My betas said the first few chapters of the story were kinda bland. So, of course I went back and rewrote it. I think it moves much better now and has more for the reader to latch onto. A lot more of the lore is introduced naturally instead of through extended dialogue now. But that also means I've cut out a bunch of stuff and that has had an unforeseen side effect. My POV is out of whack now.
I feel like my first manuscript was a Jenga tower. It was a little sloppy, but it stood up. Then I decided to pull out some of the blocks from the bottom and, now I'm having to do a lot of small changes to make things fit. This POV problem has arisen because a lot of the stuff I cut out from the original has POV that wasn't Jonathan. That made it natural when a chapter took a break from him to see what others were doing. Since then, he's been in it nonstop and now the older material is coming up fast. Having the first non-Jonathan POV this deep into the story is kinda awkward. It's a huge shift for the reader, I think. Unfortunately, going forward, a lot of these other POVs are important and I can't just swap them out. There's a lot of important stuff happening in The Paladin that isn't directly tied to Jonathan.
So what do I do? At the moment I'm left with two options: 1. I can try to bend the plot in such a way that it wraps more completely around Jonathan, but that will take some major rewriting. Or B. I can go back and add even just one little scene without Jonathan in it. I'm favoring this one, but I'm afraid of doing anything that's going to add to my word count. Of course, if I think about it logically, the heavy rewrites to wrap it around Jonathan more completely will likely also result in a net gain for word count.
Le sigh. I remember in high school when I just wrote. I'd crank out a story every week. I'm not going to say any of those were gems, but man do I miss JUST WRITING. Still, this is the path I chose. I will see it to the end. I hope you guys will stick with me. I promise I'll have something good when it's done.
Be Excellent To Each Other.
So I've been sick for the past week. It's not bad enough to visit the doctor, but bad enough that I've had sleep deprivation and breathing issues. My sleep was so bad this past week, when I did sleep, I dreamt about sleeping. That's nuts. To me anyway.
Have any of you written while sick and sleep deprived? I'm in the midst of some serious rewrites and I'm questioning whether what I'm doing is any good. I mean, I've never been so sleep deprived that I hallucinated before, but I suppose 2018 is about new experiences. I've always thought I wrote best late at night, when I was just a little tired, and then I could just edit in the day when I had my brain working. I'm not sure how that plan works if the latter never occurs.
So... progress has been slow this week, to say the least. I'm pushing forward, but man, I've never been more exhausted in my life. I want to get up and get things done, writing especially, but when I do finally pass out for a few hours, I wake up at noon or sometimes later. I feel this need to be productive, but I know I'm useless on so little sleep. I sit to write and things just kinda... drift. It's frustrating.
I'm feeling better today, which is why I'm bothering to mention it at all, but man this week has been rough for progress. Being unable to breathe and sleep. Who'd've thought it'd be so detrimental to my motivation?
Don't Forget to Get Some Decent Sleep
I am ready to be published. Emotionally. Mentally. I am ready for it to be a thing. Unfortunately, this manuscript continues to fight me on this. As you may have noticed yesterday, I thought I was done with all my rewrites for the time being, but I stumbled into something new.
Without giving too much plot away, I ended up cutting out a chapter or so worth or material and then had to edit to make the following chapter hook up properly with the new material I rewrote. As I was doing it I stumbled across a couple innocuous lines. All I really had to do with delete them. Just highlight and delete. Zip. Gone. Over. But I realized that those lines were referencing a character that Jonathan was no longer going to interact with since I deleted that material. There was a tiny, little hint of plot in a line that referenced that character. I looked at it for a minute or two. I could've just hit delete. I'd be that much further to querying an agent and, thus, being published if I'd just hit delete and moved on. But no.
No, instead I thought "Actually, it'd make more sense if this character Jonathan's dealing with now introduces that element of the story. But... if they do that, they'll logically also do this. And then that'll change a plot point later. Well, it's a small plot point, how much harm could it do?"
