Monthly Forecast #20 — November, 2023: Huge PoP Update

November 1st, 2023


Oh boy, October.

This is probably the most difficult month I have been forced to evaluate in hindsight. It was quite the rollercoaster, with its high peaks and low valleys. I did get quite a bit of work done, but it was not necessarily the work I had set out to do. That makes measuring the success of a month difficult, but overall, I think I’m willing to call October a lower-end success that contained some really rough patches.

I think it’s best to tackle the negative upfront and say I struggled quite a bit with mental health this past month. I usually do around this time of year. November had been a really tough month for me on an annual basis until last year, when my tough month wound up being December. Thankfully it didn’t really hit me that hard last year and I was mostly able to shrug it off.

That was, unfortunately, not the case this time around, when mental illness decided to strike earlier than expected. I spent far too much of October feeling apathetic, detached, and overall depressed. I’m sure many of you have experienced the feeling and know how difficult it is dragging yourself to work when nothing feels like it has a shred of purpose, and just contemplating anything leads to waves of anxiety whose source you can’t pin down. That’s the worst of it for me — when I’m stressed and anxious enough that it impedes me, but when there’s no rationale behind it. I’m pretty good at coping with stress, for the most part, and am quite logical. But when there is no logic or reason for me to cling to, things can get rough.

I credit five things to getting me through October. The first three are medication, my cat, and diving back into a reread of my favourite book series.

I find it always helps, returning to things that make you happy, and that’s the rationale for the third. It’s a bit ironic, given the series’ contents, but it brings me joy and that’s what is important. As a community of readers, I’m sure many of you will understand that sentiment.

The Cat-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is a simpler source of joy. She is probably the sweetest of her species. I say that having grown up owning cats during the majority of my childhood. My parents and I owned a cat who was essentially in heat at all times due to botched procedures when she was a kitten and before we owned her, and I STILL have never seen a cat as affectionate as the one I have now. If I allowed her to, she would just lay on my chest for the entire day and trap me in bed, ensuring I got nothing done but earning hours of uninterrupted pets. I think that would be her happy place, and maybe when I’m farther ahead, I can concede to her whims at some point.

Medication we need not go into, but I did say five things and have only touched on three. That’s because the other two require more elaboration.

I said during the last one of these blogs that I planned to prioritize PoP this month, but I also voiced how much I was struggling with fanfiction.

I did still get a fair amount of PoP written — more on that later — but I decided escapism of a different sort would do me some good, and so I focused on my novel for much of October.

I won’t talk too much about it now because it will get its own section later in the blog, but it’s one of the most productive months I have had on it and I am really excited to continue leaping off the progress I have already made. It also provided a much needed break from fanfiction and really refreshed my desire to work on those projects.

And then there is Athena, the fifth and most important thing that kept me going in October.

She has been a beacon all month long and has sacrificed much of her own time to ensure I remain sane. Whether that’s dragging me out for dinner to interrupt spiralling stress and anxiety, or breaking off whatever she was doing to help provide comfort when she knows I’m struggling, or just being there for me to vent at when frustration mounts — I’m not sure how I would have traversed October’s rocky waters without her alongside me.

All of this is especially impressive because she has had her own host of troubles. Early in the month, it felt like we were alternating blocks of time. She would spend three days in the mental pits, and then I would tumble into them just as she pulled herself out. It was a difficult dichotomy, but I appreciate the fact she was always there for me in spite of her own struggles. She is an incredibly selfless person who often makes me feel heartless by comparison, and that is among the many reasons why I feel incredibly fortunate to call her my girlfriend these days. Making that official was probably the highlight of October.

Nearly a thousand words in and I have yet to discuss any work in great detail… I don’t think this is a record, but it has to be up there among the rambliest beginnings to a blog.

This month’s BIG NEWS pertains to PoP, something you have all likely guessed given the title of this blog.

There is good news and bad news regarding this story. The bad news is that I am not as far into the writing of book 4 as I would have liked. This should come as no surprise to those who have been reading these blogs all year. Between car accidents, my aunt’s passing, Athena’s uncle’s passing, moving across the continent, and all the lovely psychological hardship that comes with all that, it’s safe to say the writing conditions have not been ideal.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t gotten a lot done. I know the tone of these blogs make it sound otherwise, but I’m a bit of a pessimist and am known to be extremely hard on myself. I usually end up getting done more than I make it sound like.

