2016 Wrap-up

Imagine my surprise when I logged on to do some updating and realized my last post was in November of 2015.  That pretty much sums up how my writing has gone for the last year.  Non-existent.

It’s been a crazy year, in a good way.  we decided  in the fall of 2015 to sell our home and move out to the country on some acreage.  We closed on our sale in August of 2015 and then moved into a rental while we looked for a lot to purchase.  That only lasted a few weeks and we had to move yet again into another rental (because of problems with the first one).  We bought a lot and started construction in October.  We closed in March of 2016 and have been living here ever since.  We absolutely love it.  Going from the world’s smallest subdivision lot to almost 4 acres was quite the eye opener for our kids.  It’s a lot of work, but I love it.  We installed our own sprinkler system, planted our own lawn, grew a garden, brought my daughter’s horse over, and made lots of new friends.  In short, it has been awesome.

But, the downside with all that going on is my writing suffered.  I literally have not made a single keystroke on a story this whole year.  In the months leading up to November and NaNoWriMo, I debated with myself many times if I was going to do it.  I really wanted to, but my heart just wasn’t in it.  I was so busy, in fact, that the first couple days came and went without my even realizing it.  It finally dawned on me around day 4 or 5.  I debated again whether I would do it.  Even though I really wanted to, I didn’t have a plan.  I decided that I would at least sit down that night and punch out some words so that I wouldn’t keep digging myself into a hole.

However, it had been so long since I finished my previous book (Moonstones), that I couldn’t remember enough of the specifics to make a decent go of it.  After several hundred words, I realized it just wasn’t possible to work on Moonstones 2.  Not like that.  I briefly considered finishing Seconds, the novel I started for NaNo 2015.  But, that was in the same boat.  I literally hadn’t read a word of it for a year.  It just wasn’t possible.  At least with Moonstones, I had been in that world for so many years that I had a lot of the backstory banked.  Seconds was cranked out over several weeks in November of 2015 without any outlining or planning.  After I won NaNo, I had a memory dump and almost could remember nothing of the story.  Obviously, I had the gist, but not even close to enough to start writing.  I couldn’t even pick up where I had left off.

So, I gave up.  It was harder than I thought, actually.  I took a lot of pride in winning over the last several years, and it was sad to admit defeat. That was over a month ago.

But, something important happened.  A little spark ignited, a spark I hadn’t felt in a long time–the desire to write.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve fanned that little spark, slowly getting back into the writing mindset.  I’ve visited writing blogs of authors I follow.  I’ve figured out how I could rearrange my daily schedule to have dedicated writing time each day.  I updated the progress bars on the blog to show my current projects–there are others, of course, but those are the main ones for now.  And, I spent the last couple days re-reading my unfinished draft of Seconds so that I would be ready to start writing this coming week.

I’ve had many writing goals over the years.  Some I’ve met.  Some I haven’t.  But, either way, it’s time time to set some new ones.  I’m putting them here as a reminder to me. Hopefully it will make me more accountable as well.

GOAL NUMBER ONE is to just write.  Regularly.  I plan to finish the first draft of Seconds over the next couple months.  That will give me two fully completed first drafts.  Then come the re-writes with the ultimate goal of having both novels either submitted to publishers or e-published this year.  That’s GOAL NUMBER TWO.  Seconds is the shorter of the novels, and I’d like to have it ready to go by May 1.  GOAL NUMBER THREE is to get some short stories submitted to magazines or websites.  I just need to generate some words and get my name out there.  GOAL NUMBER FOUR is to get started on the sequel to Moonstones.  It’s a big epic fantasy, and it’s going to require a lot of time.  GOAL NUMBER FIVE is to make it to some Cons this year (at least one).

I know those goals are lofty and will take some tweaking and refining as we go along.  But, I’m never going to reach my ultimate goal of being a published author and full-time writer if I don’t start writing.

Wish me luck!

Scott

rules of magic

As you know, I’ve started working on the first round of revisions on my novel.

