Remembering

I don’t do well without distractions.

At this point in my life, being in a quiet room, without anything to do, ends horribly for me. Like characters in some of my older stories (vehicles for me to express the phenomenon), I start thinking of the many, many things that are going wrong in my life. Projects that aren’t finished, relationships that ended poorly, mistakes I’ve made. Anything that pulls me down into the silent, tight hole of depression.

It was happening at work the other day, because last week was especially bad for me; the news that an emotionally abusive and physically violent person from my past was–surprise!–living in my apartment again did wonders for my sense of dread, even before the difficulty of finding a legitimate apartment or room settled in. So, sitting at work, unable to focus on anything creative, the progression went something like this:

It’s going to take forever to find a decent room.

I’d be able to find one faster if I had a better job, but just getting an interview seems impossible.

I could get back to working on fonts, but that probably wouldn’t yield big gains.

And, besides, I can’t even focus on creative projects.

What if I’ll never be able to again?

What if I just die without being able to finish anything again?

What if “Aixa the Hexcaster” is the only story that I ever get published, because [and I can’t stress how honest and legitimate this fear is] I get murdered in my sleep?

At that point, I realized I needed any distraction whatsoever, because, for me, depression is always at its most debilitating when I fall into the pit of “I’m going to die.” I can keep myself from falling into it–settle back into a place where I’m just trying to be productive–but if I get stuck, I’ll be stuck for hours. And, of course I would, because, contrary to the word “sadness” being used interchangeably with “depression,” depression is a very different beast. Getting stuck and losing time is part of what that beast actually is.

For whatever reason–maybe because I just couldn’t think beyond the fears–I decided to pull up Google on the work computer. I fully expected it to be blocked, but I blindly typed in “Aixa the Hexcaster” anyway. I think I was trying to get to a review I’d seen on a message board: just one line talking about how, out of all the stories released in that Autumn’s issue of Mirror Dance, “Aixa” was their favorite.

But I was on image search, somehow–maybe an idle click while I was trying to stop thinking about depressing things.

I wound up pausing though–blinking. “Aixa the Hexcaster” is a pretty unique name, I’ve discovered, so if you google it, the top results are always the story itself, me talking about it, or images relating to it.

So, it was surprising when this popped up:

anime-paradise-anime-world-of-books

The very first thing I noted, for my own benefit, was that this was not fan art. I glanced at it, and in that first heartbeat, I made sure the first thing I admitted to myself was, “No, seriously, it’s impossible that this is fan art. Like, calm down. That’s not real–you ain’t there yet.” The woman in this picture? Clearly not Aixa Silva.

But what was it then? I followed through, clicking on “View Page,” hoping the resulting site wouldn’t be blocked by IT (‘Seriously, I never browse–just this once, IT, be cool’).

I found a post on the blog of Michael Matheson, a writer, editor, and reviewer. The post was a reading list they’d put together for 2016.

The list was a monster–Michael had put in a ton of time, even listing comics they’d enjoyed.

But, still, the same self-checking reflex that made me realize the feature image wasn’t fan art told me that this page must’ve been linked in error. To make sure, I hit Ctrl + F, typed in “Aixa,” hit Enter.

The page jumped down to “2016 Recommendations (Short Form)”:

  • Louis Santiago – Aixa the Hexcaster (Mirror Dance, Fall 2016) – Writer’s first publication. Still somewhat raw, as one would expect from a first sale, but Santiago’s a writer to watch.

The screen blurred. I only barely managed not to cry, but the effort meant I just sat there for a moment, looking at those words.

The gratitude I feel for those two sentences–seen at such a terrible, terrible time in my life–cannot be expressed. I cannot overstate how much it mattered for me–how much it still matters. It suddenly clicked again that, “Hey, man, you finished another story that you feel good about, and you’ve already started submitting it.”

“Yo, you almost finished the rule set for your own game; it’s almost ready to be tested.”

“Dude, you come up with new fonts really quickly. And, like, yeah, there’s still no way to tell if that will be profitable at all, in any way, but, hey, it’s still something you’re awesome at.”

I was getting somewhere. It was taking forever, and it always would, but progress was still being made. Ground was still being gained.

At the best of times, you barely even notice that kind of progress.

