Thursday, July 06, 2006

Writing Style Ramblings

(Hmm, I just noticed that my thumb is stained...hope it's not from these Pepperidge Farm pretzel fish I'm eating! No matter, on with the blog!)

While I wait for BtS: The Walls to make its apperance for sale, I'm starting BtS: Sleep. After that it's five more issues and then done. I'm eager to start on that fiction piece for Reality Deviant Press (as mentioned a few entries ago) but find myself stalled. I mean, I'm eager to write but hate outlining everything out first. I have a basic plot in mind and my protagonist and the sidekick are fully realized but shouldn't one have the plot fleshed out at the beginning? I feel I'm an author who just throws the characters into the story and then sees how they react. Unfortunately, a good story this does not make.

The trouble is that I've been writing these very small pieces for Behind the Spells. Once I have the story in mind, I just start it and then somehow the whole thing falls together en route. With 1,200 words, that seems to be working. But with between 15,000 and 20,000 words, I think not. It's been so long since I wrote fiction that I can't remember just how I went about it. I could just start and then go back and revise but you have to understand that I hate revision. The piece should be like Mozart wrote it--bam!; there it is...fin. Well, no Mozart genius here but I believe I've lived longer than he did so that's a plus.

Another of my problems is vocabulary. I've noticed that my online-speak contains the same words over and over. They say an author should read alot (to help in that department as well as in others I imagine). Chalk that up as another problem. My mastery of the written word is stagnant but at least I realize it. I'm hoping to improve that by reading more each day even if it's just the newspaper at work.

However, while grammar and vocabulary may have atrophied over my d20 career, I'm pleased to say that my writing method has vastly improved. Did I ever mention that I used to write everything out longhand before moving to a computer (which was a typewriter when I started)? Short stories were drafted by hand and then the major revision process would be while typing it up. Yeah, I know it sounds archaic but it worked for me. When I started to get more business after the d20 boom, this process continued. In Mystic Eye Games' Foul Locales: Beyond the Walls, I wrote a locale called "Am'Elvat." This elven festival included not only the customary 5,000+ fluff but also about 3 dozen NPCs statted out and described. I can still remember penning all of that out on many pages of legal pad (which I've since sold as part of an Ebay auction).

The change came with Goodman Games' Complete Guide to Dragonkin. I knew that there was no way to write a 45,000-word book out longhand and then go the computer and expect to keep a deadline. After extensive notes, I went to the computer right away. Thank the gods this broke me of the longhand curse! Since then I don't think any of my projects have been wholly penned by hand (the exception being NPCs and monsters which still have their mathematical portions sketched out on paper for safety's sake).

Ah, I forgot to mention that I did indeed send off a proposal for 3 articles to Dragon. The first idea was to use regular objects as familiars (which are animated in the process). The second highlights a beholder's spellbook and the unusual (and deadly!) spells kept inside. The third and final idea involves a generic secret society I've had at the back of my mind for many years called The Circle. They revere the natural cycle of the world and therefore their chief foes are the undead. This article for "Bazaar of the Bizarre" describes six or seven magic items commonplace to this group's members.


Blogger Brad said...

Not that I write fiction (or even try) but the blogs of both Paul S. Kemp and Steven Brust sometimes have good bits of writing advice. Entertaining too.

Having more time to read will definitely help. Having recently read books by Elaine Cunningam, R.E. Howard and now China Mieville, the differences in style are staggering.

The few times I've tried to write fiction (mostly college) I just started off with a basic outline and then dumped a big steamin' pile of ideas on to the page (screen, whatever) and worked it all out later. There was almost always good, useable stuff that came from the disparate ideas I had floating around in my head.

12:42 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

I've noticed that my online-speak contains the same words over and over.

Mine too. Maddening, isn't it? In a roundabout way, I suppose it's a good thing once you're aware of it ... I now try to go out of my way to use new vocabulary in my postings, and not use my usual tried 'n' true favorites when I'm stuck for an apt phrase.

Excellent blog, btw. I'll try to drop by more often ...


8:59 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Well met, Mike. I enjoyed your Complete Guide to Liches, btw, when asked to add some material for the 3.5 revision. Welcome to my blog! I'll have to get a link up to your as well. :)

4:20 PM  

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