# Writing Echoes

Delijah's Writing Blog

## My board and a (quite late) mid-year update

There are a bunch of things on the board in front of my writing station, behind my computer screen. Some postcards, seals, visiting cards and the so-called Japan kit, which includes member and discount cards for several places in Tokyo, along with my passport and the commuter’s pass. There is my organ donor card, and the postcard I wrote to myself from Tokyo Tower.

There are also some notes to myself, my screen resolution for making walpapers, a fosilissed shark tooth, and a silly pictures with friends at a concert line. And things related to writing.

There is a rusty Welsh pound that I found on a dry streambed in Tokyo, and I’m waiting for it to tell me its story (not its history, which was probably a random British person throwing a coin into a body of water for luck, which they do sometimes). But there is a story there, and sometimes I look at the coin and wonder. It will come.

There is a Tengu ex machina note, just because. The term ocurred to me while working through The Last Yōkai War of Edo. It’s like the Deus ex machina, but… with tengu. I went back and corrected the whole thing, but I left the note, as a reminder.

There is also a reference to Setsubun, a Japanese festival for luck. It conjures luck and chases the oni away. But I don’t mind the oni. As a matter of fact, I like writing yōkai, so my note reads は外!も内、 福は内! Oni wa soto mo uchi! Fuku wa uchi! It means, let the oni in too, not only the good luck.

Finally there is a small note, right in my line of sight, that reminds me that in 2016 I have to focus on writing Shourai, the Hyakki Yagyō verse and the Shikigami verse. There is a tick mark next to the Hyakki Yagyō line. That is because I have worked a lot on that this year. The original idea was only writing these three verses, along with the blog articles and finishing Atlantis in January for the climate fiction contest (Atlantis did not get anywhere in there though, unfortunately). The note has little laughing signs around as I deviated from this plan…

A little over a fourth of what I’ve written this year till now has been Hyakki Yagyō. Not only the main work I had to do, also a few short stories that will need some revision to fit in to the main timeline. That makes about 66,700 words on this verse.

Shourai has taken almost 33,000 words, which does not feel that much, but it almost 13% of the written material this year and 10.5% of the written total. I’m nearly done with the arc, I’ve decided. I’ve chosen an ending point, and now I have to backtrack and fill in the gaps (and actually write the last chapter), break down chapters and so on. there is a lot of green in the planning now. But editing this is going to require a lot of effort. I’m kind of toying with the idea of finishing all the writing before the year is over… but we’ll get to how I can’t keep to decisions later…

There are around 24,000 new words on the final Shikigami book. All the main points are planned and addressed, but the small, driving story is what I’m lacking. Although the character is important and I like him bunches, it is difficult to factor his POV in to have him drive the story. I need around 25,000 words more on this book, and again, it’s difficult to juggle how, even if I do want this finished this year.

So this is what I was supposed to write this year, fiction wise. Blogging and articles are factored in, as I need to improve non-fiction writing skills. All in all, there is 61% of planned writing actually being done. The problem thus lies on the 39% that I was not supposed to have been writing, mainly Body and Soul, weird urban fantasy, The Studio, which tried to be a gothic ghost story, and One shot kill, a retake on the story my writer from Untitled was working on. These and a couple of short stories almost account for 100,000 words! And there is still NaNoWriMo to come, which probably will be something completely random decided on a whim in October anyway… At the moment I’m pushing to lock down One shot kill after it got slumped for two months and hope to be done within the month.

That’s it, I’m officially declaring 2017 an editing and rewriting year. I should have done it this year, but then on a whim I decided to go for 366,000 words in total I’m on track for that goal, too – generally with new material, except for the revision of The Last Yōkai War of Edo, which was quite a rewrite of most of it anyway.

Have some pretty graphs to look at:

P.S.: I’ve taken down the Archives page, because I was not keeping up with it anyway. You may now search using tags and / or categories and I’ll make sure to keep a good tag system current.

## 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!

## 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.

The 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.

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

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.

Importing 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.

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.

Edit: 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.

