Game Review – Firewatch

(Reed’s Playlist for the day: The Firewatch OST)

I normally wouldn’t post a review about a videogame (if I made one about Breath of the Wild it’d be 10,000 gushing words) but in this case, I actually feel like I’m a bit more qualified than usual to talk about the merits of a game. I guess it’s because Firewatch is a heavily character-driven suspense story as an interactive videogame, and since I fancy myself a writer on occasion, I feel like I can talk a bit about it.

So let’s jump in!

The premise of Firewatch is simple. You’re Henry, a firewatch officer in the Colorado wilderness, with only one avenue of human contact – a radio through which you speak to your superior, Delilah. Most of the game is just exploring the wilderness and learning about the deepening mystery with Delilah. It’s like a 5 hour game, so you can pick it up for $20 and play it real quick when you’re bored one day.

When I play a videogame, I really only look for three things – immersion, good gameplay, and good writing. The immersion means the visuals, the soundtrack, and the overall feel of the game have to draw me in, make me forget the world around me. In every way, Firewatch accomplished this. It also had good (albeit simple) gameplay of walk-around-and-interact-with-everything.

But the writing is really what blew me away. With only two characters in the entire game, the creators had a lot of time to lavish on their personalities, relationship, and dialogue. They’re both sassmasters and really likable from the beginning, and your admiration for them only grows as the game goes on.

There won’t be any spoilers in here, but suffice to say the ending was very divisive amongst the community. When I played it, I thought there was a time limit for each “mission”, and so I tried to rush through without reading some of the materials presented. I would really heavily suggest you don’t do that if you play it, because as a direct result of that, I was confused by the ending. And you’re talking to a dude who watches Christopher Nolan movies for fun.

It’s getting hard for me to write without spoiling the ending, so I’ll just say for now that I found myself confused, and then after looking some stuff up online, more disappointed than anything. A lot of people were saying that the game was incredible until the last 30 minutes, and I was kind of on the same page with them.

But the more I read about it and the more I’m thinking about it, I got a better understanding of what the writers were trying to do, and I think they accomplished it. It kind of reminded me of the end of Lost – like, I really wanted to like it, but there were just a few too many details that were either thrown in ad hoc, or missing altogether, for me to really enjoy it.

Despite this, I think I would really like to play through it a second time, with an understanding of what the ending is, and see if that changes gameplay. I’m willing to bet I’d like it a lot more the second time around.

Anyway, the ending notwithstanding, this game was pretty incredible, and definitely worth the $20 it cost. If you’re a writer, you could glean a lot about character development and interactions just from the dialogue in this game. So I’d definitely recommend you check it out.

Especially if you’re a fan of “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, because that’s essentially what this is.

Reed’s Score – 8.5/10

Yours, about to go play BotW,

-R.R. Buck

Pushing Through the End of a Novel

(Reed’s Playlist for the day: Kids by MGMT)

Well, I forced myself to sit down today and write an entire chapter – 3,000 words. It’s been a few weeks since I made myself do that much writing; lately it’s been a struggle to even get down 1500. If I’m being honest, seeing a few of my fellow bloggers battling Camp NaNoWriMo was what helped me get back on the horse. (Apparently, I’m not the only one who struggles with writing.)

Anyway, I just wanted to pop on real quick to give an update and also to share some advice for what’s worked for me when you get towards the end of your novel. Symphony of Legend nearly became the third time I’ve stopped in the last few chapters of an almost-completed project, and I think I know why.

Part of it is reluctance, the same way we as readers feel reluctant to end something that’s been a core part of our lives for a month or two. Another part of it is fear – we’ve spent so long thinking about the conclusion of character arcs, the climax of the story, and its eventual resolution, that we’re afraid now that when it gets on paper, it won’t be as [satisfying/gripping/harrowing] as we imagined it to be. And of course, there’s the usual hesitation to write for various life distractions and reasons.

But if I’m really narrowing down on what scares us in these last few chapters, it’s gotta be the second reason I stated. Every author fears that no one else will find their work as entrancing as they do, and we try to keep ourselves from the REAL DARK QUESTION (Am I just not good at making up stories?) by making it a mechanical thing – more along the lines of, “Am I going to fail at writing my story down in a way that grips my audience?” This is a helpful way for most of us to look at it because then it becomes something solvable, a simple matter of finding the right words.

