Monday, 24 November 2014

What Happened To That Routine?

In my last post, I stated that I had finally written and published three books of poetry and one on running an art group. I said that I thought I had been procrastinating and that now those books were available, I would be getting on with the novel. Did it happen?

Unfortunately and most definitely not!

Partly because of a total knee replacement, which meant that sitting still to do anything was very uncomfortable - let alone writing creatively. But that was not the only reason. I have been spending a lot more time painting, which you can read about by browsing my painting blog. All my blogs are available from the menu bar above, under the header.

I have also been getting involved with a ukulele group. I have taken the task of learning to play this new (for me) instrument to heart. I am really enjoying the group sessions. My son bought me the Uke for Christmas last year and I feel I owe it to him. In fact this has taken precedence over many other things at home recently. Again, read more on my music blog.

So, the novel has taken a back seat. I have been reading copiously whilst recovering from the operation and I have started to doubt my own abilities to create a novel which I would be proud of. I need to recover the confidence with which I started this project, but in the short term I do not think this will happen. Music and Art have captured my creative side and this leaves little time for writing, even poetry.

I will be planning and noting ideas, etc, for the time when I do again find my writing muse but for now I feel I will have little enough to report on this blog apart from why I am not writing, but I will try to report on progress or not as the case may be.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Getting back into the routine

OK, the poetry books have been published, the decks have been cleared and I am ready to roll - again.

My first action was to read the chapters I have written so far. Ouch, doesn't look too good but I am assured that this is par for the course for a first draft. The story itself still excites me, so I guess I just pick up where I left off and leave improving it until later.

One of the first things which I have been making notes about is to fill in the structure of the story, the outline. I am preparing a list of "titles" for the scenes in the next part of the story. To this end I am trying to put a little flesh on the bones of the story by preparing some visualisations as discussed in a reccent post.

So far I have dealt with:-
  •  an introduction to the story, 
  • the magical accident which results in an evil twin of King Eadwyne being "born" as an adult, 
  • how this twin (who becomes known as FEAR) begins to explore the castle and
  • the discovery of the library of magic by FEAR
  • and how Dinbar, Eadwyne's Court Magician is used by FEAR to learn how to use the power of the library for his own evil ends.
I have outlined several other chapters but I am now working on adding the flesh referred to above. As an example, here is a photocollage of a scene where the Castle Commander, Bryssan Firaeus is being warned about FEAR by Dinbar. I am not yet sure who the imp in the background leaning over the wall is supposed to represent but it could yet lead to an interesting side plot.

(check out my photography blog for how I did this, or use the page menu at the top of the page).

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Procrastination or clearing the decks?

It has been five weeks since my last post but I have not been idle. I have been converting a number of articles and poetry collections into a format which I can publish on Amazon. I have used their own independent publishing company Createspace. Createspace offers a completely free service including ISBN numbering and an on-line cover designer however a number of professional services are available if you need or desire that help. I chose the free services but found that proof reading is a skill I definitely need to cultivate, LOL.

I have been "clearing the decks" of some material I have had around for some time and decided that I would take a few weeks and then I would have a clear way forward with the novel. I hope I am not simply procrastinating, it would be such a pity since I started "Emcounter with Fear" with such high hopes and expectations.

For your information, the four books published so far are:-

You can see them all on my author page on Amazon (Nightmare may take a couple of days to appear due to the Amazon processing).

Depending on how I approach the next couple, there may be another 2 or 3 books to be converted, however I shall not be spending too much time on those and expect to be back to writing the novel very soon.

I have not been completely out of touch with Eadwynne and hiw friends however I have been making notes and scribbling down ideas. I even visited a local castle, Kenilworth Castle,  to take in the atmosphere and take a few photos to help with setting the scenes for my story. Hopefully I will be back to regular postings by the end of this month. Watch out for postings via the usual social networks.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Do You Envision Your Locations, When Writing A Novel?

I have found that creating images of my locations is helping me considerably. All the books and articles say that your characters should be well defined. That you should make them "live" in your mind; they then provide lists / ways of getting to know your characters, their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses and how they would react to any given situation.

Maybe defining locations is not exactly as exciting as getting to know your characters but I have found that by creating montages of my locations i have a much better way of envisioning them. The images bring them to "life" for me and help inspire the stories which occur in those locations.

For example; in this novel, the "Room of Magik" is a central location. What is it like, what is in the room? I bought together a background and several items which I would expect to be in the room. This has helped me to write from knowledge of that location.

The basic stone table was already in the room  used as the background. I added the books and scrolls, the shelving with books and the document on the wall. Oh, and yes the flame of the torch.

In this image I have used one of my own photos as a background and superimposed a photo of a statue (a monk) who represents the main antagonist in my story. In this way I have really been able to bring the locations (and characters) to life.

I have been writing since the last post but I am going to stop posting drafts of the scenes from the novel. I am not sure if they really do any good. I will see how it goes.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Seeds Of Doubt, The Writers' Enemy

I have been doing too much thinking about my novel over the past week. I am finding too many other uses for my time and too many other reasons for writing. I am beginning to have doubts about my endurance with this project and whether I have the right skills to pull it all together.

For example, I am still reading too much, both fiction and non-fiction as a ratio to time spent writing and especially time spent on the novel. I even took time to take one of my poetry volumes (available on Scribd for free) and published it on Amazon (via CreateSpace). I am waiting for a proof copy at the moment before proceeding with publishing more of the PDF files which are available at Scribd.

This is not boding well for progress on the novel. However, maybe I spent too much time on the novel over those first few weeks and have been catching up; maybe some happy medium will be found.

One of the reasons for the doubts is that I am more concerned with the story at the moment than I am with the descriptions which I read of scenes, characters and all the details which are often included in the #1 best sellers. I know that I am only writing a draft and that it will take a lot of work to produce a decent manuscript but I have nothing to compare with. I have no first drafts to read except my own so I can only compare my work with fully worked on and published copy. Do other writers have this issue, especially when they start writing fiction.

