Project Tasman Post Story Q&A

It’s been a little while since I’ve talked about it on this blog, but for those unaware, I finished up my Twitter-based choose your own adventure story, Project Tasman, at the beginning of September. The story spanned from just after Thanksgiving 2019 until Labor Day of 2020, was over 70,000 words long, and had amazing engagement from a ton of readers.

As part of wrapping up the story, I’ve posted the story as it was decided in its entirety to Wattpad. If you haven’t had a chance to read Project Tasman yet, but want to experience the story as it was decided on by the Twitter polls, go give it a read. I’ll be posting alternate endings that weren’t chosen to the story over the coming months.

The last item I said I would do as part of Project Tasman was a Q&A session about the story. I’ve been gathering Q&A questions since early in the story and will answer as many as I can here. I’m going to keep my answers a bit more condensed here — otherwise you’d be reading a 10,000 word piece. That said, I will be expanding on a few of these answers in a Q&A podcast I’ll be posting publicly on my Patreon. That podcast will be available to everyone, so no need to pledge to listen (though I’d be grateful if you did).

Also — massive spoilers ahead for the whole story. If you’d rather not be spoiled, go read Project Tasman via the links above and come back here after.

What’s the biggest thing you’d change if you could start over with the story?

This is by far the question that I got the most frequently throughout the story. That said, it’s also the easiest to answer. I would change the whole concept of the changing names/false names that I had in the story. I had that idea at the very beginning of the story before I realized how insanely confusing that’d be to write. If I did it again, I’d limit the name changes to Carrie, Brielle, and Quinn. In Carrie’s case, the name change is needed to preserve the twist for her character. In Brielle’s case, it becomes critical to her identity in certain endings. And in Quinn’s case, she literally had a name change, so there’s no avoiding it for her.

You initially mentioned this would be a month-long project. What changed it into the novel-length project we have now?

I really got into the story. That’s pretty much the sole reason I kept going with it.

As for what I initially planned, I had this idea that the player character of the story, Alana, would be killing someone at the end of the story. And the premise was going to be that Alana was trying to solve this puzzle like a murder mystery to figure out who around her was the killer. Then at the end, she’d realize the killer was her. I still love this idea, but not for this story.

Why do you think there was so much shipping in this story, specifically the Brilana ship and the throuple ship between Quinn/Brielle/Alana?

Shippers gonna ship.

That said, I think people ship as a way to live vicariously through certain characters and what they want for that character (or themselves). The Brielle and Alana ship makes sense because Brielle is overtly sexual and uses it to her advantage against Alana. And I think people find that intriguing, which makes the shipping easy. As for the throuple shipping, I think that came about as a natural extension of Brielle being into Alana, as well as the fact that Quinn is polyamorous. I don’t personally ship it, but I get where it comes from. I did pay homage to this in the chosen ending — and it’s the only ending that could have been picked where this reference existed.

There was a poll in Arn’s loop where we had to choose a D&D alignment. You mentioned there was an alternative naming system you’d considered. What was it?

Your reaction was going going to be on some sort of scale between Lawful and Chaotic on one axis and Playful and Sexy on the other. That said, I never found a scale I liked and that fit, so I scrapped it.

Are there any scenes you felt limited in writing because of the Twitter format?

There are two scenes that jump out here. The first is the suicide discussion between Alana and Mel in Alana’s loop. I couldn’t go into this discussion as much as I’d wanted because I didn’t want to accidentally trigger random passersby. That said, I had a much lengthier, more open-ended discussion between them initially planned.

The other scene is the shower scene with Alana and Quinn at the end of Arn’s loop. It’s the one where Quinn and Alana are in the shower together after having a popcorn fight before Alana breaks down from the trauma and torture that is Project Tasman. If I weren’t writing for Twitter and the public forum, that scene would have gone on much longer — both the sexual nature that it starts out being and Alana’s eventual meltdown. I think it’s arguably the one time in the story where a very intimate scene (and I say that both sexually and then emotionally between Quinn and Alana) is needed and should have been done in deeper detail. But people get kind of pissy if you try to write erotica on Twitter, so I chose not to.

