The Beginning of the First Drafts

In early 2012 I finished my first novel. The working project name was the Key Worlds, and I think of it as a pretty solid story in the way I like to stage my three-act tales. I learned a lot about how I outline, how I write, and how I revise when I’m stuck from that book and three years it took me to write it. Six years, two months later, I’ve completed my second First draft novels and I’ve learned more about my process and what it takes for me to finish a story. This time I’m looking to do more than finishing a first draft. This time around I’m looking to get this sucker cleaned up, edited, and published. I’m about to make a number of mistakes, newbie flubs, and other screw ups I’ll have to fix on the back end, but I’m excited about it. So, excited that I want to share exactly what my plans are for the coming weeks. In Mile Markers, I talked about what some of those steps will be. I’m hesitant to give a time table for these events as I explain them but I will anyway just to give myself a bite of accountability.

Let’s talk laying a foundation first. Before I’m willing to let the book be edited or sent to anyone else to be read, I need to make sure the story is where I want it to be. Think of this as a skeleton. Do all the bones make sense? Can the creature even hold itself up? Can it walk? Run? I’ve got to make sure the base foundation for the story makes sense and that there’s not too many vestigial bones. A few of those are fine, as they can help lead to other stories, but there shouldn’t be too many that the story feels bogged down from them. That means step one is reading the book as is and seeing that these issues are handled. It’ll require some rewriting and cleaning but that comes later. First, we’re just identifying what goes where. Time table for this is to be done by the time this post goes live. I’ll add a comment to let you know if I knocked it out of the park.

Muscle comes next. The snappy strength that helps those parts move. Flavor and style of writing basically. Scanning what I have of the book and with previous micro-revisions, I know I’m solid with much of my exposition. When my narrator talks about the intricacies of New Castle, she presents a solid world that’s a character unto itself. I’m already pleased with those, and it means my fine motor control muscles in the story are strong. What’s lacking is some of the snap; the fighting, the conflict, the sex. I get too into the expansion stage with some of those scenes, and my narrator spends too much time explaining versus snapping into action and getting the fight done. Combat needs to be fast, dirty, and over. Guns end fights fast, and real fist fights aren’t delicate. They’re brutal, and she’s not Sherlock sitting there explaining the math of what’s happening to the combatant’s bones as she is twisting his arm off. Forgot the dissertation. Just hear the pop and scream. Fixing these scenes will come with the second draft. As I’m identifying where the bones need to go I’ll string the muscles along the joints and tendons to make sure the creature moves as a smooth jogging pace. The time table to conclude this step is early May. For fun, we’ll say the 1st for now.

Now can that creature sing? One of the things I noticed with the first draft was the inconsistency with voices for some of the characters, and that’s an issue I’ll be addressing after the second draft is set. This dialogue pass will have me go through the revised novel and make sure each character sounds like who she or he is meant to. I’m not suggesting the way a character speaks can’t be adjusted but I want the slang of someone born in New Castle to be true, versus someone who travelled a lot as a kid, or someone whose first language isn’t Central Speak. It will also give me a chance to work on dialogue for those other parts of the world and to find ways to make the world’s culture stand out more. I don’t expect the dialogue patch to take too long, so I’ll give myself a week. Due date will be on the 8th.

After that it’s grammar and flow checks, and for those we’ll outsource. I’ve got an editor lined up and several people eager for the first read through of the story. Here’s where I pimp things out a bit. If you’d like to be one of these alpha readers, jump over to my Patreon. While not the only way to become an alpha reader, you’re guaranteed a spot if you jump in even at the starter level.

Okay, that’s it for now. Time to get to work.

the Trans-Dimensional Café -or- Echoes of the past

I became a fan of podcasts back in 2006, when my wife bought me an iPod Nano for my time working in the corporate world. I filled that thing with what I thought was enough music to keep me sane in the cubes, and The Flaming Lips, Journey, and Pink Floyd filled my ears during those 10-key days. But eight months of the same music started to burn me out. I craved more; something to keep my mind active while still letting me stay productive at the day gig. Enter podcasts. NPR at first, but then onto Escape Pod and Pseduopod. The latter lead me to Mur Lafferty and from there to the world of Farpoint Media and the dozens of shows I latched onto from there. In 2007, things got kind of muddy as the expanding 2007-2010 web of podcasts lead me to audio fiction, new favorite authors, great interviews, and more. Through all of that, I kept hearing the same echo “podcasting has a low bar of entry, you should do it.” Heck, many of the shows on the network shows I listened to had blossomed from fans of other shows, so why not?

