The End of NaNoWriMo

It is the end of NaNoWriMo and I did it!!

In the beginning I was so far behind and it took many days of multiple thousands of words to get to the end. But I proved to myself that I could/can do it.

How did everyone get on? Did you do it?

If you have not managed to get to fifty thousand words, do not despair! Nothing is a failure, it is all a lesson.

My story needs A LOT of work, I only got the very bare bones of the novel done. But it is going to be a great process of rewriting and making a cohesive first draft. However, I’m also looking forward to taking a break and trying to get ready for Christmas and to enjoy the wintry, dark times.

I will be getting back to posting stories here, I am hoping to get a little festive story up nearer to the solstice.

Overall Nano was a positive experience and I WON! I’m thinking of using the Scrivener reward and buying it at 50% off, does anyone have any experience with the software? Is it worth it?

Any hoo, time to rest my typing fingers and my dry eyes. Have a good weekend everyone!

NaNoWriMo Week Three

I am behind (what a shock) but feeling confident in my ability to get the words done. Today I’m aiming to get to thirty thousand words. The more that I am writing the story the more ideas and scenes are coming to mind. This month is going by so quickly, we are already well into week three. The end of the month is NEXT WEEK! Sorry for the shouting, but that is still sinking into my head.

My novel is going…well. My ideas are evolving as I carry on writing, problems are occurring and I’m tackling them as I encounter the plot holes. Since I began the month without much of a plan the details of my story hadn’t been worked out too well. But the basic idea was there and so far there have been a few blocks causing more pauses than would be ideal, but all told the flow of the story is going quite smoothly. Which is why I’m feeling confident in getting to fifty thousand words.

I have been a bit ill this week, hence the late weekly update. But I think that I’m getting better. Now, I must get back!

I hope that everyone is having a good weekend.

NaNoWriMo Week Two

Week Two is over and Week Three has already begun. I’m still behind, but I’m still determined and some of the stresses that have been causing trouble for me and John are finally over. John has passed his driving test (YES!) and job frustrations should be easing up, too. So I will be able to dedicate more brain time and actual physical time to my own projects. Yesterday I had my best day of writing yet, which was five thousand words. I’m still twelve thousand behind (I have 16.6k and have yet to write today) but if I have another few days like yesterday I will catch up in no time!

How is everyone doing? I feel like I’m in a bubble, not able to see and hear what’s going on around me.

I’m hoping after Nano and Christmas time I will be able to get to being more social and learning how to interact with people. I want to start getting more involved, but at the moment I’m focusing on my own work and winning Nano!

Good Luck in Week Three

NaNoWriMo Week One

The first week of Nano is over and I’m not doing so well. I have 4065 words and at the end of the day to meet the goal I should have 13336. It is a bit terrifying to realise how quickly that I’m falling being. The gap grows wider each day as I manage fewer and fewer words.
I’m by no means giving up, I’m still aiming to win (get 50k words by 30th of Nov). All it’s going to take is a few good days. I think the problem is I’m reticent to let my imagination just go wild. I want it to be a great story straight away but it’s not going to work that way, I will need many edits and such and I know it will get better each time.
So I need to relax and write, allowing all the crazy things fall onto the page and have fun with it. So that’s what I’m going to do now, I have a couple of hours before I need to be anywhere, let’s see what I can do.
Here’s to a great week two!

The End of October

Aaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!
AHHHHHH!

Where did October go?? I’m absolutely not prepared for NaNo.
Despite my desire to be productive and my attempts at planning Life has had other ideas. Stress is a big stopper on my abilities to get things done, to think and this month (the last few really) has been one kick in the teeth after another.
I promise you that I did not start this website just to complain and be a downer. We started this site at a bit of a hard time for us, there are a few life changes and challenges which need to be overcome (which will hopefully be soon) in order for us to really get to grips with the creative.
For this post I wanted to get something down, to let those interested know that we’re still here and that there WILL be more and better content coming soon. I’m going to try and document my NaNo experience, let me know if there is a particular thing you would like to know, or if there is a way you would like it presented!
How are you doing? How was October and do you have plans for Halloween? I shall be settling in for some frantic noting and outlining!
Until next time!

