Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: TPOM3 (page 1 of 2)

Nano 2015 Project Decided!

After much flailing about, I’ve at last figured out my Nano 2015 project.

But first, the Saga of the Selection:

Way back at the end of September, I was in limbo. I’d just completed The Power of Music III: Measure of Resistance, and I thought I’d very much like to get started on the next book in the Discordant Harmonies series, A Life of Note I: Antiphons. I in fact quite looked forward to doing so, and set to work on it with anticipation of having an at least partial outline for it ready for November, as I’d decided that it would work perfectly as my November Nano project.

At first, work progressed well enough. Not as quickly as I’d have liked, but I was in a bit of a writing downswing and gave myself allowances for it. I didn’t push myself, but I got plenty of plot points entered into Scapple, and was working up something of a playlist for it since I’d decided to create a new one instead of using the one from TPOM, which I was rather weary of. It was easy to feel good about ALON1; I’d enjoyed finishing TPOM3, had the MCs firmly in mind, and could see a mostly-clear path from beginning to end of the first book of the ALON set which gave me the confidence I needed to work on it.

Then my writing downswing deepened, sometime within the first week or two of October. I lost interest in ALON1, but kept trying to work on it, even as my bipolar mood swung into a nesting phase. I cleaned house, then, in the third week of October, the nesting phase induced me to rearrange my living room, clean out my real-life files, and organize the files I keep for my writing. Over the course of the nesting phase, I threw out much, and I started working on another story set in the same world as ALON1.

This project was The Horseless Carriage I: Clockworks, which happens in part in tandem with the ALON series. Enough so that the characters cross over. I figured this was fine, as I needed to write both first books before going on to even outlining the second books of both series, because those books are where characters cross over. Even though I didn’t intend to have the same scenes written from the different points of view in the books, I do need to coordinate the storylines so I’m aware of what each of the characters are saying and doing in the books so there’s no confusion of the timeline.

Because I hadn’t quite lost interest in ALON1, I arbitrarily declared I was prepping both for Nano and would decide, at possibly the last minute, which one I’d work on for November based on the one I’d been able to do more prep for. This lasted until the beginning of the last week of October.

And, on Monday or Tuesday, I’d been up past my bedtime and was contemplating going to bed when another member of Forward Motion mentioned, on twitter, getting a steampunk comic idea. That induced me to open up one of my defunct projects which I hadn’t done much work on. It had a number of plot points, two scenes, and two reverse-outline plot cards written on it. Nothing much. I read through the two scenes and realized within myself a desire to read the rest of the incomplete story, so set to work on it.

I was rather willing to be distracted by Masters of the Schism I: The Elect because neither of my two Chraesti projects, one of which I’d already entered as my Nano project, were moving. I felt enthusiastic about MOTS1, though, and I was enjoying fiddling with the MCs’ lives. Over the next couple of days, I named more characters, brainstormed a major plot issue (Why is magic dying—and what’s the solution to bringing it back?) for the entire series, and wrote a couple of plot cards.

By the wee hours of this morning, it was pretty obvious MOTS1 was going to be my Nano 2015 project. I’d managed to write almost 15 plot cards, and decided at some point to do full plot cards for the first two scenes, cut them from the main WIP, and save them to another file so I could rewrite them for Nano and decide at the end of November which versions of the scenes I liked better. I’ve since entered the project as my Nano project, stats to be found here, and it comes complete with a full synopsis which I agonized over for all of about 45 minutes. I’ll add a snippet when I have something written after the first few days of November.

I probably won’t be staying up all night to write just after midnight on Sunday. I have church that morning, and I really want to be alert because I didn’t make it to church last week due to not sleeping the night before. I’ve also got a couple other things to do, but I hope to get to writing at some point before midnight so I can enter a wordcount on the first. As always, I’m not going to sweat it if I don’t write every day, but do my best to maintain a consistent wordcount ahead of the goals for each day.

One Writer, Various Mindsets

As all writers do, I also go through various mindsets with regards to my writing as time passes by. Often, like other writers’ mindsets, these are simply typical doubts and fears that all writers have about their writing. Other times, these mindsets are driven by my mental illness.

Most of the time, I have confidence in my writing, regardless of what I’m writing. Even when I’m at my worst emotionally, or hating what I write, I feel that it’s good, strong, worthy of being shared. It is in this mindset I frequently write on—and read through—my projects, and it is this mindset which enables me to say any day where I wrote was a good day, even if it was the worst day I could have possibly had in every other way.