Why was Jeff such an inconsistent character?

Jeff was never meant to be anything more than a throwaway character. But then he became a bit of a meme early in the story, so I gave him a bigger role. This isn’t the first time I’ve had an ascended extra in a story, but it’s the first time they’ve been a hated character. I finally figured out how I wanted to write him. The problem was that it took nearly three-quarters of the story for me to find his voice. For most of the story, he was more plot device than character. This would be one of my first changes in a re-write.

Why would anyone want to kill Carrie?

Even though this was the chosen ending, I’d argue no one actually wanted to kill Carrie. That’s kind of the point of the moral quandary that I ended up going with as the theme of the story. Even when given that level of ultimate power, most people would struggle with deciding how to use it. And it’s completely understandable why.

I think the reason Carrie was chosen is because there was such a low likelihood of survival from her car crash. There is an ending where she does survive and that ending is my headcanon ending. But I get why people chose to have Carrie die.

What’s the worst choice we (the Twitter voters) made?

I don’t think there were any directly terrible choices made. The shippers taking control of Noel’s loop was the most ill-advised choice made, in that you learned next to nothing about Noel. But even this wasn’t completely a negative.

One one hand, ignoring Noel forced you to learn that Carrie and Sabrina are one and the same a full loop early. This lessened the impact of that twist, in my opinion. Had you learned about it on time, it would have happened at the end of Carrie’s loop. Readers would have gone through Carrie’s whole cloudcookoolander persona time, only to be hit with the wham twist of her identity at the end of the loop. And I think this would have hit REALLY hard.

However, that would have also locked you into a path where you make a choice about killing Arn at the beginning of his loop. The choice would have been either to kill Arn then, antagonize him, or question his motives. The former would have ended the story just after its midpoint. Antagonizing him would have locked you into a path where either you kill Noel, you kill Arn, or you die. The only way out of that would have been to question Arn’s motives — but by avoiding Noel, you also avoided turning on hard mode for the rest of the story.

By ignoring Noel, you also locked yourself out of the choice to kill Quinn. This is probably for the best, as the ending where you kill Quinn is a massive downer.

What’s your preferred ending to the story, both as a reader and as the author?

As a reader, I really like the ending we got. It’s bittersweet in that Carrie dies. But nearly everyone else gets what they deserve. Arn is shunned. Noel is in prison still. Quinn gets her happy life and maybe her desired polyamory. Brielle gets to work in a hotel in the Netherlands and maybe have the relationship she wants with Alana. Alana is at peace with everything she has to do.

As the author, I most wanted us to have the ending where Arn dies. Once I started planning it out, I made it where there’s only one ending where Carrie survives, and that’s the ending where Arn dies. In that ending, you have medical POA over Carrie now, but don’t need to consider euthanasia because she recovers miraculously. Brielle gets out and gets everything she does in the ending we got — except that she feels she needs a clean break from Quinn and Alana for her mental health. Noel stays stuck in Project Tasman. It’s all the good things about White Ending 1, plus Carrie lives in exchange for no polyamorous ending with Brielle.

As a side note, I’m treating the Yellow/Arn ending as the canon ending for any future projects you might see with these characters.

Who was your favorite character to write?

Carrie. Writing her actions and dialogue was so simple. I just said to myself “what is the most absurd response possible to this scenario?”. And that’s what Carrie did. She’s capable of being serious — especially as Sabrina — but that didn’t need to come through much here.

Who was your favorite character in general?

Quinn. I adore her character and her backstory. She’s the closest I’ve ever written to a me-level hopeless romantic in a story. If I re-write this story, that’ll come out more.

Who was your least favorite character to write?

I want to say Jeff, but that was more because I didn’t know what I was doing with him for most of the story. If I’m objective about it, the answer is probably Arn. He was one of two really morally gray characters in the story, the other being Brielle. While I think I did a pretty good job of developing Brielle in such a way that people were still rooting for her even if they didn’t like her, Arn was meant to be more of a character that you didn’t like even if you understood where he was coming from and could potentially empathize with him. And I think he just came off as a total dick in most cases.

