Tuesday, 1 November 2011

On the importance of thinking before you blog

Very short post here, as I'm in a great book writing mood and don't want to disturb it too much. But just an important point to make here...

I'm a fool.


P.S. After finishing my rewritten prologue and going on to look at old draft version of the next chapter, I realised it's actually pretty awesome... So I'm not rewriting my book any more... Well, I will be rewriting some chapters, and revising them all... I feel a little silly for dedicating two blog posts to the rewrite now... I overuse ellipsis...

P.S.S. 1000 words today, not including some copy and pasting. Just gotta do another 600 and I'll have reached my target for the day for Novel Writing month. Hurray!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

"I've got a bad feeling about this"

Going a bit blog crazy at the moment! Not sure how that happened, but I'll make this one short, I promise!

I've decided to try do the write a novel month thing, which is next month (November) with the plan being to write 50000 words, which is about as far as I got in my last draft. It'll probably epically fail, especially with uni work going on and the sheer amount of self-editing I do whilst writing, but I'll be posting updates on how it's going on the blog. 

Wish me luck! I think there is some way to sponser me to raise money for charity or something, but I'm really not sure. Here's the link to my page: http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/participants/thable


On the specifics of my terrible writing

So maybe that title is a little overkill, but following on from the last post, I thought I would make clear the changes I'm making to my writing style. Usually I try and mix my blogs in with general advice to other aspiring authors, but things may be a little more specific to me this time. Of course if you fall prey to the same things I do/did, you are a FOOL and should be punished... I mean you can take this advice and change your own writing too. Bla.

I'm going to choose two examples of bits from my old draft, one good and one bad.

Here is the good one:

“Thing's change,” he muttered to himself quietly. And he knew he was speaking of more than his relationship with Eradeen. With every year of his life he looked back, he saw a different man, sometimes strong, other times desperately weak. Almost a year to the day his heart had been left to die by the woman he loved, and yet only two years before he had chosen her, sweet but serious Demm, to be the one he would love for the rest of his life.

A pale tear drop fell to the bottom of the page, seeping through the paper like a sea against sand. Dearon rested his head in his hands, breathing heavily as his eyes glazed over. A second tear fell, then a third, and before he could control himself he had ripped the unfinished letter in two. The torn halves rested gently on the table, unmoving in the shallow breeze.

Yeah I know I've used this example before in the blog, and no it's not the only bit of my old draft I like, but its the most poignant example I can think of. Last post I was talking about taking out some of the 'pretty' from my writing. I didn't mean bits like this. There are a few changes I would make here though; the word "shallow" is a bit pointless, maybe the "his heart was left to die" is a bit OTT, and the way some of the sentences are laid out is a bit questionable, but really these are tiny things that would get picked up in revision anyway. It's simple, to the point, and that is what makes it elegant. No where in that last paragraph have I explicitly stated Dearon's feelings, it's all actions that give you an impression of what's going on.

Now for me to be mean to myself. I love to do that. That's why I threw up in my room after drinking too much the other night so that now I have to sit in a room that smells like... anyway, enough of that. Don't drink kids, or if you're going to, don't drink like 5 different types of drink in one night. Stick to Carlsberg...

This is the bad extract, which I think I may have actually used as an example of good revision in an earlier blog, which is a little embarrassing... Oops. It's from the very start of the book. *shudder*

“Wake up Favoir”

Half-formed memories lost their focus. He tried to remember, but couldn't. He squinted. The room was dark, lit only by candles trailing smoke into his lungs, but his eyes saw a tapestry of colours, shielding the features of a new interrogator. A lead weight in his temple pulled his head downwards. The man moved closer.

*throws up again*

Seriously, I hate that now.

Like, really really hate.

You don't see why? Let me show you.



"He squinted." Okay enough CAPS. This was just me deliberatly putting in a short sentance to add tension. But if you're going to do that, make the short sentance something important like "the door opened" or "he screamed" not "he f***ing squinted!!!!!!!!!!!!11111111111111"

"The room was dark, lit only by candles trailing smoke into his lungs, but his eyes saw a tapestry of colours, shielding the features of a new interrogator." Okay this bit isn't so bad. If you can find a flaw, let me know, I wanna rip into it so bad...

 "A lead weight in his temple pulled his head downwards." = Ian thinking "I want a metaphor!" Classic example of me trying too hard, and even if it isn't a pain for the reader, it makes me shudder

"The man moved closer." Fine this bit is okay as well. Better that the bloody squinting thing...

So I think it's pretty safe to say i won't be copying that bit into the new draft. In fact I'm re-writing the prologue without a single bit of the original in it. I tried a re-write which had some bits from the original in it, and it didn't work out so well. This new one rocks so far. It's simple in a good way, like that first extract. It gets the point across, and lets the plot, characters and dialogue work their magic. I hope. I really do hope.

BUY MY BOOK when it's published.


P.S. Very very sorry for all the caps

P.S.S. Before I go I wanna mention this blog I found. It's by a literary agent (google the term if it confuses you) and its a great insight into the world of writing and publishing, with a ton of great content. http://blog.nathanbransford.com/

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The inevitable "1 month later" blog post

Oh hello there blog! Almost forgot about you. Well, no I didn't I just was far too busy being a lazy student to write anything on here. Plus I had a break from my book, so was running short on things to type. But I'm back now. And back for good. Until I get lazy again. So probably after this blog post. I'm getting kinda tired now though. Although it is 2.44am...

Anyway, the point! Big, scary news here...

I'm rewriting my book!

"What? But you were really happy with your draft as it was Ian, why oh why oh why would you do such a thing??? WHY DAMMIT WHY???" Wow, chill out man. You need some medication or something.

Well, I was really really happy with the way the draft was going, to the extent that I could have quite easily carried on with it, and after revisions and stuff got it to a standard where I would be happy sending it to a publisher. But that would have been the easy way out. And it will end up a better book because of this rewrite, the reason for which I shall explain some time around...


So basically there are three main reasons I decided to do this.

1. The world has changed.

When I say world, I mean my book world. If you have been reading my previous blog posts, you should know I've been doing quite a bit of world building recently. I've been making up religions, date/time systems, and all other random things to make everything feel a little more alive. As well as that, because of the section of the book I was writing before i stopped, I got thinking about the technology level of the world a bit more.

Here's a mini spoiler for you folks...

There is a nation in my book called Sion, and Sion for reasons not revealed right away is very advanced in terms of technology. They are also incredibly secretive. They impose a sort of North-Korea-esk policy on people going in and out, but even stricter. There language is coded, and changes all the time. They're paranoid basically. The reason for this is that there income as a nation is provided by the slow relinquishing of technology to the outside world. So this got me thinking...

Why don't I make some of their technology really advanced for a fantasy setting. How about some more of this advanced technology being relinquished to the rest of the world than I had originally envisioned. How cool would it be to have a fantasy book with swords and shields and... electricity! Because the rest of the world basically doesn't know how to invent things because they just rely on Sion, how about they have this amazing resource  but have only been granted basic inventions like light bulbs and stuff. I could go on, but you get the idea.

So rather than it being a fantasy world that fits quite comfortably into a real world era, I'm shaking things up a bit. I'm making it a bit more all over the place, and a bit more unique. All the while I will also be focusing more on things like the religious aspect of things, and general cultural differences. These are some pretty big changes, but I'd say they're not enough to warrant a complete rewrite. I could fix these in revisions, but...

