The last few days at the Day Job have been ridiculously busy for some reason, and it’s all I could do to juggle that with my writing. I’ve been using my work breaks and the occasional slow moment to get some daily words or revision or blog entries done. (As it happens, I’m writing this during my afternoon break on Thursday.) It seems that right off the bat my Day Job wants to scupper all my Best Laid Plans.
Well, not this time.
Instead of saying hell with it and chalking it up as another lost day, I’m going in the exact opposite direction. Easier said than done, of course, but it can be done if I put my mind to it.
One thing I noticed was that trying to write longhand during the day wasn’t quite working out, as it was too much of a mental whiplash from the number crunching I get paid for. So that’s been moved to the evening, and my former evening work — the final revision of Lidwells — was moved to the afternoons. I saw a huge improvement almost immediately on both projects, as I don’t need as much concentration for revision as I do for writing new prose. I may change it back once things settle down, but we shall see.
And as for the blogging and the daily words and whatnot…well, those are still floating around under the banner of ‘whenever I happen to have a few spare minutes’. Sometimes I’ll write these during those slow Day Job moments, sometimes I’ll squeeze them in just before I start my evening work. But they’re getting done regardless.
Point being, I’ve learned — remembered, really — that sometimes I have to get a little creative if I want to Write All The Things. I say ‘remember’ because this is the exact process I used during the Belfry years. Now as then, it’s a matter of committing myself to it and carving out the time. If that means sneaking in a quick 300-word blog post during office hours, I’m fine with that. That work email can wait another fifteen minutes before I get back to it. I consider this a brief and healthy mental distraction so I can get back to Day Job work with a bit more clarity.
If anything, I’m sure I’m going to need to study some basic anatomy if I’m going to try to visualize my characters like this. These images aren’t necessarily going to be in the book…they’re just reference for myself, so I can at least get the basics right.
Kaffi up above is a teenage alien tintrite (pronounced TIN-treet), one of the many different beings that live in the apartment complex that comprises the main setting for my new project. He’s kind of a dragon/lizard hybrid, long and sleek but also muscly and winged. He’s an excellent flier, but he’s also reckless. Teenage immaturity seems to be a universal constant in this world. Anyway, he’s one of two main characters, the other being his human BFF, Diwa.*
*Note – I had to do a bit of homework to get Diwa’s name right, which is a rarity for me. Diwa is mixed-race — his father is Caucasian and his mother is Filipino — and I wanted a Filipino name that was a) gender neutral, and b) kind of unique and unexpected. It means ‘spirit’ or ‘essence’. I hadn’t expected to find one that fit so nicely with the story, but I’m not complaining!
It’s mainly Kaffi and Diwa’s story (and it’s an enjoyable one about love, friendship and trust), though there are other characters who’ll pop up throughout. There are humans, mandossi (tallish sleek aliens that are built for running), hedraac (humanoid vampiric aliens), minotaur-ish beings (I haven’t got a name for them yet), and I’m sure I’ll come up with more as the story unfolds.
My idea here was that I wanted to have a world where humans coexist peacefully with all kinds of different beings, so the conflicts in the story weren’t about sentient-versus-sentient but more mundane. Teenagers trying to figure out who the hell they are and what they want to do when they grow up. Old men worried about the new generation coming in and taking over. And how much energy, creativity, and dedication it takes to keep a community active and healthy. [See, there’s a reason why I keep calling it ‘my Studio Ghibli story’!]
So yeah, you could say I’m having a fun time with this project so far! Now if I can only come up with a decent title for it…
I’ve got a busy 2018 ahead of me, that’s for sure.
A good busy, though. I’ve given myself a lot of goals to hit, and I’m sure I can hit most if not all of them. A few will be harder than others. Some will most likely roll into 2019. A majority of them will take most of the year. And I’ll be juggling it all with the Day Job, of course. But I think I can pull it off.
The trick here is to have a long-term schedule going, which I’ve been playing around with over the last few days. It’s a little like how I write novels: multiple threads going at the same time, fully aware of how to orchestrate them, put them in order, and make them flow. It’s only taken me how long to figure out that I can (and should) do this with the non-writing part of my writing career? Sheesh.
Anyway…I’ve got a novel to prep for self-publishing (Meet the Lidwells!), a new novel to start writing (untitled Apartment Complex story) and one, maybe two others to outline when I have the time. I’ll be going to three conventions, with the plan of being on a few panels and possibly a few readings. I’ll be resuming my photography for book cover and image library purposes. I desperately need to do restart the document scanning (it’s something I’ve put off for far too long). I’d like to record some more mp3 demos, maybe pull them together into full completed tracks. And most importantly, I need to move forward with the Mendaihu Press entity, using it as an umbrella for both my self-published novels and cover artwork.
This is going to be a very complex symphony to orchestrate, and I’m quite sure I’ll hit all the typical obstacles along the way, but I’m in it for the long haul and I’m too stubborn to quit easily.
