Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
Whatever else I can say about the year 2021, it was absolutely amazing for my writing. I had not set out with the goal of writing every day of the year, but as the streak started to build in the first couple of weeks, I fully committed, and in the end, succeeded. 2021 became the first year where I managed to write even a little bit all 365 days of the year. The absolute rush that this ended up giving me – the feeling that not a day went by that I did not hone my writing skills was one of the most accomplished I’d felt as a writer. As an aside, I don’t by any means think this is a necessary thing to do, in fact, it can even be unhealthy if you put to much pressure on yourself, but for me personally, I’m so glad I achieved it.
With great day-to-day productivity came great total productivity. When it comes to the final word count at the end of the year, here too the previous records were smashed. My most productive year until now was 2020 when I clocked in at just over 150,000 words. This year, I more than doubled that amount to 330,000. Again, this was something I could not predict at the beginning of the year but was absolutely stoked by the result.
This also means the story is not just about total days but the average daily productivity this year. Out of the days I wrote, compared to last year, the average word count was 902 versus 718 for 2020 I also had 174 days with 1,000 words and more versus 58 the previous year, and only 38 days where I wrote less than 200 words.
All of this is not just about numbers, but being twice as productive as my previously most productive year led to some important milestones as well.
My fantasy web novel that is coming out on Royal Road in two weeks was hardly even started in January, but is now approaching 80,000 words. The children’s adventure story Cassia and Mateo, which is just a side project for my kids, became the first writing project to surpass 100K words, and then the first draft of my second novel followed suit only a couple of months later. That draft should also be wrapped up in the next month or so, leaving room for the first major milestone of 2022.
This was also the first full year where I have been posting The Bloodlet Sun continuously both on this blog and on Royal Road. And it’s been my most productive year in terms of updating this blog on a weekly basis.
That’s not to mention that a variety of little side projects found their way into my year, including catching up on writing down some stories I’ve been making up for my kids, and then launching a few short story and novel ideas that will hopefully take hold as future projects.
Let’s also quickly have a look at the bullet journal entry that provides a visual representation of my writing production for the year:
Nothing really stands out as far as patterns go except you can quickly spot my June/July burnout which I talked about here, the November kitchen renovation which took all of my energy, and the Christmas slowdown where I had a bunch of under 100 days that were mostly used to just keep the streak alive. Also looking back at this now I noticed that January wasn’t the strongest month either, so I have a good opportunity to have a quick start now and get ahead of last year’s production early.
Overall, I think the story of this year has been consistency – from daily writing, to regular updates to not dropping major projects in favour of the newest shiny thing that has happened to cross my path. This had allowed me to gain confidence over the last twelve months and even just by the shear force of the volume of my writing I felt like I’d significantly improved over the year. And this improvement is not just confined to the quality of the writing but to my comfort with it – I’m finding that I’m able to power through more difficult sections with increased ease and find myself getting stumped less and less.
No writing year before has had me so pumped for the year that’s ahead. I have to remember to set realistic goals in the face of this success – just replicating the writing production of 2021 in 2022 will be enough, but if I can average out at 1,000 words per day, that would be my new Everest.
Looking forward to everything I’m going to be able to write in 2022, and hoping that with increased productivity follows the increased chance that I might write something good enough to be accepted for publication.
There is something to be said of delayed gratification, and that is that plenty about it totally sucks, but also, that it can pay off big time.
Sometime last December, I was thinking that it would be cool if I could increase Royal Road traffic to The Bloodlet Sun by writing a story in a genre that does well on that site and cross-promoting the stories if the new one does well. I had an idea for a fantasy story in the dusty bookshelf of my mind for quite some time, so I thought it would be the perfect thing to use. What I thought I was setting out to do was giving it a fair shot, but it turned into something much more.
Looking for a quick short-term reward, I thought I would be able to launch the story that would come to be known as The Second Magus in late spring, and obviously that didn’t happen. Now we’re a full year since I started writing it and it’s ready to debut – not something I wrote simply on a whim but a story that has grown on me deeply since its inception.
