Clever Title

Since I’m struggling so much to capture the right spirit in Shadows of Autumn, it’s becoming quite a draining endeavour. I’ve decided to try writing something else on the side. Fist of the Presidium is an experiment with a different genre, a different style and a different setting. Traditionally, I find it very difficult to write in the real world, so I intend to approach Fist of the Presidium with no expectations, no demands, no information and no knowledge of the science of a Sci-Fi novel, and write it in the real world. Or a version of it. I’m woefully unprepared for it, but I’m in no way taking it seriously. The idea is just to write here and there, when I feel like I need, or want, to write something a little bit different.
Shadows of Autumn has reached a point where I’m really fighting this notion of ‘capturing the right spirit’, since I don’t even really know what that spirit is. I want it to mirror the proud traditions of Japanese culture, without seeming like it’s just a carbon copy. I’m wholly afraid that as I venture further into the story, I’ll find my worldbuilding is shoddy, sloppy and two dimensional and that my characters are dull and boring. I have very specific wants for this story, and they’re all predicated upon a foundation of knowledge that I simply don’t possess. I am bombarding myself with research and it feels like quite a weight at times, but I am moving forwards. Very, very slowly.

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.


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?

The Blank Page Is Staring At Me.

I was reading over some of the last few entries, and I was unsurprised to see that they all more or less follow the same pattern; hiatus > return > vague/flimsy hope > vague/flimsy idea > optimistic > disappearance.

On the face of it, I’m inclined to be concerned. It has happened a few times over the past year or two. There’s no getting around it, I’m not here to mope or whinge about the difficulties of being a ‘tortured artist’. I don’t need to feel like a cliché, but however I look at it, I’ve struggled these past few years. Even the last ten years, I’ve tried and failed to deal with depression and anxiety and I’m not sure if it’s getting better. The last few weeks seem to have shown an improvement, so I’m going to keep working with that.

I’ve started reading again, (albeit stopped for a moment due to the new D3 season), I’ve started writing again, I have a decent idea of the plot, or at least the first half of it. Granted, it goes Part 1 – Strong, Part 2 – Less Strong, Part 3 – Very Not Strong and Part 4 – Opposite of Strong, but the details will come with some thought and some chat when I need them to.

This idea is inspired by Japan, Shinto, Feudal Japan and the Warring States period, I’ve mixed in some Portuguese elements just to spice up the names and the folklore a bit. I have a pretty clear picture of the main characters and the main themes but I find that my anxieties and my confidence issues are causing me to doubt the legitimacy of these ideas. I am conscious of making my characters three dimensional, I want them to be interesting and realistic, and I hope that these ideas will allow me to do that.

I have concerns, but what writer doesn’t? The fact of the matter is, my writing seems bland because I’m staring at it for 5 hours a day. It seems stunted and amateur because I’m pausing every 2 minutes to construct the next sentence, or the next line of dialogue. I need to remember these things are universal matters that all writers deal with.

I was quite surprised, actually, when I was getting started with this idea. I was using Japanese conventions to name my characters and locations, basing the magic on Shinto, and all I could think was ‘I’m just ripping off Japanese culture’. And, at the heart of it, I guess I am. I’ve never been able to create ‘pure Fantasy settings’ like the Malazan books. I’ve always been rooted in the real world. How many fantasy novels incorporate Anglo-Saxon, Norse, Chinese mythology into their stories? Or European castles? I’m doing the same thing, but with Japan. This is just an illustration of the legitimately inane and idiotic concerns that dig their hooks into me.

I’ve learned that not writing because I don’t feel like my story is unique is one of the greatest mistakes I can make.

At the end of the day though, dealing with these concerns is the trick. I heartily intend to keep posting on this blog. Not every day, because I don’t have that much to say, but regularly, interspersed with Twitter, Facebook and WattPad, once I get that started. I am studying English Literature & Creative Writing with the Open Uni, which I hope will also pad out my skillset, gain me some more technical insights and allow me to meet like-minded authors. Generally, I’m happy with where I’m at right now, and that’s not something I get to say very often.