Snow Day Interlude

We got a foot and a half of snow overnight, squiders, which means that the schools just gave up and everyone was home all day. Which means my focus was completely off, not like I’ve been getting anything done recently anyway.

I’m strongly considering picking up something else for a bit, at least so I have something to do while I wait on beta feedback. I’m starting to think I should have gathered beta commentary while working on something else this whole time, but, of course, hindsight is 20/20. Besides, reading through the story is what me search out betas in the first place.

Got to strongly think about my productivity in general and try out something new to make sure things are getting done–or moving at all.

I’ve been reading The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern, which has several stories within stories going. I’ve found myself wondering how she put the story together–did she do the mythology first, and then build the stories around that? Maybe it would be fun to try something like that, writing interlocking stories where it’s not quite clear how they’re collected.

Not like I need a new project. But you know how it goes.

ANYWAY, not much happening in these parts. But I did draw you a landsquid to celebrate the first real snow we’ve had all winter.

Snow Landsquid

In retrospect, I should have added in some shading. Oh well! Next time.

I’ll see you next week–and next month! And hopefully I’ll have found some mojo in the meantime.

Announcing the Uglies Readalong

Hi squiders! It’s been forever since we’ve done a readalong.

I mean, that’s because we started Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy and got half way through the second book (Green Mars) and made it no farther. Well, I made it no farther. I can see Green Mars on the bookcase, staring at me accusingly.

And nothing against the Mars trilogy, certainly. I enjoyed Red Mars, and Green Mars has been similarly well-written. For some reason I can’t get through them very quickly.

Someday. Someday I will finish it and talk about it, and everyone will have forgotten what we were doing in the mean time.

Let’s not dwell on the past and our failures, however. Let’s move forward!

So I’m announcing a new readalong! We’ll be doing the Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld. I inherited all three books from my mother when she was culling her collection a few years back, and I remember hearing good things about the books when they first came out. I haven’t read any of them, but I’m expecting them to be somewhat standard YA dystopias. We shall see.

(Wikipedia tells me there’s a fourth book. Well, we will cross that bridge when we get there. If we get there.)

I read Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy, which is a YA (I was going to say middle grade, but apparently not) steampunk alt history of World War I, and I enjoyed the series greatly, so I’m excited to read his first series.

Let’s be ready to discuss Uglies on March 23rd. That gives us a month, and it’s not that long of a book.

See you then!

Media Round-Up Time

My Among Us group has started another tournament and I, like an idiot who doesn’t like to be productive, signed up for it. First match was Monday on my worst map, and I got more points than last tournament and came in third, though the points were pretty low in general.

I’m still waiting on Book One feedback so not much getting done in that department. I’ve started a new SkillShare class, which is on outlining, though I haven’t gotten terribly far. Just having really terrible focus in general lately, no clue why.

So let’s talk about what I’ve been doing other than writing!

Reading

Over Christmas I made the mistake of getting a bunch of short story collections out from the library. I always take forever to get through them, because I like to pause after each story and think on it, which means sometimes I’m only reading ten or so pages in a day. I’m mostly through them, though I still have two (a mystery one and a scifi/fantasy one) that I’m working through.

I read Ready Player Two which was…ehhh, all right? I guess? It had too much of the worst parts of Ready Player One and not enough of the good parts, and the emotional arc was just…bizarre. Also I have problems with the way some characters just forgot all interpersonal problems mid story. I honestly don’t know that I would recommend it.

Now I’m reading The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern, which so far is amazing. I’m only like 40 pages in, but I’m definitely digging it.

Podcasts

I’m continuing my slog through the Myths and Legends podcast backlog (less than two years behind now!) which has proved to make me invaluable to my trivia team when it comes to mythology, but because I’ve made such good progress, I’m starting to occasionally mix in an episode of Start With This, which is a creative podcast run by the creators of Welcome to Night Vale. While the episodes are geared a bit toward podcasting, they do talk about writing as a whole.

(The latest episode I’m listening to is again making me wonder if it’s worth it to bother finishing the Changeling story. But that’s a decision for another time.)

Maybe I’ll start mixing in Night Vale or Inn Between again soon too, who knows!

