On Reaching a Place You Want To Be

Writing.

These days: when you see the word do you think of steep mountains reaching above the clouds, wastelands stretching beyond the horizon or lonely bleak shores lapped by cold seas and stroked by chill forlorn winds?

Before you started out it all seemed to promise much fun, redolent with pleasant spring and summer locations. Of course there would be challenges. Naturally.

And here you are. Weary. Discouraged. All those spring and summer places struck by a cold unforgiving winter.

It happens. It’s not you.

Thus this is another essay addressed to folk who feel they are getting nowhere with their writing. Here I will add my regular rider. This blog is the last place you should be if you want to seek advice on being published or making your work well-known. This writer is hopeless (and hapless) at such things. Here is where we talk and write about the basics which allows you get reach such the fortunate situation where you have to plan for publishing and readerships.

For the new writer a season’s worth of effort will lead them to the inevitable associations with:

Frustration at thoughts not forming into words

Refusal of plots or characters to behave

A sudden drought of inspiration

The misery of believing whatever they are writing will never be as good as…..

The horror of reading the first draft back to themselves. With typos, syntax, holes in plots and failures in continuity all combining with malicious glee to assail the confidence.

Problems with staying power and not drifting off to look at YouTube.

And those are only the first tranche of challenges.

Small wonder there is many of promising First Draft lying in a draft, gathering whatever. Or even worse is tragically out of disillusionment lost to a shredder or fire.

Been there, lived there, ached there, drunk bitter wines of envy too.

And yet, despite it all…

Just for this interlude, I am in a Happy Place.

Now those of you experienced in writing will be think ‘Shush…don’t.. .Not out loud’ Yes, I appreciate I am just begging for The Writing Muse to empty something allegorically unpleasant all over me and from a great height too. And I don’t blame other fellow writers in the weeks ahead to be saying, when things go wrong ‘You had that coming. Damn fool thing to say! You should know by now,’

Of course you are right, however this interlude of writer’s joy cannot be helped.

Two books in a series completed just the way I wanted them to be (let’s just not talk about typos write (sic) now). All is needed are the covers, which are in process and not in my hands this time.

Finally the narratives came together smoothly, the main and the principal support characters are satisfied with my interpretations, everything which needed to be put in is there. You can read one book and finish there, you could read the two books and be satisfied everything has ended there as far as you are concerned….never mind the other two which are in the metaphysical pipeline.

Yeah…yeah…never mind the typos already!…(Anyway Grammarly and Word are often not in agreement)

Uh?

Oh yes, sorry, I forget some of you might not have read earlier posts.

These are fantasy novels y’see. Mash-ups of humour, romance, war, crime, traditional fantasy ‘stuff’, politics, bits of observations, smidges of satire. Lots of characters weaving in and out. Heroes, of course. About 3 to 4 years in the making (with a back story of 30 years of terrible mistakes). Write, re-write, re-re-write etc. Launch, re-launch.

There is a very high probability these works will not even cause the least of ripples on the horizon. There is an even higher chance of obscurity. These are chances every writer with a minimal profile has to accept could be their fate. And I have written often that unless you are hoping to make a living out of writing this does not matter.Just a Smidge

What does matter is these books are together and they have turned out in a very satisfactory way, for me anyway, my own series

The Precipices Dominions

Volume I – Of Patchwork Warriors. On Kindle; edited twice and now ‘Revised’ . Just waiting for a cover.

Volume II – Our Skirmishers of Steel, Fire and Lace. Waiting for a cover, and then ‘launch’

Volume III-To be started- Working Title : Adjudicators from The Mists

Volume IV- To be pondered on- Anchoring Title for the thoughts: Saviours in Blessed Oblivion (it’s meant to be very opaque)

And Game of Thrones; Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie to reference a few….these an’t. That is all I should say- we shouldn’t give out spoilers.

The reason for this post is the moral, therein.

Follow your initial nascent spark. Never give up. Keep on writing and re-writing. Let no one suggest to you otherwise. Never expect fame nor fortune, even those small sorts where your followers/readers number; say 750 and you make enough to buy (ooooh I don’t know; a new laptop?). Just write, write for its own sake, write for your soul and your heart’s sake. Rise up onwards, create and set sail your craft. It is enough for you to have there, in a public domain a finished work which you can point to and say ‘This is mine,’

And if someone should say, one day:

Well, one of the many things which kept me going, was this series of blog posts about writing by this guy Woebegone- wonder whatever became of him?’

That would suit me fine.

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Writing Your Book-A Journey Barefooted and Treading on Glass under a Hot Sun- facing challenges you’d prefer to avoid

Whereas this post will be about the problem…ok MY problem… with writing sex episodes, this can also be considered as a parallel journey with other passages which are challenging or uncomfortable for the writer.

