Breyik: Good News and Bad (But Not So Bad) (August 2019) - Travis Senzaki

Breyik: Good News and Bad (But Not So Bad) (August 2019)

Good News: The Words Are Flying

komachi bullet train

The words have been flying like the Komachi shinkansen. Specifically like the part between Morioka and Akita.

OK, so I’ll start with the good news, first: I am making great progress on the still untitled Breyik I. I have kept to the daily word count, often exceeding it, and am over 70,000 words into the rough draft, which would be more than half way if not for the . . .

Bad News: The Story is Not

I had originally set a target of 120,000 words for this novel, or about 480 pages. That would give me 30,000 words for each of the four Acts. When I finished Act One at around 50,000 words, I realized that I was headed badly off target. So, my revised target is now 200,000 words for the first month, but I’m only giving myself an additional two months (61 days) to get the extra 80,000 words in. My new target is December 1 for rough draft completion.

In retrospect, my initial goal was silly. I picked 120,000 words out of a hat because it’s pretty typical for an epic fantasy novel. But my novel has upwards of 50 scenes (at least in its current form) and my 4-scene prequel novelette, Breyik the Apprentice, was 17,000 words. The math says over 210,000. We’ll see if I can’t be more concise. Because 200,000 words is concise and all.

Not So Bad

Akita summer park

No room for doom and gloom here. It’s been a beautiful summer!

Personally, I think it’s not a terrible thing that the book is going long. It’s not like I’m filling it with fluff. It’s more that there’s so much to tell that I just can’t take shortcuts. If you enjoyed Breyik the Apprentice and the way it gets in his head and makes him think about the way he sees the world, you’ll enjoy this story and the writing style, too. And for longer.

So, while you have to wait a little bit longer, I promise, it will be worth it. If you’re interested, you can follow along with my progress. I’m posting screenshots of my wordcount, along with less-boring pictures, daily on Instagram.

Summer Vacation is Upon Us

goldfish pond

The goldfish pond at my in-laws house. From the right angle and zoom, you can see the peaceful ripples – and not the excited kids throwing in fish food. Or how early in the morning it is.

Mercifully, summer vacation in Japan is short, just over a month. Because if it was any longer, I don’t know if we’d survive. Seriously, no idea how my parents did it, even with just two kids that were little at the same time. Yes, they have gotten easier with each year, but still, they are so full of energy. Earlier today, my wife and I were joking that they must be part tuna. Never stop moving.

But while summer vacation is short, Japanese elementary schools like to start if off with a bang reminiscent of my first days of Basic Training. For the first week after school gets out, the kids have group exercises. At 6:30 in the morning. And guess who gets to go with them. So, you have one child who is thoroughly energized from jumping and stretching with her friends. One parent bleary-eyed from coffee deficiency. . . and two more kids who didn’t have to get up early and therefore won’t sleep early, either. Oh, get excited.

In my writing, I explore the difference in expectations between cultures, but I couldn’t write a culture cruel enough to do this to its parents.

And Japan wonders why nobody’s having kids. Here’s your answer: Rajio Taiso. (Kidding, of course).

Winter is Coming, But Not Fast Enough

Tomato plants in the Senzaki garden

It’s a race against the tomato plants to see if I can eat as fast as they produce. So far, I’m losing. Badly.

Summer is not my favorite time of year, but it does have its upsides. In addition to catching bugs and playing with water balloons in the park (sometimes, I even bring the kids along), I’ve also had the chance to get away a couple quick times this month to take in some different scenery.

Summer Travels

The first trip was down to my in-laws’ in a rural farming town in Fukushima. Since large parts of my story take place in an agrarian area with a few market towns, it was inspiring to see the family farm again, spend part of a morning digging potatoes, and just experience what being in that environment was like. When I slept with the window open, there were at least three different birdsongs going on constantly throughout the night, but no noise from trains, airplanes, and not even that many cicadas, which seem to be the dominant noise of summer here in Akita.

Unfortunately, I had to come back from that trip sooner than the rest of my family to get back to work. (One more motivation to make it to full-time author status). And though I left the farm behind, I returned to find the mini-tomato plants in our garden producing at a far faster rate than I can possibly keep up. Even after making tomato sauce on my first day back, I’ve already harvested enough again for a second batch. They’re delicious, but a man cannot live on tomatoes alone. Even with a few green peppers thrown in.

Waterfall Fujisato Shirakami Sanchi

A peaceful waterfall and pool along the side of the road in Fujisato

My second trip was just an afternoon drive up to Fujisato, at the edge of Japan’s only UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, Shirakami Sanchi. I was taking a student up there to start an internship. But I got to see some of the town during a brief tour with the city hall staff I had worked with to arrange it. The town was perhaps even more rural than my family’s hometown in Fukushima, without even its own train station. The scenery was beautiful, but like many small towns in Akita, the population is in sharp decline, with a birth rate of only about 13 children per year to a population of 8,000. Looking around, there really wasn’t much there for employment besides farming.

That:s one more reason the world needs more authors. We can populate the beautiful places without needing big businesses for employment. I would love to get an artist community going in one of these places!

What I’m Reading

Well, mostly, I’m writing, but I do try to tuck in a few minutes of reading each morning about writing, and more reading for pleasure, when I can.

Currently, I’m reading Fiction Unboxed the second book in the Smarter Artist Locker, by Sean Platt and Johnney B. Truant at Sterling and Stone. I used to listen to their podcast, when it was oriented toward beginning writers, but they’ve since gone in a different direction. Still, their older writing books are close to where I am in my career now, and very helpful.

For fiction, I’ve been reading some of the free series starters that authors advertise on BookBub. So far, none have really grabbed me as being excellent, so I’m not going to mention names. Many have an interesting story and concept, but writing that is distractingly bad. The writing quality constantly jars me out of the reading flow, so I end up putting them down. The book I’ve been reading most recently has the opposite problem. The writing is really well done, but nothing really happens. The character just kind of bounces from one incident to another and isn’t even the main driving action in any of them. So, I get bored with that and set it aside.

My goal for when I deliver my next book to you is to hit the strong points of both, but I’ll leave that to you to judge!

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