Who was your least favorite character in general?

Noel. Fuck Noel.

Was there a scene that we didn’t get to see that you wish we had?

There’s a scene I’d originally written for the end of Noel’s loop where you end up hiding in Quinn’s room while she’s sleeping. This same premise happens in the version of the story you all got to see, but the key difference here is that she wakes up in the loop where you stay with Noel. Remember, in that loop not only are you and Quinn not together and you’re back with Noel, but Quinn is very broken up about it.

The scene in question features Alana talking to Quinn about how she’s scared about Project Tasman without specifically explaining why or what’s going on. And Quinn gets very protective of her. The scene gave a bit of foreshadowing to Quinn’s darker past. It was also meant to reinforce the fact that she loves Alana unconditionally, even if that love isn’t returned. Because, again, I adore Quinn and she’s insanely loving.

WIP Update #5/NaNoWriMo Update

This is going to be a combined update for a couple of different writing-related items at this point, as I felt like neither of them were long enough to warrant their own post at this point. That said, both were important enough that I wanted to be able to post about them on the blog.

In September, I asked many of you (both here and on Twitter) to give me your thoughts as to what topics you’d like to see if I did another NaNoWriMo Tips series this year. I got a lot of good ideas for what topics I could potentially talk about and even had started talking with a couple of different folks about potentially guest blogging for the series this year, as it seemed like a good idea.

I also recently wrote this short story that I really liked. In rather exciting news, it seems that a lot of you liked the story as well — which is great considering that the story itself is intended to very much be an introduction to what would likely be a larger story, if not a full novel. I took a poll asking people whether they’d rather see me do the NaNoWriMo Tips series again this year or if I should do the full version of this story on my blog for NaNoWriMo.

The results of the poll are irrelevant for reasons I’ll get into momentarily. The story won by a decent margin (69%-31%). But that’s not the reason I’m writing this post.

I’ve been working on my current work in progress novel for quite some time now. I’ve written four different posts to this point sharing where I’m at in the process of getting it to the point where I could look to publish it, all with varying levels of working having been done when I wrote said posts. In my most recent WIP post, I went through this long list of things that allowed me to get to the point where I had written three drafts of the book. Within that list was a note mentioning how I had a mental breakdown that led me to write a blog post about the duality of writing. Even still, there was a footnote buried in that list1I use the term buried loosely here. It’s obvious the footnote was there. That said, I know full well most of the views I get on my posts come from folks who don’t click on the footnotes. I’ve looked at the data. mentioning how this wasn’t just a one-time occurrence. Granted, the breakdown that led to that post was a one-off, but the act of breaking down was not — and is not — an isolated incident for me.

I’m finally starting to get the help I need to be able to deal with some of the stuff that caused everything I described in the paragraph above. I’m sure it’s going to be a long process — mostly because I’m already realizing there was a lot more that I need to work through than even I initially realized — and I’m not particularly ready to talk about it here yet. That may well be something that happens in the future. After all, the whole reason I started blogging/writing back in 2009 was because of a suggestion given to me by the therapist I had gone to see then when I told her I couldn’t afford to come to our second appointment. But that time likely isn’t any time soon.

That said, I bring all of this up because of something that happened somewhere along in the process of finally reaching the point of realizing that I need help. I found the place from which one of the characters in my book is coming from. I admittedly didn’t expect it. The character isn’t necessarily the character I was looking to continue building on in the next draft of my book. But at the same point in time, doing so not only makes a lot of sense to me but feels a bit more meaningful.

I say all of that to say I won’t be doing NaNoWriMo Tips in November of this year, nor will I be starting a NaNoWriMo project based on the short story linked in this post. If you’re looking for NaNoWriMo help, I would encourage you to pop over to r/nanowrimo on Reddit, as it was a great resource for me last year. I likely will still turn that short story into a book in the future, as it’s a story that has existed — at least in part — in my head for nearly six years now.