2. I want a change of writing style.

More specifically, I want a simpler writing style. Some people can make words by themselves sound amazing. It doesn't matter about context always, they can write about boring things and make them sound super. But I can't. Well, sometimes I can a little. But only if I really try hard. And am lucky.

The problem with this is that I kept trying hard, and it created inconsistencies. Some bits I would have got lucky and they would sound great, other times it felt a little... forced. If writing style had a graph, I would have a line going all over the place. Sometimes high up, sometimes low down.

I haven't started reading it properly yet, but I had a glance at A Game of Thrones recently. I loved the TV series. But I was really surprised when I read the first page or two of the book with how simple the writing was. There were no fancy metaphors, alliteration, or any other things that people say make writing "pretty". It was straight to the point, and most importantly, it "flowed". Now I don't know about you, but I would trade off those occasional amazing sentences to get a book that flowed with the writing style. So now I'm writing in a way I know 100% I can do, that isn't jarring and lets the plot speak for itself. It's still got elements of "pretty" in it, but they're never forced, not if I can help it.

So now the argument is getting a bit more compelling, but you keen people surely remember me saying there were three reasons a while back. So here we go...

3. I've started stepping on my own toes

I actually can't think of an example of this specifically, but its just a general feeling I've been getting recently. I kinda feel like now everything is a bit more developed, and the plot is moving in ever so slightly different ways to it was going to move before, I'm sort of trying to fit in things from before I don't want to fit in just to make everything work well. It's sort of like *tries to think of analogy* drawing a circle. Oh yeah this is a good one.

You start at a random point on a piece of paper, and draw a circle. But you stray a little to one side. The pencil slips a little bit. You can't just force the line back into where you intended it to be now, or the circle would have a little jutting bit in it. You have to keep going with what you've got. What you end up with is a circle, but not the one you were planning at the start. It started and finished in the same place, but the rest of it is a little out. This time I'm going slow, thinking ahead, and making sure my circle is perfect.

I'll be honest, there are a bunch more reasons I can think of. But those are the main ones.

And if I'm going to do a rewrite, best do it now whilst i don't have the pressure of finding a publisher or getting the damn thing actually finished.

But most importantly, and the secret super hidden fourth reason I want to rewrite my book is that I want it to be super amazing. Not just super. Not just amazing. Super Amazing.

That is all.


Sunday, 25 September 2011

Metaphorical Page Ripping is Fun

This won't be a long blog post, as I'm taking a short break from my book at the moment, after working on it basically every day this holiday, and writing about 100 pages. (yay!).

I should be back writing in a few days, once I've moved into my university house and have found the perfect writing spot. At the moment I'm hovering about in the conservatory of my house whenever I feel like putting pen to paper to keys to netbook without the pen and paper part. Although it is quite annoying when it rains. Fortunately the chapter I'm writing now takes place on a very rainy day, so really it's all atmospheric.

Where was I?

Ah yes! Given that my last two posts were on revision, I wanted to stir things up. Be crazy for once. Radical man. So today I'm going to talk about the joy of ripping up entire chapters.

Well not ripping, unless you have a very thin laptop and super strength. Or write by hand. Crazy person.

But sometimes revision can't help. "Can't help? What do you mean? Stop destroying my belief system!" Sorry Mr. Voice, but it's true. Occasionally you will write something so terrible, so disgusting, so filled with bad language and terrible pacing that you just have to get rid. These times are obvious. When you are writing in a rush you tend to write bad, or I do at least. If you super speed write because a chapter is exciting, or you just want to get through it, it shows. Think of writing a book like doing a painting. And not a two blobs on a page modern art type thing, no no no! A proper painting. (Me + lazy art = urgh). Someone might glance at it and go 'ooo, that looks nice' and then look away again. But that doesn't mean you should rush by the details. It wouldn't have come together as a beautiful work if those details weren't there, even if not everyone really notices them.

Damn metaphors, getting me all distracted.

So as I say, it's pretty obvious when something just doesn't read well at all and you know you would be better just to start again. What isn't so easy is those times when you write something, and it is good, but it isn't right.

Yeah, we're going deep here. Right to the bottom of the ocean and then some more.

I started a new chapter a week and a bit ago, before I decided to have a break. I think I did about 5 pages, and whilst it was clearly not polished (none of my first drafts ever are) it could easily have been shaped into something good. In fact there were a few lines in there that I was like 'ooo, I wrote that? Nice!' And I'd even go so far to say that if I had carried it on, it would have worked. But it just didn't feel quite right.

The chapter before was all serious. It was two important people talking about important things. One specific important thing actually, and I think enough was said about it for the reader to get that this is an important thing. Thing. So then I sit down to write my next chapter, and guess what! It's those two important people, with the main character added as well, talking about this important thing. Now the real drama of this chapter would be something that happens at the end of their talk, but to get there you need to trudge through all the regurgitated information from the previous chapter. It not only felt boring, but it felt like I was going to the reader "Oi! You! Reader! This is important! Remember that thing from the last chapter! Yeah! It's really important  Don't forget that! Don't forget that it's important! Did you forget? Well I better tell you again then!"

So I just skipped to the drama. I know, crazy aren't I. But it felt so much better when I did. It was to the point, it started the chapter in a cool way, and it will save a few pages on a book that is turning out to be a lot bigger than I had thought. (1000 pages is starting to seem more plausible than 600...).

I think sometimes I worry too much about chapter structure. I always feel like I need to have a sort of exposition at the start, something to gently lead the reader into the chapter. I suppose this was important in the earlier chapters. The reader was meeting this characters for the first time, and they needed to be shown during some of the down time so that they seem human, rather than someone who is only there when plot related stuff is going on. But now I'm not really at the start any more. I'm 150 in. If I was a reader, I would be invested here. I would have up until now been reading what is an unusually long beginning to a book, and I'm ready for something a little more chewy.

If something you're writing has potential, keep writing it. If it feels right in the story, and you don't think you could do it any better, keep writing it. But don't be afraid just to rip up some pages, albeit metaphorically if you're me. It's sort of like in relationships. Writing a novel to me is a bit like finding 'the one'. There's no point staying on something this isn't right just so it's there. If you are committed to finding that person/book/person book hybrid, then don't accept any less. You might even find something better than you thought that surprises you!

Luckily for me my first book idea turned out to be 'the one', and my first girlfriend did too. : )


Although I did kiss my neighbour when I was in primary school.


And I did have that book idea about the magic orb that kills people when they touch it.


We don't talk about those things.


Monday, 12 September 2011

Revision is Fun!

And no, I'm not on about the revising for exams type of revision. That sucks. Always. What I want to talk about is the importance (and if you are a bit sad like me, the fun) of revising your writing!

Obviously being able to write something decent straight off is important. After all, you couldn't build a house on bad foundations. But that's what you should think of your initial writing as; the foundations of the finished product. Or if you don't like that metaphor, how about the seed from which the tree grows from, the egg that turns into a chicken, the base of a cheesecake, maybe a strawberry one, or raspberry. Maybe with some white chocolate as well. And sprinkles. Mmm...

