Category Archives: Writing

What I learned from NanoWrimo

I have never participated in NanoWrimo until now, and you know what I learned?

It’s grueling. I suppose it would be easier if I had no life besides writing, and I didn’t live with other humans, but I do and I do.

That said, I have to say I have some real respect for some of the people I was participating with. There were people that I participated with in a virtual write in on Facebook that were super cool and supportive. This lady was particularly supportive, and totally beat me by five days to the finish line! http://www.vs-holmes.com/

The other people? Well to be specific 3/4 of the people on my NanoWrimo friends list did not even finish. I can understand why, though. Cranking out a minimum number of words each day is not easy.

Here are the most important things I learned.

  1. The first thing I learned is that it is easier just to type stuff out than you think. Not everything has to be perfect right now; you can always fix it later.
  2. Sprints are fun! I didn’t get into any sprints at first. I felt very strongly about “Not wanting to turn this into a competition.” But when I finally just said “Why the hell not?” and did it, it was quite a bit of fun and increased my productivity a great deal.
  3. How much I can accomplish when I set my mind to it. This one is really important. It took me about fifteen months to finish my first draft of Spirit of Magik. Yes, there was revision occurring during that time, as well as world building, but if I had been working as hard as I did during this event, I am certain I could have finished it in half of the time.
  4. DO NOT TAKE A DAY OFF!!! About day nine or ten, I decided it was a good idea to take a day off, to recharge my batteries, etc. I was ahead of my NonoWrimo goals too. It was nice to have a day off. Then instead of gaining a benefit from that, I was completely stressed out for the next three weeks trying to play catch up. If you have a family, you pretty much have mandatory time off with turkey day anyway, and you don’t have time for any more than that!

Now, with all of that being said, I did do a few things before Nanowrimo started to ensure my success.

  1. I had an outline of my story. Without a firm idea of where I was going, I would have failed, period. I cannot overstate the importance of this to anyone considering participating next year!
  2. I explained to my family and friends what was going on a week or two before it started. “Sorry people, but I am going to be working my butt off, and I may not be sociable. It isn’t you, and I need you to understand and be supportive.” If a person isn’t willing to be understanding and supportive after you tell them that, they may not be real friends. I leave that to your judgment though.
  3. If you are writing in another world, be certain to have all the rules of this world laid out before hand. I used the world that I created for Spirit of Magik for mine (which I call Lenaria), but even so I still had to figure out some social rules that I hadn’t dealt with before. Even if your groundwork is well laid, you will likely find a particular situation you hadn’t considered while you are writing. A person can’t account for every situation, but you can at least get the big things out of the way.

I can’t guarantee every person will succeed if they follow what I say here. Success or failure is largely connected to your work ethic.

Work hard and you’ll succeed. That’s all.

There was one thing I did that reduced the number of words I cranked out per day. Each day when I sat down, I would read what I wrote the day before, and do minor revision/editing. These minor changes vastly improved what I wrote, and is largely responsible for me just squeaking past the finish line yesterday.

One of the people I was with during the virtual write in said; “Don’t edit! Just write!” While there is nothing wrong with this, I was also trying to polish it enough to send to test readers. This book is going to be a prequel to Spirit of Magik, one I hope to have on Amazon by January.

Here is my NanoWrimo page on the official site. You can see my stats, and you can send me a buddy request if you like. There is also an excerpt from the upcoming book Fugitive as well. (Please forgive the fact that it is still rough!)
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear what you think in the comments!

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Nanowrimo! Start your writing!

It’s November 1st! Yay! It is officially time for authors to start writing their butts off.

I didn’t participate in National November Writing Month last year. I was too busy finishing work on Spirit of Magik. Yes, I am working on the sequel, The Reclamation of Vox now, but I will take a short break to smash a related novella out for you guys. If I were to kill myself to finish Reclamation, my best estimate on finishing it is at least a year. So I decided it might be good to take a little break, and give you guys a novella from the World of Lanaria.