Of course the other aspect is making time for writing. here is a quote from Creative Writing by Adele Ramet:-

One of the first rules to remember is that writers write. You should write something every day, even if all you do with the finished piece is tear it up and throw it away.Writing something, anything, every day will enable you to build up the discipline and commitment required to ensure that you can produce a complete manuscript in whatever genre you choose.


But for now, here is the latest scene from chapter 1. I have now completed the list of 8 scenes which I had  listed for this chapter. Here is a screen shot from yWriter5.

The first and opening scene is when King Taienege hears about the raids on his countries West Coast.

Taienge Dyenth, King of Alendreya, was at that moment sitting in his audience room trembling with anger;  listening to messengers from the Western Coast Protection Force (WCPF) who were describing horrific scenes of carnage and arson on a grand scale.

"Your Majesty, we cannot provide cover to all the coast. We do not have sufficient men to patrol the potential landing sites for these scum and they are coming more and more often. My men are afraid for their families and are deserting their posts so that my force is weakening. We need help from other quarters Sire."
"What is happening that has caused this chaos?" The King enquired. "How many villages, how many people?"
"Sire, we have no realistic numbers but it is too many. The pirates seem to be better armed and stonger than in the past, we feel that they are being helped in some way but we have no suitable reconaissance which helps to inform us of its source."
"OK, first of all, you will get together with my commanders and discuss this latest issue. I will not tolerate these incursions on my sovereign territory causing so much grief and you will plan an immediate campaign to stop these enemies of my people from any further success this time and in the future."
"Thank you my Lord, your people will be thankful and bless you for this help."

The King smiled, almost, and then turned to his Commander-in-Chief, "I imagine the force to be sent will be large and will need much planning. In the meantime we need to do something to stop these carrion. Inform my vassal, King Eadwyne, that we need him to raise a force and make haste to protect our peoples in the west coast area. Give him as much information as you can but impress on him a need for speed in this matter. This is war my friends and we will not be found wanting."

The king left the hall and expected his commanders to do his bidding as quickly as possible. His kingdom had historically had a problem with pirates from The Western Isles who would from time to time cause havoc on his western shores. The Protection Force had been formed from local men to prevent the worst of these pirate raids and maintain security of the area but things had become increasingly serious.

Of course, The pirates had been repelled and followed to sea but they were cunning sea-farers and used local knowledge of the islands and archipelagos, and the surrounding rocks to sail away from the following forces. No one knew exactly where they came from since they appeared to live on the sea, spending their time aboard ship and rarely making landfall except for provisioning. It had been the KIng's strategy that punishing the civil populations of these islands would only provide support for the pirates and had attempted to bring peace to his land by taking steps to help the Islands.

They had been treated like men too often. Now they would be run down and punished like the dogs they

More thoughts and writing from my novel in the next post.


Friday, 14 March 2014

Is Reading When I should Be Writing, Simply Procrastination?

Another question about the dreaded curse of procrastination.

All the books and articles I read tell me that a writer should do lots of reading. In the past couple of weeks I have read three novels.

My trouble is I love to read, I can't sit at my computer all day and there is so much I want to do. Not all of it connected with writing my novel. So far I have let things happen as and when I felt like it. But I am not sure this is going to work with something like a novel, which has such a long time span. And there is, as I said, so much to do at the moment.

I am writing my first full-length Squidoo Lens for over a year and I am desperate to get that finished.

I have just published (well just waiting on the proof copy) my first volume of poetry on Amazon (via CreateSpace). An exciting thought, but the first time it did take longer to sort out the details than I thought it would. I had manuscripts for the ebook sorted and posted to Scribd already. CreateSpace needs more detailed photos so I hade to sort out the images which I had used.

But READING? Is it really that important? I guess it gives the writer an opportunity to see how things should look, how other authors create tension and mystery, etc. It is not unusual for me to read three novels over a couple of weeks and I can only ever think of very few books which once started I do not finish. And that does not count the "how to write a novel" books I mentioned in my last post.

In the latter part of February, for instance I read:-

You can see I have been reading Lincoln Rhyme novels by Jeffrey Deaver. I am finding so many series of books which I want to read because I have only just started reading novels other then Sci-Fi and Fantasy. I have lots to catch up with. In fact I have about 21 novels in my bedroom waiting for me to read. the trouble is I keep seeing books I want in charity shops, etc and buy them because they might not be available when I need them. LOL. It is getting on my wife's nerves and something else I will have to take stock of. I have been tidying up my personal library however and recycling some books back to thte charity shops. It does make me feel good.

So the question is, is reading simply procrastinating? I know what I must do. I need to assign a set time each day for my novel. I have tried this before with all my other interests and failed. Picking them up as I felt like it. But this time I feel I must show some discipline or that novel is simply not going to appear at all.

Right, I feel better now I have cleared the air, where's my calendar and to-do list?

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Is Wanting To Know More, Simply Procrastination?

I made the mistake of obtaining a couple of books from my local library on "Writing Novels and how to do it". I thought two of them were full of really great advice and actually found copies on Amazon which were very economically priced, second-hand (or pre-read as they aare now called) but good quality. In my opinion a great way of buying books.

However, I have spent so much time reading "how to do it", I have actually stopped writing. In one sense, I can see this is procrastinating but as this is my first time I thought that I should be allowed this one minor bout of self-doubt.

The two books I bought are:
1. A Teach Yourself Book, Writing A Novel by Nigel Watts. The main reason (but not the only one) that I bought this book was the so-called 8-point arc of a good plot. These are, Nigel explains, the phases which a classic plot needs to pass through. He calls them:-
  • Stassis
  • Trigger
  • The Quest
  • Surprise
  • critical Choice
  • The Climax
  • Reversal
  • resolution
I do not intend to discuss the idea in any more detail, but it seemed to me to be a lot more helpful than the 3-act plot often discussed by other authors and in on-line articles I have read.

