NYR: half-year progress report

04/06/2014 20:15

As it’s June (how did we get here?!), I figured I should do an update on my New Year’s Writing Resolutions


Goal 1: Finish Changing Winds Part 2 and, as a stretch goal, finish Empty Skies.

Yes to finishing Changing Winds Part 2! Green Sky & Sparks, Grey Stones & Steel and High Flight & Flames are officially finished. Sammy has reviewed Green Sky & Sparks and I’ve just finished amending it; the next two may have amendments to be made, but I’m a lot happier with them than I was with GS&S, and I don’t expect any major revisions. So that one can be ticked off!

Empty Skies is still ongoing, but finishing it is my challenge for tonight and tomorrow: it’s currently on 20,000 words so I have another 10-15,000 to go.


Goal 2: Finish re-writing Shadows and re-write Ghosts to fit in with what is now happening in Shadows.

Nothing done on these yet, but I did re-read Shadows last weekend (and surprised myself with some of what I wrote, which obviously means it’s pretty good). If I get time this week, I may work on this; if not, it’s going to be a goal for the next few weeks. I’m a lot happier with my headspace, and if I get a chunk of Green Sky finished, I will have more time for Shadows.


Goal 3: Madcap Library: get some pictures done (ok, maybe that translated as “nag my illustrator”) and self-publish at least the first few.

Yes! Hannah has done my two cover images for the first two collections, has done character sketches, and is currently working on two smaller sketches for individual stories. We’ve also got a project on the go that means the self-publishing has been temporarily put on hold, but I’m not too concerned about that as I will re-start as soon as the project gets to a suitable point. So this one is still ongoing, but progress has been made.


Goal 4: Continue on the road to official publication.

Yes! GS&S will be published in ebook format towards the end of this year, and then the next two in ebook format and all three in hardcover at some future point. ML is on hold for the moment, and beyond that, we’ll see!


Goal 5. Stretch goals: finish some of my other writing.

Umm, does writing erotica count? Apart from that and a few shorter pieces of practice writing, I haven’t done anything…but then I am happy with the writing I have done.


I’m getting there with it all!

NSFW: writing erotica and creative exercises

02/06/2014 21:04

This is your advance warning: don’t read this if you’re at work, in an environment that doesn’t cope well with swearing or erotica, or you don’t want to read about it. I’m not going to discuss personal experience but I might be using some of the words – so please leave now if you’re going to have problems later!

Continue reading “NSFW: writing erotica and creative exercises”

A character and a story

01/06/2014 16:18

It’s pretty rare that I put real people in my stories…although I did a post on characters, my characters tend to be a mish-mash of traits and personalities and whatever falls out of my head onto the page. I don’t put my friends into my stories (at least, in any overt sense) because they’re too real – I would never be able to get the complexity and character of someone that I know in real life onto the page, and usually I don’t even try. I know parts do come out in my writing, but that is mostly unintentional.

However,  I met someone over the weekend who I know is going to stay in my head and come out as a character. Because it was the first time I have met her, I got an immediate first impression: she’s fascinating, complex, insecure and passionate, with a quiet reserve and then sudden deep cracks of intensity, and smile that absolutely lights up her face. She’s so unlike most of the people I meet (who are all very nice and interesting, but don’t necessarily grab my attention in the way this person did) that about an hour after I met her, she came and sat next to me and started talking about buying yellow shoes, and I simply said, “you’re going in one of my books. I don’t know how or who as, but I have to write about you.” And so far, she’s still talking to me, so I think she’s ok with it…

I was thinking about it on the train, and decided that she doesn’t really fit into any of my current books or plots: she would be a central character, someone who pulls everything else around her. In real life, she works in an antique map shop…and bing! goes my head. Mapping. That fits in with the Victorian-era discovery urge; that fits in with Obak and Iilde, who are exploring the seas; that fits in with the Fliyers and the new technology and the expansion of travel.

So I have a new book to start: a book that looks at the idea of wanting to explore the world, to understand and to map. I can follow the trade routes across the deserts; I can bring my flying squadron back from the war with Aleric, so old characters can join with the new ones. I can bring Catter in, with his links to Toru and his interest in the archives. I can get my explorers to follow the paths that are being spread across the worlds by the electricity lines, to want to see what’s over the next horizon and then commit that to paper, to return and slowly fill in the gaps in their world.

Tentatively titled “Heights and Horizons” – I want another word at the beginning but can’t think of one, so I’ll stick with that for the moment!

Writing a pre-written story…

25/05/2014 12:54

I’ve been involved in a Dresden Files role-play game (see my General Ramblings post for more details). As I’ve been playing a reporter, it’s sort of in-character to be scribbling notes, plus I like to do it so that I can keep track of everything (like names, or places, or who’s been murdered this time…). As I have been scribbling notes anyway, I figured I may as well use them to write up the sessions, which keeps a record of events for later and lets everyone catch up on what happened if they missed anything.

