Thursday, August 13, 2015

12 Chapters, 20 Days

With my recent writing pace I've been averaging about a chapter a day (less or more on weekends depending) and about 40 chapters to a story. It is a system that works for me. The progress is nice to have. The number of chapters makes me feel accomplished. Best of all, the momentum is keeping me going.

However, the other day I got bit by the bug. You know the one. The bug that tells you what you're working on now is crap and that you should switch gears to this other story. The bug bit me pretty hard. Ideas and scenes flashed before my eyes. I could smell parts of the world. Hear the scrape of steel on steel. It was quite the vivid moment. I was tempted to give in. Thankfully, I've messed up enough times in recent memory to recognize some of the faults. What I had were random ideas and glimpses, not an idea for a plot or even a solid premise. Sure, I had plot points. And yes, I had character elements. But I didn't have full characters, nor a coherent idea. Still, the idea did seem fun.

Looking at my current WIP at the time I had about 15 chapters to go before hitting chapter 40 and the end of my first draft. That made one solution easy to try.

See, last year at GenCon among other things I grabbed a copy of Michael Stackpole's 21 Days to a Novel. I've flipped through the PDF, stolen some of the ideas, but I've never run through the thing whole hog. This, I decided, was my chance to give it a shot.

How does it work? Simple. Every day I need to finish the work on my WIP for the day (finish a chapter, begin the next.) After that, I can follow that day's step for 21 days to a novel. The book works by slowly stepping you through fleshing out one, then two, and then finally three characters before cementing them in the world (and the world around them) and gearing up towards a story. The idea is that by 21 days you have 3 interesting and realized characters who can interact and be at cross purposes with each other.

So far I've done 3 days and am working on chapter 28 of my current WIP. The first character coming out of the 21 days pdf is interesting. Maybe interesting enough to be in the next WIP?

I guess we'll see.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Heading to GenCon

This time next week GenCon will be in full swing, and I will be there. I'm pretty excited. It is my second time going, and somehow I'm even more excited than I was last year. My housemate says it is because I don't have the anxiety about the unknown. Maybe she's right.

Last year I also had more of a plan for when I was there. The Writer's Symposium was a big draw for me, and I attended a good 10-12 hours of lectures given by Michael Stackpole. Considering how much that advice improved my own writing, I'd say it was worth the trip for that alone.

This year the writer's symposium is also a big draw and will be featuring two of my favorite authors in the guise of Delilah S. Dawson and Chuck Wendig. The only problem is, when we made the plans to go last year I made the decision that my focus this time around would be more on gaming. That doesn't mean I can't go to one of the Writer Symposium events (or several) but I do want to get my game on while there.

I suppose we'll see what happens. Last year my friend and I had more fun the days we had vague notions of what we wanted to do and just walked around with generic tickets than we did the times we had specific things we wanted to be a part of. We also tended to stray towards the more professional games. Demos run with WotC sponsorship for D&D 5th, an Edge of the Empire game run by Fantasy Flight Game, stuff like that.

This year, well, we'll see.

Either way I'm excited.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

What You Know. What You Don't Know

For the Fourth of July a good friend of mine invited me out to the cape to enjoy the fireworks in his hometown while partaking in a friends and family barbecue on his father and brother's lobster boats. The trip was a lot of fun. Enough so that it made the 4 hour drive there and 6 hour drive back (fatigue + traffic slowed us down) more than worth it. It also was an enlightening experience for me. So much of what I saw was knew, and yet much of it was also things I already knew, just made obvious to me in that way that makes them feel so relevant and meaningful.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Progress & Check In

Despite best intentions it's almost been a month since an update here. In May I talked about making small steps towards progress. Today I'm happy to report that things are still on track.

I am not sure how far I have made it from my starting point, but I know I have made progress. Some is small ways. I'm increasing my average amount of steps taken each day using a step tracker. I'm still far from the recommended 10,000, but I am doing better than I was before. I have been writing nearly every day. In fact, a story I started on May 13th is 4 chapters from having a draft done right now. Today I am scheduled to write chapter 36, and yes that means I am averaging more than a chapter a day if only by a little. My living area has recently taken a step back, but not in a large way. I started it back on track just yesterday.

The best part of all this though is that by focusing on small steps I am not feeling daunted  by anything. I'm not looking at the large goals and judging my progress to them, I am looking at the small goals. I have expectations for my day, and people (or person) to help me meet them and keep on task. Every day I have a feeling of progress, and that also is helping my mental state and keeping me move forward, at least so far.

For anyone out there mired in a rut and not sure how to get back on track, try doing it in small steps. You don't need to clean your whole house. Just clean one corner of one room. Tomorrow clean another corner and take a minute to maintain the previous corner if it got dirty. Do it in small steps and enjoy the progress. Don't let the enormity of the final task confront you. Had I told myself on May 13th that on June 15th I would have written Chapters 1-36 of this story I don't think I'd have ever done it. 36 chapters at even just 2k words a day is 72,000 words.

