The Way Forward

So, I spent about a week making sure the edit of “Aixa” was perfect. It took way longer than I thought it would.

But, as stressful and difficult as that edit was, I enjoyed doing it . . .

. . . because it felt important.

And it felt right.

It was something that I needed to do–a clear task that I attacked with very clear, realistic results in mind.

And the experience of that edit–the satisfaction I got from it–melded with a conversation I had at work last week.

Coworker: “Hey, man. How’s the writing going?”

Me: “It’s alright. Kind of struggling with the YA thing I’m writing.”

Coworker: <narrows his eyes> “That the same one you were writing back in December?”

Me: <blinks, and in that moment, he realizes that, Holy shit. I started this novel last November. And I was so sure I’d be done with in a month. Then two months. Then February. Then March. He realizes that none of this would matter if he was far along with the manuscript, but he’s not even close to half-way done. Because this has always been the “YA novel that’s kind of kicking my ass.” The one that’s “supposed to be fun, but my life isn’t amazing right now, so it’s hard to make it feel like a carefree romp.” The one that’s been difficult to write from the beginning because it’s so “comforting” and “easy-going.”> “. . . Huh. Yeah. Yeah–it’s the same one.”

Obviously, that conversation stuck with me, but it also paired with the experience of editing “Aixa”–seeing it again. They became a catalyst for a simple question: “Wait . . . What am I doing?”

“Why did I start a new novel without getting my last one ready to submit?”

“Why am I not sending out that last novel?”

“Why do I have a short story that’s an edit or two away from submission quality, but I’m just . . . ignoring it?”

“Why am I not working on any of the short stories I want to finish when they’re gnawing at me constantly . . .

“. . . and H&T just . . . isn’t coming along?”

H&T, a novel that I had a hard time even deciding to write.

In short . . . how did I let my priorities get so wildly and completely out of whack?

To a degree, I think it was maybe just peer pressure; I’m not saying anyone is at fault; just saying that I got wrapped up in the need to produce. Do a million impressive things, like participate in another NaNoWriMo and come out the other end with a new novel I love. A great idea . . .

. . . until you get to the part where I finally got a short story published. I finally have a platform–an incredibly tiny one, but it’s there; the beginnings of a professional career. And, instead of immediately buckling down and sending out the batch of other short stories I have (seriously, I’m sitting on four more good ones in varying stages of completion), I decided to . . . write a completely new novel that I knew, from the start, would be a pain in the ass.

It almost seems like . . . I’m stalling. Like I’m afraid of actually succeeding. Of putting more out in there.

And if that’s what my problem is, then, oh man, fuck that.

I love a good challenge; that was the actual reason I decided to write H&T. And, of course, my love for a good challenge hasn’t changed. But, when the way forward is full of challenges, it’s easy to get lost in them without a good plan.

So, here’s mine:

