Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Horse and The Cart

And then I read this:

Keeping a journal or notebook fosters the journal-writing skill, not the fiction-writing skill.
Caro Clarke; the writer’s notebook, or let’s not really write


From Ketutar Writing

Ah. I actually think Caro Clarke has a point.  At least I had a ‘flash moment ‘ when I read this.

“Oho, so that’s why I stopped writing fiction when I started journaling…” it’s true. I did. During my days and years in 12 step recovery, I would carry a journal with me everywhere – constantly examining my own feelings, explaining them to myself, processing them in clear text. I only wrote fiction or poetry those times when there was either an ‘overflow’ or I couldn’t get a clear fix ‘intellectually’ on what was going on. Or couldn’t verbalize my innards (inner kid) to myself. Then I would write stories about him or for him.

Instead of exploring my characters’ emotions and actions to understand my own or integrate them with myself, I turned the process on its head, and off course there would be no reason to explore my characters’ emotions and actions once I was directly exploring my own emotions and actions.

Several authors manage to write fiction even though they have a writer’s journal :-D Go ahead and do what ever you like. It’s not that your ideas get stale or die because you write them down in a journal. From Ketutar Writing.

Perhaps. I see your point. But I still feel sad for 15 years of fictional writing lost because I was told to bypass my fictional therapists…

I hope I can unlearn at least some, so the Horse is again in front of the Cart.


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My NaNoNovel…well sort of…



When Yonatan of Riverfield rescues an armored bear from the hands of the Picts, he doesn’t realize his compassion will lead him through forests and mysterious caves into adventures a storyteller like him only spins tales about. The bear teaches him things he didn’t think he would ever need to know, introduces him to species he didn’t know exist and gives him a true friend.

When Marhren Khromork sneaks out of her home in the middle of the night, in defiance of Tradition, she has no idea that she is walking right into an adulthood that has ramifications far beyond herself and that when she returns her world will either be changed forever or have ceased to exist.


We both awoke just before dawn the next morning, roused by the sound of someone or something rummaging through our belongings. There was no moon, so without a torch or a full fire it was impossible to see anything but the shadowy outlines of something small and hairy moving next to my pack of trade goods. I heard the roar when Valdemar threw himself across the small space, landing with a clank and a huff almost on top of whatever it was that was helping itself to the contents of my pack. By the time I had hauled out my tinderbox and lit a tree branch wrapped in long dry grass the sounds had changed from huff and puffs and high-pitched shrieks to serious swearing in two keys. I thrust the makeshift torch in the direction of the commotion and swearing, and what I saw will be with me forever. The huge white Bear was standing on his hind legs, trying to free himself from a tiny furry creature that was grabbing on to his neck and had taken a fierce hold of his ears and obviously refused to let go, no matter what the Big Bear did.

“Do not just stand there, help me!” Valdemar yelled. He was throwing himself from side to side, grabbing at the creature that had pinned itself to his head and neck. Each time his giant paws came close he would be rewarded with a quick but obviously painful nip from the tiny creature’s even tinier mouth, resulting in gargantuan howls from the Bear. It was quite comical. I rushed in, and got a firm hold of the creature’s long tail which it had coiled around Valdemar’s neck for extra grip. After several minutes during which both I and Valdemar bloodied our fingers and paws further on the creature’s sharp teeth, Valdemar managed to get a hold of its scruffy neck and pulled it off his head. Hanging 10 feet above ground from the Bear’s big front paw, it sputtered, hissed and trashed, obviously very upset.

“Let me go, you evils!” it shrieked. I do not think I had expected it to speak at all, let alone hear it speak in a human tongue. I was intrigued. Valdemar on the other hand did not seem at all surprised to hear the small creature speak. He growled in response, the creature shrieked and fell silent as well as quite still in his grip.

“Hold it there, let me tie it up”, I said and turned towards my pack for some leather strips.

“Tie it up!” the Bear bellowed. “Are you insane, it tried to rob us blind, it trashed our fingers and paws bloody, and you want to tie it up!? Why?”

“I want to keep it,” I responded. “It speaks, it can obviously think and I want to know more about this creature.” Having found the leather strips I returned to the Bear and the creature which seemed to be about half my size.

