studious

How Do I Outline?

I’ve had three different friends ask me variations on “how do you outline?” in the last month or so. My response goes something like this:

  • Sure, um, here’s a tip or two
  • Howabout I send you an example of one of my outlines?
  • Maybe I should write a post about outlining
  • Wait, surely there are much better people to get outlining advice from than me

But like most writers, I love to write about writing, and this love is undeterred by my lack of expertise on any given aspect of it. So with the caveat that actual experts can offer much better ideas, here are mine. I’ll use A Rational Arrangement as my example because it’s the book my readers are most likely to be familiar with.

Ideas

I start with an idea, or more often, a whole slew of ideas. The first idea for A Rational Arrangement was “wealthy heiress makes extremely blunt and clinical marital proposition to titled-but-poor man*, which horrifies all of their relations but intrigues the man, who appreciates both her forthrightness and her contemplation of non-monogamy.”

Other things accreted to this. Wisteria became neurodiverse because that went well with “confused as to why she’s not supposed to be forthright about various things.” I like fantasy and wanted to write a character with mental powers used for healing instead of mind-reading or control**, so Nikola became a mind-healer. (There was, btw, no connection between these two ideas; I was halfway through writing the outline before it occurred to me that at some point they should talk about whether or not Wisteria wanted to be neurodiverse and whether or not this was a condition Nik could treat.)

I wanted religion to be a meaningful part of the world and the characters’ lives, so Nik’s culture regarded his mind-healing gift as a blessing from their god. I wanted to write a polyamorous romance, so I gave Nik a boyfriend and made their society homophobic to explain why he hadn’t married the boyfriend. I didn’t want to succumb to the traditional horses-like-bicycles*** of most fantasy, so I added giant riding cats and made them sapient because the only thing better than a cat you can ride is a TALKING cat you can ride.

At this stage, I don’t know how the story goes. I just have a pile of “this sounds cool! And this! And ooh that! Shiny!”

Glueing ideas together into a story

The outline is where I stick all my ideas together into some kind of narrative. In the case of A Rational Arrangement, I knew that I wanted to write a romance.

Basic romance plot:

  • Introduce protagonists.
  • Obstacle(s) exists which prevent protagonists from being happily in love
  • Protagonists overcome obstacle(s) and live happily ever after, together and in love.

To make it even more generic, the basic formula for any story is:

  • Character(s) wants thing(s) and doesn’t have it
  • Obstacle(s) prevents character(s) from getting thing(s)
  • Either obstacle(s) overcomes character(s), or character(s) overcomes obstacle(s)

There is an enormous variety of “things that are wanted” and the protagonists don’t need to know what they want, and can be wrong about what they want. The thing romance novel protagonists want is “to be happily in love with other protagonist(s)” but romance novel protagonists often don’t realize this until the end. Obstacles are likewise varied; they can be purely internal (“I don’t believe love can last”), or external (“society forbids our love”). They can be personal (“my parents want me to marry this person I hate”) or inanimate (“I don’t have enough money to support a spouse”).

With A Rational Arrangement, I already had plenty of obstacles:

  • Wisteria and Nik aren’t in love
  • Nik and Justin are in love but incapable of talking about their feelings
  • Nik is impoverished and too proud and stubborn to accept help
  • Justin wants to help Nik but can’t get around Nik’s pride and stubbornness.
  • Nik and Justin both think marriage has to be horrible and also would end their relationship
  • Wisteria thinks her neurodiversity renders her too unromantic to be loved
  • Nik misinterprets Wisteria’s lack of typical body language and expression as a lack of passion and interest, and accordingly finds her unattractive as a partner
  • Homophobic society forces Nik and Justin’s relationship to be furtive and fraught
  • Wisteria is incapable of not talking about a topic if it interests her, regardless of whether or not other people think said topic is verboten
  • Nobody really thinks polyamory is an option
  • The whole thing around mind-healing is A Mess, with healing at the discretion of the healer and payment at the discretion of the healed, so if a healer says “I can’t fix this” there’s no way to tell if they really can’t or if they just don’t think it would be worth their time. This causes Problems for Nik.

... this is not even an exhaustive list. No wonder this book was so long.

So writing the outline is mostly a matter of figuring out what scenes will showcase my characters’ personalities and flaws, and the obstacles that they face, and what they do to overcome said obstacles.

I already had the Horrible Proposal scene in mind, so I started with that. That leads nicely into “Nik’s parents leave with him in a huff” and “Wisteria has a conversation with her father to establish her mind doesn’t work the same way as the people around them.” Since Nik is intrigued by the Horrible Proposal, he visits Wisteria later. Oh right, Nik has a boyfriend, I need some scenes with the boyfriend to demonstrate how that relationship kind-of-works-but-has-issues. Nik is a mind-healer so I need to show him doing that and also introduce this petitioner that will cause Problems later, which Justin and Wisteria will help solve and that will bring the two of them closer together. Etc.