I would urge you to stay away from the REAL DARK QUESTION, especially when you’re finishing your novel. There’s no need to consider that when you’re in the middle of a project. Also, there may not be a need to consider that, like, ever. It’s just not helpful to sap at your own will or determination. Let the publishing companies and literary agencies do that.

So if it is a mechanical thing, my next suggestion to you is to remember that this is a first draft. If you’ve been writing your first draft the way I do, you’ve been hurrying through it, just getting the ideas down without worry for grammatical errors, gaping plot holes, or unnecessary sentences… okay, paragraphs… okay, chapters that don’t need to be there.

So why would it matter that your conclusion isn’t that great? None of the rest of your project will be from that first-draft perspective. That’s what your second draft is for – to find and root out everything gross and bad. I think we as authors put an unfair pressure on key moments of our novel to be better than the rest, just from the get-go, and that’s kind of a weird thing to think. Just because this is the most important part of your book doesn’t mean it’s not gonna be kinda crappy the first time around, like everything. The most important thing is to polish it later, after you’ve had a few months with the whole thing locked in a drawer so you have fresh perspective.

Related to that, I would also try to keep you from fiddling with the last chapters as you write them. You’ve probably got an outline or a list of scenes; stick rigorously to that as you finish up. Don’t try to immediately edit, not now, not ever. Just get down what you know is important to get down.

Finally, as you’re heading into the end, know your own writing habits. If you know you’re not any good if you’re not writing every day, force yourself to keep on with your writing schedule until the end. If you know you tend to get burnt out if you write too much too quickly, make sure you take a break in between each chapter. I once wrote the last five chapters of a novel (comprising about 15,000 words) in a single night, and when I came back to editing, it was a tangle of terrible prose and weird emotional swings that I’m sure felt great when I was up at 3 AM, but looked horrible in the light of day.

And, of course, after you’re finished, congratulate yourself. You fucking deserve it. If you don’t believe you deserve it, tell anyone you know (who doesn’t know you’re a writer) that you finished a novel. In my experience, they don’t even ask if it’s been published, or how many words it is, or whether it is good at all – they are simply awed by the fact that you put 50,000 words to paper. And you should be a little awed too, because it’s a goddamn difficult thing to finish, even at the best of times. So get a teeny bottle of champagne, put your computer away for a little while before you get back to editing, and just enjoy the fact that it’s done.

Camp NaNoWriMo homies – I believe in you. Keep digging at it, keep pushing yourselves more and more. You can only get better because of it. And if you ever need to take a break, hit me up in the comments and I’ll tell you the first stupid thing that pops into my head. That’s a guarantee 😀

Yours, with only four chapters to go,

-R.R. Buck

Reed’s Top 3 – Musical Tracks to Write To

(Reed’s Playlist for the day: see below!)

So this is technically an updated version of a post I made previously, but if my readers are anything like me, they don’t bother looking through the archives.

Well, for any new folks out there, I love music almost as much as (and sometimes more than) I love writing. I’m a classic rock and roll junkie, a 2000’s pop punk lover, and an inexperienced but passionate consumer of soundtracks from movies and videogames. My “playlist of the day” at the top of each post is the song running through my head when I wake up that morning, but it isn’t necessarily the song I’m writing to.

The most important thing to me in a writing playlist is that it be without lyrics. As soon as I’m hearing English lyrics, I start typing them, and it makes it harder to concentrate on what I’m writing. Of course, I also prefer to match the tone of what I’m writing to the tone of a particular track or song, but I still have three clear favorites I’d like to share with you, along with links.

NUMBER THREE: THE TWILIGHT SYMPHONY END CREDITS TRACK (find it here)

This one is a great song with which to write closing scenes, emotional scenes between characters, and epic fantasy in general. It’s uplifting, inspiring, and gives a sense of grandeur. Coming from one of my favorite video games (The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess) and perfectly remastered from game music to full symphonic glory, I promise this will set a perfect tone for your writing experience. Check it out!

NUMBER TWO: THE LIGHT OF THE SEVEN (find it here)

If you don’t watch Game of Thrones, you don’t know the disturbing and incredible scene that accompanied this song in the season 6 finale. But you can still feel the power of the piece, the eerie buildup towards something dark and sinister and cunning. This is my villain-writing song, will always be my villain-writing song, because it perfectly encapsulates what I want most of my villains to be – vicious but brilliant, manipulating situations to their ends. It gives me shivers just listening to it while writing this paragraph.

