Fantasy Healing

Fantasy stories and healing powers go hand in hand. If it’s not a D&D-style healing potion or healing spell system, then it’s an X-Men style super healing type thing. This just makes sense – fantasy stories, especially stories that have anything to do with superhero archetypes, or any tropes that Western fiction shares with shounen anime, are often made much easier with the presence of a healer. It lets your heroes take a lot more damage before they’re out of the game entirely. Continue reading

After the Stream

Just a quick update for everyone.

Thanks to anyone who checked in on the Twitch stream last week! We had fun, though we also had technical difficulties, so I wouldn’t blame anyone for leaving in frustration.

We’ve just about got those fixed, though, so don’t let that stop you from attending future streams!

Because there will be future streams. This week didn’t happen because two of our characters were out of town, but we’re going ahead next weekend, Sunday 7pm AEST same as usual (we’ll let you know if that changes). Join us for the actual story, now that all the worldbuilding is out of the way!

Watch for the hype on social media. We’re excited to get to the story, and we hope you’ll be excited to listen to it!

Unruly Characters

Characters. When we talk about stories, we tend to talk in terms of what I call the Big Three categories: Setting, Plot and Character. There are as many different ways to build and develop characters as there are writers. Some use sheets, some prefer not to use sheets, some like to write drabbles and scenes with their characters before writing the full story, some like to develop as they go – there are a thousand and one ways to make your characters. Continue reading

Announcement: Live Gaming

Hey, all! Quick update.

People who’ve been around for a while know that I occasionally plug Liberation Industries, a gaming podcast I have a semi-regular involvement in.

Well, tomorrow (Sunday) at 7pm AEST, courtesy of Cassk Designs (Twitter @casskdesigns for those interested), we’re doing an Actual Live Gameplay Stream on Twitch.

The system is Karma in the Dark, the game is cyberpunk shenanigans, the characters are getting wild and wacky already, if our group chat is any indication.

If you’re interested in getting in on this, the channel is the Whimsy and Metaphor Twitch Channel. The video may be available to watch after the fact, we’ll keep you updated on that.

It’s Not Length We’re Looking For

Make your jokes now, people. I’ll give you a moment.

I’m admittedly a little biased on this one. I come from the fantasy genre (which hardly needs re-stating by this point but years of English essays drilled this stuff into me, so bear with me), so my genre has a long tradition with epics. Continue reading

10 Things I’ve Learned

Recently I marked my birthday, and as close as I can tell, the 10 year anniversary of when I started wanted to write.

Well, that’s not quite true. I still remember telling my Year 5 teacher that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, but I think 10 years ago was when I started actively working towards it, rather than just saying it was a thing that I wanted to do.

So, to mark the occasion, I want to list 10 things I’ve learned in the time between when I started really trying to learn how to write, and now who I am as a writer.

 

  1. You can always change things

I’ve always seen writing compared to various kinds of surgery here, and I don’t necessarily think that’s a fair comparison, but the fact remains: You write something once and that doesn’t have to be the final version. You always have the chance to rewrite. The exception here would be if your agent/publishing house wants the final draft on a particular date, but I think most people reading this blog won’t have this problem. Instead, I will say, you always have time for one more read-through before you send a query letter, and you always have time for one more draft before you tell people that you’ve written a story.

 

  1. Books are more malleable than you think

You might think certain things won’t make sense unless you’ve written certain plot points first, but you may be surprised. If you’re willing to move secondary scenes around, it’s impressive what will just fall into place, narratively. Don’t think you “have” to have certain scenes first. The audience is intelligent, and you will find a way to put all the subtle hints into the first scenes so that it works out in the end, even if the order feels inevitable when you read through your first draft.

 

  1. Don’t trust yourself

This sounds harsh, but it’s true. If you want to know what you actually said vs what you meant, seek beta readers.

Now, that’s not to say you take beta readers’ advice all the time (in fact, I can list a few times in the last month when I’ve discarded beta readers’ advice because I thought their questions illustrated that I had accomplished what I intended to) but whenever you get criticism, read through it carefully and be aware of why you are rejecting or accepting their criticism. They’re not always wrong and they’re not always right.

Just listen to them, because you’re not always right, either, and it’s worth the extra set of eyes.

 

  1. You will need more drafts than you expect.

This one, I think, is true of all writers starting out. You think you have this writing thing sorted, and then you start writing and suddenly you feel like everything is going wrong! But at least you know why, and you can fix it on the second draft!

It will take at least three drafts, and possibly more, to get to where you’re happy with it. Learning to accept ‘fixing your own mistakes’ as part of the writing process is part of learning the job.

