Trying to pull it together in 2019

In looking back at my writing progress in 2018, the best thing I can say is that I didn’t totally give up. I got super close, but not quite. Every attempt to get back on track was half-hearted and generally cock-blocked by something to do with work. In general, I’m not keeping up at work like I need to, and it’s stressing me out, which is making it harder to focus and even less seems to get done. Then, all tired and pissed off at myself for doing far less than I should be, I get home and don’t write. Not writing is also stressing me out and then I get mad at myself, so I avoid the whole thing. On top of that, I’ve got serious parent guilt about not being there enough for the kiddos’ activities or spending enough time on them. Really, by the end of the day I’m at the point where I’m ready to just check-out. Hence, the new gaming computer (Bonus picture below) I built this spring, which I’ve upgraded at least 5 times since June.

In any case, I can’t keep being this way. I seriously need to focus on getting back to a level of getting shit done that will make me feel less like a hopeless slacker and maybe provide some encouragement and motivation. To that end, I’ve got a strategy, but first – some mostly accurate background.

Last month I got a bullet journal for work. (That’s not what happened. My wife got it decided she’d never use it so stole it.) I thought if I had something that would help me identify, organize, and track shit I need to do, that I could do a better job of managing my worktime. In theory, the same thing could be achieved using MS outlook or other productivity tools. While productivity tools may sound compelling, they’re just plain overwhelming. Really, just about the only sane response is to just ignore all of it.

When I was at my last job, we had a trouble-ticket system. Ostensibly, they’re are designed to fill the same kind of niche as something like a Bullet Journal, by tracking and organizing tasks. Really, I find systems like that are so full of dates, numbers, and oh-so ‘helpful’ reminders of how many outstanding tasks you have, it’s more stressful than helpful. I don’t need smug-ass software telling me that I’m not getting shit done. I do, however, need a tracking system because I’m getting old and fat, my brain has become somewhat leaky and I’m also not getting shit done.

Anyhow, this is where the journal comes in. I started using it for work and within three days I realized that what I REALLY need to be using it for is writing. Well, and work too, I’m still using it for work. The idea I had was to write down all of the things I want to do with writing and set a few goals. Since there aren’t any dates, it basically stays evergreen until I start ticking off some boxes. It gives me a canvas to write down things I want to do, maybe over time add in things I think of and just sit on those until I can focus on them, then when I’m ready to deal with them, BAM I’ve got a list with check-boxes. Plus, the way I’ve got it structured, I don’t have to flip through all of my unfished stuff to get to the active project. Out of sight, out of mind.

Anyhow, that’s a long way of saying, I’m getting organized with my goal setting and here’s what’s on the docket for the year: Get The Dark Queen of Darkness through editing and published by September. The other goal I’m setting for myself is to do more blog posts (hence the 2nd blog post this year and it’s still actually January). So, that’s where I am. Trying out some optimism. I hope it fits.


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Computer: Ryzen 1700x overclocked to 4Ghz, 16GB DDR4 3400Mhz, AIO water-cooler (push-pull fan configuration), MSI GeForce GTX 1060 6GB, Gigabyte AB350N Gaming motherboard, 1TB SSD, Thermaltake mini-ITX case, corsair 550w semi-modular PSU, and also lots of LEDs.

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First draft of a second book

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I know I said I was going to update this blog more often a few weeks ago, then didn’t. Well, I got busy. With the end of the year on me, I started to feel the press of time with respect to my second book (which is the first in a series). Oddly enough, I never intended it to be a book. Really, I was just aiming at writing practice.

Earlier this year, I think June? I finished the first full draft of an epic fantasy novel and sent it out to beta readers. The feedback was very positive, but pointed out a lot of problems. Problems that are likely beyond my skill to fix, just now. So, I set it aside in order to focus on more immediate issues, like making sure I was still employed come August and the ducks had a place to live before the snow hit the ground. However, at about the end of July a funny thing happened. In a non-writing related conversation with a friend, I said: “You know, the funny thing about witch hunts is that sometimes you find one.” Well, that was it. It grabbed my attention. Then, perhaps a few days later I got a DM from someone telling me I should write a series on Channillo.com. I concluded that it would be something to try, so I sat down to see what my silly little quote might turn in to.