## Tackling the “Edo” edit

Well, here we are again. I’ve been putting off a few things lately, and blogging about writing has been one of them. Shame on me, yes, I know. Editing has been another of those things. I have been working on the short one-shots in the Hyakki Yagyō universe because I was too afraid of working on Edo. Afraid, lazy, unmotivated, call it as you wish.

But editing the whole universe is this year goal, and it is not going to fulfil itself. Thus, I set myself to the task.

The first problem with Edo was deciding on the name. The last Edo yōkai war was the one I had at first thought, but I have decided to go with The Last Yōkai War of Edo, which I started using halfway through the first draft writing.

The second problem was the almost 10,000 words written outside the draft, which had to find a way in the complete story. I think those are placed by now – even if not waved in. Along those there are random notes like “living mummy”, “more Tomori” and “explain this character”, “Tsukioka??”.

And the final problem is that I intended a short wrap-up story, and ended up with a 40,000 words draft with quite a few plotholes and contradictions with the main story. Oh boy. So I pushed it back because it was a lot of work, but as I said before it has to be done.. remember when I spoke of universe weaving and that it was fun? Let’s all forget about that (in case you had not. I kind of had).

Oh well, let’s see how this pans out, I am not too sure myself.

## Hyakki Yagyō Editing *insert epic music here*

As I mentioned before, one of the tricks I use with myself when I am editing is tracking changes. Stats and figures are another way I bribe myself into doing edition work.

In the case of Hyakki Yagyō, the story has been a bit more complex:

1. The first version was written on summer 2012 after coming back from Japan the first time. My friend Efficient Times was at that moment working on a story that dealt with yōkai, and the idea settled while trying to help her figure certain things. Actually the original seed had been planted a long time ago (around 2008, maybe?), as part of a TV series an actor character was shooting. I had not been aware that it would be so strong and catching, and would root so firmly once it started.
2. After that I wrote a couple of one shots/short stories, which added to the universe, but were only… marginal. Even The Yukionna’s Claim was nothing but a fun experiment.
3. Second version added two chapters into the first one. both of them wanted to introduce in the story two places that I had visited and found quite magical / creepy. That was early 2014.
4. Afterwards I ran into the problem that I had been avoiding for about a year. The story was longer. The characters had expanded past the ending of the first book. There was another book in this universe, there were storylines unresolved that needed attention. So I gave up and wrote a very schematic version, no chapters, no anything, just the raw story. And left it at that.
5. This year, with all the written information in mind, I have tackled the goal of editing the whole thing, and somehow it is working. However, I had never imagined, not in my wildest thoughts that the Hyakki Yagyō story would grow so much – and that it would end up being so even and well-balanced, with each story arch. The increase has been around 20,000 words from version 2, 30,000 from version 1, leaving the whole thing at 81,000. Just on the first story, the devil knows how this thing will end up being when I am done with everything.

Word average averages (without epilogue):
V1: 5551,8
V2: 5577
V3: 7280,2

Total wordcount:
V1: 50708
V2: 62089
V3: 80923

I’ll keep you posted 😉

## I hate editing – but it has to be done

I hate editing.

I really do. I find it tedious, frustrating and most of all, unrewarding. I feel that I keep focusing on everything bad, to the point where there’s nothing right anymore. When I was preparing Tokyo 893, however, I learnt how to motivate myself to edit, and that was something quite silly – I track changes. When I track the document changes I actually see the progress, I work faster and I do feel improvement. I tend to do big overhauls when I edit, so I guess that in a way it is logical that seeing the changes helps me work better.

So I end up with files that look like this:

A light scene which was not changed much

The average look of the document…

I am at the moment embarked in the not too small work of going over Hyakki Yagyō. At the time I wrote it, it was the biggest word count per chapter and scene that I had ever done in a long piece, averaging around 5550 words per chapter, not counting the mini epilogue. It was a total of 51,000 words.

Of course, at that time I was not counting on the universe expanding, sort of what happened with the Shikigami. However, tackling Hyakki Yagyō felt like a more accomplishable piece of work to start the serious editing that I had decided this year.

The original Hyakki Yagyō story was followed by a series of short snippets that tried to explain what Ko was. Actually, that idea came almost by accident working on Axis 95/11, which had nothing to do with it – I needed some sort of legend, so I came up with the ‘tree of Shibakoen that does not lose its leaves in winter’ idea. It kinda caught on me so I scribbled a few short stories regarding Ko’s legend and its history.

