Chosen Shackles - Review Swap (and ergonomics?)

Exactly what it says on the tin! Feedback appreciated, review swap open.

My serial just got posted, it's roughly 20k words. So, not too dense yet. It's a rainy cyberpunk romp right on the road to insanity or resurrecting robot gods. That kind of thing. - Link there, have a look.

As an aside, I've been thinking a lot about ergonomics and time organization. I might make a separate thread but I'm definitely intrigued by what measures other peppy webfic writers have taken to be more comfortable and efficient in their work/life. Personally, I've been keeping progress logs on goals and using whiteboards a lot to order my thoughts. Mind mapping is neato. But I can imagine a lot more you could do, and I'm trying to expand. It's a kind of hobby in and of itself, I'm finding.

I would love to do a review swap. Though I am caught up on your serial (I am one of your subscribers!) it might take me about a week to get to the review as I have a lot of deadlines to attend to. My own serial is 70k and I would prefer a full read through as all of my reviews are based on early chapters, but I understand that is an unfair trade if you do not have the time (no worries if you don't). Let me know :)

Speaking of ergonomics, I write on a Dvorak keyboard ( ) which has helped me greatly to increase my WPM and to keep my hands from cramping. As far as time organization goes, I have none and I think I can do everything and I overload my schedule. It works? No. No it does not.

I have a review coming for this. Should be up by the end of the week.

@Revfitz I am terrible at reading fiction in general but I have genuinely wanted to read your serial and will do the dread deed of committing! I will try to get reading at the same time I reread my own serial. I can predict a degree of slowness (I'm busy enough that I've fallen behind on my own serial and need to reread to find my footing), but it will get done.

On ergonomics: I really do think of it as a hobby, and I might widen it to efficiency in general. I'm trying to devise the best balance of budget and nutrition as well, for instance. A schedule is a must for me and I've really been pining for a better setup (mine is a kitchen table and it's very not ideal). The Dvorak keyboard remains daunting, though.

@Rhodeworks That's awesome. Once I get done with Revfitz serial I will give your serial a look and rating.

You're welcome to do so! Just be advised that my review isn't being done on the basis of expecting, or even really wanting, a swap. I just haven't been able to post my review given that Shackles has been in the queue for so long.

@Shaeor I'm intrigued by your story premise and would love to do a review swap. Unfortunately, my story falls into two categories that make swaps discouraging for me. One, my tale is very dark at times, especially in the beginning which tends to turns off a lot of readers way too early, I suppose. Two, it's very long (almost five books long so far) with the first couple of arcs focused primarily on introducing and building upon multiple characters stories moving toward a much larger story. At this point, and after already receiving one review based on a single chapter, which doesn't even scratch the surface, I'd prefer an investment of at least the first seven chapters of my story, which is 20 episodes clocking in around 54,000 words. In return, I'd be willing to wait until your story develops further and promise you a review down the stretch if interested. Or, I could read what you have now, review it, and revisit my review at a later date when your story develops into something much longer.

As far as time organization and efficiency, my real world job has me working rotating twelve-hour shifts with erratic days off, two weeks on day shift, two weeks on the graveyard shift, so... I've had to learn to write with consistency in the middle of my erratic life. Also, I'm raising a family of four boys which just adds to the dilemma of finding opportunities to write. I've adopted a 1000 word per day discipline that I try my best to keep, hoping to maintain a goal of at least 20,000 words a month. I don't always achieve it, but sometimes I exceed it... lol. I have a large white board in my bedroom that I use to project the general outline forward. It serves as my primary motivation, reminding me that I'm headed somewhere. I carry notepads around at work to plot out specific chapters. I also leave how I'm going to get where I'm going very flexible when I sit down to write, understanding that my characters dictate most of that, and I'm just along for the ride. Let's see, I don't believe in sitting down at a desk to write, I find it too restricting, like I'm trapped. So I have my laptop with me everywhere, prepared to open it and write whenever I can. Preferably, I write in the mornings, shortly after coffee (always after coffee). I also keep a running record of how much I write a day and where. This helps me keeps tabs on what's working, and what's distracting me. I'm big-time goal oriented when it comes to my story, even if the goals I set are unrealistic in the end. I still need them to stay focused. Lastly, I have what I call a 'bare bones' approach, when I sit down to write. I don't re-read previous chapters, unless it's relevant in keeping current chapters cohesive. I push forward, choosing not to be distracted by what I wrote yesterday, trusting that it will all come together in the editing after I've reached a certain point, and then go back to add 'the meat'. This helps me maintain writing momentum at all times no matter when or where I sit down to write. So far, this has worked very well for me.

