Novels. Short stories. Pick your poison.

In my youth (yes, I’m 29, but you know what I mean), I only read novels or novellas, never short stories. I am convinced that this is mainly due to the culture I grew up in. In western countries, attention spans of readers are shorter so they need shorter stories. Reading is a hobby, it should be fun. In my country, reading is a life style. Acquiring stacks of books in one’s living room may not be the norm anymore (it certainly was in the time of my grandparents) but we still take books seriosuly. Very seriously. Too seriously, to be honest. I’ve been given novels to read since the day I could read. Yes, I learned to read from comic books (about two years before we officially learned letters in grammar school) but I switched very quickly to 100-page books (for a five-year-old, those were novels; I think it took me two weeks to get through one; I usually read more than one at the same time.) It wasn’t long until I was reading the classics: Jack London, Jules Verne, Karl May (maybe I was 10 before I delved into the Vinetou monster), basically everything that I found translated to my native tongue.

To me, reading a story should be about becoming a part of that world, getting to know the setting and characters intimately, spending a considerable part of their (and my) life with them. When I finally got my hands on a short story collection, things were different. Yes, they were interesting characters. Yes, they usually involved intriguing situations. But before I could truly immerse myself into that world, the story would be over. Starting a new story, I had to discard everything I have learned about the world and had to start from an empty board. That particular detail was incredibly irritating.

All this leads back to my writing. I find it more fulfilling to write a short story than to read one but still I always find myself checking the word or page count when I do it. I’m paranoid about my short story evolving into a novel if I let my guard down. That’s not the writing I like. It sounds too much like a school project where you had to write a specific number of words to make a cognitive statement. The biggest essay of my high school had to be between 4k and 5k words. To most people, that is pure torture. I barely got warmed up at that point.

I tried (and still do) to write short stories because I’m an adult now and time has become a different thing. But, to be blunt, I suck at it. The only reason I try writing short stories is because it’s finished quicker, editted quicker and can be read quicker. The one short story I finished turned into a novella (Clockworks Warrior) but now I know it’s only a part of a greater story I am obliged to write some day.

Don’t expect short stories and flash fiction from me because you won’t get it. What you will get from me is epic novel series which unfortunately take time. LOTS of it. Speaking of which, it’s time to get back to that particular activity. Ta ta.

Fan fiction might be beneficial for your craft

It is my solid opinion that fan fiction is in fact good for beginning writers. Why? Because the essence of it comes from someone else’s mind. It comes to a writer through a movie or a book, fully formed and preferably done by someone with experience. It is easy to get immersed into a well-formed universe and become a part of it. Fan fiction can come easier than original fiction precisely because it already has a visual sense, whereas your own setting/plot is pure abstract; it only exists in your mind, therefore it is not fully formed until you put it on paper.

Fan fiction is a great way to practice. Some people stick with it forever and don’t write original fiction at all. Most of us, though, start to crave to invest our effort and time into something that we can call our own. That is where original fiction comes from.

Play to learn. Learn to master. Master to succeed.

Made a colossal botch of Clockworks Warrior

I just found a very elementary mistake in my novella Clockworks Warrior. Bad news is I can’t take it out because it would make the entire story fall apart.

So here’s the problem: a certain character in Clockworks appears very unexpectedly and pretty much saves the day even though I think he still had a hard time and could never do it without help. Some readers complained that this character was too “deus ex machina” and I was surprised that I didn’t see it that way even when it was pointed out to me.

Now I know why I didn’t see it the same way.

Because I created the story for my WIP novel Arena first and Clockworks second.

Arena is happening two years after Clockworks, but it is paramount to read the Arena first and Clockworks second. Even though Arena happens later in the timelane, it’s a much bigger story and it introduces new characters, some of which also appear in Clockworks. If one reads just Clockworks without Arena, those characters are brand new and therefore strangers. But if one reads Arena first and Clockworks later, the reader would go “Hey, I know these guys!” and create the impact I was going for.

The catch is that Arena is still unfinished while Clockworks has been published for more than a year, since April 2012, so I’m really the only schmuck who found those characters familiar.

Good news is that I don’t have to repair it at all. All I have to do is publish (finish first) Arena and tell people that they should read it first, Clockworks later.

Such a rookie mistake. My apologies to people who read Clockworks and found the Arena characters confusing.

————————TIMELINE————————>
CLOCKWORKS WARRIOR                               ARENA
<——————–ORDER OF READING—–———-

So much dust

I’m not blogging lately, mainly because my focus is on my Master’s and second because I lack the energy to write my own stories, let alone to come up with an interesting blog post. At the moment, my primary concern is to finish a Master’s and finally get a decent job. My secondary concern is to improve my social life because being in a foreign country means lack of true friendships – you only realize how important they are when you have none to speak of. Way down in the third place is where I have writing at the moment. At this time, writing is one of the excuses why I’m not outside, looking for interesting people to hang out with.

Time to dust this blog and get it back in active mode, neh?

Wrestling with my brain. Brain winning.

I’ve been trying my hand at lucid dreaming again. Trying to access that spring of productivity to increase my visualisation skills.

And you know what? I think my brain is fighting back. It’s like I’m encroaching on a piece of territory that I was never suppose to step in. I’m being harassed by my subconscience for trying to tap resources that are in fact on holy ground.

In the middle of a dream, especially if I’m succeeding in controlling it, without warning I will get these truly gruesome images which make me go “Blech!” and can be enough to jar me out of that dream and I have to start over. No problem except that these dreams tire me and I get up not as rested as I could be. Since I’m working on my research thesis, I think I will give it a rest tonight, get my subconscience a chance to recuperate and repair its ego.

