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Just Keep Trying

Eleven years later and this is still my “getting work done” theme. Is there something I’m really serious about completing? Am I completely straight-faced and probably tired as I just get up and do it without complaining? Then this is what I hear.

After the last post, this song came on… for life.

That sounds sappy, but I’m not kidding. I had a negative experience two weeks ago (a friend went completely and actually insane on me). Although it wasn’t the reason my last post was so grim (maybe that was definitely just the fun of fresh rejection letters), I’m sure it didn’t help.

But, there comes a time when there have been enough negatives–enough ridiculous problems–that you just stop caring. I would call it a breaking point if that also didn’t sound negative.

I find myself thinking of it as an “Oh, gi–really? Fuck this” point.

So, about two weeks ago, Lightning Strike Rescue came on.

And I reworked “The Drowned God.” Just one more, neurotic edit and it’s off to Writers of the Future.

And then I reached out to a bunch of people I’ve shied away from–including near-strangers, which is crazy if you know the first thing about me. Instead of backing away, worrying about saying something stupid, I just talked and shared my work (because I think I’ll always need more readers), and then marveled as these people–even the strangers–just talked back.

And then I figured out a lot more about the sequel to Memory, making me super eager to finally get back to that story. I did get my first rejection for it, but I just need an afternoon to find a batch of new targets for submission.

Which I haven’t had time to do because, somewhere in all of this, I got a new job. As a line editor. At an indie publishing firm.

That insane, immediate turn around.

I… am a superstitious man. Superstitious and a writer. So, of course, even when I drop the hammer–even when my face goes all dispassionate and I’m all, “let’s do this”–I’m still inherently so used to failure that it’s… bizarre to have the world immediately vomit good things right back at my face. I narrow my eyes and cast them about, one eyebrow raised. “What… is this?” I ask.

I wonder, “Is this job going to implode somehow?” It’s immediately the best one I’ve ever had; I’m getting paid to do that thing I went to school for (a thing I love doing)–so lay it on me universe. What’s the catch?

And in reply, the universe throws a friendly Black man at me two days ago, on the 2 train.

“You reading Homer?”

I nod and this stranger strikes up a conversation–something I have the hardest time in the world doing. Only this time, after a full two weeks of not having everything I say questioned by anyone, I’m oddly fine. This is just a conversation. People have them all the time.

At first, we just chat about literature–The Count of Monte Cristo is his favorite.

Eventually, he explains that he did time. Immediately, the warning siren goes off; I have to wonder if he’s conning me, because, as a New Yorker, I’ve already been on the bad end of this very con (along with countless others). But there’s no too-firm hand shake or veiled demand for money. As this man continues talking, I feel horrible for even expecting it.

After he’s explained his love for Dumas, he gets pensive. “Man,” he says, staring off, “I’m responsible for so much of the evil you see out here. But God and I have an understanding. I woke up today, so I know he’s not angry.” He smirks. “I’m trying, my brother. Working. I gotta make up for the things I’ve done.”

“I can’t imagine how rough that is,” I say.

And he shakes his head.

“You’re doing good, dude,” I say. “You have to just keep trying.”

A few stops later and he shakes my hand. “Take care, my brother!” and he leaves the train.

I sit, stare at nothing.

And I think about how sad I’ve been and how stupidly grateful I should be.

~~~Writing Update~~~

LS-ProgressSidebar(inPost)-6.24.15I really have spent all of my free writing time working on “The Drowned God.” I have it out to a few new readers, including one of my favorite streamers–Hootey, from Vinesauce, an intelligence nerd and teacher who initiated charity drives on his streaming network (so, really, the best kind of person). I’m intending to give it one more look and then send it out to Writers of the Future–only because that’s an easy next target (arguably, the hunt for magazines that accept multiple submissions takes way longer than the incredibly simple submission form for WotF).

After that, it’s back to editing Memory. #SFFPit didn’t go well, but I was ready for that. I just need a quick read to make sure my additions don’t slow the pace or hamper the personality of my main character. Then it’s that hunt for submission targets.

In the future, my heart has finally come around on War of the Hex. After a while away, I’m ready to try again and hopefully have two novels and a short to submit everywhere.

And that’s it. You can get a more steady stream of me on Twitter @LSantiagoAuthor, although, be warned: that’s where all my gaming talk comes out. Video games aren’t all I tweet about, of course, but sometimes, Bungie just can’t stop proving how addicted they are to manipulating their fanbase or Nintendo can’t stop giving horrible showings at E3.

Regardless, thanks again for passing by. And, as always, write well.

I’m instituting a posting schedule. I have to admit that this blog is hanging on a thread for me; I appreciate everyone who reads it, Likes, and Follows, but this public journal is still hanging on for dear life because so am I.

I’m perpetually on the cusp of total failure–riding it like an arrow on the wind, always slowly tipping down. It feels silly to make it sound dramatic; dramatic isn’t how it feels. It feels like absolute shit.

But, I’m going to work against the doubt and the hate–it’s what I do.

So, first step–blog more often. Particularly because I went crazy editing Memory last month, and I feel that would’ve been a good thing to share.

I had the task in mind–the need to edit the whole book, reinforced with the mantra of “one chapter a day.”

Then I sat down and edited the entire book in three days, taking breaks only because I had full additions to make and didn’t want to rush them. I don’t keep records of these things, oddly adverse to my own achievements as I’ve been. I should maybe change that (strange how unimpressed I am these days that I’ve finished multiple books, but I’d like to think it’s part of the process–that it’s a step toward becoming a person who’s whole thing is finishing their novels).

Regrdless, not being impressed doesn’t mean I’m not pleased; I smirk as I think about my promises to myself that I’d at least have the first few chapters ready for #Pitmad and #SFFPit. The time for that careful prodding is over, I think.

Replaced by a desire to just start writing the sequel for Memory–annoyed that I’m not rich so I can’t just start writing Alemachus (name pending) or other new characters. I can’t give myself the luxury of anticipation and freedom because I know that the arrow is still falling.

It still has a long flight ahead of it, I admit if I’m honest with myself; there is still much falling to do. The thing is, being realistic about writing means understanding that when that arrow’s flight is done, it still might end with a silent punch into the dirt.

