Writing Journal 12.8.2021: A pretty successful week, but I’m hoping to wrap some projects up

[PHOTO NOTE: A shot of my old home office in Muscatine. Gone from there but not forgotten, of course.]

I got a bit of writing done this week.

Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement.

If I was a cocky person, I’d be doing the literary version of grinning from ear to ear, because I’ve had, statistically, my best week of writing since (checking my journal) two different weeks in July. Not bad at all.

Of course, I could just get a brain hiccup or decide to procrastinate and everything drops back down to nearly nothing, as has happened this year. But, hope springs eternal as well.

I’m planning on trying to write a bit more during this month in particular to prevent a slump from my previous year’s output. Whether I have enough time to do that in just less than 30 days is another issue totally. But, if I don’t succeed, at least I might start up momentum for a record-breaking 2022.

Anyways, here’s my stats from last week. Hope everyone who writes has a good writing week, too. As for them and for everyone else, stay safe.

Writing statistics for the week ending 12.4.2021:
+5,576 words written.
Days writing: 5 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 0 of 7 for 0 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 5 of 7 days.

Quick Celebration And An Apology

Hi, just a quick couple of things.

  • I was just looking at the site and I realized that at some point I had crossed the 400-post mark on this blog. Of course, more than a few of those were brief, pithy little posts like this one, but still, that is something of a feat. Good on me for actually sticking with a writing blog longer than just a few months. So, I reformatted one of the Pexel pictures and you now see it as the featured photo for this post.
  • For the first time in at least a few weeks, I’m not going going to be able to post a “content rich” blog post on the weekend. Part of that was going out of town for at least a good portion of one of those days, and the other was some of those blogs mushroomed into more than what I was expecting, and then I got started too late on one. Sorry about that, but people who have been reading this before are likely used to it.
  • I have been working on those blogs, and I think that you might be able to get one on Friday and one on Saturday without many problems. Now I’ll see whether I actually stick to that or I procrastinate again, ha ha.
  • Anyway, hope everyone is doing great. I’ll be back in a little while.

Writing Journal 12.1.2021: Good end to November

[PHOTO NOTE – Just a shot of one of my old desks. Feeling nostalgic, just a bit.

This week I’m feeling good. Not too much to it but I restarted a small story I had ideas for a long time and I didn’t slow down. That’s always good news.

There’s times to analyze how productive I’ve been, and there are times when I just need to enjoy what I accomplished. Now is one of those latter times.

Now I have to think about a bloody blog about The Wheel of Time since I promised you guys something a couple days back. That might take a few days, but I’ll start getting on that, too. Both the book and the series are becoming a greater interest of mine.

Anyway, here are the stats, and they are a sight better than last week’s. I’d love to say that I’ll keep up the pace, but many of you writers out there know how tough that can be.

All you writers keep writing, and every one of you keep safe. It can get weird out there.

Writing statistics for the week ending 11.27.2021:
+5,368 words written.
Days writing: 6 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 2 of 7 for 45 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 5 of 7 days.

Medieval Medley: First thoughts about The Wheel of Time, adaptations, and related stuff that I don’t want to write about separately (Part 1 because this is getting late and long)

All right, what to talk about tonight? Since I really haven’t dug back into Substack this holiday week, I might as well talk about what I have had on my mind, and most of that had centered around my growing interest in fantasy fiction. So, let’s dance around that for a while.

A Reading List

I probably mentioned it before, but before diving in to this bigger fantasy project, I’ve been taking a deeper dive into some of the fantasy I had read as a kid and getting into some books I thought were long overdue. I reread The High King by Lloyd Alexander (which held up far better than my middle-school memories had recalled) and started diving into The Lord of The Rings. Of the latter series, I’ve been pretty impressed, but I got started on it back when schools closed down back in the spring of last year. Sadly, I’ve been stuck somewhere in Part Two of The Fellowship of The Ring and always don’t find time to continue that. I even started to to a video review of it, but it’s been a long time since I posted one of those. I’m wondering if I can take those reviews, turn them into audio files, and convert them into this thing that right now is more of an experiment than a podcast.

One of the things I’m finding out about myself is that I find it tough to multitask, especially when I’m trying to fit in a full-time job on top of things.

Anyway, back to books. Over the past year, I’ve been casting around for another series to dive into, something more than my dips into Tolkien, GRRM, and Alexander. On the Reddit boards and some other places where books and fantasy were spoken of, I kept hearing about a massive fantasy series that seemed to loom over nearly everything else out there. It came up far too often for me to be a coincidence, or something that could just be ignored. That was the series The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.

The Wheel of Time

I’m going to be honest with you, I had no idea about this series, really, until last year. I had no idea until last month that they were planning to filming a television adaptation of the series.

