World Building – Part 2

So, I’ve written about this before, here to be precise.  Last time I started with the words, world building is hard.

In retrospect this was inaccurate, it isn’t hard, it’s challenging.  There’s whole world of difference between the two of those, because as it turns out I quite enjoy world building, it’s exceedingly rewarding.  I never knew deciding on how the passage of time works and working on religions could be so interesting, but then seeing it leads to whole load of reading I should have known really.

I think the problem was that I didn’t totally have the themes of the world set in my head, I knew what they were, they just weren’t organised.  After some organisation, I have managed to get some key things sorted.  I have now decided that time will pass at the same rate as the real world and have worked out that the city the first story is set in will be an atheist state.  Next, I need to address language, does everyone speak the same language or will that differ from one nation to the other?  If they do speak different then how am I going to represent this since I only know my mother tongue?

At one time, I might have considered this too daunting a challenge to tackle and looked for an easy way out.  These days I can’t wait to take the challenge on.

Exciting times my friends.

Character Development

Is it best to create bespoke and ready to go characters or should they grow organically?

This is a question I have asked myself often.  When writing my characters, I try to get into their heads, understand their motivations, what drives them on etc…   This is something I’ve always found quite easy, I’m the sort of person that when playing role play games on consoles, such as the Elder Scrolls games, I come up with a bit of background beyond what the game dictates.  It’s not something that I have ever found difficult and it helps me to come up with what are (I hope) believable characters, with believable motivations and the like.

This has a downside however.

Sometime last year, I was writing a short story set in the fantasy world I have created for the Brogan series, it was based around a character that is briefly in the first book.  As I am intending to have the character feature a bit more I wanted to write a prequel story, something to give him a bit of background and expand on his character.  I had always intended for him to feature a little more in later books, just not so much in the second book.  But what I wrote was intense, it really put me through the wringer and I had to take a little break before getting back into my writing.

I prefer to let characters grow organically, let circumstance dictate their development, decide on the spare of the moment what I think is most in character.  However sometimes a character just needs to be created from scratch, you don’t have time to develop them organically because they’re not going to be around long enough.  It could be because they are only required to serve a purpose, they do their thing and either move on or die.  As tempting as it is to keep every character around, some are just supporting characters and nothing more, you can’t keep them all.

But then, every now and then a character comes along, you’re not intending on them to be in it as much as they end up being.  It could be that they fill a hole in the story that you previously hadn’t realised was there.  These are the characters that grow organically, they create themselves, form their own motivations and you end developing their characters on the fly.  There is of course the tragic sort of character, the kind of character that you intend to go onto great things and have all sorts of plans.  Then you change a bunch of things for the benefit of the wider narrative and suddenly, they’re no longer relevant, then you need to work out what to do with them.

It’s a bit of Gladiator moment, thumbs up they live and fade into obscurity, thumbs down they die.  Either way their use the story is over and even if they do live, they seldom feature as the story progresses.  It’s a shame as well, some of those characters were good, I loved them; they just didn’t serve a purpose anymore.

Okay, so I waffled a bit there.  But it was my first major blog post in a while so you’ll have to forgive me on that score.  As usual, feel free to comment below if you have questions, critique or anything in general really.

Peace out folks, and have a lovely day.

Killer Disorganisation

I’ve been finding it difficult find topics to write about of late.

Now I know what you’re thinking, writer’s block again?  Well, no actually.  The problem is that I’ve got all sorts of things to write about, I’m just not sure whether I’ve written about them before.  Now this isn’t necessarily a problem if you have something new to write about on a given subject, but I can’t even remember whether that’s the case.  Over the last nine months I’ve written somewhere in the region of forty articles on a wide variety of subjects and I’m having some trouble recalling them all.

This isn’t an inspiration problem, so much as it is an organisational problem.

Now you’re saying, ‘But Tom, you wrote about crappy organisation and said you were going to change.’  Oh, have I?  Thanks, I’ll add that to the list so as I don’t write about it again.

Anyhoo, I’m just posting to say I’m organising my stuff and I’ll get back to posting genuine content when I know what I can post without repeating myself.  So, take heed folks, if you don’t organise yourself you’ll end up in a situation like I’m in.

Boom!  I wrote an advisory piece.  I’m getting quite good at this blogging lark.

Practice Makes Perfect

Writing, much like any other creative pursuit is a matter of practice.  The more you write the better you get, that doesn’t necessarily translate into success of course.  Being good at something doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be mega successful, it just means you’re good at it…obviously.

