Process in Progress #5 – I Need to Figure Out My Editing Process

Things That Happened While My Back Was Busted:

  1. I watched The Princess Bride, and in doing so discovered that . . . holy shit, Inigo Montoya is really the protagonist of that story. Like, the Han Solo factor of “Why am I not following this guy the whole time?” couples so strongly with his arc getting the most satisfying payoff that I came away from this last viewing like, “How is he not the protagonist?” Seriously, having read the book, it’s bizarre seeing how much the screenplay beefs up Westley (as if someone behind the scenes knew he paled in comparison). Potentially a post coming up about that. In the meantime, seriously, ask anyone to say a quote from The Princess Bride and consider how quickly they answer, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
  2. I started playing Hades. Possibly a post about that coming up as well.
  3. I trimmed the tip of the tree branch that kept bashing at my window, which I only mention because just imagine walking down the street and looking up to see a Hispanic man with wild, Medusa-like hair, Danny DeVito-panting as he clumsily hacks at a thin branch with an old bread knife. That was me. It only took seconds, but just in case no one saw it, now you did.
  4. I barely got any editing done.

Being totally real; my back was bad enough that I just stopped caring about anything. Coupled with the holiday, I just totally stopped trying.

However, the last time I edited (Wednesday) I did realize something.

I have no idea if I’m over- or under-editing.

To explain, my editing process so far has been as follows:

  1. The Big Fix Pass. I consider big feedback I’ve gotten from my writer’s group and pair that with larger edits I wanted to make to a chapter.
  2. The Small Tweaks Pass. After a break, I read back over the chapter, focusing on tweaking everything so it reads well and makes sense. Especially descriptions, which I realize I go super ‘implied magic’ on in my first drafts. Shit like, “The wind swirled blue, stalks wayward swaying,” which is not actually something from my first draft of Memory, but does perfectly represent the kind of starry-eyed bullshit I write sometimes. Although I’m much more guilty of under-describing because I don’t want to flood the read with worldbuilding. It’s weird to have to reign that reflex in (from what feels like the wrong direction), but I’ve really enjoyed getting to go ham with additional descriptions so far.
  3. The Line Feedback Pass. I whip out whatever line edits I have from my writing group and go over the chapter one last time, which works really well when it comes to catching anything I missed.

And that’s it. It definitely feels like a healthy approach to editing.

However . . . the problem is the Small Tweaks.

It definitely feels great every time I find a paragraph that doesn’t make sense. When I catch a description like “he rode the elevator down and the wall fell away” (paraphrasing here), I’m always super pleased to catch that, “No, the wall isn’t ‘falling’—it’s literally going up past the character because the elevator is going down, so I really need to find a new phrasing here.” Moments like that always feel like small victories, where I’m teasing out the best ways to describe a scene.

But I also feel like that side of myself—that focuses on literal meaning, clarity, and flow—can keep going forever if I let it.

Maybe that’s not true. Maybe if I went back and looked over the first chapter again, I wouldn’t find anything new to edit. But I can’t help feeling like I’d find myself thinking, “Well, is ‘chartreuse’ 2% more accurate to the color of the scum in this run-off ditch?”

But then, at the same time, if I don’t go back, am I going to feel massively unsatisfied when I finish editing this book? I’m two chapters in and every time I think about moving forward, there’s this nagging sensation that something’s wrong. And, being fair to the editing-Terminator part of my brain, I’m usually right when I get this feeling.

I think that what I need to do is add one more pass over a chapter. And, just imagining it, I’m sure it’s going to come down to this:

  1. I look over the chapter and fully accept that I can move on. That might mean finding a balance: adding charming descriptions to make things less clinical and further smoothing out moments that don’t make enough sense. Either way, I need to walk away feeling . . . Okay. This is going to sound super intense, but at this phase in my writing career, I think I need to walk away from every chapter feeling like it would be okay if it got published immediately. Like, if no one else ever touched the Prologue, I’d still be okay with the public reading it.
    Or . . .
  2. I look at the Prologue again and my eyes glaze over, indicating that my brain can’t handle another pass right now, which I would totally accept. And which would definitely constitute some kind of Final Pass on a 3rd Draft after I finish this edit.

Obviously, I don’t know which of these things will happen. But I do know that either way, all that matters is that I walk away from those edits feeling certain I can walk away.

Especially because, around all of this, there’s a time constraint; I still don’t live in a world where I can casually take another year to edit this novel. At best, I have until June of 2022, but I seriously can’t take that long or I’ll feel like a failure. Just personally, as a human being, I need to be submitting Memory by February at the absolute latest.

That’s . . . a lot of pressure.

Regardless, I’m grateful I was able to write all of this out here. Because when I started writing this post, I genuinely didn’t know how I’d solve this editing problem.

