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.

… and there isn’t much I can say for myself.

The stories have mostly sat. I ventured into script writing (revamped an unfinished short story), but the air got zapped out of it when I read an article bashing flashbacks … and the script is structured around flashbacks. Ah, well. Maybe it will liven back up when my brain processes the whole flashback mess. Maybe not.

My “good ol’ stuff” … a little bit of progress on Of Dragons and Swords (yeah, I know, I’m sick of hearing about it inching towards the end too). Tiny progress on the other two “young protagonist” stories, Of Rats in Darkest Corners and Castles of Sand and Stone. I also nibbled on TotW: Bent Steel, Broken Circles, Gain of a Man Less, and Linking Rings.

The TOTAL, however, works out to be about 15K words written in six months (sans the script, which is probably another 10K). So I don’t really think it’s worth a more detailed word count update.

So, NaNoWriMo went well for about the first week or so … then I fell flat on my face (due to real life stuff).

I got in about 16K total for November, on Of Rats in Darkest Corners alone, before it happened. (Of Rats in Darkest Corners current WC: 63K)

Then, since the start of December, I’ve done some nibbling on a few stories. Nothing worth even updating WCs for. But I’ve been brainstorming on stories instead, and I’m not unhappy about some of the newest decisions.

I’ve been talking about splitting up the two monsters (Broken Circles and Of Dragons and Swords) into three parts each (in about 60-80K segments) for some time now. I finally “modeled” what these splits would look like. And I think they may actually work!

The first part of Broken Circles would consist of all sections before the Team gets split up (up to the end of the Feat). The second would contain the individual endeavors, and the third would be everyone working on the same world problem again, from the new perspectives they’ve gotten in the second part.

Of Dragons and Swords doesn’t split as cleanly, unfortunately. I’m thinking of having a “cadence” to them (of MC leaving and returning, each time with a new perspective). Word count-wise it works, but each end would be after the new arc starts, which I don’t know will work for sure. Broken Circles would have a little bit of that too, but its ends would be more akin to hooks, and not like I plan on doing for Of Dragons and Swords, diving right into the next arc and stopping when it’s already starting to build up.

But I guess I’m willing to try it anyway.

Which means that I may end up first doing the splits and diving into editing each of the first two parts of the stories (which are, for all practical purposes, already shaped, though they need work to bring to the quality I hope they can be). And as long as I stick to the plans I have for each story, I may be then able to finish the third parts much easier too.

I’ve also done a lot of thinking on Turn of the Wilds and the overall story. I’m actually glad it went on hiatus, because where I’ve stopped ended up being the ideal place to have the ah-ha! moment I had on it recently. I’ve pretty much figured out its overarching theme. It’s a pretty huge deal, since I was struggling with wanting there to be more to the morphology of the world than just “wouldn’t it be cool if.” So, now I think I have that! The biggest problem: I really liked the individual book titles I’d come up with (Tarnished Red, Bent Steel, and Scarred Flesh). They worked nicely for how I’d planned the original stories. Now, however, the books won’t be as focused on one individual character per book, but will be more evenly spread between the larger cast (Bent Steel had already gone there — that was one of my concerns with it). Anyway. I’m glad I had my little creative epiphany on it. I’m still looking at a mountain of work, but I think I have a clearer direction, and hopefully a bucket-load of inspiration … when I get back to it.

Against all odds, Dancing with Demons also got a look lately. This goes along with my desire to give my fantasy stories a bit of rest. (Dancing with Demons is a space opera-ish story) To be honest, I’ve been missing the free-for-all pseudo techno-junk babble. It was fun reading through. And it’s still a fun (for me) story. I don’t know when I’ll pick it back up next, but I’ve been working through some of its current knots (in my head), and maybe it will get some love (read: bump in WC) in the near future.

I guess we’ll see.

The promised word count update:

Of Dragons and Swords: 161K –> 170K. Still taking its sweet time. I’m a little frustrated with it, but there’s enough in there that I like that I think it’s not a waste of time. Its fate will be either a major overhaul and trimming that keeps some of the existing scenes, or reworking it into three parts. I’m still not sure which one it will be. I’ll figure it out after I get through the end.

Of Rats in Darkest Corners: 43K –> 50K. This year’s pick for NaNoWriMo. We’ll see how that’s going to work. But I’m not unhappy with the progress so far. For a while I feared there were too many pieces, but they’re finally starting to fit together.

The Journeyman: 42K –> 45K. I’m liking where it’s heading, but, to be honest, I’m back to feeling burnt out on it, though I’ve hardly worked on it this year. Go figure.

Castles of Sand and Stone: 65K –> 66.5K. Another story I like and think it’s heading in the right direction. I did consider it for NaNoWriMo this year, just by virtue of practically having an outline for it and a successful 50K being almost a guarantee I’d finish it. But this has always been a slooooooow progressing story, and I decided I didn’t feel like working on a fantasy novel this year.

