Life — The State of Spear Gate

To be honest, I don’t have a whole lot to say today. I’ve had a particularly exhausting weekend, and with the first week of the fall semester happening just prior, I’m a little out of breath… not to mention the fact that I still don’t have a desktop of my own, and that isn’t likely to change until September. So, good on me for being a functioning human being without a real computer for a sizable amount of time, I suppose.

But anyway, I thought I’d talk for a little bit about the state the Spear Gate universe is in right now. There’s a lot going on, but on my blog the only attention it really gets is in the fiction section (obviously) and the little chunk in the monthly updates. That said, it occupies a huge amount of my time and thoughts, so where are we at?

The book just passed 10,000 words, which I’m pretty excited about. It’s nothing to write home about, but it’s historically the point at which I get bored with whatever the project happens to be, so the fact that my feelings towards it have only shown the slightest hint of boredom (in regards to the rewrite) is a good sign.

Consequently, I am starting to plan a little bit further and further ahead. I intend to keep the vast majority of that to myself, but know that I am starting to look further than “what happens in the next chapter” as far as what the characters are doing. The strange thing is, they are starting to surprise me with how much depth they’ve naturally evolved with, and I’m scared I’m not taking enough notes! In fact, as of writing this right now I’m creating a Google Doc of stuff I need to not forget.

I have mighty big plans for this universe. A lot of it is too big for the book I’m currently working on, and require things to be established that aren’t. If it does upset me enough, though, I can throw it in anyway and blame it on a “first draft” thing, promising myself to foreshadow stuff in later. For example, ‘Death Warden’ is a special rank in an army unit that has a very specific job (use your context clues). However, Tebrein’s army has never been mentioned and, for where the story is, it isn’t important. So, I don’t know how to fit it in, but I have a cool scene envisioned. This example is one of many.

The Spear Gate universe is huge. Each planet is intended to be capable of comfortably housing several book series that may or may not be relevant to each other, so I can’t possibly fit all of my ideas into the first book alone.

Also, the more I write, the more I realize that I’m sort of accidentally emulating Brandon Sanderson. I don’t think anyone that knows the author would even put the pieces together because on the surface they’re so distinct, but there are points. Now, I realize this is a consequence of my very picky reading habits, but it is what it is. As I plan further and further ahead, Rozire is starting to feel a lot like Hoid. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry about it.

Life — The Three ‘Me’s

I measure a lot of my success based on the progress I’ve tracked for myself, and how much further I am from my goal. I have endpoints for three distinct things I want to achieve in life, and those endpoints are actually people. Figures whom I admire for very distinct and different reasons, but all who have become something that I want to match (or surpass) in the coming decades. Now, I’ve talked about all of these people before, so I’ll include links to previous posts where I talk about each more singularly.

The first person is probably the most obvious and the most distant goal, and that is Brandon Sanderson. Now, obviously he has achieved things in the sci-fi and fantasy world that is extremely impressive. Having such a name for himself and working on multiple highly anticipated book series is nothing to sneeze at, but the reason he’s one of my endpoints is that he has such a knack for worldbuilding and putting giant concepts into edible chunks. I doubt he’ll ever be as famous as J.K. Rowling because his world is so expansive, but success isn’t necessarily measured by a paycheck. I’m the furthest away from achieving anything he did because he’s so far out of my league professionally, but his ability to constantly write new and diverse worlds never ceases to amaze me. Brandon Sanderson is therefore my aspired “Professional” identity.

My aspired “Hobby” identity is Matt Mercer. Him being an endpoint represents everything I want to achieve in my free time. Not only is he an amazing dungeon master for D&D, but he is also an incredible voice actor. His status as one of my endpoints is a little more ephemeral, because I also attribute this to my career as an improvisational actor and teacher. I don’t really care about doing anything with my abilities as a voice actor, improv actor, or dungeon master, but these are all nonetheless a part of my life, and I want to be able to be awesome at each in my own right. In this sense, I don’t think I can ever achieve this endpoint by virtue of the fact that he does those things as a professional and not as a hobbyist, but they are aspirations of mine all the same.

