Writing Games Mark Two

Hey, hey, hey! 

Today we have another installment from Melanie’s Writing Games! I hope you enjoy this ridiculous little story. The quote below is this month’s prompt and can be found at The Write Hobby blog, and the story follows.

So three film producers are sitting at a bar complaining about their latest sci-fi movie. The script is lacking something important. It has no interesting worlds or locations. One of the producers, with more money than sense stands on the bar, almost completely drunk and brings the room to a stop. The producer yells out to the crowd. “A hundred thousand dollars to the person in this bar who can save this script and make the final combat scene set some place extreme. I want the location to be so fierce that the set becomes a character in my movie.”

A hundred thousand dollars?! You betcha Mary was up for that. She was on her feet and careening sharply sideways before the guy on the bar had even closed his mouth. It wasn’t often three rich Americans wandered into tiny Scottish pubs but she certainly wasn’t complaining.

“Yo!” she hollered, raising a hand above her head and pointing an ill-aimed finger down at her own scalp. “Right here, sonny-jim.”

She swayed left, then right, and then left again, before finally settling somewhere close enough to upright. Rows of large, inebriated eyes turned to peer at her. Great. She had their attention. All she needed now was an idea. Uuuhh…

“Well?” the wobbly man on the bar demanded, head skewed to the left as it fought some hanging beer mugs for space.

She remained frozen and another slow second passed. A proverbial tumbleweed scampered past.

One of the propositioner’s friends sprawled his upper body over the bar with a dismayed groan. “She’s got nothing. We’ve got nothing! We’re all hacks-”

“Picture a scene before you,” Mary said, voice loud, hands splaying out like fans as she stepped closer to the bar on unsteady feet. “Picture… picture a snowstorm! But, uh, instead of snow… it’s LAVA!”

While there were one or two startled gasps from the crowd, but most just cocked eyebrows and looked confused. The three rich men at the bar looked so unimpressed that even their expensive pressed suits appeared bored.

“How does-” one drunken by-sitter began, but Mary didn’t let them carry on.

“All around is a darkened landscape, the sky a deep, judgemental orange glow, the ground for miles around all, uh, dark.” Her eyes darted up and to the side as she desperately pondered just what the hell she was talking about. “Peat! Dark, black, squidgy peat hills rolling for as far as the eye can see! Flecks of molten hot… STUFF raining down like phosphorescent snowflakes, twisting  slowly as they descend in the utter stillness.”

People were leaning forward now, listening closely. She had them, now to keep them.

“The air is thick and hot but there is not so much as a breeze to disturb a hair on your heads. All around, nothingness. Just thick, dense silence like the calm after a snowfall. Dampened, muted nothingness.”

You’ve said snow too many times! she thought in a panic. New words, new words! What little attention the three men at the bar had been showing was rapidly waning. One pulled out his phone and started jabbing at it, struggling with his hand eye coordination. Another’s eyes started to very slowly close over. The man’s words began to repeat in her head again. I want the location to be so fierce that the set becomes a character…

She grinned. “Just then, when you thought all was quiet, stood in the desolate quiet  – uh, I mean silence – something stirs.” A little more attention came back as she wove between the tables orating, occasionally knocking into things and tipping glasses to disgruntled mutterings. “Perhaps that is the wrong word.” She spun on her heel, doing a full three-sixty and nearly ending upon her face. Three different hands shot out to steady her as her eyes bulged different sizes. She squinted them, forcing them to focus on the rich men. Somehow, there now seemed to be six of them.

Everything stirs.” She raised her arms up in the air and began to undulate them like an eckied up octopus. “The ground rises in places and falls in others, moving like a sea monster, like great Nessie herself!”

“Nessie’s a bloke!” someone shouted from the crowd and she pointed a stern and angry finger at them.

“Don’t you start that shit with me again, Timmy. Don’t you dare.” She turned now manically wide eyes back to the suits, all of whom were watching her. “The ground moves and shapes itself as it likes, never making a sound, never breaking that eerie, haunting quiet. In places, cliffs as high as the Hebrides-”

“That’s not that high,” a petulant Timmy began.

She raised her voice to almost a shout, giving her very best Brian Blessed impersonation. “-and low as the Marianas Trench appear out of nothingness!”

This drew a couple of drunken ‘ooooooo’s from the crowd.  At some point she had dropped into a lunge, both hands curled in front of her like a particularly enthusiastic glam metal act.

