My True Fear

2018 has been a strangely illuminating year thus far. I don’t know how to describe it any better than that.

Towards the tail end of 2017, I thought I’d had everything figured out. I knew exactly what I was doing both on the writing front and on the streaming front, and I deliberately ignored the voice in my head that had begun to tell me that things were not going to go according to plan. It whispered its warnings and I would shout my denials in response. As we all know however, denying reality doesn’t change reality, and only ensures that reality will smack you in the face that much harder when it inevitably does so.

Which has kind of been the story of my last week, truth be told.

The first reality smack I had to deal with came from the Twitch streaming side of my life; when I finally had to face the fact that Destiny 2 was not going to be the kind of “home base” game that I was hoping it would be. I’ve known for a while now that I couldn’t be anything other than a variety broadcaster (that is to say, a broadcaster who streams multiple different games), but I still wanted to have that one game I could call home. A single game that could form the foundation of my channel and while I still went out and explored more linear, story-driven games like The Last of Us. Unfortunately, Destiny 2 eventually proved to be wholly incapable of filling this role, and my entire plan for Twitch went up in flames along with it.

The second reality smack hit the writing side of my life, and is so recent that my cheek still stings. I’d thought (as my previous blog post no doubt demonstrates) that I had finally figured out what it was that was preventing me from moving forward with my various writing projects. That this deep-rooted, semi-conscious fear of The Demon was the one and only thing that kept sabotaging my efforts to finally finish a book and get it out into the world. Based on this “knowledge” I charged headfirst back into writing this infernal project and paid no heed to the whispers in my brain telling me that The Demon wasn’t ready for this yet. Yet again, my instincts were warning me that this was a bad idea, that I needed to give The Demon 2.0 more time to settle and adjust to the dramatic new direction I had taken the story. So of course I ignored these warnings, and crashed straight into a brick wall after little more than a week.

This impact finally got me wondering “Okay, what is actually going wrong here?” Because it’s clear that something was, and yet I couldn’t quite place my finger on what it was. I was more motivated than I can ever remember being before, I’ve gained enough small successes as a Twitch streamer to have real confidence that I’m on the right track with it, so seriously… what is actually going wrong with me here?

That question bounced from one corner of my mind to another for a good few days, and I couldn’t figure out an answer to it until I caught the latest episode of ProfessorBroman’s (a fellow Twitch streamer) “Ask Broman” podcast. In it, Broman expresses the thought that people who have a chip on their shoulder tend to be more successful than those without, because that chip gives them that little extra bit of drive to not just be successful, but prove all their naysayers wrong. Now, as someone with a pretty significant chip on his own shoulder, this wasn’t an entirely new thought for me. But to hear it come from someone else? To hear someone who has already achieved the level of success that I aspire to? For some reason, that’s what allowed it to really sink into my brain and light up a thought-bulb that had only ever flickered before.

You see, I don’t think it’s The Demon 2.0 and all the memories that come with it that I’m afraid of.

I think what I’m really afraid of is success.

I think what I’m really afraid of is my dreams coming true in a way that I simply cannot dismiss or ignore.

I think what I am truly, deep-down terrified of is that if I actually do succeed, if I do actually manage to build a life-supporting career out of being an author and a Twitch streamer, I’ll lose that chip on my shoulder and no longer have the same drive or passion that I used to achieve that success.

And what tells me this fear is real is that I can’t talk my way out of it. I can’t come up with some kind of rational, step-by-step plan to overcome it and move on. It’s the kind of fear that sucks the air from your lungs and steals the warmth from your blood, leaving you to suffocate alone in the freezing night. It’s ever-present, inescapable, and will drown you in despair if you give it even the hair’s breadth of a chance.

And I’ve been giving it a lot more than that for years.

I don’t know what this means for my New Year’s Resolution to free myself from fear, because this fear doesn’t live in my head. This fear lives in my soul, and has lived their for so long that I don’t know if I can exorcise it. What I do know is that my journey is no longer about using the chip on my shoulder to prove “them” wrong. It’s now about using that chip on my shoulder to prove myself wrong. I need to prove to myself that losing my shoulder-chip will not rob me of the drive and passion that’s kept my head above water, and there’s only one way that I know to do that.

Keep. Writing.

