Testing the Lights

8 minute read

Header image via Morguefile.

Boy, you get this plan of making weekly blog posts, write down some good post ideas, and then four months pass by without so much as a 'brb.'

Thankfully, I don't have much of an audience to disappoint yet.

So yeah, I lost track of time. Rather, I kept putting off writing a couple of buffer posts after that last Salazarre thing, and then...yeah. It's May. Nearly the end of May, at that.

But there are a few things I'd like to talk about, a sort of report on what I've been doing since January. More for my own benefit, I suppose, a sense of "what have I really been doing in four months?"

Learning programming, as it happens.

Since November, I've been learning web development to improve my career. Writing is still primarily important to me, pretty much the main thing I want to do as the years pass, but I'm not naive enough now to think I can keep doing data entry into my 30s and 40s.

I mean, I can, but I really don't want to.

Data entry was a pretty decent plan when I was 22-24, I think. A simple, easy day job that paid my bills, albeit poorly, while I could focus on my writing at night. I'd have worked on short stories I could publish, sent them to lit magazines, and eventually built a name for myself by the time I actually had books I could send out to agents.

This was at the start of my writing 'career,' 22. I had a lot of fun ideas and settings, most of which I still think about, with big plans on writing books in a couple months and refining them over the rest of the year. I wrote the first draft of Airless in two months, surely my other books wouldn't take much longer to hash out.

(I was a fool)

And this was a good idea for those first couple of years. I wrote a bunch of short stories, mostly small, experimental pieces that developed some of my pet settings/characters. I had a few 'publishable' story ideas, ones specifically meant to be published rather than these cute small things I was making. I figured I'd have the data entry to sustain me while I figured things out.

Then I lost my job in August 2013.

I didn't get a permanent one again until June 2014.

I still wrote during all that time, of course. I wrote some of my best stories, The Baron Isley, for one. Yet, I felt pressure to write more publishable stories, write things that I could sell to help keep myself afloat, and after about a month or two of thinking like this, I started to hate writing.

Writing became a job, it was tedious and stressful, trying to force myself to write something that would get published, that would be more than just...cute, I suppose is the word. I write a lot of fun stories that I don't think are very publishable, and maybe some people might differ, but that's when writing is most fun. Writing what I believed other people wanted to read meant that I didn't write, since nothing seemed 'worth' writing.

I made a decision then, one I still stand by. I'm just going to write whatever I want to, without caring if it's publishable or not. That's not why I'm doing this. I keep working on my ideas, start producing them (The Witch and the Snake being the prime example here), and then decide later how to publish them. A good friend is a big proponent of self-publishing, and that seems like one of the better routes for me, at least for the bulk of my work.

I don't think I could seriously sell a lamia protagonist to one of the major publishing houses, anyway.

But that still leaves the problem of what I do for money. Data entry started to lose its luster once I turned 26 and realized I was in the latter half of my twenties, and I didn't have anywhere else to go. Hence, programming.

I've been doing it pretty consistently since November, and I'm only now applying to junior development jobs, since there's been a lot to learn. Programming's been on my horizon since high school, but due to a combination of bad teachers and ignorance about free learning tools, I hadn't done anything substantial with it.

I'm confident I can get a job as a junior developer/programmer before the end of the year, I think I've done more than enough to earn it. Then I can start paying off my loans, saving money, and generally living the kind of life I deserve. Not expecting all my problems to just go away, of course, but I know I'll see a big uptick in my moods day-to-day, which will then trickle down into my writing.

So, pretty excited about that.

As for what I've been writing lately...The Witch and the Snake. Almost exclusively The Witch and the Snake. I don't even think I can recall off the top of my head if I've written any more than a couple of short stories since January. It's just been this one novel.

Recently, as of maybe a month ago, it surpassed 100k words. Which, normally, would be a huge milestone...but I'm not even halfway done. I'm still in the first major arc of the story, and while that's now winding down and the end is only a few chapters away...there's still so much more to do.

I expected this entire book to be in the 120-150k range, maybe even shorter. It's the first book of two, with possibility for more assuming it takes off and I learn what characters people want to see more of. It's the first(-ish) series in the Salazarre cycle I've been thinking, with two other subseries I want to write, and a game I want to make in Game Maker.

I've clearly got enough ideas to last years, but I'm an impatient sort. Not to mention, the original idea for Witch is three years old (I think it was in June 2013 that I first came up with Relia as a character), so it's been bouncing in my head for a while. Having a complete draft would be beyond amazing, but I'm not in much of a place to get it done soon.

I could in all honesty keep writing this thing for the rest of the year, maybe finishing it altogether in November/December. That, however, would probably drive me insane, and I'm starting to want to devote myself to other stories, other novels. I want to do NaNoWriMo again this year, and I have the story I want to write for it, but I also want to hash out the basic story structure beforehand, maybe write a few exploratory scenes/stories.

I want to be done with The Witch and the Snake, or at least have a significant body of work I can mess around with before I write the rest.

So, here's what I think I'm going to do. Once I finish this first major arc (and I'll write a blog post about these arcs later), I'm going to call it done.

Obviously it isn't, but it's as good a stopping place as any. I'm going to stick it in a drawer, figuratively, for a few months and stop thinking about it. There are plenty of other things for me to work on in the meantime.

Once I'm done with my NaNoWriMo project, which I hope won't last into 2017, I'll pick Witch back up and revise it. There's a lot I want to remove and rewrite, and I think I can get it below 80k when all is said and done. That's what I'm hoping for, at least.

Then, well, I just finish it. Write the second half, revise that down to however many words, then do the editing process all over again with the entire work. That might carry me into 2018 at that point, hopefully with another large work to occupy me in 2017. That's the point when I can start showing it to more people, start making it 'publishable,' all that jazz.

I don't much mind that I'm nowhere near that at this point, I just want this first half to be done.

The reason why it's so long can and will probably take up an entire blog post, but in short, I tend to ramble. As you might have noticed. When I'm a bit unsure on where I want to go, I have the characters walk around and pay attention to their scenery, or let dialogue drag on longer than it probably should. Things pick up when I have a clearer idea of where I want to go, but then I get worried I'm moving too quickly and then force myself to write slower scenes.

But that's part and parcel for first drafts, at least for me. The editing process is when I get to take a hacksaw to the draft and pick out what's most important, change the language to make myself more concise.

I just have to do it for over a hundred thousand words.

So uh, yeah.

Hope to see you as I keep writing away here, and I hope to have more content up in the forthcoming weeks.

I haven't actually written about why I'm writing a lamia protagonist in this thing, so I should probably do that for those of you wondering why...or wondering what a lamia is in the first place.

Also going to write a post when I do finally finish the first half of The Witch and the Snake, so look forward to it.