Friday, December 29, 2006

Alpha: check

I'm listening to the printer spewing out paper in the background as I'm writing this. It has been two years since I last heard that noise.
The hardcopy is for a first test reading by my wife. She's been part of developing aspects of the story from a very early time.

Now, readings as early as this can only be part of development, and I personally believe that copies at this stage of the process should only go out to those who are already too involved in the story to function as neutral readers.

When I finally come as far as to having a beta version it'll be time to find readers who are not tainted with previous knowledge of the story.
Provided I get published and it becomes a series I'll need to reconsider. Most of a buying readership will most probably be familiar with parts of the story as they're likely to have read part n-1 before reading part n in any ongoing story.

Friday, December 22, 2006

On hooks and form

If I veer away from a proper form I'd better do it better than horrible. This is better than horrible. I don't say it's good, but it's better than the mess I sent to the crapometer.

Arthur Wallman has a problem. He needs to get the hell out of Verd, capital of Keen, before his old Bloodhounds news team catches up with him.
Major Heinrich Goldberger has a problem. He needs to get Arthur Wallman out of an Otherworld population center named Verd before someone murders him.
Harbend de Garak has a problem. He needs to get out of the magic city of Verd to find those who murdered his fiance.
Imperial Colonel Trindai de Laiden has a problem. He only wants to get back home to Verd with his men alive, but someone thinks that's too much to ask for.
Count Successor Karia Graig also has a problem. Just expelled from the place he calls home his future lies with Verd, where the Inquisition kills any mages before the trial.

Verd has problems of her own. With a newborn god whipping her population into a religious frenzy, outworlder sky kingdoms landing an endless stream of tourists and a renegade brigadier launching an all out attack against her walls things are getting a little heated. What better time for the papacy to the south to arrive on a holy crusade?
As the city scrambles her defenses two worlds are just about to learn what happens when Federation technology is pitched against hardened battlemages.
Our friends?
Caught in the middle.

Pre-alpha: check

Yep. Done. On schedule.

I've written those two words I've longed for. The End. Taste that.

Now I'm entitled to celebrate for, for, for several hours at least.

Ten days before I should have my alpha finished.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Words and less words

Yesterday had me finish at 2.2k words, which made me feel happy and satisfied.
By now I can see those last twelve to fifteen manuscript pages ahead of me.

Getting away to do the Christmas shopping will put a dent in my writing for today, but Friday should still see me writing 'The End'.

I'm looking forward to that. Not without a bit of sadness, but still.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Some people never learn

And our hero reviewer is at it again.

This time he offends his readers.

Actually it's the readership of Helsingborgs Dagblad he offends. The error was never his own. It's the readers who are too stupid for him to wish to have as readers.

He places his hopes with the readers of Expressen who hopefully are intelligent enough to be worthy of his words.

What can we say?

Roadmap, or plan for the book

Asked if I have a coherent plan I was happy to be able to answer in the positive.

As may be apparent I have a past in IT.

Finish pre-alpha this year
Finish alpha this year
Manuscript in drawer
Outline, minor world building and fleshing out a few new characters for next book
Start editing and rewriting this book in February 2007
Finish beta late Mars
Send to beta readers and of course return that favor
Work on query letter while the beta is being processed
Finish RC1 during May
Start pitching to agents during May
Start first draft of next book during May

So, this may need some translation into standard English.
I did all kinds of mistakes when I wrote Taleweaver, my previous and only finished novel. It turned out a mess, but one has to start somewhere. Of the mistakes I think editing on the fly was one of the worst.
Now, all authors aren't wired the same way, so whenever I make a blatant statement like "mistake" or "good" it should be applied to me only.
Editing on the fly meant I started obsessing over what I had already written rather than finishing the story.
In the end I had a beginning I had revised four or five times while the later parts of the book was very much if a first draft state.
I also drowned in minor details and forgot to check if I had written the right story to begin with. As it turned out I hadn't, but that's another story.

This time I more or less refuse to do any edits at all until I have finished my first draft. Ok, I happen to see the wrong word used while doing a search to check continuity then I fix it. That takes a few seconds.
I did run into a run of scenes that disabled continuity and as I use a very terse outline I had to rewrite those or risk creating invisible continuity errors all the way through the manuscript. That did cost me two full days work.
Apart from that? Nothing. I still have scenes I know will have to go, but they stay until I finish.

That kind of first draft I label pre-alpha. I set out to have that one finished before year's end when I started on this project.

Now I happen to be slightly ahead of schedule, and that takes us to the alpha.
A few scenes will have to go. They don't belong to this story and need replacing in order to create a coherent story. There are other scenes that are currently either wrong, as in factually wrong, or simply unreadable. I'll sanitize those.
When a man who starts traveling on horseback no longer arrives in a car where none are to be found along the road I have my alpha version. It will still look very much like a first draft.

Sleep. Well, not literally, but the manuscript needs to go into a virtual drawer to mature for a while. I have to get that distance to what I've written before I can dig into it and do a more thorough rewrite.
That, however, is no excuse to stay away from writing. Thus the outlining of the next book. It'll be terse. Kind of a point by point synopsis with key characters, locations and events. It will also sketch a brief disposition of the story.
An outline isn't a holy book for me. I'll probably end up deviating from it in the end, but I want to know when, where and why I deviated.

Given a months time in the drawer the manuscript should be ready for a read with new eyes. Then comes the ripping to shreds part. With some luck the approximately 100k words long alpha will become a 120k words long beta. That should require a minimum of 40k words written. If I'm lucky I'll only need to rip out a full 20% of what I've written this far.
That beta should be a story I wrongly consider ready for publishing.
Enter beta readers. They should find the mistakes that I haven't. This is also by far the scariest part of the process. Have I made an ass of myself? The entire book could be tripe.

