New Projects and Messed Up Mentalities

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So, it’s been a while since I’ve written here, and while I can’t deny that’s it’s partially out of procrastination, it’s also because I’ve been writing elsewhere. A lot.

I now have a steady writing gig (known from here on as COT) going on (though no, I’m not being paid for it) which requires fortnightly submissions which consumes much of my writing time. I am truly enjoying the work, sharing the story and taking this first step of putting my work out there for others to read. So far I’ve received plenty of positive feedback, primarily focused on my ideas and writing style – I’ve only submitted five pieces thus far so I think it’s too early to expect/accept compliments regarding my ability to tell an actual story.

Along with that project, I have officially started what will be my first novel. This is an origin story for a character I’ve been working/writing with for a long time now, and with the skeleton done I’ve now made plans to actively begin writing. Though this story has been kicking around for a long time and I’ve indeed started writing it once before, this will be a more structured and serious approach to telling this story.

For starters, I am actually committed to the idea of trying to get this published so write not just for hell of it but with a fixed goal of completion in mind. Secondly, the aforementioned skeleton that details the planned events of the story from start to finish. Granted, this will no doubt change as I write and new ideas emerge, but in the meantime it gives me a sense of structure for main events of the story.

To complicate my writing schedule further (aside from the normal pressures and responsibilities of day-to-day life) I still have several other side-projects that I intend to post here someday. I have a plethora of unfinished posts that are meant to go up at some point and just never got past the proofreading stage, and I think that is where part of my problem lies.

I enjoy writing, I enjoy posting my writing, but I am concerned that anything I put out to the public is not an accurate reflection of my skills. So, I hesitate to post things without having proofread them a dozen or more times, and even then I am uncomfortable. This same issue is what prevents me from asking those close to me to act as my proofreaders – they might see something that makes them think less of my skills, which is of course ludicrous.

I think overcoming this mentality will be one of my greatest challenges to moving forward with my writing, though I hope that my COT work will assist me with it as I’m forced to trust my editors to review my work before it’s published. In addition, I think it will be very important for me to sit down and just write out posts like this more often without worrying too much about typos or missed words, the latter of which tends to be the greatest source of mistakes for me.

In other news, I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a YouTube channel. Those I’ve broached with the idea have been supportive, though I can’t be certain they’re not just humouring me. I’m told I have a pleasant enough speaking voice and a wide array of interests and areas of knowledge, so it’s not as if I don’t have options as to a topic to focus on for such a project. Perhaps, if I do start one, I’ll do a little bit of everything and just see what takes off.

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Receiving Critique and Taking Suggestions

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I recently submitted the first little snippet of a story to another blogger for a sort of public critique – that is to say he critiques it then posts it up (with his commentary) on his blog so readers can respond.

I sent it in, I discussed a few details via email, then found myself very pleased both with the critique and the commentary from the readers.

Honestly, I was surprised at how little nervousness I felt at this idea – I think that I would have been far, far more concerned a few years ago and I wonder what changed. Was it me, my writing, or both? While I certainly hope my writing has improved in a year, I don’t honestly believe myself to be more confident of the quality of my work now than I was before. That’s not to say I think I am less confident, only that I don’t think my opinion of my work has improved.

The idealistic theory – one that I don’t put too much stock into – is that I’ve just become more mature in my ability to take critique or criticism. It’s possible, but I’m a being of some pride and it’s never really been easy for me to consider the advice of another, let alone accede to it.

Perhaps it is that I want to become a better writer now, and perhaps that’s become one of my personal projects – improvement in my creative endeavours. In the last year a lot has happened, and so I’ve been re-evaluating what I actually want from life – this blog is just one of the many things that’ve started as a result of this.

Of course, it is simply possible that the comments and critique I received were almost unanimously positive, though of course with some suggestions as to changes and/or improvement. Lines like “I was totally drawn into the story” do tend to boost one’s confidence, and it does encourage.

That’s not to say my writing was flawless, far, far from it – the critique (and comments) helped me identify some issued I’d struggled with as well as a few I’d completely overlooked. I do consider myself wiser for the experience, and I’ve decided that if I get another opportunity for something like this to improve my work I’ll take it.

Literary Decisions, Character Likeability and (Not Having) Writer’s Block

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I don’t have writer’s block exactly. I’m simply going through a time when the inspiration isn’t turning itself into anything legible, and as vexing as it is I think it best to try and least get some writing done.