“I can tell you everything about it!” Valdemar growled. “It is a Wolie. They are pests. Thieves and murderers! Yes, they can speak human tongue, but they are still thieves and murderers!” He shook the Wolie, glaring at it. He was rewarded with a big glob of spit and a shrieking sputter.

“I still want to keep it! I said.

“OK, you want to keep it, but right now I am the one in possession of it, so what do you give me in trade for it?” the Bear looked at me, obviously serious.

“You want me barter you for it?” I looked at the Bear, incredulous. He nodded. “You…” I had no words.

“Sure!” I said.

“I will give you half the contents of my pouch for it! Now, please hold it so I can tie it up.” The Bear erupted in a belly laugh that made the walls around us bulge out from the shock wave. He had been putting me on! Oh the deviousness of…I wished all the Dragons of Hel on him and joined him laughing.



She walked all of the remainder of the day, and didn’t stop until she was within earshot of Farmers’ Meadow and could hear the Night Bell toll. As she came around a bend in the tunnels, approaching a side tunnels where she imagined that she could spend the night, she saw several Council Constables moving about ahead. They weren’t moving to or from the Meadow. They seemed to be moving about waiting for something or someone chattering amongst themselves.

Suddenly they all stiffened, snapping to attention at the sound of steps approaching. Four figures appeared from a side tunnel. The Council Elders from Craftsmen’s Cavern and the Elder President of the Six Caverns! Marhren shrank back against the rock wall, hoping that the shadow of the bend would conceal her.

“What are they doing here and after the Night Bell and all?” She asked herself in a muted whisper, inching forward, trying to hear what they were saying.
“Has the Khromork Renegade been seen yet?” The Elder President spoke in a loud and haughty voice. The three Craftsmen’s Councilors stood to the side, looking as if they’d rather bee home eating the evening meal.
“No Your Eminence.” one Constable said, “our informant said that she left the Convocation around Midmorning, so she should be approaching the Meadow at any time now.” He shuffled his feet.

“Well, you’ll just have to wait here for her then, apprehend her and bring her to me as soon as you do. We simply cannot have youngsters trudging about on Unsanctioned Journeys defying Tradition. We have been too lenient with this sort of thing. It has to stop. I want an example to be made!” The Elder President spun around and walked back the way he had come. The three Craftsmen’s Councilors hurried to follow. The Constables stared after them and resumed their aimless marching back and forth across the tunnel.

Marhren sat back on her hunches, her tail twitching, her stomach in a knot and churning.
Elder President Mardhukr was looking for her very specifically! She wondered why. He could have decided to ‘make an example of’ anyone, so why her? She couldn’t think of any reason she would have drawn his attention in this manner. Her frantic thoughts were interrupted by a draft of wind from the side tunnel she was almost sitting in and she heard the soft shuffle of feet over rock.

“Pst!” A hand gripped her shoulder. She swung round ready to defend herself. She saw the vague outline of a small Khurzon.
“Come with me!” The figure moved further into the tunnel. “Come on!” the voice hissed when she didn’t follow right away. She gathered herself and stepped quickly over to the small figure. A torch was lit further up the tunnel, and Marhren could see several other Khurzons, ragtag clothes and matted furs waving for her and the young Khurzon to hurry. As soon as they reached them, the group set off at a brisk trot, torches, tattered cloaks and hoods billowing, flapping and whisking around them.

“What is happening? Who are you” Marhren asked no one in particular, nevertheless very confused and angry.
“Nothing at the moment”, one of the ragtag Khurzon replied, “but it soon will and as to who we are you will learn that soon too.”

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To plan or not to plan, that is the Question

So, I solved the mystery of continuous writingTPOBBlogIcon – just write your episodes (experienced writers call those episodes ‘scenes’ or ‘peaks’) and string them together at some point by all means later if you like.  With what? As I said in an earlier post – transitions – those are hard, because nothing happens in them. But, I think I figured out that anything where the characters are not interacting with other characters or the environment is not trying to interact with the character(s) [like ginormous gargoyles trying to eat them or suck their brains out through their navels] – are the transition points (those experienced pen wielders call that ‘valleys’, I think…. When the characters do nothing in particular or do something best done in solitude. [like the MC pulls lint out of his/her navel and contemplates the futility of bathing, because no matter what he/she does, there will always be navel-lint…] – my characters constantly, eat, bathe, or write in their journals – unless they sleep or meditate…and it is perfectly ok to skip a whole day or week over, if nothing ‘exiting happens’ – “We walked for four days before we finally found an inn where we could get shelter from the rain…” the prospective reader will ‘get the picture’ of an uneventful, wet, dreary and boring four days.