  1. H&T is going on hiatus. I’m not abandoning it–there are still scenes I’m eager to get to, but there’s also a ton of worldbuilding and brainstorming required to get it to a point where I can just write it.
  2. Finish editing and start submitting Memory. I was having a hard time working out the first chapter and that was really frustrating, but it’s been long enough–I can come back to it with a clean palette. I can get it done.
  3. Finish editing and start submitting “Lokisday.” This story is probably three editing sessions away from submission. It required a really intense addition (the one-paragraph-that-will-influence-a-bunch-of-intense-dialogue kind), but, again, I can handle it.
  4. Rewrite “A Nameless God in a Silent Realm.” A short that was always missing something. I’ve come to think of that something as “truth”–a fundamental experience or feeling that drives a story, gives it meaning. The old version of “Nameless God” drummed up feelings but didn’t direct them at anything. I know how to fix that now.
  5. Rewrite “Respawn,” my sci-fi story. Also from the drums-up-feelings-with-no-direction era of short stories. I also know what to do with this one.
  6. Do all of this while worldbuilding for H&T, so I can get back to it with a firmer grasp of the world . . . and hopefully more published work under my belt.

~~~

Well, thanks for reading. This post was a little weird for me because it feels like War of Exiles all over again. That novel was also difficult to write, so it’s hard to not compare these two experiences, even though they’re wildly different; WoE was bad and messy, but H&T is challenging and really poorly timed on my part. Regardless though, I have my plan. I just have to remember that I’m learning from my past here, not reliving it.

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.

Seriously, even if you’re just stopping by, thank you so much. And, as always, write well.

Monday, AM #3 – The PAX Rush

Welcome back, everyone. Another brief Monday, AM–made particularly short by the fact that my entire weekend was devoured by Breath of the Wild.

I mean, I wrote and did a few other things, but when it came to going outside–catching Logan or Get Out, I passed. In my defense, I’ve always been a huge Zelda fan, so whatever. Sacrifices were made.

Anyway, getting into my biz . . .

PAX East Is This Weekend

My first Pax East was in 2014. I went with an old friend and his buddies, and it was one of the best experiences of my recent life. Got to go to a few panels, be incredibly awkward while grabbing drinks with some of my favorite streamers, try out a bunch of awesome indies (Titan Souls and Enter the Gungeon were there that year), and–most importantly–I got to hang out and game with a bunch of friends for a few days.

Unfortunately, money issues didn’t let me go last year.

But this year, I made absolutely sure to have enough saved up for another PAX trip.

If you’ve never been, I’d like to convey the experience with a summary of one moment:

Partway through the convention, one of my friends mentioned a “retro room,” a single room at the convention where anyone could come in, request a game from a list of titles, and play that game on of many ancient consoles (from the NES to the Sega CD).

Immediately intrigued, I checked it out on my own. There were a bunch of tables arranged at the front of the room, a check-in counter at the back, where they kept the aforementioned list of games.

A list that I perused for maybe 20 seconds before realizing . . .

“Holy shit . . . They have Lunar: The Silver Star.”

Timid, as if the opportunity would somehow disappear, I went to the attendant at the check in desk. Mumbled, “Lunar for the Sega CD, please,” like I was a nervous little kid. They found it for me, told me I had 30 minutes with it.

And, in a strange moment for a grown man, I found a Sega CD, popped Lunar in . . .

. . . and then got teary eyed when the intro started.

Maybe it was because I’d loved Lunar when I was a kid.

But I think that it was actually because I’d forgotten Lunar. The intro, the music. No, that isn’t true; the moment the game started, I remembered all of it: the incredibly anime intro music, the dialogue, the characters.

But I had forgotten something. And, although this is going to sound cheesy . . . I think that what I forgot was how it felt to be happy.

The kind of happy that only a kid can experience when they get to do, watch, or play their favorite thing in the world. And Lunar, out of all the things I loved as a kid, is the only thing that I got to have completely to myself; no one else I knew played that game. No one in my family cared about it, so no one beat it and spoiled the ending for me, for example. I never got a chance to play the sequels either, so my love for the first in the series was never even challenged by its successors.

So sitting there, at PAX East, I realized that Lunar was a time capsule for me; one of pure love, planted in 1992, delivered 22 years later.

There’s so much else about PAX that my story doesn’t convey–the love of games in all of their media, the spirit of camaraderie–but that moment with Lunar is what it means to me.

Fingers crossed for Flashback in the retro room this year.

The Hand and the Tempest Progress

Last week, I said I had to bring it and finish chapter 4. Well, I didn’t finish it last Monday . . .

But I did finish it Tuesday.

And, somewhere in between, holy shit, did the muse come back.

I might want to write about the idea of the creative switch–the quest to find out what turns it on–because it feels like that’s what happened. One moment sparked a really fun scene with exciting world building . . .

And now, suddenly, I know what the next three chapters are going to be like. After months of slogging, I know how a character’s entire arc is going to work out, how many chapters it’ll take to get there. I’m almost done with chapter 5, and ready to roll into chapter 6.

Most importantly though, I’m finally excited. Just . . . insanely excited to write more of this novel–this YA story that I finally love.

~~~

And, in that spirit, I’m gonna call it quits here.

If you’re a regular, welcome back to Monday. I hope you guys are having a good one, light on distractions, heavy on the words.

