Novelling: Finding Time (there never is any)


I recently started a new job, finally I’m on a real career path (in the gaming industry). Unfortunately for my writing this means I have even less time to not write, woohoo. It’s been a couple weeks and every day I feel inspired to get something down, and everyday I put it off until ‘I’m in the write mood’. For some reason I’m feeling punny. Anyways I wake up and make breakfast sit around and relax, maybe watch youtube, maybe read a bit, but never write. It’s the worst. The reason I tell myself is I don’t want to get started and get really into it only to have to leave to head to work. Most definitely a thing I’m sure.

During work I am simply to busy to get any time to even think about writing.

On my way home I think about it though, all the new stuff to get down, character’s to fill out and new plot points or scenes to do. Then I get home. Make dinner is first, then discuss the days events with my significant other, then maybe relax a bit and watch tv, or go rock climbing, or go for a run, or watch a new movie, or go to DnD or… You get it, right? There’s always something, plus when someone is around it’s impossible to write! Anyone else feel this way?

So now it’s 10:30 at night, I sit down at my computer, crack my knuckles and promplty watch at least one more episode of a show. One that my significant other doesn’t like. All of a sudden it’s midnight and I’m too tired to start writing. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

I wish I had advice for this problem, if I had solved it I would tell you. If it isn’t clear I haven’t. I will let you know though if I do come across one. I have a feeling it will be a combination of suck it up (as in stop making excuses) and… nope that’s it, just the first one.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

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Novelling: Life is What Happens While Making Plans


If you have read my previous posts about my novel you would know that I’m not much of a planner. I started by thinking about the concept for a while (several months) until I got fed up and just started writing. 30,000 some words later I realized I should probably figure out some things. So I did the basics, I developed a simple timeline and list of characters with their traits and whatnot. It didn’t take long and I had a what I thought was a decent base to work off.

I’m sure more experienced writers see this coming. I was wrong. Now I’m at the 50,000 word mark and have hit a wall, my meager plans were not enough. I finished a chapter the other day and thought, what’s next. I have several ideas but they swirl and shift and I can’t decide on any of them. So now I have to go back to planning. I’m currently in the process of figuring out my characters motivations so I can thoroughly understand what they will do next, not to mention figure out where the specifics of the story are headed.

This is the part I don’t enjoy, I write because I myself want to know what happens. My favourite part of writing is when I’m in the ‘zone’, the story flows almost without conscious thought and I’m watching it play out in my mind. But now I’m stuck in slogging my way through the planning swamp, full of misteps and disjointed paths (thoughts). Which is where the title for this entry comes from, life being the writing, I want to get back to writing instead of planning.

So I might just do that, I’ve been thinking maybe I’ll just choose a path and write, fuck planning. There’s always the edit, right?

Novelling: Writing Updates


I’m going to try something to keep me a little more on the ball. I’ve been following a few different writers on tumblr and saw a few of them doing writing updates. They all use a similar format, with a writing goal and the words completed, then a blurb about the writing session and how it went along with other random things like songs listened to or a haiku about the session. Then finish off the post with a rating of the session and an excerpt.

I find them interesting to read, to see someone else struggling or accomplishing, so I to will give it a shot. Lately I’ve been stuck on a scene and had put it off for the better part of week. Finally though I have slogged through it (it’s gonna need edits). But now I get to move on to a scene I’m more excited about. Part of the motivation to get this done came from doing my first writing update, so I’ve decided I’m going to try doing at least 3 writing updates a week. Which also means I’m going to have to write at least 3 times a week!

This is an experiment, so who knows if it’s going to work, if it’s going to stress me out, if it’s going to get me off my lazy butt, who knows. I’m curious though and will keep you updated with how it goes.

If you want to see my writing updates you can follow my tumblr here.

 

Novelling: #Drunk #Lit


I have always wondered why so many famous writers were or are also notorious drunks. Foolishly as I write this I cannot think of a single name but I swear it’s a thing. The other day I was having a particularly bad case of blank page syndrome, it was evening so I didn’t feel guilty or bad for cracking open a bottle.

An hour later I found myself nicely buzzed. And. No. Thoughts. Came.

How do other people do it?

