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)

 

The Small Victories


Daily Prompt: Write about anything you’d like, but make sure the post includes this sentence:“I thought we’d never come back from that one.”

I look into her eyes and whisper, “I thought we’d never come back from that one.” She kisses me.

We make it back to the dilapidated apartment building we call home. The world has fallen apart, but at least we are together and alive. Scrounging survivors like us are everywhere and meeting others is always risky and unpredictable. Many of us have not come back at all. Each day we survive is a victory.

 

 

Undone


Daily Prompt: If you could un-invent something, what would it be? Why? Are there potential repercussions, or a possible alternative?

I thought about this long and hard. Going through all the things I could think of, but so much of it is useful or has been in some way a progression our species. I thought about guns and weapons, the internet and our obsessions, religion and God. But all of it feels necessary with it’s absence something would be created to replace it. I was stumped.

Then money popped into my head.

It's All About The Dollars!

It’s All About The Dollars!

Humans are inherently greedy. It makes sense, at least from an evolutionary stand point. However money has allowed us to count are greed. We can literally count how much we are worth to the world. We have become obsessed with money and value and accumulation. We always want more, more money, more things, more something. Nothing is enough, there is always something better.

That kind of thinking isn’t all bad, we need to think that way to progress, to be better. But maybe if money wasn’t around we wouldn’t be so obsessed with things and the accumulation of wealth. Maybe we would think more about our intrinsic value, our value to the world. How much we know, or can do, or have done. Art and creativity might be more highly valued instead of stuff.

I realize that the world would be vastly different without money, and in all likelihood we would replace it with some sort of alternative because things have to cost something. Who knows maybe we might eventually reach a point in our society where money is cast aside, where wealth is thought of differently. Maybe our greed will shift to the pursuit of happiness instead of the pursuit of accumulating the means to buy happiness.

 

Death’s Shadow


The torch in the sky sets on another day. The clouds glow, orange and red gouge the blue above my head. Finally this day will be consumed by the night. Darkness, my greatest ally will soon arrive. The night is my friend, without it my work would be nigh impossible. The sun begins to dip below the horizon, shadows begin to cover the streets. It is time to move.

I walk down the narrow streets, shops are closing and the population is readying for the coming night. I must find my destination soon, there is still much to do before my task is done. I have been plotting and planning for several months, tonight everything shall come together. I am close, so close. I keep moving, darkness has arrived and with it I have become a shadow, moving quietly to my purpose. I can see candles lit in windows, I must avoid drawing attention, I stick to the shadows, I must remain unnoticed.

I am close now, the house is not far. I begin to climb, swiftly I ascend one of the many stone houses, the crags and sills allowing me to with ease. Once I reach the roof I find my bearings once again, seeing the last vestige of light dipping beneath the earth. Up here there is not another soul, save a crow which follows me as I cross from rooftop to rooftop. My soft leather shoes allowing me to progress without a sound. Finally I reach my target, the building is large, with many windows, many entrances. The many roofs of the building reach high into the sky, it is a mighty building, a castle some might say.

There is movement behind the panes, the candlelight reveals silhouettes as they patrol the many rooms. My task will not be an easy one, but I press on. The buildings are packed together tightly in this city. There are a number of possible entrances to the castle, I find a window in an optimum position. I move closer, I am reminded of the first occasion I completed a task such as this. It was a similar enough task, although I was much younger and far more the fool, inadequate planning was punished severely, scars remain as a harsh reminder. Since those days I have become much more careful.

Even a man of my, profession can find love and years ago I did. It is funny, as I look back, she did not care for me, at first. I swooned over her for years. She refused any invitation I made, thinking I was a simple thief, a cutpurse, an outlaw. She was only somewhat correct, but in those days I was a fool, a headstrong fool. As age took me I realized that she was more important. It took time, but eventually I showed her the depth of my love. I vowed to never steal again. She still does not know my true profession. After this night she will never need to for this is to be my last job, forever. I will never take another life, save this one. This one life can change so much, our world hangs in the balance because of him. I find myself caring for a family which has made me all the more cautious.