~~~Update~~~

LS-ProgressSidebar(inPost)-6.8.15I finished my 3rd draft of Memory, and although I’m sure I’ll go through it again in a week or two (for… fun?) I’ve already started submitting. Pitmad went well for me, but I know in the center of my greasy heart that this is only the start of Memory’s submission run.

I’ve only just started editing The Drowned God, a short story I love, through which I’m finally learning the art of the short. In the update box here, I say I’m “overhauling” it, which I feel is appropriate; I often opt for small tweaks that are a ton of work to implement, even if they just slightly benefit the tone of a story (a global change in tense, for example). In The Drowned God’s case, it’s a far more annoying change, but the result will definitely be that short’s final form.

For more updates or completely random ideas, thought up in the mind of an insomniac (like, “You’re an air vampire”), be sure to follow me on Twitter–@LSantiagoAuthor. While I always appreciate a Like, Follow, or Comment, thank you just for stopping by. And, as always, write well.

Looking Back

April was an interesting month. It started off with absolute conviction–I was going to write War of the Hex immediately. Its first draft would be done in time for Age of Ultron and that was going to be awesome. The idea was, “I finished the first draft of Memory in a month, so why couldn’t I just do the same with Hex?

Turns out I couldn’t because I kept hitting a really emotional writing wall every single time I sat down to work on Hex. The total rewrite of my one long-time project actually erases nearly everything I created for its world in its Prologue. A page or two into the rewrite, I find myself introducing a character… and stopping to think, “Hey, couldn’t this be Kysius [one of the many obscure characters from the previous versions of the book]?” And the answer was always overshadowed by the immediate rush of the realization that, “It doesn’t matter. Even if this is Kysius, Kysius dies anyway because this character dies.” And… okay–one character dying when they hadn’t before is no real problem.

But my brain always followed up with the reminder that, “Everyone dies. Everyone you created who isn’t a protagonist dies. The towns you made–your map of Ashaiden (the background for your blog)? That’s all gone.”

Oh… Yeah. Right.

I was expecting to have a few thousand words done within the first few days of Camp NaNoWriMo. I tapped out (officially) at 733 words.

People throw the term around comically all the time, but April really was just too soon. Especially now that I’m back in the vortex of, “Am I doing the right thing with this story?” I think I am–I really do; every time I think of how War of the Hex unfolds, it makes me happy and excited to write it. But that excitement immediately comes with so much… mourning.

But, taking a step back, there are none of those problems with Memory, so, despite just dropping out of Camp NaNoWriMo, I still spent the rest of the month working on worldbuilding for Memory, which is just about done. For a while there, I didn’t think there would be an end; my casual worldbuilding file is 74 pages long at this point, fueled by me neurotically deciding that yes, I need to describe every single facet of everything in Panthius. I make it sound like horrible work, but of course it wasn’t–I’m a nerd. Why wouldn’t I enjoy establishing the Empire’s strange currency and totally over-analyzing the social weirdness that comes with it?

Regardless, May is The Last Draft of Memory Month. It absolutely has to be because brainstorming has dropped enough ideas that I’m starting to write when I’m not even at my computer; I started an additional scene earlier while washing dishes and was on the verge of just dropping plates back in the sink–maybe angrily shouting, “Rinse yourselves!” at them before rushing to my computer.

But, my well-established weirdness aside, I have a handful of prominent settings to flesh out today, and then tomorrow I get back to working on something that makes me feel amazing again.

What I took from April–failures and all? Three things:

First, no matter what happens with it, War is always going to be a tough topic for me. Even when I finish War of the Hex, I’m sure I’ll still look back at War of Exiles and lament how I couldn’t just save all of the great parts of it because they’re attached to so many bad parts. But, at the same time, that’s just who I am. I have to move on, which means getting a new background image for this blog.

