Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry X Mas and Happy Holidays!

So, it's Christmas Eve and writers everywhere are hopefully surfacing from WIPs and realizing that oh-my-goodness-the-whole-freaking-family's-here! ;-)

I just wanted to wish you all an awesomely wonderful Christmas for tomorrow and that I hope you all stay safe and warm (or cool, if you need and air-con). :-)

Let's also cheers all the struggling writers out there! :-)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Crumbling Ruins

So, after a long while away, I'm back with a new post. ;-)

Anyway, writing on the WIP has slowed down quite a bit - between work (and I work in retail, so this time of the year is insane, to put it lightly), the review-blog, reading and trying to deal with a lot of crap (not going there, but it's taking its toll) I have been struggling to focus. I'm hovering under 80K now, which is still progress, and I can't complain, but there's just no way I'll have the WIP done by January. So, there I fail at my first self-appointed deadline. Anyway, moving on.

Early this week (pretty sure it was Monday, but to be honest, I've been struggling to remember what day of the week it is) we were chatting on Twitter ('we' being Craig Smith, Jani Grey, Lood Du Plessis and myself) and a conversation about Craig coming up to Pretoria morphed into a story idea, which we are all now collaborating on. :-)

I don't want to give you guys any details (partly because I would spoil it, and partly because you all would think we've been smoking something illegal), but we're each writing chapters and then sending it along the chain. Lood kicked it off with an awesome chapter that really set the stage and the tone, Jani followed with some excellent humour and hints at a greater plan, I continued with a chapter that got the characters out of a port-a-potty (I kidd you not), and Craig followed with some definite movement forward. :-) What's so cool about this side-project is that none of us really have a clue where we're going with it - we're feeding off each other's ideas and characters, so the process is very changeable and surprising. I'm really enjoying it and it's definitely getting me to think on-the-fly; there's no over-arching plot-plan I'm working to, because I just don't know what the guy (or girl) after me will be getting up to, so it's keeping me on my toes. :-)

Anyway, this is just a fun thing we're doing, so don't expect to ever see it! (You might die of cringing too much - I'm sure there's a medical term for that kind of death...) :-)

Anyway, thanks for coming back after such a long time of having nothing from me. :-) Onwards and upwards, huh? ;-)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Wheel of Time will be the death of me... (that, and snake-attacks!)

I was walking home earlier, and was in-sight of the house. The day had been cool and it was still a bit overcast. Usually I would be sweating something terrible but there was a cool, wind, too. I was listening to the audio book of Towers of Midnight -had just returned to Perrin, still early in the book- and I was a house away from the end of the block and the STOP street; all I would need to do was cross the road and I'd be home.

I remember that I was looking down, in thought or something, when I heard a clatter and saw dried-out palm fronds skid across the tar from my right - some bouncing off my sneakers, some not. I turned and looked behind me and saw that an orangey straight stick, quite long, at least as long as my arm, was literally streaking toward me. It struck my shoe and I turned fully to get a better look at it, thinking that some kids were playing a game and had knocked a ball or something into garden, dislodging garden debris. That's when I felt the stick tug at my shoe.

That's also when I saw the stick was, in fact, a snake, and that it was attacking me. It darted at me again, struck my shoe again. My brain finally decided to send the signals to react, thank goodness.

I've always joked about how cartoon characters run - either their lower or upper bodies are extended too far ahead - and that's what I must have looked like. I swore, "JESUS!" and kicked out. I felt the snake's body whip across my calves and outward but I was already kicking out again; when I came down the second time I was running. I don't know how many meters I covered but when I felt I was far enough away I turned around looked to see if it was following me.

It wasn't. It just lay there in the road. Completely still. And I couldn't take my eyes off it. I realized I was breathing very hard and very fast and that I had kept on swearing. I took another couple of steps away, had the presence of mind to watch out for cars, and reached the end of the block. When I looked back it was moving across the road. When I looked back again (still watching for cars) it was gone.

I still can't believe how incredibly fast that attack was. I'm sure that it went at me twice but I think it struck three times - and each time it hit the thick rubber soles of my sneakers. I've checked them for marks, checked my foot, and haven't noticed anything. No marks, no broken skin, nada. So I'm probably safe.

I have no idea what kind of snake it was - I honestly wasn't going to get closer to have a look. The dude obviously didn't like me.

But damn, it was fucking fast.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Breaks and Short Stories

So, it's been a while since I blogged. It's been a strange couple of weeks, sometimes stressful, sometimes lazy... I guess I can make as many excuses as I want to, but I guess if I'm honest I have to say that I was writing quite a pivotal scene and I wasn't sure how to get across what I wanted to get across in the scene.

I was agonizing about the dialogue, too - two characters, both in the process of really discovering themselves and finding the roles they'll be playing in book 2. Added to that, I've now got all my characters where I need them so that I can start charging toward the finale - that's damn stressful, too. Exciting as hell, for sure, but stressful.