I’ve already gone back and taken a second look at The Wolf, and you know what? I’m honestly surprised by how well it held up to my “own-worst-critic” gaze. That by itself has given me a much needed boost to my self-confidence as a writer, and has confirmed for me that my first step towards overcoming this fear of mine is finishing and publishing The Wolf. It won’t be the first brick I lay down in this career construction project of mine, but I feel like it’ll be the most important.

Until next time. 😉

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Sailing Off the Edge of the Map

“You’re off the edge of the map, mate. Here there be monsters!”

This is a line from the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, said by Captain Barbossa to Jack Sparrow at the beginning of their duel during the film’s climax. It’s a line that’s been playing through my mind for the better part of the last month or so, any time I stop to think about the reality of what I’m doing as both a writer and a Twitch streamer. Because I know there are people who have achieved success from nothing through writing, and I know people who have gone from nothing to success on Twitch. In both cases, there’s a fairly solid blueprint to build from; a fairly detailed map you can follow that will generally lead you towards success, provided you have the right combination of skill and good fortune.

In my case however, I don’t feel like I have that map. Not anymore anyway. Because while I’ve heard all the stories of authors coming up from nothing to the heights of the New York Times Bestseller’s List, and I’ve even watched as people on Twitch have gone from streaming on the couch with their dog to grasping the Holy Grail known as Twitch Partnership, I haven’t heard even a single whisper of someone who’s managed to do both. Let alone do both simultaneously.

Which is, of course, what I’m trying to do.

Feel free to call me crazy. I’ve been calling myself crazy just about every day for the last four months or so; ever since I truly committed to becoming TheGamingAuthor at GuardianCon back in July. That was the first time that I realized I would be sailing off the edge of the map to pursue this dream, and in the intervening four months, the edge of that map has only gotten further and further behind me. It’s a state of affairs so intimidating, filled with so many unknowns, that it’s almost enough to send me screaming back to the safety of dry land and never again deviate from the trail that so many others have blazed before.

Almost enough.

Because there’s another line that’s been rattling around in my head for the last few days. One whose sentiment pre-dates Pirates of the Caribbean by an amount of time I couldn’t even begin to guess at.

“Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

To give this one proper context, we’re gonna have to wind our clocks back a bit. All the way back to March of this year, if you can believe it. Because that’s when a fellow Twitch streamer talked me in to going to TwitchCon; the massive annual convention put on by Twitch itself. Now, at the time, I was just starting out as a streamer and had no idea what a fry as small as myself would do in a pool filled with all of the absolute biggest fish in the Twitch Ocean, but I also very much enjoyed talking with this fellow streamer and wasn’t about to pass up the chance to meet her face-to-face. So even though I was still saving money up from my cross-country trip to GuardianCon, I also started saving up even more money to attend TwitchCon a few months later in October.

And attend I did.

I’ll set aside my stories of meeting the streamer who talked me into it, as well as all the other streamers I’d come to know in the interim, and simply describe my experience like this: If GuardianCon felt like a gigantic family reunion, then TwitchCon felt like an amazing corporate bonding retreat. One that only further cemented my commitment to figuring out a way to marry the author half of me with the streamer half, and become TheGamingAuthor in full.

This was only two weeks ago, and once again I realized that I am sailing way off the edge of the map. But this time, thoughts of steering this ship around and returning to safe harbor never really occurred to me. They never really occurred to me because attending TwitchCon showed me that while I may be sailing my own ship and plotting my own course, I am not alone. The people that I have met on this journey, both at GuardianCon and especially at TwitchCon, have been without doubt or exception the kindest, warmest, and most welcoming and supportive group people that I have ever met.

I’m off the edge of the map, but there have been no monsters here.

And all of this brings us to Saturday, October 28th 2017.

I’ve been back home from TwitchCon for all of two days, and one of the biggest streamers I follow is kicking off his broadcast that day with an hour-long Q&A session for and with small/beginner streamers about the basics of streaming and other related topics. I went back and forth about whether or not I wanted to line up to ask the one question I could come up with, and eventually just said “Meh, what the hell?” and got in line. Long story short? What I thought would be a five-minute answer turned into a fifteen-minute interview about why I chose TheGamingAuthor as my username and how I’m trying to integrate my writing with my streaming.