Then there are the writing downswing days. This year, I’ve had a lot of them, but they haven’t driven me up the wall like they usually do. Most of the time, I’ve been able to be creative in some way, particularly with my stories, during these downswings. These downswings are often driven by my bipolar disorder, so I try to go with the flow and when I can’t get the writing aspect of my life to work because of one, I turn to reading or other forms of entertainment.

And, like all authors, I go through periods where I feel like my writing sucks. I can’t bear to look at anything to read, never mind write on, because at this time I see myself as a hack—that my skills are lacking, that my story is lackluster, and that my execution needs work. While this may be true in some ways, once I’m over this mood and look over my work, I find that I was, mostly, wrong. However, whenever I go through a period of “my writing sucks,” it better enables me to see my writing objectively, particularly things I’ve worked on recently, than I normally do, so I suffer through it without much complaint because I know it’s opening my mind to seeing and finding—and correcting the problems.

Right now, I’m going through a highly creative phase. Within the past six weeks, I’ve started developing two new worlds and getting plot point ideas down for stories set on them. These two new worlds each got their own magic system. I’ve also been writing on TPOM3; not as often as I’d like, but I’ve been making progress. My creative phases like this tend to cycle like my bipolar, and this creative phase has come at about the same time that depressive cycle has hit; as a result, writing is just about the only thing I’m working on these days.

Then there are fallow periods. This is where writing doesn’t interest me at all. When I get up in the morning during these phases, I have plans for other things I’d like to do. Reading, watching movies, going out (even if alone), tending to housework which generally goes neglected when I’m focused on writing. These don’t happen very often, maybe once or twice a year, if that, but when they do, writing actually bores me.

So those are some of the various phases I go through with my writing. Some strike me more often than others (like those pesky downswings), but I’ve learned to work with them for the most part. Another writer may not go through these exact same phases, and others may have quite different cycles they go through with their writing; no two writers are exactly a like.

Not What I Expected

I can’t say as my July Nano has gotten off to a very good start. LOL

Well, I did write a little over 1700 words on the first, but I forgot to enter them until the second. Since then, I’ve not written anything on my July Camp project. Yesterday, I just didn’t care about writing. Today, I want to write, so I’ll probably get something done before midnight.

On top of that, the outline for TPOM3 (my July CampNano project) is still not complete. I’ve decided to worry about it if I get to that point before I hit 25k, my wordcount goal for Camp.

And then we’re having issues with one our cabin members. She posted, on July 1st, that she’d written 100,697 words, which is pretty well impossible, unless she didn’t eat or sleep. A couple of us have called her on it, so now we’re just waiting for her to hit the site and see what we’ve said and if it has any other effect aside from this person defending her wordcount. She’s gone on to update her wordcount (on the second) to a over 101k, probabaly purely so her wordcount comes out over her 100k goal when she validates.

And, on top of all this, I’m fiddling with a newshiny project that may be a trilogy or may be longer. It’s set on a new world, with a new magical system, and I’m not doing too much with it because I’m considering saving it for next years Two-Year Novel Course on the site—if Zette does it again.

Yes, I’ve dropped out of three of the bloody courses so far, but I’m hoping something will go through. I know little enough about this project that it’s got a pretty open field for me to run in. All I know are some basics of the magic system, that it’s set on basically our world but with different names for places and countries and cities and such, and that it’s a world government. I have the beginning (written) and the ending of the first book, and some notions on the end of the series, too. I can’t really say much more about it ’cause it’s still so early in development, and I don’t want to do too much before the 2yn course starts up.

It’s Almost July!

And I’m not prepared.

I haven’t been working on TPOM3’s outline enough to get it finished over the past few weeks due to the distraction of other stories. I think I have maybe five or ten more plot cards left to get for the outline, maybe a few more.

Today, I did a bit of work on the outline, though. I finally figured out the interim scenes between the numbered cards and those cards I’d “numbered” with ## to indicate that I didn’t know their precise placement in the outline. All I did know was that they came at some point after a few more points of conflict for my MCs, and I got those cards today. This enabled me to officially number those cards, and now the count stands at 90 cards. I expect at least five more cards to finish off the book, possibly ten, but not much more than that.

For prep, I have the scenes plot-pointed out in detail, so it should only be a matter of ensuring they’re logical for the characters and situation, then basically copying everything into official plot cards with any necessary adjustments made. After that, it’ll be a couple scenes to wrap up the entire trilogy, with a vague pointer toward what my characters are going to be doing over the interim between the ending of TPOM3 and the beginning of ALON1, which I’m very much looking forward to getting into . . . just not right away. I need to do prep work on it, which means naming a number of characters and writing up plot points. I also need to figure out where ALON1 ends, and it’ll likely be a bit of a cliffhanger like the ending of TPOM1 was, which I don’t mind. Sometimes I have all three of ALON’s books clearly in mind, other times, like now, I can grasp only the very beginning of the entire trilogy.