I have recently been a little lax in my writing, I’d like to say there’s a good reason for this; but there isn’t.  Frankly, I’ve just been lazy and playing on my X-Box too much.  This is a common problem for me and I need to be more disciplined.  I’m not going to get better if I’m not writing.

Naughty Tom!

This is all going to change, I’m re-releasing Brogan and the Bandit King and so there are many things to do.  New content needs to be to finished and inserted, artwork needs to be commissioned and an editing process needs to be undertaken, amongst other things.  I need to save the money to pay for most of the things that need doing as of course.

I’ve personally always found writing to be easy, when I’m in the mood the words just flow on to the page.  The editing and promotional process however I find to be incredibly intimidating and mind numbingly tedious in equal measure.  Talking myself up is not something I find to be a natural thing, I don’t know if it’s my inner Englishman pushing through, or whether I just lack the personality traits required to big myself up.  It’s all so very difficult.

Still, like the old saying goes; nothing worth doing is ever easy.

Self-Publishing Woes

Self-publishing is expensive.

Having attempted to self-publish on the cheap and finding out that it doesn’t work, I decided to remove my book from sale pending some extra content, a new cover, and other bits.  So, I thought I may as well consider a proper professional edit, beta readers and all the jazz that comes with properly releasing a book.  All this with a view to republishing it sometime in the first quarter of next year looking all spangly*.

The problem?

It’s all so expensive.  For a proper edit, I was quoted a little over three hundred pounds and while that’s actually pretty good value when you consider there are some out there asking for over a grand**, it’s still a lot of money on my budget and that’s not even considering that the word count has increased since that quote.  Throw in beta readers and the art for the book and my costs are approaching the one thousand pounds mark before I’ve even set a release date.

Now sure, with suitable preparation I can save the money I need to get all this done.  But it’s going to be tight and I might have to survive on a diet of bread and water for the next six months or so, I jest of course, but you get my point.

So, I got to thinking whether there were other ways I could make money from my writing.  If I’m being honest, saying such things seem a little vulgar, I don’t know about the rest of you, but the thought of hawking my stories feels wrong somehow.  It’s daft of course, what else am I going to do if I want to become a full-time writer?

Anyway, after some thought I have come up with a potential solution to my problem that I’m hoping will enable me to make the required money, whilst also offering something of worth on a regular basis.  The solution; Patreon.

For those of you unaware of what Patreon is, let me direct you to what they (Patreon) call the magic line:

“Patreon is a membership platform that makes it easy for creators to get paid.”

I have a lot of things I need to do to enable me to my book out in a professional manner that will enable me to get it noticed.  It’s not just all the things I’ve mentioned above, but the necessary funds to promote my book to help get it noticed.  I would also prefer if possible to sell it via a webstore of my own if possible, thus avoiding the middle man, this will obviously incur further costs.  Then there’s the novellas I’ve written to follow the first book and of course the second book I would like to release no more than twelve months after the first and so, on it goes.

The work of any author is never finished, self-published authors just have a tad more to do.

I’ve not come up with a precise model for what I’m going to offer, but short stories at the very least are a given, along with a few extra rewards here and there, I’ll decide firmly in the future.  However, I feel now is the time to offer a word of reassurance, this blog shall forever remain free and I shall still be publishing Vernon stories through it.  My good friend Zog would never forgive me if I tried to charge for those.

Why am I telling you this?

Well it’s like I said sometime, to someone somewhere, or maybe in this blog…let’s just assume I said all right?

“Join me on my journey to becoming a full-time writer.”

To my mind it’s just the next step on the path to becoming a full-time writer and I’m quite excited to see how it goes.  It’s going to be a learning curve for sure and to be truthful a little nerve wracking, but I think it’s just the next logical step.  I shall keep you updated with my progress of course.  If it goes well, then who knows, maybe my experiences might inspire someone reading this blog in the future to try something similar.

Peace out folks, and happy writing!

*Super excellent
**One thousand pound

World Building

World building is hard.

I’ve often looked on enviously at fiction authors who write in a real-world setting, I’ve always thought they had it easier when it came to their worlds.  I mean sure, no -one forced me to write a fantasy series, thereby rendering it necessary for me build a whole new world from the ground up.  It was just the natural way for me to go, having long been a fan of fantasy fiction.

I digress however, the subject of my writing envy.

I think I’ve been a little unfair to my fellow fiction writing contemporaries.  In truth, we all have to build worlds when we write fiction, it is important you see to set the rules of your world in advance and then stick to them.  There’s little more annoying than going through three quarters of a book being told one thing by the story, only for it to do an about face and do something entirely contrary to the pre-existing rules of the story.  It’s jarring and few things will break immersion faster.

