Posts Tagged ‘writing’

The Depths of Summer

Hey hey, squiders! Look I’m remembering to post twice this week. It’s a miracle! Or something.

I’m actually feeling pretty good. Yes, this summer has been a bit of a mess in terms of, you know, productivity or consistency, but the last week has actually been really good. It’s like examining my goals actually helped me focus or something.

Funny how that works.

We’re into my second week in the critiquing marathon and, unfortunately, the last week. That’s my own fault for not being on top of things, though being super busy/out of town for all June would not have made it so I could participate anyway. So far the feedback I’m getting seems positive, so that’s good! Encouraging even.

Last week I also wrote the second part of a serial story I’m writing for Turtleduck Press, about a scientist in an underwater station after the surface of the Earth has become unlivable. That’ll go live on Sunday, and my editors on that were very complimentary, so maybe I’m not a hack after all.

This week I’ve been focusing on World’s Edge so I can hit my camp goal of 10K. I’m at 9K on it, so just need to do another thousand tomorrow, which is doable. I’m at about 87K on the draft out of a planned 100K, so we’re almost done!

I’ve got the whole thing detail outlined to the end, so it should be fairly easy going, unless I get into that weird mood where I’m almost done with a draft and hence cannot focus at all. Which is a distinct possibility, but maybe we can just push past it for once.

I will need to plan out what I’m going to do after the draft is done. I need to plot out and write a novella for Turtleduck Press, but I should also focus on editing Book One so I can, you know, stop hiding from it.

I might be able to do both at once, if I compartmentalize, but it might be worth it to just focus on one thing. But do I outline the novella first, or focus on the edit first? I know from experience if I bounce back and forth I’m not going to get anywhere.

Maybe I could do a really intensive edit through August and then do the novella in September. Maybe I’ll plan on that until I have reason to do otherwise.

How are you guys doing? Hopefully it’s not too hot where you are. It has been very hot here and I do not like it. But I maintain hope that we shall see the end of summer soon, and that it’s not one of those years where it’s hot into November.

WriYe and Writing Tips

How’s it going, squiders? I did put my first chapter of my trilogy up for the summer marathon and hence have fallen behind on my other writing stuff, since part of the deal is critiquing other people’s stuff.

Of course, this is week 7 out of 8 of the marathon, so everyone else is several chapters into their stories and thus far I am mostly confused. Oh well.

I hope to finish a serial story bit for TDP either tonight or in the morning, and then it’s back to World’s Edge full speed ahead and whatnot.

Anyway, let’s do the July blog prompt over at WriYe.

Quick! Name your top 7 writing tips of all time.

Seven feels like a weird number to me, but, uh, okay.

  1. Make time for writing. If you don’t plan your writing in (and I find the earlier in the day the better) it’s hard to get to it.
  2. Don’t focus on perfection in a first draft. Worry about getting the story done before you worry about whether it’s any good.
  3. Don’t compare yourself to others. That way lies madness.
  4. Also, don’t make your goals dependent on other people. Madness lies that way too. Plus it just makes you frustrated. I guess that’s more of a life tip than writing specifically.
  5. All progress is good progress. Sure, 100 words a day doesn’t feel like much, but it’s still better than nothing, and even planning gets you closer to a finished story even if it feels like you’re not getting anywhere right now.
  6. Don’t get weird with speech tags. Make sure it’s something you can actually do with your mouth.
  7. When revising, do big picture fixes before easier polishes. Nothing sucks more than spending a bunch of time on a scene that gets cut out.

Why those 7?

Uh, cuz those are the ones I thought of? I’ve actually been avoiding this prompt, because it has felt very intimidating. Are these my best writing tips? Probably not. But these are kind of general tips that are useful in most situations.

And a lot of them are good outside writing too! So, yay me or something.

How are you guys doing? Thoughts on my tips? Tips of your own?

Re-Evaluating Writing Goals

Well, guys, I’m back from camp, and, in theory, I can rev up my engines, or some metaphor that makes sense.

Last week we talked about my writing journal and also how it’s July and my word for the year, Polish, just has not been happening. The idea being that I would use said writing journal to look at my goals for the year and either figure out how to re-focus on Polish or change the focus for the year to be something that fit in better with what I’m actually working on.

However, it turns out it’s kind of hard to get going on re-evaluating your goals. So, eventually I decided to ask myself a pointed, direct question:

What do I want, more than anything else?

If I can only accomplish one thing, what do I want it to be?

And the answer was that I want to get my fantasy trilogy published.

Which led me to the revelation that maybe the reason that I have my fingers in so many pots is because I am avoiding working toward this particular goal.

Hold on, let me see if I can clarify.

