Determination only goes so far

on Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Click to enlarge.

First up: Writing group buddy Adam is running a Kickstarter to help get print copies of his Pathfinder supplement that makes Rogues less useless (and have more variety). If you have any affinity for Pathfinder or D&D go and drop him a few bucks, I'm sure he'd appreciate it.

Second up: I apologize for neglecting this blog over the past several weeks. Whenever I'm about to write anything for it I get stricken by either disease or get too busy and it gets neglected. I actually have several interesting (or I think they are interesting anyway) blog posts that actually involve writing in the pipeline, I just haven't gotten around to writing them yet. So...keep your eyes peeled. I'm going to try and post more on here.

Third up: I have the flu pretty bad. Luckily I seem to finally be on the tail end of it (I came back to work today instead of sleeping in. Here's hoping that doesn't undo three days of sleeping and eating Airborn tablets raw), but there was one point I'd like to bring up: I wrote at least 500 words every day I was sick. On Saturday it was so bad that for 1/2 of my awake time I couldn't even sit up; I spent most of the day lying on our loveseat with chills I couldn't get rid of no matter how many blankets I piled on. Despite that I still managed to get a few words out, as I did on Sunday and Monday. I'm not trying to toot my own horn here (I'm pretty sure when I go back to editing those sections are gonna be pretty dang awful), but rather point out that I still have written every day in 2012. So there's that.

Fourth up: It has been difficult for me regarding how long I should actually pursue this dream. Since I started writing "for serious" at the start of 2009 I've written over a million words of novels, branched out to different genres, and even currently plan on stretching my legs a little again (might try writing a horror/thriller novel that I concocted while in previously mentioned chills/fever dream state). The current plan of editing Death's Aria and then submitting it is still a go, and while I'll be doing that I'll be either writing my horror novel (tentatively titled Drip) or revisiting Naught But Glass (which I re-read the other day and it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was when I was writing it). But the ultimate point is this: it's time for me to move on as if I'd never sell a book or make a career out of this. I've given it a year since I've graduated to try and push it forward, with me focusing all my resources on both the day job and writing, and I've seen no progress. So it's time to move on. I will still keep pursuing it as hard as I ever can in 2012, but I can tell you if we hit 2013 with no progress I won't exactly be chomping at the bit anymore for this whole writing thing. I'll keep doing it because I love it, but eventually reality kicks in.

Last up: That's actually it. Expect more blog posts in the future, hopefully.

TV Series: Sherlock

on Friday, March 16, 2012
His popped collar gives him power. 

So I don't want much television because most television is total crap. I haven't found it worth my time to sift through all the garbage in an attempt to uncover something that will be only mildly entertaining, and since watching TV takes so much time anyway I tend to not bother. TV also has a knack of starting something off fresh and original (like Pushing Daisies) and then either falling into a typical inter-character dull drama (The Office) or just going totally off the rails (Pushing Daisies again). This is also why I'm not all that miffed Firefly only got a first season: who knows if they wouldn't have messed that up?

Anyway, point is that I usually not watch much TV, and when I do it tends to be British TV (like stuff on the BBC) because they are actually funny and subtle and usually have original ideas. So, since I hate every show, it should be worth noting that I think Sherlock is one of the best things I've seen ever on television.

It's premise isn't exactly novel, after all those not-quite-as-good movies with Robert Downy Jr. are making mad bank at "modernizing" (or in that case "steampunkizing") Sherlock Holmes. The difference is that Sherlock completely modernizes it, setting it up in a modern day London. It also actually adapts the stories to fit in this setting without losing the original integrity (for the most part). Rather than being a writer, Watson blogs their adventures. Sherlock very clearly has a form of Asperger Syndrome, something characters point out but never really bring up with him. While Downy's Holmes was a jerk, he was sort of a crazy, likeable one. This Sherlock (as he is called, not Holmes) is very much true to the original character in that his only real likeable trait is the fact is he extremely intelligent; his social skills are horrendous and he has Watson as the soft-spoken, sensible foil. The balance works out extremely well.

Both the writing and the acting are superb. While there are a few missteps (the second episode of the first Series isn't that great, and the way a massive cliffhanger at the end of Series 1 resolves at the start of Series 2 plays like a huge cop-out), as a whole the show is very watchable, extremely witty, and immediately grabs you into its world. Again, this might be due to the loyalty to the source material, but Sherlock works on that fundamental level that good television does: it makes you care and takes you on a trip.