If you're good enough at writing that your cheesecake base also includes some of the lovely cheesecake filling stuff, then that's awesome. That should save you some time, and the more you write the better you will get at the first pass. I know for me that I've had to go over my most recent chapters a hell of a lot less than my first few chapters, because I've gotten better at knowing what sounds good straight off. Practise makes perfect after all  Well... not quite perfect, as I still have to go over these chapters a bit. But like it better that way anyway. Ok what was my point?

Ah yes, revision. Looking back at what you've written lets you see what you've done in a new light. It lets you read at the speed of a reader rather than a writer, and basically just lets you polish what you've done. For me, revision probably takes up almost half of the time I spend writing. It might have been more than half a bit ago as well. It's something that you shouldn't be afraid of, and you shouldn't seek perfection on your first pass, just a solid basing of that cheesecake with raspberry and white chocolate and stuff... mmm...

So rather than continuing this rant about how important revision is, I thought I would show you some examples. Time to go looking back at the backup folders of ye old times.

I'll start with my prologue. Here is how my book starts in an old draft:

“You will tell us who you are, and what you are doing here, or you will die. It is that simple.”

Favoir’s mind raced, endlessly searching though the vast amount of information coursing through his brain. His head still ached from the blow that had left him unconscious for what he assumed must have been hours. The colours of the room danced in front of his eyes, denying him a clear view of his surroundings.

He knew in his heart that nothing he said would appease his captors, but he would not be the fool who would remain silent until his death.

“I’ve told you, I’m nothing more than a messenger. I… I shouldn’t even be here, my place is in Asfulen,” he stuttered in desperation. “I must see their King.”

And here is the new version:

“You're going to die here little man, if you don't stop that tongue from ranting.”

Favoir’s mind raced, scavenging though each half-formed memory of the past week. He squinted, trying to discern the features of his new interrogator, but the colours of the room span too heavily before his eyes, denying him a clear view of his surroundings. His head felt like lead, swaying uncertainly above his neck, and his temple still burned from the blow that had left him unconscious for hours.

“I ask you only to tell me the truth, nothing more. It is that simple.”

“I’ve told you, I’m nothing more than a messenger. I… I shouldn’t even be here. We were heading to Asfulen, I swear,” he pleaded. His voice shook with every syllable.

Hopefully you agree that the second version is better. There are no massive changes, but I'll point out a few. The first line is different.

“You will tell us who you are, and what you are doing here, or you will die. It is that simple.” 


“You're going to die here little man, if you don't stop that tongue from ranting.”


The first line before was ok, but a little cheesy. The thing that bothered me about it was that it doesn't sound like the sort of thing you would say to someone you been interrogating for days. It's too much of a 'letting the reader know something' sentence, and not very natural. The new line basically says the same thing, but shows a bit of the interrogators personality, as well as the fact that Favoir has been pleading for his life. And it isn't cheesy. I hope.

Another difference you will see is the removal of the paragraph all about Favoir not wanting to stay silent to his death. I don't feel like the paragraph doesn't work, but I think at this early point in the chapter, I wanted to keep the tension as high as possible. I want Favoir to seem disorientated, and panicked. Showing what's going on inside of his head kinda removes that, especially when it shows him thinking quite logically. And later on the in chapter there is a line from Favoir that reads 'Do I look like the sort of man who doesn't buckle under torture?' Sort of a similar statement, but more dramatic, so no need to state the point again.

I actually ended up revising that extract just before I copied it over here as well! I can't help myself! The last 2 sentences used to be one long sentance, but short sentences work better for dramatic parts.

Let's find another example. Here is the start of Chapter One from an early draft:

The busy city air filled her lungs as she discreetly lifted herself up from the sewer grate. Instantly she forgot the sickening stench from below, basking in the new array of gentler smells that greeted her. The stale city air, intermingled with the smell of wet rock and factory fumes that floated above the city in a constant dull cloud felt like silk compared to below. Beneath these smells was the smallest hint of bodily odour that stemmed from the nearby markets where desperate merchants were baking in the rare sunlight, and a gentle hint of some spice or other flavouring was seeping through the side street from a nearby house.

Finally there was the usual but almost unnoticeable hint of sea-salt, a smell Elysie found bizarre in that the city was hundreds of miles from any coastline. Even more bizarre was that none of her few acquaintances noticed this aroma themselves. Recently she had come to the conclusion that an old job as a salt drainer a few years before she arrived in Dolindium must have permanently damaged her senses. Like most of her prior work, she did not miss it.

It seemed a shame that this interesting balance of smells was now ruined by the foul odour rising from her. Desperate to be free of the sewer stench, she flexed her legs and suddenly set off on a wild sprint out into the open streets.

And here is the new version, with almost every sentence changed.

Without so much as a groan, Elsie pulled herself up from the sewer grate. She quickly scanned the side street she had emerged into, checking to make sure no one had seen her most likely illegal appearance, and found herself relieved when it was empty all but to herself. Standing to her full height, she moved the grate back to its original position, before pulling out a flask of water from her bag and washing her hands. Then, with an extravagant raise of her nose, she took in a large breath of the busy city air. Cement, factory fumes, and even the smallest hint of bodily odour from the nearby markets greeted her, each a welcome change from the rancid sewers below. She had ventured below hundreds of times before, found herself scrunching up her nose so often it was becoming more than just a habit, and yet each time she allowed herself an intake of breath she was sure the smell had worsened. It was as if she had developed some sort of counter-immunity to it, or that the sewer had decided she had abused it too long and was evicting her with an ever increasing stench.

She tried to ignore the almost unnoticeable hint of sea-salt that mingled with the other odours as she checked her clothing for stains. It had plagued her mind in her first few months living in the city, leaving her in long sessions of intense thought to try decipher its origin. It was a city hundreds of miles from the coast, and to her annoyance she seemed to be the only one who had noticed this out-of-place aroma. But when the answer had finally come to her, it had left her more angry than content. That damn salt factory; it had been perhaps the worse, or at the very least the most monotonous of her many jobs, and whilst she had thought its only parting gift had been a bitter taste in her mouth, it was now apparent that the resentment had spread to her nose as well. Like most of her prior work, she did not miss it.

Nor would she miss climbing out of sewer grates, once the sun had set on her current career path, as it always did. Desperate to be free of the smell, she flexed her legs, tensing her young muscles, and set off on a wild sprint out into the streets.

Now I'm not sure everyone will completely agree with me on this one. The first extract is quite a bit shorter, and says almost the exact same things. Normally I would think this best. Saying things in as few words as possible is often an effective way of writing. But something feels off about that first extract to me... It feels... hollow. 

"But Ian, why?" Ah, I am glad you asked Mr. Voice. Well first the writing is a bit annoying in the first version. Saying 'suddenly set off' rather than just 'set off' is a bit silly here. She hasn't suddenly set off. She's been stood thinking to herself! I use words like 'suddenly' a bit too much sometimes, and am trying to cut down. I'm a sick man I know.

But I think the real problem with the first extract, and one you won't understand unless you know the character of Elsie (whose name used to be spelt Elysie in the old draft as well. What's that about???). The first extract doesn't feel like her. It feels like it's trying to be her, but really it's just a pale imitation. I wrote that extract when I was first writing for her, and perhaps I didn't know her well enough. The second extract is longer, but it shows her personality through the language. Adding in "That damn salt factory" really shows her disdain for the place, rather than only stating that she would not miss it.

