Me — Jan ’19 Update

It’s been some time since I’ve done anything with the blog, but I never intended the break to be permanent. I thought 2019 would be a great time to jump back in. I have several pieces of news to share, so let’s go.

As always, the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

First things first, blog changes! Pretty simple, for now. I’m going to ease back into the updates, so I’ll only be writing two posts a week. Tuesday I’ll be posting ‘Me’ stuff, like this. I have a few months of things to catch up on, (I directed a play I wrote last semester, for example). Saturday I’ll be posting other stuff. Reviews, D&D, Improv things, etc. It may turn into three days a week, depending on how this Spring semester goes. We’ll see.

Unfortunately I don’t have much writing news to share. All my writing has been focused towards school (exclusively playwriting format these past few months), and that’s going to continue this semester as well. On that note, while I haven’t been writing prose lately, I do hope to get back to that soon, as I did enjoy writing the weekly short stories. In other news, I am in the composition process of putting together my second short story anthology! Unlike my first book which was published specifically as the first stories I had ever written, this new book will actually be a set of my best stories from the last two years, so you know, actually enjoyable. Stay tuned on that, I plan on an early summer publication, if not earlier.

Video games. This is going to need a longer post, but I’ve been a little all over the place lately. Most recently I bought a Switch. The joy-cons are definitely on par for the weirdest controllers ever, but their versatility is undeniably innovative. I’ve only got two games for now, but it’s a good console. Expect a review on Smash soon.

I’ve been slowly easing back into audiobooks lately. I recently finished Skyward, Brandon Sanderson’s newest novel. I have thoughts, so expect a review on that soon, too! Oh boy, I have more to talk about than I realized. Maybe twice a week isn’t enough… I’ll figure it out. Other than that, I’ve been reading lots of classic literature and plays for my classes. I have three books that are on my desk to be read, though, and at the same time I’ve also been trying to read the D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide cover to cover. I don’t do a lot of physical reading to begin with, so I have no further comments at this time.

The Fall 2018 semester was… a lot, as you might have guessed with my unprecedented absence. I directed my own play, and a wrote quite a lot of new stuff for some other classes, too. Some of it might even end up in my second anthology—it certainly won’t all be prose this time, I’ll say that much. What’s more, another play I wrote is being produced this semester, though I’ve elected not to direct this new one. The play I directed was about capturing the nostalgia for gaming culture in the early 2000’s. This new play is about forgiving yourself for loss, so while I think it will have just as much emotional impact, it doesn’t require a very specific kind of person to helm the production. Plus, I want to see what somebody else does with it, so I can’t wait to see how it turns out without my having had a hand in it.

Also tied to school, I’m hoping this semester, Spring 2019, will be my last. By the end of this semester I will have two AA degrees as well as a playwriting and a teaching certificate. I have no immediate plans for continuing a formal education, but you never know. So, 2019 is bound to be an interesting year.

Lastly, I think the thing I’m most excited for is the new D&D campaign I’m DMing for my brothers. I’m really excited, and I’ve already put dozens upon dozens of hours into prep already. Three maps, multiple pages of character descriptions, and a list of encounters complete with the music associated with each. I’ve also spent a big chunk of money on miniatures so that I have monsters to throw at the party rather than using dice.

So, excited for a lot of things. D&D campaign, production of my new play, last semester of school, and a new short story anthology. And good to be back!

Me — A Bit Tired of Writing

I almost forgot to write this today. It isn’t that I didn’t know what to write, or that I didn’t have time, but that I procrastinated until the last possible second and (unusually for me) let that slot of time be consumed by another thing.

So, anyways, I’ve been thinking a bit lately. I’ve hit that wall of “writing sucks” again. The same one I find myself facing every few months. Often I’ll write for a big project, get bored 10,000 words later, and then start writing something I’m more interested in because the old project simply isn’t new anymore. That’s where I’m at now. I’m still interested in the Spear Gate universe, but I need to do un-fun work in order to jump back into it.

I still like Lisa, too, but I don’t love it. What’s worse, I’ve sort of promised myself I’d write a quarter of Lisa 4 every week this month so I don’t fall behind like I did March. Trouble is, I’m still not even done with Lisa 3. So here we are.

Part of me wants to take another break. Something like a month long just to relax for a while. But on this journey of learning who I am as a writer, I feel like I’ve found myself in a weird position where I don’t think I really know myself at all. I used to know, or at least I thought I did, but now I don’t.

Maybe I’m just one of those people that has to transition between periods of lots of writing, followed by periods of no writing. Maybe I’m just not cut out to be a novelist. Or maybe I’ve just been tactfully avoiding the hard part of being a writer, which is writing when it’s not fun and then editing when it gets even worse. I feel like I do write when it’s not fun, but I can’t maintain that for very long.

One weird thing that I learned from Writing Excuses, but haven’t been able to personally verify, is one simple concept: “The more you write, the easier the writing gets.” What this basically translates to is that if you’re not writing, writing is very difficult, but if you write consistently, maintaining that isn’t hard. Newton’s second law or whatever. If that is true, taking a break is a bad idea. Plus, as a human I feel a constant need to be productive all the time. So if I didn’t write, it might eat at me.

Being on the cusp of change is tough. I know it’s easy to imagine I’ll have everything figured out in five years, but that’s just statistically unlikely. Not having even the knowledge of the direction’s of one’s next step is frustrating. I can only imagine how difficult it is for people who don’t even know what they’re passionate about.

That’s one funny thing. Senior year of high school, I had aspired to be published (and established) by 24, and I thought that deadline was very generous at the time. Now, I find that goal very threatening. I made a list of the 30 authors I was most familiar with, when they were born and how old they were when they were first published. Of those 30 authors, the average age they first published at was 33, and on that list the oldest is 46, so there isn’t any outliers racking up the age. (If anything, Christopher Paolini is an outlier the opposite direction. He brings the average down by half a year by being published at 18).

