The other day I was thinking about how my list of active story and project ideas seems to fluctuate. This time last year I felt kind of frustrated and empty-headed for various personal reasons and trying to write anything felt like an absolute chore, but now I’m champing at the bit to get multiple projects up and running!
A lot of the time it can be a reflection of what’s going on with me in real life. This can be on the macro-level — such as my frustrations with the former Day Job — but it can also be on the micro-level as well, and it’s the latter I don’t often talk about. I do have days now and again where I just can’t get my shit together mentally, and working past that can be hard. Sometimes it’s because I’m heavily distracted, whether it’s by simple fun things or by lack of focus. I try to soldier on regardless, even if it feels like an uphill battle at times, but by the end of the day I might end up having completed a hell of a lot more than I expected.
The few times I’ve actually had nothing on my plate — or having cleared off a majority portion, such as when I’d finished and released the Bridgetown Trilogy — can feel a bit unnerving. With the trilogy done and away by 2017 (just in time for a twentieth anniversary of its creation), it took me a long time to get used to not having a major epic project constantly in the works. This was precisely why I chose to write multiple shorter and self-contained stories…I knew if I tried writing another large-scale project right away I would burn myself out and fail. But that initial time of a year or so, when I’d started playing around with Meet the Lidwells and In My Blue World and Diwa & Kaffi, I focused on smaller projects. I didn’t even know if I’d be able to see them through, to be honest. All I could do is just keep going, day by day. Rewire my writing brain and create new styles and processes. In the end, I was extremely proud of all three.
Right now I’m actively writing two novels in tandem*, which I know I can do, having done it with IMBW and D&K. In addition to that, I have two further book projects I want to work on that are in pre-production mode (notes and ideas, maybe a few outtakes and a mixtape, but no major writing just yet). So right now I’m in a good place — consistently busy working.
[* – These are actually temporarily on hold while I finish the D&K revision, but I’ll have them back up and running in about a month.]
Do I worry about running out of ideas (or fuel, for that matter)? Not really. I’ve worried about that before, but I’ve always bounced back eventually. Something will eventually inspire me to start something new.
It’s been what, nearly three months since I’ve posted here? I posted a fly-by over at Walk in Silence not that long ago, but other than that I’ve been keeping quiet. Continuing with the job search, keeping occupied with light projects and reading, and running errands. Staying safe.
I could say I’ve been busy planning my next project, or I could say I’ve been doing research, but I’ll be honest, I haven’t been been doing much of anything creative at all. That was kind of by design, however. I desperately needed the break.
It was probably long overdue, come to think of it. I’d been angry and exhausted for months. The successful writing processes and habits I’d set up years ago were no longer working, and the more I tried to push to make them work again, the more frustrated I became. It had ceased to be enjoyable. It was a combination of a lot of things: Day Job frustration, lack of time, lack of new ideas, lack of interest, and too much repetition.
Other than following through with the post-production of Diwa & Kaffi, I decided to stop everything temporarily. The daily words, new novel projects, the blogs, even the daily personal journal. It was time to deal with Real Life stuff: leaving the Day Job of fourteen years, searching for new employment, staying healthy and avoiding COVID-19, and flushing out some old personal demons that were still kicking around. One month off has turned into multiple months, but this decision remains a positive one. Most of the heavy stress and frustration I was feeling earlier this year is almost completely gone.
I’m returning to some of these creative habits and processes again, but I’m purposely not tying them down into daily/weekly habits. I’ve taken the focus away from completion and competition and refocused on the creativity itself, where it’s supposed to be.
So. Am I working on anything right now? As a matter of fact, I am! Over the last few weeks I’ve been doing yet another reread of the Bridgetown Trilogy, for the sole reason that I’m revisiting that world for Book 4 in the Mendaihu Universe! [There may also be a secondary reason, in which Our Intrepid Author decides that maybe the trilogy needs a new re-edit and may work on this as a long-game side project.] I’m also working on an idea to gather the flash fiction I’ve written for the College Campus/D&K universe into a self-published collection. The waystation idea I’d come up with at the beginning of the year is still gestating at this point, so I’ll most likely get to that one if and when I have the time and inclination.
Will I return to blogging? Yes! Although I’m not sure how and when. Before I left the Day Job, I’d found a workable process in which I used 750 Words to write up rough drafts for these blog entries, so I may utilize that or something similar to it when I decide to fully return. I’ve wanted to revamp both blogs for a while now, and I’d like to focus a bit on that first before anything else.
In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, and keep reading and writing!
Yesterday over at Walk in Silence I talked about using this free time I suddenly have to finally work on all those creative endeavors. You know, the “if I only had time to do (x)” things. Since that’s my music blog, I talked a bit out making more time for my guitar playing and getting better at it.
As for the writing side of things, I’ve been thinking a lot about artwork. I mean, a lot. Back in the pre-pandemic days when we went to the gym, I’d find myself listening to the same things over and over on my mp3 player, because I was working out specific scenes of my novels in my head. This is a super-old writing process that I used as a teenager, first starting out. It was how the Infamous War Novel was written.
One scene in particular that I’d work through during those gym sessions is the final scene/credits sequence of Diwa & Kaffi. The novel itself ends with the two taking off and flying towards home, with their two friends watching them, proud of what they’ve become. But there’s a bit more that follows, a purely visual segment, that’s not in the book. Set to The Sound of Arrows’ “Stay Free”, it starts with their liftoff and progresses through multiple shots of them feeling the pure joy and freedom of flying, interspersed with flashbacks and flashforwards of their lives at their apartment complex. There’s also a section of this where they fly alongside a train containing their tenants, returning back to the estate by land, showing that they are also bonded to their neighbors. [Picture credits flashing or rolling throughout, of course.]