And so here is where the good news comes into play.

I have approximately forty chapters written for PoP book 4 and Harry is officially now at Beauxbatons preparing for the Second Task as of my most recent writing. That might sound like I have a long way to go, but you would be surprised. The Beauxbatons section of this year is going to be quite short, and the final stretch at Hogwarts leading up to the Third Task will not be nearly as long as the Durmstrang section — which wound up requiring many more words than I expected. The expansion of that arc is another reason why I don’t have this year finished like I had hoped to.

Given that I am forty chapters into the year and have now written myself out of the most difficult portion of it, I have decided to do away with an old plan of mine.

I have voiced repeatedly that I would not post PoP book 4 for Discord members or on FFN/AO3 until the entire year was finished.

But I have changed my mind.

The summer is going to need a bit of revising, but that shouldn’t take more than a couple of days, at most. I can probably do it in one, and the chapters which need updating are not the first few in the year.

So, with all of that in mind, I am proud to announce that the first chapter of PoP Book 4 will release for Discord members TOMORROW, and that henceforth, chapters will be posted weekly!

I am far enough ahead that it’s not as though you lot will catch up to me, and the bits which are going to need revising most are the ones I have already written. I expect relatively smooth sailing from here on out, so I am confident in beginning uploads now.

FFN/AO3 will wait a few weeks, that way Discord can get ahead. I might hold off posting on those platforms until the start of December, but I might not. Maybe around American Thanksgiving. We’ll see. I definitely want Discord to get a fair head start.

I’m not sure how much work will get done on this in the next couple months. I want to hone in on the writing of my novel, but I am currently waiting on some beta feedback and am in a pretty good flow when it comes to PoP. I know it’s National Novel Writing Month, but I might take this week and a bit of next to work on PoP. We’ll see how I feel when beta feedback comes in. That’s likely when I will outline my next couple months of work, so you guys will have a better idea the next time I post one of these blogs.

There is not a ton to discuss in terms of other fanfiction. The Road to Hell continues chugging along and I am excited now that we are getting into the more interesting chapters. Much of the setup is finished at this stage, so anyone waiting impatiently for ‘action’ will get their wish quite soon.

I’ll probably get back to the writing of this in early 2024. I got so far ahead that it allowed me to work on other projects, but I will need to begin writing Part II sooner rather than later. I’m not too worried, in all honesty. It will be the shortest of this tale’s three acts, and after writing PoP book 4 — which is among the most complex things I have ever worked on — it will probably feel like child’s play.

I would also just like to take the time here to recommend The Road to Hell Audiobook. I know it’s something I have discussed before, but I think it has really hit its stride now that the chapters are growing tenser and now that Sam has settled in and is getting a feel for my writing style. The chapter 17 draft I have listened to might be my favourite so far, and chapter 15 is no slouch either. I have not been shy about saying this is my favourite ongoing project and it just keeps improving. Credit for that, of course, lies at the feet of Sam Gabriel.

If you enjoy the audiobook, please do go check out her links. She has a Discord server, a website, a Patreon page, and a ton of other work out there.

Conjoining of Paragons concludes on FFN this month, so that is also quite neat. It will be nice, having one of the epic-length stories finished officially. I expect varied, chaotic reactions to the tale’s conclusion, so that will be fun to keep an eye on. This story wrapping up is another reason I have decided to go ahead with posting PoP book 4.

I have no real updates concerning Shattered Souls or the other side project I have referenced. There is a reason I warned you all these were unlikely to get finished — I can’t say I expect to have much time for them in the coming months, though I do feel the urge off and on to dive back in. Particularly into the project whose name I have not shared. Time will tell whether I actually end up doing that or not.

Then there is the novel.

This is really where most of my writing was focused during October. I can’t remember exactly because I have played with varying chapter breaks in several places, but I wrote somewhere in the vicinity of nine chapters in October. Maybe eight, I can’t quite remember where I was at the end of September because I was working on this quite a bit around that time. Let’s call it somewhere around 25,000 words written for this in October, plus a lot of editing. And I mean a lot. I am obsessive in polishing this as I go along. It admittedly slows me down, but I have a much easier time with large-scale revisions if the writing itself is clean, and I have ensured the writing in this novel is MILES AHEAD of anything else I have ever put to paper.