At the worst of times, remembering it can save your life.

~~~

I need to sincerely thank Michael Matheson for single-handedly pulling me out of a really bad place a few days ago–for helping me keep going. Michael, even if you never see this, or maybe if you see it three years from now, thank you so much.

To everyone here, thank you too. I have always appreciated everyone who stops in to read this blog. Creators say this kind of thing all the time, but, genuinely, without the support, I would not be able to justify doing any of the things I love doing, and I don’t even want to know where I would be if that was the case.

As a quick update, I have been delving into two other modes of creativity:

  • Game design, which is something I’ve always kicked around, but only recently got serious about. After a weekend of board gaming, which my friends and I called XenoPAX, I suddenly understood how to make sense of an old, problematic rule set I cooked up. Since then, I’ve been working out its kinks to make a functional game, and I’m surprisingly close to getting it into game-testing shape.
  • Font design. Long story short: a friend started a video production firm, which resulted in me dusting off graphic design skills I haven’t used since my Infinite Ammo days. I made a few logos for him, which required a custom font, and that led to the strange realization that font design just inherently makes sense to me. It’s slow going, but the goal is to use some extra time here and there to put together fonts I can sell on fontspring.

Writing-wise, I keep working on new ideas for shorts, looking for new places to publish them. I’m also getting started on rewriting an older novel. It means putting a newer one on hiatus, but I honestly haven’t done enough worldbuilding for the new one anyway, so that hiatus was happening regardless.

All of that said, I have to get back to packing and looking for apartments. Thank you again for passing by.

And, as always, write well.

Just Checking In: Welcome to 2019

It’s a new year. A new chance to finally get the life I want.

For me, 2019 feels almost like a last chance though; my internal gauge of Published Heat has officially dropped back down to 0, and if I get to 2020 without getting published again, it’s probably going to spin down further, into negative percentages. Which is supposed to be mathematically impossible . . .

. . . but not for a writer, baby! Ha ha!

Anyway, look–I’m so serious about this year that I’d already started a few initiatives and resolutions weeks before the ball dropped.

For one, I’ve stopped eating meat. Not a self-righteous decision there; I just want to make healthier food choices, and I found that being vegetarian–while not as difficult in 2019 as it was in 2008–also forces me to make better food choices.

I also drew up a Google Sheet of 52 places to apply to this year, shared with a few friends at work.

My point is, I need this year to be different, and I’m doing my best to make sure that it is.

And part of that effort means posting on here–if only to keep myself sane.

But, really, to keep myself on track creatively.

My Current WIP’s

  1. “Nurture Garden 5” – A sci-fi short story that I’ve submitted a few times. Originally, I was just happy that it was under 7,000 words. Currently, I’m in editing hell with it. Every time I go back, I comb over the same scenes, looking for things to improve, determined to do several rounds of edits in one go. It is looking promising, but it’s also very, very difficult to go back to. I’m just about in the middle of it, and the goal is to have it done–again–by February.
  2. The Hand & the Tempest – The YA fantasy novel I’ve been working on for over a year now. I learned a very, very important lesson with this one earlier in the year; I can never, ever push myself to write. If I don’t know what’s coming next in a novel, I just need to put it down and work on something else instead. Yes, that makes things horribly slow-going.

    But the alternative is writing a completely rushed chapter that takes everything in a stale direction.

    This was kind of a surprise, because, in 2016, when I finished the first draft of Memory–an fantasy action-adventure–I was absolutely sure that bolting out novels in a single month was the way to go.

    Nope.

    More on Memory later, but, for whatever reason, I just didn’t pay attention to the massive additions and edits I had to make with that novel. The endorphin rush of just finishing something quickly dwarfed the desire to make sure that something was as sound as possible. That is never the angle from which I want to tackle a project.

    Yes, I do need to finish projects. But if I don’t execute them well–the first time–they’ll be in edits forever.