My creativity is not at all linked to a substance it seems, I’ve heard of using drugs or alcohol to help in the creative process but to me at least that seems like a silly idea and at worst a waste of time. While drunk I can’t focus enough to even write a word.

I look at my page, (it’s already full of words, I’m mid-chapter) but nothing comes, I start reading a few sentences to refresh my mind. Still nothing, but I think about rewording those sentences I just read. Hmmm. Maybe I’ll move this, and change this word, what’s a good synonym I could use? Great, now I’m editing and nothing new is on the page. This continues for a while until I start a sentence, a new sentence. A new paraghraph!

The next day, with a slight hangover I take a look at what I wrote the night before. A) There isn’t much, it’s about half a page. B) It’s not well written, the sentence structure is bland and my vocabulary spontaneously shrank by about a million. C) It’s just not that good, it’s not very interesting and the characters are not faithful to their personalities.

So I ask again, why the hell do writers drink and write?

Balance on the Edge of Oblivion


I’ve been reading through an awesome book called; Blood, Sweat and Pixels about the insane process of game development. Jason Schreier does a fantastic job of explaining the tomultuous process of developing a game, he does this by following many different games from inception to release. As a game developer it’s both eye-opening and awe-opening. One of the main themes that is present throughout the book is ‘crunch’. Crunch in game development terms is basically when the team has to work constantly to finish the game/project before the deadline. We have all crunched at some point, for school or work. It’s late nights and early mornings, bleary eyed and caffine fueled.

Crunch in game dev is a necessity, no game has come out without crunch. The reason I bring up crunch? Well it all plays into work/life balance. I’ve been thinking about this idea for the whole week. Work and life (or the rest of your life) is challenging to balance, even if you go to work at regular hours and don’t stay late or work from home it follows you. After work you have to try to forget or destress.

For creatives this is nearly impossible. As a game developer and author I can attest firsthand. My brain never stops working, either it’s characters and scenes or code and design elements or mechanics, it never fucking stops.

For me the only time I can let go is only sometimes when I’m either playing a game or totally engrossed in a novel. Otherwise, its a constant barrage of ideas or stressing about how something isn’t finished or isn’t quite right. Or it’s how I’m doing this instead of that, why am I not working on this, or why am I just laying in bed right now on instagram or facebook or reading an article? I could be working on something!

In the whole work / life balance thing, I find I go through cycles of productivity. I’ll have weeks of consitent productivity, then lull’s. This I have learned is not that uncommon either. But I also find when a new game comes out I tend to binge in a similar way when working on something new, it’s all I think about, how do I get to the next level or the next item or whatever. Right now I’m in a lull, unproductive and distracted by other work and a game. My brain is struggling to focus on my creative projects.

It’s very frustrating.

Novelling: Endless Frustration


This week has been another slog. I find it frustrating how much I love to write but when I finally have a few hours to actually do it… nothing. My brain blanks, my creativity stalls, it makes me want to throw my computer across the room. Ok, I’m being hyperbolic but you get my drift, it’s annoying. This week was particularily vexing because I realized midway through the week part of the reason for my struggles is because I haven’t filled out my characters enough.

This is a whole other, deeper, far more frustrating issue. First I’ll preface by saying, I am glad I realized this now and not later. I’m not too far into the novel, 45,000 words is a ways but the story is far from over. Anyways, so my characters are not done. Part of this stems from my writing style. I like to plan rough ideas and then write to fill in the gaps. Unfortunately I did this not only with the plot but also with the characters. I realize my mistake now of course, after writing a large chunk of book.

The problem I ran into was my characters don’t feel different enough, their motivations are relatively bland or unrealized in what I’ve written. The dialogue from one character to another is not very different. They probably all read pretty similarily. Which is because I forgot to fill them in as characters. I have an idea of who they are but without little details they don’t feel real or 3 dimensional.

So, its been frustrating. Again, I’m glad I realized this now, although I’m not looking forward to rewriting a bunch of things (I know I will have to anyways, but I want to write the rest of the story first). Now I’m struggling to decide whether to go back and fix some of the most recent scenes just to adjust them to my more fully realized characters or if I should push on and just write them properly going forward. I’m sure every writer has struggled with this to some degree. If you have leave a comment or like. I’d like to know I’m not the only one.

