Goodbye and Hello

2018 has come and gone, and as the dust of the year passing settles, it is time to look back and examine what I set out to achieve, and how I fared against that target. It is also time to take pause, and think about the things to come, the things I would like to accomplish by the end of the year ahead.

At the start of the year I set out a number of goals I wished to achieve on my other blog, Castle by Moonlight. There I wrote down a number of somewhat lofty goals – to keep up the freelance work, to blog twice a month, at least, and to draft a novel. Hmm… Let’s start with the negatives, and hopefully end on a better note.

I completely failed at my goal of writing a novel. I have outlines for two novels, wrote a novella, and a couple of short stories, but I did not make tangible progress on a novel. Why? It is partly due to vacillation. Not picking a story idea and running with it. It is partly due to prioritising freelance work, and not making time for my own fiction. It is partly due to procrastination, not using the time I did have effectively. All of these are things I need to change for the coming year, because yes, writing a novel is going to feature in my goals for the coming year. I’m like a moth to a flame… as they say.

My blogging goal was to write at least two blog posts a month, and then I went and starting this blog, splitting my attention between Castle by Moonlight and here. It did not go well. Sure I wrote 18 posts on Castle by Moonlight (petering out in July), and 19 posts here. Sure, combined that is well more than two posts a month. But I haven’t felt settled. I’m not sure still whether to maintain both blogs, abandon this one, or that one, and focus on the one remaining. I get more readers on Castle by Moonlight, but I also wanted to start a blog that was less gaming orientated and more the beginnings of a vaunted ‘Writer’s Website’ (capitals required). I’m not sure what to do on this front, perhaps me posting this here is a subconscious clue I should pay heed to, but I’ve never been much good at introspection.

Freelancing. This fared better in 2018, and I submitted somewhere around 135,000 words all told, pretty much all for the Infinity RPG from Modiphius. This included a campaign of five adventures, and various contributions to about seven books. How it will fare in 2019 is anyone’s guess, the list of books to be written for the Infinity RPG is nearing completion. I have work (I hope), for Red Scar that I am looking forward to immensely, but as for more, who can say.

Unforeseen projects… Somewhere around November last year I was wanting to role play some more, I was between projects, nothing to playtest for Infinity, and the prospect of work for other companies upcoming, but unsecured. I didn’t want to start a new campaign (though I have plenty of unplayed games on my shelf), in case work did pop up that required testing… what to do? Ahh, the obvious answer: write your own setting and role playing game!

Well, I didn’t see it coming, but around mid-November last year, in whatever fit of madness took me, I started to write my own RPG. I have a number of complete and semi-complete games sitting on the shelf, but this is a project that draws on the experiences of the last five to ten years working in and around the games industry, and particularly the last three to four in the role playing sphere.

Within a short space of time I hammered out about seven or eight dice systems (I have finally settled on one, though further testing may change this), and developed a setting I rather like. I wrote the system, some setting notes, and the character creation system, and have managed a test session with my local group. I am thrilled with how it is coming together, and there are some aspects of character creation that tie to world building that I am particularly proud of. How this will develop, or where it will go, is something I haven’t decided as yet, but it is in development, and I look forward to developing it further.

Well, that is the introspective stuff done, the goodbye to 2018. I think I’ll save my look forward, the probing prognostication regarding the coming year, till the next post. I hope you don’t mind, gentle reader, but you will have to wait with baited breath…

Walk Before I Run

One of the variety of podcasts on writing I have been thoroughly enjoying is the Creative Penn Podcast, hosted by Joanna Penn, indie author and creative entrepreneur. It is a wealth of good advice and information, and I recommend it to anyone interested in writing. I typically listen in the car, which has the significant downside of making it hard to pause, stop, or take notes; something I regularly find myself wanting to do.

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Click on the image for a link to the Creative Penn Podcast

A recent episode (episode number 354) was an interview with Douglas Smith on making money writing short fiction. While the making money part was certainly of interest, the episode covered a range of topics applicable to short and long fiction and was an excellent listen. It also got me thinking.

I wrote in my last post about setting the goal of writing a novel manuscript over the course of this year. While this is certainly my end goal, I have been wondering, since listening to the Creative Penn, whether I should start the year by writing some shorter pieces of fiction.