So once more, notebooks out for entries in your personal Guides to Writing, under sub-sections  (1) Oh man and I thought I made problems for myself (2). Note: Do not do this. (3) Ah, not just me then.

You don’t have to include sex episodes in a novel, personally I feel they look quite weird in some books, but since there is a great deal of sex going on around the world you cannot say the topic is irrelevant or to say in books suitable for adults there are some it cannot fit (fit?) into. When writing in the fantasy genre a portion of your readership are likely to be muttering…’Aww c’mon. Get on with it. It’s gotta happen!’. My own personal response is ‘Will you guys be patient!’

Now if you have been following this blog on and off you may remember my own surprise in ‘Of Patchwork Warriors’ at Karlyn and Arketre falling for each other in a big way. It took a few re-reads to realise this had been bubbling in the background, and well after being through danger, destruction and facing death more than once, when they’d finally found a patch of peace and quiet, feelings were bound to be made known.

‘Oh great’, said I. ‘Here I am yet again 67 year old male writer in Problem City…This time lesbian love’….’Oh sure’ says some readers ‘Of course it’s all to do with the plot and sub-text…Yeah, right!’

{Perversely I am so glad I self-publish and am terrible at marketing thus limiting my potential readership and having to explain myself to hundreds}.

Whereas part of me was saying, just lead up to a tentative kiss, close the door on them, then just step away for a day or so, another part of me was saying. ‘An’t gonna work old son; these are a pair of intense folk with their whole pack of contradictions and currently unexplained back-issues. You need to see the detail through as part of their journey. Anyway some readers will say…’Ah-cop out!’ if you don’t’

I complained a lot to myself but by now the book itself and the characters were weighing in. They used that sneaky argument. ‘Challenge yourself!’ all I could reply with was ‘But…but…but,’. They laughed and resorted to, I thought, a rather unnecessary and vulgar analogy with the American use of the word.

Fine! I mean you can research stuff for crime novels, or SF, or military, or…But…Oh my!

At this stage panic set in. What if this part of the narrative ended up contrived and forced? Suppose there were incorrect assumption made? Suppose I got into Cliché Central?

Making sure no one was looking over my shoulder I tentatively perused the ‘Erotica’ section of Amazon, somewhat uneasily selecting sub-genres and so forth. Sampled a few ‘see what’s inside’,s and thought….’Huh! And I was worried about Cliché Central?’ So I checked the reviews (yeh I know not the most reliable source, but what’s a guy to do?). It was then the ‘OK kiddo, we’ve gone this far. It’s download time!’. So checking up on reputation of authors and taking a few more reviews a few 0.99p’s were invested in downloads. I concluded that there was a flourishing market for women writers writing erotica for other women involving women with women. Wow what a relief! Not just adolescent boys and drooling sad men! I’d been overthinking the problem. (Well, be fair it was a reasonable overthink, I mean I’d spent years readings, Heroic Fantasy, history and politics, some things passed me by!)

That sorted. The next issue was, to use the old adage ‘There is a time and place for everything’. Let’s keep this rationed (to the reader I mean, what characters get up to off the page is their business), not prurient because this is a Fantasy-genre novel and let’s give context.

In the first volume, their first intense interlude happened at towards the end of the volume and seemed to introduce a certain element of closure or new horizons. Since this was not ‘just physical’ (OK, so I did listen to Tegan and Sara sometimes when writing, anyway I happen to like Tegan and Sara’s music) there could be sensitivity and romance included. This also allowed me to introduce the slightly roguish element of Arketre’s character as she, in a nice way, seduced Karlyn, who in turn showed another facet of her vulnerable side and in turn there was Arketre’s tender caring side.

Somewhat concerned I released Vol 1 with flag warnings all over the place. Although not flooded with purchases (so what?), not one came back tearing at me for some contrived, male-slavering soft-porn…. Whew!

Vol II. Obviously, this relationship was now set into the narrative. The question was now should the sex episodes continue to be written in? The first answer, well since there had been one in Vol I it followed ignoring them in Vol II might look ‘odd’ as if I’d tip-toed away. I did have some advantages here.

In the first case the two had fallen in love with each other, secondly because they were in the first flush of this relationship, ‘they couldn’t keep their hands off each other’, as the saying goes; this however was not a problem as the fact could be mentioned in asides, reflections and general banter.

