New Beginnings


New beginnings

I’ve been neglecting this blog an awful lot. Not only that, but I feel like what I’ve posted, have been things that I have posted in order to post something, or because I felt like complaining, not because I’ve had something useful or even entertaining to share. I know I am far too self-critical here, it’s kind of my thing – but still, that’s not why I wanted to start a blog in the first place, nor the kind of blog I want to have.

Now, to be fair, I have had my fair share of work- and money-related issues, stress and burnout, which was far worse than I thought and which has ultimately lead to my being on my third month of sick leave. No wonder I couldn’t find the energy to write what felt like “proper” blog posts, or even post more often.

There, now all the complaining is out of the way. The point of this post is that while my life is getting a proper overhaul (looking for a new job, working out…), so will the blog. I haven’t gotten very far, I have basically just come up with the new colour scheme (the title image contains a tiny hint of what the new blog will be like), but it’s on its way.

The blog contents will also change. At this point I cannot say exactly how, but fewer status updates and more actual useful content, in the first place. A more coherent visual expression and a colour scheme that actually suits me. More graphics. More like the blog/website I actually wanted to have, not the one I ended up with.

What to do with what I already have is a question that’s still up in the air. There’s a lot of old stuff. Lots of plugins and widgets, some active and some not, and I’m no longer sure which does what. Lots of workarounds that are no longer necessary, but which I don’t really know how to undo. I don’t really care to show new readers much of the old content, and let’s face it… I don’t have many readers here at all. It seems like a good opportunity for a brand new start, so I’m leaning towards moving this blog to a subdomain (I don’t have the heart to delete it, and I have enough space), and starting a brand new blog here. Or, alternatively, buy a new domain. I’m really not sure. I’m never sure to be honest…

 

And then there’s the question of the name. I ditched The Dragon and the Vagabond, it became too… stiff. Then it became just ciuva.com – but I’ve never really liked that; it doesn’t say much. It’s my nickname most places online, but still… I could of course separate the art blog (using my username here) and the writing blog, but that would also feel wrong. I do want a blog title that says something about who I am and what I do. As far as I can see, these are my alternatives:

  1. Keep Ciuva.com as both the address and the blog name
  2. Keep ciuva.com as the address, but rename the blog to reflect what it’s about. Let’s face it, few people google my name… 😛
  3. Keep ciuva.com as the address, but use my real name. I don’t think it’s hard to find out what my real name is, but I might actually write under another name, and that might make it weird.
  4. Keep the domain ciuva.com,  but use a name that reflects the topic and purchase a domain to go with it.
  5. Use my real name and purchase a domain to go with it.
  6. Do either number 3 or 5, but with whatever I decide upon as my pen name, not my real name.

If I decide to go with option 4-6, I might use ciuva.com as more of a portfolio site. The blog will of course be updated when I post something new, but perhaps it’s better with a more static site. Kind of like this:

Overview new system

The writing blog, whatever it will end up being called, will be the thing that links it together. I’m not sure if I’ll actually have an author website, perhaps I’ll just have a domain for my pen name and redirect it to the writing blog, who knows.

Aaah, decisions. I hate them. I always change my mind and agonize over everything.

Not the new colour scheme, though. I like the colour scheme. Once I’ve fine-tuned it.

Photo organizing bonanza

Sometimes I make a lot of extra work for myself. Occasionally the extra work sort of creates itself. For example, since I take hundreds of photos every time I’m out and about with my SLR, organizing them and removing the bad ones take a lot of time. Eventually I plan on showcasing them here on the blog, but there’s quite a bit of work involved in cutting down the collection and finding the best ones. Particularly when I’ve been bad at doing this since I started using SLR cameras ten years ago, and started using Lightroom just last year. My Lightroom catalog, after the first round of paring down, includes more than 25,000 photos.

Misunderstand me correctly, I rather like going through all this. Ever single folder – organised by date – brings me back to certain memories, certain places. But then again there’s the matter of dealing both with the photos I keep for sentimental value, and those that are taken for more artistic purposes. Many of them are both.