NUMBER ONE: THE JOURNEY OFFICIAL SOUNDTRACK (find it here)

This is my guaranteed piece. No matter what I’m writing, part of it always seems to fit. And since it takes me about two hours to write a full chapter, two repetitions of this hour-long soundtrack is nearly perfect for me to get everything out. It’s got incredible atmospheric content for any genre, short pieces of darkness and despair, and an end section that always feels to me like the moment when the protagonist finally concludes their character arc and bursts forth onto the page like a flower unfurling. If I can’t think of what song I want to write to, this is my go-to, and it hasn’t failed me yet. Seriously, if you like writing to music, please check this out.

If you like these suggestions, let me hear it! I’ve got a ton more, thanks to my incredible girlfriend who’s sent me about fifty pieces.

Yours, still reeling from the GoT season 6 finale,

-R.R. Buck

Book Review – Earthshatter

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: Believer by Imagine Dragons)

I am so happy to finally be finished with this book so I can write about how great it is.

With that in mind, let’s get started!

Title: Earthshatter

Author: Albert Nothlit

Genre: YA Science Fiction

Premise: Eight individuals wake up from cryogenic sleep to find that their city has been completely destroyed – overrun by a species of intelligent, adaptive centipedes who seem intent on obliterating all life on the Earth. They must fight together to make their way through the city, avoiding dangers of all sorts, and try to piece together what happened on the night the centipedes first attacked.

Wow. Dude, seriously, wow.

I have to admit, when I pick up a book from a small independent press or publisher, I assume a lower level of quality. Maybe it’s because I assume (probably incorrectly) if a book is good enough, it makes it to one of the Big Six. Maybe it’s because my shitty work might (eventually) be published in one of these presses. But whatever the reason, I try to keep expectations low when I read a small-press novel.

Which is why this one completely blew my mind.

Earthshatter is an incredible novel for anyone interested in getting into sci-fi at the ground floor. If you want to see what the genre is like but you can’t stand the intensity of it – most canonical sci-fi is written in the same language and prose as a goddamn scientific paper – this is a great start. Because it’s written in the kind of YA tone and with a bunch of younger characters, it’s instantly more relateable and readable than most sci-fi.

Add onto this that the whole thing is written in first-person, and you have something that isn’t really sci-fi except for in name. Which is perfect for someone looking for a lighter read, but with the cool science-y stuff and the dystopic world and everything.

The characters each get their turn at having the perspective shift to them, allowing a lot of well-done, deep and realistic perspectives on events. They’re well-written and their motivations are completely clear throughout, and some of them undergo arcs that are actually really inspiring.

The only things I take issue with in this book are twofold – one, it’s a heavily character-driven book, and so while a lot of things are happening in terms of story, the plot is kind of on the backburner. Meaning, while a lot happens, not a lot happens in the grand scheme of things. This was very clearly meant to be the first segment of a series, and I’m excited to see how it turns out, but if you’re looking for a book where the plot is moving quickly, this isn’t it.

(Side note, check out this post about story versus plot for a better explanation of what I mean by this.)

And the second thing I have issue with is the same issue I take with a lot of new writing – when something is apparent through dialogue, and then is stated immediately after in a redundant way.

(As an example: ” ‘Oh, Omar,’ I said, understanding the full burden of guilt he bore.” It’s very clear from the context of this section – which is a spoiler, so I don’t want to post the full text here – that the character understand Omar’s guilt, so we don’t need it explicitly stated.)

But other than those two little things, this book is awesome. It keeps up a great pace, sets a dark but often humorous tone to match the post-apocalyptic feel of the world, and has enough of that cool science and technology to be sci-fi without being approximately as easy to read as a doctoral thesis. I would seriously recommend this one to anyone who likes YA, or wants to try out sci-fi, or anyone who just likes a good tale.

Reed’s Rating: 9/10

Yours, possibly working on some L. Ron Hubbard next,

-R.R. Buck

Streed of Consciousness [Part 6 – Life/Tattoo Update]

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: And Now I’m Nothing by the Wonder Years)

Hi, everyone. Miss me?

If you didn’t notice, I haven’t really been posting much the past two weeks or so. I got on the “writing every day” train around the time I finished work in mid-April; then I kept that up for a month and a half or so until I took weekends off; and now I’m at a point where I barely get out a post a week.

