Writing Partner: Dragging this out – Part 3

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Click the links below for the previous posts in this series:

Writing Partner: Dragging this out

Writing Partner: Dragging this out – Part 2

Welcome back,

She’s finished. Here is the new centerpiece for my wife’s Age of Sigmar Army:

Warhammer Age of Sigmar Dragon Miniature Painted

I’m still working on the rider (I made two of the spines detachable, so it works either way), but this dragon will be the main attraction for Daeva’s mixed Wanderers (wood-elves) and Sylvaneth (tree-folk) army. I’m pretty pleased with it, and it pulls together the cherry blossom themes of the army nicely.

Dragon Miniature's Wings Painted

I know there is a specific mini for the woodelf forest dragon (I have it), but this mini in this color scheme spoke to me. The other mini looks good in green, so I’ll tackle that someday as a stand-alone project.

Warhammer Dragon painted (face on)

On the writing side, I have completed a rough pass for act 3. By that, I mean I have finished the most egregious grammar and spelling mistakes. That was roughly 1000 edits on its own. A solid week of work, but I’m not done yet.

This act needs a net-new chapter and then a chapter-by-chapter fresh coat of paint. I think that will take most of June. Then it’s on to a final chapter-by-chapter polish, and then I’ll be done. So my novel will probably be finished sometime in August, maybe September at the latest. It’s a lot of work, but I’m on track for my goals this year.

That means I will need more to paint. It’s a good thing I have a dragon who needs an army to run. This is going to be a rather large project, so stay tuned!

Writing Partner: Dragging this out – part 2

For part 1 click here.

When we last spoke, I was working away on my editing and painting baby dragons. I only mentioned one, but I wanted to test out two paint schemes for the mother dragon. I wanted pink to be the contrasting color, but I wasn’t sure if the primary color should be black or white.

Here are the results of my testing:

Baby Dragons Front
Considering these were done quickly as tests, I think they turned out well.
Baby Dragons from above
These minis had a lot of imperfections (they only cost 6 dollars a piece) so I couldn’t have asked for much more.

While I like the white scheme better, I’m happy I painted the black one too. I think it is a fun miniature, and having both has gotten the wheels in my head turning. I now have an excellent premise for a multipart RPG session, but I’ll get into that more when I finish their mother.

Black Dragon Baby
White Dragon Baby

In the meantime, I have more editing to do. That October deadline is fast approaching, and I have only just gotten into act 3. To get another draft finished in the next 5 months will be hard, but it looks to be doable. But after that, I’m done, and we can start talking about a new book!

Something I am noticing about my editing is I am adding in sensory descriptions naturally now. This is something I had to really work at. As a recap to any new readers, I spent about 5 years writing scripts before starting this blog. I’m a dialogue guy, and learning to write proper narration on the first draft was like pulling teeth. This process has made me a better writer and, fingers crossed, a faster one.

Today alone, I added 3 pages of new content while editing. This draft has added 25 pages so far, and I still have 10 chapters to edit. I’ve gone from having a short novel to having a pretty respectable one since Christmas. I’m pretty pleased with that.

Here’s hoping this newfound ease for narration carries into the next novel. If I can get a first draft done in November, it won’t take long before I have a second novel finished and ready for readers if it’s at my current standard. My short story collection is nearing 100 pages, and I have a half-finished book on the back burner as well. I could have a decent selection available to read relatively soon.

Fingers crossed, I stay on track. I could also get distracted by a new project!

Writing Partner – Nearly There

Hello!

It’s been a while. This edit of act 2 took longer than I expected. In the end, my writing partners did too. In fact, they aren’t finished…

half finished warhammer ghosts and skeletons

See, they’re still a bit ugly. Not exactly ready for glamor shots.

However, as I was considering postponing this post again to finish them, I realized something. In their current state, these intrepid ghosts and skeletons are the best representation I have for where my book is at.

My book is complete, in so much as all of the content technically exists. Like these minis, it has been entirely constructed, all the primary colors are in place, hell, even some finishing work has been done. But they are still unpolished, like my book.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my book. I also know it’s 90% finished; I have way more work behind me now than ahead of me. But it’s at a stage where it just doesn’t show well, like these minis.