If you’re new, my name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was recently published in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process–still trying to figure it out. Part of that means posting on here every weekday, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting an email every weekday–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.

Either way, thank you just for stopping by. Take care, and, as always, write well.

 

Monday, AM #2 – John Wick and Underworldbuilding

Welcome back to Monday. This is the part where I reflexively say, “It’s good to be back!” but it isn’t, cause it’s Monday.

I did actually get my days off this week, so I’ll get to spend the beginning of it comfortably doing posts and writing . . . although I also really want to slip in a matinee of Get Out, because I wanted to see it in the first place and it had such a good opening.

But whatever! Let’s talk about the weekend!

John Wick and the Discerning Gentleman’s Criminal Underworld

I saw John Wick: Chapter 2 on Saturday night. First of all, no spoilers here.

Second, it was . . . I mean.

Okay . . . So, I didn’t dislike the first John Wick, but I also didn’t love it.

I feel the same way about Chapter 2. No offense to anyone who does love the series. I just think I’m too deep in Fantasy town to fully appreciate an Earth-modern revenge story.

Among the other runny-shooty action movies I’ve seen in recent times, the John Wick series is the absolute best–and Chapter 2 had some moments I will absolutely always remember (while its predecessor didn’t).

But, I found myself way more intrigued by the worldbuilding in Chapter 2, which was my favorite part of the first John Wick. This sequel dives right into Wick’s gold-fueled criminal underworld, making it way more dense and fun to experience.

What that world winds up feeling like is . . . a criminal underworld for the discerning gentleman. Everyone is well dressed. Everyone is polite, and everyone is super rich. Baby’s first spoiler, John Wick starts the movie with a nice suit . . . and then gets an even nicer suit to wear while killing people.

And maybe that’s the part that really makes the John Wick series interesting for me; the elaborate background of the underworld is there to serve as a foundation for a movie that’s really just about a guy who punch-shoots a lot of people to death.

What a weird series.

But what a beautiful thing for its creators to know it wouldn’t be as interesting without its super-charming criminal underworld, where everything costs exactly one golden coin.

The Hand and the Tempest Project Progress

H&T is going well. I’m almost done with chapter 4–almost to the point where the novel becomes more comfortable for the main characters. And me.

The thing is, I had a moment the other day where I thought of the perfect opening line for Rainwater Archaic, the next big project on my schedule.

Now . . . I’ve already written the first chapter of Rainwater. It was among the group of unpolished stories I wrote last year. At first, I thought it would just be a short story–the first in a series, maybe–but I didn’t like how it turned out (the tone got way, way too heavy), so I took a break from it. During that break, I realized I wanted to take my time worldbuilding for it–figuring out that I wanted to make it a standalone novel instead.

Now, I’m just really, really ready to write that novel. And I want so badly to put H&T on hold to do it. But I’m also 100% certain that doing that will kill H&T, and, despite complications with the actual writing part, I do love H&T’s characters. I want to tell this story.

I also just want to be done with it by summer. If I stay on this schedule, that definitely won’t happen; I’d finish it until late this year or next year.

So, the next few weeks are going to be all about bumping up my average words per day.

And, if you were here for last week’s Dream Diary, I’m pretty sure that this is what that nightmare was about.

I’m at a point in my life where I’m already trying to get a lot of things done, but I’ve been trying to do it all . . . while staying comfortable. I’ll stop writing if a scene is giving me too much trouble, giving myself a day to casually figure out where I want a scene to go. At work, I’ll only volunteer for extra work if it’s convenient for me.

But I can’t keep operating like that–particularly with writing. If I want to get anywhere, my daily sessions have to be longer and produce more words. At work, I have to be more selfless if I expect to get any kind of promotion. Any more responsibility.

And, I’m not sure because that dream from last Friday was so goddamn weird, but I think that responsibility was the monster I was hunting. Not normal, get up, go to work, pay bills responsibility, but career writer responsibility. I’m hoping that one day, I’ll be writing with a schedule given to me by a publisher. I’m hunting for that opportunity . . . but I’m also afraid of the stress it’s going to bring with it–weary after 10 straight years of it.