Some people like sub-points on their outlines, but my outlines are just long lists of bullet points describing each event. Sometimes these have specific details about what happens. This was the bullet point for Nik & Wisteria’s first private conversation:

  • The next meeting. A chance for Nik & Wisteria to talk in private-ish. Probably with her father present. Possible other talking points: Nik thinking that Wisteria doesn't want to marry him either -- why would she? Some money-hungry titled-and-entitled brat. Not something he'd suggest in front of her father. Nik ends up inviting Wisteria to attend an event with him -- he's still not consciously courting her, but is aware that he likes her. I really want to showcase Wisteria's sense of humor here -- more importantly, that she has one, even though she doesn't laugh or smile. They also start getting into the habit, already, of having these honest, forthright conversations about things You Don't Talk About. Not just sex! Money! Religion! Why Nik doesn't want to get married. Uncomfortable questions.

More often, they’re vague. This bullet point eventually became the Ascension ball scene:

  • Nik and Wisteria at whatever function. Nik is having a wonderful time, enjoying Wisteria's conversation, her keen but cool eye for observation.

I vary between writing outlines in chronological order and writing them in the order the events will be covered by the book -- so I might outline flashbacks first and then the actual start, and rearrange it later, or I might figure out the flashbacks when they come up instead.

A Rational Arrangement was the second book I wrote where I crafted an outline first, and the actual book diverged wildly from my original outline. It was so far off from the outline that while editing, I made a new outline that followed what I’d actually written. Among other things, Justin was an afterthought in the original outline. The original outline centered on Nikola, with zero scenes between Justin and Wisteria. Since I wanted a triad romance, I added a lot of Justin-and-Wisteria scenes while I was writing.

With ARA, I didn’t go back to revise my outline when I went off-script; I just forged ahead. With later books, I’ve usually revised my outline if I find I want to do something different. I’ll also revise the outline if I feel like it’s not detailed enough. For instance, in The Moon Etherium, my outline had:

  • Ardent & Miro have to go to a party in Ardent's honor, hosted by the Moon Queen. Moon Host parties are Not Boring Cocktail Things. They are more like thrill rides. Coupled with jump scares. Party games crossed with plays, where the attendees are part of the performance, LARP-style.

When it came time to write this scene, I got stuck, not sure what I was supposed to write. So instead of leaping into writing, I outlined the “LARP-style-party-game-turned-play” in considerable detail, using it to flesh out the history of the setting as well as show the villain at work and the protagonists thwarting her.

Which gets to the reason I outline: it’s much faster to get where I want to go if I have a map. The outline is me writing out the story as briefly as I can, and making sure I know how to get to the end of it. I’ve finished stories without outlining them, including one novel. But I’d get stuck for weeks or months, not writing because I wasn’t sure What Comes Next. Working from an outline means I know what comes next. I do still get stuck sometimes, when I realize the outline doesn’t work after all, or I want to make a major change. But for me, it’s often easier and faster to add to or fix the outline than it is to try writing the next scene without one.

By way of providing examples, here’s a link to the original outlines for A Rational Arrangement and The Mortal Prince and the Moon Etherium. (You can purchase A Rational Arrangement here if you want, and The Mortal Prince and the Moon Etherium is for sale here, or available as a freebie if you subscribe to my newsletter.) I figured I’d provide the novelette outline too, both to show an outline for a short work, and because it’s a freebie so the full story is also easily accessible.

* I took this half of the idea from a Brandon Sanderson novel, The Alloy of Law.
** "Medical applications of mental powers" came from a Bujold novel, Ethan of Athos.
*** "Horses work like bicycles" is from Diana Wynne Jones’s The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. My answer to “where do you get your ideas?” is “mostly from other authors.” Ideas are not subject to copyright. Take as many as you like. I like to isolate my very favorite parts of an idea and then smoosh those together with favorite bits taken from other sources.

This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/2021/01/18/outline.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
cute

Outlines and Measuring Progress

I'm trying to get back in the habit of focusing on "draft completion" rather than word count. But my methodology is all about incremental steps: "finish draft" is not a task I can cross off the list every week, while "finish 7% of draft" is. Which means I have to figure out what 7% of the draft is, and I can't do it by saying "the book will be 100,000 words so 7% is 7000 words" because that's just word count by another name.

So what I do is this:

  • take all the bullet points on the book's outline and dump them into a spreadsheet.
  • Estimate how many words each bullet point will take to write and put that estimate in the adjoining column
  • As I finish writing each bullet point, mark it complete. (I do this by putting down how many words it actually took so that I can see how close my outline has been to reality, but this is not a necessary piece.)
  • Have the spreadsheet total up the estimate for all the bullet points I've written so far, and divide it by the total estimate for the book. That's the percentage I've written so far.

I used to give each bullet point equal weight and not use a spreadsheet with individual estimates, but that is the method that had me thinking I was 50% done with The Twilight Etherium when I was 75% done with it, and I decided I wanted to be a tch more accurate than that.

The individual estimates for bullet points can still be off by quite a bit, though. Today I updated the Angel's Grace outline to account for what I'd written this week, and discovered that I am 67% through with it. That was my target for the month. But I've only written 8800 words so far this month. I thought it would take me, like 15-25,000 words to get here. Uh. Huh.