You see, there is this stage of any project where it looks its worst. It is a kind of uncanny valley for art, where it is so close to finished, yet still not, that it seems worse than it did when it was half-finished. At least, that’s how it always feels to me. The critical part of the work is pressing on and not getting discouraged by this phase.

I don’t usually post pictures of unfinished projects, but I think it will be helpful in this case. There is this illusion that great works come from the mind of a genius, that they flow effortlessly and are perfect when they are first born. That simply isn’t true. Now, I’m not saying I’ve ever written a great work, nor am I a genius, but I think that the myth of first draft success holds many people back.

 I fear most people never finish their projects because they perfect when they first create them. They think that if it isn’t perfect, they just aren’t cut out for their art. The truth is, I have now spent twice as long editing this book as it took me to write the first draft. From what I can tell, that is relatively normal.

I myself have gone through quite a shift in the last year. It turns out I had no idea how to edit. I thought a bit of a spellcheck and some punctuation correction was all I needed. I was dead wrong.

Why anyone ever published my work before 2020 is beyond me. It turns out, editing time, while far less exciting, makes my stories considerably better. Back when I wrote reviews and essays, my editors must have hated me!

I can also confirm that it gets easier. My editing has gotten better and, dare I say, faster over the last year. I’ve learned to accept criticism with more humility, and I’m better at focusing and working through difficult passages. The next book will be even easier. I genuinely believe this.

My point is, don’t be scared of the ugly stage of the project. The step between the skeleton and polished is not pretty (in this metaphor, I suppose it’s still missing skin…) but it means you’re close to done. Push through the doubt and complete your art!

3 Stories, 3 Submissions, 3 Updates

Hello,

I managed to finish the two stories I was working on in time to submit them to their competitions. It was down to the wire, and if I’m honest they could have used more time, but I’m happy I pressed myself and finished. Better yet, that strange story I was working on in Writing Partner: Working With a Group, Part 2 has now been submitted to a contest as well. So I’ve started the year off running. I managed to get 2 shorts published last year; I want to at least double that this year. I think this is a good start toward that goal.

Next on the agenda is finishing this edit of my book. I’m still putting together the writing partners for this work, they are really fiddly, but I can’t wait to show them off! After that, it might be time for a professional editor to take over. I was thinking of using one of the resources on Reedsy for that but if any of you have experience in this realm, leave me a comment. Any information will help.

For now, though, I’m going to spend the weekend on my podcast. He Plays She Plays has been on hiatus for too long. Like everything else, I’ll give you a full update when we finish what we’re working on.

He Play She Plays Podcast

Talk to you again soon!

Discovery Writing: Is it for you?

I have mentioned a few times that I’m currently revising a novel. This is the part of writing that I enjoy the least, so, when I can, I have been reading and listening to a lot of seminars on writing and editing to try and learn better methods. While this is not a new topic for me, it has brought the term “Discovery Writing” to the forefront of my mind.

I know people who have said they never use outlines, but I guess I always assumed this was an exaggeration. I thought that what they meant was that they didn’t have pages of bullet points and chapter breakdowns like I use. I was wrong; some people go in with very little prior planning and still manage to have a working story at the end. It seems magical to me, but it does happen. However, is it right for you?

What is Discover Writing vs Outlining

Forewarning: when I describe theses terms, I’m going to do so in extremes. I don’t actually believe in black and white scenarios in the real world, but it is useful for the purpose of definitions.

Discovery writing is free form writing with no pre-planning. Proponents of this style of writing say it is more exciting and it comes out in the writing. If you derive satisfaction from the writing process, this may be for you. However, this method may come with drawbacks such as inconsistency, both in writing style and narrative.

Outlining entails planning out the structure of your narrative before writing. People who espouse the virtues of this style will say that it creates a story with better pacing and structure. If your satisfaction comes from crafting complex plots or from completing works, this may be for you. However, if you are too devoted to structure, your writing can feel stilted and you may miss the hidden gems that come out of discovering something new about your characters and setting.

Again, in most cases, many writers do a bit of both. Like everything else, writing is on a spectrum, and achieving success and satisfaction comes from figuring out what appeals to you. There are no right answers and there is no such thing as normal. You should do what you enjoy.

