A Walk in The Woods – Writing Excerpt

Very late post today! Sorry about that! Today, in keeping with my resolutions post, have a short excerpt from my novel Through the Black, first book of the Twyned Earth series currently with its second round of beta readers.

 

Enjoy!

 


Tony and I were surrounded by the vibrant, lush wilds, shrouded by elegant trees and bathed in dappled mid-afternoon sunlight as it breached the thick canopy above us. The air was crisp and clear, a breeze rustling the branches gently. It. Was. Awful. I cursed aloud as I stumbled over another bloody tree root, ignoring as Tony laughed and ejected himself from my shoulder. I’d already lost enough drinking and moping time to this sodding safari as it was. The trail just seemed to go on and on. And, in all this time, I hadn’t found a single thing to drink. I was seriously questioning how anyone could consider this fun.
I’d lost track of how far we’d gone. The path was an unruly mass of green mess that had lots of features like waterfalls and rocks and other such things I was sure someone found interesting. Shame they weren’t the one writing this article. Fortunately writing bullshit was one of my talents. I could actually sound interested in the great outdoors on paper. Though maybe not without whiskey.
In the past twenty minutes or so, the path had become significantly thicker and rougher, as though we were trekking through uncharted territory. Honestly, who did this for fun? Certainly not me and probably not Tony. He glared around as he hovered in front of me. I didn’t know a lot about Aigorshuck, the city of the fairies, but Tony had left for a reason. Maybe trees were that reason.
“We’re lost,” he grumbled. “Hang here for a sec. I’m gonna fly ahead and see if we’re actually going somewhere.”
“Hey, now wait a second-”
He was already gone, disappearing off over the bushes. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, he may have been right. We’d definitely started in the right place. The walk was long and winding though. It was possible we came off somewhere when it became particularly overgrown. My face fashioned a grim scowl as I considered just who the hell asked for a review of a walk that doesn’t even get maintained. The glimmer of Tony’s wings caught my attention as he reappeared from deep within the thicket.
“Okay, fine, we might be lost-”
“Screw that,” he exclaimed. “Come on!”
Not the answer I had been expecting.
Tony looped over himself and disappeared back the way he came. I hurried after him as best I could, wrestling through the bushes, thorns and branches clawing at me. It was like wading through treacle. Spiky, spiky treacle. There were times, I was begrudged to admit, when being a fairy might have been handy.
What lay beyond must have been good – Tony hadn’t stopped to gloat about me admitting defeat. Now that was worrying. Hissing as a branch of thorns scraped my face, I managed to free myself from the leafy trap and emerge on the other side only to stumble to a halt.
“What’s that?” I asked, staring dumbfounded into the clearing.
“What does it look like?” Tony asked as though I were a child.
I furrowed my brow and tilted my head to the side. “It… It sort of looks like… Well… A bomb.”
Before us was a plain circle of land cleared down to the soil. A perfect circle. With no tracks of vehicles and no piles of refuse. Dead centre there was a box with some wires poking out of the top and into the side. Some of the wires disappeared down into the dirt but didn’t lead anywhere else.
“I can’t say I’m too happy about being stood here, Tony,” I said, heart beating just a hair faster than normal.
“This isn’t right,” he said, sounding distracted. “It’s all way too neat.”
“I’m more worried about it becoming un-neat very rapidly,” I insisted. “Let’s g-”

The Difference of Four Years

One of the problems with letting a draft sit on the shelf for four years is that a lot can change in that time. If you’re writing a novel set even partially in the real world, this can be an issue. A completely surreal twist of fate can mean that suddenly your fiction is a whole lot more relevant. Also a whole lot harder to write.

Work has started on the editing of The Fairy Godfather, the original draft of which I started working on in 2012 and the political climate has changed quite a bit since then. It’s changed so much in fact that there are huge parts of The Fairy Godfather that are exceptionally difficult right now.

This novel has a lot of neo-Nazis in it.

