Tag Archives: Collapse

How Video Games Have Influenced My Writing

Most of the time, writers seem to talk about the books that have influenced their writing style. I’ve certainly been influenced by Tolkien (naturally), Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind, James Alan Gardner, and plenty of other authors. I’ve taken inspiration from many other sources, including webcomics like Girl Genius (the main character of that comic, Agatha Heterodyne, was one of the primary sources of inspiration for my character Tock Zipporah (whose proper name is actually “Minerva Agatha Zipporah”)). But since I’ve been playing video games since I was about six years old, gaming has definitely been another influence that has changed the way I write.

There are a few different specific ways that video games affected my writing, so I’ll address each one individually.

The Influence of Gods and Monsters

I write urban fantasy, and my work is steeped heavily in mythology, magic, monsters, and other classics of the fantasy genre. I try to veer away from overused creatures (such as vampires, werewolves, elves, dwarves, and dragons) and create a combination of my own homemade creations along with my interpretations of less-used mythological creatures.

One basic example of that is golems. Golems are creatures made from inanimate matter, and can range from magically-animated stone statues to living clay to robots that are powered by mana instead of electricity. I don’t tend to see golems used all that often in most of the books I read (though I’m sure I could name a few examples, like the animated suits of armor in the Harry Potter books). They’re a common sight in both video games and tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons. My character Tock is a golem-maker, and video games are definitely a big influence in the way I design her golems. Instead of creating animated stone statues or living suits of armor, Tock tends to go for things like magitech creations, similar to those seen in Final Fantasy VI. In that game, you see things like robots that fire magic-powered lasers, living war machines created by magic, and magic-powered mechwarrior suits (called “MagiTek Armor” in the game). All of these things have been a huge influence in the way I view Tock’s ability and the things she creates, particularly in Contamination and Collapse.

Another influence from the Final Fantasy games in particular is the design of their summoned monsters. Many of them are based on various real-world myths and legends, and you can go into a lot of detail analyzing how closely the games stuck with the mythological inspirations versus how much creative license they took.

I don’t directly draw from many of the summoned monsters in Final Fantasy, but my all-time favorite has always been Shiva. So much so that Shiva is a very direct influence over my short story, Radiance. In some of the later books in the series (including Book 4 that I’m working on a first draft of right now), there are other places where you’ll see the influences of Final Fantasy summoned monsters emerge. I tend to take things in a vastly different direction with a lot of creative license, so the results don’t have much in common with the games, but I can’t deny where some of the inspiration came from.

Visual Effects of Magic

Magic can take many forms in novels. In Harry Potter, we see characters using wands and chanting magic words in faux-latin. In the Sword of Truth series, we see a lot of mystic glyphs and arcane inscriptions. In the Wheel of Time we see magic described as a weaving of energies, which for me usually brings to mind the image of glowing threads creating a tapestry of power before they are unleashed.

Many video games tend to have more visual elements. A lot of this has to do with practical issues of gameplay. For example, you can’t expect a character in a video game to stop mid-battle and sketch magic runes on the ground with white sand in order to create a spell effect. Instead, there tends to be flashes of light that are designed to add to the excitement of a game while also adding a personal touch of style. These visual styles can be so distinct that you could easily identify which game a spell came from just by the way it looks, which adds something to the overall style of the game.

The magic in my books tends to be very visual. There is a complex rules system that determines how magic works, and that is far more important to the plot than what a magical effect looks like. But at the same time, I feel that vivid descriptions can make a battle scene more exciting and add more personalization to it. In some books, like the Wheel of Time series, there are times when two magic-users are simply staring at each other while an invisible battle rages between their minds. That can get fairly boring, whereas the more interesting battles are those with plenty of fireballs and lightning bolts being thrown around.

I also feel, however, that there should be a certain uniqueness to the visual effects of magic. Many of the book series I’ve mentioned have unique enough magic systems that if you were to see a description taken from each one, you’d immediately know which series that description is from, just from the way magic is described. Again, this isn’t a plot-central issue (and the way magic is related to the plot is far more important than the visual effects). But creating unique visual elements can be a good way to develop a personal style that will be associated with your particular books.

