of choice is still yWroter 5, free from Spacejock Software. (You can give him money if you want.) As a former programmer, I find this a near ideal tool, with menus that let me bring up all the important features with a couple clicks or keypresses. For instance creating a new scene is Alt-S-S-Enter, and there is no need to memorize this as the menus are right there on the screen.

I have Dragon NaturallySpeaking 15 now, and it is better than ever. But I don’t use it, because it feels super embarrassing to tell a history in first person about being in high school and having magic powers and not understanding girls, when the landlord’s daughter lives upstairs and the house is rather poorly soundproofed. Well, it would probably not get me evicted, but it would still be embarrassing. Luckily my wrists are in excellent shape these days, better so than my throat, so I mostly have Dragon around because I love living in the future, and try to be the consumer I wish to see in the world, buying the stuff I want there to be more of (when I can afford it).

I considered writing in my native Nynorsk (New Norwegian) this year, right up until my English-speaking muse came on board. But the lack of a Nynorsk spell check in yWriter (or any other novel-writing tool) held me back. (That and the tiny possibility that it might end up good enough for someone to want to read it. There is more chance that one in 2 billion people might be interested, than one in 5 million.)

That’s it, I think?

NaNoWriMo doubts

Made from screenshot in City of Heroes

Example of possible book cover for superhero novel.

In past years, I used to be really excited about NaNoWriMo, the (inter)National Novel Writing Month. I would lay plans starting already in August, and on the last day of October – which some of us refer to as NaNoWriMo Eve or NaNoWe’en – I would restlessly visit the forums while waiting for the midnight hour to strike. Oh, and I took my vacation days in November instead of in summer. Not anymore.

This year I kind of intended to participate, but after midnight I still did not have any good idea about what to write about. No, it is not like I don’t have ideas. I have more ideas than I can count. Ideas are like cats: If you take in two of them, soon your house is full of them. They are on your kitchen counter, they are on your couch, they are under your cupboard, they try to follow you into the bathroom. Actually, ideas usually succeed at this better than cats, but you get the point. There are always ideas, but none of them stood out as This Year’s Idea for NaNoWriMo.

Around an hour after midnight, I picked one fairly pretentious one, a metaphysical fantasy about an unemployed warehouse workers which gets picked by the Universe to send to the Universe’s niece which was in a difficult age, with excessive magic production and wars and disasters. Insert deep teachings about the Great Chain of Being and the Descent of the Light into Creation. I wrote a bit less than 2000 words on it before I decided that this was way too serious a topic for speed writing. Also, not much fun. So the next day I started over with a fluffier story.

Currently I’m writing about a gamer who tried to be a hero in Real Life and was stabbed and died. Or perhaps he didn’t exactly die. It is hard to know. What we know is that he wakes up inside his favorite superhero MMORPG, which was closed down the year before. Maybe this is his afterlife – he and the game are both dead – or perhaps he is in a coma and imagining all this. Or perhaps it is the future and his frozen brain has been scanned and uploaded to a supercomputer. Or perhaps he has been in a coma for many years and his actual brain has only now been connected to a supercomputer. Who knows? How are you supposed to find out from inside the game? If reality outside of reality was easy to find out, we wouldn’t have dozens of competing religions in the so-called real world, would we?

But mostly it’s just the kind of fluffy feel-good superhero story with the occasional challenge thrown in, that I myself would like to read. It is almost certainly not going to sneakily save anyone’s soul while they let their guard down.

So in the end, I am once again writing the kind of story I like to read. In fact, I am writing it because that is the only way I get to read it – the muses in my head won’t dictate a whole book to me if I can’t be bothered to write it down. That’s just how this thing works for me. So I guess I am, as you say in English, just pleasuring myself – in this case my mind rather than my flesh. But in either case, it is probably not something the rest of the world is particularly interested in. I may put it up with the old stories that are linked from my front page, in which case I will likely only post the first chapters as usual. We’ll see, nobody knows whether we will be here tomorrow. But if I am, chances are that I am writing. I do that pretty much every day, after all.

“Someone is searching”

Screenshot anime Kamisama Kazoku

Maybe they are right there, but will you find them? What if to everyone else they look like everyone else?

I recently read that every novel can be summed up as “Someone is searching for something.”

This made me think about my current candidate for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year, as I’ve mentioned in the previous entry. The main character and viewpoint character, a teenager who used to be an old man, now trapped in a world that used to be a game, is definitely searching for something. But I don’t really see him as searching for a way back home, not after the first pages at least. After all, in his own world he was ageing and with less than perfect health, no close family or friends nearby, no job and really no accomplishments to look forward to in the rest of his life. This was the world he loved, when he was not in it.

It did not take long for me to realize what he truly is searching for. Alone in a world that used to be a game, he is surrounded by Non Player Characters – people who used to be just pixels and scripts run by a computer, but who now have real lives of sorts. But they are still Non Player Characters. They know nothing about Real Life and the world from which he came. As far as they know, their origin and purpose and the meaning of their life lies entirely within this world, and everything else would be like pure madness to them. In fact, that is exactly how they will react if he tries to broach the subject.