Anyway, I would think of the scene every day, watching as it went off in different paths and nothing really struck me as the right path, know what I mean? Anyway, time passed and two weeks ago we were watching movies.

We watched Repo Men, (awesome, incredible movie) and I had an idea for a short story. I knew it would be a short story because the title leapt into my brain first and then the characters, the scenes, etc. Anyway, I had the idea and then wrote it. That was Birthday.

The following day we watched Astro Boy and Splice, and guess which movie gave me the idea? ;-) Astro Boy. The story was The Orphan.

A couple of days later I was lying in the bath. I had this idea-avalanche, a succession of ideas that linked together and formed a story - plot, characters, even some dialogue, and at the end of that avalanche I was insanely pumped to write. But because I was so pumped I took it slow... Wrote around 500 words on the first evening and then finished the story the next day. I struggled a bit with a name for it, had the idea to read some of Percy Bysshe Shelley's poetry and chose a name. Breathless Sleep.

And this is the one, I think, that got me thinking differently about the novel. Breathless Sleep is unlike any other short story I've written - it's not Horror, it's not SF, it's not Dystopian. It's something else, and the first time I've tried to write this particular melding of genres. It kept me and my girlfriend up, talking about it. :-)

Anyway, I think that because it was so different, and because it got me thinking of and exploring different ideas, when I sat down to work on the WIP again I was able to finish the scene and the chapter. I guess I've learned something:

When I'm struggling with a scene, I'm going to try and write some short stories. Keeping the brain ticking over, keeping the thoughts running, that's the important thing. Not writing is not an option. After all, if I'm going to be doing this for the rest of my life, I'm gonna have to learn how to do it well, and on command.

I'm a bit tired tonight, but I'm gonna get started on Chapter 20 anyway. I'm going to back to one of my favourite chapters and I have to start setting her up for major anguish and an impossible choice, which will, of course, end up affecting every other character in one way or another. :-)

Wish me productivity so you don't have to wait as long for another post! :-)

Wordcount so far: 75917

And no, 'aint taking part in NaNoWriMo - this novel is not joining the Unfinished pile...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Editing

So I edited the first four chapters of my novel. Well, I re-wrote chapter 1, too, but I'll get to that later.

I had no idea what to actually do, to be honest. See, I had plenty of notes to work from (crits from an established and excellent editor in the industry, and edits from two of my friends), but there was also so much that was in my head –scenes that needed re-writing, dialogue that needed tightening up, research to do to make certain scenes feel more authentic, etc- that I didn't know where to start.

A large part of this was fear – I put together everything I've written over the past seven or eight years (since I've had a PC, and so saveable data) into one document and the wordcount was just over 115000 words. With not one project finished. The reason? Well, I was more of an editor than a writer. I would write a paragraph and agonize over it until I felt that it was perfect. I eventually graduated to a page. Then a paragraph. Eventually I reached 30000 words on a single project but then ground to a halt because I hadn't planned, plot-wise, character-wise, anything-wise. But I felt like I was making progress. I tried my hand at many different stories – I wrote a Tomb Raider scene in which Lara was skiing in the Alps when assassins sent to kill her trigger and avalanche, which Lara then rides; I wrote a scene in which Duncan McLeod arrives at a mountain hideaway to rescue Amanda from a kidnapper who is also immortal; I even wrote about 20000 words on a Star Wars project that I'm not saying anything about because I want to publish that novel one day. But the point remains – I never finished anything.

In the past two years I've learned to actually finish projects – hence 3 short stories that I've done. I had to learn how to stop editing and start writing – which is absolutely painful when you write a paragraph that hint at the awesomeness you want but reads like shite. But I've pushed on, slogged through, and now I'm staring 70K down.

On to the re-written chapter: There's much in the first chapter that sucks donkey-balls. Plenty. Huge amounts. I don't think that the main POV character was introduced properly; the reason for him being where he is is weak; etc. etc. So I spent an evening and re-wrote the first scene of the first chapter, changed plenty but kept to the main points of the scene, the main thrust of what the scene is supposed to achieve. I think it works better. In fact, I'm pretty sure that it works better. Re-writing that scene gave me some much-needed hope for the rest of the novel, because there are plenty of chapters that need to be re-written to make them work better, and I'm looking forward to it. But I digress, back to editing.

While I was editing I got a much-needed flash-back of what I was trying to do – I re-realized why I had chosen these characters to tell the story; I re-realized just what story I'm trying to tell; and if I was blade, I'm now much sharper. Editing doesn't only serve to make the novel better by fixing up everything that needs fixing – it also serves to re-excite you as the writer, to amplify that initial excitement, and that's just bloody awesome. And in some cases, sorely needed.