To give a flavour of how excited I’d been to launch it, I put together a cover for it about a month after I started writing it, and I’ve sat on that cover ever since, because I didn’t want to start publishing the novel until I thought it was good enough.
Is it actually good enough? Well, I guess I’ll start finding out January 22, when I submit it for approval and publication to Royal Road. Is it actually the fun exciting adventure I thought I cooked up? Or am I suffering from the rose-tinted glasses of an author – too attached to my baby to realize it’s kind of ugly?
In any case, I hope you can at least share in my excited that comes with not knowing what the outcome would be, and dreaming the biggest dreams I possibly could. In the meantime, please check out the cover that I’ll be using for the story:
As I’m sure it shows, I prefer to make these things myself. Maybe one day I’ll feel like I’m ready to engage a professional. I also know that the whole fire and ice thing is a cliché, but when I sat down to do this, the imagery just felt right and I think the image blend turned out pretty good.
See you here again in January with the link to the story once it’s posted.
I’m sure I’ve said this already but I can hardly believe it’s December, so I wanted to take this moment to go through a bunch of minor updates for this month
Launch of Second Magus
Just about a month to go before I finally start posting my LitRPG-inspired fantasy story on Royal Road. Expect a teaser cover here next week before I can on a short holiday break.
Second Novel Length
I keep thinking I’m about to finish the first draft of my second novel but yet it just keeps going. It recently broke 100,000 words making it only my second work that has crossed this threshold – the first being a mostly-for-fun project called Cassia and Mateo which was originally written for my kids. I already one of the ways to trim this one down though, having chosen to abandon a problematic subplot. Still going to need a whole lot of revising once it’s done to get it to a usable length.
Bloodlet Sun Chapter Musical Chairs
I remember a little while ago I wrote that the most recent chapter of The Bloodlet Sun I finished ended up being way too long, but I thought I needed to keep it that way because there was something in it that tied to the previous chapter. Now that I’m editing it, I don’t think I can go through with it anymore. There’s a pretty significant plot turn in the middle of this chapter that I think would serve much better as a mini cliffhanger, so I just might split this one into two, but only put one other character’s POV chapter between the two halves.
If anyone follows me on Twitter they would have discovered much to their annoyance that recently I’ve tweeting almost exclusively about hockey. I don’t know what it is, considering I can’t actually remember when the last time was that I watched a game. But my beloved Vancouver Canucks seem to be turning a corner and possibly leaving a dark era behind them by getting a new General Manager and coach. Hopefully this means that better times are ahead and I will have less of a need to send out bitter tweets.
Year in Reviews
As the year draws to a close though, while I lament how quickly it passed by, I’m still looking forward to doing my review posts. The writing one is especially exciting because it’s been an exceptionally productive year for me. The reading one, well, it hasn’t been great, but I did read some fantastic things so I’ll be happy to highlight that. Might even add a quick exercise in review entry, if only to motivate myself to try to beat my goals for the following year.
Speaking of the year-in-review. As many of you had experience in early December, I was pretty stoked for my Spotify wrapped this year as it perfectly hits on two favourite areas of mine – lists and egoism. My kids again managed to eff up my top songs, as four of the five entries were from my five year-old’s Disney villains playlist that he insisted we create for him. One of these days this thing will actually be accurate for me. With top artist I ended up with Green Day, mostly because they appear the most in my ridiculous everything-and-the-kitchen-sink playlist. Still made it into the top .5% of listeners which just goes to show that no else listens to them anymore.
Princess Switch 3
Okay if you’re all looking for lighthearted holiday entertainment, oh, and seeing one of the best acting performances of all time, may I recommend the Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star? If you want to see Vanessa Hudgens not only play three different characters but also those characters cosplaying as each other (who doesn’t?) then this is the right one for you. I’m not even kidding. Whatever you say about the third installment in the series, Hudgens is so good at blending her characters, it’s worth it for that alone. Do recommend the prior two movies first, both to understand the plot/characters but also because they are admittedly much better movies.
Anyway, I think that’s it for fun December things. Still can’t believe the next one will be in 2022.
I’m not entirely sure where this month went. Scratch that. I’m not entirely sure where this entire year went. I don’t know if it’s the pandemic or aging or perhaps three kids, but I feel like we were celebrating the last New Year’s not that long ago.