And yet he must do so, because he is indeed searching. Not in the long run for a way back – that will come if it comes – but for others like himself. The one thing he cannot accept is that he is the only one of his kind in this world, the only one for whom this world is not the ultimate reality. And it is not for him to find someone who says “OK, I believe you” even though that is hard enough. You’ve got to have been there. To share his memories before they are lost forever.

Of course, this is just a work of fiction. But it is an interesting perspective, is it not? I wonder if I could manage to write it.

Me, by my side

I am perhaps the only one who get associations to “the other shore” from this Twinings ad. But that is not what I will write about today.

A friend of mine luckily mentioned this advertisement from Twinings, and provided a handy link. This is a YouTube video, so it may not be suitable for all workplaces even though there is no objectionable content. But it has moving pictures. It has also a song, which in my opinion can be skipped without great loss. It is not inappropriate or ugly, but it does not resonate strongly enough with the animation to be crucial.

\”Twinings gets you back to you\”

For those who cannot see it, this is a short animated video with a slightly watercolor style, especially of the character. A young woman is rowing a small boat alone in the middle of a sea with high waves. She loses one oar and fails to catch it. The waves increase to frightening proportions that would by rights overturn or fill the boat, but strangely instead the waves and the storm conspire to push the boat ever more rapidly forward until it is flying on the top of the waves, and the storm-tossed foam takes the shape vaguely of seagulls flying overhead without losing its character as foam. As the boat lands again, the water rapidly becomes calm and the sky clears up, the boat continuing by its momentum toward a beautiful shore. At the shore someone is waiting. The young woman jumps out of the boat as it stops on the sandy bottom, and wades ashore there to meet her identical twin in a loving embrace. Then as the two line up side by side they seem to fade into one person drinking tea, and the message “Twinings gets you back to you”.

In real life, I would say that under such adverse conditions it would take rather more than tea to bring us back to us. But that is not my message today, gentle reader.


Rather, after watching the video clip a few times, I had my own inner vision (albeit dimly) of a potential story for this year’s NaNoWriMo, one appropriately symbolic while detached enough from reality to riff upon, as you say in English.

The story would be about a young man who has a fateful encounter with himself – but not his current self. Rather, a godlike being (in the classical, idiomatic sense, not in the monotheist sense) who may be him from the future, or from an alternate timeline, or a higher reality, or two or more of the above. Basically, his ultimate potential.

Over the last few years I have repeatedly begun writing about a young man meeting a woman from a higher reality – a goddess in the classical sense – who for some reason has decided to seek him out and live with him, although usually others cannot see her at all (and certainly not for who she is). This is basically the Jungian approach, since the Anima is usually the first experience of the numinous for a man, not counting religion as such. Rather, the goddess-complex is normally projected on some woman of his own generation, and it is with this projected ideal woman he falls in love, rather than with the actual person. In real life, amazing women are very rare (I have only really known one offline, outside my own clan) and goddesses are rarer than hen’s teeth.

The upside and downside of the goddess approach is the erotic tension in their living together, which I circumvent in various ways. I like to think that most normal readers will not see a great deal of erotic tension in a person meeting his higher self: Most autoeroticism is pretty far from “higher” in any way I can think of. The downside is that it is probably a larger leap of imagination for the reader, if any. (The “if any” part makes it ideal for NaNoWriMo, which used to have the slogan “quantity over quality”. Not my favorite slogan but somewhat comforting for a write-a-ton.)


Being rather far from typical, at least now in my later years, I remember an amusing episode brought about by the voices in my head (which, need I remind you, are not actual hallucinations in my case, but rather streams of thought with some level of independence: People who are unfamiliar with introspection would probably assume they were thinking these thoughts themselves, which is in a certain sense true). The “voices” or muses can sing, however, and do so much of the time, enticing me to sing along. Conversely, they tend to sing along when I play songs I like. This also happened one day while I was listening to a love song by Chris de Burgh, for many years one of my absolute favorite artists (and composer and songwriter).

The song was, appropriately, By My Side, from the album Power of Ten, the first album of his that I bought (although he had been active for a long time by then).

When everything has gone,
you help me carry on;
you lift me up,you make me strong,
you give love to see me through…
Oo-oo-oo what would I do
without you
by my side?

But my voices took a slightly different route: They sang, without me by my side?

Which is kind of appropriate now, I guess. Thanks to Twinings…


I was awesomer then

In 2006, I “won” NaNoWriMo by writing a novel of more than 50 000 words in 30 days.  Not exactly an amazing accomplishment, but still not something that just happens.

I spent most of today reading it.  It was not quite finished, although only the finishing scene is missing.

I found it hilarious, especially for the first dozen chapters.  The humor faded a bit over time, and there is a stretch of pure filler that needs a complete rewrite.  But the verbal humor in the first half is fully comparable to some stuff I have paid good money for.  Of course, I have the benefit of knowing my own sense of humor .  Nobody has quite the same, probably, just like with fingerprints.

The disturbing part is that I really doubt I could have done this now.  Even three years ago, I had more humor and more sense of human interaction than I have today.