The thing is, I'm just like you: I doubt every word that I write, every scene, every character that I create. But that seed of doubt shrinks during editing, because I become a sculptor, or a gardener; a sculptor because I'm chipping away at the marble to reveal what's beneath; a gardener because I'm weeding, baby, weeding! J

So if you don't edit, if you leave it up to someone else, (I want to say shame on you, but I won't), you don't have a clue what you're missing. The world you're creating comes into sharper focus; the characters become more vital, their conflicts much more detailed, etc. etc. Even if you think what you've written is awesome, what you've written attains that uber-ness that will probably see you getting your book onto the shelves of bookstores the world over. Big words coming from an unpublished writer, huh? Well, I aim to prove what I say. J

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Anyone Know a Cure for Brain-Death?

I'm slowly, slowly, slowly making progress on the novel - last night I hit 69K, and I'll be lying if I say that it's been a breeze. It's been a slog, a hectic, exhausting slog.

I know why, though, and knowing is a step toward fixing the situation.

Most of you know that I run a SFF-review blog,too; at the moment I'm reading five novels and enjoying them all. There are plenty of books I still have to and want to read, and all these books have added to the slow writing pace:

Not because I feel pressured to read the books, but because I've realized that one day, when I'm a published author, I won't be able to read as much as I used to. You see, I really love reading. Books are my constant companion and have been for about twenty-one years (my first Stephen King at 9, Pet Sematary) and the realization that I'll be, in part, sacrificing, reading for writing, is a bitter pill to swallow. I know, I know, I'll never stop reading, nor will I be required to as a novelist, but picking and choosing what I want to read will be a thing of the past. I'll probably be reading more non-fiction for research purposes and selectively reading those authors who are considered the best in their genres, to study the craft. Not a bad trade, I know, but if you saw my collection of books you'd understand. Anyway, what I'm saying is I'm going to miss all the reading I've been doing, and perhaps that is translating into an unconscious reluctance to write at the pace I know I can.

Another problem is that old, old enemy of anyone doing what they really want to do - confidence. Sometimes I'm so damn impressed with myself and what I'm creating; other times I really can't believe that I'm wasting my time. It's the weirdest, most frustrating seesaw I've ever encountered! But I do have faith in my novel, even though I know it'll probably never be published and that I'll be glad that it'll never be published.

Another aspect of this that is weighing heavily on my mind is the fact that I'm working towards finishing my first novel. Sound weird? Hehehehe I don't really understand it myself, some weird kind of fear of success? Some kind of strange realization that I'll have to reach 'The End' some time? I don't know, really, but whatever it is it probably is playing a part.

And then there's that fear of 'Am I wasting my time?'. Am I putting in all these hours, sacrificing time with my girlfriend and friends, for something that I won't succeed at? Is this the most massive waste of time I've ever involved myself in? I actually get pissed off when I think like that. Pissed off at myself, because I'm doing nothing but cutting my own throat. I can't think like that and succeed at this. And I want to, desperately, because I'm pretty sure that I'm a good story-teller and a great writer and that one day, people will be recommending my work to their friends and colleagues and family and maybe, just maybe, what I've written will spark something and lead to something and change something, all for the better. Sure, I want to earn an income from writing and maybe be rich one day, too, but my main motivation is to keep story-telling alive. Soppy, I know, but there it is. Say what you want, but story-telling is the reason that the human race has succeeded and come to dominate the planet, for good or ill. Story-telling is our lifeblood, our sustenance. I want to kick ass at it.

So, even though I've got these fears and these problems to deal with, I'm now going to plug in my earphones and play my writing-music playlist and push for 70K at least. I have to, if only to prove to myself that I can. The glory will come when it comes, and even though I'm chasing this dream and, in turn, being hounded by it, it's still thrilling, frustrating, awesome and terrifying.

I'm off to write.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Writer's Quirks

I'm one of those writers who needs music playing while I write. Well, I guess I don't really need the music, but I write so much better when there is something other than normal 'life-sounds' filling the air. The music has to be devoid of lyrics, too - if there's a chorus that's not a problem, but no actual words - I usually get thrown out of the writing when I hear actual words in music, so the instrumental or classical-type stuff works for me, such as soundtracks.

At the moment my 'Writing Music' playlist consists of the following:

The soundtrack of the movie, Moon, by Clint Mansell; this music is really subtle and layered and works well for just about any scene that I'm writing.

Hans Zimmer's soundtrack to Inception; one of the best soundtracks I've heard in a while - powerful and subtle at the same time, and every time the playlist reaches 'Mombasa' I seem to pick up speed, too. :-)

Atticus Ross' soundtrack to The Book of Eli - intense and startling, really cool for a scene that needs layering and intense character-interaction;

28 Days Later's soundtrack - lots of different kinds of sounds going on here though I have to admit that I do skip the songs with vocals / lyrics in them.

