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Writing into the new year

Posted in Blog, Personal

Hello, friends!

It’s the new year (a couple of days late, but don’t mind that), which means it’s time for looking back at the past year and forwards into the next.

It would probably be easier to look at the things I did in the past year if I did any sort of record keeping, which I…generally don’t. So let’s see how much I remember and go from there.

Writing-wise, I published two fanfics last year (which seems to be a trend so far), Runner and Ex nihilo. In total, that’s about 100k words! It’s kind of cheating to say that I wrote all that last year, though, since most of Runner was written at the very end of 2017. I’m not really going into the details of both stories (you can go ahead and read them if you’re interested), but I do think they’re at least minor milestones for me as a writer.

Runner, which clocked in at 85k words, is the longest complete story I’ve written to date, and is basically a whole-ass novel, complete with character arcs and a fun amount of emotional distress. It’s a sort-of sequel, more-of spin-off of my first novel-length story, Parting Line, and like Parting Line, was a large part of figuring out how to actually plan and pace long-form stories. Before working on those two stories, my usual writing plan involved thinking of a lot of scenes but not really having a very good idea of how to get from point A to B, and while I still do that, I’ve gotten much better at the A to B part. Regardless of whether you think Parting Line and Runner are good stories (and I like to think they are), there’s definitely something to be said about finishing a novel-length story and knowing that that’s something you can do.

Ex nihilo, on the other hand, is somewhere around 19k, which puts it somewhere between short story and novella. It’s a story I started back in 2016, got about eight thousand words in, then stopped writing. It’s not an uncommon thing to happen–sometimes the inspiration runs dry, or it’s not what I want to work on. I’ve said it before, but if you’re writing for fun, you should have fun. So when I’m not in the mood to write certain stories, I put them down and do something else. Sometimes they stay like that, or sometimes, like in this case, I come back to them. Ex nihilo is mostly notable because it’s a non-linear narrative, which I’ve never done before. I can’t say that I’ve cracked the code or anything, but connecting things ideologically versus chronologically seems to work just fine. I’m not personally a huge fan of the non-linear narrative, but it certainly has its uses for things that need a lot of flashbacks instead of a condensed story in a condensed timeframe, like many of my stories are.

A funny thing I remember about Ex nihilo is that around that time I was in a literature class and for that class we read some James Joyce story (one of the more coherent ones, I mean) and it had a really stupid way of punctuating quotations, with a leading — instead of normal quotation marks. I saw that and went, “That’s really stupid,” then immediately went, “Why don’t I do that?” So I did.

In both cases, I haven’t really read the stories again since I’ve finished them. There’s an odd anxious period right after publishing a story where I read my stories again a lot (or at least diligently skim through them), but after that fades, I generally stop reading them altogether. It’s weird, I suppose, to read the finished product multiple times when I’ve already read the many iterations of the story working up to that point, and as the author there’s no way for me to experience the story for the first time like a reader would. Maybe it’s because finishing and publishing the story and getting some feedback amounts to closure in my mind, and that’s why I don’t feel the need to go back to the story again.

(Although it’s worth mentioning, if you’re reading my stories now or years in the future and you want to tell me what you think about it, please do! I am always eager for feedback, and it’s always good to know that people are reading my stories, no matter when.)

Last year, I also started Something Wicked, the first draft, as well as Something Wicked, the web serial. Back when I started a little writing project directly in Discord chat last February, I didn’t think I’d come to where we are today, publishing a web serial on a real-ass website that I manage and use my own dollars to host. I guess that along with working on Something Wicked, I’ve also officially become a webmaster, which sounds a lot cooler than it is, considering that I basically just use WordPress on account of WordPress being perfectly functional for my needs (and my not knowing very much html at all).

Something Wicked is currently hovering just over the 40k mark, but I suspect by this time next year it will be over 200k (assuming a regular schedule of 3k a week, which is roughly what I’ve been releasing so far). Releasing a story serially isn’t something I usually do, because I think there’s a lot of narrative finesse lost when you don’t have the ability to edit backwards as well as write forwards, along with the fact that I (as mentioned earlier) sometimes drop stories for two years or more before digging them back up and finishing them. We’ll see how Something Wicked pans out, but I have confidence that I’ll see it through to the end, which will probably be two or three years from now.

In addition to those fun milestones, I also started my novel, Pearls and Smoke. This is another one of those things that maybe I shouldn’t attribute to 2018, because I started planning in the later part of 2017. There’s only about 10k written so far (which to be fair, is like an eighth of the way through), but the entire story has been outlined pretty thoroughly–something that I don’t usually do for my stories, but is kind of a necessity for a murder mystery, or resurrection mystery as the case may be.

