Description should be carried on the wings of action; they shouldn’t be a plane each.

I’m almost tempted to leave the title as the whole post. :) But to clarify the point I’m making slightly, writing is not a paint by numbers exercise. Each sentence is not a plane, flying by itself, with only one destination and purpose. This doesn’t work well:

1) Setting sentence. (plane #1)

2) Action sentence. (plane #2)

4) Next paragraph. (next two planes line up)

Setting, character, mood, and action are intertwined in effective writing, with one or more factors points carrying more or less weight at different times. But at a minimum, there should be some action or tension that carries the reader through description. Unlike books of old, readers have little patience for pages of rolling plains, puffy clouds, and wind toying with the leaves. You need a person striding through that setting with a knife in their hand and fire in their eyes (or at least, that’s the type of book I like to read!).

So avoid writing: “The dust was pale and deep. It was quiet. I drifted down and settled softly to earth.” (sight. sound. action, all with a sentence each) and go for “I drifted down silently, my boots sinking into pale dust.” (All wrapped together. You could even lose an adjective or two and still accomplish most of your goals.)

Keep your writing concise, interesting, and weave description into other things, particularly action or tension, which pulls the reader along. Give it a shot and see how it works for you. :)

As usual, half these rules are for my own benefit and something I try to practice as well as preach. Not that there’s been much practicing in the last few weeks. Hope your writing is more productive than mine!

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A small sneak peak at the current state of my current painting (the image shown is a crop of a larger piece, to be clear) which I expect to be part of the StoneDragon art set, and possibly the cover. The StoneDragon manuscript is now back from its final edit, so now I just have to get organized on all the rest of the logistics: cover, interior art, format, and epublish, to put it out into the world. I’m still thinking of including four or five additional images, but we’ll see how the next few months go. At the moment, things are looking pretty horrible for spare time and extra art, with work and some major house renos that I expect to be very disruptive. :( Oh well, be nice when things calm down. Hopefully, they calm down!

To ‘Art’ or Not

Let’s put that title statement in context, as I struggle with a question on my work in progress. The following are facts:

  • I have written a book. I think it will be well received by some portion of the people who would read it, but those people don’t yet know it exists.
  • I don’t have a pre-existing reading audience.
  • People like art.
  • I am a strong artist.
  • Implication: Adding art to the book might strengthen its appeal and lead to more people giving it a chance (after which, the merits of the book will lead to its success, whatever that may be).

Now, some counterpoints,

  • This will require a considerable time investment. (Luckily, I like to do art).
  • Some people WON’T find it a positive. They will say they don’t like art with their books, as they prefer to imagine the things in their head. That is what the words should accomplish, they say. This is similar to the distaste readers sometimes have with movies, as the images don’t match their imagining.
  • I would argue that this is less of a concern if the art and words are put forward together, as the images are then shaped early and are less rigidly formed.
  • Science fiction and fantasy short stories usually have art tied to them, for some reason. Similarly superhero comics.

I think that art broadens the audience, although with longer books maybe less so than with graphic novels. I believe that some people simply have less concrete imaginations than others. I have had some people tell me that they can’t actually visualize images in their head (not saying this is most people, just some). People think differently.

So, my plan is to bring more art into my work, and at least some into this new novel. The biggest drawback for me is really the time investment, as I have very limited amounts of time for all my hobbies (which includes writing, art, sports, and—certainly not least—my family).

We’ll see if the response and return on investment justified doing it more than once. :)

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This is one of the rough sketches for StoneDragon. I think the pose is off slightly and I haven’t had time to figure out why, but this is just a bit of art that will eventually work through, become more polished, and grace the pages of my work in progress. I’m hoping to have it out on Amazon by the end of the year, but we’ll see how the art goes. 😀

Squeeze your Reader like a wet rag. They’ll thank you for it.

The worst is not boredom. The worst is not stress. The worst is both together. For example, having a job that is stressful and yet not challenging or rewarding in any way. That is why I left a reasonably well-paying job, when I was younger, for another round of education (but any change would have done really. I also explored alternative careers). But it seems like more and more people have jobs of this nature, which makes entertainment and a good story more and more valuable.

People read fantasy to take their mind off their boredom, off their stress and tension. They want to relieve the knots in the back and shoulders and distract their restless mind that can’t escape replaying their work day in an endless loop.

So bring them out of their tedium. Tighten the tension, in some new and exciting direction (a bright new world or character). Squeeze the tension in the story tighter and tighter (although not so dark or relentless that it seems hopeless), build the suspense to a fever pitch, then release it, leaving your reader wrung out and exhausted, but with a warm glow of satisfaction, resolution.

