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.

Me — Outside Perspective

I’m a very introspective person. I used to be really into the MBTI Personality Test, and back in high school and a year or two after that I considered myself INTJ, because it fit me so well. I never learned the “functions”, because it didn’t interest me and it seemed like a chore to understand it. A good friend of mine knows a good deal more about it, though, and has since told me that I’m probably an INTP.

Now, I won’t go into a lecture about what MBTI is or what all the different functions are, because I admittedly am not that fluent in them myself, (and I also don’t believe that categorizing a thing as complex as people into a few things will ever work all the time), but I will say this. INTP’s strongest function is Introverted Thinking. Here’s a summary of what that means (taken from personalitygrowth.com)

People with Introverted Thinking want the world to make sense in a logical manner. They form an internal framework of how the world works. It is constantly being modified and improved through life experience and experiments.

Introverted Thinking’s goal is to create a web of knowledge in which everything is interrelated.

For example, someone with introverted thinking can find out how a car and all its parts work by relating it to some other system, such as a computer.

They have the ability to find commonalities in seemingly unrelated things.

Introverted Thinking is also great at troubleshooting. Someone with Ti can analyze something, figure out where the problem areas are, and fix them rather quickly.

I am always in my head thinking and adapting. I would say that for any given big event in my life, such as getting a car, completing college, moving out, etc., I devote a good amount of thought to every day. I’m constantly framing, organizing, and planning my day in both the short term and the long term. But this is actually not what I wanted to talk about in this post. This is context.

Because what has really fascinated me lately is that even with how much I as a person think about myself and try to psychoanalyze myself in a myriad of different ways, people can still see me better than I can just be watching and listening. I find that this is true for everything in life.

I can read another’s writing and point out every tiny little flaw as well as the glaring issues. I can critique character motivations and promises to the reader as well as mark grammar mistakes and missing (or extraneous) commas. But I cannot do that with my own work.

This is both interesting and depressing, because often in my writer’s group, I might come up with amazing changes to somebody’s scene. I’ll say “Instead of the characters having this conversation at home, it should be at the bar, because it will increase the tension and it will also make more sense when Character Y stumbles into them and everything falls into chaos.”

I’ll watch as the writer’s eyes light up and they say “Whoa, yeah, that’s an awesome idea! Thanks!”

The reason I find this frustrating is because I wish I could do that while reading my own work. I get bored with my writing a lot of the time, and things stop working, but I can’t read it and see what I would imagine to be glaring issues that are as easy to solve as the issues in other’s writing. It would be incredibly pompous for me to say that I want another me to read my work from the outside, but really I think that’s something we can all work on. My problem is that I’m in my head so much that I can’t get myself out of it. I find it impossible to read my own work as an editor because I always read it as the writer.

And to pull away from writing, I’ve thought “Z fact” about myself for a year or two now, but have been struggling with the why. Why do I think this way? Why am I so attached to what is logically an insignificant problem? Well, I was explaining this to that same friend the other day and he said that the answer I had been telling myself was wrong. And that the real explanation was “W fact” (I can’t use X fact, because it makes me think of X Factor).

You know, that last paragraph is awful and ambiguous, but I’m not going to delete it. I think it needs to live in shame for how awful that was. Let me try again, with examples. Let’s say there’s this huge waterslide. We’re talking 60 feet high or more. I want to be the sort of person that goes on over and over again, because it looks like it should be fun. But I can’t, because I’m not a strong swimmer, or the slide looks unsafe, or whatever.

But when I’m explaining this story, a friend might say, “Wait, you said 60 feet high? Dude, you’re afraid of heights.”

And then I’ll think, “Oh, yeah, that makes way more sense.”

It’s amazing that it really doesn’t matter how much you think about something, because sometimes all you need is for somebody to look at it from the outside.

Rambling over. See you next Monday!

Me — Taking a Fiction Break!

Hey, everyone. I have a few news things to share. The most important thing on that list is the fact that I’m just burnt out. I would have mentioned this last week but I’ve only decided this in the last few days.

Finals are coming up soon, and I recently just got a new job on top of that (more details on that maybe soonish, because nothing is set in stone). I’ve stated my intentions to write Lisa 4 ahead of schedule several times, but I still haven’t even picked up Lisa 3 in over a week now, and I have no drive to continue, either. It’s a shame, yes, but writing 3,000 words of fiction a week is just not sustainable in my current mindset. I think forcing myself to write that much when I’m not in love with the words I’m producing is a bad move when I’ve already got so many other things going on.

There are also glaring flaws with the entire concept surrounding Lisa Stenton, and it mostly ties to the fact that it’s modern day. Flaws such as “where are all the cellphones and social media and whatnot” when I don’t want to make that a part of the story. Yet neither do I want to say that “technology doesn’t work around magic” like every other urban fantasy story, because that just makes things easy.