To say that this was unexpected is just a little bit of an understatement, but the boost that it’s given to both my writing and my streaming has been tremendous. It’s given me what feels like the final piece of the puzzle, the final variable that I needed to solve this GamingAuthor equation, and the support that people have been showing for it in the week since that interview has been so much greater than I expected. To the point that the three-day weekend I gave myself this weekend has been a surprising shade of unpleasant. While I was able to overcome that on Saturday by binge-watching all Stranger Things: Season 2 (which is AMAZING, by the way!), I was much less successful at that yesterday. All I’ve wanted to do this weekend was keep writing, and keep streaming that writing under Twitch’s “Creative” directory, and not doing that has been a miserable experience.

Because while I may be sailing far beyond the edge of the map, doing so has finally let me find a job that I truly love, and it doesn’t feel like work at all.

My name is Zachery Richardson, and I am TheGamingAuthor.

Unleashing the Horsemen: Taming of The Wolf – Part 7

To say that the author half of my “GamingAuthor” equation has been a grind this week would be an understatement, though you wouldn’t know it just by looking at the numbers. If I averaged it all out, I was writing about at least thousand words a day, even on days where I was streaming and had to split my writing sessions in two. That was something that I’d tried to do before while I was still working at my local grocery store, and I’d failed at it pretty completely. So the fact that I was able to succeed at it this week is not an insignificant accomplishment for me, and it’ll definitely be something I try to maintain going forward.

However, this also starts to touch on one of the two big reasons why writing turned into such a grind for me this week. That reason being that I was just having a great week on Twitch. I picked up a new game, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, to satisfy my craving for a fresh and exciting RPG experience, and boy oh boy did that game live up to all the hype. I’ve sunk nearly 20 hours into it already and have barely scratched the surface of all it has on offer. On top of that, I saw more than a few familiar names in chat while I was streaming it, and that’s always a special kind of gratifying. It’s the thing that makes Twitch streaming such great fun; getting to hang out and talk to people from all over the world in real-time while you collectively share in your enjoyment of video games.

So I’m sure you can imagine how going from that to the cloistered, solitary practice of writing a book was a… less than exciting process.

In addition to some personal life-type stresses, the simple fact of the matter was that pretty much all I could think about on Friday, Saturday, and yesterday was how much I wanted to be streaming again on those days. Sure, they were my days off from Twitch and sure, I had a book that I needed to finish, but what could it really hurt? I could always pick the book back up once I got the streaming bug out of my system. The thing is though, I know that thought process, and I know all too well what kind of trap it really is. It’s the trap that sucks you into procrastination, the trap that leaves half finished manuscripts collecting dust in your computer’s digital drawers, and convinces you insidiously that whatever plans you have can always wait just one more day.

Needless to say, I would have none of that.

I kept my nose to the grindstone and my fingers to the keyboard in spite of how violently my mind was rebelling against me at times. I kept telling myself, over and over again ad nauseam, that all I had to do was write one more word, one more line, one more sentence. I reminded myself of the cartoon I’d once seen of two men digging for diamonds. One is further back than the other, but charging full-steam ahead, all systems go. The other is turning back after giving up, crestfallen and exhausted, even though he’s just a hair’s breadth away from breaking through to this massive cache of diamonds! I refused to let that be me, and so even though I actually hated the thought of trying and failing to write for even one more second yesterday, I forced myself to keep going.

And you know what? It paid off.

By making myself power through, I was eventually able to drag myself to a point where the words started flowing again. They may not have been flowing in a direction that I originally wanted them to, and I may have resented them for taking the story off of what I felt was the right track, but that wasn’t the part that mattered. The part that mattered was that I was writing, I was getting the story out of my head and down on to paper, and if this new direction truly didn’t work out, I could always go back and change it later.

Because of this, by the time I was done yesterday, I’d written nearly 1,500 words and finished yet another chapter.

I’d say that’s a pretty solid accomplishment for a day where writing The Wolf was the literal last thing I wanted to do, and it’s kinda confirmed something that I’ve been kicking around in my head for most of the week. When I was still working my grocery job, I set a daily writing goal of 500 words. Not a huge number, but something that I felt was legitimately doable even on what amounted to ten-hour workdays. Now, I turned out to be wrong on that account, but it brings me back to perhaps the most important thing I learned about myself from that job.