    The goal with The Hand and the Tempest is to find a middle ground–a schedule that’s somewhere between belting out words every day (like I did with Memory), and wasting months on an outline that’s ultimately too rigid.

    Right now, I’m hoping the answer is meditation–or some other form of quiet thought-exercise. I haven’t tried yet, because my personal life is bad enough that I rely very heavily on distractions.
    But I will give it a shot this weekend. And maybe I’ll write about it too.

Of course, there are other projects I want to work on, and others that I’ve completed. Unfortunately, I’ve put one of those completed stories on the back burner, and retired another one completely.

  • “Lokisday” is the project that I retired. It was a fantasy short story that just had way too issues:
    • It’s incredibly long–I’m talkin’ novella length–so I ran out of places where I could submit it.
    • It was also a “working shit out” story. Not an exact mirror of a previous relationship I’ve had, but definitely a vehicle for me to work out emotions brought on by that relationship. Still, I’m too close to it to judge it honestly, which I’m so aware of that I’m just not sure I want it published anymore; I’d be giving that story side-eye for the rest of my life.
    • Anyway, because it was a working-shit-out story, it had a very, very stale theme. You can’t change the past. Love who you are. Some people genuinely aren’t worth it. Things we’ve all heard so many times from so many other stories.
    • It was also another story from me where a protagonist goes somewhere and talks with a super-powerful mythical creature. I already did that, to way better effect, in “Aixa the Hexcaster.” I don’t want to keep rehashing that experience. On to different things.
  • Memory: Shadow of the Lord Sun – I’ve put Memory on the back burner. Primarily–and I hate saying this–because I think it needs to be rewritten if I intend to submit it at all.

    As I said earlier, this was my NaNo 2016 novel, belted out quickly before I realized that wasn’t a good way for me to write a story.

    It is very much a creature of the time I wrote it (a Marvel Studios-esque fantasy adventure with a strong female lead–as a secret hook, for some reason). So much of that doesn’t really resonate anymore, and I’d rather be ahead of the curve than behind it.

    • I didn’t plan to make a plot twist out of the one character being a woman–I just wrote a hyper-intelligent, super-powered character without knowing what gender they would be, then realized that she was definitely a woman.

      Somehow, though, that character’s gender came off like a plot twist regardless.
      And I hate that. I think it became a twist because, at the time, I didn’t feel like there were enough leading ladies in nerddom (and also because I love Samus Aran–not gonna lie).

      But there are plenty of strong, female protagonists in nerddom now. Or, at least, there aren’t so few female protagonists out there that it would make sense, at all, to hide the character’s gender as a twist. We’re definitely at the point where you can just add momentum to the wave without being coy. I’d prefer to rewrite the story from that adjusted angle.

      Of course, hiding that character’s identity still makes a ton of sense plot-wise, but I’ll figure something out.

    • The other protagonist never had a strong, unique arc, which I can absolutely fix. I already know where I’m taking it, and that it would be more interesting. However, it’s not the kind of thing I can just drop into the existing MS.
    • I never showed the world in as much detail as it needed to be shown. The end result was a novel that made it seem like I did minimal world-building. Also something I can fix.
    • The weirdest thing: Memory was significantly under its appropriate word count. So, rather than struggle to add something to a flawed manuscript, starting over feels like a better bet.
    • And, finally, the Marvel-esque tone just bugs me. Not because I suddenly hate Marvel movies or like DCEU movies–because just fucking no.

      It’s because I don’t want to write any of my work with the tone of someone else’s. I want it to feel like my work. I want it to read like something I would write.

      I want the visuals to be weirder and more striking. I want the action to be more dangerous. Less punchy than Marvel’s.

      I guess, more than anything, I want to finally cultivate my own style, and stick with it, unabashedly. It’s going to take practice and focus.

      But, if there’s one thing I know in the vast, mysterious hellscape of writing, it’s that finding my own style–my own voice and cadence–will absolutely be worth it.