That isn’t to say that neo-Nazis are ever fun or easy to write about. It’s just that in 2012 they weren’t undergoing their renaissance. They’ve stopped being a quiet undercurrent of western society that likes to keep swept under the carpet and are instead holding office. It’s pretty awkward considering that 2012 me thought “hey, imagine if all these people who are different appeared and the Nazis made a resurgence!” and 2016 just came and fly-kicked me in the gut.

Especially hard is reading many people’s real life accounts of how they are going about interacting with friends and family who either hold such views or have voted in favour of people who do. As you can imagine, many of these accounts are harrowing and upsetting and the worst part of it all is that they are real. In one scene of The Fairy Godfather a character actually has to explain to another, an elf who prides himself on helping bring an end to the Second World War, that certain elven ideals are scarily close to those of Nazi Germany. It was a very difficult scene to write four years ago. Re-reading it today is painful.

This was certainly an unexpected danger of writing and editing this novel is probably going to be a lot more emotionally exhausting than I had originally planned for. I won’t let it hold me back though. All I can do now is keep going, take extra care dealing with difficult issues and do my best not to harm those being hurt by the current climate.

That, and try to enjoy the little things. Like writing about lots of Nazis getting beat by a gang of fairies.

It Is Done

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It is done.

The draft. All that is left is a read through and then Through the Black will once again be beta ready. It fills me with overwhelming excitement, relief and fear. I don’t know when I’ll send it out but probably not immediately. I might wait until January when the holidays and whatnot are out of the way. Still, it’ll be a huge load off my shoulders to have it completed.

I think once I’ve done the read through I’ll be taking a little break from writing. That isn’t to say I won’t be writing at all, I just won’t start any serious work on anything. Poking and prodding at whatever takes my fancy. Because let me tell you, as much as I adore writing and my WIPs, this year has been utterly exhausting. Being a bit more casual for a while is definitely on the cards.

That said, I’ve already picked out my two main projects for next year because my brain doesn’t know what down time is. Though I will need to distract myself from the fact that beta readers have my novel.

So what will I be working on? First up as my “main” main project will be Through the Black sequel The Fairy Godfather. The concepts and events of book one are now solid enough that I feel I can start some proper work on it – the poor thing’s still in very rough shape from when it was my first official NaNoWriMo novel. It needs about 30k added to make it novel length and interesting, but considering I had a whole gang of shallow disposable bad guys who were never dealt with in the first draft I’m certain that’ll fill up quick.

Next year’s official side project will be The Fishperer, because it’s too much fun to ignore (and not a behemoth like certain other side novels who shall remain nameless). It’s a short stand-alone which will be nice to work on for a change. It’s also set on the back of a whale, which is a huge draw for me.

I hope your writing progress is going well and if you’re not keeping track then I hope you’re just having a good time with it!

World Building Notes, or Lack Thereof

World building is a hugely important part of any story. Whether you’re writing in the real world or creating somewhere completely new and fantastical, a writer needs to be able to paint a picture of the setting they are writing in. The places need to be deep, vibrant and—perhaps most importantly—consistent. Even subtle discrepancies can pull a reader out of the moment and detract their enjoyment from the world you have created and the story you are weaving.

When it comes to creating a new world some people like to create whole worlds and detail things that may not ever make it into a story, where as others create the world as they go, only constructing the pieces of the world necessary for the story being told. Personally, I use a combination of both. Certain parts of my worlds are fleshed out beyond all necessary detail where as other entire continents are just a single word scrawled in a notebook somewhere. Which brings me to my point.

Notes are important for continuity. Especially when writing several different stories all in the same world, as I plan to do with Twyned Earth. Up until I started packing to move, I thought I’d been pretty good at making my notes on the Twyned Earth. I. Was. Wrong.

I had notes. Quite a lot of them. All scattered throughout a multitude of different notebooks and in different states of completion. I had notes on elves on no less than seven books, in photographs of my whiteboard that had been mixed in with cat pictures and in piles of loose leaves of paper, all of varying sizes. There was unique information about them on pages that were scene plans. And that was just elves. The system was… less than ideal. I decided that this would be a good time to start collating everything properly and bringing all my information together. It was while doing this that I made an even more worrying discovery.