Each Series has only three episodes, and each episode is about an hour and a half long, so the length of a short movie. The have reoccurring characters but the main mysteries don't really carry over between (except the end of Series 1 to the start of Series 2), so they are great to just sit down and watch one episode (if you can) and you can leave it at that.

As it stands, this as Breaking Bad I consider to be the best shows on television. Smart, funny, clever, and exceptionally well acted, Sherlock is a treat. The first Series is on Netflix streaming, so if you have that you really should get on it.

Week in Review for 2/5/2012 - 2/11/2012

on Sunday, March 11, 2012
This picture is awesome. 

I forgot to do Week in Review last week! Whoops! I always remember on my stupid video game blog, but for some reason I space it for this one. Maybe it's because that means I have to blog 3+ times (one review for VG blog, one week in review for VG blog, one week in review for this blog) and after about the second one I'm pretty much burned. Not to mention I write at least 2k a day on top of this, have writing group Sundays (though it was off this sunday) and all other life junk. So, you know. I suck. Sorry.

Last Sunday we critiqued Death's Aria, and I got a ton of helpful information out of it. The book certainly has its share of issues I've gotta tackle, but as a whole I'm fairly confident. I'm not yet excited about fixing this thing, but that's why I'm writing something else first. The goal is to have Death's Aria ready to go out by May at the latest, and then start submitting like a crazy person to everybody on the planet. So all agents and editors who read this blog (all zero of you), beware: IT'S COMING.

I also did good with A Straight Cut this week, which I'm liking more and more. It's a first person book, and a big problem I have with first person books (writing them, anyway) is giving our viewpoint character a legit personality. I thought up a lot of things this week to help Timothy actually be interesting (things that'll have to be edited back into the first couple chapters), but I'm starting to think he's getting a bit better. It's hard, but if you don't stretch you never learn, right?

Anyway, here's what I did this week.

Words Written: 15,671
Daily Wordcount Average: 2,239
Current Project: A Straight Cut
Next Project: Death's Aria edits, probably another novella

I'm also still writing every single day. Which I realize isn't impressive now since it's only March, but when October rolls around and I've written every day of the year, we'll see who is laughin' then!

Also edits don't count as new words writing, unless I actually do straight rewrites, so I'll probably need to figure out something to write while I'm doing Death's Aria edits. Time to devise some awful fanfiction of my own books again...or steal Jason's mansion house and write my own awful book set in his world. It's not like he actually reads this blog and would know it was coming...

Anyway, see you next week!

Writing: That Moment

on Saturday, March 10, 2012

I finally hit that moment in A Straight Cut. You know the moment. When stuff starts clicking and you are really excited to keep writing the book. When a scene is just captivating and interesting and you are loving the characters and how everything is set up, and you can't wait yourself to see how it all resolves. Where everything building up to that point has been in preparation for that revelation, and now that you have it you realize things really do sort of fit together well, and you might actually just maybe in fact have a novel here under all these words.

That moment.

I know it happens differently for different people. Some people feel like that from the first chapter, the start of a new adventure in writing. Others it takes longer before it fully clicks, burning through many pages before finally "getting it." I know for me books have taken varying amounts of time before I love them (Death's Aria was quick, Paradise Seekers was instantaneous, Effulgent Corruption took nearly a whole Part, if not more). All the way up to it feels like you are treading water, just sort of writing but not getting anything out of it. Like you've been setting stuff up but you aren't sold on it yet.

Then it sells you, and you can finish the book.

It took A Straight Cut 30,000 words for me. I'm not saying anything before that was bad, I'm saying it didn't draw me in. Usually the whole "magic moment" happens when I discovery write a really good scene. When I know everything that's going to happen its hard for me to be excited. When characters surprise me or dialogue ends up being better or witter than expected, I get sucked in. And then I know the book is possible.

If I don't hit this point quick enough (or the early parts are super-sludgy), than the book can get dropped. Like what happened to Ringforger and what I'm worried has happened to Naught But Glass.

But yeah, that moment. It's great. I'm pumped to write now.

It's also countered by the inevitable "30,000 - 50,000 word 'I HATE MY BOOK' moment," which I swear every manuscript has once it hits that point (this isn't just me; I have proof in the form of other authors [published ones, even] confirming my theory :P), but we'll save that for when I hit it in A Straight Cut. Considering it took 30k for me to get to the "yay I love this book" moment, I'll give it around 75-90k for when I start hating its guts.

So that's it. I'm sorry I've been abandoning this blog, but my video game blog is thriving! That's been both good and bad; I started it as just a fun writing exercise, and now it's getting some insane amount of hits every day and it's only been a few months. I wrote 100 reviews for it already, though, so that's pretty good.