Novelling: A Second of your Brain


Lately I have been doing a lot of reading. Reading articles, reading novels, reading blogs, all sorts of reading. It’s been great for inspiration and stirring my greymatter into a creative frienzy but there has been a downside. That damn brain of mine keeps getting in the way, I’ll be writing, or (more recently) trying to write and the stupid voice in my head says “is that a good choice? would the character do that? is this even worth writing? why are you spending all your time trying to make this dumb story?” It’s unpleasant and annoying. I’m sure every writer has that voice, if not you are a god or not human, or the more likely option increadibly lucky and confident. I on the other hand am not so, and for some reason it has been getting the better of me.

I wish I had some solution, I wish this a post where I offered a way out. But I get the impression that is basically the holy grail of writing… So if you also have these issues feel free to leave me a comment and we can comisserate together!

Novelling: Reading


So I took an extended break from writing for nearly 3 months. It wasn’t on purpose but I became busy and occupied creatively with a game I’m designing. Over the recent holidays however I found myself taking a break from game design. I dove headfirst into my shelf full of unread novels. I read one, and as soon as I finished I picked up the next. The first was a spy novel in the Daniel Silva series, the second was a favourite of mine, Pillars of the Earth. As I began Pillars I quickly became full of inspiration and new ideas. I had forgotten the feeling of creating and exploring a story. Rereading an old favourite helped me a great deal to think about my writing and story structure and the more minute details of the story.

I would not have guessed this to be the case, but looking back now it makes total sense. Reading a book for the first time is like watching a movie or playing a game or even listening to a song for the first time. It’s difficult to analyze something critically on a first play through or read through, or at least it is for me. I am most often totally distracted by the story (unless it isn’t a good movie or good book). I find it easy to become immersed in the world of the story and forget about plot holes or discrepancies or other issues. But on multiple viewings or readings those wholes appear.

This is when a good story is obvious, on a second or third go you appreciate the story all the more when it’s good, the wholes may be small but forgivable or maybe there aren’t any.

I noticed this especially when reading through Pillars for a second time, I could pay more attention to the quality of the story telling and writing because I knew where it was going. This is why I felt so inspired, I saw errors in my own writing or how my own story was faultering or missing something which inspired me all the more to go back to writing.

Now I have written a few thousand words and the flow is back. So maybe if you’re in a lull try taking a little break and reading a good story, it may be more helpful than you think.

PS: I know a lot of writers say its important to read almost as much as write, I never felt this was that important but now I see. But any old reading isn’t necessarily the best, reading quality works is definitely important and now I really understand why.

Novelling: Dreaded Edits


Technically this doesn’t have to do directly with my current novel in progress, forwarning. On this fine afternoon I was discussing writing with some fellow wordsmiths and we decided to compare short stories. I found one I had written a few years ago but was still relatively proud of and showed it off. Immediately I got feedback and felt an urge I hadn’t really ever felt. I wanted to edit.

I have always dreaded the edit, in my earlier writing days I hated the process. I never wanted to sit down with something I had finished and re-write the bloody thing, I was done with it. I wanted to move on to the next thing. Or, I thought it was good enough, no need to go over it again. Such a naive, stupid thing to think. As I grew older I realized the editing process was important, my first drafts (no matter if it was fiction or non-fiction) were never even nearly perfect. A great deal of editing was always, always, always required. Often though I would spend hours writing and then feel sick of the piece, I never wanted to go back and have to re-do it all over again. So I often put it off until I forgot about the piece.

Then today happened. I took out an old piece that I had actually edited around the time of writing it, even letting others look at it, and eventually posting it on this blog. I let some writers take a look and they had some suggestions. I read through it again, I noticed so many things that I wanted to change. I turned on the change tracker in word and set to work. It took several hours to go through, line by line, meticulously examining and re-examining each sentence and word and comma.

Finally after an hour or two passed I was finished. I read through it again. It was so clearly better. I hadn’t reduced the word count by much if at all but it was smoother, the flow better realized. I felt proud and reposted it to the group. The feedback was even better.

