SCC5 Update and 2021 Recap

First an update on SCC5:

Well, the first half of the plan came through—a Christmas miracle! I wrote ~16k worth of words on SCC5 over Christmas break. Based on my last assessment, that would be put me within 3k striking distance of capping this series off, right? Nope!

Alas, as the third plot point developed it became clear I needed another 10k to wrap things up. I’m currently sitting at 67k on the novel and I think it’ll wrap up around 80k total, which will make it the longest Sunken City Capers book to date. So 13k in one month to wrap it up by the end of January? Possible, but we’ll see. There’s a strong possibility I may have to stop and do an editing pass before the climax to get all my ducks in a row. If that happens, then the zero draft will likely be done in February sometime. Still looking like June/July release date is comfortably achievable.

Now to recap 2021:

Here were my targets at the start of 2021:
1. Finish current novel (this includes drafting and at least the 1st whole pass novel revision)
2. Write one short-story/novelette set in novel world.
3. Create and maintain a series bible
4. Start either novel #2 in current series or Sunken City Capers #5
5. Read 10 nonfiction books

I hit all except #3!

I finished MK1 back in February/March, edited it through March/April, wrote 2 short stories set in the MK world, and started SCC5 in May. As for the series bible. Eh. I didn’t have a good plan for this or good software. I started looking at some software options, but couldn’t find anything that made sense to me. Besides, writing is the fun part, so that’s what I spent most of 2021 doing.

Another 2021 highlight was the first two books in the Sunken City Capers series being produced and released in audio! I love audio so it was a dream come to true to be able to listen to the books. I’m really, really happy about this and the narrator Margaret Mikkelsen does an amazing job bringing the characters to life. I didn’t realize how many accents I wrote in the 2nd book until listening it and she handled them all beautifully.

I read 30 fiction books and 11 nonfiction books this year which is right around my average. What made this year more unusual than previous years, was that there were more nonfiction books I would recommend from the year than fiction. On the fiction side, the only standout for me was the Scythe series by Neal Shusterman. As long as you buy into the premise (and it’s easy for me to push the “I believe” button), it was a really interesting, engaging, and though-provoking read—plus it had one of those antagonists you really love to hate. On the non-fiction side, I really liked Nudge by Richard Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein, Grit by Angela Duckworth, The Unseen Realm by Michael S. Heiser, and Eating Glass by Mark D. Jacobsen.

I also started Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman this past year, but couldn’t get through it in the time I had it from the library. Between that book and Nudge I think I found a favorite new subgenre of behavioral economics—super, super interesting. The Unseen Realm is Christian book about understanding scripture through the supernatural lens of the ancient Hebrews. I found it super interesting to the point that I plan on revisiting it.

Eating Glass is a book about failure that I recommend any artist or entrepreneur pick up. Few people ever acknowledge what real failure feels like and looks like. There’s always a pervasive culture of “fail often, fail fast” or “fail forward,” but few ever talk about how hard it is to pick yourself up again and again. One failure is easy to recover from in my experience, it’s the constant stream of it that wears on a person.

Hopefully, next month’s blog post will have SCC5 either done or within spitting distance of being done. I’ll also post my writing targets for 2022 then.

SCC5 Drafting Update

Whew, that was a long chapter. It was the chapter where the curtain was finally started to be pulled back on everything that’s been going on over the whole series. I think it took be the better part of month to write that chapter for two reasons.

First, it’s a lot of information that needs to come together that’s been spread over four books. And because I’m a discovery writer, there’s no master plan written anywhere or outline. There are only hastily scribbled notes, and a few attempts to try and collate all the relevant information into some master documents. So, it took some effort to sort it all out and ensure it was self-consistent.

Second, that chapter turned out to be the longest in the series. Most of the Sunken City Capers chapters are on the order of 2-3k words. That chapter turned out to be 7k. That’s a lot of words for a chapter. I target about 1k words a week, but often land around 2-3k words when I have a good rhythm. So, it took me some to get through it.

But, I’m through it and have launched into the 3rd plot point. I was a bit listless drafting this past week. I was having a hard time finding a rhythm. I think I’m back on track as of this morning—basically I unleashed Isa and Puo to be them snarky smart-ass selves, and suddenly I was cracking myself up and having a grand ole time.

Seem like every time I update this blog, I end up pushing the estimate of when the zero draft will be done for SCC5 to the right. The end of January is looking a bit dicey—I estimate I need another 19k of words to wrap it up, and 19k in 6 weeks for me is above my average. But, but! Christmas is coming and I have some extended time off, so I usually get more words written in those periods. And, and! The last parts of books tend to write fast for me once it all falls into place. So, I’m going to keep the target to be done with book 5 by the end of January and hope for a Christmas miracle.

The Solid-State Shuffle is a Quarter-finalist in SPSFC!

I unexpectedly got some great news this past week: The Solid-State Shuffle squeaked through the first winnowing round in the inaugural Self-Publishing Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC)!

