September update: Success?

Well, the good news is that I achieved my writing goal of adding 20,000 words to book three of my Sisters of Chaos trilogy in August, for the first time in six months.

However, I’m not entirely convinced this was a good thing. For one thing, after fighting to the last day of the month to get that word count in, I had only a few hours to enjoy my success before the clock simply reset and I had only to look forward to doing it all over again. It wasn’t a particularly inspiring victory.

Aside from that, I ended up with a fair bit of writing I’m not entirely pleased with. I know the point was to just get the words out and worry about cleaning it up later, but it’s discouraging to achieve that word count with content I’m immediately dissatisfied with as soon as it’s on the page.

As a result of these issues, I haven’t written a word in the story since. Part of it is simply that I don’t feel ready to write the climax of the story yet, which is pretty much where I am now without going back and adding/editing other scenes. But I think I need to go about my word count goals differently.

Obviously I need to just sit down and continue writing. I’ve a ways to go yet to reach my initial goal of having a first draft of the manuscript complete before the end of the year, and this seventeen-day slump is one of my longer ones of this year. Yet perhaps I won’t worry so much about forcing more words out for the sake of a word count goal if I feel something’s not working.

August update

Had I stuck to the writing goal I set in March of this year, I would have a complete 120,000-word draft of book three of the Sisters of Chaos trilogy by now. That has not happened. I also admittedly didn’t do a great job of trying to recover from that in July.

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Instead, I ended the month with only 71,506 words. However, I’m well on track for my initial goal of having the draft done by the end of the year, especially since I’m starting August off on the right foot for a change (knock on wood).

I’m also feeling better about the story now. About halfway through July, I spent some time doing plot development and nailed down some things to make the book more interesting. It will involve a fair bit of rewriting, but the story is looking much better for it. I should have done more writing after that point last month, but what’s done is done. Or not done, as it were. I surpassed my progress in July by this Sunday and have managed to keep that second graph above the blue line overall, so I’m both hopeful and motivated to continue writing.

Here goes.

July update and NEW BOOK!

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Okay, so only about 1/10th of the content of this book is actually my writing, but I’m still very proud of this new book. It’s an anthology of stories from authors I’ve been privileged to publish over the years, and every story in it is fantastic. It even includes one from me about Liam from the Sisters of Chaos trilogy, and a story from J. R. Dwornik about Lyle from the same series. So please check it out!

Now, on to my terribly delayed monthly update for June.

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So, clearly I still fell well short of my monthly goal of 20,000 words, but I did far better than in May, and at least achieved half of my goal. The problem, obviously, is that I simply didn’t write for many days. I rarely allow myself to fall short of my daily word count goal when I actually sit down to write, I just too often don’t end up trying. To be perfectly honest, usually it’s simply because I don’t feel like it/don’t want to write.

Most of that comes from the fact that I’m feeling dissatisfied with the story. I know it can, and will, get better, but I suppose it’s been so long since I really did any heavy writing that I’m getting discouraged a lot easier when what I write doesn’t immediately come out worthy. Mainly I continue to write new scenes that end up as large blocks of exposition. I will improve on them, I just need to get past my own perfectionism and blank page syndrome to simply advance the story.

I should have a 120,000-word manuscript written by the end of this month, but at present I’m only clocking in a hair under 70k. But hey, 70,000 words is a pretty decent book on its own, and it’s still 70,000 words more than I had at the beginning of the year. I need to focus on that more than how much I still have left to do, and just write.

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Beyond writing, I haven’t done much of note recently. Stress/overall emotional state has largely reduced my extracurricular activities to reading and another play-through of Trials of Mana. I have only a few books left in my TBR pile, though I’ve had occasional diversions with books from daughter’s collection or library acquisitions, and have added a couple as well. I’m looking forward to having an excuse to dive into the many ebooks I’ve collected over the years.

Of course, being halfway through the month, my course has already been pretty much set, and so far my writing hasn’t progressed much better in July than it went in June.

But there’s still time to improve that.

June update

A little delayed with my monthly update, but I suppose it’s fitting. It’s not even worth sharing the graphs of my writing progress last month. I wrote for a grand total of one day in May for all of 829 words of my 20,000 word goal.

I’m not dwelling on it and I’m not trying to catch up this month, either. I’ve decided to start June on a clean slate and just resume my attempts to get 20,000 words in a month. I’ve missed three days and yesterday I only managed about 60% of my daily word count goal, but every other day I’ve surpassed it by at least 37 words. It still leaves me behind, but not insurmountably.