Graphic and open description would be restricted to intense situations. I used two episodes both to highlight Arketre’s anxiety  when dealing with The Ethereal / Stommigheid as well as to underline the commitment they had to each other. First: when in a haunted wood just when they were getting snuggly in a tent they were attacked by ‘ghostly creatures’ Karlyn performs a powerful, emotive, exorcism (and sets fire to one), Arketre wants to get out of the wood, ‘like now’. In the dawn’s light Karlyn draws Arketre into back love-making which I tried to illustrate as two people deep in a tenderness of love; erotica with flowers if you like and showing Karlyn as not simply Arketre’s goofy side-kick. Second: the other instance followed an episode where the two had been apart for a very intense ten or so days and at the first chance Arketre positively pounces on Karlyn which is briefly described and to make way for a bit of mischief along the lines ‘Oh we were just exercising’ feeble excuse when Trelli walks in just as they have got decent. She turns this around gently teasing them later on; this also demonstrated Trelli was no longer in awe of the pair and was not the shy retiring prissy flower some may have assumed she was.

And Trelli?

I have to blame Arketre here. Being a soldier with a series of encounters to her name she was quite insistent that Trelli have her own ‘fun’ time too, after all she’d earned, it yeh? (Characters can be so pushy not just with their own parts either).

Wigran, the cause of her abilities, was out of the mix. Trelli was still angry with him, by now he was involved with another and also still a bit scared of Trelli. The poor girl was not getting much chance to hang around with men for long term relationship. What did develop was when Trelli was re-united with Arketre and Karlyn in a new place; she encountered Lord Osavus the son of a Grand Duke. Now I admit to writing in a sudden mutual attraction and ‘sparks’. There again this was taking place in a land close to war, folks emotions were heightened; Trelli was becoming more her own girl, to this young fellow she not only appeared exotic, but much than a ‘silly young thing’. He was being ‘gah-lant and respectful to her and she did like this sort of attention. The dynamic was I admit old fashioned; she in his strong manly arms, welcoming his embrace, her first experience of men, he being a measure reverential and considerate to her entranced by this mysterious woman with ‘powers’. But after all she has been through Trelli deserved a ‘nice’ time (Arketre insisted)

This interlude allowed more character development and insights. Arketre encouraging Trelli (Arketre does carry a contraceptive mix around with her for others and as a dark reminder of one consequence which can happen out rape); Karlyn being quite hostile to Osavus in her protective side of Trelli and suspicion of men’s motives with women. Interludes between any combination any combination of the four providing more depth while taking care to ensure these weaved into the ongoing main narrative.

On reflection when working the re-write and re-reading this post I have realised in taking on this challenge and settling it into the narrative allowed for more opportunities to explore the characters and their relationships to each other. These having ramifications upon other episodes within the tale.

Here therefore is something to bear in mind when quivering on the edge of a challenge or for an uncomfortable part of the narrative. Keep calm. Keep mature. You never know what else will open up.

Keep on writing folks.

Writing Your Book – The Environmental Issue.

Writing Your Book- The Plot Thing

Writing Your Book – Main Characters (You can’t avoid them)

Writing Your Book – Main Characters (You can’t avoid them)

Characters eh?

 

I swear by the blade of Dark Agnes and the pen Robert E Howard I cannot explain why the creative process of writing within me always leads to the principal characters being women. Particularly as it causes some much initial bother.

As a male to mention I find it easier to write women as principal characters in a Fantasy setting and some folk think ‘Uh-huh male in his late 60s writing about fantasy girls…yeh got it!’.

So part-time psychiatrists and psychologists form an orderly Q. Tea and biscuits will be served while you are waiting.

Now it’s no use citing other male authors who do this either in Fantasy or SF for a few commentators are bound to say ‘Yes but the characters are sssso stereo-typical’ or ‘Oh another alpha-female’ (this is often quoted by males who are secretly scared of girls and also are wont take tape measures with them on visits to the bathroom)

The whole business if fraught with difficulties. By happenstance since my work is only destined to be self-published and not as a source of income, therein lies my freedom to continue as my writing muse leads me.

Which is, truth be known, of small comfort.

So let us, dear reader, travel down one writer’s path, signposted ‘Problem With Principal Characters’ and see if by the spirits of The Parallel you can relate with your own problems getting the folk to fit into the narrative.

The first problem most authors meets is they are usually not in the same mould as the character. In my case this would be fairly flash-light- in- one’s- face- obvious, ie how does a male writer relate to a female character? Well in my case having been married to the same gal for 45 years, having two daughters and one granddaughter in her twenties is of some help; having worked in an office environment for 40+ years where the majority of staff were women was another plus. This however does not the answer to all the issues, maybe 15%’s worth in that there as many types of women as there are men, and that surprisingly women and men are different, physically and in perspectives. This as far as I dare go without being lynched (allegorically). So characters might not think as you do, you have to work outside of your own head, imaginations, experience and contemplation on the subject are necessary.