You have to understand, this isn’t just a normal novel that I wrote over the course of a few months.  This is something that I have worked on for a few years now.  Each year I would devote a burst of time to it, and then it would sit stagnant for many months until I started working on it again.  It is easy to see, over the course of the book, how my writing style changed and skill level increased.  The first many chapters are horrific.  Those are going to take a lot of work.  I’m excited about this next challenge!

In my final push to finish, I started making a list of things that I knew were going to need some work when I started revisions.  That list wasn’t for things like grammar or even poor story telling early on.  I’m talking about genuine problems with my story.  One of the biggest of those is my magic system.  I love it and I hate it.  I know it needs a lot of work.  Part of the reason it needs so much work is that I didn’t sit down and create a set of rules early on like I should have.  I’ve actually written on this before, but now that my story is finished, I thought I would touch on it again.

Those of you who have read my blog know I am a huge Brandon Sanderson fan.  One of the things I enjoy so much about his books are his amazing magic systems.  He actually wrote a really cool article called Sanderson’s First Law.  It talks about the importance of having real, definable rules for magic systems.

In my story, there are five different types of magic.  Persons who are lucky enough to get magic are selected for one type.  My protagonist ends up with all five, something that has never happened before.  When I first started on this story several years ago, I had never heard of Sanderson’s First Law, or anything like it.  I didn’t take the time to think about limits on magic or consequences for using it.  I jus thought it would be really cool to have a super powerful guy.  But the problem, as most of you picked up on far quicker than me, is that if a guy is just too powerful, it breaks the novel.  There is nothing he can’t do.  And that does me no good.  You can’t ever build any genuine tension if you know the hero can just magic himself right out of every problem.

So, as my story grew and this problem became apparent, I started trying to limit the ways in which he could use his magic.  Sometimes it worked for him.  Sometimes it didn’t, and he couldn’t figure out why.  But, through it all, I still never had a set of rules.  Even I, as the author, had no idea how it worked.  Now that’s not necessarily a shock to me because I do not outline my stories. I write as it comes to me.  But, for something like this, you can’t just wing it.  You have to have a plan.

So this is something that I need to figure out. How do I give my protagonist all this power in a way that doesn’t allow him to just solve every problem and get out of every situation with magic. Do I place physical limitations? In Eragon, for example, there was a physical toll every time he used magic. A great idea, but far too overused at this point. In the Mistborn stories, allomancers had to have an actual supply of fuel (metals) for magic. That is a pretty freaking cool idea because it allows them to be very powerful when they have the supplies, but if they run out or it is taken, they are as weak as everyone else.  And each fuel powers a different type of magic.  Brilliant!

Obviously not every system has rules. Take Gandalf, for example. Tolkien never gives us any idea as to the limits of Gandalf’s power. We know that at times he can be very powerful. But, for some reason, he rarely uses that power. And sometimes using that power creates more problems. And, frankly, it works. But, I’m not Tolkien, so let’s not go there. 🙂

So this is what is going to occupy my thoughts for the next few days. I don’t think I can get very much further into my revisions until I get this figured out because the issue of magic inserts itself very quickly.

For those of you who write, what do you do? How do you define the rules and limits of your magic systems?

Wish me luck…

something new

So, I am excited.  Really excited.  Not just the sort of excited you get when you find a dollar bill on the curb or when you remember you’ve got an ice cold pop in the fridge.  I’m talking about a deep, butterfly inducing, grin-inspiring excitement (not that I haven’t smiled about finding a cold pop in the fridge).   No, this is for real.

I have been brainstorming for some time about how I could have some good, consistent content on this blog as I’m working on my stories. And today, purely by accident, I came up with an idea.  Well, truth be told, I didn’t.  It wasn’t even close to my idea.  It was someone in my online writing group.  You can check out his writing blog here.  Anyway, he mentioned something about a site that does flash fiction challenges every Friday.