Well, I'm writing a blog entry about it, aren't I? Now, I know I'm being a little melodramatic, what writer isn't? But there still is some frustration when you just want to be done. I love this story, though. I love it. And I want you all to love it. So when I see that the plot could be better, that a chapter could flow smoother, that I can make something make more sense, I can't help it. I have to do it. I have to fix it. And so I trudge ever forward into the sand of time, dragging behind me the stories yet to be written and pushing before me the story I'm currently engaged in. And every page makes the load that much heavier. I only hope that every page is worth it in the end to my readers, because I certainly think they are.
Be Excellent To Each Other.
Edit. Edit. Edit. Time to rewrite. Yes. That looks good. Okay, almost done. And... done! Okay. All the rewrites are done, I can go back to just editing and then I'll be all done with this. Wait. You know, it would make more sense if... dammit!
This has been a glimpse into the madness of editing The Paladin. I foolishly thought today that I was done with rewriting. That I had finished up all the sections that needed to be spruced up and now I could focus on just editing and cutting words. I could just zoom through the rest of the manuscript now without a care in the world. I was wrong. Thanks to you rewrites, I'm having to take a closer look at every section to make sure it falls into place properly. The changes haven't been big, change a word here, delete a paragraph there, and voila! Everything maintains continuity. But no...
I had to go and realize that I had a chance to make things better. For things to flow better and make more sense. By changing another chunk of the story. So... rewrites. Not over yet.
Man, twenty-six weeks. I love it. I don't know if I've made it clear, but I haven't had the fortitude to keep up with something this long in a while. That's how much this book means to me.
On to the Paladin Playlist! Today I'm sharing a little song that I loved from the moment I heard it. Now, just about all the songs from the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack are amazing, but this one stands out. Most are exciting, get your blood pumping. Some are dark and sorrowful. But this one, Stella by Moor is... quiet. There's nothing inherently wrong with the song being so different from the rest of the tracks. It doesn't NEED to be a tear jerker or excite you. This one just makes you reflect.
Right or wrong, our pasts are filled with moments that have built us into who we are and a song like Stella by Moor is a song that lets you take a moment and reflect on all of that. It doesn't demand your attention. It doesn't take you on a wild ride. It doesn't ask anything of you. It just is.
It is soft. It is gentle. It is there when your'e ready to pay attention, but does not force anything on you. It's perfect for those amazingly soft characters that sit in the background. The ones that might be forgotten if you didn't draw the plot toward them. It's gorgeous. It's unassuming. I absolutely love it.
Please enjoy by the Seatbelts.
I initially figured I would just put this rant out there as a tweet or something, but you know what? I'm pretty verbose. A tweet is not sufficient to contain my feelings on this particular subject. Really, it's a family of related subjects that boils down to using words improperly. Actually, it's even MORE than that. It's using them improperly AND using them because you want to sound smart.
So in professional wrestling we have terminology that was initially started for wrestlers to be able to speak to one another without the fans catching on. Fans got smarter and smarter and decided that if they understood the lingo, it made them a better fan or a smarter fan than all the rest of the peasants. Thus the terms Mark and Smark came into the fans' lexicon. According to the fans, a mark is a fan who love wrestling, maybe who thinks its real. A Smark is a smart mark. They know the ins and outs, they know the locker room politics, they know when wrestlers are faking it (working) or doing something real (shooting.)
But then I listened to a wrestler named Al Snow give a lecture about the business to up and coming wrestlers. There's no such thing as a smark. They're all marks. Smarks are just marks that want to be different. It's because marks isn't a derogatory term or even denotes the level of understanding a fan has. It simply means someone who the wrestler is there to fool for twenty minutes. Someone who you need to respect enough to be in character in front of. That's what I think of when I hear someone say "Mary Sue."
Something that seems to permeate the internet consciousness is that Mary Sue equals Bad Character Writing. That is false. You can have terrible characters that are not Mary Sues. You can have overpowered characters that are not Mary Sues. You can have self-inserts that are not Mary Sues. A Mary Sue is much more than that.