@Revfitz I know I've already reviewed your story, but it was in the early stages. Same offer. If you would consider reading at least the first seven chapters of my story for review, I'd go back and re-read your entire story and adjust my review based on your completed tale. I've been meaning to do that anyway because I enjoyed it so much.

@rhodeworks Thanks :>

@ScottScherr I actually enjoy reviewing more serious stories, personally, so it wouldn't be a problem. I'm hoping to really massively spike my reading intake, but I can't promise anything until I'm done with Revfitz's serial. So, I'd love to have this offer in my back pocket and come revisit your serial once I'm a bit further along. That's good with you?

You can email me at dirgewriter @ gmail so we can keep in touch without having to bump an old thread. Because I'd like to get into the meat of my story before an in-depth review like you're proposing.

Also, if either if you had a pdf or easily printed document that you were comfortable emailing me, that would certainly be convenient. All good either way. I'm going to compile the same for mine because right now I've only got the site backups (the horror), so let me know if you'd like to have that.

Hola Shaeor,

Would you be interested in a review from moi? We've already done a swap before, so this would probably be one-sided. I've been jonesing for a good, rainy, cyberpunk story. I trust you with providing the goodness. You know what my reviews are like from last time. It's up to you.

If so, I can get to it in the next week or two. It probably won't be super-quick as I've gotten really behind on my own writing, but it should be at least two weeks max. If not, no worries.


As far as ergonomics goes... I've recently found out how much a distance of five feet in the house can completely destroy a person's efficiency. When my comp was temporarily at the dinner table for a few months, I was perfectly organized and was blowing through chapters like crazy. Than the Sig-O got a new desk and wanted the comp moved. Now, it's exactly five feet away on the far wall and everything's gone to pot as far as chapter output, lol. I guess the lesson with this is, if you have a set-up where you're actually working as a writer... Don't ever let someone else come in and mess with your stuff. Even if you don't believe in things like feng shui, the simple act of someone messing with your mojo can really throw things out of whack.

I wasn't that sensitive to my surroundings when I first started writing. I used to be able to write just about anywhere. I crowded hallway at university; just fine. At work even if it got busy; just fine. In the driver's seat of a car waiting to pick someone up after work; no problem. In a Starbucks trying to ignore all the insipid hipsters because I had a forced meeting with someone; tolerable. On the bus or subway; just fine, despite the nosy potheads. Now, however, even a change of light, a distracting sound, a bad selection of background music, or even the time of day can affect me pretty bad. Oh, and I prefer to write between the hours of 8pm and 5am; I'm nocturnal (and I'm less likely to be bothered by unwanted guests).

What I found out recently, and much to my dismay, is that motivation and frame of mind are everything. If you have a strong audience and a feeling of accomplishment with your story, it actually reinvigorates you. You can put up with almost anything, even if your life isn't completely in order. Just a simple, "thanks for the chapter" once every couple of weeks from someone stopping by can completely change your mood. Handing your stuff off to a beta reader and seeing their face contort with emotion at what you write (good or bad) means the world. Seeing some kind of accomplishment whether that's gaining a new reader, or seeing your Patreon grow, or getting a review can make you want to pump out more writing like crazy. Hell, some people can get motivation from getting bad reviews, trolling comments, and being slagged on. It makes them want to work harder, revise their story to be stronger, or keep going despite the odds.

