Me — December ’19 Monthly Update

So. I’ll just say it. As far as my mental health goes, October and November 2019 put me in the worst state I’ve ever been in. I experienced lots of emotions I didn’t know I was capable of, and, well, it was rough. Only two people have any idea how bad it got, and not even they know the true extent. Luckily now, nobody has to know.

I felt like I was actively drowning and that in my flailing to grab anything—anyone—I would merely drag them down with me. I almost lost a very important battle before I even realized I was at war. I learned some things, but most terrifying of all was that it came and went with no specific warning or trigger, and with that knowledge comes the fear that it could strike again. I think the worst is over, but since I don’t know how it happened, I also don’t know what I can do to prevent it in the future. Either way I’m glad it’s behind me. I just wanted to let you know why I was so vacant last month. I’m still in recovery.

And so, the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, work, school, D&D, video games, reading/listening, and other things.

I’m still going to do my best to update once a month. I have some story ideas and some blog posts I’d like to share, which doesn’t happen a whole lot. Maybe next year I’ll have more to talk about, but if that doesn’t happen, I’m actually going to take the blog off the monthly updates, as the cadence of once a week has suited me well for several months now.

I’m still chugging away at the same writing projects. My Lisa Stenton screenplay has finished a preliminary second draft (though I still need to make a few passes to “finish” it as a full draft), and I’m probably going to put that on the shelf soon. I still don’t really like it, even with all the changes I’ve made from the first draft. There’s something about the world of Lisa Stenton that doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t like the magic system (or lack thereof) and how the supernatural ties to it. It’s the only thing that has ever held me back from writing more of that story, and the only reason this screenplay kind of works is because it has very little actual magic.

Other than that, the second anthology is probably not going to be published until the beginning of next year at this rate. With all that’s happened, I feel like I’ve lost a month and a half of writing time, but it is what it is.

Work has been fine. I’m not going to share details, but we’ve actually had several strong months in a row, as far as sales go, which is increasing morale and making the whole atmosphere a lot easier to bear.

Not much to say about school, but I only have a few classes left before I finish… maybe forever. That hadn’t occurred to me until I just wrote that. These next couple class sessions might be the last time I’m in that environment period. At least for a long while. Huh. By this time next month I will hopefully be sitting pretty on two AA degrees.

D&D has been going great. We’re almost closing what I’m calling Chapter Three of the Knights of Fire campaign. (The only one of five that I am not the DM for.) We’ll be taking a break from that for a couple of months to play in another short campaign before we resume with this story and, by extension, my role as dungeon master. I’ve already got the juices flowing as to How Chapter Four will start and what the main story beats will be.

I’ve been devoting the vast majority of my time playing WoW: Classic still, and let me tell you, in the last month, our guild has become a family. I can’t put it into words in a concise manner, but… I love the feeling that I’m part of a team and that people are talking about me when I’m not around. That’s part of my goal for regaining the sanity I lost in October and November. I’m planting the seeds that will make me feel like I’m important to people. I wouldn’t say I feel like I’m an essential part of the crew, but… I hope I will be in time.

Not much to say about listening. I’m keeping pace with Critical Role as well as I can, and that’s about it.

Not much else to say.

Me — Writing Update

For those that may be interested in the current writing projects that I’m working on, here’s a quick update.

At the moment, I have three projects I would consider myself to be actively working on, and while they’re all big, my level of investment on them can vary quite a bit.

Most relevant to you is probably my second short story anthology (the first of which is self-published and available on Amazon). To give some insight, this new book is the same premise—about two dozen short stories written across all of my universes from Nacre Then to Spear Gate to Lisa Stenton—but these new stories are from 2017-2018. My first book was pretty much published to be a collection of the first stories I ever wrote, and as such, I barely edited them at all before compiling them into the anthology.

This new book, I would say, is different in the sense that I’m setting it up to be a solid set of good shorts. (This is all the best stuff from those two years, after all.) This means that the stories need edits, and in a few cases a solid rewrite, before they’re ready to be shown to the world. Obviously it’s a lot more work, but where the first book was intended to be a proof of concept, I hope to publish this one with a true sense of pride (and excitement!) for sharing some of my best stuff to my friends and family. Suffice to say that the list of works has already been put together, and several stories have gotten edits, but I’m only about a fourth of the way through the full process.

My second project is the Lisa Stenton play I’m still working on. I have the first act done, and a rough outline blocked out. I don’t expect that the manuscript to this thing will ever end up anywhere, but I feel her story needs to be told, and I haven’t written a singular full length piece in far, far too long. I’ll provide updates as it progresses, but in the meantime, we’re slow going on that one. I do, however, fully expect the full first draft to be done by the end of the year.