Why did I just write all that? Because it’s connected to something I discovered yesterday.

I have reached a point in my novel where two ‘side-stories’ are going to merge, and I couldn’t for the life of me get the geographical descriptions right in my head. Because I had written one story with one ‘geographical out-line’ and the other with a slightly different ‘geographical out-line’, and I either had to write in a second Body of Water or remove the Crucial Place of Horror all together… I was driving myself and my loving wife to distraction (destruction?) because I couldn’t make sense of my own story!

Finally she barked at me: That’s why people PLAN their books/stories/novels BEFORE they sit down to write. Uhu…ooops…never done THAT (why would I, I never wrote more than 3-5 pages at a time, and never really thought of ‘stringing them together’).

Ok. Let’s try it, I thought, and went over what I have written so far, inserting short ‘commentaries’ whenever a new scene ‘began’, sort of summarizing the scene – and I especially focused on the chain of episodes that I KNEW would lead to the conclusion of the characters’ interaction with that ‘geographical out-line’, because it was when I took on writing those scenes that I was snagged by my inconsistencies – and found that by writing the small summaries, I lost interest in writing the scene, because I had already told myself the story through the summary, so why bother ‘expanding’ the summary?

Obviously my writing comes from me telling myself stories as I write…and why would I write the same story twice? Dean R Koontz don’t, so I suppose I don’t have to either. I just have to get it right the first time:

“But the writer who rewrites the same story again and again until he has it down pat is usually not so much a careful artist as he is a sloppy one. If he had trained himself to write as clean and sound a first draft as he could, he would not have needed to go over all that material again and again. When I sit down to begin a new novel, I type directly onto heavy bond paper, with carbon paper and second sheet attached. If a paragraph is not going well, I rip that set of papers out of the typewriter and begin the page again, but I never go on until that page is finalized and cleanly typed in finished copy. I waste a lot of paper. But I save a lot of time. The danger of planning to do several drafts lies in the subconscious or unconscious attitude that, If I don’t get it right this time, it’s okay; I can work it out in a later draft. This encourages carelessness in your original word choices, phrasing, and plotting. The more things you write with this approach in mind, the sloppier you become until, finally, your first draft is so poorly done that no number of re-workings will make it click.[…]If you must rework the story several times, you will lose that sense of excitement and, more often than not, create a finished piece that reflects your own ultimate boredom. (From “Writing Popular Fiction” by Dean R. Koontz)

Wise as always my wife said: Just write the story!

Which means that even if I don’t know what is going to happen within the next 3-5 pages, I don’t have to know. Of course I need to make sure that geographical details are the same for all characters, if they move in the same area, but I DO NOT need to have the entire story written out in short summaries. Really. I can just write to tell myself a story.


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<—There! See it? I WON! I did it!!

I wrote 50000+ words in a month!

Not bad guys! Not bad, for an old grumpy Bear. I am so proud of myself!

When I finally got what this NaNoWriMo thing is about, it was actually quite easy.

I just had to understand that writing a novel is all about stringing episodes together and that it doesn’t matter if the episodes ‘appear’ in order – the order can be sorted out once they have all been written.

Heck yeah, this was fun!

Now I am going to stand on the side-lines and cheer my wife on, she still has about 10k of words to write, and only three days to do it in.

But hey, she can do it. she has written 32000 words since the 13th. You should go and see her NaNo Stats – that recovery curve is mind boggling!


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7+k and 6 days left…

Book and gblassesOy, I think I might actually make it.

With 42+k words written so far, and about half the story told, I doubt my novel will be finished for real by November 3oth, but at least I will have reached my 50+k by November 3oth. A nice Chanukah gift to myself. What do I think has been the hardest? The transitions. You know the parts when a particular scene has just played out that led to whatever comes next and the characters either EAT, SLEEP or THINK. I find the THINKING parts really difficult. I know how to convey emotions in an action filled scene, but how do characters relate to their own inner realities, thoughts and feelings, and how do I the author convey that to a reader. I am good at ‘episodes’ – I am less good at tying the ‘episodes’ together. (See this post).

