Some things I’ve learned about writing

(Note: This post was originally published to my personal Tumblr. I’ve made some tweaks before posting it here.)

In the past four-ish years, I’ve managed to finish and publish a couple of manuscripts (one ~44,000 words and the other ~96,000 words), which for someone who’d never finished anything longer than ~5,000 words is a really huge deal. Here are some things I realized/started practicing that helped me get to this point:

  • “Writer’s Block” isn’t a thing. That’s not to say that I didn’t sit down to write and have nothing come out, but the thing that got me past those times was realizing that there isn’t some outside force called “writer’s block.” When I couldn’t put words down, it wasn’t because there was a thing separate from me that kept me from doing it. It was because I didn’t know what happened next. When I realized that, it became a lot easier to deal with because “all” (scare quotes because even knowing this didn’t make it easy) I had to do was figure out where I was going and I could get back on track. Which leads in to…
  • Talk it out, even with yourself if that’s all you have. This is the main thing I used to get past my slumps. Sometimes I’d talk with friends (seriously, I love all of my friends who are willing to put up with me talking about fictional things pretty much non-stop). Sometimes I’d just “talk” it out with myself in a separate document or inline using square brackets (which was a technique that Piers Anthony once told me about when I was way too young to understand the value of the advice). It wasn’t always quick, but talking things out always got me past the parts giving me trouble.
  • If it’s boring you, you’re doing it wrong. Another huge momentum-killer for me was feeling like I had to “show” everything, even the boring bits. But if I’m bored writing it, my audience will certainly be bored reading it. Which means I need to find some other way of coming at the scene/chapter/whatever to spice things up, or just “tell” about the boring bits for the sake of advancing the story. Sometimes that’s resulted in things being really weird, and sometimes I ended up dropping the scene/plot thread entirely later, but that’s what revisions are for!
  • Embrace crummy drafts. I kind of hate all the teachers who praised me for having such clean “rough” drafts because they gave me a complex about how drafts ought to look. It took a really, really long time to let myself start having drafts that look like crap. I’m about 14k words into the sequel to AMIND and it’s littered with so many instances of “and then this happened” or things in square brackets where I haven’t decided exactly what goes there yet. Instead of stopping to figure things out exactly, I just sketch things out and let it go. It can be fixed when I do revisions.
  • Notes, notes, notes! So literally everything I write these days I have either a Google Docs or Evernote file full of random bits and pieces of musings about plot/outlines. AMIND’s Evernote file is about 5k words long, most of it copied from Hangouts chats I had with folks during the initial development of the plot and world-building. I would often go back to this document to remind myself of where I was going and what I hoped to accomplish. The version of the manuscript that I have now doesn’t bear a whole lot of resemblance to the notes anymore, but those notes were imperative to me getting the damn fool thing done.
  • Outlines, outlines, outlines! I used to be really bad about being a “pantser,” which is to say just writing without any idea where I was going in any but the most broad sense. This was Not Good because of the first bullet point up there. If I didn’t know what happened, I didn’t write, and nothing got done. I’ve started doing the vaguest outlines for scenes and that has helped keep me on track and writing consistently. I doubt I’ll be producing more than 300-900 words a day any time soon, but the fact is that with my skeletal outlines I can produce those words every day. And trying to sketch out about 2/3 of the story before I start (the arbitrary number I gave myself before I let myself start on the sequel to AMIND) gives me enough wiggle room to surprise myself while also keeping me on-track.
  • Schedule writing time. This was kind of hard and is also a very new thing but it seems to be working well. I wrote most of Bodies Are Disgusting in spare minutes wherever I could, and probably about 50% of it was written on my smartphone. With AMIND, I tried to set more goals for myself and stick to them, and that seemed to help. Now I’m trying to write at least a little bit every week-day after I get home from the day job. I am getting really militant about achieving a certain word count goal during the week, and I also try to give myself the weekends off.
  • BONUS: Writeometer! Google rec’d this app to me and HOLY COW, I LOVE IT SO MUCH. I don’t even use the whole “guava” and “treats” thing. Just having a way to record words and see a chart and set goals… oh my goodness, it has helped motivate me so much this past month. It automatically calculates what you need to do in order to meet your deadlines and you can set alarms and it’s FREE. If you have an Android device, I can’t recommend this app enough.
  • BONUS BONUS: Scrivener! This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning how awesome a tool Scrivener is for putting drafts together. I still do most of my writing in Google Docs, but once a large chunk of a draft is done, I’ll bring it into Scrivener so I can tweak scene placement and chapter arrangement. There are other cool things it can do, too, but it can  be a little intimidating. Even so, I still really really really recommend it.

