My Writing Process: Experimentation Results

I’ve finished the first draft of Glyphwar, experimenting with writing it by character arcs.

Overall I’m reasonably happy with the result, or as happy as I ever am at this stage. Since I had a fairly well defined outline to begin with there are no major plot issues that I’ve yet noticed which require fixing. There are minor things, such as description the first time I came across things, which isn’t necessarily the first time in the story, that need tidying up.

The character arcs and voices should probably require less work in revisions than otherwise, and that tends to be more fiddly than changes to the general plot so I’m hoping the revision process won’t require as many cycles.

Writing this way has more of a sense of progress. It can be daunting to have so much of the story still ahead of you, even when you’re over half way through writing it. Focussing on smaller arcs you finish them faster, so get a sense of having finished that portion which you don’t necessarily get doing it consecutively.

Overall I think it worked for this type of story, where the viewpoint characters all generally have separate stories which interweave occasionally. If they were all closer to a central plotline then it might be harder to keep the pacing and detail of the story straight, requiring more work in revisioning.

I might use this approach again on similar projects.

A Hunt for Shadows, Part 9 of Shadows of the Heavens

I’ve released the ninth part of the Shadows of the Heavens series, A Hunt for Shadows:
SotH 9 smallA Hunt for Shadows, Part 9 of Shadows of the Heavens

Grace of Spirits returns from death to confront a rakshaa hiding within the Prince’s entourage. Even if he can find it, will he be in time to stop its plans?
A 13,000 word fantasy novelette.



For the last few days of the month the first six parts of the story are all free in the Smashwords sale:

Blood in the Forest, Part 1 (always free)

The Shadow’s Bride, Part 2

Song of Shadows, Part 3

The Dance of Masks, Part 4

Games of Shadow, Part 5

Shadows of the Empire, Part 6

Curse of Hearts, Part 8 of Shadows of the Heavens

I’ve released the eighth part of the Shadows of the Heavens series, Curse of Hearts:

SotH 8 smallCurse of Hearts, Part 8 of Shadows of the Heavens

Hiding from Hagga’s claim that a curse ties her to Prince Kazuo, Jaid is desperate to disprove it, while Tsotu is assigned by the Prince to learn the Bride of Shadows’ identity.

A 6000 word fantasy novelette.


My Writing Process: Experimentation

While I normally write the first draft linearly, from first chapter to last, with my current project (Glyphwar) I’m planning to try writing one character’s viewpoint chapters, then the next.

There are seven viewpoints through the book, and my outlining process was working out their individual stories before breaking down the flow of the story as a whole. With their stories interweaving at points its inevitable that some events in chapters I may not have written yet will affect ones I’m writing, but it’s outlined strongly enough that that shouldn’t be a problem.

If it causes more work in revisions then it’ll probably also be the last time, but I may as well see how it goes.

I’ll write it in Scrivener, since it allows you to create chapters and group them together by whatever factor, so doing it by viewpoint character allows me to navigate the chapters more easily but assemble them in the correct order when I’m done with the first draft. Scrivener was used when I was revising the first book of the series, Glyphpunk, and I find it helps stories with multiple viewpoint characters where you need to select a group of sporadic chapters to work on at one time.

[The next book planned will me more linear, since there’ll only be 2-4 viewpoint characters, and the plot will be more focussed. The one provisionally planned for after that may experiment with a different viewpoint character for each chapter (if the story works that way when I get to breaking it down).]


Update: Here are the results of the experiment.

Twisted Nature, Part 7 of Shadows of the Heavens

I’ve released the seventh part of the Shadows of the Heavens series, Twisted Nature:

SotH 7 smallTwisted Nature, Part 7 of Shadows of the Heavens
While the Bride of Shadows increasingly trapped by Hagga’s chores, Prince Kazuo feels confined by his courtiers and the recent betrayal. When a warped wood spirits attacks the Prince’s escort, they’re forced to deal with it together.