Thomas Newman's soundtrack to Revolutionary Road - when I've got a really intense, emotional scene to write this is what I put on - beautiful stuff!

Corner Stone Cues - absolutely love these guys! The tracks are short but powerful, and many times I've had a scene jump into my head, like a snapshot of an epic event, because of this music.

The soundtrack of JJ Abrams' Star Trek - really dig this because it doesn't rely too heavily on the Star Trek theme that everyone knows, so jarring and sudden mental transfers from Epic Fantasy to Star Trek here. :-)

The Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks - fun, fast, furious and epic, love these!

Gladiator's soundtrack - haven't heard much of it yet (and I saw the movie long ago) but what i have heard I've loved.

Braveheart's soundtrack - same here.

Kemper Norton's First Season - incredible stuff! I was really listening to it for the first time about 40 minutes ago and had to stop writing just to experience the music; have a listen for yourself - I haven't heard anything quite like this before.

There we go, that's what I use to aurally enhance myself while writing. :-)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Half-way and Beyond

So, it's been a while since I updated the blog, I know. :-( Two things were in my way - reaching that 'half-way' milestone and not having an internet connection for the past week.

You see, I reached 60K last week already. :-) And yes, I was extremely happy with myself! I've been working on this novel since February this year and it sometimes felt as if I would never reach the point where I was half-way done with it. I'm sure you know how it goes - sometimes you look at the screen and think, "What the FUCK am I DOING?!" and other times you look at the screen and think, "Hell yeah, man, HELL YEAH!" As a newbie writer, I've had a helluva lot of both thoughts... ;-)

And now that I've reached the half-way mark, there's a couple of things I know and a couple of things I'm still learning:

a) I know that I can write, constantly, working on the same project, and achieve at least 63297 words. That, my friends, is a massive thing. I written plenty before -give or take 115000 words, in fact- but I've never written as much on one project. The realization that I can is, to put it lightly, enormous. It means that just maybe I can finish this book, that I can bring this 'child' into the world.

b) I know that starting a novel is easy - hell, too damn easy. But slogging away, getting the words to flow from the imagination through the brain down the nerves and out of the fingertips, is insanely difficult. INSANELY.

c) But I also know that I've never done anything more rewarding. Even though my novel might turn out to be crap, even though there's a bigger possibility of it not being published than being published, I'm proud of what I've managed to do so far. 'Cause you know what? When the words are a struggle and a pain, it hurts. Like hell. But when the words flow, no waterfall on any terrestrial planet has ever flowed with more beauty and power. When the words work, they WORK. :-)Homo Sapiens has this obsession with creating, and I understand it now.

d) Getting out the first 10000 words is easier than getting out the remaining 57000 words... Hear me out: As far as I can tell, the first 10000 words is where you lay the groundwork, spread the seeds, and lay the rules. If you've done that as well as you can (and I don't say 'correctly' because I don't believe that there is a 'correct' way to write) then the imagery and conflicts and characters will keep you going until you hit the half-way mark. Once you've hit this next level, things become infinitely more hectic, because now you have to really open up that throttle - every path you've been exploring now needs to be moving towards the destination, and poor you if you don't know where you're going. You have to know. If you've come this far and you don't... *shakes head* You've got major problems. Even though I've got about 57K to go, I've got to start moving towards that end-game, pushing and prodding my characters to make sure that they get there in one piece - that I get there in one piece. The kind of focus, now, is different. The exhaustion at the end of each session is deeper. The exhilaration? Bordering on orgasmic. At least for me, that is, though I'm sure that most writers will agree. :-)

So, here's to the first 60K+. :-) The first of what'll hopefully be millions of words. :-)

Cheers!

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Contest You Should Really Have a Look At

C.A. Marshall is a freelance Editor and Literary Agent Intern, and her blog (thanks to this lady for for getting Marshall on my radar) is a must-read for writers starting out, looking for advice on editing, etc.

She's running a competition at the moment where you can win a free edit by her - "I'm giving away a FREE substantial edit! (That's plot, pacing, character development, etc, up to 100k words) to one lucky reader!" Considering what the prices are to get a MS edited, especially in South Africa where an edit can literally bankrupt you, this is a golden opportunity! I've entered the contest and I'm really hoping for a win! :-)

For more details, head on over to Marshall's blog.

Almost-Halfway Blues

So, er...

I'm almost at the half-way mark (projected, that is) of my novel, and things are weird. I'm not sure why, exactly; you see, I've got everything basically planned out - Character X will be going slightly mad and seeing things that may or may not be there, Character Y will accidentally kill someone, Character Z is finding out that the darker side of the spectrum can be liberating, etc. etc. So why is it that in two weeks+ I've only managed to write about 2000 words?