So, yeah, sorry, that got a little long, but I just wanted to share these things with y’all in case it helps anyone who’s struggling with their own writing. I’m certain that none of this is new information, but this is the specific cocktail it took to get me to the point where I could stop saying “I write” and start saying “I’m a writer.”

Big News!

So, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I haven’t really been posting much here recently. This isn’t to say that I don’t haunt the Internet, just that I’m usually on more casual sites like Facebook and Tumblr. Since last I posted, a lot has changed for me: I have been at my current day-job for almost two years; I bought a house; we moved into said house; friends have come and gone. Perhaps the biggest thing is the state of AMIND.

When I completed the Camp NaNoWriMo in 2014, the rough draft weighed in at about 55,000 words. This was still 25% more than Bodies, but still kind of anemic for a full-length novel. I let the draft rest for probably longer than I should have (about a year), and when I came back to it, I ended up making some major changes. The current draft is almost twice as long (about 95,500 words), with some of the story significantly changed and the entire POV of the novel shifted to be first-person.

Late one night in early April of this year, I decided that I was going to submit my manuscript to a publisher that one of my friends had recommended to me. My friend (whom I have talked to pretty extensively about the plot and development of AMIND) had worked with this publisher before, and they felt that they might be a good fit for me. So, in a fit of insomnia, I stayed up far later than I should have crafting my submission letter.

As of May 18th, 2016, AMIND is under contract to be published by Less Than Three Press! There are still a lot of things that need to get done before I have a firm date, but words cannot express how excited I am about this development.

Additionally, I have also begun work on the rough draft of the sequel to AMIND, whose working title is (oh-so-creatively) Alonso Munich Is Still Dead.

In the coming weeks, I’m hoping to revitalize this space with more information about AMIND as it makes its way through the publishing process, as well as some thoughts on the process that got me from Camp NaNoWriMo to here.

The next weeks/months are shaping up to be really exciting, and I’m so excited to share it with you all!

Post-Camp Nanowrimo Post

Well, after taking a day to kind of recover (both from Camp Nano and my first week at my new day-job), I just wanted to let you all know that I am stoked as heck and ready to celebrate!

First, as those of you who have been keeping up with my stats may have noticed: I successfully completed my Camp Nano challenge! I had a lot of fun and it taught me a lot about ways to improve my personal writing process, as well as what proper expectations for myself can be given different circumstances. It was a great learning experience all around, and that brings me to…

Second, the first rough draft for AMIND is finished! There’s still a lot of work to be done on it, but the skeleton of the story and a lot of the flesh are all there, and it is definitely going to be a full-length novel once I’m done with revisions/rewrites. Considering that it took me over two years to finish the first draft of Bodies, having finished the first draft of AMIND (a more ambitious project, in my mind) in a little over a year is absolutely astonishing to me. And, speaking of Bodies, that brings me to…

Third, I’m running a celebratory sale! Until August 15th, you can use coupon code DF87K when you purchase Bodies Are Disgusting on Smashwords to get the book for $.99!

Thank all of you for your encouragement and support! Regular Music Monday, Fiction Friday, and art posts will be resuming a little later this month. :D

Camp NaNoWriMo

Sorry for being so quiet lately. Unfortunately, I’m probably not going to get much more talkative this month because I am participating in Camp NaNoWriMo! I’m using the event as a way to kick my butt into gear when it comes to finishing AMIND, and it’s been working pretty well so far. I’m finally over two-thirds of the way through and coming into the final stretch. I’m estimating that it’ll come in at around 60,000 words once all is said and done (so it will definitely be a full-length novel rather than a novella like Bodies), maybe a little more.

If you want to keep track of my progress, check out my stats page. I’m really excited to hopefully get this story finished because I can’t wait to share it with the world at large.

Fiction Friday #5

This Fiction Friday, I figured I’d shake things up, especially since it’s a holiday weekend here in the US. Instead of talking about a print work, I want to highlight one of my favorite web-serials this week: Worm.

From the Worm site: An introverted teenage girl with an unconventional superpower, Taylor goes out in costume to find escape from a deeply unhappy and frustrated civilian life. Her first attempt at taking down a supervillain sees her mistaken for one, thrusting her into the midst of the local ‘cape’ scene’s politics, unwritten rules, and ambiguous morals. As she risks life and limb, Taylor faces the dilemma of having to do the wrong things for the right reasons.

Why I recommend it: This work has completely spoiled me for superhero fiction. The world-building is amazing, Taylor is a fun narrator to see the world with, and I cannot gush about the way the characters all use their superpowers enough. This is a finished work, so no need to worry about when/if it will update, and I do not regret the late nights I’ve spent up reading this story. If Wildbow releases Worm in e-book format, you can bet money that I will be gleefully purchasing each and every volume of it.