But now I’m both excited and terrified to attempt that one last pass and hope that I come away from it feeling certain. Of anything.

~~~

Thank for reading. I feel like I have to follow up on this next week, so that’s what I’ll probably do. If you’d like to find out what happens—if I’m relieved or infinitely more stressed out come next Sunday—then you can give my blog a Follow via the button on the left side-bar (on PC), or the top-right hamburger menu (on mobile).

Until next time, take care, stay safe, and if you’ve ever enjoyed any rogue-like, you owe it to yourself to play Hades. As a fan of the genre, Hades is easily my favorite ever. I seriously haven’t felt this strongly about a game recommendation since Spiritfarer.

Anyway, have a good week, everyone!

Sorry–I Need Another Break Today

I never, ever like taking multiple week breaks these days.

But I’m working with a half-charge on my laptop and a thrown-out back. So, like, can I get to my laptop charger on the other side of the room? Sure. Am I going to do that? Hell no–even lying down right now is uncomfortable.

And, on top of that, I just don’t have anything to talk about.

I tried writing something (thus the half-charge), but I’ve seriously got nothing. Lesson learned–always write posts earlier in the week. Never leave them for Saturday night / Sunday morning, when my garbage-y body might betray me, crazy-old-scientist style.

By way of an update, I’ve been entirely focused on editing Memory, which has been an interesting, impostor syndrome-tastic experience. On one hand, I’m worried that it’s taking so long (I’m only a chapter in). On the other, I’m glad that I’m being extremely thorough (and that I had enough time away to be hyper-critical).

That said . . . I’m going back to sleep if I can.

I seriously despise the idea of full, 100%-do-nothing sick days at this point in my life.

But, holy shit, fuck it. It’s 1PM and I am done.

Last thing: if you missed it, only weeks after I talked about my Fantasy fiction Smash Clone, Arya Stark . . . is officially in a Smash Clone: Multiversus, Warner’s newly announced platform fighter.

Here she is with Bugs Bunny, Garnet, Jake the Dog, and Personality-Sold-Separately Superman

I mean, I knew my Fantasy platform fighter would never come out, but now it’s well and truly dead.

But at least we can have Arya versus Shaggy from Scooby Doo, Harley Quinn, and . . . Reindog?

Truly the epic battle we’ve all been waiting for.

Anyway, take care, stay hydrated, and if you’re in the states, have a good Thanksgiving!

A November 2021 Break – In Prep for Editing Memory

Apologies for this one being a little late; my sleep schedule is such that I accidentally missed the majority of Sunday.

I would have done a November “Read/Watch/Play” today, but A) I haven’t finished the novel I started reading last week and B) the only good thing I’ve watched so far this month was Shang-Chi, and telling anyone to watch that would feel like an incredible waste of time. Because, yeah, I liked it—it was good—but also everyone saw it months ago.

Still, I wanted to take a break because this week had some weird medical bullshit that threw me off track.

And, as a result, I fell back into “Emotional Prep Mode.” Initially just to prepare for the steadily approaching nightmare of getting those leg surgeries.

But I realized halfway through the week that what I was really preparing for was editing Memory.

It’s been almost two months since I finished it, and, this week in particular, the corrections that I need to make started burning a figurative hole in my imaginary pocket of corrections. More than anything, I’m dying to get back to the ending, which I know needs a ton of changes; I went full “this part of my life needs to end” mode and settled on a bunch of stuff for the epilogue that I know is terrible.

On top of that, I’m also at the point where I think I can honestly read and edit earlier chapters without just skimming over them. The all-important distancing period is finally over.

So, I’m just gonna end this post here, because I want to finish prepping for tomorrow by compiling all the comments and critiques I’ve ever gotten into a complete, like, Editing Dashboard (and yes, of course it’s a spreadsheet). Maybe I’ll write a post about it if it’s actually effective.

Anyway, with that said, thanks for passing by.

I finally feel like I’ve gathered enough info from Likes to know that my most popular posts are the ones that focus on my writing process and WIP’s.

And first–aww, thanks, everybody! But second, okay–I’ll start focusing more on those posts. However, I still appreciate Likes as a way of gauging how readers feel about the content I put out, so if you enjoyed this, you can give it a Like via the left sidebar (on PC) or the top-right hamburger menu (on mobile). I also appreciate Follows because they help me grow my platform.

That said, take care, stay hydrated, and is anyone else as obsessed with the Shishi from Shang-Chi as I am? Seriously, I see people talking about Morris a bunch, but not the Shishi, which surprised me because, as a Fantasy nerd and a cat lover, they blew my mind. Like, they made me 10 years old again; I seriously just went wide-eyed like, “Whooooooaaaa,” and paused the movie to stare because they were so cool looking . . . Anyway, just asking. And also, my next D&D character is going to have a Shi Shi as a companion for sure.

What I Learned from Xiran Jay Zhao – The Art of Almost Never Using the Same Setting Twice

*This is a spoiler-free post.

Hello and welcome to the very first installment of a new series I’m calling “What I Learned From . . . ,” where I’ll be talking about one thing I learned from an author I’ve read.

This series is ridiculously long overdue; I love reading and I learn things from authors all the time. I think I’ve shied away because sometimes I learn things from authors’ mistakes and I never want to come off as anything but respectful. But I decided I’m just going to focus on authors I’m a huge fan of.

Which is why, today, I’m talking about Xiran Jay Zhao.

I learned a lot of things from reading Iron Widow, but one thing in particular stuck out–a pacing technique that I think is next-level amazing, so I had to share it here:

Zhao’s Technique of
Almost Never Using the Same Setting Twice

I mentioned this in last week’s post, but Zhao almost never uses the same setting twice in Iron Widow.

And, just to be clear, Iron Widow is not an epic journey Fantasy; the novel does not center on a quest from one part of a world map to another. It’s actually fairly stationary.

But it doesn’t feel stationary at all because even though the characters stay in certain locations / return to certain locations a bunch of times, Zhao almost never reuses the same part of those locations. For example, the second scene on an estate might take place in a gazebo on the grounds instead of returning to the office used in a previous scene.

What does all of this bring to the plot?

Mobility & a Hook

Zhao’s use of settings made a fairly stationary plot feel incredibly mobile. Even when it returned to places we’d already been, there was a certainty in the back of my mind that something new would happen in that setting, conveyed by literally new sights to catch my interest.

It got extremely addictive almost immediately.

Like, you’re already reading Iron Widow because you’re really into the characters and the drama is so good–but also, subliminally, you’re excited to see where the plot literally goes next.

It’s Also a Vehicle for Descriptive Writing . . . & a Hook

Zhao has such an affinity for descriptions; she just goes in describing a cool new setting in a way that blows your mind, and reading how she describes things immediately becomes its own hook, which I haven’t experienced since reading The Vagrant, by Peter Newman.

But to stop myself from devolving into how great Zhao’s descriptions are, I’ll just say that the point is, if you’re great with descriptions, continually introducing and describing new settings the way she does might be the way to go for you.

At the very least, it’s worth an afternoon writing exercise.

Using Settings-Within-A-Setting
Can Also Make Scenes More Memorable?

I seriously feel like I can recount everything that happened in Iron Widow beat-for-beat, in perfect order.

On one hand, that might be because the plot and characters were so memorable and the drama was so juicy.

But I also think it’s because I remember the graduation of certain settings-within-settings, which I’m going to call micro-settings from here on out because it’s easier to type.

What I’m getting at is that I remember, and can clearly differentiate, the scene that took place in the living room of the one apartment and the scene that took place in the kitchen of that same apartment.

And I feel like there’s an inherent value there; I don’t want to make this post too much longer, but there’s absolutely a dissertation in the application of Zhao’s micro-settings. How they can be used to create visceral associations to specific moods; how reminders of those micro-settings can snap a reader back into those moods very easily. How they can be used to convey character growth by only returning to a micro-setting from previous scenes when characters and / or circumstances have significantly changed.

But, more than anything, how they can be paired with significant events to make those events–and the scene where they happen–more memorable.

Also, if you write a dissertation on this, please let me know where I can read it. Not a joke.

Finally, I Mean . . . Why Not?

If you’re writing a fantasy novel . . . you can just do this with your settings and there’s no consequences. You aren’t beholden to a budget; you can use whatever settings you want for whatever scenes.

Disclaimer: I definitely I get why you wouldn’t though. And I understand that maybe you shouldn’t. There’s nothing wrong, in any way, with reusing specific rooms for multiple scenes. In fact, doing so might be essential to your WIP–especially if you’re writing a location-based story; off the top of my head, something like Harry Potter relies on returning to certain locations to make the audience feel familiar with / comfortably rooted in Hogwarts. But even if a story only reuses one setting, that setting can be pivotal to cementing a vibe (like the conspiratorial feel of Mistborn being bolstered by returning to the gang’s hideout).

That said . . . you can still make your stationary story feel incredibly mobile if that’s something you want to do.

And even if it isn’t, I can’t help feeling like it’s worth remembering that we can make our stories take place wherever we want. Even if it’s within a small part of a setting we’ve already established, that tiny bit can house a really awesome moment. And why shouldn’t it?

