Wednesday 26 June 2019

National Writing Day 2019

Today is National Writing Day, an annual celebration of writing designed to inspire people across the UK to get writing.

The message is simple: everyone has a story to tell and sharing it can be a source of pleasure and power.

So are you writing today? And if so, what are you writing about?

I'm writing about vampires. ;-)

Monday 24 June 2019

Thought for the Day

"Every time I start a new novel, I think I've lost what it takes, and it's always a huge relief to actually get things going."
~ Gareth Powell, author

Friday 21 June 2019

Summer Solstice: Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu

This Summer Solstice, why not treat yourself to a series of short stories featuring the works of the Bard merged with the horrors of H P Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos?

Shakespeare Vs Cthulhu is available to buy here.

Monday 17 June 2019

Thought for the Day

"Genuinely, I think it's to be successful enough to have an entire room to write in - wall to wall bookshelves, a sofa to sit on when I want to have a think. To be successful enough to not have to use that room for anything else."

 ~ Jen Williams, author of the Winnowing Flame Trilogy

Wednesday 12 June 2019

Warhammer Wednesday: How I Write OR Procrastination, Procrastination, Procrastination

Today I finished a short story. My fifty-ninth, in fact. And while I'm still high on the adrenaline rush of having finished, I thought it might be interesting to share my writing process with you.

The first thing you have to understand is that I am an inefficient writer. I have tried to changed this over the years, but in that time I have come to realise (and grudging accept) that this is just how it is for me. By the time I have finished the first draft of a manuscript, whether it's a novel, a gamebook or a story, it will be roughly 150% as long as the final draft will be.

Take, for example, the short story I completed today. It was commissioned to be 8,000 words long. The first draft ran to 12,000, but once I had finished editing it, it was just over 8,000. This is because I am very indecisive and my first draft is full of all the alternative ways of phrasing things that I could use, and which I don't finally decide upon until the final edit. My first drafts are also littered with notes, and prompts, and even ideas for other stories, which don't get taken out until the edit.

It can also take me a long time to finish a short story. For example, I started #59 on Monday 6th May and today is Wednesday 12th June. And here is a list of the days I actually worked on the story:

Monday 6th May 
Monday 13th May
Wednesday 22nd May
Thursday 23rd May
Wednesday 5th June
Friday 7th June
Saturday 8th June
Sunday 9th June
Monday 10th June
Tuesday 11th June
Wednesday 12th June

As you can see, I haven't worked on the story every day since 6th May, but I have been thinking about it a lot during that time. The trouble is, I never have just one project on the go at the same time. While writing #59 I have also been putting the finishing touches to my ACE Gamebook 'TWAS - The Krampus Night Before Christmas, I've prepped and launched a Kickstarter for a role-playing game, I've been organising and promoting Fighting Fantasy Fest 3, I've worked on a proposal for something new, I've tinkered with some other ideas, and I attended the UK Games Expo. On top of all that, I'm also a Dad, with all the commitments that brings, and I have a part-time non-writing-related job.

When I start writing a story, it always takes me a while to get into it, to get to know the characters and feel the flow of the narrative, no matter how detailed a plot synopsis I have prepared before actually putting fingers to keyboard. At this stage of the process, I also find I get easily distracted. The Internet is great for research, but once I open a window to fact-check something  for my story before I know it I'm on Facebook, or checking my emails for the umpteenth time, or tweaking my Twitter profile.

Procrastination is also a problem, because getting started is hard. I will sometimes put off writing to do something else, which maybe still needs doing but isn't actually as pressing, such as prepping updates for my blog. However, as you can see from the catalogue of days worked, once I get into the swing of the story I become much more focused, until by the time I'm working on the final edit I will work on nothing else until it is done.

You may be interested to know that I spent 18 hours writing Story #59 and another 11 hours editing (or re-writing, if you like), proofreading, and applying the final corrections before sending the story off. This means that before any royalties the story may earn in the future, I may not have earned big bucks writing it, but at least it's more than the minimum living wage.

Of course, the actual writing is only half the story. Rewriting, as much as I hate it sometimes, is key. As Neil Gaiman says in an advert for his masterclass that keeps popping up on YouTube whenever I try to watch anything*, "The process of doing your second draft is a process of making it look like you knew what you were doing all along."

As well as sorting out all the kinks in the story - discovering a character was carrying one type of weapon at the start, which magically transformed into an entirely different weapon halfway through - it's a chance to put in some foreshadowing, cool character traits, and even some red herrings, just to keep the future reader on their toes.