A good example of this in my series is the character Maelyssa Southeby, from the story Belladonna (which is currently in revisions). Like Radiance, Belladonna details a character’s journey as she develops a strange power that she doesn’t understand. Mae has a power that, technically, could have been created without visual elements. She could have used it with pure magical energies that couldn’t be seen by a normal person. Instead, however, I developed a design for her power that is more personalized and unique. I think it helps make the power more “hers” and not just “another superpower.” Part of the difference is purely aesthetic, but those aesthetic choices can be a good way to personalize something.


Some types of books have magic systems that have certain specific things they can do, and certain things they can’t do. In Harry Potter, for example, you’ll tend to see the same spells used over and over again. One thing you don’t really see is the characters finding a way to combine their powers.

Now, the idea of powers combined can, if done improperly, become cliche and trite. I tend to veer away from anything that requires characters to combine their powers in order to send a message about teamwork and how “together, we are stronger than we are alone.” That sort of thing gets a little too after-school-special for me.

However, there is another way that the idea of combo powers influences my writing. In many video games you can have characters combine two completely different abilities in order to do something that isn’t just stronger and more effectively, but which is actually impossible to do with a single character alone. I’m not just talking about increasing the power level to a greater scale (if you read the Wheel of Time books, you’ll see Aes Sedai “link” in circles for greater power, but they still just throw fireballs and lightning bolts; they merely throw BIGGER fireballs and lightning bolts).

When designing my magic system, I made sure to keep things very open-ended. There are no fixed “spells” that have to have a certain effect in a certain way. Many magical effects in my books are based on how creative the character can be in how they use their power. Because of this, characters can also find ways to use their powers in conjunction with each other to create unique effects. This leads to some interesting scenarios in the later books where the characters are able to puzzle out some unique solutions to the problems they face.

Leveling Up

In video games, the power levels of your characters tend to go up steadily throughout the course of the game. Books aren’t always like this. In the Harry Potter series, Harry might become more skilled in his use of magic by the end of the books, but he’s not casting spells that are more powerful (for example, he still uses “Expelliarmus” in the final battle, but it’s not like he’s able to disarm a dozen wizards at once). The same applies to some non-magical books as well; Katniss Everdeen starts off The Hunger Games as an expert archer, and there’s no real sign that her archery improves over the course of the books.

I prefer to have my characters grow, not just in terms of their personalities and flaws, but in terms of their skills and magic as well. So at the beginning of Manifestation, no one even HAS magic. No one has a clue how it works. Chaos ensues. A big part of the short stories Belladonna and Radiance is the way the characters first manifest their powers and have to learn how they work. Characters then grow steadily stronger throughout the course of the books, learning new ways to use their abilities and increasing the scale they can operate on.

There’s probably some other more subtle influences video games have had on my writing, but this is a pretty good run down. Of course, there’s always the chance my books will one day be made INTO video games, in which case these influences would come full circle.


How to Decide Which Story to Write First

If you’re like me, you’re usually juggling multiple projects at once. Often this leads to a question of which is the most important one to work on, and which can be put off. For the sake of this post I’ll set aside blog posts, school projects, paid assignments, and anything else with a deadline or schedule; those are things that “get done when and because they have to get done,” and therefore the decision is (theoretically) out of your hands).

Juggling multiple projects can come in a few different forms. Some people I know struggle between writing novels, television scripts, and plays. Others might have several novel ideas and aren’t sure which one to focus on. Or if you’re like me, you’ve got novels in revision, novels in writing, short stories, and poems. My personal “to do” list of writing currently includes the following:

  1. Finish revising Manifestation.
  2. Start Draft 2 of Contamination (and eventually also Draft 2 of Collapse).
  3. Continue writing Book 4 (untitled) of the Arcana Revived series.
  4. Continue revising Belladonna.
  5. Start revising any of the other 8 or 9 short stories I have in first draft form.
  6. Write new short stories.
  7. Revise poems for the second collection of The Poetry of Gabriella Palladino.
  8. Write new poems.
  9. Revise the musical novella Giapelli.

That’s a pretty hefty list. And that’s not counting blog posts, school projects, or anything that isn’t part of Arcana Revived.

So how to prioritize? Well, there’s probably tons of advice to be found. Googling “How to decide which writing project to work on” brought up 98,000,000 results for me. But rather than try to summarize any of that or rehash the advice of others, I’ll just go through my personal process.