2. The Beginners Guide To Writing A Novel byMarina Oliver. A more traditional book but a chapters on "getting ready to start" and ""the overall view" seemed to offer something out of the ordinary run of the mill advice I have read.

Both books do of course cover characterisation and setting the scene and most of the usual advice. despite having downloaded many articles, I do love books and could not help wanting these.


I do have a number of scenes in hand and am posting a new short piece of the novel ( as usual a first draft) on the blog today to prove that things have not come to a complete stop. 

Let me offer a short recap. Eadwyne has been asked by his Liege Lord to raise an army and set off to stop incursions by pirates and their allies. Dinbar, the court magician was in the midst of giving the force a blessing which was a spell to ensure their safe return when a lightning bolt struck and created a "twin" of Eadwyne. He was not hurt but thrown into his assembled force and in the resulting chaos, the twin escaped undetected. He was afraid and did not know or realise what had happened. He decides to hide in the castle ... This scene finds FEAR, the twin, exploring tunnels in the bowels of the castle.

FEAR did not know that no one ever came to this place. The tunnels were there long before the castle as it is now, was built into the rock face. They were damp and cold and ignored by staff, never  used and so had fallen into disrepute. Rumours of spirits and unknown things kept the castle's servants away from the heavy wooden door which closed off the entrance. FEAR felt safe in these tunnels and passageways despite the dank darkness, and yet he wondered what lay ahead. He somehow knew that he had to explore the tunnels in order to put his mind at rest. For it was in turmoil at the moment. A sudden awakening in the parade ground, all that running around and ... who was that ... man and why did he feel a link between them. A link that gave rise to a massive loathing and fear at the same time.

The tunnels were faced with stones, they must have been important when first built but he could tell they were not used now. He quietly crept back to the cellar entrance and made sure that no one was around. Sure enough he quickly found what he was looking for in the detritus from a working royal residence. Torches; everyone needed light in such a large building, and there were plenty which had not been burned down completely. Some servant looking to save a few coins for his master or maybe even for himself, who knows? FEAR quickly lit one of these partially burned torches from the single flame near the steps back up to the castle's higher floors. He then returned to the tunnels with enough brands to last him for a cursory search, at least.

He started walking into the gloom and soon found that more steps taking him down even further below the castle. He was carefully picking his way down from the staircase with his head down, when he realised that the dust on the steps had been disturbed - recently it seemed! Warning bells rang for him. So he was not completely alone in this inhospitable place, or at least the tunnels were used by someone else. The light from the torch was dim and flickered as he carried it before him, it provided only a small circle of light around him as he moved forward. That was the reason he had not noticed the footsteps in the duct, now that he had, he was swinging to torch around to examine every inch of the floor and walls. Yes, someone else had recently been down here and he came across more torches along the route. Enough to suggest that whoever had been down here came fairly frequently but it had not been over a long time. Many recent sets of footprints, they had not yet begun to fill back in with dust. He could not say for certain exactly what how long ago the tunnels had been used, but he must assume that he was not necessarily safe down her. Although as no torches were lit he could assume that the interloper, for that is how he thought of him, was not in the tunnels at present.

At the lower level, within a short distance, Fear found a wooden door - unlocked. All the earlier worries flooded back, but he knew that he had to search the room as it may contain more clues to the interloper. He looked inside and was disappointed, an empty cell. Nothing at all behind the door, no furniture of any description, no sign of anything. He made his way further down the tunnel and found more doors, all of them hiding nothing but shadows. For him to take refuge and hide here would not be a long term possibility, and even then he would have to forage in the kitchens for food, clothing and bedding along with anything else that he might need.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

The Benefits Of Reading Aloud When Reviewing / Editing

I have been reading some of my early scenes in my first novel. I have hardly completed chapter one and already I am becoming twitchy about what I have written. Most of my writing has been of a technical nature and as you might imagine, although the mechanisms I go through are the same, the words and sentence structures are very different. It really makes me nervous.

One thing I have found which helps is to read the text aloud. This obviously slows down the reviewing process but also helps to spot those awkward structures which can be glossed over when reading to yourself.

A feature which I have found valuable in the yWriter5 software is the built-in speech engine feature, as I mentioned in my lasr post. You can set the software to read back each scene at a speed determined by yourself. There are many foibles,we have all heard the automatic repeat of a number we have entered into a telephone, maybe for paying a bill or on-line-banking. But apart from a few strange pronunciations, there are some distinct areas where the machine is just terrible. For example in this case, the speech engine hurries quickly over the word "and". However I am getting use to it like a good friend - maybe I need to get out more?

But it does make me think about some of the sentances I have written, and I have altered quite a few. Having a close look at something can help.

But enough of that, I seem to be repeating myself so will call a halt to that discussion. I include here another first (very rough) draft describing how the alter ego (created by a magical accident of the protagonist (Eadwyne) hides within the castle.

FEAR hides withing the Castle

The pathetic creature crept deeper into the shadows and through the castle door to escape the crowds on the parade ground. he was aware that he needde to hide and get away from what was happening on the parade ground but he did not know why. In fact he had no memory at all of events before he was startled to find himself against the wall of the castle. the more he thought, the harder he questioned himself, the less he realised he knew. Except that for now he simply had to hide and take stock.

Nobody seemed to have noticed him, he had escaped successfullly but what now? There was much activity inside the castle, servants were teeming around seeming to have much to do and little time to do it. There was a staircase to a lower level on his right, not too far away. If he could make it to there he might find things a little quieter downstairs. The level directly entered from the parade ground was in fact the top level, and consisted mainly of the royal apartments and staterooms. The stairway led down to the castle's living quarters and official rooms, but not knowing this the fugitive descended. Slowly and carefully he emerged on the third level and again found many people runnung around. He was not aware of the importance of this day or of Eadwyne's imminent departure.

Before long he was spotted, in his dirty and singed clothing he looked out of place amid the scurrying workers. He was called over by a page to explain himself, "who are you ? What are you doing, don't you have work to do?"

