Archive for the ‘Progress’ Category

PBWQ14 Week Three Update

Friday, October 24th, 2014

I'm not going to lie, I'm nervous. I'm nowhere near as far along as I'd hoped to be by October 24. I have no idea where this last week went (though, to be fair, I know that some of it definitely went here). I have three things today: a progress report, an explanation, and a soliloquy of sorts.

Progress Report

Things came together a week ago, in a big way, for the over-arching story. It wasn't until a couple days ago, that I finally zeroed in on what I'm supposed to be doing right now: planning the immediate outline/synopsis for book one. It's picking up speed a bit, but where I am now is where I should have been last Friday.

An Explanation

I was looking through old blog posts here, specifically in the Progress category, trying to remember which book I was working on each NaNoWriMo season. My first one was in 2009 (which I've won) and I've tried (and died) every year since then.

Anyway, what struck me was how cryptic my posts were. I seemed to go waaaaay out of my way to actually talk about what I was working on. There are reasons, I suppose: spoilers, protecting my intellectual property, general embarrassment. But as a historical archive, they suck. So I'm going to fix that.

I still won't post spoilers. But I really don't care about my IP being stolen because: 1) nobody visits the blog and 2) there's nothing worth stealing anyway. And being embarrassed from time to time is just part of life. I'd rather share too much and have something enjoyable to look back on in the future than end up with more of what I've done so far.

So, here it is in plain language. My current project is part of something I'm (for now) calling The Underhaven Trilogy. The first book is called Elsewhither (yes, the same name as this here blog.)

It's 1864. The story begins in London. It's about a twelve-year old girl who, until recently, lived in a wonderful orphanage. The home lost its sole benefactor and consequently she's been turned out onto the streets. She runs into an old blind woman in a horse-drawn carriage who takes her in. The carriage pulls away and the two begin to talk. Upon arriving at the old woman's estate, the girl is chased off as "riff raff." In spite of the old woman's objections, servants send dogs after the girl. She spies an odd shack while running and makes for it. The shack contains what looks like a manhole cover. She heads below for safety. While below, she realizes that she may have stumbled into an opportunity to find buried treasure: treasure that could be used to restore her home. She moves forward and eventually encounters an ancient subterranean world where all sorts of adventures await. Does she ever find her treasure? How should I know! I haven't written the stupid book yet.

A Soliloquy

I've made it no secret that I've been at this (not this particular story but "this" in general) for over two decades and I have yet to accomplish anything. Sure, I spat out several "how to" books on video editing. I wrote that diet book. I've authored hundreds of blog posts (a fair number of them pretty good, if I do say so myself). I've released three major versions of my pet project Timekeeper. I've written some music. I've drawn a few pictures. I've carved a lot of pumpkins. But I still have yet to write that Mediocre American Novel.

I'm not sure why I'm still at it either. Part of it is momentum. I've spent (literally) thousands of hours on backstory, world-building, invented languages, research and development, and so on. Apart from The Underhaven Trilogy, I have Tenner Heed, Winter's Gate, and Ronald all in various stages of development.

It's not like the world NEEDS another book. In fact, I'm pretty sure we've crossed the point where, for the first time in history, there are now more people writing books than reading them. Plus, I still have my music and art interests waiting for attention. So why do I keep clinging to this notion that I've got some sort of story in my head that I need to put onto paper when all the evidence? Why do I keep at this?

The answer is simple. In fact, it's so simple, that it's only one word: because.

Okay, that's a bit too simple. Here's more words: because it's me. It's just what I do. Some people are compelled to photograph everything, others to weave baskets, others to plant trees, and still others to make peanut butter (for which I'm forever grateful). I firmly believe we don't get a say in this. The one hundred billion cells that make up your organic central processing unit make that call for you. There's a layer of consciousness in there which is aware of the decisions they're making, but that's about as far as our control goes.