In any genre, whether it be fantasy, sci-fi or something a little more grounded like romance or drama, the world the story takes place in needs to be built.  If built in advance, with the author noting the ‘rules’ of the world and keeping in mind it’s lore, then as long as the author sticks to them everything should be consistent and non-jarring.

The same is true no matter what type of fiction you’re writing.  I can well imagine the fact that the Harry Potter series of books were couched in a real-world setting didn’t make it any easier for J.K. Rowling to write them.  Indeed, Lee Child will have had in mind when writing the Jack Reacher books what the eponymous character was capable of when writing them.  All worlds, no matter their location need to be built to a point.

When writing Brogan and the Bandit King and further stories set in the same world I needed to do the same.  Elves and dwarfs are a no-no, but wizards and demons are fine.  There will be fantastical creatures of all varieties for the hero and his companions to battle, but no orcs or goblins.  These are the things I need to remember as I go on.

Anyway, enough of my rambling, I need to decide where to put a city.

Writing on Auto-Pilot…

It’s no secret that I’ve been having problems writing of late.

As I mentioned in a previous post I have been in something of a lull since Christmas, nothing would work for me and I could never seem to work up the motivation to get going consistently.  I seem to be coming out of the other side of it now and that brings me to the subject of my blog post.

My lack of energy and motivation really taught me to appreciate and savour the good times.  Before Christmas I was on a roll, writing on auto-pilot you could say.  I was churning out multiple blog posts through the week and still finding the time to do some creative writing as well, I felt like nothing could stop me.  I think back and it’s no surprise I came to a screeching halt.  I’d write in the morning before work and having worked a full day I would spend all night, every night sat in front of my laptop or with a notebook in front of me writing.  I loved doing it and enjoyed it immensely, but it was always going to burn me out eventually.

You know what though?

I’ll do it again, I’ll get that in the zone again and sit there writing all day loving every minute of it.  Because when writers are in that sort of mindset that’s what we should do.  We should take every minute available to us to hone our craft and do the thing we love.

So, whatever you write.  When you’re in the zone and racking up the wordcount like a child prodigy at a spelling bee, be sure to savour and make the most of it, who knows how long it will last.

 

This was a daily prompt response.

Weaving a narrative…

I like a good, well woven narrative.  You know the sort I mean, the type that keeps you guessing and coming up with all sorts of new theories as to where it’s going.

I mention this because I’ve just finished watching the first season of Westworld and the last episode blew my socks off.  It was, as you might expect from the last episode of any season jam packed full of surprises of all sorts.  As it was tying up all the plots from the season, all the bits and pieces that seemed a little weird to me at the time were explained in exquisite detail.  It was an expert piece of story-telling of a sort that I can only hope to achieve one day.

So, that’s what this post is about; narrative.

Though I wrote few of them, I have been making up stories all my life.  I would imagine all sorts of people doing all sorts of things, I would make the stories increasingly complex until I couldn’t remember where they started or indeed what they were about by the time I awoke from my day dreams.  However, all this daydreaming did teach me the importance of a good narrative.

It’s important you see to understand the difference between a story and a narrative.  When you look at the definition of the two words there appears little difference, however as with most things, the devil is in the detail.  A story is described as an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment.  Whilst a narrative is described as a spoken or written account of connected events; a story.

Any fiction writer can create a story, containing rich and interesting characters with deep and immersive back stories.  A narrative is another thing, the narrative of any story is the mechanism by which we drive the story along and take it from the start, to its conclusion.  The narrative is like the links of a chain, a series of set pieces that when linked together form the story.

Coming up with a good narrative requires planning, I’m speaking from experience here.  When writing Brogan and the Bandit King I did some planning, it’s only now as I look back I realise that it wasn’t nearly enough.  I had all sorts of ideas, different characters to fit into the story and set pieces I wanted to write.  I had a rough idea of how I wanted the story the go, where I wanted the titular hero to be by the end of it and so in my mind I had my story, all I needed to do was write it.

What a tremendous muppet I was.

Including the editing stage, it took me somewhere in the region of two years to write and get it to the point that it was ready to release.  Whilst some of that was down to spelling and grammatical errors, the largest amount of time came from moving chapters about, deleting bits and adding others.  There were several bits near the start of the book that I wrote in intending to do something with later, before promptly forgetting about them.  Then there was the town that had one name at the beginning of the book and another at the end.  Thinking about it I was a fool, a little planning at the start could have saved me a lot of work later.

So, that’s my advice to anyone setting out to write a story, do some planning at the start.  Make some notes, write down your story ideas and plot a good, coherent narrative.  Then hopefully you won’t do what I did and forget about the box hidden under the wheel arch of the cart.