~~~

Thanks for reading!

It felt great to write this one. In the wide, messy spectrum of stuff I post on this site, this felt like Content Prime. Like this series is what I should’ve been writing from the beginning, combining my habit of over-analyzing things with my love for writing Fantasy. Seriously, if I could add a spreadsheet to this somehow, it would be the single most me post I’ve ever written.

Anyway, I post every Sunday and sometimes Monday. If you enjoyed what you read, I always appreciate Likes and Follows. They both help steer the direction of my future content and build my platform.

Because I forgot to say it last week, to anyone doing NaNoWriMo 2021, I wish you good luck! I believe in you! And also, if this is your first time, you just took the super important step of starting a WIP. No matter what happens, that’s an amazing first step that takes a lot of guts and it’s worth celebrating . . . in December. You have to work on your work count for today. Hang in there!

Anyway, until next week, take care, stay hydrated, and I miss D&D. Yep–I’m using these salutations to vent; I miss D&D, guys. The next time you play, please roll a natural 1 just for me. And when you do, raise a clenched fist and shout, “Damn you, Louis Santiago!” as loud as you can. And when your friends are like, “Who’s Louis Santiago?” don’t tell them. LOL Just be like, “Ya know. Louis Santiago. Anyway, did I drop my sword?”

. . . These salutations are getting weirder and longer every goddamn time–I swear.

Anyway, bye!

Something to Read / Watch / Play – October 2021

Happy Halloween!

Nothing on this list is scary.

I’m sorry, but I’m just not into theming these posts for holidays. At least not yet.

What I am into: taking a little break from publishing long, monstrous posts . . . by promoting some stuff I recently read, watched, and played that were really good.

Something to Read:

Have you ever followed a YouTuber for a few months and then found out that they’re a Sci-Fi / Fantasy author whose debut novel just came out? Have you ever decided to check it out and were so utterly hooked by the first page that you dropped everything you were doing, bought an ebook of it, and binge-read it for hours?

That was me when I decided to check out Iron Widow, by Xiran Jay Zhao.

The novel follows Wu Zetian, a young woman who decides to enlist as a concubine co-pilot of a mech, the Nine-Tailed Fox, so that she can kill its celebrity pilot. Why? Because that celebrity pilot killed her sister: one of the many concubines that he and other pilots sacrifice to power their mechs in battles against alien creatures.

And that . . . is . . . just the exposition.

Yeah, that’s not even the entire premise. Seriously, that’s just the set up.

Iron Widow is a beautifully written novel that repeatedly surprised me. It did so many things I wasn’t expecting that I actually had no idea how it was going to end while I was reading it. And then it did end and I’m still reeling.

Just such a wild, unique, awesome ride of a Sci-Fi / Fantasy novel.

Also, it has really well-crafted, extremely visual descriptions.

And an extremely well-paced plot (to the point that I want to write a post about Zhao’s technique of almost never using the same setting twice, which blew my mind).