For those of you who don’t know, flash fiction is a term which typically refers to a very short story, typically in the 100-1000 word range.  Each week this guy puts up a flash fiction writing challenge.  For example, two weeks ago he challenged everyone to write a 500 word story with no ending.  Everyone posts their own stories on their blogs and then links to them in the comments of his website (where the challenge originated).  Then, the following week the challenge was to look through the comments, read a few of the stories posted by other people, and then continue with that story (started by someone else) and add a 500 word middle.  This week, the challenge is to take the thousand word story (now written by two different people) and finish it in 500 words or so.  Fun, right?  Each week the challenge is different.

“Self,” I said, “this is perfect.”

I’ve already skimmed several stories and found one that I think I’m going to work on.  I need to have my ending posted by this Friday.

This was exactly what I was looking for.  I’m hoping it will give me a good jump start to getting some content written.  The little flash challenges will be a great way to start writing about various things.  It will also serve a couple purposes.  First, it will force me to post content on this blog, something I’ve been woefully inadequate about of late.  Second, it will allow me to start rubbing shoulders with other writers.  I’ll get to see their different blogs and writing styles.  They’ll get to see mine.  Maybe I’ll even make a friend or two.

But, either way, I’ll be writing.  And that’s what it’s all about.

Also, I set a goal tonight to enter a submission in the current L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest.  It’s a quarterly contest in which the winners are selected, paid, and their stories are published in a quarterly anthology.  I entered once before, *cough.  The rules are that if you are selected you can’t enter again.  Let’s just say I can still enter.  🙂

Anyway, this goal is a bit ambitious for me because the submission period ends on 9/30 (10 days from now).  That means I’ve got to get writing, and writing fast.  The stories can’t be longer than 17,000 words or so.  Time is too short to get a story polished enough to stand any legitimate chance of selection.  But, I’m going to submit anyway because it’s time I started writing.  I’m going to do whatever it takes to make that happen.  As I said in my previous post, I’m tired of wanting to be a writer but not writing.  Change is coming…

decisions and committments

I had an epiphany, if you will.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking with a friend of mine lately about money and business. He has a regular job but has also created a successful business on the side which is doing quite well for him. I’ve asked him many times to give me ideas on how I could do the same. I would love to have a little something on the side that I could build up, make some money with, and hopefully with time reach the level where I could shift completely into it.

Over lunch a couple weeks ago he made a comment that didn’t sink in until later that night. He said that no matter what I choose, it has to be something I’m passionate about, or I won’t ever be dedicated to putting in the time required to make it work. I thought about that as I considered various business opportunities, one very seriously. And then, one evening as I was looking at it, it hit me. I have something that I’m passionate about–WRITING. It’s something I know I can be successful at, but it’s going to take time and dedication. As I sit here, I can’t think of a single other thing I would rather do more than writing full time for a career. I absolutely love it.

So, I committed right then and there to get back on the horse and start making it work. I’ve been talking about this for years. Frankly, it’s disgusting that I’ve spent that long complaining about wanting to be a writer and yet not doing anything about it.

I have gotten involved again with my online writing group. It’s a great resource that I have been foolish enough to ignore for almost a year now. I also decided that it’s time to start submitting stuff for publication. I wrote a short story a year or so ago, and I’ve been kicking around the idea of sending it to some magazines to see if I get any nibbles for publication. Or perhaps even epublishing it myself onto Amazon and Barnes and Noble. In the end, I have decided for this first one to send it to some magazines. While I am anxious to give the ePub world a try, I’m just not ready. One of the things I’m missing is cover art. Nobody is going to buy a book with just words for the cover. I need to find a way to get some good art created so my book will look like, well, a book.

In the meantime, I am going to be continuing to work on my novel as well as some short stories. I would like to shortly have several short stories submitted to various magazines. That’s not going to make much by way of income, but the experience of it will be invaluable. Even if they get rejected, if I can at least get lucky enough to get some comments as to how I can improve, I’ll consider it a victory. With time, hopefully I can get several of them published and then start generating a little bit of name recognition within the publishing world. All the while, I’ll be finishing up the first draft of my novel and then begin the revisions process on that.

I just watched an interesting video from a class taught by fantasy author Brandon Sanderson (one of my favorites). You can check out his website at www.brandonsanderson.com. Anyway, he walked the class through his revision process which includes somewhere around 8 revisions. WOW!

