Writing overload?

I was not writing much (more like not at all) in November, but I got back to it in December. I knew I should have “a bit of time” for more writing between Christmas and New Year. In fact, I was decided that I’ll most likely spend the evening (and waiting for fireworks) writing, because I like solitude and it felt like the most enjoyable way to spend the evening.

It went better than expected. Since 20th December, I pushed out whooping 14,5 chapters at even more scary 42.000 words. I needed 32 hours of “work time” to do that. I don’t think that any other writing rush was this strong, and that includes when I was heavily procrastinating my bachelor’s thesis back in April 2016.

Well, now to where a problem new to me arose: I casually returned home half an hour after midnight on 1st, took a shower and went to sleep. More like I went to wait for sleep that did not come. My mind was constantly whirling, thinking about the story and what comes next. In the end, I managed to fall asleep around 3:00. Maybe seven hours of writing without anything else than toiler breaks were not as good idea as it looked at first…

…but I never learn, do I? I was writing a bit more yesterday (I think it was some 4-5 hrs) and even though I went to sleep at my usual time, I was still twisting around in my bed until I guess 1:30.

It’s great feeling to write and knowing that it keeps going, but I feel like my brain needed several hours to, in computer terms, terminate all the background processes related to it and finally shut down.

I hope I’ll avoid that today, though who knows. Today I added four more hours and 2,5 chapters to make the final count mentioned above. I plan to take a week of break from writing, partially because I have an exam the next week, but it’s not like I was ever good in forcing myself to NOT do something that brings me joy.

Thoughts about chapter names

Something I noticed lately was that vast majority of the books I’ve been reading only had chapter numbers, very rarely the chapters were named. During my recent thoughts, I’ve found that quite surprising.

Truth is that in this year, I was mostly reading self-published books that were in the 200-400 pages range and so it was not as important. If a book can be read in single evening, then it’s not as likely someone will try to find a specific passage to look at. I’ve realized that as reader, there might not be much benefit from named chapters.

That changes a lot when I shift to writer perspective, and that’s where my surprise comes from. The idea that I would be going through my draft without chapter names, trying to find a specific moment I needed to have a look on, is scary.

But then I thought about it again. Maybe the reason why it feels scary is on my side again, because of the sheer size into which I let my ideas expand – I am now somewhere around 450.000 words summed across book 0,5 (40k), book 1 (230k) and maybe 70% of book 2 (170k) + notes and bits that were cut already. Sometimes, I need to find a specific scene to look at. I am quite sure that just with chapter numbers, I’d be lost. Chapter names are pain to come up with, but I found them really helpful when I need to find something. And even though I do (and will do more) complete proof-reads myself before going to some kind of beta stage, I know that some parts were trickier to write than others and require several closer looks.

Well, I’ll end this random jumble of thoughts here I guess…

Fantasy thoughts: Elite law enforcement units

This time, I’ll be sharing my thoughts about “elite law enforcement units” in fantasy. What I mean is something like American SWAT units and similar special teams in any other country. In fantasy, that will of course have different forms, but several things are shared: when you see them, they should induce respect on sight with heavy gear and reputation of extremely skilled and powerful troops that are used to counter the biggest threats.

Maybe Aurors from Harry Potter series could be used as example, but as you’ll see, for my story I went different way.

Also, this will probably be the first post where I share details from my story – but not about the plot, not yet.

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First draft done, many to go

Two months ago, I wrote a post about reaching a tough decision in my writing attempt(s). Eventually, what I considered the hard way won, and I decided to pull out the prologue of the book to separate piece with as much detail as it deserves. I hope and wished I would have the first draft done by the end of the year, but I am bad judge of my capabilities in that regard, and it was threatened a lot when I wrote very little during November.

I had some more chances in December and yesterday I finished the first draft. In two months, which sounds quite fast, but some part of it was extending what I already had. Then, the rest was being created from scratch. Anyway, as of now the first draft is at almost 40.000 words, which sounds like really nice progress in two months of which one had no progress at all.

Now, it has much more left to do. There are still placeholder names (I really hate my ‘creativity’ when it comes to names) and some other things that will require my attention to make it as good as I can, which I guess will require two or three more drafts at least. How fast will that go I don’t dare to say, I only know that I’ll now take a break, read a book or three (I already blazed through one today, review will come later this week) and then return to it.

