Aspiring author and random thinker

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On Writing: Expression

Again I am posting to say that I have not been working on my books for over a week now. It has been busy for me, but I am fortunate enough to be required to exercise writing as part of my studies. In other words, I have been unintentionally practicing.

I received an interesting mail today regarding one of the projects I’m currently working on. The contents included a short message and a draft for one of the group projects we am required to submit this week. With no intention to work on it at the moment, for I still have not done my morning workout, I decided to oblige to my curiosity and take a quick look. Needless to say, I was unimpressed.

The paragraphs are doing a poor work at explaining the meaning behind them, it was a total mess. Then, trying to look at the bright side, I suddenly realized that this is just the type of test I was waiting for. I did mention in one of my previous posts that I wanted to learn how to edit so that I could further improve my writing skills. That is my chance to formally edit and submit a piece of writing for academic review. That is the chance I have been waiting for.

I have no doubts that by now you are wondering about the purpose of this post, so I will simply tell you: Never will your time spent on a hobby be wasted, for the nature of life offers many challenges that can be solved with an infinite amount of methods and using a wide range of skills. Writing, like any other hobby, is a tool that offers you an alternate way to express yourself. Writing is the mind’s way of saying what it wants to say.


On Writing: Sleep & Creativity

I discovered today that writing is not like a usual creative art, you need to be 100% awake to write. I haven’t been sleeping very well lately and thought, wrongly, that perhaps this would stir my creativity. I spent an entire hour looking at my screen incapable of amassing the sufficient concentration needed to write. Interesting ideas, however, have not made themselves scarce, so I wrote them down to review them later.

Here is my latest map for Nosgard – the main continent in my series.Nosgard

On Writing: Interesting Discovery

Lately I have been traveling a lot and practically delegated all of my work to the partners. This made my schedule a little too…strange. My day has been practically flipped, since it is completely in my hands. Basically, there was no order whatsoever to my sleep schedule and time-management has bee a wreck due to all the different places, times and procedures that adhere to no specific schedule. Some days I slept for 2 hours, others for 9. Waking up ranged from 5 am to 3 pm, not taking the fact that I spent half of this month in Turkey where the work schedule is completely different than what I am used to, and a mere hour between both times.

Today, I woke up at around 6 am and felt an urge to read and write – I always read before writing for some mysterious reason, or write after reading – and picked up ‘The Lord of the Flies’, which entertained me more than I expected, then decided to write in the balcony, for a change.

My balcony has a spectacular 180 degrees view which is made possible by being completely enclosed in glass. Needless to say, it is a fairly spectacular view which, unfortunately, I have been used to. However, today was different. As soon as I comfortably seated myself on the couch which I rarely make contact with, the words suddenly popped in my head and into my typing peripherals – I used this term just in case there are any alien readers with tentacles instead of fingers. A mere hour later, I found myself sitting on 2k words and still wanting to write. This was the first time in two weeks that my writing flowed smoothly.

I personally attribute this discovery to one simple factor, sun. I know it gets annoying when the light is reflected from the screen and it becomes difficult to read whatever is written on this recent piece of technology. The heat is also a factor which requires addressing via a fan or air conditioner. Nevertheless, if you experience writers block or simply feel demotivated, I suggest you try taking your craft to a comfortable sun-touched place.

On Writing: Perspectives and Scopes

My first attempt at writing a novel had a bunch of elements which made it extremely difficult for me to patch up. It is not a well written book nor does it have a Golden Idea, but it has enough content to write an entire series about.

There were two big mistakes which I did and failed to learn from at the time, but at the moment, considering my journey so far, I am glad that I have made them – this way I can reflect back on the experience and learn from it instead of guessing what its like.

Errors are inescapable, and mine were many and will continue to be so for a long time. I attempted to juggle a story between no less than five perspectives which crisscrossed together throughout the story. Needless to say, it was a feat too advanced for my baby skills. In addition to having confused the hell out of me when trying to time the events of each character so that it would make sense for them to meet, I had to write a story for each character. The content was immense for a new writer as it is, although I only managed to squeeze about 120,000 words in, considering that a new world had to be created and its rules set.

The second fault was the scope. Epic fantasies have to have epic scopes. At first, and without any research regarding this hobby I had just picked, I thought that writing would be easy as long as my imagination was working. Writing, however, ended up being far less about imagination than about logical deduction and expression. If you cannot express a plot which would lead to a logical conclusion, regardless of genre, then you fail as a writer, or at least perform poorly.

