Notebook Tango

So I am a bit of a notebook harder. When I go to the bookstore, I always head to the notebooks section and I drool over the books for a good, long while. And then I try my hardest to come up with a reason to get a new one.1 And, of course, this means that I have a bunch of them on my shelf and it was a bit of a mess.

It was time to clean them up, so I finally went through them all and got them together. First was getting them off the damn shelf to see just how many there were and… well, I wasn’t really expecting that I had THAT many.

I needed a system. I always need a system. I hadn’t even looked at half of these since I started actually getting things together and started working on finishing stories. So, naturally, I spent a long time trying to figure out what all the stories in them were2 before splitting them into categories.

Stuff I’m currently working on:

IMG_20150522_190340

 

Stuff I want to work on next:

IMG_20150522_190644

Notebooks for stories that I already had notebooks for:

IMG_20150522_191239

Blank notebooks I haven’t used yet:

IMG_20150522_191141

Not actually for projects:

IMG_20150522_190953

Abandoned stories:

IMG_20150522_190727

And then throw them all onto the shelf roughly in size order. Because I have no idea what priority any of these go in or when I’ll actually get around to any of them. And by throw, I mean shove them in and pack them so tightly that I can barely pull one out anymore.

And that is the grand tour of my notebooks shelf. Now that I can’t get distracted by that mess anymore, I’m getting back to work.3

  1. I’m only allowed to get a new one if I have a project specifically for that book. Otherwise, no go. []
  2. Adding notes to the stories as I went because I am totally focused on organization []
  3. Or watching Eurovision clips on Youtube. One or the other. []

First Draft vs Second Draft

There is a world of difference between the first and second draft in terms of the writing process. At least, there is for me.

A first draft is always so new. There’s excitement in it, as well as a sense of discovery as I’m going into the story for the first time. I’m meeting the characters and deciding what’s going to happen to them. I’m exploring the universe and figuring out what the rules of it are.  I’m pretty much free to do whatever stupid stuff I want for the first draft because, well, why not? No one has to see it and I can skip large chunks of scenes if I don’t feel like dealing with them right now.

It’s about creation at this point, but by the end I have a much better idea of the story than  did at the start. I know what the rules are and how the events should be playing out with these characters. What was once an idea turns into something a lot more concrete by the time the last words hit the page.

The second draft is an entirely different beast together. When I get to the second draft, it’s much less about creation and discovery and more about consistency. The second draft isn’t about writing and enjoying the process, but about making the story actually work. It’s a process of making sure everything actually makes sense and making the ending actually match the beginning in a lot of ways.

It’s also the time when I start trying to make the story good, which is exhausting. Between making the plot consistent throughout, leaving in the foreshadowing where it needs to be, trying to make certain elements subtle while other ones hit you hard enough to break something, and trying not to screw up the grammar, I end up cursing my slightly younger self for skipping over the important stuff and spending so much time on things that have to be cut. Sometimes it involves scrapping a whole chapter or two entirely and writing around it.

Where the first draft is a lot of fun, the second draft is where the work begins and the draft doesn’t end until I’m ready to send it to my editor. Because I don’t do it linearly,1 every rewrite between the first draft and going to my editor counts as my second draft. It is one of the longest stages of the writing process for me.

It’s also one of the best parts. For all the work that goes into it, it’s also when everything finally starts to come together. The story makes sense. The characters make sense. The universe makes sense. It’s exhausting and wonderful.

  1. I usually take it scene by random scene based on my notes, then do a final pass near the end to make sure it works all together []

Rewriting Very Old Stories

I mentioned last time that I just finished rewriting After Destiny. It was originally written during Nanowrimo in 20081 and I thought it would be easy. I’d already written it once. I knew the story pretty well. Sure, I couldn’t use any of the prose, but I knew the story. Sure, I needed to rewrite it, but it would be easy. Sure, it would be a lot of work, but I could do it.

I won’t be doing that again any time soon.