Of course, I’m not going to publish anywhere near to 25,000 photos here on the blog; that would be insane. It will be more like… 250 max. Some of the photos are HDR, which are composed by at least three photos of different exposures which are then combined into one. I love HDR photos. (Good thing I have loads of hard drive space!)

Currently I’m at my parents’ house for Easter, where I’ll stay for at least a week. I won’t spend most of it in front of a computer screen, but I’ll spend at least some of the time devising a good way to organise them and find the very best gems. I have a feeling I’ll be using Lightroom’s collections quite a bit, since it allows you to sort and remove photos without touching the actual folders and files. At least now that the worst photos are deleted (no point in keeping photos that are blurry or outright bad).

We’ll see. At this rate I won’t finish before sometime next year or so, as this is the first time I’ve worked on it since September. And then I’ll have to figure out how to best showcase them here on the website as well, and whether or not I’ll publish them on Flickr and/or deviantART as well.

Next update will be a Camp NaNoWriMo update (yes! I’ve begun!) in a few days. Have a GREAT weekend!

 

23 things I’ve done instead of starting Camp NaNoWriMo

This was supposed to be a very motivational “Yay! It’s Camp Nano again and I’m going to write all the words!” type of post, but then it hit me. Have I actually done anything Camp NaNoWriMo-related at all so far?

Nope.

Before anyone comes up with a kind-hearted “oh, but you’ve probably been busy”, I haven’t. I’m currently on sick leave, and while that does hinder productivity a bit, I also have more time. Apart from a run and a coffee with a good friend yesterday, I haven’t had any plans at all since April began. But I’ve procrastinated, oh yes. Most of it sensible things, but still.

This is what I have done instead of writing today:

  1. Played countless rounds of Solitaire via Messenger in order to beat my friend’s record. This is apparently very important.
  2. Watched videos on how to do a pushup with proper technique, followed by stretching videos and how to decompress ankles and so on, which are all quite relevant actually, but this also lead to videos with Try Not To Laugh challenges, videos on movie tropes (some of which I’ve seen before), funny but pointless Buzzfeed videos…
  3. Listened to music. Listened to some more music. Tried to find music I’m not tired of. Realised my head is too tired for the music I want to listen to right now.
  4. Foam rolled my achy hips and ankles/calves.
  5. Contemplated making coffee.
  6. Didn’t make coffee.
  7. Contemplated watching Lord of the Rings (extended trilogy) again. Still not decided. I mean, if you’ve seen them enough to basically know them by heart, you can get some writing done at the same time, right?
  8. Ate a sorry excuse for a breakfast, then crisps. Wish I could say it was because I’ve been healthy all week, but alas…
  9. Went through a dance I made. Still iffy to music and I struggle to understand my own notes. Feeling like a hack and considered scrapping the whole thing because I apparently can’t make up steps. Even if, you know, I just finished a whole dance.
  10. Felt sorry for myself because my head hurts. I’ve slept too long and just quit soda.
  11. Wondered if it’s horribly financially irresponsible to order a pizza instead of making dinner tonight, even if I have all the ingredients and it takes only a moment. I feel like today’s a pizza day, but I don’t have any grocery stores nearby that are open on Sundays, and I don’t feel like venturing out of the house today anyway. This is still a work in progress, by the way. Has absolutely nothing to do with the aforementioned videos I watched.
  12. Tried to think of ways to do what I like for a living. My current job sucks and job searching isn’t very fun (but still has to be done). Would have been easier if working within sales was an option (I would suck at it and hate it intensely).
  13. Wrote this blog post.
  14. Checked the status of an order I know isn’t sent (waiting for stock, and not much happens on Sunday anyway).
  15. Tried to stop myself from redesigning this website. It has to be done, but after Camp NaNoWriMo, damnit!
  16. Did the dishes.
  17. Tidied up my apartment.
  18. Had blueberries that ended up not tasting very good. Not worth tempting my allergies for. (Not fully allergic, just slightly intolerant to most types of fruit and berries.) Disappointed.
  19. Seriously craved pizza.
  20. Caved and ordered pizza. Ate the whole thing instead of saving some of it for tonight.
  21. Did laundry.
  22. Played Endless Lake (a mindless Facebook game) probably close to 100 times.
  23. Made the stupid coffee. Thought it tasted funny, and that I maybe hadn’t rinsed the milk creamer properly. Threw it out and did it all again. Now I am out of milk.