Lastly, and this may or may not be the most accessible goal, is my “Social” identity, whom I attribute to Sean “Day9” Plott. He is a streamer that plays games like HearthstoneDota 2, and made his name for himself by talking about Starcraft. The reason he’s on this list is because I think his most admirable quality is his personality. When you’re watching him play, (and I think this is pretty rare for streamers), the focus of the content is not on the game, but on him and his reactions to it. He’s built a community with the people that watch his stream, and is very engaging with his viewers. Not only that, but he also loves to tell stories and give advice. Day9 is an extremely charismatic person, watching him would be enjoyable even if I had absolutely no interest in the game he was playing in. While I have no intentions to have any sort of ‘online personality’ (outside perhaps this blog), I want people to have that sentiment towards me, as well. I want to draw in people based on my social character, not my accomplishments or anything like that. This endpoint is the hardest to gauge because, while all it takes is a change in character, that’s by no means easy. In fact, it’s pretty contradictory to the way I’ve lived my life up until recently. I’m taking steps, but it’s difficult to say how far the path leads, and I doubt I’m on the most direct one there.

I think a lot of people might interpret this information and incorrectly conclude that I’m not happy with where I am. On the contrary, I think I’m doing okay. But I think it’s healthy for us as people to have goals, both short term and long term. And it’s okay to have goals you will probably never achieve, because you’ll still get somewhere by trying. I would be lying if I said I expected to actually accomplish any of these endpoints (except maybe one). But that’s not really the point. All of these are markers to help me find the path I want to take, and while I might not get where I’m going, I’ll probably be content with wherever I end up.

Life — One Year Ago (450)

When a lot of people look back one year, they don’t see a lot of changes. For the most part, life rumbles on slowly. Usually only one or two big things will have happened throughout the year to make it memorable, and often one can’t say how a year really went without first coming up with a general emotion to describe it. In my experience, a lot of people will say they had “a bad 201X”. It could, of course, be boiled down to universal culprits, such as the bad economy, or a number of other issues many of us have to deal with.

But when I look back at my year, I try to look specifically at where I used to be and who I am now. Especially with my blog, I can now precisely track where I was in life at specific dates.

365 days ago, the blog was sort of a mess. It was organized, but it was mostly compiled into a lot of information that nobody cared about, not even me. Two reviews, two ‘Me’ posts, and two ‘Life’ posts every single week, wrapped up by a segment of Dreamscape, my second serious attempt at long form fiction. I remember back then I would occasionally write useless blurbs just to get my five hundred words in, and while I tried to avoid it, this ended up happening a lot. (You can only talk about yourself so much before you can’t even think about what to talk about anymore.) A lot of those older posts are thinly veiled vats of useless information, and while that is infinitely better than my zero writing output the year prior, I’ve grown a lot since.

Now, my blog is more refined. I’m down from four Me & Life posts a week to one, giving me much more breathing room to talk about life events that are more substantial. I introduced the Improv 101 and Learning! posts to add more variety. I also added a second fiction day, which is always great.

I think it’s important to look back constantly to make sure you’re going in the right direction. A year ago, I was super proud of the writer I had become. I was finally somebody that wasn’t afraid of putting the ideas on the page, and even when I inevitably got bored of them (as seems to be my curse with longer works,) I still stuck with it for months. A year before that I couldn’t even rely on myself to write five hundred words a week, let alone per day.

So while that jump was about changing the person I was to better fit the writer I wanted to be, the jump from this past year is more about sacrificing quantity for quality. I still have quite a long way to go before I hit that million word wall, but these days I’m not worrying about that as much as I am enjoying the words that I’m putting on the page. I was afraid to give up on Dreamscape because I wanted to at least finish the first draft, but if I’m going to be honest with myself, there were road bumps from the beginning. Problems I ignored because I couldn’t find solutions. I ended up spending the next few weeks being uncomfortable with what I was writing because I knew there were issues with the piece. I told myself it was just to get my “trunk novels” done before I work on real pieces of art.

But really, the art comes first. The very first step on the writer’s journey is to enjoy what you write, and while I’ve known this for several years, it’s a lesson that must be learned and relearned, at least for me.

I’m not the best writer in the world. The stuff I’m working on now probably doesn’t have the most interesting characters, or the most cohesive plot. But you know what?

It’s fun to write. And that’s all that really matters.

Life — Obsessive Organization

Lately I’ve been embracing the fact that I just love putting everything in figurative boxes. I use Google Drive for all of my writing purposes, and everything is neatly organized in folders inside folders inside folders.

If I told you to go to find an essay I wrote in English class of my senior year in high school, it would be pretty easy. You just go open the following folders (and sub-folders): School -> [Name of High School] -> Senior Year -> English -> “Essay”. If I wanted to open the folder of my current major project, the “Spear Gate” book, it’s the same thing: Writing -> Books -> Spear Gate. I’m a little neurotic about it, to be honest. Just for fun, I’ve considered drawing a visual stem of all my documents in Google Drive just so I can see just how deep and organized it really is.