My suggestion to any aspiring authors, or simply someone interested in writing novels, is to avoid writing from more than one perspective until you have acquainted yourself with writing a little more. I would not be so bold as to set the bar at writing 1,000,000 words, considering that I myself am not doing that, but perhaps after writing at least one novel. Although, if you try it and avoid getting quitting due to disappointment of your work, it would surely teach you something, if not initially then later.

I am proud of my first book, unpublished as it will always remain, because it marked a huge step towards my learning of this new craft. I can safely say that without it, I would be less than what I am now.

On Writing: Book III

The second book is undergoing a final revision and should be ready to publish within two weeks, if not sooner. However, I can’t sit idle while this little process goes on. So I decided to prepare the third book – which I had planned in my head for a while now.

I’ve learnt a great deal from my first two stories, and from two dozen short stories which yet remain to be published, but I don’t expect any of my work to be of high-enough standard for traditional publishing (I read somewhere that once you reach your 1,000,000th word you start writing well enough for traditional publisher standards – I am at my 300,00oth word so far).

Anyway, this post is not about publishing, rather about the process I am using for this third book.

Anyone who has been reading my posts so far knows that I am currently focusing on epic fantasy, yet reading a wide spectrum of genres. Nevertheless, I believe that my process is not tailored to the genre, except for the map-making process which helps me keep track of the events.

I picked an approach very similar to that of the third part of the second book, a fairly detailed modular outline which includes most major elements of the story. The outline serves as a guideline for the story, but I often deviate from it should a better scenario or idea arise. The modular approach is great for keeping the writing process interesting and making it amiable enough for any future ideas that might develop. It also allows for a chance to alter the story to a more interesting direction than the intended one and keep it coherent in terms of events.

For example, I have already prepared the outline for the first part (5 chapters) of the book and started writing the story (4,000 words so far). However, while I was working on the writing process itself, after the initial and only intended outline was complete, I found that the sub-chapters would make more sense if juggled around.

The outline itself is split into two parts for each chapter. The first is a clear bullet-point format for the following (6) elements, the goal of the chapter, the idea I wish to convey (I try to conform to a short-story format during the chapters to always have a distinct idea to convey at the end of the chapter – usually political or philosophical), the requirements necessary for the accomplishment of the goal, the methods by which the goal is to be completed, the conditions required for the fulfillment of the goal, and any key explanations I intend to convey (these are usually elements occurring in the timeline which do not directly stem from the actions of the main character/s). The second part is a summary-like version of the sub-chapters (I usually number the events by their sequence). With the combination of these two outline elements, I get to breeze through the story writing a possible 1,000 or 2,000 words an hour, depending on the mood. However, the outline itself takes a day to finish for each part and an additional day or two to revise.

Finally, I decided to skip the dramatis personae because, unlike the second book, there are a few new main characters. Nevertheless, I keep a short one prepared to record any necessary information about the characters as I write. For this book, I work on the dramatis personae preparation process in parallel to the writing process.

To make things clear, I have no idea how long this book will be, nor do I have any idea how it will end. All that I know now are the main idea I wish to convey, the theme of the book, and the events for the first part. These three ‘known’ variables you just read are all prone to change within limits, especially the main idea that I tend to downgrade and replace as soon as a better one comes up.

It is with great difficulty that I explain my process and record this journey, but perhaps it would be made easier once my book is available and these posts relate to something more than just a man behind a mysterious screen.

Good luck with whatever endeavor you seek to embark on.

On Writing: Finished Book II

I just finished the first draft of my second book today.

Unlike the first book which had been written as two separate stories and combined, the second one was planned in a more detailed manner. Before writing this one, I did an adequate amount of research to develop my characters properly and wrote a summarized biography on each one of them – this ended being around 5,500 words and took two days worth of work.

I then prepared a simple outline for the first chapter and started working. This book is three parts and, unfortunately, the process changed significantly during the writing. For the first two parts, I wrote the chapter outline for each chapter separately then finished off the chapter. Going with this method for 10 chapters, 5 for each part, I managed to keep myself interested in writing the story as well as have its events flow smoothly, relatively.

By the time I reached the 65,000 words, I began getting really bored by the story and found that I was pushing through the writing process as if it was a chore. As a result the quality of writing deteriorated in the middle of the story, and it took a rather depressing turn away from the light one I intended it to have, but the sequence of events seemed to be flowing as I intended.

For the first two parts, the outline reached 6,500 words (about 1:10 ratio to the content) and was explaining key events appropriately. As for the third and final part, I decided to tackle it with a different way, one inspired by what I learnt from writing short stories. I spent around a week preparing two outlines. The first was a general outline which included the following elements for the part: (1) Goal, (2) Requirements, (3) Methods, (4) Conditions, (5) Issues/Problems, and (6) Key Explanations. The outline had all the elements I wanted to cover summarized in 1,600 words. This general outline was then expanded to a detailed outline which included all of these elements for each chapter with an exception of (6) Key Explanations which was saved for the final wrap-up chapter. For every chapter a brief summary was written and then expanded into individual sub-chapters for it. I attempted to include a moral concept or an interesting idea in each chapter while linking it to the main plot. An attempt to make each chapter stand-alone was made, but with little success. The detailed outline ended up being 8,500 words.