The story is related to Spirit of Magik, but it is a prequel, not a sequel. Anyone who hates prequels should complain to George Lucas. I promise there are no Gunguns to mess up my story, or plot inconsistencies to insult my readers intelligence.

Well, I am going to try to hit a minimum of two-thousand words a day, so I have some time to edit my novella. I welcome people befriending me on the Nanowrimo site also. My name there is Richard Cluff.

Also, I just purchased a cover from Ida Jansson at AmyGdala Art. I’ll post it on the Nanowrimo site in a few days. (After I get it, lol)

Here is the link to the site, if anyone needs it: Nanowrimo.org

Good luck to all of the participants, and thanks for reading! ^_^

Thinking about moving my blog

Originally posted on https://www.tumblr.com/blog/r1chard69 on 10/23/15

Hey there. I’ve had a blog for a while, and while I’ve enjoyed WordPress for the most part, I’ve noticed something disturbing; the blogs that they host require people to login to view them! That is a bit counter-productive, IMHO. I want people to be able to read what I write weather they have an account at that site or not.

This is what has lead me here, for a test post. I have had this account for a while, but it was mostly so I could follow some people so I could see more of their stuff.

Well time to post this, and look at the options on tumblr. I may start blogging here regularly!

Introductory price sale has ended

I decided when I published my book, (since it was my first book) that I would price it at .99 cents to get people to give it a try without much risk. So I did! The results were great, and I’m glad I’ve been able to introduce my work to so many people this way.

But all good things must come to an end, and so I have raised the price of Spirit of Magik to what I originally intended it to be, which is 2.99. But I don’t feel bad charging that for a book of 193,000 + words. That was a lot of work to write, re-write and edit and people can pay for that.

But fear not! There is already another promotion in the works, and I’ll come on here and tell you all about it in about a week. Until then, any who haven’t read it, you can find it here along with the great reviews!

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ZB7Q1F0?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Waiting for editing…

Well, life has been busy. So busy I haven’t been able to come on here and share my relative lack of progress.

The book is finished and the cover is done. What am I doing? Waiting for editing. My editor has been taking a while, but I can’t complain about that.

On January 25th I was in a serious car accident. I’m lucky to be here to write this, actually. My passenger was hurt worse than I was, and I felt like I had the shit beaten out of me for about a week afterwords. The car was a total loss.

Sucks to be me, huh? It gets better.

3 days later, the other car dies. Blarg. With numerous doctors appointments the following 2 weeks, we can’t be without.

So I called the one person I knew I could depend on to help me out until the other car was running again. Megan, my editor. And help us out she did. We made every appointment, and she introduced us to a mechanic that would fix the car for 1000$ less than ours.

This extra-curricular activity didn’t leave her much time for editing though. 😦

So we finally get our car back and we’re mobile under our own power. Yay! Woohoo, I can look forward to editing progress!

Nope. Megan decides that a few days after we have wheels would be the ideal time to give birth to her super-cute little squish. Damn it baby! Couldn’t you have waited just one f’n week? C’mon just one? Nope… (I fully intend to complain about the timing of her birth to her when she is old enough to appreciate it.)

If all of this hadn’t happened, the book would be out already. The fact that it isn’t has been a huge source of depression and negativity for me. I can’t be mad at Meg because of the circumstances, and all she has done. I owe her bigtime, and haven’t had the opportunity to repay that debt yet. I also know what it is like to take care of a newborn baby. It’s no picnic. But I am frustrated.

Right now, the only thing I can do is wait I guess, and work on the 2nd book even though the first isn’t even out yet. That, and try to stay positive. I’m hoping that somehow the timing of the release when it is done will work in my favor. That’s the only thing I can hope for with this now.

Girlflesh: Almost Human album review

I’m trying out a new topic today, an album review! The band Girlflesh asked for people to do reviews of her new album Almost Human, and I volunteered. I was extremely honored that she would accept me, with my humble number of followers to write this review for her.