I have been working on the Trilogy for SO LONG. It’s been 17 years since I wrote the first draft, 22 since I first came up with the idea. I have written the first book, in its entirety, three times. It holds a special place in my heart as the first book I ever finished, and at this point I know the characters like I know my family. It’s near and dear to my heart.

BUT when something is so important to you, it’s hard to put it out there, to be rejected. So I think I write other things, work on other projects, because if they fail, oh well. Or maybe I’m putting other things out there because if they work, then it shows that I’m good enough, my stories are good enough, and I can risk putting out the Trilogy.

But the fact of the matter is that I’m all over the place–other novels, trying out new genres, working on the nonfiction stuff–because I’m avoiding fully committing to the Trilogy and potentially getting hurt.

Oof. It was a realization, I tell you what.

It seems logical what I should do now. If the Trilogy is what really matters to me, I should switch over to it. “Get the Trilogy published” isn’t a good goal, because as we’ve talked about before, any goals that rely on other people are frustrating and leave you without control, but “Polish the Trilogy and get it ready for submission” is a perfectly good goal.

But I’ve got to tell you, dropping the defensive behavior is not easy. When I even thought the idea it made me wildly anxious. Landsquid knows how long I’ve been doing this. Years, at least.

So I’m going to compromise with myself. I’m going to take steps toward the main goal. There’s two weeks left of the summer critiquing marathon over in one of my writing groups, so I can at least get feedback on the first and maybe the second chapter. I have beta comments from previous critiques that I’ve already put into my document. So, in theory, I should have enough feedback to get going on the next step after the end of the marathon.

Meanwhile, I’m still going to work on finishing this draft of World’s Edge. It’s the same world as the Trilogy, so it’s arguably related. I’ve got a couple of commitments that need fulfilling as well–the next part of a serial for TDP, and a novella that needs to be written over the next few months. Those need to be done.

But I’ve got to finally commit to the Trilogy–really commit–or it’s never going to go anywhere.

Blah. Scary. Stupid journal, revealing all my deepest secrets to myself.

Anyway, how are you?

Ah, Summer

I hate summer. Sorry. I really do. It’s hot, and I despise being hot. There’s no rhyme or reason to the days, there’s too much going on, there’s too much going on and yet it’s too hot to do anything…

Also it thunderstorms but so rarely rains.

ANYWAY, this is a long way to say I’m sorry about missing last week here at the blog. I blame it on coming back from a 16-day road trip (I hope you liked my story ideas!) and then immediately having to teach songs/dances to children for three hours a day.

When you dance outside for three hours a day, in the sun, it takes a surprising amount out of you. I honestly don’t know what I did any afternoon last week.

And I apologize again because this will probably be the only post this week. There’s the off-chance I’ll manage to put something together, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Writing-wise, June was, well, not impressive. Most of that is because of the 16-day trip immediately followed by the dancing. I think I managed 1100 words during the trip, on a few mornings where I snuck out of a hotel and found a coffee shop.

For June I also started working on a writing journal, but I ran into issues pretty fast. It was great the first few days, planning out the long-term and immediate next parts of the draft of World’s Edge. Then I planned out the blog posts for while I was gone, and I did a couple entries about being frustrated about my current lack of writing time, and one about a mystery short story idea.

But then…it got weird. Because I wasn’t working on World’s Edge actively, I kind of ran out of things to talk about. I mean, I could plan out a wealth of short stories, or things along those lines, but without doing the writing part, it felt like spinning my wheels. So that kind of died off too.

But now we’re back, and after this weekend, things should settle into something of a routine, at least enough that I should be able to get momentum again.

It’s July now, and I signed up for 10K for Camp. This is my sweet spot–I can almost always get 10K for Camp Nanowrimo–though I’d like to finish my draft. We’ll see. My first couple days of the month were very productive, and then there was birthday madness that I won’t bore you guys with.

I think I will use my journal for refocusing my year. If you remember, I picked Polish for my word for the year, with the intention of editing the drafts I have sitting around. And here we are, halfway through the year, and aside from poking impotently at Book One for the first couple of months of the year, I’ve made no progress along those lines.

So it won’t hurt to re-evaluate and see if I can refocus on something else. Or see if there’s a way to switch gears. Things to do in the writing journal.

Oh! Did I tell you guys I finally submitted my Landsquid picture book to a few agents? Thus far nothing’s happening over there, but it does feel like a threshold has been passed. And I’m debating signing up for a spot in the Art Show at MileHiCon in October, if I can put together some nicer pieces.

So many plans, not enough time, too easily distracted by YouTube.

Anyway, I hope you guys are doing well! Do you hate summer too? Got any big plans?