A lot of my meticulous world building had never even been written down. Ever.

That’s right. I’d apparently been trusting my years of crafting this world with nothing but my brain. The same brain that makes me walk into a room three times before I remember why I went in there. Needless to say, I was a little spooked. All those ideas that I’d thought about on those long, slow days at work, those great little details I’d come up with in the shower, all those things that I was certain that I’d written down somewhere, I hadn’t. Let me tell you, there’s nothing quite so inspirational as discovering you’re an absolute muppet.

Operation: Write Fricken Everything Down And Put It In This One Folder commenced immediately and shall be continuing for quite some time. My writing time now includes updating these notes as I go. So I guess this post is a bit of a reminder or a suggestion. Maybe go and check on your important notes. Some of them might not be as great as you remember them.

For the sake of continuity I’m going to be forcing myself to keep this folder up to date. I love fancy notebooks but it’s time I get all of this information organised and together. Also written down. At lot of the things about Twyned Earth I just know. Let’s face it, I probably spend more time thinking about TE than just E. However, my memory is far from perfect. Far, far from it. Which is why I seriously need a complete set of hard copy notes of my world building. From now on, nothing will be going into an MS without it going into the folder at the same time – or preferably before.

Have you experienced a similar scare? How do you organise your writing notes?

Character Profile: Tony

Portrait of Tony by OlieBoldador - commissioned by a close friend

Portrait of Tony by OlieBoldador – commissioned by a close friend

Story: Twyned Earth Series, first appearance in Through the Black.

Protagonist or Antagonist?: Protagonist

Name: Tony

Age: 45

County of Origin: Aigorshuck, Sarn

Occupation: Unemployed. Nothing shady going on here. Nooooope.

Loyalties: Family, and one or two close friends

Goal: Save the world.

Morals: Strict, if skewed. There are some things you just don’t do. Try to keep the civilians out of it. Don’t hurt kids and kill anyone who does. And if there’s the risk of a world war starting, ugh, guess you try and help.

When Tony’s best friend decides he wants to stop a war, he supposes he should probably tag along. After all, Michael’s an idiot and Tony’s got connections. Totally legit connections, you understand, but they could come in handy – especially when things get heavy.

It’s easy to underestimate a man who’s four inches tall. Someone’s in for a big surprise.

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.

No Going Back.

So this month has been made an unofficial NaNo Edit month by the gorgeous and talented Melanie Francisco, which if you follow me on Twitter will explain all this #NaNoEdiMo malarkey. This is a great opportunity for me to kick myself in the behind. As I stated was my intention in my last post, this poor dusty blog has been getting a renovate in hopes for it to be frequented once again by me. And, while fixing the categories out so that “uncategorised” wasn’t my biggest one (urgh, go Past Me), I came upon a very excited post by me.

In this post, I was talking about how I was going to get through a draft of TE1 and send it out to betas super soon. Rather like one of the resolutions in my recent post. Only this last post was dated December 1st, 2013.

Yeah. Pretty epic fail, right? And it’s not the first, or the last. But this time I mean business, and NaNoEdiMo is giving me the boost I need. On top of that, I made a vow that I would not go backwards. Once a chapter is done, it is done. And once they are all done, it’s going straight in an email and flying off to betas. It’s so difficult to let go, and I’ve been going back and forth over this thing for two years and getting nowhere. I need new eyes.

So now I can’t go back, and I’m currently on Chapter 9 out of 15. That’s a lot of stuff I can’t touch.

It’s gonna be scary and it’s gonna hurt, but my book might finally get better as a result and that right there is the dream. It’s time to let go. And it’s time to edit like hell and get this thing OUTTA HERE!

The Name Problem

Recently (about ten minutes ago) I asked the scary Twitterverse if the names of two of my MCs were too similar. The conclusion was yes. Damn.