I reach the window, preparing myself for what I must do. I slow my breathing, making sure my heart is not nervous, I need silence. I need to become a shadow, shifting from room to room unnoticed. I begin. I enter through the window, the room is dark and books fill the shelves. I move quickly to the door. I hear nothing as I listen, not a footstep or a breath, I silently pull the door open. Peering out, I find not a soul to greet me just as I expected. I move into the hall, soon finding myself at a grand staircase, up I go. Huge paintings of arrogant rich nobility cover the walls, at the top I find a large oaken door. Suddenly footsteps, around the corner a light, I move to a shadowed corner and watch. A man holding a candle turns the corner, aged and slow moving, he opens the door and shuffles into the room. I wait a few moments and then follow, I am a shadow. I am the night.

At the head of the room sits an enormous bed, on the walls hang more extravagant paintings. Gold is everywhere, the frames of paintings, the candleholders, even the bed frame and the sheets, gold covers everything. I crouch in a corner, blanketing myself in gloom. The man sits on the bed, placing the candle on the table next to him. I wish him sleep, ‘off to sleep old man’. Extinguish the candle and sleep. I wait for seemingly an eternity, until finally the flame is reduced to smoke. I hear the steady breathing of sleep then I move, close, so close. As I approach the man I draw my blade, I have completed tasks such as this many times. This will be my last, I will return to my family and never again raise my weapon to another. I promised her, I promised to be there for her, for my family.

The blade in my hands, slow and steady it prepares itself for the deed. I bring the weapon to his throat with purpose and with a touch of regret, I slice it is swift and silent. The old man lets out one last breath as blood pours from the wound. I am already gone from the room. My escape must be swift.

I run down the stairs as quietly as a spectre, I am a shadow. As I reach the bottom I can see the glow of candlelight. I peer around the corner and spot the source, a guard holding a candle, with a large sword belted at his waist. I back away, this was unexpected. I creep back to the bottom of the staircase. Thinking quickly, I must find a way back to the room. I will kill the man in my way if I must. I move, peering around the corner, the guard has vanished. I move back to the empty room which I entered from. As I enter the room, I notice the window which I had left open, is now closed, strange. I reach to open it, and find it has been locked, panic clutches at my mind.

Sounds begin echoing around the mansion, I can hear movement and voices, someone is yelling. The muffled voice seems to grow clearer, I move to the door and press my ear to it. I can make out one word, a name, my name. Panic has now taken hold. How do they know I am here? I keep listening, the voice sounds familiar, a long forgotten familiarity. I rack my brain. I keep thinking while I begin to pick the lock on the window. Soon the familiar click of the lock echoes from within its depths, I am free. I climb the window sill and prepare for the leap to the nearby rooftop. A loud snap bellows from behind me, a figure barges through the door. I glance behind to see the face of the voice, I leap. The air from my lungs leaves me, I hit the rooftop violently. The face burned into my eyes, my brother’s face.

I run off allowing my ally to shield me. Bewilderment and confusion torment my mind as I make my escape. Why? How? My brother died years ago, after we had worked together, I had not heard from him. I did not hear of him until his death.

What does this mean?

Unwanted Visitors


The wind whistles through the broken window. Shadows move as if ghosts through the room. Old dusty floorboards creak as the old building shifts. A pair of children cower in the corner behind the cot they share. Father leans against the wall next to the open doorway, readying himself. Whispers can be heard, floorboards are pushed to their limit as weighty spectres move across the room. Father prepares himself, he will protect them. He will do what he must.

This was the world now.

They keep moving, searching for something. One moves down the hall, toward the children’s room. Father says a silent prayer, hefts the heavy weapon in his hands. He glances at the kids, they’re scared eyes looking for reassurance in his. The moonlight shows a long shadow on the floor, moving closer. It stops to check another room. The building breathes again replaced by an unsettling silence. The shadow moves closer still. The children holding each other’s mouths to keep from making a sound.

The figure reaches the threshold, pausing. It’s back is turned. Father leans closer, feet spread, his muscles tense, sweat drips from his forehead. The figure moves, it turns and takes a step into the room. Realization sweeps across the stranger’s face, children are here. Suddenly a mighty crack erupts throughout the house and the figure slumps heavily to the floor. Father hefts the weapon again, peering around the doorway. The ghosts whisper loudly, arguing.

Father moves out of the room, motioning to the children to stay and hide. He creeps as quietly as he can, his boots making only the slightest sound. The whispers grow louder. They are in the kitchen he realizes. He reaches the doorway, listening intently. He can only make out two voices. The door’s hinges lay bearen, the task of holding the door long forgotten. He moves his head slowly until  he can see into the shadowy room. The figures are animatedly arguing, blackened silhouettes against the moonlight. He tries to size them up, telling himself to stay come and be deliberate. This is no time for half measures.