He answered slowly, "I .... fe...fe...fear ...". His first words.

"What, I have no time for this, get back to the kitchens below!"

A military officer came over and asked the page, "Who was that?"

"I am not certain sir, He called himself something which sounded llike Fear, peculiar name really."

Fear, for that became his name, scuttled back to the the stairs and continued on down. At the next level he found the kitchens and they were full of servants busily going about their alloted tasks. He did not want to risk being seen again and so carried on down, eventually reaching the cellars. Finally a place of refuge, a hideaway; a place of safety where he could gather his wits and decide his next move.

By the way, I have deliberately chose to write the name in capitals. In later chapters this will become more evident

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

A Fantasy Language For My First Novel

We have all had the experience of reading a fantasy novel and found that we don't know how to pronounce the names of the characters and places we are reading. Does it matter since we ARE reading and not trying to speak those words? Well yes, many people do find it an issue, so we should make sure that as writers we are not  giving readers cause to put down our work.

Before I actually started writing my first novel, I did what all writers should do and defined my characters and the locations, etc. I decided that I wanted to use names which would be different enough to indicate their other-world origin but not so different as to be a problem. There are many name generators on the internet, expecially for fantasy writing but everyday and historical novels are also well catered for.

A short list for fantasy name generators is:-
I was very picky about the names I chose but once I had a few, I found that I could envisage the way the mix of consonants were looking and how they might sound. OK for me then, but do potential readers see things the same.

One of the features with yWriter5, which is the software I am using to write the novel, is a digital speech engine. Maybe a little eccentric but hearing the words I have written, read out aloud by even a machine is quite different. And does give some idea of the need for punctuation.

But in this context, the speech engine is having difficulty with some of my fantasy names. I will, as requested by a friend on Facebook, be including a pronunciation list so it shouldn't be a problem, But the fact that the speech engine is having problems may indicate one or two rethinks.

Just a couple of issues:
  • The protagonist Eadwyne is pronounced (by me) as Ee-ad-win; and has a slightly welsh sound to it. However the maching reads it as Eeed-wine, A very straange sound to my ears
  • I have a character called Dinbar, for some reason it is read as 'bar. I.e no first syllable at all
  • Taienge has two syllables as far as I am concerned (Tie-enge); but the machine insists on one, Tynge
Of course this will be covered by the pronounciation guide I will include. So I am not getting too uptight but I will be reviewing the names at some stage. I might need the search and replace function in yWriter5 before I am finished.

Monday, 24 February 2014

My First scene with dialogue

I am not sure that it is entirely riveting but agaikin this is a first draft and a long way to go before I get around to revising, never mind editing thte text. This scene starts with our protoganist relaxing and playing a strategy board game with his friend.

This image is of a nine-mens-morris game (public domain)

So to the scene I am sharing today:-

Eadwyne was relaxing in the Royal Apartments on the top floor of Castle Candir, far away from the hidden corridors off the cellars far below. He enjoyed playing an old game which his father had taught him many years ago, Moving shaped stones around a marked out board in a manner such as to capture your opponents playing pieces. He enjoyed it but also felt it taught him strategy and patience. His opponent today was his friend and Commander of the castle guard, General Bryssan Firaes. Bryss, to his friends also commanded the standing army of Mericandir and was fiercely loyal to Eadwyne. They had grown up together and knew almost as much about each other as they knew about themselves. Both men had spent their lives so far in the service of their country and fully expected that this would be their life.

The game was going badly for Eadwyne. He was in trouble; although this was no reflection on his playing as Bryss was after all, one of the finest strategists in the land and bought his skills to any activity he was involved in. But help arrived before things got too bad. A page knocked urgently outside the chamber door.

"Enter", called Eadwyne, "What news?"

"Sire, reports have arrived that an ambassador, with a meassge from King Taienge, is soon to arrive at the Castle with grave news."

"Is that all we know?" queried Bryssan, "How far away, how soon will he arrive?"

"My Lord, we should make ready, he comes in haste and will be here within the hour at most", answered the page.

Bryss stood up, the thoughts of his win evaporating, " I will go below and start to make the necessary arrangements. Would you like your body servant sent to help you make ready Sire?"

"No need Bryss, if it is bad news and that important I have arrangements of my own to put into place. I have some idea what this may mean and it could be that we have little time to waste. But you may go ahead and make way for the ambassador. Bring him to me as soon as he arrives; and get food and drink sent up for him."

Eadwyne took a moment to himself to ponder on this development. He had heard privately that Tainge, his Liege Lord had been worried about incursions to the west of his kingdom from insurgents and rebels from the Western Isles. Although small in number their raids had been causing problems and it looked like they may have become worse. Still, he had better wait to hear what news the  ambassador bought with him.

He then called a page, "Ah, Gafton; please find that old rogue Dinbar and tell him I need him urgently"

No doubt about it, dialogue is definitely something else. I know the grammar needed but I have never written dialogue before and it feels really strange.

On another front I am still researching facts and figures of moving an army around on foot, on horse, by wagon and by ship. The figures I am finding are beginning to create a second round in the design of the world I am creating for the story. The major problem is that I did not size the locations on the world and have had to reduce the size of the countries in which the action occurs. Still, facts are facts and I don't want my armies to spend too much time marching around.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

My first novel - research

I really jumped into this novel writing feet first.

I have been researching a few facts today for the opening scenes. Facts such as:-

  • How far does an army march in a day?
  • How many men would be in a medieval - middle ages army?
  • What sort of rank would an officer be for a given number of men?

Just to get the facts right is nice but the answers to some of these questions will have profound effects later on in the novel. For example, I plan to have my protagonist hiding whilst fighting a guerilla war. How large an area should the country / continent / world be which I am designing. I can draw a map and add names and locations of major towns / villages / etc but it couldn't happen on a football pitch. And conversely, if too big how would the troops get from place to place in a reasonable time.

