jessicasteiner: (Blank Paper)
It's nearly here! After several months of work and a few data crashes, the Motivation course is going to go live on my website tomorrow.

I know that I've said that I think this course will help you, no matter who you are. Let me tell you why.

I have known as long as I can remember that I wanted to be a writer. I remember being in high school, and writing reams and reams of paper. The very first novel I ever wrote and completed was a Star Trek: DS9 fanfic - I figured I could get it published as a novel tie-in, if I could just polish it up enough. A friend of mine read it for me, and my next novel, which was a truly horrific vampire novel. And the next. I think that one had aliens in it. It was also terrible.

Then I hit university and my focus shifted to fanfiction. And somewhere along the line, I stopped writing completely. I knew I still wanted to write. I spent hours roleplaying online, writing shared stories with other people, but I felt totally unmotivated to actually write. It felt like work. I still had my passion, but any time it came time to write something down without working from the prompt of another person, I just never seemed to get around to it.

I tried NaNoWriMo a few times, and fizzled out after a few days every time. After five years of basically nothing, I was facing down the death of my dream, and wondering if maybe writing was just too hard for me. I wondered if I just couldn't do it.

Then I started learning and applying the kinds of techniques that I've put in the course. Most of all, I applied the technique that I mentioned in my last post - I remembered what I loved about writing, what I wanted out of life, and I focused on that rather than my fear.

I started writing, and I've never looked back. That was 10 years ago, and I am more sure than ever that writing is what I want to do, what I can do, and what I will do full time, someday.

That's why I know these techniques are good. Because they ended my 5 years of writer's block, and they have stood the test of time.

Now it's your turn, and I'm looking forward to having you come along with me on this journey.
jessicasteiner: (Default)
The last three weeks I have:
- Travelled to California
- Met wolves and had one lick my face
- Been a bridesmaid in one of the first legal LGBT weddings since the Prop 8 decision
- Travelled to Texas
- Fed antelope
- Melted in the hot Dallas sun
- Returned home
- Finished the second read-through of OtherWhere

Next week should mean more regular updates!
jessicasteiner: (Procrastination)

After finishing the month of April, I had a string of busy days. I think I needed a little time away from the blog, but I do feel pretty good about what I accomplished this month.

I finished the A-Z Blog Challenge, while at the same time writing about 15,000 words of a "short" story. The blog posts I plan to compile into a book, so I counted those words towards my Camp NaNoWriMo goal. The story I wrote is another story in the Grim Hunter series, and will be the last, and longest, story in the anthology I plan to release of all the stories to date.

I expect to have another 5000 words or so of the Grim story, and then editing and formatting begins.

The upshot is, I'm pretty pleased with the amount I accomplished this month. For the month of May I want to keep up a regular blogging schedule, finish the Grim story, and continue editing OtherWhere. Wish me luck!
jessicasteiner: (Fangirl Moment)
Just a quick update today.

I discovered Coursera. As I understand it, the courses are done online, are completely free (or have a small free) and are actually taught by real University professors from places like Harvard, University of Tokyo, University of Melbourne, or my alma mater, University of British Columbia, and many more.

I've signed up for courses ranging from Intro to Computer Science 101, to Nutritional Science, to something about Fantasy and Science Fiction.

If you complete the course and pass you don't get a diploma, but you can get a completion letter from the professor, which could be of assistance in getting into a university program in the future. Or you can just do it for the sake of learning.

I'll report back when I've tried it! My first course is Nutrition, Health, and Lifestyle: Issues and Insights, and it starts on May 6th.
jessicasteiner: (Fangirl Moment)
I was going to write about something else today, but then I listened to the latest Writing Excuses episode and I felt I had to comment on it.

Writing Excuses is a fabulous podcast about writing that I have talked about before. Generally the episodes are short and snappy, it's full of great and useful tips for aspiring writers, and the authors are all experienced and talented. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in becoming a professional author. It's not only enjoyable to listen to, but useful.

In Season 8 Episode 8 the regular hosts, as well as Dan's brother Rob Wells, talk about their personal experiences with mental illness and the general pervasiveness of mental illness amongst creative people generally, and writers in particular. Oddly, it's an upbeat and hopeful 'cast, not depressing in the least.

I personally have not suffered from depression, anxiety, or self-harm, or any other mental illness, but my wife is clinically depressed and so are many of my friends. I also deal with people who suffer from mental illness every day at work. I know very well the stigma that exists in our society, as well as how difficult it is for people to face their own condition and to get useful help.

The other day I played a game called Depression Quest, which I think who is not currently working through their own depression (it can be very triggering to people who are untreated and suffering from depression at the moment) should play immediately. It's a game created in order to help people who don't have depression to understand what it's like for people who suffer from this condition. Having spoken to other people who played it, it seems to accord well with people's experiences, and to really validate the experiences of people who have dealt with depression.

We all need to understand that anyone can get a mental illness, just like how anyone can get cancer. It doesn't make someone weak, or mean that they are a bad person. It doesn't mean that they are dangerous. Any person you know could be suffering silently, afraid to tell people or reach out for help because they fear the possible reaction. This only causes the problems to get worse.

I think it's a very courageous thing that they did in this podcast, talking about their experiences openly and without shame, and I salute them. Thank you.

Also, I am very curious about these standing desks they talk about. I have a really hard time integrating my writing time with having a full time job (as I was mentioning in my last post) and incorporating exercise just seems almost impossible. Yet I know my own mood and energy are hugely improved if I exercise, and that has a positive cascade effect everywhere else. Ugh.