I was going to do a third example, but this is quite a long blog post already. I might do another one of these at some point though.

I hope you've enjoyed the post, and the blog in general. If you are one of those people secretly reading without letting me know, please leave and comment! I'd love to hear everyone's opinion!

Now to watch a film, each popcorn, and dream about cheesecake. 


Saturday, 10 September 2011

Why Talking to Yourself is Sometimes Ok

So I'll be honest. I talk to myself. A lot. Too much really. Like, sometimes two way conversations. Sometimes three ways. Wait that sounds wrong.

But yeah, I do it quite a bit. Usually it is when I look at myself in the mirror. I'll say something like "Hey sexy, how you-" No wait no! I never do that. It's probably more something like "You know, you're really awesom-" WAIT! No. Not that. Never that.

I think the worse thing I've ever done in terms of talking to myself was when I'd just finished listening to a podcast where one of my favourite authors (Patrick Rothfuss, in case you haven't realised by the like 1000 mentions of him so far on this blog). The interviewer asked all sorts of interesting questions, and I started to wonder how I would respond to those questions. Eventually I started to wonder out loud. Obviously I needed some questions specific to my book, so I also decided to take upon myself the role of the interviewer as well as the interviewee.

Fortunately, no one was home. And I think I learnt quite a bit about how good/bad/mostly bad I am at answering questions about my book. So I wouldn't say I regret the experience. What I do regret is telling everyone about it in this blog. I could always use the backspace key, but that just seems a little counter-productive to me. Instead, I will try a braver tactic. I will try and convince you that talking to yourself is (sometimes!) ok.

"Surely that isn't possible oh supreme Overlord Ian?!" Well, perhaps you are right Mr. Voice. Perhaps I have simply had too much tequila (my parents bought me some when they were in Mexico!) and it's made me go even more loopy. But I don't think that is the case.

So this is the part where I do that annoying thing. It's that annoying thing where I pretend to know lots and lots about writing even though I am still very much leaning. But bare with it if you will.

Revision in a book is key. Some people assume writers just write down their books, from beginning to end, and that's that. But they are wrong. I'm sure there are a few writers out there who are practised enough that they need go over their writing only the one time to be sure it's good. But for those of us still learning, or who just can't do instantly perfect writing like those lucky few, revision is something that should be considered as important as the initial writing itself. This will probably be the first of a few blog posts on the importance of this, and believe me the next few are going to be AMAZING! They might even have examples of my own writing and everything! Wowza!

But today I'm going to focus on a really simple piece of advice for those looking back at their own work and trying to make it better. You've probably guessed it by now, but if not, here goes. Are you ready? It's coming! Oh yeah it is baby! OOO!

Read out loud.

"Read out loud oh God of Everything Ian? Really? Surely that is what little children do! I have been taught/brainwashed that reading out loud is silly and primitive. My amazing adult brain can read without the use of vocal chords now!" Well get unbrainwashed then Mr. Voice. Reading out loud is an amazing way of seeing how good your writing is.

When people read in there head, they have a natural tendency to sometimes skim past some words. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has read a book where the characters have odd names, only to find that when I try and say these names out loud I have no idea what to say! Another thing people sometimes do when reading out loud is switch off. Sometimes, if you are a bit tired of have other things on your mind, your eyes will keep moving, but your brain will be off doing something else. Knitting maybe. I bet all of us have at some point found ourselves suddenly realising we have no idea what just happened in the last 2 pages.

When you are writing a book, and have read the same chapters over and over and over again, this can happen quite often. That isn't to say your writing isn't bad, it's just because the tension of not knowing what is going to happen has been removed. Watching a film for the first time is (usually!) the best time. The second time is interesting too, as you pick up on extra things you didn't see before, or if you didn't 'get' the film the first time you might understand it better. The third time could be similar. Same with the fourth, but obviously reduced. This reduction keeps on going. I have watched Lord of the Rings a lot of times. Whilst I still they're great movies now, I don't really find myself caring about watching them again. In fact, when I lost my dvd's of the trilogy (extended version of course) I didn't even bother buying a new set. Now it's been 2 or more years since I have seen those films. Still not that bothered either.

Where was I? "Reading out loud!" Ah yes, I remember. So reading out loud removes these issues. You can't really think about other things whilst you read out loud. It makes you more focused, and whilst it is slower, this can be a good thing for revising. It makes you concentrate on every word, and words that don't quite work stand out so much more than when you read in your head. You can hear the flow of each sentence clearly, the rise and fall of your voice as you read, and if you find yourself stuttering over a few words, or a sentence ends long before you expected, then it is probably best to change it. I wish I could show you some examples in my own work, but I can't really remember what specific changes were because of me reading out loud and which were just me reading in my head. Suffice to say, I've read sections in my head and thought them amazing, then read them out loud and realised the work that needs doing.

I did something I've never done before the other day. I read all of my book I've written so far in one go. That's about 150 pages, so not loooads, but a fair bit. It seemed longer because I read it all out loud as well. From a health and safety point of view, I wouldn't recommend this. By the end of it I was forcing honey down my throat to make it stop hurting. I hate to think what might happen if I try read my book when it is finished, and a 600+ page monster! I'll have to eat a bee's nest. But from a writers point of view, I think it is a great thing to do. It helped me rectify a few continuity issues I didn't realise were there, as well as let me see the things I repeat too much in my writing. And the fact that it was out loud meant I got to add a level of polish to my book that hadn't been there before. Didn't feel I had to make any major changes though, which is always good news :)

So I leave you with that. Not some amazing new revelation really, just some solid advice. If you are the sort of person who isn't very comfortably reading aloud, just do it when no one is in, or when you are in your room, and if it helps, try imagine you are recording the audiobook or something. If your imagination is good enough you should start to forget that it's your voice coming out of your mouth, and just start listening.

Thanks for reading. I've been Ian Fisher, God of Gods, Keeper of all Knowledge, King of the Universe and the Multiverse, and Loser of The Game,


Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Wonders of Time - Part 2

Ah I am a fool. Yes, I am so so foolish. I really enjoyed doing that post about 'The Wonders of Time' last week as well... Little did I know it would come back to haunt me, and cause me to do so much maths my brain has actually died and I didn't wake up until 1pm today with the stress of it all...

Well, that last bit is a lie. I did actually wake up at 1pm, but that is just a side effect of my chronic laziness.

So there I was, thinking I was sorted with time. "Goodbye time," I said. "It's been fun but now I'm moving onto more exciting things like making up religions and wars and things. I really can't wait actually, it's going to be so... Oh wait... Oh wait Damn!"

You see children, I was silly, because I forgot the reason I started doing my 'Gospel of Tainted Glory' in the first place. If you go back to my 'World Building' blog you will see I wasn't sure if I should use our day names or fictional ones. And then I forgot...

And then I remembered...

In fact I remember right whilst I was in the middle of creating a really cool religion for one of the larger nations in my book. I was looking forward to telling you all about that as well, but alas, time is a bitch.

"Stop moaning and get on with it Ian!" Sorry weird voice, I will.