They must be flawless. They must be loved by everyone in the story. When they're not in a scene, they people must be talking about them. When they're confronted with a villain with way more power and experience, they must best them easily. They must be unaware of their perfection. They must be too good for this world so that when they ultimately sacrifice themselves, not a single character has dry eyes.
So I'm proposing a moratorium on the term Mary Sue. Give it, I don't know, a year? Just take time to describe the characters you hate as overpowered. As unbelievable. As taking you out of the narrative. But please, for the love of Murphy don't just repeat the new flashy word you heard on the interwebs so you can sound intelligent and well read. Do a little research. Watch some videos, read some TVtropes at least. And don't be a smark.
Don't Forget to be Awesome!
I've been having my worked looked at for nearly a year now, off and on, by various beta readers and critique partners. It's a vital part of the writing process that helps me sees stuff I am just blind to. Now I'm moving into something similar with my upcoming panel at Con-Nichiwa. Play testing.
If you haven't been paying attention to my rants on it, I've been approved to run at panel at Con-Nichiwa in Tucson. I've chosen to run a game of Smash Fiction's Surprise Party, the game where you replace the party in a fictional work with characters from other works of fiction. It's a story telling game with elements of DnD, fan fiction writing, and Whose Line Is It Anyway? Dan Mulkerin, a gifted game master, crafted the first iteration which is Lord of the Rings, but I needed to have more to run a full panel on it. So, I have give you the three other scenarios: The Wizard of Oz, The Magnificent 7, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Seeing as how Dan only made one scenario so far, I've had to base the concepts for these additional scenarios on a very limited source. I can't mirror it exactly, but I'm doing my best to find a similar feel. What I've extracted is, your party needs a chance to have an epic one on one battle, a charisma challenge, a pair-up challenge, a massive battle challenge, and then something fun and weird. Dan executed these masterfully, of course, but in concocting my extra scenarios I've had a rough start. That's where play testing comes in.
I ran everyone through the Lord of the Rings scenario once, and just today we tried out the Star Wars scenario. Reviews are good, but there is a little confusion in directives. I'm a bit more verbose than Dan has been, which is to my detriment. This panel will only give me one hour to run the game and Dan, with his crisp and to-the-point descriptions still ran an hour and change. That means I need to do everything he did, plus introduce myself, plus pimp Smash Fiction a little, plus hand out prizes (if possible.) So... much like with my novel, it's time to edit and... Delete! Delete! Delete!
(That was a Matt Hardy reference. Please forgive me... )
Be Excellent to Each Other
Forgive me if today's entry is a little shorter than usual. I've been battling a bug for the past few days and breathing has been a labored chore. Consequently, sleep has been an elusive thing, so my mind is a little... unbalanced at the moment, shall we say?
But onto today's topic. Since I'm doing a lot of rewrites and connecting old material to new material, the subject of subplots has been in my mind. A lot of the new material include plot elements that aren't part of the main, overarching plot, but are still important and help define Jonathan and his comrades as people. So, I've been kinda invested in making sure that these subplots work out and flow with the overall story.
Obviously, I can't go into great detail about these subplots, but I can talk a little about how I treat them. When I'm plotting out my stories, I like to get the main plot laid out first. No real details, just who the protagonist is, what they're doing, who the antagonist, what they're doing, and where it goes. Then I start slotting in the subplots and that's where things get fun.
I'll admit, I'm not big on romantic subplots, as most of the time I feel like they're unnatural and force characters together just because they've spent a few moments together. For this reason, most of my subplots focus on evolving the characters and building relationships. I like to show through these subplots that Reagan and Giz have known one another for a while and are comfortable lobbing casual insults. They're great opportunities to give ancillary their own little arcs that add depth to the greater plot in general.