Once I was free of the Day Job, I thought: you know, I have this film studies background that I’m not using…and I’ve been told by numerous people that I’m a very visual storyteller (“I can see this as a movie” is a common phrase — to which I secretly pump my fist, as that was my plan all along). And I also follow a lot of artists and animators on Twitter and elsewhere, so I can check out how they do their work. [Side note: Natalie Nourigat’s I Moved to Los Angeles to Work in Animation is a wonderful short graphic novel about exactly this, and I highly recommend it both for the information and the enjoyment.]
So. Why not learn how to storyboard?
I mean — why the hell not, right? I’m a visual storyteller, I have the general knowledge of film, the practice of screenwriting, and I understand how it all works as a whole. And thanks to the artists and animators I follow, I don’t feel too self-conscious that I’m not the best artist right now — it’s been repeated by many that it’s not the artistry that pushes storyboards but the way the format’s used. Knowledge of how to visualize a story well is more important than getting every sketch perfect.
I have no idea how this will pan out, but what the hell, right? It combines my love of writing and my love of drawing, and that’s certainly a start.
More on the upcoming year, in regards to writing. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about voices in my stories. It’s a tough subject to tackle, especially in a short-form blog like this, because there’s so much nuance packed in there. What kinds of voices? Whose voices? Am I talking inclusiveness of characters, or am I talking about the style of storytelling I happen to be using? Am I talking about dialogue or am I talking about language? All of the above or something else entirely?
Sometimes I feel as though I keep writing the same story over and over again, just using different backdrops. Granted, I’m reading and rereading and revising my own words over and over again for so long, to the point where it all starts to blend together and I can’t help but see all the similarities between a character in A Division of Souls and a character in Meet the Lidwells, two completely different stories with completely different settings and styles. What I have to remind myself is that I’m not hearing the different characters…I’m hearing me writing those characters.
This was one of the reasons I was thinking of taking some time off in 2019 before embarking on another novel project. I want to find a new voice within myself. I want to continue to tell my stories, but I feel like I’ve written everything I wanted to write with my current voice. And that voice has changed over the years, but my stories haven’t. It’s time to get realigned and bring that new voice to the forefront.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be working out how I’ll do this and start fresh on January 1, like I always do. I’ve already done my Year End/Year Ahead post the other day, so I can just post my whiteboard schedule plans and call that done.
This has been quite a long year, hasn’t it? So many things going on in the world. Half the time I’m trying to keep a sane distance so I can process it all clearly and intelligently, and half the time I realize I’m doing all I can to keep my head above water.
But I’ve been trying to stay positive. Even when we have people in “charge” (I say this lightly) doing all they can to obliterate the rules and exclude a portion of their constituents out of legal existence, I’ve been trying to be a positive anchor, even if it’s just for myself. Someone’s got to be.
BUT! It’s been an interesting and quite creative year here in Spare Oom. I had quite the productive 2018, which was unexpected but pleasing. I made good on my plan of releasing one e-book a year, with Meet the Lidwells! dropping in early March. I wrote and completed not one but TWO books this year (In My Blue World and the Apartment Complex project) that will be dropping in 2019. I recorded at least twenty partial demos of songs for my Drunken Owl project, and hope to work on more next year. And I made more of an effort to write more lyrics and poetry again. And I’ve been quite verbose in the personal journal this year. I stayed pretty consistent with my daily words over at 750Words. Lastly, I had quite a consistent run both here at Welcome to Bridgetown and over at Walk in Silence. So yeah, a hell of a lot of writing this year. I’m stupidly proud of myself for that.
So what’s on tap for 2019? I’ve hinted here multiple times that I’m going to make some big changes across the board, both personally and creatively. After years of having Best Laid Plans that I couldn’t always follow through with, I find that I’m now in a good place to make a lot of them finally happen. A few personal events helped force me to look at them in a different, more serious and better planned light. Will they fall through or will they come to fruition? Who knows, but I can only hope it’s the latter. I’m already taking steps to ensure they work. Let’s just say that when they come to fruition, I will update accordingly, heh.
Overall, 2018 has been one hell of a roller coaster and I’m glad it’s winding down (sort of). Here’s to hoping 2019 provides a little more sanity!
I’ve been thinking a lot about my creative outlets. I know, I know…in previous posts I’ve talked a lot about wanting to play more guitar, write more songs, make more art, but it was always in the context of trying to squeeze it in when and where I could, while also working on my writing.
Lately, however, I’ve been thinking about focusing on these outlets instead of always putting the novels first. Perhaps instead of trying to brainstorm the next project, it’s time for me to give these two other outlets some serious stage time. I’ve been recording more than a few song ideas and demos on my phone over the last few months (using the Hi-Q mp3 recorder app) and I think I can work with some of them. I’ve long been tempted to find decent (and not expensive) multi-track software and do a bit of experimenting, so perhaps it’s time.
As for art…? Good question. I have a few art notebooks, pens and pencils that are collecting dust as I haven’t used them in a while. That’s gotta change as well. I’m much more on an amateur level here, so this would be mostly for personal enjoyment than anything else, at least for now. But yeah — I miss the enjoyment of drawing, even if it’s drawing my imaginary maps. It’s a peaceful outlet that chases away everyday stress and makes me look at the world from different angles. And I’ve always wanted to try new styles; I think I’ve burned myself out on drawing my Murph caricatures. I’ve also been told (very often, actually) that my storytelling style is extremely visual, so perhaps trying my hand at visual storytelling might be something to look into.
I suppose these thoughts have been brought on by my recent decision to make a lot of personal changes in my life. I’m not chasing away my novel writing, I’m just pulling it from center stage for a bit so the other outlets can have a chance to shine. I’ve already proven to myself that I can write novels; I want to prove to myself that I can play music and create artwork as well.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.