I struggled with the story a bit recently. A couple of scenes, or attempted scenes, from one character didn’t work out, and another scene took a long time to be able to get down on screen at all. I’ve also been concerned about the pacing of the story. Just today I passed 60,000 words, halfway to my ultimate goal of 120,000, and I feel like there is not enough story left to fill those 60,000 words.

However, in the course of plantsing this story, I’ve ended up writing a lot of exposition that could be better presented. So for now, I think, I’m going to continue writing as I have been, letting the words flow as they will, ending the story short of my word count goal if need be, and going back to expand upon all that narration later. I’ve already decided that my opening scene is going to be different from how I wrote it, and the failed scenes of more recently will need to be reworked before I can consider a first draft done. If I’m going to make my soft goal of having the book ready within three and a half years of publishing book two (out next week!! preorders open now!!), I’m going to need to go back through those scenes and flesh them out properly within my stated (if now expanded) goal for having the first draft done this year. I can do this, and I’m rebuilding momentum on it already.

Aside from writing, I did a little bit of art, as shared here. Guitar and Japanese lessons continue, if somewhat less consistently. One other thing I did was finally return to my TBR list. I had a few shorter books on it which I managed to knock out in one day each, and have now read eight books within about three weeks. Why do I forget how much I enjoy reading? Oh right, because video games.

And so, here’s to a good start—er, continuation—of June. Hard to believe the year’s almost half over now. Haven’t we been having 30-week months since lockdown began?

February check-in

A little late, but at least not as late as my last post. If I keep this up, I might eventually write a blog post on time!

So, here we are a month into the new year. (Wait, already? No wait, only? What year is it?!) I thought I would check in with my progress on my goals for 2020.

I fell a bit short of my goal for writing book 3 of the Sisters of Chaos trilogy last month, only ending up with 2,500 words of my intended 10,000. However, the important part is I’ve beaten blank page syndrome and have indeed started writing the novel, and I’m starting to develop the habit of writing again. Not much of what I’ve written so far I feel is very good, but at this point I’m just pounding words out on the page. I’m certainly more of a plantser (plotter + pantser) than either/or, and I need to just write to find out what works and what doesn’t.

I was also very glad to start a new scene today from a different character’s POV and find that the interaction between this character and another continues to be incredibly fun. Simply letting the two play off each other ended up with some unexpectedly entertaining dialogue.

Taking my goal of 10,000 words/month very literally, I need only write about 660 words per day to get back on track with 20,000 by the end of February. Considering that I’ve been writing around that much or more most days that I’ve actually sat down to write in the past few weeks, I’m feeling pretty positive about my progress so far, even if that daily goal is about twice what I would normally need to hit 10k in a month.

Reading has also been going well, as I managed to knock off four books on my TBR in January, and have completed two others since then, which brings me down to less than twenty remaining. I also read my first 5-star book in almost two years, Artemis by Andy Weir. Incredibly entertaining and highly recommended.

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Ready to game.

 

Of course, last week a PlayStation 4 happened.

So, now I need to be a little more stringent in handling my free time. I’m working on it. Today was a success story; work days might be a little trickier.

In unrelated artistic news, I’ve tried out some new baking techniques recently. A mirror glaze (didn’t quite work out as intended) and, just today, I attempted decorating cookies with royal icing by piping wet-on-wet. While I made some mistakes and learned some things, and could certainly use a smaller piping tip, they came out pretty well.

Nothing else of note in the last month, but then, I am trying to limit my attention to just a few endeavors right now, much as I might derive inspiration for other media. Must… focus…

At the moment, I’m feeling good about how I’m doing. Keeping the big picture in mind while focusing on achieving the small daily goals.

Let’s see if I can keep it up.

Book tour and giveaway: THE BLACK TRILLIUM

The Black Trillium
by Simon McNeil
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy
 
Confederation rules in Trana—so says the king.
But Fredericton is a long way from the shores of Lake Ontario, and
schemes for power will bring together three extraordinary young
warriors.
Savannah
A desert girl who came to Trana looking for refuge but has never found
a home
Kieran
A privileged city boy dreaming of rebellion and hardened by cruelty
Kyle
The disgraced heir to the throne desperate to win back his place in his
father’s heart
Sworn enemies or reluctant allies, they all have one thing in common: an
incomplete half of the legendary fighting skill known as the
Triumvirate sword art. They fight for glory, for power, for the
monsters lurking beneath the streets, and for the mysterious society
moving in the shadows of Trana—the Black Trillium.
Read on for my review, a guest post, and giveaway!