I am beginning to find that I need to make lots of assumptions about things which at first seemed straightforward. I need to take a step back and get my locations properly designed for the plot which is mainly in my head at the moment.

I am writing, but leaving some things to be filled in or sorted later. Of course some things cannot be treated like this and need the facts correct in the first place. I am learning as I go along and will be watching out for these instances.

BTW how far would an army be expected to march in a day?

It depends on many things but 10 - 20 miles a day seems to be reasonable. At a push trained and fit troops could probably do 30 but not everyday.

And how many men in that army?

Again location is so important, warfare in Europe was very different to that in the far east at that time. But consider Europe; an army of 10,000 (large for Europe in say the begiining of the 100 years war) there would be between 200 and 1200 knights or mounted fighters. With say 3000 mercenaries and 5,500 peasants or the equivalent. But this number would probably be doubled when all the supporting trades are taken into account. From Cooks to blacksmiths to Fletchers (who made the arrows).

And last but not least, a company (80 - 200) would be commanded by a captain or major. A regiment of 3 - 5000 would be led by a colonel or a brigadier general. But these are probably modern ranks. Many of the officers in the sort of army I am thinking of would be aristocracy, so more research needed. Ah well, back to the drawing board.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

The Room Of Magic - Writing my first Novel

If you have followed this blog with me, you will know paart of the plot and the importance of The Room Of Magic. Here is a first draft of the scene in which this room is first described. I appreciate that it needs much doing, but it is almost a matter of writing down what is in my mind, before the idea evaporates.

Bangs and flashes from Dinbar's experiments would have disturbed the inhabitants of Castle Candir if he wasn't esconced in the nether regions, deep below the castle in the ancient rooms and corridors which were built directly into the rock upon which the castle had been erected. Dinbar had been exploring these corridors for some time and had actually found the room known as the Room Of Magic. It was actually a library full of scrolls, manuscripts and ancient books; most of them had seen better days and the rest were not far behind. If the knowledge contained in the spells and incantations was to be saved, it would mean a lot of work salvaging and catalogueing the works contained in the library.

Dinbar was the Royal Magician and also friend of King Eadwyne  of Mericandir, and indeed of several of his forbears before him. Which as you might infer meant that Dinbar was quite ancient himself but as he kept telling everyone, there was life in the old dog yet.

Dinbar recognised that the knowledge in this so-far secret room needed to be handled carefully, in the wrong hands it could bring disaster upon the Kingdom, he had even kept his discovery from Eadwyne, so that there was no danger of even the fact that the  location was known should become accidentally revealed. Until he had it all under control, he wanted to keep it very firmly under his own hand for safety. He could recognise from the spells that many types of magik were represented here. Transmutation, Lycanthropy, transfering matter through time and space, invisibility, mind reading and thought transference were all there. It was even implied that invulnerability and raising the dead might be possible. The ancients must have been a terrible race with knowledge that had become lost in the mists of time.

It was a race against time to save as much of this knowledge as possible or at least that part of it which could not be seen as trying to copy the gods' power over man and his life on earth. The magician had investigated much of the information which was in documents which could withstand being handled, albeit very carefully. He had arranged and catalogued it as best he could and was now involved in actually trying out some of the spells; hence the flashing lights and loud noises. The working of magik was accompanied by the release of copious quantities of energies that he hardly understood. Far removed form the relatively simple forms of spell making which he indulged in. As a magician, he was a very good politician. He understood people and how to amaze and shock them with quite simple results. But even so, Dinbar was probably the only man in the country, and maybe the whole of the world of Wragrond, who could begin to understand what was happening in the Room Of Magic.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Progress after first two weeks with my first novel

Because it is my first novel, I am taking it fairly slowly, trying to be sure I know what I am doing before I spend a lot of wasted time. So where have I got to after 11 days since making the decision.

Well the first thing is that I am so glad that I looked at software which could help me. My first inclination to simply use a notebook; but I am finding it difficult to find stuff in ther already. Oh yes, it is not that full that I cannot trawl through the whole thing to find something but with no index and ideas being written down as soon as they enter my head, it has become a convoluted mess.

With iWriter5, I can control it all. As soon and as frequently as possible I transfer all those notes and ideas to Iwriter and it becomes so easy to look them up - usually. But any problems are due to my not yet being adept in using the software and knowing where I put things. So One up to iWriter. Did I say that I have registered my copy by making a donation to the author, well worthwhile.

It is very early days but I have very clear outlines for the first three (of 25 planned) chapters and have outlined the story by creating a number of scenes for each of those first chapters. I have added all the main characters although as the story unrolls, there may be more - but not too many; and identified a few of the lesser characters. I have described and sketched (or chosen suitable photos) for the early locations to help give me a feel for them, and I feel that the structure of the novel is coming together nicely.

An example of one of the locations are tunnels below the castle, through the cliff face. I have used this photo I took of "The Smugglers Tunnel" at Shaldon, near Torquay in the UK. Of course I had to edit out (very roughly here) the electric lights.

NOW the nitty-gritty, I have started drafting the first chapter and feel very happy with the way it is shaping. Not that many words so far, only about 1500, but I am getting the skeleton down. As it is my first time I am picking my way very gingerly - I am sure I will speed up in the very near future.

I have also made a rough estimate of the work ahead:-

The novel will be say 100,000 words
25 chapter will require 4000 words each on average
Each chapter will need 8 scenes of 500 words

I feel that I have made a good beginning although I have not really set myself a timetable yet. As I said a strong start is more important for me than a quick finish. But a chapter a week will give me a goal of 6 months, unless I up my output; can I get editing done within that time scale? That is another question!

Just for the record, here is a review of the length of some different fiction types:-
  • Flash Fiction: <1000 words
  • Short Story: 1,500 - 30,000 words (often less than 15,000)
    • anthologies: 5000 - 6000 words
    • magazines: 2000 - 3000 words
  •  Novella: 30,000 - 50,000 words
  • Novel: >50,000 words (likely to be 80,000 - 100,000)
    • Sci-Fi and Fantasy upto 120,000 words
    • often first novels are shorter

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

My First Novel - first draft of "the magical mishap"

Ok -  time for the writing to begin in earnest. So far I have been writing notes about the characters and locations; and writing possible outlines for the first three chapters. I posted some screenshots from the yWriter5 software that I am using. Here is how it looks after this very first draft of the first real writing I have done.

