Friday, November 30, 2018

Writing lessons learned . . . from cartoons [GIFs]

National Novel Writing Month is a pretty cool writing program that's designed to encourage authors to write a book. More specifically, you have to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November, and if you succeed, you "win."

Today, I "won."

2018 is my first year participating. In years past, I used to see other authors enjoying themselves (or torturing themselves, as the case may be) and I would encourage them if appropriate, but I never thought I'd be one of them. This year, it's been an interesting experience. Not only because I've never put myself on any kind of externally dictated word count goal during drafting or put myself on any consistent schedule for writing, but because I participated in this program partly to try things I had not tried.

And I got to do exactly that.

It's been about three years since I wrote a book. I've written at least ten novels in my life, and all of the ones I finished were completed very quickly and ended up very long. I am what's known in writing circles as a pantser: I write "by the seat of my pants," with little planning. I'm also not much of a worldbuilder. I write stories with a lot of navel gazing, a lot of conversation, and a lot of character interaction. I try my best to have a plot, but for me, plot is an excuse for characters to interact.

When you get down to it, we care about what happens because of who it happens to. Steven Universe is my favorite cartoon, and even though one of the big complaints about it from certain subsections of the fandom is that it spends too much time with side characters or "filler" episodes, it's really the early, deliberate focus on the characters that made so many people fall in love with the show, and now we fans will tune in to watch them do anything. 

HOWEVER, there ARE those people who watch because they are invested in the plot reveals, or fans who are very interested in the history and backstory. Again, we care about those things because they are shown to have significance to characters in the show, and attaching backstory and plot to characters is a lesson I learned long ago for making those things interesting.

However, a few things are new to me. This is the first time I've written a book after learning as much as I have from Steven Universe, and I want to talk about what I've learned.

1. Introducing backstory elements early on that will be explained later--without being obnoxious or coy.

Steven Universe is incredibly good at this. Now, I've listened to the podcasts and read the interviews from the people who work on the show, and I know that sometimes they deliberately include stuff when they don't know what it is, or they grab something from an earlier episode and make a plot point out of it. It isn't always deliberate; the important part is that it looks organic when you do do it. 

An example:

In an early episode, "Serious Steven" (episode 8), we first see the Strawberry Battlefield.

It may seem like it's not telling us anything, but it is. a) A battle happened here that they're not telling us about. b) These weapons came from somewhere.

As we get to know the Gem characters better in the show, we see that they generally do not use weapons like this at all. So what's going on? Was this even their war? Their usual fighting weapons are magically summoned from their gemstones, so what could have caused a battlefield to be covered in discarded material weapons?

And then later, in "Lion 3: Straight to Video" (episode 35), we get a glimpse of a mysterious object in a bubble.

Guess what? Background artist Steven Sugar thought it would be cool to draw a bunch of weapons on that battlefield. Storyboarder Joe Johnston thought it would be cool to include this gemstone in a bubble. Neither completely had it worked out as to what they were even making. And then they had to explain it later. "Hey, where DID those weapons come from? They must've had material weapons sometimes. And therefore, it must've been someone's job to make and provide those weapons."

More than 50 episodes later, that gemstone gets activated and it's a long-lost character we get to meet for the first time.

And guess what? She makes weapons.

The Crystal Gems' good old blacksmith, Bismuth, is introduced to the show. Before this reveal, sure we figured those weapons had to come from somewhere, and sure we figured eventually we'd find out what that dang bubble was about, but when two mysteries are solved by giving us Bismuth, that feels even cooler.

But the show didn't deliberately create a central mystery out of either of those background details. Eagle-eyed fans certainly tossed around theories about them, but the show itself wasn't shoving these things in your face and saying "Wouldn't YOU like to know?" This show rarely does that. 

Because of how skillfully Steven Universe throws in background details and later ties them together, I learned how to do similar things in my writing, and I applied them in the project I just finished. Like Steven Sugar and Joe Johnston, I included a few things I didn't really have plans for, figuring hey, this is nice, but since I'm not shoving it in your face that you don't know what this is, it's okay if I never come right out and explain it. 

2. How to portray the effects of an ancient, epic tragedy on an individual and their loved ones.

Steven Universe has at least 20,000 years of backstory. It begins with intergalactic tyrants colonizing other worlds, obliterating the organic life of any planet they settled. Their cruel matriarchs, the Diamonds, finally faced consequences for this when they tried to colonize Earth, and one of their own finally turned against them.