But in recent weeks, I’ve done more. I’ve made a dedicated folder entitled “Data”, filled with lots of information I like to keep track of. That’s where I keep my list of books I’ve read, the books I intend to read soon, descriptions of the books in my brother’s Audible library, etc. About a week ago I made a spreadsheet I call the “Hype Tracker”. In it is all the release and premiere dates of all the games, books, and movies I’m anticipating, as well as other important future dates I don’t want to forget. Using that spreadsheet I can easily grasp how long I’ll have to play X anticipated game until Y game releases. It may sound pretty useless, but I actually open it almost daily.

Tomorrow, I plan on making another thing: a timeline of basically everything that’s happened in my life. I hate having to do math to figure out how old I was when something happened, so if I lay out a timeline, all I’ll have to do is graph the year and my age to put everything into an easy perspective. It’s probably going to be the highlight of my day tomorrow. Not because my life is (that) boring, but because I actually enjoy that sort of thing.

It makes me wonder whether I’m really meant to be a writer, to be honest. Not in like a “I don’t know who I am” sort of way, but in a confused “Why?” sort of way. I cannot in any way see how I can implement data entry into my writing, and the two seem to be as far apart from each other as it is possible to be.

There’s so much I want to do. I want to be an author. I want to compile the lore for video games. I want to perform and teach more improv. I want to get into voice acting. And I also like numbers and data. Sesame Street might say that one of these things is not like the others, I suppose.

But at the same time, it might not be that weird. I’d imagine the common stereotype of a writer and an actor are two very different things, one trapped in a dark room all day trying to catch a break, the other making bank as they sell their millionth copy (see what I did there?) The way I see it, though, writing and acting aren’t very different at all. Being a part of both of those fields, I would actually say they’re very similar to one another. Maybe I’ll talk about that next week, in fact!

Me — One Year Anniversary

The blog is a year old today! What began as five hundred words (almost) every day has ended up being 342 posts of an average length of about 644 words (excluding the fiction which is typically over a thousand words each). Before I started, I had a total of about ninety thousand words written, most of which were spent on different drafts of my first book. It would have taken you half an hour at most to read through all of the short stories I had written, and my biggest accomplishment was The Archive, my personal wiki for all the nations, events, and denizens of Nacre Then.

I’ve written three times more words in this past year alone than my combined writing history prior, all because of this blog. I’ve grown immensely as a writer and have learned a lot about myself and the craft.

Before I started the Daily Dose, I hated writing. I called myself a writer, but really I just had this universe in my head that wanted to get out. Writing has never come easy to me, and truth by told it still isn’t. But I’ve since found stories and characters that I want to write about. I’ve finally found a broad story in Nacre Then that I want to tell (the anthology that doesn’t focus on one character), I’ve discovered Lisa Stenton, and my brothers and I are starting to explore Naya, a new world we’re building a game out of. The Daily Dose was the inspiration I was looking for to become more than I was, and I know that the future will only bring more growth.

I’m coming to realize how far I have yet to go, too. I’m still not a great editor, and for some reason I get bored with stories that go on for too long. This means that if I want to finish something, ten thousand words is the limit, and once I get there I move on to something else without making the edits I know need to happen.

Still, I think I’m ready to start looking to publicize myself. I want to start publishing my standalone short stories like “The Amazing Sightseer” and “Fortune’s Fool” to name a few. I don’t know if I’ll finish Rise of the Riftguard by the end of the year, but if I do I want to start presenting myself to publishers with it.

All that said, I’m pondering some (more) possible blog changes in the future. I don’t have anything solid yet, or even a plan for when I’m going to be giving this more thought, but I think I’m going to combine “Me” and “Life” posts into one, since they’ve always tended to bleed together. In it’s place, I want to add a second “Weekly Short” post to up my fiction output. The problem is, I don’t know what day this should be. The middle of the week works best,but it would require shifting everything around and I’m not quite sure I want to do that just yet.

So, here’s to another year of growth and learning. Let’s see what the future holds.

Me — Being a Creator

(This week’s audio recording: “Warstorm“, is one of my earliest Nacre Then successes. Despite it being nearly two years old, it’s evolved very little!)

 

One of the most difficult things about forcing myself to write a minimum of a thousand words a week is that sometimes I just have nothing to write. I realize that many established authors write over two thousand a day (most notably in my line of experience is Brandon Sanderson, who does more than that even) but I can’t hold myself to the level of incredibly wealthy and famous people. Sanderson himself explained that five hundred to a thousand per day five days a week is still a novel a year, and though most of my words are spent on this blog and not fiction, it’s still an accomplishment.