In late 2010, my friends Andrew Henderson and Dakota Lewis worked together to form the first podcast I would take part of: The Trans-Dimensional Café. Over the next half dozen years, this show would start and stop four times as it took us through various stages in our creative journeys. It was always something to try to keep us on task though, to check in and see if we’re keeping up with our writing, our other podcasts, our game design, or production on other larger scale items. It was fitting as TDC basically started as a bet between me and Andrew about who could finish a book first. But last year, one of those journeys came to an end. Andrew left us in the midst of another set of goals being set. We had talked in the weeks before his passing about the idea of resurrecting the show. Of using TDC as our white board for a fifth time.

I was left with a desire, but at the time I felt like I had no one to share it with.

Dakota was the one to get me prompted, indirectly, towards continuing to relaunch TDC. We talked about new Role-Playing designs in early 2017, and it gave me the nostalgia of our talks on the podcast. It made me want to continue to poke the kindling until the fire of creativity sparked again. A chance conversation with Brian Hessee made me realize that if we were going to bring it back, it needed to be a trio. Duos work for one offs but TDC was always best when it was three, and so I invited Brian to be our third wheel. We are now a writer, a musician, and a game theorist, with each of us bringing a portion of these three seeds into our works.

Now we’re back. We finished posting our fifth public episode, our ninth recording together, to the world last week. Five episodes away from submitting to iTunes. Five away from starting a Patreon. Five away from feeling like this might be here to stay. I’m excited for the work, and where the podcast is going. There’s an itch to bring more people in too, to try and start back the interview portion of the show we once had. We each want to share more of our works, from short fiction to music and podcasting, and I think the podcast is actually helping that happen.

I don’t know if 2017 is the year TDC becomes a permeant fixture in my productivity. I’d like it to be. For now it’s serving the purpose it was meant to back in 2010: to keep me honest, to keep me on track, to keep me moving forward. Maybe there will be a time I’ll be past the need of tools like this, but until that time I’ll keep stepping into the café.

TDC will live on.

Mile Markers

Hello spring. It’s good to be here again. Last time we sat on the edge of the hot season we were still struggling to get our gears rolling in terms of projects, goals, and desires for the exciting new year; the year I was given a chance to make my dreams a reality. On March 16, 2016, I started the latest draft of the novel Draco Artifactium: Doppelganger. March 23, 2017, 121,468 words, 372 days, and many outline revisions later, I finished it. I can’t tell you the jubilation I feel from this marker.

That’s draft one, though, and we’re not ready to go into production. Not yet at least. The current goal is to go through the second draft corrections before May, and after that a dialogue pass before I send the manuscript to an editor. I expect things to be brutal as this is the first book I’m letting someone edit, and I don’t know how thick my skin is on that side. I know the book needs it as I’m far from the best at grammar, but I know I’ve told a wonderful story. We’ll cover the process more in future updates, but know I’m not just shoving the book out and hoping it’s good enough. It isn’t yet, and I’m willing to do the work to make sure it does.

On the podcast front, I am officially part of three podcasts again. Hiddengrid is doing okay, although I had declared I was going to start doing two episodes a week there. That’s actually not doable with my schedule and work flow. It just isn’t and so I’m unofficially announcing it here the end of the twice weekly show, and later this week I’ll announce it on the Hiddengrid’s various networks. Seize The GM is doing amazing. We had our first interview with Ben Loomes, creator of Syrinscape. Solid RPG soundscape program there; I highly recommend it and the interview that’ll come out later this month. Derek and Joules have been doing great with their work over there and I’m happy to be helping them out as a co-host. Finally, The Trans-Dimensional Café is back. I know, I know, it’s a seven year old beast that won’t stay down, and for that I’m thankful. Dakota is back as host in this iteration, and we’ve got a new podcasting voice along for the ride, Bryan Hessee. We’re retooled the show back to its roots of being about creatives doing their thing before gabbing about whatever, and I think overall while it’s still got growing pains the show is doing great. Again I’ll go over each of these in more detail in the coming weeks.