Pearls and Smoke is a bit different than most of my work because it’s a) technically (alternate) historical fiction and b) told in first person, which I haven’t used in about ten years. It’s an unashamed tribute to film noir style detective stories on the account of being one and told in a style that I hope is reminiscent of one. I actually read through all of the Philip Marlowe books for research on the genre, and while I have come to terms that no character I ever write will be as good as Philip Marlowe, the best character ever written, and that I will never be able to come up with metaphors like “he looked about as subtle as a tarantula on a slice of angel food”, and that I will spend significantly less time describing flowers and architecture, I hope that I will bring my own particular narrative voice to this story that people will enjoy.

I guess while I’m here, I should talk a little more about the origins of Pearls and Smoke. While I got the motivation to write my own hardboiled novel towards the end of 2017, a lot of the worldbuilding and ideas came from a few discussions I had back in 2016, about a character who becomes friends with, is saved by, then possessed by a demon. In typical fashion for me, I spent a lot of time figuring out how demons and magic would work in this scenario, and came up with the concept of burning souls to use magic (in of itself not particularly original, but bear with me). Nothing really came to fruition with these ideas, because as I’ve said in the past, it takes a whole lot for me to actually want to open up a new document file and start writing–which is to say, I need to have a story arc in mind before I start typing away. It wasn’t until I started thinking of making a film noir but with magic that I thought, “hey, maybe I should bring in that old stuff I had lying around.” And so I did.

There’s been a lot of worldbuilding since, with considerations of how magic interacts with society or its use in the War, and also dragons, but the idea started there, with thinking about a kid and a demon. That character is still in Pearls and Smoke, and it’s pretty obvious who it is, but their story isn’t the main focus of the novel, since the protagonist is the lovely private investigator Sable and also her pet dragon and also her dead girlfriend (but that’s a story for another time). Maybe I’ll come back to something about that original story with the kid and the demon, but…probably not.

Those, I think, are the main writing developments in the past year.

Besides that, I also started planning a new project (gasp!), which in a shocking turn of events, is a game. I don’t want to say much about it until we have something to show for it, but I will say that it’s a sort of puzzle RPG thing. It’s kind of a meta narrative because it has a lot to do with typical RPG tropes, but it’s not really a meta narrative because I don’t like meta narratives. I’m going to do the majority of the art assets as well as a lot of the writing, while a friend of mine will handle code and possibly level design. We’ll see how it goes, and I hope to release many development updates on that in the coming year!

I also did a few drawings last year, but you can look at that in the gallery or on my Tumblr. I don’t have much to say about that except that I did it.

What else have I done in the last year? Let’s see…

I finally played the last three games in the Ace Attorney series. I played about 80% of Yakuza 0. I learned how to play Chinese Mahjong. I moved house again. I hit some professional milestones that aren’t relevant to this blog. I traveled a bit. I finally hung up the posters I’ve had for the last few years. I played all of Overcooked and Overcooked 2. I read at least a million words of fanfiction of varying quality. I finished a hat I crocheted last summer. I played fun games and tired my arms out with my Oculus. I did commentary for a robotics competition. I fixed our old bike so I could use it again. I started this blog.

All in all, I think I had a pretty decent year, ignoring the fact that the entire world is on fire right now. So where does that leave me? I’m not really one for new year’s resolutions, but I suppose it’s important to set goals and expectations, so here we go:

For writing, I expect to be around 200k into Something Wicked by the time next January rolls around. Ideally, I’d like to also be finished with the first draft of my book as well, which I expect to clock in somewhere between 70-90k. For fanfiction, I might publish two stories again next year, or maybe not. There’s a few stories in my documents folder that I’ve been working on recently that I might end up pushing to the finish. We’ll see how I feel.

I’d like to post semi-regular updates about the development of my game once that gets underway. That’s going to be a learning process for me, since I have to learn how to do pixel art to make sprites, as well as do a bunch of balancing to make sure that our game is actually fun.

Art-wise, I don’t have any particular plans, but I want to get a few more comics done for Something Wicked, and maybe work some more on scripting out Apostate, which I’ve done some picking up and dusting off of in the last couple of months.

There’s a scarf I’ve wanted to design for a while now, so I want to learn how to do crocodile stitch and do some experimenting. I’m not sure what I’d make with crocodile stitch, though. Hand warmers, maybe?

And of course, I have my professional obligations, so we’ll see how that goes.

So cheers, friends! It’s the new year, and time to make more progress and work on exciting and fun things! May 2019 be fruitful and enlightening and bring us better prospects than last year.

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