A January Break – It’s Cold and I’m Tired from Editing

Today, I finally implemented a few tiny changes I wanted to make in the early chapters of Memory. The kind that you know you want to make before you know what they are–if that makes sense. The result of a gut feeling that something’s off, lingering so hard it becomes some cousin of Writer’s Block (Editor’s Block?).

But whatever; I made the changes this morning, which is great. They became a shining part of the 2.0 package, making the story a stronger read.

But after implementing them (around 8am), I did another pass on the most recent chapter I was up to, almost started editing the next chapter—which thankfully has obvious flaws right out the gate—but only got a few paragraphs in before I realized . . . I’m tired.

And cold. It was seriously 20 degrees in my apartment all day, so all activities that didn’t involve lying under a quilt were canceled.

Including working on a crazy detailed post. There was a shining moment where I was going to tough it out to write about one of two topics, but both of those topics evolved into bigger beasts (including the first “A Writer Watching” in a long while, which I’m probably posting next week).

I would have posted a Read / Watch / Play, but this time around, I haven’t read anything I want to recommend (I’ve been extremely lax with my TBR pile all year).

So, for those reasons, I kicked back today. I do intend to spend the rest of the night working on that “A Writer Watching,” so I will have that ready for next Sunday.

But until then, I hope all of you enjoy the rest of your weekend, whether long or normal-type.

Take care, stay hydrated, and don’t let anyone treat you like shit. It’s always worth remembering that if you have friends who routinely make you feel terrible, then even if it doesn’t seem like it, those friends are not friends. And you should stop giving them your time because there are people out there who won’t treat you like shit. It’s true every time.

Anyway, have a great night, everyone!

Process in Progress #6 – I’ve Become a Criticism Vampire

Last night, I asked a friend if he hated my novel.

To set this up, it was the one friend who isn’t in my writing group. I sent my MS to him weeks ago and he avoided talking about it.

To me, that meant I was getting Ghost Read (my term for that phenomenon when someone agrees to read your work and then pretends they never received it, avoiding mention of it as if Thanos snapped it away and Doctor Strange made everyone forget you ever sent it).

But in the end, I thought, “This is stupid. I’m too old for this and too comfortable with criticism to let this happen,” so I asked that friend, point-blank, what they didn’t like about the draft.

They answered that they liked it but that they were just busy.

By which I was immediately disappointed. Not because they were busy—that was, I stressed to this friend, totally fine.

No, I was disappointed because I wanted to hear that Memory was terrible.

I wanted critique that I could turn into useful changes for the MS.

It’s a weird spot to be in after 30+ years of having a 0 in Accepting Critique. Back in the day, I’d just talk over someone giving me criticism, explaining why x element was y way.

Now, my Accepting Critique score is so far through the roof that I constantly feel like I need criticism. It’s almost like a hunger that strikes me, usually at night . . . although that’s just because my sleep schedule is still fucked and I’m always up at night.

Whatever. The point is: I’m a goddamn Criticism Vampire.

I regularly make myself coffee—the drink of writers—take a single sip, curse, and hurl it at the wall in disgust. And then I hiss, “I hungerrrr,” and text a friend like, “Dude, that one fight scene in chapter 6 sucks, amirite?”

. . . Okay, some of that was made up, but what I’m getting at here is that I really like criticism now. And yes, it is in part due to that all-too-familiar Impostor Syndrome creeping in, convincing me that Memory is actually terrible.

But what I should point out here is that none of this—the constant want of criticism, the dramatic hurling of coffee at walls while snarling like a gremlin—means that I’m going to stop working on Memory; I am past the era of my career where I drop a story halfway through and pick up a new one. If anything, all of this means I’m going to keep editing Memory until I feel it’s as strong as I can get it by February.

But I did want to share that the hunger is upon me. That I’ve come full circle from ‘being obnoxious about criticism’ to ‘being obnoxious about criticism in a bold, new way,’ and to me, that’s progress.