Maybe I should suck it up and try dictation while I walk around or something. I'm sure I'll just feel self-conscious or what I write will be terrible, but I've never actually tried it.
jessicasteiner: (I Write Therefore I Am)
Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but the last two months have been pretty terrible for my writing productivity, and my blog productivity.

Things I've accomplished:

1. A huge amount of lawyering work, making no dent in the ever-rising pile on my desk in my office.

2. My very first multi-day Supreme Court trial. Which was as stressful as you might expect. Which is extremely. I didn't get any writing done for the week before, or the actual week of, the trial.

3. Getting so deathly ill from the flu, that I discovered the downside of working with my wife is when she gets even sicker than I am, and then there's no one healthy to work. Especially since I had that trial I mentioned. Remember the ever-rising pile? Yeah.

Thankfully, my Mom flew back from Arizona and worked while Miko recovered and I worked a trial.

Counteracting the guilt is a few facts:

1. I am only 3 chapters from the end of the first draft of Dale Shephard and the Bug Aliens from Outer Space. This is definitely the fastest I've finished a novel. I normally wind up taking months off at a time, which makes it take a long, long time. But I started this novel in November, and now I expect to get it done in early March.

2. Soon (probably this week), I will be doing an interview about Mortis Unbound at Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing, one of my favourite writing podcasts. I'll announce and link when it happens! I'm very excited and slightly nervous.

3. I started editing OtherWhere, my technothriller murder mystery about an MMORPG. And it doesn't suck so far. Also exciting.

I really hope March is less crazy than February, January, and heck, December were.
jessicasteiner: (Bad Writing Day)
I'm not entirely certain how long it's been since I last updated, but I should probably give a reason for my recent radio silence.

I haven't been writing, or even at my computer for the last week. I've basically been out until 9 pm most nights, coming home and crashing in front of Netflix (we've been watching Breakout Kings and Lie to Me), then sleeping, working, and doing it again.

In other words, we're house hunting.

But we put in an offer this morning, so hopefully things will be cooling off soon... Crossing my fingers.
jessicasteiner: (I Write Therefore I Am)
I was going to do just a basic update today, but then I thought I'd talk about something that I've been struggling with lately, and add a bit of an update at the end.

I'm a multitasker. It's something I'm pretty good at. I'm capable of writing while doing something else - like talking to people over instant messenger and keeping up on my twitter feed, even with the television on in the background, so long as it's not a terribly engaging show.

I'm also a very fast writer, I think, compared to many people. If I focus and do nothing else, I can pump out 1000 new words in 15-20 minutes. And they're generally decent words.

Over the years, I've gotten really lazy with this. If I spend the entire evening switching between writing and other tasks, I can still pump out a good 1000 words, but it's in snatches. A paragraph, then check my email. Another few words, then I respond to a message. This is not a good way to write. I feel like I've spent the whole night working and not accomplished much, and the writing never flows and gets going - it feels like a chore.

Last October, we moved from a one-bedroom apartment into a three-bedroom townhouse. I finally had a desk, an office, for the first time, literally, in my entire writing career. I literally did all of my studying for law school on my bed. I wrote on my sofa, or my bed, or at a coffee shop, all these many years.

In November, I did NaNoWriMo for the 10th time, and I was determined to hit that 50,000 words, since I hadn't managed it for a few years. It had been a long time since I was really able to keep up with my 1000 words a day goal that I used to break routinely (mostly because law school took up so much time I used to spend writing) I made a pact with myself that I would go to the office, turn off the internet and write until I had done my 2000 words each day.

It worked fabulously. I had some 3000 and even 4000 word days, and even though I took some full days off, I beat NaNoWriMo long before the end of the month.

After so many years of telling myself that I was still being productive if I spent an entire evening "writing" and struggling to make 500 words in a night, I was often easily passing my 2000 mark in an hour.

Then I got lazy again. Sure, I could write that much, but did I need to retreat to my office when I could hang out with my friends online and still get some progress?

Well, the answer is, yes. I really should.

Since November, I really haven't been that productive. I've had days when I was productive, especially on weekends, and many - too many - nights when I really didn't accomplish much at all. It's just so hard to tear myself away from the internet when it's sitting right there, so shiny, begging to be looked at.

So a couple of days ago, I pulled out my netbook. I stopped using it after I graduated from school, and got myself a new laptop that's got a lot more memory, allowing me to multitask to my heart's content. The netbook chokes if I try to run firefox and liquid story binder at the same time.

It's perfect.

When it's time to write, I head upstairs, plug my iPod into the speakers on the shelf (the netbook chokes on iTunes, too) and close the door. The netbook is so tiny that I have plugged a keyboard into it, and I'll be purchasing a simple usb mouse as well. I have Dropbox, so all of my files are automatically shared between my laptop and my netbook, so I don't have to worry about version issues or file transfer problems. I can write on my laptop (and do) but on the netbook there's little temptation to multitask because it becomes so frustrating to try to run more than one program at a time.

My productivity is so good in this setup that in an hour or so I've reached my goal. And then I can go have fun or even spend the night continuing to try to write-while-multitasking, without guilt. Today I wrote for an hour and got over 2000 words.

The lesson I've taken from this is, it really is worth it to do a few things to maximize your productivity and create a good space to work in. I might want to spend an evening relaxing with my friends online, but if I know I only have to take fifteen minutes or half an hour and I'll be able to do that guilt free, it's much easier to take that time and do it. It doesn't have to be forehead bleeding for the whole night, after a full eight-hour workday, if you can get yourself into the right mental space and really focus.

Obviously there are nights when it doesn't flow, and I could bash my face against the keyboard all night and still not manage to accomplish much. But if I get myself in the zone, without anything to distract me, the chances of accomplishing something go up substantially.