Girlflesh. I ran into this band on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/Girlflesh Or should I say I ran into this woman on Facebook. It’s a one woman band that does it all herself. Roxxi Wallace is her name. She lives in Australia, where one of my favorite indutrial/Agro-tech duos ever came from, Angelspit. If I recall correctly, it was Angelspit’s Zoog Von Rock’s sharing her link that turned me on to her in the first place.

How to describe the sound of Girlflesh? Hmmm, that’s tough. Industrial, yes. Emotional, angry, and the lady drops the bass like nobody’s business. Her voice is like a quiet, dissonant, breathless wail that somehow manages to go so well with what she’s doing, it’s amazing. If you heard her singing alone, it wouldn’t prepare you for how perfectly it fits with her music.

The first track on Almost Human starts off sounding somewhat Bjork-esk. Then the bass drops. It reminds me of an instrumental scream for hope in a hopeless situation.

And really, that’s something I’ve found very attractive in the music of Girlflesh. It’s emotional, and feels very personal. What is really amazing to me is how her music can have that underlying tone of agony without taking you, the listener over the depressive edge. It’s like I get a look in her mind, and see the same kind of pain most people in the human condition experience. It feels like “someone else understands”. Not like “OMG, I need to go mutilate myself, I’m so much more depressed now”. (The kind of feeling I would get from some early Nine Inch Nails.)

The album overall, is great in my opinion. There is an one worth mentioning that just feels like it doesn’t really belong though: “I’m a whore of the fourth Reich”. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good song, it just doesn’t seem to roll with the rest of the album’s vibe. That being said, I won’t be skipping the track when it comes up, it’s just… out of place. I actually mentioned my misgivings about the track to her when she was nice enough to share it on her soundcloud and link it on Facebook for us. She didn’t seem to get mad, or defensive, she was more like; “You know, I was kind of thinking that too!”

And now for the positive outliers. I have to say I love the songs “Sad Birthday, Boys, and The Curse” (which makes me picture a fog covered landscape with monsters just on the edge of your peripheral vision; the kind that are gone when you look, scaring you even more. Very H.P. Lovecraft) and the title track, “Almost Human”. These songs are my personal favorites on the album. And when half of an album is so awesome you could listen to those half the day, you have a winner. Most times I’ll find when I get a new album I like half that many that much.

Overall, the album is a worthy follow-up to her debut album “Nudes”. Not too many bands can make lightning strike twice, but Roxxi Wallace did it on this one in my opinion.

I highly recommend you check out Girlflesh. You can check her out on her soundcloud here: https://soundcloud.com/girlfleshed
Her facebook is here: https://www.facebook.com/Girlflesh/timeline

And donate if you can when you download her albums! I want her to be able to tour the world! I want to go to a live show!
And more than that, I want her to be able to keep giving the gift of her music to us all. She rocks! Thank you for giving me a sneak preview of the new album, and letting me write this for you! ^_^

The story is done!

Now begins the task of revision. I have already gone through and done revisions for consistency while I was writing, but I am doing the major revisions, adding details, and going through a nitpicking list the length of my forearm.

My test readers as a group, were very happy with the ending, yay!

The lady who did the art for the in-book map finished it two days ago, and it looks awesome! (Credits and a link to her deviantart will be provided later).
I just received a draft version of my cover art from the well-known Ida Jansson of AmyGdala Design. It’s looking great so far!

All in all, everything is coming together! I’m hoping to be able to release the book in February. When I do, it will be on sale for .99 cents for the first week.

Right now it stands at 411 pages, and 190068 words. O.o

Conventions

I decided today to tackle a subject that is a matter of some debate: conventions.

And no, I’m not talking about the conventions where people congregate at a central point dressed up in costumes, or meet to enjoy the company of a like-minded crowd.

I’m talking about a normal example.

To explain what I’m talking about, I will give an example: I’m quite sure we have all read a sci-fi or fantasy book where someone decided to call coffee by another name. Caf or Kaf are commonly used to make coffee suddenly become the subject of a sci-fi or fantasy novel. As if changing the name of it changes the substance of the material. “It’s space coffee now man!”