So, things are a little mentally complicated for me right now. I’m tired, mostly. and I haven’t had a spark of “Oh, that’s an awesome idea!” in quite a while. At least, not one that I’ve actually used in my writing. So, whatever.

Alright, rant over. Hey, at least I got my 500 words in for the day!

Me — The Daily Dose Turns Two

The Daily Dose of Derailment turned two years old yesterday, which led me to an interesting realization. If I consider the beginning of my writing career to be the first stories I ever started writing in 7th grade of middle school, the blog now takes up a considerable chunk of how much time I’ve spent as a writer. Roughly 25% of my life spent as a writer has been in conjunction with the blog now.

What’s more, since writing blog posts is considerably easier than writing actual fiction, a good portion of the time I’ve spent writing has been nonfiction at this point. I keep a Google Doc of all the things I’ve ever written and each of their word counts, but admittedly I haven’t updated it since September. It’s simply a lot of maintenance, which is a great problem to have. Even back then, though, over 50% of the words I’ve written have been blog posts, and by now I’m probably well past 500,000 total words published.

I have a lot to thank the blog for. Most importantly it’s held me accountable for actually writing, even when it’s difficult. One of my friends taught me something the other day, and it really works. To paraphrase his paraphrased quote from I don’t remember who: “Motivation is terrible. It won’t get you anywhere because it’s fueled by emotion rather than need. But discipline can give you results and force you to push yourself to be who you want.” I find that sentiment to be surprisingly valid.

The best part is, I really do feel like I’m growing as a writer. I’ve looked into how to grow your audience so that more people will read your work. It involves a lot of engaging with other communities and bringing them back to your own. Honestly, that doesn’t interest me much. I do it from time to time, but it’s mostly to see how others are holding up with their own work rather than advertising my stuff. So when I see I have well over a hundred followers without actually publicizing my work, I can be relatively confident that it speaks to the quality of what I produce more than anything else.

I’ve recently started thinking a lot about how I personally view myself, and I’m happy to say that I’ve finally started to unconsciously view my self-worth in terms of my writing. That’s good because I honestly feel like I’m, generally speaking, pretty good at it. I have a lot to learn, obviously, but after eight-ish years of writing garbage, I’m slowly gaining respect for the more recent stories I’ve been working on.

Last year I submitted an application for the 2017 Writing Excuses Retreat. Of the three writing samples I submitted, the three things I considered my best works, one was written in 2014, and the other two were written in 2016. I still think that they’re alright, but I don’t think that they can compare to newer stories like, well, any of the short flash fiction stories I’ve written in 2018. It proves I’ve made some progress.

By this time next year, I hope to be working on publishing a Lisa Stenton book, complete with twelve 5,000 word short stories. It wouldn’t be the first thing I’ve published, but it would still be a huge step forward for me. Here’s hoping.

Life — Nacre Then’s Beginnings and Summer Plans

I have returned! With the conclusion of the spring semester, and the onset of summer fast approaching, I have some super exciting news. For today, I have two big things to share, and my blog’s weekly schedule will resume this Monday, starting off with a May update. Fun stuff.

First things first, I’ve self published my first book. It’s a short story anthology titled Nacre Then’s Beginnings. You can find it on Amazon for $7.99! “Why did this happen so suddenly when I’ve been working on other projects?” you may ask. Well, I was going through the writers group edits for my stuff, incorporating changes and setting aside copies that had no notes on them. I don’t go through this process often, mind you. This was several hundred sheets of paper I was going through looking for notes, and some stories were given to my group several months ago. By the time I went through everything, I had lots of copies that were left blank, and it seemed a shame to throw them away.

I made a post on Facebook about it, asking if anyone wanted some hard copies of my stuff. I was met with way more requests than I had anticipated, so it got me thinking. A lot of the people that wanted to read my things don’t use the computer very often, or simply wouldn’t know where to look if they did want to read my work. I thought it would be a great idea to make an easy way to access my work physically, and this meant self-publishing.

Putting this all together wasn’t really a big task. In fact I decided to put a lot of my older works into this anthology in case I decide to make this a more regular thing. After throwing in a preface, some author notes, and cleaning up the stories a bit, I went to CreateSpace, an online formatting service, and got it officially published for free. Easy peasy. I won’t get into how long it actually took, though. Start to finish, formatting the manuscript and making small edits took me almost ten hours of work. I partially blame the free service for that, but I can’t complain about free things.

My plans for this book are pretty simple. This isn’t my “debut” novel. A lot of it contains very dated and non-canon works. As a result, I’m not advertising it (much). I’m just going to inform friends and family (and interested parties) that it exists, and anyone that’s interested will be satisfied. As for future publications, that’s probably a long way’s off. I do want my first real work to be a novel, after all, and I haven’t even written anything suitable just yet. Maybe someday sooner than later, though.

 

In other news, I had plans to move to San Fransisco for the summer. I thought I had a job opportunity over there, and I thought it would be cool to get out of the house for a while. I planned on getting some quality reading and writing in, being away from my computer and video games, so while I would have had a full time job, my intent was that my free time would be spent much more productively.

But as it turns out, the job I thought I was applicable for wasn’t. So if you’re one of the people who I told this to, it turns out I’m staying. I’m not upset about it. Technically, it lends itself to the possibility of me being more productive, since I’ll have all day to work on reading and writing more. In practice though, we’ll see how that turns out.

I’ll outline my plans for this summer more thoroughly Monday, when I give my May update. I’ll give you a hint, though: I’ve got a cool idea for a book that involves a board game and gods.