While I’m happy I did it and I am looking forward to editing until it’s solid, I don’t think I’m going to have the energy to do it again for a very long time. It was much more exhausting than I ever thought it would be, though I suspect that’s partially because I really did have to redo the whole thing from scratch and I tried to make it good while I was writing.2

There’s something weird about going back to these old works and trying to remember what you were thinking when you did some of the things that you did in the story. There’s a desire that makes me want to keep everything true to what was originally there. It doesn’t make any sense in the new context, but there’s still a desire to preserve the original.

Steve is now Kitty. Clyde is no longer trying to make a movie that is never brought up after the first couple chapters. Smartphones and smartwatches and tablets exist now. Iris exists now. It is a very different world than the one I made 8 years ago.

Prying myself away from the original draft to make this more modern derivative of it was probably the hardest part3 and I won’t be trying to do it with such old works again. Going through the old book while rewriting the new one, I realized what a different person I was back then and how little of the story I could really save.

I wanted to save more of it, but I really couldn’t.

Needless to say, this version of the story is much better. It’s still very different from anything else I’ve written, but I like it a lot more. I look forward to editing it and reading the completed version in full. And sometime in July,4 you’ll get to see it too.

  1. I think []
  2. I’ll discuss why this is awful another day. Always another day. []
  3. Besides trying to make it good. I kept thinking of it as a second draft and that was a horrible way to do a rewrite. []
  4. With any luck []

State of the Things

I have been busy this last little while and just wanted to take a moment to go through everything happening on the general writing/publishing/getting stuff generally together front. I almost feel like this should become a regular thing with everything that is generally happening.

After Destiny

IT IS REWRITTEN.It’s honestly been more of a slog to get through than I thought it would be and I anticipate a very painful editing process ahead, but the rewrite is done. It was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be, but I forgot how much stuff I needed to change. There really was absolutely nothing worth keeping in the old draft and it was essentially writing it from scratch again.

Add in getting a stupid amount of sick part way through to grind progress down to a halt and, well, the process is just that much more difficult. I deserve a vacation for getting through it all.1

I have learned one very important thing so far from working on this one. I am never going back to a project this old again. I was planning to. I have a lot of old novels that I wanted to revisit and rework, but after this one, I’m thinking I am probably going to pass. I have more recent projects, not to mention sequels,2 that I’d rather get to than do this again.

Looking Glass Saga

Jabberwocky’s Book is out! It’s the second in the Looking Glass Saga, following Return to Wonderland and I’ve actually had it done for a bit. I don’t really know why I held onto it for so long, but it’s out now. For anyone who wanted to know what happened to Alice after the last book, do check it out!

Cloned Evil

I’ve moved off of Jukepop Serials and I’m updating now on Wattpad, since I’ve been getting much better feedback on that site. I’ve been trying to update once every two weeks so far, which seems to be working.

I’m also getting ready to write the next arc just as soon as I finish with After Destiny. It’s been far too long since I’ve written for that series.

White Noise

I still have White Noise up for free on Story Cartel for a couple more days, so please do check it out.

I’ve also worked out a couple pages worth of notes for a sequel, including getting into more back story for a lot of the characters that were grazed over in the previous books. It’s also looking like getting the whole story finished in one book is going to be tricky, so it might end up being a trilogy when it’s all done.

It was only supposed to be a one shot. Really it was. I don’t know how this happened.

Jellyfish

I’m calling it that for now, anyway. I put making the framework for the interactive narrative stuff off to the side for a while, both because I was sick and because I really wanted to finish After Destiny. Now that it’s all been settled, I’ll work out which framework I’m going to use for it and get to work on building it.

And now…

I really need to sit down and plan a few things. With all this stuff happening, it feels like I’m missing a couple things in the mess of it all. While I know I’m going to be editing After Destiny as my next thing, I think I need to work out all the stuff that comes after it. Anyone know a good project planning app for Android? I could probably use it right about now.

  1. I’m probably going to loop back around to loving it once I don’t have to work on it anymore. Just you wait. []
  2. But not a sequel for this one. It should stay a one shot. I hope. []

Author Goals

So I currently have White Noise up for free on a site called Story Cartel, which I’m doing so I can hopefully get a few reviews on it, and I was asked why I didn’t have an agent for it. I told him the answer was a little longer than 140 characters, but it’s a question I think I will be asked again, so let’s actually go through this.

