From Bullet Journal and female authors, to Anthem and Hugo.

At the end of last year, I experimented with Bullet Journal, and jumped in more fully this year. It has been a resounding success. (This may see a follow-up post in future.)


Been reading lots of female authors lately. Marilynne Robinson – Lila, and then re-read Gilead. Finished an exciting romp through N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy (beginning with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms). Now working through Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn Chronicles, though I’ll have to interrupt it to race through The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon, which is in such demand from the library that I won’t get to renew my borrowed copy, and who knows when I’ll get to re-borrow it?

Let’s see if I can’t fill the rest of the year with female authors.


I’ve been playing a lot of Bioware’s Anthem, amongst other games. Anthem is my first multiplayer game, and naturally, I’ve been sucked into the community, and found some friendly servers on Discord to game and chat with. Which has been a kind of blessing: amongst other things, it revived my writing spirit (which flagged for a while) and got me writing fan fiction.

It has occurred to me that I’m still on social media — except I engage in “topical”, focused, and (semi-)private spaces. I quit Facebook years ago, barely check Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram (the latter two remain on death row limbo), and am apathetic about Micro.blog. A re-subscription offer prompted me to log in to Micro.blog for a look-see; I think the last time I dropped by was in February. It’s thriving, and nice to watch. But it’s already become too noisy and amorphous for my tastes, just as Twitter et al have become.

But Discord? Discord is my jam. The first servers I joined were writing groups; the gaming groups came much later.

Discord communities tend to revolve around a primary topic, with detours into generalized chat, and are always private groups (sometimes large, but still gated). It suits the way I organize my online life: focused on specific ideas.## I think I will stop trying to fit myself into a generalized social-media shape. It has never worked for me anyway.

##This paragraph was originally longer, but turned into an idea I should explore some more. This may see a follow-up post in future. UPDATE: The post is here.


My novels are still at the back of my mind. Between Anthem fan fiction and my currently-active novel, A Dirge for the Amphiptere, I have to find a balance to progress in both. I missed April’s Camp NaNoWriMo, but July is still coming up. Best use that to resume novelling.

Also, never underestimate the power of a deadline. I’m part of a writer’s workshop, and they give me enough kick in the pants (and encouragement and feedback) to keep moving forward. Many thanks, fellow writers.


I recently switched from Resilio Sync to Syncthing, and from Microsoft OneNote to Standard Notes. Continuing the march towards open-source and private, one program at a time. Standard Notes, in particular, was the ace-in-the-hole. It has everything I want. Something worth subscribing to!

Google remains the biggest obstacle in this march. I’m about 75% decoupled from it, with the remaining 25% being Google Play Store for my Android phone. Flashing a custom ROM is somewhat beyond me right now.


The best way to learn a skill is to have problems that require that skill to fix. I (finally) have stuff to put on my website, so I’m taking another stab at producing a website through Hugo.

Projects in order of importance: A repository for my Anthem fanfic, proper landing pages for Hierofalco.net. If those go well, porting my Tumblr to a static site on my domain (and finally, administer the death sentence to another social media account).

The hope is to create a “set-and-forget” website production pipeline. Sweat over the infrastructure now, so I can leave it running on its own in perpetuity, just pop in to feed it more content. For someone who has a love/hate relationship with webdesign and coding (building infrastructure is exponentially less fun than creating content for it), this is going to be torture. But I want to do things my way, Indieweb-style.

If I can get these projects and pipelines in place, I may even be able to leave WordPress (which I’m growing to abhor more and more) and close this blog, perhaps transform it. This blog has always been a miscellaneous catch-all. Too generalized. I’ve never been satisfied with it. Disseminating it into specific projects would be the ultimate goal. Then, perhaps, Hierofalco.net would start looking like what I’ve always envisioned it to be: a village of my thoughts.

Storycraft learnt from recent novels read. 🖋️

(1)
From Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo: the gradual character revelation. Bardugo dribbles character development and revelations out across the entire novel. When one character trait is fully revealed, the same scene hints at a new character trait. And when that is revealed, a new one is hinted at. This continues for all the POV characters, well past the novel’s halfway mark; even into the climax and denouement are new character traits being revealed. This slow, “nested” revelations of character are the hooks that keep the reader engaged and engrossed, wanting to discover something new.

So I’ve been reviewing the character arcs in my novel. How can I stretch out the details and revelations of a character arc over time? Make a note of each scene where character development takes place, and structure the reveals/facts to reveal one thing but hint at the next.


(2)
From The Ladies of Mandrigyn by Barbara Hambly: how to introduce memorable characters and embed them in the reader’s mind from the first few words. Hambly is brilliant at writing vivid, memorable character introductions. The characters’ personalities shine through powerfully within the first sentence of their introductions. They’re unforgettable from the get-go… what’s more, their personalities continue to be strong and vivid as the story progresses.

I want to learn this sort of kick-ass character introductions. Does it involve developing 1-2 quirks for each character, and then amping them to the Nth degree? I’m still reading this novel, plenty of chance to study how Hambly does it.


(3)
From Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon: project management for a creative endeavour, especially Kleon’s advice on maintaining analogue vs. digital workspaces. This dichotomy is extremely powerful for segregating different sets of information, and more importantly: the mental gear-switch required to operate in those disparate sets.

I used to keep both the manuscript and the revision meta in the digital space. I’m typically well-organized, but for a long time couldn’t figure out why my creative projects always ended up in organizational chaos. Creativity can’t be fully tamed into a structure — I’ve made peace with that — but this chaos was actually crippling my productivity and causing much discouragement. Then I started handwriting novel drafts last year, and had an epiphany about coupling mental processes to physical ones.

Now, my novel manuscript is in the digital workspace, while the the notes that guide the revision process (the “meta”) is in the analogue workspace. Doing the project vs. analyzing the project’s progress involve different mental processes. Hooking the mental gear-switch to the physical, visceral movement between analogue and digital workspaces is incredibly powerful. Now that I’m physically recording the meta with pen-and-paper, I’m way more organized, and no longer struggle with switching mental gears.

I think I write about as many words in the meta as I do in the novel manuscript, if not more. But now it’s helping, not hindering. Just have to make sure that it doesn’t metastasize and overwhelm the creativity.


(4)
From recent, inconstant attempts to post handwritten quotes from my current novel, A Dirge for the Amphiptere: Dear God, my handwriting is atrocious. And the photos aren’t even straight. So woeful! Time to practise penmanship again!


Part One of A Dirge for the Amphiptere is finished. 30 days to revise 17,000 words. It’s light-years better than the previous draft. And I’ve learnt so much about editing and the craft of weaving the myriad strands of character, plot, setting, and voice altogether into a coherent story. Lessons on how to not reveal character backstory too quickly, but drip-feed it instead. How to saturate the storytelling with setting/world-building — and just when you think you’ve soaked it properly, just how much more that you can still do. How hard it is to create idioms and proverbs from scratch that reflect the gestalt of an entire culture. And much more.

Part Two is next. It’s three times as long as Part One. I’m sitting at the opening chapter, seeing at myriad ways I can change it to make everything — character development, world-building — richer. Didn’t someone say that editing was a bottomless well? Where you can keep fishing in, at the expense of finishing a novel and moving on the write new ones?

Must keep going. I’m not going to meet my February deadline for finishing the full revision. Shooting for end March. Camp NaNoWriMo is in April, and I want to begin something new by then.