I’m not going to link to the website here – we’re trying to keep it fairly quiet, as it is personal – but here’s a snippet:

We’ve all been summoned – somehow – into Accorded Neutral Territory: the Sir Daniel Arms in Swindon. Hocus [a fox] is curled under the table, and I think she’s found some beans. Krasher and Tricky are staring suspiciously at the man sitting across the table. Smith’s negotiating with the barman for a steak, Salix is looking particularly uncomfortable at being in this rather empty pub, and [Detective] Everyman is propping up the bar on a break from his usual beat, trying to look as if he isn’t listening.

And I’m looking at a newspaper article that the man across the table has just laid down. It’s written by Scott D’arcy, a reporter from the Swindon Advertiser with a reputation for not checking his sources and getting the paper into trouble by printing the first thing he gets hold of. He’s impulsive, loves hearsay and rumours, and occasionally stumbles on something good. He keeps trying to steal my stories, so I keep a wary eye on him – and the favour’s returned. Reporting’s a friendly world.

There have been five murders; not unusual for Swindon, as Krasher points out with a laugh. Blunsdon, Stratton, Dorcan, Haydon Wick and Freshbrook, all within the last twenty-four hours: Darcy did well to get the story out so fast. There isn’t much information: the police are investigating, blah blah blah. But the man on the other side of the table is waving the paper at us. “They’re all linked. They’re all shapeshifters. And I want you to investigate.”


Writing a story that’s being pre-written for me is definitely interesting, and presents quite a challenge! I’m trying to take notes of anything interesting, but I know I do miss things – usually dialogue – and it’s part of the challenge to turn a half-hour conversation into its bare essentials. I have to pick out the major events and turn those into the bones of the post, while also putting in anything useful that was said, along with the really good bits of conversation and anything that I want to put in to further my character; after all, it is a personal account.

So…it’s a nice challenge, and very different from my usual writing. I’m enjoying it so far, although trying to catch the conversations during the meetings is annoying, but being able to craft a story out of an evening is definitely exciting.

One additional writing challenge that I may or may not get round to doing is writing up news-style articles for the various events that we’ve come across. I don’t write in different styles very often, although I did learn how to news-write at school, and so it would be something that I think would stretch me. But then it does require time, and I really should be doing other writing…so we will see!

Some thoughts on characters

11/05/2014 21:04

News first: I’ve passed by six Green Sky stories on to my editor/publisher for reading – she’s already given me thoughts on Green Sky (can someone remind me to do a post on them?) but I’ll get thoughts on the rest back in a few weeks – scary!


So, characters. This came about because I was talking to a friend today who has problems writing characters: he has the world, but struggles to put people into it. Although my advice earlier wasn’t quite as coherent, I’ve had time to think, and here’s my list of things I can think of that could help:

– Write someone real. Pick a scenario, and drop them into it: pick a friend, put them in a box, and see what they do. Our variation was “what would happen if X found themselves locked in a house?” Answers included have an argument, hide in a corner, decide on a sensible course of action then do the opposite, and smash a window – any of which would make a good story!

– Write fanfiction. The characters and the world are already there: pick a side character, and write their voice and their story.

– Write yourself. If you’re not sure your life is exciting enough, write something you want to happen – write that date with your crush, write the journey you want to make, write that day you want to have. Write yourself as the hero, write yourself as perfect, write what you really want to say and do even if you’d never really do it. The important thing isn’t writing a good story or an exciting story or even a story that you’d show to anyone else. The important thing is to be writing.

– Write a scenario. For example…a deserted campsite. Where is it? Why is it deserted? If there’s dead bodies all over the place, why? And then drop a character into it: if I suddenly walked out of the woods and into this campsite, what would I do? What would [pick random action hero] do? What would [film character] do? What would you do?


And this got me thinking: how do I write characters? I tend to have two methods. The first is to start with the character, usually based (vaguely) on a real person. The second is to start with a snapshot, an image, and then work who the character is from there. 

I admit, I find it hard to use real people: I don’t know exactly what they’d do or say or think, no matter how well I know someone. My friend also argued that he didn’t like the idea of manipulating someone, even in his mind. However, if you’re not happy making up characters, use someone real at least to start with. They will change and mutate based on your story: I keep an image of someone in my mind, even if I don’t conciously try to write them – they somehow come through, and the voice somehow works (don’t ask me exactly how), but I don’t aim to write the person themselves. And then I drop them into my world, and see what they do! In Catter’s case, he fell in love; in another case, my character killed people. Both are in-character – if extreme – for the person they were based on.

Writing a scenario is closer to the last option on the list above, except I usually have a person already involved. Desert Sands is a case in point: my starting image for the story was of someone, running through the desert. So who are they? Why are they there? What are the running from, or for? Which world is it? Where do they fit in to the rest of my plot and storylines? I admit I have the luxury of already having a world and plot up and running, but the snapshot image is as good a story-starter as any other.


I’m not sure how coherent the above is. Thinking about how I write, and how to help other people write, isn’t really something I have done much until recently! It tends to make my brain hurt…