Poking holes in my novel and patching them up

…breaking it down and building it up again

Here’s another novel update, where I focus on the writing piece of my project and shared some recent drawings with magical and fantasy themes.

My focus was listing out the scenes in the second act of my novel and troubleshooting them.

For every scene, I need to know some pretty basic things like, well, what happens.

And usually I do, even though there are occasional gaps in the details.

The next question is why each of those things happens. There needs to be a good reason for it to seem plausible and work well with the plot. So, I’ve been asking “why” that for every plot point.

I found that usually, I already have an answer, or even many answers. So, it becomes a matter of picking the best answer, or strengthening it.

On occasion, I’ve had a plot point, reason, or thought process for one of the characters that didn’t rung true. To make it stronger, I’ve been following a process similar to outlining, except I’m creating an outline from chapters I’ve already written, rather than before my first draft.

The outline is made up of the plot points I pulled from my draft and my brainstormed answers to all the “why” questions.

Since scrolling through my giant manuscript can be overwhelming, I started a new blank document to have a relatively uncluttered place to work. I made a timeline to order the outline and started off with some freewriting about my impressions of my recent read-through of the draft, before going into the Q&A.

It was interesting to see the range of questions and doubts I had about the story. I had some complaints about aspects of the world building, or a character’s personality, the tone in some places – a jumble of things that felt vaguely off. It was good to identify them and tease them apart.

Between brainstorms, I often walked away because I didn’t know what to do next. A day later, the solution occurred to me while I was in the middle of something else, so I ran to capture it via voice memo.

That was encouraging! It’s convinced me that it’s worthwhile to just identify these problems, list them out all on one page where I can see them, and then give myself time to go off and have ideas.

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What do you do when you’re stuck on a project?

If Fretting About ‘Our’ Carbon Footprints is a Waste of Time…

What should we fret about instead?

Another InkPrepNoWriCember update, this time about environmental stuff!

Here, I’m making a drawing for a collaborative art project I’m doing with an environmental group. The drawing is about ways to be strategic about environmental action, and new metrics we can use.

Specifically, alternatives to the idea of our individual carbon footprints.

A lot of people try to strategize their environmental action by minimizing their carbon footprint. And this isn’t bad or anything. They’re basically trying to affect the economy, through their market participation. And the hope is that enough people do this, that the market for environmentally unfriendly products dries up to the extent that companies feel incentivized to make these changes.

The problem is the carbon footprint as a metric leaves out a lot of avenues for action by focusing entirely on your buying decisions. And that is one way to influence our collective carbon footprint (which is what actually matters).

But it’s not the only way. And arguably, it’s not even the best way.

The other problem with optimizing your personal individual carbon footprint is that beyond a point, any action you take is just a form of perfectionism without making much of a difference to our collective carbon footprint.

As you probably know, the changes we make as individuals have a much smaller impact than changes made by governments and corporations. So our individual choices in consumption only matter to the extent that they affect governments and corporations.

Our perfectionism about our carbon footprints is awfully convenient for big corporations.

Researchers Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes write: ‘The very notion of a personal “carbon footprint,” for example, was first popularized in 2004–2006 by oil firm BP as part of its $100+ million per year “beyond petroleum” US media campaign.’

So the overemphasis of personal carbon footprints has basically been a way of deflecting focus from the parties really responsible.

And the changes that we need need to come from governments and corporations, among other entities.

And we might be thinking, Well, I’m not a government or a corporation. So what can I do?

And what I’m trying to express here is that there’s actually a world of possibilities of things we can do. We have influence over governments, corporations, culture, or social groups. And we knew that we had influence on them through our buying actions. But there’s also other ways.

For example, companies care about their brands, and so they care about your opinion of them. So expressing that opinion affects them, and incentivizes them to change. And likewise, voting, speaking to representatives, speaking to other voters, all of these types of advocacy, have an influence on governments and society and culture at large.

So I think a small tweak in how we measure ourselves and what we optimize for when taking environmental action can make a huge difference.

And whatever progress the environmental movement has made, it has been made by groups of individuals working together. If we’re more strategic about it, just imagine how much more effective we could be and how much more progress we could make.

So that’s what I’m trying to convey with this drawing.

The version I made in the video ended up a bit overworked, so I went back and took out some of the lighting effects I went overboard on.

Novel update: I finally finished reading my draft. I read it more or less backwards – I started with the last few chapters than the middle at the beginning.

As I got closer to the beginning, the writing got better and better, which was encouraging, because I’d spent a lot of time revising the first portion of the novel. It was so much better than the rest, so now I’m excited to repeat the same process on the remaining chapters.

So that’s what I’ll be doing next. I’ll be reacquainting myself with the editing process I used on the first chapters, and making a plan to apply it again.

InkPrepNoWriCember is going well so far!

Drawing to Get in the Writing Mood

This is my day 5 update to InkPrepNoWricember.

I cam across an article by Temple Grandin with the highly inflammatory title Against Algebra, and with commendable open-mindedness for an algebra fan (tosses head), I actually read it. It’s good. I recommend it.

The point of it was not that learning algebra is bad, but rather, that we shouldn’t make algebra a requirement for continuing to learn mat, because there are people who could be good at math but struggle with algebra specifically, because they’re very visual learners.

