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Copy that March 30, 2011

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I dragged myself to the end of a chapter the weekend before last. What I thought was going to be the second to last chapter got filled with dialogue, conspiracy, arguments, and a lot of fluff that a hard-nosed editor would probably cut mercilessly. Ah well. As long as the fluff propels me forward.

However I have put the novel on hold while I do some copy writing. I like copy writing. I know people who say it is dull and boring and stale and what not. But I find that I like it. I have also found that I seem to be kind of adept at it.

I am currently creating some web pages and a magazine ad for an assignment. I am wondering if the part of me enjoying the layout and type-setting is a close relation to the stationary-geek that gets lost in Office Works looking at all the pens and work books and office furniture. They must be related, surely.

I have discovered that I need to learn InDesign though. That would be a handy skill for when my tame graphic designer is not available to help at a moments notice. I like him. He knows this. 🙂

Despite me putting the novel over in the corner under for a moment and concentrating on producing ad-copy, ideas for my Steampunk world keep being born. I have decided to have a second race besides humans in the world now. They have a written language with translates very easily into sign language, they like to scratch a lot and have massive nails to do this with. This detail is important.

Some world design documents and character design documents say that it is sometimes the smallest of details which can set something apart. With this in mind, and the nature of the Mountain People being, not primitive, but hunters and gatherers with big hands, I thought- claws. Why not claws. They can paint them, use them to scratch and scarify their bodies ritually. Dip them in deadly plant toxin and really ruin your day from a tiny scratch. Certain tribes have different scarification, different ways of cutting or pruning their claws to differentiate them from others. So, just that one small idea about nails, or claws, just spawned MORE ideas. I liked it.

My plan for this week, what is left of it, is to polish up the copy and send it to my graphic designer to make MORE shiny, with pictures, tentatively start down the path of ending the sci-fi epic, again. And maybe figure out a political system for my Steam Punk. A quiet week.




SUnday Afternoon Writing March 20, 2011

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When my writing group was in full swing I would save Sunday afternoons for writing the weekly assignment. Not much happens on a Sunday afternoon. Perfect time to write.

So here I am, 2.30 in the afternoon, with two things to write. A short piece in my Stempunk verse, and the end of another chapter in my sci fi. The Steampunk is more exciting to me, but I know I have to finish my sci fi soon, else it will just hang around and hang around.

During the writing group this week we talked about world building. I have a world to build and things to decide, and I am not totally sure which way to go. What political system to use, a royal family? Principalities? Some sort of tribal council? I need a currency system, I need a weather system… you need to know the best trade winds to fly your sky ship in, don’t you. I even need to know how my sky ships operate. Just wind power or some sort of steam powered thruster system. And hanging beneath the big balloon, is it going to look like an actual ship? Or a different shape entirely? Do I need a pantheon of gods?

I have many ideas for the verse, but we did talk about how the ideas can drown out the story and make it just a vehicle to show off your ideas. There have been a few movies like this. Great ideas, lousy story. My friend warned me not to ‘crow bar’ the ideas in to ths tory. Let the story be, and if the ideas become relevent, use them. Else just leave them in the background.

Truth be told, I havent actually got a story for my steampunk world yet. Great ideas, but ideas do not a story make. I am sure the story will come in time. There is plenty of fodder for it.

For me, it was an interesting notion of crow barring ideas into a story. You can invest just as much time into creating a world as you do writing about it and you don’t want all that effort to go to waste. The story is what is key here. Everybody loves a good story. Not everybody likes a show off.

For some strange reason I in fact feel a little bit like world building is a luxury. It feels so indulgent just creating a world, a sandbox to play in. It isn’t the story, I am not producing a piece of writing to be read and viewed by others, it is just for myself. However I have been shown the benefits of doing his kind of work. It is done, and you don’t have to think of foundation work while trying to write the story.

For example, I am going to use sigil magic, symbols, in my world. But I have not created the symbols yet. They are going to be based on the written language, so now I am going to create a written language. I know it will be good te be able to reference this language while writing, so I can see what sigils to use, what words to use etc, without having to stop the writing flow, think about it, and fudge it over if I don’t have the firm details.

And yet, to me, to that practical part of my brain, creating a language, a written language, it thinks – why are you doing that? It wont have any use outside that novel.

As you can see, I still need to have words with my brain. It needs to let go of the practicalities of things sometimes.

My Bitz Box March 8, 2011

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A Bitz Box. Who has one of those? I know modelers who have a bits box. The left over plastic bits from models which get stuck onto custom stuff when they want. Space Marine sprues which come with twenty weapon varieties they can use on other models at a later date. They fish through the box for something that feels just right for some custom miniatures they are painting. There is even an online site just for this kind of thing – http://www.bitzbox.co.uk/.

But I know of people who go through model shops and just buy boxes of models, just in case. There was a shop which had a $2 sale on those random Japanese Mecha kind of models. This modeler purchased about 40 boxes, each one different. Came in handy building dreadnoughts for his Warhammer 40k army he said. Plus, he sold some on eBay to fund his addiction.