The truth is, I’ve been stressed. Very stressed about many things. And I’ve not been as good as I could be about following my own rule – when you’re stressed, vent about it. So I’m going to go ahead and do that here.

If you don’t like long rants, feel free to pass this one up.

So, what’s bugging me? Well, let’s just make an easy list:

  1. The political situation in the United States. I told myself I wasn’t going to be political on this blog, and I will continue to try not to delve into these subjects here – although they are probably one of the factors I recognize the least as stressing me out, so really, I should be talking about it more.
  2. My girlfriend is at home. When the relationship is good, you’ll not get into more fights just because there’s a little distance; instead, when you have your regular everyday stress, the kind your significant other would help you deal with, that stress goes unnoticed and continues to weigh on you. It’s like a stress multiplier. And she’s going to be gone – with only a few visits across the summer – until September.
  3. Various acquaintances have illnesses. Mental or physical, family or friend, you name it – I’ve got a lot of people in my life right now who are struggling with some pretty heavy issues, and I’m trying my hardest to be there for all of them. I’m going to talk about this more below, but for right now suffice to say I’ve stretched myself thin trying to make sure everyone is doing all right, at no lack of stress to myself.
  4. Being alone over the summer. Yeah, this one actually really sucks. All of my apartment has jobs, and for much of the week – namely, Thursday through the weekend – at least someone is here. But on some occasions, on some Mondays, Tuesdays, or Wednesdays, I might go the entire day without seeing anyone. There are absolutely some weird psychological effects that come into play when a person is alone, and I’ve felt them.
  5. A new wardrobe. This is kind of a weird one, and I’m surprised how much it’s influencing me. Recently, I decided to become an adult (yay me!) and I bought myself an entirely new wardrobe – summer and winter clothing in what I deemed to be “adult” styles. I brought my girlfriend and my fashionista friend to the Citadel to purchase $600 worth of clothing (and if you don’t know me, I’ve never spent more than $30 on clothing at any point in time, besides suits). And since I know literally dick-all about fashion, I let them purchase the clothing while I gave final approval. It’s been a difficult adjustment – most of my clothing before this was band t-shirts and long, ragged shorts from high school, baggy jeans, and sweaters for UCLA. I took pride a little bit in rejecting the status quo, and now my wardrobe literally is the status quo. It feels like a bit of my identity has been taken, and I know I’ll get used to it soon, but I dreaded the moment when my brothers would first see – and be able to make fun of – my new clothing. It happened yesterday when they came over for D&D, and it was light teasing, but it still made me feel uncomfortable.
  6. I don’t want to end my current writing project. This close to the end, I’ve felt threatened in my ability to finish out a project in a way that satisfyingly wraps up character arcs and narrative, and so I’ve come to a grinding halt just 5 or 6 chapters from the end of Symphony of Legend. Since I stopped posting every day, I’ve also stopped writing every day, and that has definitely been detrimental on my mental health.
  7. I got in a huge fight with my dad. And now he’s being weird about it. I don’t know how to confront him about how I feel about the way he lives his life – he kind of reminds me of the dad from Big Fish, always expanding his life into a narrative without realizing that he’s losing track of what’s important – and when I tried to broach the subject the other night, I was slapped down. Now the cat is out of the bag, and it’s ugly. He can tell there’s something wrong so he keeps texting me trying to gauge if everything’s okay, and I don’t really know how to answer.
  8. People are ~still~ trying to make my decisions for me. This time it was my girlfriend’s parents telling me I need to go to graduate school, because “you need to strike while the iron is hot, and some doors will close for you if you don’t pursue them now”. WOW, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THAT. But seriously, if you aren’t just a rando reader and you’re someone in my life who cares about me, please read this on how to deal with me right now.
  9. That disillusionment with… everything. Living in California is kind of like living in this little miracle bubble where the temperature is always above 70, the people are always beautiful, and the problems of the world seem so far away. Now I’ve been exposed to the underside of the world, the dark sides of the people in it, and the sickening levels of [corruption/moral ambiguity/greed/disregard for our fellow human beings/disregard for the state of the world/racism/sexism/phobic speech/anger directed in the wrong direction] happening right now. It just seems so strange to me that life continues to move on, that we all – myself included – aren’t trying to protest the horrible direction this country and world are headed in.