Also, fair warning: if you live in New York and hear a crash at 3am followed by an abomination screech, it’s cool—that’s just the hunger taking hold of me.

~~~

Thanks for reading this: what is one of my weirder posts.

My name’s Louis Santiago, and if you enjoyed, I post once a week, on either Sunday or Monday, usually focusing on my weird insights about my writing process and career. I cannot promise you I’ll talk about recent trends, but I can guarantee that whatever I post will be 100% me. If you’re on board for that, you can give me a follow via the button on the left side-bar (on PC) and the top-right hamburger menu  (on mobile). As I am slowly building my super tiny platform, I really appreciate any Likes and Follows; they keep me going more than I can say in the apocalyptic nightmare that continues to be the 20’s.

Anyway, with that said, take care, stay hydrated, and see Spider-Man: No Way Home. From a dude who was absolutely sure that movie would suck, it is so good. Trust me.

Have a good week!

Welcome to 2022, The Year of Endings

That title . . . makes it sounds so ominous.

Let me clarify; what I don’t mean is that this is the year where Omicron merges with GPT-3 and the not-at-all-evil-sounding “xenobots” to become a Thanos-level super villain. All of those things are real, even the xenobots (ho ho, scientists say they learned to self-replicate all on their own! Aren’t the end-times a hoot?), but as imminent as it is that Omicron will gain sentience, a physical body, and all of the Infinity Stones by late August, I meant for that title to be totally positive.

Basically, for me, the Year of Endings means the year . . . where shit is finally going to get done. But “The Year of Shit Getting Done” didn’t have a ring to it.

On a casual level, this is the year where I stop stopping myself from doing a bunch of things I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I don’t know if anyone else does this, but I have a really bad habit of “saving” things for “appropriate” times (for example, not watching Studio Ghibli films because they didn’t coincide with what I was writing at the time, or I just didn’t feel like the stars aligned to put me in the perfect mood for anime wonder and magic). That just needs to stop, and in the case of Miyazaki films, it already has (Nausicaä was beautiful, btw).

But, more importantly than that, this is the year where I am going to finish editing a book that I swear is good enough to send out. It’s the year where the “working on it” era of my writing career ends and I transition into the “writing it” phase. It’s the year where I put together a submission packet and start collecting rejections! Again!

And it’s also the year where I start looking ahead. There are so many projects that I want to work on. And, as I’m sure a lot of writers have experienced, so many of those ideas are throwing themselves at me. I’m talking new characters, scenes, exchanges, social habits. And an entirely new project that I’m ridiculously excited for (the megapremise I mentioned in my one post about Loki); and I just wish I could gush about it and detail everything I have on that story so far, but I can’t.

On top of that though, I’ve figured out emotional through lines for multiple older projects that I couldn’t wrap my head around. To the extent that I’m no longer sure what I want to work on directly after Memory. I cycle between Aixa, Hand & The Tempest, and the new megapremise constantly.

But as if that isn’t enough, I also randomly had a breakthrough on the fundamentals of my board game. Seriously, a project that I’ve left sitting on the backburner for literal years is finally back and I feel like I can work on it again without just spinning tires.

It’s all just . . . very exciting is all.

So, with that said, thank you for joining me on this second day of 2022. I don’t know when things are going to start rolling here—I can’t give you specific dates about anything except for late August for Omicron’s snap (he is inevitable)—but I can say that I’ve never been more excited to take the next step in my career and I’m grateful for all of you who are here with me.

~~~

Thank you for reading. If you want to join me on what’s going to be the best year on this site, you can give me a Follow via the button on the left-hand sidebar (on PC) or the top right hamburger menu (on mobile). I am currently, as always, a Z-tier writer, so I absolutely appreciate Follows because it helps build my platform.

Until next time, stay safe, stay hydrated, and, hey . . . why not try that new thing you’ve been meaning to try? Yes, that one! That’s what I meant! Unless you said, “Murder??” Don’t be weird; I meant, like, making resin jewelry.

Anyway, have a good week!

Games for Writers – Hades Just Became the First Video Game to Win a Hugo Award—And Yes, It Absolutely Deserves It

I wasn’t going to write about Hades this week.

My post is late because, though I was planning on cleaning up one of the reserve posts I’d written a week ago, the news dropped yesterday that Hades won a Hugo Award for Literature. If that doesn’t sound impressive enough, Hades is the first game to ever win a Hugo. If that still doesn’t sound impressive enough, according to Eurogamer, the category of “Best Game” is a one-off. Which means they might never give a Hugo to another video game.

Which means they might have added the category this year just to give the award to Hades.

And, if you ask me, never has an award been more justified.

Because, as I’ve tried to explain to many writer friends, the awesome gameplay is not the most amazing part of Hades.

It’s the writing.

To put this into context, I am extremely hard to impress when it comes to writing in video games. I don’t want to get into a rant here, so suffice it to say that I just don’t grade on a curve. I am totally capable of saying, “That game has fun dialogue,” “That game had a surprising twist,” or, most commonly, “That game had an intense plot.” But I have almost never said, “That game is really well written,” because to me that implies that it has a complete, cohesive, engaging, active storyline. With legitimately great writing and charming characters who aren’t cliché. Essentially, the entire package that I’d expect from a film, TV show, or novel with great writing.