NaNoWriMo Prep – Games Development!

Good day readers!

John here and things in my life have been very hectic recently. I have myself a new job that comes with a host of new challenges; not least of which is scheduling all the amazing things I want to do, creatively. NaNoWriMo has been a part of Emma and I’s life for a few years now; every year we give it a go and inevitably fail (Emma succeeded once, which was amazing!) So this year we really want to give it our best. Emma is attempting a traditional fantasy novel based on the world she has been developing for quite a while, it’s really good and I can’t wait to read what she comes up with.

I however am going to do something completely out of the ordinary. I am going to be developing games for the whole month! You heard that right: in the time honored spirit of National Novel Writing Month, I’m not going to be writing a single word of narrative fiction!

For ages I’ve had a few half-developed games ideas rolling around my skull, a few of which I have taken quite far with the help of some friends, but there are some really interesting ideas which I always return to but never develop any further. Well, this November will give me the opportunity to flesh out those ideas into prototypes with proper rules and hopefully some art.

Idea 1 – PAP RPG – this will be a totally lightweight tabletop roleplaying system that I half-developed last year with the help of a friend. I am taking a few core mechanics that I really liked and going to try and build it into an enjoyable game!

Idea 2 – Project Power – This will be a card game centered around the political turmoil of our time, I’ll say no more!

Idea 3 – Project Felix – Another card game utilising some fairly interesting and underused mechanics which will be a cross between Resident Evil and Neko Atsume.

Idea 4 – Project Stellar – This is the project that is the furthest along, I have actually made some wooden spaceships and have a first-draft ruleset. It’s a tabletop, space-based, fleet combat game.

Idea 5 – I have no idea – Here’s the real challenge! I’m going to develop a brand new idea for some kind of physical game; from the ground up. I am going to try and make it fully print-and-play so I can basically just release it on here and get people playing it and best of all, I’ll be uploading dev diaries and hopefully find a few other ways to connect with you all. I really want to stream this stuff on Twitch!

Wish me luck, this is a purposefully large undertaking so I can really try and push my motivations into creating something a lot more interesting and fulfilling his year!

Good luck to everyone prepping for NaNoWriMo!

John Steadman.

The Sabotage

I’m a saboteur. I try to ruin my own life in lots of small ways. Once I experience a tiny amount of success I find ways to fail, to stop what has been successful and to pursue the unhealthy habits that keep me trapped.
The last couple of weeks have been that way in many respects.
I’ve not been using my office, a place we made for work. I choose to be uncomfortable in a chair which leads to less productivity.
I give in to urges to eat and buy rubbish. Luckily not gaining weight but not losing.
My Nano prep is at a minimum, so much so I worry about being able to complete the writing challenge.
I sit and I scroll through Instagram and Twitter, trying to silence the screaming worry in my head. And it makes me even more frustrated, why can I not just DO something to help myself.
I felt this way shortly before starting this website with John, and for awhile it was great, with all you lovely people liking my posts. But I got caught up with questioning myself and all the other little blocks I put in my own way which caused me to back away from what helped.
It’s a tough time at the moment, John’s about to start a new job, so money is a bit of a concern, and the nervousness that comes with something new.
John’s last day is tomorrow and we have sometime before he starts the new job. We will be spring cleaning, changing things around and making the flat beautiful. I’m hoping it will be the start of a productive time and that I can throw myself into world building and prepping for Nano.
I know that periods of depression are going to happen throughout my life, but I’m trying to deal with them with a more mindful attitude and to make the most of the times where I am okay. With each bout it’s getting better, one day I hope to have a good balance.

Sorry for this self-indulgent post, but it’s good to get this out and to have some accountability, to have my feelings out there in a place where others can see, and maybe not feel so alone.

I will be back with more soon, as will John, but it may be sporadic for a little while.

Worldbuilding – A Journey Into Scifi

I’ve been working on science fiction stories for a long time, and with that comes the desire to support your ideas with as much flesh as you can. Scifi is a strange genre simply because by its very nature it requires more thought and exposition; the context in which you place your stories can in fact end up being the entire substance of those stories. This means that wherever possible, you need to be able to recall an interesting piece of galactic lore, or try to simulate grand politics in an interesting and engaging way.