Note: chapter 1 has 430 words so far, from the scene I have named (for convenience only), The Storm. The software keeps track of word count for each individual scene, and total for each chapter and the whole novel. There are many other reporting function but I won't mention them here, yet. BTW in the list of scenes N denotes scene notes have been included in the description.

Now my major issue so far is the point of view (POV) or viewpoint from which you are writing. I am not yet totally certain how far a scene should be broken down. For example, There are three main characters in this scene, although one only appears as a result of the accident, and no one else knows about him. Should I write from the point of view of one of the characters OR should I break the scene down further and tell the story of each of the lower levels of the outline from the main character in that level.

Let me try to make that clearer:

From above, the draft outline is as follows:-

  • chapter
    • scene  - The Room of Magic
    • scene - A Call to Arms
    • scene - The Storm
    • scene - Fear escapes and hides
Now read my first draft of The Storm :-

At the mustering parade, Eadwyne was reviewing his troops from a metal podium and things were going well. He was thinking that his Liege would be pleased with how quickly he had raised such a fine force. Perhaps it could have contained more men but many had to be left behind to tend the farms or because there was not enough time for the training which would have been necessary. Dinbar had appeared with enthusiasm claiming he had a spell which would ensure the safe return of the army from the fighting, he was going to take the opportunity this parade offered to bless  the assembled troops.

During the casting of the spell, a storm blew up suddenly but no one really noticed amid all the pomp and finery. That is until a lightning bolt flashed into the parade ground and landed near to the dias. There was an explosion of great ferocity which threw Eadwyne into the marching throng. Who in their turn were dazed and deafened by the explosion. Helping hands flew to Eadwyne but were luckily not needed as he had suffered no real hurt. But too many people were trying to pick him up and dust him down and assess him for broken bones.

Against the castle wall, away from all the action stood a lone figure who had a vague similarity to Eadwyne but his features were horribly deformed, as if by the way he was showing hate and fear at the same time. He backed away from the centre of attention and slipped unnoticed through a doorway, into the castle.This hideous figure, seemed afraid of being seen and stayed in the shadows making his way to a hiding place; wanting to stay away from prying eyes. He seemed to know that he simply had to prevent himself from being discovered.

Outside in the sunlight, the storm had disappeared as quickly as it had arisen, order was being restored. The blessing was forgotten and preparations went ahead for the journey through the Kan Pass, to join the main army of King Taienge as it marched to the Western Isles. Transport consisted of horses and wagons for the lucky few; the rest would march. Provisions for wagons for the journey through the Pass, was not a priority as it was very difficult terrain and impossible to make by wheeled transport. The troops made their way to the main door off the parade ground and assembled outside ready for the journey. Finally all were in position and Eadwyne gave the orders for the march to begin.

And my quandry?

Should I extend each of those paragraphs (I have no doubt that that will happen anyway) and write them in a different way to be more from the POV of the main character in that para. It is a crucial part of the story so I need to make it an important and memorable scene (or series of scenes). Should the outline be continued in this fashion:

  • Scene/L1 - The storm
    • scene/L2 - the parade/blessing POV Dinbar, the magician
    • scene /L2 - the storm POV Eadwyne
    • scene /L2 - FEAR hides POV FEAR, the evil twin
    • scene /L2 - Aftermath and departure POV Eadwyne
    • scene /L2 - thoughts of Dinbar as the army disappears into the distance POV Dinbar

As I write this, I believe the real issue for me is the terminology!  Perhaps I am not yet sure what a scene actually means. A location or a character? Thinking of a play, the scene can change as actors come to and go from the same location. That seems to be the answer. I have read that getting the POV right can be crucial and depends on what the writer is trying to achieve. I must do a little more reading/research on this issue.

Thanks for bearing with me and it does seem to help having someone to chat to (as it were), more soon.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Taking a step back, to re-affirm the design stage

Expanding the 15 word description of the novel.

Note: This is a direct transcription from my notebook (handwritten) and is basically the suggested stage 2 of the Snowflake method for designing a novel. This is to extend the single sentence into five, each describing a part of the story; an introduction, at least three major disasters and the ending.

First a quick look at the first sketch of my new world, from that same notebook. Just for fun :)

It is a watery world, this sketch shows the main island continents, with names and the locations of a few major towns. The names are probably temporary (I can always use search and replace later to change them; but having something to use makes it easier to write about them). So, the world is called WRAGROND. Directly above that name is the largest continent ALENDRYA, and the shaded part of that  (almost centre on the image is King Eadwyne's land of MERICNDIR. Two towns are shown, called CANDIR and TE-CANDIR. The former is the capital and is the location of CASTLE CANDIR, the royal palace which plays a major part in the early story. But now back to the extened description ....

Encounter with FEAR.
  1. Eadwyne is called to raise an army from Mericandir to join his Liege Lord, in a distant war fighting insurgents and pirates. Before leaving his own Castle, Eadwyne and his army are to be blessed by his court magician, at which event a magical accident creates an evil twin of the king.
  2. The campaign goes badly at first and lasts much longer than expected. Eadwyne eventually returns home to find his kingdom ruled by the evil twin, known as FEAR, who has the ability to read peoples's dreams and nightmares and their worst fears are used them against them.
  3. Eadwyne is imprisoned when he tries to reclaim his castle and his lands and people, he is thrown into the dungeons with many of his followers.
  4. Eadwyne and the magician, Dinbar, gradually come to understand the source of FEAR's powers and his creation as a result of that accident.
  5. With the downfall and removal of FEAR, life returns to normal for the honest folk of Mericandir.
OK, so some of the single sentences are not quite that, shouldn't be a problem. I am just outling the story and that is the main consideration here. 

