Writing Echoes

Delijah's Writing Blog

The Last Yōkai War of Edo – Final First Draft

Back in 2014 I gave in to the plotbunnies and started working on the wrapping of the Hyakki Yagyō universe, or what at that moment I thought it would be – the Last Yōkai War of Edo. Apparently, it is one of those things that runs out of control. At that point, the story added up to roughly 40,000 words. Looking at it, it was clear how I had barely written the skeleton of a story – character development was next to inexistent, the main character just switched from trainee to well-trained in a chapter, without any real progression. The antagonist / villain was bad just because and had no motivation whatsoever. I knew that such a thing needed to be worked on, and the story told in a coherent way.

I’ve been doing so for a few months now. And thus the 40,000 have turned into 100,000. Around 10,000 of those had been written in snippets throughout a year or so, things that I wanted in but I had not really woven in.

So I put all them in a file and started working. The first thing was finding a good timeline, one that worked according to the development of the main character’s power and reactions. Then I had to work through the story to get from A to B, to C and then towards the end as I had first imagined it.

I had really not thought that I would be doing so many changes. About 20,000 words were completely retold – not an edit, a complete rewrite of the same events. On top of that, about 10,000 words of the finale were scratched out and re-done. As in the finale now has the same players but the events unfold in a completely different way. It was strange, reworking some parts like that.

All in all, the first go gave me a story skeleton, and this second run a first draft that more or less makes sense. Now I will let it rest for a while before I tackle an actual edit – and not a re-writing!

As I like working with track changes, I can show you how most of the document looked towards the end of edit. I’m shaking just thinking about how it might end up as… So yes, I have a “final first draft”, a complete story that now requires polishing!

edo_rewrite

NaNoWriMo Sponsor Offer Review: Fastpencil Paperback Proofcopy

Everyone is entitled to mistakes, and in my opinion, FastPencil made one when they launched the NaNoWriMo 2015 Sponsorship. My initial idea had been reviewing it as “run you fools”, but I have decided that such a thing was not fair to them. While other times I have screencapped the process, I lost my patience with this, so, it did not happen this time.

fastpencil_offer15The offer (which at the time of speaking can be located at https://nanowrimo.fastpencil.com/nanowrimo2015) shown in the image promises a free proof copy and a 70% off in a distribution package for winners. Nothing that we haven’t seen before, but always nice to try a new service.

fastpencil_startYou sign up and you have two options, either using their web-based software or uploading your own pdf. For people who already have a preferred formatted style, like yours truly, the pdf option is the preferred one. Before uploading your file you have to:

  1. Create the project. Fair enough.
  2. Adding titles, descriptors, reviews and such
  3. Listing authors and contributors
  4. Choose a category for your book
  5. Add legal details

Of course, this is my own opinion here, but before spending time filling forms, I want to see whether you take my file or not, just in case what happened happens. And what happened? That FastPencil expects you to upload a pdf/x file, i.e., one created with Adobe Professional or the pdf export tool from Microsoft Word in Mac. Both are professional tools towards the higher end of the spectrum. Most NaNo Writers won’t be using either, as the tendency is among the amateur pool. And the professionals usually have their own distribution channels by the time they are so.

Hack: you can use the Adobe Professional trial, active for 30 days in order to go around this problem. It will work for one time, but okay. You can walk around the problem (for me, it meant reformatting the whole \LaTeX file in OpenOffice, export as pdf and convert to pdf/x in Adobe Pro). Not convinced by the result, I decided to try their manual formatting.

fastpencil_formattingImporting the rtf files screwed the formatting up, so I found myself having to work on the html front to adapt what I wanted to one of the default styles they have. This is not “friendly” nor easy for most people, FastPencil (I show you html though, because is how I worked. You could work with rich text too).

  • Item: out of the six offered styles, 4 are completely unprofessional, and look tremendously ugly. But that is personal opinion, you might disagree with me.
  • Item: You must have chapters. They won’t take a one-shot, and the chapters must be sequential. While they do have a “short story” style, for some reason this separates the title on one page and the story on the next.
  • Item: Dragging and rearranging “chapters” is a good idea, but the different types of “chapters” are not clear. What’s the difference between a “front matter” and a “back matter”? Why does something called “blank” allow you to insert code there, shows you results and just prints a blank page? If you let me insert code in the blanks, I will assume that you’ll allow me a no-number page that I can use as separator. I’ll obviously assume wrong.
  • Item: The preview takes me through the whole compilation project, and I have to download a file every time. This would not be so annoying if the process worked every time and not just 50% of the times. And I like seeing what I’m doing. Shame on me, that I need to check that everything is according to what I design.
  • Item: Erasing blocks will take me back to the project page so I have to start the process over again.