This November will be dedicated to working on my work in progress and helping to build it out to where I want it to be. I’m hoping that between whatever notes my editor has for me by that point, my own quick plot consistency review I’ve been working on, and the newfound voice for one of the story’s characters that this edit will go a long way towards getting my work in progress to a finished product.

NaNoWriMo Tips 2019

Last October and November, I took on a project that I admittedly didn’t expect to gain much traction. I wrote a series of posts giving advice to those who were participating in NaNoWriMo 2018. As someone who has participated in NaNoWriMo on three different occasions — and finished it twice — I felt like I had a lot of advice I could share that could be beneficial to someone participating for themselves. Much to my surprise, the series went over well, with four of the posts in the series making my top 20 posts of the year despite being published with two months (or less) left in 2018.

I wanted to get a bit more of a headstart on the project this year, however, I also wanted to try something new in the process. What I’d like to do is to see what those of you who are considering participating in NaNoWriMo would like for me to write about. What questions about the month-long writing endeavor do you have?

I’m not sure exactly how many topics I’ll write about this year. With that said, I’ve listed the topics I wrote about last year below. While I’m not opposed to revisiting a particular topic and putting a different spin on it if there’s enough interest, I would like to see what new topics you all would like for me to write about.

If there’s a specific topic you’d like for me to write about, leave me a comment and suggest it. I’m going to work on planning out my post schedule over the next couple of weeks so that I can begin writing them in early October (as I learned last year, this project takes a while).

If you don’t have a topic you’d like me to write about, I would still love to hear what you’re planning on writing about for this NaNoWriMo. Leave your story I’d in the comments. I’d love to talk about them.

WIP Update #4

Inner monologue: It feels like progress on my book has been going really slow. I can’t imagine what I’d even have to talk about since the last time I wrote a formal WIP update post.

*re-reads the last update post*

Inner monologue: Oh. Shit. There’s actually been progress for once. Well, let’s get to it.

This post is both a long time coming and yet a post where I feel like there’s still a long way to go. There’s been a lot I’ve done on my book since February — some of which I’ll be discussing in greater detail in this post. However, to quickly summarize, I have done the following since my last post about my work in progress:

  • Finished the first draft of the book
  • Written a preview scene for the sequel1More on this further down. to the book
  • Finished a second draft for the book
  • Torn apart my book with my editor/creative director/whatever she is2Hi again.
  • Finished a third draft for the book
  • Had a mental breakdown about a lot of things3This actually happening more than once, but only one of those times did it lead to me venting about my frustrations with writing. which manifested itself in a mental breakdown post about writing
  • Drew* out what some of the characters in the book looked like
  • Plotted out the basic premise of the series that will (hopefully) come out of this book

I’m writing this post in early July, so it’s certainly possible I could add something to that list between now and when this post goes live mid-July. That said, even if I make no changes to the above list4Note: I made no changes., that’s still a ton of shit I’ve gotten done.

As I mentioned before, I was debating whether or not this was going to be a series. I’ve ultimately decided that there will be a series coming out of this book, which has meant a good bit as I was going back and editing, particularly when working on draft number three. Oddly enough though, had I decided against making this a series, it really wouldn’t have changed the ending to this book all that much. Because of the sci-fi setting this book takes place in, there’s a lot that was left to the interpretation of my mind more than anything else. As this relates to the ending of my work in progress, it allowed me to have the kind of ending I wanted to the book regardless of the route I ended up choosing.

You may have noticed on the next to last point that I have an asterisk next to drew. This is because I have a bit of a unique problem when it comes to art. Specifically, I suck at art. That said, I really wanted to be able to have some context for what my characters looked like beyond what was in my head. So I did what any rational person who was bad at art yet has access to a computer would do: I created my characters in The Sims 3. I’m not quite ready to post those character mockups on here yet — mostly because I want to do that once the book goes into the beta reading stage (or shortly thereafter). That said, I did share a couple of them this month for my Patreon subscribers, so…hint hint.