This experience showed me not only is editing not as terrible as I had so foolishly believed but it also is important for your writing. In order to improve we need to see the mistakes we make and realize they are mistakes, they need to fixed or worked on. I used to constantly use the word seem, everything in my writing used to seem a certain way to the viewpoint characters. I never noticed it much before, until this meticulous line edit. Now I avoid using that word at all costs, unless absolutely necessary.

Editing is good and absolutely necessary to become a better writer. Don’t be afraid of it, like I foolishly was.

Novelling: The Block


Based on previous posts you may know that I have been struggling to write lately. The block has become a wall, one that I have yet to surmount. The odd thing is, I know what I want to write. I’m currently working on a chapter, which I have totally planned out, I managed to get about halfway through and ran into the wall. Last week I had a day where I basically sat in front of the screen knowing what I wanted to write but the words did not come.

It has been very odd. So I turned to YouTube and blogs, what have other writers been using to get over the wall? Based on my not so extensive research I have figured out that most successful writers tend to figure out there own method that works best for them. Some use planning and deadlines, they have to hit a daily wordcount. Some write other things as a distraction to warm up their fingers and minds. Some outline in even more detail until the block is worked through.

I haven’t used or tried any yet. The block still persists. However I watched a lecture by an author and I really want to try what he said. He said to set achievable goals (it’s what he did to finish his book). So during a time of block instead of trying to set wordcounts or planning intricate outlines, set a more simple achievable goal. Write something. Write a sentence or a paragraph or a page. But just write something.

So I’m going to try that.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Novelling: Troublesome Characters


It’s been another slow week. Sloooowww. I didn’t even manage to get a word on the page, not even planning. However I did give a short talk at a local game event about character. Which I will now explain as best my memory will allow.

I don’t think I really understood character or their importance until I started writing this novel. It all started with a game I was building, which became the inspiration for the novel itself. I worked on the game for 4 months, I built the game with the help of a coder and several artists. At the end of the 4 months we had a working demo but struggled to push further. The team moved on to different projects and the game stagnated. I neglected it as best I could but the idea persisted in my mind. The story begging to be told.

One day several months after work had stopped on the game I started writing. In a few days I had the first 2 chapters of my novel complete. It was easy, it flowed through me, I didn’t have to think to write it. I kept working, slowly building the word count. Until the same thing happened the story stagnated. I left it for a couple months. Frustration haunting me.

I didn’t want to give up, I had a solid start and the story still wanted to be told but I realized where my problem was coming from. A lack of interesting characters. My characters were flat, they had little if any personality. This for me is the crux of bad games, films, stories of all kinds.

Characters are the single most important element to any story. Without good characters the audience, player, reader has no one to connect with. That connection is how they feel, it’s the reason why we remember or feel emotion. Any good movie, tv show, game, book understands this. Game of Thrones, The Last of Us, Gladiator, Harry Potter. The characters let us feel what they feel or feel something towards them.

So developing good characters then arguably is the most important part of the story you are telling. Once I realized this I got to work. I struggled at first. How do you develop good, interesting characters? One might ask.

I’ll tell you. I started with what I have come to understand as the lady method. Give them flaws and try to fit them into the story, this didn’t work. Characters get depth when you give it to them. They need a backstory and you need to really understand them in order to portray the depth they have. So first, start with questions to get to know your character. Simple questions, when where they born? Where did they grow up? Who’s there best friend? Did they like school? What’s their favourite colour? Just keep trying to answer these kinds of questions, the more you answer the better you will understand your character. 

Once I’ve asked and answered a ton of questions, I write a simple bullet list, with the character name and three headings. Appearance, personailty, history. (I got this concept from Shealinwrites a writer I follow on YouTube, she’s a fantastic resource). This group of headings really helps to amalgamate all the answers and get a good picture of the character as a person that you can draw on quickly while writing.

But this is just my process and if it can help than fantastic! 

Let me know if you do it differently or have a similar process, I’m curious!

Novelling: Never Enough Time


This week was a tougher week. I barely managed to write a hundred words. So unfortunately I still am sitting at the 30,000 word mark. Luckily though it’s not as if I didn’t get anything done. I didn’t get much chance to write because life kept getting in the way but I had time to think. Which I did quite a lot. I have 20 sticky notes of thoughts in fact to show for it. These notes range from ideas on the climax, to timelines of the different relationships and lots of other random ideas.