Not to say that it feels like nothing has been accomplished this year. On the contrary, it has been a rich eleven months full of events and milestones, including those related to my writing. Just recently I had surprised 300,000 words written this year, never having before broken even the 200K barrier.
About 70K of those words is my upcoming fantasy web novel The Second Magus.
Good thing I said I was going to launch it in January instead of November as had been my most recent goal. While I do still think that I will meet the announced release date of January 22, I know at this point I will at the very least be cutting it a bit close for comfort. Not sure at all what I was thinking when I said I might be able to be ready in November.
This is especially given that we had kitchen renovations here for a week and our whole house was upside down. Only now life is returning to normal and I’ve got most of the Christmas lights up. To think that I thought I would be able to manage the release of a new writing project at the same time? I’m just glad my common sense prevailed.
What I did say at the time was that I was expecting for a synopsis to be dropped here in November. Since it’s still November, it means that this is another deadline that I technically managed to meet. So without further unnecessary preambles, here it is, the Royal Road synopsis for the upcoming The Second Magus:
"For fire mage Miro Kaldoun, the multitude of low-level magic users scattered around the countryside was a relief. He could leave the dreams of questing for glory to others, while he was content to live as a farm boy, and use his spells to impress the local village girls.
When unexpected visitors arrive at his doorstep, Miro has no choice but to be dragged into adventure, and comes to learn that much like the father he had never known, he is far more than an ordinary mage. With old enemies stirring, and the stability of the entire Kingdom hanging in the balance, Miro must quickly learn whether he has what it takes to follow in his father’s footsteps.
But how closely should he trace that path, considering that his own father’s story ended with the deaths of both Miro’s parents and nearly Miro himself?"
But how closely should their paths follow? At the end of his father’s journey lay the deaths of both Miro’s parents and nearly Miro himself.
I know I’m making a bigger deal out of this than it actually is, after all, it’s not like there’s anything exactly groundbreaking here, but that does nothing to reduce my excitement. Although I’ve lived with these characters for a year now, it’s cool breathing in new life into them by sharing their names with the world.
There’s always that pipe dream too in the back of my head that Miro Kaldoun will one day become a household name. Longshot? Understatement. But what’s the harm in a little dreaming?
It’s the second week of November so it’s time for those random little updates that weren’t worthy of their own separate post.
Four rejections in one day
The heading pretty much says it all. I’ve recently set my own personal dubious record for receiving four short story rejections in a single day. Hard to stomach on any regular day but it just happened to be my birthday too. I swear the writing gods are sometimes conspiring to test my resolve. Did it feel good? No. Did I have a great birthday anyway? Absolutely, thanks to my family. Will this discourage me from submitting in the future? No, the next day I sent out stories to five more journals. So yeah, nice try, but I’m still here and fighting.
Back to the Office
After nearly twenty months of working exclusively remote, our office had our fist full day back last week. A bittersweet event, to be sure, for this introvert who has really thrived working from home. By cutting out the commute and being around my kids, my working situation had actually been far improved during the pandemic, and challenges remain with constant mask wearing at the office and just being worn out at the end of the day. That said, I can’t stress enough how nice it was seeing my colleagues face to face rather than through Zoom calls, and feeling more like I was physically part of something. For now we’re doing one day a week until December when we’ll ramp it up to a minimum of two days a week, so there’s still a lot of flexibility to look forward to.
November Running Lull
The last time I managed to get out for a run in the month of November was 2018, a lot of it having to do with the fact that this is when it starts raining forever in this city. Looking at the forecast, this month will be no exception, but I still want to break the streak even if it means being cold and soaking wet. Doesn’t help that it’s also pitch black when I run so I just happen to find every single puddle out there to step in.
*Update for this one: by the time I’ve uploaded this entry I did manage to find a time to run – thankfully it was only drizzling that morning. Going back the previous four Novembers, the most I’ve even run this month was twice, so I’ve got my new goal to beat the previous November record.