Dancing with Demons: 27.5K –> 28.5K. Just one new scene. It’s not a story I’ve got in focus right now, but I did randomly get the urge to work on it once these past several months. Not unhappy with the addition, either.

I also did some editing / tiny additions to Crossing Roads, TotW: Bent Steel, Broken Circles, and Linking Rings. I do wish I wrote faster, and devoted more time to writing … These are all stories that I hope I’ll finish one day (and that they’ll be readable).

Anyway … that sums it up, I think. Seven long months, not enough progress with writing, unfortunately.

Hard to believe it’s April already. I’m so very behind on my plan. But, ah well.

Quick recount of last month:

Of Dragons and Swords: Officially burnt out, and still no end to it. I’ve decided to put it aside for a while, before I start completely hating it. (Of Dragons and Swords current WC: 161K)

Broken Circles: Small addition. Did a bit of rereading on it too. Not unhappy. (Broken Circles current WC: 112K)

The Journeyman: Wrapping up the last scene. Second plot object about to be “on screen” and I’m thinking I need to pick an interesting aesthetics for it (and then go back and change the first plot object’s appearance accordingly). Should be fun. (The Journeyman current WC: 42K)

Gain of a Man Less: Gave the beginning to an alpha reader. Got a bit of an ego boost. Also, a tiny, tiny finishing touch that I’m really happy about. Life’s good. (Gain of a Man Less current WC: 18K)

Of Rats in Darkest Corners: Added another scene with a Crazy. Finalized that I’m shuffling some of the friendships around and I think they work better now. Yey! (Of Rats in Darkest Corners current WC: 43K)

… the last post made me realize it’s been a while since I’ve done an account of progress. The main reason, unfortunately, is that September and October turned out horrible writing months. I barely made any progress. And I’ve only been working on one story since the start of November.

But, for the sake of accountability:

Broken Circles: 110K –> 111K (I’m a little bleh on this story right now; I still have hopes it may be a good read when I reach the finish line, but I have no fire for it right now)

Castles of Sand and Stone: 64K –> 65K (Crawling … mostly just working on everything else but this story; if the NaNoWriMo experiment proves successful, that’s the … er, fifth story to which I’ll give the treatment; so, I don’t expect a lot of progress on it anytime soon)

Of Rats in Darkest Corners: 27K –> 41K (The Dream World sequences stayed; new POV character came about; all in all, I’m happy with how this story is coming along!)

The Journeyman: 39K –> 41K (Another direction shift, not in a bad way; I’m finally knee deep in plot, and trudging through it won’t be easy)

Crossing Roads: 44K –> 45K (I decided on a character addition I’m pretty happy about; and I moved away from a sequence of scenes that just didn’t seem to happen; though I’m again stuck in a fight that simply won’t work; furthermore, I showed the beginning of it to someone whose opinion as a reader I value a lot, and they pretty much tore up my fight scenes, so there will be rework; ah well, I still have high hopes for this story)

Gain of a Man Less: 16K –> 17.5K (This is a novella that just got refashioned as a novel; most of what happened on it was plotting — and good plotting it was — and I’m rather happy where it’s going, even if I know it won’t get there fast; by the way, reminder: all of these titles are temporary!)

Last but not least … Of Dragons and Swords: 25K –> 69.5K (Heya! Forward we march with dread and doubt! But the scenery is scrolling past, and maybe there’s even a destination somewhere beyond that hill!)

So, that’s about it for now. I hope to do the 50K word count for November entirely on Of Dragons and Swords, though I’ve already snuck in some additive editing on Of Rats in Darkest Corners, because, why the hell not, right? (but — I am staying honest with myself: I’m not adding the extra words on ORiDC to the count against the 50K target =)

So, I’ve talked about my writing process here before, but probably not in a very organized fashion. The last couple of days, however, in a forum I occasionally visit, people started talking about their writing approaches. I was originally going to answer there, but I realized that the ramble really belongs here … So, here goes nothing:

As I’ve mentioned quite often before, I’m a discovery writer. (in particular, for novellas and beyond; I treat shorties a little differently)

I think outlines are awesome, for the people who can use them effectively. Me … total no-go. If you’re ever wondered what happened to The Sake of the Pack and Brief Horizons, both stories that I believe have huge potential and that I really like, but I can’t get myself to write at all… Yeah, I did outlines for them. Totally sapped my inspiration. I hope that one day, I’ll be able to get over my block for them — but I assume the only way to do this is take them both in completely different directions than I’d intended originally. Brief Horizons will be easier. I even have a few ideas I may toy with later. The Sake of the Pack will probably need a lot more time to bring back into the spotlight.

So, no outlines for me.