Second, this month, I’m going to write outside, because even just going out for coffee made me really, really want to write. 30 Days of NaNoWriMo broke me; the leather armchair demands my enthusiasm for all things as the price for its comfort.

Third, I’m not trying to work on a bunch of projects at once anymore. It’s just not how I work. I said it once before that I’m out of time when it comes to getting published, and that still feels true; I feel like I’ve passed the point where I should’ve been picked up–like I’m living in a failed, backwards life, the pitch of everything strangely warped as it all shoots past me. But I’m still here–still writing. Still trying. And, in no way does that mean that it’s a time for experiments; I work with what works and that’s it. I will come back to War (of course), but for now, that Progress Bar is shrinking to two active items–at most–and submissions. From now on, it’s just the novel I believe in, the short story I believe in, and all of the rejections I’ve accrued.

Full Disclosure

I sometimes imagine the different me’s that exist across the multi-verse.

Disclaimer: I swear this is going somewhere. Somewhere extremely important actually.

On the grand scale of weird things that I think about, this is one of the most affirming.

Maybe that’s not what you were expecting. Maybe you thought that this would be a whole depressing thing about how down I am about my place in life. It’s not. This is, instead, about the choices we make and feeling confident about them. Because there’s choosing medium or mild salsa.

And then there’s choosing whether you want to give up on a project or not.

Instead of asking, “Where do I even start??” I’ll clarify that I’m not scrapping one of my stories… Well, not exactly scrapping. March was all about making a brutal decision concerning one of them, however.

To put the right context on it, I’m going to take a moment to talk about the Louis Santiago’s in alternate universes.

There’s Something About My Face

I don’t know what it is, but something about my face screams both “lovable” and… “immature”? “Directionless”? Maybe it’s just because people always think aspiring Fantasy authors are insane and destined for failure. Either way, people always try to save me and it’s possibly a matter of my cheeks; I look way younger than I am. In the same way that kids just naturally love me (as if I’m some kind of cartoon character) friends naturally want to hug me and help me succeed. Which is awesome…

Until you get to the part where “helping” is “making you like me” or “deciding for myself that I’m your mentor and I teach you now.” Because this always leads directly to friends trying to slap the pen out of my hand.

“No! No! Bad!” they might say, as if chastising a pet. “No! You edit music videos instead, like I do!” followed immediately by, “WHY U NO CARE ABOUT MUSIC VIDEOS!?”

I definitely run the risk of going off topic, so what I’m trying to say is, I’ve been given a lot of weird choices. Choices that have created many weird parallel universe Louis Santiago’s. I am the Louis who chose writing–at every turn–to my detriment. I’ve stalwartly chosen writing and my life sucks. Not in a, “Boy are my feet tired; today was rough!” kind of way, but in a, “I’m single, still living at home, and I genuinely have no money because I pushed away a few opportunities to write instead,” kind of way. It’s own horrible decision, I know, but I’m definitely not claiming to be the smartest Louis in the multi-verse.

That said, I’m still not the Louis Santiago who toils away at rap music videos and wears the clothes that my music video editing friend wore (it actually got to the point that he told me to go shop where he shopped so I could look fresh). That’s an extreme case, but that idea–of me actually working a job I absolutely hate because someone told me to (because I let the pen be slapped out of my hand)–is actually worse than this. And that makes me feel bad for the Louis Santiago out there in the multi-verse somewhere, extremely tired as he records groups of men throwing up their hands endlessly at his camera.

I feel really bad for Rap Video Editor Louis and absolutely, horribly grateful that I’m not him.

Even though I’m not as depressed by him, I’m also glad I’m not Ruin Hunter Louis (who’s actually pretty awesome) or Food Scientist Louis, because none of those decisions felt right to me. In my thoughts about all of the alternate me’s, I always imagine them thinking wistfully about writing–that one dream they had to give up. Ruin Hunter Louis doesn’t have the time to write. Food Scientist Louis possibly delved into Sci-Fi, but, unaware that no Louis in any alternate reality could possibly write good Sci-Fi, he got burned and quit early.

Anyway…

My Point

There is now, in that ever-expanding multi-verse, a super unfulfilled Louis… who’s still pushing War of Exiles.

The end of March was really, really rough for me. Not specifically because I got my first rejection letter for War of Exiles; that rejection is something I expected. Because, of course. It’s rejection, the very middle name of the writing game.

No, what bothered me are the thoughts that came with the rejection. Because there was the usual torrent of thoughts you’d expect, “Does is suck?” “Am I a bad writer?”

But somewhere in all of that, there was a low, frustrated whisper of, “How are you ever going to make this novel sound good?”

And I blinked. With a deep breath, I turned an ear to that question and heard others like, “How can you convince the next agent that this isn’t a mess?” “How can you focus your synopsis to make it sound like there’s an awesome, composed story in here?”