But Hades is that entire package.

If you haven’t played it, Hades is a rogue-like, which means it’s a game where you play as a character doing “runs” of an adventure with randomly-generated maps and assortments of enemies.

In this particular adventure, you play as Zagreus, the son of Hades, who’s trying to escape his father’s realm—the underworld. Not the most unique premise, sure, but hang with me here, because that’s the same thing I thought.

Until I started my first run and Zagreus started talking. I don’t mean that he was soliloquizing—there was no cutscene where he painstakingly detailed his reasons for wanting to escape.

I mean that when the game started, after Zagreus delivered two extremely brief lines about his escape (while I was controlling him), I ran up to a pillar and tried attacking it with my sword. And when it broke, Zagreus said a sarcastic, “Oops.”

And I blinked. “Oh . . . He’s . . . still talking. Alright.”

And then I went into the next room and Zagreus commented on the enemies that spawned there.

And then I found a golden vase, and when I broke it and gold coins spilled out, Zagreus said a devious, “I’m sure father won’t miss these,” at which point I chuckled like, “Wow. How much VO did they record? Does this dude just talk the entire time?”

Yes.

Yes, he does.

Also, a lot. They recorded a lot of VO.

In a world where the standard is to record a handful of grunts and shouts for your protagonist, only having them talk in cutscenes or when a game designer thinks you forgot an objective, Zagreus just . . . talks.

Like he’s just . . . a character?

An extremely charming character who I thought I was going to hate, but who I liked . . . immediately?

The thing is, then I got to the first boss, and I didn’t realize it was happening at the time because I was already too into it, but Zagreus spoke to that boss—a quick exchange of a few lines to show that they know each other—and that was the moment where I first experienced why Hades deserved its Hugo.

Not because Zagreus and that boss talked and it was cool, but because that was the very first moment where I understood that Hades was creating a world.

When I died (that first boss destroyed me), there was no return to the title screen. Zagreus, having died, just returned to his father’s home—the House of Hades, which he’d been trying to escape. Why? Because, in-world, that’s where everyone goes when they die. Did the game need to have an in-story, totally acceptable justification for the rogue-like genre model? No. Did I need to mention that it provided an in-story, totally acceptable justification for it anyway? Hell yes.

But, anyway, putting that aside, returning to the House of Hades was the moment I fell in love with the game because there were, immediately, so many characters to talk to—if I wanted to. I won’t spoil any of them here, but I will say that, aside from being extremely charming in their own ways (each of them great showcases for playing to a character’s strengths), they all make the world feel incredibly active.

Because, sometimes, they aren’t in the House of Hades. Zagreus will comment on their absence, of course, pointing out that they “must be on break.”

And sometimes, you can, in fact, find them on break.

Sometimes, new characters arrive after being away on business.

Sometimes, these characters are talking to each other! And of course, you get to listen in on a few lines of dialogue, but after the bit that’s relevant to you, they continue chatting to each other in cute whispers that you hear?

And also, every time—not even just sometimes but every time—these characters have specific dialogue in reaction to your last run. Characters comment on the enemy that just killed you if they logically would have that information. Characters comment on how they heard you beat the first boss and reached the second area of the underworld and “Good on you, lad. Keep fighting.” If you were killed by an enemy who killed you before, Zagreus will respawn in the House of Hades and angrily curse the enemy who killed him.

What I’m getting at here is that Hades is genuinely an achievement.

I am 30+ runs in, and I’m still getting unique dialogue.

It is just an incredible, technical feat. There are so many characters who are universally charming or annoying or cute or scary or hot (make me bi, Ares, you beautiful fucking monster), and all of them have an unreal amount of naturally flowing dialogue that presents an ever-evolving story that changes as you play. I desperately want to go into how, but I refuse to spoil this game for anyone. All I will say is that the first time I beat the last boss, their last line of dialogue hit me very, very hard. And that did not emotionally equip me for the epilogue, the music for which is a perfect embodiment of Zagreus’ legend. Music and legend that, mind you, both haunt me to this day.

It is just beautiful and I cannot express how incredible the writing is for this game. I wish I could watch a documentary about the writing team that handled all of it. Were there specific writers for each character? Were there maybe teams—like one person handling Megaera and her sisters or, conversely, a group of people handling Hades? Was it, impossibly, one person writing for everyone? Were the voice actors in the writers’ room riffing off of each other? And just how many pages was Zagreus’ script?