So a few things have changed since my last post. I realised that whilst measuring peoples ages in cycles is cool, it might be confusing given the whole 9 year things. I decided it would make it easier if I played around with how long the days/years are so that 9 years in my book is roughly equal to a decade on earth. That was, if you see someone who is 3c. 5, then you know they are in their thirties, and about 35 or 36.

I'll tell you it took a hell of a lot of maths to sort that out... A hell of a lot... To get my years to be the right length, they had to be 1.11111111111 times longer than our years. But I didn't just want a super long year, and the days were 23 earth hours at that point which would have made it an even longer year! But I also didn't want to have super long days, as that would be silly and mess with peoples sleeping patterns. So I slightly changed both instead. I multiplied both my currant year time and day time by 1.111111111/2.

Wait, that suddenly seems easy...

Well it seemed like a lot at the time, ok!

Then I played around with the numbers a bit, so they weren't exactly accurate, and ended up with days of 24 and a half earth hours, and 397 days!

YAY! I've finished, I can go carry on working out more exciting things. I've been waiting for this moment for so long I think I might... Oh wait. Damn.

So no one would measure a 24 and a half hour day with 24 and a half hours. I considered them measuring the day with a strange number of hours, like 18 or something, but then would confuse the reader when one hour lasted for ages. So I decided to go the easy route and measure the day in 24 hours, each with 60 minutes, and 60 seconds in a minute, just like us. Some things it's best to keep the same, so as not to confuse the reader. Seconds will last ever so slightly longer than they do on earth, to make up for that extra half an hour in earth time on the day. So every hour would be roughly 1 min 15 seconds longer.

Before now I had The Provinces of Dolindium, where my entire first book takes place, use a time system made up of bells. It was all very confusing, with a bell an hour, and different types of bell for different times of day, and there were some bells that would go on for 4 hours and some that would only go on for 2 and so on. It was a mess really. And it wasn't that cool.

But I liked the bells.

So I decided to keep that basic idea in, but simplify it. To disguise the fact I had 24 hours days like earth, and to tie everything back into the Cycles mentioned in my last post, I decided the day would be split up into 9 hour cycles. This makes two 9 hour cycles, and 6 hours left over. So I had a cool idea that there would be this time, from 10pm to 4am, when no bells would be struck. It would be the time when you weren't supposed to work, are were meant to relax and sleep and stuff. Some people would take this more seriously than others, but i thought it was a neat idea. I decided to call it the Grace.

Then I named my 9 hours cycles. The first I stole a name from the old bell system, calling the bells from 4am to noon the morn bells (morn being short of morning, rather than mourning). The afternoon cycle I decided to call the maine cycle, but I don't know why. That's the magic of world building!

Other places have different time systems. Asfulen, a nation to the south of my world, only measures time from when the sun rises to when it sets, so that hours are shorter or longer depending on the time of year. This is actually a system used historically in some places I think.

So there we go, I'm done! Thank Iilisha the Sun God of the Krri for that! Yay!


Oh yeah!

So before I sorted out day names, I needed to think of months. Once again I didn't want to confuse the reader by having super long or super short months, so I divided my year into 13, which makes roughly 30 days a month. Then I needed some names. Well, here goes:

  • Baera (30 days)
  • Thea (30)
  • Veana (30)
  • Tecka (32)
  • Odeou (30)
  • Phayu (30)
  • Eractu (30)
  • Faktu (32)
  • Nerrebre (30)
  • Torrembre (30)
  • Elbre (30)
  • Kimbre (32)
  • Lorrendi (31)
I made all these up from nothing really, apart from the final month which is named after the dude who made up the calender. But after I'd made them up I though they seemed too random to just be made from nothing. So I decided they would be based on the names of the Gods of a new religion, the Gods they follow in Defon, the nation the calender was made in. So there we go, I accidentally made up a new religion. Cool!

So now you are expecting me to do a list of day names aren't you... Well, to be honest, I haven't made any up yet.

"What? You made me read all that rubbish about maths for nothing?"


I did decide that they use a 6 day week, and then on months with 32 days they have an extra 2 new days they add on. Same with the 31 day month. That way, unlike us on earth, they always have the same day on the same date!

But as for day names, I'm struggling. Do I end them in 'day' like we do? Or do I abandon that idea and just make up random words again... If you have made it all the way to this point in the blog (well done by the way) then please help out a struggling author and let me know your opinion. Think of it like a competition! Whoever helps me make up new day names the most wins the prize! Yay!

Thanks for reading!


Saturday, 3 September 2011

The Wonders of Time

So if you've read my last blog post, you'll know that I'm undertaking the mammoth task of reinventing the world my book is set it. I'm changing/adding religions, cultures, geography, place names, history, etc. But one of the most exciting (well, actually kind of boring if you're not a geek) things I'm adding in is a new calendar system!

Blown away aren't you.

Yeah I knew you would be.

So if any of you millions of people who read my blog (or 90 total page views to be more precise...) would like to read about a specific example of 'worldbuilding' from me, you are in luck. Seriously, this one is going to be awesome.

Introducting... *drumroll* ...the next evolution of fantasy time system... *gasp* ...known only as... *silence as everyone holds their breath* ...the Defonese Calader!

"Erm... wha?"

Defon is a nation in my book. I like how their name sounds. Because of that, it is one my favourite nations. So I decided to be nice, and let them be the ones who made up the calendar system used by almost every nation in the north of my continent. So what I went and did, was I decided how many hours would be in a day, how many days would be in a year, and how often a leap year would be.

Hours in a day: Roughly 23 of our earth hours.

Days in a year: Roughly (lol) 378.1111111111111111

This all adds up to roughly the same time as an earth year.

Because of that .1111111111111 there would be a leap year every 9 year (unless I've buggered up my maths  again... Since my GCSE's I've just forgotten how to count!)

So this got me thinking. Why don't we make a bigger deal out of our extra day in February? It seems like something that ought to be celebrated really, but we just ignore it for the most part. It's probably because it's tucked away at the end of a month, not long after new year, so no one really cares.

"Oh look," generic person says, "It's February 29th. Is that the extra day? I can't remember. Oh well, back to non-existence I go now that Ian has no need for me any more."

But imagine if the leap year day was the first day of the year. Now then it would be a big deal. It would be seen as more of a cycle, the start of a new 4 years (or 9 years in my books case). Hmm... Cycle. I like that!

So here's where I decided to do something radically different to our Gregorian Calender. I decided to remove decades, and replace them with Cycles.

Here's an example for you. We are in the year 2011. If I were to set my book in the year 2011, I wouldn't call it that. I would call it 223c. 4. 

The fourth year the the 224th cycle. Yes indeedy!

(and in case you are confused why it says 223.c yet I said 224th cycle, think of it like centuries. We are in the 2011, the 11th year of the 21st century)

So you're probably thinking "You're going to base their calendar around the number 9? That's silly!" Well shush voice person, because our time system is based around the number 60, we have a measurement system based around the number 12, and a weight system based around the number 14! Cultures are strange, and the systems they use can be strange. But that doesn't mean they can't exist.

It feels like I could just leave it there. So I have my calender is done, and that's it. Sorted. Finished. Move on.


This whole cycles idea is bound to have an impact on the cultures of my book. It will change how they speak about things, how they think of time passing etc. A world governed by Cycles. So I added a few things in.