Also, great characters that you root for even though some of them have done some terrible things. Seriously, where some novels briefly mention that there’s a grey area between their heroes and villains, Iron Widow dives in, head first, and just stays there.

Finally, on top of all of that, there’s a romance that also just . . . I can’t. Just read the book. LOL! I want to talk about the romance and how beautiful it was, but I also, desperately want to avoid spoilers.

Please note that the novel does touch on topics like suicide and physical/emotional abuse, so if you are sensitive to those topics, it may not be the right book for you.

But if you’re okay with those topics, I cannot recommend Iron Widow enough.

Something to Watch:

Ah ha! It turns out there is something vaguely spooky on this list!

Am I Halloweening correctly?

I could have given you a confectionary treat, but instead, I have given you . . . a deception!

Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m doing it right.

Look, if you’re reacting to this pick like, “Wait. A YouTube video about wrestling?” let me immediately say, “I know.”

I get it–I haven’t watched wrestling in about 20 years, and I’ve never regarded it as a legitimate medium for fiction.

However . . . one of the guys in my writing group brought up how one of our projects unwittingly used a technique that pops up in professional wrestling of all places. The technique in question was elevating one villain by having them squash another, more consistently present villain from the first act. And when I learned that technique had a name in wrestling, of all places, I was extremely intrigued.

So that guy from the writing group recommended a YouTube channel that regularly talks about storytelling in professional wrestling. And this video, “The Undertaker: Long Term Story Telling in Wrestling,” hit me hard. Not just because of its polish or the emotion it invokes, but because I never noticed how unique of a storytelling medium professional wrestling is or how intricate its characterizations can be.

If you have a half hour and want to either celebrate an avenue of storytelling you already love or dip your toes into a completely new realm of living fiction, then check out “The Undertaker: Long Term Story Telling in Wrestling.”

Something to Play:

I mean . . . I usually want to talk about lesser known things with these “Read/Watch/Play” posts, but I already talked about Iron Widow, which was a New York Times Bestseller before I even started reading it, so whatever.

And besides, Metroid: Dread is amazing.

It is . . . extremely hard. Like, surprisingly, mind-bogglingly difficult for a Nintendo game. Having died a total of maybe twelve times in total across all of my casual playthroughs of previous Metroid titles, I died in Dread a lot. Seriously, getting to certain stealth segments required flipping a switch in my brain like, “Time to die, like, 10 times in a row!” The last boss alone took me an hour to get through.

The thing is . . . that level of difficulty feels incredibly appropriate for the series.

Because Metroid has always had an element of skill shot. It has always been the platformer where you can either wait for Space Jump or perfectly time your Morph Ball Bombs to get to an otherwise inaccessible area.

You can wait until you get the Screw Attack to get up this tunnel, or you can learn to wall jump right now.

In the original Metroid, you can wait to get the Bombs so you can get the Ice Beam like a normal person or . . . you can learn to execute a screen wrap in 1987, before the terms “screen wrap” or “speedrunning” even existed. Obviously, a screen wrap is an exploit that wasn’t intentional, but everyone still knew about it, so of course it bled into the identity of the series (evidenced by things like the ability to sequence break the original Metroid II: Return of Samus by running through lava without the Varia Suit, and the ability to get the Ice Beam early in Super Metroid by executing a bunch of difficult tricks).

My point is, Metroid has always had a high skill ceiling.

And Metroid: Dread leans all the way into that design philosophy, bringing back the parry skill shots from Samus Returns, giving you an extremely narrow chance to counter enemies that are about to insta-kill you, etc.–and, to me, it all feels completely and utterly Metroid.

Accepting the skill shotiness of Metroid also means that Mercury Stream was able to fashion what are, hands down, some of the best boss fights in any Metroid title. Bosses, which would usually be a thing to coast by, became amazing, challenging treats that felt so rewarding to overcome that when some of them didn’t give me an upgrade, I didn’t go like, “What? No Power Bombs?” I was just like, “No! Is the boss dead? . . . Can I just fight it again? Is there a Boss Rush??”

Combat is fluid and fast, but early-game encounters teach you to respect every enemy you come across, so that, late game, when you’re finally fully powered, you respect that power so much more.

Exploration is definitely more limited than it used to be. Dread still chooses to deliver a story and experience on a more linear path than other Metroid titles.

But the story and experience that are delivered are so completely different from what you’ve come to expect from the series that even I–a dude who values free roam mechanics over everything–didn’t really care, because I also appreciate when a series dives head first into new, weird territory. Metroid: Dread presents a totally new villain who still feels perfectly in line with the series, but also a new planet. New enemies. New [redacted to save you from spoilers].

Most importantly, it did what I now accept as the true hook of the series: pushing Samus Aran into perpetually newer, stranger situations that she perseveres through, getting more badass and more . . . weird every time. Did you think it was strange when she almost died in Fusion and had to have Metroid DNA spliced into her own DNA to save her? Child’s play.

Would I love it if the next game gave you more freedom to explore? Absolutely. Would I still buy DLC for Dread even if I knew it was completely linear? In a heartbeat.