For those not aware of such things, writing fantasy can be more than a little bit of a time commitment. As it turns out, Robert Jordan (real name James Oliver Rigney Jr.) had been planning this little tale for a while. He began planning and sketching out the series in 1984, back when I was still in elementary school. He actually published the first book Eye of the World (well, I guess his publishing company did that) in 1990. That was when I was in high school. By the time he died in 2007, after publishing 11 books and a prequel for just that series along, I was well into my 30’s and the father of two elementary kids. He spent time on his death bed getting things ready for another author, Brandon Sanderson, to continue on with the series. Jordan was thinking that it was going to be one more book to wrap up this epic story. That book expanded into three books and took Sanderson about five years to get done. But it did get done, 14 volumes of 4.4 million words, more than any other mainstream fantasy series out there at the moment.

As you can tell, fantasy can be a bit of a time sink.

That’s to be expected, honestly. You have to build a world, decide what past societies and cultures might be an influence, construct the very shape of your physical setting, design such things as magical systems, religions, and perhaps whole new species of beings. There’s all of that, and you have to build all of the regular stuff like characters, plots, themes, and all the like. It’s quite like science fiction in that way, actually.

So, on top of trying to dip my toe into self-publishing, figuring out how to reach out to prospective audiences, and all these other items, along with actually continuing to write fiction and this blog, I’m now going to try and fit this obsession into my life.

Like with Jordan’s work, this might take a while.

Sooo, this is my status as of now. I have purchased the e-book version of Eye of the World. (There’s no way I’d be able to fit in even 14 paperbacks in what I have for book storage.) It turns out my family already has Amazon Prime, so I’ve got access to the new television series as well.

As a result, I might start talking about my impressions of the book and the series, and get into a little bit about how I consume the books and television that I like. It might not exactly be a review, it might be more than a blog, and like the whole Wheel of Time series, it might take a little while to get through. The subject of spoilers might come up as well.

Anyway, that’s where I’m going to leave it for now. We’ll pick this up again soon. Take care, everyone.

Writing Journal 11.24.2021: Always wanting to do better

I’m always wanting to improve on my numbers, so it’s not a surprise that I’m not really happy with the possibility that I am not going to have as productive of a 2021 as I did previously. And, with the fact that we only have about six and a half weeks left to really kick it into 12th gear, that seems more likely.

However, this is a long-haul situation. I’m always looking for little victories as they come along. I try and fight entropy and procrastination all along the way. This week might have been another little victory.

Was it a perfect week, where I meet my writing quota every day and then some? No, it’s not that. But it is better than what I had the previous week, if you compare the numbers. So, there is that.

Anyway, last week’s numbers are below. Maybe with the Thanksgiving break, I can get a good amount of writing in before I’m done… and a little bit of research into my self-publishing items. (Fun fact – I hit up ex-New York Times columnist and current Oregon governor candidate Nicholas Kristof on Facebook about the Substack platform and what sort of success he’s been having with it. Fun times.)

Writing statistics for the week ending 11.20.2021:
+3,582 words written.
Days writing: 4 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 1 of 7 for 15 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 4 of 7 days.

Mucking With Canva: A sort of review

In the interest of writing something about writing that has some interest to readers… I’ve been mucking around with Canva with the idea of maybe designing my own book covers. I’d heard a bit about the program and decided to see if it was going to be ridiculously difficult.

I was never what I would call a visual artist. My drawing ability was primitive at best, as was any sculpting ability. I would up turning into a decent photographer, but I have to admit that my father is better than me at it.

Computer programs have become my friend when it comes to art. I’ve had some past success with Wonderdraft to help draw maps for possible future fantasy projects, so I won’t have to have someone to do that for me. I always thought maps helped make those books, so that was nice to see.

I have Canva both on my laptop and phone for my use. So far, I have been using the mobile app more because it’s pretty easy for me to just whip it out and begin tinkering around with it.

Canva allows you to make a wide variety of projects for either digital media (like wallpapers, Facebook covers, etc.) or print products (fliers, postcards, book covers). There are plenty of options on background, coloring, design elements, and other items out there. I just spent what I thought was going to be a few minutes whipping up a quick logo for a fictional soccer club and it took me 30 minutes to do so not because it was a difficult thing to do, but I was overwhelmed by the choices I had and all the options there were.

Mostly, however, I’m planning on using it for book covers. Again, you can spend forever trying on different fonts and pictures. I’m thinking that photos can go over some of the covers… or maybe I just want some other abstract graphics that might work out easier.

One of the things I haven’t figured out with this yet is if it allows me to design book dust covers, or if I’m going to have to jury-rig something like making most of one page white for me to do that. That would be fairly simple, although I’d be interested to see what sort of detail I’d have to put in it.

I eventually went for the Canva Pro setup, which makes sense since it costs about the same as a decent meal out one night a month ($14 or so). You have a lot more access to a wider variety of materials and templates out there, so there’s that.

I think one bit of evidence that I’m starting to like this program is that I spent a whole hour messing around with it regarding this new book jacket. I don’t know if I would ever design a book cover with mo help, but this might give me some options. I’m giving it a tentative five of five stars (I reserve the right to drop it to four stars if something doesn’t work out on me saving files, but so far so good.)

I’ll try not to make you wait for this so late on Sunday I promihahahah who am I kidding this will happen again.

Anyway, see you later this week. Take care of yourselves, everyone.

Writing Journal 11.16.2021: Inconsistent (or not? No, inconsistent).