TV and Movies

We’re so bad at watching things in this house. I hate sitting and paying attention to something for a long period of time. I am, however, considering starting to watch Leverage, which seems like it might be fun.

My spouse and I watched Parasite last week, which was not as much horror as I was led to believe, but still did give me a few nightmares.

Video Games

Yesterday I finished an adventure horror game called Oxenfree, which was very fun! (And I think I got it for, like, $3.) The animation is pretty simple but it was still quite scary in places, and the story was neat. And the mechanics! As opposed to a standard adventure game where you have to gather a bunch of stuff to solve the puzzles, all you have is a radio. I’d definitely recommend it.

My spouse and I recently finished the newer King’s Quest game (which is a more traditional adventure game, in the spirit of the series), though it was interesting in that each episode had a significant time skip in between and differing story telling.

He’s on to Dishonored 2: Death of the Outsider now. Not sure what I’m going to do. I did get Lego Harry Potter for Christmas, so maybe that.

And, of course, still Among Us. We’re starting to discuss trying out some of the newer mods, such as Sheriff, which give out more roles than just Imposter. Plus, you know, tournament and whatnot, and in theory the new map is due soon.

What have you been up to lately, squiders? Anything that you really enjoyed?

Frustration

Let me just say, this is the worst revision. I finally got my alternate beginnings done and sent them out to my betas, so now we’re in for more waiting.

(I just got an email from one beta that says she loves chapters 1-9 so she doesn’t even know if she wants to look at the alternatives. Which, I mean, fair, I guess? My other beta also said that they thought the beginning was mostly okay as is, but I haven’t heard back about the alternatives.)

So is the weird pacing at the beginning all in my head? Easily fixed by adding in some seasons underneath the chapter headings?

I am so very frustrated. I’m not sure what direction I need to be going in, here, and so I’m not sure how I should be working. Getting the alt beginnings done was something, but now that it is done, I don’t know what my next step is and I’m itching to be doing something. But I feel like I can’t finish tweaking the rest of the book until I know how it starts.

nnnnnnrrrgggghhh

I don’t really want to work on something else while I wait for feedback/ponder things, but I also feel quite useless at the moment.

I’m obviously too close to this whole thing, even though it’s been three years since I finished the last edit. I have written and rewritten and revised this book so many times, and I am ready for it to be done.

Have you ever felt like this, where you want to be working on something but can’t quite figure out how?

I suppose I could just make a judgement call on my own, but the whole point of asking betas to look at the beginning was for this exact reason.

Anyway, I need something to direct my energy into, but it’s got to be something that won’t take up too much mental energy.

Any ideas? Or any thoughts about what I can do while I try and figure out where the story should be starting?

February ArtSnacks

I still haven’t cancelled. I have no excuses.

Good variety this month, though–stuff I haven’t gotten a bunch of, for the most part. Actually, only two colored things, hooray!

Let’s get into the haul, shall we?

Higgins Acrylic Ink
This is the bottle of ink. I thought it was black, initially, but having done the image and actually, you know, looked closer, it’s actually Payne’s Gray. I have Payne’s Gray in my watercolor set too, wooooo. At least with the watercolors, it’s good for a wide variety of gray tones. Obviously the ink here is pretty dark, but I’m sure that can be played with.

I like acrylic paint/ink in general–it covers well and easy to clean up. I still am a little nervous about having bottles of ink floating around, however. Disaster in the making.

Princeton Velvetouch Series 3950 Synthetic Brush, Round Size 4
This is a nice paintbrush! It worked well with the ink, and I don’t have a round size 4 otherwise. Not much to say beyond that, really.

Kuretake-ZIG Metallic Clean Color Dot Double-Ended Marker
Silver, of course. I have another Kuretake-ZIG something or other from a previous box. It’s a yellow brush pen that I got my first month. This one is also nice–a nice metallic silver, which is a lovely color. Double-ended, with a large round side and a much-narrower side. I used most the thin side, though I used the wider side for the moon. Dries a bit slow, so something to be aware of.