I mathed at this several times in different ways, because I was sure I had to have done some math wrong somewhere to come up with this. But no, that is the correct current estimate. (My 35% estimate for how complete it was at the end of December did turn out to be low, though -- it should've been 40%.)

There are some scenes not on the outline that I want to add, so I could revise it and expand the outline, and I'll certainly continue to write Angel's Grace this month -- I'm not taking the next three weeks off just because I'm ahead of schedule.

But it does mean I should do some other work too. Like that cover for The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady, which is stubbornly refusing to finish itself. o_o;;;

This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/2021/01/10/measuringprogress.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2012

"Goals Don't Work" and the Utility of Experimenting on Yourself

So scientific research shows that, on average, setting public goals isn’t constructive. In general, people who proclaim “I will do [X]” are less likely to do [X] than those that don’t announce their goals. It might be that saying “I will do [X]” gives the brain the same reward that actually doing [X] does. Having announced it, it feels like it’s already been done and therefore doesn’t require additional effort.

I started writing fiction at 14. By age 32, I had drafted one (very rough) novella, written one novelette and two short stories, plus four other short stories as class assignments. I’d started 10+ other novels. My total word count for fiction, over the course of around 18 years, was about 200,000.

Around age 32, I started posting my writing plans and goals on my blog. I continued to do so sporadically and in a few different fashions for several years, before settling into my current method of yearly lists of goals.

Now, about 18 years later, I have published eleven novels, one collection, one standalone novelette, one novelette as part of a shared-world anthology, written four additional novels that are not yet published, and written another 20+ flash fics/short stories/novelettes. My total word count for fiction was around 2,500,000.

It is, of course, unfair to compare my teenage self to my thirty-something self (although I wrote more fiction in some years as a teen than I did in some years in my 30s). There are many factors that intersect. My current productivity builds heavily on lessons I learned when I was younger and struggled much more to figure out what I was doing. It wasn’t a matter of “Setting goals is magic and as soon as I did that, I could write 12x as fast.”

But it’s also clear that announcing my goals helps me to achieve them. I feel an obligation to myself to do what I said I would. I take pride and pleasure in accomplishing a stated objective. Writing down a list of goals gives me something to reference when I’m bored and don’t know what I want to do: “I could doomscroll more? Or wait, let me look at my list of things I want to accomplish and see if any of that looks good.” I am writing this post right now because I put “write more posts” down on my goal list for 2021.

I am not writing this to prove that “those studies saying goals don't work are WRONG!” My own experience proves almost nothing about the average person.

But likewise: the aggregate experience of all people proves relatively little about me. Or about any given individual. Yes, there are a range of things that apply to literally everyone -- we all need oxygen, water, and food to survive -- but there’s a huge range of things where individuals vary dramatically. Take two humans of the same age, gender, height, weight, and activity level: will their bodies burn the same number of calories in a day? Probably not. If they each eat identical diets at identical times, will they experience identical levels of hunger? Probably not.

If a scientific study shows that something works or doesn’t work “on average”, that can be a useful starting point to guide your own decisions. But unless the details of the study show that there's almost no variance in results -- that it fails or succeeds for 99%+ of people -- it’s not a good end point. It’s more useful to pay attention to what works or doesn’t work for you, personally, than to assume that your own results will match the average. One way or another, most people won’t match the average.

And that is even more true for anecdote-based advice on “how to succeed in business” or “how to write a novel” based on the author’s own experiences. YMMV.

Which, of course, includes this post. You should definitely ignore this, if it doesn’t work for you.

This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/2021/01/03/selfexperimentation.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2012

2020 (for me) in Review and 2021 Goals

takes a moment to dance on 2020's grave

I made some goals for 2020! I wonder what they were?

looks them up

2020 Goal Scorecard:

  • Continue caregiving for Lut: Done!
  • Publish two books: Done!
  • Publish The Mortal Prince and the Moon Etherium: Done!
  • Finish drafting two books: OVERACHIEVED! I finished three. *Do enough maintenance on house to keep it from falling down around us: Done!
  • Make one color picture every month: Ehhhh kinda.
  • Continue to track food & exercise: I did a half-hearted job of this the last few months, but I'm gonna give this a "done" anyway. I'm not gonna say that some sloppiness a few missed weeks outweighs the 40+ weeks of fairly accurate data.
  • Post monthly updates: Done!
  • Check goal list when I post them: I did this ... some of the time? There's a reason I put "look at goals" on the January goal list. -_-

Stretch goals:

  • Write a book in the 55,000-80,000 word range which covers the entire outline for the book: Done! Demon's Alliance was projected at 67,000 words, and came in at 74,800. GOOD WORK ME. I had absolutely forgotten that this was a stretch goal by the time I did it.

Some details!

Published

Edited

  • The Twilight Etherium (first round of edits and part of final round was 2019, finished final round in 2020)
  • Spark of Desire
  • The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady

Drafted

  • The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady (46,089)
  • Fellwater (began 2016 and worked on in desultory fashion in 2017-2019. 28,800 new words in 2020)
  • Demon's Alliance (74,842)

Incomplete Drafts:

  • Angel's Grace (31,100)

Total word count for 2020 was about 180,800. This is about the same as last year's total and about half of 2018's total. 2020 was hard, I'm good with this.

Art

Despite my monthly updates on art being consistently "I fell down on this one", I actually did a number of drawings this year and spent a chunk of time on art.

January: Worth, forest fire drawing
February: incomplete crowd-sourced prompt sketch, cover for The Twilight Etherium
March: Spark of Desire cover
April: Moar Spark of Desire cover
May: Whispers Rain portrait, relative-sizes sketch for the Romance PBEM
June: The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady cover
July: Three alphabet sketches
August: Lord cover, couple of meh portraits.
September: Raven portrait
October: Abstract Etherium-inspired scenery things
November: Etherium-inspired landscape
December: Mask on Lut's avatar

So I actually will make a 2020 month-by-month picture like I wanted to, even if it is gonna have some repetition/mediocre pictures in it.

Home Maintenance:

Aw yeah I got it ALL DONE.

  • Roof replaced
  • Siding repaired
  • Weather-damaged window frames repaired or replaced
  • House painted

Work

In early March, as the pandemic started to look serious for the USA, I asked my boss to get me remote access. I went on staycation before the shutdowns began, and when my staycation ended, I started working from home. In October, I became an official only-works-from-home employee. I now have a dedicated work laptop with a docking station and a KVM switch (all bank-provided) so that I can use my own peripherals with it. (The bank would've given me peripherals instead of the switch, but I really don't have anywhere to put another set of monitors.)

Working from home is very nice. I'd always assumed that working from home is one of those things that sounds better in principle than it is in practice, but nope, I love it. I am especially looking forward to the part where I can wait for snow to melt instead of having to shovel out my car and/or walk to work in snow boots. My area gets a few snows every year, but we usually have enough days above freezing that the snow will melt off in a week or less. For example, it's snowing as I write this, but the Sunday and Monday highs are around 40 so it may be melted off by Wednesday. I might have to shovel snow a time or two in order to get groceries, but we'll see.

~

Given the Many Challenges of 2020, I feel pretty great about how much I got done. PRETTY GREAT. Lemme tell you.

So I guess I need some 2021 goals. Last year's goals were pretty good, let's just use most of those again.

Goals for 2021

  • Continue caregiving for Lut
  • Publish two books
  • Finish drafting two books
  • Continue to track food & exercise
  • Post monthly updates.
  • Put month & year goal list in your bullet journal so you'll actually remember to look at it. Also, look at it.

Stretch Goals

  • Make an art every month. Part of an art counts if it's a complicated art.
  • Finish outlines for two books
  • Read 12 books
  • Read a little every day (of a book you didn't write)
  • Eat a little less and/or exercise a little more than you did in 2020
  • Promote your books a little
  • Write 50 blog posts

This looks like plenty.

This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/655793.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
studious

December 2020 in Review

Health & Fitness
Avg Calories Consumed per day: 1956
Avg Exercise per day: 121
Weight: 170.9

Consumption down a teensy bit, exercise up an even teensier bit, weight up a teensy bit. Nothing much to see here. I have been much more lackadaisical about calorie-tracking the last few months: I've done a lot more "eh, this meal felt like this many calories, just put that down" rather than keeping a true count. I am not concerned enough about this to actually measure things that are annoying to measure, but I think I'll try to at least measure things that fall into the "easy enough" category.

Writing

I did some of this! About 6600 words. Angel's Grace is now at 31,100. (I also chopped out about 500 words of stuff that I wrote during Nano but knew I would need to cut later.)

Writing was not a focus in December so I'm pleased that I made a little progress.

Equally important, I figured out the Angel's Grace timeline and my progress thus far through the outline. I have covered 35% (edit: this should've been 40%) of my original outline, but I added a bunch of stuff to the early part. I expect I have somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 words to go. 60-65,000 to go is possible but unlikely.

The Business of Writing

I finished final edits on The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady! This went right down to the wire, with me completing it yesterday and sending it to Alinsa for layout. But it's done!

Now I just have to finish the cover. o_o;;;

The cover is way too ambitious. I've been working on it for months. I started taking parts out of the original file and blowing them up to work on them separately because I need a higher resolution for the cover as a whole than my little Surface can realistically handle. I will probably end up using my desktop to reassemble the pieces. The cover concept does make me laugh, though, so I'm not willing to give up on it. Although I thought of a much simpler cover concept that I could do if it doesn't sell well with the original idea.

Reading

I spent much of my "reading in bed before going to sleep" time proofreading The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady instead of reading someone else's book. Still, I managed 25 days of doing some reading, so not too bad.

Art/Other

Not a good art month, but I did put in some work on the cover for The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady, and I drew a mask on Lut's forum avatar at his request. (I did the original avatar for him 12 years ago and he still uses it. ♥ )

Gaming

Still playing "Dress Up! Time Princess." December's play experience was a little weird for me, because of the way that the game and its limited-time events intersect.

So you regen a certain amount of stamina per hour, up to a cap (generally several hours' worth). You can also get additional stamina in various ways. Some of the ways of getting additional stamina can be saved up. For one instance: you get daily gift boxes from your companions, and these might have materials, or gold, or stamina. The "season pass", which acts as a reward mechanism for doing dailies, also sometimes gives stamina in addition to other goodies. Like many players, I reached the final tier of the season a few weeks before the season ended, and the repeating final season reward included a nice chunk of stamina. Both boxes and season rewards can be stored to open/collect at a later date.

There were two reasons to hoard stamina: one is that Saturdays are "double drop" days, where you get twice as much of the encounter item rewards. The other is that the game had stamina events for Halloween & Thanksgiving, so everyone expected a Christmas stamina event.

So starting on December 13, I saved all my season pass rewards and all my gift boxes.

But the thing about saving this stuff is that you're not just saving stamina: it comes bundled with gold and other items. By not opening it when I got it, I cut my total resources-per-day by more than half, I'd estimate. So for two weeks, I was constantly broke in-game, and struggling to finish anything. Then, on December 26 -- a Saturday when the Christmas stamina event was still running -- I opened everything, and did all the double-drop events with all my extra stamina, and suddenly I had So Much Everything. I tried to pace the next story I started a little bit, but I'm still 80% through it after a week. And I still have a big, albeit dwindling, stockpile of gold. I've been spending profligately on cat-breeding, trying to get a new variety of cat, with little success so far.

Neepery aside, still having a great time with the game.

I bought a new game for my desktop, "Calico." It's a cute game, with the premise of "you run a magical cat cafe". It's designed for console and the keyboard controls are clunky, though. I sat down and couldn't figure out how to stand up again, so I quit out and haven't gone back in. o_o;;; I may give it another try, but I am unlikely to buy a console controller to appease the PC games that think I should have one. The thing about console controllers is that I kind of hate everything about them: they feel awkward and uncomfortable and since I've never used them, nothing about them is remotely intuitive. "Press one of the four cryptically-labeled buttons to do [thing]." But there's an entire generation who grew up on console controllers so they're what they're used to and they love them, and therefore there's a corresponding generation of games I can't play. c_c

It's kind of weird, because the handful of games I've picked up for my smart phone have been fun and easy to play, but desktop games are really more miss than hit for me.

December Goal Scorecard

  • Look into switching phone plans:

So at the start of the month, I opened a tab for Ting Mobile, a phone service provider that offered cheap, limited-data plans. I'd heard about them via a Youtube product placement ad from Legal Eagle, so I used that link. I checked their rates, verified that my phone and Lut's would both work with them, and then ... left the tab open. Until December 31. I checked a couple of other plans in the mean time and didn't see anything cheaper. Yesterday, I went "well, this is the LAST DAY to make that goal" and filled out the form to get SIM cards and start service with them. In theory, we will get the SIM cards on January 7, and if all goes well I will then cancel my service with T-Mobile.

I'm a little sad about this, because I like T-Mobile and have used them for 20+ years. But their rates are no longer competitive. My T-Mobile plan -- unlimited data for me, nothing for Lut who has a dumb phone --- has a base of $60 ($78 and change after taxes & fees). The Ting plan for both of us is $35 -- $25 for 5 gigs of data for me, $10 for Lut. All plans for both carriers have unlimited text & calling. Even the SIM cost -- Ting charged us $5 per SIM ($1 for the card and $4 for shipping) and the last time I had to replace a T-Mobile SIM it was $20. (Although, in fairness, I don't know that Ting will still charge $5 if I ever need a replacement.)

Anyway, we'll see how this goes. My T-Mobile phone reception has always been terrible, so if it's bad from Ting that won't be much of a change. :D

  • Make final editing list for Lord: Done!
  • Complete some editing points for Lord: Also done!
  • Figure out time line for Angel's Grace: Done!
  • Write more of Angel's Grace: done!
  • Make an art: Technically done is the best kind of done?
  • Stretch goal: Finish edits on Lord: aw yeah DONE.

So feeling good about December! Even if I fell down on the art one. Again. :D

Oh right I need to make January goals

January 2021 Goals

  • Assist Lut
  • Get to 2/3rds done with the Angel's Grace outline
  • Cancel T-Mobile service when Ting SIMs arrive, assuming Ting SIMs work.
  • Archive 2020 Bullet Journal spreadsheet & use fresh one for 2021.
  • Look at goal list occasionally.

Stretch Goals:

  • Exercise 20 times this month
  • Track calories consumed a little more diligently. Like figure out how many calories is in the spaghetti sauce I keep making, and how many servings it makes.
  • Make an art. Finishing part of the new book cover counts even if I don't finish the whole thing.
  • Mention on social media that I have some published books people can buy
  • Fling a few books at Bookbub for rejection
  • Post a few blog entries, apart from my usual month-in-review.
  • Work on outline(s) for next potential book(s) to write after Angel's Grace
  • Maintain bullet journal

Kinda missed having a whole pile of stretch goals, so figured I'd heap some back on.

This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/2021/01/01/december2020.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
studious

November 2020 in Review

Health/Fitness

Avg calories consumed: 2010 Avg exercise per day: 114 Weight: 170.6

About a third of the calories-consumed counts for November were total guesses. My calorie counts are not very precise anyway; there's a lot of food where I don't bother to measure out how much I'm eating and just guess after the fact.  But November was much worse than usual: several days, I didn't log at the time at all and so I'd put down 2000 or 2100 calories for the day afterward so that the formulas that calculates averages wouldn't get mucked up.

My exercise numbers are about right, however -- my phone automatically logs my walks, and I remembered to add in the one time I did exercise other than walking. So I was able to reconstruct those numbers.

Honestly, my month-in-review could pretty much say "I won NaNoWriMo, the end." Everything else got shunted off to one side until December.

Still, my weight trended down in November, so ... yay? I'm about where I was back in January.

I feel like these statistics make me come across as a lot more invested and concerned with my weight than I actually am. I am happy with way I look! My main motivation here is "eating chocolate because you're bored or stressed is an ineffectual coping mechanism", and "my family has a history of knee problems so it would be good not to put more stress on mine." There is a smidge of "it'd be nice to wear these clothes that fit me when I was 130 lbs," but it's not a big factor. I'm perfectly fine with what I weigh, and I was fine with what I weighed when I was 184, too. But eating chocolate doesn't actually reduce my stress levels, while exercising does. So it's less a measure for its own sake than a barometer of how well I'm coping with life in general. 

And, yeah, "coping but not coping that well" does about cover it.

Writing

I won NaNoWriMo!  I won it on the 26th, with plenty of time to spare, and then more-or-less stopped writing for the rest of the month. My total count was 51,666. My graph is all over the place. My first day was over 5000 and the second day over 4000, and then there were four more days that were over 3000. The rest of the month bounced between 1 and 2600-ish words.

This was the most relaxed NaNoWriMo I've done. My only other commitment was my day job, and with two holidays in November plus me taking two other days off, I worked less than 80 hours total. So I'm a little surprised that I logged just-barely-a-win, in contrast to the 70k+ I wrote in 2016 when I was still working full time and also attended a convention in November and did cooking for Thanksgiving. OTOH, about 20k of that win was on a BSDM erotica novel that I am too embarrassed to publish, so. It's fine. n_n

This year's win was split between two books:

Demon's Alliance: Had already written 48,133 words in September and October. Finished in November at 74,842 words, which incidentally means I accomplished my 2020 stretch goal -- "write a book between 55,000 and 80,000 words that covers the entire outline for the original planned book." I'd forgotten this was even on the list. :D

Angel's Lure: Started writing in November, ended at: 24,955.

I ended up counting some false starts for scenes, because I didn't want my word count for Nano to drop, so I will probably cut some of those words later. Also, there's one scene that I thought would be that beginning of Angel's Lure and that I may still end up using near the middle somewhere, so I don't want to just throw it away like I normally do.

The Business of Writing

I published a book! Spark of Desire was released in mid-November. Still waiting on the print copy, but the e-book is out now.  I did not talk this book up as much as I usually do on social media, so I feel like I should give it another nudge. I love this book and Spark contains my very favorite scene to re-read, out of all of my books, so I want to share it with more people!

I don't have any more ideas for books in this setting, but one of my reader-friends made puppy-dog eyes at me about it so I am keeping myself open to it. The main characters from Spark are mostly middle-aged at this point, and it might be fun to have them as supporting cast, in the role of quasi-wise mentor, to some future cast. 

Reading

My Kindle app says I skipped 4 days in November. I realized I'd broken my streak at one point and then went "meh" and didn't try to fix it, which was probably one or two of those days.

I did finish a book last month, though. Albeit an illustration-heavy book so probably not as many words as an average novel. But yay finishing a thing!

Anyway, "read 26 days out of 30 and finished a book" is pretty good by my current (low) standards. :D

Art/Other

On November 29, I looked at my 2020 goals and realized that "make an art each month" was on the list.  I ended up doing a quickie abstract landscape-ish thing on the 30th so I could keep that resolution for November. I already blew this one for the year. Technically I did at least a little bit of art every month, but a few months my art-time was almost all devoted to "keep working on this One Thing that's taking several months to finish." I might be able to make a month-by-month collage with a combination of B&W sketches and more-finished works, though. We'll see.

Gaming

I played a bunch of Race for the Galaxy in their "Arena" mode. I am a good player but not top-tier, is my general impression at this game.  Every now and then luck favors me and I reach the top 10, and I'm like "that's not gonna last" and then I have a bad run and descend to like 200th place. :D

I thought about playing Civ V several times, but then I'd think "do I have something else that I would find more rewarding to do for several hours?" and do that instead.

Still playing both Love Nikki and Dress Up! Time Princess.  Still like DUTP much better, although the path I have taken in the story book I'm going through now is pretty squicky. Now and again I think about going back to where the story split and then I remember it involves making gaga eyes at a character I can't stand and NOPE. In Magic Lamp and Queen Marie, I felt like you could kind of play it as 'not attracted to anyone' but in Gotham Memoirs, you get told repeatedly how you adore whichever guy you're with; no option to avoid it. Although maybe the stories did thrust some attraction on me but I didn't notice as much because I liked the male leads in the other two stories. Whereas in real life I would have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with either of the love interests in Gotham Memoirs. "Do I want the arrogant jerk who insults and orders me around, or the polite, respectful man who's an actual mob boss? NONE OF THE ABOVE K THX LEAVING NOW." 

Love Nikki had a big event for a couple of weeks at the end of November. I tried a few times to muster some enthusiasm for it but NOPE. It had a very cheap (in-game currency that I already have) suit so I did get that, but that was it. Still not feeling any urge to give Love Nikki money ever again.    

I'm still playing both Soul Scribes and 4thewords and two writing incentive games is great, y'all. I love it.

November Goal Scorecard

My goals for last month were "Win Nano" and "Assist Lut" and I did both of these things, yay!

December Goals

  • Look into switching phone plans. I am officially a "remote always" employee, meaning I will never work from an office again. I stopped playing Pokemon GO basically altogether in November. I think it's been a week since I even opened the app. Having an unlimited voice-and-data phone plan when I'm on a wireless network 98% of the time is silly. If it's a huge hassle to switch, I absolve myself of not actually switching. But if all I have to do is go to a website and fill out a form, I should really do that.
  • Make a final editing list for The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady. I actually have a final edits list already, but I don't think it's specific enough, so I want to refine it some more. Hopefully this will make it easier to do actual final edits.
  • Complete some editing points for The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady.
  • Figure out the timeline for Angel's Grace. I put down the dates for each scene of Demon's Alliance but I never did that for Angel's Grace and I only have a vague idea of when the characters are now.
  • Write some more of Angel's Grace
  • Make an art.

Stretch Goal

Finish editing The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady. I guess technically since Alinsa is still doing the print layout for Spark, I have not left my layout wuff with no work.  Still, it bothers me not to have a new book in the publishing pipeline.  Plus, if I finish editing this in 2020 then I will have finished the drafts of three books and the final edits of three (other) books in 2020, which will be pretty amazing for this freakishly terrible year.

This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/2020/12/01/novemberinreview.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
studious

Solutions and Other Problems, by Allie Brosh

I read Brosh's first book, Hyperbole and a Half, back in January. Solutions and Other Problems was released a month or two ago, and I decided (a) not to wait six years before buying it and (b) not to wait six years before reading it, either. I did wait a month or two. I don't read a lot.

Like her first book, it's a quick read; I started and finished it yesterday. It is considerably grimmer than Hyperbole and a Half, and still features some of the "Brosh beating up on herself to a painful degree." The universe beats up on her a lot in this one. Holy crap. So content notes for nihilism, depression, suicide, divorce, and physical illness. She does make some of this stuff funny but some of the essays are just straight-up serious (with a big SERIOUSNESS STARTS HERE flag, and she means it).

The book also includes some strikingly lovely illustrations by Brosh, in addition to her familiar stick-figure-inspired cartoon characters.

I am glad that I read it; it's well-written, moving, and engaging. I recommend it, but have to note that it is not anything like the crying-laughing-funny that Hyperbole and a Half is. Some of the essays are funny, and some are funny and also painful, and the serious one is just deeply tragic and sad. I did not cry from laughter from the book, but I did cry. This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/654920.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
studious

Better

I am at loose ends this morning, melancholy and thinking about things.

One of my friends left two comments on my entry about COVID-19 and politics, on the more rational reasons why some people voted for Trump. The one that struck me in particular is that ‘treating immigrants badly’ has always had bipartisan support in the US. Trump shifted the tone from “callous, bureaucratic indifference to suffering” to “gleeful malicious delight in suffering.” And abuse of immigrants has gotten much more media attention in the last four years as a result. But the policy was bad before, too. I don’t know if my perception of it being far worse under Trump is correct, or if it’s closer to “somewhat worse and much better covered.”

It is not a great comfort to think that many Trump voters might just be cynical -- “all politicians are terrible and at least this one will appoint conservative judges” -- but it’s better than picturing them as ignorant/stupid/evil.

It’s easy to be cynical.

The worst part of stereotypes like “all cops are bastards” and “all politicians are corrupt” is not that they are false, but that they are self-fulfilling. If society believes only terrible people would pursue a given career -- well, that’s pretty much motivation not to do it if you don’t want to be terrible, right?

How do you get better when you start from there?

But media generally lionizes the police, and that rosy view of them has not made them any less violent or corrupt in practice. On the other hand, media also lionizes police violence: in TV shows and films, the cops are always “breaking the rules” in order to “stop the bad guys”, usually with violence, often with lethal force. It always works out for the best in entertainment. Maybe they’re just doing the job the way they were programmed to think it would work out. I don’t think we did a very good job of this.

This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/654690.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
studious

Dress Up! Time Princess

As I mentioned in my month-end October update, I started a new dress-up game towards the end of October. I've been playing it for 36 days now, and I have Thoughts about it. So many thoughts.

I won NaNoWriMo yesterday, which means I can do Whatever I Feel Like today. This has resulted in a ginormous write-up of all my Dress Up! Time Princess thoughts. Also lots of comparisons to Love Nikki, which obviously inspired it.

Tl;dr: DUTP is a fun game, highly recommend. LN: no longer recommend at all due to lack of account management. Also not as much fun as DUTP. Collapse )

This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/654425.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
studious

Humility

"Give us a chance so we can discover the most valuable ways to serve one another."

This is a quote from the song "Fight of the Century", articulating F. A. Hayek's general views on economic policy. It is perhaps the most beautiful premise behind libertarian ideals: the idea that each person is best positioned to decide both what they most need from society and what they are best able to provide to it.

I am thinking about Hayek this morning, and about humility, because it is humbling to admit that one does not know enough to make decisions for another person. Another quote from Hayek (translated):

"The curious task of Economics is to demonstrate to men, how little they really know, about what they imagine, they can design."

It is an elegant admission of the limits of human ability, of the tendency of people to think that if we just pick the right leader, we can all do what that person says and everything will be perfect. Of the tendency to think that we could be that leader, or at least that we could give the right advice to that leader.

I am fascinated by the way these ideas are both right and wrong, the way in which humans struggle and most often fail to correctly assess either our limitations OR our capabilities. Humans have done so many great things by organizing ourselves into hierachies and taking direction from those above us. We've also committed all our worst atrocities using that same model. When we say "we shouldn't design these complicated systems because they often screw things up horribly" -- that's just another thing we might be wrong about. We're always getting things wrong.

The proximate causes of my thoughts this morning are COVID-19 and politics.  

By some measures, I have been inordinately cautious about COVID-19. I was supposed to see my parents in early March, but I cancelled that trip and took a staycation instead. When my staycation ended, I worked from home to minimize the risk to myself and more importantly, to my immunocompromised partner. I stopped walking at the Plaza or in public parks to avoid crowds even outside. I haven't visited my long-distance boyfriend since last November, and I haven't seen my girlfriend since February.  

But I have taken other risks. I pick up takeout food from restaurants and fast food places.  I shop at Costco every few weeks for groceries. I could get groceries delivered by Wal-mart but I use their free pick-up service instead. I took my cat to the vet several times while I was trying to save her life. (And I will always regret not taking her sooner and more often.) Lut has been to the dentist three times, and to his primary care physician twice. He goes to the oncology clinic every four weeks for four hours or so, which is the most exposure my household has to other people, going by the CDC's "proximity to a specific person for more than 15 cumulative minutes." The oncology clinic visits are not optional, but the rest arguably is. I've visited the same two friends twice since March, for a few hours, wearing masks and staying six feet apart.

Is that too much risk? Am I being too cautious?  I don't know.  

I listen to other people burst out angrily over the choices of others. Furious that in-person schools are open, or that they are closed, that someone else is having Thanksgiving with people outside their household, that or that other people are unwilling to visit for Thanksgiving. 

And I don't know.

It's not even that I think "you shouldn't yell at strangers because they don't agree with your risk assessment." Maybe you should yell at them. Maybe that will be constructive. I don't know. 

It's the same way I feel about American politics now. I revile the Republican party; I regard it as bastion of party over principle, rife with corruption, racism, and proto-fascism. They had the opportunity to reject Trump's populist strongman rhetoric and policies, and they embraced it instead. I will never vote for a Republican again. Their brand is less than worthless to me; throw it on the dumpster fire and start fresh. 

But I retain a lot of sympathy for conservative values: liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of association, and small government in particular. I cannot make a better argument for "the federal government should have less money, less power and less influence over American lives" than "the USA elected Donald Trump for president once." I don't believe that the Republican party is aligned in any meaningful way with conservative values, at this juncture in time. 

70 million people voted for Donald Trump in 2020. That is a lot of people who disagree with me on my core values regarding democracy, due process, and equal treatment of all people under the law. I don't know how to reach someone who thinks that "keeping kids in cages during a pandemic" is acceptable, even if they only mean that it's an acceptable tradeoff for some other goal. I don't know what you do about that. I literally don't know. Does it work to ostracize them? Does it work to be kind and friendly and open to them in the hopes of persuading them slowly over time? Does it work to yell at them when the subject comes up and otherwise to let them be? I don't know. My own approach is to be quiet and open, but I have no confidence in the utility of it.

The closest I come to an answer is to say that we need all of it. Every possible approach, all at once, in the giant jumble of each individual person discovering the most valuable way to serve one another.

This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/2020/11/21/humility.html. Please comment there using OpenID.