I don't consciously decide that I love peanut butter and hate mushrooms. I don't sit down with a spreadsheet and think, "Hmmm, now let's list all the pros and cons of something, assign a score and weight to each attribute, then exclaim: It's official! I'm not a fan of The Godfather. Whew, glad I finally got THAT worked out." There's no logic or active thought process that says, "I like onions. I hate spiders. I love beer. I can't stand the color yellow." These things just is.

And so too with this writing thing. It just is. It's not whether or not the world needs another book. Or if I'm trying to cross something off some stupid bucket list. Or just spending a bit of free time noodling around with a hobby. Nope, my brain is wired in such a way that I always have to be producing something. I'm not happy if I'm not producing. I possess a modicum of talent in a few creative areas and if I'm not spitting something out, then I actually experience something approaching internal torment. So sure, it'd be nice to finish a novel someday. (Heck, I'll start with just one.) And it'd be nice if someone bought it. And even more nice if someone enjoyed it. But in the end, it's really just about me. And my sanity.

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PBWQ14 Week Two Update

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

I know it's only been three days since the Week One update. However, that update was late and Week Two officially ends tomorrow, October 17. Sure, I could wait until after tomorrow to post an update, but there's no point because I've already peaked. And I mean that in a good way.

So here's the scoop. I'm still working on the long timeline. This timeline includes key dates (years, actually) for both the backstory leading up to the main stories as well as key milestones within the stories themselves. The timeline begins at a point 120 million years ago. Yeah, yeah. This is pretty far back for a three-volume story that begins in 1864. But it's important to me.

Now, I'm not sure which definition of "it's important to me" I should use here. There are two:

1. Exploring the geography and geology all the way back to its (relevant) inception provides the author with key details and clues that will ultimately shape the story and improve it in ways that couldn't be accomplished by just "winging it."

2. I have to touch the light switch seven times with my right hand and five times with my left hand before entering a room.

History will be the judge.

Anyway, back to today's breakthrough. I got to a point in the timeline (specifically, 6,200 years BCE) where three different things all came together. And it was wonderful. I can probably describe this experience best with an analogy.

It's like I had spent a great deal of time crafting the letter "D". I worked on it, and poked and prodded it, and made it just the way I wanted it. On the side, a few years ago, I was also working on "E". I dusted that one off, cleaned it up, and made it presentable. Then I had an "R" going as well. Suddenly today I lined them up and said, "Whoa, I can spell RED with this!"

The uninterested observer standing over my shoulder would have seen this a long time ago. This observer would be highly unimpressed by my epiphany. But I'd been working on the individual trees for so long, the forest was effectively invisible.

But just like that, in a flash, I tied the three stories together in a very small but potentially significant way.

I'm still behind overall in my October plan. But this goes a long way to me not caring. 🙂

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PBWQ14 Week One Update

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Just a very quick update now that the first week of PBWQ is behind us.

"Week? Today is the thirteenth!" you say.

Yeah, yeah. But I'm breaking up October into four weeks for psychological reasons. The first week went from October 1 to October 10. The second, third and fourth weeks end on each subsequent Friday. So, the first week is done and we're now just into the second week.


I've noticed the past few years that my PBWQ posts have gone like this:

Post #1, before it starts: IT'S TIME! IMA GONNA DO IT! YAY ME!!!

Post #2, after it's over: I failed. I suck. I'm never going to do anything.

So I vowed that this year will be different. This year I shall post at least four times between "IT'S TIME!!!" and "I failed." It's a whole new me.


The update is that things are going mostly well. I set a first-week goal for myself of having all my way, way backstory done: the part that lays the foundation for the stories to build on. I think I'm close, maybe another day or so. But it's all progress. I haven't missed a day yet working on this stuff. And that's saying a lot.

Posted in Progress |

PerBoWriQua 2014

Monday, September 29th, 2014

It's hard to believe this time is upon us again. I have no idea where all the years are slipping away to, but I don't like it. Especially in light of the severe lack of progress I've demonstrated over the last two decades.

For the uninitiated, PBWQ is my version of NaNoWriMo. But instead of the National Novel Writing Month, it's the Personal Book Writing Quarter. The idea is that you spend the month of October doing research and planning. You spend November writing (conveniently overlapping NaNoWriMo). You then spend December revising.

