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. 🙂

Advertisements

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. 😛

Unleashing the Horsemen: Taming of The Wolf – Part 3

*sigh*

I think I have to say it…

In all of the seventeen years that I’ve been writing fiction, I don’t think I have ever been as agonizingly frustrated with a chapter as I’ve been with Chapter 3 of The Wolf over the last several days. The purpose of the chapter is, on the surface of it, simple: reunite my main character with his love interest, introduce the supernatural elements of the story, and have them make lovey-eyes at each other for a while before throwing them back to the wolves. From a plot perspective, this is one of the easiest chapters in the book to write. However, from a character perspective… oh boy…

You see, I have this nagging tendency to always think of my characters first and foremost as real people, with real desires and motivations. When a certain plot event takes place, my first thought is “If this were real life, how would Character X really react to this?”. I find this approach to be really fun normally, as it helps me discover points in the story where things happen solely because the plot demands it, and not because my characters would actively choose that path for themselves. From there it becomes a bit of a game for me to figure out what it would take for Character X to make Decision A, and then restructure things accordingly.

I tend to call this my “Christopher Nolan Approach”, named after one of my favorite directors in Hollywood who seems to make his movies based around the philosophy of “If we can do it for real, we’re gonna do it for real.” It’s an approach I take with my writing because I find that even in a purely fantasy setting, the more a story can tie itself to the reality of the human experience, the more inherently compelling that story becomes.

However, with this latest chapter of The Wolf, that approach failed me.

With this latest chapter of The Wolf, that approach lead me down a rabbit hole of fear and despair that threatened to entirely derail the story I was trying to tell, and more importantly, the feelings that I was trying to evoke in the reader. That right there is what told me that I was going way off track with this chapter, and after two days of still trying to make this off-track direction work, I finally had to accept that I couldn’t have my cake and eat it too. I could either embrace the reality of it, or sacrifice that reality to make the chapter emotionally satisfying. And considering that my whole goal with The Wolf is to write a story that would make those who read it smile and feel all the warm fuzzies, that choice was really no choice at all.

So I said goodbye to strict realism, and opted instead to simply make people feel good.

Just this once at least. 😉

Now all that’s left is to actually finish this chapter and give my writer’s brain some desperately needed rest. Catch you all next week. 🙂

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. 😉