Me — January ’18 Update

Greetings, welcome back, hello again, and good to see you. Today marks the return of the Daily Dose, as well as, of course, the beginning of the new year. Pretty fortunate that it starts on a Monday, eh? It really compliments my posting schedule. As you can imagine, lots of things are going to change. My intent for this new year is set with one major goal: to have a more presentable output of writing for people to read and enjoy. This blog’s original purpose was to force me to write at least 500 words a day, and I can safely say it’s more than achieved that. Unrelated stress aside, the blog has proven invaluable. I think it’s time to shift my focus. So, here’s what I’ve been doing over the break, and what my plans are for the next several months.

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

First and foremost, I’m changing my posting schedule (again) to line up with my current school semester. I scheduled school very poorly last semester, which was the primary reason for the hiatus—just getting through each day was exhausting. So, while I’ll talk about school in a bit, the idea is that the more fun, entertaining posts will be closer to the weekend, because Mondays and Wednesdays are now extremely busy for me. I want to publish more fiction to read while also writing stuff like Reviews and Life. Those posts are more for me, as nobody is coming on this site to see what I thought of the new hot movie. So I’m moving posts around to accommodate that system. Mon-Wed are for me, Friday and Sunday are for also me you. Here’s the new schedule:

Sun — Spear Gate
Mon — Me
Tues — Review
Wed — Whatever
Fri — Fiction

(Notice I made most of the titles alliterative so its easy to discern which topic is on what day.) D&D has been demoted from its weekly standing because, while I do love it and play it as often as I can, it really isn’t that large a facet of my life. It’s the same thing that happened with improv. I love it, I just don’t have a “weekly” amount of discussion for it. That said, expect stories from sessions (which may be somewhat common) to pop up on Wednesdays, not Fridays.

My writing plans are pretty straight forward. Spear Gate is still my main project, and I’m determined to see it “to the end”, wherever that may be. It still isn’t that long—a product of only producing 600ish words a week—but I need to get out of the habit I’ve gotten into lately of giving up on projects before I even finish them. It isn’t good for me. I’ve got some good characters, good worldbuilding, and especially some good plot twists lined up. I just have to earn them, which means Spear Gate is still probably the only thing that will post on a Sunday for several months yet to come. I will say, however, that I’m working on some secret stuff on the side. So along with the fact that Friday’s posts will be fiction based on various universes (often unrelated flash pieces, probably), Spear Gate won’t be the only project I’m looking at.

As far as video games go, my life has been pretty consistent lately. I’ve been playing almost exclusively Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, depending on how much energy I have, but I also recently played through Battle Chasers: Nightwar, which was pretty neat. Expect a review on that pretty soon. My main focus right now is HotS, but I’ve completely stopped playing Destiny 2 because it’s just the biggest letdown of the year as far as games go for me. Maybe I’ll fill the FPS void by getting back into Overwatch soon? (My brother also got me a sweet gaming keyboard and mouse for Christmas. The LED kind that you can program to do whatever you want. So I’ve been playing with that a lot recently setting it up to light different colors depending on the game I’m playing. It’s pretty neat.)

The last several weeks of the year has been characterized by my frantically trying to get caught up in some podcasts and books I’ve been working on. I’ve achieved that for some—I’m all caught up with Critical Role and Writing Excuses in preparation of the new year—but now I was primarily listening to Oathbringer, which is just a monster of a book, until yesterday. Now I’m also actively listening to Voice Acting Mastery, but I just started that one. As far as physically reading goes, I just finished Wildcat, which I believe is the debut novel of an author that lives in the UK: J.P. Harker. Expect a review on that soon, too!

So, school. Last semester was pretty awful for me. I noticed that every semester I tend to have one high maintenance class. One that requires a majority of my focus while the others are pretty much in the sidelines. In Fall of 2017, I had three high maintenance classes, and they were back to back, with no break. That’s not to say that they were exceptionally difficult, mind you, just that I couldn’t sit back and relax in any of them. One of them I hated my teacher, another was a theater class (so most of the semester we were performing in that time slot), and the last class had very difficult concepts to grasp. (These also weren’t my only classes.) So, yeah, it was hard to hold on to all of that.