In short, it's exactly what you should be doing before, during, and after NaNoWriMo anyway. I'm just formalizing it and turning it into a logo.

My personal relationship with my own personal book writing quarter has been spotty at best. The two of you who read this blog know that. However, it feels different this year. Things are different for me: in many areas of my life. And I can't stop thinking about the backstory of this whole Trilogy idea. In short, I'm fired up.

And believe me, that's saying a lot.

Posted in Progress |


Monday, July 7th, 2014

Pop quiz! What could be worse than having five never-to-be-finished novels in the works? Answer: six never-to-be-finished novels in the works. That's right, I now have six of 'em hanging over my head for (presumably) the rest of my days. You might think things couldn't get worse for this frustrated wannabe author, but fret not. I'm about to spin this into a good thing.

I can do that, you know. I'm a frustrated wannabe author after all.

The reason I believe this to be a good thing is that the sixth novel is actually going to take two of the other never-to-be-finished novels and tie them into a trilogy. Even stranger is that until very recently, these two novels had absolutely nothing to do with one another.

"Wait just a darned a second!" you cry. "How can anyone just out of the blue take two stories with nothing in common and suddenly add roll them into a trilogy? Everyone knows that a trilogy is a hit book, followed by all of the characters coming back for a second book, followed by all of the characters returning for a third. Everyone knows that a trilogy is a book plus two sequels that get turned into four films. This is crazy talk."

"That may be the popular definition of a trilogy," I respond. "But not all trilogies follow that pattern."

"True," you say, after a moment of brow-furrowing. "The Lord of the Rings isn't four films."

"The Lord of the Rings isn't a trilogy either."

"Yes it is."

"No, it isn't. It's a single story, divided into six books, and published in three volumes for economic reasons."


"Never mind. Can we get back to this blog post?"

"Oh. Oh, sure. Sorry, do continue."

A trilogy in its most general sense is a set of three related works. That's it. It's not a book or movie and its two sequels. It's what your literature professors deem as being thematically or otherwise related. And it's what two of my previously unrelated works-in-progress have suddenly become, giving rise to a third which (chronologically) lands smack in between them.

I feel pretty good about it too: better than I have in a long while.

"That's great," you interrupt again. "So what's it going to be about?"

"I'm sorry, I was driving through a tunnel and you broke up."

"I said, what's this new story going to be about? How does it tie the other two together?"

"Um. Well, it's. Uhhh. Oh my word, look at the time. Gotta run."

Posted in Progress |

NaNoWriMo 2013

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

Although at the time of this writing, there's still technically about fifteen hours left of NaNoWriMo, I actually finished my first draft yesterday. However, at only thirty one thousand words, I didn't (technically) win this year's contest. (And no, I'm not going to try and write nineteen thousand words today.)

Although I didn't win at NaNo, I did win at life. Because my goal wasn't to just barf fifty thousand words into a word processor. My goal was to finish a rough draft of my latest novel. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. But it also has a lot of "insert stuff here" or "jump ahead to the next plot point there". The goal was never to create anything that anyone could read and enjoy. The goal was to write an extremely long and detailed synopsis. If I liked that, then I would take the time to write a proper draft of the story.

My current guess is the manuscript will double in size (so, around sixty-two thousand words) and the next draft will take about three months. The goal of the second draft is to fix plot and pacing problems, not to mention filling in all those "content goes here" notes. The third draft will be the polish pass and I'll call it done.

I think I may have something here. Stay tuned.

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PerBoWriQua 2012 Ends

Monday, December 31st, 2012

The plan:

  • October: complete research and planning for "Tuesday Night".
  • November: write the next draft of the novel, in conjunction with NaNoWriMo.
  • December: edit, edit, edit.

The reality:

  • October: did nothing until 10pm on October 31.
  • November: decided at the last minute to work on "Elsewhither" instead.
  • December: made Chex Mix.

All in all, not the disaster it was last year. I only ended up with about eleven thousand words total, but that's eleven thousand more than I had before. Plus, some of them weren't half bad.