“That’s right,” she continued on, rising again and lifting an arm in the air, “and every fifteen minutes, it all-”

“Here,” said one of the suits, now stood right in front of her. She hadn’t even seen him approach, too wrapped up in her own genius, but he held out a small white slip of paper to her. She took it. A cheque for a hundred thousand dollars. Her face lit up, mouth wide with delight. “There you are. I’ll give you that if you agree to shut the hell up.”

Goodbye Sir Terry

I’m not one for public mourning. Relatively recently, a lot of celebrities who have been close to my heart have passed away and I have, for the most part, remained silent about it. This is not because they were not special to me and certainly not because I did not think they were beautiful, wonderful people in need of praise. I just tend to be more private with this type of thing.

Today however, is the exception to the rule. There are dozens, even hundreds of people who inspire my writing in one way or another. Writers, actors, artists, loads of them. They all inspire my words and my worlds, my characters, my plots. They inspire it all.

But Sir Terry Pratchett is the reason I write.

I cannot remember how old I was when my older brother forced Guards! Guards! into my hands, but I was barely scraping double digits. It blew my mind and, without wanting to sound too dramatic, changed my life. I didn’t know books could be like this. I didn’t know stories could be so utterly ridiculous yet so magically real. I’d written before, frequently, and I loved it. Stupid little short stories, creative writing in school. Then I read this amazing book and I wanted to write one like it. The rest is history.

The news of Sir Terry’s passing has made me very emotional. I’m sad, yes, so sad that this world will see no more of his wonderful stories. Sad that I never had the chance to meet him. Sad for his family and his friends who will all be mourning the loss. It’s more than that though. I’m so incredibly grateful. Without him and his novels, I don’t know if I would be the person I am today. I feel like he is the person who gave writing to me.

So thank you, Terry Pratchett. Thank you, and I hope you are now somewhere as wonderful and wacky as you are.

Michael, You’re Screwed

So, do you remember me mentioning Melanie’s Writing Games? Well, here is the result. The first game consisted of this: a character of yours being abducted by the guys from survival program “Dude, You’re Screwed.” Unfortunately I’ve never seen the program and had no way of seeing it, so I’ve pretty much guessed. I can probably safely say that Michael, from my Twyned Earth novels, has GOT to be the fastest to lose the game.

I present to you:


Michael, You’re Screwed!

When the hood was pulled from his head, Michael wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. ‘Lighten up,’ they said. ‘It’ll be a laugh,’ they said. As the light filled his eyes and the landscape before him was revealed, he wasn’t so sure. The air that filled his lungs was so hot and thick it was chewy, and it tasted like compost.

When he was abducted by these over excitable survivalists, he’d expected they would dump him in the middle of a forest somewhere. Which, to be fair, they had done. He just wasn’t expecting this forest. The trees in front of him were enormous, hulking things with bark black as night and heavy drooping branches that reached to the uneven, marshy ground. Through them could be seen the thick gnarled trunks. He stared at them and they stared back. One of them blinked, looked mildly puzzled, rolled its eyes and then took to ignoring him. The rest of the trees followed suit very quickly.

To his side, Michael spotted a rather bulky man with a crew cut and a camera who gave him a rather sheepish smile. “Did that tree just wink at me?”

“Just how much research did you guys do on this place?” Michael asked.

“Well, I’m not supposed to help you,” the guy answered.

Michael’s shoulders dropped. “We’re going to die.”

The man with the camera glanced at his watch, a thick chunky thing that looked as though it had about a thousand functions. “Only ninety nine hours and fifty five minutes to go. Better get shifting.”

A little whine escaped Michael’s throat and he started to take a step forward. As he put his foot down though, the tree directly in front of him began to growl. He lifted his foot again and the low rumble fell silent. He sighed.

“How am I supposed to get out of here?” he asked to the cameraman.

“I really can’t help you,” he replied. “It’s against the rules.”

Michael’s eyes narrowed. “Is killing you against the rules?”

The large man looked at Michael’s dumpy shape, then at his own barrel chest. “Can give it a go if you like.” He grinned.

Michael exhaled, looking back to the trees, trying to decide who he had less of a chance with. Eventually, he decided to give the trees another shot. The threatening growl sounded again as Michael’s foot came close to the ground, but he took a deep breath and placed it firmly in front of him.