Thus far I have written three pages four times for the aforementioned contest.

That is to say, I am satisfied with the first page, but since I am extremely limited in what I put into my entry (1,500 words) I’m finding it difficult to prioritise what I should include and what I shouldn’t. The contest winner, you see, wins a permanent place on the writing team and the idea for the entry is to be the first little segment and/or character introduction of what would be a fortnightly continuing saga.

I have the hook, one that I believe will arouse a reader’s curiosity at least. I’ve a few characters lined up, but I cannot decide how to proceed after the opening. Do I skip ahead and go for a “and this is how we got here” set up for the narrative? Do I introduce the second main character? Do I focus entirely on the main character? Decisions, decisions, decisions I’m no good at.

So thus I’ve now four versions of a three page introduction. All require proofreading, of course, and perhaps through peer review I’ll reach a decision and try not to second guess the choice as soon as I’ve submitted it.

My other issue, one that I’m having difficultly with is my main character’s likeability. The character I’ve fleshed comes from a background of emotional trauma, stemming from what I believe is called a “seriously screwed up family” in more professional psychological circles. As a result, she’s become… difficult. In addition, some of her less-than-normal talents have made her not only arrogant but vain to the point of deep, deep narcissism.

In her own way, she is a tragic figure. Too damaged to live normally and healthily alone, yet too proud, vain and (secretly) scared to allow anyone get close enough to help her, and we’ve know how well that tends to go.

The issue is that the reader doesn’t immediately know that her history has turned her into this arrogant, vain and at times downright cold person, that there is a reason for why she acts as she does. The trick will be to reveal enough to let her redeem herself, even a little, bit by bit, so the reader won’t dislike her too much by the time the whole story comes out. At the same time, I need to make sure that the reader isn’t just suddenly given all the information, as that kind of “infodump”, as I’ve seen it called, tends to kill the interest the reader might have in a story.

Normally, at least from what I’ve seen, this sort of character is not the main protagonist but rather an opponent or form of anti-hero. There are exceptions, of course, but the one rule that seems to hold true everywhere is that the other characters must carry the reader’s affections. Hm. Perhaps if they (the other characters) become curious or hint at knowledge of the unlikeable one, the reader’s curiosity will stick around.

Writing “Mode”, Inspiration and Music

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An actual project has presented itself to me now – a little contest being held on the wonderful (and terrible) world of the internet. As is typical of such things, it’s complete with basic guidelines, fixed structure of narrative and, perhaps most importantly, a deadline.

A deadline is good; it provides structure, encourages dedication and enforces the idea that come what may this must be done, which is a good way to stave off distraction. So, for a few hours each day now I put on headphones that while cripplingly unstylish provide me with an isolated environment where I can focus entirely on the music I use for inspiration and my writing.

It’s amusing, perhaps, that I have about three different short stories and segments of short stories waiting to be posted here practically done and that I’m really only hesitating posting them because I need to proofread them each first. Still, perhaps this stream of conciousness is better for now anyway, and with this little contest up my attention should be focused on that writing anyway.

The entry itself may or may ever see the blog, depending on how satisfied I am with it and depending on the guidelines of the contest should I be placed at all.

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post (and referenced in the second paragraph of this one) I use music as my primary source of information. These days, and specifically with this new project, I find myself mostly drawing on what I believe is called “trailer music” or “epic music” and on YouTube I can readily two or more hour long mixes – perfect for sitting down to write (and for keeping track of how long you’ve been busy). Those pieces that anyone who’s seen the trailer to an action or dramatic movie has probably heard several times over. Groups such as E.S. Posthumus, Immediate Music, Two Steps from Hell, C21 FX and others allow the listener to construct the images and emotions that go with the melodies themselves rather than be given a fixed meaning as in most lyrical pieces.

That is not to say I dislike lyrical pieces for writing or inspiration – quite the opposite in fact. I create soundtracks for characters or stories I’m writing, mapping out entire sequences like a storyboard or music video in my head to specific pieces. Many of these pieces are not instrumental and come from a wide variety of genres. For example, only a few days ago I constructed a partial sequence – an argument between lovers that turns violent – to Florence and the Machine’s “Howl”. It’s incomplete as of yet, and I may never get around to writing it, but nevertheless listening to the song makes me want to get to the stage where I will write it and that is, to my definition, what inspiration is all about.