To put it bluntly, this is driving me slightly fucking nuts. I sit down to write, knowing what I want to write, but what ends up coming out is the biggest load of crap even my strange mind can come up with. :-(

I've been sitting and wondering why this is - it's not like I'm losing faith in my story, in fact, I'm pretty damn chuffed with it, and proud of myself for what I've accomplished. I even know how this book ends, and what emotional journeys my characters need to go on to reach that destination. I've decided that some part of me is still terrified of finishing this novel - or maybe that's just the excuse I've come up with, I'm not really sure. In any case, I seem to be hesitant for some reason - maybe everything is catching up with me now - It's taken me seven months to write as much as I have already, and I want to finish this novel before 1 Jan 2011; now, that goal seems a bit lofty. And I guess a part of me is scared that maybe I don't have enough story to hit the projected 120K - the pace of the story has definitely picked up and there's more happening in every chapter.

Anyway, as the saying goes, 'We'll see.'

Hopefully, whatever it is that's buggering me up will leave and my next update will be to say that I've hit 60K. Hold thumbs, huh? :-)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Breaking the Rules

Man, talk about a dry spell! :-( Since that massively productive 10K-3Day fever I had wayyy earlier this month, I haven't exactly managed to repeat the feat, but that's okay. I'm a firm believer in not forcing the writing - well, at least, that is, until I've got a deadline to meet. Until then, I'm taking my time on this and writing as and when my brain lets me. :-)

I finished Chapter 12 earlier (not Chapter 13 like I said on twitter, dumbass-moment there) and I'm really happy. It's a short chapter (not the shortest, but not as long as some of the others, either) and it's a very important chapter. Monumentally so, in fact. You see, this is where I start breaking the rules.

Now, you could describe me (those who know me, at least) as the kind of reader who likes it when things happen a bit differently than they're supposed to. I like being surprised, challenged. And we live in an era in publishing where the same old shit just doesn't work any more - you write a book about a farm boy discovering he's actually the king's bastard son and he can do magic and wield a sword without any actual training and see how far you get. ;-)

So, what have I done to break the rules? Well, I'm not going to spoil it for you now (I want you to one day actually read this novel, you see), but suffice it to say that I'm taking a MASSIVE chance that might just see me become the laughing stock off SFF writers everywhere, but in my defence, I'm not taking the chance just because it's there - this risks I'm taking are a part of the plot, and integral to the series as a whole. I think it could be pretty awesome (provided I don't run away into an asylum with them) and I hope I can pull it off well enough that my readers will one day agree. :-) There are only 3 people who actually know what I'm doing in the Epic Fantasy novel, and for the time being, that's how it's gonna stay.

But I am taking a risk - no doubt about it. :-)

Current novel wordcount: 53410
Wordcount for the evening: 907

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

8179

So, I managed to get a doctor's appointment today and found out that I have laryngitis; I've got a dry, painful cough, my throat and ears are red inside (well, at least they're not purple... or black) and I get repetitive waves of fever and chills. It turns out, though, that coughing so hard the windows rattle in their frames and self-confining myself in bed turned out to be a good thing - I've written 8179 words since Tuesday.

**THIS IS ME DANCING AND PUTTING MICHAEL JACKSON TO SHAME**

Seriously, I haven't had such productive writing days since April - I managed 15000+ words in about 8 days, and yes, it was exhilarating and feverish. When we got back from our holiday, I struggled to hit 20K (that took about 2 months)and then I did and felt a bit more confident and hit 30K, wobbled along and finally hit 40K. Tuesday past I was on 41K and now I'm sticking my tongue out at 50K (almost half-way!) and I keep on wondering, "Why? What made this week different to any other week?"

By all rights I shouldn't be able to lift myself out of bed, never mind keep my hands hovering above a keyboard.

And I think it has something to do with finally realizing, truly and deeply realizing, that I'm actually writing a novel. Sure, I've been saying this for about 7 years, but it never felt real then; in those 7 years I wrote approximately 115000 words, but the thing is, I didn't *finish* anything. Oh, I started plenty - drips and draps here and there on manuscripts that ranged from Portal fantasy to Star Wars EU to Highlander and Tomb Raider stories to Urban Fantasy to the various seeds that led to the novel I'm writing now. But yep, I never finished anything.

And there's something about trying and trying and trying that keeps you going, keeps you motivated and thinking and experimenting, but it's also a helluva punch to the gut - especially after realizing that I had written enough words to fill a novel but hadn't actually written even a novella. That really brought me low. And then that get's me thinking about published authors saying, "The best piece of advice I can give writers out there is to write." and me thinking, 'Sure, man, saying that with at least 3 novels behind you is easy - you've found the zone, you've found the flow.'

Now I hear those words differently. You see, it's been a long journey for me - I was an editor first and a writer later; I would write a scene or a page and then spend a week making it perfect before moving on. 115000 words indeed. And kicking that editing-habit is a serious challenge, but people, fuckin' KICK it, because it's the only way to write.

