thinkinglazy

Aspiring author and random thinker

Tag Archives: reading

On Writing: The Hidden Process

The title of this post is fairly misleading, but I like it and it stays. It has been some time since I had some ‘finished stories’ (do not mistake them for published books or even finished ones) and every once and a while I am forced to return to a section or two of those ‘finished stories’. However, I noticed that the amount of things I wish to change only keep increasing and I am also well aware that my skill so far is inadequate to produce what I want, at least what I think I want.

Amateur writers, such as myself, pick up the hobby and start writing their supposedly brilliant stories, according to them of course, with no regard or idea about how to complete them. Personally, I thought that once the story was written the hard part was over, but I realize now that this is the farthest misconception from truth that I have ever thought of.

I knew that my books were not yet complete although all of the story has been written for these books, but I just realized how far they are from completion once I got a few pages into a book titled ‘The Book of Lost Tales‘ which was written by the great J.R.R.Tolkien and edited by his son, Christopher Tolkien. The book is essentially a collection of some of his tales which are followed by some of his notes about them, including changes, maps and poems. Needless to say that Tolkien is one of the greatest modern fantasy writers of all time and, as an aspiring fantasy author and avid fan, his work is unparalleled, so far. While reading his stories, in spite of their complexion, I noticed that they seemed finished products to me, however, they were far from so in Tolkien’s eyes. This led me to reassess my work with a different perspective and give me a sort of a starting point towards the next process which would get them closer to being complete.

So far I have been at a complete loss about proceeding with the next editing phase for both books, ‘Wolf Emperor’ and ‘Hands of Fate’. Although ‘Hands of Fate’ is nearly finished, there are a few edits that I wish to make to further fine-tine the story. And I decided earlier that the book ‘Wolf Emperor’ would be rewritten as a series of short stories which would describe the formation of the First Nosgardian Empire after the Second Civil War of Man. Nevertheless, these ideas were just the tip of the iceberg.

After circulating the book around and getting a few comments from both friends and strangers, I have amassed a somewhat basic idea to as what the readers think of it, but I also realized that to produce a good piece of writing is to listen to one’s inner voice and not that of the ones around them. That, however, does not mean that I should disregard their comments altogether, just that I should take them into consideration and try to see if i ‘feel’ the same way about them.

I know this haphazard writing style of my posts may seem a little annoying this I will try to remember to keep a little summary note at the end of each post, starting from this one, which would be included in the final paragraph unless a note follows it. What I want to say is that when working on completing your book, long after the story has been completed, you should halt for a moment and forget everything you learn about writing and read what you wrote while paying close attention to how you feel. Simply highlight the parts that you ‘feel’ that you don’t like and when the entire manuscript, draft or section – if you work in a modulated method such as I do – is highlighted, then turn on your writer’s brain and make the edits. That, my readers, is the ‘hidden process’.

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On Writing: World Creation

I am currently reading a book titled ‘How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy’ by Orson Scott Card. Needless to say, this is an incredibly useful book that broadens your horizons when writing either of these genres. However, it also includes a great deal of information that would help in any other genre as well, yet not as much relevant information as for science fiction and fantasy.

It has come to my attention that the way ‘Book of Kayal’ has been written was rather unusual for an experienced writer, partly because I was new to the whole writing scene and partly because I started writing before knowing what the book was about (Discovery writing as mentioned before). Greatly interested about analyzing my own process and its development, I started thinking about how different concepts of my book developed. World creation was simply one of the first things I thought about.

‘Book of Kayal’ started with only one idea/concept which the story revolves around, an art called runecrafting which helped enhance individual attributes. In other words, a man could be made stronger by etching a certain word in his skin. Abilities and levels of runes differed greatly. At first, the story was haphazard at best – during the first unpublished book titled ‘Rise from Exile’ – and was loosely based on this concept. Instead, I focused on creating a defined set of species which lived in Nosgard, the main continent where the story took place. The idea of runecrafting was quickly demoted to a system which was only loosely mentioned and poorly explained. Instead of creating the caste system I hoped to make, runecrafting was a used only as a way to justify the power of certain characters. What replaced runecrafting was the societal struggles between the different kingdoms and races which eventually led to a civil war where an exiled kingdom regained its liberty through force. The story then changed yet again, focusing on war and battle loosely based on the four horsemen of the apocalypse, an idea which always fascinated me. Then it was changed to the benevolent ruler.

All this focus-shifting that took place in the first two books made these two volumes tremendously confusing and dense. The world of ‘Book of Kayal’ was accidentally complete by ignoring all rules to the writing of fantasy, or writing as a whole. Nevertheless, all this cramming made me somehow develop a detailed history of the land along with a great deal of cultures, habits, organizations, societies, interaction…etc. Even mild things such as weather were mentioned because it simply seemed to set a certain mood which I wanted to convey, something I recently discovered was critical to initially come up with.