First and foremost comes the question “What does my Muse want me to do?” Sometimes, she isn’t saying anything. Many Muses don’t follow YOUR schedule. They expect you to work until they’re ready to come along. In his book, On Writing, Stephen King said that he has to sit down and write every day, even if it means churning through without inspiration. Then, when his Muse is good and ready, he comes along and dabbles the inspiration. What this advice basically means is don’t wait for inspiration to come to you; work hard every day, and it’ll come when you least expect it (and hopefully it’ll come when you’re at the keyboard and not in the shower).

So if my Muse shows up and tells me to work on something, I listen, because who knows when she’ll be back? Sometimes that means I start writing a new short story despite having 9 other short stories that need revision still. It’s best to get down what I can while the inspiration is fresh, or else I risk losing it altogether.

But let’s say I’m not feeling any specific inspiration today. I therefore have a long list of things to do and I need to pick one. My decision making process basically goes like this:

  • Am I away from home? If so, I can’t revise because I don’t have Scrivener on the computers at school or on my phone. In this case, my solution is “Write a new (poem/short story/chapter of Book 4). When I write new, raw text I can do so on my phone’s Writer app, on my laptop, on a school computer, or whatever. Then I transfer the file back to my home computer afterwards. Polished, revised text, however, can’t just be worked on from any old device. I need my main computer (where I keep my primary files) for that. If I started using Cloud storage I might be able to work around this limitation, but even then, writing on my phone isn’t good for formatting and such. My phone’s app produces text files with no real formatting, so I need to copy those into a proper Word or Scrivener document to be cleaned up.
  • If I AM at home with access to Scrivener and my main WIP files, I prioritize revising over writing. After all, it doesn’t do me much good to finish writing Book 4 before Book 1 is released, now does it? The only reason I’ve made almost 20,000 words of progress on Book 4 so far is because I write on my phone (such as when it’s slow at work). I then come home, copy those words into my main document, and set the writing aside to focus on revisions for the rest of the night. This makes Manifestation the top priority.
  • If I’m home and plan to work on revisions, I might also ask myself “Do I need critiques/feedback before continuing this?” For example, I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts that I’m awaiting critiques on Manifestation. As a result, I’m working on revising Belladonna instead. Belladonna is a lesser priority, but I’ll work on that until I get the feedback I need. Likewise, later this week I’m probably going to ask for critiques on Belladonna. When I do so, I’ll probably work on a different short story or poem while awaiting those critiques. This can also be a good way to keep up with multiple projects at once: keep them on a rotation based on which you “can’t” work on right now and which you “can.”
  • Last, I’ll ask myself “Do I even know what to DO with this piece right now?” We’ve all been through this. You know you’re supposed to work on a certain project, but you stare at the screen, uncertain what to do with it. When I get like that, I switch to something else. While Belladonna is the primary short story I’m working on right now, if I were feeling blocked on it, I’d start working on Soldier of Light, Man of Faith, or Demons of the Mind instead, just to give myself something ELSE to do. That’s more productive than staring uselessly at the screen. And all of those stories are eventually going to join Radiance as individual ebooks, so they’re all important to work on.

So that’s basically it: Muse > Write New Stuff Away From Home > Revise At Home > Switch Gears When Blocked.

Anything I missed? What’s your process?

New Year’s, Writing, Deadlines, and Depression

So it’s New Year’s Eve Eve, and we’re about to enter 2014. In itself, that means little to me. I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions, because I think that change can come at any time of year. I don’t expect 2014 to be all that different from 2013. I will still be in college, still be working, and still be writing. I plan to get Manifestation released during 2014, but I don’t consider that to be a New Year’s Resolution since I’ve been working towards that goal for quite some time now.

So the New Year itself won’t mean much of anything to me, other than writing a 4 instead of a 3 at the end of the date when I write my rent check. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t have some changes to discuss. I just don’t link those changes to the date.