I mention this because I feel the notepad I carry around with me everywhere, and what EVERY writer should carry with them, is our version of the Bitz Box.

The notepad I have, for me, is like the entry point into my Bitz Box. I have two files, currently “quick ideas” and “larger ideas”.

The quick ideas are thoughts I like which I think could be useful or great in some way, but don’t have much behind them. They are not stories in themselves, but could be good for something. For example – “I feel so pixellated today” I like this idea, something a character might say in a cyberpunk world, or a hacker or something. But, in itself, it is not an idea that has a story behind it. This little thought is in my Bitz Box.

The Larger Ideas file has ideas I think could be stretched into stories or novels. Indeed, my Grand Apartments novels sprung from this file many years ago. And I have used a few ideas from here to create extended works.

I don’t have a Bitz Box for characters, but I think this might be a good idea. Any character concepts I can collect together.

My Bitz Box also includes inspirational artwork. I can’t draw, which sucks. The number of times I have a character look in my head, and try to draw it and get not much more than a stick figure… grr! I know people who can draw, and I have asked a couple of them to draw characters for me. But I feel bad asking them to produce some work purely for my indulgence. That, and one guy is really good at producing manga-esque drawings, which didn’t suit the gritty sci-fi character I wanted.

So I fish through the internet for inspirational are. Deviant Art and Elfwood Studios are both great resources for me. That picture looks like who I want to be my protagonist! More recently I have grabbed images of skyboats and dirigibles, seeing how other people view them, run them and provide propulsion. Some have rockets, some propellers. Some air ships are floating sailboats with sails. Others are iron-clad monsters with air bags and smoke stacks. It helps me plan how I want my Sky-boats to look and feel.

I am also grabbing pictures of modded nerf guns. But that is for later projects, ahem.

So, when I am stuck for a writing idea, I know I can dip into a box of images and written ideas, pick two or three, and make something of it. An exercise I like to throw at my writing group is – “place person and object”. My last effort I had a picture of a slum-like street with a bright neon sign in a foreign language; I had an android sitting in a doorway looking dirty and run down; and I had a shiny black orb with some blue LED lights on the outside.

My story was about an android which needed to save her master from a terminal illness. A local crime lord had the cure, but she had to gamble for it. She had to put her heart on the line. She lost, her heart and her master, because the crime lord cheated, of course. The android, being a machine, could only think in logics, and not nuances of human emotion and deception.

It was a cool little story. I liked it, and it totally burst forth from my Bitz Box.

Entering the Last Chapter, maybe… March 6, 2011

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An irregular update, I know. I have been slowly coming down with a flu-like thing. And now I have it and back on the way up. So this is a Sunday afternoon where I am kind of unwell, but am trying to write through it.

A friend has asked for my help in writing copy for a website he is building. I am going to use a different set of writing tools, one i don’t get to use as much as I like, but one I find enjoyable. Copywriting and subject specific copy writing. I often imagine having a decorated case or box or something, with different labels which house different writing tools. Or perhaps it could be like the Matrix, when Trinity asks for the ability to pilot the helicopter. A few moments later she has the tools needed. I can uninstall novel writing tool-set, and install Copywriting tool-set.

There would certainly be core lines of code familiar with both kinds of writing. An element of creativity and productivity, the BIOS of spelling and grammar and proper language use. But from there, the themes and flavours would be different. And, while I write this I am getting some cyber-punk-esque ideas, so excuse me while I write them down in my fresh new notebook…

… so I am back now. That was more a character than a story idea. Don’t know where I would use him or her. I haven’t got a cyberpunk story in mind at the moment. But he can sit in my bits box for call up when required.

There is a cafe across the road from my work which does great coffee. I must go there at least twice a day. And they make awesome muffins. Oh my.. muffins.. yum. I am a regular there, and they know my regular order. Last week I arrived early. I wanted to write, outside, on the street, nice vibe. One of the baristas said good morning, talked a bit, wants to read my novel when I’m finished, and then gave me the wireless net password.

From a customer service point of view, I loved this. They know I’ve been there buying coffee for a LONG time. And now, they’ve given something back to me. It has encouraged me to go there early more and more, to write for half an hour before work. To get some creative sanity into my brain before the daily grind. I will say this does make Facebook and Chat available, but at that hour of the day, no one is online anyway. But, it is automatically saving to Dropbox each time, which i appreciate.

I think I am on to the last chapter, but it is going to be an epic chapter. Fifteen pages in and they’re almost at the final confrontation. Perhaps a chapter for that alone, and then the ending chapter to tie off loose ends and leave those annoying threads which will enable me to revisit the verse with my familiar old characters at a later date if I feel the need.

The writing ha picked up a bit of speed. Still not as quick as I would like; still a bit of faffing around with conversation; still having awesome steam punk ideas which need to be looked at and acknowledged so I don’t forget them. But it is steady. If you manage to write at least half an hour a day before work, it is still a good thing.

It will be finished. Slowly but surely.!