But for now, I’ll be happy if I’m able to complete TPOM3 during July Camp Nano.

TPOM3 in July

I’ve decided to finish up TPOM3 in July for Camp Nano. It’s the second run of the summer series of National Novel Writing Month, and TPOM3 is a project that desperately needs to be completed. It’s been on hiatus or otherwise languishing most of the time since October of last year, the last time I spent any substantial amount of days writing on it. I managed a bit in January, then again in May, but not nearly enough to get it done.

In going over the outline I have now, I learned that I have nearly the entire ending plotted out. I have to reorganize a bit—I think Géta gives in to something too easily—and fill in the blanks I have with more war-conflict scenes. Right now, the Bremmans surrender a bit too quickly. I want them to drag the conflict on (because they’re led by stupid commanders who don’t know what they’re doing) until they’re forced to give up because they keep losing battles (it gets much more difficult for them once the Imperial Army shows up) and they can’t send or receive messages due to the solidity of Imperial Mage shields around their camp. They’re expecting reinforcements, but those reinforcements get held up at the border by the contingent of the Imperial Army who was sent to prevent their arrival at the border post.

So I know what I need to do. I also have plot points written out for the ending, which help. I’ve got most of a month of time in which to get this endgame plotted out to my satisfaction. Things are looking good.

And, best of all, I’m excited about the prospect of finishing TPOM3.

There are Times I Wish . . .

. . . my creative mind would do what I want it to do, instead of haring off after whatever it wants to.

This is one of those times.

Back around the 9th-18th of May, I came out of a writing downswing with a focus on TPOM3. I spent those 9 days making important breakthroughs on the plot—the kind of breakthroughs that I’ve been waiting for, it seems like forever now. The last time I’d touched TPOM3 had been back at the end of January, when I was forced to give up working on it when I couldn’t force any of the breakthroughs I needed so much to come to the front of my mind.

Then, February 4th, my friend Bryce died. That threw me into a two-month writing downswing. I surfaced briefly in April, fiddled a little with Masks and a couple other projects, then dropped into another writing downswing until May 9th. When I came out of that with TPOM3 on my mind, I was happy, and even more excited when some different chats with friends brought me the breakthroughs I needed on it.

Then another—brief, thankfully—writing downswing hit.

I came out of this one slowly. Someone said something in chat, my mind flashed on a proverb about those who lie with dogs get up with fleas, and I had a brand spanking new character who didn’t seem to fit anywhere I’d already created. When I couldn’t figure out where Mutt fit, I gave up trying to force him into any mold and waited for him to talk to me.

I ended up writing the first scene that came to mind on the 24th. I had little prework done on the project, barely knew Mutt, and had no freaking idea where his story would go. Then, to my surprise, three more scenes followed the same day. I had all of a ten-minute break between the first and second scene before a major character spoke up.

Between the third and fourth scenes, I named characters, taking a naming “alphabet” from a list of, if I remember correctly, Norse names. I changed a couple aspects of it to give it its own look and started applying the list to everything I needed to. By yesterday, I had a rudimentary magical system, a number of characters named with brief bios, and plans for a number of religious factions—as well as enough plot points to tell me I have two, possibly three, books in this series, which as yet has no title.

And, as happy as I am that my mind is running on this new idea—I try to be grateful that I get creative ideas at all—I still wish I was focused on TPOM3.

What Happened to “Solid First Drafts”?

As some readers will recall, I felt compelled to write about how I typically write solid first drafts back on the 14th of November of last year. I waxed poetic on my writing history and basically boasted about my writing skills.

Masks shot that all to hell.

I wrote the first incomplete draft of Masks in November of 2014—last year, the very same month I wrote that bragging post about solid first drafts. Of course, at the time, I thought I was well on my way to creating that solid first draft I bragged about. Oh, I was aware I’d have to do a bit of work on it—that it wouldn’t be perfect—but I thought I could handle the challenge of writing my first mystery book without too much trouble. Yes, it was a challenge, but it wasn’t beyond my abilities.

Since then, Masks has been cut to a scene I find acceptable twice, then rewritten from that point. I’m pleased to be able to say the second cut happened at a scene that happened later in the manuscript than the first cut did, though not by much. Maybe two or three scenes after the initial cut was made.

The first time I cut Masks, I did what I had before, and started working on the plot cards as I wrote. Since I was doing this rewrite over the course of the first session of Camp NaNoWriMo, I had to meet a specific wordcount goal each day. Since I’d set my total goal at 25k, I had to get only about 834 words a day. If you check my stats, you’ll see how inconsistent I was, and part of that, particularly later on in the month, is because I was struggling with the story again.