The worst is working in a vacuum; especially if you're doing a web-serial (normal novel/short story manuscripts aren't so bad). Not seeing growth or accomplishment will sap your desire to keep going faster than anything else. That's where I am right now. The worst part is that I'm not getting slagged on anymore, like when I started. People come by and seem to like (or at least tolerate) what I'm doing, but all I see is crickets. My readership is decent and my read-through rate is pretty high, but no one is interacting. The comments (meaningful or trolling) have all dried up. People (seem to) like what they see but never leave reviews unless I offer a swap or incentive. I don't think I've seen a single half-assed, "thanks for the chapter" in over a year. Pardon the sour grapes, but I'm trying to get to a point. There's as much to practical ergonomics as there is to mental state.

I'm an organization fiend. I have perfectly organized folders (on computer and in drawers) filled with notes, reference points, world-building details, maps, character sketches, and plans for my work. Ever since I tried Scrivener, it has become a black hole for my time. Not only is it great for keeping everything organized (plus I like seeing a live word-count at the bottom of the chapter as motivation), it also lets me dump in all the notes I need for the story I'm working on. I use programs like Aeon Timeline to chart out advanced histories for my current story. I can tell you when a certain character was born, what events happened at every point of their life, and world events stretching back almost 36,000 years. I can tell you the exact day, month, and year everything happens. I have entire folders filled with in-world languages for translation in notes and spreadsheets. I have an active (on harddrive) web database with notes and a very glitchy search protocol for everything. My current world map (1/6th of the main world currently) is now 8.47 gigs large. It actually takes about 20 minutes to load and 8 minutes to save updates on my comp. I've yet to mention any major trade routes in my work, but they're there if anyone asks, lol.

I only use white-boards for D&D stuff right now. I know Patrick Rothfuss still has huge chalkboards in his basement with all of the currency info for his novel series. I think he has pictures on his twitter or something.

As far as the soul-sucking vacuum goes, it's taken its toll on me in the last month. My health bottomed out pretty hard in March and I was diagnosed with CFS (which I still don't agree with, but whatever). Now, I'm having to be more mindful of my surroundings and frame of mind when I write. I've dug out my old netbook and have been doing that while sitting on the couch, or if I'm totally out of it in bed. I still have to get the work done, but it often feels like I'm spinning my wheels. I think if I can see some kind of actual progress again, I'll be able to fight against the condition I'm in. The best way out is through. Fluorescent lamps have become candles. Old wooden chairs and hard floors while writing have now become comfy office chairs. I now understand why most authors become alcoholics. I don't drink, have no vices other than too many D&D books strewn about, and I think that's actually my problem. Writers I know who are alcoholics or chain-smokers seem better off than I am, lol. Oh, and also worth mentioning, I absolutely hate people around me when I write now. I used to be able to handle crowds or gawkers, but not anymore. All it takes is for the Sig-O to lean over, or someone to make a comment, or someone to be distracting in the background and I rage (Jack Torrence style). It doesn't affect my writing output, but does affect my nerves. I'm not a dancing monkey, I'm doing work, so people can -back off-.

Considering tools of the trade... I'm fine with my old Qwerty keyboards. My writing output is usually pretty high, and I can get at least 2,000 words done in an hour and a half. I used to be able to get between 12,000 to 30,000 words done in a night, but now I'm petering out around 6,000-8,000 due to writer's angst. My preferred keyboard is the one on my netbook, even though it's cramped up; it feels good. The way the keys feel is great. The keyboard I'm using on the PC right now is clunky, but I can still keep my WPM high. I really like the keys on my old 1920's typewriter, but I type so fast with it that I have to keep flicking the heads to get them untangled every line or so. It's good for short story manuscripts, but not for web serials. If I'm absolutely strapped, I even use my phone or tablet to get a story bit done if I'm away from a computer for a long stretch. My WPM is pretty high on my phone but the spelling and grammar drops out. My tablet is a bit slower and I often get distracted wanting to play games, so I only use it as a last resort.