This coming year is going to be one hell of a challenge for me, but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless.
It’s been an interesting year, I’ll say that much. Personally we’ve all had one hell of a bumpy ride. I’ve certainly had my highs and lows. And somehow I persevered.
Anyway, looking back over the past twelve months, I’m proud to say I went a hell of a lot further in my writing career than I ever thought I would. A project that I started in all seriousness twenty years ago was finally signed off as complete. I started not one but two completely new projects and sowed the seed for even more ideas. I kept a solid blogging schedule. I took part in panels on two different local science fiction conventions. All while still holding a Day Job.
—The Balance of Light e-book and trade release, and completing a long-term project. That was the toughest of the three to revise, so it took me most of 2016 and early 2017 to finish. Even the cover was a bear to get right. But at the same time, overcoming the hurdles I faced on this one made me an even better writer; it taught me to take all the time I needed to get it right before I released it upon the world. It was worth the wait, as that book went from the Troublemaker for a good few years to a novel I’m proud of. And added to that, it truly did feel like a weight lifted off my shoulders when I realized I did not need to work on that project any longer. I still miss it, of course, but I’m definitely glad it’s done. Most importantly, I saw a very long-standing goal to its conclusion and I couldn’t be happier.
–Daily words at 750words.com. I’ve been quite consistent with this as well, much more so than previous years. I trained myself to use this site as a place for playing around with ideas instead of trying to force myself to use prompts (suggested or otherwise). I just went with whatever popped into mind. In 2015 and 2016 I used it to write an extremely rough and incomplete draft of Meet the Lidwells, and in 2017 I used it to plot out most of the project after that. I’ve taken this month off from it for various reasons, but I’ll be picking it up again come January.
—Meet the Lidwells! This one surpassed all of my expectations, to be honest…so much so that I spent the first half of the project questioning whether or not I was doing it right! This project hit a lot of goals: writing a complete outline ahead of time, writing a shorter novel, writing a story that had a personal connection (music), and writing in a minimal amount of time. Because of this I have a minimal amount of post-writing work to do: some minor revision, shooting the cover picture, and prepping it for self-publication. Quite possibly the shortest novel project I’ve had to date.
–Untitled ‘Apartment Complex’ story. Having written out a few key scenes and plot ideas for this story using 750Words, I’m now working on the outline in the same manner that I did MtL. That way when MtL drops, I can immediately focus on writing this one. This too has goals: to see if I can pull off ‘writing econo’ again. I’m using the same process as the previous project, to the extent that I’ll play around with ideas on the project after this one for my daily words.
–Consistent blogging. I wrote two different blogs twice a week for nearly the whole year, with very few lapses. There were moments when it was tough, given that I always wanted to write something of interest and/or purpose, and did my best to avoid the fly-by entries as much as I could. I also wanted to avoid repeating myself whenever possible; I’ll totally cop to writing the same damn nostalgia piece over and over, and I’m doing my best to break out of that rut. And in the process, I’m learning how to expand my palette by expanding my interests.
–Participating in Convention Panels. This was another big one for me. I’ve gone to a number of cons over the years but always as an audience member, but never as a participant. After releasing my books I knew that this would be a great way for me to get connected to the non-writing part of the business. [Mind you, my very first panel was a reading, which went over well but I think could have been better. Once I got past that first one, the jitters were no longer there.] In 2018 I’ll be attending three more cons, and I’ve signed up as a participant at all three.
All told, I’m ecstatic with what I achieved as a writer in 2017. It was an extremely productive and fruitful beginning to my career as a professional self-publisher. There are some goals I wish I’d have hit, but I’m not going to let that bother me. I’m definitely looking forward to reaching those plus many new ones.
D’OH! I seem to have completely forgotten to write and schedule a post for today. It’s been such a weird week that it completely slipped my mind. And being that it’s (hopefully) going to be a quiet day here at the Day Job, hopefully I can take care of other things that slipped my mind and/or didn’t have time for.
Such as making some headway on the Apartment Complex story outline. I finished the initial revision run-through for Meet the Lidwells just the other day, and I’m letting it simmer for a few days before I go through it one more time…so this is the perfect time to kickstart that next project. [I do need to futz with the MtL cover some more, but I think I’ll do that on the weekend when I have more time and space to breathe. I know what I want, I’m just having a hell of a time trying not to make it look like it’s a craptacular botch job finished in five minutes on Photoshop.]
I’m hoping things quiet down on the Day Job from here on in so I can a) relax a bit, and b) sneak in some writing work if needed. Things usually do start winding down post-Thanksgiving (with one last short burst in late December), so this is when I get to unwind and not have to stress out about all that much. And I am so looking forward to that!
