June 2014 Writing Report

A month ago I wrote a post entitled How Much Should You Write a Day, where I talked about a minimalist approach to writing where you aim for a small daily writing goal instead of a larger one to keep word count from becoming a barrier to writing. Saying you want to write 2000/words a day is nice, but it can easily become an obstacle if you start to think it isn’t worth writing unless you have time to achieve that number. So, instead I opted for the smaller 250/words a day as my goal for June.

How did I do?

Well, my total word count for June ended up being 21,478 words of fiction. (Almost all of it on a Young Adult fantasy novel I started at the beginning of June.)

My average word count a day was 704/words a day, with only Seven days have a word count of zero out of the month. (This was mostly due to my dog Penny being spayed and needing constant care for a few days.)

Overall, it turned out to be one of my most productive writing months in almost two years, and the “it’s just 250 words” strategy ended up working perfectly because not only did I feel I could always pull off 250 words, but I never once wrote less than that. Once I was 250 words in, I was always warmed up and wanted to write more, and it tended to be life that made me stop rather than not wanting to write more. The 250/day word count was not only do-able, it was inspiring.

Of course, I should comment that there were a few more factors involved. During June I learned to finally just let myself go, and dump the words on the page whether they were perfect or not. Also, I had an outline to work from, so I never really had to worry about where the story was going so much as what I wanted to do with a particular scene. If I wasn’t sure about a scene, I wrote down something that roughly worked and will go back to fix/replace it during editing and revision. This improved my productivity during the first draft stage immensely, and let me really just tell myself the story.

I also became a Spreadsheet user, after years of resisting tracking my productivity I gave in, and it actually helped a lot more than I expected it to. Seeing those numbers line up for my daily word-counts was a real motivator, and wanting to go as long as I could without a dreaded 0 appearing on the spreadsheet was also a big factor. I took every 0 personally, and it made me really want to write harder to make up for them.

Now, since I’m a masochist, in July I have an even bigger challenge! I’ve signed up to write another book (a mystery) for Camp Nanowrimo, and that will require approximately 1667/words a day for July to complete. Not only that, I still plan to continue my 250/day on my YA novel to keep it from going stale in my head.

Can I pull this off? Well, check back in a month to find out!

By the way, if I don’t post to the blog as much during July, you’ll have to forgive me. I’ll be buried in Camp Nano writing. Gomen!

Rob

Fun with CG- Hypergirl vs Gargantua!

It all started with a single character, and me fooling around. Next thing I knew, I was living my childhood dream of running Toho studios in Japan!

Hypergirl- Transform!

Face-Off!

Attack!

Skyshot!

Bad Touch!

Die, monster!

The Fox Cycle, Story Five- The Beating

This week’s Fox Cycle story is accompanied by my most ambitious digital art image yet. Not only was this the most complex image I’ve put together in Daz Studio yet, with five characters and props to co-ordinate, but it was also my first attempt at doing postwork on a rendered image. I used GiMP to blur the forground characters to give it more of a sense of depth of field (which is possible but difficult for me in Daz Studio) and to add the muck to Marlon’s face and neck.  I’m really quite proud of how it turned out.

In other art-related news, I’ve created my own DeviantArt page to start sticking my renders on, so I won’t clutter my blog with everything I’m doing. You can find me at ultrarob.deviantart.com.

 

CG Art- The Fox Cycle

My journey with DAZ Studio Continues. I spent the week working on images to go along with my currently running Flash Fiction series- The Fox Cycle over on my KFAT page. The stories themselves cover a large span of time, but focus on the former King’s Musketeer Gerard la Russo and his Indian adopted daughter Renard. Using my meagre talent with DAZ Studio, I decided to render a few images to go along with some of the stories.

Gerard la Russo at Callais in 1698.

Renard la Russo and Claudette Dupris 1710

Ren and Gerard 1717

 

And a bonus picture, since I had some people suggest Tysen didn’t look brooding enough in the one posted last week.

Troubled Tysen

Fun with CG II- The Twin Stars

So, I spent a week (and a few dollars) working away on Daz Studio to see if I could put together some decent looking characters for the covers of my upcoming Twin Stars novels. So far, I’m pretty impressed by how well it’s gone. Yes, there was a bit of a learning curve, but once I overcame that and learned a few tricks, it all came together pretty quickly. At it turned out, doing Tysen and Ping An was pretty easy, Esther has turned out to be the hardest one so far. (Which is why there’s still no picture of her I’m ready to share.) These aren’t intended to be cover images, just test portraits of the characters.