[PHOTO NOTE: Pexels photos wouldn’t bring up any images for “Inconsistent,” so today’s featured photo was the first image that popped up for “erratic.” You’re welcome.]

At first thought, when I was checking the statistics for last week, I was thinking that I hadn’t written much of anything. There were very few times that I felt that I had met my writing goals.

I think I finally had a breakthrough, once again, when I decided to not write a scene that I just didn’t feel good about or it would be more of the same, and I was able to get on with the section of writing that I finally wanted to accomplish. I’ve given the advice before on this blog, and it seems so super simple, not writing stuff. But it makes sense to me, and it seems to have worked for me.

I’ll be honest, there are some times when I am watching a movie where there’s something going on that’s so uncomfortable, I don’t even want to be watching it. There’s times when I am trying to gear myself up to write a scene that I think is important, but I suddenly realize I have no interest in writing it or trying to picture it. That’s when I realize that if it’s not a scene I’m into, it’s likely not a scene that anyone will be into. So, instead of getting stuck on a scene I thought I had to have at first, I just move on to the next thing. It’s a really good way to prevent me from getting too wordy in a manuscript, that’s for sure.

Otherwise, I’m pretty much plugging along as normal. I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the path I’m on is going to be the right one (self-publishing). I’ll likely be making a post on that soon.

As for last week’s statistics… they actually were about a couple hundred more than last week, but I only counted like three days that I met my daily quota. Like the title says, I’m hoping for more consistency.

Anyway, here’s the stats. Take care of yourselves out there.

Writing statistics for the week ending 11.14.2021:
+2,504 words written.
Days writing: 6 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 0 of 7 for 0 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 3 of 7 days.

A Writer’s Biography, Volume III, Part 7: How Much Are Dreams Worth? A Consideration.

I was going to try and do a review of one of the publishing/writing/designing tools that I’ve been doing research on for the past few weeks. I still might do that later. However, I decided I wanted to talk about what happened with me this week.

In case you didn’t know, my current efforts to get published are by no means the first. I once managed to secure the services of an agent for a now long-forgotten young adult book. $120 and a year later, if I recall correctly, I told her thanks for her efforts, whatever those might be, and we parted ways.

Then there has been the recent publication of my book, The Holy Fool. I have nothing but thanks to them for giving me a chance to get published, and even if I’m not the biggest bestseller, at least I got farther than I have before.

During my recent research into self-publishing and related systems, I came across the radar of a company that provides services to self-publishing authors. I will not name this company here. Suffice it to say that through my research and investigation of the company, I was convinced that they were a legitimate company that truly believed that they could provide resources that that could turn me into a better-known author that could make a living at writing.

It was because of that I found myself on the phone last Friday evening with a representative of this company to discuss the plans I had for a possible series based on a project I have already written.

The discussion was quite amicable, informative, and to the point. During our conversation, it was clear that he had researched my book and its success as far as being widely known was, to be honest, extremely modest. I established that I knew little of book cover design and also little of search engine optimization and keyword usage. He gave me a couple pieces of advice and some complimentary research materials.

Eventually, it came down to cost. It always does underneath these circumstances, when a company approaches a person rather than the other way around. In this case, $6,000 for full services, or perhaps three payments of $2,400 every three months. After a few pleasantries and sincere thanks, we ended the call.

What sort of price do you put on a dream? How do you justify spending that amount of money on something when, until very recently, being able to scrape together just $1,000 on short notice without resorting to a loan was not a guarantee.

“There’s got to be a less expensive way to do all that,” was the thought of my wife Laura after the meeting. I’ve stayed married for 25-plus years because I tend more often than not to listen to my wife.

And that wasn’t even the biggest amount I would have paid to a publishing company. Another company that will not be named seriously quoted me a number of $20,000 for a full service package. Again, however, how do I justify investing that much into my art when I have a life and family to maintain?

That’s not even touching on how this conversation made me think about the difference between writing as a business and writing for writing’s sake. If my experience with fan fiction has taught me anything, it’s that I can find artistic validation and satisfaction totally absent a profit motive. (That question might be worth its own entry.)

So, anyway, I’m back to where I was, investigating future possibilities. Might my path be perfect and lead to fortune and fame? It might not. However, it will likely be something that I can manage to afford, and I am hoping it will be totally mine.

Writing Journal 11.10.2021: Just ugh…

[PHOTO NOTE: I was trying to find a free Pexels photo that described how I thought about my production last week, and this was what I got when I typed “Head Desk” in the search.]

“Ugh” is one of my wife’s favorite phrases, especially when her day is not going especially well. I’ve always admired the word for its mix of expressiveness and simplicity. After the week of writing I had, I’m thinking that ugh is pretty much all I can do as I stare at the numbers. This is not the way to successfully breaking a losing streak. It’s not the way to try and turn things around.

So, I’m going to accept that last week just wasn’t a good week and knock the next one out of the park. That’s all I’ll say right now.

Here’s the stats. I hope next week is better.

Writing statistics for the week ending 11.6.2021:
+2,217 words written.
Days writing: 4 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 0 of 7 for 0 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 2 of 7 days.