Finally! The project is “finished”. By now I’ve dropped two designs, my lovely \LaTeX-pdf, a short story, the kanji separators that I made for between-stories and my hope of getting a non-link-blue table of contents and spent about 7 hours (in different days) in the whole project since I started the FastPencil part.

Now it’s time to go through steps 2 – 5 that we did for the pdf, as this is a “new” project, render the pdf (and here apparently people other than me have been stuck for hours) and if you want a physical copy agree that it’s going to be $9.99, just because + an extra which will depend on how many pages you’ve got ($0.04 per page). This is for both “marketplace” and “private copy”. The “publishing package” is over $200, and you have to “commit to buy” now (you would be able to change your mind later, but yes…).

Then you make covers, you’ll have to upload your png of pdf according to the sizing, but the spine is automatic. Make sure you have a look before you choose your cover fonts, you don’t want them to clash too much (again, people have complained about long rendering times. I did not have that issue).

You check the preview, you approve it and you get to ordering (and yet again, people have been complaining about issues here). You introduce the code and the $9.99 + pages. In my case, 60 pages added up to $13.61, plus $1.50 handling, a grand total of $15.11. I type in the NaNoWriMo discount code and… $13.61 go away. The handling stays. “Free copy”? Nope. Not if I have to pay $1.50. But okay. I’ve gotten this far, I can spare $1.50. I click order.

Shipping charges: $85.53 from USA to Spain. Screw you, FastPencil.

fastpencil_85bucks

For the record, though, I did contact them and asked if there was a chance for a more reasonable shipping method, but as I started looking into the forums and Twitter, I saw that it was the tendency. Other charges I’ve come across: $40 to Canada, $144 to Sweden, $76 to the UK and my favourite:

Obviously, FastPencil did not think this through. They did not take into account international shipping at all. they did not realise that their target was not a pool of professionals. I am a bit savvy with computers, and it took forever to get everything to work. FastPencil claims that they offer “publishing made simple”. If that is simple, give me complex code, anytime.

No, I did not order the book. No, I’m not planning to. Hell, I only have three more words to say about FastPencil: “Run you fools”. And now you know the whole story why: Everyone is entitled to mistakes, and giving FastPencil a chance was mine.


 

fastpencil_deleteEdit: I thought that the review would end here, but no! There’s still more to it. As I was not going to use their service, and concerned with privacy, I decided to delete my content and my trial experiments from the site and their servers. I was able to erase the “project” but I was stuck with the “publication”. This means I was able to eliminate the editable part, but not the generated pdf.

Thus I took to support and found the page to the right (now updated after this Twitter exchange), printed and thumbnailed for convenience. After looking up and down for the “delete” button I contacted support and reached out via Twitter. Apparently, no, you can’t erase your own content on your own, which for me is a bit unsettling. Once I provided the url and title, the “project” does no longer show. However, this process makes me feel uneasy about the whole content management idea.

Of course, the easy version of this would have been to just edit the project blank, but I did not know at the time that I was going to be unable to delete the generated pdfs. Erasing content when the file was an uploaded pdf was easier, as the only thing I had to do was removing the upload.

Unlike the email regarding shipping, which I sent on January 27th, this was dealt with swiftly. I think it was more efficient as I sent a support request from the page, logged in, rather than an email. Maybe public mention on Twitter helped, I don’t know.

Long story short: Erasing your content is not completely in your hands. The updated page does not even mention the possibility of erasing a project yourself.

Closing Balance 2015

As it has become a tradition, the first days of January I look back at how the previous year was, writing-wise. This is what I was working on during 2015 and the resulting wordcount.

2015_sheep

Title Words
Blog 7350*
Short Stories 11206
Shourai 170209*
Secrets 6576
Hyakki Yagyō universe 59308*
The Vortex 27118
The SpaceShip Ghost 28591
The Lesser Evil 6846
Operation Teaspoon 10018*
"Untitled" 65863
Grey Shadows and Shades 27272
Atlantis 4545

As you can see, Shourai was the most-growing work of the year, and that makes sense as it was my November project. It is marked with an asterisk because it is not even done in a raw version, it still needs content written. I think that in general it makes my graphs look ridiculously blue.