I have no doubt at all that there are many portions of this MS that I'll be tossing into the garbage - in fact, I could name them for you now, but that would be spoiling the novel- and I'm looking forward to editing and rewriting, but right now, the actual *writing* is awesome. I've finished a section of the MS that sets up quite a bit for the rest of the novel (and even the other books in this series that I want to write, someday) and now I've entered a new section, where all the interesting, creepy and exhilarating stuff is happening. I'm even breaking rules, which is terrifying, but cool, and only time will tell if my choices will end up paying off, but right now I'm so damn impressed with myself and so damn proud of my characters that I'm on a high, even though I'm confined to bed. :-)

Don't get me wrong, I'll definitely be hitting many more patches of struggle and frustration, but I've also realized that it comes with the territory - if it didn't, well, writing would be easy, wouldn't it? And it's not meant to be. Never easy.

So I say bring on the struggle and frustration - I'm writing a novel, dammit, and I love the fact that it's not easy!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

One of those strange writing-days...

I'm sick as a dog. I literally sound like a dog barking, that's how bad my cough is. My girlfriend says I'm running quite a fever and as soon as I get out of bed to go and have a cigarette (I've spent the whole day in bed) I freeze my ass off even though I'm wearing Winter-jammies and slippers and stuff. I may not even go to work tomorrow, either, and as far as I remember, this is the first time I've been sick since I started working at the bookshop in April last year.

So (and I ask this with tears of gratitude in my eyes), how the hell is it possible that I've had the best damn writing-day I've had in a while?

Seriously, I've finished Chapter 9, have completed the first scene of Chapter 10, and my total word-count is now sitting at 45541 words. Guess how many words I wrote today?

3963 words.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining; far from it! I'm ecstatic, actually. I just don't understand it. :-)

I guess I've come to realize one very important thing about writing:

No matter how you feel or what's happening on a particular day, you can still kick ass.

Now I'm going to try and backtrack and think about what I ate, drank, how I walked, etc... ;-)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Maps for Epic Fantasy

I'm a big fan of maps, especially in Epic Fantasy; not only does it really ground the story for me (those Geography classes way back, boring as they were, planted this particular seed) but it also helps me to make sure that I know exactly where my characters are and what they'll pass when I move them around. Sometimes maps aren't needed at all (I'm thinking of Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind here) and sometimes they are most definitely needed (The Wheel of Time) but I tried my hand at them anyway.

I probably wont use these maps since I'm going to change many of them before I feel that they truly reflect the world my characters live in, and maybe they won't even be included in the novel, but anyway, I thought I'd give you a look at what I've done. :-)



Above is Arsarvis, my main continent - one of its iterations anyway; there was a meteorite impact ages ago that created the continent's weird shape - an impact-event that I've abandoned for now.



Above is Braeholm, the homeland of my non-human sentients; this, too, has basically been discarded, though I might return to this island in subsequent volumes.



This is Ramalka, another human-settled continent; when I drew this continent it was human-settled and was the original homeland of the humans (before colonising Arsarvis) and I might return here in future volumes, we'll see. :-)



This is Avidar, the main continent, where most of the story will take place. Yep, it's a bit empty, I know, but I'll be tweeking it plenty before settling on the final version. :-)

And now, back to the novel! Now that the main spectacle is done I'm tying up some other loose ends - this is where there are lots of smaller, more personal battles. :-)

Cheers!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ending Battle-Scenes

I apologize for being away for such a long time. :-( The truth is that I just couldn't get going again with the battle scene because I had written myself into a problem - my main character needed an object that was in the possession of a character that had just had his face viciously clawed by something, and I hit a point where I had no idea how to carry on.

You see, I had the whole battle planned out; I knew how big both armies were, how they would move, where they would attack, how long the battle would be, etc. But then I allowed one of the characters to get clawed... I was thinking in terms of conflict and putting characters in difficult situations, you see. Well, spanner in the works and all that.

Anyway, a week later I had an idea that explained just why he had been clawed - 'why' meaning what it would mean for the plot and for him going forward (and it's pretty damn cool, though only time will tell if everyone agrees), but I still didn't know how I was going to let the battle progress, and end.

Until tonight. I cut out the 800-odd words I'd written (and was very unhappy with), saved them in a different document, and read through what I'd already written before attacking the scene again.

I ended up writing a measly 645 words (and yet, that's 645 words more than I had) and I think, I think, I developed a cool new strategy for my heroes - they're surrounded and outnumbered, hunkered down in an ancient fort, and I just got them a way out and have also maximised enemy casualties. :-) I quite dig it, though it does need plenty of more work before it's jaw-droppingly awesome. I'll fix and edit later, after I've completed the novel.

