What’s New, Mathew?

[TL;DR clickthrough]

Glad you asked, Mathew. I’m working on No Gods But Us.

Didn’t you start that a while ago?

Yes, for NaNoWriMo 2015! And I wrote a few hundred tentative words of prologue!

So many?



I know. But here’s the cool thing: I haven’t stopping thinking about Elegy for Halcyon Chimera since.

So, not new, but progress, at long last?

Mmm. Lots of things going on in my world right now. Very busy with adjusting to a number of things, including coming to grips with some facts regarding my most productive writing routines.

Your routines?

Right, the things I do while writing. I’ve been doing some introspection. It’s been helpful, to say the least. I feel good.

So, then blogging is productive?

Not in and of itself, but blogging lets people know I’m not dead. And knowing I’m around is important for my future plans. Like letting people take a peek at No Gods But Us

So, not dead, and experiencing epiphanies?

Something like that. Mainly realizing that I do my very best actual writing after I’ve clearly laid out my story.

You need to avoid Pantsing?

For my long form work, absolutely. But I work well on shorts (like my Dire Calls series) when I’ve got some solid outlining done as well. The works I’ve done the best with have all been as a Plotter.

Doesn’t that strike you as weird though? I mean, your personality…

Yeah. I don’t strike me as a Plotter either. Why do you think it’s been so difficult for me to come to grips with? All the improv leanings in the world apparently don’t make for a Pantser born…

But I’ve seen your Pantsing work…it’s pretty good stuff, if we do say so ourselves.

Thanks, me. But you see, while the story comes out when I go full Pantser, it’s not got the precision I need. Plus, it gets worse the longer a work is. So for an epic like Elegy for Halcyon Chimera…yikes.

Fix it in post!


But isn’t that what rewrites and editing are all about?

Yes. Absolutely. You can pick through the raw material, the first draft, and you can tie everything together. But I’ve found that I don’t do that. I don’t work well untangling the threads when they’re just thrown out there in the first place. So things aren’t sharp.

But that stream-of-consciousness stuff is good…

Yes, absolutely! But I’ve figured out that I can still benefit from my strength there in two ways, while maintaining that Plotter framework: 1) by brainstorming a hell of a lot during the very first stages of story generation, long before I even know what the story is really about; and 2) by understanding what I’m doing across the entire arc of a story, down to the scene-by-scene goals, and allowing myself to rapidly progress through those beats, scenes, and chapters by hitting waypoints.

Huh. Seems you’ve thought on this a lot.

Yep. Meditated on it, you might say.

(Me means napping, I’m sure of it.) *cough* So why are you here?

I told…

Yeah, yeah. Not dead. I meant why are you still here? Wrap it up! You’ve got to go Plot.

Right. Ok, so:

  • I’m not dead.
  • I’m working on No Gods But Us—and the rest of Elegy for Halcyon Chimera as well.
  • If you’re interested in some of what I’m working with during this process, you can check out Story Grid.
  • More interesting stuff (sneak peek, like) is coming as soon as I get into the actual words-on-the-page writing process.

And the other thing…

Ah, right. I have something big planned that I’ll need your (readers and fellow authors alike) help with, so please, keep it in the back of your mind that there’s something on the horizon!

Outta here, you.

I’m going! Back to the Plotting! Updates coming soon!

I Updated The Site, Because It’s What I Shouldn’t Have Been Doing

When in doubt, procrastinate. That’s how you write novels, you know…

So, with NaNoWriMo 2015 here and too little prep done, I spent a couple of days searching for the quintessence of the story I was going to write. Both in the sense of the overarching series, as well as what the first step (book) needs to be.

And, as you may notice (at the time of this writing) there’s a progress bar up on the sidebar which proudly declares that I have written 48/50000 words on No Gods But Us, the first part of Elegy for Halcyon Chimera. (This is what I’ve done with the setting I referred to as The Scape in my last post.) [Mathew: as I’m still getting used to the series and book titles, I erroneously referred to the series as Elegy of Halcyon Chimera in the initial version of this post.]

In fact, that little piece of code is what got me into trouble in the first place. It’s what opened up the rabbit hole of web development and sucked me in. I’m only emerging three days later. Tired, cranky, disgruntled…but with a site that, at the very least, has a couple of new or improved pieces. (One of which is the post notification subscription over on the sidebar that you can use if you want email notifications each time there’s a new blog update.)