R.

One of Those Nights

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It’s one of those nights.

Those nights when you can’t sleep because it’s just a little too noisy in your head with ideas, thoughts and half-formed plans. It’s those nights, those moments that you feel you have to take advantage of or they’ll slip away and you’ll never recapture the passion and eagerness you felt to turn that creativity into something.

Now I suffer from (or perhaps enjoy) those kinds of nights often enough, and tonight is no exception. It’s dark, it’s late and it’s a little on the cold side. I am tired, I am actually quite eager to sleep, but at the same time going to sleep might mean giving up on this energy and surrendering to tomorrow and whatever it may bring. 

But I am impulsive in this way and have done serious damage to a healthy sleep cycle in the past with this kind of mentality, perhaps to the detriment of my overall well being. I am wise enough to know another night like this one will come and that there will be other opportunities to exercise my eagerness, but I am the kind that feels a need to act immediately upon inspiration and has to force himself to stop.

Of course, retiring will mean lying in bed with a head full of ideas that is notoriously difficult to silence, and so I’ve been forced to find means to assist in finding rest. Perhaps ironically, the very thing I draw inspiration from the most – music – is also the thing I have used many nights to help me sleep. Sleeping with headphones might not be the most healthy thing, but it works and it certainly beats my particular brand of insomnia.

I’ve found that to me it doesn’t need to be soothing or even calm music; I can sleep soundly to everything from Vivaldi or Enya through to Rage Against the Machine or A Perfect Circle’s most raucous songs (I’m looking at you, Pet, The Outsider), because the very thing that keeps me awake is also what can help me sleep. To quiet the noise of a thousand ideas in my head, I use music to focus on just one idea – usually that for a segment or theme of a story – and eventually that idea fades into my falling asleep.

Recently, I have stumbled upon (at the coaxing of another) upon another method that works just as well, if not better, than music, though perhaps it is not as productive. Audiobooks and radio plays, if read by a pleasant enough voice (or pleasant enough voices in some cases), have recently provided me with some of the most restive nights of my memory. Yes, I do tend to miss large sections of the story, but the following night I simply go back to the last thing I remember and repeat the process.

I believe that’ll be enough for tonight – and this is going up unpolished and unedited for so much as typos, being just a spontaneous spilling of words on a page (or text box, to be technical). Yes, I think I’m done here, given that I’ve ranted about sleep, noisy craniums and my eclectic musical tastes.

R.

The Library

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An excerpt from a short story set within a larger storyverse I’ve been involved in for a long time now. This is my first attempt at this particular style, and yes, it is somewhat inspired by Lovecraft’s work.

I most commonly write in third-person, with a more personal approach to characters, particularly fond of exploring their histories and personalities as we go along rather than explaining it all at once. Nor have really tried writing anything with even a hint of suspense in the Lovecraftian sense of the word and this piece is only really me testing the waters in that regard. Rather than actually trying to emulate Lovecraft’s work I simply thought I’d borrow some of the themes here and there, both in terms of style and content.

I also feel that “reveal”, such as it is, is a bit of a let down, though to me (and those few readers who might be familiar with the larger storyverse) the context does perhaps add more to it. It remains to be seen if it can stand on its own, or perhaps later pieces I put up will add to it.

Either way, if you’ve read this far into my little pre-story blurb, thank you for your patience.

R.

Banner copy

I was named Kalvish, born on the sixth day of the harvest festival. My parents, Ammus and Lei, were merchants of some standing in the ancient city of Hauhn and my family name, Vinlaw, was stencilled on many signs throughout the cobbled streets and the crowded market squares.

I was the third and final child, my two brothers both quite a few years my senior and already being groomed to step into my father’s shoes upon his retirement. This suited me fine as a child and even later as a youth when I understood I had been cut out of the circle of power that my father was so proud of, for I had found that the pursuit of numbers and goods, wealth and profit held little interest to me. When I fifteen and old enough to understand such matters, I made my intentions clear to my family; I had no interest in the family domain and would be content to pursue my more scholarly ambitions.