For those that don’t know about the contest, 300 self-published science fiction books are going to be whittled down to just one over the course of a year by a group book bloggers and judges with bragging rights and a pretty cool trophy to boot. The first round saw the 300 books divvied up to 10 teams who read the first 10-20% of the 30 books assigned to them and then voted on the top ten books to move to the next round. Those ten books will then be read in their entirety and the top 3 will move out to the semi-finalist round.

I’m super excited I made it out of the first round! Honestly, that’s as far as I dared to hope, so whatever happens after this point is all gravy. There’s a lot of great self-published fiction out there and I knew the competition was going to be fierce. I’m also aware that Isa is a polarizing character, people either love her or hate her, there doesn’t seem to be much in between. She grows and softens as the series goes on but there aren’t enough pet-the-dog moments in the first book to foreshadow that. This showed up in the comments the review team left about novel, which I’m really grateful for. It’s something they didn’t have to do.

The Solid-State Shuffle was one of the 30 books assigned to the team lead by Tar Vol, who has been blogging about the SPSFC on their Tar Vol website. The way the contest is structured, reviews at this point are not required so the fact that Tar Vol is doing this out in the open is very much appreciated and also the only way I was aware that The Solid-State Shuffle had moved on to the quarter-finalist round. Thank you for blogging all the results!

I am quite content to have made it this far and I look forward to watching the contest and discovering new books in the months to come regardless of whether The Solid-State Shuffle advances or not.


Streak maintained

Turns out, no, I cannot force myself to take a break. I maintained my streak going all the way back to 2020 and still made significant progress—so, yeah? I’m not sure how I feel about that to be honest. On the one hand, I’m happy the streak was maintained and even happier about the progress made, but on the other hand, I was flirting with burnout.

It seems to be the hardest lesson to learn, when to recognize signs of burnout and then what to do about it. In this case, simply giving myself permission to take a couple days of rest was enough. As soon as I decided I wasn’t going to work on the novel that day, I would suddenly find myself with a free 15 minutes and think, “I’ll just go look at it,” and then end up with solid progress made. So—I’m still not sure what the lesson is there. I’m still trying to figure this whole thing out.


In regards to the novel, I’m past the midpoint and currently sitting at ~63% complete of the zero draft. I actually have a pretty solid idea of from the 75-100% mark. But actually closing that gap from the 63% mark to the 75% is still somewhat opaque. I was writing a chapter were a lot finally starts to click into place for the characters and realized I didn’t remember what character knew what and when they learned it, so I opted to stop and go into an editing phase to get a handle on that.

I’ll probably spend the rest of October doing that and start drafting again in November. Based on these latest developments, I’m aiming to finish the zero draft by the end of January 2022.

Might be time for a break

So, I think I have the thousand-foot view? That’s been the problem with this novel the whole time. I can’t keep anything in my head for any amount of time.

I spent most of August and close to 7k words brainstorming and writing down notes, but even after all that time, I don’t have everything I worked out memorized. But I am confident I must have worked it out, since I started drafting again a couple days ago. I’m still trying to find my rhythm again. I have a clear idea what needs to happen (and more importantly why) in the next few chapters but I’m still having problem getting going, building narrative momentum.

I think part of the issue is, I have a streak going all the way back to early 2020 of working on writing every day. That’s over a year long, which is great. But now I’m starting to think, a break might be in order. I have lots of other things outside of writing that vie for my attention, such that, lately, it feels like I come to my writing time as a box to check, rather than a period of fun to have. This is most notable when as soon as I hit the designated word count for that day, I often stop and move on to something else.

Not sure what to do about that. On the one hand, I have the streak and I hate losing momentum. On the other hand, I don’t really have momentum right now. Should probably take a break ….  Now to see if I can actually force myself to do that.

Grinding Along

Writing is hard.

The novel hasn’t quite ground to a halt, but the gears are definitely giving a horrible screeching as it lurches it ahead. The second half of the second act is usually the hardest part for me to write, or at least takes the longest as I try to piece everything together. But I’m running into that problem in the first half of the second act with this novel.

The reason is pretty clear, from a series perspective, this novel is where everything in the previous four books needs to come together, so it’s equivalent to the second part of the second in a novel. There are a lot of threads to tie together that need to be self-consistent with the previous novels. Even though I reread those novels before starting, I finished writing book 4 almost four years ago (and I wrote all four in row) and it’s been difficult to keep all the threads in my head all this time later.

This has resulted in at least one continuity error that needed to be clipped out and smoothed over, and a sputtering pace where I figure out a sequence for a couple chapters and then have to switch to brainstorming to figure out where to go next.

And now I’m currently at the point right before the midpoint, which is an important part of the novel. It’s the part where a big event launches the characters into the second half of the novel, where they switch from trying to figure out what’s going on, to actively solving the problem. So, to write the midpoint properly, I need to know where to launch them to.