What do you do to get yourself into the proper frame of mind to write? How do you eliminate distractions?

For the promised update, I'm continuing to work on The Dreaming, and it's going at a good clip. I completed Chapter 19 today and started on Chapter 20. There are 27 chapters in my outline, and I've gotten through some pretty tricky emotional scenes, so I'm exited to get into some pure action adventure stuff, which will be dominating the next little bit. I've gotten to know my characters, as well, which feels wonderful. When I get into Sam's head, it really flows. Of course, he's a lawyer, so he's verbose. I'm probably going to have to cut a third of the words of this book, when I edit.

I also submitted a short story to an anthology today. I stumbled across the contest quite by accident, and since the short story I recently finished fit the criteria, I tossed it in. They had an option where I could pay about $10 to receive some feedback from the judges, regardless of whether I win or not, so I paid for that. Even if I don't win, it'll be interesting to hear what they have to say, so I'm looking forward to that.

My plan is to focus on Dreaming until I get The Sleeping Death back from my editor. My beta readers are also starting to trickle in with comments, though none of them are finished reading yet. Hopefully I can get all of their comments back around the same time as I hear from my editor, so I can incorporate all of the feedback at the same time.

And that's what I'm up to!
jessicasteiner: (I Write Therefore I Am)
I reached another turning point in projects, so I thought I'd do an update.

Today I finished the first draft of my [community profile] originalbigbang story, which isn't due until September or something, lol. I wanted to get it written and out of the way so I wouldn't have it weighing on my mind as I work on other projects, and I'm glad I did.

It's called Grim Opera, and is the fifth instalment of my Hunter Grim short story series, which is a series of gay erotica stories set in a post-apocalyptic world, depicting a love story between a vampire hunter (who is also a vampire) and his shape-shifting apprentice. I'll probably release the stories as an anthology someday. It was fun to revisit this world, and it definitely won't be the last time I do.

I got a little positive feedback from one of my beta readers for The Sleeping Death, which was nice to hear. I also got back into contact with my editor, who had been on vacation. I signed my contract, sent my deposit and my manuscript, so now all I have to do is wait.

I'm pretty excited. I feel fairly confident that the book will stand up generally to scrutiny, and I'm very interested to learn where I can improve it. I'm sure that my editor will have things to say, of course, and I'm sure I'll learn a great deal and that my writing generally will improve because of this experience.

I'm also a tiny bit nervous that it'll hurt a lot to get the feedback, but I have faith that Marie-Lynn will give me constructive criticism gently, and that it won't be in the vein of "this sucks, start over". Anything less shattering than that I can probably handle. After all, I've been writing fanfiction for over 13 years. I've gotten lots of unhelpful negative comments in my life.

In the meantime, I've started work on my draft of The Dreaming once again. I started this book quite a long time ago now, and I keep making a lot of progress in short bursts and then putting it down to work on other things. I'm determined to get it done without getting distracted this time, partly because I'm really getting excited to get started on my next project, which is my "Harry Potter in Space with Aliens" series. I'm doing character profiles for that series, whenever I don't feel like writing.

So that's where I'm at!
jessicasteiner: (Blank Paper)
I've been meaning to do an in-depth post like this for a long time, and now I've had a couple of requests, so I'm going to bite the bullet and try to put my thoughts into order about this topic. I've done a tonne of research over the last couple of years, and there are many reasons why I've decided to self-publish, some financial, some not. I very much welcome discussion about this topic. It's a hugely timely issue for writers, as well as readers, and I think a lot of people don't really grasp the enormity of the issue.

My reasons break down into several categories, which can probably be summarized as: money, career planning, control, and trends. Read on for my reasons )
jessicasteiner: (Bad Writing Day)
Been a busy busy couple of weeks!

- Set up a twitter account
- Became a lawyer, officially
- Entertained guests for whom I will be bridesmaiding next year, and assisted them in purchase of their absolutely gorgeous dresses (Two women, one marriage, I felt like I was giving their movie tagline every time I went into a store and had to explain)
- Started my Big Bang for [community profile] originalbigbang
- Completed my Reverse Bang for [community profile] originalbigbang and submitted it in time for the deadline.

For the last, they still haven't given any indication of how I'm supposed to submit it, but today is the deadline, so I just emailed it to them. If the community has died or something, I'll probably just post it on my AO3 account.

Though there's the outside possibility that I'll publish it in an anthology at some point, or submit it to a contest, or something, so I'm not sure. But I don't really want it to wind up in a virtual drawer gathering dust, because I'm quite proud of it, so I'll probably toss it up, regardless.
jessicasteiner: (I Write Therefore I Am)
Though it may not be obvious from the silence around here, I've written several blog posts recently! I am working on a series about freelance editing and I want them all to be done before I post the first one, for various reasons, so stay tuned, I guess.

I've also been plugging away at my various projects. Yesterday, I updated my profile with more information about what I'm working on and the status of them, and I'm going to try to keep that information reasonably current.

I've selected my piece of artwork for the Reverse Big Bang on [community profile] originalbigbang. I have to write a minimum 1000 word piece inspired by the artwork by May 22nd, so it's percolating around in my brain right now. I definitely have a few ideas and I'm making some notes, but I don't want to wind up writing something really long, so I'm letting it gel a bit before I sit down to write it. It's going to involve werewolves and time travel, I think.

This morning I found out about two fiction contests that I might enter.

The Canadian Authors Association is holding a Fiction Contest for fiction between 1000 and 2000 words, deadline October 10, 2012. The prizes range between $50 and $300 (though I don't understand why the second place prize is smaller than the first place...) and the winners get published in an anthology.

