Sunday, 17 March 2019

Writing a novel: Day ten

Day One 

Part of my own critical analysis is trying to judge how predictable my story is. I'm constantly asking myself this question, and equally I constantly remind myself that just because I may know where my story is going, and that it may seem obvious to me, a reader likely has no idea.

In the early stages I like to set the scene for what could be, offering the reader a myriad of possibilities. Hopefully these may form into small hooks, and in turn barbs, from which I've caught the reader. In reeling 'him' in I have to ensure that I keep teasing, not revealing my hand too soon.

Because at some point, the land becomes visible. The reader will know the landscape. By that time the reader needs to be invested and interested in my characters. Our characters. I've done something perhaps a little differently this time, inspired by recent readings of King and Hill, which is to inflect my characters with more of the mundane. Perhaps off-script remarks that give back story to item purchases, or reminiscences to past events - never too long or distracting, but something that adds flesh. It's not necessarily important to the story, but it makes the character more real.

Adds context to the landscape.

Brightens the darker areas.

I've become conscious of being too wordy - just that. Over-complicated description. Too dense sentences. Saying too much. For fear of losing track or focus, of there being too many pages for the reader. Then I'm reminded (thanks Twitter) that readers want to get lost in a story. They want a good book to be long. The important bit of 'long' though must be story, and contextual characterisation. Not dense and complicated language for the sake of that, for it pulls a reader out.

Story, story, story.

10 days: 9k words. I need to pick up the pace.


https://getbook.at/amazon-neon-city


Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Review: London

London London by Frank Tayell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very detailed exposition of the end of the world from the journal of a witness. Set in London, the zombie apocalypse erupts - unfortunately for Bill, or perhaps fortunately, he has a broken leg and has to watch from the safety of his top floor apartment as everything around falls apart.

We are fortunate that Bill is a political adviser, and as the story unfolds, so does more and more backstory, showing how Bill perhaps knows more than he lets on at the beginning. Befriending a hack that sends him underground videos and information is also helpful for us; the reader. Rather than being an anonymous survivor, and completely clueless about the realities of this infection, as the story unfolds we garner more info, making for a rounded story.

These snippets are fed us between the grounded reality of life in the apocalypse: stabbing zombies in the head and searching for loot - mostly food and water. There's some good research here, indicating what would happen - and when - to the various utilities, and the difficulty of attaining water. Clean water, at least. I'm not sure about boiling pasta in orange juice any time soon.

It's very much foundational in its setup and premise, being book one, but it's a solid base. Unless you forward planned on reading the rest I perhaps wouldn't read this one, unless you just love zombies. Enjoyed the London setting!


View all my reviews

Monday, 11 March 2019

Writing a novel: Day six

Day One 

Is it six days already? I'm a bit behind schedule, as pacemaker shows:



It was a weekend, and they tend to be slower as I want to unwind and there's constant maitenance and other things going on. I'm quite pleased with what I've written so far. It's genre writing so will never win awards for prose, but so long as I keep engaged with it myself, then it should be engaging for readers too. At least that's the idea. The refinement can come in the edit.
A thousand hands pressing down kept him from rising. He couldn’t even reach the glass of water on the bedside. Nails dug into his brain and thankfully, eventually, the little death drew him back into its dark embrace. 





Do other writers struggle with the early stages? In exposition? For me, the earliest stages are the easiest to write, as I probably have many walls and doors to the floorplan. And where there are gaps, these can be explored with a creative freedom, all while the character becomes fleshed out with back story and tics. The middle section (and these novels are written with a traditional three act style) is the toughest; I've found that the prose becomes more 'plodding' as it tries to hit more and more story beats, with so much of location and character already set up.

One trick, I suppose, would be to add more characters later on - at least side characters - or move the story to new locations. Or perhaps just looking at something from a different perspective. Hmm, something for me to ponder there. It's good, if you're a writer, to acknowledge where you may have flaws, and if you can see them yourself, with a critical eye, than all the better. I've seen flaws which no-one has picked up on in my own work; someone else perhaps didn't think they were flaws, but they were to me, and something to consider refining or fixing. After all, it will guide me - or you if you write - to a more rounded, accomplished, consistent writing style.

