A Step Or Two Forward And A Step Back

Decided to type this out on my phone because it takes me a bit to get upstairs and we’ve got trick or treaters in our modest south central Iowa town.

Ahead of time, I want to apologize for these past few non-journal posts being a bit talkative about me just experimenting with stuff. However, I guess that’s better than me just doing my journals, so… I think I’m improving? It’s a long process.

Looking back a week ago, I set myself a few goals to try and accomplish. So, I figured that I might as well look back and see how well I accomplished them (since I’m low on ideas at the moment, lol).

1. Continue to set up the email list, especially this “landing page.”

Well, I certainly worked at that. If a few of you noticed how the look of the site was changing a bit. Part of that was trying to see if I could get something set up with that email list.

However, I wasn’t able to quite get it set up. Apparently the easy way to do this would be to sign up for something that would cost me $25 a month rather than $8 a month, and the question becomes, how much do you spend on something that is a bit more than a hobby but not quite a business.

It’s a good question… but also not a question that I need to answer right away. I might want to experiment with a couple other mail clients other than ConvertKit. (You can always email me over at jasonliegois@liegois.media if you wish).

2. Look into Canva. I suck at designing things.

Signed up for Canva and also got the app. I figured why not, since I’m not an artist and I don’t know anything about Photoshop. (How much does that cost nowadays anyway? Maybe I need to check into that). Anyway, if Chuck Tingle manages to design his own covers it might be easier for me to try my hand at it if I’m seriously considering trying to self-publish. They have a “prime” paid membership, and it might be worth it if I can do some decent work with it.

3. Set up a query letter for my new project.

Actually, I might have already done this, but I might have misplaced that/didn’t look around for that. I’m vowing to do that tonight.

4. Get more writing done.

Whether I got that done this week, well… I’ll have to check out the journal on that to be sure. But, I think I’ll do better this weekend than last weekend, at least. And I got this post out late Saturday night rather than late Sunday night, so that’s a minor victory. If I manage to post early Saturday evening I might be starting a trend.

Well, I think some additional progress on projects 1-3 are in order. Plus, I’m planning to look into Substack and/or Gumroad.

Publishing the follow up post to this post before 8 pm next Saturday might be a good goal too. 😉

Well, I Accomplished A Little Something This Week (The Positives Of Limited Goals)

Once again, I’m writing this blog post on my phone because I am trying to get more than one thing done at the same time. In this case, I’m trying to get at least one round of grading done for my students to at least get some class work done ✅ and off the checklist for me. I like to think I don’t try and wear myself out mentally during the course of a school year, but I truly have to admit that a good portion of the real reason for this is that when I do try to get schoolwork done outside of school, I tend to procrastinate about it even worse than when I’m writing. I’m still doing all right keeping up with things, however.

When I finally put together Wednesday’s writing journal entry, I get the impression that the word count and the stats will not be kind to me. I have an idea 💡 as to why that is, but I think I will save that general observation for the actual entry.

The fact that I’m getting this entry out tonight means that I accomplished one of my very modest goals I set last week. As I said at the time, I tend to do better when I set modest goals and attempt to reach them rather than try and accomplish a lot of goals or large goals all at once. I try to break up big goals into different parts. I also have found that taking on goals a couple of them at a time rather than several at once tends to help me with being able to complete them.

I did get some research accomplished regarding getting an email list set up. I read some articles about the process written by Jeff Goins and other authors. (By the way, this quote from him recently fit my mood.) From that research, I think I will have to look up the program ConvertKit for that process. I also wound up getting signed up for Reedsy as well, so I might be able to meet fellow creatives there and get future advice as well.

So, that will be another program I will be having to research. Currently, I’ve got notes to check out Substack, Campfire Blaze, Canva, Gumroad, Netgalley, and Booksirens. I’m not going to get to all of those in a single week. Small steps, right? (Once I have a chance to check out each of them, those would be some easy material for blog posts.)

I did not manage to write that extra article this weekend that I wanted to do. My plan is to get started on putting that together now with the idea of posting it next weekend. (I have the advantage of knowing what I want to write that article about.)

All right, I feel good about this tonight. Hope your Sunday went well too.

Writing Journal 8.25.2019: School’s in session

Today is actually the last day of summer vacation before I begin teaching again. As I mentioned before, it is likely that this will be my last year at the district I’ve been teaching at since last year.

One of the things that I’ve noticed about myself (and if I might be repeating myself from earlier in this blog, my apologies), is that uncertainty is not something that I’m comfortable at all with. Not knowing how things are going to be for you six to 12 months out can be a highly stressful situation for people, and I’ve found that it’s a highly stressful thing for me.

It’s a situation that has been ongoing for three years due to several factors, including both my and my wife’s work, other professional prospects, and the impending high school graduation of my two kids.