We don't know anything about these antagonists until we're more than 75 episodes in. One of them is name-dropped as early as episode 51, but no details follow. We come to know they're important, and later we realize how incredibly vital their influence has been in shaping this plot, but the show could have lived and died without mentioning them if it had ended at Season 1. We already had characters who we later find are living with the legacy of what the Diamonds did, but we didn't need to know about it to care about their emotions and about what happened to them. In fact, finding out about the Diamonds' deeds meant so much more every time we learned about a major character's relationship with them. Context would reveal itself, and then we'd go "OHHHH."

When HUGE things happen that are world-shaking (or, in this case, galaxy-shaking), every person still has a personal reaction to those events. We didn't have to start Steven Universe with "a long, long time ago" to give us context. We jumped in to see how the characters live now, and we believe them, and in some cases we can see something must have happened to make them the way they are, but those old wounds and past loyalties do not need to be given to us FIRST. We can learn who these characters are, and then when we later learn how they have been shaped by epic events, it has so much more power.

In my latest book, I also have a group of people who are many generations distant from a catastrophic event that happened to their people. The protagonist did not personally witness it because it was well before her time (more than six hundred years ago), but she has inherited the hole that event made in her culture, and she has a relationship with that sorrow even though it didn't happen to her, didn't happen to anyone she knows, and happened in a place she has never been. It's still a very personal cultural pain for her people, but most importantly, when I write about her I have to show both her connection to it and her distance from it. Steven Universe did that so well with Steven, being that he's also inherited so much devastation that he has no personal context for but can feel in the world around him littered with its remnants.

As a Jewish woman, I am making this personal by drawing on my feelings about the Holocaust. It happened before I was born. I do not personally know anyone who was in a concentration camp and I don't know for sure of any lines of my family that were killed there. Most of the immigration to the USA that happened in my great-grandparents' generation happened well before the Second World War. And still, when I hear references to the Holocaust, I think of it as something that was done to "us." I'm pulling from that to write this book, but I am also using the lessons this cartoon taught me about how a terrible thing that both did and didn't happen to you can influence who you are and who you become.

3. A little pacing goes a long way

Steven Universe is pretty phenomenal in that it expertly plays the long game with some of its reveals. There are a few plot points that were building for seasons before they were finally dumped on the audience, and even though some people guessed they were coming, many others did not. 

As a show with many secrets, this is nevertheless not just a show about mysteries. This show really takes its time, lingering on how every development feels to the main character and taking time out to check in with the characters, devoting whole arcs to characters' interpersonal fallouts, catastrophic freakouts, post-traumatic stress, self care, and evolving relationships. As mentioned before, some people complain about these episodes where "nothing happens," but I think those moments are everything. 

So one thing I've tried to apply in my most recent book is not considering the important moments between the characters as if they're indulgent, pace-destroying digressions. If that's what I want my book to really be about, I have to take my time and let the characters have them, and if the plot is important, they will also feel a draw toward moving it forward. I just don't have to artificially drag them to the next plot point if there's something worth writing in the moments between. What's great about this is that when and if something epic DOES happen, you feel it's earned; we spent enough time with these characters that we're excited to see how it affects them, and maybe we've really been able to feel the time stretching like it must have for the characters who lived it. There's no need to rush to the next "plot point" if the journey is important.

4. A scene that is written for one reason can pretend to be about something completely different

One thing I've noticed in Steven Universe is that an episode will focus VERY hard on something that ends up being almost irrelevant to the plot. But what it DOES do is bring something very important into the story. Maybe a person, a concept, a weapon, a tool, or an experience someone will need becomes a whole episode by itself.

Did we really need to see an episode about Stevonnie in a drag race with Kevin? It was a good episode, and it had some great lessons about competition, giving attention to jerks, and enjoying experiences in the moment. 

But if in a later episode it was important that Stevonnie already had some driving experience, we needed an excuse to have them driving in a high-stress atmosphere, and here it is. Perhaps that episode pretended to be about Stevonnie besting Kevin in a way that mattered even though they didn't win the actual race, but plot wise? It gave us, in episode 89, a setup and an explanation for Stevonnie being able to drive the crap out of a car-like spaceship in episode 140.