What’s next?

Write the damned novel.

Writing Environment, Good Habits, and Old Dogs With New Tricks

The last entry made it pretty clear that I was working towards productivity again, but I stipulated that I didn’t know how it would work out. This entry is an update, and a look at some of the arguably useful stuff that isn’t writing—that too often takes time away from writing, in fact.

I’ve been doing a couple of things recently which fairly directly relate to the notion of laying some new work out. The first being reading fairly voraciously. For most of the last couple months I’ve been consuming about a book a week (mostly) in genre, which amounts to reading at the very least 100,000 words a week, and probably fairly significantly more—though I don’t have exact word counts of course. (If you’re interested, I’ve been reading Sanderson, Leckie, and Weeks.)

The second is working up a new setting (The Scape) for the upcoming series. It’s coming along fairly well. If not incredibly quickly, it’s at least got a consistency I’m pleased with.

Today, however, I’ve been on a slightly different mission. I’ve been working on where and how I write.

For the past year and a quarter I’ve been shoving money towards Writer each month (because I was too cheap to pay up front for a lifetime package) and not really getting much out of it. I can afford the $5 a month, of course. My writing is allowed to incur expenses like that. But the goal of using Writer was to cocoon myself in a distraction-free environment while maintaining offline capability and online cloud saves, and the reality is that I don’t need to pay for that when I can use Google Docs.


The “all-new” writing environment, free of distractions.

So I dropped my Writer sub. I like it a touch better than Google Docs for purity of environment, but, as you can see from the image above, I’m typing this article on my desktop in full screen and the only thing visible are the words of the entry itself. (My second monitor is turned on but all that’s going there is Foobar, running through the Firefly OST.) The actual canvas I’m working on here is about as blank as it really needs to be for my purposes, so paying extra to get a tiny variation in how I see things isn’t worth it.

But, as I was working through getting my Google Docs template and view to be as minimalist as possible, I ran across something to help me work through another issue I’ve had difficulty with: productivity.

It is my (and perhaps many other writers’, for that matter) constant quest to figure out how best to track what I do, without being bothered by tracking what I do. Meaning both where do I spend my time (both fruitful and not so fruitful) and how much “intended-for-publication” work do I produce. How good have I been about sticking to goals? Have I hit a minimum amount of production (to be read as wordcount), and am I taking enough time in front of my ever-expanding canvas each day?

So the gem I ran across was this article, which essentially breaks down how to automatically track the time I spend trying to produce—as well as how much I produce—and stores a variety of useful metrics related to these things. You can see an example of the information this automation makes available on Jamie Todd Rubin’s site.

During this process I upgraded my Evernote (to “Plus” which ran me up front about what five months of Writer would) and signed up for a RescueTime account. I set my default Evernote notebook to Writing, which is where my automated reporting will be mailed, ready for me to look at it when I want to check my progress. I also generated an API key for RescueTime, which should allow me to track more accurately what my time in my writing sandbox to the words I produce actually is. (This is not nearly as difficult as it is made to sound by the author of the automation article, for the record. It’s literally naming the key and generating it on RescueTime’s site, and then copying it into the spreadsheet’s configuration.) As an added bonus, the pure use of RescueTime gives me an idea of roughly how productive/not productive I’ve been with my browsing, all in a very simple interface built right into a Chrome extension.

And I’m happy to report that if you’re at all technically savvy the entire process takes very little time. I had things installed (untested, but I’ve got a high degree of confidence that they’re installed correctly given how simple the process was) within a couple of hours. That’s even including time dealing with the kids and various other annoyingly human random intrusions like needing to use the bathroom or being thirsty.

So here I am, a couple days shy of 41, and I’ve got a shiny new cloud-based writing environment and (as yet untested) cool automation to track my production and time use. Who says old dogs can’t learn new tricks?

I’ll update again soon on the automation, the writing environment, and (fingers crossed) the new setting.

What the What in September 2015

So, my last writing update was that I’d started fiddling with some serial (as in the type of writing, not the slang, which is more true of the now than the then, as you’ll see) stuff. I’m not any more. What am I doing instead?

Currently I’m dealing with the six year anniversary of my son Ethan’s death. I’ve been in (and still am in, really) a very dark place. Really. Really. Dark.