And I think this is why I feel such elation when I finish the spell-check and save the final draft, before submitting it. Because I don't particularly enjoy the process of rewriting, it feels like an achievement just to have got through it. And maybe it's also because by the end, I feel that I've written something that I think someone else will enjoy reading**.

To give you a better idea of my process, here is a single from Story #59 in all its many and varied forms, from first draft to final draft.

Click to enlarge

There will doubtless be revisions and re-writes to come, but for the time being I am enjoying the feeling of simply having finished writing something. And so tonight I am going to treat myself by starting work on a new project I've been dying to get my teeth into for ages!

* When I should be writing!

** In this case my fellow scribe Clint Werner in particular!

Monday 10 June 2019

Thought for the Day

"The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom."

~ Isaac Asimov, science fiction author

Friday 7 June 2019

Gamebook Friday: Forthcoming Gamebook Events

I had a great time at the UK Games Expo 2019, last weekend, and it was great to see so many of you there. Although the Expo is usually the biggest event in my calendar I have some more gamebook-related events coming up, one of which is particularly close to my heart.

Four weeks tomorrow on Saturday 6th July I will be in Oxford for Alice's Day, and giving a lecture* at the Weston Library about Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland.

In August, I will be a guest of Manticon, in Germany, from Thursday 15th - Sunday 18th August.

And not long after that, I will be attending* Fighting Fantasy Fest 3 on Saturday 31st August, at the University of West London in Ealing.

* Or should that be 'running'?

Gamebook Friday: 'TWAS - The Roleplaying Game Before Christmas

'TWAS - The Roleplaying Game Before Christmas is now funding on Kickstarter!

'TWAS - The Roleplaying Game Before Christmas is a rules-lite RPG, designed to be picked up and played with minimal preparation. It is inspired by the legends and literature of Christmas, as well as the ACE Gamebook 'TWAS - The Krampus Night Before Christmas.

The RPG is available in three formats, PDF, softback and hardback.

You can also pledge to receive print copies of ACE Gamebook that inspired the RPG.

Don't delay and make sure you place your pledge today!

Monday 3 June 2019

Last Chance to bag yourself an Early Bird reward for 'TWAS - The Roleplaying Game Before Christmas!

Today is your last chance to bag an Early Bird reward for 'TWAS - The Roleplaying Game Before Christmas,a rules-lite RPG, designed to be picked up and played with minimal preparation, inspired by the legends and literature of Christmas, as well as the ACE Gamebook 'TWAS - The Krampus Night Before Christmas.

Don't forget, the Yule Cat and Nutcracker rewards are actually the same, the only difference being that the Yule Cat is an Early Bird reward that is £5 cheaper than the Snowman.

The same is true of the and Evil Elf and Reindeer rewards.

These Early Bird rewards are only available until midnight tonight! So don't delay and make sure you place your pledge today!

Thought for the Day

"The essence of a role-playing game is that it is a group, cooperative experience... The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules."

~ Gary Gygax, creator of Dungeons & Dragons

Saturday 1 June 2019

NEVERLAND - Here Be Monsters! launches today!

At times it's felt like it's been almost 65 million years in the making, but at long last, my latest ACE Gamebook NEVERLAND - Here Be Monsters!, is published today!

On the 15th April, 1912, during her maiden voyage, the RMS Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg. 1,503 people died, including passengers and crew. But 706 people survived, among them Wendy Darling and her dog Nana...

Separated from the rest of her family, Wendy's lifeboat is washed up on the shore of a mysterious island – a place lost in time – home to creatures long thought extinct, a forgotten tribe, and a boy who can never grow up.

But the notorious pirate Captain James Hook and his crew have also found their way to Neverland, and the island is angry...

In NEVERLAND – Here Be Monsters! YOU decide which route to take, which perils to risk, and which of the island’s strange, prehistoric denizens to fight. Play as shipwreck survivor Wendy Darling, automaton avenger Peter Pan, heroic hunter Tiger Lily, or plundering pirate Captain James Hook. But be warned – whether you succeed in your quest or meet a dire end will be down to the choices YOU make.

Will you manage to escape from Neverland?

You will be able to pick up a signed copy of NEVERLAND – Here Be Monsters! at Stand 2-640, from Yours Truly, complete with a collectible bookmark.

So maybe I'll see you there...