Why I Plan

Short answer: because I have to. It’s how my brain works. I tend not to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard until I know both the start and the end of the story I’m going to write. Then I write out detailed notes on the structure before I actually start writing.

It turns out, I’m a baker and not a cook. I work best with a recipe. I like structure. Does that make it less of an art form. Hell no. Don’t let anyone tell you you have to be spontaneous to be an artist. That’s just elitist pretension. As you write more, you will figure out what works best for you.

That being said, even with poetry and flash fiction, I need some planning. As usual, I’m going to use a visual medium to explain.

Iron Golem
This is the Wizkids unpainted Iron Golem miniature. Consider this a blank canvas.

I bought that miniature on a whim and had no plans for it. I started adding paint to it over time with no real strategy. I even tested out paint markers on it as I would new writing techniques. This was the result:

Iron Golem mini
Pause for applause.

It was very poor, and by the end I decided I had to fix it. To do this I made a strategy for which paints and techniques I would use to revitalize the golem.

Painted D&D Iron Golem Miniature
Much better.

Is the end result perfect? No. But having a strategy really helped me in a way my instincts alone could not.

Others people may find better result with discovery writing. As a visual example, here is the first mini my wife painted, no plan, no experience.

It isn’t finished but you can see how it just kind of came together on it’s own. Some people have all the luck, it took me months to work up to wet-blending…

How I Have Incorporated Both Styles

Over many years of writing and with my recent introspection, I have figured out I do a bit of both techniques. I plan a lot, but as I write something interesting happens; my characters take on a life of their own.

I find that over the course of numerous drafts, my plot points and structure changes very little. But my characters change a lot. I think that is because it takes writing, not planning, to find a character’s voice. That voice has to come from somewhere, and as it changes, so does their background and characteristics.

This is something I have only noticed recently and I think this accounts for why some of my previous long form projects have failed. I was too attached to my initial plans. This is why my first book failed.

After I wrote my first book, I received feedback I didn’t learn from because I was hesitant to change what I envisioned. I had fluff in parts so that it was the correct length, my intended word count and date range (dates really mattered in this book), even though none of my readers liked those sections and I didn’t enjoy writing them. When my character started shifting into a morality structure I didn’t like I changed it back to the intended frame, even though it made less sense narratively. I removed the spontaneity because it wasn’t the plan and I refused to adapt to changes in my voice.

Conclusions

Regardless of which side of the writing spectrum you are, you need to have flexibility. Devotion to one path will make you miss the strengths of the other. For me, that was devotion to the plan. For you, it might be a resistance to one. In either respect, don’t be afraid to be flexible. Embrace constructive criticism, alter your plans if it makes a better story and, by God, edit and revise your work!

Anyway. I hope that was helpful, or at least self affirming. Let me know what your process is in the comments. Maybe you have a strategy to make revision fun? I’d love to know it. Maybe next year for novel writing month, I’ll take a stab at discovery writing. Just sit down with a basic premise and see what happens. Knowing me, I’ll mess it up by spending my first day charting it out in a spreadsheet…

Writing Partner: The Unusual Suspects

assorted miniatures for D&D, Death May Die, and Warhammer

So I’ve finally finished redoing my previous chunk of editing and I’m ready to get back to fresh work. In the next tent-pole chapter, our protagonists will be at a location with all the principle murder suspects. In this edit/re-write, I’ll be focusing on emphasizing these suspects and strengthening red-herrings for the plot. Because of this, I have chosen to represent each character with a unique figure to paint. Introducing: the unusual suspects!

assorted miniatures for D&D, Death May Die, and Warhammer

Look at this lovely police line up! This diverse group of individuals may not all look like my characters, but they do a good job embodying them.

Lets start with this great wizard from the Cthulhu: Death May Die board game:

Wizard miniature from Death May Die

This wizard will represent a colleague of the victim and will provide unique insight into his profession work in alchemy. He will also allow me to talk about the amoral nature of science and discovery through the lens of magic. The figure itself is a great fit for my book, as it’s a fantasy book in an early modern setting. Death May Die has a 1920’s aesthetic which makes it a perfect fit for this kind of project. Not to mention the monsters in it are gorgeous; I’m sure we’ll be seeing more from this set in the future.