Instead, I start a story with a various percentage of characters, setting, and world problem (if such exists) in a “penciled in” state. The main thing for me is to find and constistently follow a unique tone (my catchall term for voice and atmosphere), that fits the setting and at least current main characters. As far as themes — I believe they should come out naturally as I develop my characters, world, and plot. After the story is completed (at least for the novellas — I’ve yet to complete a novel), I do one dedicated edit pass for polishing up whatever themes happened to emerge during the writing process.

When I sit down to write on any given day, I always first go over a portion of what’s already been written. For me, this is an absolutely necessary step. Because I don’t write regularly, and I almost always write at the end of the day, I need to get myself in the correct voice and mindset for the story I want to work on. It doesn’t always work. When it doesn’t work, I either jump to another story, or leave it for next time.

This is my “reader/editor” time with the story. I technically approach it as a reader, but if something bugs me, I correct it on the spot. (except for the parts I know need a major edit or a full re-write — then I’ll just make notes, and I’ll usually avoid reading them, so they don’t leave subconscious traces on whatever re-write comes next).

Once I reach the end of the existing text, I put on my writer cap. As I said, I work without outlines. But I do usually have a next “milestone” towards which I write, that I’ve chosen based on a tentative direction in which I think the story should go.

Depending on where I’m in the story, the milestone may be vague, or pretty detailed.

Usually, I have three stages (percentages are approximate):

0-25% — completely free-flowing. Anything that occurs to me that sounds interesting may end up in the mix, as long as it follows the general tone of the story. Example: back when Turn of the Wilds: Bent Steel was at about 15%, a character appeared out of nowhere and took over the story. Mind you, this was a character I created because I wanted a natural way to avoid an info dump and I wasn’t planning to even name him. Needless to say, he threw a big wrench into my tentative plot, but he’s also the best thing that’s happened to this story so far.

25-70% — the main plot’s in place, the characters are mostly set, the world problems are clear, and I’ve figured out what the subplots are. Still a lot of room for “why not” moments, but I try to have more detailed milestones and I may even have two or more in a row already. Example: Crossing Roads now has its main characters and their motivations more or less set, I have a pretty good idea what the world problem is (though I’m not 100% sure of the details yet), I have at least a couple of ideas how I could handle the end, and I’m working towards a fairly set milestone, though I just scrapped a scene and changed how I’ll get to that milestone.

70-100% — I already have a pretty good idea what the end is going to be. I usually have a list of the major milestones leading to this end. “Why not” moments are heavily scrutinized. =) Example: Broken Circles. I have a pretty good idea what’s going to happen to each of the characters. I know how the plot will wrap up. I still have quite a few unknowns on the details of the subplots and how I’ll bring them all together, but the milestones that lead to the finish line are more or less in place.

Another note: I don’t work with outlines, but I do have “living” summaries of everything that’s already happened, and I keep records of all characters and places and objects of interests, etc. Extremely useful, since I juggle so many stories, but having these also helps me make quick decisions on plot, flow, pacing, etc. while I’m writing, as well as keep internal consistency — and they do come in handy for quick reference.

Here’s an example for The Journeyman (a version without the descriptions of people, places, and things to prevent spoilers, and with the plot points and summary greyed out, since I don’t want this to exist on the internet, in case I actually end up publishing the damn thing):

The Journeyman.jpg

(by the way, the above’s done in “Freemind” — a free mind mapping software I’ve grown very fond of)

I was thinking about writing approaches, and how scatterbrained I am when it comes to which story I happen to be working on.

I’ve more or less worked through the frustration: after the failed experiment with The Journeyman, I think my best approach is to learn to be productive, so that the minor detail that no one story is advancing very fast is made irrelevant by the other, hopefully not so minor detail, that I have multiple stories approaching the finish line, and multiple others coming up behind them, and yet multiple others in the beginning stages. If I can keep the word count fairly constant, I figure my stories will eventually get there…

Anyway. Getting myself to think about all of the above topics got me to realize I haven’t been putting any updates here. Yes, the two and a half months overseas didn’t help, but I’ve also been just … distracted.

I don’t remember the details (I haven’t gone that anal-retentive in my excel spreadsheet), but here’s an approximate account of my writting progress in the last three months:

Broken Circles: 108K –> 110K (slowly trudging forward … to hopefully good things when I get to the end)

Crossing Roads: 42K –> 44K (was not having any luck with a transition there — but I think I may have finally figured out a way to work through that knot; I hope to try my hand at it this weekend)

Of Rats in Darkest Corners: 15K –> 16K (even though the words were few, the progress was good; I had trouble with that last scene, and I think I’ve nearly worked through it; but I’m still contemplating whether I should revise what I’ve written so far to include the dream world I rambled about earlier)

Of Dragons and Swords: 0K –> 16K (yey! Not a “new” story — it’s actually one of my ancient ones that I’ve always wanted to scavange from … and now it’s moving forward; I’m actually happy with this one. The characters are updated and the plot I think is actually bearable now (this is the same story I liked to call my “Lord of the Rings meets Big Trouble in Little China” story — yeah, I was a weird 14-yearl-old); anyway, I think it’s gotten … well, relatively better now, but I’m also having fun writing it, so it’s all good!)