As a reader, it's inconsistency that grates me. It almost doesn't matter how the book is written (if legible) so long as it's consistent throughout. A non-genre piece of fiction may try to bend this rule, but it's probably best not to stray too far for story driven narratives.




https://getbook.at/amazon-neon-city

Day ten


Friday, 8 March 2019

Writing a Novel: Day three

Day One 

By day three the fingers are flying, and hopefully the ideas too. There's a quiet magic in conjuring worlds bit by bit - does anyone know where the little puzzle pieces appear from? The best feeling is when the brick walls don't appear and every sentence leads into the next, into the next, and so on, and you begin seeing a few sentences ahead. I guess this is called the zone. A curious state of solitude and focus.
The dome cracks may have been metaphorical, but the splintering society; the graffiti-daubed concrete fascias and crumbling brick walls, smashed glass and crime-darkened alleys, were the real deal. A man will do anything for money. A boy will lash out if there’s no future and no food in his belly. A mother will bleed for her children. It was a thousand stories played out in exactly the same way by actors who didn’t realise that just a generation or two earlier, this wouldn’t have mattered to them.

Just where and how do I reach this mythical 'zone'? Well, practically speaking, I am able to work flexibly in the office, doing my weekly hours however I want, taking whatever breaks I want. So I tend to take an hour every day and use that either to read or write. At the moment, I'm writing, and can squeeze in 750-1000 words in that time. Drink of choice: tea.

In the evening, after the children are in bed, I'll generally write another 1000 words or so before retiring to relaxation: Netflix or the PS4. Drink of choice: still tea. I used to procrastinate over my writing space, and when I think back about all the time I've wasted because I didn't think it would work - that the 'space' was somehow 'wrong'. Using that as an excuse to not write that novel I'd always wanted to write - it's annoying. Now here I am: a desk in the children's playroom, surrounded by toys, and a desk piled with books and god knows what. Either that or a canteen table at work. Both work, because it's what's inside the head that matters. Like Stephen King notes in his On Writing, he wrote better beneath the stairs staring at a wall.

No distractions.

There's something to be said for public spaces though. I wrote almost the entirety of The Risen in the library, on the third floor overlooking a traintrack, a main road, and a river in the distance. That white noise of clicking keyboards and quiet murmuring, and using a computer that isn't yours and has none of your distractions on it, perhaps with headphones in listening to music, can be a lullaby to the imagination.

https://getbook.at/amazon-neon-city

Day six

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Writing a novel: Day two

Day One

It's day two! I won't be blogging each and every day, FYI - there's writing to get done! However, it was a solid start today - a nice round 1,000 words. For those of you interested, pacemaker is a nice little online app that you can use to keep track of writing goals.

https://www.pacemaker.press/



I'll take some screenshots as I go. I use it with a pinch of salt - I may want 60,000 words, but it could easily be more or less depending on where the story goes. This is not set in stone. At the moment pacemaker tells me 1200 words a day are needed. Well we'll see about that!

In the last post I mentioned my starting notes, well here they are:


Don't read too closely if you want to avoid spoilers! I'm sure many will be horrified at the scarcity, especially considering the second page is the entire trilogy. This to me is just the skeleton - the meat of the planning gets added beneath all my text as I go along. I make notes of character traits and points I want to hit, which will get translated into the spreadsheet if they are major moments.

For fun, here's a paragraph from the opening section, raw:


Overpopulated and overstretched, Neon’s dome was splintering; district after district within bearing the brunt of an over-stimulated citizenry too eager and too bored to do anything other than reproduce. It was in their genes. It wasn’t their fault. There was space – the authority evicted whole families from top-side districts and relocated them to empty apartments beneath, to the sub-districts of pale lights and ever-night. It was a lottery. One day Joe and Jane Citizen were happily raising their family in the relative sunshine filtering through the dome’s skin, administering insurance accounts for the rich or wealthy or famous, or all three – and the next it was goodbye sun, goodbye rooftop barbecues, goodbye friends and family – unless they chose to move south too – and hello Negative Zero’s immigration barrier. Hello new home. Sure, the apartment might be twice the size as topside, but damn; the air was dank and sweaty and breathing it in made you feel as though you were filling your lungs with soup, all while looking out of tall, wide windows into blinking darkness and neon-punctuated misery.

A lot will likely change. The challenge is getting it all down to begin with. The fun part is the editing. (I'm serious!)

Day Three

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Writing a novel: Day one

So, I thought it might be interesting to document my writing process for Neon City. I'm not sure how this will go, but it may highlight the highs and lows and triumphs and failures that pretty much every writer, I'm sure, will go through. Perhaps you're a reader, interested to see how an author plans and sets about achieving that mountain of a goal: writing circa 60,000 words (or more). Or maybe you're a fellow writer, looking for ways to avoid slipping up, giving up or otherwise WRITE!

