I had a week off

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I did a bit of writing, but I’ve found myself slightly burned out. Not that this is an unexpected thing.

Normally, the books I write have a large gap in them somewhere. More often than not, I write the first chapter or so, and then it sits untouched for a few weeks while my head fills in the gaps. Then, when I come back to it, I’ve got most of the rest scribbled down inside my head. Of course changes happen and the story wanders off on its own, but I have plenty of stuff to work with.

I think that what has happened with SNIDE is that, as I didn’t do that this time, I’ve hit the limit of what was already sorted in my head. So, the simple solution is to slow down for a couple of weeks. Instead of 10k per week, perhaps two weeks of 5k. Let the well refill.

Besides, I have other things to do this week too, like get a haircut and get some photos done. These things clearly require my full attention…

Changing of the Guard

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Having not done a series yet, I’ve not had to tackle the idea of a rotating cast. With each book being a one-off, the cast is the cast is the cast, but I’ve been reading the Fables comic books again recently, and that’s been going on for long enough that rotating the cast happens organically.

When this sort of thing happens in TV, it is almost always awful. Rarely does it happen because the story demands it, more likely it’s because the actors had better jobs to go off to. The replacements show up and something just doesn’t feel the same.

Maybe this is one of those things where stuff just works differently in TV than in comics or books. Or maybe it’s a problem in all media if you put more effort into the characters than the world. The reason the changing of the guard works in Fables is because the world is so rich, there’s room for infinite numbers of stories and characters. It feels like a world that would go on without a specific character. If your world is centred entirely around one character, the world is going to collapse when you remove him.

I’d quite like to craft the sort of story that can keep going even if I change the guard a little. Maybe I already have.

Book Covers

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We all know that we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, and we all do it anyway. And quite right too – you might not get a completely accurate impression of the book from its cover, but you get an inkling. If, say, it’s done in MS Paint, you can be reasonably assured, for instance, that the author may not have taken the correct care and attention.

Whether this is true or not doesn’t matter, it’s the perception. This is why I like my covers to look good. I couldn’t release Diplomancer without a cover that I thought stood out – which, if statements from many people are to be believed, it does – and the same is true of Lore and Order. The book is ready to go, but it needs the bow atop the package. I’ve got the same guy who did Diplomancer’s cover working on it, and I’m excited to see what he comes up with.

So excited, in fact, that this entire blog post is really just a clandestine way of nagging him.

“That guy from that dragon film”

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I watched Starship troopers and Reign of Fire last night. One of those is a very good film. I’m going to talk to you about the other one.

I’d not seen Reign of Fire before, and I was genuinely confused how such a dull film could have such an amazing cast. The entire time I was watching Christian Bale do an English accent – which is weird enough in itself – I was wondering about how, exactly, a man who was in this film gets other jobs.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone in the film acted their hearts out, but surely when that resume comes across your desk you must think what, the guy from that awful dragon film?

There have been films that have killed entire careers, and watching Reign of Fire made me wonder exactly what it is that makes a film one of those. What are the qualities a career derailing film must have over, say, just a bad film?

And then… then I opened TV Tropes. So begins the tale of my eventual death, malnourished and wide-eyed, page after page of trivia being burned into my eye sockets.

Diplomancer is going into a library

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It’s not necessarily wise to believe everything you are told on twitter, but I’m only little so I don’t have to be wise. When someone says they’re going to put your book in a library, you tend to believe them.

I’m not going to speak for all writers, because that would be daft, but I will say that I hold a library as more or less the ultimate form of acceptance that, yes, you are a proper writer now. I’m very much on the “libraries are good” bandwagon, as you might guess.

The news also came at the perfect time to re-motivate me to work on SNIDE. I’m writing a lot of dialogue right now, and I always find it difficult to want to do that. It is extremely important that dialogue flows well, which tends to mean lots of rewriting as I go, which I am not happy about. My preferred method is to get it all down and then rewrite it at the end.

But, well, if Diplomancer is going to be in a library, I had better get to work on more things to join it. Can’t have it being all lonely on the shelf now, can we?

The Routine is in Jeopardy

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I might take the day off today.