I will be posting regularly so don't forget to visit and find out how I am getting on with this my first novel. I guess my only problem is just how much of the story to include in these pages. I already have devised a theory for the way that "magic" can work (after all I am a scientist, and everything must have an explanation) and how an accident can have massive and unknown results. BUT should I make this depth of detail known before the story is written and available in book form. If I put too much into the blog, then  it might affect the sales figures. :)

But seriously, should I effectively serialise the book, or keep some of the best bits to be enjoyed by the ultimate reading experience. It is planned to make the book available for free as an eBook, at least to start with.

I shall certainly keep up with what I am doing, and sharing my experience of writing my first novel but as for more ..... keep coming back to find out.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

The Beginning of an outline

I have been thinking about the title and decided that the working title I was using was too long and unhelpful. My new suggestion is:-


This seems to work much better than the original, and for now I will be considering this as the one to carry the project through the next few months - or as long as it takes :)

I have been using yWriter5 to define the list of characters and locations putting the flesh on the bare bones, as it were. I have also got as far as an outline for the first two chapters.

This is my first sketch of the Castle in which much of the early action will be taking place, from my note book. Yes I am using a pencil and paper to make quick notes as I think of them - I have too much experience of good ideas being lost for want of making them concrete. I have also started mapping the original world in which the story is set. details are few so far but I will keep you informed in the weeks and months (?) ahead as the pertinent geography takes shape.

Name: Bryss (AKA: General Firaes, Commander, )     Full Name: Bryssan Firaes
Notes:     Desc: A tall and strong character who has risen through the ranks of the army and proved his loyalty to Eadwyne many time. He was rewarded with the role of the highest army position in Eadwynes kingdom. He leads the army and also heads the garrison at the Castle which protects the capital and main port of the land.
Has many fighting skills and uses them to protect hi friend and Lord, Eadwyne

This is a copy of a simple report on one of the main characters. So far I have identified and described 5 main characters (is this too many) and several lesser characters who I believe will appear in the novel. Other issues like goals / motivation / conflicts for the characters are being included as I work through the story outline. I think I made it clear in my last post that I needed to put some detail onto the bones of the story before I can get on with this task.

The room of magic (AKA: The ancient library)
Desc: A room recently discovered by Dinbar Bryer, the court magician in the bowels of the tunnels under Castle Candir. It contains many scrolls and books of ancient origin, which had not been seen or whose presence was only hinted at, as "treasures"; reputed to be hidden in this part of the castle. Dinbar has so far kept the library secret and is cataloguing the contents as far as he can. Many of its documents and books are falling apart with age and in danger of being lost to the world.

And this is a description of one of the early locations in the story. As with the characters, I find that I need a strand of the story before identifying which locations are required and then I can describe the locations more fully and develop the story. It is a chicken and egg situation. I do not honestly know where to start, but once I have then the elements feed off each other.

Now to the outline itself, or at least as far as I have got so far - and I am still working on everything which I was doing before this project, well except for Bubblews. I have decided that the frustration from that site is simply not worth the effort. It is very close to being a scam, but that's another story. I am giing to show three images, ALL OF WHICH appear on the main page of yWriter5. I break them up like this so that they can be read on this blog. The form of the outline is:-

  • chapters
    • scenes
      • scene descriptions (character strands, etc)

 The first image shows the chapter list, you add chapters as you need them but I started with 25 so that I can dip in when I feel like it. The order can be moved easily if necessary. Note chapter 1 and 2 have four scenes each so far.

These are the scenes in chapter 2. The main POV character followed by my short title for that scene. Each scene is automatically saved in separate files. Although I have written descriptions and entered characters and locations (also listed on the same main page along these lines) I have not yet actually started using the built in WP so non of the scenes have reported more than zero words. The software keeps a count of words automatically, and does some clever reporting of how you are using them. More about that in future.

The last level I intend to show here is the description of the scene, which itself can be further outlined if necessary. You can immediately see the description of the scene, the characters, locations, items and the goals of the scene. This last information could be crucial to the success of a novel if many commentators are to be believed but again more of this in the future.

OK that's enough for now, I have some writing to do.

My New Novel - time for a pause!

I did quite a lot of reading / research before I set ot to write my first novel. I did not have a plot or story in mind at the time and I was looking at the tools that were advertised as helping writers design their novel. In fact, I started testing them with quite simplistic ideas and wanted to see if they would really offer any help.

I looked at simple mindmap software which was great as a brain-storming tool but it seems that like all software, too many functions were simply superfluous to my requirements. It was just as easy to use a pencil and notebook. OK if I started to make a lot of edits, then my notebook began to seem a little messy and I did need to redraw. A free mindmapping software is Freeplane. Lots of features but far too many for my simple needs. Could work for you however.

I looked at Trello, which is a sort of on-line pinboard; lots of uses, in fact the link contains lots of ideas and I found the site via an articlec on writing an outline for a novel. However this was too simplistic. (does this sound a little like Goldilocks and the three bears?)

After this, I considered a word -processor, very simple and multi-layered; I could even start writing based on the  outline which was developed. But the aim of most tools in this genre was to keep track of not only the chapters and scenes but also the characters, locations, items (anything else pertinent to the plot) and 101 other things. Would a simple WP package allow me to do this easily? I have MS Word and had used it to write many articles; and I had always used an outline to write technical reports and an MSc and PhD theses. I had always managed before, but could I find an easier way.

My next trial was with Storybook. Another pinboard type of program but developed specifically for writers to aid in designing a novel. This keeps track of all those things mentioned above but I found it a little stilted and I must admit to having one or two issues. Firstly, there was no help available with he free download. Under the Help Menu were the choices to donate or contact, neither these nor the help file were accessible; simply giving a 404 not available error. The simplistic example file did not help a great deal, so I did not get very far with this at all.