There's also the Surrey International Writer's Conference Writing Contest. There are several categories, but the Storyteller category is between 2500 and 5000 words, which is more of a range I can sink my teeth into compared to the CAA contest. Deadline for that one is September 14, 2012 and the winner gets $1000 and publication in the SIWC anthology.

I'm definitely going to enter the second one, and I might do a little something for the first one, too. I plan to go to SIWC this year if I can possibly afford it, and last time I went I didn't find out about the contest until it was too late.
jessicasteiner: (Blank Paper)
I replied to a discussion in [community profile] writerslounge about motivation a few days ago and it got me wanting to write a proper post about how I keep myself motivated around writing. Motivation is something that I think a lot of people struggle with, but I've managed to keep slogging along for many years, with ups and downs, but mostly making progress each and every month. I thought I'd share some of my techniques.

Have a goal

The most important thing in staying motivated is having something to be motivated to do. This may sound like a no-brainer, but I think a lot of people miss this right off the bat. They want to be an author, or they want "to write", but that's about it.

I could write a whole post about goal-setting - and I probably will - but for now suffice it to say that it's absolutely vital to have some clear-cut goal in mind. For example "publishing a book" is at least more clear-cut than "being a writer". "Writing a novel this year" is even better. If you have a specific idea in mind that you want to actually write, that's ideal.

The more measurable a goal is, the better. Being measurable means that you will know when you've achieved it. If your goal is "to write" that could be accomplished by tweeting about that pretty flower you saw. But writing a 5000 word short story for that contest you read about is very measurable. You know exactly when you've completed it.

Goals should have not only a thing you want to do, but some idea of when.

Goal-setting isn't just a thing you do and then walk away. You can have big goals like "write a novel" and smaller goals like "outline my novel by the end of the month" and even smaller goals like "spend an hour on outlining today". In fact, you should have goals at many different levels, each smaller one supporting the next biggest one, and so on. I'll talk more about this in a minute.

I set goals all the time. I have a goal of spending at least 1 hour per day on writing-related activities, and writing at least 500 new words per day. I have a goal of spending 30 hours per month on writing, as well. (Which means even if I miss a day, I might still be on track for my other goal!) I have a goal of getting The Sleeping Death ready to be published by the fall. I have a goal of getting The Dreaming written by the end of the year. I have a goal of writing at least one meaningful blog post each week. Some goals are soft, others are more firm. These are just examples.

Keep track of your progress

It's a hell of a lot easier to stay motivated if you can look back on your accomplishments and realize that you've made progress, as well as see how much further there is to go before you complete your goal. There's nothing worse than those days when you feel like you'll never accomplish your goal, and it's vital to have something to look at that can remind you that you have made progress, even if it's not as much as you might like, and even if there's still a long way to go.

Unfortunately, this means that you have to start tracking things at the beginning, before you realize that you need to.

I have a spreadsheet. Each of my writing projects is listed in the spreadsheet, and each time I do work on a project, I record how long I spent. If I'm writing, I record the number of words I wrote, as well. I total up the number of hours and words each week and at the end of the month. It takes only a couple of seconds to track each day, but the amount of value I get is incredible.

I can easily see if I'm neglecting one of my goals, or neglecting a project, if I haven't touched it in a long time. I can also look back - for years if I want - and see just how much work I've done and how far I've come. When you see how much work you've already done on a project, it's easier to keep going, so as not to let it all go to waste.

Break it down

Big goals are way more exciting and motivating than small ones like daily writing goals, but they are intimidating. It's incredibly important to break down each monster project into small, manageable chunks. This not only makes the goal more achievable, but it helps to keep you motivated.

If you have a big, intimidating goal, it becomes overwhelming on those days when motivation is hard to find. But it's a hell of a lot easier to get yourself going if all you have to do is write 500 words. Or 300 words. Or 50 words.

Finding the right balance of forward progress that works with your lifestyle can take a lot of experimentation. You might start off with a daily goal that you just can's sustain because of work, kids, pets, social lives, etc. If you have a big dream you might have to sacrifice a bit to get there, but you need down-time, too, and some obligations can't be ignored for years while you work on becoming the next J.K. Rowling, like children.

You might also be tempted to give yourself an ambitious goal, like say 2000 words a day because you're afraid of not achieving your goal in a reasonable time. But if the number of words is too large, such that it demotivates you, you won't achieve your goal, either. Slow but steady generally wins the race.

And just think, if you started today writing just 500 words per day, in a year you'll have written over 180,000 words. That's a pretty big novel! And a lot of authors write about 1 novel a year. Consistency wins over big numbers, and a consistent habit is easier to motivate yourself to continue over the long haul.

Play mindgames with yourself

Riffing off of that concept, don't be afraid to lower your goal on a particular day if you're having a bad day, if it's what it takes to get you going. There are days where 500 words seems impossible, but I feel like just maybe I could crap out 100 words.

Do 100 words, rather than zero. 100 words is nothing! Tell yourself that, and just crank out those 100, telling yourself that maybe after that you'll go do something else.

Then when you get to the end of 100 words, see if you can manage to bleed out another 100.

And so on.

Before you know it, you've got your 500 words and you feel good about yourself. Maybe you've even gotten over your funk and feel like you've gotten yourself on a roll and can manage another 500. Or maybe it's really just a bad day, and you just can't keep going. Either way, you can feel good that you achieved your goal - basically by tricking yourself into doing it.

I do this all the time. It works.

Don't feel bad

Above all, don't get down on yourself if you miss your goal. Whether it's a big deadline or just a daily writing goal, there is nothing more demotivating than telling yourself that you suck because you failed to hit your goal.