And it led to one of the most brutal writing questions I’ve had to face in a long time: “Is there an awesome, composed story in War of Exiles? And if there’s not… why am I trying to sell it as one? Is that not going right in the face of everything I’ve ever aspired to do with my work?”

Because, with Memory, yes, there is absolutely a composed, entertaining story. Memory is this quick, fun piece with definite themes and clear characterization. But War of Exiles… I don’t want to make it sound like I wasn’t intent on making quality or characters or settings that I love, but I’ve been working on WOE for 10 years. And, along those 10 years, it’s picked up influences from every writer I wanted to write like. There were bits of George R. R. Martin intrigue and brutally human drama mixed with Sanderon-styled fight scenes. There was a need to make a logical, believable, Rothfuss-like magic system even though it was a story featuring giant, magically-animated monsters and necromancers. And, there was all of this, mind you, painted over the original, extremely campy base I wrote in 2005; because when I rewrote War of Exiles, I used the same general plot structure of the original (a story that took heavy influences from the most generic Fantasy you could find; one of the many problems I had with the book but just ignored).

It’s weird to be on the other side of another quality wall–another transition where I realize that all of February was me struggling to work out a single plot twist without realizing that a plot twist that I had to struggle to work out–for a month–was a horrible idea. It’s weird to realize the massive, unfix-able holes in something you’ve worked on for so long. To realize that what I should’ve done was scrap all of it and try to find the story I wanted to tell in the world of War of Exiles.

But, regardless of hindsight, I’ll finally just say that totally scrapping the original plot is what I’ve done.

It was… obviously not an easy decision. Just about every day after PAX was spent contemplating. Could I seriously just drop this thing I’ve been working on for ages? Was I going to just drop the project altogether and focus on Memory instead?

In the end, I began looking for that story I wanted to tell in the world of WOE. I had no idea if there was one, but–full disclosure–I really wanted there to be. So, even though I felt super defeated, I made an adorable relationship chart for my story elements. Just a simple, stupid file in Photoshop to separate my style from all of the styles of different writers. To find my book.

And it was after staring at that stupid, color-coded chart that I got it. I got up, walked to another room, and that magical writing thing happens where the pieces come together on their own–only the pieces here were massive chunks of a trilogy, falling together into a very different, neat, composed plot that is immediately, indicatively me. Not Martin-esque or Sanderson-esque. Not pulling influences from everywhere.

Not dressing like anyone else.

Not doing what anyone else says is cool.

Not letting anyone else so much as nudge the pen in my hand.

~~~

It’s called War of the Hex now, and, instead of being a trilogy, it’s going to be my second standalone. It is, to kind of bring this full circle, more of an alternate reality version of War of Exiles (not even a reboot).

I am also, as of this posting, already writing it for Camp NaNoWriMo. I’ve thrown it up on the Progress Bar, where I’ve also added my editing progress on Memory, which (I promise) only appears to be going nowhere because I’m still going into world-building overdrift with it.

Thanks for reading. This one was definitely more personal (I’m sure plenty of other writers have had no problem writing what they want to write [I’ve had a strangely affected life]) but if this resonated with anyone, let me know with a Comment, Like, or Follow. Or just pass by again when you have a chance.

Until then, take care and write well.

People are talking a lot these days about the horror of letting go of their manuscripts. It’s established that it’s something you have to learn to do and that it’s difficult, like sending your child off to college.

But I don’t have kids and, even if I did, that metaphor wouldn’t be perfect. It’s close, but it’s not quite there. So Imma tweak it, just to make it absolutely clear how I felt about submitting War of Exiles for the first time.

It was like sending a child off to college completely by your will–and only your will–with the horrible certainty they’ll just be back in 2-3 weeks with a note scotch-taped to their face.

Cringing, you pull it off, open it, and read, “Thank you for giving us the opportunity to stare critically at your child, but it’s not what we’re looking for right now.”

You take a deep breath, hold it as you look up at your child, standing there, saying nothing because it’s a metaphor for a manuscript and manuscripts don’t actually talk.

And then you let out that breath in a sigh. And even if you don’t smoke, it still sounds like you’re a smoker when you rasp, “I knew you’d be back.”

Submitting War of Exiles was more like that.

I hit this strange wall near the end of my third edit when I realized that the entire series needed to be more thoroughly planned out; Exiles is only book one of three, and although some people can probably just jump into a new book with no real plan, I’m neurotic and needed a very definite plot for the rest of the books. This turned into daily brainstorming sessions with only War of Exiles’ epilogue left to edit.

The result of those brainstorming sessions? Finding a new plot twist that drastically changed the second and third books. And also the world itself; it’s easily the biggest endeavor I’ve ever taken as a writer, and although I’m excited by how much I like it, I’m also already exhausted; I wound up spending the last two weeks of February knocking around the one, crucial detail, making sure it worked.

And then it did–I reached the point when the next two books had a direction clear enough for me to finish Exile’s epilogue and do some last minute tweaks. Not hard, in comparison to the weeks of brainstorming.

But almost impossible when I realized it was another step toward that point when no more tweaking could be done. For me, that is the true difficulty. You hear constantly that an artist is never satisfied with their work. It’s true; every time I reread War of Exiles or Memory, I can always find something to improve. And, despite the fact that I’ve caught myself occasionally undoing changes I’ve made on previous edits, I’m still brutal enough on myself to want–to almost need–the luxury to change what I write. To try to make it perfect.

If I was a different man, I would never let go of that luxury.

Instead, I spent my Tuesday packing a suitcase for my metaphor child. One summary of the kid’s entire being? Check. One letter where I quickly talk about how awesome my kid is? Check. Again, to make this metaphor closer to the experience it represents, imagine that synopsis and query letter as a single shirt and a pair of pants that you continually fold, place in the suitcase, yank out again, reexamine, refold, place back in the suitcase. Just over and over–for actual hours–until you’re exhausted. Until a voice inside of you is all, “Just do it! Come on! PAX is like… tomorrow or something! Get packing or I am going without you!” And for a moment you’re tired enough to feel truly threatened by the voice in your head.

So you center yourself on that Send button. Your finger hovers over it and the same voice comes back, pricking your index finger with, “Don’t do it!”

But then the desperate rush–the incoming flood of a single promise: if you don’t send your novel now, you never will.

So before you can argue, you’re all, “I’m doin’ it.” And even if you don’t put shades on after you say it, you still click Send and it’s still the most simultaneously terrifying and gratifying thing you’ve ever done. At once, you shove your metaphor child out the door and you’re all hoping he doesn’t come back while also totally hoping he does.

But either way, you throw your hands up because it’s done. You’ve written the Synopsis and Query Letter. You’ve followed your agent’s guidelines. You attached a fragment of that whole book you wrote. And you sent it all. There’s no taking it back and no more fussing. Unless the response to your query is negative–then you get to go nuts fussing for a very short window before sending it off again, the second time already easier.

Because in the wild multiverse of possible you’s, you’re the one who already hit Send once.