What I’m saying here is . . . Metroid: Dread is really good. If you haven’t played it yet and you’re looking for a beautifully designed, challenging 2D platformer that will not hold your hand, then give Dread a shot.

~~~

That’s it for me. I’ll be back next week.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider giving it a Like or giving me a Follow!

Until next time though, stay safe, take care, and always remember that a minority doesn’t have to prove their minority-ness to you. It literally doesn’t matter who you are; you don’t get to judge a Japanese person for not knowing a lot about Japanese cuisine, or a Brazilian person for not speaking Portuguese. If all else fails, the simple test goes as follows: Think, “What am I?” Whatever the answer is–for this case, let’s say, “Irish”–ask yourself if you know the information about your own culture that you’re about to roast someone else for not knowing about theirs; for example, “Can I speak Gaelic?” or “Do I know everything about traditional Irish food?” If the answer is “No,” then shut your fucking mouth. If the answer is, “Yes,” then shut your fucking mouth. Not being able to speak a language doesn’t somehow lessen the amount of bullshit a minority goes through, and, ironically, when someone else expects us to be a full glossary of information for our cultures, that’s just another level of bullshit being foisted onto us. An ethnicity is not a goddamn monolith.

Anyway, enjoy the rest of your Ghosts ‘n Candy Day!

Let’s Talk About – How What If…? Was Not a Great Show But Is a Good Writing Exercise

Disclaimer: You don’t need to have watched Disney+’s What If…? to read this post. And, to be completely honest, it would be better for you if you didn’t watch What If…? anyway because it’s just honestly not worth your time. I’ve always been fairly critical of what Marvel Studios puts out and I have to honestly say that only one episode–“What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart?”–is legitimately good while the rest is probably the MCU’s most skippable content to date.

Regardless though, I will be spoiling parts of the show, because this post will briefly touch on its bad elements to highlight how not to do the writing exercise it accidentally presents. So if you don’t want any spoilers for What If…?, then this is your official warning to read no further.

~~~

I.

Am.

Still bedridden.

I realize I haven’t given updates on my leg in a while, but my kneecap is still loose. Months later.

I’ve seen three specialists now, and every visit yields a new prospective surgery I’ll need to correct what is now very clearly one of the shittiest legs ever. Long story short: the alignment of my knee is making it harder for my kneecap to heal. Or possibly my ligaments and tendons need to be repaired / replaced with surgery (one of the three–yes, three–operations I am going to need soon.

There are definite pluses to all of this, of course.

But also the side effect that I’m extremely bored.

I took over the world in Civ 6.

I’m close to the end of Metroid: Dread.

I already watched all of Star Wars: Visions.

And I watched . . . What If…?

And I know I took my time getting to it, but What If…? is what I want to talk about today.

Because holy shit was that show disappointing. I promise this isn’t going to be a hit-piece on that show, but I do need to talk about why that show is bad, so I can bring us around to the point of this post:

That, when done right, What If…? can be a great writing exercise.

But, first, let’s get to that realization the same way I did.

Starting with the confession that . . .

Man . . .
I Just Love Talking About Alternate Realities

If you haven’t been to this site before, I am a ridiculous fan of / believer in / supporter of the concept of alternate realities. I seriously think about them and talk about them all the time.

I’ve written a short story that focuses on them.

I often say things like, “In an alternate reality, there’s a version of me that’s a food scientist,” because, once upon a time, I did a way-too-elaborate presentation on cnidarians in college and my science professor offered me a job in his lab. A job which I didn’t take it for some stupid fucking reason.

I have often, when pressed for something to talk about with coworkers at my old job, resorted to throwing alternate reality hypotheticals at them. Questions like “If you went to an alternate reality and found out the version of you there was struggling financially, would you help them out?”

What I’m getting at here is that alternate realities are genuinely fascinating to me. They have incredible potential to make us question our own choices and the influence those choices have on who we are. For example, in the alternate reality where I wasn’t born with a fucked up leg, I’m probably in amazing shape. I definitely also wouldn’t know 99% of my current friends, because my life would’ve veered in a completely different direction when I was much, much younger (I honestly don’t know if I even would’ve had the same friends in grade school).

TL;DR: alternate realities are a cornucopia of possibilities.

And What If…? Totally Squanders That Potential

If you haven’t seen What If…?, it’s an animated series based on alternate realities within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It explores questions like, “What if all of the core Avengers were murdered before they became a team?” and, “What if Thor and Loki were never brothers?”

And then it’s like, “Thor would be a party boy.”

Me: “What? Wait . . . What?”

The Show: <throwing back a swig of beer so carelessly that it slops all over his shirt, and then wiping his mouth clean with the back of his hand> “If he din have his brother, Thor woulda been a big party man with a hammer.”

Me: “. . . Dude, what the fuck are you talking about?”

The Show: “He’d come down to earth and start a big party!

Me: “Okay. But, I mean, are there interesting consequences from that? Like, would Thor have become a shitty king? Would he have had more weird, space-centric adventures or just stood on Asgard forever?”

The Show: “Nah–it’d be like Ferris Thorler’s Day Off, I think. I dunno.”

Me: “. . . For fuck’s sake. Sure. Whatever. What about the other question?”

The Show: <grunts a> “Wha?” <as he eats spaghetti out of his hand>

Me: “The other theoretical: ‘What if all of the Avengers were murdered?'”

The Show: “Oh, right. They’d have to solve the mystery.”

Me: <blinks> “What?”

The Show: “They’d have to do it–have to figure out who done did it.”

Me: “Yeah, no shit. But how would that change the world???”

The Show: “Um . . . The Avengers would be dead?”

Me: “I know! But how would things be different!? What significant, unthinkable consequences would come out of that!?”

The Show: “Whoa . . . Dude . . . I can see you’re angry. Uh . . .” <lifts up his hand, offering> “Want some spaghetti?”

Yeah, I was . . . obviously a little disappointed.

But, if nothing else, this show did yield a really lively discussion with my writing group. About what the show did right (the animation was consistently beautiful) but mostly about what it did wrong. We tend to do that–critiquing pop culture content and brainstorming fixes for their missteps.