Let me know what you think! 🙂

Zhang, Ping An

Albert Tysen

Fun with CG

Once upon a time, I was an enthusiast of a program called Bryce 3D, which was a computer graphics program for generating landscapes. I actually used it for a number of other things, since it was primitive (shape) based instead of spline (wire frame) based and much easier to use than the other CG programs on the market at the time. I spent countless hours pushing the program to its limits and making things like buildings, cities, starships and even characters in Bryce.

As you can see by the above, I wasn’t very good, but a) I’m no artist, and b) I was also working with a program designed to produce mountains and landscapes. You can also see my early attempts at compositing live models into shots (they’re not photoshopped in, they were cutouts rendered in-scene), which was necessary because the companion character generation software to Bryce, Poser, was still quite poor in quality at the time.

How times have changed.

Recently, after about a decade, I started to play with Daz Studio 4 (Poser’s descendant) as I’m looking at options for doing my future book covers. Why pay someone if you can do it yourself, right? I knew it had improved, but I didn’t realize it improved this much.

And the best part is that a) these three above were done in a single evening, and b) right now Daz is offering the professional versions of this software for free.

Fox Kits

There’s a family of foxes living at the end of my block, and I’ve been meaning to photograph the kits for a while. There are six of them in total, and they run, play and sleep around the entrances to their den every morning. Finally, this morning the weather cooperated and armed with a telephoto lense I took some pictures of them. Enjoy!

(Click on the picture to advance to the next one.)

Adventures in making an E-Book Cover.

So, as anyone who reads this knows, I just released my first E-Book (actually E-Short Story) called Hot Soup, which I plan to be the first of a series of stories I release to the E-Book world. I mean, I know I can tell a good story, it’s a new storytelling frontier, and it’s free! So why not?

One of my first unexpected challenges (along with the horror that is formatting it for e-readers), however, was trying to come up with a cover for the thing. When you think of an E-Book, usually the last thing you think about is the cover, but it’s really the most important piece of marketing tool you have in your arsenal to attract reader attention. I had thought I could just whip something off and be done with it, and thus my first attempt looked like this:

Which I thought wasn’t bad (at least it didn’t look totally generic) and when I uploaded the story to the Kindle this was what I submitted as the cover. But, after I’d submitted it and thought about it for a while, I realized that if I wanted people to actually give this story a second look then something flashier was required.

So, digging out my incredibly meager artistic skills, I sat down with MS Paint and tried to put together something more evocative:

Well, I did say my skills were meager, didn’t I? It looks like art from a 1st edition D&D book, only worse!

Okay, that clearly wasn’t going to work. (And that was one of the better tries!) So I finally gave in and decided I needed to be more professional about it and sink a little cash into this project. I began to trawl the stock photo sites online like iStockphoto (not bad, but a bit pricey), Photos.com (I tried to register here TWICE but got rejected both times for an unknown system error), and finally settled on Fotalia.com which both offered a good price, and some great pictures. I was especially impressed by one photographer named Liu Xiang, and their pictures of a Chinese warrior princess.

So, after a long debate over which picture to use (I gravitated between that Chinese princess picture and one of a some Chinese soup pots boiling) I decided to follow the oldest advice in the advertising game- sex sells!

So I bought the picture, whipped it into photoshop elements, cropped it to make more room for text in the picture, and then added said text after finding a font I felt worked. This was the end result, which I have I have to say I’m quite happy with…

Quite a difference, isn’t there? I now have a Fotalia account, and will probably just go straight there whenever I need a new book cover from now on! Making a cover for ebooks isn’t hard, you just have to know when to lay down the cash and do it right.

Images of New Wellington

New Wellington is the Imperial Capitol World in my Twin Stars setting, a gas giant with a temperate layer of breathable oxygen that’s been colonized by humans. Using gravity-manipulation technology, rocks from space have been lowered into the livable layer and then turned into artificial networks of floating islands.

Since I’m re-familiarizing myself with Bryce 5.5, I thought I’d do a few renderings of the setting to give a rough idea of how it looks.