Castles of Sand and Stone: 61K –> 64K (really happy with that progress, even if it’s tiny; this is proving to be a somewhat difficult story to write, and I’m pretty sure that each individual scene from here on will feel like a hurdle — but it is what it is, and this has always been a somewhat tough story for me anyway)

Turn of the Wilds: Bent Steel: 50K –> 51K (another tiny move forward; I’m kind of stuck on this one, in a much grander scale than simply not knowing how to handle the what comes next; because this is part of a series, most of my frustrations here are how do I make it work when I have to work it in with Tarnished Red and Scarred Flesh, and neither of these has come very far)

The Journeyman: 33K –> 34K (my poor stilted story… I still believe this is one of my strongest stories, and I still need to find a way to break through that block; yes, I did try to get myself to work on it again, and I did move the current scene forward; but I still think I’m missing a strong link to the plot, and I’m already too far into the story to get away with jumping into it now … so I’m also trying to wrap my head around how to either machete-edit what I currently have, or just trash it, and start fresh…)

The Continent Series: Empty Spaces: 1K –> 2K (I know, neckbreaking progress! On a story I really shouldn’t be working on right now, for many, many reasons! But I did get the scene in my head, so I had to write it down; I’m actually happy with the tone and setting of this story, and I think it’s gonna be a fun one to write; of course, at this point it’s more of a distraction, but I’ve promised not to stop myself when I get the urge to work on stories that aren’t “actual” right now, so, there goes nothing)

And this … actually wraps it up.

… without having accomplished anything at all.

Really. Sucks.

So, I was out of town for nearly two and a half months (short notice extended overseas work trip). And now I’m back. And I’m absolutely miserable. Jetlag is a good excuse, but it’s only that — an excuse. Motivation for work: extremely low. Motivation for stories: in a pipe-dream fashion, pretty high; in a realistic fashion … bleargh.

In April, I joined an online writers group with a goal to write 10K words. I managed it, barely. Nibbled on stories here and there, squeezed writing in between work, somehow it panned out. I worked through a couple of hard scenes (notably, one in Castles of Sand and Stone), so I wasn’t unhappy. But I never attained “focus” enough for any substantial writing.

Since the end of April, I’ve written practically nothing. I think the only story I moved on was Broken Circles, and that too was barely.

I really feel like I need some time off. But I’m afraid that if I take it, I’ll end up wasting it, like I’ve done so many times before.

On the other hand … Pineapples.

So, the nice surge of creative energy ended over a week ago. Luckily, before that happened, Crossing Roads took off like nobody’s business, and I’m very happy with where it’s going. (Crossing Roads current WC: 26 K)

I also did some organizational work on Broken Circles. Being the behemoth it is, and written somewhat out of chronological order, I split it up by viewpoint groups (that include POVs that don’t violate the timelines relative to each other). Now I need to stitch everything together, write out the  … well, last third of it (yes, it turns out the end ISN’T near), and edit the hell out of the thing. And edit I will need to. I keep pointing to the first 20K of this story, as they were written over a decade ago (when both my English and storytelling skills were non-existent), and before I had solidified the plot. But the truth is, the whole thing needs a solid pass. Even if I can’t say I don’t like it. But I guess if we didn’t like our own stories at least a little bit, we wouldn’t be writing them in the first place. (Broken Circles current WC: 108K)

In other news, I have a new piece of electronics, and I am frankly happy, and impressed.

So, I finally replaced my ancient laptop with a new piece of hardware. I got myself a Samsung ATlV Smart PC Pro. It’s pretty much a full PC in a tablet form, with a somewhat optional keyboard dock that I’ll probably only use when I travel, or to run my desk monitor + peripherals, until I finally bother fixing my desktop …Which promises to take a while.

Anyway, I’m not going to do a full review of the ATIV Pro. I’ll just say that it has exceeded my expectations (which weren’t necessarily very high), and that I couldn’t be happier with its functionality. The most important thing: I now have a piece of electronics which is okay to carry around, which, with the exception of playing full-blown PC games, can do EVERYTHING I need it to do, and very well at that. Yes. That does mean I can write in the fully functional MS Word (the handwriting recognition works very, very well, which is unexpected, especially for someone like me who has very little patience and time to spare…), I can draw in Photoshop (the full version as well, with full pressure sensitivity), and do all other things that people use tablets for, on a beautiful screen with great resolution and even better response time. So… Score!

And a quick evening update: Of Rats in Darkest Corners just got a small bump. (Of Rats in Darkest Corners current WC: 15K)