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.

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.

Since about the start of the year:

Of Dragons and Swords: 170K –> 175K.

Of Rats in Darkest Corners: 63K –> 69K.

Crossing Roads: 45K –> 49K.

Castles of Sand and Stone: 66.5K –> 71K.

Dancing with Demons: 28.5K –> 29.5K.

And … because, pineapples:

Trajectory (Screenplay): 0/120 pages –> 61/120 pages

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.

… 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)

Last night, I sat down to write.

I did put down some new words. Then I finally realized WHY I’m having such a hard time. It was because I was trying to make a scene work — a scene that had no value to the story other than allowing me to transition from one location to another.

Sure, stuff was happening: a little bit of characterization of secondary characters, some badassery on the main dude’s part, even a nudge to the plot … but it was all for the sake of the scene itself, and not the story.

So, the scene is now gone. Feels good. Kinda. Let’s see if this results in a spurt in the story, or I’m doomed to only crawl from here on…

(Crossing Roads current WC: back to 42K)

Did a bit of soul-searching on The Journeyman too. Put down some new words. Still not good — not at all. Besides the fact my plot’s “presence” is too weak, my POV character is … meh. So, he’s having issues with the person he’s traveling with, but he’s holding back from resolving them. And it’s NOT in his character to hold back. But instead of this being a good conflict to explore, the reasons he’s holding back are a bit, er, iffy, and because the problem’s lingering, my main character’s now coming off as indecisive and whiny. Two of the characteristics I can’t stand in a protagonist. Actually, after the last read-through, I think the reason I’m so blocked up on this story is not because my plot isn’t front-and-center, but because I’ve messed up my protagonist. It’s not completely back to the drawing board, I think (though the machete’s shined up and ready to go). After the read-through, I’ve decided that I like the individual scenes (actually, I even think the very last scene is kick-ass, if I may say so myself). But what I need to do is rethink the events that take place between my two “on-screen” characters. They’ve already had a few altercations, the last of them violent. I think the reasons behind the secondary character’s actions are solid, but my protagonist’s need more work (and I’m not going to contrive something out of thin air). So, I think the resolution to this conflict needs to come very quickly after the violent altercation between the two, and I need to move on with the story.

And, to make it plausible … I think this is where I ask the guys I’m close with for help with how men who really don’t like each other may find ways to work together anyway. =D

(The Journeyman current WC: with the machete already up in the air, I shouldn’t even try to estimate … but for record-keeping’s sake, there’s about 36K words waiting for the chopping to start)

So, really, last night was about stepping back. Which isn’t an easy thing to do.

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.