~~~

In the weeks to come, I’ll be posting a lot more about these projects–particularly “Nurture Garden 5,” which I’m hoping to make a ton of progress with tomorrow morning.

Anyway, thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post–and want to get a notification when I publish my next one–please hit the subscribe button to the left of your screen. You can also follow me on Twitter @LSantiagoAuthor!

Until next time, take care. And, if you have one, seriously reconsider that working-shit-out story.

Back on Hiatus

Hey, everyone. I’m going to keep this one short.

First thing’s first . . . I hated last week’s post. I rushed through something I’d intended to be important and beautiful. While at the Met, I’d taken a bunch of pictures I intended to use in “The Emperor’s Gun,” explaining how much inspiration museums provide for worldbuilding. Here’s one of those pics:

LS-BackonHiatus1

And here’s another:

LS-BackonHiatus2

The idea was to talk about how limited our understanding of the world would be without help. Without the desire to learn — particularly to do research — we’re left to assume how cultures work, and how our past happened. And, yeah, knowing that is important for us as human beings, of course, but, in terms of writing, we wind up grasping at straws and deviating into ridiculous, nonsense plots if we don’t make an effort to understand our own history and that of others.

Unfortunately, all of this fell to the wayside because I was burnt out from work, trying to post at 2AM. I wound up settling for a short, confused post about a gun. And, sure, back when I was a kid, that gun had blown my mind, and started me down the road to an important lesson . . .

. . . but I would’ve preferred to take my time. Write something that actually felt poignant. It upsets me that I didn’t.

It also upsets me that, in about two hours, it will be August — just one month until September 1st.

At which point it will be a year since I was published for the first time. My entire goal for this year had been to get another short story published.

Instead, I got a promotion — a good thing, for sure — and then spent the majority of the year struggling through the first chapters of a new book. I finished a final edit of Memory as well — also good — but I should’ve planned better. Should’ve known my limits.

What I’m saying is, I don’t regret writing here more — my stint of posting every day was a bunch of fun — but I genuinely need to dial it back. I said this exact thing a few months ago when I stopped posting every day, but that was a half-measure. I’m a man who’s only had one piece published, posting on his blog every week about writing theory.

It just feels ridiculous. And, maybe it’s taken this long for the glow of “Aixa the Hexcaster” to die down, but, once again, it feels like I have no right to talk about my process here.

It feels like the part of me that wants to keep posting is the last bit of young douchebag Louis. The guy who started this blog and almost immediately wrote that a classic fantasy series was lacking because one edition’s cover was bad.

No. No, I refuse to be that wildly bling guy anymore.

What I’m saying is, I’m not an amazing writer. And I’m not going to post on here every day until I become an amazing writing. I’m going to dial this blog back to “one post when I have something important to say,” because, otherwise, I’m just rambling on here. Or I just feel like I’m rambling, and that’s all the same.

I have many, many goals, and I have to start working on those without distractions, set up to pamper me.

This blog is one of those distractions.

Thank you to everyone who’s supported me here over the past year. You guys have absolutely kept me going. I’ve never had this steady of an audience, and it’s been every bit as validating as getting my work published. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who’s commented, everyone who’s subscribed, everyone who’s Liked a post. I will, without a doubt, write you again.

But, for now, I have to pick up my big boy pen and become the writer I’ve always wanted to be.

~~~

My name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx, trying to become a professional before it’s too late for me. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster” was published in 2016 at Mirror Dance Fantasy, and I’m currently preparing three more pieces for submission. I no longer post here on a set schedule, but if you’d like an email notification when I do — my words delivered right to your inbox — then please subscribe at the bottom of this page. All I get from posting on this blog is support from readers, but that support means the world to me.

Until next time, thank you again. And, as always, write well.

The Plot, As It Is Now

Hi there. Apologies for this one being late, but I used my days off this week to hunker down and finish editing Memory: Shadow of the Lord Sun. I completed it on Tuesday, then had to work the rest of the week until today, so sacrifices were made.

I’m still really happy about it though, because I’ve been struggling with this last edit for a long time.

With it, I had to fix one huge issue that kept smothering my queries: the beginning of the novel — a part that needs to impress — was weird, confused nonsense. It is, as I’ve said in previous posts, my curse as a discovery writer; I start with something meant to catch the eye, then figure out what the rest of the story is, but when the story’s done, it creates a world in which the intro no longer makes sense. Figuring out a fun, new intro without completely breaking the story, was difficult . . .

. . . because I felt like I was getting closer and closer to that point when you, as a writer, hit the foundations. When you decide, “Well, this important part of the story should maybe be completely different . . . Yeah! Let me completely redo it!” But completely changing the one thing turns into, “Let me change all the things!” so easily. In my youth, I thought that was fine. As an adult, I’m way less keen to give up on a story that has merit in order to change it into a completely new story. I acknowledge, these days, that those new ideas are meant to be short stories, or different novels altogether. I also acknowledge that scrapping and creating a new story is the easy way out.

Because it’s easier and safer to never finish a project. If you keep editing forever, you don’t have to deal with rejection. You don’t have to actually make sure any of your subplots have pay-off. If you keep editing forever, you get to keep feeling like you’re making progress, even when you aren’t. You get to tell a skeptical friend, “I’m making it way, way better!” even though you aren’t making it better — you’re making it different.

There’s a point when you just have to stop editing. When you have to accept that the manuscript you have is the one you’re going to put out there.

I have absolutely hit that point with this novel; a lot of the changes I made this time around were erasing changes I made in previous edits. Because I’ve reached the point where I’m just tweaking the plot based on my mood. There’s nothing else to do aside from making sure that the plot, as it is now . . . is cleanly and tactfully presented. On that note, there is one scene that I actually have to revisit (the new dream sequence) to make sure it’s as intense as it’s supposed to be, but that will take a day, tops.

And, regardless, I can still strap in . . . for the unbridled joy of submissions. Today, I can work on my submission package, editing the synopsis accordingly. And, yes, the synopsis is right up there with cover letters on the list of Things I Hate Writing, but at least this time, I’m writing a synopsis for a plot that makes total sense, instead of trying to hide an intro that’s strangely incongruous.

More than anything, though, I’m excited to get back to short stories. I’m going to tank the next few months on three in particular: Lokisday, A Dead God in A Silent Realm, and Hard Reset.

It’s going to be . . . amazing.

My plan for this year was to get another short story published. I got a little distracted by the promotion at work, but I’m getting back on track, and it feels great.