This semester should be different. While I am taking just as many classes, they’re all on the same two days, and I know I’ll like most of my teachers. At this point I’m mostly taking electives for the two degrees I’m working on, so it should be a mostly easy ride. Just don’t try to talk to me on Monday or Wednesday because I’ll be exhausted.

So, here’s to a new year. It’s bound to be better than last year’s travesty because 2018 isn’t a prime number.

Life — Lowering Standards

I’ll just say it.

I think it’s  time to retire the blog portion of my site until the new year. It sucks, and I know I’m going to feel disappointed in myself, but I just can’t do it. I took nearly a month’s break, and on the first week back I still missed a day. Not because I was lazy, but because that Thursday I had (literally) no time to myself, and it was between giving up a post or losing sleep, and I had a class in the morning.

This school semester is just destroying me. I used to live in fear that I would let my self-discipline crumble and the blog would fall apart. Well, it’s been nearly two years and I’m only now hitting that point, and even now I feel justified. Am I being lazy? Maybe, but I’d rather lower my standards temporarily than pretend I can keep up and fail. In fact, I wanted to make this post be the “November Update”, but I don’t think I can even last that long. I have three major papers due the day before Halloween, and in some ways that’s a blessing, but as far as the longevity of my blog goes, it’s hitting hard.

So, that being said, what’s next?

Spear Gate will continue as normal. When all’s said and done, I think that helps tie me over. I cannot stop writing it now, because I’m afraid that if I do, it will be too heavy to pick back up. So that’s something I won’t allow myself to even think about pausing.

As far as the actual blog goes, I like the idea of posting every once in a while, but with no schedule or reason to it—just when the inspiration and the times line up. I don’t expect this to happen often, mind you, but I do like leaving the possibility open.

I’ll also make myself perfectly clear here and now (future me be damned): I want to stress that I intend this to be temporary. Maybe when I come back in earnest it will only be like a four times a week thing, but I do like writing non-fiction on a regular basis. It’s far easier than fiction, in any case. Plus I like talking about myself, I admit. I suppose most people do. Or at least most writers.

Another thing I’ve realized lately is the fact that a lot more people follow my blog when the Spear Gate:Non-fiction content ratio is skewed more towards Spear Gate. I imagine a continuous story is going to be far more interesting than posts that rattle on like this. So as funny as it is, the hiatus was actually beneficial to the viewership of my blog. If all goes well, I hope to steer 2018 towards increasing the amount of Spear Gate content I produce.

So, barring the normal Spear Gate posting and the occasional off-topic stuff, the Daily Dose of Derailment will continue in earnest 2018! See you then!

Life — October Update

The hiatus is over! I took a much longer break than anticipated because, I’ll admit: it was extremely relaxing to have one less thing on my plate for a while. It took no small amount of willpower not to continue, but because of last week’s promise to resume, I’m making myself return! You have past me to thank for anticipating future me’s thoughts. Monthly Update Topic Order: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

The blog is in an interesting position. The hiatus has allowed me to think about my position as a writer, and what the daily upkeep really does for me. I’m far beyond requiring the self-discipline necessary, which was one of the blog’s primary purposes (aside from directly increasing the amount of content I wrote). In all honesty, I’m seriously considering dropping a lot of the daily posting of the blog in favor of streamlining and improving what I do produce. Especially since the production I’m in opens in two weeks and finals are just around the corner, I won’t have much free time on my hands. Resuming a daily 500 word minimum is the last thing I need. But nothing is set in stone yet (or online? Doesn’t sound nearly as good)—so stay tuned.

As far as writing goes, Spear Gate still has my full attention. I’m putting more focus on Upper Terrace and Varra’s side of the story because Maelys is less important at the moment. I have lots of plans of where I want the story to go, but some of them are a little conflicting. Suddenly getting arrested tends to have that effect. I’m definitely to the point where notes are very important, because I can’t afford to lose my ideas!

I’m sort of all over the place with video games at the moment. Mostly I’m playing Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, but also, depending on whether or not I’m playing with friends, I’m playing a bit of Overwatch and, more recently, Speedrunners. I’ve recently started playing Heroes of Might and Magic again, as well, and I was surprised to realize that I like 6 way more than 5. It’s far more intuitive!