Well no matter, I will get my 50k words in the bank and the story will make sense up to that point – what happens to it after that is anybody’s guess:)


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50k of Mary-Stu.. Why not?

PenFireSmall“Maybe I should do the opposite… try to write purple prose, Mary Sues and revive my “darlings”…” (From Ketutar Writing)

It’s all about the Inner Critic, isn’t it? In the end we have to like our characters, even those who are not likable – I don’t mean that we have to like them when they are unlikable, I mean that we have to like that they are unlikable.

Somehow we have to accept that in fictional writing any character is exactly that – fictional, a product of fantasy – so it’s really silly to try and make them too perfectly ‘non-Mary-Stuish’. So a character is inordinately beautiful or extraordinarily intelligent – there are people like that in the real world, so why shouldn’t there be such people in a fictional world?

Besides, NaNoWriMo is about writing 50k words, not about writing prose that is so dry the ink would fall off the pages if they were printed, or about ‘dehumanizing’ characters to a point where they come across as the figments of some “Mary-Stu-Grand-Inquisitor-Test-Inventors” imagination.

Unless one is exceptionally gifted at inventing original plots, some generic idea is going to insert itself in any story – even if one does a Terry Pratchett and turns the Universe on it’s head and writes satire.

So, if all you can come with is a run-of-the-mill generic plot set in a fantasy society, inhabited by elf-like, exceptionally beautiful, multi-talented and intelligent females and gorgeously sexy, multi-talented and intelligent males, and then let your hero or heroine outshine them all in various situations, described in flowery similes and over-stacked metaphors then, by all means, be consistent and write 50k words of thatEdit: After all, it worked for Good Old Uncle Tolkien, who created an entire race of Mary-Stus so why not? Really, why not?

To quote on of my characters (who frequently spouts things like this – because it is his job do so…):

“So the Order reasons that no matter how mundane the topic of a book is, the contents must be a reflection of how life is experienced by its author even if it’s beneath layers and perhaps obscure. Anyone reading any specific book will come away from that reading with a piece of that author’s life-experience, either in practice or in understanding. He or she will then in turn bring this practice or understanding into their own experience. In fact just reading the book will add to their particular life-experience. Eventually, then, as such life-experience is added to that of oneself and is shared with others through reading and writing, it will bind together Life as a whole, within all of those who share. Thus it maintains the Core of Everything, since Life is Everything.”


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My Wife – A Confession

Derived from - used with permissionI have no idea how many Husbands out there have their Wives as their main Muse. I guess, hope, wish, fantasize, that I am not the only one. Yeah, I know it is kind of TACKY and CLICHÈ. My Wife would say that it is ROMANTIC.

Tacky or not – for me it’s true. I used to write a lot when I was much younger – another cliché – to handle my existential angst. Like a Byron, Shelley, KeatsBoye, Lagerkvist or Anderson. I fancied myself if not on par with those then at least not far from. I still think that some of what I wrote then was that good.

Then I met my wife. Found other ways of dealing with my angst, and for a while I wrote very little fiction or poetry.

But Wives are trusty creatures :D My better half kept poking me, kept asking me about a few characters I had shared with her, prodded me, nudged and nagged. The  she dragged me over to NaNoWriMo in 2008. Nothing, absolutely nothing. ‘Cause I thought I’d actually have to write a REAL Novel, one of quality, that could be published after some editing.

It wasn’t until this year, this NaNoWriMo, that I realized that it’s all about getting the word count, not about the quality or even the outline. So what if my characters are shallow, inconsistent and Mary-Stu’s to the power of 100? Let them be, let them, and let the storyline run all over a horribly thought out world. So what if my first 50k words are noting but The Greatest Generic Predictable and Non-Unique NaNo Novel ever written? Really. Who does it harm, if I manage to write 50k words – which translates to around 200 pages of PROSE – I have never done that before, so in actually doing it I will have WON´- over myself, my inner critic, my bad self-confidence and above all over my inability to ever FINISH anything :D

All that because of my Wife.

Darling, I love you.

Btw – do go and have a look at my Wife’s Blog on Writing, she has worked so hard at making it worth your while – nice, personal posts all about her struggles and victories in writing, with links, a stack of Fantasy Writing Prompt Generators and links to other writers’ blogs.

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