I can push myself pretty crazy far if I set my mind to it.

So that’s why in the wake of this week, I’m setting myself a new writing goal: 1,000 words a day, even on days that I’m streaming. If I can maintain that pace, that’s essentially one complete draft of a novel every two to three months. Now, this doesn’t take into account all the pre-production work that goes into a novel like character building and plot development, but as far as the Horsemen are concerned, this pace could allow a blistering rate of completion. Which would be great, considering how my plans for these books have shifted a bit lately.

In any case, that’s been the story of my life this week. It’s been about as smooth and pleasurable as a sandpaper massage, but all that really matters is that I got through it, and there’s about 7,000 new words making themselves a home in the manuscript I call The Wolf.

See you all next week. 🙂

Werewolves, New Artwork, & War, Oh My!

For those of you who follow my blog for my writing alone, consider this Part 6 of “Unleashing the Horsemen: Taming of The Wolf”. I actually tried writing an isolated version of that blog post yesterday, but honestly? So much had gone on over the last week that I just had too much on my mind that I wanted to talk about for it to work. So, here we are today.

I suppose then that the first thing I should address is The Wolf, and whether or not I jinxed myself by crowing about my progress last week. Short answer? I actually didn’t. My pace has fairly consistently leveled out to almost 2,000 words a day when I sit down and commit to the keyboard. Which hasn’t been every day, mind you. Truth be told, it hasn’t even been most days. One of my uncles passed away last week and those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that it knocked me off my game in a very bad way. I was depressed, I was viciously angry, and the last thing I wanted to do was write a happily-ever-after story about reunions with a long lost love. In fact, I almost went back to working on The Demon just so I could have a proper outlet for all the rage I was feeling.

But I didn’t. I stuck with The Wolf and just hunkered down for a few days to ride out the storm. And when the worst of the storm had passed, I wrote all the things. In just two writing sessions, I cranked out nearly 7,000 words, with probably close to another 1,000 added today. At least if we count the complete re-write of Chapter 6’s ending. And with the completion of Chapter 6, as well as the commencement of Chapter 7, I feel quite confident in saying that we are officially passed the halfway point of this story. There are only two more major events left in the plot before the climax begins, and if all goes well, I might actually be able to complete this draft before TwitchCon!

Speaking of TwichCon and other streaming related things, you all may have noticed that this whole website looks a little bit different. That is thanks in large part to the talents of an artist friend of mine known to the internet as CCSpectre. I’ve actually been unhappy with the look of this place for a while, and with the conclusion of The Wolf now in sight, I’ve started thinking about what I’m going to have to do going forward with regard to publishing and marketing it. And the first thing that came to mind was that if I was going to be serious about being a hybrid author/Twitch streamer, I needed a website for the author half of that equation that was a bit more professional that neon designs on black backgrounds. Since my website is called “Quills & Controllers”, I hit upon the “Ink & Parchment” theme pretty quickly, and CC was kind enough to apply that theme to the existing artwork she’d already done for me. The result has been a universal branding update that I feel ties my writing and streaming together beautifully, and I couldn’t be happier with it.

One thing that I could be happier with however, is my streaming. Specifically how and what games I stream. I’ve made no secret of my love for the Destiny franchise, but taking these last two weeks off of streaming has really highlighted for me just how ridiculously fast I blew through the opening content of Destiny 2, and how little enjoyment I was then getting out of it as a result. I was in such a rush to get ready for the new raid that I completely forgot about the things that actually make games like Destiny 2 so much fun for me; exploring new worlds, experiencing new stories, and in general just immersing myself in a different reality for a few hours. By the time I realized I’d done this, I was already so disheartened and disappointed in myself that I didn’t even want to go back through it all on a new character.

Now that’s not to say I don’t want to play Destiny 2 at all anymore. Far from it, in fact. I’m still hugely excited for the PC version’s release, and honestly can’t wait for the chance to have a fresh start with a new character on it. Because this time, I won’t be in a rush to complete the story. I won’t be in a rush to get ready for a raid I won’t actually have enough friends to complete. This time I will stop to smell the roses for a while and poke my curious nose into all the little nooks and crannies of the world, and quite frankly, that’s the part I’m most excited for with the PC release.