There are many other episodes like this--especially the ones that focus on the human townspeople and some incidentals of Steven's life. This was inspiring to me, so I've tried to learn from it and incorporate necessary plot elements or details into scenes about something else. That way they don't feel shoehorned in, they don't feel like they stick out suspiciously, and they feel organic when they come up again.

5. A good mystery should be solved by some of the audience before the solution is revealed

All the major theories of Steven Universe were backed by conspiracy theorists at the beginning.

And there's not a single plot reveal that didn't have a subsection of fans screaming, "SEE??? DIDN'T I TELL YOU???"

This is because the writers didn't lead the audience by the hand down a single path, but they did build the reveals on a logical setup so you never feel like they just pulled a solution out of nowhere. Sometimes it's shocking how it's revealed, or details of it are really unexpected, but enough was told as the story unfolded that some people could figure it out. The creators said that when writing Steven Universe, they wanted people to feel that satisfaction when their attention to detail paid off. They didn't want people to feel by and large blindsided by the reveals, because then it feels cheap.

From this, I've learned that if I want to reveal something, I don't have to worry about trying to hide it from everyone reading, and I haven't failed to write a good mystery if people do figure it out. However, a good mystery also surprises some of its audience too. You can present a series of clues, but avoid hand-holding so people won't feel cheated or condescended to. It's really an incredible feeling when you figure something out ahead of the reveal--unless it was really obvious.

And, that said? It's actually okay sometimes if YOU, the writer, don't quite know where you're going. The Steven Universe creators figured out Amethyst's origin quite a while after they'd started making the show, but it retroactively made sense.

As a pantser, I often learn what happens by writing it (instead of writing toward something I am looking for the best way to reveal), and it's refreshing to see with this show that sometimes that approach works too.

6. Connection through fandom is important

A very funny, very specific aspect of Steven Universe is how often the characters use other works of fiction to communicate with each other.

The characters often learn about each other, their values, their hopes and dreams, and even understand concepts they couldn't get before. In one episode, Garnet is finally able to help Peridot understand her relationship by comparing it to a TV show Peridot likes.

This is especially common with young people; they connect through bands they like, fandoms they're in, and identities they may share, and they can compare themselves or their situations to characters or plot points in stories they've all seen. I'm writing a Young Adult book, so in order to make the characters have something in common, it's helpful to use something like this to help them communicate with each other and bring them together. It can't all be about attraction or childhood friendships that are thrust upon them through no effort of their own. Contextualizing one's life through stories is a wonderful thing, and Steven Universe has so many examples of this working.

7. Marginalized people need to see stories that resonate with them on a unique level

This is the big one. There are so many Very Specific aspects of the outsider experience that this show focuses on. From Onion having a bunch of friends who don't talk to Amethyst feeling like a reject until she found her own family of rejects (and learned they were all GREAT), this show is awesome at showing different ways of people finding their own. However, it is of course particularly special to LGBT people because of all the positive same-sex relationships and queer gender presentation.

We have a happy same-sex couple, but then . . . we also have the classic Sad Lesbian.

Pearl's relationship had a pretty devastating ending. She lost her partner to whom she'd given EVERYTHING, and it was . . . to a random guy who wasn't even that great, and now she's raising her son.

It would possibly be offensive to have to see a lesbian character suffer so much and not get what she wanted if she wasn't in the same show as deliriously happy lesbians. But what you get when you only show deliriously happy lesbians is a bunch of people who love what you're doing but wish their own lives could be more like that. If they're struggling, like Pearl does, they might feel a little disconnected from that portrayal. Therefore, having MORE examples of different ways people can live this life allows diversity and authenticity. And it works wonderfully for this show.

I'm doing my best in my story--which also contains space lesbians, in a very different context--to portray some pretty specific experiences, and to make sure there's some sweet and some sour. I've learned from watching this show how important it is to make every relationship (even the deliriously happy lesbians!) include conflict, so my characters' relationship has never been perfect either, but they're growing to know and care for each other, and it's satisfying partly because it was not easy.

I can't wait to keep learning from this show. :)

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Update on, ya know, the writing stuff

I haven't been a very active blogger in the past few weeks. It's not just because I'm doing NaNoWriMo and just barely squeaking by with the recommended word counts, though. I'm just pretty overwhelmed with a bunch of stuff that's going on and it's pretty hard to be creative in this environment, while also being able to reflect on that creativity in a satisfactory fashion. I wish I had a way to address the other stuff in a way that would make everybody happy, but I don't, so I'm just treading water the best I can.