The last project is also a collection of short stories, but for a completely different purpose. The passion project I’ve been a part of for nearly a year now has been making really good headway, and we have plans to implement a way to monetize our world soon! I’ve been pretty tight lipped about it because the things I would like to be sharing would end up being the things we’re trying to monetize, so it would be counterproductive in that sense. Suffice to say that I hope the short stories I’m setting in that world to be a regular incentive for the audience we’re drawing in! I’ll also say that I’m already really proud of some of the work I’ve come up with from this project. It’s some of my best work in a while.

All of these things feel like slow going when I’m counting it by days, but at the very beginning of 2019 the only aforementioned thing hat had any relevance was the second anthology, which, while it was always on my radar, hadn’t even been put together yet! In another six months, I hope all three of these things will be done and finished (though the third will hopefully be an ongoing process).

Stay tuned, for there is always more to come.

Me — Where to Go After the First Draft?

As you may or may not know, I’m putting together my second short story anthology, which will be collected stories from three established universes as well as several standalone shorts. I’ve been bringing a few of these into my writer’s group, and depending on the story, I’m getting lots of varying types of feedback. What I mean by that is, I’ve heard everything from “this is perfect, don’t change a word” to “it’s a solid concept, but it needs a lot more polishing before it’s ready” (which is a nice way of saying it’s terrible).

When you’re getting lots of feedback that wildly contradicts one another, it can be difficult to know what you should think. It’s easy to agree with the person who loves it and simply move on to the next story, but it can also be soul-wrenching to hear that somebody doesn’t like the thing you’ve worked so hard putting together. It might even be enough to make you want to throw it in the garbage and start over completely.

And maybe that’s what the story needs, but I’m of the opinion that you should never destroy your work. Instead of deleting the file where you keep your first draft, if you must start over from scratch, why not simply make a new file titled “second draft”?

That being said, how are you supposed to know when a story needs to be rewritten completely, or if it simply needs some edits?

As with virtually any writing advice you receive, what comes next is going to be hearsay, so take it with a grain of salt.

In my experience, when I go to my writer’s group I will already know if a story needs to be rewritten from scratch, but it all depends on what I’m trying to do with that piece versus what it actually does.

For example, I wrote a short story in my Spear Gate universe that was essentially written for the atmosphere and the scene. I fell in love with the crazy weird locale the story was set in, so I wanted to make it about the locale. This meant thorough descriptions and a narrative style that matches the mood of the setting. But what ended up being written was a story about a mom with a robot butler worried about her son, and the mom happened to live in a weird place with odd descriptions. The difference is the focus of the story. Instead of writing about Neda and how anxious she was that the sun was setting and her son was supposed to be home by now, I should have written about the cold steel of the walkway she sat on, and the warm cup of coffee doing little to stave off the chilly breeze.

This is a flaw that edits would not fix. Or rather they could, but the wording would have been altered so drastically that it would become a ship of Theseus. If you have to change every sentence, is it really the same old story? In this case, it’s clearly better to simply rewrite it. So I did, and as you might imagine, I think it works much better than it did.

If, however, the story is accomplishing your basic goals, whether it is an interesting character, or a cool plot twist, etc., then more than likely the only thing you’ll need to change is how well the story accomplishes those goals. Maybe the plot twist could be better if it was more subtly foreshadowed, or the interesting character needs a longer interaction to really shine. In this case, you don’t have to tear the whole scaffolding apart, you just need to go back and reinforce what’s already there.

Now this is a huge topic, so I might discuss it more thoroughly later, but the main point here is that you’re the author, so you’re the deciding factor on what the story needs. Don’t let somebody tell you your story sucks if your character simply needs clearer motivations. But if they have good points and you agree that your character simply isn’t interesting enough to be the protagonist, maybe a rewrite is in order. Just think about what you’re trying to accomplish with your story and look at how critical the flaws are, and woven into the story those flaws happen to be.

Me — June ’19 Update

With the spring semester finally over, it’s back to working full time. Theoretically, this means I have more time to pursue hobbies like writing and investing more time into D&D, but we’ll see where that goes.

So as always, the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, work, school, D&D, video games, reading/listening, and other things.

I’ve been trying to upload at my scheduled times more consistently. It always kills me a little bit inside when I miss the 5am deadline on a blog post and I have to upload it later (or skip it entirely). That said, two posts a week still feels like a good pace. A lot of my creative energy has been being spent elsewhere, so if more content does come, it probably won’t be through my website (though I’ll certainly advertise it here, too).