That discussion led me to create a question, on the fly, that I actually would’ve wanted answered: “What if Captain Marvel Never Left Earth at the End of Captain Marvel?” If I was part of the writing team for What If…?, that’s the first episode I would’ve suggested, because it’s the very first thing I wondered after seeing that movie for the first time.

But after the conversation, I wanted to make a joke to one of my friends that the episode I really wanted to see was “What if [the protagonist from their WIP] was evil?”

And then I immediately thought, Wait. What if one of the pivotal events in my novel never happened? What if someone else found the [spoiler]?

And, like a lightbulb flicking on, I realized . . .

What If…? Can Be a Really Fun Way
to Explore Your Own Stories

Obviously, this wouldn’t work for everyone; at its heart, writing fiction relies on the writer’s ability to make decisions and stick with them–to say, “Character A will be like this because that works with the theme I’ve decided on,” etc. So if you’re struggling to make decisions about your stories, maybe ignore this next part entirely.

For everyone else though . . . it’s weirdly fun to imagine how different your WIP would be if you changed one pivotal event or decision.

The one I stated above (the admittedly vague “What if someone else found [spoiler]?”) proposes a simple, extremely likely change to a single event in Memory that would completely change the story. Seriously, it would alter it in ways that I still haven’t grasped. The protagonists, Memory and Kole, would probably still come together, but they would’ve had a completely different quest that possibly would’ve been an elaborate heist? And the information yielded by that heist would not have had the same impact, so . . . would my villain have even been stopped?

It’s just wild to think about.

This is not me saying I’m going to rewrite Memory a third time. Hell no.

But wondering “What if . . . ?” does weirdly force me to explore character motivations in a way that I think is interesting.

It also naturally makes me see the world through a different lens that feels healthy for worldbuilding, if nothing else. The What If…? version of Memory explores a totally different portion of its world setting, and something about that feels especially rewarding to me.

Is it something I’d suggest for everyone? Not really. But it is a fun exercise in completely free plot-building.

And it can be a useful creative tool for the brainstorming phase of a new WIP. A way to test the parts of your plot that are absolutely pivotal and see the version of your story that you never would otherwise–a vehicle by which to explore an alternate version of the “Is this the most interesting time in your protagonist’s life?” question: “Is this the most interesting version of your protagonist’s life?” The goal of course isn’t to get lost considering alternate events for eternity, but to shake up your plot and force you to explore alternative events that might be better for the themes you’ve chosen.

For example, “What if Modis just stood in his cell?” . . . I know that means absolutely nothing to you–Modis is a character from the second item on my personal WIP queue), but holy shit, I just blew my own mind. Should Modis just stay in his cell and go to Primus? Would he get to Primus? Does that support the “Summer roadtrip” theme I have for that story more than him escaping?

Okay, sorry. I’m not even kidding–I have to go brainstorm a bit.

~~~

Thanks for reading. Especially if you got all the way to the end. This one wound up being way longer than I thought it would.

As always, I honestly appreciate Likes and Follows–Likes because they help me gauge what content to focus on and Follows because it helps me build my professional platform. The Like button is at the end of this post, but the Follow button is on the left sidebar on PC or the top-right drop-down menu on mobile.

That said, I appreciate you either way. Stay safe, take care, and seriously, fuck everybody else on your birthday. Like, go on vacation, but if you can’t, everything else that is not your favorite thing should fuck right off. Get that ice cream. Buy that booze. It is your day and anyone who’s like, “But I don’t want your favorite food for dinner,” needs to fuck off. Unless it’s also their birthday, in which case I have no answers–I have failed you. Goodnight!

Drafts – The Abysswalker

It was the steed of a dead god.

Cel had always been told as much, but seeing the Abysswalker up close for the first time made it undeniable.

Even though it wasn’t a horse or any other beast of burden. Within seconds of seeing the large hump of it’s back, covered with metallic feathers that rippled over its body, it was obvious it wasn’t a larger version of any animal she knew. It’s head, vaguely shaped like a horse’s, only had calm, black eyes–at least from what she could see with the rest of its face covered by a golden helmet of gently swaying chain. On its side, what looked like a strange, vestigial arm–curled forward over the strap of its saddle–became a wing, at complete odds with its impossible legs.

They were the detail you always heard about when anyone spoke of the Abysswalker. The parts of its body responsible for its name. From her spot on the far side of the Walker’s boarding platform, she could only see the tops of them–long muscle corded in a way that made them look like tree trunks. But as she walked to the edge of the platform and looked down over the cliff’s edge, she saw them arching down an unknowable distance–a mile or more into misty nothing below them. One of the legs was straight, wooden muscles tight. The other curved, slack in a way that somehow didn’t demonstrate where its knees or ankles were.

Both legs stemmed from the Walker’s hind quarters.

“It really only has two legs?”

Its keeper chuckled. “Everyone always asks that. You pilgrims come here ready to let the Abysswalker carry you off into the unknown, but you’re all worried it’ll fall before you get there.”

Sacrificing your mundane life to ride the steed of a dead god into the Abyss, knowing that at some point, the Walker would return without you–that you’d be lost in another realm you couldn’t possibly imagine–was one thing. Having that steed stumble so you plummet to an early death in a mile-long pratfall was something else entirely.

“It’s surprisingly intimidating,” Cel said. “That’s all.”

A grunted chuckle as the keeper walked up and patted the Walker’s side. Cel heard it growl low before releasing a short cry. A trumpeted pop that echoed across the edge of the Abyss–the sound disappearing into its maelstrom of gentle, pearlescent clouds.

The Walker lifted its wings, exposing the rope ladder to its saddle.

“You sure you’re ready?” the keeper asked.

Cel looked at that ladder. Fidgeted with the straps of her travel pack, stuffed heavy and high over her back, but suddenly feeling too light.

Trying to keep her breathing steady, she looked back over Ashaiden–the immediate villages of Northwatch that she’d only just experienced, and the lands beyond, unseeable, where she’d grown up.

“Sure,” she said, because in that moment, no word could possibly be more decisive.