Right now I’m feeling more stable than I have in a while. My son’s graduated and is moving on (though still in the house until he finishes trade school) and my daughter has one last year left in high school. She’s in the process of figuring out which of two universities to go to after being accepted by both of them.

So, I think I know what’s going to happen in the next year, and pretty much all of it I’m expecting to be good. But it goes back to my old journalism days, this feeling. You never can say with 100 percent certainty that you have a story done until you turn in all of the text and photos, have everything revised and edited, and send the lot of it in some sort of coherent organization down to the printers and/or the servers. It’s not in hand until it’s in hand.

How much all of this is going to have an influence on my writing is an open question. Hopefully, it will not be a significant factor. I never got anyone who ever said that they could only write if they were going through depression or a bad time, that negative emotions were the key to their creativity. In my case, whenever I get into one of those moods, all my mind wants to do is spin its wheels and distract itself by any means possible.

So, I am going to take the advice of my wife to keep positive, finish strong, and not beat myself up over every little thing. I’m hoping that time moves faster as it tends to do the older I get and that soon it will be time for me and my wife to live in the same place.

Well, that’s usually way more personal than I usually get on this blog, but maybe I needed to get into it tonight. I’ll do a quick mention of the projects and rundown the stats for this week. (Project details here.)

  • I have finished up Project S. I’ve now posted it on two fanfiction sites and am checking out some of the feedback. Right now I’m leaning toward actually sharing a link on here, but I’m not sure. I want to produce occasional content, but I could see fanfiction becoming a hobby and something that could spark my imagination in some ways.
  • Leaning toward getting Project C ready to submit for a poetry contest. I have no idea what chances I will have of making things work. But, I’m interested in seeing what might come of it, if anything.
  • Yeah, I know I set some goals for some of my other projects. We’ll see how that works out in the next few weeks.

Writing stats!

+410 words written.

Days writing: 1 of 7.

Days revising/planning: 7 of 7 for  360 total minutes.

Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 7 of 7 days.

Eh, I’ve seen a lot worse. I’ll save the analysis for later.

Thanks for checking in, by the way. See you soon.

Also, the photo for this entry is another shot of my library collection. I think I might keep doing this for a while. Shout out if you see some favorites.

Writing Journal, 3.24.2019: In a rut and planning to write my way out of it

So, I’m not feeling too good about the week that I’ve had, writing-wise. It’s not the worst I’ve had in a statistical sense, but it’s not great, either.

+742 words written.

Days writing: 1 of 7.

Days revising: 4 of 7 for 120 total minutes.

Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 4 of 7 days.

There might be a few extra words not counted there from as a result of some revising (only from totally new wording and scenes) and some rough draft poems that I have written down on paper but not yet transferred to electronic storage.

I have to say that part of my lack of recent success (or relative lack of success) has been my focus during the weekends. I think there might be a way to focus on this in a way that reduces the number of distractions on those weekends where I let my mind drift rather than let it get out and play among the characters and scenes that I’m creating.

Somehow, I keep forgetting that writing can be just as much of an escape than all of the other stuff. I should say sorry for being a bit vague; I want to avoid getting too much into my personal life in these pages. What I will say, however, is that I think it is always valuable to take stock of yourself, and your behaviors, especially those that take place during your leisure time. There are many of those sorts of behaviors that can be a net positive for yourself, either creatively or in adding to your general physical or mental health. There’s also those behaviors that allow you to turn off your mind, allow yourself to just idle physically, mentally, or otherwise. I need to work, as always, at increasing the former kind of activity and reducing the latter. I hope to have better success at that.

On a tangent unrelated to that but related to my journal, I’m wondering if I also need to take some other activities into account. When I write down poems that I’ve written down on paper, shouldn’t that count as revising time? Oftentimes, I don’t write it down exactly the way I wrote it down on the paper, so isn’t that a revision? If I’m beta-reading someone else’s work, wouldn’t that also count as revising time? (Any readers who want to comment or message me with their thoughts, please feel free to do so.)

Here’s the update on my projects:

  • Project A: I’ve begun researching Writer’s Market and a couple of other possibilities. Current consensus seems to be that the cost of Writer’s Market is worth it, although there are some other possibilities. I’ll continue that soon.
    Not much tinkering with the project itself, although I am wondering if I need to give it a comprehensive proofreading edit before I start shopping it around. Most likely it will be the case.
  • Project B: Some revisions this week, not a massive amount. I need to pick up the pace on this.
  • Project C: I have another poem or two I have been working on this week. I need to get some more transcribed and get a handle at how many more of these I need to get done. It might be something of a race, but I am excited by the challenge.

Again, here are my projected deadlines for those projects (an attempt by me to keep myself accountable for all of this).