You can always reset your goal and try again. It's amazing.

I find that I need to take a day off each week, to keep the juices flowing. But that day isn't always predictable, so I just allow it and don't sweat it. Whether it's a Wednesday or a Friday or a Sunday, I just say "Yep, that was my recharge day" and just keep soldiering on the next day.

Missed days happen, but that's okay! Overall I'm still making progress, and I can see that I am, because I can go back and look at my spreadsheet. So long as you try to stay positive, keep your eye on the prize, and pick yourself up when you have a bad day and try again tomorrow, you can keep yourself motivated to keep going.
jessicasteiner: (Constructive Criticism)
I had some interest in this so I'm going to make an attempt to do something a little different. This is a bit of an experiment, so we'll see how it goes, and I may do more if people want to see more.

As you may know, I've been taking an editing course through Holly Lisle's Forward Motion Writer's Board for, um, a while now. Law school has stretched this out a lot longer than I would have liked! Forward Motion is a writing support forum, which I will review properly someday when I get around to it.

The course I'm doing is called How To Revise Your Novel. It's a 22-week course, and highly, highly recommended. I'm not even done, and the number of things I've learned about writing is staggering. Again, I'll do a proper review of the course at some point. It's definitely on my list. I just want to finish it first.

Anyway, in a nutshell, the course involves reviewing your novel multiple times, looking for various specific things, such as conflict, character consistency, pacing, etc. You fill out worksheets and make notes, and it's all very structured. In week 17, you finally take everything that you've learned about your novel, good and bad, and start actually revising it. Exciting!

So what I thought I would do is scan my first scene and post it for your edification/amusement and do a bit of a commentary on what I'm changing and why. If there's enough interest, I'd be willing to continue the commentary in future posts, too.

Keep in mind that this is going to look really rough. I'm doing the edits by hand, and I will type them all in later, so I apologize if you can't read some of my handwriting.

I've left the pictures as links to another page, because they're extremely large. If you want to be able to easily flip back and forth between the picture and the commentary without having to hit the back button, right-click on the link and select "Open Link in New Tab".

Page 1

As you can see from the crossed-out page number in the upper right-hand corner, this scene was originally page 135 of the manuscript. I was never happy with the original first scene, because I felt it started too slow and was too awkward in terms of revealing the world I have built, without info-dumps and irrelevant exposition. So after a lot of thought and poking around, I decided to pull this scene into the beginning, as a flash-forward. I help to indicate this by including a date at the top of this scene and subsequent ones, as well as indicating that it's the year 316 "After Breakthrough", which won't make sense yet, but will later.

I think it makes a far more intriguing first scene, introduces the main character, Liilan, and one of the main themes of the book, which is about Liilan's conflict between keeping his career intact, and searching out and reporting the truth, which is what journalists are supposed to be doing.

You'll see a lot of weird number codes in my draft. These are references to worksheets that I've filled out. Some of them refer to problems in the manuscript that I want to change (for example, [1Ba10 #8] at the top refers to an entry in a worksheet that points out that Liilan broke his cellphone in a previous scene, but now suddenly he has it. I solved this problem by deciding to make him not break his cellphone, and in fact I will be removing the whole thing that caused him to break it in the first place, because it related to a sub-plot that never went anywhere and which I am cutting from the book)

For plot reasons, I've decided that it's early winter, so I made it colder than it had originally been in the first draft. I also edited those middle paragraphs to account for the fact that the reader won't have read the scene before it, to introduce the existence of two characters, Mortis and Phames, without referring to events that would just confuse the reader.

I also mention that Phames is a vox, but I'm not explaining what that is, yet.

Page 2

On page 2, we introduce Salmo, Liilan's editor. Because this is now the first scene, so Salmo hasn't been seen before, I fiddled with his description. I also added a line to show how tired Liilan is, as he's been dealing with a lot of stuff over the last few days.

Originally when I wrote the first draft, I put all of the new words I invented in italics. This got tiresome pretty quickly, so I made a note to myself to remove the italics. I think this melds the Aerian language into the book more seamlessly, especially since the terms are used so much throughout the course of the book.

Again I fiddled with description to introduce concepts the reader was going to have to understand since this is the first scene of the novel, and removed references to Phames' safehouse, since I think this would be confusing at this stage of the book, and not really necessary. I added more description to show Liilan's been busy, not at work, and dealing with badness, even if the reader doesn't know what that badness is yet.

Also I should mention that in the original draft, Liilan had been shot it the leg before this. I decided that he shouldn't have been shot in that previous scene, so I am taking out references to his injury throughout this scene.

Page 3

The scene goes on with Liilan trying to give his boss the story of the century, and Salmo acting more and more weird and agitated. Liilan suspects far earlier than in the original draft that Salmo's turned on him, even though he doesn't want to believe it, because it's pretty obvious by this point that something is terribly wrong.

I also include a few references to the incredible - almost unbelievable - length of their friendship. Three centuries? How could anyone live that long?

I also had Salmo refuse to say the word 'dead'. Liilan says it for him, in fact, showing far less fear at the concept, and more acceptance of it. This suggests that there's something about death that Salmo is too terrified of to even mention, while Liilan is coming to accept it.

Page 4

The police finally strike, and Liilan's fears are realized. Instead of being totally shocked, he's angry at Salmo for betraying him, while Salmo is almost afraid of him. The police treat Liilan like a dangerous criminal, and it's clear that Salmo has his own problems that he was trying to avoid.

Page 5

The fight with the police officers continues on, with Liilan unable to do much, because he's a journalist, not a fighter, and there are lots of guys holding him. Also for some reason I kept referring to the van as a truck, so I fixed that.

