Words! Do I curb the flow?

Let me just say, I have absolutely no issue at all with the endless flow of words. Having struggled with idea block for so long, I’m glad the floodgates are open at the moment. But, having said that, I am very, very conscious of the fact my word count is just north of 20k, and my chapter count is just north of… 3.

In my mind, actively trying to keep my work shorter whilst writing, especially in this first draft, would be massively counter-productive, and I certainly won’t *worry* about the redraft until the story is finished.  I am, shall we say, aware of the growing complications. I don’t want to be reaching 100k words before I’ve even finished Part 1. I might then have to seriously start considering breaking it up into smaller books, and I have zero idea how to do that. It hurts my head.

I keep hearing that new authors need to keep their word count down, but I can’t get behind this. If my story requires 200k words, then that’s what it’s going to get. I’m not a moron though, of course. I realise that 200k is already getting towards the wrong end of the scale, so going much higher is not something I’m aiming for. 200-230k is something I’d be happy with, but getting an editor, or at least an affordable editor, might be a trial in itself.

I’m honestly quite sick of people saying that established authors get to indulge themselves because they’re established. Although I am ready and willing to make concessions if somebody ever tells me they think my work is good enough to publish. Or if it ever gets anywhere near that standard, despite being very flawed at the moment. Apparently, I have a fairly pronounced issue with sentence fragments. And dumb typos.

My point, as long winded as it has become, is that I’m confident I’m using way too many words to say the things I want to say. Yes, in the redraft, I can work all that out (shudder), but getting past that niggling worry, knowing I’m writing so much chaff, is proving frustratingly tiresome.

I still want to write this story, which is huge. I keep finding myself doubting my writing, ‘writing myself off’, if you will, and then invariably thinking, ‘it’s okay, I’ll keep writing anyway. I want to tell this story’.

My first job is getting the words down, the second job is making them not suck. Anyone know who said that?

Maybe I should be thinking about ways I can split them up, just in case. Or maybe I should start thinking about how I can make part 2 work if part 1 was removed… Contingencies, though. I need contingencies.

On another note, I’m going to start sharing the link to my early chapters, posted up on Wattpad, as another tool in my quest to build a readership and a platform. IF you find yourself in any way curious, please do drop in and have a look.

Story is posted here.
And you can follow me on Facebook, here.
And Twitter, here.

My activity varies, but across all these platforms, I do try to engage, and find interesting things to say.

 

Cover Art for Shadows of Autumn

Shadows of Autumn CoverArt

This is the lovely new cover mocked up for me by my very talented lesser half. I’m exceedingly happy with it. Whether or not it remains my cover if/when I publish/self-publish is another matter, but certainly as a placeholder/working cover/mock up, it is absolutely gorgeous. Granted, it has, in no way, met with my initial ‘brief’, but due to some compositional issues, we eventually settled on the above. I love it. The two characters up there perfectly reflect the quietly introspective protagonists, as well as hinting at the themes.

The ‘shadows’ in the title refers to several elements, notably the looming coming-of-age ceremonies from the beginning of the story, the long shadow of the main character’s brother and mother, and the oppressive, over-arching spectre of the White King to name but a few. There are parallels to the concept of Yin and Yang, but Good and Evil is not necessarily presented as expected. At least, I am striving to avoid those pitfalls. Conscious of good and evil being concepts created by Man, I am trying to treat them as extremes with those myriad shades of grey existing in between. Ultimately though, in the shadow of Pandemonium, good vs evil means nothing. Friends will become enemies, and enemies will become friends. Alliances will be tested, broken and forged anew in the fires of the Calamity.

Shadows of Autumn will be, I very much hope, a sort of ‘ornate fantasy’, along the lines of Den Patrick, Miles Cameron, Guy Gavriel Kay, Scott Lynch. I’m not entirely sure ‘ornate fantasy’ is officially a label, but if it’s not, I declare it so! It’s hard to exactly classify what I *hope* this novel will be, since I’m not entirely sure I have the ‘chops’ to get it done. You all know what ornate means, I’m sure. And anybody who’s read any of those authors should get an idea of what I mean. I’m aiming towards a grandiose, polished narrative, drawing heavily upon specific cultural elements and drawing my own world out of it. I hope to explore the old avenues of sword and sorcery, epic fantasy, dragons and knights in a much less traditional setting drawing upon Japan and the Sengoku Period.