Okay—I have to stop because I will just rant forever. But what I will say is this: if you are a writer of Fantasy and you love video games . . .

. . . play . . . Hades.

The love that Supergiant Games gave to its characters; the way that they created its world and made it feel alive; the short, confident bursts of conversation between characters that they used to compliment gameplay instead of bogging it down; the slow, careful graduation of its story; and the way that Supergiant molded all of this perfectly around the rogue-like genre—all of that can only influence your writing for the better.

At some point, I will write about Hades again.

I know it without a shadow of a doubt. Because I barely scratched the surface.

And because there is no escape.

~~~

Phew. This took a while to finish. Thanks for reading though! If you made it all the way here, I have a few other “Games for Writers” posts on here, but it’s my most staggered series by far, so they range wildly in quality. On the low end: “Games for Writers: Metal Gear Solid 3 – Snake Eater,” which was awful and I don’t stand by at all anymore. On the high end: “Games for Writers – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Is a Great Fantasy World Simulator,” which was extremely fun and totally holds up.

If you enjoyed, I am not, by any means, a celebrity influencer. I’m just an aspiring writer doing this as a means of staying honest. Which means I’m still building my platform, and thus totally appreciate Follows (the button for which is on the left sidebar on PC and the top-right hamburger menu on mobile). I post every Sunday or Monday, but the topic, while random, will always relate to writing in one way or another. I might not post this weekend because of the holidays, but there’s an equally likely chance I’ll have a bizarre dream between then and now that I’ll just have to share.

At any rate, thank you for reading. Until next time, stay safe, stay hydrated, and have a great holiday!

Dream Diary – I Was the Leader of a Stranger Things-style Monster Neighborhood Watch / Monster-Fighting Corp.?

Disclaimer: While working out what to write this week, I remembered that I had multiple posts saved for future posting. I wrote them, saved them, and totally forgot about them. In one case, I actually just assumed I did post them and was genuinely shocked that I hadn’t. So, given that things are a little busy with editing and the holidays, I figured I’d post them now.

Welcome back to another round of diving into my weird dreams.

This one isn’t the most visually intriguing, but it’s still weird in a way that I felt warranted a post. Particularly because there’s an entire franchise in here somewhere.

I Was A Kid but Also the Leader of
A Monster-Fighting Army Full of Kids?

In the moment, I remember thinking how stupid and throw-away the very first facet of the dream was, but in retrospect . . .

. . . seriously?

This was a Monster Squad / Stranger Things situation where I was a kid and so was everyone else in what was, at one point, just a neighborhood watch where we specifically kept lookout for monster-related occurances.

Until, very, very quickly, the dream jumped to the future where we were a bunch of kids armed to the teeth, splitting off into platoons to actively hunt werewolves.

The part of the dream that always sticks out to me: watching a bunch of “soldiers” either open or close a gate as they started leaving or returning to . . . barracks? I seriously can’t remember details other than 1) we were in suburbia, 2) the street was wet like it had just rained, and 3) they were pulling open the gate of what I think was a multi-story brick building (which, post-dream, I can’t help thinking of as both a firehouse and “the Ghostbusters building,” even though I remember something bigger and purely made of red brick, like a school).

Anyway, as I was standing there, a soldier ran up and told me that one platoon encountered a monster–and I really, really wish I could remember what monster it was, but I can’t. All I know is, shit was so dire that I didn’t even redirect all forces to that monster–I just rerouted a single group of soldiers to take care of it. Because, apparently, there was a full on war with the monsters in my hometown? I don’t know if all of the adults were dead, but there were none in that part of the dream. Extremely weird.

Unlike most of my multi-phase dreams though, this one continued with something like a loose story:

Years Later, at the Monster Lab

In the next phase of the dream, I was an adult, but I was also Barry Burton, from the Resident Evil games. This was super short–I was in a high tech science lab. White walls and ceilings with read-outs on panels of black glass. I wish I could say I was sneaking into some monster-creation lab or something (i.e. the end of many Resident Evil games), but no–I was in the control center, talking with the scientists who were trying to figure out how to stop the monsters. And, weirdly, that’s all I remember from that phase of the dream.

Retiring to an Extremely Weird House

The final phase was me, still as myself as Barry Burton, but also played by David Harbour. And I was retired from the war and looking at my new home. You can probably already tell that the connections to the original dream premise were thin, but they got thinner really fast; almost immediately, the dream just became a static tour of that home.

Which was admittedly very strange. First off, it was tiny–not just one-story, but one-room. I remember that it was at the center of a grass plot of land enclosed by a high, wooden fence. And, in the style of dreams, it was night, and although it wasn’t raining, I had a vague impression of rain regardless (like it was raining, but someone went into the graphical settings of my dream and just turned off the visual effects for rain).

Anyway, back to the house–its walls were all doors. Pretty, gothic front doors with large window panes. I remember that at some point, the realtor showed me how all the walls could open like it was a good thing, and I remember asking something like, “Why?” I don’t remember much after that; I just stood in the house, trying to get used to the idea that this would be my weird, new home, and then the dream ended.

I almost want to know what this one meant. The consistency with rain was really interesting in retrospect.

But more than anything, I . . . kind of want to see that grim future Stranger Things / Monster Squad story? Like, it would never fly now, but there’s an alternate reality where that movie came out in the 80’s. I am sure of it. And it’s probably great and terrible at the same time.