Koh-I-Noor Thermoplastic Eraser
Mine’s yellow, obviously. To be honest? Not my favorite. I felt like it didn’t do a great job of erasing the pencil sketch. It is nice to hold, however.

Caran d’Ache Grafstone Pencil
This is a solid piece of graphite, as opposed to being a piece of graphite encased in wood, like a normal pencil. There’s an element to be played with here, if you were more creative than I am. Maybe I should try more straight pencil art instead of working with ink and colors all the time. Things to ponder.

So, I appreciate getting some gear instead of just paint pens and markers in weird colors. Erasers are always good, especially if they don’t smear the ink, and the paintbrush will be useful for a number of different mediums. And I really like the silver marker. It’s got a great metallic sheen, and seems thick enough that it could go on top of just about anything.

I might cancel this month. Or I might not. It is nice to try out new things every month, and it does make it so I do some experimentation that I might not otherwise.

I’m mostly experimenting with color lately otherwise–I bought myself a set of water-based markers, and received a nice set of colored pencils and some alcohol-based markers for Christmas. I REALLY like the alcohol-based markers, but they do give me a headache after awhile, and it’s too cold to work outside, so oh well.

How are you, squiders? Art thoughts?

WriYe and Inspiration

It’s that time of month! But before we get into the questions from WriYe, I wanted to let you guys know that I have the first past of a serial up over at Turtleduck Press. It’s called Deep and Blue and follows Kaeri, a scientist in an underwater city who finds herself having to deal with a mystery.

Now, onward!

What inspires you?

I mean, anything really. A picture, a song. A weird dream. A line of dialogue on a television show. I find that inspiration can be anywhere, if you’re looking for it, and even sometimes when you’re not.

I would say that finding inspiration isn’t necessarily the problem when it comes to writing.

How do you hold onto that inspiration through less-than-inspiring times?

This is getting ahead of the questions, I suspect, but, for me, inspiration is the spark that starts you thinking about a story. And I do think you can force inspiration, to some extent. That’s part of why I keep several Pinterest boards full of story, character, and setting ideas. Sometimes you’ve got to get a story going, because you’ve promised one to an anthology, or you’ve got a challenge you’re part of, or whatever, so it can be good to have a stash of things to get you started.

When writing is tough, because of emotional or mental states, I find working on shorter pieces is helpful. A novel can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not feeling it, and there’s nothing like getting 15,000 words into something and finding out you hate it. Something short keeps you in practice, can spark something bigger, and isn’t overwhelming.

Is inspiration different than motivation for you?

Yes. Absolutely. Inspiration is the spark of a story, as I mentioned above, and motivation is the drive to actually do something with that inspiration. I think a lot of us have had the experience of thinking up a story or a scene or what have you, and then not being able to actually get it out. How many times have you laid in bed, writing dialogue in your head?

Motivation can be harder to drum up, even if you have a story in place. I think maybe that’s what the above question was really asking. How do you write when it doesn’t feel like you can?

I find baby steps can help if things feel really awful. Okay, so maybe I don’t feel up to writing a whole chapter, but I could outline that chapter. I can write a paragraph, or a scene. Sure, I’m not getting things done as fast as I wanted to, but I am still getting something done.

(This is also why I like stepping it up challenges, where you add a little bit more each day. You either reach a point where you know what you’re currently capable of, or you find out you’re capable of more than expected.)

On to revision talk!

My betas are already starting to send me feedback, which is so so helpful. I do think I’m going to stick to writing the alt. first chapters, so I have them on hand no matter what, but my betas do seem to kind of feel like the disconnect isn’t as bad as I’ve made it out to be. So I guess that’s good!

I also made a master document with all my beta comments from previous beta rounds, which is actually less than I thought. I think maybe I’ve lost some. This is why you should keep track of things, a lesson I may some day learn.

Have a good weekend, squiders! I’ll see you next week.

A More Complete Plan (and Tournament Follow-up)

Okay, so first things first–I did end up playing in my Among Us tournament final. Two of the original top ten couldn’t play, so I got moved up. And I came in 8th overall, which is, like, a million times better than I thought I was going to do.

