The Trials of Writing

Writing is a multitasking sport and I’m failing hard on it. Why, you ask? Because here is my massively neglected blog. My other blog, tied implicitly to my novels, is just as neglected. This needs to change.

I’ve been doing a great job of waking up at 5:30am and writing. The issue is it gets locked into editing the novel instead of passing over here to get working on the project. In the evening I just don’t care. I play video games. I need to care more. It would be better for my pocket book as well as my progress and the creation of a fan base. It’s just really hard work.

Travel hurts this as well. I’m currently on my parent’s computer. Their keyboard feels clunky to type on, so it frustrates me, and I quit. It’s a horrible thing.

So, starting tomorrow, I will be updating the Volden site. I will be appearing more regularly on here, and I will have a really awesome map when I can figure out how to get links up on it. All wins.

Hope you’re all doing well, hope your writing/reading is going well, and have an awesome Father’s Day!

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The Power of Names

Watch Dogs was flat for me. It was in Chicago, a city I enjoy visiting and I think is beautiful, but it felt flat. I couldn’t figure out why. Is it because I’ve been there? Is it because they have such small segments of the city, interspersed with different suburbs?

Then it dawned on me. Nothing had names. If you weren’t a plot important entity, you were generic. “Eat here,” and other signs that didn’t create brand, and therefore did not create a world.

GTAV is a master of this. They have a thousand brands, most of which you will never know. There are a half dozen different banks, and you interact with maybe two of them. They have postal services. You never deal with these. The strip clubs are numerous, there are news agencies, car companies, used car dealerships, and countless other brands. You only ever deal with a very small percentage in any way beyond seeing a building with a logo.

Watch Dogs didn’t do this. It made me hesitant to pick up Watch Dogs 2. I play sandbox games for that atmosphere. Usually the plots are weaker, but the world building is through the roof.

Watch Dogs 2 has captivated me. Even if I’m not a fan of the style of DedSec, I love the world. When I started playing the world felt more alive. At first I thought maybe it was because I never visited San Francisco. However, as I kept playing I realized every building had an existence. They all had brands. Lives were behind them, lives I would likely never know.

This creates life in the world.

My world has secret organizations. There are intricate governments filled with rulers and underlings. Everything is alive if the characters are going to touch it. They never see the full scope. However, these little touches, these names, attitudes, and “brands,” all affect the way the main story plays out. It affects the motives of the support characters. It affects how the antagonist can move against the protagonist.

Even though your reader doesn’t see all of it, or they can if they follow along with your blog, you have created solid motives. You will write the setting and characters more convincing for it. Trust me.

My suggestion on this, and insight to my own process, is brand everything. Give it names, motives, purpose over all. The reader may not see it all, and they may not pay attention to all the crumbs that are put in front of them, but they will feel the world is more real.

Villains or the Egg

I watched Captain America: Civil War again last night. There’s an interesting concept in any of the super hero movies. Do villains appear because the heroes amped up the power level?

For the history of comics, this is true. Superman existed uncontested. He stopped meteors, trains, exploding factories, and so on. I remember these when I was younger and I watched them on VHS. While VHS is ancient and dates me, not nearly as much as if I’d admit to watching Superman when it first aired.

The people making the heroes had a good heart. Let’s start with the best in people. Then they darkened it.

Villains started appearing to create a better conflict. They were stronger, more clever, had some ability to keep down the hero. The hero came first.

Now that we have our super hero origin stories, usually starting with them facing up against a major terrorist, the villains don’t appear until later. As they say in Civil War, like the challenge is there, and they have to live up to it.

There’s a problem with this. Escalation of power rarely starts with defense.

Cities were conquered. Walls were built. Battering rams were deployed. Hot tar was poured down on them. People used swords. The bow was created to keep them at a distance. The shield had no reason to exist until someone was trying to kill someone else.

The Great War was so bloody because offensive capabilities completely outstripped defensive capabilities on a scale rarely seen, possibly never seen. They used machine guns and gas. Trenches and gas masks were utilized. Mortars were used to force machine gunners to hide so charges could be mounted with some hope of success.

Historically, the defense, the protector, comes after the offense and destroyer. Joker should have gone on a rampage, and after seeing the destruction with no end in sight, Batman would rise up to defend his city. Now he may have already been defending it from street thugs, but when you’re trained as a master assassin, you really don’t need billions of dollars to defeat a guy who barely knows how to shoot a gun.

In your own stories, keep that in mind. There are heroes that are greater than life, but they rarely come out without a challenge. How do we know they’re incredible if they haven’t been forged in equally great strife?

Embrace the magic of the world

I see more and more that magic is simply science in a time that doesn’t understand it. This bothers me. When did we disband magic as the whimsy, unpredictable, difficult to control, and beautiful work of art that it should be? When did we done lab coats, throw magic into a sterile white room, and start to write thesis papers on it to make it normal?

There are so many real forces in the world which we understand about as well as a grocer understands nuclear physics. There are always new and exciting things on the horizon, but all we seem to take away from it is, “Tomorrow, we’ll explain that, too.” And we apply this to magic in our fantasy worlds.