~~~

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this. If this is your first time here, I post every Sunday / Monday about anything, from my quest to become a published novelist to the weird dreams I have. If you’d like to join me for what is clearly a weird, random journey, you can give me a Follow via the button on the left sidebar (on PC) or the top-right drop-down menu (on mobile). Likes are also always appreciated because, at my stage of z-tier popularity, they’re the only way I can tell what my audience likes.

At any rate, take care, stay safe, and, if you didn’t know, mudskippers are fucking hilarious. They are seriously everything I strive to make when I create an animal for one of my novels. Just knowing these gross mud fish exist brightens my day to no end, and I hope it does the same for you. See you next week!

Process in Progress #5 (continued) – I Realized What Was Slowing Down My Edits: Me

Okay.

I promise that I’m not stressed out.

Edits didn’t go poorly.

But they didn’t go poorly because I had a breakthrough . . . that took extremely long to hit me.

“If you edit something for long enough, it stops getting better—it just starts getting different.”

I don’t remember who told me that. Someone from an internship I worked decades ago, I think.

But it is extremely true. It’s a principal I held close while writing this draft of Memory, determined to make it good while also making firm decisions about what the novel would be.

And somehow, in the interim between finishing Memory and now, I’d forgotten that principal.

And I didn’t realize it until I was agonizing over a worldbuilding conundrum in the first chapter—the road block it took forever to get past. It was a moment I’d just reworked the previous week and decided needed reworking again.

Until I got there, texted a friend, brainstormed, and realized . . .

“. . . What the fuck am I doing?”

The result of my brainstorming was a complicated answer that I realized would never make it into the novel. Or, rather, it could, but it felt like it wouldn’t improve the novel at all to include it—it would just make the one scene slightly different.

And immediately, like a person freshly released from mind control, I realized the thing I was agonizing over truly did not matter. It’s an answer I’m glad that I have, sure, but not one that would improve the MS, so . . . <shrug>.

It’s weird too, because in that moment I realized I’d forgotten a bunch of my internal writing tools that I use to make it past hurdles like this: things like ‘writing out scene possibilities and why I like them / dislike them so I can decide which to go with.’

And ‘pulling back and looking at the big picture of my setting to solve worldbuilding-logic problems.’ Being able to say, “Well, of course character A would be able to do specialized-action B. It seems like they wouldn’t, but they just learned it off screen when they lived in a culture where specialized-action B was common.” The kind of affirmation I used to have in droves while writing the first draft—moments where I’d just nod and say, “Ah, right. Makes sense,” and keep writing.

The good thing: this was definitely just a case of me being rusty. I let those tools slip because I convinced myself the writing part of my brain and the editing part are two totally separate things and the tools that work for one side don’t work for the other.

But that’s not true, and, thankfully, I remember that now.

So my editing process, is, at least, finally set.

  1. Big Fixes Pass.
  2. Small Tweaks Pass (remembering the mental tools I have at my disposal making sure to not massively over-think things [which I guess is a new mental tool?]).
  3. And the Line Feedback Pass.

Outside of all of that, I’m just accepting that I can let go of Memory and that, outside of suggestions from potential future editors, this second draft is just going to be what the novel is.

Because changing it into something else isn’t helping anyone—least of all me.

With that said, I’m off to edit the hell out of the rest of the novel in the coming month.

Here’s to hoping it isn’t a total nightmare.

~~~

Thanks for reading. Next week, I’m back to content that doesn’t directly involve my process. If you enjoyed what you read here, I definitely appreciate Likes and / or Follows.

Until next time, take care, stay hydrated, and, if you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the teaser for Across the Spider-Verse: Part One! Bye!

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!