Hello, it’s me.

Hello, it’s me. I know it’s been a while. It feels like years, even though it’s only been a few months. How the world has changed in the three months since my last post.

I should start by saying I didn’t stop blogging because of the soft apocalypse. To be honest, in a lot of ways nothing has changed much in my life because of the lockdown. I worked from home before, I work from home now. I didn’t have a significant out of the house social life before, and that has remained status quo. With only sporadic outings for undeliverables, what I miss most is the freedom to run out and get something. Not enough to risk a contagion, but that’s what I miss.

So why the silent treatment? Well, and if you follow me on twitter (and you probably should, it’s the one platform I’m active on still), this is not surprising news. A few weeks ago, I finished the first draft of The King’s Lament. There is a lot of work to do on it still, starting with rewriting the first six scenes for POV corrections, plus all of the revising and massaging I think the story needs, but I am fairly satisfied with the rough draft. I finished around 60k, which is a meaningless number for now. I know there are scenes and chapters I may yet add, and for every had and still and that I remove, there will be plenty of text stirred in.

I was silent on the blog because I have a bad track record of talking up a story when I’m working on it, then never finishing. I wanted to avoid that this time, so instead I wrote the story first. Novel, I know.

Long time readers – and this takes little effort given how sporadic my posts have been – may recognize the working title. This is actually a book I tried to start writing last Spring before my life was turned upside down. I’ve still not quite recovered if I’m honest. The coming week is the anniversary of my father passing, followed a few days later by my mom. I’m in my mid 40’s, and I won’t lie, I’m still shaken up when I say that. I guess you’re never too old to tremble at the realization your parents have passed.

So there we are. A blog post, to remind the spammers where I am, and an explanation of my absence, which is namely to say “writing.” And sure, I could have blogged about other things besides writing since February, but let’s face it, I can’t keep a secret for more than a few days. Ask my wife.

And since it was the song that came to mind when I started writing this blog post:

Outlining progress in a novel

Outlining. It’s something I know would help me, but I always run into a cognitive blockade translating the vision in my head into something sensible. In my head? It’s a three dimensional tapestry of interlocking pieces that converge to tell a story. On paper? It’s a mishmash of words that are fairly incoherent, volatile, and likely to be incomplete and therefore abandoned early.

“It’s all right,” I always tell myself. “I’ll fix the outline later. For now, let’s just get some writing done!” And I do. Often times a solid 30,000+ words. The problem is that although I bristle at the thought of following a guideline – who am I to tell me what to write?!? – the resulting story is often far more coherent in the parts where I did sit down ahead of time and map something out.

The problem that has always plagued me, I think, is the thought that it has to be a written outline. Bear with me on this one.

I was watching a Brandon Sanderson video on plotting the other day and in a not quite roundabout way, it led me to drawing out a map of the WIP I want to be working on (but refuse to put any solid words towards until there is an outline).

A funny thing happened. As I drew out the map, marking points where things needed to happen in the story, even where they should happen, I found myself doing more. Part worldbuilding, part storybuilding, I began making notes of things that had to happen here*, before this* or that*. And that’s when I realized, as I was drawing this map to frame the progress of the story with, I was also drawing an outline.

I still have a ways to go. Right now I have these pages in a small Field Notes notebook, and some poor attempts at digitizing the maps I’ve created. (Side note: it doesn’t seem like the same creative neurons are triggered drawing with a mouse on screen as with a pen and paper. Some are fired, but not the same ones.) But it’s progress on an outline, and I’ll take it.

Of course, that said, I’m getting antsy. There is only so much thinking I can do about a story before I need to dig in and start writing. I began this blog post a week ago. I’ve done little to alter the map since then, an indicator (to me) that the next creative step is to actually start putting words down. I’ve a rough outline, grounded with the map. I expect I will stray from the outline at times, but with the map in hand I hope to remain consistent no matter what.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. Although my blog is setup to post across multiple platforms, I don’t actually go to Facebook more than once a month or so, Tumblr even less so. Thanks for visiting!

NaNoWriMo 2019: Done

There were moments I wasn’t certain it would happen. After being sick three days, and having a day or two of subpar numbers, I knew it was going to be close, and I certainly didn’t think I’d finish any sooner than today.

As it turned out, I finished yesterday – at least with the part of the writing governed by “write 50,000 words in November.” The story itself is still unfolding on the page, and I’d estimate there’s at least another 10-20k words before this draft is done.

What carried me to this finish line yesterday was some Herculean writing and a persistent but awesome kid.

I started the day yesterday knowing I’d have to write 2,000 words yesterday and today to finish in time. And so, yesterday morning, I sat down and wrote and wrote, and then wrote some more, until I hat that 2k mark. With a big sigh of relief, I declared myself done for the day.

And then my youngest, who I guess isn’t so young now at 13, reminded me that I had promised to go to a coffee shop with them and write while they worked on some sketches. The promise had been made months before I even considered doing NaNo, but somehow kept getting pushed off. Which meant I knew better than to put it off any longer.

So, grabbing my laptop and kindle (just in case), we packed up, ran an errand, and then drove over to Papacinno’s, not too far from the house. Fresh coffee in hand, classic coffee shop ambiance in place, we sat down and I let the demon’s loose again. And boy, were they wild and rampant! Even with breaks for finger cramps and chit-chat, by the time I left I had done it. I had written the other half of the 4k needed to close the gap and call NaNo done.

That doesn’t mean I’ve taken a break from writing, though. I’ve already sat down today and jotted down the next 500 words in the story. My new goal is to write 500-750 words a day (500 is my base goal, 750 is my ideal, but my base is fine too). It’s not an incredible lightning pace, I know, but I was inspired by this article on Tobias Buckell’s blog. Looking over my own graphs of words produced, I see a definite zig zag in productivity, with my biggest dips usually following my greater peaks this month. We’ll see how it goes.

What’s the future of this NaNo piece, currently titled just Titan? Well, we’ll see where that goes and how it ends.