 

  1. Yes, you need to read that.

You can gain inspiration from a variety of places, and yes, you need to understand your genre if you want to write genre fiction. Some say this isn’t necessary, but I believe it is – that’s an argument that’s still ongoing. But we’re talking about things I’ve learned and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that you should never shy away from reading or watching another genre just because you think it’s something you won’t enjoy. You might enjoy it, you might learn from it. As my parents taught me when I was young, give every book 30 pages and every book 30 pages to catch your interest before you give it up as ‘not my thing’. You’d be surprised what you end up liking in the end, and what you can add to your own writing.

 

  1. Be open to criticism.

Just as I said before that stories are more malleable than you think, if people say it isn’t working, listen to them. It might be a couple of people you trust, or it might be that a few people are telling you that a particular scene is falling flat. Learn to trust them. They may not be right in the ‘why’, but they are probably right in the ‘what’. Learn to listen to them, to interpret, and to ask them questions. The people who are willing to tell you that something is wrong are one of the greatest resources you will come across.

 

  1. Wait.

No story ever sprang to the page full formed, at least, not for me. Be willing to put a story aside while you come up with sideplots, secondary characters, nuances of the main characters, and all the other bits and pieces that transform a story from ‘good’ to ‘great’. Just because you thought of something doesn’t mean you need to write it right away. I like to keep book of my plot ideas separate and put ideas for plots I haven’t written yet in there, so that I don’t forget them. I also go through a worldbuilding process almost a full year before I put any pen to paper, so I know I understand things before they get written. That might not be everyone’s bag, but that’s what works for me, and that’s what I’ve learned in the 10 years during which I started seriously writing.

 

  1. You are more capable than you think you are

Keep a list of the things you think went wrong in your first draft. Often you’ll fix more problems than you think you did. Even if you had to ignore them and just continue to get the first draft done, your questions that you logged along the way will reveal more insight than you think they do. Trust yourself when things aren’t paced right, or aren’t set up right. You’re probably right, and you can always fix it in the second draft, before anyone sees it except you.

 

  1. Don’t tell anyone a set date until you’re certain

Corollary: It will always take longer than you think it will. Even if you’ve got the whole story ready to go, you will always need more time to format it, get your site working, get your cover art aligned, everything that you need to make it work than you think. Always allow more time than you need and never announce a definite date until you’re 100% certain you can deliver by then. This is something I am still working on.

 

  1. You may need to start again

I wanted this to be something inspiring, like ‘trust yourself’ or ‘write what you want to write’ but if I’m honest I already knew those things. I already had that from a lifetime trying to write things. The number 1 most important thing I’ve learned is that you may need to scrap everything and start again. You may need to try a different genre, a different format, a different style … even just a different story altogether. And if you need to do that, don’t be afraid of it. Just accept it, if you need to, write another story between them to cleanse your palate, and do it. They’re not all out yet, but I can tell you this: The Ferryman’s Apprentice changed formats, The King’s City had to be entirely rewritten, Same Coin had to be given a new set of protagonists and a new setting to work … never be afraid to completely rework something if you feel that would make it a better story. You’re not under any deadline except that which you set for yourself (unless you have a publisher who is setting deadlines for you, which is a different matter). So just do it! You’ll feel better in the long run, and trust me, the story will be better too.

Video Games and the Final Third Problem

I’ve been playing some video games recently. Mostly they’ve been online games (since I actually have a group I like to play with now, I’ve been playing an MMO, which I thought I’d never actually do), but I’ve been diving back into one of the games that has given me a lot of joy over the years: The Bioshock series. Continue reading

Mistakes Were Made

It seems apt that the chapter for The Ferryman’s Apprentice posted today was ‘Mistakes’ because I just made one.

My grasp on the days of the week has been shaky at best for many years now, and after misreading the date yesterday I decided that today was obviously Monday (hint: For those keeping up with Australian time, it is in fact Friday today) and that I should get that chapter up ASAP before I forgot.

So the hiatus was broken a few days early. I’ve decided that this is just going to be A Thing That Happened. Chapter 27 will still go up this Monday as originally planned. Consider the accidental chapter an extremely belated new year’s gift or something.

See you all in the next post!

New Podcast Episode!

Alright, I’m technically on hiatus, but I should share this and I’m currently not able to get onto Twitter easily.

The Great Charity Box Swindle!

The second part of this came out today, but I thought I’d link from the first one. Blades in the Dark is a somewhat Cthulhu-inspired Victorian tabletop RPG from John Harper, where we play a cult desperately trying to improve their public relations.

This was honestly one of my favourite sessions to play (not least because I got to diplomacy-wizard my way through things) so I recommend you check it out!

Warning as always: We’re not a PG group, and there will be cussin’ and some anatomy-based jokes to go with my standard puns and pompous wordplay.