I hope to explore themes of companionship, love, hate, betrayal, loyalty, but most importantly, courage and courage in the face of adversity. One of the primary guiding tenets of my main characters, and their philosophy is ‘courage first, and through it, be guided to other virtues’. I hope to explore this, and the things we can achieve by believing in ourselves, and refusing to let our limitations define us.

I realise these are lofty aims. I’m not sure if I have the skillset to achieve everything I want to, but at the very least, I intend to finish it. Once the first draft is done, I can work on making it all the things I had hoped it would be.

Please, feel free to follow me on twitter @kplanyon, and Facebook @ http://www.facebook.com/kplanyon There’s nothing I would like more than to exchange support and encouragement with anybody else out there embarking on a path that scares the living shit out of them.

Oh, also, if anybody is interesting. The ‘text’ through the center of the picture reads ‘Tangem’, and is the Itsuban translation for ‘Courage’, depicting using the characters of the Oppidan, an ancient precursor civilisation.

Facial Reactions & Feelings Through Dialogue

Today, I faced a conundrum. I was writing a hefty amount of dialogue in my current chapter. When I write dialogue, I tend to script the conversation first, and then go back through it to ‘illustrate’ it with tags, descriptions, emotional cues, and so on. It’s a good approach that works well for me, but it can be counter-productive.

For instance, whilst I was going back and forth, dissecting the dialogue, chopping and changing and rearranging, I was becoming painfully aware of my limited ability with describing facial expressions. What I mean is expressions like the following, and all the variations thereof.

‘…clenched jaw’, ‘grinding teeth’, ‘…narrowed eyes’, ‘…furrowed/knotted/creased brow’, ‘…nostrils twitching/flaring,’ ‘…cocking an eyebrow’, ‘…puffing cheeks’, ‘…pursing lips.’

I pursued some advice on possible options, resources, solutions and what not, and I was told that I should try conveying emotion indirectly or through dialogue. Now, to me, this seems like exceptionally bad advice, and certainly very limiting. I understand that dialogue can express feelings and emotions, of course, especially through an exchange or conversation. But we’re talking fiction here, creative writing, showing not telling.

Without description, without facial reactions, or interactions with the second person, or the environment, it means nothing. There is no context, no feeling.

Character A: “I hate you.”

Nothing. It’s just a statement. But is it infuriated? Hateful? Ambivalent? Sarcastic? Ironic? Bemused?

Character A: “I hate you.”
Character B: “No, you don’t.”

Yes, these are largely simplified examples, and by no means ‘compelling dialogue’. In the second example there’s more to the picture, but there’s still no context.

Character A: “I hate you,” his eyes narrowed, nostrils flaring.
Character B: “No, you don’t,” her smile froze.

Again, maybe not the meatiest exchange ever, but you begin to see my point, surely? At least, I feel like I’m beginning to make my point, or perhaps I’m just missing the point of ‘try to convey emotion indirectly or through dialogue’. It’s such a restrictive attitude in my mind. I must be missing something, surely?

What if Character A is ‘a man of few words’? What if he never really talks except to say something that needs to be said? Yes, this conveys a measure of import. The act of speaking carries significance just by virtue of the fact that he’s saying anything at all. But again, there’s no feeling. Unless he’s a robot, then whatever he’s saying has to register somewhere on his emotional spectrum.

Then you come to simply using adjectives and adverbs.

Character A: “I hate you,” he said darkly.
Character B: “No, you don’t,” she replied, dejected.

Adverbs themselves are a discussion for another time. (I’m pro, for the record. In moderation.) But the plain and simple adjectives just don’t have that punch. Everything in it’s place, and all that. I understand that all of these techniques need to be used together. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, is another thing to bear in mind. Isn’t that the point? To use all of these techniques. If someone tells me to use physical, facial reactions AFTER these other things have failed, then aren’t they missing the point? Or am I just misinterpreting their meaning?