Right now specifically, I’m running into a multifaceted problem. Obviously, a writer should write something they enjoy. If you’re not excited to write it, you probably shouldn’t be. My head is currently filled with half-fleshed ideas that are either not ready to be written or are too large-scale for me to tackle, and the small stuff I can write quickly as a weekend story doesn’t really interest me. Here are the things that have my attention right now.

My primary focus is the third novelette in The Aftermath of the Rupture. I’ve got one major contradiction in it that I’ve yet to figure out, and until I know exactly how things will work I can’t even get started. On top of that, a moderate to severe change in the current canon of the society of Torreth is having me slow down a bit, even if those changes won’t see prevalence until the fourth novelette at the earliest.

My second larger project, and the most likely candidate for receiving the next longer story of ten thousand words, is another Spark story. My brothers and I have been giving it a considerable amount of attention these past few weeks, and there’s a story I can’t wait to get rolling. Since we don’t want to solidify anything in the actual plot of the game just yet, this will be another prequel, but it will have a considerable amount of worldbuilding in it. I hope to get it started some time during February.

Lastly, Lisa Stenton is always in the back of my mind. I really like the character and the mysteries she’s finding for herself, but I’m hesitant to jump into anything too quickly. For example, I want her parents to come home soon, but I don’t want to give the reader all the answers to everything immediately, and I’m unsure how to do that just yet. I like opening this box (world) slowly. One big question at a time. So, while I figure out how to introduce her parents, Lisa will be getting more and more lost as to what’s actually going on. (As a side note, when I wrote “Spiritwalkers” and “Suicide Note”, a lot of the big questions didn’t have answers at the time of writing them, but writing this next story, I am now equipped with pretty much all the answers. Even the ones to the questions I’m raising in it, and I’m actually pretty happy with where I’m taking it).

All that said, even when I can put myself into “writing mode”, its never easy. In all honesty I nearly gave up writing a full story yesterday, (and, if we’re going on technicalities, I still only wrote the first half), but a big part of being a writer is to do it even when it sucks, which is far too often. The whole point of the blog is to force me to write. If I give up, it means I’ve failed myself, and I can’t let that happen.

So rest assured that, even if I don’t publish as much fiction as I’d often like to, I do consider it the most important part of my blog, and I do have plans!

 

Life — False Expectations

You ever think about something that’s going to happen, and you can’t help but dread it or hype yourself up with anxiety, only to find out that it wasn’t nearly as bad as you thought it would be?

If you’re anything like me (and I’m inclined to believe most humans are), you get anxious at everything, even if the stress levels vary. Planning a party, performing on stage, going to events you doubt you’d enjoy, doesn’t matter.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. I’ve brushed on this before (though it was like seven months ago), but when we think about future events, our brains have a habit of romanticizing them, warping them and branching off into all the possibilities of how that scenario will go. Most often, they branch off towards either the worst or the best cases.

When you go on a date, pessimism will say you’re going to do any number of embarrassing things, say the wrong words, or run out of things to say and be left with an awkward silence. On the other hand, optimism will tell you that you’ll be incredibly charming, suave, take your pick of any positive adjective. You imagine it’ll go amazing and everything you could want to happen does.

Only, that’s not how the world works. In virtually every scenario you plan, the reality will end up being somewhere in the middle. It’s just a bell curve probability. If you’re a chronically anxious person, I want you to think back to all the situations and events you were particularly worried about. I’d be willing to bet pretty much all of them turned out okay. You might remember a particularly embarrassing moment from that event, but in hindsight, it was ridiculous to assume the apocalypse would happen that day, right?

Your gut will tell you any number of awful things occur if you go to that party. But your gut is a drama queen and blows up possible scenarios when the likelihood of most of them seeing fruition is zero.

The best thing to do is to shrug off your mind’s impossible pre-conceived notions of how something might fail catastrophically. This is why, when you’re planning on torturing somebody, you don’t tell that person what you’re going to do to them. Instead, you make sure they know they will be tortured, and you leave them to fill the blanks. The scenarios they will construct in their mind will be far, far worse than anything you could really do to them. As a side note, you probably shouldn’t be torturing people. Trust me, it’s a bad habit.

All that being said, try new things! Be adventurous! Even if nothing pans out spectacularly, you’ll come out of things with more insight into your personality and, in general, a more experienced person. Alternatively, if you never try anything because you’re too scared, what is going to stop you from being scared of everything? Don’t let your fear of what might be stop you from having to ask yourself what could have been.