There you have it. I even kind of broke my rule about politics at the end. And there’s always a part of me that thinks, you’re alive, without physical or mental ailment; you have access to clean water, good food, medicine and shelter; you live in one of the most privileged nations on earth and you should really quit your bitching. And usually that voice makes me feel guilty, but today it’s not on my list of stressors. Today I say, “Fuck you, voice; these are the things that matter most to me.”

So what am I gonna do about all this? Well, if I knew I’d tell you. Some solutions are easier than others. I should probably text my dad and try to call my girlfriend more when I’m stressed. But in reality, a lot of these things won’t just be going away anytime soon.

So, in traditional Reed fashion, I’m gonna get a tattoo.

Or, rather, I’m going to add onto one. This one, the one of the silhouetted buck on my leg. See, ever since I started Symphony I’ve been thinking about the word “preservation”, and how much it means to me. The rowan tree – my middle name is Rowan, in case you didn’t know – is a symbol of preservation, protection, and healing (at least by my Pottermore quiz, which suggested a rowan wand would be perfect for me). And right now, I think the world and the people in it are in need of some preservation.

But I also need some self-preservation. And, like I’ve said before, I’m kind of shitty at prioritizing myself when I need to instead of taking care of other people. So I’m going to ink onto my skin a reminder that it’s important to preserve myself, physically, mentally, and spiritually, before I go helping other people.

So I’m going to add onto the buck in a design my girlfriend has already drawn up for me. I’m going to have the antlers of the deer giving way to rising branches of a rowan tree, which will arc upward and brush each other at the top of the tattoo, creating a circle between the buck’s head and the top of the tattoo in which a blank patch of my skin will be enclosed. That will be my reminder to look after me before I look after everything and everyone else.

I’m sorry for the dark turn this blog has taken recently. Honestly, if you’d met me a year ago you might be flabbergasted by how different I’ve been feeling lately compared to what I might deem my “normal self”. But this has been an incredible outlet for me to express myself, and I am deeply grateful for anyone who reads these long-winded posts and commiserates with me for even a moment. I love all of you.

Yours,

-R.R. Buck

Streed of Consciousness [Part 5 – Vegetarianism]

(Reed’s Playlist for the day: Burning Love by Elvis Presley)

People who know me from high school but haven’t kept up with me in the past few years might be shocked to hear that I’ve gone vegetarian. I’ve always been pretty carnivorous – no, not in the actual exclusive definition of the word, but I always loved meat, especially a good steak. And I, unlike many vegetarians, don’t think there’s anything inherently morally wrong with eating meat.

So why am I vegetarian?

Well, the easy answer is because my girlfriend is vegan. And no, that doesn’t mean I converted for her – one of the most wonderful things about her is no matter how much she cares about animal rights and environmentalism, she has never so much as asked me if I would be interested in going vegetarian. She simply embodies the change she wishes to see in the world, and so when I saw how much it meant to her – and, more importantly, when I reconciled her beliefs with my own – I realized that it was something I wanted to do, not for her, but for me.

And if you think I have boyfriend goggles on and that she secretly brainwashed me with pro-vegan pillow talk and sneaky kale-filled cakes, you’re wrong. Because several of her roommates have also basically gone vegan since being with her. It’s simple exposure – like how it’s really hard to be racist when you’ve met an upstanding member of the race you’re prejudiced against.

So, why am I actually vegetarian? It was something I had considered in the abstract since late in high school, after one of my English teachers had us watch a documentary about factory farms. (Yeah, she definitely had that political slant, and I thank her every day for it.)

The thing is, there aren’t that many Americans (at least in my opinion) who would watch one of those documentaries and not be a little queasy about it. Not that it would instantly make them vegan, but the treatment of animals on factory farms is nothing less than deplorable. Let’s leave it at that.

And so I saw that documentary, and I told myself that once I got into a place where I was able to easily purchase my own food and make smart consumer choices, I would either go vegetarian or purchase locally-based meat products. Of course, promising myself that and doing it are two different things, just like watching a documentary and being disgusted is a completely different thing than cutting meat out entirely.

And then I went to college, and many late-night In N Out runs ensued, and I was in full carnivore mode until I met my not-quite-yet girlfriend. The funny thing was, you wouldn’t really have even known she was vegan unless she talked to you about it. She never complained at mealtimes about going places where there weren’t a lot of vegan options, and she never got in anyone’s face about her politics. But, as a boy who liked a girl, I started to ask her about what mattered to her, and I found out about veganism and how it tied into the environment.