The tree’s trunk split into a horizontal slit, a horrifying and ragged maw filled with uneven barky teeth. It swung its heavy branches at Michael, smacking him off his feet like a he’d been hit by a lorry. As he travelled through the air and darkness enclosed him, his last fleeting thought was:

Can I go home yet?

Organisationing

Today I’m going to talk about organising projects. Now, if you’ve ever looked over at my Other Projects page, you’ll see that I’m terrible at sticking to one thing. I get all these shiny ideas and run off plotting them. Meanwhile, I’ve got a bunch of half written, half edited manuscripts laying all over the place! Y’know, figuratively.

In the computer

It was for this reason (and nothing to do with the fact that I have a massive deadline a week from today that I’m avoiding) that I decided to make a spreadsheet. I started by trawling through my writing folding, ditching the half baked ideas that were terrible and I no longer have any interest in, and sticking all the rest into a list.

Next, they have to be organised and prioritised. I decided to come up with three groups: Active, Queued and Not Active. Only a certain number of projects can be Active or Queued, and the only way to move up a priority is dead man’s boots. Or, stage completed man’s boots. That sounds less perilous though. Anyway, once a project has been moved into “Active,” it stays there until the stage it is currently in is completed (or goes up a level, eg first draft –> second draft). I’ve given myself three Active slots, so that I don’t burn myself out on a single work, though one of those slots will ALWAYS be Twyned Earth, until they are done. And as you can see, I only have two at the moment, until after the 28th!

I definitely should have been working instead of making this.

I definitely should have been working instead of making this.

The reason I’ve chosen multiple Active slots is because sometimes project hopping is good for you.

Sometimes you just don’t have the inspiration for a certain project. You have the desire to write, but can’t even look at the story you’re supposed to be working on. The advice online quite often tells you to just fight through it, sit down and power on. I’ve done it and sometimes it works. When I’ve got a deadline, or it’s a NaNoWriMo project, I just sit down and force myself on that project. The thing is though, I’ve found that if I’ve hit a block, stepping back and looking at a different story entirely can help lift that. I know I have a problem as a serial project cheat, but instead of letting it be a problem, I’m letting it be a solution. Sometimes the brain needs a reboot, and what better way than focusing on something else for a while? Similar to how other hobbies are good, for people like myself other projects can help kick writer’s block to the kerb.

I’m taking control of my constant hopping, but at the same time giving myself room for flexibility, because without it I don’t know how much joy I would find in writing. And without that, what’s the point? I’m narrowing my hopping down because I’ve gone too long without finishing anything, but I’ll never give up totally. I love all my stories and they will all receive love!

What about you guys? Are you a project hopper? How do you keep it under control?

Progress Report – The End is Nigh!

Not going to lie, I do not have a lot to say to you today. I’ve had a busy week working on the editing, desperately wrestling with the rewrite of the final confrontation. I’ve been dealing with new orders from the doctor (I now have a magic “infection begone!” spray). And I’ve had a busy weekend being all gooey in the grey south with my partner where we celebrated our seven year anniversary. So that was nice.

BUT YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT THIS!

You’re here for writing!

And I’m getting there, honest. The rewrite of the infamous ending scene has been completed, which leaves the remaining tasks before it is ready to be seen:

1.) The last scene and the short epilogue must be edited (total ~6k words)

2.) I need to work through the list of “desperately important minor points that I forgot to add,” currently consisting of about seven things

3.) I need to decide if I want to add/write a short prologue

I’m now fairly confident to say that it will definitely be ready to send out on the 28th. It was looking a little shaky there for a while, but no, I think we’re good. A little scary, sure, but this is the goal. Woooooo! I think. Okay, going to hide in a dark corner now. On the plus side, I have my “beaten my fears and actually taking a positive step” rewards sitting and waiting for me, which arrived today.

The Beautiful Rewards

Beautiful, aren’t they?

So tell me, how are all of your WIPs coming? How are you all progressing? And have you set yourself rewards for milestones?

Games. Art. Books. PARKOUR!

Last week I wrote all about how it’s important to write often. That very same day, fellow writer Madison wrote all about how you shouldn’t feel bad for not writing. Which you should definitely go and read by the way, because it’s a great post. It was a funny coincidence but it did make me feel the need for a little clarification.