First of all, there's people's ages. If I'm really going to embrace this calendar system, then I think the characters should think of their own ages in terms of how many cycles they have lived. For example, my main character is in his mid-thirties. Lets say 35. But he would never say or think "I'm 35!" to him it would be "I'm three cycles eight" or "Near the end of my fourth cycle" or "Almost four full cycles." When people are less than 9 I suppose they are just referred to as being "eight" or "three" or whatever, although I might make up a name for a persons 0th cycle at some point. Obviously not many people will be born at the start of a leap year cycle thing, so Dearon's personal cycle might start/end right in the middle of a Solar Cycle or whatever I'm going to call it.

I imagine because of this, people view their lives in terms of cycles. Just like people often go "The nineties was rubbish!" or whatever, my characters would think "Last cycle sucked ass!" Well, maybe not quite that, but you know. This might cause a lack of identity for each cycle ("The two-hundred and twenty threes were rubbish!" doesn't really work) but oh well, I suppose that is a downside of the calender, and why not?

I also decided that the first day of a new cycle is very important. Because it is a leap year day, it is seen as it's own day between cycles. An extra day where you can reinvent yourself, a time for fresh starts. Although I've yet to sort all the religions, I've decided one of them calls for a day of complete freedom on the leap day, which some interpret as a day where breaking the law is ok! So for those poor nations who follow this religion, it's probably best to hide your belongings when it's getting to the end of a cycle!

So I had all that. And I could have stopped there. Done. Finished. Go have a bath. Make some cheese on toast.


I decided to give the calendar a bit of a back story. I have no idea if this will be mentioned in the book or not, but I thought it would be good to give the Calender a bit of context. I won't go into too much detail here, but basically...

The calender was originally created by a Defonese astronomer named Lorrendi, and used to be called the Lerrenian Calender. However, after his death, there was a lot of dispute as to if it was actually him who created it, or if he had copied the idea from someone else. So name name was changed to the Defonese Calender. However, because the term P.L.C. (Pre Lorrendian Calender, their version of B.C.) had been used so much by historians and the like to describe what came before the calenders invention, the term P.D.C. (Pre Defonese Calender) is rarely used in spite of the calenders name change.

So there is a little glimpse into the work I'm doing at the moment, as well as a sort of insight into my thought processes when it comes to things like this. I look forward to sharing more of this stuff soon!


Age: 2c. 1

Thursday, 1 September 2011

World Building

So I finally got the chapter done that I've been moaning about for the past few blogs.

*Waits for sea of congratulating comments*

*Waits a little longer...*

Well, let me be the first to say 'Well done Ian.' Now that we have that out of the way, lets go onto my next problem!

The good thing about this currant problem is that it's one I know I'm going to really enjoy working out. I started the next Chapter, a very different beast to the previous one given the lack of crazy sword fighting. I'd call it one of those chapters that tells the reader a lot about the world outside of the main characters' lives, a point which will become apparent in the next paragraph, which I assure you will be a great one.

So I was writing a line of dialogue that said something like... "And to think we dismissed those reports from last (BLANK) as hearsay..." The BLANK is the day he is talking about. And suddenly I was confused... I've never really needed to mention a specific day of the week before. Do I say 'Saturday?' or 'Tuesday' or something? But that's for days on earth?! This isn't earth! Do they even have a seven day week? Do they even have 24 hours in a day? Do they even have a 365 day year? What time systems do they use? What religions do they have? What languages are in use and where? And so on...

So some of these things I have actually thought about, but only in reference to The Provinces of Dolindium, where my entire first book takes place. I know what their stance on religion is, I know roughly their time system, but there are still a lot of blanks. A Song of Ice and Fire is cool because of it has this idea of really drawn out seasons (I haven't read the book but have watched the tv series. Seriously, watch it! Best tv series I've ever seen). Another book I have yet to read called The Way of Kings has storms over the entire surface of the planet (this is going off the blurb). Whilst I won't be doing anything quite as extreme as those two examples, it would be super cool to make my world a little less... earthish.

Shush spellcheck, earthish is so a word. Speaking of which, apparently spellcheck isn't one... Conspiracy!


So I decided to take a break from this chapter, and make what I call... Ah Hem...


Cool right! No...? Well, shush you!

I'm going to spend probably about a week on it, just fleshing out my world. It seems almost embarrassing that I don't know all these things about my world after 7 years of working on it, but to give me some credit, it is a BIG story! Much bigger than it would seem from the first book. And most of these things I haven't thought about just haven't been relevant to the story. And it's a BIG story! Wait, did I say that already?

But these things are important. My favourite author, Patrick Rothfuss, summarised it pretty well when he said:

The key to good worldbuilding is leaving out most of what you create.

That quote is from a great interview about world building that you can find here http://ofblog.blogspot.com/2007/06/interview-with-patrick-rothfuss-part-i.html

So I started with geography. Would you believe I've never named the continent my book takes place in? Sounds crazy right, but to be fair I can't imagine ever naming it in the book, but it's a cool thing to know as an author. I now know the name of the desert in the south, of the two southern rainforests, and much more. Just to have their name set in stone is awesome! Who knows what more I will discover about my world in the next week? Whatever happens, I can't wait :)


Tuesday, 30 August 2011

A Quick Note on the Advantages of Not Listening to Me

Sometimes I ramble. In fact I ramble so much that I've tried to do this entry a few times now and failed because of my amazing rambling power. So now I am focused. Hell yeah!

Yesterday I made the point that you should 'Keep writing or the universe will implode and then no one will like you!' or something like that. Well I think I might have worded it a little wrong. What I was really talking about was the importance of not putting what you're writing away for months and months at a time, if it's going well at the time.

If things aren't going well, to the extent that you feel you need to stop and have some time to think about your book, or consider starting it again, long breaks are great. Hell, it took me two years to refocus myself after my high school draft. It was a period of reinvention, and I put pen to paper (or hands to keys more accurately) very few times during that period. It was all going on in my head, and a much better book came out of that.

But this draft now is going really well. I had my problem I described in my last post, but that was relevant to a specific chapter, not the whole thing. So overall, it's going great. I feel like this is it, this is the draft that will eventually become the final book. It'll take a lot of revisions I'm sure, but I'm also sure I wont have to start again... again.

Short breaks are great though. When I say short I mean anything from a few minutes to a few days to a few weeks. Sometimes it's good to have a little time off, because then you come back refreshed. Recently, because I'm a nerd, I've been loading up Doctor Who videos to watch when I feel like a break. I'll write for 20 minutes, then watch a bit, then do some more. 

And I do also have a life!

"Come on Ian. Who are you trying to kid here?"

No mysterious voice! It's true! I have an amazing girlfriend and great friends, and have been known occasionally to consider leaving the house to see them! Crazy I know, but true. So don't listen to me from before, telling you to 'KEEP WRITING OR ELSE I'LL KICK YOU!' because that's silly. Keep writing if it's going well, but, as a friend told me yesterday, 'man cannot live on bread alone.' 

...And just to clarify, that friend was not Jesus. Just someone quoting Jesus. As you do...


Monday, 29 August 2011

"Help! I'm trapped in a chapter!"

So I'm currently writing Chapter Eight of my book. Now Chapter 7 and 8 both used to be the same chapter, until I realised it was going to end up at like almost 40 pages long, which I think is a little excessive considering the previous longest was just over 20. So I split it. But I think it's safe to say that in my head it still feels like one chapter. Hence, it feels like I've been stuck on the same chapter for AGES!

