Now, for various reasons, Gain of a Man Less is top priority. This includes a slight edit of the first portion, a major edit of the rest, and incorporating a completely new direction for the ending. (and actually ending it, so I can send it out).

Of Rats in Darkest Corners is one I want to toss in the feedback pot. I have a bit of a dilemma — one of my issues has always been that the “powers” are magic at this point (think, superhero type stuff). And I like to keep magic in fantasy worlds. So a while back, I brainstormed a way to take the magic out. It’d take some editing (though not too much) to implement it. But I can’t decide whether I really DO want to change it. It moves away from the original “feel” of the story… so, yes, I have a major decision to make: whether to keep the super powers bit, or whether to go for tech gone bad. But it’s a high on the list one, to throw into circulation.

The Journeyman and Crossing Roads are getting sent out for feedback. I may do a quick edit run through each, but in general, I don’t plan on spending too much time on them before I clear Gain of a Man Less and Of Rats In Darkest Corners from my plate.

Counter Central is getting a kick in the butt. I’m shooting to get to about 15K, so that I can get others’ eyes on it. So when I get very stuck on Gain of a Man Less and need to take a break from it, but still be productive, this is the go-to story for new writing.

Continuity of Shadows, with its new start, will get a slight edit pass (mostly for structure) and will again go out for feedback.

Linking Rings will be next; I need to fix some weirdness with one of the POV characters and bump up the hardships of the other. But all these are minor edits, so I hope to send it out at the same time as The Journeyman and Crossing Roads.

I hope all of the above will be ready for next steps by the end of February.

If everything goes great or better than expected, I’ve got Locked Land (I need to incorporate some feedback and write on, ideally to 15K before I can show it), Dancing with Demons (I need to get its beginning in shape; possibly start with Teyin instead of Arex — some brainstorming needs to go into it, but it’d be mostly shuffling things around to fix a meh beginning), The Chasm (write it to 15K so that I can show its beginning around), and Windrise (which is right now more concept than story, but I know it’s strong enough to push).

Sake of the Pack is one I’m scratching my head on; I have feedback I can incorporate to make it stronger, and I’m tempted to toss it in the mix as well. Probably not something I want to tackle in the next few months, but it’s bugging me.

Castles of Sand and Stone will probably go out for feedback to hopefully get tips on strengthening the beginning. It’s not a secret on this blog that I love this story, but I’m completely aware that the beginning is not “modern” hooky.

So… this sums it up. Lots of work ahead of me.

So, one of the craft-related highlights of 2017 (that kind of started, very cautiously, in 2016) was that I decided that I need a realistic view of where I am with my writing.

That is, I need others, who don’t know me and don’t give a flying rat’s ass what I think about them, to tell me what they think of my writing.

Now, I’ve tried online forums, critique circles, and in-person writing groups. I still have a fondness for writing groups, but my life keeps me at home and at work, exclusively now. And writing groups can be a bit of ego stroking circles anyway.

What I discovered last year were online contest with feedback attached to them (thanks, Trajectory).

The first I tried was the Launch Pad Manuscript Competition:

The second, Ink and Insights, was recommended by a friend:

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The third, Screencraft Cinematic Short Story Contest:

The LPMC was a really good one. The competition asks for a novel partial (first 49 pages max, using the formatting specified in their guidelines) and a synopsis (one page minimum). The package is entered into the main competition by default, which includes the Launch Pad side (introduction into the industry) and the Inkshares side (a new model for book funding/publishing, also heavily tied with the film/TV industry), and you can also select a few “mini” competitions, which can lead to options, representation, and mentorships. I had the extraordinary chance to do well enough in it to attest the contest is the real thing. Of course, it’s geared toward discovering IP for the film industry, and if you’re not ready for that grinder, or if your goal is to simply publish a book — may be best to simply take the feedback and not worry about the competition as much, except maybe the Inkshares side (which I can’t speak to, as I opted out of it).

Ink & Insights was unique in the sense that it brings together editors (some established, some emerging) to give you four sets of feedback on your opening 10K words. The feedback is by design a mixed bag, but read between the lines, and patterns emerge, that do give a valuable perspective of your story’s shortcomings (and yours as a writer, especially if you submit more than one story). The competition side comes with a very modest monetary prize or being seen by a panel of agents.