This isn’t a long post, it’s not even really angry or a rant. It’s a sorrowful plea. Keep the whimsy in your magic. Keep the joy and happiness. Keep the unpredictability and imaginative workings. Leave the labcoat at home and create imperfect walls of glass, brick, rock, wood, or some other strange and unclean element. Just keep it fun and unexplained. Keep us marveling at the unknown going forward. It’s all I ask.

Writing is Work

A man wrote on one of the Facebook groups I follow that he has recently taken up writing. He bought the how to write books, he’s been looking into what’s required, and he finally stated it’s frustratingly tedious. At that point, he just decided he was going to write and it’s been all gravy since then. The people in the group supported him, saying now he’s on the right track. I refrained from injecting my thoughts.

To illustrate my thoughts on this, let’s use an analogy! Successful sport players start at a young age, usually early elementary school. Fundamentals are key at this point, and they play. At this stage in life you are more easily capable of learning. In middle school and high school they drill. You don’t just learn what the fundamentals are, but you spend hours a day in a gym learning them. You go to the weight room and lift. You dedicate a significant portion of your life to the sport. It is no longer just a game, and you no longer simply walk out onto the court or field and wing it. The majority will get no further, and if they do it will be in casual leagues. If someone decides to start late, they have to work harder. They need to dedicate more time and practice to the game, because they are behind everyone else. It’s frustrating, but if you want it, you will strive for it.

I’ve been an avid reader and writer since second grade. Maybe first grade, but I can’t remember. Those kids who were reading 400 pages a day were focusing on fundamentals. The writers who spend hours researching before putting a single word down, the ones who daydream and throw away a thousand concepts before finding a polished gem, the author who continues to read and study the craft are all going through the fundamentals, like the basketball player. It’s fun. It’s tedious. It’s frustrating. We do not research for the sake of research (actually I do, but not all the time). We research so our book doesn’t suck.

Why do you focus on the fundamentals? So you avoid plot holes, boring stories, massive inaccuracies, and the like. There was one book I read where the war consisted of one army marching across a vast country to the other army’s castle, and then they fought. A war is not one battle at the capital’s gates. It’s skirmishes, attacks and counter attacks, sieges, and siege weapons. Even if it only receives a paragraph. I get it. There weren’t even siege weapons. They went up to the door, broke a spell, and opened them. No bolts. No locks. No steel reinforcement. It was more or less, “Hey guys, we need to pick a lock using magic, and then we win.”

I am always learning the trade and refining my abilities, just as currently I’m refining my chapters and story to make it more cohesive, have fewer plot holes (with any luck none), and create something readers really enjoy. It irks me as much to hear someone say it’s a hobby as for someone to say this doesn’t take work and it should be all fun. Writing my two novels was a lot of fun. Editing them has not been.

So if you’re getting into writing, that’s awesome. If you’re doing it entirely for the pleasure, I think that’s great. Don’t listen to me. If you’re doing it because you want to make it a career and you’re just starting, remember there are a lot of people who sacrificed at a young age to start on this track. It’s not an easy one.

It is finished (for now)

The first rewrite of G’desh is finished. This is what I will use as my actual copy for editing.

The original manuscript was hurried, ill formed, and brutal, being a few words over 50,000. It was my NaNo, and I quickly outpaced what I had planned, so the end was crap and a lot of words that I didn’t want in there. While I liked the overall, I wanted to make some modification and clean it up. While also allowing a larger word count simply because I had better thought out concepts.

The final rewrite word count is 83,221. Approximately 238 pages soft cover. This will shrink and grow in the coming month based on edits. Then I submit it to Abbott Press, I submit it to my readers, and I wait for a month until those return to me. Edit once more, submit to a few more readers, wait two weeks, and send in for publication. Then I wait three months, and it will be in my hands. I will roll around with it in glee and sniff it like two dogs meeting for the first time.

I’m overjoyed at this, exhausted, and terrified. Now comes the truly challenging part where I actually dissect my lover of the past two months and tell her how imperfect she is and how I need to reshape her through plastic surgery.

Also, if I created a kickstarter so I can afford an actual editor and marketing, what would entice you into purchasing my wares?

Precipice of Terror

I stand here on a ledge. I’ve stood here before. The novel is nearly complete. With three chapters and a epilogue staring me in the face, all I can think is, “this is the end. Today is the day.” It took two months to do the rewrites, and though I have three chapters and an epilogue left, every scene is so intensely vivid because these are the scenes I started with, the ones I imagined a thousand times over while laying awake in bed at night.

So here is to finishing my novel up today! Then I have two friends I’m editing and that should occupy my next week. After those are edited, time to edit my own work. Hopefully finish in a week. Two weeks tops. Then off to alpha readers and my editor! Might be doing a kickstarter after that. Need $3,000 if I want an actual editor. A part of me really wants this to be thoroughly edited.

Hope your own WIPs are going well! I can’t wait to be done with this, not because I don’t love it, but because numerous other lovers are awaiting my embrace, and I can’t wait to start pumping them out.

Have a blessed Sunday, guys!