Archive for category writing
Ah, it’s taken a while to get it finalised, but finally done.
I’ve literally been backwards and forwards, again and again, trying to tighten up those niggling little inconsistencies, plot holes, errors, and whatnot. I’m pretty sure they’re done, so I’ve clicked the PUBLISH button for the first time in just over two years.
Two years. Technically, two years, three months, and ten days. Amazing that it’s been that long. Hopefully the next one will be out much more readily. I’m already into it, and I’m not setting myself massively high word counts. I have the story roughly set.
So, yes. Anyway. The self-publication of Blood Calling, the first Hob & Harte book, is now live on Amazon. The first story in an ongoing saga for my new pair of miscreants. A horror that follows a demon summoning gone wrong. Death and suffering, business as usual for Hob and Harte, a soul-bound pair trying to save the day.
Try it. You might like it.
Links will go up shortly.
A lot of my time recently has been eaten up with lending support to a new author. It’s been interesting to sit on the other side for a change, and work with her to polish her book up.
When she asked for beta readers, I volunteered, wanting to give constructive criticism and feedback. Her initial draft was good, but not great. The story had a lot of potential, but needed work. So, I did what I could to help and advise.
As a first time author, she’d fallen into a lot of the usual traps:
Telling more than showing
Dialogue that sounds painful when read out loud
Leaving too much unexplained (the author knows it, and forgets that the reader doesn’t)
Too much repetition
Rushing over, or dragging out the “wrong” bits
The inevitable spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.
Nothing worse than a lot of other books I’ve read, and better than many that have been rushed into publication too early. I can’t stress how important it is to get that feedback, and listen to it.
I went through the book with a fine tooth-comb. Or, at least half of it. By the time I reached the half-way point, I realised that it was a perfect place to stop the story for a first book, and to split the story up a bit. She’d written several hundred pages worth, that needed polishing, editing, etc, and would be asking readers to invest a lot of money and time in a first-time author. Splitting it felt right (and it’s a great place to stop, and set up the second volume). Then there corrections, and comments. Lots of comments. For consistencies, clarifications, etc.
Writing and rewriting and rewriting again tends to give a different picture to the author as it does to the reader. As the author, you know all the blanks. You know the world you’re creating. You know everything. The reader doesn’t. So, that fresh perspective gave a lot of questions and queries, all of which were taken on board, and in the best possible way, led to some creative brainstorming leading to bigger world building. She’d already set a great world, with a solid story, but was able to develop that further.
Each draft was met with more (but less) of the same, until the final version was ready to go.
It’s available now, in fact.
A fantasy adventure, by Sian Montgomery:
I hate trying to find a title for my book. Or short story. I absolutely suck at them.
I always thought that a good title should catch the attention, give a little hint as to the story (or at least the theme), and be fairly unique.
Trying to get something unique is a major challenge. My partner is Chinese, and she’s excited about a new film which has just been released in the UK. It’s called Once Upon A Time. Try googling that, and see how many different versions you get, just from films alone. Same with a lot of book titles. On those rare occasions when I do think I’ve got something that might just work, the first thing I do is pull up the Amazon search bar, and type it in, see how many hits I get. If there’s less than three, I’ll consider it. If it’s none at all, I’m definitely keeping it as a contender. Anything more, and it’s going to get lost in the crowd, or pull in someone who got it confused with a title they actually wanted.
When I published Clown, I was dead set on the title. I knew it was a loser, but I wanted it nonetheless. In The Mourning was a title before I had a story, and I really wanted to use it, because deep down, I love puns. Compiling HB Peculiar’s First Cause, the title was relatively easy as someone else came up with it as the name of their short story. It was (intended as) the first HB Peculiar collection, and the story was going to be the first. Easy.
For my next book, I’ve gone with Blood Calling. It’s a horror piece, so blood always works well. The story involves a summoning, that uses blood magic, so Blood Calling seems to work quite nicely.
Oh, and it should be out by the end of the month. With any luck!
OK. I’m almost there.
I’ve run my first draft, and my first round of proofreading. Now I’m out to Beta Readers, having found a handful of willing volunteers. Now to sit back and wait for feedback.
I hate waiting for feedback.
So, I’m trying to keep myself busy with more. And this is where it gets difficult. I want to start on the second book. I want to finish something I’ve previously started. I want to start something new. I have the attention span of a
Sorry, where was I?
Trying to get myself going again. Even tried coming up with new writing exercises. The latest one is an evil one. Hopefully sharing it shortly. Meantime, keep watching the skis!
… skies. I meant skies.