~~~

Thanks for reading. I’m going to grab lunch, come back, play a video game, then work on that synopsis . . . Yeah, ya know what? I’ll pick up some wine while I’m out there.

Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was published last year in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process — still trying to figure it out — which means posting here every week, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting updates by email — a new post from me delivered right to your inbox — then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.

Thank you just for passing by, and, as always, write well.

“Aixa the Hexcaster” has been published at Mirror Dance!

I said that I’d post again if I got published.

So, with a ton of self-control, I’d like to say that . . .

OMFG YOU GUYS . . . <clears throat> My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” has been published at Mirror Dance Fantasy.

I have the privilege of sharing the Autumn 2016 issue of Mirror Dance with a bunch of stellar authors. Please check it out if you have a moment; especially because Mirror Dance, a fantasy e-zine devoted to publishing high quality short stories, does it all for free.

“Aixa” is set in a New York broken by a magical apocalypse, divided among the mythics–beings that crawled out of the earth when the old world shattered. More powerful than we are, possessing strange abilities we don’t understand, and enjoying an immunity to all of our weapons, mythics became our masters almost immediately, dividing the city into overgrown wilds that they control, and pushing us into scattered camps where they leave us be. Or use us for their wants and whims. But, no matter what they do, they always demand one thing from us.

The truth. Clean and cruel.

Aixa Silva, a sherpa who guides the uninitiated through the wilds, knows all of this well. But, even though she has no love for the mythics, she finds herself unwilling to fight them–even with her hexcaster–a weapon that she knows can harm them. For a long time, she wonders why.

This is the story of how she finds her answer. And how she learns to hate humanity’s new masters.

What’s Next:

When I wrote “A Long Break,” I honestly wasn’t sure I’d ever be published. Now, finally having a piece accepted for publication, I feel . . . I mean, I wish I’d somehow recorded my reaction to the acceptance letter.

I . . . freaked out.

It’s just . . . incredibly validating–and somehow humbling; I’m ecstatic to have finally made it here, but I also know that this is just a first step–one on which I have to build a foundation. It took . . . so much work to get this far, and it’s going to take so much more to get published again.

But now, knowing that I’m at least doing it right . . . I suddenly have the confidence to write everything. So many old story ideas have resurfaced because I have the privilege to consider them again.

Staying on point though . . .

  1. The blog’s back. I’m not sure what the schedule will be, but I’ll definitely post once a month, at least. I’m also going to go all in with series ideas I had (things like The Writer’s Gauntlet, and 30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2).
  2. I’m spending September and October polishing a single short story, “Lokisday,” and a single novel, Memory, both of which are in final tweak stages (although Memory is definitely veering toward, “Just send it out again because maybe too much editing is a bad thing” territory).
  3. I’ve also been working on a table top game. It started as a new puzzle to consider when I really, really didn’t want to think about writing anymore, but it’s snowballed into a complex rule set. A 100% complete version of the game, with board and cards, is still ages away from happening (especially if I’m doing the art), but I’m taking it seriously now. Seriously enough that I’m butchering some flash cards, writing stats and drawing sword-wielding stick figures on them, eager to finalize the rules and test it out.