Naturally, I'm starting to get a little bored...

Now I know that sounds kind of worrying. 'You're getting bored of your own book Ian? Wow, it must totally suck then!'

But no! I love my book, and I don't think it's boring at all to read, but writing is very different. Sometimes writing is amazing, and I get all excited when it goes well and I write something awesome. But other times, it is basically a job. I want to get published, so I want to get this book finished; I can't just keep it as a hobby. I have to write even when I'd much rather slob in front of the telly or read a book or something EDIT: I do actually slob in front and the telly and read books and stuff, just balanced with writing as well. And with this chapter, it was getting more and more like work rather than fun. And then I got stuck...

So imagine you work in an office or something. And then imagine you have a meeting every day. And then imagine if every time you had that meeting, the exact same things were said, and when you tried to get things moving, no one would listen. That's sort of how I am, or was, writing this chapter. I got to a point where I'd lost my vision a bit, and I was just writing words down and seeing where it headed. And each time I tried to write something, it wouldn't work, and I would have to delete it, and I would be back to where I was before.

So I'm rambling here!

I'll give you some specifics. The chapter I'm writing is about a duel. Specifically, three duels taking place one after another, with the main character involved in the final one. Here is a little taste of the first duel:

Helwit lost a point within seconds. The man rushed forward with huge speed, huffing as he did so like an angry beast. Helwit panicked, clearly expecting a slower pace, and foolishly raised his sword into a simple right hand parry. The bodyguard struck left, and Helwit was forced back with a heavy blow to his arm. A second, disappointment yelp from Anthony brought the fighting to a pause, only moments after it had begun. His usual grin faltered.

So as you can see, quite descriptive of the specifics of the fight. This is only a small section, this duel goes on for a few pages. Not all of it is quite as 'in the moment' as this bit, but you get the idea. So here is an extract of the second duel:

Rendill rushed forward, striking at his enemy with the perfect balance between aggression and precision. The sound of wood on wood filled the air, each blow parried in rapid succession like a rushed drum beat. The bodyguard flustered and practically ran backwards, almost crashing into Tarill who had to leap to one side to avoid receiving his own blow from Rendill's dancing sword. Eventually the bodyguard fought to bring a distance between them, and in the few seconds before combat resumed, he took a heavy breath and smiled with animal excitement. Rendill charged forward again, the air lifting his deadlocks behind him like a mane. He made several strikes for his chest, before arcing his sword down for a blow to the knee. The parry came just in time, forcing Rendill's blade almost into the sand. This was when Helwit would have retreated. Heck, this was when Dearon would have retreated. But Rendill was different. Instead, he raised his sword up in a powerful arc, taking the bodyguards sword with it, and locked their hilts and blades together. The man's eyes widened, and a moment later Rendill tugged savagely to the side. 

Yes my characters have strange names! But once again you can see I've gone down the route of describing the specifics of the fight. This duel is a lot shorter than the previous one, and there is a short rest between, so the style doesn't (hopefully) get tiring for the reader. But here's where I ran into a problem.

I tried writing the final duel in the same style, but it just didn't work. It felt tiring to read, a real slog that left me feeling cold to what was actually going on. Actiony style writing is good in small doses, but too much and it looses its meaning. 

But I kept trying. And then I tried the opposite. I tried taking away all action, and having the duel described purely as what's going on inside Dearon's head. (Dearon = main character!). But that was boring! 

I then considered just having the duel end within the first few seconds. Crazy I know, but so crazy it just might work? Well... no. It didn't work. I was quite clearly a cop out. 

Then I considered not even writing the fight, and just showing the repercussions after. But nope! I had to admit it. I was stuck.

Now I almost stopped at this point. I almost said 'you know what, maybe I should have a bit of time off my book.' I have a bad history with writers block. It's avoided me for the most part during this draft, but previously it's been a real bitch! I couldn't write for 2 whole years at one point whilst I rethought the book in my head. I tried, a few times, but I just couldn't do it. Mainly that was because a lot of things weren't that well thought through back then. I'm much more confident this time around, so I never considered starting again, but I had defiantly hit the wall.

I think a lot of it is that I've been writing the beginning of my book for a while now. And every other draft I've done save one, I've never got past the beginning. So now that things are working out, I'm just desperate to get to the juicy middle! The problem is my story is much more the slow build up type, especially in this draft, so the last thing I want to do is rush that. I'm taking my time with it, but getting stuck now is annoying. It was becoming hard, and I like things to be easy!

But I kept writing. 

Now there is a lesson I'm glad I've learnt. A few years ago I would have stopped here. I would have put the book away, and the next time I picked it up I would feel so distant from it I would have to start a whole new draft. That's the lazy option. EDIT: When I say 'put the book away,' I mean that I would end up putting it away for months. A few days or sometimes a week off is normal for me.

I don't want this blog to be me trying to teach people lessons about writing, because I'm still learning myself, but one thing I think any writer should remember is that you can't write a book without putting down some words. Trial and error is ok, and will pay off eventually. If there are lots of big problems with the draft you're writing, maybe you should consider taking some time out to think it over, and possible even start again. But if you are just stuck on one bit, think about how excited you are to write the bit after that, and then use that rush to keep writing.

It's still not finished, but I'm much happier with this chapter now. I ended up doing a mix between actiony and in the characters head in the end. I also ended up adding a little hint of something related to the bigger plot in there, and that defiantly spiced things up a bit. Here is a little extract:

They disengaged, watching one another as they moved around the pit. Cerillius stared with an inhuman, bubbling hatred, upsetting Dearon's focus as he moved to re-engage. He struck fast, over Cerillius's guard, but the man jolted to the side, swiping back at Dearon. Their blades met, trembling against each other's power, before Dearon retreated backwards. A victim of his own size, Cerillius lost balance, moving forward with an abandoned guard and into range of Dearon's blade. He swiped forward.

This is one of the more actiony bits of the duel, but you can see a few sentences that ground it with what's going through the main characters head. A good balance, I hope! Here's another extract:

In spite of his clear aggression and rage, of every tensed muscle and gritted tooth, Cerillius waited. His breathing was heavy, lifting his chest higher with each breath, as if every intake of air was channelled into his fury. Dearon was desperate to win, and yet at that moment even he had no desire to approach him. For a long time both men stood there, fixed to the spot, Cerillius's eyes on his as he watched the bodyguard's feet for movement. The afternoon sun bathed violent light over the pit. His nerves tingled with dry sweat. There was no wind to cool him, only the casual flow of air from his lips, exhausting his lungs. 

Just making things a bit more personal to Dearon really worked I think. It still needs some going over (there are a few oddly worded things I can see already in the extracts I posted) but you get the idea. I'm glad I kept writing!

So that's my rant for today! Hopefully I can get this chapter finished before the sun goes down.