In near record time, especially given my current circumstances, I’ve completed my first draft. Clocking in at 53,618 words, which will no doubt be significantly different by the time I’m ready to publish, I thoroughly enjoyed the writing of this one.
Brief synopsis (and I suck at writing synopses): On the night that five friends try to summon a demon, things do not work out according to plan. Those who survive the night find that things that are summoned are not so easily dismissed, and when their paths cross with a pair of supernatural investigators, a fight for survival ensues.
So, first draft done. Now for a swipe at a second draft, incorporating a little proofreading, editing, spellchecking, consistency, etc. And then on to some beta readers!
Well, it’s been a little while since I wrote here. But this time, for a damn good reason. I’ve been writing.
I’ve got my inspiration back, my mojo back, and my groove back. I’d say I’m currently about 70%, maybe a little more, through my first draft. And I’ve been really enjoying it. The exercises I ran in the past few posts have been an absolute blessing for me. My current WIP is fairly dialogue-heavy, and for something I used to dread, I’m now finding it hard to stop. One of my main characters is a gobby bastard, and I can’t seem to shut him up.
I love writing the dialogue. I’m reading it out loud, and it sounds about right. It seems to flow.
I’m trying to build suspense in there, and I feel I’m getting that done. There’s chills, blood and gore, and a mythology building up. It’s a long, long way from perfect, and the next stage is going to be getting a couple of beta-readers, and doing some harsh editing (I know it’s needed, and I’m trying to hold off doing it as I go, to avoid losing the flow that I’m building up).
So, this is a swing in, and I’ll be back with a few posts about the process here (from deciding characters, character types, names, mythologies, editing, cover design, etc) soon. Hopefully, very soon. I’m aiming to not just have this thing out this year, but in time for Halloween. Hell, the way I’m going, I’m hoping to have it out by the end of Summer, and the sequel in hand!
See you soon!
OK, this was a tough one.
I’d hit a moment of writer’s block, but still wanted to keep writing. So, first challenge – think of a new challenge. Second challenge – complete the challenge.
And this one was a bit of a doozy. As I write, I find myself endlessly repeating the same words and phrases, over and again. I think every writer does. No matter how great your vocabulary, there’s just something about certain things that keep them coming back to you. For myself, it’s a distraction when writing (moreso when I’m reading), and I get very conscious about it, and have to correct it. So, three solutions. 1) Learn to ignore it, and just go back and fix it. 2) Try to break the habit so I start writing without repetition. 3) Both.
So, this challenge is more about solution 2 (and by extension, 3).
Writing a short story in which no word appears more than once. For extra challenge points, try to avoid words like ‘and’ and ‘the’.
Before even getting to start writing, it means figuring out a suitable scenario. So, here we go:
Sunlight glittered through holes in black tarpaulin, falling on churned earth, sizzling and steaming. Pitiful mewling rent half-lit silence. Thrashing, wailing, desperately struggling to escape. Helpless, weakened. Eyes that burned, watched as gloved hands peeled back yellow tape, stepped inside. Man. Breathing heavily behind steamed glass face mask. Kneeling, reaching out tentatively. Taste of fear, calming. Nourishing. Trying to nuzzle against thick leather trousers. Feeling repulsion, flinching.
Can see self reflected. So hideous. Heart screams. Every time.
Don’t want loneliness any more.
Face dispassionate, uncaring. Studying, like scientist. Hate them all. Bring only suffering, misery. No end.
Snuffling, squirming closer. Turn face upwards.
He puts his finger against wrinkled, filthy skin. Gently strokes.
Screams when savage, little teeth bite glove, flesh, bone off.
Evil grin, bloodied and victorious.
Terrified, scrabbling away. Knowing infection will spread.
Honestly? That started ****ing hard! Trying to determine a suitable scenario was a pain. Dialogue-free for me (although that’s a challenge for another day) as a preference. I spent a while trying to figure something out, then started with that first, basic sentence. From there, a vague, half-formed idea gradually took shape. The need to avoid repetition led to a particular style of writing, a different way of telling the story. Something I hadn’t really done before, and I ended up quite liking it. More, I ended up liking the whole scene. I want to do more with that (although the tone would have to change a little), but it worked. Got me thinking, got the old creative juices flowing, and got me writing.
As promised, a little insight into what I’m currently working on.
I’ve been a fan of episodic horror/genre TV for a while. Dr Who, Kolchak, X-Files, Buffy, Millennium, Supernatural, Haven, etc. There’s a number of books written in that kind of style as well, which I rate highly, and thoroughly enjoy, in one form or another – Lincoln and Child’s Agent Pendergrast, Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger, Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden, et al. And, of course, I’ve been a comic book fan for years.