TL;DR of the above... Get yourself in a setting that you have absolute control over for writing. Minimize distractions (and keep others out). Do whatever you need to do to keep your workload high and yourself focused. Take lots of breaks if you need them, but if you're on a streak, never step away. Scrivener is good, there's other great programs out there as well. More than anything, you need to be in a good mental space for the long haul with your projects. You need to feel real accomplishment in what you do. You need to know you're growing your audience with a web serial, otherwise just write it as a finished manuscript before you upload anything so you don't have to deal with the crushing silence. Some people need encouragement, other's don't. If you're one that doesn't, good on you. If you need encouragement, find it, or you'll end up wanting to go all Hunter S. Thompson at X-mas. Bad times.

@Shaeor That sounds fine with me. We'll hook back up on this at a later date.

@Scott Very good.

@Sovereign I'd love a review, Ashes. I really loved your last.

I'm feeling similar about writing. I know I said a while back that I could write even while I carried on a conversation but it changes with difficulty and difficulty rises as the parameters of the story close in. That's something important, I find, that with every detail the need to not contradict grows stronger, continuity gets more complicated. It's not too bad, but every once and a while I hit a wall and need to consciously choose my next step, not just let it happen. I've dropped stories before but that's really not an option for me, here.

I'm working at my table as well at the moment and I look forward to the workspace that I'm preparing. Gotta pick some colors, you know, which is always fun.


Awesome! No worries on the slow reading, I know it is a large commitment, but I do appreciate it. Take your time :)

@Scott Scherr

I would love to read your serial, it has been on my list since I did the First Impressions review! It may take me a while to get to it though, I have a lot of deadlines. I will try and read more than that if you can wait longer.


There is nothing there that I can argue with. Your workplace is a VERY important factor in writing. The last word Hunter S. Thompson ever wrote was "Therapy" if that tells you anything.

@Revfitz I'm in no hurry. Whenever you can get around to reading is fine with me. That will give me time to get a few things finished as well. More time to kick back and read down the stretch ;)

@Rhodeworks Thanks for the review, Rhodes. It's a very fair review. While editing is always a distant intent, I can say that the oddity in Shackles has been intentional. The idea is that the narrative discordance and pacing strangeness will straighten out as Frode enters the hidden world. Inner clarity as the veil reveals outer abnormality, kind of thing. Since you've said you plan to revisit, I'd be especially excited to see what your opinion will be on how it all comes together down the line. It's definitely been a new experience for me, and it's very experimental on my part, seeing how it works to throw off and then pick back up storylines, as with the cat and Wally.

Thanks, again.

Excellent! I thought that was the case given that I went and checked out Dirge and saw the differences (as well in the later chapters). Really, I should've thought to check Dirge earlier. With that in mind, I think I'll amend the review just a bit. I wish the review system had more granularity. Most of the stuff is just stuff that'd get nailed down in the edit, yeah. I was hanging on every word when he was looking for that cat.

Amendments made!

@Rhodeworks :D

@SovereignofAshes A very kind review! Thank you.


Thank you for your past review, it meant a lot.

If there's anything wrong with the review I posted for C.S., please let me know so I can fix it; if I forgot something, or was off about something. You've got a solid project, and I can't wait to check out more of your work in the future.


I'd love to do a review swap! I love cyberpunk and vaporwave aesthetics, and that summary sounds right up my alley!

If and when my novel is listed, i'd definitely be down for doing a swap...just after I get through with one other review. Reading SovereignofAshes review convinced me that I need to read Chosen Shackles as well!

@Sovereign It was a great review. I wouldn't ask for any changes. Woot!

@Revfitz I'll get your review done soon! I just wanted to say that your encouragement from the very earliest days has definitely helped me to write Chosen Shackles. I loved reading your take. I was curious what you'd suggest for improving Chosen Shackles specifically, because I wasn't certain how to address the criticisms you had.

@Megajoule & @KrakenAttacken The more the merrier. It goes without saying, but I will have to see to the commitments I have already made before I can even say yes, but both your serials look good.

As always, adoration for all my writer comrades.