I already plan to do a whole post about the editing process once that’s done, however, I do want to take a moment to call out a specific part of the editing process that I didn’t expect to go through. I’ve been doing a lot of reading this year across various genres, reading a bunch of books that range from amazing to absolutely horrid. Nearly every book I’ve read this year has caused me to re-think some part of my work in progress. In particular, Every Tool’s a Hammer by Adam Savage caused me to really consider how much I’m working in conversations that don’t advance the plot of the story but serve to add depth to characters. As someone who loves books that do this, but am not always the best about it myself, it was a great reminder to have.

At this point, I’m probably still at least one draft away from getting beta readers for the story. With that said, when I am ready, I’ll be holding a call for beta readers on this blog (and maybe on my Twitter) after offering to some folks who have already expressed interest in doing so. Hopefully the beta reading experience will be good, as my only experience for it comes from short stories rather than a full novel.

That’s all I have to share for an update for now. My hope is to have an additional update by the end of the year, though I’m not particularly sure exactly what the timeline will be. Thanks for sticking around during the long time that this story has taken. I’m thinking it’ll be worth everyone’s patience.

WIP Update #3

My inner monologue: Oh hey. Are we at the six month mark where we provide an update to the novel you’ve been working on fort he better part of a year now?

*Checks calendar*

Also me: Yeah. Well, more or less. But it was a really shitty six months where I didn’t get much done because I was struggling with a ton of shit mentally. I was to the point where I felt like I was in a rut I’d never get out of1I wrote about this for an upcoming post that will go up at some point in (likely) March.. You can’t have expected me to write during that time.

My inner monologue: Did you write anything new in story?

Also me: Yes…

My inner monologue: Let’s hear about it then.

Also me: Finnnnneeeeeee.

Oh hey. Happy…*checks calendar again*…February. I know some of you are wondering how my work in progress of a novel is going. Especially since I decided to make finishing a draft (or two) of it one of my writing goals for this year. And yes, I know that doing a separate work in progress update post doesn’t exempt me from my regularly scheduled quarterly goal update posts, but if there’s any way I can get more posts out of the same amount of content with how busy I’ve been the last couple of months, I’m going to take advantage of it.

When we last checked in on my progress of the first draft, I had around 35,000 words and just under half of my chapters written. I can happily say that — as of writing this — the draft is now over 53,000 words, with 21 of the 26 planned chapters written, as well as the 22nd chapter started. At this point, it’s looking like the initial draft of the book will end up somewhere in the 65,000-75,000 word range, which is a bit short of where I’d ideally like to have the book when it’s completed. That said, I’ve already identified a few areas of the book that will receive some significant expanding in the second draft. Part of this will be for world building reasons, while part of it will be to better flesh out the backstory of one or two of the main characters.

On the plus side, being this far into the draft has gotten me to the point where I’m comfortable discussing some of the broader points of the book in a bit more detail. Since I’m still WAY far out from having this book ready for publishing in any capacity, I’ve deceided to limit that sharing to those who support me on Patreon rather than the general public. One of this month’s rewards was a podcast giving a little context as to two of the main characters of the story, but I’ll be expanding on this more in the coming months. If you’d like some of those pre-release updates, you could always consider supporting me on Patreon. Wink wink nudge nudge.

I’m also hoping that this first book will become part of a larger series. While I don’t have too much I can share about that at this point, I will say that there will be a noticeable tonal shift between this book — which is intended to be a sci-fi slice of life love(ish) story — to the rest of the series (which will keep the sci-fi parts, though not so much on the slice of life or love story parts). There are a couple of characters in this work in progress that will feature heavily in the rest of the series, hence wanting to build up backstory for those characters as I mentioned above.

I’m still hoping to have the first draft done by mid-April, which will require some significant writing over the course of this week to be a safe bet. Time after this week has the potential to get a bit more scarce2For reasons I’ll share in a later post., so if I can crank out an additional chapter or two before the middle of the month, it’ll make hitting that deadline a bit easier.

Of the various projects I’ve been working on, this is definitely the one I can remember being the most excited about. I wrote the short story that this project is based off of nearly two years ago at this point, so it’s been a story whose plot and characters I’ve become quite attached to. I’m excited to eventually share it with all of you.