The main argument for this practice is immersion. Many authors believe that in order to make their novel more gripping, that when something occurs on another world, the names of everything we know need to be changed to reflect this.

This is not an untrue point of view. If it is another world, logically nothing would be the same.

But extending the logical point, there wouldn’t be any humans either. Authors sometimes explain the presence of humans, sometimes they don’t. If the story is good enough, it isn’t critical.

Then there is my own point of view: if it is essentially coffee, why change the name? What is the point? I have had this discussion with a few people, and they generally say: “But, immersion man!”
I generally say: “I’m not going to be the one-thousandth author to call coffee caf.”

That being said, sometimes there is a point to changing the name. A good example is the Shadowrun universe, set in the dark future of earth. Coffee is so rare that a single cup would cost crazy amounts of money (if it could even be found), so they have what they call “Soy-caf”. This development is a part of the world built for Shadowrun, and is necessary for the reader to be aware of at all times. This is not a gratuitous replacement of a word to turn coffee into “space coffee”. There is actually a point to it, which I completely agree with.

Then you have the flip-side though: where people change the names of everything in order to reinforce their world. And I mean everything: from coffee, to rats, dogs, cats, the days of the week, months, all of it. I do have to give those authors a round of applause. It is quite a monumental undertaking, not one for the faint of heart.

I have read a few book series this kind of monumental undertaking has occurred in. It definitely does have the effect of reminding me continuously “I’m not in Texas anymore!” But little more than that. I find myself often when one of the new conventions comes into play, that I have to stop and think; “What the heck was that again?” until I grow accustomed to that thing.

Which completely destroys my immersion, defeating the entire point of undertaking the monumental task in the first place.

This affects accessibility. The ease with which a reader can just start reading and enjoying the story.

I have decided for myself that I will not rename anything that doesn’t function differently. Including the months, and days of the week. If the creature is a quadraped that eats garbage, carrion, and carries disease, I will call it a rat, because that is what it is. When I create something unique, it will be because it does not already exist, drastically reducing the amount of things people have to remember in order to enjoy the story.

If I ever have a reason to discuss the constellations, I feel I will have to rename those, because what ancient people saw in the stars was related to their society and experiences, which is significantly different on my world. And of course the patterns of the stars would be different being on a different world and all.

But as a general rule, my idea is to call coffee coffee and leave it at that.

If anyone has any feelings, or points of view they would like to share, feel free!

Music while writing

I don’t know about other writers, but for me when I’m writing music is important.

When I’m not writing, I listen to a much different selection than I do when I am writing. I am very musically diverse though. I often listen to industrial as my music of choice, as well as a few heavy metal bands.

Examples include, but are not limited to: Skinny Puppy, Angelspit, CombiChrist, MSI, Ministry, NIN, Otep, Godsmack and Gwar.

When I am writing though, my choice of music either reflects my mood, or attempts to enhance what I am feeling while I am writing.

This story has been pretty emotional and very heavy in spots. The music I have listened to nearly the entire time has reflected that completely. I have listened to four artists nearly the whole time.

Florence and the Machine. She put it well when Florence Welch said: “Sex, violence, love, death, are the topics that I’m constantly wrestling with, it’s all connected back to religion.” A lot of people don’t recognize that these topics are often the subject of their music. It fits very well with my story.

Lana Del Ray. Her stuff is DARK. Very fitting. Not sure what more to say about that, lol.

Yuki Kajiura. Specifically I’ve been listening to the Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magika soundtracks from the TV series and the newest movie: the Rebellion story. The music is really well done, and has a good mix of light and dark moods.

I’ve put the three mentioned above in a playlist and listen to it often while writing my story.

One more worth mentioning though is Audiomachine. I play them when I’m doing battle scenes. Their stuff is hard driven and intense. It is really easy to envision a mass battle occurring while I listen to them.

To me, the right music for what I am writing is very important. It helps me set my mood, and enhances my visual imagination of what is occurring.

How important is the right music to you when you are writing?