~~~

Thanks for reading. I’ll be at PAX East this weekend, but the moment I get back, it’s time to once again do all of the above with Memory. If there’s better timing for this con, I can’t think of it. Thank you for reading and please give me a Like or Follow if you enjoyed.

As always though, no matter what you do, take care and write well.

A Day in the Life

Disclaimer: I’m writing this at 4:29 AM. I’m exhausted but, with the wild, new stress of editing War of Exiles and dealing with assorted other problems lately, I’ve found I have a hard time sleeping. The edit is going well, but editing a manuscript without taking long breaks between chapters is a completely different beast; you see all the flaws that need tweaking and you change them immediately, efficiently, and exhaustively. It becomes a nonstop struggle that you fret about daily, but I’m sure it would be fine–I’m sure I could sleep–if not for other worries. My solution: Get up again for phase 3 of responsibilities. Sometimes, it means I’m working on a short story at 5 AM (Lokisday, a short I don’t think I’ve spoken about at all here). Sometimes, apparently, it can also mean I want to write a really weird post at 5 AM. So… enjoy?

Step 1 – Wake Up

It sounds so easy.

Step 2 – Fooood?

This relies entirely on whether there is food to be had. Really, this step should be titled, “Coffee,” because coffee is often all I have for breakfast.

Step 3 – Editing War of Exiles

For me, the editing process has been like… being given a sponge and being told to clean a brick wall. Only, the wall is covered with layer after layer of old paint and the person giving the orders wants you to get down to the brick. With the sponge.

That is how it started for me.

I’d take my sponge, rub it on the wall, pull it away, see that there was a small smear of paint on it… and then inspect the wall. There might be one slightly brighter spot where I’d rubbed. So I kept at it, taking long breathers, never feeling quite right about my wall-sponging abilities. Often, I’d jump from spot to spot.

But, as time wore on, I figured out new tools. Turpentine. A… wall… scraper?… Why did this have to be a wall cleaning analogy? I don’t know anything about wall cleaning.

Whatever. The point is, I’m using stronger tools now; I can see the brick and I’m working nonstop now to get it clear.

But I’m still working the paint off of a brick wall.

I love writing. Really, I do. I could maybe use a break though; a break I will turn down every time.

Step 4 – Working out?

Probably not.

Step 5 – Actual Work

The thing about working from home is that my actual work space… is my writing space. So, unless I work out, I haven’t actually moved. In fact, I am writing this–right now–in my writing / work space. One room. One leather armchair. One TV directly in front of me, flanked by windows to the outside.

Step 6 – Video Games?

There’s a chance I can game as I work–but only if it’s incredibly simple work.

But that doesn’t mean much as video games are not exciting anymore.

And, of course. Why would they be? Working on my stories, despite the analogy, is exciting. Being outside is exciting. Seeing friends–smiling and laughing about Peeta and his cakes–is exciting.