So there you have it! It’s still early though, so there is hope.

The Recap of Nothing

Yep, that’s right. I have done nothing more whatsoever with my book since last time I posted, which is nearly a month ago. What’s more, I haven’t even done anything else useful. Well, I’ve translated a bit, which brings in some (not much) money, so I guess that’s good. And I painted a bit (read: made a small sketch that is nowhere near finished) while visiting a friend the weekend before last. Aaaand that’s… it.

In other words: If you want to feel better about your own inefficiency, you’re welcome.

Still, last week was a very busy week. I went to the movies twice, went jogging with my brother and his girlfriend, went to both of my dance classes and spent most of my one day off either at the gym or reorganising my entire apartment. I think I had a few hours I could have used for writing on Tuesday, but I spent them on Youtube and on… something. Probably the aforementioned reorganising project. It wasn’t a good week for my new budget either. I used up all my “go to the movies/eat out” money on the day I got my salary (yay for being a responsible adult!), but did that stop me? Oh no. Not that I regret it.

Failure all around, in other words.

Well, that’s not quite the truth. I did get an idea for what I think will be an interesting scene between two of my main characters in the middle of Rogue Sorcery. Not much happens, but it explains a lot about the two characters, and in a way that’s far less of an infodump than before.

This upcoming weekend will not be as busy as the last. I won’t make any appointments or plans other than gym plans for the entire weekend, no matter what. Friday will be my “oh what a week it’s been” day, and I’ll eat good food and relax. I’ll start Saturday off by going to the gym, then I’ll spend most of it writing. Sunday will be much the same.

The plan is to finish both chapter 2 and 3 and send them over to Cicilie. I will also need to plot the middle part of the book again, since parts of the beginning has changed enough to influence pretty much the entire rest of the book. Good thing that the whole thing needs to be rewritten anyway 😛

Week 6 recap

It started so well.

On Sunday I got 3k in, and I really felt like I improved on what was there before, even if it’s perhaps the chapter with the least amount of changes. On Monday I wrote 400 words, and 1.2k on Tuesday.

And that was it. Last Wednesday I didn’t get home until half past seven or so. I could have written, I really could. On Mondays I don’t get home before eight anyway, and while 400 words isn’t much, it’s something. Thursdays are not writing days, nor are Fridays, but I tried to get enough translations done on Friday so that I could focus on writing for the rest of the weekend.

Well. That didn’t quite go as planned.

You see, Saturday I had an extra dance class, and with the commute and the stupid Saturday bus schedule plus grocery shopping, I was away for nearly six hours. But of course I wrote when I came back home, right? Nope. I had underestimated the time my translations would take, so that was the only thing I did until Sunday at four. Needless to say, I was too tired to write, at least if I wanted to function at work today. Sooo… the two writing days I had counted on last week went out the window.

As for this week, I am carefully hopeful. I won’t have time to write on Tuesday and Wednesday, due to appointments and translations. But I will keep my calendar as empty as possible next weekend so that I can write. Being optimistic never hurts, right?

Writing goals for 2017 (revised)

OK, so I caved. I couldn’t resist making actual wordcount-related writing goals. I mean, yeah, I still think my initial goals are good. It’s just that they’re not so… trackable. I don’t like to mix time goals and wordcount goals in the same spreadsheet, and having two spreadsheets doesn’t work. However, I will try to stick to my initial rule about writing days, to try to get into some sort of habit, and the basic idea is pretty much the same.

The new goals are divided by content. Since my blogging motivation is unstable at best, I decided to include blogging as an actual writing goal. My blog posts seem to average around 500 words, and I figure once a week is a minimum for each of my three blogs plus one extra post per week. Then I have my novel projects, and my short stories, which are basically stories written for the web, or just for fun.