That is to say that now, finally validated, I’m eager as hell to give voice to other stories. Stories that I finally feel like I can tell as cleanly and honestly as I’d always hoped. I still have to work on my craft–of course I do–but now I genuinely feel like I can become a better writer… and make a table top game… and do pretty much anything else I want, as long as I devote myself to doing it right. Doing it well.

So, that’s what’s next, starting with more submissions before NaNo hits again.

As for this post, that’s all I’ve got. As always, thank you for reading. And, if you must write, write well.

A Long Break

Early October, 2015:

“It’s postin” time!”

I thought it–or maybe I actually shouted it–at my computer.

And then I sat there, staring at its screen.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t think of a topic; there was always some aspect of writing I could spend hours writing about. Dishing about. Nit-picking.

Hours. Hours that always absorbed whole writing sessions. Because, as manic and critical as I am, something like a blog post wasn’t a thing that could possibly be finished in just a few hours.

A blog post. Because that’s what it was, wasn’t it? Not an author’s website, because Louis Santiago wasn’t an author. By definition, authors are published.

At best, I’m a blogger.

Late October, 2015:

While trying to decide what to NaNo, I realized I still hadn’t posted for the month.

At some point, after telling a friend that I was considering taking a break from the blog, I’d been so eager to kick it off–so absolutely exhausted with the biweekly grind of writing posts–that I’d done it without realizing.

Because, after five years, the original plan for this site wasn’t working.

Step 1 – Make an author website.
Step 2 – Build a platform with that site while working on my writing.
Step 3 – Get published, in part because of the platform built on this site.

The writing part? That was coming along beautifully. When I started this blog, I was incredibly, naively confident about my writing skills. A few years in, I was questioning every story I thought up–fretting about every last word I wrote. But, at this point, I’m back to being confident, in part because I finally have my own technique. A style and a voice. Write it quickly, editing as you go. Don’t question whether an edit will make a scene less _______; just make the edit if it leads to a story you like. Don’t fret over first drafts–just get them out and give it your signature nit-picking and crimping when it was done. Plan stories, but not every scene–not every action. That’s my balance and I love it.

But, in contrast, I do not have the same grasp on this blog. The original plan for it just wasn’t happening. It wasn’t unfair–not a mystery why the site wasn’t working. I wasn’t beating himself up about it.

It was just suddenly clear, with the second year of NaNo approaching, that spending a week or two’s worth of writing sessions every month on blog posts… didn’t make sense anymore. Doing 30 Days 2, although tempting, wouldn’t help with the short stories I had to edit. The submission process I needed to keep working on.

And it wouldn’t help any of the new short stories, like Rainwater, get finished. After five years of writing about writing, I just wanted to write. The oddly sudden wave of new ideas that started crashing in the moment I understood that I could actually finish them. The characters I could indulge in because I could confidently give them voice now.

Since I was young, that was my dream. Writing.

Posting on my blog every other week, feeling awkward about it because I didn’t have any published stories to back up my observations about the craft? Not so much.

That was it then. Time to write a “last post for now.”

Yeah. With NaNoWriMo less than a week away.

On average, my blog has had about ten readers per post. Not enough to actually miss one of my posts. Not enough people to inundate the site with outrage over a lull in content.

But “about ten” was absolutely enough readers to stop me from posting right before NaNo. No matter how improbable it was, I refused to negatively impact anyone’s November in any way.

Today – December 1st, 2015:

I just want to get back to finishing Rainwater!

I spent the majority of NaNoWriMo 2015 working on it–an effort that included the creation of a total coding mess of an Excel world-building file; a very important part of that project.

But I also started other stories. “The Eldritch Auditor.” “Not Stupid, Fucking ‘Wonderboy.'” I just want to get back to those too. And roll right into editing Drowned God (AGAIN). I want to resubmit Memory: Shadow of the Lord Sun and keep working on the loose outline for its sequel, Legacy: The [SPOILERS–TITLES SHOULDN’T HAVE SPOILERS].

But first, I want to take a moment first to thank absolutely anyone who has ever read, liked, or subscribed. Anyone who’s commented here. Anyone who’s been with me for the past five years. Anyone who’s only hung around for five minutes of it. Thank you–so much–for being here for a cornerstone of my life.

I’m not going to remove this site; it’s not going to disappear. It will be here for as long as the internet exists. But I might not post again.