At first, I wasn’t really sure, except that I liked the concept and characters. Since I was putting this out for sale right away, I decided a nice book cover was in order, so I bought one. Unfortunately, I bought one that didn’t quite match what I had in mind, so given that I had a cover and no story, I wrote enough of the story to fit the cover. Much cheaper than spending a lot of cash on a custom cover for a book I wasn’t even sure would be a book!

For about the first chapter, I figured that if I made sure I was doing a chapter every 3 weeks or so, I could satisfy my Channillo.com goals and also be done with a draft sometime next spring. Yeah, that pretty much didn’t happen. I mean, it did at first, but that second chapter was written the day before my self-imposed due date. I don’t like operating that way, so I set out to write several more chapters, just so I was a little ahead. Then, I went to Kansas City for training, which was cool. Spent all day training, then socialized with co-workers for a while, but I still had hours to myself. So, I sat down to write. I think I knocked out 3 1/2 chapters that week alone (~12K words), My pace slowed a bit in November because of the great programming distraction of NaNoWriMo 2015, but picked up again after I went to Orlando for more training in early December. That time, my pace was more like 2~3 chapters. In any case, I plowed on through December until Christmas day when I sat down to organize a handful of content that had gotten out of order and didn’t fit properly into the timeline. Turns out it wasn’t that far off and a little manipulation put it close. So, yesterday, after getting back home, I realized I was maybe a chapter or two off of hitting the end of the first full draft – so I sat down with my Christmas coffee and went to town.

You know what? I got it. Today I went back over the second half of the book and concluded I needed feedback and to set it down for a while. So. there it is. My second full-draft book is complete – yes loads of work to be done, but the bulk of the story is there, and in only 5 months. Needless to say, I’m over the moon with myself. So what am I going to do with myself while I cool off from Wine Bottles and Broomsticks? Write book 2, of course.

Also – if you’re interested, you can hit http://www.Channillo.com to subscribe and check the series out. In January, I’m going to release one chapter a month. Once it’s all out there, it’ll be on Channillo for a month, then poof – gone. You’ll have to wait until I can figure out how to get it published.

Fast Forward

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If for some reason you’ve made the very poor judgment call to actually read this blog with any regularity, then I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: Holy crap Dave you’ve written two blogs in almost as many days! (I say almost because they were each posted at opposite fringes of two consecutive days). Now, if you’ve made the even bigger judgment error of continuing to read, here’s what’s on my mind:

I’m working on Wine Bottles and Broomsticks – all the way out in chapter 9, if you can believe that. So far, it’s been fun, possibly the most fun writing project I’ve had to date. However, I’m now staring at a problem. It’s not a major problem, like a terrible character or gaping plot hole or a plot that just isn’t going anywhere. Nope. That’s not it at all.

I just reached a stopping point.

Dave?

Yes?

You’re just a little over 30K in and you haven’t even gotten to the main point of action you’re building up to.

You can see why this is a problem for me.

Okay fine, it feels like a stopping point, make 9 a short chapter and move on.

Well, that’s the sticking point.

I really don’t see how – are you making this a bigger problem than it is?

No-no, it’s not like that, what I want to do is fast-forward a few weeks. To this point in the story, things have more or less gone day by day. There haven’t been any major breaks in time, however, I’d like to skip ahead to avoid some rather tedious and unnecessary repetition. I want to jump to a scene just before the action really starts to pick up again. In order to make that work, I’m going to have to recap the previous few weeks of time. I don’t see an awful lot going on in that span of time, and I need some depth of time to pass in order for later elements to really be believable.

I think you may have already made a decision Dave.

No. I haven’t, actually. By skipping ahead, I’m cutting out a lot of time in which I can develop plot and characters, it’s just that outline-wise, I don’t have a hell of a lot to actually drop in there. Not only that, I run the risk of throwing off the pacing and making the end of the story feel rushed. No proper build up.

Okay, you know what, you’re clearly not going to take my advice, perhaps you need to get a second opinion.

That’s a great idea. Any takers?