These last several weeks I’ve been speeding through Critical Role. I had calculated how many hours I would need to put in it per week to finish by the end of the year, but I also wanted to watch the last episode as it was livestreamed. When I found out it was ending very soon, I started watching two or three episodes a day at 1.5x speed. Alas, I’m still on episode 91/115, and 115 was the last episode, having aired last week. I’ve still got 90 hours to power through, but at least I can rest easy knowing that their next campaign won’t start until next year.

As I mentioned earlier, school is pretty stressful. The show I’m in opens at the end of October (and I just realized I’m not sure if I’ve filled out the paperwork yet), and two of my three other classes require a lot of my attention. I’m debating a topic I barely understand very soon, and the unfortunate thing about that class is that I feel as though I’ve got a much better handle on the subject than most other people there. Really though, I just planned out this semester very poorly. It’s all I can do to conserve my energy and just tread water until it’s over.

Other things. On top of school, the next weekend on which I have no plans is over a month away. I don’t know where I’m going to find the time to write, but I have to, somehow. Really, things just aren’t going the way I’d like them to be. It doesn’t help that it’s still hot over here. Even with the free time I have I don’t feel like I can relax, so I’m a little at a loss. I think maybe resuming the blog probably works against me finding comfort, but at the same time whenever I take a break it makes me a little disappointed in myself.

Here’s hoping the Daily Dose won’t take too much out of me in the coming weeks. But if it does, a longer hiatus may be the only option.

Life — Spear Gate Web Series

I’ve recently changed my website up a little bit, rearranging the categories in the sidebar. Most importantly, I’ve given the Spear Gate story it’s own category, because I update it at least once a week. I’ve also made the change because I’ve started thinking about the story in a new light.

I don’t really know what I find so appealing about considering the Spear Gate universe a constantly updated “web story” rather than a book. Maybe it’s the implied lack of editing. Maybe it’s the distinctive lack of a conclusion, and therefore no pressure to constantly increase the tension. Whatever the reason, my handling of the story has been much more conducive to periodic increments anyway, since a lot of webcomics don’t necessarily have an ending in mind, and therefore the artists get to tackle things in the moment.

The best thing about this is that it doesn’t actually change anything, really. I’m still writing it on a chapter by chapter basis, and if it gets long enough, nothing is stopping me from shuffling some words around and publishing it as a book (series?) anyway. If that happens, I wouldn’t even take down the original chapters, because the ones in the book are bound to be a different read anyway. If that’s the case, somebody can enjoy the Spear Gate story, then buy the book for a new experience because the story will be slightly different.

Here’s pretty much the only con I can think of about this process. It means if I did eventually put it into a book, I would be hard-pressed to make big edits, because I would want the book to be an enhanced experience rather than a fundamentally different one. I’m not sure how webcomics get turned into published books, but I can’t imagine it’s all that different. But really, regardless of what happens, this isn’t even something I would have to worry about until at least a year down the line, so there’s no point in dwelling on it!

As a side note, I started this blog to get more writing done. I’ve more than achieved that goal. I can always get more writing in, of course, but I think at this point I should start trying to bring in more people. Everyone that’s been keeping up with Spear Gate has told me how much they love it, and it makes me wish that more people kept up with it. It’s barely 1,000 words a week, but I can definitely see how webcomics would inherently be more appealing than walls of text. That said, I’m not sure how to go about gaining more of a following. It’s not like art where you get following from being awesome. For me, that’s how I’d retain audience, but that person has to to take a leap of faith and trust I won’t waste their time on their first read-through. Maybe if I get somebody to work on the art for the universe I can draw more people in…

500

Well, here we are, five hundred blog posts later. That number means a lot to me. It’s the minimum word count requirement for each blog post, and that singular rule alone has made me grow and learn more as a writer than the past several years combined.

When I first started this blog, I had, roughly calculated, about 80,000 words written. About enough for a standard length novel, and indeed one novel was about all I had had to my name. In fact, the majority of my words as an author were written during a single month, because I did NaNoWriMo during my sophomore year of high school. Outside that, I really couldn’t claim anything.

I know I’ve given that story before, so instead I’ll shed a different light on it. With the help of numbers, because I like numbers.

571 days ago I started this blog, where I would write 500 words every day in order to become the writer I wanted to be. As you can tell, I’ve missed a few days. These days I only post six times a week, and I’ve taken two breaks that were multiple weeks long. Only one of those skipped days was unplanned, I’m proud to say.