  • Project A, begin querying agents and publishers: Sometime in early-mid summer 2019.
  • Project B, finish major redrafting of the rough draft (more of a second rough draft rather than a more focused revision): End of summer 2019.
  • Project C, finishing creating rough draft poems: End of 2019.

I plan to put out a quick mid-week post reminding everyone of my upcoming events, because one of those will go down on Saturday. If you’re around the Muscatine area Saturday, I hope you can make it out.

That’s about it for now. I’ll be back here later.

[PHOTO NOTE: We’re having a lot of flooding around our area rivers here in Iowa, and this was the first image that popped up when I searched for “river flooding.”]

Writing Journal 3.17.2019: Getting back to it and on with it

So, I had a little bit better luck with writing this week. There was one time this week I was at a friend’s house to see one of the presidential candidates that swarm through Iowa every four years. I was trapped in a kitchen nook by the swarm of people and national media, and I heard him speak, but I didn’t see him. I wound up polishing off two poems while I was standing around there, so that was a success.

Here’s the stats for people who care:

+1,526 words written.

Days writing: 3 of 7.

Days revising: 5 of 7 for 135 total minutes.

Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 5 of 7 days.

I’ve got some appearances coming up if you want to see me out and about and talking about writing and my book, The Holy Fool, so don’t forget those. I’ll probably send out some additional reminders on my Facebook and Twitter pages, too.

OK, a quick briefing on what I’ve got going on:

  • Project A: Not really anything in the realm of revisions. The subscription to Writer’s Market might be around $39.95 or something annually, but I’m going to have to think about that. There are many different sources out there for finding agents and publishers, so I’ll have to do a bit of searching around. If anyone wants to mention any resources to me in the comments or to me directly, I’d love to hear it.
  • Project B: Maybe moving forward in this, totally recreating a scene for the book. Now that I think about it, I will be reviewing and cutting out so much of this rough draft that I have to properly call this the second rough draft of the project. Whatever it is, I think I will still be on track for this.
  • Project C: Probably made the most progress on this one. I created two new poems this week and have already finished typing out all but the most recently created ones. I honestly think I have a long way to go with this – I’ll likely need twice as many poems that I have on hand currently. However, I’m feeling ambitious.

And, for myself and for the readers, I’m putting my current deadlines for all of these projects here to keep both me and you in the loop.

  • Project A, begin querying agents and publishers: Sometime in early-mid summer 2019.
  • Project B, finish major redrafting of the rough draft (more of a second rough draft rather than a more focused revision): End of summer 2019.
  • Project C, finishing creating rough draft poems: End of 2019.

That’s all for now. Not sure if I will have a midweek post, but I am sneaking up on the 200th post on this blog, so I’ll likely do a special one for that when it comes along.

[PHOTO NOTE: We had one (last?) snow of the season, so I figured I’d document it.]

Writing Journal 2.24.2019: Getting some new writing done as February winds down

This week was a good change of pace for me. For the first time in a while, I’ve been getting more new writing done than revising. Not that there’s anything wrong with revising, but it’s good to get new material in the mix, too.

Here’s the numbers, and looking at my past journals this year, this was the most productive writing week for word count in the year so far.

+3,238 words written.

Days writing: 7 of 7.

Days revising: 4 of 7 for 105 total minutes.

Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of revisions): 6 of 7 days.

To be honest, I would have met my daily quotas every day this week if it was not for the fact that I was out of town for the majority of Saturday. However, I was attending one of my daughter’s show choir competitions for the first time, and I think me being there was a pleasant surprise.

OK, I’ll update you on the projects.

  • Project A: not too much change from last week. I need to start the hunt for someone to possibly take this on (agents/publishers). I think the plan for me should be to get with Writer’s Market and look into some possibilities. Since the main character is LGBTQ, I might consider publishers who specialize in LGBTQ themes.
  • Project B: Stronger than I initially thought – got quite a bit of work done on this. The draft is now over 50,000, but I want to keep it short and lean. I don’t feel like this book should get over 60,000 words. Since there’s a lot of material I’m considering deleting, I don’t think this will be much of an issue. My timetable on this is 2-3 months from now; I’ll only know later if this was too ambitious or not.
  • Project C: I’m really getting into this. I’ve come up with 2 1/2 poems this week and I think I have the potential to get through several more. Right now I am not considering revisions on these – I’m just trying to put together enough to make a proper collection that might be tied together by a few themes, at least with the new material. I am still thinking six months from now I’ll be wrapped up with a first draft, but I have no idea.

That’s it with the writing; I think I will do a mid-week post on all of the other writing-related activity going on with me then.

About Characters, And The New One I’m Writing About

If you’re going to tell a story, you’re going to have to have someone interesting to talk about.