Maybe, by the end of winter, I might have something more to share than just terribly unspecific posts. I hope so. Maybe I can have it ready in late summer 2018. That would be even better.

Storytelling thoughts: Signature ability

Even though characters might have a wide array of abilities in their arsenal, in the key moments, some might ten to use something they know well, even more if it helped them out of sticky situations in a while. It can also say more about their characters as bad guys usually tend to use ‘instakill’ attacks, showing no emotion or remorse when using them (hello, Voldemort!).

For the good guys, the choice can be telling more about them, especially if they are forced to fight someone they don’t want to kill for any reason. Here, I could even mention the reprogrammed T-800 from Terminator 2 movie who, after being commanded to not kill anyone, was shooting people in the leg to cause non-lethal injury that would reliably prevent pursuit. Of course, this case is heavily seasoned with the cold approach of computers and finding the most efficient solution.

Now, I’ll move to my own experience. These days, it’s around 15 years since my first ideas and as it was not until 2015 I started to put the pieces together, the story went through several iterations in the early concept phases. The main hero and everything about him – skill set, personality, role, friends and family – went through at least four stages before I started writing, each having their own pluses and minuses.

In the early stages, the main hero – who still lacked even placeholder name, fact made easier by the fact I looked at the story through his eyes – was a warrior that somehow learned a few magic tricks, which allowed him to surprise his opponents and enemies. How many and how powerful these skills were changed a lot over time.

Due to his lower age, I wanted to show both the willing to risk by toying with magic (something very rare for a warrior) and unwillingness to kill. The risk element was even more in the fast that his signature move at that time was lightning strike that he learned to use on power that would stun or knock out the enemy, but without fatal damage.

It was much later when I decided to take slightly different approach to his skills (I guess maybe around 2012) and turned him into a paladin instead. Since then to maybe some late 2016, I was solidifying what I wanted his approach and skills to be.

In one of the iterations, he had a skill I later gave working name ‘final judgement’. The effect was that the victim was frozen in time for a split second during which he was judged by higher powers. If he was found evil, his soul was sent straight to hell and the body died while on (mostly) innocent person the effect was only short-term confusion. The reason I eventually scrapped that idea was that with powerful spells like that, it kills variety. When you have something that can destroy demon with a single incantation, why know more?

I’ll still not mention all his skills, but for now only one. It is my take on the iconic World of Warcraft skill, Hammer of Justice/Fist of Justice. The spell creates a spectral fist that he aims for the chest, the result being that the person’s breath is knocked out, leaving him temporarily unable to fight, which is great tool for capturing targets.

If the victim needs to die? Well, paladin is still a warrior, even if empowered by divine power, and he can still use his sword to lethal damage. As time passes, he learns more abilities for both offense and defense, but it’s not the time to mention them yet.

Back at writing, for a while

I did not do much when it comes to writing since some late October. The reasons were mixed, ranging from lack of inspiration through lack of time to problems with computer. Even my thoughts aimed at the story were utterly unproductive.

That finally changed in the last days. I wrote a bit – a page or so – the last week in a short while. What helped me more was the last Saturday, the walk through the misty and gloomy November forests and visiting a museum when reaching the destination. I had some ideas during the walk, which I wrote down shortly after I returned home, just in case.

Today, I hit it hard. After a month of pretty much nothing, I finished the chapter I started writing in late October and two more right after totaling almost 7000 words in some 6 hours. I guess it’ll be a pain when I get to revising it as I tend to make typos in these situations, but I can deal with that. With a bit of luck, I should be able to write a chapter or two tomorrow and have a bit of time for it two days in the next week. It gives me good feeling, and hope that I’ll be with it where I’d like to be at the end of the year.

And if someone would think that my thoughts were organized and focused only on the part of the story I am just writing… NOPE. Some of them (fortunately, most) were, but as it tends to be, some were about what happens much later and some regarding the backstory that happens much earlier and is classified as ‘potential prequel material’. Curse me, right?

Placeholder: blessing or curse?

This is a thought that returned to me today: is using placeholders (mostly for names) when writing a blessing or a curse? Can it get out of hand or backfire?

When I started working on my fantasy story, even before writing, I knew that naming the characters will be probably the hardest part. I always had troubles with coming up with names, even for my game characters, especially in World of Warcraft, Diablo 3 or even The Sims…

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