Tag Archives: Writing

February Update: If the Devil is in the detail, then editing can be like an exorcism.

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Finishing the 2nd draft of novel codenamed Spaghetti 1 at about 70k words, I immediately started on the 3rd draft. This draft will work through the detail of the story. I have the skeleton but it needs to be fleshed out in a lot of places. The organs are there, but some are too small or too big or in the wrong place.

This draft is also about making decisions. I must expunge the narrative scars of ideas that went nowhere. The 2nd draft had a level of ambiguity. For example, two mutually exclusive ideas might have been allow to coexist, I have to now choose, one way or the other. Where there are conundrums in the narrative, I have to solve them as I go along, even if it means taking a few steps backward at times. And of course, any decision can set off an avalanche of new ones. And new ideas are coming, better ideas than before, that must be accommodated in the story as if they had always been part of it.

And every detail needs to be carefully indexed so I don’t have to wade through pages of  text later, getting that horrible drowning feeling, to confirm I’m not contradicting myself. From dress to character, from motive to tea preference, everything must be made consistent.

It’s slow. It can be tedious. But is it worth it? Yes. It’s fantastic to see the story take shape, the characters come alive, and the blur come into focus.

Happy New Year (Hopefully)

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January has arrived so it’s time to review 2016 and look forward to what’s coming up this year. Last year struck me as a very long year, probably the longest year of my life. Much was achieved. I published the second part of the Golden Rule Duology, The Unconquered Sun, last February. I also published two short stories, The Fate Healer and The Murder Seat. A third short story, No Escape, will be released on all platforms at some stage next week. (I can’t give an exact date due to the complexity of working through aggregators and so on.)

Of course, the published works are but the visible part of my writing endeavours. I wrote 1st drafts of four novels last year. My primary goal this year is to publish the first of these, codenamed somewhat ludicrously Spaghetti 1. Of course means it will have to reach a publishable standard. I should have the 2nd draft completed in the next three weeks.

The 2nd draft in many ways is harder than the first, because the blurry half-ideas that drifted in and out of the story on a sporadic stream of consciousness have to be sorted, graded, tossed aside where found to be utter rubbish, polished, and pinned to a cohesive structure. Of course, there are whole sections where the 2nd draft really is another 1st draft.

However, at this stage, I feel comfortable saying that the 2nd draft is a massive improvement on the 1st draft. It still needs a lot of work before it’s even ready for beta reading. I want to make it as good as I can before I submit it to the critical eyes of others. There’s no point ignoring your own intuition on plot holes only for these issues to become the focus of others’ critiques. I can’t remember any time where I doubted about a certain issue where that doubt wasn’t later proven to be justified. I want the beta readers to tell me I’m wrong in new and surprising ways!

June Update

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I haven’t published one of these updates in a couple of months but I’ve been very busy behind the scenes. First of all, I finished the short story I had been working on. After  the rolling pin of Beta Reading and editing had flattened all the bumps, it ended up rolling out to 7k.

I paused work on the novel Diary largely because I found the solution to the problem that dogged the project I had been working on in February, nicknamed Spaghetti. If you remember the February Update, I had parked this project, which involves people being trapped in a massive multiplayer. At the time, while I really enjoyed writing it, I could see it had a lot of issues around how much game mechanics and language to include. I didn’t want to knock a few corners off a square and call it a wheel.

So imagine my delight when I discovered the genre LitRPG. This genre, which began in Korea and Russia and is slowly gaining momentum in the west. Popular series include The Land by Aleron Kong, The Way of the Shaman by Vasily Mahanenko and The Phantom Server by Andrei Livadny.

However, one key factor missing from my story was leveling. The focus was on very advanced players at the top of their game. I needed to go back and build up to the book. So I decided to create a trilogy with Spaghetti as the third volume. To keep things simple, I made it Spaghetti 3 and the first two volumes became Spaghetti 1 and Spaghetti 2.

I started out pantsing Spaghetti 1. Simply put, I built up the story letting myself be led by the words I wrote. This process was helped by a killer beginning that just came to me out of the blue. Everything was going along smoothly until I was about 28k words in. Then I discovered a vast chasm between me and where I wanted to go. I took a deep breath and revised what I had done, but the solution wasn’t forthcoming. I got about sixteen chapters in when I decided enough was enough. I must either map my terra incognita or  I put it aside. I have a dozen projects clamoring to be written. I gave myself two days.

