Monthly Archives:: October 2013

That tricky opening chapter

October 22, 2013 Current writings, The Plains of Kallanash, Writing musings 0

Everyone agrees that the opening to a book is critical. Some say it’s the first five pages, some the first 18 lines (the first page on a typical print book), and some will tell you that you have to grab the reader by the throat within the first sentence, or All is Lost.

Well, to be honest, if a reader is so flighty that they’re going to toss a book based solely on the first line, I’m not sure I want them anyway. The first page is trickier. I can see the case for putting something there that’s so compelling that a reader absolutely has to turn the page. It’s all very well for George R R Martin to stick a forty page prologue up front, full of characters who promptly die, dialogue that is deeply portentous but unintelligable, and events that will possibly be understandable three books later, if you’re lucky. Most of us won’t be given that much leeway by the reader.

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The joy of editing

October 13, 2013 The Plains of Kallanash 1

‘The Plains of Kallanash’ is the first book I ever actually completed (in first draft), so now that it’s had several months to brew while I finished another book, it’s time to begin the process of editing. I’ve always imagined that my writing is pretty clean. I don’t make many errors of grammar, spelling or punctuation, and I edit to some extent as I go along, cleaning up yesterday’s writing before starting a new section, adding in elements needed to the early chapters as the plot develops and occasionally revising whole chunks of text when I reached a lull. So it was shock to reread the opening chapters after a spell away from it.

Who wrote this crap? That was my first thought. It was long-winded and dull. I’d tinkered a bit with the opening paragraph, but it still didn’t work. Then there was a long section that was basically exposition, more telling than showing, just atmospheric backstory, before other characters appeared and things started to happen.

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The Fire Mages is complete (first draft)

October 5, 2013 Current writings, The Fire Mages 0

The first draft of ‘The Fire Mages is now complete. It weighed in at 44 chapters, 151,000 words in the end, and took four and a half months to write, although only 90 days were actual writing days. Average amount written was almost 1,700 words per writing day. This is a big improvement on ‘The Plains of Kallanash’, where I managed only 1,000 words per writing day, and elapsed time was almost a year. Not sure whether I’m getting more productive, or this was an easier book to write. It’s certainly smaller (‘The Plains of Kallanash’ is 220,000 words).

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On villains

October 4, 2013 Brightmoon world, The Fire Mages, The Incursors, The Plains of Kallanash 0

Most stories have a villain of some sort to generate conflict (also known as an antagonist). Beginning writers are advised to give their hero or heroine (protagonist) a goal, and to have an antagonist who works against the protagonist, preventing him or her from reaching their goal. The tension rises as the protagonist struggles to achieve the goal and is knocked back more and more decisively; eventually a point of despair is reached, then a solution is envisaged and there is a final confrontation, during which the antagonist is defeated.

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