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?

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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: 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: 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.

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.”

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.

 

Our Life: Part 4


A Perfect Pair

 

I look at her,

Happiness overtakes her,

I can’t look away.

My stare attempts to see

Everything, remember everything.

Life made simple with her

Life is for her, without I would be nothing

A shadow.

I need her

Desire her

She alone is my perfection.

Life is her.

I hold her close,

I love her.

Never will I leave her.

 

In The Night…


I lay in bed, the harsh light from my computer illuminates my face. Darkness surrounds me. I must have lost track of time. I’ve been down here for so long. I slowly stand, blood rushes to my head and stars cross my vision, the dizziness dissipates and eventually I make my way out of my room. I peer out the glass doors, the invisible guardians that keep the world out there. As I stare at the trees movement causes a light to illuminate the backyard, birds scramble off the feeder, escaping the light as quickly as possible. Squirrels sit, staring back at the light, staring back at me. A figure moves, a shadow, just out of the lights reach. It moves down the gentle slope towards the lake. I stare, hard. The shape looks familiar, almost human like, but its movements are animalistic. Suddenly its head turns and its eyes are illuminated, huge glaring eyes.

I shudder and tell myself it wasn’t real. I explore the house looking for the dog, I need someone to distract me. I find her soon enough and she follows me back to my room. As we lay in bed I pet her, and soon we have both drifted off into a realm of dreams.

I wake to an eyeful of sunlight trying its best to muscle its way into the room, through the inadequate blinds. The dog, Frey, wakes as I begin to get out of bed. I make my way to the kitchen for breakfast, she of course follows, knowing scraps will surely follow a meal. The day continues as normal, I write and read and we go for a walk. As we stroll through the forest I find myself continuously looking around, I am wary and can’t stop my mind from returning to the odd figure of the previous night.

The day runs its course and once again I am in bed, the hours disappearing into the night. Frey suddenly stirs, her ears on alert, she bolts out of bed and runs to the doors. I curiously follow and we both stare out into the murky black of night. Shadows move and fall, a loud bark breaks the silence, I almost jump out of my skin. Frey must see, or smell something. Her tail falls between her legs, she barks once more. She looks up at me, I feel as if I can see terror in her eyes, her whines break the silence. My nerves starting to fray, I grab a flashlight and point it towards the lake. Yet again I am forced to stare just beyond the light’s reach.

The figure suddenly appears, it’s odd gate making it easier to spot. It moves again towards the lake. This time I decide to grab an axe and venture out into the dark. I open the doors as quietly as I can and slowly begin walking towards it. My eyes adjust quickly to the moonlight. As I near the creature, I begin to smell it, a stench, almost of death. The creature seems to be drinking, or eating. It is crouched by the water, with what seems to be a fish in its hands.

For some reason, which I still cannot understand, I yell, I scream at it to get away, to leave. Startled it turns to face me, its eyes glaring, it seems just as terrified as me. We stare at each other, neither of us moving. I raise my axe, yell and charge.

It shies away, giving in, then it turns and awkwardly lopes away.

Never again have I seen that strange creature.

Our Life: Part 3


Her

 

The veil of darkness is slowly pulled back

Dawn has arrived.

Warmth, comfort and happiness surround me.

These sheets hold me forever

Just as the warm body next to me does.

We are one.

I, no longer a shadow.

A perfect moment

I relish it, savouring each second

Lids close as sleep calls to me yet again

Darkness returns,

Beautiful dreams await.