In short, there are infinite ways of creating your own fantasy or science fiction world, and none of these ways are wrong. Unless you put an active effort into observing your surroundings and profoundly thinking about the reasons why things are as they are, you will likely need to start discovering your world by writing and hope that you would quickly come across hurdles and inconsistencies that would force you to rethink certain elements of your world. Without doubt, it is a far better process if you think about what you want your world to be like before writing, but that would still not guarantee that you would come up with the world you want and overcome all illogical constructs.

On Writing: Surprisingly Common Issues

AS you know I have been reading and writing a lot lately. When you write, the way you perceive books, regardless of the genre you read, changes. This made me appreciate good books more and dislike bad ones even more.

I found four elements that repeatedly repeat themselves in well-known books, occasionally best sellers too.

  • The objective of the book is not clear. You read without knowing what is the point
  • Characters do not change. Books are supposed to take elements you know and are habituated to and put them into a different setting. If if character in a book is too ‘unhumanized’, then it fails to fulfill its intended role. People change as they grow and gain experiences, people in books should too
  • The objective of the book remains unclear once it is finished and you start asking yourself what did I just read and why
  • This last point is a matter of opinion. I expect to learn something from every book I read, and when I don’t it bothers me. Many books leave their readers with nothing more once they finish it – like this post which abruptly ends.

On Writing: Character Interests

I have been watching lectures by Brandon Sanderson, a published Fantasy author and professor, on youtube and came across some interesting ways to keep your characters interesting.

The first thing that he said which grabbed my attention was ‘give your characters interests’. This would come the cost of some research – depending on how familiar you are with the interest you decided to give him/her – and time. However, it will reflect beautifully on your story. Once you learn to make them use terminologies of their interest or give them an appropriate mindset, you will find a far more colorful character which would entertain the readers while motivating you to write more about him/her.

He also suggested to use historical characters, something which I base most of my characters on, to start guiding your characters speech and behavior. A strong background of history also helps develop ideas and plots for a wide range of genres.

After watching these lectures, I started thinking more deeply in character creation and development. Naturally, the first step was to draw from my personal knowledge and experience. One of the many perks of studying psychology in college is the ability to dive deeper into you written characters’ personalities and making them more realistically complex. What I am experimenting with at the moment, while writing my current book, is giving my characters symptoms of a psychological disorder – all humans have symptoms of psychological abnormalities which is natural and healthy – not to a degree that they would be diagnosed as having it, but to render them more realistic and interesting.

Eventually you will find that as the story develops your characters change, a normal and welcomed occurrence, which might make the initial character personality research seem like a waste of time, yet is actually not due to the need to have a starting point.

Here is the link to the youtube channel which has Brandon Sanderson’s lectures:

http://www.youtube.com/user/WriteAboutDragons

I also want to inform you that my first book will be free tomorrow (Friday 21 June 2013) on kindle via these two links (US and UK):

US:   http://www.amazon.com/Book-Kayal-Hands-Fate-ebook/dp/B00DCJR284/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1371754749&sr=8-1&keywords=book+of+kayal

UK:   http://www.amazon.co.uk/Book-Kayal-Hands-Fate-ebook/dp/B00DCJR284/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1371754752&sr=8-1&keywords=book+of+kayal

Follow me on twitter if you want an easier way to follow up my free days @TarekCherif3

On Writing: Hypothoses About Good Writing

I have been reading a lot lately and realized that the ending can turn an average book into a masterpiece, or a masterpiece into [a] useless read. The books I tend to enjoy the most are the ones which conclude by leaving you thinking about one statement that summarizes the purpose of the main plot. While this is relatively easy to do in short stories, it becomes somewhat of a challenge for novels.

If not for reading , analyzing, and writing short stories, I would have never reached this conclusion and appreciation to these types of books. However, this does not mean that all other factors of writing are useless, for I still find a good writing style important, but not critical for all genres.

So far my writing journey taught me far more than I expected, in a far shorter time-span than I anticipated. Again, I would recommend others to pick it up as a hobby, or at least try it sometime.

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: Reading Short Stories

I have been reading a lot of short stories lately and finding most of them rather disappointing. I believe that writing short stories would feel far less fulfilling than working on novels, but it would be great practice.

On Writing: Reading Progress

I just finished reading ‘The Game’ by Neil Strauss. Aside from the bullshit society of pick-up artists, the story is pretty sound. After the first one hundred pages the book enticed me to continue reading.

I have not written in two days and am anxious to start writing again this instant. I am about to close my fourth chapter and plan the fifth. So far the book is closing on 30,000 words and growing. ; it is going to be a long one.

On Writing: Failure to Read

Today is the fourth day of my 200 pages per day self-assigned reading. Due to other work obligations related to my hopefully-soon-to-be-launched website, I was only able to read 40 pages from the book ‘The Game’ (completely irrelevant, but hugely enjoyable).

On Writing: Can’t Wait

I am currently 8 days into my ‘leave it alone phase’ for my first book. The purpose of this phase is to forget about your book so that when you read it again you perceive it differently – and hopefully more objectively.

Not knowing what else to do, after all the researching, I decided to start on the second volume of my story. So far I prepared my outline and wrote 7k words. Hope this book will take me enough time to write to finish my 30 days of  ‘le laisser’.

Just letting you guys know my thoughts. Good luck.