Okay, now what?

addams-bored
Hmmm….

I’ve got seven chapters left before I’m done with the final edit of The Balance of Light.  Once that’s done, it’ll be a week or two of formatting, processing, creating the cover, and releasing it out into the world.  It’s looking like that may end up being the first or second week of February at this point.

And then I’m done with the Bridgetown Trilogy.

Then what?

I mean, aside from my next project, Meet the Lidwells!, which I’ve been sneakily working on now and again during downtime.

Nearly everything I’ve ever worked on is more than five years old already; the Bridgetown story will officially turn twenty (!!) in March.  My trunked vampire novel, Love Like Blood, was brainstormed around 2003, written over the course of four years, and finally trunked by 2008.  Numerous other ideas, many of which I’ve also trunked or given up on, were created at our old apartment, which we moved out of in 2009.  I’ve been focusing so much on the trilogy that I’ve only got maybe two or three solid ideas I could work on — if that.

So what do I have planned, anyway?

Well, the biggest plan I have is to try to see how quickly I can turn a project around. I know I can do it — I’ve written and revised past works in a very limited amount of time.  I can definitely work to a deadline.

I also want to try writing something that’s not epic in length.  Lidwells is partly an attempt at that.  I’d like to write some standalone novels.  Not everyone loves a good doorstopper novel, so I’d like to appeal to the quick-reader fans as well.  This will not only teach me how to narrow my focus on the plot, it’ll also be a great exercise in concise writing.

I may even try a short story or two.  Technically I’ve written only one, and it’s pretty bad.  It was my ‘just to see if I could do it’ attempt during a very slow and broke-as-hell summer over twenty years ago.

But do I have any ideas rolling around right now?

That’s a good question.  Technically, no.  I only have the Lidwells project, maybe a reboot of Can’t Find My Way Home…and that’s it.  As I’ve said, this is why I’m making myself do the daily practice words.  I’ve already come up with snippets of scenes, snatches of bigger ideas, and random conversation that may be worth looking into later on.

It’s a bit daunting, to say the least.  Yeah, my subconscious occasionally pops in and reminds me that the only thing I can ever write in this lifetime is more Mendaihu Universe tomes, and if I don’t write them, I won’t have anything at all.  And that voice I usually ignore.  I’ve been in this Clean Slate situation before.  It’s completely natural to be nervous.

But hell, if Lidwells can pop up out of nowhere and take on a life of its own, I’m sure I can make that happen again.

Here’s to hoping.

Bring it on.

img_-hlzvdr
Writing whiteboard, 2017 edition

Here we are, second day of 2017.  The writing whiteboard has been updated, the blogs have been updated, plans have been made.  Sure, January 1 is an arbitrary First Day of the Year, but that hasn’t ever stopped me from the ritual of taking stock of the past and making plans for the future.

So I say this:  Bring it on, 2017.  I’ve got plans for you.

As you can see above, I’ve reinstated the daily 750 Words to the whiteboard.  I’ve also added a second day for ‘art’ — which is actually a catch-all for multiple platforms, including photography, drawing, and more.  The blog schedule remains the same, as it’s been working quite well.

But I also have plans that aren’t on that whiteboard.  Longer-term plans that are currently in my head, waiting to be sketched out on my normal calendar (this year’s selection is lovely paintings my Hokusai).  The release of The Balance of Light, the scheduling of new writing projects, the planning of future ones.

Will this work, in reality?  Well, I have to make it work.  Sure, I’ll be juggling all this with the Day Job and IRL stuff, but I’ve done it before.  I kind of let most of this get away from me near the end of 2016, though for an honorable reason: I had to do some serious longhand surgery on TBoL before I could attack it digitally.  And once that’s taken care of (current deadline: end of this month), I’ll have a lot more time to work with.

I’m also in a good frame of mind to be able to focus on these goals with little distraction.  That was a long time coming, with a lot of false starts and frustration, but I believe I can even further this year.  I’ve got a lot more clarity and focus this time out.  And as mentioned previously, I’ll be attacking the business end of my writing career with gusto this year as well.  It’ll be tough, but I’ll do the best I can.