I believe you should write often, keep up the skill, don’t let it get away from you. That does NOT mean that it is all you should ever do and, like Madison says, doesn’t mean you are any less serious about being a writer.

Burnout is a writer’s killer. I know, I’ve been there a good few times. You’re desperate to get something finished, you have Everest height goals. You want to write ALL the stories, and you think if you aren’t writing them right at that second that you are a failure. And the end result has always been me having to take a hefty break from writing, sometimes even up to a month or more. Then you end up further in the guilt hole and it is a vicious cycle.

Writing often is important, but writing once a week is often. There isn’t a lot you’re going to forget in a week. I was away from writing for five years. That’s a long time. A week? You can deal with that. A lot of people say that it is essential that you write every single day but I certainly don’t and have still managed a decent volume of output over the last two years. Sometimes there are deadlines and you have to push yourself. Other times you just have the muse. The rest of the time? Well, making yourself sit down and write can be beneficial, but NOT if it is all you ever do. Not only will you end up headbutting your desk, but you’ll end up hating writing, which is the exact opposite reason why most people want to actually write in the first place.  (Unless, of course, all you ever want to do is write. In which case I will hunt you down and steal your inspiration, because that would be awesome.)

If you want to take a break, do it. If you would rather practice something else, go for it. Don’t have a deadline and you’re dying to play that game? Why not?

My mantra is that writing is fun. Fun doesn’t come with guilt. Don’t feel bad for taking a break. Don’t feel bad for having other hobbies. Just look at Madison. Gamer, artist, parkourist (is that a word?) and a hundred other things – all while managing to write a fantastic story about a one armed magician. Watch that space for Half a Man. It’s gonna be good.

Keep up the good writing, guys! And the gaming. And crafting. And exercising and sitting around watching TV.

However, if the muse has struck, maybe you should wander over to Melanie’s writing games! Check this out, it should be fun fun fun!

Reasons To Write Often

You may recall me mentioning NaNoEdiMo, during which I set myself the goal of editing 1k a day. It’s the 1st of February today, and while I didn’t quite manage 1k every single day, I did manage well over the total 31k that I was aiming for. Success! As a result I am currently still on track to have this badboy ready by deadline day – the 28th. Eeep!

This novel has changed one hell of a lot. It was originally a NaNoWriMo project, my first one actually, though technically it was a camp project (camp of August, 2012! Wooo!). I finished it just in the nick of time at a measly 53k, with virtually no characterisation or description. It was all dialogue or action, and in the grand scheme of things there wasn’t even much action. It had characters who became besties at the drop of a hat and the ending of a popular action film that came out three days after I finished writing it. (No really, remember this post?)

Two years later and it has grown into 90k of misadventures and (hopefully) interesting characters who spend half the time fighting with each other. There’s now a tangible villain to distract from the fact that the big bad is off screen until books 2 and 3 (the curse of the first person novel). There’s still that ill fated ending, but I’m now on the last two chapters, so that’ll be gone soon too. A lot has changed, but that’s only made it more like the book it was supposed to be when I first wrote it.

Y’know, when I had been out of practice writing for a good five years. I’ve written approximately 456,000 words of fiction since then (not including the original 56,000 of the Deconstructor that was redone NaNo14). Damn. That feels like a lot for two and a bit years. It works out at approximately 14,250 a month. I’m happy with that. Really happy. But it’s time to slow down and start editing some of this. Currently, it’s 456,000 words that no one in the world is allowed to read. I should probably work on that.

Rereading my old August 2012 stuff, it’s a bit cringe worthy. That’s good though. It reminds myself that writing is about work. Not just “you’ve got to sit down and write this sucker” but “you’ve got to practice your ass off.” I wrote a lot before I went off to university. A lot. And I lost it. All the structure, the voice, the world building. I lost it. Writing is about hard work, and it’s a skill you need to keep up, to practice, to maintain. Some people might be lucky enough to just sit down and puke out perfect prose. I am not one of those people. I’ve gotta work, and I’ve gotta keep at it.

What I think I’m trying to say in my own and slightly verbose way, is that it gets better. I’m not saying that you’ll stop thinking you suck. I’m not sure that’ll ever happen. You might however, rather like myself, realise you’re sucking less. Read something recent you’ve done, then read something old. You’ll see it. Use it as inspiration to keep going. Write, write, write. You’ll never improve if you don’t and you can only get better if you do.