Anyway, now the end is in sight, and new paths beckon for my heroes. I'm also reaching the point where some will split up and some will come together, and this is the part I've been really excited to write - the succulent meat of my novel. :-) It just sucks that I'm also buggered after a full-day's work and am stopping for tonight because I can't even type coherently any more.

Anyway, haven't hit 40K yet:

Words written tonight: 645
Total word count: 39375

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Twsited Fairytale

Yep, the story's not here anymore. :)

I'll be revising and editing it as time passes to get it ready for submission, so I'm removing it so that it doesn't cause me any problems later on. :)

I'll keep you updated on how the submissions process proceeds. :)

Be EPIC!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Putting Characters in a Pickle Can Be A Problem...

I've finished the first half of the Battle for Shorwin's Hold, and finished Chapter Eight, too.

It turned out to be a long chapter -probably because I deviated somewhat from the blueprints, and also probably because I'm a newbie when it comes to writing battle-scenes- and what I've come to realize is that upping the stakes for a character (especially one that sort of forced himself into POV-ness) might always be a good thing (we're in the business of creating conflict, after all) but it also creates unforeseen problems.

Case in point, one of my guys had half his face clawed off; not only is he unconscious but now there's no-one to control his side of the arena. And I'm not, NOT, going to let another character steal POV-ness, so now I'm left with the enviable position of having to, well, do something. No idea what, yet. The idea to put him in the position he's in at the moment came like a bolt from the heavens - it doesn't only up the stakes for him, but for everyone in the battle, so I went ahead with it, and now I have to let my subconscious run with it for a bit before I plunge ahead.

Not a bad thing, since my brain works this way -the ideas and situations have to stew a bit before they spring forth again, mostly fully-formed- but a bit of an irritation because I was really hitting my stride and hoping to charge my way into the 40K region.

Alas, battles must be hard-fought to be thrilling, right? :-)

Wordcount for the evening: 634
Wordcount for the novel: 38152

Friday, July 2, 2010

Surprise

Last night I wrote just under 2000 words and I ended the stint with an event that finally launched my battle. Why'm I'm telling you this? Well, that event came out of nowhere and smacked me upside the noggin. I hadn't thought of what would actually begin the battle (think the arrow that the old guy accidentally fires off that starts the Battle of Helm's Deep in Peter Jackson's The Two Towers); in fact, I hadn't even worried about it.

You see, in many ways I'm a seat-of-my-pants kind of writer. About four years ago I sat down one afternoon and wrote out a synopsis of what I thought should happen in the novel I'm currently busy with (yes, four years ago; more on that in a coming post); It was very short-hand, summaries of events that led to events, etc what the characters were going to do, and so on. What has survived from that synopsis is the following: two characters and a non-human race. That's it.

When I attended the Random House Struik / Get Smarter Creative Writing Course from Feb to April this year I really began writing what I'm writing now and everything, every event, every character, has been evolving. Now I find that I'm planning chapters, and as of now I've got the middle and end of the big in mind, but not the in-between bits. I'm not really worried, though, because (so far) everything has been working well leading up to this battle scene; I've got my people in place, I've worked out strategies that both sides will use, and I know of one character who's going to die. Beyond that? Well, I'm open to surprising myself. :-) So far the characters have been living and breathing nicely (at least, in my estimation) and I'm mostly steering then while their attentions are focused elsewhere instead of turning their heads and moving their feet. I'm also discovering more about them as I write them - for example, the character that will die was, once, an extremely important character (albeit in a different guise) in the previous synopsis. Not any more.

Sure, it's taking me a long time to write this novel (30K in six months, yeah, I know) but I'm not working under a deadline -I'm not even published- so I've got the freedom to do this the way I want to. Maybe later I'll have to learn to make a detailed synopsis for every future novel (and there will be plenty, unless I die prematurely, of course) but for now, surprise and fluidity are the order of the day. That and some slack on the guide-ropes. :-)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Preparation

I managed to get some writing done tonight, which I'm very chuffed to say. :-)

I'm particularly happy about this because -besides the fact that a day in which getting any writing done is a day to be celebrated- I'm tired as hell and really need to try and get a full eight hours of sleep before I'm back to normal; I was worried that I wouldn't be able to concentrate, blahblahblah...

But when I opened up the Word Doc and re-read what I had written two nights ago the gears began clicking and the pistons began pumping and the scenes that I had already completed, focusing on two of the characters as they prepare for the impending battle, took on more shape and scents and sights. I dived in and am pretty damn chuffed with what I've done. :-)

You see, these two scenes (along with a third that'll be written tomorrow night) are scenes that set the stage, emotionally, for the main characters involved in the battle. The scenes prepare them for the bloodshed ahead, and for one of the characters, it was also a chance to explore him a bit more; I'd created and imagined this fat old man (who was, believe it or not, an absolutely pivotal character in earlier half-drafts) but I didn't really know him. Now I do, and now I can say that he's going to be a pivotal part of the battle - one of the cogs upon which everything turns. :-) He's surprised the hell out of me, something I'm very glad to say.