Next problem, when confronting the issue of gender-specific (sorry I’ve been itching to use that phrase, I’m sure I don’t know why) fantasy-genre figures (as opposed to ahem…fantasy figures; heck this post is tougher than was first envisaged!). Now unless we are dealing with the area of comic book novels let us try to avoid the warrior woman who for some reason finds it easier to fight in a costume more suitable to the beach or as underwear; I mean do you know any women who walk about snowy mountains in bikinis or underwear…Uh? So, girls wear clothes, and since I’m setting this in northern climes heavy duty clothes. Why are clothes important in a novel’s narrative, because they in part define the characters.

Yes ‘Characters’. Despite what was written earlier, falling into stereo-types is something to be wary of, we all do it, when it a hurry, or making a point, or…(fill in the blanks). My own solution was to bring in three central characters, each with their own jumble of features. (As I see it, we are all a ‘jumble’ of gifts, flaws, quirks, sensitivities, strengths etc). This avoided the danger of a narrative of many parts ending up revolving around one character. It also allowed me to have characters engage with each on level terms, wherein one could be ‘up’, one ‘down’ and one in the middle, or any permutation, but not always the same ones in the same order.

This is how they panned out in order of introduction:

Karlyn Nahtinee. The standard trope in Fantasy would be the mischievous acrobatic thief who has a heart of gold, a cheeky sense of humour and is a bane to authority. Karlyn’s propensity to set fire to places or folk she thought were ‘evil’ wiped out some of the trope. The principal danger though was for folk to read a few lines and yell… ‘Ha Harley Quinn!!’ or ‘Chiana-Farscape!’. Mindful of this meant a great deal of effort trying work with Karlyn to ensure she did not do things these two would do while still retaining her skewed sometimes comic viewpoint. Bringing a vague back-story that her ancestry might not be all human, explained her ability to ‘talk’ with trees, various animals, birds, insects; smell things which can’t be smelt and walk between worlds. This would evolve with in her a general air of confusion and irritation at the way others see the world. She starts a new career as the assistant to an unconventional Custodian (think inquisitor) Even so the cloud of Harley Quinn still hovers. In a way it’s good, made me concentrate. She still develops, sometimes she shifts in character to a more regal type indicating her possible heritage.

Arketre Beritt: The standard trope; woman soldier/warrior. Women soldiers in Fantasy aside from sometimes being alpha-leaders tend to be hard folk, short on humour, often taller than average and either voluptuous or plain and everyone reading the book is waiting for the ‘right man’ to come along. Arketre was thus shorter than average, pretty, the equivalent of a ‘medic’ with apparently a tender heart, but able to stand up for herself. In short, in common parlance she started out as ‘a grunt’. Initially a counterpoint to some of Karlyn’s more acerbic characteristics, but as time goes on some military truths come out. She is part of an elite organisation The LifeGuard a cross between special forces and secret police like they had an ethical streak.  As a solider she complains about the equipment, she moans about officers, she dislikes being left without orders when she has responsibility. She sometimes kills in a rather unsettlingly detached manner. She can suffer from the ‘red mist’. She was content as a ‘medic’ but embraces the role of fighter. She is volatile. She has been made suited to war. But she will not let her friends down. She is ill-at-ease with the power Karlyn and Trelli embrace or come to terms with.

Trelli, aka Trelyvana Waywanderer: The innocent abroad. A once humble housemaid who accidentally ended up with powers and became the focus of a hunt by officialdom in the form of the Arketre’s LifeGuard and Karlyn’s Custodian, which is how all three meet. This type of character can spend their time being terrified, rescued and being the recipient of long involved explanations. Yes, she was terrified, yes, she was sort of rescued by the other two, but shows an ability to grow up very quickly and have the good sense not to take her powers for granted even to be suspicious of them. She also brings a level of domestic practicality and is therefore a sometime leader of two otherwise very assertive but mule-headed folk. She can reach a ‘enough is enough’ stage and speak her mind, forcibly. Somewhere along the developing of her back-story she became an orphaned babe whose parents were of what we would call sub-Saharan Africa. Living in a modest but thriving port town in a sort of European setting fitted in to this origin. Most of the time the colour of her skin simply does not matter. In the environments she encounters it is ability which counts.

The three of them were thus learning to interact, sometimes leader, sometimes being lead, bonding, while stumbling through a web of situations which none of them had much understanding. This enabled more development of quirks, foibles, strengths and general characteristics. Thus by the second book I felt I knew the three of them quite well, although each would surprise me from time to time. Trelli is asserting herself and not to be pushed around by various authorities, Karlyn struggling with her ancestry while Arketre becomes subsumed in the aggressive side of soldiering (and we learn she had been quite the rogue when off duty).