Soon afterwards I wrote a short story, The Yukionna’s Claim, around 6000 words (which I am at the moment considering to include in the main Hyakki Yagyō story as a second epilogue of sorts). Then I went back, in 2014 to the original Hyakki Yagyō story and added two chapters, making it clock in at 62,000 words – these two chapters were inspired by places I visited during my trip to Japan in summer 2013.

Soon after writing these two chapters I started working on a second big story, the Last Yōkai war of Edo, set twenty-something years after the first one. I knew that after a couple of years I remembered the key points to write the skeleton of a story – and so I did, fully intending to go back to it when the time was right.

So here I am now, going back to the basics, and taking an insane amount of notes, Koreans in the bedroom and things to be reworked. It is creepy how the little specks that were not resolved in the first story are so open to be solved in the second one. And what’s even worse… fixing plotholes that you had forgotten you had already fixed!

Maybe I should have just rewritten the whole thing XD

Finally, a word of caution to the wise… if you ever plan to write a sexless character… decide on the pronoun right away. Else editing will become a bloody nightmare. You’ve been warned.

## The Last Yokai War of Edo: Writing Report

The Last Yokai War of Edo takes in the Hyakki Yagyō universe, twenty years after the first story, and three or four after The Yuki Onna’s Claim. It is not really ‘futuristic’, but I think that was the last thing I was aiming for, I was trying to focus on the emotions and the interpersonal interactions (well, human-yōkai-spirit ones at the very least).

The OABu is still running, and it has changed its policies to some extend. Some of the characters from both the previous stories show up, but the main focus is on Minamoto Shun, the OABu’s most recent incorporation. The kicker is that Shun is not a Shinto onmyōji, he’s a Christian with some powers that he can’t control, and who has… different values.

Shun is about to learn that his powers brush the unimaginable, and that everything he has lived is pointing him to the choice he has to make. When he meets the creature that dwells in Shibakoen, his perception of good, evil and yōkai switches, and he makes a decision. He is willing to tamper with ancient magic and forgotten spells in order to meet his goal, which might not be a totally sane one.

Cryptic? Yeah, I know. But the problem is that it is very hard to talk about Edo without spoiling anything previous. All in all, this story clocks in at roughly 40,000 words, which sets the universe in the 110,000-range after adding the two chapters to the original story.

The story flowed really well since the moment I realised where I was going with it, and it has made me feel like writing Abe no Seimei’s diary, which in-verse is referred to as ‘The Lost Book of Abe no Seimei’, and thus telling all his story but a) research and b) first person deter me…

All in all I had fun being back to this verse, but I fear I have a lot of editing to come in the future if I want it to make sense and not to find myself with too many Koreans in the bedroom.

## The first look at The Last Yokai War of Edo (*)

(*) Edo: Former name of Tokyo

After working on adding a couple of chapters to Hyakki Yagyō in January, I started to work on a story in the same universe set a couple of decades after the end of that story. I used The Yukionna’s Claim one-shot as tie in between the two stories. If one ignores that it sort of got out of hand, and I just passed 13,000 words. It was not expected, though. The Last Yōkai War of Edo was not supposed to be that long, however the main character, Minamoto Shun, developed much more depth than I had thought he would.

Shun was brought up a Christian, but he is an onmyōji, which brings him in contact with the creatures from Shinto and Buddhist tradition. When he is recruited by the OABu and moves to Tokyo, he falls into a heart-wrenching crisis of faith.

I am worried about Kikuchi’s evolution. He is a greenhorn in the original story, but now he’s over 40, and quite close to the high hierarchy of the OABu. However, it seems that the only thing that ties both sides of the character is their hatred for Ko. Sometimes they don’t feel like the same person, but some others I think they’re totally unconnected.

For now Tomori’s character is rather unrepresented, as a new arrival named Tsukioka is taking up most of his screen time, and Ko is not even featured except having his name mentioned. He is supposed to have a key role… eventually.

