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

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 :)