I wanted to do something in that vein.
Something with a supernatural/horror flavour. Broadly speaking, bad thing happens, good guys try to stop it, good guys eventually win. Sure, there’s triumph and tragedy along the way, blood and death, and that kind of thing, but pretty formulaic. Very popular fiction, if done right. Popular is nice, popular is good. Especially if it’s something that writer enjoys, and is passionate about.
So, this was a nice diversion for me. Chance to write something new, whilst I was revved up and ready to write. Jump into something fresh. Which, for me, meant diving in headfirst. Get a vague idea (in this case, a demon summoning), and a way to play with it.
So, five friends start a demon summoning. Then I play with it a little. The idea that they botch it, just a little, and that delays the summoned demon, until after they’ve given up and walked away. The broad idea then being that the two actual protagonists turn up, and save the day – after some bloodshed, of course.
OK. Basic idea in place.
Then comes the world and character building. What are the rules with demon summoning, and what are they actually going to summon? Something from classical mythology, or something new? Are the summoners kid, teens, students, adults? Are they rich, poor? British, American, somewhere else? Why are they summoning?
Bare bones to begin with, and starting to fill some of those gaps in as I write. They can be fleshed out, trimmed back, or completely revised during subsequent drafts. I’m not working to the “everything must be perfect first time” credo any more.
At the moment, the five are long-term friends, recent college graduates. Adults, but still living with parents. Most of them, at least. Why are they doing it? Generic reason X, right now. However, down the line, it’ll be because of an influence from the summoning book.
OK. Bare bones set, and writing begun. This was the first part. The second part was what they summoned, the third – the protagonists. Something for the next couple of posts.
Have a great weekend!
Checking in for an update, I think.
A few posts back, I looked at making some changes to get back into the swing of things. To renew, refresh, revamp, revitalise, and all that jazz.
So, here’s what I’ve done:
I’ve run through my social media, having identified it as a major timewaster/distraction, with Facebook being the worst. Without wanting to delete my account entirely, I edited a lot of stuff out, cut down my posting drastically, and deleted the app from my phone. It helps. Not a lot, but enough. Consequently, I’m barely touching Instagram and Twitter either.
It’s been two weeks since my family was restored to full strength, with my partner and middlest returning from foreign climes. We’ve been working at sleep-training the boys, but forgot that the bright, sunny evenings are here. Sleep-training is progressing, but very slowly. I’m optimistic for a positive outcome at some point.
As a result of the sleep training, I’ve cut down on game playing and TV a lot – as I can’t get near a screen! Hopefully, this can become the norm.
I sketched up some basic writing challenges for myself. I didn’t want to do something as simple as “Here’s a theme, write about it”. That seemed like a bit of a waste. So, I set challenges like “5 minutes fiction – whenever and wherever the muse strikes”; “1 – 10 word sentences”; “A-Z”. Some of the results can be seen in previous posts. Because of their nature, I was able to work on these during my morning/evening commute, on the train, using my phone. They actually worked so well for me that I’m tempted to compile a few more into a short eBook, combining suggested exercises with my outcomes.
I also started something new, as I wanted to avoid falling back into comfort and wallowing about something that hadn’t progressed. So, I did. And hit 10,000 words before I knew it. Technically, that’s enough for a short novella on its own! I was aiming it to be the introduction to a bigger piece – full novel, although likely to be a short one – that would form the first book in a planned series. More on that next post.
So, all in all, a bit of a success, really. New attitude, new commitment. Let’s hope I can keep it going, eh?
One thing I hate writing is dialogue, and I’m sure I’m not alone. It always sounds false and forced to me, especially when I read it out loud. It’s a brutal pain to do, and I hate it. Absolutely hate it. I could quite happily sit and write something that is absolutely dialogue-free.
And I hate writing variations of “He said”. They always end up forced. The endless repetition of “said” winds me up. The desperate inclusion of as many variations (shouted, shrieked, cried, wept, moaned, complained, whispered, murmured, called, stated, asked, questioned, etc.) just feels like an author got hold of a thesaurus, and takes me right out of a story. Similarly, when dialogue goes on, especially between multiple parties, and there’s no indication of who’s speaking, and as a reader, I just get lost. And, finally, when everyone talks in exactly the same way, or in such a consciously different way, that it destroys the moment.
Hate it. Hate it all.
And I’m just as guilty of it as anyone. The best authors make it seem effortless. The reader can tell who’s speaking almost from the dialogue alone. The words flow naturally. Adjectives are used sparingly, supporting the dialogue. It reads like a real conversation.