The rain has also put a dampener on my ability to catch up with my reading. Used to read on my public transit commute but with that being gone, I implemented reading into my morning walks and audiobooks into my morning runs. With the rain coming in, it’s not just my running that’s affected but reading as well. Fortunately, the stuff I have read this year has been mostly amazing, but it’s still slim pickings to choose from when I’m doing my end-of-year review.
Speaking of weather, anyone want to tell me that climate change isn’t real can just go ahead and live through the day we had – the first waterspout tornado right in our city in my memory, and one that apparently briefly touched down ashore only a couple of kilometres south of where we were, not to mention being pelted with hail the size of large peas. Our summers are getting hotter and drier and our winters are getting wetter (something I didn’t even think was possible). I mean, it was fun while it lasted and the kids got a kick out of looking at the hail I brought in, but the long-term implications are still looming large
Monster Chapter of Bloodlet Sun
I’ve finally completed the first draft of Chapter 11 of The Bloodlet Sun and it clocked in just shy of a monstrous 14,000 words. That puts it at nearly twice the size of an average chapter. Believe me, I’ve struggled with the decision as to whether or not to split up this POV character’s chapter into two and deliver the second segment a few chapters later. However, I found that there were plenty of reasons not to, including that the first half was not so strong that it could stand on its own and I really wanted the ending of this chapter to follow closely with the previous chapter so readers could make a specific connection. Oh well, no going back on it now, just a lot of editing left to do.
Looking back at these now that I wrote them out it seems like these are mostly downers. October ended here with a gorgeous fall weekend last week. I managed to take the kids on a long walk through the forest where we had a tonne of fun and Halloween itself was great. Since then, it’s been non-stop rain so maybe that’s affecting my mood. Hopefully in December when the lights are going to be up and Christmas approaching maybe it will be a bit cheerier.
At the end of last week, I learned a very important lesson – you don’t just get to affect your writing, but your writing affects you as well.
What happened was that I was going through some serious sections on three separate projects. In the same week, I was moving from climactic event to climactic event in my second novel, was writing one of my main characters in serious peril in The Second Magus, and was wrapping up the monstrous 14,000 word eleventh chapter of The Bloodlet Sun. All three contained intense scans but also all three required a lot of attention because of how important those scenes were to the overall work.
The week itself didn’t turn out to be exceptionally productive, though decently so, but by Friday it had left me absolutely drained. It took me a little bit to figure out exactly what was going on but then I traced my mood back to my writing.
It’s easy to forget the two-way street here when as the creator the temptation is to see ourselves in total control of our work. These worlds exist only in our heads and therefore should not have any external influence on us whatsoever. Except that’s not entirely true is it? The things we create we end up processing. The emotions that we spill onto the page have to come through us. If something in our writing is intense, then we’re the ones that put it there, and we experienced that intensity to make our writing authentic. Even if what you’re creating is completely fictional, and not drawn upon your real-life traumas, there is still some reality in there for us.
In the end, we want to make others feel something with our writing, and how would we able to do that if we don’t feel anything ourselves? And so we also need to remember to be kind to ourselves. We’re not typing machines that are tuned to spit out a certain word count on a daily basis. For this reason, we have to allow ourselves to regroup and take whatever time we need to jump back in.
For me, I had basically written off that Friday and took the weekend away from my writing, except the cursory minimums to maintain my daily writing streak. There were a few guilty feelings there I had to chase away but otherwise it was good for me, and I was able to pick up those same projects the following week without experiencing burnout.
So I would recommend the same to you – be in tune with how your writing makes you feel, and react accordingly.
As I suspected when I last talked about this, my fantasy web novel, The Second Magus, would not be making its debut in mid-November. The bottleneck remains editing, because even though since last December I had been able to write nearly 70K words, I don’t have any chapters yet that I think are polished enough for publication, let alone having a comfortable enough buffer to launch.
One of the reasons that last September’s relaunch of The Bloodlet Sun, my first web novel, has led to a steady stream of updates over the course of the last year, was because I launched with a hefty buffer. I have since slightly eaten into that buffer, but I credit that lack of pressure for my ability to keep up and maintain interest in the project since then.
So I knew that if I was going to do another web novel that I would make sure I did everything right, even if it means pushing it back by another couple of months.