This is something I have been doing since I started writing. See before I started writing my novel I would have said that I am an ‘architect’ or planner. I would have told you I need to plan out everything before ever writing a word. That I would need to have a detailed list of all the characters and the plot, of each chapter and the titles and on and on. However on when I sat down for the first time to start my novel, I had done none of these things. I hadn’t even really intended to write much. I was going to jot a short story quickly and that was all. Several days later of course I found myself 10,000 words into a novel that seemed never ending. I’m clearly not an architect. I’m a gardener, or as some youtubing authors say, ‘a pantser’. Gardener meaning the ideas grow and change as you write the story.

Personally I find being a Gardener interesting, as I write it feels as though I’m watching the story unfold, rather than knowing everything that will happen before it happens. However I’m reaching a point where I need notes to stay on top of all the characters and the plot and make sure everything makes sense. I’m blending the traits, this week it was architecture. Hopefully next week I’ll have some hours lined up for gardening.

Novelling: The beginning


I’m writing a novel. I posted about it not long ago, in that post I said I haven’t been posting because of it. True as it is, I’m going to try to change that and write weekly updates about the writing process.

I have been watching hours of youtube, mostly videos of writers explaining the do’s and don’ts or the things to keep in mind, or how to write a good this or that.

This has been helpful, although a great deal of what I have been learning or watching hasn’t been entirely useful yet. Many of the videos discuss things that require a completed first draft. Which I’m still working on. It’s been a fairly slow process (one of the things I’ve been meaning to avoid is pronouns, I just used one, dammit).

I’ll fill you in on what’s happened so far. The story is a historical epic/futuristic apocalypse story. It starts in 2014 with the Ukrainian civil war and follows Anya Liski and others as the world erodes into a dystopia over their lifetimes. A bit ambitious maybe for a first novel. I have no idea how long it will be, or even how it will end. I had the idea brewing for nearly a year before a writing prof of mine told me I should write a novel (a thought I had never had). A few months later I felt the lightening strike of inspiration and wrote about 10,000 words over several days. That was 7 months ago.

That first week of writing was awesome, the story flowed out of me, I did zero planning, just writing. It was a great feeling to just write and write, no mental blocks or wondering if what I was writing was good. After that I tried to continue. I tried to write at least once a week, I managed that for a month or so but around Christmas/New Year’s I stopped. For a while. I didn’t write for nearly 2 months. I thought about the novel constantly but never bothered to write usually out of laziness. I always told myself it was a lack of inspiration but looking back it was definitely lazyness. One day, a few months ago, I suddenly snapped out of it, I picked up my laptop and decided enough waiting for inspiration to suddenly strike, just write. At first it was a bit of a challenge but I pushed on and within minutes of getting something on the page it came back.

I’m up to nearly 30,000 words. I try to write everyday, at least something, even if it’s a plot idea or a character sketch. I want to keep those creative juices fresh and flowing and once I start it’s often hard to stop.

Writing


I posted an MIA a while ago. Foolishly claiming I would keep up with the blogging and stop neglecting it. Clearly I failed miserably at that. But I have an excuse.

I’m working on a novel. I’m approaching 30,000 words and feel like I’m only 15-20% in. It’s all very I know, a novel you say!? Until a year ago I hadn’t even though of myself as a writer let alone having the potential to write a novel. It made me realize how much I need to use the creativity I have.

I work on it almost every day, sometimes its a few words, sometimes its a few thousand.

For anyone who’s interested it’s a contemporary historical epic fiction. I’ll explain. It begins in 2014 with the beginning of the Ukrainian civil war. It follows several characters from different parts of the world as the world slowly devolves, war, disease, famine, natural disasters, all contribute to the collapse of our current society.

I’m not attempting to tell the future, but I would like to think it could be a potential future.

I’ll try to continue to update as I work my way through the writing process. I’m hoping to complete a first draft before the end of the year. Who knows how possible that will be considering I intended to write a blog post at the very least once a month. (You can see how well that worked out)