Glyphpunk reduced to 99c

I’ve reduced the price of the eBook version of Glyphpunk to 99c. The price is updated on Smashwords, will be updated in a few hours on Amazon, and no telling when on other distributors sites.

Glyphpunk small

The theft of valuable glyphing metal increases tension between the commercial interests who control most of the kingdoms of the Scarred Sea. Thjorn, the glyphpunk responsible for the theft, will ensure that’s only the start of their troubles.

 

 

 

 

Other Links:

Amazon.com,
Amazon.co.uk,
Apple,
Barnes & Noble,
Diesel,
Kobo, and
Sony.

Demon’s Whisper

I’ve just released the fourth free short story in the Tales of the Thief-City series, Demon’s Whisper.

Demons Whisper small

In a city run on knowledge, many believe demons are banned for the corrosiveness of their messages.

So when a demon is released in Nexi, is the price of facing it more than Rax is willing to pay? And when it’s done, will the Thief-City be left as desolate as a demon’s whisper?

A 6800 word fantasy short story.

 

It’s currently available on Smashwords, spreading to other sites in time.

Interlude

I’m running low on topics, and time to work on those I have, so content might be sparse here for a while (other than publication notices). Hopefully after I’ve got some proper writing done, and set up the new computer (or the new new computer. Don’t buy Zoostorms from Argos – one month failing to get it working and sending it back to Zoostorm a couple of times; one month to get the %&$!&£($ to take it back; and a month to badger them for the refund; then a couple of weeks later the computer turns up again [they’re to blame for me being behind on blog posts]) I’ll find some time to build up a stock of some posts.

My Writing Process: Outlining

This phase tends to produce lots of pieces of paper, which have become more orderly as I’ve developed. Many are still the early scraps with random notes jotted down when they occurred to me, but they do become more structured.

Many of the notes get tidied up and added to the website as supporting material, so I’ve got examples.

 

Characters

The character sheets tend to be the most consistent since characters do tend to crop up in most stories. They start off with general notes on the character’s personality, their abilities, and suchlike, followed by some or all of these fields:

  • Appearance – a brief description of how they look, preferably something simple yet memorable (even if just their unmemorability) which I can slot in;
  • Voice – this is often split up into their formal and informal voices (if there’s a difference), so what they’d be like when all business compared to what they’re like with friends. I also list their internal voice, and how this affects the writing when they’re the viewpoint character;
  • Observational – what type of thing the character notices and pays attention to in the world around them (for example a paranoid might keep track of the exits, whereas a pickpocket would look at the people around gauging who’s wealthy and inattentive). This tends to mostly affect their viewpoint chapters;
  • Flaws – part of their general personality notes, this is their main vulnerability and should play a role in the story;
  • Goals/agenda – what their aiming to achieve in the story, or despite it, and how it can change as the story progresses. Also how they tend to operate;
  • Fighting style – mainly of use in combat-heavy stories, I started experimenting with one word descriptions of the fighting styles of the leading characters in Glyphpunk, to give different feels to the way they interact in combat (I didn’t necessarily implement them as well as I might have liked, but they gave enough difference to the styles to satisfy me). For example: whip (snapping attacks and always on the move), rock (doesn’t move about, letting opponents come at him and then attacking them with brutal directness), water (flowing, never stops, wearing the opponent down then overwhelming them), and snake (defensive, probing moves, with sudden strikes;
  • Arc – the main beats of the characters arc through the story. This gets filled out more after the first draft;
  • Moments – the defining moments the character needs to experience to show who they are.

I also write up notes for minor characters, but these are less structured. They generally contain notes on who they are, what role they play, their appearance, and their voice.

 

Setting

These are the world-building notes, which tend to be more for the stories with fantastical elements.

For SF where advancing current society rather than basically inventing a fantastical SF setting, I try to think how the SF element (such as telepathy in Grey Engines) would affect various aspects of society (governance, education, health care, family life, religion, entertainment, science, infrastructure, military, economy), and write notes on how these exist in the story. It’s also useful to have a list of the types of jobs which would be available in the setting.

For fantasy settings the amount of detail you go into can depend on the degree the story goes into it. For Blade Sworn, there was a fair bit of politics (and plans for more if the series continues) so I made notes on the countries, and a chart of how the various countries viewed one another (tidied versions can be seen here).

I can also do vague descriptions of cities to give them different characters, especially if in different cultures. Getting the detail ready beforehand means less thinking required when I should be writing.

Maps

Maps of fantastical settings can be useful. I usually do a rough one for my use when writing, although I have started doing them to make available for readers. Here’s the one for Glyphpunk. The danger is that maps can easily look naff, so I try to use minimum detail – enough to get an idea of the general geographical layout – and find a font that matches the style of the story or setting. I’m not entirely convinced it works, but I don’t think they’re hideous.

Magic System

Many of my fantasy stories contain some kind of magic system (things like telepathy in my science fiction stories would also fall under this heading), so I try to note the general rules of how these things work. Sometimes I have them worked out in detail beforehand, other times I only firm them up after the first draft, when I’ve got a better idea of how I need them to work in the story.

I tend towards the hard magic type of system, where there are strict rules on how things operate. If you haven’t read them, I recommend looking at Sanderson’s First and Second Laws of Magic for an understanding of hard and soft magic.

Examples of what I do include the general guidelines of telepathy in Grey Engines and glyphing in Glyphpunk, or the more detailed listing of abilities in Silent Echoes and Stoneweaver.

Names

For large casts I find it useful to have a dramatis personae (for example) at hand so that if I come back to the story after a while I’ve got an idea who’s who, and how I spelled their names.