The good news is, I’ve done enough to now be reasonably certain in when I’m going to be ready, so I want to officially announce that The Second Magus will launch on Royal Road on January 22, 2022 (barring any unexpected delays in Royal Road’s queue). Very happy to be committing myself to a date, and can’t wait to share this one with the world. It had been a fun little side project that really grew on me since I started writing it.
I have to say though this has been one of my biggest exercises in patience. I had intended for it to have a quick and dirty release sometime last this spring, and like I mentioned earlier, I’ve actually been working on this for almost a year now. I’m the kind of person who’s tempted by a quick reward but I’ve been holding back because I wanted to make sure the work product was good.
Well, now we have a release date and it’s only 3 months until I publish the prologue of my first real attempt at a piece of fantasy fiction.
Can’t wait to share it with you guys, and stay tuned for the official synopsis blurb coming out here sometime in November.
Today I decided to do a first of what I think would be a monthly type of post where I just give a bunch of little updates that are maybe too big for a tweet but too small to deserve their own entry.
New followers on Royal Road
I think I’d been stuck on 24 followers for The Bloodlet Sun on Royal Road for over a month and was getting a little down about being stalled. Now over the last couple of weeks I went up to 28 followers, and one of those include one “Favorite” bringing the total there up to 5. Not sure if it’s just the natural ebb and flow of things or whether the last couple of installments were particularly good for enticing new readers, but in any case, nice to see some growth there again.
Continued lack of success on Tapas
Things on Tapas, another website that hosts web novels, though it’s mainly a home for comics, have not been going well at all. I got two subscribers and a handful of views when I first launched there in early September, but since then, it’s been a ghost town. I haven’t even had a single view there in over a month and I’m not even sure how one is supposed to increase their exposure on that site. So this is still a bit of an experiment, though I’ll keep trying to figure it out.
Watched rejection never boils
I recently submitted to two science fiction journals which used the Moksha submission manager for their submissions, and the unique thing about this one over Submittable is that it shows your story’s position in their queue. Combine that with the quick turnaround of these journals and now I’m clicking refresh several times a day to see that number slowly go down. I don’t know why, but seeing my turn approaching in real time almost makes it feel more real and more likely for my story to get published. This however has not been the case since at the time of posting, both journals have now rejected me.
Should probably watch Squid Games
When I first heard of Squid Games I thought I would pass because I really have had my fill of grim dramas where I anticipate death or something else horrible happening at every turn (I can thank Game of Thrones for sapping me of most of that energy). Seeing though how much of a global phenomenon it is and the themes its exploring, I figure I will have to check it out at some point. With nine episodes at around an hour long it would take me like to the end of the year to finish it, and by that point, people would have moved on to something else.
Climax of Maple Vodka
I’ve recently talked about how excited I am that the first draft of my second novel is coming to an end and all of last week I was writing the build-up to the climactic scene. I feel like it’s taking me forever to get there, but I know on the page that many words would be read quite quickly. I’m just questioning whether I might be dragging it out too long because I myself don’t want to finally move beyond this point. No escaping it, though, if I had to guess, the pivotal point for the protagonist will finally be written either this week, or at the latest, the next. And after that, we’re on a train ride to the denouement and then completion.
Writing away so furiously for the last year, it almost comes as a surprise when I look up and realize I’m nearing the end of the first draft of my second novel. My first novel, meanwhile, languishes in editing purgatory, but let’s say no more on that for now, and focus on the positives.
The thing about Maple Vodka, which remains its working title because I’m nowhere nearer to figuring out what this book will actually be called, is that it’s one of those projects that has been with me far longer than it has taken to write. The idea for it started ages ago – back when I was in my short-lived screenwriting phase, which means it’s been with me for a good fifteen years now. This novel has been brainstormed, outlined, plotted, started and restarted, into absolute oblivion until I finally said enough is enough and that the first draft will be written one way or another.
I feel like it wasn’t that long ago that I was on here saying that the wheels finally started turning and that I had a legitimate project on my hands. And now my main character is on a plane flying towards his climax, which will soon hit him over the head like a ton of bricks, and then off to the denouement, which shouldn’t take that long. If I had to guess, I’d say I should be done before the end of the year, or the very least would close off this draft before the end of February.