First there’s the progress on my writing. I only have 6 1/2 chapters left to revise in Manifestation to finish Draft Three. With luck, I’ll actually have those done by the end of the week. As I mentioned before, I have until January 15th to get Manifestation out to critique partners in order to get through Draft Four by my March 6th deadline. It looks like I’m going to be ahead of schedule. Which is good, because it’ll give me more leeway in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, I’m also struggling with the holiday season. I have episodic depression mixed with occasional episodes of manic rage. This tends to follow a pattern. Something will set me off, like, say, people posting anti-gay, anti-race, or anti-sex comments on Twitter, and I’ll fly off the handle, yell at people, go on a blocking spree, etc. Then I’ll sink into a depression where I dwell on everything I’ve done and said for the last seven years and how I think people will judge me for my behavior. Then I’ll come out of it and be high on life for awhile, rinse, repeat, etc etc.

The reason I bring this up is because it’s worth discussing how such emotional issues affect my writing. For example, I’m on a low-swing right now, and my work has suffered. I was doing GREAT Friday and Saturday. Here’s a picture of my writing calendar to demonstrate:

This is a mix of writing Book 4 and revising Book 1
This is a mix of writing 7000 words on Book 4 and revising 8 chapters on Book 1.


Then on Sunday I started to slump. So here’s what I did Sunday and Monday:

That's 1000 words written, yesterday's blog post (which was really Pam's story so it barely counts), and a critique I wrote for someone else.
That’s 1000 words written, yesterday’s blog post (which was really Pam’s story so it barely counts), and a critique I wrote for someone else.

I’ve done next to nothing for two days. Just thinking about doing anything was tough. Half the reason I’m writing this blog post is with the hope that getting into the “writing groove” will help launch me into revisions afterwards. I get another sticker for writing this blog post, which puts me at 4 stickers in two days (the one at the bottom doesn’t count; it’s the “inevitable sticker” (don’t ask)). BUT if I finish revising Manifestation today I get SEVEN more stickers. SEVEN.

This is why this calendar is so important. I can look over the month of December and see when I worked and when I didn’t. I see two completely blank days on December 8th and 9th, which were horrible days for me. I see a whole swarm of stickers from the 15th to the 21st when I was in the zone finishing up Collapse.

I’ll also soon be getting the cover art made for Manifestation. Assuming she’s available, I plan to hire Ravven, the wonderful artist who did the cover for Radiance to do the novel’s cover as well. I have the money set aside after my Kickstarter drive, so I’m good to go. I’ll post updates and previews of the cover once that happens.

I think that’s it for now. Which means I get a sticker.

Book Three, “Collapse,” COMPLETE!

As of today, the third book in the Arcana Revived series, Collapse is now complete!

It clocked in at 113,647, which actually makes it the shortest book in the series so far. BUT, the last 15,000 words of that are a continuous 5-way epic battle scene that I won’t discuss further because SPOILERS! So really, this novel is the leaner, meaner, novel machiner. I think it’s the best one yet.

Now the plan is to get back into revisions of Manifestation. I’ve got until January 15th to finish draft three. Which is a LOT of work still, so I’m glad I finished Collapse three days sooner than expected.

Be prepared for regular updates on revisions, and please nag me if you see me tweeting without having finished at LEAST 6 pages of revisions per day.

Also, if you want to support the author, don’t forget I have a wonderful short story, Radiance, for sale on Amazon and Smashwords. It’s only 99 cents (in American dollars, prices in other countries automatically converted). The main character of Radiance plays a big part in Collapse, so you can get a chance to see how she got her start. While the events in Radiance aren’t strictly required to understand the plot of Collapse, they give you a lot more information about Maria Vasquez.

That’s all for now! I’ll be in touched about revisions and updates on when Manifestation will be complete!

Deadline Update

So the last post I wrote laid out some strict deadlines that I have to follow.

So far, I’m doing good. I’ve written 10,000 words in the past two days. Which is better than the 3,125 a day I expected to need. Collapse is currently sitting at 105,000 words, and I’m deep in the middle of the big climactic final battle. I’m having a BLAST with it, and it’s some of the most intense, action-packed stuff I’ve ever written.

I’m fairly certain that I’ll be finishing up the climax ahead of schedule. I’m still not sure where the final wordcount for the book is going to wind up. For each book I tend to estimate 120,000, so if that’s the case I’ve got 15,000 to go. But I’m guessing there’s about another 5,000 or so in the current string of battle scenes, and that’s before the aftermath. So for all I know, it could push up to 130,000 or more. But whatever the case, I HAVE to get the book done in the next six days. Luckily, today is my last day of classes at Rowan for the semester, so I’m about to have a whole lot of extra free time coming to me.