See you in the slump! :P

Writing with Music: A Call for Assistance

on Tuesday, March 6, 2012

So I've been struggling to be motivated to write A Straight Cut, and it's actually been for a really dumb reason: I don't have any good background music.

My main problem is that re-using songs is often a big "No-no" when I write. There are a few that creep up across multiple novels (the Nier and Game of Thrones soundtracks come to mind), but as a whole each book has its own collection that belongs to it and only it. Death's Aria was the Bloodrayne: Betrayal soundtrack and a health dose of Binding of Isaac's. Where Gods and Mortals Dance was Epica's Symphonic album. Effulgent Corruption had too many to note, but it took seven months so it has to learn how to share or else I wouldn't have any music left.

Anyway, A Straight Cut is set in a world where everybody lives in a huge canyon because the world above is a crappy desert that is eighty bajillion degrees. They all live on the sides of this canyon in caves and platforms etched out or created (though in limited number, as trees don't really grow in a canyon where the entire bottom is a river so they have to live on the sides), and to prevent war they sell their children as slaves to other city-states or nations or whatever you'd call them since there aren't many people left anyway in an attempt to keep a sort of shaky truce. It makes more sense in the book, trust me.

Point being I need some freaking music to inspire me. I tried the Bastion soundtrack but it didn't quite fit, plus I used it for Steelgods 2. I usually grab tunes from recent games I've played but I haven't played anything recently worth robbing. I tend to like things that are catchy but also make good background noise, and I can only tolerate words if they are total nonsense (aka the Nier soundtrack).

So...anybody have any ideas? Feel free to link me up and I'll see what I can do to grab them. I'll take anything at this point, since I'm burning out already due to lack of original songs. Curse my ADHDness requiring this distraction in order to function properly.

On a completely unrelated note...

on Friday, March 2, 2012

I think I want my next book to be set in ancient Egypt, or at least an ancient Egyptian-based society. We do the Western European thing to death, but I actually know a lot about Egypt and its lifestyles, and I think it would be fun.

That is all.

First Sentence/First Chapter Exercises

So here's a fun writing exercise you can try if you are feeling like you don't know what project to do next or just feel like you have a bunch of ideas bottled up, waiting to get out, but don't know how to best address them.

For this, you have two options. You can do a first chapter exercise (this is for when you have too many ideas), or a first sentence exercise (when you don't have enough). For both of these, doing them with a writing group all together makes it more fun, though it isn't necessary.

First Chapter Exercise is simple. Simply sit down and write a prologue or first chapter. Often the first thing I think of when I'm writing a book, after a premise, is how awesome a first chapter will be. So sit down one afternoon and write a couple! You have no commitments to these works; you are just trying to see if anything good comes from it.

I did this a year ago. From it I wrote a teen vampire first chapter, a chapter about a modern-day punk Harry Potter ripoff, a chapter about dogs vs cats but written like an overdrawn epic fantasy, and a story about a man called the Ragged One who dragged a sword across a desert world until the line in the sands connected.

If that last one sounds a bit familiar, it's because it was the direct inspiration for my current WIP, A Straight Cut. It was just a hop and skip from this line that covered the entire wasted earth to a canyon somehow forming from it, and making a world where this Ragged One is a being of mythology who split the earth open, allowing them to all live inside. This prologue chapter will not be in the actual book, but I still read it from time to time to draw inspiration.

Once you have all your chapters done, you can either decide to elaborate on the one you like best, or put them all aside. I put all mine aside for about a year and a half before picking Canyon Story back up.

First Sentence Exercises are more common. They also work better if someone picks a sentence for you. The idea is simple: You have a first sentence, and your goal is to write a first chapter based on it. For me, no planing was allowed; I went with whatever first came to mind. For others, they might have to plan a little before jumping headlong into it.

This is especially fun if you have a writing group, and give everybody an hour to write, and after you are finished you all compare the differences between what you gleaned from that first sentence. It's pretty fun!

I have a particular fondness for these because the entire Steelgods story started with a first sentence: "I never minded the Peacemakers, until they tried to kill me." Death's Aria's first sentence (which has since been changed) was originally a first sentence exercise that never got workshopped ("Tiasa wove across the strings or her violin as Death looked on, enjoying the melody." from the file "Violin Death Girl.docx"). I got a lot of other garbage ideas from this, like a Dresden Files knockoff and some other awful attempts, but as a whole they are great for getting creative juices flowing.

So try 'em out! You never know what you'll find buried inside that head of yours!