For fantasy settings with a particular flavour I also try keeping a list of names I can use while writing. If the setting resembles a real world society – such as the Viking flavour of Glyphpunk, or the Chinese flavour of Shadows of the Heavens – then I use the Everchanging Book of Names. The program uses the naming conventions of particular societies to produce random names. Some might not sound right, but it’s a useful tool for coming up with appropriate names for supporting (or even lead) characters quickly.

 

Chapters

Once I’ve got all the other stuff I also make notes on the chapter sheets of the things that need to be introduced or covered in that chapter. So I could have sections down the right hand side of the page for things like world-building elements to be introduced in the chapter, elements of the magic system or technology to introduce, and the character arc steps of the characters that do important things in the chapter. I generally have these notes listed before I break the chapter down properly, so I can integrate them organically.

My Writing Process: Overview

While I’ve tried discovery writing, I find I’m more comfortable outlining, and my process has developed more towards this. It continues to evolve (and hopefully always will) but this is the approximate state of it at the moment.

 

Thinking

Initially I let the ideas percolate in my head, occasionally writing down rough notes but generally letting it come together in its own time. I usually have a few in mind at any one time, and some kick about for years until they’re ready (or fade away, or get cannibalized for other stories).

I generally let them stew until I’ve got most of the beats of the story laid out and know how it ends. I then keep thinking about it, making more and more notes, until I have to lay down the basic structure of the story, at which point I’m in outlining.

 

Outlining

This starts with writing out the basic beats of the story, and breaking it down into chapters. I keep working at this until I have a list of chapters, and work out who the main viewpoint characters are going to be (I should have rough notes on them from the thinking stage).

I’ll then make sheets for each character with notes on their history, personality, character arc, and other things based on the type of story.

If the story has fantastical elements I’ll generally have sheets of things I need to cover, whether world-building or magic systems or whatever. [I’ll expand on some of this stuff in a separate post on outlining]

For fantasy stories I may also do a rough map of the story areas, and maybe even a historical timeline (although that’s more likely to get done, or filled in, as I go along in the writing – when I know what and where I need the history to be).

I then break down the story by chapter, usually using a sheet of paper per chapter (they’re easier to rearrange, insert, or remove). I’ll initially do a rough list of what needs covering, and the sequence of events, which’ll be expanded on subsequent cycles.

I continue going through the chapters a few times, adding detail where I have it. Some bits can be vague, others I could have detailed exchanges noted if they occur to me. This process continues until I HAVE to start writing.

 

Writing

Writing the first draft I tend to do at speed, getting the story down in rough without waiting around to tidy things up. That’s what revisions are for.

I write the story in order, not starting off with the more interesting bits and then filling in the connective stuff. If any bits don’t interest me then they probably won’t interest readers, so I try and fix those in outlining and make sure that every scene has something to interest me.

After the first few days I generally get into a rhythm of doing so much a day (usually around 5-6,000 words) and try to stick to that until it’s complete.

While I have the outline, it can be more of a guide than a formal specification. I don’t necessarily keep everything the same, so if something isn’t working, if I run afoul of plot holes, or if I come up with something new, the story can deviate from the outline. I try to get it done in this phase though, as making serious changes in revision is harder – once the story is written down it becomes more concrete, and I find myself less willing to change it. This is why I prefer to spend as much time as I can on outlining.

If I do run into serious issues I can’t work out, then as long as it’s not something that could seriously derail the rest of the story (hasn’t happened yet) I’ll make a note and continue writing. I find maintaining the momentum is the important thing for the first draft.

 

Pause

After finishing the first draft I generally leave it aside for a month. I may make notes if things which need addressing occur to me, but I don’t read any of the work until it’s had time to cool down.

 

Revisions

This is the longest phase of the writing, and the one I need to work on more. I’m trying to change to approach it more methodically, so one round is done to ensure characters maintain their voices, and another to tidy up their character arcs.

My current process is unfortunately less refined, and probably takes too much work. I’ll have a list of things that need changing, and I’ll work through the script changing them when I get to them and tidying up the language as I go.

Character arcs tend to be vague in the first draft, and are often tightened up or altered during revisions. Their personalities can change (turning out different in writing than they were in outlining) so viewing their part in the story as a whole from this perspective lets me better fit their story to the overall one. I list their arc in bullet points, and ensure each one can be matched to something in the story, so their progress can be seen and their choices make sense to the reader.

After the story seems solid and I’m happy with it I’ll still be going through the text tweaking and tidying up the language. No matter how many times I go through it I’ll always find something to alter. I only really stop when I’m absolutely sick of it, then it goes off to proofreading.

[On a couple of occasions I’ve had stories edited, but with meagre sales I can’t afford this for every novel. This would add at least a couple more rounds of revisions in here, possibly with serious changes.]

After any fixes from proofing are implemented, it gets another (gah) read through as I format it. I format it for print first, since it requires a fixed format. I’ll often do a bit of text massaging to remove widows and orphans (the first or last line of a paragraph at the bottom or top of a page, which are frowned upon).

I’ll then get the printed proof copy of the book (about a month later using Createspace – I’m not paying extra for expedited delivery) and read through to see if any further typos pop out in the different reading format.

Once those are done, and I’m thoroughly sick of the book, I format it for eBook versions (one for Amazon and one for Smashwords) and publish it.

 

Finished

And then I get on with whatever I started during the breaks in the above process. I should do marketing somewhere, but by this point I’m generally glad to see the back of the thing and get on with the new project.