I was pleasantly surprised by the Screencraft Cinematic Short Story contest. This is another contest I found thanks to Trajectory, and it’s once again geared toward IP for film. But the feedback was excellent, even when the reviewer didn’t deem the short story truly “cinematic.”

I won’t go as far as recommending without reservation any of these contests (they’re all paid), though they were extremely valuable to me. They’re worth checking out, though, and if they’re your cup of tea — go for them!

For myself, yes, I will be utilizing them again for much needed feedback.

A glance at the numerical feedback (and a wonderful proof of my type of crazy):

The written feedback is far more valuable for details, but the number-crunching makes the patterns far easier to notice…

Over a year without word count updates, and just a couple of posts. Maybe it’s time to get busy on here again.

Despite my seldom appearances here, I’ve been neck-deep in story woes.

Most importantly, the Sycrit Projekt (TM), which is actually neither secret nor much of a project, has been going … blah. Which is where my hiding under rocks is rooted. Working with others is fun, rewarding … and not nearly as easy as I’d like to pretend it is. Especially when the others’ contributions are pretty much: your story sucks, change it, and then radio silence for a few months.

Either way, that’s life. Kind of going back to the mercenary mindset I wrote about, what, a couple of years ago, now?

On the side, though, I’ve been making plans and working on other stories. I’ve sent stuff out for feedback, even took a screenplay re-writing class for my foray into scripts, Trajectory. Fun times.

I should do a more detailed account of the planning stuff, but for now, let me get the word count stuff out of the way:

Gain of a Man Less: 19K –> 51K. Looks impressive when you put it like that, no? (though probably not for a full year) Either way, there’s still something something going on with this story, though not quite as it promised to go last year. I’ve put in a ton of work, structure-wise, and obviously, there’s the word count. But I’ll be going back and trimming the hell out of that word count, before going forward… so, hopefully, I’ll be reporting on it soon enough.

Counter Central: 6K? –> 7K. Notice the lack of question mark? Yes, I threw out the previous 6K and wrote a brand new 7K. Loving this story and where it’s hopefully headed. We’ll see how long that will last.

Chasm: 1K –> 3K. Another story I’m quite liking. It’s low on my priority list, but I like the restart, and I may push on it a bit to see if I can get other people’s eyes on it.

Castles of Sand and Stone: 84K –> 85K. Tiny bit of progress, but I went back and edited quite a bit. Not unhappy with this story. I never am, but it just moves sooooo slowly.

Dancing with Demons: 31K –> 33K. Another tiny addition, but it was a fun scene. I had it in my head, and had to put it on paper. Now, back on the shelf, you!

Turn of the Wilds: Tarnished Red: 11K –> 12K. No new writing, but I decided to add Kata’s POV to this story, and added an older scene that, with a bit of editing, will start another perspective on the main plot, and will keep the novel structure inline with Turn of the Wilds: Bent Steel.

Continuity of Shadows: 5K? –> 13K. No new writing, just made the executive decision to use The Reason For Being Human (Flipside of Reason) as the starting point for this story instead of the previous text. Oh, and I wrote a synopsis with which I’m quite happy. So, okay, some progress.

Leaves Die First: 0.5K –> 10K. No new writing, but I transcribed some handwritten chapters to Word, so yay!

Convergence: 0K –> 0.5K. A new story. There was actually a longer beginning — until I realized that the first 3K words aren’t nearly as cool of a start as the last 0.5K and scrapped them.

Windrise: 0K –> 0.1K. A new story. Loving the idea behind this one. But it’s low on the “high priority” list. If that makes any sense.

Trajectory (Screenplay): Contest came with feedback, which I incorporated and the word count went up. Since this is technically finished, I won’t treat it as progress. But if I do want to do something with this story, based on the ton of feedback I got on it, I either need to take the Machete to it and go crazy, or turn it into prose. I’m considering the latter … later.

(Dear Diary,)

A bunch of stuff has happened in the last eight or so months. Nothing I can (or want to) speak freely about quite yet. But there has been one matter that has been on my mind a lot, and I figure I might as well write it out.

Characters are a fun bunch. Forget the ones that come up randomly and take over our stories (I’m looking at you two, Felix and Kata!). Forget the ones that turn into obstacles to the story you want to tell, derailing it at every junction. I’m talking about the run-of-the-mill MC.

As a writer, I don’t “design” my characters. I let them become who they have to be in the story somewhat organically. Oh, I do begin with developed ideas of who they start out as, but I also welcome the surprises. More importantly, I never begin with a protagonist who HAS to be “relatable.”