As it’s the start of a new quarter it’s good to look back over the previous update post to see where we are in terms of our goals. First, we didn’t hit the deadline of February 14th for the finish of the first draft. A month and a half late there. We won’t hit the April publication deadline either, and certain private circumstances will prevent me from saying the I want to be published by the June 1st goal I’d like. Instead, if I need to put down a goal date, I’m going with July 25th. It’s a fairly special day for me, and an ideal day I can gift the new book to someone. We don’t have any short stories written, so if we’re going to reach 10 by the end of the year, we need to get jumping. Same with a second book. We also didn’t return to weekly blog posts. This post is the correction to that. Expect them more often although I’m not posting the schedule I have just yet. I need to be sure it’s the right timing for the various blogs I want to post to. Finally I haven’t read a single book this year. So much for 26 by the end of it.

We’re going to call it there. It’s good to be back at this blog. I’m hoping I have the drive to keep working on all of these projects without losing interest. I just need to make sure I keep up with the momentum and not let anything hold me back.

Hello You Beautiful New Year

There’s a lot of weirdness we’re pulling away from as we leave 2016 behind; a crazy election year, a heavy focus on the passing of celebrities, new life being brought back into old words, and chances to grow and expand in our lives. I’ve been altered heavily over the past twelve months (for better or worse), and the next dozen are terrifying. The change, the loss, the creation, and the opportunity to forge a new year is scary when the road is open to you. But I think it’s important to pause and look back at some of the largest events of the past year before we dive forward into what 2017 may bring us.

The two biggest events for me in 2016 took place in the birth of summer and the birth of winter. Through March to May of last year I and several other gamers rebooted Hiddengrid. June saw the release of our Patreon, our first Season 3 episodes, and the first real income of the year. It’s been a slow burn these past seven months but I’m happy to see the folks supporting us. We’ve only missed a few weeks, and with good reason considering the next big 2016 event, but overall, I’m proud of the work we’ve done. Our episodes are shorter, more focused, and we’ve got a strong group of gamers supporting us. Like before though, not everyone can keep with the episodes long term.

The other big event took place two weeks ago. My dear friend, writing partner, and creative consultant, Andrew Eckhart, passed away sometime in the morning hours of December 21, 2016.  Andrew was the author of Last Mage: The Interview, a fun, Whovian-esque novel he wrote as part of a serial fiction challenge. The two of us raced on writing projects while he wrote that book. I finished my draft of the Key Worlds novel, Rebin, before he finished Last Mage, but of those two works only one of them is published. Andrew was a major inspiration to me, and there’s not a piece of fiction I’ve written since we met in 2009 that didn’t have some impact from him. We worked on podcasts together ranging from the Trans-Dimensional Café to two seasons of the Hiddengrid. We gamed together, wrote together, and challenged each other to greater heights. 2017 was supposed to be his year as he was planning on taking two-three months off the day job to focus on writing. This week would have been the two of us working on writing sprints together, but those dreams are scattered. I’m flying solo now.

It’s time to look ahead. 2017 needs to be a year of transformation and beginnings. The early part of the year will see the publication of my first book. The current goal is Valentine’s day, February 14, 2017. I’m only a few chapters away at this point from finishing the first draft and ideally, I’ll have it completed by the end of next week. The update post next Tuesday will let you know if I’m on track with that. I’ll also working on new short fiction and possibly flash fiction once the first draft of Doppelganger is completed. By this time in April I expect to have increased my fiction offers to reach a novel, two short stories, and possible a collection of previous works. I’m iffy on that last bit. By the end of the year I want a second novel and at least ten short stories available to buy. I’ve already got pricing ready, I just need to write the damn things.

Beyond writing, podcasting will see a spark of activity in the coming weeks. Hiddennode posts will become a weekly thing again, although those will mostly reflect these weekly blog posts. Hiddengrid has some plans for the second quarter but for the next three months we’re looking at keeping the status quo. I’ll also be generating more content for Seize the GM, so head over there to you want to see some more of my RPG focused writing. I’ve been told my “stat blocks” for the podcast are a bit larger than the show can handle, so I’ll be writing shorter ones for the podcast and longer ones for the blog posts.