Unfortunately, they're also my greatest bane as I, ladies and gentlemen, am an over-writer. I can't stop writing. So all these lovely little subplots that I've crafted to help enrich the world that Jonathan is working in, they all have to be sorted through (which is what I'm currently doing) so I can decide which ones live on and which ones burn in the fires of ultimate deletion.
I guess what I'm saying is, they're important, but I tend to go overboard. And that's okay. I just have to go at my editing with an ax rather than a scalpel.
So my latest game review is up at dlh.net. Click HERE to check it out, but make sure you come right back! Why? Because I have a strict word count I have to adhere to on DLH. Here, however, I can rant forever, and trust me, Abandon Ship is a game that deserves a little ranting.
First, I have to get the comparison out of the way. Have you played FTL? Yes? Then you'll love this. It's basically that game, but pirates.
So you command a crew of scurvy sea dogs across a rather expansive map (especially considering the game is early access right now) making choices about encounters, fighting battles, and over all trying to defeat a deadly group known only as The Cult. You play the Captain, a man or woman (your choice!) who used to be part of the Cult, but along with a small crew, stole a Cult ship and escaped. You are quickly hunted by the group along with their pet Kraken, a vicious sea monster that attempts to tear apart your vessel when it catches you.
The controls are fairly simple; left click to select your crew member, right click to assign them to a station. Left click the station to select, right click to assign it's target (if it's a cannon or other weapon.) You, as the captain, are adept at most tasks, while other members have specialties, like surgeon or gunner. Regardless of class, simply working a station can increase experience in that field and make them a more reliable crew member.
Each section of the game map is a large, canvas painting that fills in as you move through the "fog of war." Along the way you'll encounter events in several forms. Some are related to your food, which you need to keep crew morale high as you move from map section to map section (think of it like fuel,) treasure, ship to ship events that may or may not lead to combat, rescue events, salvage events, and of course Cult battles. Depending on the choices you make during these events, you may gain money and provisions, lose a crew member, or gain a strategic advantage in battle. In order to move on to the next map section, you'll need to open gates at the four sides of the maps, each of which requires a certain number of accomplished events to open.
You can stop at ports (if your current area has any) to hire new crew, repair, and enhance your ship. Weapons help you decide your combat strategy. Do you stay far away and blow them out of the water? Do you come in close and kill of the crew and salvage the ship? Ship upgrades, such as a life boat, harpoons, or a crow's nest, give you other advantages in and out of combat. In fact, much like FTL, a lot of the random events you encounter can be instantly won if you have the proper ship enhancement, such as using a life boat to investigate wreckage rather than risking your entire ship.
The game isn't without problems, though. Navigation is a bit tedious, especially if you've already explored an area and just need to get to a port. The game lets you navigate by clicking or clicking and holding on the screen, your ship following after. Unfortunately, you can only designate your destination on the close up screen. The game has a full map for the section you're in, but won't let you move in that zoomed out view. You have to zoom back in, click, zoom out, double check you're headed the right way, then zoom back in and click again. Ad infinitum. This gets especially tedious when the game's story makes you go to opposite ends of the world back and forth. You must first discover that you need a certain upgrade, then go to the opposite end of the world map to purchase it, then return to use it. It pads out the game time a bit, which can be frustrating, even with fast travel as an option. Being able to set a course and let your ship go would be a good addition to consider in the full release of the game.
My other problem is the crew limit. While the game gives you enough to man all the important stations, having even ONE MORE crew member would be immensely helpful. As it stands, the game limits you to six crew members, including your captain. This wouldn't be so bad but the enemy ships often have upwards of 12! If I have a full decked out ship, I'll be one crew member short of manning all of them. Meanwhile, the enemy ships will have someone at the helm, one person on each of the swivel guns, two people on each of the main cannon banks, and at least one surgeon running around healing them all. Oh, and occasionally, cultists will have Halephron, fish people that can swim over to your ship and occasionally explode in acid when they're defeated. So, yay...
