Writing Journal: May 12-16

This has been a bit of a busy weekend for me with writing, but a lot of it was spent in going back over some of the things I had already done, just to make sure I had not missed more stuff. Turned out I had missed watching 6 videos because I had accidentally skipped one of the lessons when I was confused about where to go to after watching the introduction stuff. Ooops! I’ve now watched those, some a few times just because I was going back and forth and comparing things that had been said in the videos to other things in the course while I worked on my series notes.

Highly productive few days, but not something I am even going to try to cover what all I did other than to say I did a LOT.

I will say I have my story bible a bit more focused, because I moved my class workbook into Scrivener and am only putting things to actually do with my series into the series bible once I know they will remain a part of the series.

2 day Final Fantasy XIV North American server transfers

Final Fantasy XIV is going down tonight while they move the servers for North America. I’ve got all my crops in the gardens harvested so will not lose anything, also have my airship back out on a 48 hour tour of the Diadem.

Mother’s Day and My Mom’s Birthday

Today was an emotionally sad day for me. It was not only mothers day, but would have also been my mom’s 82nd birthday. Nearly 9 years after she passed away and I still miss her every single day. Out of everyone, my mom was the one who most encouraged me to believe in my dream of being a writer and supported everything that could bring me closer to that goal.

I had already struggled with depression for years as a caregiver, so it was a short fall into a deep dark hole when, at the same time that I was mourning the loss of my mom, my work took a sharp blow because of the economic collapse. That threw my writing career into a sharp dive and, with so much work needed to repair the damage to my career as a writer, I was unable to recover and ended up setting aside my writing to take care of other things. First my father, when the demands of being his caregiver increased significantly, then after he passed away two years later everything I had went into trying to save the home where I had lived for nearly 20 years. That, too, ended in loss and a rather dark deep depression.

Things have not been very easy over the intervening years, life seeming determined to not let me get my feet back on stable ground, but recently I have taken a strong step towards putting it all back on track. I have enrolled in a class on writing a series and am working toward finding my way out of the rut into which I have found my life over the past half a dozen years. It is my goal that I will have things back on track by my mom’s next birthday and be able to, once again, say that I am making a living as a writer – just as she always wanted me to be able to do.

Writing Journal

I got a lot of things done today.

For the mindmap for my series I folded up a sheet of 18×12 inch drawing paper from an old Mead art tablet so it could be tucked into my series bible. I then used each section that the folds had divided it into for a separate mindmap that I will be needing.


My next task was to get my writing book a bit more organized. The book that I am using as my series bible is a black C.R. Gibson jumbo journal with a smyth binding so the journal lays flat for writing. I love the journal and have re-purposed it a few times since I got it. This has left me with roughly 25 of the 200 sheets of paper torn out from the front of the journal. So, in my latest re-purposing of it to be the series bible for my series I am working on I am making use of this gap at the front of the journal to tuck notes and assorted things that would otherwise make a journal unable to be closed properly. Beauty of smyth binding – books made with it are nearly indestructible if you leave an edge and don’t tear where the book was sewn.

Since I was starting a new area for my first official lesson in the series writing class, I wanted to separate that from the notes I had already entered while I watched the introductory videos. Taking an old manila envelope I cut the back from it and carefully folded it to the size of the journal, creating a pocket into which I could tuck the folded up mind map for the series. I then carefully glued it into the journal as a permanent addition with a tab at the top cut to fit between the tops of the pages and the top of the journal’s binding.

I also made a small fold-out slip of lined paper that I glued over the information plate of the journal’s forward endpaper. On this slip I wrote that the book is my “Series Bible”, when folded out the four ruled lines hidden inside the new information plate were just enough room for me to write out my 30 word series synopsis where I will always have it easily accessible.

Working through Lesson One of the series writing course, I fleshed out what the core of my series is going to be and added a sheet of typing paper for two blank pages in the book for creating mindmaps, followed by gluing a fold out sheet of paper to the edge of one of the pages in the journal to give me room to a couple of flowcharts.

It was a lot of work for my writing work day, and a significant amount of planning and writing to nail down exactly what the core of the series is going to be.


Gamer Journal

I almost forgot that I needed to check my gardens in Final Fantasy XIV today, logged in to find a purplish haze coming off the krakka roots. Yikes. All plants tended to, however, and I harvested and replanted my shards. My goal is maxed out shards of every type kept in the freecompany chest for when things need crafted for airships or whatever.