Once I’m done that, it would be two novels whose first draft I have written, which, to me, is pretty crazy to think about. Five years ago, I was still struggling with ever finishing one novel, writing only short stories and novel projects that were abandoned before their completion. And now this would mean that I’ve run the marathon that is writing a novel not once, but twice. It means I’ve proven that I can do it, and which means I can do it time and time again.
Actually completing a novel, on the other hand, is a different question. As I’ve said, novel number one remains in editing mode, and I’ve recently talked about which projects are stealing the time away from that. Adding another novel into the mix complicates things, and I don’t know yet how will be able to find time to edit both Maple Vodka and Wake the Drowned. However, that just feels like one of those problems that will find a solution as some point, so I just need to be patient.
What I should be focusing on right now is wrapping up a plot that has been with me nearly half my life. Scenes I imagined for over a decade are about to finally be put into words and I want to do them justice – bring them to life in the exact ways that imagined them. One way or another, the wait is about to pay off and the story of Paul/Pavel will draw to a close. What lessons will our protagonist learn from one day waking up and finding himself in an alternate universe where he never immigrated from Russia as a kid, which led to his life and even himself, turning out quite differently?
I mean, I know the answer. I just hope one day you get a chance to read it for yourselves.
When I relaunched The Bloodlet Sun here a year ago, I honestly didn’t know how it would go. I’d been optimistic for the original launch as well, but that first effort died after a single chapter was posted, and then the story went quiet for more than a year. I promised myself that if I were to try again – posting a sci-fi web novel on my blog in weekly installments – that I would have to do it right. Well, now that I’m officially more than a year into this second attempt, I think things are going as well as I could have hoped (okay that’s a bit of a lie, I could have also hoped for droves of readers but that’s beside the point).
I’ve recently completed my first full cycle of POV character chapters, introducing the readers to all six characters that are spotlighted in the first “book” of this sci-fi epic. With established characters it’s beginning to get easier to move the story forward and it’s personally exciting when I get to dive back into each story.
My buffer, though it’s not quite as robust as when I started (I was taking no chances so it was a hefty one) is still quite healthy and has grown in the last few months. No chapter has given me quite as much grief as much as chapter 2, which is what had originally derailed the publication in the first place. This chapter was Kalirit’s first chapter (released as chapter 3) and I’m coming up to writing her second chapter so let’s see if she was the real culprit here all along. But other than that little ominous aside, things have been going well.
Since bringing The Bloodlet Sun back to this blog, I’ve also searched for other publication outlets for the space opera, launching on Royal Road late last year, where I’ve gathered 24 readers, and then launching on Tapas a couple of weeks ago, where only have a handful of views and 2 subscribers. Now I admit it doesn’t sound like much for something that’s been up for a year and I’ve learned to be okay with that. I kind of have to, otherwise it becomes too easy to get discouraged.
What I have to remind myself is why I started publishing The Bloodlet Sun in the first place – that it was a project I had been contemplating for years and I could no longer see any other viable outlet for other than through the web novel format. I think though looking at my current commitment to it, what was intended to be a side project has actually become the main focus of my writing resources. Sometimes I question this path, but I have to remember just how much fun I have writing it, and also sharing it with the world. That handful of subscribers is my one true tangible readership, and I can’t dwell on how small it might be compared to anyone else, because it’s the most I’ve ever had.
What I’ve learned over this past year is how much I still love this project, that once it started taking shape, I was not bored of it, but rather only became more excited as to where it could go, and already I built more on top of my original outline than I could have imagined just a couple of years ago. I’m finally, in my 30s, beginning to learn to write for the fun of it, and not for some hard-to-pin-down external concepts such a publication, praise and accolades. Maybe it’s this new attitude that would inadvertently lead me to all three. Or maybe I just continue to have fun with it and to spin these tales set in the Known Reaches two thousand years from today.
Michael is a husband, father of two, lawyer, writer, and is currently working on his first novel, at a snail's pace. A very leisurely snail. All opinions are author's own.