My father, ever gruff in his affections, nevertheless swore and bid my brothers swear with him that there would be regular gifts of money for my inheritance, enough to at least live comfortably in a house of my own. I accepted, more to settle the matter than any other reason, and the following year was accepted by the Assembly of Maellon; an order of great antiquity and repute that devoted itself entirely to the pursuit and comprehension of knowledge. Scholars and Oracles of Maellon had been been the guiding force of my people and people the world over since time immemorial.

It was an honour to be accepted, and I did not shrink from it. Along with the other novices, I studied hard and obeyed my instructors. From language, mathematics, history, life sciences, the theories of magic to prophecy, philosophy, politics, alchemy, chemistry and herblore. In six years I spoke three languages and understood more about the theories of numbers and economics than my father in all his commercial experience could have boasted.

It was then, at twenty-two, that I was ordered to go out into the world as a journeyman and not return till I had filled a book with things I had learned. Bidding my family, my teachers and my peers farewell, I left Hauhn on a trading vessel bound for far-off Kheddish. I was full of hope and excitement, and in retrospect I pity the sailors and other passengers for having to listen to my unending questions. All information was sacred to a Scholar of Maellon, be it the name of an elderly wine merchant’s first born or the name of the hill where the skipper’s grandfather had been buried.

I recorded it all within the thick, leather-bound book my teachers had presented me with and found that not a day went by without some small bit of new knowledge being added to the toughened pages. Perhaps this was my true lesson – I reasoned in my youth – that knowledge in and of itself is easy to find if one simply looks. In time I learned to be more and more concise and selective in my recordings, for I did not want to return to my order with less than I desired and a book full of small, disconnected facts.

I had been away from Hauhn for five years when I arrived at the last page of my book. At the time I was making my living as a storyteller in a Jialix, a village in the mountains of Enn where they had only barely heard of my home of Huahn. The people of Jialix were tall, fair and generally soft-spoken but surprisingly deep thinkers for such a rural region and had taken me and my stories in with good grace and warmth I had not often encountered on my journeys.

I had spent many days in the little village’s square telling stories or sitting up amongst the peaks and thinking on all I had learned. It was many weeks of relative rest, longer than I spent anywhere since I had begun my travels, and since arriving I had enjoyed the peace Jialix had offered me so graciously.

It was in my eighth week in mountain village that the night that changed everything came. My days had been so calm, so it was with some surprise that I woke in the middle of the night to find three village men standing in the hut they had given me. “Kalvish, you must rise.” One of them – a young man named Rhunel – told me as he shook me awake. “There is something you must see!”

To Whom It May Concern;

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To whoever (or whatever, I’m not opposed to Lovecraftian abominations from the great beyond deciding to stay for a spell) should stumble across this blog: welcome!

First off let me introduce myself (in so far as I’m comfortable with on the wide wide wide web of course).

My name is Raven (yes, real name, it’s a long story). I’m in my mid-twenties and currently living in The Netherlands. I’m Dutch born, but I’ve been almost all over this planet (grew up in various parts of Africa, lived in Fiji, Australia, to name a few places) and as a result have become quite accustomed and interested in travel.

I am an avid reader. Particularly fantasy, though I don’t consider myself tied to the genre as I have enjoyed books of all categories from historical fiction to non-fiction to that odd kind of science-fiction from the 80s you sometimes find on the shelves of those wonderfully obscure little bookstores.

I am also an amateur writer, and you will be subjected to some of my writing if you stick around on this blog long enough. I don’t consider myself amazingly talented, but I think I get by well enough and have recently considered that maybe I would like to try and get something complete enough to try an publish.

Hm. Well that’s more than enough about me. A quick rundown of what to expect in this blog.

I am somewhat politically minded and will occasionally rant about it and invite healthy discussion concerning my views.

I think religion is a fascinating subject, particularly as an athiest myself, and am known to be very vocal on the matter. I thoroughly enjoy discussion on this subject.

I will, from time to time, put up little segments of my writing or one-shot stories. Part of this will be practice for me, part of it will be because I can.

And there will be random stuff and things I feel like saying. Talking about music, quotes I find interesting, books I’ve read, science-y stuff I feel like sharing, etc.

Who knows, might be something you find interesting.

So again, welcome. Hope you stick around.

R.

Quote

“The Raven”

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning – little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door –
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as `Nevermore.’

The Raven (1845), Edgar Allan Poe