That said, there’s still almost a month between now and when Destiny 2 launches for PC. That’d be a painfully long time to go without streaming, but fortunately, there’s another game on the horizon that I’m almost just as excited for.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War

That game is the sequel to my personal Game of the Year for 2014; Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Set between the events of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, these games tell the story of Talion, a Gondorian Ranger, who is murdered by the agents of Sauron and resurrected by the spirit of Celebrimbor; the elf-smith who Sauron tricked into forging the Rings of Power, and who Sauron later tortured to death in an effort to learn the secrets of the three Elvish rings that Celebrimbor forged by himself. Shadow of Mordor is a great game built upon a thrilling narrative idea, and while it may have stumbled in the delivery of that narrative sometimes, the core gameplay was fantastic. And in every way that matters, Shadow of War looks to expand upon that core gameplay in every conceivable way. Even better, based on recent articles that I’ve read, Shadow of War also looks to be stepping up it’s narrative experience in equal measure.

If you can’t tell, I’m just a wee bit excited for this game.

Because of that excitement, and because of my badly self-inflicted burnout on Destiny 2, I’m switching things up with the stream for the next few weeks. Things will start with a nostalgic stroll back through Shadow of Mordor next week, and then when Shadow of War comes out the week after that, I’m going to apply the lessons learned from Destiny 2 and take my time to savor the smell of ash and sulfur as we rip control over the Land of Shadow right out from under Sauron’s gaze. Fun times will be had by all in attendance (except for the Orcs and Nazgul), so feel free to tune in via Twitch itself or the embedded player here on Quills & Controllers under the “Twitch” tab in the menu bar. The shenanigans begin next Tuesday at 1:00 PM, Pacific Time.

Now, about that Wolf that still needs taming… 😉

Unleashing the Horsemen: Taming of The Wolf – Part 5

8:56 AM, Pacific Daylight Time – September 17th, 2017.

That was the exact time that I finally cracked my knuckles and got back down to the nitty-gritty of writing The Wolf yesterday. This after nearly a week of trying and failing to re-plot the rest of the book after deciding to completely upend the previous chain of events that I’d forged through three previous drafts of this novella. So many repeated failures at this made me realize that the only way I was ever going to really figure out where this new direction was going to take the story was to just sit down, and write it out like it had been part of the story all along.

In hindsight, this was clearly the right thing to do because while I started writing yesterday at 8:56 AM, I didn’t really stop writing until 10:34 PM.

More than 13 hours later.

I mean, to be fair, it was probably closer to ten hours of total writing time. Because, you know, I did eat and go to the bathroom a couple times, but I think the point still stands: I put in serious work at the keyboard yesterday. By the time it was all said and done, and the dust had started to settle, I came up out of the writing trenches with eight new pages, nearly 4,200 words, and two complete chapters added to The Wolf.

All in a single day.

I haven’t written that much in one sitting since March of 2013, and the eleven-day marathon that resulted in the The Wolf’s first complete draft.

My heart tells me this is a good sign, but my brain is still so hungover from all that writing that about all it can do is gurgle incoherently and give a vague thumbs up of approval. Or is that the middle finger? I can’t really tell from this angle…

In either case, I can feel the peak of this project approaching. Just one, maybe two more chapters, and all the hardest parts are over. The characters will all finally be established, all of the exposition will have finally been delivered, and all that will remain is the ever-exhilarating rush towards the climax. And even before that, there are still one or two scenes left that get me just as excited in and of themselves!

I won’t say that I’m close to finishing The Wolf. I’m too superstitious at the end of the day to risk jinxing myself like that. What I will say however that I feel closer to it now than I have since completing that first draft more than four years ago. I’ve already crossed the mark where all the other drafts have fallen apart and wasted away, and despite having been reduced to near-mush by all the writing yesterday, my brain is still pushing me to write out another two to three thousand words. And that I know can only be a good sign for things to come. 🙂

Unleashing the Horsemen: Taming of The Wolf – Part 4

I’m gonna be completely honest, everyone.

I got zero writing done this week.

Destiny 2 entirely consumed my life.

