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.

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.

So, it’s been a long time since I’ve had an update. (sorry, Dear Diary)

I’ll do an official word count update a little later. For now, let me just say that there hasn’t been a lot of progress on the writing front. I’ve been somewhat distracted by another creative endeavor (the ultimate one, I like to call it). More on that in (hopefully) a few months.

What I would like to report, however, is that I’ve officially signed up for NaNoWriMo again this year. The story that drew the short straw: Of Rats in Darkest Corners. I had originally picked Castles of Sand and Stone, but after some serious deliberations yesterday, I opened up ORiDC instead. I’ve been spending a lot of time on my fantasy stories in the past year or so, and I thought it’s time for some change.

First day went well. Let’s see if I can make it into a trend again this year.

A long, long time ago, I started to write stories because I had stories in my head, and writing them seemed like the natural progression from playing them out to myself with color pencils, chess pieces, dolls, playing cards, or whatever else I had in my reach.

The discovery of writing as a medium for my stories came as a result of a class assignment, so my first written story did see a (captive) audience. For a very, very shy child, I was strangely unmoved by the fact I had to read it out loud in front of my classmates. I wasn’t proud of the story, nor was I ashamed. I think I was at that time so fascinated by the fact that this writing thing was FUN, that I didn’t have the capacity to consider anything else around me (that, and I had just pulled my first-ever all-nighter, so I was probably not quite fully awake either).

This was the last time anyone saw my stories for the next decade or so. I wasn’t writing for anyone else. I had stories in my head, whether or not I wrote them. And writing, with its many challenges, was fun. So I wrote. Read More →

One thing I’ve been dealing with when it comes to Of Dragons and Swords, is that I’ve been very, very nervous about it.

It’s not that I never worry about my other stories. What’s a new is this physical, near panicky feeling, very similar to what I experience when I have to do a presentation for work, or have some important meeting, or am heading to some social event I’m not comfortable with. That feeling of not being confident or ready, or of being afraid that I’ll mess up in some crucial, irreversible moment.

I’ve been thinking it’s related to how close I’ve gotten to the end of the story. It’s the feeling that I now truly need to perform.

It really comes down to getting the end right. I’m decent (and probably a little too experienced in light of how many stories I’ve finished) with beginnings. Middles just are, and they’re easier in the sense that it’s still “Why Not” land, and the Machete’s always ready to go. The ends though … if the end sucks, there’s no story. And I’m very scared that I won’t be able to do the end right.

There’s more to it, too. I haven’t been able to shake off the feeling I’m taking too long going through the story, and I still have a lot of scenes in mind that I need to do. For crying out loud, I’m at 75% into the target word count, and I’m still doing basic reveals! I still have characters I mean to tie into the main plot that I’ve done very little with, I’ve hardly touched on the MC’s background, and I have subplots I’ve hinted at, but haven’t even started tackling yet. It’s like I have a jigsaw puzzle where I’ve turned over all the pieces, have mostly grouped them by color, but I have just a few of them actually put together.

And this horrifies me.

I know I’ll be going back and editing the hell out of the thing. I plan on finishing it up at around 120K-130K words, then cutting it down and filling it back up to about 90K-110K. I shouldn’t be panicking. But I am. And it’s not a fun feeling.

(secretly, though, I am looking forward to unleashing my left-side brain on it … the anticipation helps, though not too much)

(Of Dragons and Swords current WC: 89K)

“Writing is wretched, discouraging, physically unhealthy, infinitely frustrating work. And when it all comes together it’s utterly glorious.” — Ralph Peters, NaNoWriMo motivational letter, Nov. 26th, 2013

Otherwise … I think I’m on track to finish 50K words by the end of the month!

(Of Dragons and Swords current WC: 78K)