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.

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.

Audio Books

I like to read.

Not endlessly, I know people who never stop reading, they’ve always got a book on the go and the thought of having nothing to read gives them palpitations.  I’m more of a binge reader, I’ve discussed this before so I’ll not linger on this subject.

The point of this blog post is this, I recently discovered audio books.  Now I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking that audio books have been around for years and I can’t have been unaware of their existence until now.  Well you would be right, I knew of them, I just never really had the drive to listen to one until recently.  So, in what was a somewhat spontaneous move, I decided to sign up on Audible and take in my first audio book.

But what audio book should I read was the question?

I gave this a great deal of thought.  Should I go for something contemporary, fantasy fiction or maybe something a little older, indeed a classic.  Firstly, with it having recently been the twentieth anniversary of the release of the first Harry Potter book I considered that.  Then there was a couple of medieval fiction books and fantasy books, the names of which escape me right now.  My final option was something I have tried to read before but never managed to make serious headway into, Sherlock Holmes.

I decided on the latter, mainly because it was the definitive collection, which weighed in at seventy-one hours long and was narrated by Stephen Fry to boot.  I am currently listening to A Study in Scarlet and must admit, I’m jolly well enjoying it.

The point of all this?

If you have ever wanted to take in a story but have struggled to digest the book, then I would recommend an audio book.  For people such as I who don’t have the greatest attention span, a good audio book, well narrated may well be the answer to your literary woes.

Peace out folks, and have a lovely day.

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

The Promised Land

I talk to the books I’m reading, or more specifically the characters in them.

If you put ten writers in a room and asked them what the key was to any story, you would probably get ten different answers.  I personally think there is no definitive answer to this question, there a great number of things that make a good story.  Whether it be a coherent narrative, likeable characters or any other of the dozens of things that make great stories when put together.

Any good story must be able to catch the writer’s imagination however, it must be able to make them laugh, cry or cringe.  We’ve all read books that have had this effect on us, we’ve cringed at a gory scene or laughed when our favourite character has done something only to then be driven to tears when they’re killed off in the next chapter.  We then sit there cursing the writer because they have cruelly murdered our favourite character, despite knowing that in a narrative sense it was the correct thing to do.

It never ceases to amaze me how the written word can fire our imagination in a way that no other medium can.  I personally think it’s because we feel a sense of ownership, we imprint our own idea of how things look onto these imaginary worlds and people.  How many of us have sat there decrying casting director’s choices of people to play certain roles in screen adaptations of stories; this guy right here for one.

This is not a bad thing.

Being passionate about fiction is a good thing, no, a great thing.  I talk to the characters like they’re real and that’s when I know a story has really got me.  If you need to remind yourself that it’s a work of fiction, well, you’ve reached the promised land of reading in my opinion.

Forgotten History

On November 6th 1865, a warship flying the flag of a foreign power sailed up the River Mersey and brought itself up alongside the British man-of-war, HMS Donegal.

Usually back in those days that was the sign that a great deal of violence and death was about to ensue as the two ships started attempting to pummel each other into submission.  But on this occasion, nothing of the kind occurred.  The ship was the CSS Shenandoah, a warship of the now defunct Confederate States of America and her captain had no greater intention than to surrender his ship to the British authorities.  It was the last act of a continent spanning civil war, fought thousands of miles away on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, resulting in the deaths of over 620,000 American servicemen.

I’m not going to go into the strange quirk of fate that led to this nation defining war ending mid river of the River Mersey, that’s not the point of my post today.  The point of my post is this, until the other day I wasn’t aware of this.  Maybe everyone reading this knew the last combatants in the American Civil War surrendered ten miles upriver from where I live, but I didn’t.  It got me to wondering how many moments of historical significance have occurred right on our doorstep, things that have been forgotten to slow march of time.

So, keep an eye out when you’re out and about, who knows what little quirks of history you’ll spot.

Too much of a good thing…

Politics isn’t exactly everyone’s favourite subject, but much as I have avoided it as much as possible up to now I feel compelled to comment.

Be warned:  I busted out the swears.

As you may know the UK government has called a snap general election for the 8th June.  This has caused no amount of groaning from people in this country who are feeling the effect of election fatigue, one sympathizes.  I must admit to being a bit of a geek, I find elections to be rather interesting, the run up can be entertaining as you see politicians jockeying for position to get their messages heard.  Cue politicians attempting to appear hip and cool as they attempt to get the votes of people that couldn’t relate to even if given the benefit of a body swap for a day.

Frankly it’s embarrassing.

Then there’s election day itself when the results start rolling in and you begin to get a picture of how the election might be unfolding.  I think it can all be rather dramatic as you start to see heads rolling.  I know it’s a little sad, but I don’t care, I enjoy it.