~~~

I woke up today with half of a post already written, but I decided I didn’t want to publish it. It was about my writing process and it felt a little too much like the last three months of my content, so I decided, “How about a Draft instead?”

With absolutely no idea what I’d write about, I looked at old, half-finished short stories from my discovery writing days and found a document titled “The Abysswalker,” which, when opened, turned out to actually be called “The Voidbeast” (because I’d been switching names for the story’s titular monster).

Seeing that “Abysswalker” was free though, I thought, “What would an Abysswalker actually be?” and that became the challenge for this Draft. Halfway through, I added on a secondary challenge of making this a “Megapremise” (a type of premise that I wrote a post about back in June) which worked out well enough that I kinda want to write more for this?

At any rate, thanks for reading. If you’re new here, I post every Sunday/Monday. If you liked this Draft, there’s a link to more of them on the left sidebar. But you can also find the Follow button there (on PC at least; on mobile, it’s in the top-right drop down menu) if you want to give my blog a follow. If you liked this post, please give it a Like so I can gauge how much all of you liked this content. It helps steer the ship when it comes to future posts.

All of that said, take care, stay safe, and Civ 6 is amazing. If you find it on sale or free on the Epic Game Store, it’s absolutely worth it. Unless you hate micromanaging the growth of a civilization for literally hundreds of turns. To each their own, I guess.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2021: Week 12 (Bonus) – Memory, My Project for Camp NaNoWriMo 2021, Is Finally Complete

I . . . cannot even begin to express how I feel right now.

On one hand . . . so happy. Ffs, I finally finished it. Two full months late, but still, I finally finished Memory.

On the other hand . . . so tired.

Why? Because I’ve discovered that when I’m writing a finale, I do a thing where I get so into the writing that I don’t eat? And when I do, it’s seriously, like, bananas and bread? Sometimes with coffee? Seriously, today I woke up, wrote for four hours, got up, ate a grapefruit, had two slices of bread, and then sat back down to finish the epilogue with a cup of coffee I just realized is still right here, unfinished.

But it’s okay, because Memory is!

Final Stats:

Time to Complete: About three months.

Number of Words: 70,304

Number of Chapters: Prologue + 19 + Epilogue

Average Chapter Length: 20 pages.

Things I Learned:

  1. Always plot out fight scenes!
  2. When you’re writing your outline, never “leave it to future you” to decide how something happens. In fact, the more you plot out things, the better. Options for a Scene > A Defined Set of Events for a Scene >>>>>> “You make it up! Have fun!”
  3. The final draft will always be significantly different from the outline and that’s okay. As long as changes improve character arcs, wordbuilding, and all of the other good stuff, they are absolutely acceptable. In fact, being about to manage those changes, instead of strictly adhering to the outline or going totally AWOL with new ideas, is absolutely essential for my process (more on that in a future post).
  4. Additions, no matter how “free” they seem, will always require smoothing out. But if the addition is necessary, the smoothing out will be worth it.
  5. Rushing to complete a novel is bad. In an alternate reality, a variant of me wrapped up Memory two months ago and is probably now depressed because he realized he has to add an extra scene that’s going to require massive rewrites down the line. Seriously, I will never rush myself ever again.
  6. Although “rushing myself” means writing a novel in a month instead of a few months, so win-win.
  7. Likewise, the way I write my outlines, they basically are first drafts that I then nitpick to death when I write the actual first draft. The best way for me to think of my outlines is as actual “Alphas”–just the potential parts of a project, composed as a proof of concept to myself and a base to build off of–while the first draft would be a “Beta”–the functional but rough version of that project. Again, this is a good thing, because, as I’m just admitting to myself, I am a chronic “rewriter” (again, something I’ll talk about in a future post).
  8. It’s okay to take days off. In a perfect world, my process will always include full days off where I just do anything but think about my current WIP, and that’s not me being lazy–I get to have days off.
  9. I write dramatic scenes and dialogue to absolute silence or ambient sounds I find on YouTube. I write fight scenes to video game boss music that I am extremely picking about because I’m that much of a nerd.
  10. At the end of a writing project, I enter a weird state where I forget to eat. And when I do eat, I seriously eat whatever is the easiest possible thing for me to find and that’s it. Seriously, it has been days of either A) food ordered from outside, or, as I said earlier in the post, B) fruit. And, like, bread. Possibly a glass of milk. I keep thinking of it as “Blanka state,” because in Street Fighter Alpha 3, Blanka ate a lot of fruit for whatever reason, and, as previously stated, I’m a fucking nerd, so “Blanka state” is probably going to stick.

What Now?

I am taking exactly one week off.

To do whatever I want.

There won’t be a disruption in posting: after this, I’ll be posting next Sunday, the 3rd.

But between then and now? Probably Civ 6.

Definitely the rest of Star Wars: Visions.

Absolutely that bottle of wine I bought for this exact occasion.

