My most recent online game was a pretty resounding loss, but I am okay with it. I played against a player two stones stronger than me, but even with the two stone handicap, I lost by over 20 points.
I was black.
The reason this loss didn't frustrate me as much as usual is that there was no single "Duh!" moment in which I lost a group because I hadn't been paying attention. I just got outplayed.
As usual, I saved the game and loaded it into MFOG to replay it, trying to identify the exact point at which my game went south. Usually I can find a single bad move that, if replayed, can turn a loss into a win. In this case, though, I had to go way back to the end of the opening. I had staked out my share of corners, but when my opponent approached them, I just didn't defend well against his kakari. The result you see above: he took almost all the corners and squeezed me into the middle.
Bleah. Maybe I do need to start studying joseki after all. Go experts have mixed opinions about this, some saying that novice players will benefit from learning a few basic joseki as long as you don't follow them mindlessly, while others say you shouldn't start learning joseki at all until you're around 2-kyu or better. I have a joseki book, but frankly, it hasn't been too helpful because I never remember them when playing, or rather, I still can't decide which one is the best one to use, just as I still don't have enough of a sense of opening strategy for my initial corner placements to be much more than random.
Lose to win
So anyway, after reading Moonwalking with Einstein and some other books about learning and how people become experts, it's evident that the traditional advice from go experts that you have to play stronger players to get stronger yourself is true. If you don't play games in which you lose, badly, you will not improve. I've been kind of lazily playing against the computer set at my level.
Also, I have been playing without a time limit, because I am not a fast thinker and I hate being pressured for time (which is another reason I don't play online against human players as much as I should; online players usually want to play quick games with short time limits).
So, I have been playing against the computer with a shorter time limit. It's very frustrating — I keep running out of time and my rank has been dropping.
So, here's an example of a game played against the computer in which I played pretty badly thanks to being rushed by the ticking clock. I won, but only because the computer had reset itself to a lower level, and even then it took a chunk of territory it shouldn't have.
Now, compare the above board to this one, in which I identified the move where I let the computer make two eyes in the upper right:
Big difference, right? I wouldn't have made that mistake if I'd hadn't been playing with a time limit.
I hate time limits.
I am now at 65K words. Progress is slow, but I am making progress. I have realized that I have to cut some scenes I really wanted to include, because I don't think I can include them without making the book too long. Of course this leads to the inevitable dangling plot threads to be picked up in a future book. I conceive of this book as possibly the first in a series, but I am trying to make it as self-contained as possible.
The climax, though, is rapidly altering from what I originally had in mind, and I'm not sure if it's not becoming a bit too rushed. And OMG PLOT HOLES! Also, I think the "hardness" I originally envisioned for this story is becoming kind of squishy. SF fans can be very forgiving if the story is good enough (hello, Ringworld and Dune are both planets that make no fucking sense!), but if there are elements of my planetology and technology that I know are bullshit, hardcore science geeks will shred it.
I am trying to just keep pushing forward, and iron out my more egregious "oopses" later.
Oh yes, and I am still sketching the outline for AQATWA. :)