Fantasy wouldn’t be Fantasy without romance which was another problem for me when one involved Karlyn and Arketre. Aside from trying to avoid prurient, set-piece, out of context gratuitous scenes (that’s a whole different post!), there was now the dynamic of not having Trelli as the proverbial third wheel. This was an issue, but gave me a greater opportunity to bring out Trelli’s strengths, level of compassion, friendship and maturity. In addition this gave cause for a sisterly/friendship bond between her and Karlyn; Karlyn confessing she thinks Trelli understands the relationship the ‘the power’ better than Arketre, now Karlyn’s lover.

As the second volume involved a great deal of action, the three were relying on that original bonding dynamic to keep each other and themselves alive (Actually Trelli has her own romantic ‘moments’ which also allowed for some divergence of opinions between Karlyn and Arketre and added depths to their own characters).

Thus by the time this second Volume comes to an end I felt I had three people, who all happened to be women, one of whom had black skin, one of whom might not be quite human, two of whom were involved with ‘powers’, one of whom didn’t like those powers and two of whom developed a lesbian relationship and all three relying on each other to survive.

Two books in it has been quite a journey. Another book is twitching away to start. The challenge, not to repeat the same events of the first two in different places and different times. There will probably be a large scale disturbance of the empire which should present opportunities.

I think I have avoided stock-characters in the three.

But is an author ever certain? Not when they have to read through the narrative again to look out for spelling mistokes, typos, syntax issues etc.

Hope this is of some use to compare and contrast.

Writing Your Book – The Environmental Issue.

Writing Your Book- The Plot Thing

Writing Your Book – The Environmental Issue.

Choosing your ground

 

If you are reading this, then there is quite a good chance you have an urge to or are already writing in one form or another.  You may be just starting out, you may have been writing for some time, or you be thinking about writing and are working through several blogs getting an idea as to the commitment involved.

This post and subsequent ones will be about some of the issues involved, the platform used will be my latest project ‘Our Skirmishers of Lace, Steel and Fire,’ I will be trying to avoid:

Preaching for this to be the ‘true and only way’ to write

This being a marketing feature.

These posts are one writer’s experiences, you can take notes, compare or resolve to do the opposite. Whatever. As long as you are writing or starting to write.

Thus said;

A daunting aspect of writing is starting off. Most folk will go through an episode of staring at a blank paper or screen. All the words which were tumbling around in their head have either evaporated and lie condensed in the sub-conscious or are blocked up somewhere along the creative channel. The poor writer in a creative panic, thinking, whispering or muttering: ‘Where do I start?’

Nothing unusual there.

A writer might have a plot line but still can’t get the details onto ‘paper’. If you are on a laptop, by the way and are listening to music do not be tempted to go onto YouTube to watch the music ‘live’; more chapters, ideas and writing time are lost that way than through state censorship.

One way to ease in is to have your backdrop, environment and underlying themes set out as a motivation. Let me elaborate here using myself as a laboratory specimen.

As the years go on, I find myself becoming increasingly picky about subject matter. The moment the words ‘serial killer’ crop or ‘conspiracy at highest levels’ crop up, I am off and away. The former repel me, the latter I have had my fill of. There you go; my choice. Also, after reading so much political and military history there is a tendency for me to go for happy or at least equitable endings.

After reading a great deal a writer (or writer in situ) will have a sneaking whisper in their head ‘Yeh, fine, but I think I could do better’; nothing wrong with that just so long as you keep the feeling under control and don’t publicly savage all writers rather than write.

A writer may also feel they have a voice and just want it to be heard/read.

Putting those aspects all into my head and mixing them up this is the universe which began to form, the one most comfortable for me to write in. In this instance ‘comfortable’ does not mean cosy or easy, the usage refers to the most productive way the words come out.

In my case. Firstly being a Calvin (Calvin & Hobbes) type-dreamer I am hopeless at writing about the normal world. I am at my ease when writing fantasy for being incurably impatient researching science to create a credible SF background would just not work for me. Give me a place where laws of physics and chemistry are working which have not yet been uncovered or fully realised. But may I stick with some of continuity!

My familiarity geographically is with northern Europe, as this book is set in another time after monumental events this gives me some leeway to juggle about with peoples, places and locations. Thus, a great deal is given up to the readers imagination.

As stated above since everything is geared towards a certain type of ending it is easier to move along while creating ‘bumps’ in the road, in fact flooding out the road on occasions, or putting in a divert.