Finally, one of the aspects I’ve been missing from my 2016 activity has been reading and reviewing fiction. I’ve been bad about getting into other books and I need to take part in the writing from others if I’m going to improve my craft. In 2015 I had taken time started to work on studying other novels from a craft perspective but for some reason I stopped when I started to write full time. Now’s a good year to change that. I’d like to resolve to read 26 novels this year. More would be ideal but I think one every two weeks is a reasonable goal.

Status Report – July 2016

It’s the first second Monday of the Month and that makes it update time.

The end of the second quarter brought many interesting changes in terms of focus for my projects. The first five months of the year were aimed initially at writing, specifically the Draco Artifactium novel and lore works, but June ripped those plans to shreds. While the book work is important, Hiddengrid: The Sixth World Chronicles took the reins. I didn’t realize just how much effort would be needed and spent on the project but I’m happy for it. It doesn’t hurt that the Patreon support for the month old project has already doubled my income, but the immediate feedback and interest from the community has been a major shot in the arm to keep me developing.

In regards to the writing it suffered heavily during June. Hours spent editing audio and recording shows took precious time away from the writing work, but it was time well spent as I now have a solid foundation to work off of. Now I have the ability to get back to work on the Novel and the lore of Draco Artifactium. I’ve even started a new site to help with that, which can be found here. We’re working towards a new lore project regarding this world, and for the next twenty days we’ll be cooking up scripts for a podcast series for the Dog Days of Podcasting 2016. I’ll be spending 30 days reading and exploring the lore of the world as I inject the information back into my headspace. The current goal is between 20-30k words for this project, and hopefully many of them can transition directly into the novel itself. I’d also like to set a personal goal of 20-30k for continued work on the novel as progress there must continue.

That’s really the bulk of it. It’s been a Hiddengrid heavy month. Not much else has happened in terms of projects. There’s musing on the horizon about something involving a Mr. Eckhart and a dream he has. More as that come us.

Okay, grading time:

Writing: I get an F. It was a bad month for it and I need to get back on the horse. That’s two months in a row with a low grade.

Patreon: Solid A. This month has seen some explosive growth and I hope I can keep some of the momentum rolling.

Podcasting: Solid A. Between the Hiddengrid and the launching of Seize The GM, I’m really ahead of the curve. I’ve keep weekly posting for the Hiddennode, except last week when the holiday threw off that schedule a bit. Hiddengrid had no interruptions.

July Goals:

  • 20 k for the novel
  • Complete prep work for the lore project, RE:DDoP
  • Continue productivity with the Hiddengrid
  • Start looking at the special project scripts.
  • Get at least 25% more patrons

I think June turned out well but we can make July a better month.

 

Status Report – June 2016

It’s the first Monday of the month, and that makes it update time.

The second month of quarter two and we’ve reached a level of productivity and not meeting goals; it’s a weird balancing act I’d rather wish I wasn’t performing. No new Patrons, and nothing to sell. Productivity in May reached 19,168 words, roughly 30-40k shy of my goal. It was a lot of mixed days, and a lot of missed days after I reached the first milestone of the book. Something about that threw me for a loop and I’d point to the fact this is strange territory for me. The first third of the book has been written before at least twice, so getting here again and looking at the wide field of parts two and three I think shook me up a bit. It’s not an acceptable excuse, but there it is. So we’re once again shooting for 50-60k in June. Six days in we’re at 951. That leaves 49,049 words to peak for the month at 2,044 words a day. That’s a word count I can do so long as I get my ass in gear and write. Current grade for the novel writing: D

I’m still a solid D for Patreon support. I need to be doing more to draw people in and give them something worthwhile. That’s not really going to happen though until I get my books out there. Current grade for Patreon support: D