Normally when I would write a book, I'd just write it as time permitted. Usually I would take said time out of my sleeping or ignore something else to work on it, or I'd just happen to get really creative during stretches of my life where I had more time. So this is really interesting; for NaNo, I'm writing a little bit every day (haven't missed a day, though I've fallen short on word count maybe twice, and made up for it the next day), and I haven't really gone on any epic writing jags.

In a way, I like it. As I said in a previous blog, having a goal also gives me permission to stop. In the past, if I just ran until I dropped, I ran a lot farther, but it wasn't sustainable over long periods of time, and the tradeoff was a lot of physical and emotional exhaustion. It is nice to have something that is easily sustainable, though I think there are definitely days I would prefer to skip my writing session when I just couldn't cram one in. I certainly wouldn't have normally been writing new material while away for the weekend attending a wedding, or on a day where I went to see my grandmother possibly for the last time.

But in another way, I do not like it. It sometimes does feel artificial, like "okay, the butt is in the chair, now make the story come out, because this is when you have time to do it," and then, like, I have to. And since I stop and start more frequently than I tended to doing it my original way, I definitely lose momentum. Sometimes I find a good place to stop for the day based on word count instead of story arc, and then when I sit down the next day I'm not sure where I was going with that. I have to wonder how different the book would be if some of those scenes had been written uninterrupted.

Programs like NaNo do encourage a writer to be content with crap words just because they are any words, and I have always thought I was kind of "above" that--not that I don't write crap words (because I absolutely, ABSOLUTELY do), but because encouraging you to just get something down is about getting past blocks I don't really have. I don't have an overenthusiastic inner editor who stops me from saying anything unless it's perfect. But maybe if I had more breathing room to decide "do I need this conversation? do I need to go here? maybe I need to do some groundwork on the worldbuilding or figure out the character relationships more solidly before I write this?" I would write better the first time, instead of feeling like I succeeded just because I wrote some words, any words.

That's a victory for some, and not one to sneeze at, but I didn't really need that validation. I know I can write words. It's been interesting, though, to be on this side of the experience--I always figured if I ever participated in this program, I'd wipe the walls with those word count goals, churning out huge tomes ahead of schedule like I've always done before. This has given me an opportunity to be, uh, average I guess. Hitting word count goals consistently throughout through discipline and perseverance, and completing my 50,000-word goal right on the day it's due.

My novel is now at 49,008 words. I have until tomorrow to hit 50,000 to "win" NaNoWriMo. The book will absolutely not be complete at that point, so I'll keep working on it and see how long it takes me to finish, but maybe not at the same pace, or maybe at a more "natural" pace for me. They acknowledge in the program that 50,000 words is very low for a  novel--that books in the market are almost all longer than that for YA and up. 

When I win, I think I will be a cheeseball and order a shirt.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Wednesday Factoid: Lucky Shirt

Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Do you have any certain items of clothing you wear that you consider "lucky" or otherwise inspirational, like a lucky shirt or a lucky pair of running shoes?

Yeah! Well, kind of. I don't consider it "lucky," but when I'm handling something really stressful or heavy, I like to wear my shirt that has my favorite Steven Universe character, Garnet, on it. She's holding up her fist (with a gauntlet on it) and saying "'We' can do it."

And it's nice that she's also smiling, because my way of doing things includes gentleness with the necessary firmness and tenacity that requires handling tough tasks.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Personal Digest Saturday: November 17 – November 23