My own interests have always been in matters military, my work experience has been in the UK civil service thus I approach neither subject with a rigidity or clichés. The principal characters are also the ones at the bottom rungs, so they are focused or trying to carry or survive orders.

I like romance as a feature of a story. Setting this in a narrative is not a problem, avoiding the cliched predictable, highly unrealistic settings, interactions and terrible descriptions are! ( more about that later…later I said!)

Evil does not triumph in my books. Evil has one hell of a (‘hell of a’!..you gotta laugh folks, I got dozens like that!) time in my worlds, in fact my challenge is having the thing hang around enough to create a feasible contest. The main methods of destruction and unhappiness in my worlds are. (A) The well-meaning authoritarians who think they know best (B) The folks whose plans are not very good (C) The opportunists waiting for the ‘main’ chance (D) The thoughtless idiot (E) The unforeseen collision of plans.

I personally cannot write very long without some sort of humour creeping it. This may take the form of a satirical comment on today or some of the lazier troupes of Fantasy writing. It can be bawdy or downright slapstick. It may be knockabout verbal. Being a male as we never grow up it could be very, very juvenile. Since all these happen in Life anyhow, I have no problems with putting any of them into the narrative.

And finally, tying in with the ‘evil’ thing as those who have read my posts know I have no tolerance level for cruelty, bigotry, and violence on the weak, so I work out a few ‘issues’ without being too obvious and straining the narrative.

The above are therefore my ways of giving myself a setting I can work with, to enable me to concentrate upon plot and characters. Some of the facets I have listed in fact encourage me to get on with the work, because I do so want to write about them; the problem being not to rush into these or keep repeating unless there might be good cause (a really valid ‘might’). Thus, there is my environment to work within.

If you take a ‘Living World’ analogy it can be seen there are many environments in which Life flourishes. Therefore, what is my favoured environment, might well be another’s arid desert, frozen tundra, crushing sea bottom depths or any other comparison you might care to make which will stifle your creativity. The important facet being you create your own in which your own flora and fauna of a book may flourish.

Keep on keeping.

The Return of The Wayward Writer

The Return of The Wayward Writer

My Absence

 

There are times when it just gets you. Y’know?.

I appeal you who are writers of fiction to back me up on this. The time when The Book takes over, and all of your creative powers are drawing into the swirling nascent stellar body which is, to use the vernacular ‘Your Baby’.

I would tease out the cosmological analogy a smidge more by way of explanation. Stars commence as clouds of dust, an event causes the cloud to contract, gravity kicks in more and more dust gathers together, pressures build up, the event grows hot building up to a crucial temperature when nuclear fusion takes place and what was dust becomes a star.

There is a risk with using this description. Mean folk of negligible talent who carp but never write will pass cheap comments about arrogance and vanity for the writer daring to compare their work to a stellar event. HA! I say…in fact I say ‘HA!’ again. In a writer’s own universe, the creation of their book is as such, and a writer has good cause to celebrate.

Anyway, to clarify:

My Second Volume preceded by ‘Of Patchwork Warriors’. Book Cover 9(kindle -Amazon)
My second volume: ‘Our Skirmishers of Lace, Fire and Steel’ (or maybe ‘Our Skirmishers of Steel, Fire and Lace’, I’ve not quite decided). This continues the involvement of Arketre Beritt, Karlyn Nahtinee, and Trelyvana Waywanderer (an adopted name. For most of her life she was simply known as ‘Trelli’) in events in the physical world of the Oakhostian Empire, the otherworldly power which going by many names permeates all, the unsettling other realms which its existence made possible and the beings inhabiting therein.

Those of you who were following my many travails will know the original version of the novel when tested on the re-write suffered from instant ‘wheels falling off’. Here are few of the errors:

Humour, and pretty puerile humour at that, in the wrong places.

Plots wandering off into sub-plots with no immediate relevance.

Characters who made a big fuss at the beginning fading into obscurity half way through with no good reason

Circumstances from Vol I being repeated with new scenery in Vol II.

Minor characters who should have been important wandering in and out with a confused air about them to blurt out a few hurried lines then vanish again.

An excess of sub-plots.

A rushed conclusion with previously unforeseen events forced in to make it work.

And whereas I do like sort of happy endings, riding off into the sunrise just looked…. odd

Naahh it wasn’t working.

For those of you who have been through similar experiences you know the agony and the weariness which assails the writer on having to start up again, having to shed yourself of the notion all the time previously was a waste. The latter is a falsehood. If you’ve not been along this road yet you have to appreciate the first draft is always bad and the second one won’t be much better and so on and so on, you’ve simply found the way which won’t work.