The answer to the combination of boredom and stress is not less stress, oddly enough. It’s stress of a different kind, that spikes even higher, while combined with a character that overcomes their challenges, and a nice warm resolution. Something that gives the reader catharsis and release, which they don’t receive in their normal day. Catch their attention, bring them out of their every day, then release them. Or at least aspire too…

(PS, to give credit, I believe that the inspiration for this post came from thoughts planted in David Farland’s writing advice, although I can’t recall the exact source).

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I gave the first few chapters of StoneDragon a round of critiques at OWW and now have the full manuscript with the professional editing services of Indie Books Gone Wild (IBGW). I’m very much looking forward to getting their feedback, polishing it up, and being able to put a finished product out into the world (even if I’m not planning on necessarily being a marketing machine once it hits the internet). In the meantime, I would like to do some art for it and have been doing some rough sketching, which looks a bit more cartoony than I expect the final product to be, but has been fun. The featured image is one of those sketches (it will be painted eventually, but I threw a quick colour fill around it for a bit of contrast).

Unfortunately, I’ve been sick the last week or so and finding it a bit hard to find the energy to do any art tonight. But this year will see me put more paint and ink to paper than I’ve done in a while, which should be fun. I expect some of it will find its way to this site. So enjoy! :)

Do we judge by appearance? (the text in a book, to be clear)

(I added the last bit just because I didn’t want to come up on all kinds of diversity-related Google searches)

But to answer the question, we know people do, especially when you’re a teenager and trying to fit in. Appearances matter a lot. And sometimes not without reason. Clothes, hair, makeup, all tell a story about where we want to fit. If you’re dressed in all black and have a nose stud, you could be exactly my kind of people, but you probably aren’t worried about how the cheerleader squad thinks about you–not that there’s anything wrong with cheerleaders either. 😉

So how does this fit with writing? I’m thinking that people judge books by appearance too. The length of paragraphs. The amount of dialogue. The flow of fat paragraphs versus short ones, the ‘intelligence’ (glasses wearing, articulate chess club member vibe) versus ‘power’ (sleeves rolled up and buzz-cropped football player).

Does any of this change your story? Not at all. But is it worth thinking about? For sure. After all, it’s easy enough to adjust.

Or maybe I’m wrong and it’s all about story and appearances don’t matter. That’s what your guidance counselor would have you believe. ☺

And I buy their argument. Appearance shouldn’t matter. At least for the things you can’t change. But I would suggest that the things you can change, the things you have the power to choose, in writing as well as in life, are indeed important clues about where you want to fit in, and maybe the worst thing to believe is that they don’t matter at all…

(PS, I’m a terrible and indifferent dresser, and it wasn’t much different when I was a teenager, so don’t expect me to be walking the talk here…) :)

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I’m having some fun putting a fine shine on StoneDragon. I’m also going to start doing some artwork for it this year, so the featured image is the start of some related sketches (in this case a map, not finished yet). I’m looking forward to doing a bit more art as a change of pace. I’m also having some fun introducing the Hooligans to art and animation. I’ve broken the bank and bought Toon Boom Harmony (yikes, there’s a big learning curve there) and promised them that I’ll get a story and some animation for them on YouTube. Depending on how horrible it is, I may or may not link it to my other stuff. Since they’ll be doing much of the drawing, and some of the story writing (I fight back where I can but…), those links may never appear here. :)

I’m Free… I Mean Finished!

The major promised rewrite of StoneDragon is finally done. Whoo-hoo! After a couple of years of delays, disruptions, and scraping up the bottom of the well for motivation, I picked up speed in the last 2-3 months and finished with a flurry on my holidays. I finished last night, realized that the formatting was a mess when I compiled it out of Scrivener, cleaned it up in Word, and have something that now resembles a manuscript. What a great feeling. It won’t hit the world yet, I want to run it past some new eyes to make sure it’s clean and polished (probably OWW and a copy editor at some point) and I also want to add some illustrations, many of which I’ll likely share here. But we’re now closer the end than the beginning and at least it’s not an incoherent mess that I couldn’t actually share with someone anymore.

On the personal front, my lovely wife has allowed me much writing time on our vacation (partly from being sick and going to bed early a lot, but let’s not split hairs!). We’re in Miami now, on the beach, and the day is beautiful. There are worse places to be!!!

May this be a wonderful 2017 for all of us…