If I do though, I’ll post for one of two reasons.

  1. Because I had a thought I just had to shove out into the world; maybe another long rant about how much I just fucking hate lizardmen.
  2. Or, I’ll be writing to let you know that I’ve finally, finally been published. That the posts will immediately resume because they’re a luxury I feel I could have. That I was finally comfortable talking about writing like it’s a thing I know how to do, because there would finally be emphatic evidence that–yep–I know how to write. Well enough to get picked up.

So, again, thank you. For reading. For stopping by.

And, as always, write well.

Update: First “Update” for 2015 and Last “Update” for the Rest of Time

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.

Update: Memory of the Black Sun–My NaNoWriMo 2014 Project–is Finished

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.

 

Very Comfortably Insane

2013-(white)WarofExilesUpdateC

Not to be a downer, but at the time of this posting, I still don’t feel it.

It’s been a week now. A week since I finished my rewrite of my first novel. And somehow, I still don’t really feel it. There were moments when I almost did–moments when I wrote to a friend about finishing the book and perked up, excited at the thought of moving on to the sequel and other, shorter projects. But every time, the near rush always cut short with a monotone, “Nope. That didn’t do it either–still not excited.”

I don’t want this to sound super dramatic; I’m not numb or in shock. I’m just… unfazed. It’s disappointing, really, because the first time I finished this book, I was out of my mind with joy; I’d finished a book and, oh man, I still had to edit it, but, oh geez–oh man–it was done!

This time, I typed the last sentence. Stared at it. Smirked… And then immediately admitted that I hated the last sentence. I changed it quickly to something I really liked and backed up the finished first (technically sixth) draft. And then I just sat at my computer for a while, aware that now, not only could I do something else with my day… but I had to do something else–even though, this time, I knew the story wasn’t actually done–because it was the next step in my writing plan. In the slow, determinedly celebratory and lazy way of humans, I wound up convincing myself to do all of the things I usually do when I achieve a solid milestone–I played some video games without caring about how much time I wasted that day (ultimately a few hours that felt like far, far too long without the banter of a friend over Xbox Live). I also had a decent lunch. I may have actually bought myself a cookie.

The thing is… I’m much, much different from the 20-something year old who blissfully typed, “The End,” and spent a month celebrating afterward (a month of down time that turned into months of carelessness). Past-Louis thought he was almost done–that the Content Edit and Line Edit would be easy. That he’d finished something great.

Present-Louis, however, has already moved on to another story because he kind of had to. Because Present-Louis knows now that it’s time for the Big Push. The Long Halloween. The Whatever You Want to Call It. This is the year where I keep going and move on to another story with my insane, custom-made, self-taught, monster outlines and try to refine them while learning more about writing; about establishing a flow of projects and trying out my approach for Growing Outlines.

Essentially, now is the time when I actually level up as a writer, again. And it’s terrifying! Maybe because I’ve already finished this same book once without knowing it was terrible.  Or maybe it’s because I have almost no outside opinions on my extremely personal techniques–no other writer to look in and say, “Do you really need to list the clothing your characters are wearing?” or “You should make an extra part in your outlines for [this]. [This] is super important and you’re missing it.”

Or maybe it’s because of that moment in front of my computer, staring at the monitor–at that last line–and realizing that I was nothing without the ability to tell stories. I’ve moved on to a new outline of a standalone idea, deeply revised from the super vague, over-excited concept I had in high school (forged from listening to the heartsick intro music from Chrono Cross), and I’m clinging to that outline for dear life. Because I’m not the kind of writer who can take breaks anymore. I’m the kind of writer that’s too far gone, who’s only real fear is the imagined point when I have no more stories to tell.

Well, that and the impending rejection letters. You hear that, slight inkling of victory? Reality’s a-comin’ for ye!

To put all drama and preemptive bitterness aside though, I am… content. Yes, everything is a challenge right now. But, for writers, toiling away, constructing worlds that may never, ever reach readers, everything is a challenge. I’m glad to have found new ones, but they’re still challenges and they’re still daunting.

