It’s kinda odd. It’s pretty hard to explain. When you write a book in such a short period of time you are living in their world almost in real time. The strange part is, you don’t want to leave. Or moreover you feel like you can’t. Have you ever not wanted to leave a party in case something cool happens after you’ve gone? That’s the problem with taking a break in writing for me.

Alchemy Reigns is the first series I have written. Although Emblem Divide has a sequel, it is fairly well defined. At this stage, Alchemy Reigns is largely still open. I have a ton of material and ideas, but how they slot together and how the story will weave is still unclear. It is because of this that I find it really hard to take a break. It’s like going on holiday without your camera. You don’t want to do anything cool, in case you forget it on your return.

Characters run around in your head. They have adventures, like testing the water almost. Is this a good scene Pete? Do you like the way I acted here? It’s like they are trying to impress me sometimes. Seriously though, they often come up with something really cool. The problem is, with cool things, you want to explore them. With the exploration comes solidity and when solidity happens, you want to write it down.

Sure, you can make notes, but notes do not do it justice. Imagine watching twenty minutes of a film and writing three sentences about it. You just can’t capture the detail of those twenty minutes in three sentences. It is impossible. The more you try to distance yourself from the characters, the longer it takes to get back into the story once you are ready to write again.

Taking a break is hard. Very hard.

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So Alchemy Reigns is finished and the process of editing begins. In fact it has already started. With Emblem Divide, I used Open Office for both writing the book and for changes. With AR I decided to go down the path of using LaTeX. Why? Well, I wanted to store it in Git right? After writing the Git In The Trenches book and finding out actually awesome it was to have all this text in a version control system, I decided to do the same for AR too.

The problem with that is editing. I mean, with Open Office it’s easy. You just give the document to your proofer and they send it back and you go through the Accept/Reject merge process. There are no built in tools to do that with text, but there are some which function in a very similar way. So, all editors/proofers for AR have access to the Git repository and have their own branch that they commit changes into. I request that a commit only contains changes to one chapter file.

The files are all in plain text as they are written in the LaTeX language. It is practically identical to say html, or plain text and just has a little markup in there for quotes and extra line breaks or chapter titles. So each chapter is split up into a single file. When the proofer reads it, they makes changes to that one file and commit it.

I will generally then do a git fetch to pull their changes into my repository. Then I will fire up the gitk tool and mark each commit that contains revision with a tag. Generally I’ll use a letter to represent the authors name, followed by a number which represents the chapter that has been changed. See the screenshot below.

So in this case the first chapter has been edited by an author with a name beginning with r. Now that this is done, I use the power of Git to get me the version of the file that they have edited for comparison with my own.

git show r1:example.tex > example.tmp

Then finally I run meld like so to pull the two files side by side. The visualisation here is far superior to anything that the Accept/Reject changes one in Open Office can offer. Often the changes look so confusing in OO, but in Meld, they look perfect. I always put the editors changes on the left and mine on the right.

meld example.tmp example.tex

The I simply use the arrows down the middle column to either push my changes into their file (not that that is necessary, it just removes the change from sight), or pull their change into my own file. The thing I love about meld is you can also edit the file as you go. This means if you are not quite happy with their change, you can tweak it.

And that’s it. After finishing, I just delete the tmp files and commit into my Git repository. Cool huh?

Living two lives??!?

Posted: January 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

I never realised before how difficult staying grounded is whilst writing a book. When I’m writing I’m immersed in another world. Totally. There is no getting away from that. If you are not in that other world completely then you can not fully realise and understand its underlying structure, what makes it tick, its themes and philosophies. You need to live in two worlds. There is your day job life, where you get up, spend time with your family, make dinner, sleep, etc and then there is your nightlife, where you exist as multiple characters in an alternate world where the sky could be falling and the ground shaking.

The problem is the strain it puts on you as a person. For me personally it is almost like an addiction. In my previous post I mentioned about learning to take time away from writing. It is an incredibly difficult thing to do. The other world calls to you, invites you in for a little chat and a cup of tea. You feel compelled to stay for a while, it’s rude to just get up and walk out right? You have so many characters and voices running around inside your head that it’s often quite deafening and the only way to silence the noise is to write. To let them escape.

Sometimes I get a little writers block. Generally this happens when the story doesn’t have a place to go. When the characters do not have a path or a destiny. I write like a crazy person. I have Point A (the start) and Point Z (the end) and maybe a few points along the way. My writing is just me trying to get them through each of those points. The points are the cool places. The awesome chapters I have been longing to write. When those dry up, my characters just flounder and sit around looking at each other. This is when I get a break from it all.