Video games are just another thing I do in my writing / work space. My living space, I should call it. My “I’m breathing” space.

Step 7 – Probably Not Sleep

Whenever it happens, there is always the first attempt at sleep. I lie down, stretch out, turn so that my back is to my room, a wall in front of me.

And I stay like that for a while. Always, I contemplate my life. There are so many things I’m not saying on here because this isn’t the place to share them. But, regardless, I think about them–about my mortality. The constant, writerly worries come up–the thought that maybe I just suck. Maybe I’m not doing it right. “I’ve only just,” I’ll ration, “learned how to edit and proofread optimally.” It continues until I imagine being turned down by every publishing firm ever.

And, of course, at that point, I’m awake and back in my writing / work / gaming space, hammering out a post or what have you, eyes glazed over, possibly not even watching what I’m writing.

Step 8 – Why am I still up?

“Why are you still up?” my mother might ask.

“Couldn’t sleep.”

“Oh. You alright?”

“Yes. Just tired.”

There’s a range of funny, comforting things my mother might say to this. Even if it turns into a conversation about how tired she is, I’ll still smile.

The rest of this step is me doing things I half-forget–in part because they’re busy work. This morning, for example, I changed the cat litter before hopping on here. Yesterday, I started a short story and then did… something I don’t remember. Played Terraria? Maybe I played Terraria.

Step 9 – Actual Sleep

The sun is always up when it happens. Often, I’m talking to myself by then; we’re going full disclosure on the weirdness here.