Oh, and getting food. Seriously, I am so hungry right now that it’s insane.

~~~

Thank you for joining me on this long, perpetually bumpy road to finish this year’s work in progress. Of course, I have to edit Memory, and eventually put together a submission packet for it, but those are all a problem for Future Louis. Right now, I just want to say I appreciate everyone who’s been reading with me for the past three months, and I am excited to get back to weird content about my process. And hopefully, if my brain allows it, weird talk about stupid dreams I had.

My name is Louis Santiago, and if you want to join me and maybe hear about those stupid dreams, or want to keep track of what happens next with Memory, you can feel free to Follow me via the button on the left sidebar (on PC) or the top-right drop-down menu (on mobile).

Either way, take care, stay safe, and if you have sex in front of your parrots all the time, don’t fucking put them at your window. I mean, you would think that “don’t have sex in front of your parrots” would be common sense, or that–if it wasn’t–“don’t put them outside your window so they can mimic your sex noises to your entire goddamn neighborhood” would be a given. But apparently, my downstairs neighbors don’t get that, so, ya know, fyi.

Anyway, have a good weekend!

Camp NaNoWriMo 2021: Week 11 (Bonus) – I Am Right There

Seriously, Memory is in phase 1 of the final boss fight.

I am so goddamn close.

I probably only need a single extra day.

And that’s only because my week was pretty hellish.

Because I went to a specialist about my knee and discovered that although my knee will heal on it’s own, I really need to have a massive operation done to correct the bones in my right leg, which are so horribly crooked that I will not be able to walk in 15 years if I leave them as they are.

Just . . . Seriously, I have always had problems with my right leg; multiple surgeries over my lifetime have left it a total mess and I always knew that.

But I cannot express how completely and utterly I never wanted to have another massive procedure done to my leg. Seriously, there is no hell like having pins drilled into your leg and left there for months as you bones fuse back together. It is a nightmare.

But whatever. I don’t mean to complain about personal shit–I generally try to not do that on my site.

I’m just saying all of this to make it clear that I didn’t finish Memory today because I spent half of one day in a hospital, and the other half eating ice cream and tuning out the world.

My sleep schedule got messed up.

I reached out to a ton of friends for advice.

I stress drank some orange juice.

I’m a mess.

The Plus Side: I did just wrap up a meeting with my writing group that was abnormally positive for the novel. I left that meeting massively exciting to finish Memory. And I am generally excited for the idea that this procedure on my leg will correct other, existing health problems I have because of the way it is now.

So, overall, the future is bright. And that’s great.

I’m just . . . exhausted. Like, dark bags under the eyes, literally-nodding-off-while-writing-this-sentence tier exhausting. Seriously, holy shit–it just happened again. I keep leaning my head back and jumping awake minutes later.

So, okay. I apologize, but I’m just ending this post here. I will post again when I’ve finished Memory, and I do have plans for follow-up posts that I’m super excited about–I am ready to get extremely nerdy about my writing again with all of you.

But today, I am just going to go pass out in my bed.

Until next time, take care, stay safe, and Grimace is a taste bud. Goodnight!

Camp NaNoWriMo 2021: Week 10 (Bonus) – One More Week

I think I only have this one, last week and then Memory is done.

Because the third act is going very smoothly. And that smoothness is really reminding me how much I can get done when I’m not constantly struggling with scene logistics.

The finale–specifically the part I just started writing earlier today–is one of the most highly planned and revised parts of the outline. To the point that–though I feel for Past Louis because I remember it being a pain in the ass–I’m taking it easy because he basically already wrote the chapters in the outline.

And I love it. Seriously, after everything I’ve gone through to get here, I absolutely love Past Louis for doing what he wasn’t supposed to and writing prose and dialogue in the outline. Sometimes it’s meh, but other times, it’s not and just . . . thank fuck.

I wish the entire rest of the outline was like that, but, unfortunately, no. The “Planning Chapter,” “Endgame 1,” and “Endgame 2” are all laid out and clean. I had a mini-heart attack earlier in the month when I thought I would have to drastically change the events in one of the protagonists’ finale, but changes to the end of Act 2 fixed the issue in a way that is infinitely cleaner.

But, the “Epilogue” does need to change. It will require a totally new scene. But . . . it’s a scene that I’ve already washed dishes with, so I have a pretty good idea what it’s going to be.

Long story short: by this time next week . . . Memory is actually going to be finished. I know, I know–disclaimer about me making bold predictions about my writing progress on here.

But I think it’s true. And . . . wow. I’m not trying to get ahead of myself, but goddamn what a journey. Not just with this draft, but with Memory in general. I wrote the first version back in 2014–nearly seven years ago. So long that I seriously keep getting confused about when I wrote it (I’ve said it was 2016 so many times on here). To finally be close to the end of that journey, with a fully functional writing process is just . . . it blows my mind to no end.

But it also makes me really excited. So what I’m going to do: publish this post now, go to bed (yeah, my schedule is fucked up the extent that 4pm is now my 12am), wake up at my normal time of 2am . . . and start the week right. By writing my protagonists plotting a heist.

~~~

Holy shit. I just wrote that and goosebumps. Okay! Thank you for reading.

If you’d like to finish this journey with me, you could always give my blog a Follow via the button on the left sidebar (on PC) or top-right drop down menu (on mobile). I also appreciate Likes because they help me gauge what content is popular on here. For example, fun fact: “Dream Diary – Willy of House Wonka, First of His Name” is popular enough that I really wish my brain would just give me another pure gold dream.

But regardless, thank you for passing by. Stay safe, take care, and remember that you can use gallium to break down a lock. We’re not talking melting here–gallium is a metal that, in its liquid form, weakens other metals. It takes hours, so it’s not an efficient way to pick a lock, but what I’m trying to say is, gallium is a really awesome metal. I mean, it’s liquid at room temperature, but it’s not toxic to humans. It’s just fucking rad.