But, I can’t learn how to write like a career writer . . . then, when the opportunity comes up.

I have to learn how to do it now.

~~~

I guess that means get ready for a way more stressed out me sometime soon. The tension’ll probably ramp up mid-March, when I get back from PAX East. Can’t wait!

But, for now, I have to have breakfast, and start building that tension with an attempt to finish chapter 4 today, action scene and all. I will absolutely try to not force anything, but wish me luck.

As always, thank you for dropping by. I really appreciate everyone who pops in, even if you just give a quick read.

Until next time, everyone.

Monday, AM #1 – My Everyday Jam

Hey there, and welcome back to my site for this first in a new series, Monday, AM, or Monday, About Me. The name says it all, really; every Monday, I’ll post updates about my writing progress, along with any news from my weekend, including (of course) too-detailed retellings of weird experiences I had.

The idea: to have a post each week that’s more personal, because, for whatever reason, that feels right. Not sure why. “Progress Updates” used to be a regular feature on the site, so maybe I wanted to bring them back (only without little graphics)?

Whatever. Let’s get to it.

My Everyday Jam

So, if you’ve been subscribed to me for a while, you may have noticed that I’ve started posting everyday except for Saturday and Sunday. This may seem odd to you because, before last Tuesday, my posting schedule was once every . . . two months? Twice every six months?

My point is, I was on working from an “if I have things to say, I’ll say them” angle. And, immediately, let me clarify that I don’t think that’s a bad way to run a blog. In fact, I would still be running this blog that way if I didn’t have a few realizations.

And, I know it sounds like I’m about to be all, “I realized I could write more every day, cause I got motivated! The world is beautiful if you just believe in beauty!”

No.

I definitely did have the revelation that I could write more, but that’s not why I started posting more.

I started writing more every day and posting five days a week because, personally, I need it.

For a long while now, my life has been an absolute nightmare. I don’t want to get into details, because that’s not what this site is for, I’ve decided, but, unlike the average up-and-down roller coaster ride of life, mine just went down.

Just, non-stop, straight down, for about ten years. You can track it through my last decade of posts–from the ones where I openly talked about my depression to the ones where I was super slapstick, pretending shit was just swell.

But, when I recently had cause to consider my life, I realized a few things:

  • My life is finally getting better because I care about myself more than anyone else.
  • I still have a lot to say about writing and I can figure out how to say it consistently, in a way that’s fun.
  • My life is infinitely better with as many distractions as possible.
  • Video games are a very, very stale distraction.
  • want to write more. I always have. And writing has always been the thing I’m best at, so why wouldn’t I do it more every day? Especially when writing is–and always has been–a great and extremely constructive distraction.
  • love a challenge.

Take all of these things, mash them together, duct tape them, and you’ve got the the motivation for my new 2017 jam: posting every weekday. It’s interesting, it’s creative, it’s challenging.

And I love it.

The Hand and the Tempest Update

Yesterday and today were going to be days off, during which I was really going to dive into H&T. But yesterday, I got called in to work. And, today, as you read this, I’m probably at work, asked to come in again because it’s been so busy.

Of course, that’s not going to stop me. I’m just going to get tired sooner, inching my way through chapter 4, when I was hoping to be done with it by today.

Still, I’m glad with the way the novel is coming along. I find myself having to stop to do bits of worldbuilding as I write, but I love the  world that’s being produced.

The most recent worldbuilding hurdle: deciding on money–what it’s called, how it looks, how it works, its potential alternate uses. Really tempted to just lift a system from an older project, but that kind of shoehorning always seems wrong. Besides, I’m enjoying the hurdle.

An enduring feeling though: I’m eager to get to the part of the novel where my protagonists don’t dislike and distrust each other. I’m in the mood for good vibes these days (a stark contrast from NaNoWriMo 2016, when I was super allergic to the idea of writing something fun and playful).

Still, I’ll get there. Just have to keep chipping away if that’s all the schedule lets me do.

~~~

I think I’ll call it here for this first Monday, AM. The idea was to go to a writing workshop yesterday and report on how awkward I was, but duty called. It’s not like my awkwardness is going anywhere though.

