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A Project Postmortem

3 months ago
Commended by mizal on 12/18/2020 12:09:03 PM

Hello everyone, I thought it would be useful to describe, if not discuss, some work I have left incomplete. It's not unusual to start up creative projects. It is a quick hit of potential. The fun of considering what might be is always more immediate than the more meaningful product of sustained effort, and knowing when something is done.

I've never completed something that I could be happy with for this website, which isn't for lack of trying. Neither can I blame a lack of time at large. It played a significant role in my failure to produce my last project. Auspicious Dawn. I was finishing my University Capstone and working a full time management position. But I had the time thereafter the deadline. 

I was working on Auspicious Dawn as a part of a contest. Life really was more than I could handle in that time, but despite that I wrote almost the entire thing, half of it by hand, written in opportune moments like during a redundant lecture or Skype calls with corporate. Once the deadline passed I had failed myself. Why didn't I finish it after the fact? I hated the overall product.

Silent are the movements of a dark gray suit. The man wearing it takes careful, certain steps. Two black and unpolished shoes slowly follow one after the other, black laces pulled tight, gray socks slightly uneven. His pants legs fall still half a moment between each swift step. His fitted blazer hangs open, a damp white button up with blue pinstripes beneath. His narrow blue necktie rocks back and forth.

I'm going to type all this rather quickly so that I don't leave this short passage itself incomplete. I was shocked when I logged on a few days ago to see that I had deleted most of my projects from before. I think perhaps I was trying to create the illusion of a fresh start. Wanting such is partly a mistake. The problem is our brains learn patterns, and that's all they're really interested in doing.

Then there is the nasty facts of pride. The more energy we invest in something the more it becomes a figurative mirror of the soul. At the least it is an extension of ourselves, creatively, and intellectually, and worst, it is subject to criticism.

"At his hip a leather holster has been hastily donned, resting in it a large silver revolver, with a red varnished wooden grip. Further down his pant leg, more fresh crimson red, and beneath his knee, unmistakable, a red smear shaped as a human hand."

 It represented an enormous time and energy investment that I could not reclaim, nor claim and be proud of. I resolved at first to go back and make an improved version. Life calmed down after a while, but once it came time to pick through what I wrote I couldn't make sense of the anatomy of the thing. The bulk of the work was connecting pages the bridge the scenes that I'd written here and there.

I didn't plan, so I made everything harder for myself. Looking back, I can't understand how I managed to write as much connected material as I did. 

I also failed to follow a very important rule. Write a bad first draft. However bad it is, write it. It's not possible to edit something that isn't written. It's much easier to add to something that exist, than to add meaningfully to something that isn't.

Anyway, I wanted to write more, a lot more, but I have to go to work. I'll see about adding more later.

A Project Postmortem

3 months ago

(Thanks be to COVID there is nothing to do)
Anyway, I wanted to share bits here and there and perhaps benefit from some community thoughts. 

So I'll grab a scene I really didn't like,

Nash is looking out the window of a conventional vehicle. Rubber tires on blacktop haven’t been a norm for a long time. Nor the rumble of a combustion engine. On the road a colorful stream of vehicles are busily on their own commutes. 

Past the glare, there is a billboard with a perspective such that the left side of the billboard is nearest the viewer, and the right side is farthest. At its center there is depicted a thin woman. She’s wearing a red dress and holding a wine glass. She’s got a slight blush to her face, and her glass is empty. She’s smiling and her eyes look bright. She looks both relaxed and interested in something. She’s resting in a simple chair that almost disappears into the white background of the billboard. 


In the foreground a two person table is before her with a white tablecloth over it. Her black cased phone is atop of it, taking up much of the left corner of the billboard, with a notice on the screen, “It’s about time to eat.”

On the upper right side it reads, “Live Fulfilled” in bold red text. Below it, the message continues, “End troubling cravings, have the body and mind you want, for the life you deserve. Call Today.” The contact information for a Hypothalamus calibration company is at the bottom.

“...from then on, it was hard for them to do anything, but it's not like they needed to anymore either...Nash, you think maybe I over thought it?”

    “Hmm? Oh, no, probably not.”

The car takes a turn, the driver accelerates into it.

    “Hey, do you feel that?”

“I think I can smell it.” Says Nash, still looking into the busy skyline.

      “No, the tread of the tires during a hard turn. Best thing about rubber tires, and these relics that still use them.”

Exhaust is in the air, and the scent of smoke, grease, and burned tire tread. 

      “I haven’t been briefed on what we’re doing yet,” Nash says.

A Project Postmortem

3 months ago

Columbus is an empty place. There are no other towns within reasonable walking distance anywhere in the country from it. Sixteen extraordinarily wide roads running in two parallel sets of eight, perpendicular to each other make up the whole of the town, with clusters of buildings along and between them, most more than 100 years old and a few dating back further than 1850. Those oldest buildings make up the bulk of the scenery, totally bizarre to behold. Sturdy geometric shapes of plain color and brick, made and assembled most entirely by hand. Columbus has only a thousand more people than shrubs or cacti. 


“You got a plan Cutter?” Nash asks as the car comes to a rest.


“Not really, how about you?” Cutter says as he kills the engine and unbuckles his seatbelt.


“Yeah, of course...” Nash opens his door, stepping out of the vehicle he continues, “...follow you.”


“Damn good plan,” Cutter says with gruff emphasis. The men shut their doors in sequence, and those doors click loudly shut.


A steady breeze carries the smoke from a cigarette through the air, “And a damn good idea,” says cutter as he lights his own.


As they approach the boarding house Nash looks around aiming to point out a “smoke-free” notice, like those pasted on most every public door, one of those sort of signs everyone knows are there and don’t bother to notice anymore, they are in the same vein as those that read “no soliciting,” but he can’t seem to find either posted, neither at or around the door, nor at the desk. In fact, he can’t see much of anything posted anywhere, not even desk hours or a noise policy.


Inside it’s clean, but the walls and wooden floors look battered, as if for over 100 years mostly careful tenants had slowly cataloged their accidents and negligent owners hadn’t cared to remodel. A few light fixtures are cracked but functional, as they cast an odd wavering yellowed light. It smells of cleaners and dust and sweat, but there is a fresh-pleasant breeze in the halls, and the buzzing of a phosphorescent bulb in the air.


“Genuine wooden doors. No electric locks or scanners,” Cutter says, failing at a half-hearted effort to blow a ring of smoke, “traditional hardware.”

A Project Postmortem

3 months ago
This is sooo nice ... hope you change your mind and finish it.

A Project Postmortem

3 months ago

Thank you. rereading my work, I was concerned that I'd written too much while progressing the story too little.

I was devoted to "developing" the characters and the world. I included so many superfluous details, deciding what to rip, rewrite, and add is a mess.

A Project Postmortem

3 months ago
I remembered being really intrigued by this one when you first posted a bit from it, I'd love to see you pick it up again. But I know what you mean, pacing issues are something I'm always having to watch for in my own writing.

That 'As they approach the boarding house...' sentence up there is a doozy, so there's definitely room to tighten this stuff up and trim it down, although I don't think spending time on the world and the characters in itself is an issue at all.

A Project Postmortem

3 months ago

Oh goodness yes. the two pages I pasted are not consecutive, they have a page inbetween. I used those two because I thought they had similar issues. This thing was extremely long and didn't have nearly as much consequential branching as it should have.

The branching mostly changed which relationships you developed and what you learned about the setting. The overall story stayed pretty stable with various outcomes for the characters.

I have an elaborate phone conversation where every line of diolague from the protag is selected by the player. I reread it yesterday and couldn't believe that I'd done that.