A lot of it derives from the fact that I am writing books in my off hours. I work full time as a developer and I write because I enjoy it. I’m not ready to be held to someone else’s timelines in my off hours and, if I’m having a bad day, I want to be able to take the day off without the added stress of knowing that I have a rewrite or an edit to get in. I already plan on getting two books done per year,1 but I want to know that if my day job gets to be too much, I can drop everything for that without worrying that my agent is going to get in trouble because I’m not getting my stuff done on time.

I have no drive to make anything with marketability in mind. I aim to write the story first, and then figure out who would like it after. I’ve already talked about doing some hypertext fiction or interconnected short stories, as well as doing some stuff that’s just not linear. At all. My romances don’t usually show up until the second drafts based on character chemistry,2 and sometimes there’s no romance at all, which means I don’t follow the rules for young adult fiction or certain genre fiction. Not that I always write young adult. Sometimes the stories are suited for older or younger audiences and I don’t really want to change the stories to suit one particular audience if the story doesn’t call for it.

I also want to actually learn about the publishing process from a publisher’s perspective. Since I’ve started, I’ve gotten a crash course in book formatting and marketing3 as well as learning how to find people to work with and how to work with them. I’ve been really enjoying that, as well as learning the ins and outs of trying to figure out how to set it up as a business.

And, as a bonus, I don’t have to have the girl covers on my books if I don’t want to.

I may change all this in the future and eventually go for the traditional publishing deal,4 but for the moment I’m enjoying doing it all at my own pace and learning about the process. If you’re an agent that really wants to change my mind, though, feel free to get in touch.

  1. A Looking Glass Saga book and one other one []
  2. I also don’t always write straight people, but I do sometimes if the chemistry is there for the characters []
  3. Which I’m pretty damn bad at, I have to admit []
  4. Or maybe do the hybrid thing and only have an agent for some of my work []

The Publishing Tracker

A surprising number of friends have recently asked me to look over their stuff because they want to publish it. I’ve, of course, advised them against doing any such thing because it’s a bit of a pain to get everything ready for publication, especially if you want to print your books out.

They gently told me that they were going for the traditional route before I ranted too long.

They are apparently, following the same path I tried a while back in trying to get their short works published to build up a name and a resume for themselves before trying to find an agent,1 which means I asked them about their tracker.

Apparently the publishing tracker isn’t actually standard. Go figure. For those who don’t know, the spreadsheet was a thing I learned about and lived by when I first started  trying to get published and was sending out short stories to everyone I thought would be a good fit. It’s a document to keep track of who you’ve sent what to and to help prevent multiple submissions.

I, being me, did a bit more with mine and turned it into a rudimentary tracker for some of my projects as well as a research document. And then I started building an online version of it. And then I stopped because finals were awful that year and I never picked the project back up.2

I made a stripped down version of mine for one of my friends who has a lot of stories to send out and a lot of places she’s looking at sending things to. There’s three sheets to it: Sent, Works and Publications.

Sent is just your tracking information. Which stories you have sent to which publishers, the date you sent them on and the date of expected reply. It’s pretty simple and you can sort by the various columns to see who you’ve already sent which stories to.

Works just keeps track of your stories and some of the vital information about it that you use for finding publications to send it to. I think this can be easily changed to Poetry, if you are sending poems out instead.

Publications are the places you’ve looked up and you like, along with the basic information you need to know about sending to them. I’ve stripped this section down a lot because back  in my day3 pretty much everyone wanted an SASE4 and an IRC5 , though these days with everything more digital, that’s becoming the case less and less.

If anyone else wants it, I’ll leave it here. It was incredibly useful for me when I was sending out my stuff and keeping track of what I needed to do, so it might help a few of you out as well.