The current writing tally for all of my blog posts is just over 262,000 words long. That’s enough for over 3 typical fantasy novels, and it averages 525 words per post. But here’s the thing. I include fiction-based posts (writing prompts, chapter excerpts, etc) in the blog post tally, but I do not add their word count. Basically, the average is 525 words per post assuming every fiction post is 0 words long, which obviously isn’t the case. (I do it this way because I keep that tally separate for fear of overlap.) So really, I’m doing well. As a side note, only two posts are shorter than 500 words. Those were poems, so I dismissed the rule.

As far as “how many words per day” I’m writing (not per post), the tally is currently 460 words. It’s a little disheartening that I haven’t build enough buffer to cover the days where I don’t write, but this number is still purely non-fiction posts. This means that I’ve actually written well over 500 words per day since February 2016.

Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve done so many things. I’ve read over 50 books. I’ve written over 50 short stories. This blog has birthed Dreamscape, the Lisa Stenton stories, Rise of the Riftguard (which I will definitely come back to some day), and most importantly, it’s given me a new universe: Spear Gate.

If nothing else, the fact that I have a new playground to run around in itself makes the blog worth it. I’m no longer bound by the events and characters of Nacre Then, and while I don’t intend to retire that universe completely, it’s too restrictive for me to have much fun with it these days.

 

To sum up, I’m proud of how far I’ve come, but I’ve still got a ways to go.

Here’s to another 500.

Life — September Update

September is here, and with it comes lots of new and exciting things. I don’t really have a preface for anything this time around, so let’s just jump right in! Monthly Update Topic Order: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

I’m actually pretty comfortable with the state of the blog right now. Despite having taken my first ever sick day and having a different post be almost eight hours late, I think I’m doing fine. The system has me publishing fiction on a regular basis, and the only thing I might have any concerns about is the fact that I don’t really have anything to review right now, and as far as D&D posts goes, I usually only play it once a week, and I don’t want the Wednesday posts to just be “what did we do last week”. At the same time, I’ve only been a real dungeon master for about a year, so I’m not all that experienced, so it feels a bit strange to do lesson posts on that front, but I’ll keep with it as long as I can keep content coming!

Spear Gate is still going strong. the current draft is over 12,000 words long, and that doesn’t include the short stories that don’t involve the main characters. I’ve been starting to think of the Spear Gate as something akin to a web comic that just updates weekly. I like the sound of that for a number of reasons, but of course looking at it that way brings pros and cons. If it is a “web series”, then there is no draft. When you post it, it’s done. But that also makes it easier to keep moving forward. Plus, if there’s a web series that posts a weekly, continuous story the way I’ve been doing it, I don’t know about it, so I can call myself original. (Side note: There’s no way it hasn’t been done, but still.)

I haven’t been playing a whole lot of games, as I still don’t have a proper desktop. I’ve been keeping myself busy with Titanfall 2, but I also recently reinstalled Hearthstone on my phone, in addition to the fact that I’m playing Pokemon: Go more and more. (It’s still not an amazing game, but it’s leaps and bounds ahead of where it was when the fad died out.) If everything goes well, however, I should have my computer and everything set up by this time next week. And when Destiny 2 gets released on the PC, I plan on putting a lot of time into that, as well as returning to Heroes of the Storm!

Podcasts and audiobooks have taken a bit of a backseat lately, as the school year has just started. That said, I’m currently about halfway through The Martian, which is about as great as I expected it to be, and I’m also just over halfway through Critical Role. That means I still have well over 150 hours to go. Maybe I’ll be caught up by 2019, because they’re still adding 3 hours of content a week! One day I also plan on devoting myself to podcasts a bit more. In my Top 3 alone there is a D&D one, a voice acting one, and a story script writing one that I’ve barely started, if I’ve even gotten that far.

Fall semester, 2017. It’s the heaviest load I’ve taken since high school, though it’s still not as big as typical workaholics I’m sure. My schedule does require me to be in class all but nonstop from 8:30-2:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, though. My biggest gap is half an hour, which is barely enough time for lunch! Overall, the classes seem fine. I’m taking two theatre classes, and the others are lecture heavy, so there isn’t a whole lot of homework, which is a concept I can get behind. So, despite being in a state of perpetual exhaustion because of the schedule, and also slowly melting because of the heat wave, I think this semester will be a good one.