Almost all my writing over the last five years has been game related. Some technical writing, working on rule sets such as Halo Fleet Battles or Dystopian Wars Fleet Action. Some short fiction, working on the background stories for the Proteus Prime and Return of the Overseers games for Spartan Games, and a whole lot of background or setting material for the Infinity Role Playing Game.

While there has been some fiction in there it has been vastly dwarfed by the other types of writing. Coming back to writing fiction again is somewhat daunting, even though that’s where I began. I am thinking of writing a couple of pieces of short fiction to kick things off and get back into the feeling of writing fiction again. It should let me experiment a little and play around, without me worrying that I am ruining or struggling to manage what ‘should be’ my novel. I’ll go through the plotting process I am thinking of using for my novels too, and this will let me get a feel for what works for me and what doesn’t. What skills and thought processes I need to build up, and where I feel comfortable.

I am thinking of this as ‘walking before I attempt to run’. The end goal is the run, of course, but the walking will hopefully help me sort through my processes a little before I make the larger attempt.

 

 

First Steps

First post on a new blog. This blog dedicated to writing. This year I have set myself the goal (somewhat lofty perhaps) of writing a novel manuscript. This blog is my reflection space, not just for my journey as I write this, but also a place to record the challenges I face along the way, the failures, the successes and the resources and sources of inspiration that help me push forward. I’ll also be writing about the freelance writing I do from time to time (and if you’re interested, you can see what I’ve worked on on my Bibliography page, link in the menu above).

2018. A new year. It is traditional to set goals at the start of the year, and for the last few years this is exactly what I’ve been doing on my other blog, Castle by Moonlight (which is mainly a space I spend my time writing about games).

As I wrote above, my goal for this year is to write a novel manuscript. This is something I have done before, I have two or three novels on my hard drive in various stages of completion. This year my aim is to start, and to finish. With the emphasis on the finish. I have ideas, too many in fact. Like many I flit from one to the next, landing only briefly before flying to the next shiny idea on the horizon. This is where my first steps begin.

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I’ve been listening lately to a lot of podcasts about writing, reading books about writing, writing freelance, and thinking about writing. It’s time for me to pick an idea, expand on it, and write it.

The last book I read on the subject of writing was Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder. If you are an aspiring or experienced writer you’ve probably read it too, and if you haven’t, go and order a copy. It’s worth it. Admittedly it’s about screen-writing, but it is, nonetheless, an excellent book.

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I’ll spend some time writing some thoughts about this book in another post, but with the novel I am planning to write this year, I’ve decided to follow the lead of Synder, and plan the story structure out in greater detail than I have before.

So what have I done in my first steps toward this goal of mine? First, I wrote out the most recent set of ideas I’ve had for stories. Some are science fiction, some fantasy, some… I’m not sure how to categorise. I picked three, which ended up being six, and fleshed them out with a tag line (a single sentence or two that summarises the story), and a few paragraphs on the plot outline. I added some description of the main characters (whether they be protagonists, antagonists, heroes, villains or whatever), and some thoughts on the themes and ideas running through the stories.

Then I annoyed some friends. I asked politely, and they agreed through gritted teeth, to listen to these six ideas as pitches. They asked questions, I answered as best I could (and sometimes couldn’t), and generally chewed them over in discussion. I have to admit I was nervous at doing this, not that my friends were going to be cruel and laugh and point and say terrible things. But that they would find them lacklustre, uninteresting, dull, stupid, and that they wouldn’t tell me.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t ask whether they thought they were brilliant ideas (what a thing to ask a friend), but I did ask them – ‘if these were books, or movies, which would you prefer to see/read?’

The general idea here wasn’t to gather some platitudes and compliments, some hazy non-committal but always polite confirmation that all my ideas are wonderful – I know they’re not. Just the act of saying them out-loud to someone else was enough for me to grimace and pull a few from the list, and nearly all have been revised since. The idea was to get a feel for which I could explain the best, which I was most excited to talk about, and which I had most answers for. The idea was to gather any criticism and look at it, and modify accordingly where I felt it was required. Lastly the idea was to cut six ideas down to one.

Well, I haven’t managed that yet. I have cut six ideas down to three, though; so I’m halfway there. My aim in the next few days is to expand the outlines a little and settle on one to write.

Once I have the one, my next step to to start working on the plot outline, the character arcs, and the story beats. I even bought myself a shiny new pin-board to help me lay it all out, to see it, to play with the structure and change it, tighten it and hone it. Once I have that done, it will be time for the next phase…