Now I can never play in another tournament again to maintain my streak. >_>

In writing land, I’ve finished my readthrough of Book One. And I, uh, also read through Book Two. Meaning I’ve read the whole trilogy over the past few weeks, except I remembered I didn’t start at the beginning of Book Three, so I may go and read the part I skipped, just because.

The beginning is definitely 90% of the problem on Book One. I’ve got it sent out to two betas now as well, with hopes that they’ll get back to me by the end of the week with their thoughts (and hopefully some suggestions).

The other 10% is filtering and crutch words and general clean-up. I’m considering looking at a service like ProWritingAid or other basic editor, where it will yell at me when I do lazy writing. Do you have one you use and like?

(Book Two is a whole ‘nother can of worms, but I finished the most recent draft in 2011, so it’s old writing style-wise and because it’s working off of plot points that no longer exist. But we’ll worry about it more when Book One is done.)

Anyway, I think all three of the options we talked about last time are still on the table, plus my spouse suggested starting with a later scene and then going back to the beginning. Which is a totally viable strategy, so I’ll give it a try. He suggested a scene near the end of Book Two (hence why I re-read Book Two) but I don’t think that will work (he may be remembering an earlier version of the scene), plus I don’t know about using a scene from a different book. That may be too far in the future.

Have you ever seen that? A multi-book series that starts with a scene that doesn’t show up until a later book?

Hmm, decisions, decisions.

My plan of attack going forward is to go through my beta comments and consolidate them (to see if I’ve missed any options or spots that other people think are problems), then to write a couple of alternative first scenes to see if they work any better. And then hopefully I’ll hear from my betas and we can discuss things.

And then, perhaps, the path forward will be clear.

How are you guys doing? Projects going well?

I’ve Been Playing in an Among Us Tournament

Sorry to talk about Among Us YET AGAIN, but it continues to be fun. Well, my group is fun, and I like hanging out with them, so by extension, the game is fun.

Anyway, my Among Us discord has been hosting a tournament for the last three weeks. I signed up because it seemed like a safe environment to get some good practice. I mean, there’s games going on fairly regularly within the group, but they aren’t always serious affairs. Sometimes we play variations like Hide and Seek or Vent Tag, sometimes everyone is feeling silly and are more focused on being silly than finding the imposters, etc. It’s fun, but not always good practice.

They had 12 tournament sessions, and your first three were scored (I only did three, because that was all I could make). I ended up doing one on each map: Mira, Skeld, and Polus. Today all the points got added up, the top ten got announced, and the final is set for Saturday afternoon, my time.

(We have a lot of members from the UK, plus other European countries, so games are sometimes at weird times. For me.)

And I actually did really well. I was sick my first session, which was on my best map, Mira, but came in second for that session, which felt pretty good.

(I love Mira. I think it confuses a lot of people which means if you have any sort of semblance of an idea of how to use it, it’s really powerful.)

(Also all the vents are connected.)

My second session was on Skeld, which I am awful at. I can’t seem to figure out how to 1) kill without someone immediately walking in on me, or 2) not die immediately. I went into it dreading it, and it somehow went worse than I thought it would. I came in second to last.

Yesterday I did my final session, on Polus. And man, I crushed it. Everything went perfectly–I was voting right, I was staying alive, and the one game I got imposter, me and my partner won by the second round. I was only on the losing side one game.

I came in first for the session, which is madness.

So, for the tournament, I’m in 12th place. Way higher than I expected. I thought I’d be more, like, 18th-22nd. (There’s 35 people total.)

So I’m pretty proud of myself.

There’s also a chance I might play in the final. One of the top 10 people can’t play, so the 11th person has already been moved into the final, so if someone else can’t make it, I’m in the bullpen, so to speak.

I don’t really want to play in the final–that seems a little too exciting–but for my first video game tournament of any sort, it’s been pretty good. And it has been fun to really focus on the strategy of the game, though I don’t think I’d want to do it all the time.

(Also, perhaps I should never enter a tournament again. That way I can always think back to this time and remember how well I did this one time.)

Anyway.

Reading through the story continues. I’m deeper into the story, but finding it hard to focus on critiquing myself versus getting sucked into the story. But we persevere.

Hope you have a good weekend, squiders!