An 8000 word fantasy novelette.


The Use of Violence

While writing Demon’s Whisper, the fourth in the Tales of the Thief-City series of short stories, I realised the series is unlikely to have decent fights. The style and the character don’t really lend themselves to extended fights (a shame as I like writing fight scenes). What fights there are will be short, sharp, and brutal, erring more towards violence than action.

Which led me to wonder how violent they should be allowed to get.


Violence in Media

How much does the debate over violence in media include violence in prose? I’m not sure I agree that depictions of violence can incite violence, although desensitising the audience to such things might be a more substantive argument.

Obviously violence in prose is different from violence in a visual medium. It can be easier to gloss over the harshness, allowing for a poetic description of the movements. Alternately it can focus more on the violence, with visceral descriptions of the damage done. Visual mediums can do these of course, but their strength lies in the momentum of the delivery: it’s easier to adjust the speed you read a book than the speed you watch moving images.

Violence isn’t unknown in children’s cartoons – for example, someone getting hit over the head with a giant mallet and only being knocked unconscious rather than their head cracking. If we get desensitised to violence from an early age, will prose really have any serious effect? [It’s been a while since I was a child so I’m unfamiliar with today’s cartoons, which may have had the casual violence sanitised out of them.]



The oxford dictionary defines violence as ‘behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something’. While I can see someone as having violent intent, in terms of written violence I’m more inclined to use the term (for this rant) to mean achieved damage. This isn’t to say that all fight scenes aren’t inherently violent, but it can vary by degree.

Fight scenes, like all action scenes, tend to be fast-paced by their nature. Yet while fights always contain violence and are always action, action scenes aren’t necessarily fights, and violence doesn’t only happen in fight scenes – a torture scene can be more effective with slower pacing, and could well be more violent and disturbing.


Degree of violence in a fight

Violence in many kinds of stories is inevitable. As evolved as we are, our primal response to extreme stress errs towards the fight or flight reflex, and conflict is a fundamental part of stories (for many types of story I tend to write, violence, in the form of fight scenes, is expected. Not including it may disappoint readers).

In Demon’s Whisper the main act of violence turned out more crucial than intended. Originally it was a necessity to end the story, but it became more a part of the story, with effects that’ll probably last further into the series.


Writer’s Duty?

Does the writer have a duty to handle violence with care? To show it as abhorrent, or at least to show the effects of it? Should it have an impact on the story so that it doesn’t seem frivolous?

Or is the writer’s primary duty to the story, where reflecting too much on the violence is to be avoided if it affects the pacing?

And does showing the effects of the violence run the risk of being seen as focussing too much on such things, and bringing accusations of the story being grimdark? There’s a scale between fetishising the violence and having cartoon violence with no repercussions, but reaching either of these two extremes unintentionally would take some doing.


While something to be aware of, I’m unlikely to be guided by it. Stories have their own styles, with their own degree of violence, and letting the story find its own level is better than trying to force it to be something it isn’t.

Shadows of the Empire, Part 6 of Shadows of the Heavens

I’ve released the sixth part of the Shadows of the Heavens series, Shadows of the Empire:

SotH 6 smallShadows of the Empire, Part 6 of Shadows of the Heavens
Another murder in Water Dances on the Rocks threatens serious political repercussions, especially when it appears one of the Prince’s entourage may be involved.

A 11000 word fantasy novelette.


Games of Shadow, Part 5 of Shadows of the Heavens

I’ve released the fifth part of the Shadows of the Heavens series, Games of Shadow:

SotH 5 smallGames of Shadow, Part 5 of Shadows of the Heavens

As Tsotu is unwillingly drawn into imperial political intrigues, the Bride of Shadows begins her indentured service to Hagga. While the examiner hunts a stolen object in an armed camp, the Bride must find a way to fulfil her debt without the wrong people learning her secret.

A 12,000 word fantasy novelette.