I don't think he'll survive the battle - it makes sense for the plot to have him see his ass- but maybe something else that's been cooking away in my subconscious will bubble forth in time for tomorrow's session...

Wordcount for the evening: 1119 words
Wordcount for the novel: 32387

Monday, June 28, 2010

Battles

So, I've made a start on Chapter 8, the first big battle scene in the novel. My characters are readying themselves for what will be a hectic, frantic, bloody, violent clash (at least, I hope so), and since I've stopped for the night, I thought I'd write a blog post about battles. You see, I know absolutely bugger-all about writing battle scenes, but the thing is, is still cool knowing I'm going to try my hand at one.

I've drawn some diagrams and maps, detailing what the battle-ground looks like and how the attacking troops will move and what they'll attack. I've also done some reading-up on siege tactics and the kind of weaponry that was employed in a siege. So I think I'm pretty much as ready as I'm going to ever be (at least for now) to write this chapter.

I have to admit, though, that I'm slightly bloody intimidated. Scared shitless, even. I know what I want to accomplish with this battle in terms of plot and character-arcs, and the battle is necessary (for the moment) but it's still scary knowing that I have to write this, that I have to trust myself to translate the thoughts and imagery and notes and maps into words and that those words have to convey fear and action and movement and and and... Added to this is the fact that, after this chapter, my main protagonist is going to be set on a path that's going to remove him from the main plot-arc for quite a good chunk of the novel. This too is necessary, though I'll probably only be comfortable with my decision to move him aside for a bit (he's still doing something hectically important that'll have major repercussions for the rest of the novel, by the way) once I've reached the end of the novel.

In some way (scratch that) in many ways, it's absolutely awesome to be a rookie / newbie in this game. There's a certain hectic amount of freedom that comes with writing your first novel - no editor or agent keeping you focused and on-track, no deadlines, etc - but there's also a major case of AM I DOING THIS RIGHT? That irritating worm of a question is dogging me, I'll admit, but that's okay, too; after all, one of the 'rules' of writing in a certain genre is that you have to at least be familiar with that specific genre, and I'd like to think that I've got at least a passing familiarity with Epic Fantasy. Enough, hopefully, that when I'm done the novel will have at least a passing resemblance to Epic Fantasy.

I also don't want to rush this battle - you see, I'm missing my other characters; my concubine and my non-human and my politician and my archaeologist... I want to get back to them and continue exploring with them, I want to be surprised again at the choices they make and how they steal the spotlight... But enough of that. I've made a start - focussing on two characters and how they're readying themselves for the battle - and tomorrow will be a day of blood and noise.

Total wordcount for the evening: 495 words
Novel wordcount: 31268

Until tomorrow! :-)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Curtain Raiser

First things first: I'm unpublished. :-) That's just so that none of you go and look for anything I've written. ;-)

Anyway, my name's Dave and I'm a Writer-In-Training (this phrase was coined by me on Twitter during a particularly awesome Follow Friday) living in Pretoria, South Africa, and I thought that it was about time that I started another (non-review, because starting a new review-blog when I already had one turned out to be a dumb idea) blog but used this one to focus on my writing.

So that's what I'll be doing here; talking about writing in general, my ups and downs, wordcount-achievements,the odd funny account (hopefully there'll be plenty of those for pure entertainment-value) and just about anything else that connects to writing.

And then comes the answer to What Am I Writing:

I'm writing my first novel at the moment, an Epic Fantasy that I've been chipping away at (unsuccessfully, because for six years I was editing more than writing). I'm aiming for 120K (so that I can whittle it down to 95K-100K once I've finished it) and it'll probably be the first book in what I'm hoping will be a trilogy. At the rate I'm getting ideas, though, 3 might be the minimum number of books to expect. By the way, I've hit 30K and am getting started on my first big battle scene... Wish me luck!

On the back-burner I've also got an Urban Fantasy that I'm developing with a good friend of mine, Bennie Swarts; this UF will be totally and thoroughly set in South Africa and is probably the book that will see me published here. :-)

I've also got plenty of other ideas, including a SF epic and I'm also working on a trilogy of Star Wars novels that'll get me into the Expanded Universe once I've got 3 or 4 best sellers under my belt. ;-)

Anyway, more about me: I'm a bookseller at one of Exclusive Books' Pretoria branches, I'm a huge Star Wars fan, am a massive reader, play some guitar, collect comics, am a Brandy-drinker (because I quickly become drunk while drinking anything else) and am an all-round SFF fanatic. Everything else about me will probably become apparent in further posts. ;-)

Anyway, later folks!