He turns the corner letting out a mighty bellow. The figures jump in terror. Father picks up an old chair sitting next to the doorway, throwing it with one hand as hard as he can at the larger figure. Then charges the second raising his sledge above his head. He brings it down, but misses the head and the blow lands on the shoulder, emitting a sickening crack. The figure crumples holding it’s shoulder. Father turns, the other recovering from the chair. It is over in a second, Father jabs the face and brings the butt of the sledge down and across the head, the figure crashes to the floor unconscious.

The second figure, still holding it’s shoulder brings up a hand, asking for mercy. Father spits on the plea, asking “Why do you deserve to live?” He hefts the heavy sledge preparing himself once more. The figure pleas “I’m like you, I just want to protect my family.” He looks more closely, realizing the figure is shapely, feminine. He pulls the face up to see her eyes. Tears run down her cheeks, reflected brightly in the moonlight.

“I’m pregnant” she whispers. “Please don’t kill me.”

Long Distance


Long distance is awful.

I had to go away for a few months of contract work and unfortunately my girlfriend was unable to join me. I am stuck in a city where I have basically no friends. I go to work and then I come home play some games or watch some tv and then go to bed. That is my life right now (apart from the writing). At the beginning it didn’t seem so bad, the days went by fairly quickly and it seemed totally manageable. Things changed.

Now I can’t stop thinking about her, every minute of every day I am haunted by her. It’s basically torture.

We have not seen each other or felt each other in just over three weeks.

It will be at least another two weeks before we get a weekend together.

I hate this, I hate being so far away with no one, not even a friend to distract me. All the people in the office I am at are at least 20 years older and they are nice but it’s not like I would go hang out with them anyways. I feel so constricted.

The only positive so far is that my creative side has had a bit of a revival. I write all the time, and drawing is starting to come back. (inspiration lately has been lacking).

We talk fairly often but not enough, never enough. Texting and chatting on the phone can only do so much. What’s worse is that we can’t Skype because she doesn’t have adequate internet where she is. It’s no ones fault but it sucks.

End of an Era


We spent the whole summer together.

The two of us spent the entire summer looking for work, basically wherever we could find it. Unfortunately this has led to a problem. Now we have jobs in different cities, and they are far from each other.

The summer was amazing. We decided to live together for the first time, and since neither of us was working we spent most days together just hanging out. Many naked days. It was impressive how little we fought considering how much time we spent in the same space.

Everyday we would wake up and then go into the room where my Xbox was and we would spend most of the day there, watching movies, playing games just hanging out. There were a few times when I found myself thinking “I need a bit of space, just a day or two” but those were rare and even then I didn’t really need it.

Now I wish so badly to go back to that time. When she was always in arms reach. When I could kiss her whenever I wanted.

Hopefully in a few months we can go back to something like that. Only where we both have jobs in the same city.

Our Life: Part 7


How Can I Go On

 

I’m waiting, wishing,

Sitting in a room of memories,

Seconds slowly pass, time`s pace is cruel.

My mind wanders

Thoughts of her haunting me once again

The ghosts of memory,

I shake

I don’t want these feelings

These thoughts anymore.

My mind tormented constantly.

Why can I not escape?

She has gone,

My mind will not yield

Refusing to let go.

She enters,

I am baffled yet elated

Yet she takes no notice of me,

Am I… a shadow?

A spectre of memory?

She was my forever.

This was the last piece in the Our Life series. I hope you enjoyed them. Here is the full collection in one place. Please feel free to leave a comment if the mood strikes!

Our Life: Part 6


Gone, Where I Cannot Follow

 

A four letter word, can I say it?

It haunts me,

She is always on my mind.

Her

Without I feel empty

Reduced to a phantom,

She gives me heart

A soul, meaning.

I want to tell her with every fibre of me.

Life left to never return

Never again will she hear

The four letter word.

Our Life: Part 5


The Next Step

 

I open the door, already a smile on my face,

I am home.

I see her, a smile spreads over her

Tears come to her eyes

I bring her close, hold her tight.

We breathe each other in

I can feel the weight in my pocket

I kneel and look up, her beautiful eyes stare back.

A breath

She breaks,

Death leaves her lips.

Our world is shattered.