Next up is a fellow Goblin:

Goblin miniature from Warhammer Fantasy (AOS).

This is one of the ornamental Goblins from Feast of Bones Warhammer set we covered a while ago. Because it looked plain by itself, I added one of the Ogre daggers to its back as if it was a Goblin sized broadsword. I think it looks pretty cool like that. In the book, this character is an ex-lover of the victim and will give me a natural way to talk about Goblin culture without it seeming like exposition (though it is). I picked this mini specifically because of that accusatory finger point!

The Third suspect is an Elf. My Elves are not Tolkienesque and are instead diminutive fae-folk so I chose a halfling from the Wizkids D&D line:

D&D Halfling Miniature
This one is a little rough…

I find that the Wizkids minis are extremely good for their price, especially the large ones. The smaller minis are sometimes a tad half-baked. This little guy, representing the prime suspect, needs some serious work. I have mold lines and extra resin to trim and it’s lacking detail in a lot of places. What I do like about him, is that dagger and posture. Much like the character I’m writing, he is much more dangerous than he appears.

Our fourth suspect is a Dwarf crime boss:

WizKids Dwarf warrior, D&D miniature.

This miniature is also from the Wizkids line and has some of the same issues ad the Elf. It is probably the least fitting mini of this group but I’m trying to avoid kitbashing it for the sake of time, so I’ll try not to let it bother me. The character it represents is one of the main crime lords in the city and has many reasons to hate the deceased. But did they do it?

I saved the best for last. The final suspect is a Demon:

This Wizkids demon doesn’t look much like the demon in my story, but I think it is a great visual representation of its inner evil. I love the detail of this mini. In D&D, this is called a Nalfeshnee, which is a mid-tier demon. I like its pig face and tiny wings. It is almost a parody of grotesque excess, which is perfect for my character. I’ll need to close up some gaps in the model but otherwise this should be really fun to work on.

There you have it! A new group a minis for a new chunk of my book. Like last time, painting these will likely last longer than the work on this chapter. I’ll probably keep working on this for the next five or so chapters or until I hit another notable section of the book.

Work is starting to get back to normal so I’m hoping I can start posting more regularly again. I don’t like posting once a week as it really only leaves room for updates. Hopefully, some time soon I can post another Upping Your Game article. I have a good one in mind. We’ll just have to see how the rest of the month goes!

Writing Partner: A bit of Lost Time

Hello,

It’s been a couple weeks since we have discussed my writing progress. The truth is, that’s because there hasn’t been much. Two weeks ago as I was finishing my first big chunk of editing in the third draft of my novel the worst case scenario happened: my computer crashed while saving and the file corrupted.

All is not lost, with my wife’s help and a few hours of work we managed to recover most of it by reverting to a previous version of the file. Over all it was a huge relief, but I still lost 2 days worth of editing. The weekend after was Halloween and the day I was going to sit edit that weekend I found out The boneless had been published (check out the blog post here). After such good news I felt like I had done enough for my career that weekend and I have been making similar excuses ever since.

The truth is, I hate redoing work and the idea of spending hours editing the same chapters just isn’t motivating. I’ve also finished my writing partners for this piece and, up until the crash, I felt like this step was complete.

I had a group shot of these guys but I guess I deleted it… Irony.

So now I’m sitting here again today trying to motivate myself to get back to the grind stone. Luckily I found a hack for this. I’ve made a commitment to it.

I’ve joined a local writing critique circle that specializes in novels. Pretty soon I’ll be forced to keep up with my editing for else I’ll have nothing to show them! I work well with structure and I’m hoping this will give me the push I need to buckle back down. In a sense I’m trying to social engineer myself, which is the kind of crazy I do apparently.

On another note, you might be able to tell from the photo today that I have upped my game. My wife got me a lightbox and that pushed me to pull out my DSLR camera and take some proper pictures. The results varied but I think there is already a slight improvement. The lightbox has different lighting levels and I’m rusty with my camera so I have a lot to fine tune.

I have a bunch of time off coming up this week so I should have more to talk about soon. I already have a new writing partner picked out for the next section of the book so stay tuned!