That would be probably the First Law in dealing with characters in fiction, if I were so inclined to try my hand at creating my own version of On Writing. I’m not planning on that – even though this blog could be seen as a limited attempt to do that – but I do believe in the statement on top. Throughout the years, the more and more people I have met, the more I’ve noticed that a good number of them are too limited as humans to be truly compelling. It’s all very good to stay true to life, but to make people want to pick up your story, you have to make it about people who will attract readers’ fascination. To be frank, those characters have to be compelling for the sake of the author, because you’ll be stuck with them for hours and hours as you try to tell their story.

When I started writing, I tended to write main characters that had very clear parallels to me. Every MC is like that to some extent, but there were a few of those characters that were much too much like myself. Sometimes that has worked out, and sometimes it flopped.

The MC in The Holy Fool was a step forward – someone like me, but a larger personality in many ways, perhaps an alternate history version of me. He was a freer version of myself, someone who be more daring, more risk-taking – definitely more successful than I was as a journalist, due to differences in ambition, life-choices, and luck.

But this guy I’ve been writing about, during the past few months, the guy who’s been rattling around in my head for the past few years – this guy is totally different.

To keep some of my writing close to the vest, I’m going to refer to the MC for The American 9 as D. For as long as I’ve been a soccer fan, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of an American player who could one of the best players in the entire world, a guy who could be on the same level of a Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. The more I started thinking about what type of person it would take to be that good, the more D. started growing in my head.

He’s grown into someone far beyond my own experience. As much as I loved soccer as a kid, I was never a natural athlete, I never had those experiences. Now I’m writing about someone who is the son of a legendary athlete. I never had that experience, either, but I’ve read enough about such families to be able to picture what it might be like.

I’m normally a pretty calm guy; D. is someone for whom it seems like his life is one big fight – fighting for who he considers are his people, and fighting against those who he considers (with reason) to be his enemies. I’m heterosexual and monogamous; D. is bisexual and polyamorous, although as a teenager he is keeping that part of his life out of the public eye. He’s far more charismatic than I think I ever could be, and probably more handsome.

What I do like about D. is his sense of right and wrong. I love the fact of someone who has been given so much and yet has enough empathy to recognize his privilege and how it can be used for good. I like his love for his family, friends, and lovers, and his willingness to do anything to take care of them.

Every time I sit down to write something about him, I want to find out how he’s going to react, what he’s going to say. If I’m wondering that, I have to think others will, too. I want to tell a story, but I want to have an audience, as well.

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: The pic I used for today’s post comes from a photographer I found out about from the blog In Bed With Maradona. If you are massively into football ⚽️ culture, you need to check it out. The photographer’s name’s Jurgen Vantomme and he does some great stuff. This comes courtesy of this collection, and you can check his web site out here.]

My Philosophy About Plot

The more I read in On Writing, I was fascinated by Stephen King’s vision of writing – putting interesting characters into fascinating situations. Plot was something that evolves as you put the characters through your situations, not something that you spent hours and hours outlining what will happen in your story.

That was not something I ever expected to read. I always had the impression that writers did spend hours and hours of time sketching out events, plot twists, and shocking endings. They used sticky notes or 3×5 cards like old James Jesus Angleton at the CIA, but trying to find the perfect plot rather than the mole destroying American intelligence. Nowadays they can use programs like Scrivener to help map it out with electrons and magnetic storage rather than paper products.

I’ve got a copy of Scrivener myself. I’ve actually found some use for it, just as I’ve grown attached to Microsoft OneNote for keeping track of things.

When I do use those programs, however, it’s usually more like writing reminder notes to myself than seeking the right path. As much as it has taken time for me to get on with things and be a true writer, once I’ve gone through the effort of committing the story to the computer and/or page, I’ve already written it over and over again in my head. How many times? For every novel-sized work I’ve written, it’s been too many to count accurately.

It’s like I’m one of those old oral storytellers, the ones they used to have in Ancient Greece or the Celtic lands. They were the guys who used to travel from town to town, village to village, telling their epics for room and board, maybe a small bit of gold if they were lucky. In my case, the audience was myself, but every time I retold, the story, I’d hone it, add and subtract characters and scenes.

And the story of this main character for the new project, the one I’m working on now, that’s what’s really driving this new project. This is one of those people that reminds me of some of the great characters I’ve read in novels, people like Daniel Torrance, Zaphod Beebelbrox, Muad’ Dib, Lisbeth Salander, Burke, Mark Watney, Anita Blake, and many others I’ve encountered in my fiction reading days. They’ve proven over and over again that when you have people this dynamic, this interesting, you can put them into almost any type of situation and it will generate a good story.

And the character, the one that’s been rattling around in my head for a few years, getting refined and honed until I might know more about him than I do about most of the people in my life? That’s going to require a post of its own, and I’ll get to that next.