Life news this week:
  • Saturday I got my blogs done and my NaNo writing done, and did some webcomic planning, and that night I got to go to Drink and Draw. I prefer Saturday Drink and Draws. I got to have my yummy VLT sammich and got a ton of drawing done, and talked to some new people.
  • Sunday Kari came over for cartoons and pizza. We watched Steven Universe from episode 33 to episode 43. We talked for a long time about our lives before the cartoons started. Then I talked to my first Pitch Wars mentee on the phone, and we talked about writing and cartoons and life. It was great to catch up. I also did something super dorky: I created a fan character, sort of. (Well, a concept of what it might look like if two characters fused together, which can happen in Steven Universe, but these characters have not done the thing, and I drew a picture of what I thought it would look like if they did the thing. Never did that before.) When I posted it on the Amino, they featured it on the front page. Wow!
  • Monday was an unproductive day. Just kinda did a lot of wheel-spinning. And my co-worker who had a heart attack is back in the office. But at least we got good news about cartoons: Steven Universe is returning with new episodes on December 17. I'm ecstatic. :D Got out of work late for some reason and walked home in the dark, chatted to Mom to keep myself company during the walk, also ended up talking to my sister shortly afterwards and didn't meet my word count goal for the day because I was on the phone too much. :/ I also forgot to post on the Amino, even though I do that every day too (and have only forgotten one other time).
  • Tuesday I managed to get more writing done to make up for not writing as much on Monday. I did some e-mail stuff too. Posted a PSA on the Amino which was well received, and did a karaoke session and a comic review before bed. Arthur couldn't come over for cartoons so I had the day to myself.
  • Wednesday was the last day of work before the holiday. I got a bunch of paperwork done for my package that's due Monday, got some reports made, and finished my timesheet. Jeaux picked me up and we ate at a restaurant called East!, and we did not go grocery shopping because we were sure Thanksgiving shoppers would be crowding the place up so we just went to my place and watched Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
  • Thursday was off work for Thanksgiving, but my friend was working so we had to wait until after he got off work to go to my mom's. I baked some rolls and got writing done. Dinner was pretty late at Mom's when I went there with Victor and Jeaux. We had a good time and my friends argued about whether chili was a soup. I didn't get home until close to midnight.
  • Friday I was also off work. I had some chats with my sister on the phone again because she happened to be up and her family was not, and I got some drawing done for the webcomic and later some writing done. I also drew a cute picture of Garnet and Steven. :) Managed to post everything on time and fell asleep pretty early.
Writing Progress:

  • In-progress NaNo novel, In Bloom, is at 38,416 words.

New reviews of my book:

  • Crystal gave it a five-star review on Amazon, calling it informative and saying people should read it to answer their questions.
Reading progress:
  • Finished this week: Short week this week, I finished no books, but I did give a four-star review to the Steven Universe comic that came out this week: Ongoing comic #22!
  • Currently readingThe Law Enforcement Guide to Wicca by Kerr Cuhulain.
    New singing performances:

    For this week's karaoke performance, I did a song my dad introduced me to: it's a Bad Wolves cover of the Cranberries' "Zombie"!

    Stuff Drawn:

    A fan concept: My idea of what it would look like if CG Sapphire
    fused with CG Pearl. I named her Kyanite!
    Screenshot redraw of the beginning of the episode "The Answer."

    Webcomic Negative One Issue 0706: "Useless Lump."

    New videos:


    New photos:

    Rising yeast rolls
    Baked, finished yeasty bois
    Thanksgiving table
    Some Thanksgiving food

    Social Media Counts:

    YouTube subscribers: 5,255 for swankivy (4 new), 681 for JulieSondra (lost 1). Twitter followers: 96 for swankivy (lost 2), 1,355 for JulieSondra (1 new). Facebook: 296 friends (no change) and 205 followers (1 new) for swankivy, 653 likes for JulieSondra (no change), 59 likes for Negative One (no change), 147 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,523 (1 new). Instagram followers: 163 (2 new).

    Wednesday, November 21, 2018

    Wednesday Factoid: Favorite Household Item

    Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Do you have a favorite household item that is known to be "yours," that no one else gets to claim? For example, a coffee mug, a favorite chair, or a spot for your coat?

    I guess this is a weird one for me because I live alone so literally everything I have in the house is mine. 

    I have two bathrooms in my house. One is in the main hallway and one is a smaller bathroom off the master bedroom. I don't use the master bedroom as a bedroom--I use it an office and all-purpose creative room--so it's sort of in a weird place to be "my" bathroom if I have guests. My personal bedroom is the smallest one and it's right next to the larger main bathroom. When no one is there but me, I really just use both bathrooms for showers and toilet purposes about the same. But when I have guests, I like to let them use the big bathroom, since it's sort of weird to walk into a bedroom (even if it's not being used as a bedroom) and then into a bathroom. So maybe that's one of the closest things I have to a household item being designated "mine."

    I don't think I really even have a favorite spot on the couch when I have friends over. I just sit where they don't sit. 