What else is there to say? I’m back to teaching improv again, which is a great feeling! The more improv in my life, the better. I also hope to start doing actual performances again sometime soon, but that’s still a ways away.

Anyways, hopefully it starts cooling down soon!

Life — Struggling With Writing

I’m starting to find myself in that position again: the one where I just have this underlying feeling of exhaustion. The one where sleep isn’t a factor, or if it is, it’s where you feel even more tired because you’re sleeping too much. As a writer, it’s a feeling I’m very familiar with.

It’s the first red flag that says my writing isn’t getting anywhere.

So far, the Spear Gate project has been going swimmingly. I started back in May and as my main focus of fiction writing, I’ve already put nearly 20,000 words into the universe. This isn’t a huge amount by any margin, but for me, it’s pretty rare to be that focused on any one thing. Even Dreamscape, my latest attempt at a novel before this one, took five months to hit that many words. It’s mostly because I’m always doing a myriad of other things simultaneously.

I’ve had a blast writing the Spear Gate book. But this past week, I’ve been having a really tough time pressing onward. Between rewriting a big chunk of Chapter Four, and starting off Chapter Five with a slow opening, it hasn’t written itself like previous chapters have.

Usually, this just means I’m getting bored of the project. Things aren’t turning out how I want to, and so it gets harder and harder to write until one day that threshold of “Achieve Writing” is too high for me to hit.

But this time, it’s not because I’m bored. It’s because two things are happening right now. First and foremost, the Fall semester started. I’m taking more classes right now than I have in years, and all told, I am at the school for nearly twenty hours a week. (For the sake of simplicity, let’s also pretend that the amount of time spent doing “homework” is zero hours.) Add to that my time spent at the high school teaching improv (another six hours), subtract an hour every day (minus one) for writing these blog posts, three hours dedicated to my writer’s group, and on average six hours a week set aside for Dungeons & Dragons related activity, and that’s over forty hours of time that isn’t really mine. Now, you could make the argument that D&D and the writer’s group is my time, but I really do consider that “Hobby/Personal Improvement Time”, where I socialize and practice bettering myself as a person. Either way, it is definitely not time spent relaxing and recharging.

Add to this a messy pile of things I need to do. Coordinate with people about future plans, arrange dates, schedule and organize personal matters and goals, help out friends with personal projects, etc.

I realize this sounds like whining compared to people that work a tough job sixty hours a week, so let me amend this. I salute anyone that works harder than me, which I imagine is well over half the working class. I do consider myself hard working, as I’d guess probably most people think that about themselves, but I can safely say one thing: I feel my writing is suffering because of it.

But I mentioned two things happening, and only brought up one: a lack of time. The second thing is an elephant I don’t even like to acknowledge, and it’s something I realized very recently. The Spear Gate book is still being written. I’m not even close to being done with the first draft. That means that literally any feedback I get on the book right now is useless.

I came up with this analogy the other day. Somebody reading my story might finish a chapter and say “Huh, this doesn’t look right. You kind of threw this out of the blue.” or “I don’t see why X character would jump to this conclusion. This conversation doesn’t flow right.”

Imagine my book is a person. running, leaping, sitting, whatever. The sort of critiques I mentioned would be equivalent to saying “This person is running weird. They aren’t bending their knees enough.”

But here’s the thing. I’m still drawing the skeleton. If anything, I’ve barely made a rough framework of where the knees would even go on this picture. It’s not fair to say the picture doesn’t look right when the artist isn’t even done drawing it. At the same time, it’s not fair to have somebody look at it and expect them to give feedback that works. In this analogy, I need a reader to tell me if I correctly drew a skeleton, not whether or not the picture looks good.

This leads me to conclude that nobody should look at the Spear Gate book until I’ve written the ending. People can help me draw the muscles as I’m working on major rewrites for the second draft, but before that, I’m just getting disheartened. And I don’t know if that’s healthy for the book.

I’ve been thinking lately that all of this is too much, and I should just take a break from writing, to focus on school. But that leads me to consider: I recently became the leader of my writer’s group. I need to bring them something. I can show them several months worth of short stories, but what good would that do me?

Answer? I don’t know. I’m a thinker. I can identify the problems, and I’ve gotten really good at that over the years. But historically I’ve been awful at finding solutions that actually work, so I really don’t know.