Publishing Tracker

  1. Some of them, anyway. Not everyone. []
  2. I might, though. It was a good project, even though I will not use it again. []
  3. If I ever wanted to sound old… []
  4. Self Addressed Stamped Envelope []
  5. International Reply Coupon []

Getting LAMP Free on Amazon AWS

Quick break from the writing talk today, since that’s not the only thing in my tagline. I do development by day and, given that I’ve started working on some of those side projects in my off hours between writing, I figured I’d share a little.

I recently signed up for AWS, which has been quite the experience. I’m not a big command line person, so I’ve been learning a lot about how to set up LAMP from scratch and get all of my settings in order. I’ve not only made the one domain that I’m working on several times, but had to fidget with the settings over and over again.

I’ve also, in my attempts to set up a free account to develop on, managed to spend quite a bit of money because I’ve made quite a few mistakes on this setup. Only around $5 worth of mistakes, but nonetheless, I’d rather not spend that.

So how to set it up so that it’s free and it stays free? It turns out that it’s not too difficult, but setting it up is a bit of a pain.

To start, make your EC2 Instance. I use the Amazon Linux option and set it up as usual. It’s step by step and pretty easy to pick up. Once you’re done, connect to your instance and the rest of it gets started.

First thing’s first, you need to set up the basics. Here’s what you’re typing into command line.

sudo yum update -y
sudo yum install -y php55-mysqlnd php55 php55-mcrypt httpd24
sudo service httpd start

Important to note there is you don’t install the MySQL. Now you need to set your permissions.

sudo groupadd www
sudo usermod -a -G www [USER]
exit

Why yes, you did just log out. Go log back in again and make sure everything looks right.

groups

Which should return:

ec2-user wheel www

Now keep going.

sudo chown -R root:www /var/www
sudo chmod 2775 /var/www
find /var/www -type d -exec sudo chmod 2775 {} +
find /var/www -type f -exec sudo chmod 0664 {} +

And you have most of the server set up! Congrats! Now that you have the Linux, Apache and PHP in there, you just need the MySQL. Which is not something you do here.

See, as I’ve learned, if you install it directly onto your instance, you will be charged for it. If you install an instance with software that has MySQL integrated into it, well I’ve been charged for that as well. You can’t really put a database directly on the server and expect it to stay in the free tier.1

If, however, you make one through RDS, you can make one under the free tier. The nice thing about RDS is that, as you go through the options, it will specifically tell you whether or not you are free tier eligible. It’s much more straightforward than EC2 to setup.

You are also going to need to make sure everything has been setup in the same region to use them together. Up at the top left, you can select your region. Make sure all of the regions between RDS, EC2 and whatever else you plan on using with your site are the same.

And here’s hoping that’s been useful to someone. I know it was driving me nuts.

Oh, and for a more in depth explanation of setting up your server, I’ve been using this tutorial. It actually goes into what all that you’ve typed in does.

  1. Unless you really know what you’re doing. I have yet to figure it out. []

After Destiny Begins

So After the End has already been renamed. I was going to wait, but I kind of like the name.1 I think most people saw that coming, but I’m glad it’s done and that I like the name. The rewrite is going just as rocky as I was worried it was going to be. It’s going to be a bit of a slog to get through, but I’m hoping a couple people will join me on it.

See, I’m going to be putting up the rewrite, piece by piece as I keep writing, through Wattpad. It’s going to still be pretty rough, since this is before the editing and before a lot of the making-it-good parts of the writing process goes into it, but it’s the restructuring. If you like it, you can let me know a lot sooner than waiting for me to finish this way.

Fair warning, I’m probably going to be stopping part way through. I can’t go spoiling the ending now, can I? But please do give it a look.

Even before the world ended, everyone inside the Janus Complex knew that the earth outside was flat. When the mountain appeared on the horizon that morning, they sent a small team out to investigate.

When that team came back, the mountain was gone. The only proof they have that it was ever there at all are some soil samples, plants and insects who somehow managed to survive the irradiated haze, and a strange woman with no name who knows just a little too much about what’s coming next.

After Destiny

  1. Also, After the End being attached to that other book was really starting to bother me because they are similar in genre from the looks of it. I need to read it and find out. []