See you next week, if nothing else!

Stories I’d Like to Write: Fantasy That’s Really Scifi

Okay! This is the last one of these for now.

I love fantasy that is high fantasy, but as you get further into the book or series, hints start to be dropped. Ruins that sound familiar, or hints that there was a previous civilization that has since collapsed.

I think this may be because my very first high fantasy series–the Shannara books, by Terry Brooks–does this. But it’s very subtle. You can read most of the Shannara books without this being obvious. It’s only when you take the series as a whole that it becomes more apparent.

But also, yes, lots of other series do this. Some more obviously than others, some more successfully for others. The Pern series, for example. Dragons! Adventure! But all happening on what’s essentially a failed human colony, Pern standing for “Parallel Earth, Resources Negligble.”

I have actually done this a bit myself already, though not quite how I would like. In City of Hope and Ruin there’s talk of an older civilization, a more powerful civilization, that collapsed because of war (more specifically the bioengineering and biological warfare tactics of that war, though that’s beyond the characters’ understanding, at least for that book). But that’s a completely secondary world.

I feel like to do this trope properly, it’s got to be Earth in the future. An Earth where humanity causes (or, I guess, experiences at the very least) some great calamity, something that has society collapse and humanity change. It’s dystopian, but not exactly. Like, the fact that this is our world and something happened to it isn’t normally important to the plot of the story. It’s background. It’s setting. Maybe some artifacts or something might feature in the plot every now and then, but for the most part it is a fantasy world, doing fantasy things.

And I like that! I like that it’s not necessarily important, it just is. It’s like…an extra dimension to the world.

That being said, I do think you can overdo this. And it may be a bit overplayed as a trope, especially recently where everything has to be dark. You know what I mean. I recently finished the first season of the Shannara TV series, and the post-apocalyptic parts were pushed much more than I remember. Maybe they were always there, and I just skimmed over them in the text, or maybe it as just more apparent because, you know, visual medium and all that jazz.

How do you feel about this trope, squider? Overdone? Fun worldbuilding? Favorite example?

Stories I’d Like to Write: Nakama

I first found the term “nakama” in one of my favorite anime/manga: Bleach. Back when I was really into the series, I followed this website, where the community would translate the chapters into English as they were released in Japan, instead of waiting until they made it over State-side. Since the translators were volunteers, there was some variation between terms, and sometimes they would leave Japanese words and add a bullet to explain what it meant in English.

Nakama is a Japanese word that means comrade, friend, or compatriot, technically someone working toward a shared goal with you. But in many anime/mangas, it means something more than that, something along the lines of Found Family, but even more than that.

Found Family is the idea that you can make your own family, by finding people around you who share the same values, and who support and understand each other. Basically, you can’t choose your biological family, but you can build a new one.

Nakama is not quite the same idea. In Bleach, for example, people who consider each other nakama do not necessarily get along. They don’t even like each other. But that doesn’t mean that, in another character’s hour of need, the first character won’t be next to them, willing to sacrifice their own life to protect and help them.

There is grudging respect. An acknowledgment of shared goals and perhaps values. A willingness to protect and help no matter the differences between characters’ attitudes, beliefs, and whatever previous conflicts the characters have had before. In Bleach, at least, characters that were, at one time, mortal enemies, people who had tried to kill one another, eventually become nakama.

There is something very satisfying to me about this concept. I’m not sure if it’s the idea that enemies can become, well, not friends (though sometimes!), but at least people willing to fight beside you, or if it’s something more primal, something that draws on the idea of belonging to and fighting for your clan, for lack of a better word.

Don’t get me wrong. I love found family too–the idea that a group can come together and be what they need, what they didn’t get from their biological families–but I like nakama better, perhaps because there’s built-in tension, or perhaps I just like the idea of someone who dislikes someone else still being willing to do the right thing by them.

But, how to build this into a story?

When I see nakama in anime/manga, it’s often something that happens over time. Episodes, or even seasons, dozens of chapters. Theoretically doable in a series, if it’s long enough, though I don’t tend to write series. But I often want to skip over the build-up and just drop the characters in, already nakama, and I’ve found that that doesn’t work. If you can’t see the change in the relationship over time, it’s not really the same thing.

The examples I can think of in anime/manga (and other books where the idea comes up) almost always involves fighting. There’s a war going on, or they’ve got to fight their way to their goal, whatever it is. The main character defeats another character, who eventually comes around to their way of thinking, either by learning more about a situation (i.e., someone who was following orders blindly before who learns that there’s something shady about what their side is doing) or by having some other reason to join up with the hero(ine). Or the second character realizes they have a common enemy, or something. I wonder if it could be done without the fighting aspect, or if the “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is an essential part of the whole idea.