I know I do that a lot.

Yet when I knuckle down, it does flow. I've now written - pinch skin - four novels. Would I give any of them 5 stars? No. But I'm hoping I would to the next one: Neon City. And if not that one, then the one after that.

All that is to say: I've been here before and just want each book to be better than the previous one. What I like about that is the formatted document is already done - sitting here with a title and spaces for copyright and chapter listings, and the oh-so-friendly About the Author at the end. I just need to fill the massive gap between.

I'm an indie author doing rapid release, so this book needs to be written in just a few weeks. I've given myself six. Other indies write more quickly, and slowly, have editors, don't have editors - whatever works for them. I write to this scale and have done since Nanowrimo a couple years ago, because it worked for me. I was inside the story every day. I believe that helped continuity of character.

I also write and copyedit in my full-time job, so I'm skilled at editing on the go. An editor colleague also reads and offers a proof. It would be great to afford a third edit on my novels in the future!

So that's 60,000 words in ~6 weeks, give or take. 10,000 words a week. My best day is 5,500 words - so it's easily achievable. I have a vague outline in place of where I want the plot to be, and 3 main characters pencilled out, and that's enough for me. So far, for each of the Neon series, I've set the first act up as an intro to location, mixed with mystery and a sense of foreboding. It will be no different here.

Time to get to know Xi Chen - my MC #1! I use an excel spreadsheet to outline the plot, but I rely on my characters to tell me where to go. As I get to know them, I often find myself cutting and pasting sections out or in, moving them around, or just shutting it down and letting the plot flow. Something I'm taking from the first three Neon books is complexity of character. Complexity of morality. Nothing, and no one, is black-and-white. And that's sci-fi at its core. I'm looking forward to mixing in a bit of cyberpunk.

Day Two

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Review: The Game

The Game The Game by Terry Schott
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wanted to enjoy this book more than I did, as it had a nice, communal development story (uploaded to Facebook in parts for friends) and had themes I like exploring. In the end, I finished it just to squeeze out the ideas that the author had, as there were so many it ended up incoherent with little focus.

The Game is a pre-adult virtual reality life system designed to educate the children of Tygon. The Game is E. A. R. T. H. The idea is that the children come out of this system having lived full lives, and can then take that experience into their real life.

Sounds good. Except that you have to earn credits to be a part of the game (from having a ‘good game’), after your initial free runs. (Children play multiple times during their ‘childhood’). Logical inconsistency #1: the Tygon rulers therefore don’t actually care that much about maxing out a child’s potential. Logical inconsistency #2: kids that fail end up in labour camps. Where are the parents? Who are the parents? The Game has been around for 30 years – where is the supposed societal enlightenment that would come about from the communal wisdom of a generation?

These aren’t answered. They are compounded by the idea that The Game is viewed for pleasure by the adults – the very same adults who have been through the process themselves in order to become ‘better adults’. It’s masochistic, and given the dwindling popularity of Big Brother type shows in our reality: unrealistic. There’s also no explanation as to how The Game is viewed, as an entire lifetime inside The Game can take around 7 weeks in real-time (assuming someone ‘lives’ to be 70). It’s stated that recording and rewatching an event in The Game is impossible. There are ‘big’ events that happen in-game that in reality, for someone watching, would flash by in an instant. It makes no sense.

It also makes no sense that so much time and dedication is placed by ‘Patrons’ – people on Tygon who ‘sponsor’ single individuals (out of millions/billions) with the goal of trying to influence the outcome of in-game activities, when they cannot communicate directly in-game, and events would happen so fast that it would be impossible, in reality, to react quick enough even if they could.

Despite massive holes such as these, there were some good ideas, such as the explanations for Angels and Demons, and religion as a whole. The idea that the Pyramids and other ancient structures were BETA testers. It had some innovation, but all this was just not enough to paper the cracks. Add to this one-dimensional characters and an unrealistic, narcissistic MC; and a writing style that lacks variety, ‘style’, ambition – that does nothing but ‘tell’ instead of ‘show’ – and you get your two-stars.


View all my reviews

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Neon City trilogy covers!

Hi all, excited to reveal the next covers in the Neon series! It's another trilogy; Neon City, Tides of Hysteria, and Purge of Deceit. The blurbs aren't completed yet but you can add them to your reading lists on Goodreads! 




Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Review: The Dragon's Den

The Dragon's Den The Dragon's Den by Graeme Rodaughan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Dragon's Den (The Metaframe War, #3) by Graeme Rodaughan

This book was like "Welcome back, good to see you, sit down, we're all out of starters, we only have 24 ounce steaks for main courses and here it is, waiting for you, get stuck in."

That is to say, after the first handful of pages it was relentless in its action. The reader is guided towards where they think the showdown is going to happen, and then realises the whole damn thing is a showdown. Pure, frenetic, ramp-coruscating action.

With that in mind, the set-pieces need to work, and while you're left mesmerised and wondering just how far the Morovar team can push their skills, they go and push it some more. It's frankly miraculous they get as far as they do, especially with grenades aiming their way as they cling to the top of a moving vehicle. Batted away like baseballs.

And the set-pieces do work. The obstacles they meet on their path are realistic (for this world), with the right amount of insurmountability to be surmounted. It is satisfying to read how they navigate their way from mini-battle to mini-battle, within the framework of the grander scale. The POV seems tighter than the previous two books, with clarity between characters when we switch. Individual character motivation is also more obvious, though sometimes questionable, but that's characters for you!

My only negative really is the run-on sentences; ironically it works well during action sequences, as the pace is kept racing. It doesn't work so well when we do get down time, and seems to be just how the writing style is. Seems picky, but I know it would be a bigger issue for me if this wasn't an action-oritiented series.

I enjoyed the ending too - the little teasers of further intrigue and misdirection and guilt and new character motivation. Leading straight to the next one! I wonder if it'll last longer than a few in-story hours!

View all my reviews

Friday, 8 February 2019

Neon Sands Trilogy Boxset & Permafree Prequel - NOW OUT!

She's out there in the world for all to read. A little scary; heart flutters of nervousness.

It'll be fine.

You'll click on this link:

DOWNLOAD AND ENJOY MY BOOK

And then you'll LEAVE A REVIEW and the world will keep on turning.

I'll keep on writing.

And we'll do it all again, you and me.



And should you enjoy that little taster, you'll either buy the reasonably priced BOXSET or have that sweet KINDLE UNLIMITED membership to read the entire set in one go.

And LEAVE A REVIEW on all 3 books.





Because you're a reader, and you're great.

Review: Neon Zero: The Neon Series Prequel

Neon Zero: The Neon Series Prequel Neon Zero: The Neon Series Prequel by Adam J. Smith
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

To great fanfare...... Neon Zero is now available for FREE download. That's FREE!

It's a permafree prequel to the Neon series, so enjoy!

getbook.at/amazon-neon-zero


View all my reviews

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Cover reveal - Neon Zero - Neon Series Prequel

Hi all! Well it's been an exciting month for my book sales - having Neon Sands Book One on free for a few days was great, reaching #1 in 3 different categories and curiously, across all 5 days, the ratio of free downloads to purchases of books 2 and 3 was 30:1, consistently. I like that ratio. So next up, the perma-free prequel Neon Zero:

You cannot outrun the sun...

With Earth falling to pieces, those who escaped look back with sorrow, and forward with hope. Hope of a new beginning. A chance to start over.

Then the fires
began...













Looks good, eh? I might just have to get a paperback version printed, if only for myself, even though it'll only be 100 pages or so long. You can add it to your Goodreads reading list here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43199128-neon-zero

I seem to have had a rise in book review requests lately - apologies if I've not responded to you. At the moment, the only books I'm thinking about are my own and a few that are already on my reading list, sorry.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Breaking the silence - Neon Sands FREE

I am alive! The blog is not dead! Hallelujah!

In all seriousness, I've just been too busy to do anything but work and write Flames of Apathy! It was a bit of a beast but in the end, I think I've done the trilogy justice. Science-fiction, for me, has always been about hope and aspiration, as much as it has been about any futuristic science, or high-concept action scenes. I'm most interested in the human story. Which is why I think Flames of Apathy works well. But, who knows, maybe it'll divide opinion. If at least one person enjoys it, than that'll be something!

It's out on 6 December, so to celebrate, Neon Sands is free, and Plains of Ion is reduced, for the next 5 days. Neon Sands is currently sitting at #2 in various categories, which is pretty amazing. Might even be #1 by the time I finish writing this. This will be the first and only time it'll be free, so grab it while you can. I'm writing a prequel to the Neon series which will be permafree, out in February.

http://getbook.at/amazon-neon-sands