I’m probably a little shy of twenty percent finished with the book. Considering I only decided to focus on this novel back in August and drop an older attempt I had been toying with, I would say that’s pretty good.

I plan to spend most of 2023’s remainder focused on this. I will write some PoP from time to time, but I would like to push for 50k words in November. I might miss that mark because I’m not starting exactly on the 1st and because I focus a great deal on things like language, rhythm, and subtlety when writing original stuff and that slows the drafting down a ton, but we will have to see.

I want to be halfway finished with the novel by December’s end. Ambitious, I know, but this is the first time ever I am going to dedicate so much unbroken time to original work. The last time I managed an uninterrupted chunk of time working on something, I wrote most of Road to Hell Part I. And while this will not come nearly that fast, reaching the halfway mark also won’t require me to write 150,000 words in two months like finishing The Gates of Hades did, so we will see what happens. I am hoping to share a lot more about the novel next year and could not be more excited. It’s the most passionate I have ever been about a piece of writing. Nothing else is even close.

That’s about it on the writing front. I keep saying I want to be more active on the Discord server, and I really do. There has been a lot of growth lately and I expect that to intensify once PoP renews uploading. Because I’vebeen so busy, there are probably a ton of new members who I have not yet even spoken to.

I’m hoping that once I transition into writing the novel and don’t feel quite so rushed up against self-imposed deadlines, I will have a bit more peace of mind and time to spare. Things always get quite busy on server around the holidays when people are off work/school and able to be active. At the very least, I hope to set aside time during those days so I can experience the buzz.

I have also kept saying how I want to do more server event–type stuff and I hope that ball can get rolling again soon.

The last two years, we have hosted charity fundraisers and I would like to do that again. Though I have not discussed it with Athena, so she might read this and curse my name since she tends to handle most of that type of thing.

The fundraiser was a huge success back in 2021 but did not quite generate the way I hoped it would last year. I’m still thrilled we did it and raised as much as we did, but I want to aim more for what we achieved the first year than what we did the second and I need your guys’ help with that.

We need incentives that are really going to urge people to donate. The first year we offered up a bunch of early chapters and that worked pretty well. The second year we tried balancing incentives between a trio of servers and that did not quite pan out the way we thought it would.

I’m thinking we will probably be more hands on with the incentives again. Back to offering up things like bonus chapters and perhaps an early look at my novel. I would have to be careful there — I want it traditionally published, so I likely couldn’t share much of it, but I don’t see the harm in offering up the prologue, for instance.

There are also other things I could do. Q&As and live streams, or else some sort of writing challenge? I know many of you have proposed the idea of me offering up some sort of one-shot during past fundraisers and I have resisted for a variety of reasons. It’s still not my favourite idea, I will admit, but maybe something along those lines? Or perhaps something less time-consuming and I just write a portion of a story live? I know that’s a thing authors do and readers tend to be interested in. I’m a tad wary of that one, but if there is a ton of interest, I could be swayed into setting it as a higher-end incentive. Or maybe offering chapters from the side-projects I’ve mentioned off and on?

This is where I need you guys. Has anything I mentioned really jumped out at you? Have any of the ideas made you think you would donate if they were offered up? What other incentives can you think of that would be feasible but still appealing?

Let me know! Fill the #cc-suggestions channel with them over on the Discord server, or message me directly on Discord or FFN. I am very open to ideas!

I’ll be back in Canada with family during part of December, so if we decide on incentives that involve recording or live streaming, those might have to wait a few weeks after their goals are reached, that way I can get back into my setup and use a proper microphone and whatnot. But that’s really the main restriction.

I have also toyed with the idea of some kind of giveaway right around Christmas, but I’m not making any promises. It has been an expensive year and the logistics behind something like this tend to be a pain.

If it happens, there is a decent chance it will be over on Patreon. Granted, anyone would be able to enter, whether they were a patron or not, because of the site’s baffling stance on giveaways. The counterintuitive limitations they impose on giveaways is the reason I have not done more of them.

This has gone on for quite a while, so I will end it here. Thank you guys for an incredible October! The growth on Discord has been amazing, and I have never had as many patrons as I ended this past month with. It finally feels like things are getting back on track after such a chaotic 2023. I can only thank you all for your patience and unwavering support.



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