So how did I do it? Well, for starters when I say I intend to write chapter 36 today what I mean is I intend to finish chapter 36 today. I've already written the first 300-600 words of the chapter. I don't need to write 2k words, I need to write 1.5k words. Once that 1.5k words is done and the chapter is finished, I'm done. Except that the blank page is scary and what is another 300 words at that point? So I'll get some amount of words done on Chapter 37. Then, tomorrow I'll just have to finish Chapter 37.

I help myself with this in other ways to. Every chapter has to end at a point that draws the reader into the next chapter. You know what draws the reader? The same stuff that draws the writer. That means my daily writing consists of building up to something and ends with a resolution and the start of the next thing. Resolution and start is easy after buildup, it has a flow, but that also means that when I start writing that the start is already done and I just have to do the next build up.

Small steps are key. Small steps make a big journey manageable. Give it a try. It works, at least for me.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Baby Steps - Big Things Are Made of Smaller Things

In the beginning of May I talked about April being a tough month and had a fairly down revelation about what I was doing with my life. Today I'm following up on that, because, well, I figure if I started the whining on here I can continue with it.

So how have things been going?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Depression, Sickness, and Motivation

April was a rough month.

I don't say that to apologize for a lack of updates. I don't say it for pity. I say it because, to me, April was a rough month. Somewhere along the way I let the month get the best of me. This May, I'm trying to take my life back.

The thing is I live a very simple life. Whatever my dreams/goals, my life is ridiculously simple. Every day I wake up, I go to work, I come home from work, I play League of Legends with a friend, and I go to sleep. On the weekends I mix in table top RPGs with friends, and replace work with house chores.

That is it. That is my life. It's not even a bad life. There are people who would kill for this luxury.

Realistically, I am working towards two goals this year. I say realistically because they are the only things I am working on with any regularity. The goal I am working hardest on is I want to get Gold ranked in League of Legends. The goal I should be working hardest on is I want to be a published author able to make a living off of my writing.

So what happened in April? I got sick. I had bad luck in League of Legends and played badly causing me to lose rank. I received numerous rejections in short order for a short story that I feel is the best thing I've written to date. Not just rejection letters, but form rejections "not even worth my time to give you a quick note about why" rejection.

It hurt. It was a soul pain. Bad enough I'm not doing anything with my life, but I can't even win in a video game and the best I can write gets summarily rejected from anywhere I can find even willing to look at it?

To say the least, I didn't have much energy to try the last couple weeks...which is just as well because, like I said, I got sick. Or maybe I got sick because I didn't have the energy to try, or to care.

So what happens now? As I write this it is 12:54am on a work day. I have to be up in 6 hours to go to work and I should be sleeping. I have a never ending stream of "motivational" videos going on my second monitor.

I want to say that this is my moment of epiphany. This is the moment I make the decision that sticks and work from here to re-arrange my priorities and move on. I'd love to say that this is the day I say "my shit gets in order and stays there." But that's not how this works, and everyone on the internet should know that.

This post is reading like a journal entry and I don't care. If nothing else this blog can serve to chronicle my thoughts and feelings and experiences along with whatever else ends up on here. If I make it bigger than I could ever dream, maybe someone will find this post someday and see that even those who made it hit these moments. Even if I don't, maybe someone else will see it and go "hey, that guy has those moments too."

Change takes motivation, and I have never been big on motivation when it comes to myself, not for the long term. However, I do like straight talk. One of the videos on youtube makes the claim that "most of us don't want success, we only kind of want it." It then goes on to say "you don't want it more than you want to sleep." I think that's a fair point. It's a reminder. More importantly, it's a reminder you can hang up near yourself.

Do I want to be a writer, or do I want to already be a writer? It's a fair question. One does the work. The other is envying the lofty position of the one who has already done the work. How bad do I want to be a writer? Do I want to be a writer more than I want to read reddit? Do I want to be a writer more than I want to eat lunch at work? Do I want to be a writer more than I want to play a game of League of Legends? More than I want to sleep?

Momentum is hard to build. Motivation is hard to keep. Setbacks and obstacles are numerous. It takes a special person to stay motivated and to want something enough that doing something else just doesn't even occur. The rest of us have to work at it. We need reminders. We need to think. We need to let logic win out over emotion, because waiting for inspiration to strike and take hold is going to a casino and waiting for luck to make you rich.

What am I afraid of? Am I afraid of failure? Am I afraid of success? Am I afraid of change? Does it matter? Change done gradually enough is not perceptible except in reflection. Choices though, small choices, those we can make. Make them the right way enough times and it adds up.

Do I want that icecream right now more than I want to be healthier?
Do I want I want to play that videogame more than I want to be a writer?

There's nothing wrong with either answer. Somedays, sometimes, we'll need that icecream. Somedays and times we'll need to destress with that videogame. But most of the time? I doubt it. Make the choice. But to do that you have to recognize the choice.

I'm going to try to start there. Right now though, I want to be awake for my work day tomorrow more than I want to continue to wax poetic on this blog.

We all have our struggles. Some are more romantic, more realistic, or just plain seem more serious than others. That doesn't change the fact that we all have our own, and by their very nature they are struggles.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

On Rejection

Rejection is a big part of being alive when you think about it. Looking for a job? You face rejection. Looking for a date? You face rejection. Looking to make it in some kind of creative career? Rejection is the norm, even for the successful.