Overall, I found that the best method for me two write is not to tackle the book as a free-writing discovery type of literature, but to slowly move in short outlined modules. This way enables me to plan a decent outline while keeping the creativity factor alive, hence preventing me from being bored with the project. For me, the trick is to outline a maximum of five chapters ahead and deviate from it with limitations. Most importantly, I found that the quality of writing and interest factor for the author and reader increases the more the content stimulates the thinking process – as long as it does not make either process exhausting.

Starting from tomorrow, I will be proofreading and editing the first draft of the first part to make sure the story remains consistent with the end. Unlike the first book, I will be starting on my second draft immediately and delay the one-month-break process to the third draft, if I decide to continue with it.

I read somewhere that writers start producing high-quality work after their millionth word, and that is the goal I intend to reach within the next two years. So far I have written slightly over 250,000 words of unedited story content.

On Writing: Interesting Observation

Ever since I took up writing as a hobby, reading has become a much more interesting activity. Naturally, the more you read good quality work, the more your writing improves – somewhat. However, it does not substitute practicing the hobby itself.

One of my earliest attempts to actively improve my writing skills was by reading a certain type of written material and attempting to incorporate elements from it within my designated piece for the day. For example, I practiced by reading Beowulf and attempted to write using a similar modified style immediately afterwards. Eventually, I forgot about actively seeking to develop and discover my writing style and just enjoyed the material I read.

While going through some of my older work, I noticed how dramatically my style had changed. Slowly, but steadily, my writing style changed into a combination of different techniques, elements, and my own personal – genetically ascribed if you will – style.

To simply put it, I observed that the more you read and write, the less your writing gets affected by the most recent content you read.

On Writing: Outline

I wrote my first story (75,000 words) without using an outline and completed it in just under a month. I enjoyed writing and often sought to make time during my day to write. There were the occasional days where I managed to write 10,000 words and others where I wrote none.

However, I thought that my story seemed a little foggy in terms of plot development, in spite of the reviewers telling me that it was fine. Due to the self-non-satisfying plot development, I decided to prepare an outline for my second story before writing it. It went smoothly as I started off and motivated me to keep on writing, but as I got deeper into the story its shining faded away. Finishing it started to feel like a chore.

Eventually I decided to merge the first and second volumes into one bigger book of 120,000 words. Nevertheless, the stop between both books as well as the improvement in my writing skills gave me the impressions that he style changes drastically by the end.

The third and current project was my final and most successful attempt at making the plot smooth (so far). Instead of preparing the outline in one sitting before I start to write, I decided to prepare each chapter’s outline just before writing it. This method cost me the flow of the story a little as my ideas and concepts about the story develops. However, it does help keeping me motivated to write and continue with the story. Each chapter is dedicated to part of the protagonist’s journey with a complete set of story elements. In other words, each chapter feels more like a short story which ties into the main plot.

So far the biggest challenges I met in writing long stories were (1) keeping my goals in perspective, (2) keeping motivated to write, (3) finding appropriate historical figures or myths to base the lore on, and (4) preparing a smooth outline that dictates the story flow.

Although my journey as an amateur writer had just begun, I already feel it improving me.

On Writing: Progress and Notes

About a month ago I decided to start working on my second book and set a goal to write at least 1,000 words a day. Although it seemed an easy task to do, the process of daily writing is incredibly challenging.

Yesterday was one of my most ‘blanky’ days. I spent at least two hours staring at my computer in an attempt to squeeze out the outline of my first chapter (Since I have been preparing the outline for each chapter just before writing it as I mentioned before). Eventually I managed to complete a half descent one, but it did not please me, and I am contemplating re-writing it before I start working on the chapter itself. However, I do realize that at my low writing skill-level there is no way for me to complete a novel with no imperfect chapters.

The dilemma I am currently facing is to proceed or not to proceed (that is my question).

On Writing: Two Things

After going through the finished chapters of my second book, I noticed that I forgot most of what I wrote. Interesting enough, my work grants me insight about myself. It is like I am getting to know who I am.

Today has been a difficult writing day for me, not because I don’t know what to write, but because I don’t feel like writing. Trying to force myself through the 2k words I promised myself to write every day, hoping it won’t affect the quality of my work.