And then the previously-mentioned Mortis and Phames appear - and they have wings. I describe the wings (again, because this is the first scene they haven't been described previously, and I want the reader to have a few extra seconds to notice that something weird is going on). And Mortis does something that shouldn't be physically possible. The police officers try to run, but Liilan thinks that that's pretty pointless - you can't outrun Death. Mortis is Death.

Page 6

Mortis actually has amnesia and doesn't know what she is (though by this point in the story, she's learned that she's the vox of death). In the original draft, she couldn't even remember her name, and Liilan gave her a new one, Umos. But the new-name thing never really was significant and she ultimately learned her real name and started using it, so I am removing all references to the Umos name.

I also decided because of the magical physics of this world that guns are pretty useless weapons. I was fairly inconsistent about the use of guns throughout the first draft, so I'm cleaning up any mention of them. So Liilan wasn't shot in that previous scene, and the police don't carry guns to shoot uselessly at Mortis. Liilan does get shot in this scene, though, by a sniper rifle. It shocks him that anyone would bother using a gun, but for the single shot, it's mortally effective, and we are left at the end of the first scene with a cliffhanger.

I hope you enjoyed this, and I'd welcome comments and feedback! What do you think of the scene so far? Does it intrigue you and would it make you want to read more? Or are the number of things I leave out to whet the appetite making it a little confusing?

Also if there's else anything that I've changed and you're curious why, please ask! I pointed out most of the major ones, but I'd be happy to discuss any of it. I have reasons for pretty much every word I've changed or added.
jessicasteiner: (NaNoWriMo)
No sooner are Kendra and Sam bedding down in the creepy laboratory castle in Zhen, but someone on a gryphon comes flying down to Sam's balcony and snatches him away. Kendra tries to stop him, but the kidnapper does something to knock him out, and off they go.

Thankfully, Kendra is no damsel in distress. While Damien makes his way into the castle to try to rescue her, Kendra engages in a magical battle with the centaur. Though Blaise is stronger on his home turf, Damien helps Kendra overcome a sound-based magical attack that nearly knocks her out, and Kendra recovers her broomstick. They head off to rescue Sam.

Meanwhile, Sam wakes up again. At first, he thinks he's back in the hospital, but it's a different sort of prison cell - and a much comfier one. Within minutes, the King of Gen finally shows himself.

He's Landon. No one is likely surprised at this point.

Landon tells Sam that he needs his help, and takes him on a tour of Gen, to show him what a wonderful place he's built. The tour is marred by an incident of mob justice, as a vampire is dragged bodily from her house and ejected from the city. Landon explains that while vampires are probably nice people in general, they are considered 'undesirables', because they prey on other citizens. He wants to keep his people safe, so vampires aren't allowed in his country.

Sam finally loses patience and demands to know what Landon wants from him. Landon admits that he wants Sam to perform a spell that will allow Landon to become the King of Kun. He wants, ultimately, for the entire world to be united under his rule, and claims that this will make everyone happier and safer.

Sam is horrified by the murderous and power-grasping behaviour of someone who looks like his best friend, and flatly refuses to help. Landon isn't happy.


I just finished Chapter 13, and I'm now just over 42,000 words into NaNoWriMo. Sitting on November 25th, with 5 days left to go, I'm feeling really good about winning this year. In fact, I'm going to see if I can polish off the last 8000 words this weekend.

While I'm feeling accomplished and excited about my success, 2000 words a day is a pretty difficult pace to sustain, and I'm looking forward to backing right down in December, though I intend to keep moving forward, just with time to work on other things.

I'm thinking of giving myself a goal of 500 words a day here on out. I've always had a daily goal of 1000 words, but on days when I don't set aside at least an hour to write, it's difficult to meet. I wind up writing nothing unless I have a good chunk of time to devote to it.

It also gives me little time to devote to things like research or editing. I have to do one or the other, so there are many days I don't get any words at all.

I have been struggling for months to figure out how to sustain working on my current draft - Dreaming - and also work on editing The Sleeping Death so I can start querying it. Ideally, I need time to work on researching Sengoku Era Japan for my next book series as well! Somehow, there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day to do it all.

So instead, I'm thinking that if I have a goal of only 500, then even on days when I go out and don't get home until late, I could still meet the goal. In a 15 minute stint, I could easily hit that goal, and that means that if I got home at 10:00 after a movie or something, I could still take 15 measly minutes and get my words in.

It's an experiment. I'll let you know how it goes!
jessicasteiner: (Default)
So the last time I updated was... Day 12. It's now Day 20. Go me. I am the slackiest.

I can't feel too bad, because I have been writing since then. I wrote about 8000 words since my last update, actually. But I just haven't really felt like writing blog posts afterwards, I guess.

In fact, I feel like I hit my Week 2 slump in Week 3 instead. No clue why. But I've only missed two days of writing since my last update, despite feeling...slumpish. I'm hanging on to my lead by the skin of my teeth, as well. My stats aren't looking quite as pretty on the site, but I am not behind, and that's important.

Also, I woke up this morning with an exciting idea that I think is going to break me out of the slump. I've been struggling with this whole section of the story for some reason, and I'm not entirely sure why. At least, I know that my centaur/psychologist character isn't interesting me nearly as much as I wanted him to, and I feel like at some point later I'll need to go back and jazz him up, make him more quirky and terrifying. So I guess that's a big reason why :/ But I think this idea will give me an opportunity to let this character flower into the terrifying mad scientist I originally envisioned, and I think that'll make it a whole lot more fun.


On another note, I've noticed that the timer thing in Liquid Story Binder is both motivating me and screwing me up at the same time. It's really quite fascinating.