The good news here is that I’ve started working on better living through (monitored) chemistry, and have felt somewhat better as a result. The bad news being that it doesn’t appear that the drugs I’m on can stand up to the actual anniversary of this heavy a loss.

Things haven’t been normal this year—I started the drugs when I started to careen into my “typical” months of depression this Summer and it seems to have helped for most of that span—so I can’t say for sure where I’m headed now, but it’s been fairly normal for me to emerge from desolation in the late September/early October timeframe, and to be (relatively-speaking, then) productive after that.

Current (non, again, perhaps) project news is that I’m working on Epic Fantasy, because it’s my favorite genre and it’s what I’ve been running away from because of the fact that it’s incredibly intimidating. (We can debate all day long what’s a simple genre and what’s complex. That’s not important. What’s important is how I feel about my own work, and I’m both intimidated by and drawn to Epic Fantasy.)

So, what’s it all mean?

Fuck if I know at this point. Could mean I get my shit together, organize the things I want to before I start in on a novel, and then get churning. Could also mean something abortive again. There’s a lot of things in my life that affect my writing. The biggest question is my mental state, and as of this second I’m pretty fragile.

I turn 41 this month. That means I’ve “failed” in an already “stretched” milestone (having to do with writing/publishing/age and thus a colossally stupid goal in the first place) and am undecided as to how I feel about this.

For what it’s worth, here’s the reality I’m facing: I’ve been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. I’m currently on prescription anti-depressants to help mitigate this condition, which from the criteria for the diagnosis I know is something I’ve been struggling with for a hell of a lot longer than just since Ethan died. To say I’ve lived over half my life under the shadow of depression isn’t hyperbole.

I want to produce. I need to produce. But these things don’t necessarily equate to the words inside getting out.

So that’s it. That’s where I am.

I’ll update when I can.

Current Project (Non?) News

So as I mentioned last month I’ve got a lot of energy going into just being a stay-at-home parent. That’s something I do my best not to resent, but I’m human, and resentment is something we all have to deal with at some point in our lives. Of course the good news is that kids eventually grow up, and while they may not be out of my hair completely in a few years, they’ll eventually be in school much of the time, and that will afford me the opportunity to get some more concentrated work done than I’ve been able to recently.

That said, I have still been trying to find the right kind of project to work on, and so recently I’ve been turning my mind towards the idea of writing an extended story (a series, if you will) in a serial manner. So presently I’m at work sketching out a “multi-season” outline using Gingko. (Which is a sort of outliner I came across during the search for online tools brought on by the fact that I’ve moved to Chromebook for my work and don’t have access to some of the fancy Windows-only software I was using before.)

Part of the reason for this is that doing a discrete chunk (roughly a novella-length work) of a longer story and publishing it (then collecting a number of these chunks and assembling them into a novel-length volume down the line) seems to me like it might work better for my life right now than writing that full-length work outright. The planning will all be there (all the arcs and the actions are intended to be laid out in rough form in advance, and just written in pieces) to make sure what comes together at the end of a season is a discrete story (even if it has a number of stories all tied up within it), and given how much I enjoy television as a story form (much, much more than I enjoy film, actually) I think this will end up being a decent fit.

I have zero information on when there will be a release date for the first volume. I have nothing to share on the subject of what it’s about beyond that it takes place in a dark fantasy world and is likely going to be best for mature readers. (That’s regardless of their physical age—I’ve mentioned before that I don’t think reading maturity is tied to a given birthday because let’s be honest: some folks won’t ever be able to deal with the fact that I swear freely in my writing, or that my titles are violent. No matter how many birthdays they have behind them.)

What I can say is that I anticipate needing time to plan (writing and business—remember, I self-publish so I have to think both sides through) things out, to write the first couple of episodes, to have my Beta folks read them over and give me feedback, and to get things squared away for publication. That means the “boring” stuff like formatting the ebooks, as well as the “awesome” process of working on a cover treatment for the entire series.

We’re likely looking at months. Depending on how things are going with the process I may go ahead and have a brief period (a couple weeks) of pre-orders on the volumes in place, so you may get sales information earlier than I’ve managed in the past. Once I’m rolling on the series I anticipate regularly staggered releases, but what the intervals will be like is a mystery at this point. Twice a month? Monthly? Every two months? We’ll see.

Should be interesting in any case.