Continue reading “Book tour and giveaway: THE BLACK TRILLIUM”

Art vs. Illustration

I’ve been drawing seriously, or at least trying to, for the better part of thirty years now. While it hasn’t been my only, or even necessarily primary, method of creative expression, I’ve done a lot of it. My artwork folder on my computer, which consists only of pictures I have at one point deemed worthy of sharing, has over 500 files in it.

Most of those pictures are more or less portraits. The character(s) might not be looking at the viewer and they might be doing something interesting, but the whole point of those drawings is just to show off a character. I’ve drawn my share of scenes, pictures showing a clear story, but they’re still one-off images. I have considered and even scripted comics and/or graphic novels, but I haven’t taken the time to really attempt it yet.

Now that I have been drawing for the chapter book I wrote, however, I am starting to understand the particular challenges to actual illustration, particularly now that I have started colouring my illustrations. Up till now, it’s mostly been fun: determining visual quirks of characters the first time I draw them and extending those to subsequent illustrations, designing characters’ clothes, hair and accessories, setting the scenes I’m trying to convey. There was a challenge in keeping characters consistent, of course, and I had to consider things I’d never dealt with before, such as height of characters relative to each other, but it wasn’t all that different from what I was used to.

When I coloured the first character in the first illustration, however, I suddenly realized that I should colour all instances of that character to keep their portrayal consistent. And then as I worked further, I found myself needing to consider things that even backstory for the book itself didn’t prepare me for. Take this drawing, for example:

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All went well enough, I was enjoying the way it came together as I coloured each character over the course of a few nights, and then I got to that breakfast bar. What colour should the counter and the cupboard be?

I hadn’t put much thought into it at that point, but suddenly it became a crucial issue. I knew what colours the characters may favour, but they live on a space station. What would the counter and cupboard even be made of? An aluminum counter top is easy enough to decide upon, but what about the cupboard? Trying to answer that question only spawned more. Are these characters the first ones to live in this apartment? Because there wouldn’t be wood or drywall on a space station, and I don’t think repainting would be likely on a space station. How old is the station? Because that’s going to determine whether this is a new apartment or if they’ve moved in to someone else’s design choices. What would the walls be made of? Because that’s going to affect their colour, and so the design elements in the kitchen.

I hadn’t even considered these things while developing the story. I probably never would have if I hadn’t been trying to answer a simple question regarding a background element to a single illustration in the book. And this is only a taste of it; I have several more illustrations to go. What other issues may crop up as I work through the rest of the drawings? What else might I discover if I went on to write and illustrate more books?

It certainly makes for an interesting, and fun, challenge. In a way, I’m also a little saddened, because I have to, and I want to, focus entirely on Sisters of Chaos book 2 after I’ve finished with this book, even though I already have some ideas for another book. I’m also enjoying creating the art for this book, as time-consuming as it might be, too much to consider letting someone else illustrate for any possible future books. This has been a very fun process, weaving art and writing together in a way in which each affects the other, and I hope to get the chance to do it again before too long.

Never ending stories

I have some news to announce. The good news is: I’ve written a new story.

The bad news, of course, is I’ve written a new story.

Followers might wonder, so recently after I announced my intention not to write other books until I finish the Sisters of Chaos trilogy, why I suddenly wrote an entirely new book.

In short, I wanted to write a story for my daughter.

I’ve been wanting to write a story for her for years. But, as a SFF author of 100,000-word novels that lean more toward the grey side of the grimdark/noblebright scale, I found picture books just a bit too far outside my normal scope to attempt. Now that she is reading chapter books, however, I find an opportunity to write a story for her much more accessible.

I also made a realization recently. I hadn’t even considered writing a kid’s book before finishing with my trilogy, but it occurred to me that if I wait until then, she might be of an age when she can just read my regular work, and I’ll have missed the opportunity.

So, I sat down and wrote her a book. World, meet Mia:

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She’s nine years old, Hispanic, and lives on a space station.

Chapter books are still barely longer than my standard short story, so I was able to write out the entire book in a couple weeks. I still have some editing to do, but hopefully, the story won’t take much longer to finalize. The real holdup will be illustrations. Much as I would love to have someone else handle them, I just don’t have the budget for it, and I think my daughter would appreciate me drawing them myself.

Soon, I hope, I can share Mia’s story with the world.