If I'm committed to writing and get rid of all other distractions (like plurk, livejournal, rping, aim, etc.) I can write like the wind and the timer keeps me plugging away.

But if I don't feel like putting all those distractions away and instead I want to just pick away at writing, doing a few words here and there (which I know is bad bad bad but sometimes I want to do it anyway, because I'm a masochist and like making myself miserable, I guess) I hesitate to open LCB at ALL because I know the timer will be ticking away even though I'm not looking at it.

Even when I'm planning on doing a writing session with no distractions, I don't open LCB until I'm ready to drop everything and go, and sometimes that means I don't start writing until hours after I intended to, because I keep getting distracted, doing other things, without that window open and staring at me from my computer. I used to open Microsoft Word and just have it sit there while I did a bit of email and such, and then it would keep sitting there like "You were going to write, remember?" until I finally surrendered and went "Oh yeah...better...close my email and get to that".

None of this is coherent, I know.


When we last met our intrepid heroes, they had just been attacked by a horrible monster in a lake, and Damien left because things were getting too hot for him.

Sam and Kendra continued on their journey and passed the border into Zhen. This is a rather pretty country with lots of grassland and gently rolling hills.

And thunderstorms. Lots of them.

And also horrifying mutated creatures who try to capture them.

They run from the mutants, and Damien appears out of nowhere to distract them long enough to get out of Zhen and back across the border into Shun, where the mutants won't come. They rest for a bit, and decide to try flying over Zhen instead. They only have one broom, but Kendra has wings. She says if they rest frequently, and don't go too fast, they can make it. The broom definitely can't support the weight of all three of them (it can barely handle both Sam and Damien), and Damien wants to come, though he won't say why he's changed his mind.

So they try it, flying deeper into Zhen and avoiding the mutants, until Kendra calls for a break. Again the mutants show up and encircle them, cutting off their escape, but instead of attacking and eating them, one of the mutants explains that their King has requested their presence at the castle, and is offering them a place to rest and assistance on their journey.

Reluctantly, Sam, Kendra, and Damien climb into the coach that's provided for them, and are brought to the castle in the middle of Zhen. Damien manages to give everyone the slip, and Sam and Kendra are welcomed to Zhen by a majestic (if I bit oddball) centaur, quite different from the ones that Sam ran into way back in Chapter 1. His name is Blaise, and he looks exactly like Sam's psychiatrist at the hospital in the real world.

Back in the real world, we see Kendra and Landon coming to visit Sam again. Blaise the psychiatrist tells them that there's a problem - Sam won't wake up, no matter what they do. Something is very wrong, and he believes that Sam's mind is retreating from reality.

In the dream world, Sam and Kendra are offered assistance in getting over the Gen mountains, which lie on the far side of Zhen. They're also offered dry clothes and a meal and a night of rest. Though neither of them is comfortable here in this creepy stone castle, they agree to stay. It's not like they really have any choice.
jessicasteiner: (Save the World)
It's now day 12. I think last update I was on day 9 and had just started Chapter 10. It's now day 12 of NaNoWriMo and I just finished it. It was longer than Chapter 9. Sob.


Kendra, Sam and Damien succeed in eluding the Thief King in the dark and head West towards the country of Kun, which is supposed to be peaceful. Little do they know that the Queen is already dead.

They pause to get supplies in a city in Li, and while Damien goes to get food and money, both of which were stolen by the bandits, though they thankfully do have the rest of their belongings, Kendra and Sam browse at the market. A gang of cat-headed thugs try to surround and capture them, and they manage to elude them, meeting up with Damien and flying away before the thugs can catch them. Damien has heard rumours that the King of Gen has offered a reward to anyone who brings them to him, hence the near-capture.

Then they reach Kun. Or at least, the border. They can't get into Kun, because the entire country is encased in a magical, fluctuating storm. Kendra explains that the Kings and Queens aren't just died to their country in certain magical ways. The country shapes itself according to the personality and desires of its monarch. If there is no monarch, there's nothing to tell the country how to be, and that seems to be the situation with Kun. They can't explain how it's possible that a monarch could have died without passing their Queenship on to a successor, but that's a question for later. They have to turn back.

Instead, they go north, to a lake that dominates the central part of the whole world. The lake is dark and foul, and is apparently inhabited by something called a Shiketh, which makes it impassable.

They see a lonely cart drive up to the very edge of the lake, and begin pitching bodies in. When Sam stops to watch this, horrified, he sees the bodies attacked by some kind of enormous monster. All he can see are the claws of the monster, which can cut a corpse in two with ease. Then a claw attacks him, and his broom is destroyed, though thankfully he isn't eaten.

Damien decides that things have gotten far too dangerous for him, following around with these two, and leaves. Kendra can't blame him, and she and Sam head on towards a country called Zhen, which is apparently not much better than what they've just left behind.


I've had some days of major productivity - as much as 4000 words in a day - and some days of nothing, but I definitely can't say that week 2 has been difficult. I'm almost through it, and I hope I can keep up the pace in week 3. I'm at about 23k right now and considering trying to push forward to 25k by the end of the night. We'll see how it goes after I've gotten some dinner in me!
jessicasteiner: (Procrastination)
So yesterday was my birthday. I received a new laptop, so I made the executive decision to spend the evening a) having a lovely dinner and drinks, and b) loading all of my files and programs onto my new laptop, instead of writing.

I can't say I regret that decision. But as of today I'd got all of my files transferred over, I've got Liquid Story Binder loaded up, and I was ready to go.