  1. The trend nowadays is to laud protagonists who are easy to “see yourself in.”
  2. The protagonist has to be compelled: tragedy in his or her past, usually, or at least something that left them uniquely linked to the story problem.
  3. A character flaw has to render the protagonist helpless (or make him or her at least disadvantaged) against the circumstances of the story problem (a flaw that they, of course, later overcome).

If you are a writer, I can already hear you agreeing. But of course that’s what makes a great character! Who wants to read about a Mary Sue, anyway?

Right?

Well, I disagree.

First, long gone are the days I inserted myself in my stories…. Like, thirty years in the past or so. Why? Well, because I don’t want to write (or read) about myself. I want to explore the minds of those unlike me. I want them to enrich me, not reinforce me.

Second … compelled means that at no time in the duration of the story, the character makes a conscious, unaffected decision to become involved. He or she already is, by virtue of something beyond their control. Whether or not they’ve realized/admitted it yet.

Third, my favorite one. Please, do make characters as flawed as you want. I do. I’m all about flaws, because I think perfect characters are boring as hell. And flaws are extra fun to the writing process. But the big “but” — designing that striking character flaw to be the heart of the internal obstacle to resolving the external problem smacks of all kinds of contrived. Why is it the alcoholic who has to fight the monster in the beer factory? At some point, the flaw, no matter how realistic or relatable, becomes a parody of itself.

As a reader, what I want is truthful, fascinating, or admirable in some way characters, not “relatable” ones. I don’t want to see myself in the story. I want to see people with whom I can sympathize, empathize, take on a challenge, have fun — and through whom I can ultimately change my perspective, even if only for the duration of a book. I want people who make decisions because they want, or must, or think they probably should, not because they have no choice. And I don’t want to see the author inside the story, working in the final polish on that round peg in order to fit it in that round hole just perfectly so.

And someone once said, “write what you want to read.”

So, I will not be going for “relatable.” If that hurts wide audience appeal of my books … So be it.

[Someone else’s article to read: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/scourge-relatability]

Of Dragons and Swords: 188K –> 200K. La la laaaaala…. Getting closer, and closer… Still not there, though. 10K to finish. I hope I can stay within this limit. I have the two major end scenes in my head though (I’m having a bit of a Castles of Sand and Stone struggle, in that I’m about to kill characters I really like, so I’m reluctant to go into these scenes… but I’ll get there. I hope).

Of Rats in Darkest Corners: 71K –> 71K. Not much of a word count increase (there actually is, but I’m keeping these scenes out of the official WC, in case I change my mind and throw them out). But I’ve added the bit I struggled with (one of the POV characters’ introduction, which was kind of important, but I didn’t know how to originally set up so that it fit the rest of the tone of the story). So, yay!

Crossing Roads: 53K –> 56K. And yes. Halfway in, our MC isn’t invincible anymore. I’d set it up from the beginning, but I finally got to this scene. Luvya, Curse!

Castles of Sand and Stone: 78K –> 84K. Got through a very sensitive for me spot. I hope I handled it well? Readers will tell. If they ever get to reading this story.

Dancing with Demons: 30K –> 31K. Tiny addition, but this isn’t an “active” story, so I won’t complain. A step forward is a step forward.

The Journeyman: 50K –> 51K. Yup. Neckbreaking progress. Well, there was potential neckbreaking in this progress, so does that count? I’m liking how the characters are coming along, though, so, score!

Gain of a Man Less: 19K –> 19K. There’s a bunch of things going on with this story. Not making it official on the diary yet (afraid I’ll jinx it?), but there’re eyes on this, and I’ve been working a ton on edits and the story themes/plot. Just a small word count increase lost in the rounding of the WC, but that’s because I also killed a scene.

Counter Central: 6K? –> 6K?. More brainstorming on this one. I’m REALLY liking it. Kind of tempted to throw it in the “active” mix. Won’t, because of Gain of a Man Less, but tempted nonetheless.

The Chasm: 0K –> 1K. The opening scene was bugging me, so I put it down. Not 100% happy with it, but it’s on “paper.” Will probably end up either re-writing it, or at least editing it a bunch. Not the time of this story yet, anyway.