So I’m going to go get this last school project completed, then go to my last class of the semester. Then the rest of the day will be devoted to finishing this book so I can get back to revising Manifestation.

Strict Deadlines and a Request for Nagging

I made a fairly big commitment last night.

I’ve booked an editor for my upcoming novel, Manifestation. Angi Nicole Black, who is both a freelance editor and a cool person on Twitter, is running a holiday special on her services until January 15th. Which means if you contact her before January 15th, you’ll get the discounted rate, even if you schedule the services several months down the line. If you’re in need of proofreading, copyediting, or anything else along those lines, you should go check her out.

Now, if you read my blog semi-regularly, you know I’ve been slacking big time when it comes to finishing Manifestation. I needed a serious deadline to make myself sit down and get to work. I’ve already made a down payment for the editing services, so that’s a nice big sign that says “YOU HAVE TO DO THIS NOW!” Or, more accurately, a sign I made for myself in red marker:

This will sit on my desk in plan sight until March 6.
This will sit on my desk in plan sight until March 6.

Having a deadline means no more fucking around. It means I need to finish this novel and have it ready for editing, and then for publication. So I’m setting a schedule, and posting it here so people can hold me accountable for it.

Here is the list of what currently needs to be done:

  1. Finish Draft One of Collapse so I can move from “writing mode” to “revising mode.” In order to have everything done on time, I think I need to finish this draft (about another 25,000 words or so) before Christmas. So the official DEADLINE for Collapse is December 25th. That’s an estimated 3125 words per day.
  2. Finish revising Draft Three of Manifestation and send it out for a first round of critiques. I want to get feedback and critiques done on the book before it goes out for editing, since the editor will then be receiving the most complete book I can provide. I’m currently on page 248 out of 378 (65.6%, typed, double-spaced, Times New Roman). Draft Three is a mix of line edits, general polishing, scene order, and making cuts of the parts that drag. I think that in order to get everything done on time, I need to finish this draft by a DEADLINE of January 15th. If I start on December 25th, that means I need to revise an average of 6 pages per day, which is very doable. Of course, some of the revision involves going back to earlier scenes, making cuts, moving things around, etc. So “forward progress page by page” isn’t a 100% accurate way of rating this. But it’s how I’ll judge progress.
  3. I’ll need to get critiques on Draft Three before starting on Draft Four. I’ll probably be asking around, as of January 15th or so, for people who would like to read the novel WIP and offer feedback and suggestions. From time to time I’ve had some people say they’d be interested, but I never kept a specific list. So around that time I’ll probably make a post either here or on Twitter to see who is interested. I’ll also offer a full critique of your WIP in exchange, quid pro quo. Though in order to ensure I have time for Draft Four of revisions, I’ll be setting a DEADLINE of February 6th, which would be a three week turnaround. Normally I wouldn’t give critique partners a deadline because they’re doing me a favor for free, but it’s the only way for me to hit my own March 6th deadline on time.
  4. After I get critiques back, I’ll work on Draft Four. I’ll have one month to do another full round of revisions, based on the feedback from my critique partners. That brings me to my final DEADLINE of March 6th, when I send the novel off for edits. That’s about 12 pages per day, which is double what I’ll be doing on Draft Three revisions, BUT by Draft Four, the revisions should be easier since in my past experiences revising short stories, a fourth draft is a lot of tiny fine-tuning and goes a lot quicker.
  5. I expect to have the edits back by the end of March, so that in April I can work on whatever else I need to do. I can’t really predict what stage I’ll be at by then. Will it need a second round of edits? Or just proofreading? I don’t know. So I’ll figure that out in April.

And that’s it! Now, if you like nagging people and/or offering them encouragement and support, I hereby volunteer as tribute. Feel free to ask me for updates, here or on Twitter (@cantrelljason) whenever you like. If I make excuses, or say I haven’t hit my goals (3125 words per day on Collapse, then 6 pages revised per day on Manifestation Draft Three or 12 pages per day on Draft Four), I give you permission to demand I cease any other activities, turn off the TV, get off Twitter, or turn down invitations to social engagements. Nothing else is currently a priority in my life. This book is getting published in 2014 (preferably in the earlier half of the year). I’m going into serious crunch-time-mode and getting this done, no matter how much sleep I lose.