Yes, again.

I had a vague notion what the problem was, but since I was on a deadline with words, I tried to push through and continue writing. Unfortunately, the outline wasn’t moving any more, and I ate that up after a few days of writing, so I had to stop and consider things. I was looking at failing Camp Nano if I tried to force things as I had been doing. So, after much thought, I forced myself to cut everything I was dissatisfied with and start from the new cut-point. As is obvious, I did meet the 25k word goal, and that’s because I saved my cut words since I had after all written them over the duration of the writing challenge.

I copied and saved the plot cards I was keeping (those I’d already written out as scenes) and did my 2-plot-cards-per-1-scene-written habit since I was still at the tail end of the Camp Nano challenge and still needed words. This time, I put more thought into my plot cards as I wrote them.

In the first manuscript, I lost track of a number of subplot threads that fed into the red herrings I needed to establish in the mystery. In the second version, I lost track of the conflict Eirni was supposed to keep dragging into his relationship with Yavaniel. Because I want both these elements, I need to take the plotting of Masks slower. I see that now. Rushing through like I do on my standard books won’t serve me well here; I’ve got to spend time on the background work—I actually have to list out all those plot points I usually try to keep in my head! And then I actually have to employ them in the WIP. I’m not used to doing things this way (though I must say since I started this habit with Masks, it’s serving me equally well with my non-mystery stuff).

Masks is on hiatus right now. My creative mind has decided it’s time to work on stuff from Chraest, and I’ve made a number of breakthroughs on TPOM3 the past couple weeks, so I’ve been working on that as time and attention allow (I’ve been rather out of focus since my surgery, but things are starting to settle into place like I want them to). I also seem to be in a bit of a writing downswing; it’s creative, to be sure, but I’m just not writing as much as I’d like, though I’m trying not to push myself.

Writer’s Block or Project Block

If you’ve followed my blog any length of time, you know I suffer from an unpredictable, periodical, and severe form of writers’ block, driven by my bipolar mood swings, which I call “writing downswings.” I happen to be in the middle of one of these right now, and while it hasn’t been completely dry creatively, it has pretty much wiped out my creative mind. What little progress I have made, on my 2yn15 project, has been stilted at best; I’m in the middle of a series of exercises meant to help me build the world of Mukhamutara, and it takes me days to figure out how to meet the expectations of the lessons given.

But this is, for me, inherently different from another, milder form of block which affects specific projects or, more frequently, all the projects on one particular world. I’ll call this Project Block, and I think it may be just as driven by my bipolar as my writing downswings are, which means it’s never going to be controllable.

Typically, in my writing, things go like this: My writing swings “up” out of a downswing with a focus on one particular world. Sometimes with a focus on one particular project in any given world. Regardless, this does not permit deviation from the particular world I’m focused on. So, if I come “up” out of a downswing focused on, say for example, TPOM3, I’m unable to work on anything besides other Chraest stories.

I may read every single stalled project I have set in each and every world I have a Scrivener file for. This includes even those Scrivener files where I’ve just copy-pasted old wips from years before that I plan on looking into completing at some later date. I will frequently even come up with ideas for the storyline, characters, or other things related to those stories, and I write these notes down. But I don’t actually write on these stories, or in these other worlds.

So, typically, my focus remains either TPOM3, or possibly some other Chrest project or two.

Rarely does my creative mind provide me ideas for plotting/writing on projects set in two different worlds; that’s generally when my writing is running a bit manic, and it’s more frustrating in some ways than it is helpful, because it makes it impossible for me to focus on one or another particular project enough to make decent progress on anything at all.

Much of the time (though not all), I’m happy with my creative mind’s willingness to focus on one particular project or a number of them set on one particular world. That’s when I make the most progress on anything. So, for the most part, Project Block is helpful. There are times when it isn’t, but those are rare, and that’s typically when I have the desire to write, but no ideas for plotting or handling plotted out scenes, and this is something I can’t get moving even if I move to a project I happen to be pantsing for the most part (I do have a project or two for which I have no outlines—but they usually have notes and other background work).

The frustrating thing is when my Project Block migrates from world to world. This happens pretty frequently—sometimes even more frequently than I post about on Twitter or here on my blog. I’ll be happily writing on one or more projects on a given world, then, over a number of days, I’ll lose creative focus, then come out of the fugue with a focus on another world.