Trajectory (Screenplay): 66/120 pages –> 117 pages. FINISHED. And sent to a contest. Yay! (first round of results expected second week of January)

 

Since August 14, 2015:

Of Dragons and Swords: 175K –> 188K. Ended up scrapping quite a bit of writing as I tried a couple of different directions for one scene, and the last attempt may also get scrapped. But it’s, well, moving, so that’s that.

Of Rats in Darkest Corners: 69K –> 71K. Tiny motion that I’m not sure I’ll keep, but I worked through a couple of things that were bothering me before. I also got a bit of an “ah-ha!” moment with one of the POV characters, so happy noodles!

Crossing Roads: 49K –> 53K. Not a huge jump, and some of it may need to get reworked. But the story’s moving forward, so I can’t complain!

Castles of Sand and Stone: 71K –> 78K. Pretty happy with the addition! Still moving slowly, especially since I’m due to kill off two notable characters and I really love one of them, and that will be tough on me again. But that’s been the theme of this story (in more ways than one), so, moving on.

Dancing with Demons: 29.5K –> 30K. Is 500 words worth recording? Well, maybe no, but it was a fun tiny segment to write (some nerdy fun with technology).

The Journeyman: 45K –> 50K. Not unhappy with the bump, and the story’s moving, but I still don’t seem to have much inspiration for it. Even if I do think it’s one of my stronger stories, both writing and concept-wise. It may need a bit of help with the storytelling, in the sense of cleaning up some of the introspection, but other than that, I really have no complaints about it. Other that I just don’t seem to get into it well enough for quicker progress.

Linking Rings: 17K –> 19K. Worked through a major snag (kinda needed to move on with the story). This one isn’t an officially “active” story, but the idea how to handle the problem did strike me, and I thought I should work it in. It’s actually a story I’m pretty happy about, and I have much plans and hopes for it, but since it’s somewhat low in current WC, I figure it should sit until I start finishing some of the stories that are further along.

Gain of a Man Less: 18K –> 19K. Another tiny step forward, but I got the characters to their next scene. Another not high priority story that I have high hopes for. Again, it’s sitting at the back of the line due to its low current WC.

The Turn of the Wilds: Bent Steel: 51K –> 53K. Added a fun action scene (well, not so fun for the POV character, and he’s still in a whole lot of trouble, but it was fun to write). The TotW series has gone through a concept revamp, and I’ll need to work quite a bit on the first book before I return to Bent Steel officially. But that scene will definitely stay, no matter what changes I make to the rest of the book, and it’s always fun writing competent characters in deep trouble, so it was a good break from everything else.

The Continent Series: Empty Spaces: 2K –> 4.5K. I know I shouldn’t be working on this story. It’s book 2 of a series that I’ve barely touched in the last several years. BUT. Oh, that “but.” I’ve thought about the story concept on and off lately, and it offered a good opportunity to scratch an itch to write technobabble for a bit. Furthermore, I’m quite happy with the addition, because it offered some world-building opportunity, and I love world-building!

The Price of Loyalty: 1.7K –> 1.9K. Yes, 200 words. I’ve shattered all world records on word count per year! I originally wasn’t even going to include this, but the truth is that I’ve been thinking about this story quite a bit too. It won’t see the light of day any time soon, but it’s a concept I’ve loved for a long time (very challenging, which is probably why it’s never seen much word count) and maybe some day I’ll have the confidence to dive into it. Until then, here’s another 200 words on this story.

Sake of the Pack: 12K –> 13K. Another story that has been sitting, waiting for me to get over reservations writing it. But I did open it back up for nostalgia’s sake, and it got a bit of a bump in word count. Pretty much finished the next scene. There’s still quite a bit I need to figure out on it, and I’m still somewhat intimidated from the scope of it. I once said I’m not a good enough plotter to tackle the concept yet. Has anything changed since then? I’m not sure. But considering how many other stories I still have to work on, I really have no reasons not to let it sit for a while longer.

Broken Circles: 112K –> 115K. Hah, I actually had to open the story to see where that progress came from. So, yeah, I actually added a very important set of scenes that I’d managed to forget about in the last few months. Surprise! Not unhappy at all, though. The scenes do push the story forward quite a bit.

Trajectory (Screenplay): 61/120 pages –> 66/120 pages. Tiny movement. (I actually have about 72 pages on it, but the rest are possible inclusions, not official ones) The main progress was in figuring out the end scene, though it’s not written yet (I had trouble visualizing how to keep the actions of the MC true to her character while making the planned ending work).