Then the ideas pour in. Over this last week I have had major ideas for all of the current characters. I have the extra waypoints in the path. Problem is now, those paths start to form and when they form, there is no way to unform them. My brain acts like a buffer, it fills up with ideas and the only way to get them out to make room and to satisfy myself, is to write!

All in all though I just have to say that I am loving writing Alchemy more than Emblem Divide I think. Who knows where this journey will take both them and me. There is a lot planned, that’s all I’ll say, could be three books, could be more. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Time is a wondrous thing. We complain when we don’t have enough of it and we complain when we have too much of it. There is a balance to strike and that balance is often very difficult to get right. I’ve been feeling the effects of time a lot recently. (Yah I’m getting old I know!) When writing Alchemy Reigns, it’s been very difficult to justify doing activities that are not writing. I have learnt to optimise my time to some pretty good levels, just to make more time for writing.

Before my office moved, I had more time to write. It wasn’t just a function of time, but of opportunity. I used to take the train and so I had time when I was waiting at the station, plus time when I was travelling on the train. I also used to write during my lunch break, something I am probably going to start doing a lot more again. Now I cycle to work there is no opportunity for that, so I have to find other ways to get writing time. It is difficult, but I’ll never forget the quote from one of the Star Trek films. “If something is important enough, you make the time.” It is too true.

Writing is so important to me right now. It is an outlet and it is also a way for me to get some ideas across. So now, often I get up at 6:00am, to get in an hour of totally uninterrupted quality writing time. However, it is also important to make time for other things. It is a balance and it’s the balance that has been hard to find. It is hard to justify time away from the book. “If I do more now, I’ll finish quicker.” Well no. The book has a life of its own. It doesn’t matter how much time I put in. It will be finished when it is ready.

I have learnt that it is OK to spend time not writing and doing other things. There was a little struggle this morning about if I should blog or write more, but I figured that this was an important message to send out. If you have a project which is really important to you. Take time out once in a while to do something else. The project will still be there afterwards. Spend time with your family, and just relax. In our busy lives, we all need time to just chill once in a while.

 

Yeh, it was kinda weird the other day when two characters suddenly just appeared. Usually characters are planned for introductions, but not these guys. Once the book is out and people have had a chance to read it, I will divulge who they were, but it was exceedingly odd for two completely new characters to just gatecrash like that. I have no idea what their story will be. They did give me a little backstory, but nothing overly substantial. We shall see! Stay tuned.

On another note, I hit 83,000 words today. By my reckoning I’m about 2/3 of the way through this first book and have just written what I think is one of the most exciting chapters I have ever conceived. Again, I can’t go into much detail, but boy is it tense. I am finding now that the words are flowing much more freely, even in the quiet chapters which I usually detest writing (give me ACTION!!!). Maybe it is a sign of my writing style maturing, or maybe it means that this book will be even better than my last, I have had one pre-proofer at least comment as such.

In some ways I just want to finish book 1, I think it is because this book, although complete in its own right, is more of an introduction to the universe of AR. There is a lot of back story planned to emerge over books two and three, which have largely been unwritten and unplanned. But I’m ok with that! This book has, from the beginning, been more about letting the characters evolve and establish themselves than it has about telling a story. Don’t get me wrong, there is a LOT of story in there, but it has been there to build relationships and form a foundation for the real story which will start to emerge.

I’m not at all worried about finishing book 1, as I know I have plenty left for my characters. I am a little worried about starting book 2, but that is a little way off yet. I will update you all again soon. Stay tuned.

Pete

 

So, it has been almost a year since I wrote on this blog last. It doesn’t feel like, and yet it does at the same time. There is progress to report, great progress. Gone are the days when I was uncertain about the book. Gone are the days when the story of Alchemy Reigns was not coming together right. I guess with all my storied it takes about a year before they really sink in. This was definitely true in the case of AR.

The book is very much on track, with an estimated completion time of about two months away. This means that by the end of February, you should have a whole new story to get your teeth into. The best part? I see AR being at least a two book series probably more like four or even five. It is not a story I could ever tell in one book.