Here's to more and better progress in 2013. I can feel it. I was just kidding the previous twenty years. This year will be the one. Really.

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PerBoWriQua 2012 Begins

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Two years ago I came up with the idea of the "Personal Book Writing Quarter". Last year I made a second attempt which ended with a fizzle almost as quickly as it began. Given this downward trend, I'd planned on skipping this year completely.

While I like the idea of a three month project [one month of planning, one month of writing (fortunately coinciding with NaNoWriMo) and one month of revision (unfortunately coinciding with Christmas)] the hard truth is: you can't plan creativity.

Well, maybe you can, but I can't.

That isn't to say I didn't have high hopes for 2012. For whatever reason, in spite of the lack of progress on this front for decades, I thought fer sure this would be the year. But then two things happened. 1) I got sick; and 2) I got stuck. And the latter was far worse than the former, believe me.

Still, I managed to make some progress on the backstory. And I made great progress on the high level story. But when I got down into the details (you know, all those pesky little words that people seem to care about when they read a book) it just got boring and pointless again. I couldn't seem to connect a good high level idea with a low level implementation. (And I'm certainly not alone in that regard. I'm sure this is exactly what plagues millions upon millions of wannabe writers.)

So I decided to follow Neil Gaiman on Twitter for a couple months. That didn't work.

So then I tried focusing on other projects for a while. But I couldn't come up with any.

So as I looked bleakly at the last quarter of 2012 and thought about doing nothing until next year (or even later) it occurred to me: I just need to give this one more good shot. The fact that this thought happened on Day One of Quarter Four is just all the better.

So here I am. This may work or it may fizzle out just as quickly as it did last year. Either way, I'll let you know on December 22, 2012.

If we're all still here then. 🙂

Posted in Progress |

Nailed It

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Well, it only took 456 days, but I think I finally have this figured out. What's "this", you might ask? (Go head, you can ask it. Don't be shy . . .)

Well, "this" is the model which describes the mechanics of the science upon which the entire story is based. And if I haven't mentioned that before, it's obvious now: my current Work in Progress will be categorized as science fiction.

I won't go into the details here. In fact, I won't even go into the details in the book. Because the details of the model are irrelevant to the story itself. The real purpose is to have a consistent, solid base upon which to build the story, and if I really do my job right, you won't even notice the consistent, solid base. The story will just feel right.

But someday that one over-eager fan will raise his hand at the book talk and ask, "So how did that actually work?" And that's when I whip out my eighty-seven slide PowerPoint presentation and reply, "I'm glad you asked."

Posted in Progress |

Still at It

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

With my recent detour, you'd probably think I'd be too out of it to do anything with respect to writing. And you'd be right. I completely lost the months of March and April. Not that I can blame that on getting sick. Based on the rate I've been moving forward on the current work, I seriously doubt I would have done anything those two months anyway. Yeah, it's that bad.

Enter chemotherapy. Six hours in a chair getting strange fluids pumped into my body? What a perfect time to print out all those notes, pour through them, and see if there's anything salvageable. Unfortunately (?) chemo only comes once every three weeks.

Catching Up

I've spent most of this year in reboot mode on the novel with the working title of Winter's Gate. Stuck on the fifth draft, I'm still severely unhappy with the pace and depth of the book. The former needs to pick up greatly and the latter needs to go way deeper. Otherwise, no one but the people I force to read it will read it. Even I can't read it.

Part of the fix has been the aforementioned note re-reading exercise. I had to make sure I didn't come up with something Brilliant back in, say, September 2010 (spoiler alert: I didn't.) The rest has been rewriting the book at the synopsis level. As I'm fond of saying: if you can't write a good story in 500 words, you can't do it in 90,000 either. And it doesn't seem to matter how fond I am of saying that, I still tend to write 90,000 words before I know what I'm actually trying to accomplish.

So that's really all I have at this point. Still hoping to get a good, solid, real draft done by 12/21/2012. After that, I'm just playing it by ear.

Posted in Progress |