Well, this has gotten a bit long winded, but I hadn’t really posted since I was in NaNoWriMo last November. I just looked and realized I never even posted that I had won. It was tough because of how slow a start I got, but I made it. And I’m super happy I did.

More to come soon…

JSE

NaNoWriMo day #28

What a crazy week it’s been.  I have written 30,000 words in the last 6 days.   Below is a screenshot of my NaNo word tracker.  The tracking graph has just skyrocketed over the last week.  I’ve never written so much material in such a short time in my whole life.

I don’t know about you, but by the time I’ve written 5-6000 words in a sitting, I am exhausted.  I feel like my creative juices have dried up, and I have nothing left.  I only wrote 3300 or so today, but I am tired.  I’ve had a lot of late nights and early mornings this past week.  I have a TON I have to do at work tomorrow.  Plus, I have a meeting tomorrow evening that is going to take me away from writing for a few hours which means I’m going to have to get some of it done during the day.  The only way I’m going to make that happen is if I get an extra early start on my work in the morning so that by early afternoon I can be done to start writing.

I’m not going to lie to you, following through with this challenge this past week has been one of the biggest trials of my self-control and level of commitment ever.  I have wanted to quit SO many times.  Who would know if I fudged the numbers a little, right, as long as I write all the words (even if it’s after 11/30).  But, I just couldn’t let myself.

My family has sacrificed by not having me every night this week.  They are waiting for me to put up Christmas decorations.  My kids are having a hard time understanding why I have to write for several hours EVERY night after being gone all day at work.  But, I made myself a promise, and I’m too close to quit now.

I only have just under 6000 words to go, and 2 days to write it.  I’m gonna make it!!!

The biggest bummer is that i’m not even close to being done.  I thought for sure at the beginning of this month that I would tie up my novel by the time NaNo was over.  Not even close.  By the time I finish I’ll probably have another 25-40,000 words to go, easily.  That’s going to put my finished first draft manuscript at approximately 160,000-175,000 words.  That’s too long for an intro novel, so my rewrite is going to have to include some serious cutting.  I would like to get it down to the 135,000-150,000 range, but we’ll see how that goes.  In two days, my total novel word count will be at 145,000.

NaNoWriMo Day #25

Wow.  Another 5,208 words written today.  I can’t believe how quickly it is coming along now.  In the last three days I’ve written over 17,000 words.  That’s crazy for me to think about.  I hit 31,846 words today.  I should be at 41,666, which puts me just 10,000 words behind schedule.  Because I’ve hit it hard, I only have to write about 3,600 words per day for the next 5 days to make it.  That’s much more manageable than the 4500 or so I had to write when I first got going again.

Even better than seeing I’m closing in on my goal of winning NaNo again this year is seeing my novel progress.  I’ve never generated so much new material in such a short amount of time.  I can’t believe how far my story has come in the past three days.  I’m getting excited because the end is in sight.

Today I had an interesting experience.  All of a sudden I found myself in a situation where I had written myself into a corner.  I had two different story arcs which converged and I realized all of a sudden that the two could not work together.  I tried to think of how I could go back and change either one, but neither could be changed.  I sat staring at my computer for almost an hour trying to figure out how I was going to reconcile these two conflicting fact patterns.  A solution finally presented itself, and I’m very happy with it.  I had to try to be honest and not let it simply be magically fixed.  It required a solution that was real and could fit into the story.  Overall, though, I’m happy with it.  I do think that when I go back through and do my rewrite that I’m going to have to do some tweaks in this regard to make the solution seem less arbitrary, but it’s easily doable.

Anyway, this entry is going to be short tonight.  I’ve got some tired fingers after typing so many words the last few days.  I wanted to throw in a screenshot of my current NaNo progress, but for some reason it’s not letting me upload tonight.  I’ll put one on tomorrow.

More good stuff to come tomorrow!  Thank you to everyone who has been reading and following along.  Your “likes” are encouraging.

I can’t wait for you all to read this someday.

JSE