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