I'm tough on this game, but I promise it really does have far more positive traits than negative. I'm tough because I can see how good it could be with just a bit more polish. For an alpha stage game, it has a ton of content. The game play is addictive and allows for all kinds of customization in tactics. Sailing outside of the prescribed target area is fun because just exploring is fun in this game. I love catching an enemy off guard or figuring out the perfect configuration of weapons to take out enemies. The different maps have different climates, with everything from storms, to icebergs, to volcanoes!
It even has a Battle Campaign, a much more pick-up-and-go version that cuts out the exploration and just has you battling with limited trips to ports. This, while fun, has a lackluster story to it and doesn't let you save at all! Still, even with these flaws, the core game play was so fun on its own that I kept trying and trying until I beat the Battle Campaign (use acid bombs!)
Overall, the game play is great, the options for your ship are amazing, and I can honestly say that after beating it, I still wanted to play more (the campaign isn't complete yet, but I'm looking forward to what comes next.) The graphics and sound are simple, but effective and work for the genre. Listening to the battle music gets me pumped to fire cannons. Watching the map get painted on as I sail never grows old. If they can just work out a few of the little details by the time the full release is available, this is easily going to be a great game.
Don't Forget to be YAR-some
With the end of this editing cycle finally in view, I thought I'd review some of the plans I have for the near (and less near) future. I think it's handy for anyone following the same path I am as well as for myself, as putting it out there can help me put it in order and have some kind organization to it.
I've said it before, but for anyone that doesn't know, I was working as a photo-journalist in Las Vegas before this. It was fun and I certainly had some life altering and enriching experiences, but overall, news is just not my bag. I don't really enjoy making it, watching, or engaging with it in general. I can certainly appreciate the work that goes into it and the people that bust their asses to do genuinely tough jobs, but it drained me. I was intending to go from graduation to writing for television. Unfortunately, the only job I was able to secure was in news.
I can't be completely upset with that job. I met great people I still consider friends and, of course, it paid well enough that my wife and I were able to set aside a good chunk of money. Now, out of Vegas and out of news (mostly,) I'm able to focus full-time on writing and editing. A decision, by the way, that my wife practically forced on me. I owe her a lot, especially her decision to believe in me. Thanks to her urging, I'm throwing myself completely into this and thanks to my news gig, we have enough funds to cover expenses while we conduct this "experiment."
So, where do I go from here? Right now I'm trying to finish up a few more edit, then I'll go through another round of betas and critiques. While I'm working on that I'm doing game reviews (I have an upcoming review on Abandon Ship!) to build my writer repertoire. My biggest dream is to earn my living through writing, and if that comes through books, I''ll be ecstatic. If it comes through online articles and contests, I can certainly live with that.
Speaking of, contests are the next thing I'm looking at. I've been writing short stories on the side for a few months now, but now I'm looking to enter into writing contests? Why? Well, the financial aspect is a factor, but the ability to add "_____ award winning writer" means much more. The more competitions I can put under my belt, the better it'll look when I get agents looking over my stuff.
Which is the next phase. Querying agents. I have made the decision to go with traditional publishing. There's a LOT of factors that go into choosing between self-publishing and traditional, more than I can list here, but know that I've thought about it long and hard. I've listened to podcasts and watched videos. I've weighed budgets and read articles. This is where I need to go. So, once I get done with another round of edits, it's off to the agents.
On a side note, I'm also, apparently, plotting all my recreational activities around story telling. I've been working with a local group teaching professional wrestling. It's great to see people who love the story telling sport so much pick up what I have to teach and see them make amazing strides. Along with that, I'm doing some conventions as a panelist! I mentioned this yesterday, but it's worth repeating that I'm going to host a panel at Con-Nichiwa in Tucson on April 20th. If you're in the neighborhood, check it out!
That's all for today, but if you guys have any questions about what I'm doing, where I'm going, or really anything, make sure to hit me up in the comments or on social media.
Don't Forget to be Awesome.
Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.