The Hyakki Yagyō universe was project #2 of the year. Even if “Untitled” has a highest wordcount, that is a raw version, while Hyakki Yagyō has been on the revision and freshening stage – I am at the moment working on the second long story, trying to make sure that everything written is up to standards, there are no Koreans in any bedroom, and to improve the storytelling and character development. The original plan for “Untitled” changed as I wanted to get three stories out, but one did not pan out, thus leaving the 66k to be divided between two – the main one ad a short story.

I’ve written a bunch of short stories both independent and some others related or in the same verse. A couple of them might be integrated into longer writings in the future. Secrets spread from 2014 into 2015 and was finished earlier in the year, so that is good too. Furthermore, I apparently did not leave the blog as unattended as I thought I had…

I can show you in graphs, too, so you can get an idea. The final wordcount was 420,357, I am sure that hugely helped by NaNo extravaganza this November.

2015_pie

Do you see what I meant with “ridiculously blue”?

I also managed to write ‘daily’, most of the days a total daily count of 500 words between 00:00 and 23:59. However one day I kinda cheated as I finished at around 00:15 the next day. There, I confessed.

2015_columns1

All in all, I finished all that I started this year, or it is still an open project (maked up on the wordcount table with an asterisk. However, this is what I said I wanted to do for this year in the corresponding post:

Now, what’s the plan for 2015? I am not completely sure, but it involves quite some more editing, mainly on the Hyakki Yagyō universe, along with finishing off the tiers and connecting short stories. Hopefully finishing the first draft of the last of the Osaka Shikigami books so I can start working on it as a whole, too. And with any luck, finishing Secrets.

Let’s see how that fared:

  1. Lots of editing in the Hyakki Yagyō universe ✓
  2. Finishing tiers and connecting short stories ✓ (partial. Some more ideas popped up)
  3. Finishing first draft of the last of the Osaka Shikigami books ✗
  4. Finishing Secrets ✓.

Not that bad… I feel bad that I did not even touch the Osaka Shikigami project though… Thus, regarding to 2016 goals, here they are:

  1. Finish rewriting the raw for The Last Yōkai war of Edo to have the full version 1
  2. Finish Shourai raw
  3. Finish the Osaka Shikigami raw (book 6 raw / first book version 2)
  4. Bugger the person I’m collaborating with to finish Operation Teaspoon

Have you noticed the pattern? XD If 2015 was the year of writing outside the box, and don’t get me wrong, it was fun, I would like 2016 to be the year where I finally write “the end” on those never-ending projects. I would also like to keep writing daily. And I know that most probably I will get bitten by a new or old plotbunny sooner or later, though, as my notebook is quite full of ideas, and so is my brain. After all, it is not an easy place to be, my mind.

And that’s all for now! Happy year of the monkey!

2016_monkey

Shourai Writing during NaNo [December 1, 2015]

NaNo-2015-Winner-Badge-Large-Square This that time of the year when I usually decide that this was my last NaNoWriMo because I’m usually in the creative slump after the month. This year however has been a bit different from usual.

For starters, I did not create a project from scratch. This gave me a sense of familiarity with the story I don’t usually carry – let’s ignore how last year I worked on Shourai after finishing Houritsu, too. That was not planned, not originally, so it was hard. This time I really wanted to give Shourai a push, because it has been stuck forever and a day. I am not completely sure that worked, judge yourself. The left side of the picture shows the original timeline, with what was planned for NaNo marked in bright blue, and what was actually done for NaNo in dark green to the sides of the column. Generally, red means not written, yellow means “written fragment, unconnected”, orange has to be redone, and light green means done. Purple is “whoooops I forgot that this should have happened, do I insert here or do I flashback to it later?”

nano15_shourai_done

As you can see, the right column, which shows what is currently done, shows some more light green. Still not enough, I’d say, and some more has to be added to the timeline in order to reach the ending. Because for the first time I have an ending in sight.
Let’s talk Shourai numbers:

  • Written this NaNo: 150,009 words
    • Average NaNo Daily wordcount: 5167 words
    • Best NaNo Day: November 1st (Sunday): 33,001 words
    • Worst NaNo Day: November 25 (Wednesday): 2,284 words
  • Written this year: 170,209 words
  • Current total: 278,171 words
  • Number of chapters: 84

This year I took upon myself the challenge of documenting the writing process, so I ended up with tables and writing time graphs:

nano15_1201_calendars_table

nano15_1201_calendars_graph

I should do some numbers (or ask someone to do numbers for me xD), because maybe they tell me interesting stuff. Who knows. For now let me show you graphs:

Here’s what I did compared to the NaNo daily count:

nano15_1201_daily_comparison_theoretical

And here is what I did this year compared to the previous years. Notice how last year’s count was ridiculously straight XD The graph shows the cumulated daily wordcount for each day, every year in a different colour.