Thorny Beginnings

Well, squiders, I’m still working at reading back through the latest draft of Book One (we were out of town over the weekend, so I didn’t get much working time).

The beginning is worse than I remember. Or, well, not worse, but not as easily fixed as I was hoping.

For some context, the beginning part of the book takes place over several months. It’s actually less time than it originally took, because when I did the massive rewrite about three years ago I moved the beginning of the story and cut out a lot of stuff. But it still is difficult. My instinct is that the time frame is necessary, for the relationships and plot points to feel appropriate and not rushed, but that’s one of the things I’m evaluating as I read.

So, because each chapter takes places weeks or perhaps a month after the one before it, each of them feels more like a short story than interconnected with a larger narrative.

I’m only about halfway through–it’s either the first seven chapters that have this problem, or seven where it fixes itself–and some chapters are worse than others.

But here’s my going theories for how to fix things:

  • Leave things more or less where they are. Add in some overarching character motivations and more plot elements.
  • Move the beginning of the story and/or condense the plot elements/character arcs currently being represented by the beginning so not as much time has to pass
  • Or, counterintuitively, start a little earlier. Now, hear me out. The first chapter feels really crowded–too many things to introduce: the world, the characters, the plot, etc. It’s possible that giving each main character–it’s dual viewpoint–an earlier chapter may help smooth everything out.

There may be other options. Still mulling.

I’ve reached out to a couple of betas whose opinions I trust to see if they’ll read the beginning and make suggestions, so hopefully I’ll get some feedback from them as well in the near future, or will at least have people to bounce ideas off of. I know that really helped when I was organizing the rewrite initially.

Anyway, things are going! Fingers crossed that the solution comes to me soon!

Digging Back In

Have I told you guys about RaTs? It stands for Runaway Tales, and is a prompt system based on flavors. It’s a fairly big deal over at WriYe, so when I reconnected with the community at the beginning of 2019, I signed up as well.

(In case you’re wondering, the flavors I’m working on are Green Tea, Tangelo, and Rhubarb. There’s 20-30 prompts within each flavor, so I’m still working on my original three.)

People use RaTs for various projects, but I use mine mostly for little characterization snips, writing main characters when they were children or when they’re much older than in the actual novels, or digging through various backstory events that will never make it into the main story, or writing pieces from side characters that I don’t normally use for a point of view.

(I tend to do 1 or 2 RaTs a month, so it doesn’t take up a lot of my time. But I think it does help with story depth, so it’s fun and useful at the same time.)

(And it’s always nice to further explore worlds that are already built than having to always build new ones.)

Anyway, long story short (too late), Wednesday I went through and picked out my prompt for the month, with the thought that I’d write it from a side character’s point of view during the third book of my high fantasy trilogy.

Now, it’s been a while since I’ve touched Book 3 (I’ve rewritten Book 1 since then), so I thought it best to go into Book 3 and make sure what I was remembering happened actually happened, so my RaTs was as accurate as possible.

And…I ended up reading all of Book 3. This is a problem I have with the trilogy, at times. I’ve been working on it forever, so it’s never really all the way out of my mind, and Book 3, well, it’s pretty good. All my betas stayed up too late while they were working on it, which is a huge compliment. Of course, there’s some tweaking to be done, to update it off the Book 1 rewrite, but still, very solid.

None of that matters though, because Book 1 still needs work. And I’m going to start it today! The idea is to read back through it, leaving myself notes, then add in beta notes and make an editing plan. If I’m remembering correctly, most of the problems are right at the beginning of the book, so I’m hoping the revision will be fairly straightforward.

(I’m thinking that I’ve just got to end my first couple of chapters in different places, so they read more like the continuation of a longer story than a series of short vignettes. But that’s what re-reading is for.)

But the characters have been in my head for a couple of days now, and while I was lying in bed last night, I was actually super excited to get going on my re-read. I mean, like, full of happy anticipation. It’s different than the excitement you get before you start a new story–it’s more like getting to see friends you haven’t seen in long time and have been missing.

Here’s hoping this bodes well for working on the revision!

I hope you’re having a lovely January, squiders, and I’ll see you next week!