    I don't have any bowls or cups that I am squeamish about letting others use either. I don't have a favorite kitchen table seat or a favorite coat-hanging spot. I don't have a car so I have no preferences on where people park. I'm not really sure how a person living alone is supposed to answer this one. :)

    Saturday, November 17, 2018

    Personal Digest Saturday: November 10 – November 16

    Life news this week:
    • Saturday I finally got to laze around and get some energy back. I did a lot of work to get my stuff in order to post my blogs, did my NaNo writing, and also talked to my dad who said my grandmother's health is bad, so I made plans to go see her.
    • Sunday I sat outside to answer messages and got some laundry done. Did my writing, drew a picture, cleaned up the place, tried to relax.
    • Monday was a chill day at the office because it was a holiday at the DOT, so we didn't have any letters to go out. I did some printouts and got a ride home. Then I spent the entire evening drawing a very silly fan comic that doesn't make sense to people who don't watch the show but was very well received on Tumblr.
    • Tuesday I had a shit day. Various fires to put out, letter to go in at the office, had to talk to Mom and help her with stuff she doesn't know how to do, etc. I then met my friend Arthur and he took me home and ate Thai food with me, and we watched Steven Universe. I'm finally done showing him the whole show; we usually don't get through too many episodes at once but he kept asking for more, so we finally got to the end. Wow. I then drank a bunch of coffee so I could get through finishing my writing and cleaning up some crap at my house.
    • Wednesday I worked a half day because I had to help Mom again with some paperwork for her financial adviser. She drove me to work after! Yay! I had a pretty chill day again but it was lots of little things. Jeaux and I had breakfast for dinner, went shopping, and watched the Madoka movie. Yikes, I like the TV series better. After he left I finished up my writing and fell asleep.
    • Thursday I took the day off to go see my grandma. My dad took me out for Perkins and we had some long chats catching up, and then we spent a pretty short time with my grandma. I was glad to get to see her even though she is not able to be responsive really. Just got to talk to her and see her. It would've been longer but the staff wanted to take care of her bathing and stuff after lunch, so we left. We stopped for sushi and talked about music and other stuff, and then I worked on my book, talked to Victor on the phone, and drew part of my webcomic.
    • Friday I was back at work. Again it was just lots of little things to take care of. And I apparently got a raise, which is super great. My co-worker took me home and I got my writing done, listened to a podcast about Steven Universe and wrote it up for my blog, and then had to scurry through the rest of my webcomic because the podcast took too long. I almost didn't make it because my computer also decided it doesn't want to use Microsoft Word anymore, so I had to figure out why, uninstall the update that caused the problem, and go from there. Argh!

    Articles, interviews, mentions:

    • There weren't really any this week BUT I did find something that was posted a while back that I hadn't seen before. There's a comic dub on YouTube of one of my fan comics, as in, the fan did the voices and showed the pictures I drew, speaking the characters' dialogue. I did give this fan permission to post this but they had also said they were going to send me the link when they did, and they never did. Here's the link if you want to watch it--they did my Ruby Booty comic.

    New reviews of my book:

    • Laura gave it a five-star review on Goodreads (in Spanish), saying it eased the reviewer's doubts.
    • Jalen Lyle-Holmes gave it a three-star review on Goodreads, especially liking the gray areas and human relationships bits.
    • Elisabeth gave it a three-star review on Goodreads, pointing out that they liked the info but found it repetitive and wished for more personal accounts.
    Reading progress:
    • Finished this week: I was too busy this week for reading, didn't even start!
    • Currently readingThe Law Enforcement Guide to Wicca by Kerr Cuhulain.
      New singing performances:

      I didn't actually get around to doing a SingSnap performance this week, but I did randomly post a (hidden) karaoke cover of "That Distant Shore," a lovely song from Steven Universe. You can listen, but the recording's not great.

      Stuff Drawn:

      Cat People
      This is the first panel of a comic that won't make sense
      to people who don't watch this cartoon.
      It's called Did I Mention Quartz if you want to click through.

      Webcomic Negative One Issue 0705: "So Mature Before."

      New videos:


      New photos:

      Just a nice pride of Lions for ya.

      Social Media Counts:

      YouTube subscribers: 5,251 for swankivy (lost 1), 682 for JulieSondra (2 new). Twitter followers: 970 for swankivy (2 new), 1,354 for JulieSondra (2 new). Facebook: 296 friends (no change) and 204 followers (lost 1) for swankivy, 653 likes for JulieSondra (1 new), 59 likes for Negative One (no change), 147 likes for So You Write (1 new). Tumblr followers: 2,522 (lost 1). Instagram followers: 161 (2 new).