nano15_1201_comparison_peryear

But I have more graphs! Here you can compare how much I wrote each day for every NaNo I have attempted, including zeroes because I am honest:
nano15_1201_comparison_daily

Something I’ve noticed was that apparently I… fluctuate during NaNo, daily wordcount wise. The following graph shows the daily wordcount, stacked yearly, one on top of the other (so total wordcount for November 1st, 2nd, etc…). As this is my seventh NaNo, there should not be a deviation regarding the day of the week, and yet, the results are confusing. I’m open to theories, what do you think? What bites me on day 20?

nano15_1201_comparisons_daily_cumulative

What have I learnt this NaNo? That if I want to aim for high wordcounts, I need to stories to work on. Or at least different points of the story to work on? Switching back and forth in Shourai, as well as adding the flashbacks has worked, but at some points I have lost drive, which was not the best way to work around.

The Timeline + Planning scheme, worked really well though. This means I had the timeline as I have shown you, and a notebook with a description of everything that had to happen, which basically translates into bad grammar, arrows instead of verbs, bizarre and obscure colour-coding, asterisks and other strange symbols. I think I’ll adopt it when I tackle working on the Shikigami verse again, which I hope is summer 2016.

Thus, 2015 was a good, productive NaNo. I gave Shourai a good push and even though I felt like stopping a couple of times, I managed to go through. I considered a new story when I was on day 15th, but I know that I need to push towards finishing the three big verses I have open – never mind that I am starting a short story today. That is a short story. Under 5000 words, because the rules say so 😉

Also, I need coffee, apparently. So please excuse any grammar horrors you might encounter in this post.

Shourai Writing during NaNo [November 22, 2015]

This is how things look at the moment. I’ve had to limit my writing sessions to three per day, separated in time by a couple of hours at least because I screwed my wrist the other day in an unrelated deed. I would like to get to the tie in before NaNo ends but I am getting a bit sidetracked – maybe demotivated? Or maybe distracted by wanting to work on other stuff?

This is how things look at the moment, with a little over 130,500 words, which is already more than the roughly 122,000 on the original story. And thus, Shourai is 252,700 words. I’ll leave the report here for now as I want to save wrist power.

nano15_1122_graph

nano15_1122_plan

Shourai Writing during NaNo [November 15, 2015]

Even if yesterday’s news were unsettling and I probably refreshed the BBC livefeed more than is healthy, I decided to write (and to delete the whole philosophical explanation on why I wrote). Thus I hit and passed 100,000 words during this NaNo, which takes the whole Shourai count to 223,690. On top of that, I have now a new colour for one-liners, which represent things that popped up as I was writing, tying the story together.

I’m surprised about how well Hayato’s point of view is coming together, as he did not have a POV before, and for a long time he was barely a supporting character. He has quite definitely raised up the pyramid of importance. That’s good. On the other hand Ryu remains emotionally important but his subplot is hard to write.

I finally got Sawamura in! And damn I fear this is going to be the beginning of another macro-crossover. Bugger. Anyway. Here you have the most recent graphs:

shourai_chara_triangle_prov

nano15_1411_plan

nano15_1411_graph

Shourai Writing during NaNo [November 7, 2015]

I have been asked how fast I type. My typing speed in English averages to 64 wpm, and during NaNo on a good spurt I can write 3000 words per hour, though I usually do about 1000 in 25 minutes and take five. that of course only works when I know what I am going to write. I don’t know whether it would be faster if I were to be listening to what to write. I may have to do the experiment some day.

Also, you can see that I don’t have a standard way of typing. This is because even if I did learn the “proper” way to do it, when I was young my hands were way too small do use it, and I got used to type like this.

I shabby-recorded this video with my phone. It was taken yesterday the scene was a phone conversation between Shota and Heizo during the summer of second year, and the subsequent meeting afterwards. It was only roughly planned – then again, Heizo is half nuts so he improvises a lot and says weird things.

While you don’t hear it there is music playing in the background. In this case X Japan’s Born to be Free and GACKT’s Graffiti. Music is there to make me have something different to focus on when my neighbours start screaming at each other or car alarms go out in the middle of the night, but not loud enough so I can sing along. Although I have to admit that yesterday I might have been abusing Golden Bomber’s 女々しくて a tiiiiny little bit. But it kind of fit. In a weird way. Ah, hell, it’s NaNo, it happens….