Regardless, and because I want even this post to be somewhat constructive, the attack plan is as follows:

  1. Spend March away from War of Exiles before beginning my Content Edit. In that time, I’ll take the month to work on a sparse Chapter Outline for the new story I mentioned, The Hand and the Tempest (expect to see it temporarily replace War of Exiles in my Project Progress bar at the top of the page [although its bar will be stranger, as the goal is to progressively build on the outline until it goes from ‘Short Story’ to ‘Novella’ to (maybe) ‘Full Length, Stand-Alone Novel’–this being the purpose of my “Growing Outline”)]).
  2. When April hits, all outlining for The Hand and the Tempest stops as I return to WoE for the Content Edit and, after using The Hand and the Tempest for practice, begin writing a Chapter Outline for War of Masks, the sequel to War of Exiles.
  3. From there, it’s moving on to a Line Edit for WoE while Chapter Outlining the third book in the series (currently unnamed).
  4. After that, when my submission packet is finished, I’ll review the outline for The Hand and the Tempest, and write it as I submit WoE.
  5. And after that, it’s off to work on an outline for another standalone story–I have another in mind.
  6. And all while, I’ll be staring at the intimidating mountain of information that is my actual, main series–my magnum opus that terrifies me as much as it excites me.

This, it turns out, is what being a devoted, aspiring novelist is like; poor and terrified. Unrealistically devoted and absolutely proud of it (if you’re here with me on this obnoxiously lonely, writers’ path, hi there. Let’s revel in our wildly unstable, conflicting emotions together).

To put it simply, being an aspiring author means that you’re very comfortably insane.

Brand New Day – Week 3 – Caught Between the Bell Curves

It’s Thursday night. I want to knock out a post before I get to bed; I’m going to Queens Comic Con tomorrow with Kenney Broadway and Chaos Mechanica. It’s an outing that was pretty exciting until I 8PM hit earlier and I realized that I somehow didn’t get anything done for my book today.

I know that’s not exactly fair—I made business cards today. And edited a few of next week’s posts. And worked out my schedule for Comic Con. And worked a bit on my big contribution to this year’s Con (a post for Infinite Ammo that’s still incredibly unfinished considering how complicated it’ll be to execute [thankfully Darth Healthcare {we’re just full of code names on that site} volunteered to help, but even the third of its writing portion, which I started months ago, is still unfinished and needs a ton of tweaking]). Still though, the goal was to roll out of bed, lay down on my couch and do that weird thing where I brainstorm by staring up at the ceiling (and maybe dozing off) to figure out exactly how the next chapter is supposed to work (which always leads to me crossing out the first few pages I get from the brain storming session and rewriting them later, after I discover the way the chapter should really go while doing something as unrelated as, say, petting a cat [as far as efficiency is concerned, it’s about as roundabout a way of writing as using brackets within brackets to steer myself away from a point {I swear I’ll stop this now}]). I was set to wake up and write just as I was ready for this whole Brand New Day thing to be relatively simple.

Relatively, as in I knew it would still be hard, yes. But I didn’t know I’d have so much work to do for Infinite Ammo that I’d realize the sun went gone down and wonder where the time went on a daily basis.

It doesn’t help that I feel determined to be unhappy; when I’m home, I wish I was outside. When I’m hanging out with friends, I wish I was out walking (I have a weird thing with taking walks and traveling), or home writing. And it’s not like I’m ungrateful or don’t want to hang out with my friends, I just want to do everything at once and I can’t. It’s really frustrating. Now that Chaos Mechanica and I have made a site that’s still going strong and has gotten nearly 3,500 hits, it’s lost its professional luster; all that there is for me is finishing this novel and possibly starting other ventures I’ve considered lately. There’s now a gratification curve to what I do, which, now that I say it, is possibly the same reason why I probably don’t feel completely gratified when I hang out; it’s not that the people I spend time with are lame or unfulfilling friends. It’s that… Well, you’ve probably loved someone so much that you didn’t know what to do when it didn’t work out with them, no matter how hard you tried.

Well, I don’t know what to do anymore. I’m caught between the bell curves and it’s a silent kind of unhappy that I try not to talk about to anyone. I want to finish more of this book every week. And I love her and miss her so much that I’m writing about it on my blog like this is high school.

Okay. Deep breath. One of those problems I can fix. The other I can ignore.

It’s time for bed; I can brainstorm/write on the train (where, oddly enough, I do my best drafting). I can spend a few hours at this Queens Comic Con, meet up with other friends afterward, hopefully go to Occupy Wall St. like I’ve wanted to. All of that is important.

One day at a time.