I plan to be busy, in a good way.  And I’m looking forward to it.

Wait, it’s the 23rd already?

doctor-who-hold-on

This is what happens when I’m trying to balance a superbusy Day Job (woohoo yay Q4…), editing a mammoth book, bingewatching the Great British Bake Off with A., and other life stuff.  The last thing on my mind is usually what day it actually is.

My week has been filled with numerous small Day Job queries that definitely pile up and get really irritating after a short time, as well as a computer refresh, which for the most part only took about an hour, but I spent the rest of the day fending of more small queries while trying to get said new computer’s software correctly set up.  [Noted, a lot of these queries are what you would expect at the end of Q4…lots of “I need this yesterday btw on vacation until 1/4 kthxbye”, lots of “OMGWTFBBQ I need this delivered on Monday but the file isn’t here yet what do I do O NOES” and so on.  Your bad planning is not necessarily my problem, folks.]  The good thing is that the last week of the year is often the slowest for us, so that’ll give me time to finish things up and maybe have some time to breathe and more things sorted out.

ANYWAY.

What about the writing stuff, you ask?  Well, yes, I am still plugging along with the edit of Book 3.  I’m closing in on the halfway point, so despite my feeling that THIS IS TAKING FOREVER, I’m actually making good time.  I’m still on schedule for a January release.  Yay!  Then we’ll have a few other Mendaihu Universe-related surprises coming in the spring of 2017, and then we’ll see where we go from there.

So now what?  What am I going to do on this upcoming last week of the year?   That’s a good question.  I’ve already written my wistful Year End/Year to Come post earlier this week, so I don’t need to do one of those.  We shall see!

Until then, hope everyone has a lovely Christmas weekend!

Year in Review, Year to Come

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Two down, one to go.  What next?

It’s been quite a busy year here in Spare Oom.

Most of the time was spent focusing on releasing the first edition of The Persistence of Memories as well as cleaning up and releasing the next edition of A Division of Souls.  And once those were taken care of, I focused solely on the Big Galley Edit of The Balance of Light.  As of today I am about one third of the way through transcribing my manual edits to the digital document, which will then be formatted to both e-book and trade paperback.

[Side note: I’m worried that TBoL is still going to be quite a long book, so while it’s going to remain a single e-book, I may have to split it up into two trades just to keep the price and size down.  More on that when I get closer to finishing this portion of the project.]

The Persistence of Memories had an official drop date of 15 April of this year, about six months after the first book.  I haven’t nailed down a specific release date for The Balance of Light yet, but again, the closer we get to the end of this edit, quicker I’ll be able to do so.

All that said, I had to make do without a few other projects in the interim.  I put aside any actual work on future Mendaihu Universe books until this one was finished.  I also put aside any non-MU ideas that have been brewing; I haven’t trunked them, they’re just on hiatus.  In addition to that, I’d also put a temporary stop on my Daily 750 Words exercises.  I wanted to clear my desk and get rid of any extraneous assignments and deadlines so I could focus completely on finishing the Bridgetown Trilogy.

The unprecedented decision, however, was to stop writing poetry.  I’d come to the realization that it had stopped being something useful to me some time ago.  I’d used poetry as a personal experiment for a good few decades: a creative release for my personal dreams, irritations, ponderings, or whatever.  But it hadn’t been that for at least two or three years; it has become less of an outlet and more of a chore, and thus less enjoyable.  So I wrote one last long poem, closed that composition notebook, and filed it away.  I haven’t written one since.  Will I ever pick it up again?  Who knows.  Maybe, but I think I’d need to put some real thought and dedication into that form and do it right this time, instead of the way I used to write it.

*

So.  What’s up for 2017, then?

Aside from releasing The Balance of Light sometime in the early months, who knows.  It’ll be the first time in decades where the Mendaihu Universe (and in particular, these three books) won’t be weighing down on me.  The slate will be fully clean.  For the first time in a LONG time, I’ll be able to fully focus on a completely new project.

