Still plugging away. (I should stop here…heh heh.)

As I close in on the magical 100,000-word count in the second volume of this tale, I figured it was time for a bit of an update for those who wonder where the next book is or whether I gave up and decided to become a monk in Tibet.

And yeah, I’m still plugging away, but don’t think for a minute that the alternative hasn’t been contemplated from time to time.  😀

Life for the independent author can really be a rolling trainwreck at times…more so for a multi-volume epic than a single book. There are times when writing that the author realizes he has forgotten something important from the prior story that basically screws up the narrative, or contradicts what has come before. Sometimes the author realizes that the last 100 pages suck donkey balls and needs to be tossed.  To top that, almost two years ago now I got fed up with all of the “writer programs” (there are many that I’ve tried) that try to ease the writer’s life…but sometimes force “their way” on a project that doesn’t quite fit “that way”.

I really enjoyed Scrivener (which I used extensively), but the changes made to the big “update” they released was a serious let-down for me. That, coupled with the loss of a native application for my operating system (They dumped their Linux version and horsed around with their Windows user base as well to just work primarily on a macOS update) really got me looking at what I was doing, and HOW I was doing it.

When writing the first book, I had notes everywhere, revisions everywhere. This wasn’t a big deal then, but working on the 2nd volume I was getting lost every single time I sat down to the keyboard trying to remember the whatsit of the whosit.

I took a break (a couple of months’ worth) to figure things out.  Most writers have strong opinions on which tools to use, but my problem was proprietary formats that don’t easily convert from one type of file to another, and the aforementioned “do it our way or get out” mentality.

One of my biggest problems dealing with basic word processors (Libreoffice, MS products, Open Office, etc.,) was formatting and style sheet issues. I HATE futzing around with that stuff, especially if a change mid-stream is needed. Reformatting and making sure the final document was ‘clean’ was more of a chore than I wanted to deal with.

So I took the break and began looking at document processors (which are very different than the common word processors most people are familiar with) and hierarchical note-taking applications to organize and simplify the process. This involved some real ‘go-back-to-school’ effort to unlearn old bad habits and learn how these latex processors work. I settled on Lyx and Cherrytree. Lyx for the writing and Cherrytree for keeping track of everything.
Lyx is a graphical front end for the LaTeX typesetting language. You type out your material, push a button and you output a PDF that is literally ready to be published either physically or as an ebook. Changes made to appearance flow naturally through the document, and if a style change is required only in one spot it doesn’t require sacrificing a goat to Zeus to get right. It is extremely powerful and is used for many types of work including novels and screenplays, but truly shines for textbooks and scientific documents that need clean mathematical symbology in the text.

From the Lyx description: ‘LyX is for people who want their writing to look great, right out of the box. No more endless tinkering with formatting details, “finger painting” font attributes or futzing around with page boundaries. You just write. On-screen, LyX looks like any word processor; its printed output — or richly cross-referenced PDF, just as readily produced — looks like nothing else. ‘

Cherrytree is a note-taking application that uses XML or SQLite as the backend. This makes it a great way to set up and manipulate a database without having to be a programmer.

I’ve written about all this in the past but looking back at it again I can see just how much these two applications have made a real difference for my work-flow.

Blood, sweat, and tears to get through the learning curves and migration, but smooth sailing after that. (Also, using an industry-standard format in the publishing industry [LaTeX] and XML/SQLite for the database side really lessens the concern that a piece of software will disappear or change on you mid-stream.)

While the writing process/juggling real-life stuff has been a royal pain at times, at least I’m not having to scream at the walls when changes made or style updates have screwed up the entire document which happened frequently with regular “word processors”. Lyx just gets out of my way and lets me write.

Cherrytree takes the place of the organizational functionality I had with Scrivener and again makes it simple to organize and search for information. (It took almost a year of consolidating things to get all of the outlining, notes, reminders, and character bios organized and collected into this application…but has been well worth the effort, especially going forward.)

Another issue I’ve had to deal with was the size of the book. Specifically where to break between it and the next one. It is disheartening to feel as if you have been working for ages only to look at your outline and realize “only halfway???? WTF????” It is damned important that the breaks between novels give the reader a good stopping point (even with cliffhangers), so the interminable wait for the next one is easier to deal with. I felt that the end of the first book accomplished this well, but I have been in turmoil for the breakpoint in the second work for a long time.

Until recently.

I realized that the outline extended far into 3rd novel territory, and found a good stopping point with a decent climax that made sense to me. There is no way to put into words just how much this was a “jump-fer-joy” moment for me. Eureka time! heh heh.

So now at the beginning of 2020, I’m still banging away on the keyboard, still enthralled by Julian’s story, and getting a LOT closer to “the end of volume 2”.

So there you have the state of affairs.

[ASIDE]

Anytime I see a writer belittling G.R.R. Martin or other writers for their apparent lack of progress, I sigh. I shake my head. I sigh again.

I get it. Doing things right and telling a massive tale can really take time and far more effort than most people realize.

I truly envy writers who can just scoot through and pump out “the next one” on a regular basis. I suppose if I could do this and not worry about eating….hmmm.  😀

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