I’m not going to get into a bunch of stats, because if you’re not sold on the point, chances are you won’t be, but I will give one – in California specifically, 45% of all methane emissions come from cows on meat and dairy farms. I had never really considered the environmental impact of these industries before, whether it be water and energy resources or greenhouse gas emissions, and that was a new factor to add in to my decision.

Still, it took me until after two and a half years of being with her to officially go vegetarian. Why? Because I, like any American consumer, am driven by convenience and price. I saw meat as being cheap and easy to consume to get the high-calorie, high-protein diet I craved. So, despite knowing that I had moral qualms about the treatment of animals on factory farms and environmental issues with the amount of resources sunk into and greenhouse effects produced by farms, I still ate meat.

Then one day I decided to stop.

It’s not a very sexy story. I didn’t have some grand revelation about things – and if that’s what you’re looking for to go vegetarian, just stahp, because it’s not gonna happen. All that happened to me was one day, I was thinking about how in the post-college life, I was now purchasing all my own food, and there was nothing really to stop me from going vegetarian. And it also happened that I was exactly one month away from my 1,000-day anniversary with my girlfriend, and I thought it would be kind of cute to tell her on that day.

The thing is, research in health psychology has shown definitively that people who are externally motivated to make a healthy change in their life – whether it be for someone they care about, or for a beauty standard, or because of societal pressure – they’re more likely to go back on their change than people who are internally motivated. If you’re trying to go vegetarian for someone, or because of something, you’re not going to want to stick with it.

Instead, if you’re interested in trying, just consider what I did. Come to the realization that vegetarianism is better for yourself and for the environment than eating meat. And if you’re concerned about how difficult it might be, I can only share my perspective – which is that I’m actually saving money on my grocery bill, and the only time I remember I’m vegetarian is when I’m going to In N Out (*cries*).

We all know the right thing to do, and we all find ways to not do it. It’s human nature to be a little bit stubborn, to have a little inertia when it comes to these things. But if you’re lucky, you might have someone who really cares about things – someone who is willing to make that change – in your life, as a positive role model for when you want to be better.

And trust me, you really won’t miss meat that much.

Yours, petting piggies and eating seitan,

-R.R. Buck

Story or Plot – What Do You Think?

(Reed’s Playlist for the day: Mr. Blue Sky by Electric Light Orchestra)

So I had an interesting experience the other day, and I wanted to gauge opinions of both readers and writers, but especially writers, on it.

I was kind of on a downswing a few days ago. Thank God I have people in my life who are kind enough to keep me positive when I can’t do it myself. But anyway, during that downswing, I took my own advice and looked back at one of my old writing projects, one I had dedicated a whopping 250,000 words to and then never finished. I remembered it being pretty bad.

I read back over it, and to my surprise, it was actually pretty good.

I could see the places where my writing hadn’t matured, but overall the tone and even the characters were pretty decent. And I was trying to remember what – besides burnout – had caused me to put the project down midway through a trilogy. I think I remember feeling that the plot was happening too glacially, that despite enjoying the characters’ journeys, I thought things were too slow on the macroscopic scale.

This is not an uncommon criticism of my work, by myself or others. And without even reading any of my creative writings, you could guess from this blog that it takes me forever to get to a point. I guess I’m the kind of person who likes a long exposition and worldbuilding and a slow revelation of plot.

And I always thought this was a bad thing – I’ve written multiple times about trying to get things fast-paced by cutting out backstory and worldbuilding and other such things, because I feel like it’s making people bored.

But right now I’m reading a book (I’ll wait until I finish and post a review on here to disclose the title) which I am really, really enjoying. It’s from a small independent press, and yet the quality is pretty much equal to any of those huge bestseller fantasy novels I’ve read. It’s blowing me away.

But the thing is, I’m halfway through the book and very little has happened. The characters are trying to piece together what happened on a history-changing night a while ago, and they’ve done at least a little bit of that, but overall, the plot is relatively undeveloped.

However, the story is incredible. The characters’ interactions with one another are very genuine, and they’re all super likable (except for that one character you’re supposed to be annoyed with). They’re not doing anything, but while they’re doing nothing, they’re talking to one another and discovering little pieces of this world and exploring things as a group.

So what I want to know is, do you as authors think it’s bad when a book has a lot of character-driven story occurring, but relatively little plot expansion? In other words, is it okay to go slowly with the actual plot of the book if we enjoy what’s happening to the characters?

