Writing Partner: Dragging this out

Warhammer Dragon Head

Hello all,

As promised, I have finished constructing my new writing partner, and I must say, it is a majestic piece.

Warhammer Dragon Miniature Prince Imirk

This miniature is Warhammer’s Prince Imrik, The Dragon Lord. Mind you, I think the dragon itself is the real showstopper.

Warhammer Dragon Miniature Unpainted

I’ve neglected to glue Imrik down so that I can try to use it as a stand-alone dragon miniature as well. You might have noticed this in my other builds, but I like having options.

I have also grabbed one of wizkidz baby dragon minis to paint as well. This little welp will be used as a proof of concept for its much larger and much more expensive mother. I have a pretty neat paint scheme in mind, but I want to test it out first.

WizKidz Baby Dragon Miniature

Those are the minis that just leaves the short story I mentioned. Well, that’s where this story takes a turn. The tale I was writing was inspired by a video essay I watched on haunted houses. You can find the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mexs39y0Imw&t=964s. The idea of the house itself as the antagonist, that it is not haunted by something but has intent of its own, is really appealing to me. It has a similar bend to some of my previous work, and I’ve already thought of some exciting directions to take it.

I was working on this story last Saturday and had one of my best writing sessions in months. I hit flow state, and the prose just poured out of me. I honestly thought I was going to finish the first draft in one sitting. But then a scene popped into my head. It was grim and visceral in a way the rest of the story was not. This scene grew to eclipse the rest of the story, and beyond being horrifying, it was surprisingly moving. That was when I decided to stop writing.

You see, this new scene threw the whole project into flux. It was a complex character moment that needed at least 3000 words to itself. This meant I was no longer writing a short story; I was writing a new novel.

This leads to my final realization and also a reveal of sorts. You see, I had always intended on participating in NaNoWriMo this year. NaNoWriMo stands for the national novel writing month, and it takes place every November. You can find out more about it here: https://nanowrimo.org/about-nano.  I have wanted to participate for years now, so I’m biting the bullet and jumping into a new work in November. That’s part of why I have been working so hard to get my current novel off my plate. I want to work on a new one soon! When I realized my ghost story was actually a novel and that I was excited to dive in, it seemed apparent that this would be my NaNoWriMo project for this year.

So there you go, that evening of writing established my goals for the rest of the year. First, finish my current novel by October. Then write a new fist draft in November, and have the second book written and edited before the new year. In short, I have a lot to do… so I guess I should get back to work.

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!

Writing Partner: Spiritual Assistance

Unpainted warhammer reaper mini

This post has been a long time coming. I mentioned a few times that I was building a group of scary bois to paint while I edit the second act of my book. They took a long time, but here they are:

Unpainted warhammer reaper mini
Unpainted Warhammer ghost mini
Unpainted Warhammer black knights and hexwraiths
Turns out these minis don’t photograph well when they are un-primed. Something to remember for next time.

I have had this kit for a long time. It is the Allies box for the Nighthaunt faction. In other words, a small number of ghostly friends! I’m not even sure allies are still a thing in Age of Sigmar (AOS), but when they were I grabbed a few of them because I like having a little of each faction. This was before I got into Underworlds, perhaps even before the release of underworlds. Who knows. Time is weird these days.

Unpainted Warhammer Hexwraith
Unpainted Warhammer Black Knight mini

As you can see, I haven’t made all the riders into hexwraiths (scythe wielding ghosts) and have instead made a few of them into black riders (skeleton bois). As I mentioned, I like variety. There is also a good chance these will never get used for an AOS game. This means having a full squad of one or the other doesn’t really matter.

I’ll have to paint these quick because I’m already well into editing this section of the book. I have been writing like crazy lately but I’ve been finding building minis to be a bit more fiddly than fun. It might just be a mood I’m in. Right now I want to paint and write. Sticking together pointy plastic doesn’t feel as rewarding.

Regardless, my fiendish friends are ready to help me finish off these chapters. Stay tuned for the results!

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!

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!

Closing Up 2020

D&D Red Dragon Mini

Before I start discussing my plans for the rest of 2020 I want to close two remaining loops.

What happened to that other story and writing partner?

A few posts ago I mentioned writing two short stories and finishing two painting projects by the end of September. That didn’t happen sadly. Work is still extremely busy and I only managed to complete one short story. The other got an outline and its writing partner is still as sad as he began. I think part of the problem, at least on the painting side, is that I have already completed a better version of it. I was trying to fix a brass dragon with red accents but I have already completed a red dragon with gold accents.

Here is my sad brass dragon:

D&D Copper Dragon mini
Woof…

And here is the Red Dragon I completed months ago:

D&D Red Dragon Mini 2
D&D Red Dragon Mini
This mini has a bit more detail to work with.

So, suffice it to say that even if I did fix the brass dragon it could only pale in comparison to the red dragon I already have. Have you ever had projects that just haven’t come together? Ones that you know you probably could fix but even if you did they will never be great? That’s my brass dragon.

Back in the drawer with it!

He Plays She Plays

He Play She Plays Podcast

I wanted to post something about the podcast because a couple listeners have asked me about its status. Even though we are a couple weeks late for our next episode my wife and I are hard at work on the series. Most of the credit goes to my wife as she does the audio editing, but we have made some major ground in refining the podcast.

We are a bit late because we have had some technical difficulties after upgrading our equipment. Basically, we’re experiencing our first growing pains. We should be back on schedule soon, just bear with us a bit longer. We’re working on a website for the podcast so in the near future we’ll be able to post status up dates there to make sure our listeners know what’s going on.

Plans for the rest of 2020

When I started this blog I mentioned I was here to do the ground work I had been neglecting as an author. I hadn’t really built up a base of publications and I hadn’t attempted to build any kind of online presence. While I’m still working on the publications (it has been a slow year for responses) I have built up a fair back catalogue of short stories and poems this year. In a lot of ways I think it has brought back my voice in a way I haven’t know for years. Now it’s time to bring that voice back to my main project, my novel.

I have mentioned my novel a few times since my blog was established. My novel is a murder mystery set in a fantasy world. It would be classified as urban fantasy but I’d like to think it’s a fairly unique addition to the subgenre. It has been my main creative outlet for a few years now. However, I put it down a while ago so it could cool. Now that I’m focused again I want to return to it and finish my third draft.

I expect there will be five drafts before it is truly finished but this one will focus on the punch up of the key tentpole chapters. I want to strengthen the dialogue as well as the central mystery but my focus is on making sure each chapter pops on its own.

For the next few months my blog posts will focus on this work. I plan to post about my goals and challenges regularly while continuing to pick writing partners to add a visual component to these updates. I would hate to neglect anyone following me for my rather pedestrian painting skills, haha. It also, honestly, helps me focus and I’m going to keep trying to pair new minis with the chapters I’m working on. Much like the short story pairings, this will also help me discuss the plot of my story without giving away any details.

Well, that’s my plan. If you have ever worked on a long piece of writing before please share your experiences in the comments. This is only my second book so I’m still learning how to focus and stay committed to such a long process. If you have any strategies, no matter how novel (loves me some puns), I would very much appreciate the advice.

Talk to you soon!