There were a few things that I would have liked to get into Hyakki Yagyō, but I did not find how. I skipped writing about tengu, because I was not sure about how to feature them, and although I always knew that there was a huge force field around Sensō-ji, I only mentioned that a couple of times during the main story. I just wrote the tengu in, and I have plans for Sensō-ji, along with something else I am dying to feature, if I manage – Billiken, Osaka’s god of things as they ought to be. Shun really needs a pep-talk from him, I’d say, about life, the universe and everything before the young man drives himself to a stroke.

For now, Shun has no idea of what is in for him, but the problem I find is that the plot leaps from event to event, with nothing much happening in between, so I am not sure the characters are developing logically. I’ll have to see to that when I have the whole skeleton, whether it is a better idea to keep the story as is, or divide it into chapters to help acknowledge the time jumps.

## Universe Weaving

You might have noticed on the last post that there was a blank day in 2013 when I did not write. That day I was in Tokyo, more precisely in Hikawa Jinja, and I decided that I wanted to delve deeper into the Hyakki Yagyō universe. To be honest, I had not really let go of that verse and last year I wrote about 7500 words in related stories. However, what I felt like doing that day was adding to the main book, to the original story. I took notes for two new chapters, and when I came back I filed those notes with all the writing material, and sort of forgot about them.

Hikawa Jinja, Akasaka, Tokyo, with awful lighting, I know.

I did not really forget about them, if I am completely honest. I just put them aside because I was somewhat scared of picking up the main book again and finding that I could not add to it. To my surprise, it was not that hard – as a matter of fact it has almost been ridiculously easy. The two chapters have been written, and they have flowed rather well – aside from not feeling like writing sometimes due to personal issues. Both chapters have been written, one set in Hikawa Jinja, as planned, the other one set in Ueno Zoo, also as planned, adding about 11,000 words to a 51,000 word story. Right now, I am considering though writing some more within that verse, another marginally-related story, set a few years after the first (and main) one, but I am scared that it’ll get out of hand XD”

On another note, I have been noticing lately my little obsession for weaving universes into each other. I knew that Lifequake and Axis 95/11 belonged to the same universe, but during a recent edit I found myself linking both to Blood Moon. While it makes sense, well, it is strange that the chance was so open and it was such an easy thing to do. In the same way, I am now absolutely sure that The Barman and Shorai are likewise joined – by the dogs, if you want details. Apparently Tamon will be Tadashi’s obedience instructor when he gets his dog Taki in a few years (yes, Shorai should last a few years. And I’m on its sixth month. Urgh.). Then there is also the Retriever universe, which in my mind still lacks a closing with the secondary characters. And well, of course, the Osaka Guardians series…

While I don’t think this is something ‘new’ for me, it suddenly hit me as I wrote the edit into Axis 95/11 that I really like those little insiders. They are fun. I like weaving.

## Hyakki Yagyō Scenery (2)

As I have recently come back from Japan, I’ve taken a few more pictures from the areas that appear in Hyakki Yagyō. As the post tries to be mostly visual, I’ll try not to get too much into descriptions and the importance of each place, just let you catch a glimpse of them. These are my photos, so they might be a little artistic (read: loopsided or overexposed).

Zozo-ji (San’en-zan Zōjō-ji (三縁山増上寺 San’en-zan Zōjō-ji) area (Minato, Tokyo), with the main temple and Tokyo Tower behind it. The area where Ko is planted is between the graveyard behind the temple and Tokyo Tower.

Gotoku-ji (豪徳寺; Setagaya, Tokyo), the temple of the good-luck cat (which I never managed to find open):

Sensō-ji (金龍山浅草寺 Kinryū-zan Sensō-ji; Asakusa, Tokyo), with the great paper lanterns:

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, where Satoshi works, and the Shinjuku skyscraper district where it it is located:

Nikko (日光市 Nikkō-shi) area:

Yokohama Chinatown (横浜中華街, Yokohama Chūkagai):

Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺, “Temple of the Golden Pavilion”), in Kyoto:

Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社), in Kyoto:

Kamakura (鎌倉市 Kamakura-shi) and the komainu (lion dogs):

Related: Hyakki Yagyō Scenery (1): Shiba Kōen [link], Hyakki Yagyō Research [link],