Because if so, maybe that old trilogy is worth digging out of the garbage, dusting off, and taking another whack at.

Please let me know in the comments! I’ll be continuing to explore this myself, and I’ll bring any new thoughts I have back to you.

Yours, feeling jammy,

-R.R. Buck

Untitled [Shitty Poetry]

I’ve tried to write you a song.

The kind of song that makes you understand

all the insignificant things

that make me love you

Do you remember what it was like?

That night we sat on the cornerstone

until our shoulders were numb

from hours of talk

and then when it came to the end

how uncomfortable it felt

to hug you, knowing it was

stolen

You told me you were afraid

that the people you loved

were going to die

and I think I might have fallen

I asked you what you wanted

most in this world

and you said

“Family”

I’ve tried to write you a song

so many different times

trying to find that perfect combination of words

but I swear to God they don’t exist.

I am

decidedly crap at poetry.

I wish I knew it the way I know you.

Maybe then this would be easier.

But I guess that’s the point

the poem is crooked and stilted

and confused

like me in the beginning

I threw the necklace into the fountain

and told myself

“I want a girl who adventures”

“I want a girl who climbs trees with me”

And there you were.

I cried into the grass on campus

and told myself

“I will never say ‘I love you’ until I mean it”

and I didn’t.

But you did.

Three days in.

And you meant it.

I’ve given up writing a song

because I’ve given up on finding the words

because no one, least of all me

can tell you how perfect you are to me.

You’re a fire, and a fear,

and enough fuel for my insecurities

but in the moments I need you

somehow it’s like you can sense it

like just now, when you said to me

that reading my blog makes you miss me less

and I was so tired of failure

but here I am again

I’ve given up writing a song.

It was a silly endeavor to begin with.

All I could ever say

could not be said in a flowery poem

nor a self-indulgent song

nor a ridiculous gesture

nor an expensive present

All I could ever say

I can say when I hold you

when I miss you

even though you’ve been gone one day.

It’s About The Little Victories

(Reed’s Playlist for the day: 1 Trillion Dollar$ by Anti-Flag)

125,115 words.

That’s an eighth of a million words I’ve now dedicated to Symphony of Legend. By now, with all the combined novels I’ve written since high school, I’ve gotten down a grand total of 958,633 words. If I added in previous unfinished projects, short stories, and rewrites, I’m positive I’d be well over a million. (If you don’t speak word count, that’s approximately 4,000 pages depending on page size, font size, etc.)

Why am I jerking myself off on this blog? Because I’ve been feeling pretty shitty the past week or so about my writing. I’m nearing the end of Symphony – I have about 28,000 words left, or about 9 chapters – and I’m slowing down incrementally. Usually, I have no problem putting down a 3,000 word chapter every day, but recently I’ve been struggling to even make it to 2k and I usually end up writing half a chapter.

I read a blog post this morning by a woman with many, many more followers than me, written in prose much, much better than mine, about how she couldn’t make it as a writer and how she keeps dreaming big and writing knowing something will happen. Ironically, this “lift-me-up” article made me feel pretty shitty. I look at the sheer volume of blogs in the world – I can’t even find mine if I google “reed buck wordpress blog” – and I think, “It’s honestly kind of amazing that anyone found my blog when it’s so hidden and unnoticed.”

And then I think about me as an author, and I realize my blog is pretty much a symbol of me as a writer.

One million words, and I have learned a hell of a lot about writing. But it’s not nearly enough. I still trip over the exact same mistakes I made four years ago, and while my writing projects have become palatable, that still puts them a far stretch from enjoyable.

It’s so easy to get discouraged as an artist. Especially when you’re a writer and you can see all the other writers struggling online, trying to make it into the big leagues, you have to ask yourself, “Why am I better than all these other kids fooling around? What makes me rise above the crowd?”

Sometimes I can’t answer that question.

I just posted about how you know you’re a writer, and I think this expands the answer. It’s not just that you continue to write and to struggle, but that you do so even when you think you’re the worst piece of shit that ever put pen to paper. Somehow, even hating what you’re doing, even looking back at the trail of broken half-finished projects and juvenile ramblings that account for your early writings, you still continue.

I think I also posted about what to do when you’re down on writing, and so I wanted to do that for myself, right now, in my public sphere of the 41 people who care enough to subscribe to this (probably duplicate, probably completely unnecessary and repetitive and self-indulgent) blog.