I’ll be honest here. I really wish I could be like those writers who can focus on one project from beginning to end before moving on to something else. I’d probably have a lot more books done if I could do that. And I have tried to do that. More than once. Each and every time, I ended up hating my writing, and I stopped forcing the words so I wouldn’t drive myself into depression. I do not want to be depressed and in despair over my fantasy writing. It’s my first love in writing, and the work I really want to make work, so I’ve learned to go with the flow. If my creative mind doesn’t want to work on something, I don’t force it. I know I’ll eventually come back to it, and I’ve learned to accept that.

Fear of Finishing

When my creative mind wakes up again, the WIP I’d most like to focus on is TPOM3. I stopped working on it a while back for a few reasons: 1) I couldn’t figure out how to carry on the outline from the card where it stops; 2) my creative mind decided to focus on something else; and 3) I’m afraid to finish it.

I go through this fear at some point with all my writing. Sometimes it stalls me longer than it does other times. With some stories, I’m able to power through; this works best with my short stories, especially since I tend to enjoy seeing how they end. While I enjoy seeing how my longer works end also, I also start to balk at completing them. The longer the project, the more I balk.

Someone suggested I may be afraid of completing my longer WIPs because I’m afraid I’ll miss the characters—writing about them, that is. I don’t think this is the case with TPOM3. This is the culmination of only one particular story I want to tell about Asthané and Géta. I even already know how I want to open the next book, A Life of Note I: Antiphons.

The Power of Music is the absolute longest project I’ve ever worked on—at least, up to this point in my writing life. I expect ALON to be longer, and Melodies of War to be even longer. These are epic stories, though I don’t think they precisely follow epic fantasy’s “rules.” Quite frankly, I don’t care about whatever rules I may be breaking.

I think at least part of the reason why I’m afraid to complete TPOM3 is because it’ll mean I can succeed as a writer. This will be the first major project I’ve ever completed from any genre of writing. It also means that I’ll have to make good on the “promises” of writing ALON and MOW, and, right now, I’m not sure I can do that. There’s a part of me which cringes at the idea of completing anything more than TPOM3, even though that alone isn’t the entire story of Asthané and Géta. Géta has much more to do magically speaking, and Asthané has a lot of learning to do. I also want to see them and their Empire through the major conflict they’re going to have with Ghulia later on. They have much, much more to say than what I could possibly fit in TPOM.

I think the plot card which I stopped outlining with is a turning-point, though. Both for my story and the characters in it as well as for me. Back in November, I started to get inklings of a way to deal with the block, and those vague notions came stronger when I recently read through the plot cards I have. I’m currently in the middle of a writing downswing, but it’s been mild, and I’ve been getting clearer ideas for my MCs’ lives onward from the ending of TPOM3 than I’ve had before now.

All this is making me anxious to finish TPOM, and hopefully I’ll find the courage to do so. Maybe holding up starting on ALON will help me. Maybe this writing downswing will send me into a writing upswing which will enable me to blast through my fear to complete TPOM. I don’t know. All I do know is that I want to complete TPOM so I can start on ALON.

TPOM3’s Final Confrontation

It’s always a great feeling when I solve a plot issue.

The one I’ve been working on for the past few months is the final confrontation between Géta and Enemy Mage in TPOM3. Pretty much since beginning TPOM, I’ve known I want Géta and his enemy to have a little private face-off all on their own. Unfortunately, until recently, I hadn’t seen a way to get that without taking the plot of the story into unbelievable events.

My original concept? Have Géta and Enemy Mage face each other under shields between their respective fighting forces. Not only was this unbelievable, it defied logistics. If Géta steps out of protection, he’ll be captured, no matter how powerful the shields protecting him are. If Enemy Mage dares enter the fortified area of the Temple post, Géta’s people wouldn’t hesitate to incarcerate him. So, that was a no-go.

Worst part of it? Without figuring out the final confrontation, I didn’t know the ending to the story—essentially, where on an emotional level Géta finished the story, and I needed that in order to help me decide when/where/how to begin ALON’s outline.

But!

I have figured out the final confrontation. I know now pretty much how things will go, so now I can finish the outline and complete TPOM. This pleases me a great deal. While I do have great faith in my ability to complete stories I start when I’m writing this kind of fiction, I was wondering how long it would take me to work through this problem, and I feel, if not for the help of Jennifer Amriss, I wouldn’t have come up with this brilliant solution at all.

I wasn’t able to do anything with my writing yesterday because I had an afternoon appointment for cancer stuff (which I’ll write about in the next two or three weeks) and had to go to bed early for more cancer stuff this morning, but today I’ll have plenty of time to get to work on TPOM3’s outline. Perhaps even write a scene or two. It’s so wonderful to see the ending!

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