So, I have run out of scheduled posts, and I didn’t want to miss the May update blog since I was doing so well.

I drafted it. I’ve got some other drafts sitting there ready to go. But I found I just don’t have the stomach to post them with everything else that’s going on.

I’ve got some announcements, but they’re postponed for now.

Stay safe, everyone, look after yourselves and each other. I’m still here, and I’ll be back to being a nerd about writing soon.

The Museum

The museum is deserted.

The museum never closes, but it is deserted. The evening sun lengthens the shadows, stretching the dark patches left by the little information stands until they are the same height as the buildings themselves.

A janitor leaves one building, pulling a cart, headphones on, tunelessly humming every second bar of the song pumping through the tiny speakers.

Inside the next building, the back wall is made of clear plastic, ancient pipes carefully labelled behind it. It is someone else’s job to take care of those, to carefully take them apart, to check that the protective resin is still proof against the rust, and then put them back exactly as they were, ready for the janitor to come past and scrub down all the glass. A janitor in a busy museum might have scrubbed off fingerprints, the little marks left where people pointed things out to each other, and children pressed their faces against the glass, and people leaned back against the exhibits while waiting for a late companion. But here, the janitor’s scrubbing removes only dust and whatever little pieces of grime that might get in when the janitor opens the door to clean the exhibits.

The job takes a long time, but is not hard. The wood fittings are oiled, the metal ones polished. The range of bottles along the back wall are dusted off and placed back, making sure that the antique labels are facing forward, so they could be easily seen if a guest should happen to wander past. The plaques are wiped down, showing the terse descriptions of the things on the bar.

Cocktail shaker. Boston style. Early 21st Century.”

Photograph of a 20th Century film star. Mass produced. Black and white. Film star died 1962. Photograph likely printed 2008.

Certificates of the venue’s license to serve alcohol. Obtained in early 21st Century. Restored.”

Next door, the building is white, lit by the fluorescent lights so popular at the time. The lights make it painful, almost, after the moodily-lit bar. They reflect off the white walls, the white ceiling, everything except the little black tiles on the floor, little islands in the sea of white. The janitor cleans down the benches, the stand-alone metal machines with displays and trays next to them. Then, the interior proper, shelves upon shelves upon shelves full of plastic models of things, all labeled. A two-pack of leeks. Potatoes, loose or by the bag. Kale, bunch. Further back in the shelves, the plastic models are of cardboard and plastic containers. Cereal. Eggs. Instant coffee. Detergent, for laundry. Each shelf has a little button next to it that will remotely activate a pair of headphones and play a guided tour as a guest walks past, detailing all the necessities of the household of the time.

This is the last building the janitor needs to visit. This is the end of the day shift. Soon, another janitor will arrive to pick up where this one left off, but in between them, the museum is silent.

The museum stretches for miles. Next to the supermarket there is a health food store, on the other side of the bar, a Tex-mex restaurant. The museum contains stores, movie theatres, blocks of apartments, warehouses and factories, all carefully preserved, labeled, and categorised. In places, the walls are peeled back so that the curious can see the inner workings of these places: electrical wiring, plumbing, insulation batts, the cross-section of solid brick or thin-as-a whisper plywood and plaster. It takes an army of janitors and archivists and curators to preserve the whole museum. It is a marvel of engineering and planning and human effort.

The museum never closes.

But it is always deserted.

Interactivity and Managing Pacing

So now that I got that rant from last week out of my system, let’s spend some time on the topic I actually wanted to talk about. Interactivity and Pacing.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about pacing in the past couple of days, because I’ve been editing, and editing means fixing up the horrendous pacing errors I made in the first draft. Continue reading

New Technique: Thoughts

So, in that little poll I did, people did say they were interested in reading me talking about my process for writing, so here’s a quick one on that topic, just an update. I am also aware that most people wanted posts about general writercraft but it’s been a long week and this is what I have right now. I’ll try and get back on topic next week. Continue reading

The Concert

I won’t keep you long before you get to read this one, just wanted to add a bit of context, since this is a more personal story.

This is mostly kept the same from a short story I wrote when I was about eighteen. I’ve cleaned up the wording and tweaked a few things, but I’ve tried to leave it as similar as possible to what I wrote back then. It was written after I attended my first-ever metal concert — literally I went home and the next day I wrote this because it was still rattling around in my head.

I’ve been to a few more concerts since then, and my perspective has definitely changed, but I still go back and reread this story sometimes, just to remember what the first one was like.

I’ve also kept the band anonymous, partly because, well, if there’s one thing I’m extra-special paranoid about it’s copyright infringement, and partly because I feel like knowing provides too much context, in a way. Buuuuut if you know the band, you could probably guess from the details. You decide for yourself if you want to guess or not.

Anyway. The story.