A re-write is like that only far heavier. But what must be done must be done.

It was fairly plodding to begin with, trying to use large chunks of the previous writing, having to ditch them, pondering here, pondering there.

Then back to the star analogy, around about December the narrative took on a very strong momentum all of its own, the whole work was demanding to be finished, all the necessary parts were in place on paper on in my head, heart and spirit; the final coalescence was taking place. So, what with the seasonal activities joining in everything else had to take its place in line, all creativity was being fed into the book, all writing time subsumed into the finish. My own version of nuclear fusion was taking place right here in my universe.

And so, here I am on the re-read. Sure, aside from spelling, syntax and so forth one or two bits are being edited out, but only so the good of the main narrative.

Over the next few posts I will be going into this. This will not be an exercise in how I expertly navigated problems, nor a course in ‘How-To’ (In this blog?…….The very idea!). These will be simply one writer’s journal of their experiences. The reason for cataloguing them will be to share with other writers along the lines of:

Oh. Not just me then.

Hmm. Must make sure I don’t do that.

Oh yeah. That’s interesting I think I could improve on it though.

Ahh, I wonder if something similar might work for me.

Hey, there’s hope for me yet!

There might even be some time given to ‘The Marketing Thing’.

 

I wouldn’t have had it any other way!

PS: Thanks to Charles for pointing out it’s ‘fusion’ not ‘fission’…..curse that cup of coffee!

 

 

 

 

Winning Back Your Novel (Adventures in the Writing of “Our Skirmishers of Silk, Steel and Fire”)

 

Pencils and notebooks out time folks.Victorian writing

Here is another delve into my writing career (the word for me in uncomfortably close to ‘careen’). For you to take note of, or…if you so wish to say ‘Nah…I wouldn’t do it that way!

For those of you who have been familiar with my blog know full well how much of a problem I have with THE PLOT. This item coming down the list of priorities in my writing. Characters- no problem, narrative not so bad, humour- loads of it.

Plot?

Hmmm.

Anyway, as alluded to in my previous post having completed the first draft of Our Skirmishers of Silk, Steel and Fire I began to address THE PLOT. And in doing so a suspicion was finally confirmed.

Not only had my characters started to influence my writing, as in the previous volume ‘Of Patchwork Warriors’ Book Cover 9

(See Amazon Kindle “Of Patchwork Warriors” by R J Llewellyn)

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I wish he wouldn’t do that

where they had snatched a sub-text and turned it into an entire facet of the plot; in this case they had taken hold of the whole durn book.

It’s not that I mind them having their moments of glory, adventure, romance, humour, clever schemes and narrow escapes, after all it is those aspects which give a book its flavour and zest. The issue in contention here being they felt inclined to fill every corner up with how they saw things and coped with them, BUT not allowing me to explain WHY these things were happening. Or if I did get a sentence in, matters came across as hurried and ‘Oh By The Way’ the empire is falling over and the emperor has gone vicious for no apparently good reason and I appear to have lost three minor characters who were to have conveyed certain major plot elements. Either that or there was only enough space for some other lesser characters to gather and engage in cryptic or enigmatic conversations.

(At this stage I should point out to new readers; it is my opinion I do not create these characters, they exist in another part of Creation and by some wonderous osmosis we have tuned into each other. You will appreciate I have a mixed blessing here.)

At first there was a problem of shoe-horning in ‘facts’ of the current geo-mystical-political situation in the world of this story. Some characters were unhappy at having bits of their own favourite business cut out and tried to be awkward in obstructing the flow of the narrative. Then there was the issue of avoiding the dire ‘Let me explain’ in which one previously minor character stands up and proceeds to suck the oxygen out of the flow by explaining some history or process with all the verve of a bad lecturer in economics; some successful authors get away with this; I’m not successful.

So stern and tough-love measures had to be taken, being the one who knew the world in which these stories were taken place I contrived to throw in events which I knew would fit in but were surprises to the characters. This did cause some flummoxing amongst the cast, so much so they quite overlooked me cutting out chunks of their personal activities and speeches. As is the case in normal life, they had to deal with the random and unexpected.

Since the narrative was now back in my hands I started to inject the themes encountered in history, not events, themes. Reading of political and military histories suggests there is a constant unpredictable factor be it natural such as weather, unknown folk rising suddenly, or established subordinates thinking ‘I Know Better’ and going off on a tangent; in addition you must also consider bodies of folk who have not read or forgotten the script. There is a military adage that no plan survives first contact with the enemy; thus the notion of some all-power (usually grinning) who until the last chapter is two steps ahead of the hero(es) goes straight out of the window.