Things my favorite authors do that drive me nuts

I am about to commit multiple counts of blasphemy, please forgive me if I happen to list your favorite author. But remember, I did say favorite authors. I love their work even if there are a few things they do that really irritate me. Several of these things relate specifically to a certain series; there are very few authors that I have read their entire body of work.

Most of these are things that have shaped my own writing style: I say to myself, “Don’t do that! It drives me nuts!”

Michael Moorcock

I loved the Elric of Melnibone series, the action sequences were fast, and visceral. Yet there were a couple of glaring things that bothered me even when I was a young man.

First; the lack of detail. I can’t tell you how many times I would have to re-read something 3-4 times just to figure out what the author was trying to tell me. He wasn’t clear many times, and other times would simply make an assumption that wasn’t detailed in the story and run with it.

Second; was the lack of societal development for the Melnibonian people, and the development of his main character, Elric. When Elric would do something completely alien to human sensibilities he would write something like “Melnibonians were not human, and did not have their sensibilities.” He would use that and similar phrasing to bypass that lack of development when what his character did made absolutely no sense whatsoever. I’ve read the series 3-4 times now, and still can’t tell you why the heck he ended up leading the pirates to the city to burn it. It would have been nice to have some development so I could have SOME idea of why.

Terry Goodkind

I loved the Sword of Truth series, and I would recommend it to anyone. Fantastic stuff, and it had one of the best bad guys ever written; Darken Rahl. He would use Darth Vader like a cheap blow-up girlfriend.

But… the monologues. Oh my goodness, the further you go into the series (after book six it becomes really noticeable) Richard will jump up on his soapbox and preach it. Which is cool… to a point. In the eighth book in particular you have to go through several multiple page monologues that pretty much say the exact same thing that he has been saying all along.

Thanks man… I got it the first time.

Robert Jordan (I’m about to get my first hate letter!!!! Yay!)

The Wheel of time is great. The one thing I admire about Robert Jordan is his ability to write complex, convincing female characters. I have never read another male author that could do it as well as he can.

But.. he is the absolute opposite end of the spectrum from Michael Moorcock. He goes into so much detail, he will literally write an entire paragraph (I’m not joking!) about the fly that just landed on his character. And then, when it comes to an action scene (where the detail really matters) none of that care is to be found. Instead of telling you how a person moved and skewered their opponent, he will use a pretty metaphor: “He quickly dropped into the thrashing walrus form and readied for his attack.”

Ewww…

And finally, let’s see how much hate I can generate.

George R.R. Martin (I’ll get a death threat for this one…)

The Chronicles of Fire and Ice are very well known now, at least they are when you simply say: “Game of Thrones”.

I loved George’s “let’s do what nobody expects” attitude. “I’ll kill off a main character!”, Ok. Ned Stark’s death was great, it was awesome, it moved the story and the remaining characters forward. And it was unexpected.

Then… he just keeps doing it. The shock value was pretty well lost after Rob Stark’s death. I don’t mind killing characters really, but it doesn’t mean anything anymore. It isn’t moving the story, and it’s no longer shocking. It has gotten to the point where after the fifth book here, if the people that looked like they were dead are dead… I don’t care enough about any of the characters that are left to bother buying the book. I’ll read it second hand, thank you.

The other complaint about the series is that there seems to be very little actually occurring in regards to the unifying plot: which is the Chronicles of Fire and Ice. The conflict between the White Walkers and the fire Priests of ror-ror or whatever his name is. The amount of story that has been devoted to that plot isn’t even half the size of the first book if you remove everything else. He knows this, and has padded the entire thing with several unrelated subplots; some of which are great reads. The others you find yourself plodding through just so you can get back to the characters that matter to you. (Since he has had to toss in a bunch of new characters you don’t give a damn about in order to repopulate.)

But for me, I have to care about a character to continue to read a book. And like I said, he’s managed to pretty much kill them all off now.

These things that have bugged the heck out of me have made me specifically make my “Don’t do that!” list.
Does anyone have an author they have read that has made them put something or their “Don’t do” list? I’d like to hear it!