I’ll be able to start in on one or more of those Possible Ideas I have on hiatus.  A few more stories in the Mendaihu Universe, for starters.  I don’t have any concrete plans at the moment, where New Projects are concerned, but once I’m ready, I’ll be planning like a fiend.

I would also like to return to the Daily 750 exercise again.  Over the past couple of years it has been a great Word Playground for me, and at least three possible future novel project ideas have come out of it.  And of course, I’d like to return to a stable blogging schedule.  Those things go out the window for everyone at the end of the year, so I’m not beating myself up too much over them not being timely.  Come next year, however, I’m going to make the best effort to stick to it.

I’d also like to practice more on my book cover artwork.  As I keep saying, doing the covers for my Trilogy was an unexpected joy for me, to the point that I could see myself doing cover art as a possible career step.

I do have some Big Plans regarding the business side of my writing career.  In the next year I’ll be making some very big, very important steps towards raising the bar.  [Yes, I know, that’s a business-speak phrase and I can’t stand that kind of talk, but it fits the situation.]  I don’t want to share them just yet, but I’ve been thinking about them and planning them in my head for at least a few years now.  I’d promised myself that 2017 would be the year they will become a reality.  I’ve started giving myself a soft schedule to work with, and will soon be spending some offline time making this business plan work.

And yes, as soon as I’m ready to release these Big Plans upon the world, I’ll let you know!

*

All told, I think 2016 has been a stellar year for me, creatively.  One of the best I’ve ever had.  That’s not to say I wish I’d spent more time and dedication learning how to best sell my creative wares online and make money off it, but I’ve certainly reached goals that have been on my bucket list since I was at least ten years old.  I’ve rarely looked at my sales numbers, but I’m not taking them too seriously for the moment.  I scored a good number of downloads of both books during a month-long sale on Smashwords — a LOT more than I expected to get, to be honest — and while I earned no money, the fact that I did get that many hits meant quite a bit to me.  It meant that I was doing something right.  It meant I was closer to my goals as a professional author than I’d expected.  I now know where I stand, what direction I should head in, and what to expect when I get there.

Which means that 2017 will be the year I step up my game and start making money off of the Dream Job I’ve always wanted since I was a kid.

I’m looking forward to it.

Editing Complete!

tbol-last-page
(SPOILERS) The last page of the third book in the trilogy.

Oof.  Note to self: as much as I’m happy that I’ve FINALLY finished galley editing The Balance of Light, in hindsight I probably should not have stormed through the last six (albeit short) chapters in one marathon session last night.  I climbed into bed and passed out around 11 last night.  Exhausted, but happy.

That said…one MAJOR hurdle has finally been overcome!  TBoL was a beast in need of taming, and over the last few months I did my best to do exactly that.  Most of the prose that got the axe contained a lot of chaff to begin with — a lot of lengthy phrases that were culled down to much shorter sentences, a lot of visual cues that were cut, a lot of filler words that weren’t needed.  As this edit took place purely on paper, I have no idea how many words I cut, but I’m sure I cut a lot of them.

So what’s next?

Well, next is the physical printing of The Persistence of Memories.  I have a galley copy here that’s been marked up and everything, I just need to clean up the e-book and prepare the physical copy for release.

Then, one more time with TBoL: create the e-book and physical copy for release.

And that’s it?  No more work on the Bridgetown Trilogy?  I can put it to bed?

Well, not quite.  I have something special that I’d like to prepare for a March 2017 release; something to celebrate it being twenty long years since that first writing session that started it all.  A special e-book release, maybe with some fun extras?  And maybe shiny collector’s edition versions of the physical releases with extra stuff?  Who knows.  But it’s gonna be fun!

And then I’ll have to think of what to work on next!

Who Are You

One of the many preparatory steps I’m taking for the upcoming New Project (Nothing to Do with the Trilogy, Honest) is thinking about new characters.  Of the two projects I have on deck, I’ve decided that I’d like to know more about the characters ahead of time, before I get any actual writing done.

I’ve done this before with the trilogy, but for the most part they were in my head.  Considering I pretty much knew a lot about them by the time I wrote the three books, I could get away with that.  However, these new projects are different.  I’d rather not wing it this time.  [I mean, I can if I have to…but I’d rather not.]