No Plan Survives Contact With The Muse

So, on a writing forum today someone was asking about how much planning to do, and that made me realize why planning beyond the first book in a series might not be the best way to do things.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to know what you’ll do next and to have a idea where you are headed (at least I think so, I’m still learning about series writing)… the thing is, when I look at writing something I can not help but think about Helmuth Von Moltke the Elder’s perspective on war, taken here from Wikipedia…

Moltke’s main thesis was that military strategy had to be understood as a system of options since it was only possible to plan the beginning of a military operation. As a result, he considered the main task of military leaders to consist in the extensive preparation of all possible outcomes. His thesis can be summed up by two statements, one famous and one less so, translated into English as “No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy’s main strength” (or “no plan survives contact with the enemy”) and “Strategy is a system of expedients”.

So, let us rephrase that for a moment replacing Moltke with some famous average Joe writer…

John Q. Author’s main thesis was that plotting a story had to be understood as a system of options since it was only possible to plan the beginning of a story. As a result, he considered the main task of writers to consist in the extensive preparation of all possible outcomes. His thesis can be summed up by two statements, one famous and one less so, translated into English as “No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the muse’s main strength” (or “no plan survives contact with the muse”) and “Strategy is a system of expedients”.

Writers are caught in a battle with their muses wherein the writer is trying to devise the best way to get from the blank page he begins with all the way to the end of the novel to type -fini- at the base of the last page. He can make all of the plans he wants, but he has to know that he has a whole army of crafty adversaries standing before him and that they are lead by a master strategist and planner: The writer’s own muse.

While the writer navigates the reams of empty pages between that first word and -fini- he will be facing hidden assaults from all directions. Ideas will come crashing out of the dark woods he is writing about to ambush him… the cave or basement his main character just looked into will suddenly start getting the reflection of thousands of eyes staring back at him, all wanting to come out of the shadows and play too…. the sandy beach he is having his main character walk down will be struck by a tsunami of “What if…?”‘s that could throw any plan he may have had for the story into a struggle for survival.

The goal of the writer should not be to have such a strictly structured plan that he is not even catching his muses’ notice. I mean, you muse is a skilled tactician, why should he even pay attention if there is no challenge for him? If you truly want to get from the first word to -fini- then you need to give your muse a challenge, otherwise you will walk out onto the field of battle and find that you are the only warrior there and, while you can easily claim that field, there will be no real feeling of accomplishment because the enemy you should have faced determined you to be too uninteresting to even bother to show up. You will have written your book, but your readers will likely see that there was no struggle during the writing phase to get to the end.

[I want to take a moment to say that I do not mean here that your novel should read like you fought to figure out what to say, no, once you get to -fini- you will be doing plot edits and line edits and all of that, it is the undertone feeling of ‘oh, I wish that had gone different, what if the writer had…?’ that you want to avoid.]

Give your muse a reason to meet you on the field of battle, give them a reason to bring with them the biggest and meanest and nastiest, most cunning, army they can muster to challenge you. When you make it across that field you want to be able to hold up the page with -fini- at the bottom of it and know that you have earned that word. You want to feel exhilarated because you fought a good battle for it against an army filled with all of the best and brightest minions your muse could muster.

Just be warned that the army you are facing will be filled with spies that will sneak behind enemy lines, YOUR lines, look into you planning notebook, and report your plans back to their leaders so that counter plans can be worked out for how best to assault the things you are planning to write.

So, remember, fellow writers… no plan will ever survive contact with the muse.

Plan how to start, and have the best system of options you can construct for how to get to where you want to be when the battle is won, have extensive preparation for all possible outcomes, but be ready to make changes based on the things your muse will bring with it into the battle.

Writing Journal

I did a lot of work today, got through all of the information on the older original version of the expanded much more intensive class I am taking on series writing and have now started into my first official lesson of the course.

Because it is in the splinters stage and being created around those of us taking the course I had a minor issue with figuring out where I needed to go, and a removed document that was still being linked to where I had THOUGHT I was to go to next did not help… Picture freshman in a college holding a note with a coffee stain over the room number for his first class. He is trying to figure out where the lecture hall for his first class is, so is now wandering aimlessly back and forth along the hallway; staring at room numbers and peeking into various rooms to figure out which one he is supposed to be in. Yeah… that was me for a little while. Just as I was about to go and ask for directions on the forum I figured it out, however, and am now settled in at the back of the room trying to catch up with the rest of the class.

But, I made it, I settled in comfortably and I got to work on the stuff in lesson one. And had a moment of clarity about why mind mapping is awesome.

Okay, so, I had learned about how to mind map in another course by the same person, so I knew what I needed to do. The thing is, my little charts of interconnected word bubbles always made sense to me. They were perfect little collections of connected words, sometimes brief sentences, from my mind. I was just starting to work on a map for what things I hate when I was kicked violently out of the process by the first thing I wanted to write.