      Friday, November 16, 2018

      NaNoWriMo: Halfway

      Continuing to plug away at National Novel Writing Month with great success!

      Yesterday, November 15, is the halfway point of the event, and therefore of course we writers are supposed to have hit our halfway point to 50,000 words on that date.

      I did.

      It's weird. On the one hand, it's sorta reassuring; I can still write at the drop of a hat whenever I want to, and if I do it every day, a novel starts to take shape. It's not particularly sloppy for a first draft, it's doing some pretty cool things that are surprising me, and I think the third person storytelling is helping me avoid the tendency to get super cerebral or engage in unnecessary navel gazing. 

      One small issue I am having is that the romance in the story is front and center, and I'm not sure about the balance I should strike. Obviously as an asexual and aromantic author who does not engage in these kinds of relationships, I'm sorta faking it, though that's not a hard thing to do really with the media the way it is. I've grown up with stories that tell me how people experience this and how they write about it. It doesn't seem mysterious to me at all beyond the fact that I have never personally been through it, and since I'm also writing about humans and aliens living on another planet and I have never done that either, it's about the same level of guesswork.

      But I want it to feel authentic enough to NOT sound like it's written by someone who's guessing, and for that you need detail. So the issue then becomes, well, I'm writing about fifteen-year-olds getting interested in each other, and I'm a forty-year-old woman who doesn't want to sound filthy if I get into too much detail about teenagers experimenting with, er, amorous relations.

      So I'm aiming for sweet and a little hot sometimes, like it is for many people when they go through it. I'm focusing a lot on how it's new or how it affects the characters as young members of families and communities, and on the unrealistic and very big thoughts they have that are nevertheless fully felt and legitimate despite lacking perspective.

      I am definitely continuing to let some lessons I've learned from cartoons help me with my pacing. I'm still dealing with a little bit of "oh I thought of this thing, better dump it on the page now so I don't forget," but this is a first draft, so that's to be expected. One thing I've learned from being such a Steven Universe fangirl is how satisfying a slow burn backstory reveal can be. I don't have anything huge to dump to be honest, but I've learned that it's still intriguing to do partial dumps of info that hint at more to come, and it will make people curious without irritating them too much when they don't know. 

      It's interesting how much of the main character's daily life is actually super weird by our standards but I'm making it pretty everyday and only finding it important to mention when someone else finds it super weird. Because I don't do much plotting and I make a lot of stuff up on the fly, I'm kinda discovering these things along with the characters, and I also seem to be planting things that I don't actually know where they'll go. I'm sure I can smooth things out later to make them look like they were intentionally moving in that direction, but for now there are a couple mysteries I'm considering actually just not solving, unless maybe the story does it for me without me trying.

      There's also the matter of a broken love triangle. In short, my protagonist's race has a lot of beliefs that make outsiders view them as essentially a fertility cult, so their expectation that every girl will meet a boy and have babies is more than just a societal expectation; it's a religion and a way of life. The protagonist believes she may be the first gay member of their species ever because there's just no way to talk about it inside of her culture. But humans are also in the picture and they are known to have homosexuality in their species, so the protagonist does have some context--especially when she meets a cute human girl.

      But of course, her culture is pushing her to start being interested in boys, and there is a specific boy entering the picture now. I figured when I conceived of him that he would exist, story-wise, to represent tradition and that he'd probably be pretty angry and feel slighted when the truth came out and she likes a girl. But after I actually met him in the story, it kinda seems like he's confused about just about everything too and he doesn't seem the type to be possessive about her. Now I'm starting to think a boy like him would be a good ally for her. And now I'm starting to think that when the time comes, he will say or do something essential for the story.

      It's weird how these things work.

      Wednesday, November 14, 2018

      Wednesday Factoid: Habits at Home

      Today's Wednesday Factoid is: When it comes to keeping your home clean, what are your bad habits?

      My home is very nice and neat most of the time. I keep my house neater than probably at least 95% of the people I know. 

      Probably the two worst habits I have with regard to keeping my house clean are leaving dishes by the computer and throwing my art all over the floor.

      Since I do a lot of work on the computer, I often eat there, so there's almost always a plate on the desk unless I basically just cleaned up. Sometimes a coffee cup too. 