In this instance I’ll be creating character sheets.  Nothing too detailed or intensive, just enough for me to use as reference.  I’ve seen many webcomic artists do this; they’ll have an image folder or scrapbook that will have the basic character designs, but will also include fashion photograhy and color palettes (personal styles), celebrity casting (what they look like, facial expressions, different angles, etc), unique physical attributes (hair, piercings, etc), and so on.  I did something similar to this for some of my trilogy characters, adding things like their birthdays, current addresses, and so on.  I rarely had to pull them out for reference, but they were good to have on hand just in case I’d erred in description somewhere.

I also usually add a map or two as well.  I drew a basic layout of Bridgetown early on for reference and it came in quite handy multiple times.  I will most likely do the same for one of the two upcoming projects.

It does sound like I’m purposely limiting the amount of pre-work I do.  It’s true, I don’t like to give my outlines all that much detail, at least not on a long-term basis.  Just enough so I know what to write within the next three or four chapters and a vague idea of the direction of the novel as a whole.  The same goes with the characters; the most I’ll do is create a character sheet that will remind me of the basics so I can remain consistent.  Essentially, something I can anchor the character to.

There are numerous books and articles out there suggesting how to create characters with depth, and I’ve read many of them.  They all have great ideas that will help you create a better novel.  I’ve always tended to uses these suggestions as a baseline rather than concrete directions, and that’s worked just fine.  There’s no right way to do it other than whatever works for you.

Things and Stuff

sweeping

I seem to be in one of those moods again.  You know the ones: where suddenly feel the need to change everything up, try something new (or bring back something old after I’ve freshened it up a bit).  I think it’s because I’m on the back end of the Colossally Long and Really This Shouldn’t Have Taken This Damn Long project of releasing the Bridgetown trilogy.  I’m definitely seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and it looks quite sunny out there.

Which reminds me — the layout of this blog is rather dark, isn’t it?  I mean, I like the look of it myself, but I feel the color scheme is starting to outgrow its usefulness.  Book 3 is starting to kick up dust on the horizon on its way towards release (still looks like it’s going to be either very late this year, or possibly early next year, by the way things are going), and it’s got a much brighter outlook.

I’m thinking that in the next few weeks, I may change up the site here, make it a bit more warm and inviting.  I’ve got the next few weekends wide open, so maybe some Sunday I’ll pop in and open up the shades!

*

scully

I read a lot of webcomics first thing in the morning while having my breakfast and booting up the Day Job laptop, and I’ve noticed a very weird trend.  In particular, it’s a trend dealing with the balance between the creator’s vision versus reader expectation.  I first noticed this during my weekly reading of the Naruto manga series as it was being uploaded to various comic sites, in which a certain subset of fans were getting increasingly upset that the creator, Masashi Kishimoto, was driving the plot where they didn’t want it to go.  A few fans ragequitting the series towards the end (which was nearing 700 chapters by that time!) in protest.  Others going on lengthy Tumblr diatribes as to why Kishimoto was flat-out WRONG for writing his story the way he did.*

Fast-forward to the other day, when two webcomic artists, Mildred Louis (Agents of the Realm, a wonderful take on the magical girl trope) and Pascalle Lepas (Wilde Life, an incredibly inventive supernatural/horror story) both started tweeting about readers who have recently contacted them, either through DM, site comment or email, letting them know how much they like their work…except that if you fixed X, Y and Z, and did A, B and C instead, it would be so much better.**

Dude.  Really?

I could never quite understand why some fans would do that, especially to creators who are releasing their work on their own and not through any publisher or production company. Would you contact your favorite band’s lead singer on Twitter or Facebook to say you loved the new album but Track 6 sucks ass because it’s a bit too long and someone hit a bum note?

Why would you cross the line from appreciative fan to self-appointed Subject Matter Expert on someone else’s creation?  Why would you want to?  There’s obsession (like my discography completism, for instance) and then there’s obsession (NO NO! You can’t write *my* babies into a corner like that!!), and the second kind is really kind of creepy.