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my recent new projects, and how much lighter and more positive they are in terms of mood and setting. Not filled with Shiny Happy People, mind you, but neither have I filled them with Miserable Wretches. I’m quite sure this is a personal emotional and mental reaction to things going on In Real Life, but I’m fascinated by this decision nonetheless.
The Infamous War Novel was written a) when I was a moody-ass teenager and b) during the last few years of the Cold War in the 80s, so you can well imagine how much of a funfest that book would have been. Several of my trunked stories from that era and up to the late 90s were written during my high school, college and post-college years when was trying to figure out who the hell I was and what I wanted to do with my life. So a lot of Gen-X whinging going on there.
It wasn’t until the project that became the Bridgetown Trilogy that I forced myself out of that rut and made it a point not to write purely as a reaction to Real Life Stuff.
In a way, though, I haven’t really shaken that off, not completely. I know I’m not the only writer who’s done this. Put it this way: I’m nerely making it a point not to write something pessimistic or grimdark, because that’s not where I want to be right now. I want to write stories that are more positive in some way, to balance that out. Granted, I’m certainly not writing Teletubbies-level harmlessness in reactive response, either.
Meet the Lidwells was an exercise in writing something purely for the fun of it, and for someone to read for the same reason, and I think I’ve pulled it off. There are serious moments in that story, but they’re not High Drama. It’s about the evolution of a band, as well as a family, as they grow from teens to adults.
The next project — the Apartment Complex story — is along the same lines. There’s a reason I’ve been describing it as my Studio Ghibli story; the style is not just about the physical action, but also about the evolution of lives.
It’s kind of hard to describe, because it’s not exactly an American style of storytelling; it’s more inspired by Asian fiction than American. There’s a kind of poetry to this style, where your focus on the physical movement of people is just as important as the movement their internal changes — spiritual, mental and emotional. The pace of the story slows down a little, causing you to pay more attention to the details.
Will I pull this style off? That’s a good question. I’ve read so many books of this style over the last ten or so years that I think I have an understanding of how it works. I hope I pull it off, and I hope you’ll enjoy it.
Now that Meet the Lidwells is in post-production revision status, I can now finally move parts of the New Project to the front burner. Yay! I’m really looking forward to writing this one.
Which of course means switching up the tunage I’d be listening to during my writing sessions. Being the music nerd that I am, I’d been thinking about this for the last few months. What would fit the mood of this next story? It’s going to be a much lighter story, at least in terms of mood — I’ve been describing this as my Studio Ghibli-inspired project — so I don’t think the epic epicness of alt-metal or prog rock that were my stables during the trilogy would fit all that well.
No, I think this one’s going to go all the way and attract a lot of dreampop and light electronica like M83, BT, Lamb, and my latest find, The Sound of Arrows. That sort of thing. And maybe some alt-folk? We shall see. I’m keeping my eyes and ears open.
When I start a new story, I don’t really focus too much on character names right away. I’ll give them a placeholder name that I think fits at least for now. If it sticks, it sticks. If it needs changing, well… that’s what Find/Replace is for in MS Word!
I rarely assign a name based on what the name means. Instead, I go with how their name — and sometimes its spelling — resonates with the character that I’m creating. I’ll at least ensure the name fits the character’s culture, but that’s about as far as I’ll take it. The character’s name, in my opinion, should fit their family’s dynamic.
For instance, Caren Johnson from my trilogy: she has a very unexciting, stereotypical last name, as she’s supposed to come from a very blue-collar family that’s been in the police force for ages. And her first name is deliberately spelled with a C and not a K, even though her Mendaihu name starts with a K, to hint that there’s a bit of a rebel in her. She’s someone who doesn’t want to stick out, but she doesn’t exactly want to fit in, either.
Now, did I really think that at the time of creation? To be honest, no. Her name just sort of popped up when I started the book and it sounded right to me. It wasn’t until a few chapters in that I realized that the personality I imagined from the name could be imprinted on the character.
Yeah, I do tend to do a lot of things bassackwards, but hey, if it works…!
For the new project, have the names of about a dozen or so characters. All but one was created in the same way: just a name out of thin air that sounded right to me. I still do this for the same reason, actually. I usually have a basic idea of who the character is and what they’re about, so the name becomes a memetic or an anchor for the idea.
Sometimes the original name I came up with no longer fits and I have to change it. I changed five or six names in the trilogy over the course of writing it, one major change taking place well into the revision period. And that’s okay too. Sometimes the name I come up with is just a placeholder, waiting for me to figure the character out a little more before I can assign a much better fit. I’ve already decided to change the name of one of the main characters in my next project, because I’ve finally figured out his own family background. Thankfully, the only places I’ll need to change this is in my notes, as I haven’t started the first draft yet.
This process of naming characters might not be for everyone, but it seems to work well for me. I like the idea of a character’s name not always being a perfect fit; it reveals part of their personal background and fleshes it out. That background may have nothing to do with the story itself, but it certainly could help reveal why they might act as they do.