At any rate, thanks for popping in. Tomorrow, it’s back to writing about the craft with the first in another new series that I’m pretty excited for, Muse Tuesday. That name’s probably taken.

But eh. Fuck it.

Thanks for reading, everyone. And, as always, write well.

The Discovery Writer VS Chapter One

Hi there, and welcome to 2017. I know I’m a little late with that greeting, but I’ve been hanging back, trying to make sure I had some great news for an update.

And I do . . . kind of.

Maybe this has happened to you, maybe it hasn’t. If it’s the latter, I hope it never does.

But, since NaNoWriMo 2016, I’ve been engaged in mortal combat with the first few chapters of my novel. Allow me to explain.

And, because it sounds like this story is going to have a bad ending, let me just say that the novel I’ve been working on is really coming along . . . now, at least.

The road to now started with NaNoWriMo 2016, when I decided to write The Hand and the Tempest, a YA fantasy novel that I originally thought of when I was YA aged. In high school, I came up with the main character, the hook, and the arc of the story, which I reworked about two years ago to make a viable novel.

Off the bat, I struggled with it, despite knowing the characters, the plot, and the tone.

During NaNoWriMo, I thought that maybe it was because I always struggle with the first few chapters of my novels, but that didn’t really help me get past the struggling part.

I had to know why I always struggled with my first chapters.

And, in January, on my way to a Barnes and Noble, reading a Facebook post from Brandon Sanderson, I realized why.

I’m a discovery writer.

Of course!

So, hear me out: being a discovery writer, even to my degree (meaning that I have a plot structure but give my characters a lot of freedom to live in that structure) means that the first chapters of my work . . .

. . . are absolute hell.

They are the parts of the book where I know the least about everything–the characters, the setting, you name it.

With my last novel, Memory, that wasn’t as much of a problem . . . because I hadn’t edited Memory yet. I just went in, heart a-blazin’, and wrote everything that was cool. Of course, I also made sure Memory wasn’t action-filled nonsense.

But, despite my efforts, the first chapter of Memory still wound up being a huge problem. Actually, it’s the problem; all I need to do is finish fixing the intro and I can start submitting that novel.

But, what matters for this post is, the first chapter of Memory wound up being a total mess because I was discovery writing a new novel–from the heart. I went with an intro that seemed cool and then slowly wrote myself out of a world where that intro made sense.

That is something that I reflexively never want to do again.

So, when it came to The Hand and the Tempest, I was approaching it with kid gloves without even realizing it. I was leaving a bunch of details up to future me, trying to make sure that the intro made sense.

And that was really driving me crazy. Because I was trying to make sure two chapters made sense in the context of a world that I wasn’t letting myself create.

In January, after finding that Facebook post and having this revelation, I went back and took my time with the first chapter, filling in all of the placeholder names for towns and characters. I gave myself the time to invent things instead of pressuring myself to get it done.

And, letting myself do all of that–create minor details that I didn’t think mattered–made me feel more comfortable and secure in the world I was creating.

And that absolutely turned the novel around for me. After months of going back and forth between being excited about HatT and being worried about it, I finally feel free and secure about writing it.

Unfortunately, that means I’m only up to chapter 4, because I wound up deleting a lot of what I’d already written. But, the good thing is that I’m still doing it.

And I’m excited to do it. Because, in the backwards way of writers, I’m glad I went through the mess of the last two months if it means that I at least know more about my process and how to improve it.

Granted, this has boiled down to me writing at a solid rate of 50% heart and 50% brain–which means that I often write five pages, stare off into space, delete those five pages, and then write five more pages that I keep (as I absolutely did yesterday)–but being able to perfectly balance those two approaches to writing is what I’m aspiring to regardless.

As I discovered during last year’s NaNoWriMo, every bit of progress counts. Every moment of struggle leads to one moment of success.

~~~

Thanks for reading and I hope some of you out there were at least able to commiserate with this one. If it helped you out, that’d be amazing, but even if it didn’t, thanks for passing by.

And, as always, write well.