I’ve seen writers get this a lot too.  I’ve gotten it a few times.  Well-meant criticism, but really…it’s our creation, not yours.  We’re trying to tell you a story we think you’d enjoy.  You’re like Vern from Stand By Me, continually interrupting Gordie’s story about Lard-Ass Hogan and just pissing everyone else off.

Constructive criticism isn’t always about saying ‘you did X, Y and Z wrong; here’s how to do it better.’  It’s definitely not about saying ‘this wasn’t written the way I wanted it to be written, therefore it’s wrong.’  And despite your apparent knowledge about what makes a good story, you’re forgetting the most important part: you’re speaking from opinion, not experience.  Your criticism isn’t helpful; it’s coming across as pedantic and selfish.

If you’re a professional editor at one of the major publishing houses?  If you’re a pro artist who’s worked on your craft for years?  Sure, that’s different.  We all like hearing from the pros on what we can do to make our creation that much better.  But if you’re just a Fan With A Very Important Opinion, not so much.

I know, I know…touchy subject.  Just something I had to get off my chest.

* – Never mind that Naruto is, obviously, a Japanese story on numerous levels, and so the storytelling, as well as the character development, is going to be quite different from expected American storytelling norms.  This seemed to be the one major point that the most vocal of this subset would often forget or ignore in their arguments.

** – I’m well aware that this could be mansplaining.  Louis and Lepas didn’t explicitly state that’s what it was, so I’m not going down that route here, but it would not surprise me if that was part of it.  And yes, I have seen it thrown at both male and female creators.  Still, if it was mansplaining, that’s not cool either.  It’s not well-meant criticism.  You’re just being a douche.

*

kermit typing

WHAT IS MY NEXT WRITING PROJECT?  I can year y’all asking me that through the intertubes (mainly because you’re about as sick as I am with me blathering on about the damn trilogy).  I’ve got it narrowed down to three projects:  another novel in the Mendaihu Universe, the time-travel idea I’ve had for some time, or the music-related novel I outlined a short time ago using my daily words.  Each of them has merit, and I’m pretty sure the latter two will have a much quicker turnaround than the first one, so it’s still up in the air.

I’ll be making a decision quite soon, so as soon as I’ve made the decision, I’ll let you know.  One of them may actually involve some reader participation of some kind, and I’m really looking forward to trying to get that to work.  We shall see!

Until then, hope everyone has a gook weekend!

I’m not sure what to write next.

portlandia
courtesy Portlandia

Yes, I’ve blogged about this before.  I have a bunch of ‘maybe’ projects simmering on the back burner, waiting to be picked up and worked on, or trunked and forgotten.  It’s not going to take center stage until I finish and release The Balance of Light, so it’s going to be a while, but that doesn’t mean I can’t start with the pre-production.  I can certainly start playing around with outlines, character sheets, timelines and whatnot.  Just that the bulk of the project won’t begin until at least sometime this autumn.

But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the process of starting a new project.  As I’ve said before, it’s been so long since I’ve come up with a completely new idea that sometimes I wonder if I’ve forgotten how to do it.  [I don’t always think this, though…one of the ‘maybes’ came out of nowhere during my 750 Words exercises, so I know I can do it.]

I know I sometimes overthink this part of the process; it’s the most stereotypical of writer’s blocks: what should I write?  We focus too much on wanting/needing to start something.  It’s like when you need to start that term paper for English class, but you have no idea what to write about…and that’s when you start stressing, because you’re focusing too much on getting it done before deadline and not enough on the writing itself.

I try to keep my mind open when new ideas come to me; more to the point, I try not to rely mainly on chance and random inspiration, because that almost never works.  The trick is to sow some kind of seed of an idea and work with it for a bit, see if you can make something out of it.  I tend to be a pantser in terms of writing, so what I consider my best ideas usually come from something only distantly related to it: one of the ‘maybes’ I have on tap came to me out of someone else mentioning the Osmonds in passing on their blog.  Out of that came the idea of writing a fictional music biography.