  • Blogging: At least 2000 words (4×500) per week
  • Novel writing/editing: At least 6500 words per week (if I stick to my four writing days per week this will be 1625 words per day, i.e. less than NaNoWriMo).
  • Short stories and snippets: At least 1500 words per week.
  • Total writing, everything put together: 10 000 words per week.

This means:

  • Total writing on each writing day (Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday): 2000 words (1625+375) of fiction.
  • If blogging is included in the above, total wordcount goal for each writing day is 2500 words.
  • Any extra words or writing time is a bonus, not a must.
  • The NaNoWriMo goal is not included.
  • So during the rest of 2017, including this week (47 weeks in total), I’ll have the following figures:
    • 94,000 words’ worth of blog post (roughly 63 new blog posts per blog per week, if counting 500 words per post)
    • 70,500 words’ worth of short stories and snippets (though the figures also include editing, so perhaps half that in reality)
    • 305,500 words’ worth of novels, again including editing/new drafts, excluding NaNoWriMo
    • 355,500 words’ worth of novels including NaNoWriMo

I’m excited to see how well (or badly) this will work, particularly since I haven’t set aside time for worldbuilding and planning. I’m two days into week one, but yesterday wasn’t a writing day. I still wrote 400 words, and cleaned up at home. Did the dishes and everything! I almost feel like an adult.

I also received an orchid yesterday. If anyone wonders, I don’t have green fingers. I’m very curious how long it will last – but I did take very good care of the little note that states how to care for it. I might actually have to start letting some sunlight in instead of having the curtains drawn every hour of the day though…

Anyway. I am now done editing the first chapter of Rogue Sorcery, and things are going well. Slowly, but well. 3349 words in two days, after months of nothing at all. Here’s to keeping up the momentum!

Week 4 recap

Technically I guess it’s week 1, since I only wrote my resolutions last week, but I decided to go with the calendar, so week 4 it is. I’m not sure I’ll do recaps every week, and I’ll probably try to do them on Sundays or Mondays, but we will see.

The week started miserably, at least when it comes to actual output. The wheels were turning in my head though, trying to work out the best plot, but words? Nah.

Last Friday I visited Cicilie for what was supposed to be a write-in. Instead we spent the time eating good food, cuddling with her dog and discussing our stories. Each day I feel I am one step closer to a workable plot, but I keep doubting.

Technically I guess I did work quite a bit on my book if you count the back-and-forth plotting and plot discussions. I met a writer friend on Tuesday for a trip to IKEA, and went on a social visit to another writer friend on Saturday (turns out I have a few of those!), and both days I felt slightly closer to untangling the great plot knot. There are details to work out, but still.

Then… on Sunday I actually did something. But it wasn’t writing. I keep getting frustrated with all my timelines (particularly all the versions), and since I have to make a new timeline for Rogue Sorcery in my shiny new Aeon Timeline 2, I decided to just put in everything I’ve planned for that setting into the same timeline. It has quite good filtering options, so it doesn’t really matter if it’s full of things.

But of course it took more time than I had expected. Whenever does it not? I would perhaps have been more efficient if I hadn’t watched Doctor Who in the background, but I had a lot to catch up with. I ended up watching an entire season in less than 48 hours. I also somehow managed to finish the timeline up to the point where Rogue Sorcery begins.

It might seem like a waste of time, to plot so much that isn’t technically book plot. But it’s still relevant. The plot of RS is tied into the situation in the empire, and then you will need to know what the situation is like. Which general has been there the longest, which areas are the newest, just how much drama went down behind the scenes before the story starts?

Turns out quite a lot. There’s a lot of story material there, I think. I still really want to write about the emperor’s childhood and upbringing, but it would be a dark, dark story. Magic, murder and mayhem – kind of catchy, actually.

Anyway, I’m hoping to get some actual writing done the next few days. Cicilie and I planned to exchange drafts in what is less than a week away, and currently I’ve got nothing. Except one chapter that she’s read before. I had initially written four more chapters, but things have now changed so much that they’re out the window. Oooops?