Either way, I actually fall asleep this time, the ritual complete, Escribyr sated.

~~~

I have a boring, work-driven life with a passion for a field notorious for slow or non-existent returns; I currently have nothing to show for it because I’m still trying to get one of my two completed manuscripts ready for submission. I am… so close. Closer than I’ve ever been.

All I have to do is keep working–keep editing. Keep riding the oddly confined, leatherarmchairpocalypse that my life has become.

Just an absolutely unclear unit of time longer.

I can do it.

A weird thing happened to me the other day.LS-MemoryProgress-1.22.15

I finished the 2nd draft of Memory. I changed a surprising amount from the original (from one entire setting to another character’s physical appearance). So, really, it was a huge job and a lot of work. Upon finishing it, I felt like the book was far stronger than it had been–definitely a lot more unique and more finely paced.

But what I didn’t feel was any sense of achievement from finishing the 2nd draft.

It’s strange. I’ve tweeted about it. Every time I finished War of Exiles, I felt like a king. When I finished the first draft of Memory, I was also pleased. But, for whatever reason, finishing an edit of it (even this quickly) did absolutely nothing for me. There was no hurrah–no feeling of triumph.

And maybe that’s because of what a friend suggested: “That’s probably because it will never feel complete to you.” Yeah. Maybe. As a writer, I definitely fall into the trap of always wanting to pick at my work. In fact, upon finishing the 2nd draft, I immediately went back and tweaked the ending. There is always the certainty that I can find something to improve in my work, and the possibility that, to me, it will never be done and I’ll just have to publish what feels like a rough draft of it. And that’s a kind of horrible, depressing idea.

But that’s probably not the problem. Because I can work on Memory enough that it at least feels ready for publication (I’m fully aware of elements of it that still need work).

So I have to ration that finishing a draft doesn’t feel like an accomplishment anymore because… it isn’t? That sounds grim and bitter, but maybe it shouldn’t. Maybe finishing a single draft just… shouldn’t feel like an incredible achievement. At least, maybe it shouldn’t feel like a beer-chugging, let’s party kind of achievement.

Because, after a while, you pass the point as a writer when finishing a draft is an incredible thing you never thought you’d do. It’s still awesome to get a new story off the ground or finish writing one you’ve been planning for a long time, but after doing all of that, finishing another draft becomes a kind of silent step–a bridge between the greater achievements of “Finished my 1st draft!” and “Started submitting my book!”

And so maybe the achievement here isn’t the finishing of the draft… but reaching the point where I don’t care about having finished the draft? Maybe the victory here is having written enough that I’m not impressed by small victories.

That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t feel anything, but it also doesn’t mean its time for shots. It means I should, instead, smirk tiredly at having gotten to this point. It means I should, of course, roll right into that second edit and on toward “Started submitting my book!” without stopping for beer-chugging and partying.

Happy 2015, people! I hope the year’s been going well for you so far. My first fifteen days have been acceptable; pretty full of editing and working–which, along with sleep, make up the three primary modes of my life.

But before I go on here, I want to clarify the title of this post.

So, here’s the thing: this blog has changed a lot over the past few years.

It started as a super-naive and super-self-congratulatory site for War of Exiles; back at the tail end of my “I’m the best writer in the world and totally infallible!” era, I talked pretty constantly (and unironically) about how amazing and revolutionary War of Exiles would be while also heavily criticizing some writing practices and standards. Years later, I still love War of Exiles and think that it’s different enough to be interesting, but I’m also not a self-congratulating idiot anymore, so I don’t assume it’s going to be revolutionary or change anyone’s life because that’s pretty insane. I’m also not venomous about other professional’s work anymore; even if you love observing differences between yourself and other writers, actually working at the craft–being beaten down by it repeatedly–will work that raw, critical self-confidence right out of you. Years later, I respect anyone who’s gotten published and I just want to give people something interesting and fun to read; that’s all.

After that, my blog got more laid back and experimental. This is when I started Games for Writers, a series I still add to on occasion, and RED Comics, my web comic that I can officially say requires too much of my time to continue working on. This era had a little of everything, from ideas about writing to movie reviews, all posted in an attempt to find my footing. Not the worst phase of the blog, but also not what it’s become and not an era I want to revisit.

After that, and as late as 2014, this site got the tiniest bit more personal (through some of the roughest few years of my life) but eventually turned into 100% writing theory. Really, very detailed and probably too intense writing theory. “Fantasy Story Stats,” “Fiction Sins,” “3 Degrees of Story Completion:” just a lot of posts about different facets of the writing experience. Different ideas that probably already have names I’m not aware of. This I will occasionally continue doing (my next post will probably be such a post, although I’ll keep it fun because I also don’t want to die of boredom).

And that brings us to now. If my blog’s not going to be any of these things, then what’s it going to be? The one thing it has been that I haven’t mentioned here: a journal. NaNoWriMo really changed how I feel about writing. As a process, overall, but also how I feel about posting here. For ages, I tried to keep my personal experiences and my posts pretty distant from each other. For ages, it was just an article about Metal Gear, or a comic about Batman with a progress bar in the upper corner and the occasional “Update” post. But I want to change that.

Which means that this is the last “Update” post because all or nearly all posts will be “Updates” from now on. I’m considering how to do this exactly (whether to tack an update onto every post or just post weekly updates on top of whatever longer post I want to write), but regardless, the site will always be about that Progress Bar–will always be transparent about a writing process I’ve only just (maybe) figured out.

This is one of many changes I have planned for the site in 2015 and, I feel, a good beginning. I hope you agree. And I hope you’ll keep joining me for my weird, anti-social journey–our, perhaps, shared quest on the road to being published and finally sharing the grand silence of our still unseen  fantasy worlds.

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-12.12.14-CompleteWhere I Wrote: At home, in the one room I always use for writing.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: Strange. The ending is a complication.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: I remember being really happy. I want to say determined, but that would imply that there was some difficulty. There wasn’t; I woke up, made coffee, and sat down with my tablet, excited to edit the bit of the ending that I had and try again to complete it.

The Experience: I’d planned a return to the New York Public Library on 42nd, but the end of Memory refused to wait for that; on Friday morning, after struggling with the last chapter and epilogue, I woke up, edited, tried another approach, and wound up finishing Memory within an hour or two.

And, yes, you read that right; I finished the novel on Friday and I’m only posting about it today, on Sunday. At this point, I’ve told exactly one person about completing it. My reason: boasting about finishing the novel feels incredibly celebratory. Which would be all kinds of silly as the book is absolutely not done.