Since after all, y’all can’t read this book until I get it done.

When the Pieces Fall In Place

I’d like to talk a bit about being a Pantser, and how that affects my plot.

In case you’re not familiar with “Plotting vs Pantsing,” here’s a basic summary. The idea is that some people are Plotters, and they plan out every chapter, every scene, and know where the story is going throughout the whole writing process. Plotters say that if they don’t have a plan, things don’t fit together in the end and they end up getting stuck without knowing where to go. Pantsers, on the other hand, “write by the seat of our pants” with little to no planning involved. Pansters believe that a strict outline restricts the story and prevents the possibility of things changing direction as you go along.

I’m 90% pants. I sit down to write with a basic idea of where I’m going, but no idea how to get there. I figure it out as I go along, as long as I know what the “end game” is. I’ve been writing Collapse with only a few specific things I knew had to happen. I didn’t have any idea how I’d get to the climax, nor even exactly what the climax would be. I can’t go into detail without major spoilers, but suffice to say I had a goal in mind without knowing how to actually apply it. About halfway through, I knew how to apply it, but not how to get the characters in place to do what needed to be done. Then by about 75% of the way through, I had everything figured out, and the pieces fell into place.

At that point, of course, there are a few things to be worked out. But since writing about it in these vague ways won’t make sense, I’ll use “Bob and George” the webcomic as an example.

“Bob and George” is a great webcomic about Mega Man and superheroes. Go read it, from beginning to end. It’s only 2658 strips long. I’ll wait.

. . .

Done? Okay. So here’s one of my favorite parts. We have a bunch of Fire Men (a robot master from the first Mega Man game) who are separate from all the other robots because the writer accidentally forgot to include them in an earlier scene. This is basic pantsing taking place. I’ll list it out step by step:

1. Fire Man shows up at Mega Man’s door.
2. Then we see he brought a bunch of friends.
3. Actually, a LOT of friends.
4. A huge, month-long battle takes place.
5. You might notice there are no Fire Men among all the other robots.
6. Well the comic artist points this out (see the commentary). It turns out, since the first Fire Man was at the door, he wasn’t included in the bulk of other robot masters that got copy/pasted for the big battle scenes. By the time he realized this mistake, it was too late, so he needed an excuse for why they weren’t around. He made one up, in true Pantser fashion, and made it look like he meant to do it all along.
7. Then we catch back up with the Fire Men.
8. They start teleporting in one at a time.
9. And Proto Man starts picking them off one at a time when they teleport in.

So what was the point of going over all that? Well, the comic author says in the commentary for #9 there that he had to set up the final scene:

As I’ve mentioned before, when writing the comic, I’d often try to come up with really funny jokes, and then figure out how to connect them. In this case, while thinking about what to do with the Fire Men, this idea popped into my head, and I had to figure out how to get here.

I knew in order to do a respawning joke, they’d have to be teleporting in one at a time, which meant that’s the real reason the teleporter was broken. And I couldn’t just jump right to this point, so I had to have several comics set up this situation.

This is an analogy for how my novel writing is going. I start off putting a certain piece in place by accident (like the Fire Men being separate from the others). Then I later realize there’s a way I can USE that to make the plot come together. Then I realize how I can get to the end goal, but in order to do so, I need to write a series of scenes building up to it.

I now know exactly what the climax will be. But as David Anez said, I can’t “jump right to that point.” I have to set it up. So, that’s what I’m doing now. I’m at 93,000 words, with an estimated 30,000 to go. I know exactly what the end game will be, but I need to guide the characters into their positions now. Pretty much the rest of the book is now just guiding them into place.

If I were a plotter, I’d have figured out HOW to guide the characters into their places. But as a Pantser, I didn’t even know what the end game was until just recently. Now I need to look at what I’ve done throughout the story (including the accidental parts) and figure out the final moves.

I feel like I’ve rambled and talked in circles during this post, but this all makes sense to me. If it doesn’t make sense to you, well . . . I guess I shouldn’t have pantsed this blog post then!

Post-NaNo and Slow as She Goes

So my last post was about being brain-dead and burnt out from #NaNoWriMo. I said in that post that I was going to whine on Twitter when I felt brain-dead, and do whatever my Tweeps told me to do. Well, as promised, last night I went on Twitter and asked people whether or not I should write. Five people told me to write, two told me to rest. So, I wrote.