Each novel will focus on a different theme and I can tell you for sure that the weird mixture of technology, sci-fi, love and thriller is back once more. Early access to the novel has been met with some great feedback and I can not wait to release this one. As you all know, in the past, I released Emblem Divide as a serialised novel, one chapter every two days. I thought it was a great plan to begin with, so that I could read along with you all and know where you all were in the story.

This time will be different. This time I will release the entire book online at once. It’s not fair for me to dictate your reading speed and I feel it may have put some people off. So no worries guys, the entire book with be online right from day one (whenever that will be).

Once again thank you for all the encouragement. I will update you again soon. As it stands now, the book is already a third of the length of Emblem Divide ūüôā

Writers block?? – Not really!

Posted: January 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

Well, I am here sitting at the keyboard after suffering a six hour migraine. ¬†Yes, they happen. ¬†No, I’m not fussed. ¬†I’m not going to sit here for hours on end writing, when staring at the screen is going to only make things worse. ¬†I’ve been musing on why I haven’t been able to really get stuck into writing more AR. ¬†I mean, the last time I really wrote anything as before Christmas. ¬†What does that say?

Well, AR is trickier to write than ED. ¬†It’s interesting to me to discover why. ¬†I’m not touting myself as an amazing author, sometimes when I write these things I feel like I sound a little pretentious. ¬†Which I don’t want at all! ¬†But some other part of me thinks that you guys may find it interesting and if there are any of you out there that are writers yourselves, you may be able to take something away from this.

ED had a very definite ending. ¬†Though the process of getting there changed and the details were altered, there was always a very definite finishing point. ¬†There was also a very definite climax to the story and anyone who has read it will know that it builds up to a point and then just runs to the end, kinda like with most books really, I guess. ¬†With AR, I started with a concept. ¬†I actually amalgamated two story ideas I had been played, as I mentioned in the last post. ¬†The difficulty here is that both of them had their relative storylines. ¬†In combining the two together I’ve had to make compromises along the way to enable the two stories to mesh. ¬†Whether this is subconscious or conscious I don’t know, but it has happened. ¬†The difficulty I face with AR is that I went in with an entirely simple concept based story, as opposed to the very strong feeling I had with ED. ¬†Readers of ED, take note, that final scene in the Epilogue, sans dialogue, was something that had been in my mind since the very beginning. ¬†I longed to get to that point, it was my drive.

AR started life with a scene.  I had the ideas for the universe, but ultimately, it was this scene which started everything.  When I release the book, and I doubt this will change, the first scene in the book was actually the first one that I had in mind.  I went for a different approach on starting the book.  I just let it flow.  The interesting thing is that when I offered the chance for Damien to read the first chapter, something different happened.  The feedback really affected the way I wanted to take the story.

Damien commented on one of the characters, asked if there was more back story available.  In thinking about the back story, I created a whole new character, and this is where the second story idea that I had been playing with was brought in.  It was a real moment of clarity, a feeling that it was almost meant to be.  The two meshed really really well.  My problem then was separating the two ideas enough, whittling them down into concepts, rather than full blown ideas, so that I could bring them back together again.  This new character actually changed the entire way that the story was going.

AR is going to be a very soulful novel. ¬†It’s going to deal with some pretty hard issues for the characters, and I gotta say a big thank you to Damien for this, because if it wasn’t for his feedback on the initial works, it may have turned out very differently. ¬†I have the events in mind for the characters and each of them are working and weaving into a story, but I still don’t have my defining point and I think I need to find this before I can totally embrace the story. ¬†With ED, and I have said this before, the ending few chapters, I longed to get to so much, but at the same time I knew that when I did, the book was over. ¬†So all the while there was an internal struggle between drawing the story out, adding more and more depth to the characters, and writing the bits that I really wanted to write. ¬†In some ways it was exciting, and in others quite heart breaking. ¬†ED was my life for over a month and a half, these characters were so so important to me, they embodied much of me, much of the internal struggles I was facing at the time of writing.

I will often speak out the roles in important conversations on my way to work, playing out characters conversations and really trying to reflect on their emotions and reasons for their actions.  I have done this more with AR than I think I ever did with ED, one character in particular really needs to stand out above all the others.  In the same way that there were certain characters in ED that did the same.

Overall, I really really enjoy the writing process, and I know that once I have fleshed the story out a little more and have my ending, I’ll be good to go again. ¬†I need that drive, I need that excitement. ¬†I love exciting plots, I love exciting reveals. ¬†These keep me going and I am pretty happy with what I achieved with ED. ¬†There is no reason for AR to be any different ūüôā