Follow up on the quest giver system leaves me wondering about its effectiveness. It has served me with reminding me of goals and objectives, but I find I’m not quite hitting the stride I wanted to get with it. I tend to do major pushes on a bunch of quests then wander off for a week or two before I look at it again. I think that clearly means I need to look at how it fits into my routine and maybe make it the first thing we do each day. If the quests are dynamic, meaning I can write them on the fly, I may be more likely to keep with the projects I want to be working on while giving me a chance to track my progress. I did reach level 2 in 2 classes though, so I got that going for myself. I did have a goal of gaining a level in all of my classes though; currently I am behind on Word Wrangler. If it weren’t for that, we’d have an A. Current grade for Quest Giver project: B

I’ve been doing really solidly with the podcast, all three of them actually. Hiddennode looks great with its new theme. I’ve posted each week on schedule since the last announcement, although I still need to post today’s content. Hiddengrid officially relaunched today, and I’ve started development on improving how that sounds and feels. Seize the GM is also under development and should be launching soon. Overall the productivity within my Audiogineer tasks has been spectacular. Current Podcasting Grade: A+

So our June goals:

  • 50k for the novel.
  • Continue the good work with Hiddennode
  • Get Hiddengrid
  • Gain a level in all of my classes.
  • Start looking for a theme for the writing site.

June sits in the middle of great preparations. Podcast mechanics are down. The book’s information is ready. Theme and quests are good to go. It’s up to me to make this the best month of the year to date.

Status Report – May 2016

It’s the first Monday second Tuesday of the month, and that makes it update time.

A month into quarter two and things are coming along nicely. No new Patreon members and nothing to sell yet, but the biggest project pushing forward. Last month I wrote 34,077 words, mostly in part to the spreadsheet created as part of The Roundtable Podcast. Shout out to Nobilis Reed for maintaining the doc. While the total word count was 16k shy of the 50k I wanted for April it was still a larger word count than I managed in the first quarter. I’ve set my sights on 60k for May, and I’m sitting at 11,753 as of this morning. A touch behind but far more productive than I’ve been. The novel now sits around 44K after some cuts, and if everything goes the way I’d like it to today we should be finished with Part 1 tonight. Quite happy about that. Current grade for novel writing: B

The mega-focus on the novel has slowed our production of flash fiction. By slow I mean a dead stop. I’m not super happy about that but in the grand scheme of things I think the major project writing is more important. Patreon supporters, I’ll make it up to you as soon as the first draft is done. Current grade for Patreon support: D

We have a new initiative started this month. I posted a teaser about the Quest Giver concept last week. The concept is to help me stay on task with projects but to also have a little fun with creating a gimmick. I love role-playing, gaming, and all those aspects of entertainment and I love the idea of using those to help me be more productive in my creative world. The Quest Giver concept has me working towards goals, earning experience for certain classes, and earning tokens for overall quests completed. The system is designed to earn me a level every four quests, and I’ll also be working on an achievement system which will earn me 10% of the experience needed for my next level. Quests are tasks like completing an outline for a book, reaching a milestone in a book, getting up a theme for the podcast, creating more quest tokens, etc. These earn experience for each of the three current classes which are Dungeon Master, Word Wrangler, and Audiogineer. I have another fourth class in development but that’s for another time when I can focus on such projects. As we generate the theme for the two blogs, we’ll create a place to see what quests are coming up and what quests are completed. A large part of the Dungeon Master class centers around creating those tools. Current grade for potentially useful but weird projects: A

Speaking Audiogineer, I failed last month to get back to podcasting. Just let that one slid too long I guess. With the creation of the new system to keep me on track I should have a more active reminder that I need to stay on top of the posting. I don’t think a daily podcast will be the best bet for me. Rather going towards a weekly format will allow me the best method of staying honest, keeping topics in mind to talk about, and just in general keep me from burning out. Current grade for Podcasting: F

So our May goals:

  • 60k for the novel.
  • Get back to weekly podcasting.
  • Gain a level in all of my classes.

Oh, and one more thing:

WW-001-04

Yeah, that’s about right.

The Missing Short Fiction

There’s a certain lack of flash fiction going up the last few days. I think we’re at the start of week two of the problem, and it’s not ending any time soon.

Where is the flash fiction?

Why have you forsaken us the slivers of fiction delivered thrice weekly?

I want to know what is happening in that serial piece!