In part because it needs to be edited. Sorely. I want to smooth out the pacing. I want to add more interesting descriptions for everything. I want to hone the world of the story. I want, more than anything else, to have the required Naming Session, during which I can finally stop calling my thief protagonist Locke, and–for the love of God–decide on a less awkward name than Memory of the Black Sun.

But also because… the ending for Memory is such a conundrum that taking one possible route with it does not feel like any cause for celebration whatsoever–I have not won yet; I have not figured it out. War of Exiles had a very clear, complete, strong ending that got unexpectedly more powerful for me every time I worked on it–every time I trimmed off excess and added another scene that needed a resolution. In contrast, I’m left staring at a handful of options for Memory, the terms of my Fantasy Story Stats buzzing around in my head endlessly; the ending can be High Spirit (emotionally comforting), or Low Spirit (emotionally challenging), I find myself thinking, only to immediately remind myself that I can find a middle ground–one of the many if’s and but’s that makes the logic puzzle of Memory’s ending a terrible little loop. I’m still weighing the matter with such honest confusion that writing this just feels… wrong.

But I still have to acknowledge that I’m on to the editing part. On to it so hard, in fact, that last night saw me whipping out the tablet on my bed at (seriously) 6AM because I had to write a scene that I knew would help the pacing and reinforce the protagonists’ relationship. I have, at least, crossed over to the phase of writing during which I can–and totally do–jump backwards in the timeline and tweak and edit absolutely everything. I’m up to the point where I can stare vacantly at a wall (or maybe at people in public) while I consider the ending for the umpteenth time, knowing as I do that there is a solution for it that I will find. Being at that phase with Memory is something I’m incredibly grateful for.

It took longer than a month; I took an extra week to put in hours at work and take care of other life things I’d been ignoring and then an extra week after that to actually write the end of the novel without rushing it. But I still, suddenly have a second novel down. If you’d asked me in mid-October of this year–just before NaNoWriMo–when I expected to finish Memory of the Black Sun, I’d have shrugged and half-asked, “2016?”

But it’s down, on paper, now–and it’s good–in a month and change, compared to the… seven years it took me to write War of Exiles?

Yep. I’ll take it.

 

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.30.14Where I Wrote: The Table Tennis Subway Plaza at the top of the lifts at the 190th St. station on the A line.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: It was genuinely good work that put me at ease about the rest of the book.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Weirdly unfazed. Unmoved is probably a better way to say it. It was a mood that led to a strange ride home on this final day of NaNoWriMo.

The Experience: I woke up to find that it was nearly 50 degrees. Excellent. That meant I could forgo an indoor location for this last 30 Days outting.

I decided in favor of a good view.

11.30.14-WhereIWrote1

This is the Subway Plaza on Fort Washington Ave., directly before reaching Fort Tryon, a place I found on my return to the Cloisters at the very beginning of this last week of NaNoWriMo.

The view of Inwood and Fort George wasn’t amazing here today–not like it was at the beginning of the week–but it was scenic enough to be pleasant and boring enough to make work easy. Not as grand as Linden Terrace inside of Fort Tryon (my second spot from Day 24, overlooking the Hudson), but thus perfect for focusing on work. Particularly convenient with New Leaf offering public restrooms a short walk north (around the back and through a door that looks locked but absolutely isn’t [meaning you don’t have to buy a generic small coffee that turns out to be $4 and change]).

Here, I ironed out more of the kinks with the endgame. To be honest, I didn’t realize there were still problems with my protagonists’ plan, but, after brainstorming way too much the past few days, last night and this morning saw really simple fixes popping into mind. Scenes that would only be possible if the set up for the endgame was like this… and hey, wouldn’t you know it, that works perfectly. I spent a good while at the plaza, working and making those fixes until the weather turned and I realized that the Subway Plaza was in the adjacent buildings’ shadow for the last few hours of the day (making it yet another spot that would be better in summer). I packed up and headed home.

And had a bizarre train ride. I wasn’t sure why exactly, but something bothered me about the day.

Broken down to my simplest reaction to it, I was disappointed. Somehow, I expected everything to fit into place at this point. I’m fine with not finishing the book on NaNoWriMo’s deadline… but I thought the last day of 30 Days would be more spectacular in some way. I saw the weather and perhaps thought that it would be sunny and beautiful–that I’d be able to tell a final, good story.

But there was nothing. And as I rode back home, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d missed some opportunity. That I’d gotten the bad ending. Which led me to the strange thought…

Well, I guess there’s next year.

Next year… to have a perfect outting? As if… I couldn’t just keep going out this year? As if I now had to return home and turn sedentary again? As if life was a video game or a meticulously composed plot? As if I’d lost anything at all?

As if I’d learned nothing from 30 Days of NaNoWriMo?

No. No, I won’t do it. Fuck you.

Because this is how life works. Life is all about throwing the curve balls at you. 30 Days has ultimately been about me repeatedly dealing with, learning from, and avoiding those curve balls. I knew that–I have for a long while now. Just like I know that the one major lesson of 30 Days is to…

Just… keep… working. To not give up. To not surrender to distractions. To not give in to the reflex to walk away from a story. To not wait for writer’s block to go away, but to keep hammering at it until it yields. To never let a piece of your work cool for so long that it turns dun and lukewarm in the open air. To not give up–ever.

And, for me, personally, to never ignore what I want and never lose faith in what I can do.

Because Memory is a chapter from being finished. I lost NaNoWriMo. Okay. I’m fine with that.

But I won myself back. For the first time in years, I finally feel like myself again and not the horribly depressed person that the last 3 years of circumstance made me.

So, this is my grand ending. I will end 30 Days with this 30th day, because I don’t want to prolong it. I don’t want to drag it out.

And because I know that regardless of challenges and deadlines and every other curve ball the world throws at me, I will finish Memory in the next few days. Nothing could stop me from doing so. I will post when I do and then take a short hiatus to handle a ton of things I need to do for myself.

Until then, thank you to everyone who’s read. Tons of thanks especially to those who Liked and Followed during the month, but also, of course, thanks to anyone who stopped here, whether you’ve come back or not; even if you never read this, thank you.

And to any writer who’s had a remotely similar experience to mine–who’s struggled like I’ve struggled–never give up. Never wait on your ideas. Never smother them with lethargy. Never write for anyone other than yourself.

But most of all, never add qualifiers. Never strictly regiment what you write. Never set standards that will break you if you don’t meet them.

Instead, just write. Don’t wait for a particular month. Don’t wait for a particular mood. Don’t wait for everything to be perfect because it never will. Write often. Write from the heart. Write in places that you love and places where you’ve never been. Write until it’s a strange addiction that you find you’re suddenly terrified to lose.

Write until it feels like maybe it’s unhealthy. And at that point, do not stop.

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