Peace out! (I can't pull that off in real life, so I'm saying it here)


P.S. If you see any problems with the extracts I've put, please let me know, I like feedback! Also, contact me if you want to read what I've written of my draft so far.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Horrors of Blurb Writing

I was planning on doing a little description of the book I'm writing at the moment as my first post-introduction post here, and what a post it was going to be! Seriously, you would have been blown away. But unfortunately I am a failure at describing my book to anyone. It's a series, so there are major things it's about that I don't want to say because it would spoil to later books. There are loooooads of different plot threads, and not one which I would be able to single out as a main one. Is it character driven fantasy? Is it plot driven fantasy? Is it even proper fantasy? And even the first book is looking like it's going to be pretty huge (probably over 600 pages), so I have no idea where to begin describing it.

But I've had a go before. I've send what I've done of this draft of my book to a few people over the past few months, and decided to try and put a little blurb type thing in with my email so that people didn't go thinking the character in the prologue was the main character then wondering why he didn't turn up again in the later chapters. It went a little something like this:

As great nation's fall around her, the city of Dolindium is beset by misfortune. Galavian, the son of the King, has been missing for over a month, a cryptic message is sent from the south, and a rebellion begins. Plagued by his own emotional problems, Dearon, the Lord of Dolindium and second only to the King himself, must fight to defend his city and uncover the truth. And all the while, the figures watch, as their unknown plan begins.

Now I don't think is this necessarily a bad blurb. It gets the job done, teases at the story without telling too much, and shows who the main character is (although I hate that 'emotional problems' bit I put in there. What's that about Ian, eh, EH???). But is it really a good blurb?

I know it's far too soon to be thinking about things like this, but I'm a little odd like that. When I'm writing my book, I have to make the page layout look like it's a book. I have to have the page numbers on there, it has to be in A5, I have to adjust the margins a bit, I have to use drop caps at the start of a chapter, I have to have a chapter heading, and so on... So wanting to have a blurb is basically the next step. And is it really that overkill? I mean, it's not like I've designed the cover or anything!...


So yeah, we've established I'm insane. But the point is, my book is good (in my opinion, but my opinion is right) and needs a good blurb. Sometimes the best blurbs are extracts from the books. Take 'Name of the Wind,' perhaps my favourite book. This is it's blurb:

My name is Kvothe. 
 I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.  
You may have heard of me.

Now that is a good blurb! It's so ballsy, so 'hell yeah this is a good book' that it makes you want to rip the book open to read the first page. And that is a quote from the book. I think the first line might go on a bit longer in the book, not sure, but it's basically the same. It also kind of adds to the reading experience, because once you've read that amazing blurb about this apparently awesome person, you then get introduced to the lowly barkeep Kote (who is Kvothe!!! That's not a spoiler by the way, it's made obvious right from the off) who is nothing like that description. In my opinion, this is the near perfect blurb. If he had written the blurb for 'Name of the Wind' in the style of my earlier one, it would have come out as something stale and wouldn't grab attention, the sort of blurb that would make you go 'meh' and put the book back down on the shelf at Waterstones or wherever. 

So this got me thinking. Could I use an extract from my book for my blurb. I know that I have nothing quite as clearly stated as the Name of the Wind extract, so I would probably need to add a more normal blurb beneath the extract, but I've seen this done before. So I got thinking...

There is really only one bit in what I have written so far (I've written about 130 pages at this point. Book will probably be 600 or more) that I could use. It's in the prologue, and it's maybe too long for a blurb, but lets see. Here we go.

“Please not again,” Favoir pleaded. “I’ve suffered enou-"
A focused silence cast aside his words. It amplified every sound, every movement of the air and itch of naked skin to a volume too loud to exist, and yet impossibly distant. Then, like a hammer blow, he felt a sudden separation from all things, as every sense of hope was denied to him; the idea lost definition, as if it could never have existed. All that remained was the quite thump of the icy stone that constricted and expanded beneath his ribs.
There was a quiet pat of feet on the floor, slowly coming closer. He tried to blink, to restore some focus. His breathing was heavy and disjointed. What little moisture was left in him glazed over his eyes.
The footsteps stopped.

So I think that's a good bit of writing. It's a bit more lyrical than most of my stuff, but it kinda needed to be at that point. But it doesn't work that well as a blurb I don't think. One reason is that it introduced some dude called Favoir. If I don't have an extra blurb bit at the bottom of the page explaining the book a bit more, then people will think Favoir is the main character possible, and if I do have that explaining bit, people might be a little confused about the lack of explanation of who Favoir is. Also, it's a bit long, the paragraph structure looks odd on a blurb, and it lacks the set up it has in the actual prologue. 

There is a different angle I could take. I could make the blurb more personal about my main character Dearon, to appease those interested in character development and stuff the most, but that might alienate those more bothered about plot. But if I add a little extra bit at the bottom like my first blurb I might just about manage to make something good. So lets find a Dearon based extract. Ah ha!

“Thing's change,” he muttered to himself quietly. And he knew he was speaking of more than his relationship with Eradeen. With every year of his life he looked back, he saw a different man, sometimes strong, other times desperately weak. Almost a year to the day his heart had been left to die by the woman he loved, and yet only two years before he had chosen her, sweet but serious Demm, to be the one he would love for the rest of his life.
A pale tear drop fell to the bottom of the page, seeping through the paper like a sea against sand. Dearon rested his head in his hands, breathing heavily as his eyes glazed over. A second tear fell, then a third, and before he could control himself he had ripped the unfinished letter in two. The torn halves rested gently on the table, unmoving in the shallow breeze.

So once again this is ok, but not really right. It's a bit in the deep end for a blurb, and seems a bit odd without any context as to who the women he is talking about are. Plus it makes my main character look like a blubbering sod, which he is not, he was just having a bad day that's all. And can you imagine how silly that first blurb would look next to this one.

As I've been writing this, I've realised anyone reading is probably expecting me to show at the end of this post the perfect blurb to my book. Well, sorry! I still haven't got it. If I'm going down the extract route, maybe the perfect paragraph will show up later on in the book. I'm not going to try and fit it in there purposefully, that wouldn't be right, and maybe I'll go with the standard type blurb, just with a little more 'oomph!' than my previous attempt. Who knows?!

It seems a little silly to say this given that I have 0 people reading my blog at the moment, but what's your opinion on what makes a good blurb? Which of the ones I put down do you think is best, or do you think they are all steaming turds that disgrace the name of writing? Let me know in the comments.


Friday, 26 August 2011

Who is The Student Author?

Hello there!

My name is Ian Fisher, and I'm a writer...

Well, I like to think that I am. Technically I've been writing the same book, or at least a dozen or so different versions of it for the past 7 years (I'm 19 now, so you do the math!). It's a fantasy five book series that I am very intent on getting published in the future. And before you come rushing in and go 'Stop Ian! No publisher will take on a 5 book series from a first time author!' you should know I also have a few other, slightly less gigantic ideas in my head for what I will get published first.

But that's not what this blog is about!

...Well, it is...

...Well, it isn't...

...Well, it sort of is and isn't.

Hopefully this blog is going to be more about the general trials and tribulations of trying to write a fiction book(s) at this sort of age. A blog to help those looking for advice, a blog to give those of you with amazing ideas but without the confidence to start writing a good slap to get you going, and (perhaps exclusively depending on how things turn out) a place for me to rant. Because everybody needs a good rant every now and then.

So keep checking up for (hopefully) frequent updates on my own writing struggles, as well as a few tips for those writing or thinking of starting writing a novel.

Cherrio! (I don't think I've ever actually said that in real life... Now I know my goal for tomorrow!)