Where is my ham?

Okay, I can’t help you with that last bit but I can explain what’s going on with the rest of the questions. So where is the flash fiction? Well currently all of those words are being poured into the novel project. I’ve been behind on this since January, and frankly since the sale of Novels is meant to be my primary source of income I need to double down on production. The 1,000 words going into flash each day are now going into the novel. That basically means I’m getting the bonus writing time equivalent to an extra day and a half of writing each week. That’s a lot. That means the novel is likely to be done a week or two earlier, and that translates to the book getting published earlier. You see where I’m going with this?

I haven’t forsaken the flash fiction, but in all honesty it’s had to take a back seat. I promise it will return in full once the first draft of the novel is done. I also intend to not let this happen again by developing enough of a backlog that when I have to take a month away from the flash fiction I have enough to throw into the pot. This also includes the serial fiction piece. That one is important anyway since it’s a bit of a prequel to events of the novel.

Regarding the Patreon campaign:

With the changes to flash fiction, current fulfillment on the requested fiction is temporary halted. I can’t post what isn’t written yet. I will, however post chapter 1 of the novel. This is a pre-editing, pre-second draft review version of the chapter so take it with a grain of salt. If you’re not a patreon, sign up now and you’ll get to see this right away. If you stay signed up, you’ll also get yourself a full copy of the book once it’s done.

Okay, back to work on the novel. The faster that’s done, the fast we’re back to full production of that flash fiction.

Flash Fiction: Go In Disguise

Today’s story is inspired by Know. Your. Fear. by Stéphane (Wootha) Richard.

His vision was blurred. Droplets were on his forehead and when they slide down past his eyes he could see the red of them. There was the sound of something large scrapping along stone. It pulled something from the wall and the sound of metal chains clashed against stone.

If you go down to the woods today…

The thing clasped his feet together with the chains. The cold metal actually felt good against his skin. It beat the thrumming in his head, and the sound of blood in his ears. The large thing started to move away, and the chains rustled as it took a light step.

You’re sure of a big surprise…

He grunted in surprise when the shackles went taunt and the chain started to drag him away from the wall. Arms flailed to grab purchase on the stone but every time he pressed against the ground the thing moved again, throwing him off balance.

If you go down to the woods today…

There was no use trying to scream. They had tied the collar so tied around his neck and the cage around his jaw held him mouth shut. Only guttural grunts of panic and fear while he kept trying to claw at the ground. His fingers were starting to bleed while his legs and back scrapped across the stone.

You’d better go in disguise…

There were more bodies here, where the thing had taken him. Some small, some large, most staring at him. He had wiped the blood from his face when he had given up trying to push himself off the ground, and his vision was slowly returning. Sunlight poured into the stone halls from cracks and boarded up windows, and the occasional torch lit the area in dancing shadows.

For every bear that ever there was…

He could make out their shapes now. They were made of cotton and yarn. Some had no ears, some had large round fluffy things. All of them had eyes of some sort; some buttons, some marbles, and some ripped out. Almost all of them had mouths, but those seemed like after thoughts. Dirty nasty gashes like someone had taken a knife to the fabric.

Will gather there for certain…

They pulled him into a large chamber. So many of them had gathered in the chamber, and lined the walls until there was a circle for them to bring him. He could see the light pouring from a hole in the ceiling, and it was burning his eyes.

Because today’s the day the…

His feet touched something wet and he looked down to see the scattered pieces of others. Not the stuffed things that closed ranks behind him. Arms and legs and pieces of people. There were skulls, but some still had faces, still had eyes he recognized. Faces that had gone missing months ago. Faces the school had put posters up about. They lay strewn about a pool of coagulating blood.

Teddy Bears have their picnic…

She was there, in the middle of them. The large bear that had dragged him into the room had given the chain to her. She was pale, with pointy features, and ripped flesh. Where there were claw marks and gashes across her body there were stiches of twine and chains. He couldn’t see her face behind the heavy mask she wore, but the sound coming from her wasn’t human. Blood coated her feet and legs as she kneeled in the blood, and between them rested on the crimson stones was a knife. She yanked the chain to pull him closer while reaching down.

I recommend reading while listening to the below: