At the beginning of 2005, I made some New Year's resolutions. Now the year's over, time to take stock and see how I did.
1) Write fiction for unfinishedtales more often than I did in 2004.
I totally kicked butt and took names on this one. In 2004, I posted 20 fiction entries to the journal. In 2005, I posted a total of 161 fiction* entries in 2005 to UnfinishedTales. 141 of those are Silver Scales, 14 were "Triskelion" (a short story I started in 2003 and finally went back to and finished this year) and 6 were miscellaneous story fragments.
* The journal also includes a handful of non-fiction entries written this year, mostly writing-about-writing stuff.
Grade on #1: A+
2) I will not let the fact that I have an audience deter me from writing what I want in unfinishedtales.
This one is harder to measure. As the numbers above demonstrate, 2005 was the year of Silver Scales, the most popular story arc to appear in UT. I wrote a few other random fragments, but none of them were things that I had any intention of continuing beyond the initial fragment. However, I did think of a couple of ideas for other stories, but I haven't started any of them. In theory, this could be a mark of "I don't want to start something new because my audience will want me to finish the old story instead".
Upon sincere reflection, I don't think that was the case. I didn't, and still don't, have a clear vision of where the new stories begin and how they go. It was actually easier for me to continue working on Silver Scales than it would be to figure out the details needed for a new story. Fancy that, continuing an old project was the path of least resistance for a change.
So I wrote a lot of Silver Scales because I wanted to write a lot of Silver Scales. That works.
On a related note: I'm very happy with the progress I've made in writing this year. Not just that I've written a good deal, but that I've had such a good time writing. The process hasn't been totally free of struggles, and there have been times when I didn't want to write but forced myself to do so anyway.
But for the most part, I've enjoyed writing. Not just the satisfaction of "having written", but enjoying the time that I spend typing the words on the screen and working out what happens next. It's been fun. Prophecy was a painful, angst-riddled slog for three and a half years of the Master Plan(tm), while Silver Scales has been a pleasure for almost the entire ride. I contribute my success* with Scales to the following factors:
- The friends who've been reading it. jordangreywolf, tuftears, level_head, brennabat, minor_architect, kagetsume, ltwarhound and telnar have all been enormously supportive by commenting on the story as it goes along. Not only with approving remarks, but also with speculations about the direction the narrative will take, how they feel about the choices the characters have made, and just generally talking about the story. Every time I post an entry, I look forward to hearing what people will have to say about it, and that's been a huge motivation to keep posting.
- Story type. Scales is an upbeat, light-hearted story, where Prophecy was dark and serious. I prefer to read upbeat, light-hearted stories, so it shouldn't surprise me that I'd rather write them, too.
- There is no Master Plan(tm). While the Master Plan(tm) ensured that I worked consistently on Prophecy, it did nothing to promote a good mood during that work. When I was sticking to the Plan, I was often aggravated, unhappy and wishing I was doing something else. But if I didn't stick to it, I felt guilty and angst-ridden. Incidentally: my goal on the Master Plan was to write 125,000 words per year. The closest I came was 111,000. In the last year, without a quota, I've written almost 90,000 words on Scales. Y'know, I'm willing to take a 20% drop in productivity in return for a lot more fun in doing it.
Anyway, getting back to resolution 2, I'm giving myself full marks for this one. I may have felt occassional apprehensions about how my readers would respond to a piece, but ultimately I haven't let it stop me. And that's what the resolution was about.
* Where "success" is defined as "enjoying what you're doing" which I personally think is an important measure of success.
Grade on #2: A
3) I will try not to psyche myself out of doing anything remotely productive.
Even harder to measure than (2). But on reflection, I think I mastered this one. To recap: this was about prioritizing any productive activity that I wanted to do as Important. I have a thought process that goes like this:
- I should do [A] .
- I don't want to do [A].
- I wouldn't mind working on [B], though.
- But [B] isn't as important as [A]. I shouldn't work on [B] when I'm supposed to work on [A].
- But I don't want to do [A]. I'll go play Puzzle Pirates instead of doing anything useful.
So the resolution was "Do [B] if you want to do [B], even if you don't think [B] should be your top priority." I've done a lot of productive things this year. I started exercising for an average of 5+ hours per week. I wrote gobs of fiction in UT. I did a 24 hour comic, a lot of sketching, and a bunch of user icons for my friends. I even ran quite a few roleplay logs--42, if my count is correct. Of course, I spent a lot of time in unproductive activities like Puzzle Pirates. But the gist of this resolution wasn't "be productive all the time". Doing unproductive things is fine, as long as they top my list of "things I want to do".
I did catch myself a few times being unproductive even when there was a low-priority creative project that I kinda wanted to do, however. So I'm not going to give myself full marks on this one.
Grade on #3: A-
4) I'll keep track of the books that I read this year.
Ummm ... I kinda sorta stopped keeping track this in mid-July. I shall try to recreate the list from memory. I also re-read a handful of novels this year, but I'm going to confine this list only to books I read for the first time.
King Rat, China Meiville
Wee Free Men, Terry Pratchett
There Will Be Dragons, John Ringo
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J. K. Rowling
Time of the Ghost, Diana Wynne Jones
Conrad's Fate, Diana Wynne Jones
Going Postal, Terry Pratchett
A Hat Full of Sky, Terry Pratchett
Chess with a Dragon, Gerrold
Expecting Someone Taller, Tom Holt
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis
A Marriage of Insects, Bard Bloom
At the recommendation of several people, I started reading Bujold's Vorkosigan novels. I wound up reading almost all them, with the exception of "Winterfair Gifts" (I'm not sure if that's a novel or a short story; it's not published by Baen) and Barrayar. So that'd be:
Shards of Honor
The Warrior's Apprentice
Borders of Infinity
Ethan of Athos
Brothers in Arms
A Civil Campaign
Almost all of the books I read this year were good. It's actually quicker to say which books I wouldn't recommend than which ones I would.
If there's one book you never read, make it Wuthering Heights. Spare yourself. If you want to read 19th century English literature, read some Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte or really anything except Wuthering Heights. caffeinewabbit, I feel your pain. Wow, that book was awful. Someday I shall write an entry about it, perhaps.
I know a lot of people like China Meiville a lot, but King Rat was a huge disappointment for me. Maybe I'll try one of his other books someday, but don't hold your breath.
The rest of them I enjoyed. Of the Bujold books, Ethan of Athos is my least favorite but still readable.
To Say Nothing of the Dog deserves a special mention, because it was a slog to get started. I probably spent a week getting through just the first 50 pages. But by the time I was half-way through I was really enjoying it. In retrospect, it's one of my favorites for the year; I'm very glad I stuck with it.
I'm pretty sure that's all the books I read for the first time this year (not counting short stories and assorted online fiction). So I'll go ahead and give myself full marks on this one, too.
Grade for #4: A
5) I will lose 10 pounds this year, down to 127 lbs.
My bathroom scale perished in the last round of "The Basement ATTACKS!" a few weeks ago. When I last weighed myself, a week or two into December, I think I was around 135. I've been eating far too much this holiday season, so I'd bet that I'm right back to 137 (or more) again.
But the news isn't all bad on this front. I've been exercising diligently since the beginning of May. My measurements have changed somewhat, even if my weight hasn't, from 39.5/29.5/37.5" at the begining of June to 38.25/28.5/37" in mid-December. (Order is: Hips/Waist/Bust).
The amount of exercise I've been getting has dropped over the months. My high was 67 minutes per day, seven days a week; I'm now averaging 40-60 minutes per day, six days a week. (This figure includes time spent stretching and cooling down, but does not include walking to or from work). I've also missed a few days in addition to my scheduled one-day-off-per-week. (Last week, I missed three days, which was atypically bad).
I'm not sure what grade to give myself on this one. I mean, sure, A for effort on the exercise front, but no progress on the stated goal and not a whole lot of progress on getting thinner.
However, considering that the spirit of the fifth resolution was "Make some modest but tangible positive improvement on the health and fitness front", and I think I've accomplished that much. Lut definitely thinks so, and he's less biased than I am. So, an A for rising to the spirit of the goal, and half a grade off for not meeting the technical requirement.
Grade for #5: A-
6) Do more sketching, and complete at least 4 pictures. (Digital or real media).
I definitely did more sketching this year. I did lots of sketching this year. So, full marks for that, no problem.
The "complete at least 4 pictures" part is somewhat more debatable. When I made this resolution, I ws thinking of pictures that I did in 2004 like this one commissioned by oceansedge, or this one done for level_head's birthday. That is to say, large, full-color compositions with backgrounds.
I didn't do any pictures in 2005 that I liked as well as my favorites from 2004, nor did I do any individual pieces that were as complex or challenging. Two of the full-color compositions that I did craft in 2005 were done at the end of December. I started and finished one of them yesterday, so that gives you an idea how much time I put into it.
However, I did do four full-color compositions, not to mention assorted comics pages leading up to the 24-hour comic, plus a bunch of icons.
I gathered together all of of my finished art for 2005 on one webpage:
For those who don't want to click on the link to see everything, I'll put the cropped thumbnails and links to the two new pieces from December here:
I did this piece as my Christmas gift for level_head. It features the two main characters from the short story I wrote this year, "Triskelion". It's not an illustration from the story, though. (There was no Christmas theme to the short story, for starters).
This is the one I did yesterday. The subject is Sir Damon Kildare, one of the protagonists of Silver Scales. This scene more or less happened in the book, although Kildare with his shirt off is hardly representative of the tenor of the novel. I like the concept for this picture much better than the execution. Maybe I'll try again some time.
So, notwithstanding a general malaise with my artwork this year, I'm giving myself full marks for accomplishing the resolution. I never said it had to be good art, just a certain amount of it.
Grade for #6: A
8) Keep the Game of October campaign moving.
Unfortunately, I dropped the ball on this one. I ran a total of 39 logs for the Game of October campaign this year, which may sound all right -- hey, that averages to one every nine days or so -- until you realize that the campaign has six players in it, and the typical log involves only one or two of them. On average, each player appeared in 10 logs. That's less than one per month, and I was hoping to average two per month per player.
Worse, in a few months I haven't run any logs at all. It's been six weeks since the last log, and almost as long since the one before that, Most of the players haven't been in a session since September or October. Frankly, when a game goes on hiatus (especially an unannounced hiatus) for 3+ months, it's usually a safe bet that it's dead.
Despite this, I'm not willing to count Game of October as dead yet. I like all of the players and all of the characters, and I hate to give up on it. However, I'm not really sure what to do about it. I need to talk to all my players and see what they'd like to do. I think most people are still interested in playing, but I'm afraid that even at best, I'm not going to be able to run more than one log per month per player, and that pace may be just too slow for the players to keep track of what's going on. When you're only involved in a game once a month, it's hard to remember the prior events or what your character is trying to do.
So, anyway, I'll talk to the players and see where we go from here. In the meantime, I flunked this one. No F -- hey, I did run 39 logs this year! -- but a solid D.
Grade for #8: D
9) Don't give up.
I'm not! Hey, I even did a picture on the 31st just so that I could satisfy the technical requirements for #6. I am not unbloodied for this year, but I am unbowed.
Grade for #9: A
Despite some missteps, I still managed a B+ average for the year, which is better than I'd thought I'd do. The teacher must have decided to be lenient with me at the end of term.