This isn’t really a plot idea, nor a structure. It would be something to add into another story, a way for the characters to relate to each others. I’d like to do it someday, bring a group of characters together, willing to fight for each other even if they don’t like each other. I’d just need to figure out a story to put the idea into.

What do you think about nakama, squiders? Got good examples that aren’t anime/manga (other than Bleach, I’ve seen this concept in One Piece, Naruto, and Fairy Tail)? Thoughts on how slow the build has to be?

Stories I’d Like to Write: Dual Timeline

It’s summer, so time for a blog series, amirite? I am right. Because it’s my blog. So there.

For this year’s series, I thought I’d focus on stories I’d like to write someday. Because writing, like anything else, is a skill, and some things are things that are advanced, that take time and practice before you can pull them off. And I keep a list of things I’d like to try some day. And maybe the day will be soon! Or maybe it will be in five, ten years. But, you know, someday.

One thing that has always really interested me is stories with interlocking timelines. You’ve probably read some of these. I find them a lot in family dramas. There’s a modern timeline, and normally a historical timeline, but they’re interconnected, what’s happening in the past relating to the present, and vice versa.

This seems very complicated to me. I think it’s because pacing has historically been one of the harder parts of writing for me, so the idea of having two stories lining up, echoing each other, feels impossibly hard.

You’ve got to have two stories that match up somehow, same theme, mirrored challenges, something along those lines. And they have to do it with the same cadence, the same beats, so that the two stories make a coherent whole.

I mean, I don’t know what I would do. I don’t have much interest in writing a straight family drama. Maybe one with supernatural influences. Or! Or I could set it in a fantasy world. Oooh. Now that does sound interesting. A “modern” fantasy story interacting with an older one, maybe part of that world’s mythology or something like that. Yes. I like that a lot.

On one hand, it seems like if you can figure out the pacing and mirroring, it does seem like the writing might be a little easier–instead of one 80,000 word story, you’ve got two 40,000 word stories. But I am a little confused about beats in general. Do both storylines have the same level of rise and fall? Does the secondary timeline function on its own or more of a subplot?

Of course, it’s questions like these that make it why this is something to try in the future. Got to figure out the structure of the thing first.

Do you like dual timeline stories, squiders? I suppose you could do more than two, though that does seem like it might get a little unwieldy. Have you seen dual timelines in genres other than family dramas?

WriYe and Organization

Oof, why is May going so fast? Seriously. Ahhhhhhhh

Anyway. It’s time for the monthly prompt from WriYe, which is about writing organization, something I am alternately very good at and also sometimes terrible at.

How do you keep your writing organized and backed up?

I mostly use Google Drive. I keep all my outlines and other background information there–conlangs, worldbuilding, feedback, etc. I also try to keep the most recent version of each draft on there as well, though sometimes this leads to issues (such as a local version syncing incorrectly and the cloud version eating the most recent update), so sometimes I will also NOT back up the most recent version for my own sanity.

I realize this is risky, but when Drive makes me waste an hour finding the proper version or makes me create 15 copies of the same document because it can’t just save over the pre-existing version, sometimes it’s worth it.

(I do back up other ways as well. I lost 4K on a story once and it was not fun.)

I also keep things like word count trackers and agent/submission lists there, so I can access them from anywhere. And my random idea file, so things can be added at a moment notice.

That being said, I do also do planning in notebooks, because sometimes that just works better, and sometimes it is too much work to type all that into a document (especially if there’s artwork involved, and often there is, for maps or uniforms or what have you). I have a set shelf on my desk that’s for writing notebooks, which I’ve put into place after one rather important one wandered off (RIP).

Do you have any tips or tricks to share that have helped you?

More backing up is better. I have an external hard drive that I back everything up to periodically, and I keep a version of each completed draft on Google Drive and in my email (in case Drive does something weird). I also sometimes back things up onto a flash drive.

That way, if anything happens, it’s still somewhere.

Organization within storage areas is also good–I keep the novels separate from the short stories, and keep all information for each specific novel or series separate from the others.

(So, like, Novels>Series>Book 1, etc.)

This allows me to easily find the stuff related to a specific project as opposed to having to scroll through a long list of things (though search functions do exist, but if you’ve named a document something not obvious you’re screwed).

So, uh, that’s me, I guess. I do think there’s a thin line between organization and obsessive organizing that can take away from working time on other things, so I try not to stress about it too much.

How are you, squider? Thoughts on organization?

Out of the Woods

Hey, so it’s May! Oh man, it’s already the 5th. I feel like April flew by and May’s going to same. Time needs to slow down. I can’t believe it’s almost summer.