Music Monday #5

Peter Murphy – Hang Up

They come on over, said the tripper to the… was the goast
Caught you real dead in, master of masters
I tell you daddy,
Don’t… to a place all full when the angels are alive
They believe in nature,
I get so fear, I get so fear,
I get so fear, I get so fear,
And you was the… and you are the Jesus the Moise the…
Yes there’s a god higher
Hang up the phone and come on over
Don’t act like that to a place when all the angels are alive,
There been angels alive
Higher so be there,
Higher so be there,
Higher so be there,
Higher so be there,
Higher so be there,
If the truth be told, does teh tripper show
Is messing with the… to that drive that devil got now
You can drag me and sometime with no clothes on
With a problem and no poasing
Hanginh up the phone
Hanging up the phone
Hanging up the phone
Hanging up the phone
Hanging up the phone
Hanging up the phone
Hanging up the phone
Hanging up the phone
I tell you this
Hanging up the phone
Hanging up the phone
Hanging up the phone
Higher so be there
Higher so be there
Higher so be there
Higher so be there
Higher so be there
Higher so be there
Higher so be there

Fiction Friday #4

three parts deadFrom Amazon: A god has died, and it’s up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart.

Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without Him, the metropolis’s steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot.

Tara’s job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help: Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead god, who’s having an understandable crisis of faith.

When Tara and Abelard discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts—and their quest for the truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and Alt Coulumb’s slim hope of survival.

Set in a phenomenally built world in which justice is a collective force bestowed on a few, craftsmen fly on lightning bolts, and gargoyles can rule cities, Three Parts Dead introduces readers to an ethical landscape in which the line between right and wrong blurs.

Why I recommend it: There are a lot of reasons I love this book and can’t wait to get my grubby little paws on the next two installments of the Craft Sequence, but the top one is the world-building. Alt Coulumb is so lush and vivid, and it feels like a very real place despite the fantastical elements to it. The system of magic is another phenomenal aspect of this book, as it feels both unique and very intuitive, once the reader has a working knowledge of it. It’s also worth noting that the main character is a Woman of Color, which is very refreshing when the urban-fantasy genre tends to not have a lot of diversity.

Music Monday #4

The Grand Experiment – Doomtree

It begins with a flash
I know they say it ends the same
bit of skill, bit of chance
now every player guess the game
we start with these planets waltzing through the darkness
tip the axis, that one’s ours
zoom the camera in, cue lights up, dim the stars
We shape the stone
paint our pictures on the wall
we hunt alone, plant in spring
learn to harvest in the fall
and we choose a king, mine the metals for his forges
to better wage our wars and all of Olympus is laughing
until we go and split the atom

Push that metal on down the road, we built this city on coal and gold
Money that trickles out, fill up that cup and sip it down
from the salt in the sails on down the rails
Everything’s for sale is the golden rule
including…well, I’m no fool
They get in a rush in a haze but I get out of mind, out of body, out of pocket
I don’t mind putting on a bit of mileage, but I won’t auto pilot with my eyelids shut
I’m still gunning, but I learned what’s worth hunting
and I learned what’s worth nothing
saw it
read it
outdone it

STEF (hook)
There’s no escape
They always looking for that easy out
but there’s nowhere to go
There’s no patience
They always looking for that easy out
but there’s nowhere to go

Now all the parts are running, sparks are spilling out the gears
Over some thousand faces waiting years to see this work
Aching cause they need it first
Patient, but they seem berserk
Craving for that feast of merch
Yo! Save a slice for me and her
Isn’t it marvelous…just darling (it’s the newest thing)
It’s totally harmless, but it’s charming (it’s the cutest thing)
But, it bites…not hard…just hard enough to break the skin
and your bone
and your back
and the bank
But wait, it comes with a warranty
for a week, and that’s respectable
It’s cheap and it’s ethical…well, it’s ethical…well, it’s magical really
See, you put the cash in the till, fill in the blanks and that’s it
For my next trick I’ll need your password and an exit
and then poof
cue the fog machine


Modern man
out of hand
motor mind
off the line
automate the operator
Can you hear me clearly?
I’m gonna live forever
give me guerilla arms
sling shot me into outer space in hyper colored glitter bombs
We’ll make our mark huh?
They’ll put no stops to us
We’ll leave our footprints on foothills and dance the Megatropolis
pushing evolution faster
catching continental drifts
Desperately Seeking Solutions to problems we know we’ll never fix
In the belly of a robot
out the valley of a microchip
Dialysis in Wonderland
Apple Z the viruses
I’ve never been myself, there is no human experience
you can’t Apple S yourself
this is The Grand Experiment



Since CorgiHat is out the door and things are settling down after MomoCon, I’ve had the chance to plug away at Alonso Munich Is Now Dead, and I’m eager to share a little more of the story with you all. This part takes place immediately following the first post (so I highly recommend catching up before jumping below the cut).

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