I hate… Ice cream?

Yeah, I will let you read the post about that if you want. The point here is that I discovered that mind mapping can be a wonderful tool that had far more power than I had realized if you did it properly and let your subconscious mind play how it wanted to.

Gamer Journal

Got everything tended to in Final Fantasy XIV, but did not spend much time in the game today. Just fast retainer checks and tending gardens. The Thavnarian Onion was ready, however, so Tris’tan now has a rank 14 chocobo gathering more experience.

For those who may not know chocobos need special treatment after they reach rank 10 or they can not gain more experience. Once your chocobo stops gaining XP and will no longer level up you need to summon your chocobo using a ghyshal green, then select a thavnarian onion from your item inventory and select “use”. That will feed the onion to your chocobo and display that your chocobo has risen to the next rank. You can then go fate grinding or fighting random monsters with your chocobo to gain him or her more experience.

To get a Thavnarian Onion you want to plant krakka seeds (purchased from the people in the housing areas) beside midland basil seeds using grade 3 Thanalan topsoil. This ONLY works in outside garden beds. You can not use pots inside or separate beds side by side.

If you planted them properly you should get at least one tantala plant seed when you harvest them. (both will give a chance to get the tantala plant seeds.)

You can then plant the tantalla plant seed with jute, broombrush or royal kukuru seeds using grade three Thanalan topsoil and this gives you a chance to get the Thavnarian onion that you need to rank your chocobo up each level past rank 10.

Line Editing vs Story Editing

In my series writing class today I got this kick to the side of my head that explained why I am never done revising – or even writing.

The lesson explained the process for how to revise a story, and how NOT to revise one, and I realized that I have been doing the how NOT to revise one all this time.

Now, I know that it is not a good idea to edit as I go, and I try hard not to, but… that was the wrong word to use… maybe if I change it to however…

Yeah, I have been doing LINE editing, not story editing. And even when I have finally made it to the end of things and went back I have dove into line editing. I have been starting at the first word in a document on the computer and trying to make the story perfect line by line.  Or I read the stuff I wrote the night before and adjust just one word to a better one and… spend the rest of the day redoing what I had wrote the day before. I’ll NEVER finish a story by doing that.

I think it is time that I went back and wrote those books I have had laying in the dust bin at the back of my mind, only this time I will NOT be line editing as I go. This time I will be writing complete crap because I now realize that I did it right the first time I wrote an 80,000 word novel in 30 days back in 1997. I never paused, I got into the story and let it run away with me and I never changed a single word while I was working on it.

I assumed it was the wrong way to do it when I read the thing the following year, while camping in the lower 48, and discovered that it read like the narration of a game of Dungeons and Dragons. I love the story though, and there are parts that, to this day, I want to squeal with delight at what I did in the story – but, I assumed it was wrong. It was not wrong, I just never gave the poor thing the story edit it needed – I went into line editing it and… it is still not edited past the first chapter nearly 20 years later. Worse, I’ve spent 20 years failing to write anything else because I assumed I did things wrong the first time when I had really done them correctly the first time.

Shit do I wish I had taken this course back then, but it did not exist until… well… now. I’m one of the beta students for it.

Enough rambling, though, time to get back to studying and working.

Writing Schedule with Yard Work Breaks

I’ve started up a new schedule the past few days thanks to a friend I do relaxation writing with. She gets up around 3 or 4am my time to start getting ready for work, so I have started getting up at that time as well to spend a bit of time with her. She leaves around 5am my time, at which time I go get breakfast and either tea or coffee.

I then dive into working for the day. This means I am working from somewhere between 5 to 6am through to 5pm; when my friend gets back home from her job and logs into her computer. During this work time I have been taking periodic breaks to stand up, stretch, walk around and go out into the yard to do some spring cleaning out there (That yard bit – HUGE HUGE HUGE thing for someone like me, let me tell ya! If I hear a car coming down the street, I’m the sort that has a panic attack and wants to find somewhere to hide while it passes.)

I finish up my work day around 5pm, but I’ll do more work here and there during the evening until around 10pm, when I start trying to wind down for sleep. During that time I usually watch a bit of Netflix or Amazon videos – the past few nights it has been things on Quantum Physics and the Universe; both are a fascination of mine and useful for the science fiction series I am working on. Nothing new learned, but still interesting to watch.

So far this work schedule has been resulting in some good socializing with my friend, a lot of writing work getting done, much needed spring yard work getting done, and some good relaxing video time. Hopefully it is a trend that continues until it is a habit.