This is where worldbuilding comes in. The pursuit of spending inordinate amounts of time on crafting a setting is all about creating a context which can organically make your stories come to life; as a dungeon master for many DnD groups through the years, there is nothing more annoying, or so able to break the flow of a story, as being unprepared for a twist. As a writer, when you’re actually writing your story, you don’t necessarily know where it’s going to go when you’re writing it. This is one of the joys of writing; with your notes you can set little milestones in your story, winding avenues where you know your characters must end up, but it’s those misty in-between parts where your instinct and indeed cunning as a writer must shine through.

Incidentally, you can make yourself seem a lot more skilled and a lot more cunning if you do most of the work in your setting beforehand, and that’s why we’re here; you want a nourishing soup of interesting facts and lore to draw from when you’re putting your characters in compromising situations.

Anyway, I began the journey into my setting a few years ago when I was working nights at my old job. I had some cleaning and restocking to do, I worked on my own, but after that I had atleast 2 hours a night to do whatever. Over the course of a few months to a year, I filled first an A6 notebook with tons of ideas for a history, then an A4 notebook that codified everything for me; in here I went into a ton more detail and actually wrote out the timeline for my setting’s history and fleshed out some of the more interesting ideas I had for the landmark events that really defined the setting.

Something that really stuck with me was a piece of advice I believe said by Jim Butcher – the writer of The Dresden Files. I will now butcher (no pun intended) that advice by paraphrasing it: “Ask yourself when you’re writing your story, whether you’re setting it at the most interesting time in your history, because if not, why not? Why would your reader want to hear second-hand about that interesting event rather than read it?”

The reason I bring this up is because these “interesting events” are what you should be looking out for when you begin worldbuilding; it’s these that should naturally turn into your stories. You’ll know them when you find them.

I’m writing scifi, so I began my setting’s history at the time when the timeline diverged from our own – conveniently, this was around the present time at which I was writing it, so 2017. I then went forward crafting a history which would catapult humanity to the place I needed it to be to have humans in my story. I went back and forth quite a lot on whether I should make humans the focus, or aliens; personally, I love the idea of aliens, but felt in the end that it would end up being more relevant if humans were the “main protagonists”. I actually go back on this later, but this decision paved the way for some really key decisions in my worldbuilding.

So after going through year by year, then decade by decade and eventually century by century, I got the the “present day” of my setting; this is the time in which all of the stories that take place in my setting will happen. At this point, I revised all the history which had been laid down and highlighted some of the more key moments: many battles and tactically interesting maneuvers took place in the huge upheval that brought humans forward and I wanted to make those events reference points from which I could craft exposition later on.

I also finalised who and what will be the main players in my story and every time I inserted another main player or race, I had to go back and quietly slot them into the story, or make a reason as to why they weren’t in it up until that point; it’s all quite a challenge, but incredibly fun when you feel like a decision you’ve made about your setting really clicks and creates some amazing ideas you hadn’t seen before.

For instance, I wanted a robotic race in my setting; I think the idea of AI is being explored more and more, so I’d love to be able to do some of that in my stories. Now, because I had waited until I had most of the history written before I put them into the setting, I had to figure out a reason why they were removed from most of the galactic history I had up until this point (almost 500 years). I did this by coming up with a little conceit – that they came about by accident: humanity, once they had conquered most of the galaxy, sort of began forgetting about most of the pusuits they had undertaken over the years. Humans had so many resources that they could open a huge mining operation for instance, then when it turned out not to be profitable, instead of taking all the robots and machinery with them, they just left it.

A group of scientists were studying a curious type of crystal that only seemed to exist in this obscure system at the edge of known space, the whole team end up dying from a radiation burst from a nearby star; this radiation burst also energises the crystals and kick-starts their sentience. They then access all the records from the scientists, learning earth’s history and also the plans of the scientists, namely that if this experiment were to result in sentience, they would dispose of the crystals and the budding life within. Eventually this crystalline race who are able to interface with technology reach out and discover the robots and primitive AI which had been discarded wantonly by the humans.