The Chasm: 0K –> 0K. I have not officially started writing it yet, but I’ve done some brainstorming. I figured I’d include it in the update, since it’s a sweeping update. It’s a YA story in an old, old secondary world of mine (Dead Men’s Stand is in the same world). I kinda knew what I wanted to do for a while (about seven years ago, I wrote something that could have been a prologue for it, if I didn’t think it was too spoilery). But the opening is now starting to take shape in my head, and if I ever get the time and inspiration, I may write it down.

Locked Land: 6K? –> 6K? Another concept update. I’ve got a major jump on the world concept and on the plot! A long time ago, when a beta reader of mine saw what I had on it, they suggested some interesting possibilities for the plot. I thought they were very cool, but took the story very close to some existing stories by other authors. The story wasn’t a priority anyway, so I let it sit. But I recently got to thinking about it. And I’m excited to report that I’ve not only figured out quite a bit about the world and the story, but I’ve stayed true to its concept and have not veered towards other people’s IP. I have not put any of my new thoughts into scenes yet, though. And I’m not sure how much of the existing writing I’ll end up using, so I’m putting the question marks at the end of the word count.

Remnants: 1K? –> 1K? I actually tried another beginning for that one, but I probably won’t keep it either. I still love the concept, so I’m not throwing it out, but it’s not this story’s time yet.

Counter Central: 6K? –> 6K? Another “sitter” I’ve thought about lately. So I made a lot of progress on the concept, which I’m VERY happy with. But I won’t bring it back into focus, even though I think some of the themes may be pretty current.

I’d love to say that about sums it up, but, no.

I’ve revived my attempts at short stories.

One is in the works, at about 2.5K. It’s a high-tech story heavy on themes, so it’s taking me a little longer to iron out the end.

Another two are in the brainstorming stage. I’m not sure if I’ll put effort into writing them anytime soon, but I like the concepts, so I don’t think I’ll let them die either.

So, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the distinction lately. (yeah, I know, I should be writing, not thinking about useless stuff — but it is what it is)

I’ve always considered myself a pantser because, well, I am, and I know that’s what works for me. But in light of my stories that are slooooowly coming to an end, I’m starting to formulate a little bit of a different definition to my approach. What I’ve written are really outlines — extremely detailed outlines, with developed scenes and all the nuances that go into stories. But as happy as I may be with some of the settings, characters, themes, or even with the voices and atmospheres, etc. etc. — what I’ve written is still an outline in its heart, because the story is still hidden in the scaffolding I’ve used to get to this rough draft.

Some of my “outlines” have flowed better than others — I have a couple that are around the halfway point, that will need very little reorganization and editing (at least for now; there’s no guarantee that I won’t decide to change the storylines as I get closer to the end). Others will need the Machete in its full capacity.

The realization has come with my creeping forward on Of Dragons and Swords. The closer I get to the end, the clearer the story becomes, with the details filling in and tying together. It’s actually a very fulfilling process, slow as it may be. And I think it’s partially been as slow as it has, because instead of treating the story as the outline it has been and simply building on it, I’ve tripped up on it not flowing quite right yet. With every little step forward, my notes on what needs to change in what’s already written grow, but so does my confidence that I can turn this into a good story. Why? Because I’m now realizing a lot of what bothered me before was only scaffolding — stuff I needed to put on the page to keep myself going in figuring out the story, that really doesn’t belong in the story itself. I’ve spoken about this concept before, but never with this clarity. I’ve only been plotting. It may have taken a very long time, but I’ve also ended up developing the majority of the bits and pieces that will end up in the finished story.

It’s only a process.

So, maybe we’re all outliners — but some of us do a large chunk of our writing while we outline?

Had a couple of good writing days — almost three thousand words!

So, yey for me?

Otherwise, I’m considering getting on Patreon. Just thought I’d officially record the occasion. Another dubious “yey” here.

But I wrote!

Did I mention I wrote?

What’s that, another few months without an update?

Yup, that’s right.

So, the last few months have been dead as far as creativity goes. I pecked on a few stories (even tried NaNoWriMo, but that ended in a couple of thousand words, so, yeah). Thought about (and did some preliminary work) on setting up future marketing endeavors. Wrote some non-fiction snippet commentaries. That’s about it.

Nothing worth an update, but I’d like to get myself moving again, so here I am. I’ve updated the Scoreboard, but I won’t bother doing a wordcount update here. It’s depressing.