That said, I’ve been writing a lot for the passion project, and we have big plans coming in in the next set of months. I’m very excited, but we want to make sure everything is in place before we hit “Go”. Apart from that, I’m planning on working on the second Act of my full length play over the summer. I don’t think that will ever find its way to the website because it wouldn’t be fair to myself to do that, but I certainly intend to throw out snippets (even if it’s just plot points) out when I do finish it. Also, a second short story anthology may be on its way relatively soon?

Work has been a little rough. As I’m writing this, I’m about to go into the first day of work with our new hire (whom I will be teaching), and the day after that is my overdue yearly review. By the time this posts those two things will have already happened, so if you’re reading this, that’s my bad. I should have came back and edited this paragraph. But if I don’t, know this: I’m leery. I want things to get better, as the pay is not comparable to the amount of work I do, but I don’t think I’ll get much of a pay raise in my review. We’ll see.

School! The spring semester is over, as I said, and I should only need one more semester of classes to walk away with (at least) two AA degrees and a few certificates. I’m also thinking about auditioning for the main stage play in the fall. Never being in a full length production was always one of my biggest regrets from high school, and I don’t want to leave college making the same mistake, even if I end up hating the experience.

D&D is going well. I’m planning on passing the DM reins to my brother once we finish this story arc, but the arc is taking longer than anticipated. I predict we have about 5 more sessions to go, and if that’s accurate, I should be done by July, but as long as we finish by August I don’t care. Mostly I’ve got a lot of DM fatigue that I need a break from, and once I’m done with school I should have a lot of fun stuff to play with to get me excited to take the wheel again. I also hope to start writing more Aleor campaign diaries and uploading them to the blog. Stay tuned.

As far as gaming goes, I don’t have a whole lot to say about that. I’ve still been playing Magic: The Gathering Arena trying to save up cards to make my own deck instead of modifying the ones the game gives you for free. It’s a shame the game requires so much in order to get the cards you want. Stupid card games are so expensive. I’ve also been messing around on Heroes of the Storm still. I only have eight heroes left to level up to ten. Lastly, my brother and I are planning on starting Final Fantasy VI for our retro game night this week, and I’m bringing a fellow nerd along for the ride. FF6 has been one of those games I’ve always been very excited to play, so it should be a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, all of this leads to me not having a whole lot of time to myself. The only media I’ve really been consuming in the last few months is Critical Role, and any leftover free time is devoted to Day[9]’s livestreams. That said, I’m about 3 episodes behind on Critical Role, which is about ten hours of content. On one hand it’s nice to just be able to watch new (to me) episodes whenever I want, but it also means I can’t participate in the community because spoilers.

That’s about it. I recently cleaned my room pretty extensively, and I packed the majority of my decorations/nick-knacks. I don’t really plan on moving soon, but it’s been on my radar for several months and it just felt time to start making myself more scarce. I really hope that my life looks very different a year from now. I’m at least trying to set myself up for big changes. On that note, I think I just recently saw the beginning of a really good friendship, so cheers to that.

 

Me — Still Not Writing

I have a confession.

It’s been two months since I stopped writing both Friday fiction posts and Sunday Spear Gate stories. I intended for that to be a temporary break while I got acclimated to my new job and finished the semester of school.

Well, the semester is over and I’m acclimated. So, why haven’t I gotten back into it? I’ll be honest, I don’t fully understand why, but I just… don’t feel compelled to write right now. Everything worth writing requires pre-writing (like the outline to the thirdish draft of Spear Gate), and I don’t find the idea of that appealing. I have another story that I want to tackle, but that requires even more planning, because I don’t want to dive into it head first the same way I did with the last project.

Part of it is that I don’t want to go back to vomiting out a story the night before it needs to be published. I lose sleep and end up with a subpar story, so it’s just a waste of my time.

This leaves me at an interesting position. I’m still leading a writer’s group, but I don’t bring anything anymore, and everyone (lovingly) gives me crap for it every time. It hurts, but I don’t want to bring something that I know I won’t edit just to have something, which is honestly most of what I do when I go.

I’ve tried adopting a lifestyle that doesn’t revolve around mass productivity, because I shouldn’t be in as much of a hurry as I am. Ideally, I’d like to publish an anthology of short stories every year (along the same veins of my first book, Nacre Then’s Beginnings), but it might turn into an every-other year thing, given the fact that I’ve written no short stories in two months.

I’ve talked to a friend about this, and the advice I’ve been given is just to take a break. My response to that is that I’m literally taking a break right now, but she claimed I was just putting it on pause. I don’t like the idea of just stopping, but she may be right.

I have so many plans for the summer, and it doesn’t look like any of them are going to happen. I was going to start a new D&D campaign (apart from the one that starts tomorrow), learn to cook, binge watch a bunch of shows with a friend, collaborate on a bigger project, work on the new outline to Spear Gate, and… well… it looks like most of the next few months will be taking summer classes and working instead.