So, let’s talk about Camp Nano and how it went.

I did not connect with anyone, at all. They got rid of the cabins and now just have groups, which are the same groups from Nano, so all my online writing groups have one, and I think I looked in, oh, twice? And no one else seemed to be talking either. It autoposts any badges you have earned, so that was really about it. I also posted in my local Nano region’s discord twice or so as well.

I mean, there is some argument to make that the social aspect of writing challenges takes away from writing time, and that keeping it to a minimum might be better in the long run, but why do a social writing challenge at all then? The idea is to have accountability and all that jazz.

I haven’t been connecting very well to any of my writing groups lately. People don’t seem active when I’m active, or they’re not working on similar things, or not working at all. Also, all my social energy has been going to my Among Us group, some of who I get along with really well, so I don’t necessarily have the energy for my writing groups, especially when it feels harder to connect to them.

(Some of that may also be lingering confidence issues, like we talked about last week.)

As for Camp itself, I got 17,000 words on World’s Edge, which is less than the 25K I hoped for, but still better than I’ve done the rest of the year.

It feels a little unfocused, but not to where it’s not fixable in revision. I’m at 73K, so we’re only a little ways out from The End, and I’m not 100% sure how the end needs to go, so that’ll be fun moving forward.

I also realized that I set my word for the year as Polish, and I’ve done almost nothing for that. I mean, I poked at the beginning of Book One for a month or so, but I didn’t really get anywhere. I also submitted Book One to #RevPit last month and heard nothing back, so yay. Not sure what to do there. Going to leave it alone for the moment.

I think, after I finish World’s Edge’s draft, I’ll edit the scifi novella I finished last year. It’s shorter, so it should go a bit faster, and maybe I can get back into my groove. Maybe go into editing Ex-1 (the space dinosaur novel) after that, or maybe poke at some novella ideas.

I just want things getting finished, you know?

I just want my mojo, and my confidence, back.

Oof.

Anyway, Camp was a success, I think. It was nice to be moving on something, and I hope to finish the draft this month, though I’ve set a more modest goal of 15K for the month. Extra is good, but I’m not going to stress out about it.

How have you been, squider? How are your goals doing?

WriYe and Success

Eking this end at the end of the month, haha. Interesting topic this month, considering how the last year has gone. More and more recently I’ve felt like I no longer have any idea about the writing industry or how to be successful, and I think a lot of that has to do with my own productivity issues due to medical issues and the pandemic, combined with increasing knowledge about writing in general and a feeling of incompetence.

Actually, one of the writing blogs I follow had a post about that in the last week, how over the past year they’ve felt disconnected from writing, and I really identified with that.

But, anyway, on to the questions.

What has been your biggest writing success? How did you get there?

Hm, that’s a good question. I guess the first story I sold, maybe? It feels pretty great each time I sell a story, which has never been a terribly consistent thing. I hope, as I become more experienced, it’ll be more often.

As to how I got there, uh, practice, I guess? I try to write short stories, both for fun and purpose, fairly regularly, and I also read short story collections to see what other people are doing and how it’s working. Sometimes I’ll look at anthology calls to try my hand at writing a particular type of story. It’s really just experimentation at this point, which may be why it’s not more consistent.

What has been your biggest writing disappointment? How did you bounce back from it?

I have been trying, for years, to get a mentor through contests like #RevPit or #PitMad. I’ve tried different stories, different submission materials, you name it. I’ve tried contests specific to my genres and more general ones. I’m lucky if I get a response from one of the people I’ve submitted to at all, let alone one that gives any sort of feedback. And, of course, I’ve never been selected.

Now, you might say, Kit, you are published author, so why do you want a mentor?

I mean, I don’t know. I think it’s, as I try out more ambitious projects, or as I run into issues with ones that are dear to my heart, that I’d like someone to point me in the right direction. Hold my hand, as it were, and tell me what sorts of things might help me out.

It is frustrating, to never hear anything back from these contests, and it certainly doesn’t help my self-esteem or my confidence in my stories. But it helps to take a step back and realize that each of these people get a ton of submissions and can only select one per contest, and that it doesn’t necessarily mean anything about my writing or my story. And there’s new contests and/or mentors every few months.

This is an interesting question right now, because I have been feeling so out of sorts, and I’ve been feeling like my stories are uninspired and predictable, and like I haven’t been able to write anything truly good in a while. It probably wouldn’t hurt to sit down and do some soul searching, and see if I can get some of my mojo/confidence back.

Or it may be that I just need to take a break for a bit and let it come back naturally.

How are you doing, squider? How are you feeling?