Writerly resolutions

January is the time of the month where plans are made, and you enter the new year full of determination and drive. Well, unless you start the year with mental and work-related chaos and can’t see the point in planning anything. However, while it might be refreshing to work without a deadline, I absolutely suck at it. I need deadlines. But if there’s one thing my stress levels don’t need, it’s more deadlines. On the other hand… I’m getting increasingly sick of being just as far away from my dream as I was last year, or the year before. Aaand it turns out that not having a project to work on, a goal to aim for, is really bad for my mental health. How on earth do you combine all these things?

The answer might be obvious to most other people, but for overachiever and burnout-prone me it’s definitely not. Realistic goals, what’s that? Cutting out something to make time for this new thing I want to do, is that possible? Wow.

Frankly, what do I find more rewarding? Writing, or spending my precious spare time watching mind-numbing stuff on Youtube? I’m sure I can live without watching the latest Buzzfeed video on people testing something that’s not even remotely relevant to me. Maybe.

I could start by having a deadline for the next revision of Rogue Sorcery, or for the plot revisions and the timeline file for the updated plot, but I’m not sure. There’s been so many deadlines for the past year, and while it works well for NaNoWriMo, it hasn’t worked at all for the remainder of the year.

I think I’ve realised why. While the end goal is 50k (or more, in my case) for NaNoWriMo, it’s not what I focus on. What I focus on is my daily goal. Your 1667 words per day, or 3334, or 5000. That’s what I look at in the NaNoWriMo stats, in my spreadsheets. It’s making that particular day green in my wordcount file, not red. Because I know that if I reach or even surpass this target most days, I will reach 50k, or 100k, or 150k. There’s no need to worry about it. Finishing a draft is a completely different beast.

So I’ve decided to make a new type of goal. It might be what everyone has been doing for ages, but it’s new to me. It’s inspired by what you often hear in fitness and/or weight loss circles: Focus on the process, not the goal. Sometimes things happen despite the best of intentions, and you can’t control the outcome nearly as much as you’d like. But you can control what you do on a regular basis to influence the outcome.

I have made the following little set of rules, or perhaps “steps” is a better word. My main idea is to turn one into a habit before I start on the next one, until I get used to making time for writing:

  1. Write something every Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. I don’t care if it’s just a sentence, a 5-minute sprint, something you’ll never look at again, write something on any kind of story.
  2. Spend a minimum of 15 minutes writing (actual writing, not plotting or planning) every Tuesday and Wednesday, an hour every Saturday and Sunday. Some of this hour can be used for plotting and/or planning, but minimum 30 minutes are reserved for actual writing. This equals two and a half hours every week, which is the main goal.
  3. Write at least 10k every week. This should be doable within the allotted time periods with my max writing speed, but most days it might require more time.
  4. Resist the urge to increase the word count goal (even if it’s fine to actually write more – it just shouldn’t be a must).

I admit it’s tempting to plan on writing every single day of the week, but frankly, with my timetable, mental health and other projects, it’s just not feasible. For example, on Thursdays I usually don’t even have time to make dinner before I have to go to bed. Insisting on writing on those days anyway would be asking for a disaster.

So there it is. My new 4-step program to actually getting the book (and my other projects) written. Do you have a plan for your writing this year?

A teeny tiny little update

I finally found back to this blog after my unplanned three-month hiatus. Some things have changed – for the better or for the worse – and instead of writing paragraph after paragraph, I decided to go for a simple list of news, resolutions and other updates:

  1. I won NaNoWriMo 2016 as well, with barely more than 50k. I had very little energy and focused on the class challenge at my gym (which I nailed, btw, I even won a backpack and some other stuff). But I won, and I’m happy.
  2. Rogue Sorcery is just as unfinished as it was when the autumn began.
  3. But I have fixed some fairly important plot issues. And made some more work for myself, but that’s to be expected. I really like the changes. Should also be mentioned:
  4. Without my writer friends I would… well, I might have gotten the same ideas, but it would have taken much longer. They are awesome people, all of them.
  5. Mental health took a nosedive and is now on its way back up.
  6. I finished the Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2016, but not without drastically reducing my goal. Still had to read a lot for the last two days of the year to make it, so I’m happy.
  7. Stuck in a job I had high hopes for but which is less rewarding and more stressful than I thought, becoming a writer – an actual, nearly full time writer – has become more important than ever.
  8. As being a writer has gone from something I want to do to something I desperately need to do (not because I think it’s particularly lucrative, but because it’s what I want), I’ve realised that I really, really, really need to make time for writing, and get the ball rolling again.
  9. I would really like to make the literary version of a webcomic (literary as in “just words and no pictures”, not because a webcomic by default isn’t literary – I’ve seen several examples on the contrary). At least something ongoing that I can keep adding to and which I can share online with minimal fuss.
  10. Aiming to start setting aside more time to write during the week. Surely I can cut down on some of my “watch pointless stuff on Youtube” time.
  11. Also aiming to blog more. Granted it doesn’t take much to blog more than once every three months, buuuut still. I’m hoping to be able to blog once a week or so. I have missed blogging. And writing. Frankly, I’ve missed lots of stuff.

I don’t remember if this was all I had intended to say, but here it is. What have you guys been up to? (If anyone is reading, still)

NaNo Prep, a.k.a. WHAT?!? Only five days until November?

As you can probably tell from the title, I am not prepared. I am not even less prepared than I usually am and less than I planned (which is par for the course, really), I’m spectacularly unprepared. I don’t have a story that I can rewrite that’s not either already rewritten and being edited, waiting for the previous novel in the series to be edited, or postponed indefinitely. Well, unless you count Underhanded Deals, but I haven’t been able to sort out the huge, enormous problem that is the plot. It’s the kind of story where you need to know where it’s going, or you’ll end up with a huge mess, which I have already tried. Twice.

Ignoring the option of rewriting something for now (not editing, by the way), I usually have at least a few new ideas that I would like to try out, except that this year I don’t. I have what I think of as the Kitchen Sink story, where I throw in pretty much everything I think is cool, but I haven’t got a plot yet. Not sure I can get one in so few days, when I only have a very vague idea of the setting and barely any characters. I do have some other ideas, but I tend to get stuck after just a few thousand words, so I need to work on them some more before I attempt to write them.

So that’s basically it. One story I need to work on before I can write it without getting stuck, and one idea I really need to flesh out before I start writing. In other words: I’ve got some work to do in these five days. Or three, since I’m busy all day today and tomorrow. And half of Saturday. And most of Monday. Let’s try again: I have a LOT of work to do on Sunday. I guess tidying and cleaning my apartment before NaNoWriMo just went out the window. The annoying thing is of course that I will probably have to plot both, just in case. I am aiming for 100k this year, maaaaybe 150k if I reach 100k very early, so I might very well need to write more than one story. This year I won’t have time to plot as I go either.

The reason I’m not pantsing this year is because I have so little time. Not only do I have a new job with slightly longer work hours, but it’s also a full time job, so I’ve lost an entire writing day all of a sudden. I don’t have my usual November vacation. I can’t skip dance classes as I’m one of the instructors now. I work out a lot more. In other words, if I am to write lots of words, I need to be able to make the most out of what little writing time I do have. That means spending as little time as possible thinking about what needs to happen, and knowing what comes next every time I sit down to write.

I guess I technically could have lowered my goal, but where’s the fun in that? At least I have the sense not to try to beat my personal best from last year, which was 211k. At least not yet…

Hopefully I can figure out a plot for my Kitchen Sink novel. If any story’s fun to write, I think that would be it. It has vampires, werewolves, sinister and not-so-sinister sorcerers, creepy old mansions, a bit of romance, a bit of everything, really. Hence the name. Basically, the only thing it doesn’t have is a plot. But I think I’m going to find one of my trusty writing books (I’ve read a few lately) and simply pick a method and follow it to create the plot. Or find my own method. Who knows, it might be fun!

Are you prepared for NaNoWriMo, or are you flailing like a headless chicken like I am?