After all these failures I hoped that yWriter5, a word processor, might be the one to ring the bell. It offers all that I could have hoped for. The main screen offers an outline based on chapters and scenes, and a datebase to cope with all the rest. Characters, locations, items. It has various tools and offers reports which may prove useful to monitor the efficiency of the writer. With the built in WP you can even write the basic novel in the tool. However it does not offer complete formatting so you will need to export the text ( several options are available) and use a more powerful WP package for tidying up before submitting to agent or publisher, depending upon your requirements.

Lastly, I had come across a method of designing the novel called The Snowflake Method, which I mentioned in my last post. I had said that I was hoping to follow this method to write my first novel, however after managing to get through the first few stages, I wanted to hop ahead. For instance, I could not list my characters without putting more detail  into my outline - which the method seemed to leave until quite late. So I am on the cusp of modifying the method to my own requirements. Each to his own as they say! I have been quite satisfied with progress so far and will give more details about progress in my next post.

One last, one very last note. The Snowflake Method suggests using a simple spreadsheet to define the descriptions of each scene. This does seem to have much to say for it, and I would probably have used MS Word and Excel together but I am slowly getting used to yWriter5. I will persevere with this software for a while as it does seem to have most of what I think I need without being too complex. It does take a little getting used to as any software but would be easier if it had an easier Help File. The help file has been written by a third party and is quite simplistic, based on a set of FAQ's.

So it looks as if I have a way to proceed, using yWriter5.

I will push on with my novel, and provide a little more detail of the introduction and the main characters in my next posts.

My new novel, stage 2

I said in my last post that I will be following a method, called the snowflake method to design the novel , and in my first post stage one was a single sentence of less than 15 words to encapsulate the entire novel.

The method uses the analogy of the description of a snowflake by fractals, i.e. a simple shape is made ever more complex by applying simple rules. Such as this image from a Julia set.

Stage 2 is to expand this single sentence to a full paragraph which touches on the novels introduction, the three main disasters (as used to design the novel, although of course there may be more) which affect the direction of the story and the actions of the main characters. And finally the ending, how the final disater is overcome and the ending of the novel.

Eadwyne's Encounter With FEAR*

Eadwyne recruits a force from his lands, to join his Kings’s army in a distant war. Before leaving his <court magician / friend / steward> attempts to use an ancient spell to provide protection for the detachment and ensure their safe return. He gets the spell wrong and Eadwyne (unbeknownst to himself) is <split> and an evil twin is created, to become his nemesis.
The war goes badly for the King at first, and lasts much longer than expected. Eadwyne eventually returns home to find his land is ruled by his nemesis who is known by the nickname FEAR. The villagers find their nightmares are stolen and their worst fears are becoming a reality.
Eadwyne is imprisoned when he tries to reclaim his castle and sentenced to rot in the dungeons with his band.
There is a successful escape attempt and Eadwyne gradually learns of who FEAR is and what is needed to put matters right. In the subsequent necessary <activities> Eadwyne becomes infatuated with a woman who helped with the escape, and makes her his lifelong partner. With the downfall and complete disappearance of FEAR, life returns to normal for the honest folk of Eadwynes villages. 
N.B. I have used the parentheses < > to bracket names, etc which I need to research a little more.
*A working title only
My biggest fear: PROCRASTINATION. I have already listed in my notebook two other ideas for plots and a way of finding more ideas from a dream notebook which I kept for several months a few years back. On the surface ideas which could be used in this novel ...... but still, I need to focus on one at a time.
I have been researching FREE software to help design the story, characters and landscape of the novel. I have found two or three which might help and I intend to select TWO to try out in parallel over the next few weeks. I will have more to say about these in future posts.
A last word:- the snowflake method is analogous to an outline but does include some helpful tips as you work through it. I will also be listing a few ways of creating an outline to balance the experience of creating this my first novel.
I should say that as the author of a number of technical reports/theses and many on-line articles, I would not attempt any writing project of a reasonable length without having a skeleton to build upon. I do however realise that writers like people are very different and individual. You must assess whether this process is the right way for you to progress. For example, I never seem to write poetry with any forethought as to where it is going. I start at line 1 and forge ahead - but that is another matter.

A new project - my first novel

Yes, that's right after over 50 years of writing non-fiction, lyrics and lately poetry, I am attempting my first novel. 

Sci-Fi and Fantasy have always been my favourite genres and so I have decided that one of these two will be the way I will go. I have been seeing so much of late relating to "how-to-do-it" that I started to wonder if I had it in me and the last session finally stung me into action. I have made promises before but never quite carried them through so I am making this public right from the start as a sort of rod for my own back. That way it might get finished. I have no timing in mind at the moment however, so don't hold your breath.

Of course, I may need to start another blog (this blog has been started to fill this role) to cater for this new direction for my creative writing but that is something for another day. I will be taking a few steps along the road before I do that (decided that a new blog had to happen sooner than expected, so strike whilst the iron is hot is my motto) .

Talking about a few steps, the early stages can be likened to outlining a technical report or thesis, of which I am very familiar but there are many references to the method for those writers less well-off. One article, called "The Snowflake Method" reads very well and I shall be particularly be taking note of the many aspects of writing which sound like very good advice to a sheer novice. Simpler although just as effective articles on outlining abound on the internet.

Step 1 in The Snowflake Method, is to write a sentence giving a top level overview of the novel. The sort of thing you will see when a book is advertised, so it must encompass thte story and the main character and the goals. So here is my second attempt. I needed to shorten my first, as the method recommends no more thaan 15 words. here it is:-

Our Battle-worn hero returns home from war to find his kingdom ruled by "Fear".

I am still not sure about this but each stage can be modified as you work through the method. It will do for now. I have put Fear into inverted commas because the antagonist will be an evil twin of our hero, created by a magical accident as he left to go to war.

But that's enough for now, I am eager to get on with the next stage, although I will be hoping to create the world in which this story unfolds from scratch, just a whim!

BTW, no title yet! I will sort that out as the story unfolds.