I came up with all of this after about 70 percent of the history of my setting was complete and it ended up being a hugely influential part of the story. To me, this just goes to show how having an idea and taking it to it’s logical conclusion, even if you believe that you might be “shoe-horning” your idea into the setting, is worthy and should be pursued.

I hope this little dive into how I crafted by scifi setting was interesting. I’ll be working on all of this for my upcoming entry into NaNoWriMo.

See ya!

NaNoWriMo Prep

We’re just under two months away from NaNoWriMo! If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a writing challenge where in November you try to write 50k words. I’ve tried the challenge in the past but I’ve only completed it once, and I think that was with a lot of excess words thrown in.
So, in order to prepare and to give myself the best chance possible I’ve been doing several things.

  1. Getting into a routine – I’m aiming for get up earlier in the morning, taking myself to the office to write and separate myself from the worries of the day, and meal prep so that cooking is less of a hassle and to keep us from indulging. This is still an on going process (especially since John is about to change jobs), but we have time!
  2. Making notes – So many notes! I’m one of those people who take hours to come up with names (and even then I’m not happy or just chose the first one I thought of) and just sit and stare and the blank page when I’m not sure of something. In order to prevent that I’m fleshing out my fantasy world, creating places, history and lists of names. This has been coming along slowly but getting quicker as I know more.
  3. Creating a story Outline – I’m not a pantser (going by the seat of your trousers). I can write stories that way, but they would all just be happy, with no conflict and lost plot threads. So, planning out will allow me to create a better story and I’m sure I will add some things as I go!

There are other little steps I’ve been taking; trying to be more social, spreading my writing wings, attempting to not feel guilty for spending so much time on something that may not go anywhere. But I love writing and it’s all worth it. The process of writing in pen on paper, tapping on the keyboard, of editing and of streamlining, it’s all a part of it and all wonderful.
This site is a little over a month old and already it has helped me so much. I hope in some way I can help others, whether now or in the future.
Are you joining in NaNoWriMo, if so how are you getting prepared? Any advice or questions, let me know!

Presenting: Furlands

Furlands is my spin on an old idea – namely that there exists a world of roughly middle ages/renaissance technology level; with all the politics, religious fervour and personal strife which this might entail, but all the people are rodents. This idea was inspired by works like Redwall and Wind In The Willows, both of which I love, but I wanted to take a more strict take on the idea in terms of worldbuildng – really, this is more of a worldbuilding task than anything else; I really wanted to explore the idea of this kind of world, where different species of humanoid rodent vie for supremacy in the same way that humans might.

This presents a number of challenges, which, the more I thought about them, the more they intrigued me. Conisder, for instance, what it means for things like the idea of xenophobia or racism; in a world where there are many distinct species which cannot interbreed. There would be more of a focus on ones own culture, because cultures would be heavily influenced by the species’ habits; mice are nocturnal whereas rats are not, so mouse society would be more active at night and every different species would be faced with the idea that you cannot simply merge your culture with another, because even if rats wanted to integrate mice, both species still need only themselves to procreate, which changes politics dramatically over generations.

One thing I wanted to maintain is to code each species that I presented in my world with the sort of cultures from which they come geographically on earth; so my rats are scandanavian/western european, voles present as japanese, there are also Tanuki, which present as huge, 12 foot tall mountain people and many many more. There are lots of little rules that I want to figure out and maintain as a nod to all the little habits and features of those species, with some being vegetarian and others obligate carnivores, so their cultures reflect these virtues.

It is an interesting challenge, also in part because I don’t want this to innately be a young adult or children’s setting – I want it to be gritty and full of intrigue.

I have already published two parts of a short piece inspired by one of Emma’s ideas; The Fall Of The Hamurai – the story of the last days of a society started to unite many different species on an island which is my analogue of Japan. I also think my entry into NaNoWriMo will be based in this world.

Stay tuned as I dive deeper into this setting, hopefully I’ll get the time to build the central myths and go more into the unique politics of the various regions and species.

Thanks for reading!

John.

P.S. Here is the link to part 1 of the piece mentioned above:

https://steadmansociety.com/2019/08/05/the-fall-of-the-hamurai-part-1-blossoms-in-the-wind/