I’m looking back on my own writings, at those flat characters and those silly plotlines and those unimaginative descriptions, and I’m saying to myself, I’m better than this. I’ve gotten better at this.

One million words may not be enough to make me great. It may not be enough to even make me publishable. But it’s a pretty damn good start, and it’s only been 8 years since that count was zero.

It’s a shitty job, being a writer. No one’s going to give you any breaks, and the few moments of pleasure – in completing a project, in seeing a reader reacting exactly the way you want to a scene – are few and far between. Mostly, it’s just a shitload of work and very little payoff. But we keep going, because it’s all we know how to do.

One million words, Reed. When you’re in that mood next time, think about it. One million words is a lot of words.

…Oh, you’re still here? Sorry, I guess I was muttering to myself. I… thought you’d left.

Or, in other words, GTFO so I can coddle myself.

Yours, riding those ups and downs,

-R.R. Buck

Life Counselor #2

(Reed’s Playlist for the day: Dazed and Confused by Led Zeppelin)

C-Quat and Tenacious D… the best “how I met you” story I could have. 

Hey there.

I keep writing sentences and then erasing them, because I don’t even really know how to begin this. I guess it’s hard to believe that we could have become such close friends in such a short amount of time. Is that just college, or is it because we’ve got something special? I’m gonna pretend it’s because we’ve got something special.

I’m afraid sometimes you don’t realize how important you are to me. Like, when you tell me you’re too clingy, as if I wasn’t just as clingy. And honestly my heart is hurting for you right now, because you’ve done so much for me and I know your situation is stressful, and you really don’t deserve it.

So maybe you can read this and understand that, in some small stupid way, it’s worth it to keep on struggling, because you do so much for the people you care about, and we really appreciate it.

Like how you taught me to not be embarrassed. It’s not like I needed a lot of help with this one (clearly), but still. Your exuberance of expression made me feel more at home than many of my quiet friends could ever do for me. Your laughter taught me to laugh more, to let stress come out in a way that is joyous and healthy.

You taught me a work ethic. I know it sounds weird to say, but besides myself and Neuro 102, you’re the only person I attribute that to. Our study habits were so bad, our struggles so real, that going through them with you made me realize (and I think you too) how much I wanted to change. I know if I’d been doing it on my own I wouldn’t have seen that need to change.

You taught me to be aggressively nerdy. You showed me how to love a fandom fully and without fear of judgment (well, mostly without fear of judgment). You let me be who I was, and you loved me for it.

You were the first person I felt comfortable with talking about some of my real, serious problems. It didn’t matter if it was family drama or friend drama or even my self-sabotaging my relationships – you seemed to always be there. And how you survived those hours of rants without exploding at me and calling me an idiot… well, I don’t think I’ll ever understand.

And speaking of which, you taught me to rant. You, more than anyone, taught me that at some point, it’s okay to just let it all spill out over somebody else, and that it’s not unhealthy to do it if it’s mutual. You’ll always be my rant buddy 😀

But there’s one thing that is most important that you taught me, and I don’t even think you’re aware of it. You taught me about the choice to drink, and how it’s not as black-and-white as I made it out to be. I was so frightened sophomore year in the summer – that first time you decided to get drunk with us, I know you remember it because I keep bringing it up – and I remember thinking to myself, I know people who drink are degenerates, so how is it that my best friend in college can be doing this?

You showed me that drinking and using recreational substances is a choice, and like any choice, it comes with both positive and negative consequences. You showed me how important it is for everyone to make their own decision, and never to feel pressured by others into making it, nor judged when they do make it. You showed me how wrong I was for judging people who drank, and you were one of the first people to make me feel comfortable in the scene after all my friends started drinking.

We’ve shared so much – Led Zeppelin, crazy late nights, ridiculously epic D&D sessions, and the entirety of our college experience. I feel like I know you better than I know myself in some ways.

That’s why it hurts me so much how stressed out you are. I can’t tell you everything’s going to be all right – God, I wish I could – but I want you to know I’ll always be here for you. When you need a hug, or a rant, or just someone to abuse for a while (c’mon, we both do it), I’ll be here. Fuck whatever you think about how clingy you are; even after we move away, you’re not going to be able to get rid of me, and that’s a swear (on Harry Potter).

I love you. I love everything about you.

Bye Terry! (…Bye Sheila!)

-R.R. Buck