I started to map out the story on Scapple from the point I had reached to the as yet unknown end. Basically, at each stage I asked what would be the most interesting thing that could happen next. I connected these points with arrows and I deleted lines that went nowhere. And very quickly, everything clicked into place. I even had the inciting incident and setting for the next book.

What I didn’t do was break this tapestry of plot threads into chapters. The exercise wasn’t about prescribing to the finest detail what would happen so that writing the book became a form of transcription. It wasn’t about bashing it to fit some preconceived template. No, I left the story space to grow, to surprise me. But I now have a clear idea where I need to finish and a general direction on how to get there. I’m confident I can get the first draft finished in the next couple of weeks.

The Fate Healer

THE FATE HEALER COMPLETE

I have published a new short story, The Fate Healer, on Amazon.

The genealogist Draston is charged with the impossible. His master, Hamvok the Merciful, craves a royal ancestor or two to legitimize his tyranny. But every avenue of Draston’s research comes to a dead end. Nobility has never sneezed on Hamvok’s ancestors, much less married into them. And now Draston’s time has run out.
To save himself from Hamvok’s violent displeasure, Draston promises to prove the tyrant is descended from a god. In doing so, he commits himself to a path of forgery and sacrilege. His enterprise will risk the wrath of gods. But, far worse, it will draw him to a shadowy figure more terrible than all the gods combined, the Fate Healer.

The cover was supplied by The Cover Collection. Here’s something that may interest those interested in typography. The H is a different font from the rest of the title as the original H looked too much like a small h. The change really suits the theme. 🙂

March Update

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I spent most of this month working on the Tank project. I was somewhat distracted by the release of The Unconquered Sun. Finished the Rev. 0 Draft (about 32k). A lot of work still to be done on it. There’s a lot of reshaping and rethinking to be done for sure and I’m not sure it is going to be a novella or a novel. Generally, my projects increase in size every draft, so it might reach novel length yet. But the main thing for me is that the story achieves the length necessary for its telling. I’m under no obligation to meet X thousand words.

At the moment I am working on a short story which probably illustrates what will happen with Tank. The Rev.0 was 5k words and the  Rev.1 is now at 6.5k, but there’s probably not one word that hasn’t been changed at least once. I like short stories because everything usually clicks into place so much faster (if they click at all). You can see the whole thing taking shape very quickly.

As soon as the Rev. 1 of this story is finished, I’m going to start the Rev. 0 of another project, Diary, a horror novel (hopefully in genre, not execution.) If it gets too dark I might switch to the light fantasy project, Knife. I’m also hoping to complete the Rev. 2 of the short story I am currently working on. This month I will be also releasing the paperback version of The Unconquered Sun.

 

 

 

 

February Update

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So, at the start of January, I was working on one project (Spaghetti) and by the end of the month I was working on a different novel (Tank). So what happened? I enjoyed writing Spaghetti. I had a fairly good outline. I liked the characters. The writing needed a lot more fleshing out but that’s the nature of first drafts. I was over 20k through the story when on the morning of Friday 22nd I began to question whether the story was original enough. I knew that under the bonnet, there was something new, but I worried it would become evident too late in the story. By 10 am, I decided to park it. I worked on a second draft of short story for the day while I mulled what to do next.

On Monday, I started work on Tank, because I finally figured out how to overcome the POV issues the story posed. I’m very happy with the direction the story is taking. While I don’t have an exhaustive outline, I have most of the key events already written in some rough fashion. In a week, I had four and a half chapters completed (8k words). The writing felt solid, though obviously it needs polish and there are plenty of burrs to be planed away. Research held up writing a couple of times. Sometimes, it’s easier to wait to learn the questions before looking for answers. You can waste a lot of time on superfluous detail only to find it’s a waste of time because there’s some underlying fundamental flaw in your basic premise.

I am hoping to have the first draft finished by St. Patrick’s Day. In the meantime, The Unconquered Sun will be finally released on 11th February.