However, that’s not to say I made zero progress on the writing front. In finishing Chapter 3 last week, I actually cut it off several pages before the original end point, and that randomly opened my eyes to a new (and probably better) direction to take the story. Obviously I can’t say much because spoilers, but it all hinges around a relatively minor detail and the realization that I don’t have to rely on an admittedly awkward lie I had my main character tell to explain it in The Wolf’s original draft. A lie I had him tell in order to avoid a conflict I didn’t know how to resolve.

But in taking this new pass over The Wolf and approaching it from a somewhat different mindset, I realized that there is a far more interesting way to deal with this little detail, and to actually take the story into what I feel is far more compelling territory. Largely because I’ve learned to embrace conflict in my stories, and that the lack of it in this next section of the book is one of the things that honestly held it back in the previous draft.

That’s not to say this new direction is all sunshine and daisies though. A big part of why I chose The Wolf to be the first of my Horsemen was because I already had the entire story locked down, and it wouldn’t take all that much work to get it fixed up and ready for life in the world. By pursuing this new narrative direction, I’m sailing off into entirely uncharted waters, which means a whole lot of extra work that I hadn’t planned on. It means entire plot and character arcs need to be re-thought at best, and re-constructed at worst. Thankfully I’m not entirely at a loss for how I can make this change and still preserve the overall shape of the narrative, as well as the few key scenes that drive that narrative forward.

The real test, quite frankly, will be if I can pull myself off of Destiny long enough to take all this theory and put it into action. 😛

Clawing Through Concrete to Climb the Mountain

I struggle to think of a time where I felt better, more confident, and more accomplished than I did as I was going to bed last night.

For so long, I’ve felt like I was beating my head against a steel wall, unable to break through to the other side where the reality of my dreams awaited. Writer’s block would lurk around every corner to steal my thunder every time I built up even a modicum of enthusiastic charge, and streaming felt much the same way; a near-Sisyphean task of trying to grab a greased-up bar of soap in endless shower. Every time I thought I’d found a game that I could build something off of, it would slip through my grasp for any one of a thousand reasons. Destiny 1 held nothing new or exciting for me, Shadow of Mordor proved less dynamic and engaging than I thought it would be as a streaming game, and Mass Effect: Andromeda was… well, Mass Effect: Andromeda.

But then, something happened. After nearly a year of active anticipation, and three years of desperate longing, Destiny 2 finally dropped onto my Xbox One and proved to be everything that I’d hoped for and so much more. It blew open door after door of exciting streaming potential. There were adventures to go on, dungeons to plunder, and all sorts of other crazy shenanigans to engage in! For the first time in my journey as a Twitch streamer, I had finally found a game that I *knew* I could dig my hands into and really craft something out of.

And at almost the exact same time, I reached an equally impactful breakthrough with my writing.

My struggle to tame The Wolf and tell the story of it (a story that’s been running wild inside my head for years now) as been one filled with frustration, set-backs, and despair. For no matter how much I loved this story, there seemed to always be yet one more utterly unworkable aspect of it that would thwart even my hardest efforts to write my way beyond it. And yet yesterday morning, as I was still lying in bed no less, my heart caught on to a feeling that my still sleepy brain soon began translating into words. When I realized that those translated words would be the perfect way to finally crack through the writer’s block that had parked itself at the end of Chapter 3, I did the only thing that made sense at the time.

I plucked my phone off the nightstand and started writing them down as a memo, which I then copied into The Wolf itself once I’d finally finished.

So many times the journey to success is described as a mountain climb, but for me the journey didn’t start at the base of the mountain. For me, the journey started on the outside of a concrete wall that wraps around the mountain’s base, armed with only my hands to claw my way through it.

But you know what? I did it.

After nearly seventeen years of frustration, rage, despair and rejection, my point-blank refusal to give up on my dreams has at last broken through the last of the concrete and brought me to the base of the mountain. And to be perfectly honest, after having to dig bare-handedly through what felt like miles of concrete, this climb up the mountain is going to feel like cake in comparison. 🙂

Unleashing the Horsemen: Taming of The Wolf – Part 2

I got incredibly lucky this last week.

As many of you may know, a few weeks ago one of the two hard drives in my computer died on me. And when it died, it took all of my writing folders with it. Thankfully, a majority of that data was backed up on a USB drive and had also been copied onto my laptop. So a few days ago, on a whim that came out of nowhere, I went looking back through that USB drive to see just how much of The Wolf was still there. Lo and behold, I found two partial drafts of the manuscript itself and when I read back over them, I realized that however unsteady things may be in my head, the story as it exists on paper is still wonderfully solid.