Okay, so, I have these two characters, Tony and Thomas. As I’ve been working on this project for well over a year now, I’ve become rather attached to said names for said characters. I’ve got a back up name for Tony, and have done for some time, but I’ve never been sure about employing it. So here I am.

The character is a fairy and, in this universe, that means his real name is virtually impossible for a non-fairy to say. It is traditional for any fairies who leave the fold to be given a nickname that is somehow appropriate to them. In this case, Tony was named after the infamous character Tony Montana. It’s a painfully obvious association but it made sense with how the name came about and also provided an amusing parody, especially when (not very surprising spoilers ahead) Michael’s upbeat, fun loving, substance abusing fairy BFF actually turns out to be an ex-mobster. Which kinda leads us into Book 2 – The Fairy Godfather.

The backup name I’ve got going on is Frank (or Frankie), this time after Frank Sinatra. This still brings connotations of sharp suits, women and substance abuse (okay, so it’s alcohol and not a MOUNTAIN of coke) – the characters three favourite things. There are also alleged associations with organised crime. So, we paint a similar picture but far less in the extreme. Which could be a good thing. After all, the character’s nefarious past is a secret throughout a good portion of the book. At least to Michael, our poor gullible narrator.

Thomas’ name is a different story. It literally just popped into my head. Serious, that’s the story. Tony’s name has reason and rhyme and that has made it easier for me to think up an alternative. I really couldn’t think of another for Thomas that wouldn’t pain me. Which sounds ridiculous and irrational but, hey, I’m a writer so excuse me while I go and drink and weep in this corner.

So, the question. Is Frank (or Frankie) a good replacement name? From that little bit you know of him, does that capture him even a little? Should I just man the frick up and change Thomas’ name?

Oh, that’s three questions. Never mind, I’m drunk and crying, remember?

It’s Better to Burn Out Than to Fade Away

Unless you’re a writer.

I have to apologise for my absence recently. I wish I had a good reason for it like I was off fighting bears to rescue some helpless villagers but the truth is that I’ve been having a hard time writing the past few weeks. There are a few potential reasons for this including some personal stresses and an upcoming holiday but I think the main reason may be a little bit of burnout. You know, in case you didn’t already guess that from the title I ripped of from the Kurgan.

You see, I have been working hard on my Twyned Earth series pretty much solid for a full year now. In that time I feel like I’ve had some great achievements – such as finishing my first two novels (second draft finished, not PROPER finished). Now I’m trying to soldier through the third and I keep running into plot issues and having to rewrite the beginning before I can move on further. I think these set backs coupled with the length of time I’ve been working on this one project have frazzled my brain a little. Though, as they say, admitting you have a problem is half the battle. Now I know that the best way to finish this series is to just put it the hell down and leave it alone until I am no longer burnt out on it.

But how does a writer get over a burnout? Simples. Write something different! So I have.

Now, I have my serial killers story which has been progressing along slowly. Some of you may recall this post in which I talked about completely hand writing writing a story while out and about, and I have been doing this, but the interesting weather this year has only given me small windows to do so. Still, I’m squeezing in sections here and there, just enough to make sure it doesn’t become a shelved project. That would be sad because I really like this story so far but I didn’t want to go back on the challenge that I had set, so I still needed a new project.

Enter – an idea!

This new story actually formed in my head pretty rapidly. One of the things that has made it take off so well in my mind is the advent of new characters. All of the major characters in my main project were thought up this time last year and the same goes for the serial killers. I think I’d forgotten a little what it was like to have fresh new voices running around in my head. I’ll tell you what – it’s hella inspiring. They seem to be writing this one themselves. You can expect to hear more about this new story in the near future. For now, if you’re curious for what is currently an awkwardly generic synopsis, you can check out “Desolate” in the Other Projects tab.

So, Twyned Earth. I’m sorry, it’s not you, it’s me. I think we just need a break. I’ll be back. I always come back.