The part that caught my interest was this quote:

There are two types of visual thinkers. Some visual thinkers, like me, are “object visualizers”—we see the world in photorealistic images. Many of us are graphic designers, artists, skilled tradespeople, architects, inventors, mechanical engineers. “Spatial visualizers” see the world in patterns and abstractions. They are the music and math minds—the statisticians, computer coders, electrical engineers, and physicists.

The Atlantic

I’m not sure about the division by professions (especially because I think lean toward the second type, but my jobs suggest the opposite). But the description as ‘photorealistic’ vs. ‘pattern’ struck a chord.

I have trouble going straight from a mental image to a description in words. That made it difficult to write descriptions (well) in my novel. When I tried, it felt like the details were blurring, moving around, or becoming bland.

But I can go from a mental image to a drawing just fine! So maybe I was skipping a step. I decided to use drawing to support my novel efforts.

It worked out pretty well – definitely fleshed out the scene far more than I could in my head. So, I’m hoping to keep this going. I’m not planning to draw every scene, because at that point, I’d be making a graphic novel. But just enough drawing to, you know, kind of get into the atmosphere.

And I think it’ll be fun to have these pictures up while I’m writing for inspiration! More to come.

A mystery setting that may or may not make it into the story.

Do you find that working in one medium can help you in another? Let me know in the comments!

Focusing on my novel in December

Here is a video update on what I have planned for the next month!

For writers and artists, the end of the year is always an exciting time, because you have Inktober, Preptober, and NaNoWriMo – fun, collective challenges to share progress on.

This year in October, I thought about doing Inktober, because I was already doing a lot of drawing and illustration projects. And when November came around, I thought about doing a modified version of NaNoWriMo to revise my novel (NaNoWriMo is usually for first drafts).

But in both cases, I – well – didn’t. There were too many other things going on!

So now it’s December. And I figured, what if I mash Inktober, Preptober and NaNoWriMo together into one month?

I also drew this picture of what it’s like with all the projects coming and going. Exciting and chaotic!

Ideas wafting around…

More updates to come!

And if you have a way of working that seems weird and unconventional, but it works for you – let me know about it in the comments! I’m always curious about the ways that people work.

Multiproject Update for Q3.5 of 2022

Once again, the third quarter blends into the fourth, and my projects have been inching along chaotically. I’ve been behind on updates, so I will share the outputs I’ve hoarded these past few months in bits and pieces from now.

Here are some topics that have been on my mind these past few months.

US Midterm Elections

Participating in election campaigns is a natural extension to environmental advocacy in my opinion, since politics has become increasingly entwined with environmental action. It’s natural that politicians would disagree on what environmental actions the government should take, but in the US, climate change is politicized far beyond that.

The environmental groups I participate in all pivoted to ‘getting out the vote’ (GOTV) efforts to encourage climate-conscious voters to go to the polls this midterm. If you’ve been following the election news, you know it’s been an existential-for-democracy nail-biter, and women and young voters stepped up to the quest. We environmentalists are pretty relieved with the results.

So the lead-up was quite a frenzy for me, writing postcards, phone-banking, making media, and trying to freak out as productively as possible.


I took a much-needed vacation to Scotland and Ireland to visit friends.

I returned refreshed and with plenty of sketches and vacation photographs to make art from. I’m excited to dust off the inks! My library of landscape references was running low.

Organizing my research

For a while now, my research and other notes have been exploding out of my organization systems. I mainly relied on indexes (BuJo style) at the beginning of my notebooks and the occasional spreadsheet to track the writing I produced.

Recently, I’ve gotten on the ‘second brain’ train. (If you haven’t heard, the book Building a Second Brain by Tiago Forte has been taking nerd circles by storm. It’s a book about note-taking, and it was very relevant to my situation.)

I made an organization system in an environment called Obsidian. The main advantage of Obsidian is it enables you to link notes together and manages the links when you move or rename files. There’s other handy functionality from plug-ins and add-ons.

So far, I’ve added about 800 notes about various topics in the last few months, and organized them into a loose structure. I think I’ve finally found a system that can keep up with the bouncing-jumping-skipping way that I work.

I think of it as an extension of my notebook index. I effectively made a map to my notes across all notebooks, hard drives, and cloud accounts, so I can cross-reference them.

* * *

So that’s what being going on under the surface! As for the actual projects, I will summarize briefly and post more details soon.

  • Research quest: My advocacy goal was to have an op ed accepted (continuing to build on the foundation of comments and letters to the editor). I’ve gotten in the swing of writing and submitting them, with no luck so far. As for reading and blogging, I have some updates to share soon. [Update: Redondo Beach Climate Action]
  • Novel: I’ve consolidated my manuscript, and there’s a chunk of editing to do. Somehow, every winter I get a burst of writing productivity [Update: the plan for December]. I’m hoping the pattern will hold in the months ahead! I have some concept art to share as well.
  • Art: I’ve been working in digital illustration mostly! Pictures (and a bit of video) coming soon! [Update: picture]

So, there it is. More of a trailer than an actual update, but I’m glad to be back to sharing some writing and art!