And having two different drafts from two previous attempts at re-writing this book gave me a wonderful opportunity to compare and contrast my own writing. To compare where my mind was, where it is now, and make a decision about how best to move forward for the sake of the story. Part of that decision was to craft a new first chapter by actually mixing and matching different parts from the different drafts, and doing that finally gave me a version of chapter one that I can actually be proud of.

I think some of you are going to hate me for how much more viciously it stabs at your heart, but that’s kind of the point in the end. 😉

After wrapping up chapter one though, I got another shot in the arm of gratification when I started re-reading chapters two and three from the more recent draft. I realized while doing that just how much of those chapters still worked. How many times the different scenes actually hit the emotional mark I was aiming for. So rather than re-write them entirely or re-construct them with parts of the earlier draft, I was able to just do a simple revision for clarity and emphasis. That’s not the kind of moment I often get to have with my writing, so it’s a special kind of sweet when it happens.

Now however, comes the real challenge. Chapter three of the most recent draft wasn’t finished. That ending and everything I’d had for Chapter four actually did get lost with the death of my hard drive, and I can’t for the life of me remember what emotional mark I was aiming for beyond the point that chapter three got cut off at. Now, given what The Wolf is about and what all has to happen with the rest of the story, I’m not at all concerned about finding another proper emotional mark to aim at. However, I still remember how I felt about the chapter and pages that I’ve lost, and I can’t shake the feeling/fear that whatever new target I take aim at just won’t be as powerful as the last one I actually fired at.

I realize that this fear is likely irrational and unfounded, but it’s one that I will definitely be struggling with for the next few days as I get back to work.

Such is the life of a writer. 😛

Unleashing The Horsemen: Taming of The Wolf – Part 1

 

Anxiety is not something I’m used to feeling. Especially not with regard to things that usually excite me and make me happy.

And yet, that’s exactly what happened the day before yesterday.

In hindsight, I know exactly what set it off. I’d once again caught myself doing multiple things at once and trying to rush through them as fast as possible, rather than take my time and make sure they all got done properly. Add on top of this a small dash of self-inflicted relationship drama, and for about 36 hours, I found myself almost completely paralyzed with indecision and fear.

Then late yesterday afternoon, from seemingly out of nowhere, everything changed.

I could say that if felt like someone had flipped a switch at the back of my mind, but the truth of it feels… a little bit bigger than that. For my money, it felt like all this anxiety was being caused by one broken nerve in the back of my brain that kept short circuiting. Then after I finished lunch and a couple episodes of The West Wing, that nerve had been completely disconnected and replaced with a whole different kind of nerve; one that plugged perfectly into place like the final piece of an electrical jigsaw puzzle. The paralytic fear and anxiety that I felt dropped away almost at once, and in their place rose an almost zen-like clarity and focus. All I could see were the tasks I had in front of me, and all I had to do was walk forward and accomplish them.

So that’s exactly what I did.

Now, the boring list of house-cleaning chores aside, the big-ticket item on that list of tasks was finally sit down and get back to work on unleashing the four horsemen of my apocalypse. The first of these is The Wolf, and the first thing I thought I had to do was re-create the various character biographies I’d need to make sure that my characters would be actual people, and not mere automatons moving in service of the novella’s plot. I say I thought I had to do this, because before I typed a single word, I pulled out one of my USB drives that I’d saved my old writings onto and started reading through some of the old notes and histories I’d already written down for The Wolf.

To say that I was stunned by how much of it was still a rock-solid foundation to build a story on would be an almost criminal understatement.

The reason for this, I suspect, is that I wrote all of those notes in the same style and voice I planned to write the novella itself in. That is to say, the first-person perspective of my main character. And since the thoughts and feelings of my main character haven’t changed in the three years since I’d last worked on The Wolf, there was largely no need to go back to write them all again from scratch.

I say “largely” no need, because there are a few things that I still want to go back and tweak. I’m not at all happy with how poorly the relationship between my main character and his mother plays out considering how central an element his family is to this story, and I’m also not happy with how loosely I let myself play around with the nature and history of my werewolves. So the big task for the week ahead is to go back and do just that. Craft the final, iron-clad rules and backstories for my werewolf characters, and then go back and write a consolidated, comprehensive family history document for my main character in the same personal journal style that I used before.