That said, I do still plan on continuing Lisa Stenton. It just won’t end up being one per month like I had hoped. I’m going to finish Lisa 3 when I stop feeling burnt out, and then maybe Lisa 4 after that. Now, in the past (November and December), I had taken a break from my blog and only posted Spear Gate excerpts once a week. I’m going to do the opposite this time. Only blog stuff: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I might still do Friday flash fiction pieces, but I’ll reserve the right to skip it, too.

Funny thing is, I’m not going through a rough time right now. In fact, I’m the happiest I’ve been in a while. That’s also sort of how I know I need to take a break from writing. Writing isn’t simply hard because I’m depressed/down/whatever. Writing is hard only because I’m very busy and I’m not currently in love with any of my projects.

Actually, I am very interested in two writing projects. But those are personal, and will (probably) never see the light of day, because while this blog is still more for me than anyone else and I’m very open about my personal thoughts and plans, there are still necessarily things that are best kept to myself.

Good news is on the horizon, though. And as something entirely unrelated, I placed in Diamond 4 in the ranked play of Heroes of the Storm, which is higher than I’ve ever been. I’m actually pretty confident that if I wasn’t going to school and could devote 4+ hours a day to it, I could play semi-competitively. Well, not competitively, obviously, but I like striving to be the best in everything I do. (For perspective, Diamond is in the top 8%-ish of players. The tier after that is “Master”, which is the top 1%. A little research pretty much states that the difference of these two ranks is more commitment than skill based.)

So, my apologies for the break in fiction. Don’t worry, though, I don’t intend this to last more than a month or two.

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 — April ’18 Update

March has been interesting in a number of ways, and I’ve been a little stressed given the amount of things I’ve been trying to tackle lately. My Spring Break just ended, and while I had been hoping to relax, in reality I relaxed the first two days and then realized how large my to-do list was, and then never had a moment’s rest. That’s primarily why Lisa 3 isn’t done. But anyways, let’s look to the future, not the past.

And as always, here’s the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

No immediate blog changes on the horizon. I do want to start a weekly Research a Random Thing project and then make that the topic of, say the Wednesday posts, as I’ve discussed in a recent post. No plans for that yet, though, because I want to do that properly (and when I have less on my plate). Maybe that’ll be more of a summer thing.

As for writing plans, I obviously have to finish the second half of Lisa’s March story. That’s my immediate concern. I’m also going to try to use April as a test-run to write Lisa 4 in more bite-size chunks, as in writing 1,500 words every week. That way, when it’s published, I’ll be posting stuff that’s been done, not stuff that I cranked out the night before. As for the Sunday posts, I still have no idea what I’m going to do with them. I’m not ready to revisit Spear Gate, so I’ll probably just keep writing Spark snippets, because that’s fun. Not actively working on a “Big Project” feels weird, but I’ve just got too much right now.

I’m mostly playing Heroes of the Storm right now. Not competitively, though I do want to try to hit Diamond again this season to see if I can hit it consistently. Mostly, I just haven’t had any time at all to do anything, though I did pick up an old phone app I used to play: Skyforce. It’s a bullet hell game, but with long term upgrades, and upgrades are my favorite thing.

Having caught up on Writing Excuses, Critical Role, and Voice Acting Mastery, I’m currently binging a new podcast when I can: Story Break. It’s a podcast by the writers at Rocket Jump, and each episode is them tackling a famous IP and trying to plot out a movie or TV series for it. These IPs aren’t easy topics, like a Jar Jar Binks movie, a Sonic the Hedgehog movie, a Kelogg’s Cereal movie, etc. Surprisingly enough, they usually do an amazing job, and watching professional writers at work has helped me learn how to outline stories much more effectively. Maybe for my next Big Project I should try my hand at outlining again…

School hasn’t been hard so much as time consuming. I’m basically at the college for twelve hours straight on Mondays and Wednesdays, so it takes a lot out of me and I have to be careful to manage my energy levels. I cannot go into a school day tired, because I will die from exhaustion. Especially if it’s a Monday. Not much else to say about school at the moment, though I’ve since learned that if I take about 18+ units (don’t know the exact number) next semester, I’ll be able to transfer with two AA degrees, which is nice.

The only other thing I have to mention is my unsuccessful job hunting attempts. I’ve been applying to places I think I’ll enjoy working at, but in a lot of the interviews I’ve had, they aren’t really satisfied with my availability of “only Thursday-Sunday”. It sucks, because while the interviews have been going really well, I can watch the interviewer look at my availability and frown, which basically just means I didn’t get the job, regardless of how great a candidate I am. It’s a little frustrating, but there isn’t a whole lot I can do to change that until the semester ends next month.