I have to go to the dentist and have my face drilled which, despite the apparent frequency of this occurrence, I am still not quite used to. Wandering around with a sleepy face kind of makes it hard to focus for me, seeing as I spend the entire time prodding my sleeping face to try and pinpoint the moment feeling comes back.

But this isn’t a blog about dentists, it’s about what all this means for my writing routine.

I’m awful at breaking a routine. Once it is broken, getting back into it can often be damn near impossible. Sometimes, that can be a good thing, but when it comes to working on a book it often means a few weeks of nearly getting to work again before finally smashing through the unseen barrier. SNIDE might even have already been through this once, I can’t remember.

This was why I kept writing last week, even though I felt truly awful and was full of cold, because I didn’t want to break the routine. But there’s feeling awful, and then there is having holes drilled in your face.

So I do this little blog as a reminder to myself that I need to not let the routine stay broken, and get back on things tomorrow. Still need to do 10,000 words this week, even if it means working into the weekend. If I don’t, I might never finish the damn thing.

So close to halfway-ish.

Light Touch: Progress!

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Things are starting to move forward on Light Touch, I am assured, so I thought I’d talk a little about the book today.

It sits in quite an odd place in my heart. Diplomancer was my first book, put together as the conclusion of a university course, and as such I have very strong memories of it. I can recount almost every moment where I was sat in front of a computer screen, writing it down. I don’t have that with Light Touch.

This is not to say that I don’t have a fondness and love for it, because I do. I have improved in the craft with each subsequent novel, and I truly think therefore that Light Touch is better than Diplomancer, as Lore and Order is better than Light Touch, and SNIDE will be better than them all.

But the creating of Light Touch is a dark spot in my memory. Outside of it having been sparked from a sudden and intense love of the Thief series of videogames, I can’t recall much of the construction. What I do remember, however, is that there was a definite drive to not do what so much steampunk has a habit of doing – place the awesomeness of the technology above the story. There may indeed be a steampunk aesthetic, but it has to be tempered to serve the plot.

But it is, in my mind, steampunk. A steampunk heist story. With a cowboy and a thief and political intrigue, and maybe a tiny bit of magic, because I can’t leave that behind now can I? Hopefully it won’t be too long now before you can have a look!

SNIDE: The second act slump

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I have a habit of checking my word count a lot when writing a book, which isn’t helping me right now.

For a while it is super useful, seeing that I’ve made so much progress. The first ten thousand words feel like a slog, but once you start nearing fifteen thousand it begins to feel like you’re actually doing something important. Then you start to near forty thousand, as I’m doing now, and all you can think of is I’m not even halfway yet.

I still need another sixty thousand words. Possibly more. That’s really bloody daunting. I tend to let the story dictate itself to me as I write, and this book is no different, but I’m rapidly running out of expected material, marching straight into terra incognita.

This happens in every book, and once I cross the magic midway marker things should start to make sense again. But right now it’s a bit scary. It’s also getting all serious, and I mostly don’t write things that are serious. I mostly write things that have sarcastic shitbags annoying people for 300 pages.

All this being a legitimate writer business is weird.

On Emergent Storytelling in videogames

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I’m often confused by people who champion emergent stories in games, but that’s largely because the stories they cite are rubbish. That said, I’ve been playing Crusader Kings 2 an awful lot, and that’s throwing stories at me left right and centre, and all of them are great.

At least until I tell people about them.

Usually, stories are a thing that should be shared. That’s the whole point of writing a book, to share a story with the world. To that end, you have to structure it in such a way that you ease the reader into it, or grab them so hard they dare not pull away. This, I think, is why I get that sense of confusion with emergent stories.

The ones I experience, like in games like Crusader Kings 2, are built around my experience with the game, the thousands of things that one can’t easily articulate that shape your game. When the story forms, it already has that bedrock of interest. When others tell me their stories, this bedrock is omitted – because it is not something easily transmitted – and so I don’t tend to connect with their stories.

This sounds like a criticism, but in truth it isn’t meant as one. If anything it is praise. True, maybe the stories aren’t easy to share with conviction, but at least they are powerful enough that you remember them.

And besides, any game that lets you create an alternate history where Abyssinia conquered Spain is fine by me.

(It’s totally research, not procrastination. Honest.)