All my ducks are already hatched for this story. I’ve just got to make sure they’re all in their proper row. 😉

A Hard Reset

So… I had a bit of an adventure on Tuesday.

Monday night, I started hearing a really loud, rhythmic clicking sound coming out of my computer, and at about the same time, I noticed that my computer’s performance was plummeting. The broadcast of another streamer I was watching on Twitch kept freezing, other programs were taking far longer to respond to instructions than they should, and that damn clicking noise would not go away. So, I opened up the side panel of my PC’s case to try and figure out where the clicking was coming from, and almost immediately found that it was coming from my system drive. For the non-tech heads out there, the long and the short of it is that the hard drive that helped run my entire system was dying and if I wanted to keep using my PC, I needed to replace it ASAP.

Which I did. Even threw in a little upgrade that’s made my computer boot up in seconds instead of minutes. Solid State Drives FTW!

Unfortunately, this upgrade came at a cost. Because I got caught so flat-footed by the drive failure, and hadn’t been as diligent as I should’ve been in backing up my files, I lost everything on that drive. My music, my movies, my pictures, and perhaps worst of all, my writing. Not all of it, mind you. About 80% of everything I’ve written over the last five years has been saved not only on a flash drive, but copied over onto my laptop as well. However, with literally only one exception, all of my most recent, relevant documents went down with the hard drive.

And believe it or not, I’m actually not mad about this.

A little annoyed, sure, but here’s the thing: I’d actually been wondering about making a completely fresh start for quite a while now. Because the thing about having so many different writing files from so many different drafts from so many projects from so many different years is that it tends to get a bit cluttered and confusing, and after a while it becomes just a bit… much… to keep it all straight. So even before my drive crashed, I’d been thinking on and off about just wiping everything out, and starting completely over with a perfectly clean slate. Because as immensely valuable as notes are, the ideas those notes contain are still stored relatively safe and sound inside my brain and on more than one occasion, a hard reset on some of my writing projects has actually enabled me to craft a better story than the previous one.

This reset just proved to be a bit harder than the one I’d had in mind.

So what’s all this mean going forward? Well, for one thing, it means I’m going to get off my ass and get blogging here again. For another, it means that I am truly starting over from square one. Whatever plans I’d had before the drive failure, scrapped. The exorcism of The Demon? On hold for the moment. My life is in a much different place than it was when I’d first started that process, and now unlike then, I actually have the freedom to take my time with all the stories I’ve wanted to tell and write them out proper. I say this because over the last week or so, I realized something critical:

What I’m doing as TheGamingAuthor? Trying to build an audience as a Twitch streamer while simultaneously trying to build a career as an author? It’s insane. More importantly than that though, is that it isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. And I’ve been trying to sprint this marathon since February.

I’m not going to do that anymore. I’m not going to put any more pressure on myself to succeed like that. It’s not going to happen that way and I’m finally going to stop trying to force it to.

So here’s the plan going forward. I’ve got four stories in my head that are already (or at least mostly) fully formed: The Wolf, The Demon, The Vampire, and The Coven. Working titles of course, but the point is that these four stories are the ones I have that are the most ready for prime time, and so they’ll be the ones I work on first. The Wolf, The Vampire, and The Coven are all novellas, while The Demon as many of you know, is a full-length novel. And the order I’ve put them in earlier is roughly the order that I’ll be writing them in.

With one possible exception.

The Demon is a huge project, and the more I’ve worked on it the last few months, the more I’ve come to realize just how many moving parts it truly has. And given that The Vampire and The Coven are much simpler, shorter stories, I’ll actually be breaking The Demon up into smaller chunks that I’ll be working on before, in-between, and after my three novellas. By working this way, I’ll be able to avoid burn-out on any single project, and the bouncing back and forth will help me work with my ADHD rather than against it.

And yes, adults can have ADHD too.

So that’s where things stand as far as my writing life is concerned. It’s gonna be a crazy ride over the next few months and years, but I’m looking forward to it. This is exactly the path I’ve been trying to get my life on for the better part of a year now, so finally getting to even this point has been a dream come true.