In this novel there are Patchwork (ooohh, where have I heard that word before?) alliances which are fragile and not based on trust and no one is really in control of the situation, because no group really wants to work for another group. This gives an air of uncertainty and makes for interesting situations, hopefully the reader will as all writers hope ‘want more’.

This comes with its own set of problems.

For a start off it’s necessary to make sure every character is an individual but none of the lesser ones steal the plot in some unexpected way.

Secondly there should not be too much plot and sub-plots lest the reader eventually thinks….Uhh? and finally……Hah! Who cares!…..

Thirdly, structure. Even in chaos, there is structure. In writing this part of the series I ask myself a hard question. Would the background stand up to an historian’s scrutiny as a possible series of plausible events?

Jerk
Err?

Still, nothing worthwhile in writing comes easy. At least it shouldn’t.

So far, so sort of good. There has been a lot of alteration and some deletion of banter and ‘business’. However, the atmosphere of crisis and varied approaches to it is starting to seep in; it is meant to seep in, all being well this series is a long haul (heck I’m only 67, plenty of time). And the central characters?

They are struggling to keep balance and focus (Well apart from Karlyn, but if you knew her you would  not be surprised. This said she is not going to be allowed to scamper and giggle through the whole lot; even if she is difficult to rein in).

In conclusion.200px-Advokat,_Engelsk_advokatdräkt,_Nordisk_familjebok

Never be afraid to let go on a tight narrative. Life is not ordered, predictable or convenient, so why should you story?

Re-rewrites, Highlights and Reality-Bites (A journey through writing of The Skirmishes of Lace, Steel and Fire-Part II of a Fantasy )

Re-rewrites, Highlights and Reality-Bites (A journey through writing of The Skirmishes of Lace, Steel and Fire-Part II of a Fantasy )

WARNING: Some images you may find disturbing 245px-1271754717_william-e.-gladstone

(No, not that one!)

Some writers understandably hate doing the rewrite. I can see their point. They’ve put all their effort into forging this narrative together, worked hard and heavy through all manner of issues and had to squeeze out the time to write amongst all the other demands made by Life. Victorian writingThen, what to they get as a reward? Typos, syntax problems, holes in the plot, main characters not coming alive and that’s before we even start to think of listing all the problems.Me

Me? I enjoy a rewrite. Taking the journey with the characters, knowing where they are going, how they are getting there and all the fun which goes with it.WIN_20180727_19_28_15_Pro

Hold on! What did I say?WIN_20180727_19_28_44_Pro

Look again sunshine!

Oh Frib! I’ve done it again. Gone and literally lost the plot.WIN_20180727_19_28_27_Pro

Y’ see this can be a bit of a problem when you are having so much ‘fun’ with describing all the adventures, banter, relationship interactions, personal hopes, fear and so forth, which you decided would be vital to brining the characters alive (Or in my case, help them travel from their world to ours).Handel_GF
The book now reads like a series of unconnected sketches and vignettes, as if it were some sort of comedy skit show with moral message.Illustration from 'Le Theatre' magazine, 1900s (litho)

Dearie me. All these lovely folk wandering from one circumstance to another and surmounting all manner of problems. And there’s no plot to indicate as to why they are doing all these things! Melodrama -idiot manOK a few minor characters turn up and make ominous statements of heavy portent then vanish again and someone leaps up with a seriously dangerous weapon, be it physical or ‘magical’ (crude word, it’ll have to do) only to be cleverly defeated, but sadly this does not make for a plot.

I had a sneak of bad feeling, WIN_20180727_19_28_23_Prowhen at towards the end of this volume the central characters were left stalwartly together basically affirming their friendship, loyalty and love to each other then effectively saying to the whole world ‘Bring It On’ to go riding off into, literally, sunrises.

Yeh that’ll work……If it was a Musical.
300px-Witchcraft_at_Salem_Village

So it is time for some serious crafting. Time for a serious discussion with myself….WIN_20180727_19_28_18_Pro

Here is the work. There, over there are bits of the plot. Now, go through the whole thing and weave those bits into one long thread which should run through the book.

But I might lose some of my favourite little vignettes.

Well that’s too bad.

This is not as much fun as it used to be.

It’s because you are taking things seriously.

Oh My! This means hard work!

Do you want folk to read the fribbin’ book or not?Lavery_Maiss_Auras

If you put it like that….Confrontation

And there we are everyone. Remember never lose sight of your plot. InventionsIt may change a bit, could even do a complete lurch in a way you did not expect.

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Whatever, but at least keep it on the horizonrunning training

 

All the best with whatever you are currently working on.

 

Launches, Re-launches. No time to sit back on my haunches (OK. You try and find a better rhyme)