Today I decided to call Chapter 9 finished and add a new scene onto the beginning of Chapter 10, instead of continuing the longest scene ever. It had a pretty decent cliffhanger the way I had it, so I think it worked, and it meant that Chapter 10 starts with a bang.


With a little smart thinking on Sam's part, Kendra manages to incapacitate their two guards. Then Kendra uses her magic to cause a lot of chaos, and Damien sneaks into the supply tent to rescue their things, his things, and their broomsticks.

They fly away, but are being pursued by an angry Thief King with powerful magic, and a whole lot of bowmen trying to bring them down. Obviously Anju doesn't want them dead, but she is trying to force them to land and come quietly, and is keeping the sky lit up with magical flame.

Sam remembers the amulet that had been used against Kendra to block her magic while she was being held prisoner. He's got it in his pocket, and he loops back, rides his broom straight at the spider Queen from hell, and drops it right onto her.

This causes her magic to fizzle, and the three escapees are able to lose their pursuers in the dark by heading in a different direction.


After I'd gotten that written - and in mid-sentence - I got interrupted by my roommate coming in to talk about some stuff he'd done tonight. I've got about 1920 words for the day, so I decided once he'd gone to bed, that I'd leave the rest for tomorrow night.

I have about 17,000 words now, and I'm still well ahead of the necessary pace. Week two seems to be going well so far! I usually have a really hard time motivating myself to write in the second week, and I did feel a little bit of that malaise tonight, but I forced myself to get going, and it went well. I just have to keep on myself and not let myself get distracted.
jessicasteiner: (NaNoWriMo: Logic)
This is the longest chapter in the universe.

The last two days I've been working on Chapter 9. Still. It's still not done.


When we last left our intrepid heroes, Sam and Kendra had reached the desert country of Li. They were attacked by a band of raiders, who brought them down off their broomsticks and took them prisoner.

The leader of the raiders is the King of Li, a fearsome creature with one eye and eight legs. His lower body is like a spider, but with a human torso. He turns out to look exactly like one of the partners at Sam's firm, Anju Singh, who is a woman. Sam is convinced this means the 'King' is actually a lady, though what this means is unknown.

Anju plans to either sell her prisoners into slavery, or sell them to their enemy, the King of Gen, for whatever reward he will give her. They place an amulet around Kendra's neck that makes it impossible to use magic, and tie them up.

Meanwhile, the King of Gen attacks Kun, the country where Sam and Kendra were headed. He murders the defenceless Queen of Kun in cold blood, and carves a large gem out of her body. It had previously been revealed that each of the Kings and Queens has a similar gem somewhere on their body and it gives them great power as part of their position.

Things look bleak for Sam and Kendra, but then a dog enters their tent. The dog turns out to be a werewolf, who looks exactly like their son in the real world, Damien. Damien offers help in escaping, in return for taking him to Kun. Why he needs to escape from the raiders, and what he's doing there, disguised as a mutt, is currently unknown.


I got a LOT of writing done on the weekend - over 6000 words. Tonight I stopped at around 1800 words, because it was a natural stopping point, but after the hard work I did on the weekend, I think I deserve it XD Also I didn't get to start working on writing today until past 8:00, so it's getting late now. I'm excited to get going on the Grand Escape, though! I have some fun ideas about how they'll pull it off.

I've passed 15,000 words, so this year's NaNoWriMo is looking really doable at this point. My toughest part is always week 2, which is why I've been working so hard at giving myself a healthy margin to work from, but if I can keep up some momentum, I'm sure I'll be fine.
jessicasteiner: (I Write Therefore I Am)
Welp, today I came back to Dreaming, refreshed and ready to tackle it again after my break. I had a sort of tentative goal of 5000 words for today, but I didn't get started until late, had an interruption in the form of houseguests for an hour, and then hit a slight wall when I realized I wasn't exactly sure how I wanted to do the next bit and needed to have a bit of a think. So I topped out a little over 3000 words for the day.

I still feel really good about it, though XD 5000 words in one day is something I've only managed a couple of times. It was an ambitious goal and I'm happy with 3000, which puts me over 10,000 words for the month so far.


Today I wrote Chapter 8, which turned out to be pretty short. The first bit is from Sam's best friend, Landon's, POV, in third person. He reflects on his own perspective on all of this. While he cares about Sam, he also is determined to get the partnership at the firm, and feels he's likely to get it anyway. He thinks it's probably best for everyone if Sam just gives in now, instead of working himself into a nervous wreck competing with him for the spot.

Kendra comes out of the room, distressed, and Landon gets perhaps a bit too intimate while comforting her. Is he just a close friend? Or does he have designs on Sam's wife as well as his promotion? We find out that it was Landon's idea that Kendra sign Sam's rights over.

Then we're back in Sam's POV as the doctor returns. Sam is angry and shouts a lot, and finally takes a swing at his doctor. This has predictably poor results, considering Sam's in a mental institution at the moment, and they sedate him.

This sends us into Chapter 9, where Sam wakes up in the castle where he had gone to sleep earlier. He dresses in native clothing with the help of invisible, magical servants, has breakfast with Kendra in the huge, empty castle, and then they depart, using broomsticks to travel faster. Riding a broomstick and dealing with all of this magic is disconcerting to Sam, but also fun.

Right now he questions whether the whole episode in the hospital is even real. Maybe everything he's experienced has been a dream up to this point. He has a hard time believing that there's a real world where he could have a breakdown like that, and where his wife would betray him to such an extent.

They reach the borders of the country of Shun and enter Li, which is a vast desert. And that's where I stopped for the night, because they're about to be attacked, and I have to decide if I want them to land first ;)


jessicasteiner: (Default)
Jessica Steiner

February 2016

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