Continue reading

New Worldbuilding Approach

Friends and Internet denizens, I have been trying something new.

After working on The King’s City until I needed to give it one last time to beta readers (if you’re reading this, you know who you are, and I’m so thankful that you’re choosing to help me out despite my demanding timeframe – you are all getting homemade gifts once I can give them to you in person again). Which means that I need to distract myself for the next two weeks so that I can come back to it with fresh eyes.

I’ve done the glass of wine with dinner. I’ve done the two days of doing absolutely nothing related to writing or the project – just rearranging some things on the blog (as much as I can with my limited knowledge) and playing video games online with some friends. But now I’ve had my break, it’s time for me to get back into writing, and that means working on the next project.

This next project is a bit of an odd one. Not in terms of the story itself – though that is certainly odd – but in terms of how I’m approaching it.

Usually when I start writing something, I’ve had it rattling around in my head for a while. I used to write a lot of my worldbuilding at my job (on lunch break … of course …) where I couldn’t bring my laptop, so I would write notes on scrap paper and take it home with me. This formed my worldbuilding notes, which I’d process into the computer, making changes and filling gaps as I went. Then I got Scrivener, and the process of creating easily-referenceable worldbuilding notes got hundreds of times easier.

I made those notes for this story. I have them somewhere. But I think I lost them, and I am not willing to go looking for them again.

But I’ve also had this one rattling around for far longer than any of the others, I think. ‘The Ferryman’s Apprentice’ was a damn long time in the writing, but from idea to execution, I think it was only about eight months. ‘The King’s City’ was a bit longer – I think it was about twelve months before I started to write it. Earlier novels that have been relegated to the desk drawer of fate averaged around twelve months of worldbuilding before I got around to writing them.

FB, the next serial project, has been in worldbuilding development on and off for six years now.

I’m also trying to do my worldbuilding differently here. It has always been true that barely 10% of my worldbuilding notes ever make it into the actual story, and I think that’s not uncommon among writers who use worldbuilding notes. That doesn’t make them useless – worldbuilding notes like that give me a good, solid sense of the world and the plot.

But a lot of the detail that actually ends up in the story is throwaway details – stuff that I didn’t think about before but added at the last minute because I needed to mention something for a scene. I reference my worldbuilding notes for names of secondary characters that I forgot more than I do for worldbuilding details that I need for the story but didn’t remember.

But this plot is different in that it’s been sitting in my mind for so long that I don’t need that sort of formal worldbuilding note to form it anymore. I wrote them, I lost them, and I’m not recreating them.

This time around, I’m going in … well, more unprepared than I’ve been for a story in a long time. I’ve been talking through characters and setting with some friends for a long time, and I’ve been working out some things I absolutely couldn’t start with out (the main character didn’t have a lot of character for a while there, for one). But as for setting up the file, my usual process of adding in all the worldbuilding notes to check that I’ve got a good sense of things?
Well, we’re gonna skip that this time and see what happens. I’m diving right in with only a brief checklist of character notes, important scenes, and important thematic notes.

Let’s see what happens.

The Isolated Chef

Hi everyone

So a while back my friends convinced me to add a Thing to my social media, which was a YouTube blog where I talk about all the weird and wonderful things I do with food. I promptly filmed a couple of videos but got terrified of editing them, and have done nothing since.

But now that I’m doing the isolation thing, not only am I getting those videos up but screw it, I’m starting a food challenge. Here’s the idea: Minimising the amount I leave the house is good. Having a pantry full of things that just plain never get used is bad. Being frugal is also good. Experimenting with food is fun.

And as long as we’re all doing this isolation thing, we might as well find both silver linings and entertainment where we can.

So I’m going to start a vlog-type-thing where I talk about what food I’m cooking and eating. The goal is to have no weird odds and ends of bags left in my pantry by the time isolation is lifted. All the half-bags of lentils and specialty flours? Going to get used. All the meals I made and put in the freezer in case I ever needed a dinner at short notice? Going to get used. I’m going to reduce the amount I go shopping as much as physically possible. I’ll still be doing some of the experimenting and recipe creating that I intended to do on the vlog already, but it will absolutely be primarily for the purpose of The Isolated Chef for now.

Here are the exceptions: Fresh fruit and veg, and perishable protein sources. I’m not going to eat a month’s worth of dinners that consist only of homemade flatbread and the remains of a bottle of soy sauce. I’m socially distancing, not giving myself malnutrition. But I will also make substitutions where possible – no going out and buying, say, sweet potato if I already have ordinary potato in the pantry.

I’m going to try and make short videos at least once a week, and see how I do. I’m also going to post photos and a running list of the packets I’ve finished to Twitter. Feel free to chime in with your own recipes and experiments! Let me know what you’re using up out of your pantry/fridge/freezer! And stay safe, everyone.