This should content me. I’ll be super busy, but… I don’t know. There’s something I’m missing and I don’t know what it is.

So, I apologize if you read my blog for the stories. It is my full intention to resume both a regular short story and an established universe section every week. I can’t do that now, but I hope that these weekly updates are interesting enough to keep you occupied in the meantime.

If nothing else, it’s insight into the head of another “aspiring”, yet struggling writer.

Me — Editing My Own Work

I’ve never had an easy time revisiting my own work after it makes it past its first draft. I would say that it’s probably one of my biggest flaws as a writer. In fact, rarely do I even go so far as to reread my own work before I publish it to the blog. I mean, I’m sort of reading it as I write it, so I don’t make too many grammar mistakes, but it does happen.

But once I actually finish something, the only reason I’d go back and read it again is if I was either recording it to post it on YouTube or because I need to familiarize myself with the stories and characters before I continue writing. Pretty much anything anyone has ever read of mine is going to be as I wrote it, with almost no edits. If you’re reading it here on this blog, then that’s doubly true, though I may have gone back and fixed typos.

I actually find it pretty difficult to go back and change my writing. I’ll receive edits and know what I want to change, but this often means cutting and adding larger chunks. I was recently given notes for my one act play I’ve been working on (for a playwriting class I’m taking), and instead of changing the ending, I just took out the last paragraph and added two more pages. I hardly touched character motivation, character dialogue, or anything at all. I just added.

To some extent, I think that’s fine. But here I am thinking about the second draft to my Spear Gate novella and I’m not even considering editing. I feel like it needs so much work I might as well start it from scratch (after making a real outline, of course). I think the biggest hurdle is that two of the three main characters need better motivations for their actions, which is no small fix. Especially with how I operate, going back and editing each and every line just isn’t feasible. It wouldn’t be worth my time. Still, I’m not sure rewriting it from the beginning is a good idea, either.

It’s sort of funny because I edit naturally as I read other people’s works. I can’t even turn it off, editing is the only mode I have as a reader (which is why I read so slow and often fall asleep), except when I’m reading my own writing. I don’t know if you can train yourself to use it only when you need it, but I’d certainly like to learn. Writing a bunch of first drafts of several different Chapter Ones can get tedious, and though I usually like how those short stories turn out, I want to write books! If my theory that Mary Sues are just protagonists that need to earn their perfection, then I need to write in the same story a lot more. I’ll never earn any level of awesome if I only hold on to characters for 2,000 words at a time.

Me — Being an Editor

I know that whatever vocation I end up with, it will be centered around writing. Even if I’m not cut out to be a writer, (or at least a novelist,) I’ll still do something with all the time I’ve put into wordsmithing. Lately, I’ve been wondering if I’m just better suited to be an editor.

I can’t stick with long term projects. I get bored after a while. I also can’t really analyze my own writing the same way I seem to be able to do so easily with others. I can read an author’s work and pick out grammar mistakes sure, but I would pride myself in being able to really probe into questions that will make an author’s work stand out. From works I’ve been handed in my writer’s group, I seem to make comments that nobody else does. People will often say things like “this character seems out of place to me”, or “I was confused as to who was talking here, I guess you need to put more dialogue tags or something.”

But I’ll go a step further, and really pick apart in my own head why something isn’t working and how I would fix it. “Cut this character out of the story. Put those emotions into this character instead. You’ll end up with less characters and a more realistic and rounded character, so it’s a win-win.”

I feel as though if I could look at my writing the same way I did others’, I would be able to make something great, but maybe it’s the writing that’s hindering me. This is also why I don’t like working with entry level stuff or with people that don’t know me. I don’t want people to think I’m writing their story for them, but I honestly believe I can often see what they’re trying to do and tell them how to do it better. This isn’t to say I think I’m amazing and that I could write their story better than they can, simply that I have a good pair of eyes for identifying exactly what isn’t working.

I think that’s the core difference between me and many other people in my writing group. They can look at somebody’s writing and describe symptoms that they’re seeing. They understand something is wrong and can point it out. More often than not, I can compile all these symptoms, diagnose it, and prescribe treatment. Whether or not the author takes it is up to them. Plus, this metaphor has the added bonus in that it does not imply I am always right. Doctors misdiagnose all the time, so if I say something the author disagrees with, they are under no obligation to make the changes I suggest. (Nor should they feel obligated! It’s their story, after all.)

Maybe examining one’s own work as an editor is just a muscle that needs practice. The thing that sucks is that I think I can’t train that muscle without writing a novel to its completion first. It’s pretty frustrating. If I am meant to be a novelist, I obviously still have a long way to go.