I actually have a strong idea of the midpoint, but I need to have a better handle on the bigger picture to layer things properly. So, I’ve stepped back and started outlining from the thousand-foot view. I don’t know how long this detour will take, but I am determined to stay in this phase as long as it takes. The novel is currently sitting at 30k, which I estimate is about 40% of the way through. I’m hoping once I have the thousand-foot view outline, the pace will pick back up and be done by end of the year or shortly after.

Reality Check on SCC5

Well, reality set in much faster on Sunken City Capers Book 5 (SCC5) than I was expecting. Drafting speed has slowed down to a more normal pace, but the real hiccup was I made a continuity error that I didn’t catch for three chapters. This is the equivalent of having a character sprinting in chapter five while having broken a leg in chapter four.

Oh, well.

Good thing I tend to alternate between editing and drafting, so at least I caught it before the book was done drafting. The fix forced me to reevaluate the plot and what I thought was the midpoint, I think would be better served as the third plot point (75% mark in a novel).

I ended up having to edit two of those chapters and throw one completely away. But I’m sitting at 21k, which I guesstimate is about one third of the way through. I have a very clear idea of the next sequence and a good idea of the midpoint, so I think drafting speed will pick up again in July.

My target is to write up to or start the midpoint sequence by the end of July, which would be about another 10k. I expect things to slow then as I figure out how to get from the midpoint to the third plot point. That part of the novel always tends to be the slowest for me to draft.

Now that reality has set in, I think the end of September for finishing the zero draft may be aggressive, but not yet out of the realm of possibility.

Drafting Sunken City Capers Book 5

I started drafting in mid-May the fifth and final book the current arc in Sunken City Capers. It’s been oddly therapeutic to write it, like it’s been this unfinished thing hanging over my head for years.

Drafting speed is pretty high right now and I’m sitting at ~15k words in about three weeks. I guesstimate that 15k is about 25% of the novel. I suspect this rate of drafting to continue to about the 50% mark (since I have a clear idea of the midpoint), but then it will probably slow down as I step back and figure out how to close out the rest of the novel.

Taking all that into account, I think I’ll finish the zero draft by the end of September. After that, I’m not sure when it’ll be ready to publish. I will have to edit (which I think will take a two to three months), but then I have line up all the publishing gears which is unpredictable this far out based on other people’s availability.

My best guess would be sometime in 2022 Q2 or Q3 for the final Sunken City Capers to hit the market. I can’t wait for it to be done!

Submitting once again

April was a month of surprises for me—good ones. First, I finished both short stories in the MK1 world. Second, both short stories came in under 5k words. This is huge for me. I have a terrible time writing short and almost everything I write ends up longer than I expected. Novelette (7.5-18k) seems a more natural length for me. So, to have two stories below 5k to submit is amazing.

There are a lot more markets to sell short stories to at 5k than at 8k+. Which was another surprise for me. I haven’t submitted a short story to a market in over 5 years. 5 years! I had switched back in 2016 to writing novels (I have written 5 in that time), so it’s not like I’ve been idle or giving up writing. But it did surprise me to realize it had been that long since I had been submitting.

Now with the two 5k stories and the 8k novelette I wrote a couple months back, I have some pieces to put into rotation and I’ve already submitted them to some markets. Should be an interesting few months submitting them around (fingers crossed!).

But now that that’s all wrapped up, I’ve decided to turn my attention back to Sunken City Capers and write book 5 to close out that series. I’ve done a little bit of brainstorming and I have a vague idea of where I want everyone to end up, but no idea how to get there. That’s okay though, when it comes to Isa and Puo, that’s the fun part and they always surprise me. For now, I’m doing a re-read of the series and once that’s done I’ll start brainstorming in earnest with an eye to begin drafting.

Ready for the Cool Down

I just finished the first-pass edits of the 150k beast I’m labeling MK1 for now. I’m pretty pleased with it, but there is a lot of things that still need to be gone back through and filled in. Things I haven’t figured out yet, and likely won’t until the second or third book.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to ignore all common-sense advice and write this series in its entirety before beginning to either seek publishing or publishing it myself. I’m a discovery writer, so it isn’t until something is complete that I can see the forest for the trees and connect everything properly. I’m well aware how this is discouraged if you either want to be traditionally published (eh), or want to write quickly and publish at a regular rate to build up a following (eh, I can’t write that fast anyway with my other life commitments). So, I’m going to take my time and enjoy the process.

For now, I’ve set aside MK1 for a cooling off period. I’ll pick it up again when I start to think about writing book 2, which I’m not sure when that will be. I’m going to transition to writing two short stories set in MK1 world to flush out some events and characters and then I’m seriously toying with picking back up Sunken City Capers and writing book 5, the final one. There’s been some good traction there and growing interest. My only hesitation is then that requires be step away from the MK series for a bit.

But, for once, this is a good writing problem to have, having more than one project you’re excited about to pick what to work on.