Even with all that, even with the entertainment factor, the sense of comedy and drama; I’m beginning to grow tired of elections.  We had a general election in May 2015, the EU referendum in June 2016 and now this in June.  If you live in Scotland you also had to contend with the independence referendum in 2014 and the elections to the Scottish parliament in May 2016.  Northern Ireland held elections to the assembly in May 2016 and March 2017.  Wales held elections to the Welsh Assembly in May 2016 also.  Throw in various local council elections, elections to the European and probably some other election that I’ve forgotten about and that’s a hell of a lot of voting.

It’s exhausting.

I watched a news report just after the election had been announced, the reporter was speaking to a lovely old lady called Brenda and he was asking her what she thought of the announcement.  To say Brenda was dismayed at the prospect of having to go to the polls again would be an understatement, she summed up the situation perfectly in one sentence.

“There’s just too much politics going on at the moment!”

Well said Brenda, well said.

I never thought I’d say this, but there is way too much politics going on right now.  If things continue as they are then I do feel we could end up in double digits in terms of the number of elections before the end of next year.  I do wonder what effect this might have on voter turnout at the election, it’s easy to understand how people might be turned off at the prospect of another election.  It’s not even like things will change really, we’ll get the same sorts of people, telling the same lies and using the same meaningless soundbites in attempt to win our votes.

However, I would urge people to exercise their vote nonetheless.  Vote for the party you’ve always voted for, vote for someone new, vote for an independent candidate or if none of the above appeals then spoil your ballot in a way that clearly states you are voting for none of the candidates.  Whilst I get people might be tired of voting with absolutely no change whatsoever, not voting isn’t going to solve anything.

Nothing emboldens politicians and the powerful like the silence of the people, voting sends a message to our political class, whatever we choose that message to be.  That’s not all there is to political engagement of course as voting is only part of being politically engaged, but this has been my longest blog post yet, so I’ll cover the rest some other time.

Whatever the case, once this election is done can our politicians please get their shit together and just fuck off for at least the next twelve months?

A Good End?

This blog has gotten a little of track of late, I think I’ve been letting my sentimental side run away with itself; time to correct that.

So, a post about writing, yay!

I was thinking recently about endings, specifically endings to stories.  In short, they’re hard to do.  I think the hardest thing any writer has to do is bring the curtain down on a story, especially if that story is part of a long running series that they have invested no small an amount of time into.  I’m only just embarking upon writing my own writing adventure with the Brogan books and so I don’t need to think about ending it any time soon, but the thought of doing it fills me with a deep feeling of dread whenever it enters my mind.

I think a writer has two main problems when coming to ending a story, ending at the right time and ending in the right way.

I’ll start with ending at the right time.  One of the worst things a writer can do in my opinion is to draw out a story, all stories and characters for that matter have a shelf life.  The time comes when consideration must be given to whether the best thing for them is to end it, there a few things worse than seeing a much-loved character being flogged like a dead horse to put off their eventual execution.  I get why they do it, we love them, they’re like part of the family and ending their story is akin to taking a family pet to the vet knowing it’ll be last time you do.

Overstating the issue?  Maybe, but I love my characters, even the bastards; I put too much into creating them not to get attached to them.

Whilst timing is important, equally as important is execution.  How many times have we been following a story in whatever medium we’re experiencing it, only to get to the end and be left feeling distinctly underwhelmed.  Take for example the ending to the first trilogy in the Mass Effect series of games.  Now sure it’s purely a matter of opinion on whether the ending to Mass Effect 3 was any good, indeed it is a very polarizing topic.  Much like Marmite, you either love it or you hate it.  But it doesn’t alter the fact that it left many people feeling like they had been sold a lemon.

For those of who haven’t played the games, the series was sold on the basis that the choices you made through the series would affect the ending.  I can only speak for my own experience, but I was personally feeling good running into the last half an hour of gameplay.  The story had been good, the musical score was outstanding and the characters were all behaving in characteristic fashion.  Sadly, everything north of this point was, in my opinion at least, complete and utter bollocks.

Half an hour later and the game was over.  I won’t tell you how it went, I will however say three words that should explain the situation clearly; deus ex machina.  The writers threw a curveball, and not in a good way.  It was a disappointing end to what had otherwise been an outstanding series of games, the response of the writers to criticism didn’t help matters any either, but that’s a topic for another time.  The moral of the story is this; timing and execution are key.  If you want your stories to be remembered for the right reasons you need make sure you end them at the right time and in the right way, of course having a good story also helps.

For my part, I hope that when the time comes for me to end the Brogan series, I do it right.  It may not have many fans now, but those it does have deserve the best I can do.

Peace out folks, and have a lovely day.