Talk about a drama queen!

Transport complete…

I haven’t written any posts lately, mainly because settling in the UK takes most of my time and attention. I did some minor work on ‘Arena’, mostly trying to see how all the chapters stick together. After the latest word count, I can once more say I’ve gone over the line.

One or two chapters need work and then the first version of the novel will be complete. That means all chapters contain comments of the possible changes. As soon as I’m done with version one, I’m making version two by cutting out all the comments and connecting the chapters. This will probably reduce the word count somewhat but the added text for chapter connecting might compensate that.

Ah, the Rules!

Read a blog post recently that got me thinking. This is what came of it.

Rules. Every game needs them, otherwise it wouldn’t be different from any other game. Writing is a game as well and it has rules to create something that makes sense; we call them stories.

The problem is most so-called writing rules are summaries of long discussions. If you don’t know the entire discussion, reading the end product – the rock-solid rule – may be more damaging than helpful.

Rules were created to avoid mistakes. And here’s a thing about mistakes: we only spot them when we don’t enjoy the story. That’s why the professionals can get away with huge goofs. Their stories are so good we fail to see the blunders. And that is the whole point of writing; when mistakes don’t matter anymore, we’ve won.

Rules are suppose to be guiding principles, not impenetrable walls that deny access to areas on the other side of them. They shouldn’t be treated this way and yet many times they are. Without basic rules we cannot hope to achieve much but all these rules should be taken as orientation points.

So I’ve decided to go through some of them that caught my eye lately and decided to make my own version of them.

1. “Avoid prologue.” Well, I’ve read some good prologues over the years. Maybe the rule should be “Avoid prologues that look like Lord of the Rings prologue” since that was not a prologue but a 100-page disertation on Hobbit sociology. Sometimes an ominous voice of a prologue is exactly what we need to get in the story. Sometimes the prologue reveals vital knowledge that our POV characters simply don’t know. A song of Ice and Fire series comes to mind; if we didn’t read the prologue in the first book, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the story, but now we know something most characters don’t.

2. “Don’t begin a story with waking up.” I would rewrite that into “Avoid beginnings with waking up unless you have a good reason”. I have numerous ideas of how the waking up could be used well and I’m sure there are a lot of stories out there that can also use it well. I loved the waking up at the start of Predators movie. That guy woke up in free fall a thousand meters above ground. Hell of a way to begin.

3. “Show don’t tell.” Ah, this one is a classic. Nearly a cliche, I should think. Most of us know the discussion behind it and most of us know that you can’t use ‘show’ on the entire story. Sometimes ‘tell’ is more elegant and less cluttering. I would rewrite this into “Show when you can, tell when you must, imply if necessary”. Yes, imply. The most satisfying story is the one that allows the reader to reach her own conclusions instead of guiding her like she were blind.

4. “Avoid cliches.” Well, most of the time, yes, but not always. Cliches can be powerful; they were powerful before, otherwise they wouldn’t become cliches. I’d say “Treat cliches like poisonous snakes: handle them in gloves, place them only where they can do no harm but always be ready to pull one out of the bag because sometimes we do have to scare our readers. Or critiques, the poor creatures.” Cliches can ruin a story. They can also make it memorable.

Most of the rules and the exceptions to them can be explained by “But that was done by a professional!” Exactly. Professionals are allowed to break rules because they make it up to us by giving us a great story. Give your readers a great story and you can break rules too.

 

Summary: we all have to learn the rules to get along with each other. But those that remain behind the bars forever will be imprisoned forever. In the writing world, such people become professional critiques and reviewers (are those two the same? I can never tell), or as I like to call them, wardens to the prison that became their home. Myself I prefer to use that cage only as a shelter. A shelter from which I can explore the surroundings and have a life outside those bars.

Treacherous (or is it treasonous?) villains

Traitors are usually portrayed as the worst of the bad, as someone who deserves the cruelest kind of punishment. Yet there is a certain poetic aspect to them. Yes, most are villains, immoral backstabbers who would do everything to earn a buck. These are people to whom human attachments and relationships mean nothing. In truth, such people should never receive any real responsibility as they should be recognized as unreliable before that happens.

Then there are those who are serious, upright, strong people. These are persons who have questioned and altered a profound component of their belief or upbringing. It takes strength and courage to do such a thing, as well as a keen mind. From a writer’s perspective, such characters can give you incredible drama and plot twists if their decision and actions affect the story.

I’m not saying betraying and backstabbing is a good idea. Hell, I’ve had personal experience at being stabbed in the back by someone that meant the world to me and I know it’s not pleasant. I’m saying that what could be perceived as treason by some can also be interpreted as a great journey for a character.

Fishing for nuggets

Ideas are like gold nuggets in a river. Constantly traveling past you, most of them without your appreciation. You may reach out and catch one or two but often they will slip from your grasp and be on their way. If you want to hunt gold nuggets for a living, you have to spread a trap for them; a net or a sieve, something that makes it harder for them to escape. But once you break their run, the work isn’t done yet. You have to evaluate them, then put them in the right place.

Unlike real gold nuggets, these metaphorical ones only have their value in the company of other nuggets. Perhaps the size of the nugget is the best metaphor: a small nugget isn’t worth much but a whole lot of them could mean something. Then there’s always a chance of stumbling over that large, huge nugget that can be valuable by itself.

Large nuggets are short story ideas, where a single idea can form a meaningful message. Smaller nuggets clump together to form a novel. One by one, they are not very appreciated but once they become gold dust they each contribute to the entire value.