I may also have some D&D stories coming on the horizon. Stay tuned!

Me — Relaxation Allowance

I’ve recently started working on a new data-oriented Google Sheet. I mean, that sentence would probably be true if I had said it any given week in 2018. I’m really excited about this one though because it’s geared towards holding me more accountable towards productivity, and for the two days I’ve used it it’s been great.

Here’s the jist of it—I like not doing things, just like everyone else. Relaxing and playing video games is great, but if I do them when I know I have other things that need doing, it stresses me out. This Sheet is to help me quantify that line. Assuming I don’t have any deadlines (personal or otherwise) that need to be met that day, how much “stuff” do I need to do in order to feel justified in spending the rest of my day doing nothing?

Let’s take an arbitrary (but nice) number, say 10, and call that the number of points I need to achieve in order to allow myself to relax. What earns me points? Well, simple: anything at all that makes me feel better about myself as a Responsible Adult™. Getting dressed is 1 point. Vacuuming is 2 points. Folding laundry is 2 points. Writing Friday’s flash fiction piece is 4 points. So if I do all four of those things, I’m just about allowed to not do anything the rest of the day. (I realize that’s 9 points, not 10.)

The important distinction here is that these numbers are not solid, and this is not a rule. I am not restricting myself from doing whatever I want. Rather, I’m using it as a guideline to test the point at which I internally feel like I’ve done “enough” for the day. In terms of game design, these numbers aren’t supposed to be balanced, they’re supposed to accurately represent the amount of satisfaction I gain from completing certain tasks. If I look at the chart and see that I’m at 8 points, I can look at what I haven’t done and just do it.

This does a few awesome things. The first is that the chart is a good way to visualize all the things that I may or may not need to do. I don’t need to vacuum every day, but if I’m almost at that threshold of 10 points and I haven’t done it in a week, I might as well. The second is that because I’m literally racking up points, it encourages me to be productive I might otherwise not even consider. Reading, for example, is 3 points per hour. I basically never read, but if I genuinely don’t have anything else to do, it’s a good way to actually force myself to be productive.

The idea is that I will, eventually, get to 10+ points every day. Eating a meal is 2 points, so if I’m being a responsible adult that’s the majority right there. But this will actually encourage me to eat three meals a day, and doing nothing besides getting dressed and eating all day won’t be enough to earn me relaxation. Not to mention I’d have to be doing something in the time between eating those meals. Might as well use it to be productive!

So, this is a new thing. I expect the numbers to change significantly on a quarterly basis, but given a very short two days, it’s been awesome. Would recommend.

 

Me — Writing Paradox

One strange thing about being a writer, and I know I’m definitely not alone in this, is that I have never found writing easy. I honestly don’t like writing. I like having written, but that certainly isn’t the same thing. Rarely do I get any enjoyment from the act of writing, but I’ve learned that I get a lot of satisfaction from producing stuff, so all I really need is the discipline to force myself to write. Like this! Here I go: words words words.

As you may know, I monitor my mood twice a day and keep track of the things I was doing that may or may not have influenced that mood. I’ve been doing that since December, and along with a myriad of other things, I’ve learned that when I don’t write, I get tired. I found that astounding.

Let’s take an implausible hypothetical and say that I’m ahead on my writing. It’s Thursday, and everything I plan on publishing to the blog is already written and ready to go up until the next Thursday. I don’t have a full time job, and weekends are generally pretty open for me, so I could, without consequence, play video games for three days straight.

I’ve learned that if I do that, I get tired. I start to feel like I’m wasting my life and my time. It sucks, because I should feel great about the fact that I’ve written ahead of schedule, but no. If I don’t produce at least 500 words every other day, it actually starts to fatigue me. How strange is that? I don’t even like writing! That great sense of pride I get for doing a thing is so strong that I need to administer it constantly. Now that I think about it, I actually get withdrawals. It’s like an addiction. Weird.

It makes me think back to a few years ago before I had the blog, when I wasn’t forcing myself to write nearly every day. I certainly feel much better about myself now than I do then, but if I stopped writing altogether today, would I go back to the person I was? I think it’s easy to say no, because I’ve grown in more ways than just my writing, but that drive to keep writing is largely responsible for lots of the improvements in my life.

I don’t think I will ever enjoy writing. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t dishearten me a little. But I won’t let that stop me, either. I like having written too much. I can’t actually foresee a future where I’m no longer writing. I used to say my chances of becoming a professional author were 50-50. But even now, if I land a dream job becoming the lead writer for a video game company, and I’m handling the story construction rather than the actual writing, I don’t think that would actually stop me from writing my own personal stories. Nothing will.

It’s impossible to say what the future holds. But I’m relatively certain that whatever else I’m doing, I’ll always be making at least a little time to write.