So, that’s the next challenge. Dialogue, and dialogue only. Nothing that isn’t pure speech. It can’t be one person just relating a story to another, though. Too easy. No word limit on this one.
“Paw! Lookit! Lookit!”
“Hold on, boy. I’m coming.”
“I said hold on, Caleb.”
“But, it’s getting away, Paw.”
“Just you keep clear of it, Caleb. Whatever it is.”
“I am, Paw, but hurry.”
“I’m coming, Caleb. Just let me catch my breath a minute. Hill’s steeper’n I recollect.”
“You want me to help you, Paw?”
“Nah, Caleb. You just keep your eyes on that, whatever it is, and I’ll be there in a moment. Yes?”
“Yessir. I’m watching it.”
“What… what’s it doing, Caleb? You want to tell me what you can see?”
“Yes, Paw. It’s trying to crawl away. It’s awful slow, though.”
“Heh. Slower than your Paw?”
“Almost, Paw. Looks like it’s got a busted leg, I think. Seems to be dragging that one behind it.”
“Is it bleeding?”
“I can’t see any blood. Do you want me to go have a closer look, Paw?”
“No, no. You steer clear, boy. I’ll take a look when I get there, don’t you worry none.”
“It doesn’t look happy, Paw.”
“Can’t imagine it would, what with a busted leg. Wasn’t exactly jumping for joy when mine got caught, now was I?”
“No, Paw. You was saying some real bad words, though.”
“Hah! That I was, boy. That I was. And don’t think I ain’t heard you saying the same things when you think I can’t hear you.”
“It’s ok, boy. I said worse’n that when I was your age. You just try to keep it quiet, ‘specially when you’re with others out there.”
“Is it still moving?”
“Yes, Paw. Looks like it’s in awful pain, Paw.”
“I can imagine. You hold on there, Caleb. I’m coming now.”
“You need a hand?”
“Maybe just a little, boy. It’s getting harder to get up this last bit.”
“OK, Paw. You want my hand or my shoulder?”
“Hand’ll do just fine, boy, thank you.”
“OK, Paw. I got you. Just a little bit to go, and then you come see it.”
“On three, boy. Give me the strongest pull you can.”
“One. Two. Three, and pull!”
“I’m getting strong now, ain’t I, Paw?”
“You… you are indeed, Caleb. You got a good grip on you, too.”
“You gonna come lookit now, Paw?”
“OK, boy. Just… just let me catch my breath again.”
“All right, Paw. I’m gonna go see if it’s gone any further.”
“You do that, boy. I’ll just stay here for a moment.”
“Hey, Paw! It’s still there. I think it’s takin’ a breather, just like you.”
“Well, it is a mighty fine day, Caleb. Maybe it’s just enjoyin’ the sunshine.”
“Could be, Paw. It’s got its eyes closed against the sun.”
“Sun is awful bright up here.”
“Think it might be sleeping, Paw.”
“Getting about that time when a nap looks awful good, Caleb.”
“Looks kinda peaceful, Paw.”
“Maybe give it some peace.”
“Think I’m just going to take a seat here myself, boy. Don’t suppose you got any water up with you, do you?”
“No, Paw. You want me to run get you some?”
“No. Yes. Maybe. You think you can do that for me?”
“Yes, Paw. You feeling ok?”
“Just feeling a little tired, Caleb. Like your little friend over there.”
“You don’t look too good, Paw.”
“I’m fine, boy. You go get me some water. Think I’m just going to sit here and close my eyes for a spell.”
“Maybe see if you can jog on over to Doc Samson’s. Tell him your Paw’s having himself a little turn. Ask him if he can come on over.”
“Thank you, Caleb.”
“That’s OK, Paw. You want anything else?”
“No, Caleb. You get going now. I’m just… just going to close my eyes for a spell.”
“All right, Paw. I’ll be back quick as I can.”
“Oh, and Caleb?”
“Love you, son.”
“Love you too, Paw.”
First draft only, but surprisingly, I actually enjoyed writing this. I’ve been making a conscious effort to avoid wandering into my default genres (horror, sci-fi, fantasy), and although this took a tentative step in that direction, I deliberately tried to steer it back into something else. I tried to speak the dialogue out loud as I wrote it. Overall – could it tell more? Yes. Would I edit it? Absolutely. There’s a bit too much repetition in there, especially from Caleb. That’s often how dialogue can work in real life, but can make for painful reading. I felt I was able to get events over without having to use descriptive prose, and leave a nice indication of what was happening at the end – particularly as Paw’s final line is the only time he calls Caleb ‘son’. As an exercise for tackling something I often get frustrated with, pretty good. Challenging, but once in the flow, it worked.