And here is how things are going at the moment:

nano15_71115_plan

nano15_71115_graph

NaNoFinish 2015

I finished NaNoWrimo 2015 this morning. That’s it, I reached 50000 words, after a very frustrating hours of blackouts and outages because my neighbours suck. This year I had decided to push Shourai through, after changing my mind from what I told you here. Once again I have decided to work on it as a whole item, and as an open project is not “nanorebeling” any more, well, I tried to push it forward in the part that I’ve given the working title of “Phoenix”.

In preparation, I summarised and organised everything I had written – in a bunch of different files – and made a rough timeline, with “one-liners”, very short descriptions of what had happened in every scene / chapter, and colour-coded them. I chose a part to develop linearly within NaNo and ended up with about 9 pages of handwritten notes on an A5 notebook, developing those one-liners…

I’ve done two pages of that, and to make it even worse, out of order, because when I was planning I really felt like I wanted to write one of the scenes towards the end. Thus I decided that I would push that one, and then go to the beginning and develop from one point to the other. Let me show you how well that worked:

shourai_oneliners2
Codes:

  • Yellow – pasted in the file, unconnected, needs to be tied in.
  • Light green – written in main file, and working
  • Red – to be written
  • Orange – to be rewritten / paid attention to
  • Purple – to be considered?
  • Bright blue (left) – planned for Nano’15
  • Dark green (right) – written Nano’15

 

 

 
Fine, the last ‘light green’ is about 45,000 all on its own but… seriously? That blind-sided even me, I’d really hoped to have at least dented the planning before reaching 50000 this November. All in all, Shourai has around 172000 words.

Regarding the writing progress: I had wanted to reach 40000 on the first as it was a Sunday and a free day. Saturday sucked though, with a car accident included and that kind of hampered my concentration – I guess I’ll have to try again some other time. This year around I’ve been documenting the writing progress per half-hour (aprox.)

nano_15_win_graph

Finally, here’s a screenshot of the ‘finishing line’, typos and all. For kicks and giggles, let me tell you that ‘in’ is not the 50000th word any more as I added more stuff:

nano_15_win_file

The year of writing outside the box indeed

gssalienAs we head off towards the ending of the year, I randomly looked back and noticed that I haven’t been updating as much as I should that this year I’ve been focusing a lot on science fiction. It all started with The Vortex, followed by The Spaceship Ghost, and I just finished Grey Shades and Shadows, which deals with grey aliens in an Earth which has developed a parallel history (the Timeless universe). So all in all, yes this seems to be the year of writing outside the box.

GSS was based on too many nights watching Stargate SG1, and follows situation in an underground UN base in Europe were a group of military personnel and civilians are trying to develop an engine which flies in the new volcanic atmosphere. They have possession of a Grey Spaceship donated by the aliens as a gesture of goodwill, as they are interested in the resources of our Solar System.

Previously I was working on Untitled, which mostly worked. The idea was to develop a write character along with the two stories he himself develops. However, in the end I only managed to develop one of those meta-stories (The Bizarre Case of the Puppeteer’s Mistress ) and gave up on the other one (One shot kill). In the end, I think it was a good choice to move on rather than forcing the idea. Untitled has been my main project this year, clocking just short of 66,000.

Another story I worked on was The Lesser Evil, which went completely out of control. One day I’ll have to revisit it.

Right now, as November approaches I’ve been thinking about NaNoWriMo and what to do this year. However, just when I had decided to rebel up and work towards the ending of Shourai when I found out starting a new project was not compulsory for NaNo anymore, so all is good.

Once NaNo is over I plan to head towards finishing the three open fronts I have – the Hyakki Yagyō universe, the Shourai one and eventually the Osaka Guardians. But there is also a part of my mind which wants to go back to an old story that needs a good overhaul but that has been rummaging through my mind again.

“The Structural Web” – The Next MacGuiver Competition

A while ago I gave a try to a competition called ‘The Next McGuiver’ which tried to develop a TV series with a female engineering type as main character. I thought it was a good idea, and I kinda liked McGuiver growing up, so I figured ‘why not?’ I had never tried anything television, but I knew a little about the Marine Corps of Engineers, so I went for it. A few days ago the rejection email came through – and not for being expected I felt less sad, I guess.

tnm

I don’t like about the email that nobody ever even bothered to write a little code so the system read your name and you felt it personalised – especially when we are talking the engineering world. And the website is wrong – that does not give me much confidence in the professionalism of whomever is handling the whole thing.

If you are interested, here is the actual web: http://thenextmacgyver.com. Whatever ideas made it to the final, I hope a TV show comes from it, cause the rationale is cool.

Here is the stuff I came up with, and which I might develop into something different eventually:

TSW