I have an idea jar here in Spare Oom, a long narrow glass jar with a plastic stopper that I bought for a dollar-something at the kitchenware store up the street.  I haven’t used it in some time, but there’s a few years’ worth of scrap paper in there of passing ideas.  Thoughts that came to mind that I didn’t have time to follow up on.  Just images, scenes, or characters that popped into my head while I was doing something else.  I haven’t even looked at these notes for some time, so now I’m curious as to what’s listed.  I used a few of them for my daily practice words a year or so ago.  Perhaps it’s time to do that again.

I’m not sure what I’m going to write after the Bridgetown Trilogy is done, but at least I’m going to be somewhat prepared.

On Writing: Who Am I Writing For?

gromit

I’ll admit, that’s not a question I often thought about when I first started writing, because the answer was most likely going to be: well, ME, of course.  What a silly question!

I’ve tried in the past to write for a specific audience, and it never quite panned out the way I wanted it to.  Love Like Blood was me trying to write to the urban fantasy crowd.  Two Thousand was me trying to write for the litfic crowd.  True Faith was me trying to write for the sf/virtual reality crowd of the mid 90s.  All three projects have since been trunked, as I found them to be some of my worst work.  Paved with good intentions, but let’s face it: I was pandering.  I was trying to write for an easy buck.

Recently I’ve been thinking about who I’m writing for, and each time, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m still writing for who I want to write for:  just your regular blue-collar joe who likes to read.  Yes, I’m still writing for me, but I’ve noticed the biggest response I get from readers is not always the avid science fiction/fantasy reader, but those I know who like to read a little (or a lot) of everything.  Someone who might read the latest George RR Martin but follow it up with, say, a history of 60s counterculture.  Or maybe not even that: someone who just likes reading what they like reading, and don’t necessarily fit into the definition of ‘avid fan’.

That’s not to say I find avid genre fans beneath my stature, far from it.  I just know that I’m not a hard sf writer or a military sf writer or even a high fantasy writer.  I just write what comes to mind, and I try to fill my created worlds with people and ideas that my readers will connect with.

The Mendaihu Universe might be chock full of spirituality, but I try not to write religious/spiritual fiction, which is its own genre.  The characters in this universe of mine have the same issues as readers: frustration, fear, indecision, confusion, irritation.  I put the characters into an everyday situation that just happens to have a supernatual/spiritual setting.  And for the most part, I think I pull it off, because nearly all my readers so far have commented on that as a definite plus to the worldbuilding.

I’ve been thinking about this in part because I’ve been trying to figure out how to sell my trilogy now that two-thirds of it is already out there.  It’s one thing to self-publish and release it, but it’s quite another to get it out there and advertise it.  As much as I dislike sales, I do need to think about who my target audience would be.  I know, I should probably think of this WHILE I’m writing the stories, but that can’t always happen.  Again: if I write to order, I write horribly.   I can only write what I know I can write.

But what about my other projects?  The non-MU stories?  Who am I writing for then?  I probably won’t know until the project starts.  I have some non-genre stories in mind that could easily be quirky litfic.  I have some genre stories that would fit nicely in the urban fantasy mold.

For me, I guess the only way I’ll know is when I start writing the damned things!

Feeling Twitchy

The problem with going through a major editing/revision/release process is that it eats up quite a lot of time I set aside for my writing.  It leaves precious little time for any new work unless I sneak some time in during the day.  [Which I’m doing right now…this post is being written in the slow moments of my Day Job.]

This makes me twitchy.  I want to write something new, but deadlines loom.  I don’t mind the editing/revising part of the job, but the longer it takes, the more I have that itch to pick up a notebook and start working on a new project.  Not out of avoiding the revision process, but that I start feeling rusty.  I feel the need to write new words somewhere, anywhere.  My personal journal entries (which I write during my midmorning break) are getting more verbose, and I’ve been blogging like a fiend lately.  My brain is clogged with Future Plans for When I’m Caught Up.  I’ve got ideas for the Inktober art meme.  I have a few stories simmering and a new MU story in stasis.

I believe it’s time for me to get creative with my writing time again.

So many words, so little time!