      And the art ends up on the floor because I draw a lot and the markers will get scattered all over the place, and when I scan the art to show on the Internet, it'll get thrown on the floor for a while before I put it away in whatever folder it goes in. Sometimes if I'm not in the mood to sort the drawings they'll end up in a stack on my drafting table.

      I have an issue with dust building up because I have so much stuff, but that's not that bad.

      Oh, and the hairballs. I have long hair so when I shed the hairballs can start to collect and I don't vacuum very much. 

      Saturday, November 10, 2018

      Personal Digest Saturday: November 3 – November 9

      Life news this week:
      • Saturday was Fred and Kathy's wedding! I woke up super early because, well, east coast time, so I had a bunch of time to work on my blogging and eat breakfast in the hotel before I got ready and went to the church for the wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony even though I didn't know the Catholic stuff, and I kept unexpectedly crying at all the little things. The officiant was a nerd and told a Dungeons and Dragons story during the ceremony, haha. Afterwards, I went to the reception and the food was yummy, the cake was yummy, and the company was lovely even though I didn't know anyone (I sat with some people who are connected to Kathy through church). I left kind of early (right after the cake) because I had an early flight, but I still had some time to get some writing done before going to sleep.
      • Sunday I was up super early (before they even started breakfast downstairs) so I could get a Lyft to the airport. The flights I was on were both crowded (one to Atlanta, one to Tampa) so I couldn't really do any writing on the plane. Did some reading though. Got home at a reasonable hour, unpacked, and did my usual Sunday stuff (but didn't feel like finishing laundry). Had to do some maintenance on my water system too. Managed to slide in with some writing before bed.
      • Monday had me back at work well before I was recovered, but I survived. I did some website updates, and later did some writing and posts about comics.
      • Tuesday I didn't go to work. Helped Mom with a couple things and made sure she was on time for a meeting, haha. I met with my friend Arthur to watch cartoons but he had to leave early so we only got to watch four episodes, but it was fun and we ate Thai food. After he left I finished my writing and made a video for a group project on asexuality I was asked to participate in.
      • Wednesday I woke up later than I wanted, and I had to go to work late to give me time to read the new Steven Universe comic because I am a huge nerd. (I took a Lyft instead of the bus so I wouldn't be really late.) I worked on a letter and some report stuff for two of my co-workers. I had a really annoying argument with someone on Tumblr who thought they could correct me on something I wasn't wrong about. It's hilarious when people think they know more about cartoons than me. Nyah. Then Jeaux picked me up and we ate at Fuzzy's, got comics, and went to my house to finish off Madoka and watch some Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Woo! After he left I quickly wrote a chapter. :)
      • Thursday I did some writing, helped my co-worker with some more report stuff, and did not argue anymore with any jackasses on Tumblr. I got stuck at the office until after 7 PM because the bus kept not coming and I didn't want to wait in the dark, so I waited for my co-worker to get off so he could take me home. I usually talk to Victor but he had fallen asleep so I didn't talk to him, and I finished some writing and then fell asleep early myself.
      • Friday I helped two of my co-workers scramble for a submission, and then I got to spend the afternoon finishing my comic and writing my book, plus I did a cute drawing for the folks on Amino.

      Reading progress:
        New singing performances:

        This week's song was "Vision of Love" by Mariah Carey.

        Stuff Drawn:

        A sheet of random Garnets I doodled while waiting for my co-worker to drive me home

        Welcome to Fusion Beach, with your hosts Rhodonite and Garnet, pull up some sand and stay a while

        Webcomic Negative One Issue 0704: "Transparent."

        New videos:


        New photos:

        Hotel breakfast!
        My wedding outfit, minus the jacket
        Wedding outfit selfie
        Program for wedding!
        The couple walks in!
        Couple during the ceremony, laughing
        Beautiful--it's the kiss!
        And the night wouldn't be complete without cake.

        Social Media Counts:

        YouTube subscribers: 5,252 for swankivy (3 new), 680 for JulieSondra (no change). Twitter followers: 968 for swankivy (lost 2), 1,352 for JulieSondra (2 new). Facebook: 296 friends (no change) and 205 followers (2 new) for swankivy, 652 likes for JulieSondra (2 new), 59 likes for Negative One (1 new), 146 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,523 (4 new). Instagram followers: 159 (lost 1).