I only got about 2000 words, which was a slow day compared to the pace I’d been going. But It felt nice to make some progress after like three days in a row of doing nothing, nothing at all.

Keeping a slow pace for now seems like a good idea. I’ve still got another 40,000 words or so to go on Collapse, and I don’t want to burn out completely. So until further notice I’ll be chugging along at whatever pace I can maintain. My goal is to finish Collapse by, let’s say, Christmas. Then I can get back to revisions on Manifestation.

The good news is I’m almost completely done with school for the semester. I have a few small tasks to complete before I finish up my final projects (2 out of 4 classes I’m done with, and I’m 1/2 way done one of the remaining classes, so I’m actually about 62.5% done with finals). Next semester I’m only taking two classes, so all the time I used to be spending on extra schoolwork will then be devoted to Manifestation. That book was completed about a year ago (first draft, that is), and I need to get back to revising it and getting it ready for publication.

But before I do that I need to finish Collapse since I’m still in “writing mode” not “editing mode.” Speaking of which, I can squeeze in another 1000 words or so before bed, and I left Gabby in the middle of a fight scene with some missiles being shot at her.

#NaNoWriMo Burnout, Post-NaNo Writing, and Revisions

I have #NaNoWriMo burnout.

As you may know, I wrote over 140,000 words during the month of November. I then kept going, because Collapse isn’t done yet. Since the end of NaNoWriMo, I’ve written about another 20,000, putting me at 160,000 in the past six weeks. Collapse is about 75% done, if it ends up hitting the same length as Manifestation and Contamination.

And then I hit a wall.

Allow me to describe an average week for me for the past six weeks. I’ve been averaging 5000 words per day. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I write on my phone at work during a shift from 11 am to 10 pm. Then I come home and if I haven’t hit enough for the day, I keep writing until about 2 am. Then Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday, I get up and work on school work and/or writing from 12 pm to 5 pm, go to school, come home after 9 pm, let myself loaf until midnight, and then resume writing until 2 am. That adds up to about 7 hours a day that I spend writing, whether it be writing for school projects or writing my novels. That’s 49 hours a week.

So then this Sunday it snowed. My work closed early, and I was home at like 3 pm. I had the whole night off. I didn’t write.

Monday, I did a little school work, came home, and didn’t write. I was stressed out about it. After pulling the hours I had been for six weeks, I was beating myself up over the fact that I didn’t write Sunday or Monday. I got so stressed out that I nearly cried. My friends on Twitter told me that meant I needed to take a break.

Today, school was closed for snow. I spent most of the day today working on school work for finals week. I haven’t touched my novel again. The way my brain feels right now, I don’t think I’ll have it in me to write later either (I had the window for this blog post sitting open for an hour before I finally started writing it).

So where does that put me? Well, there’s two directions I can go. I can either say “I need a break, I earned a break, and I’m going to rest until my brain is ready,” or I can say, “I need to buckle down and get back to work, this stress isn’t going to beat me, I’m strong.” There’s probably some balance between the two, but I don’t know where that is.

My main fear is that I’ll lose my rhythm. Manifestation has been sitting, unrevised, for months. I’m desperate to get back into it. I need to polish it up so I can get some critiques on it and then get it published. I can’t do that until I finish Collapse, which I know I could do in another week or so if I got back into it. So I need to get back to work soon, but I need to give my brain enough recovery time that I don’t crash completely. That’s a delicate balance. If I rest for TOO long, I’ll never get back to work.

My main strategy for this is that I’m going to whine on Twitter and do whatever people tell me. I have some Twitter friends who will start nagging me and telling me I have to write. I have others who will tell me to take a break. I don’t know which I need right now. So I’m going to let other people make the decision for me. If I had a girlfriend, I’d ask her advice. When Stephen King got hit by a truck, he rested and recovered from his injuries until he was ready to write again, and it was his wife who looked at him and decided that yes, if that’s what he needed, then it was time. One day I want someone like that. Someone who will stand by me when I’m down, and then push me when I need to buckle down and work.

But since I didn’t have the guts to ask out a girl from grad school, I’ll just have to get my support from Twitter. Hope you guys are okay with that.