Provided the input I receive is in general positive with comments on a number of glaring flaws included I'll set out to fix those and finish the book.
That is the RC1, or Release Candidate 1. It's the version I'll start pitching to agents.

The beta reader process will take some time though, and considering that you'll get a few seconds of attention for each query letter I'd better try to make mine good.
In a book you get second chances. I don't care if people say otherwise. A reader who has already settled down to read will allow for a few downers. Not many maybe, but it's not a matter of each page being perfect or the book heads for the trash bin.
In a query letter you don't get a second chance. I don't believe in agents picking up one again because it might be better the second time it's read.
So, working on a query letter.

The moment I start sending those out it's also time to start writing the next book. With the goal to have a pre-alpha finished before year's end.

Does is sound like a never ending story?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

More writing

Spread over the hours today I managed to squeeze out another 2k words.

Last chapter.
I didn't know it would be this difficult, and I have finished one book earlier. That it doesn't meet publication demands is a different thing. I finished it, but I can't remember the last chapter to be as difficult as this one.

Then it was a matter of struggling through a quagmire from about a quarter into the story to a few chapters from the end.
I have since had the opportunity to read about the so called dreaded middle. Writing that first book I would have benefited greatly from knowing about it. Especially as it was all true.

This time, though, most of my writing my way through the middle of the book hasn't been that bad. Sure, there were places where I got thoroughly stuck for a while, but on average it was pleasant writing it.
Starting this book was pure hell, but I've come to the understanding that the second one is the worst. You have to give up on the first, tell yourself to get over it and start all over again.

Anyway, a week's writing and I should see those magic words: The End.
After that -- editing.

Critting but not in HD

The cryptic title refers to the latest in the reviewer story.
According to this article the reviewer is no longer welcome to evaluate the work of others in Helsingborgs Dagblad, the newspaper where the offending review was published.

A bit down in that article we learn that he has written reviews for two other newspapers as well. One of them, Expressen, will allow him to continue in this function there as they have no reason to question his reliability and truthfulness.

Sorry, but if you're not from Sweden you're not laughing hysterically by now.
Expressen has a rather special reputation as newspapers go. There are persistent rumors that an article has been printed in that newspaper that contained the truth, but this far no substantial evidence has been found.

I can only assume you have similar newspapers wherever you come from.

Crapometer entry parsed

And axed.

Among other advice when sending queries to agents and editors there's one saying that we should avoid sending our query in, for example, a metal box playing a cute tune.
That is, keep it plain, professional and stick to having your words being the only thing that stand out.

I failed, and badly so considering that we only send words.

There are moments when we should try to be smart, and there are those when we're so smart we fool ourselves.

Rather than sending in a straight hook following the standard format, in as much as there is a single standard format, I tried to make my 'hook' look like a newsflash by a fictive reporter. Didn't work. Didn't work because it was the verbal version of that metal box, and now I know not to do it again.
Good lesson to learn from.

This is a good example why these kind of exercises are good for us. We get to make those mistakes before we actually submit our work to a paying market. And we get to learn from our mistakes before they get costly.

For those interested in seeing how a hook should not be written here it is as a warning example.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A few moments on the balcony

I spent those sniffing a crispness I haven't felt earlier this winter.

Temperature has finally dropped to something akin to winter, and so has the wind. There's a stillness outdoors. Something clinging to the streets together with the icy fog blanketing the city.
This day seems subdued in a different way that the endless rainy ones following each other like beads on a string.

It struck me, during those moment on the balcony, that I have missed winter. That I'm no greater fan of freezing doesn't really matter. There really has to be a proper winter to make one believe in spring -- and longer days.

One o'clock in the afternoon. Three hours till darkness. One week until the year stirs in its sleep, turns and allows daylight to stride forth and claim more of each day.

It's good to be alive, and feel a few moments on the balcony.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Want to get published?

Have a look a these statistics from one US agent.

A few entries I found with other agents indicate that the number of queries received is in the high end, but merely in the high end.

Crapometer in full run

One can't help but feel sorry for Miss Snark. Sure, it's fair enough to say she did it to herself, but the sheer amount of submissions is still staggering. 700. Taste that number.
Imagine you had to write your signature 700 times. Tedious project.
Now, let's say you have to read half a page's worth of text before each signature. By now it gets appalling, and yet you aren't required to turn your brains on.
Let's say you had to read those 700 half pages and come up with a few random sentences to associate with each one. By now we've reached the point where most sane people renegade on a promise.
She has to apply professional judgment to each of those 700 submissions and give voice to it. That's bordering on insanity in my book. Check your calendar. Someone has her Christmas booked.

Now she's stated that she gains as well, but really. It's still a lot of work for whatever examples she gets to use.

Please note the difference a professional makes between constructive scalding and pure venting. A double edged sword that one. Some people take the word criticism as an excuse to pour out nastiness just for the fun of it -- some people take those people as an excuse for advocating a "see no evil, hear no evil and say no evil" attitude.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The heat is on

It seems the creator of fictive book reviews has himself been reviewed by a less than understanding public.

Emails in the hundreds expressing disdain, to use a mild expression, have arrived. Somewhere along the road it slowly dawned upon the reviewer that his course of action might not have been the pinnacle of career choices.

Friday, December 15, 2006

From bad to worse

And so it turns out our hero reviewer has another job.

Kulturrådet has a hand in what author receives subsidiaries paid with our taxes. Great, just great, or maybe not.

And company...

Göteborgs Posten
Svenska Dagbladet

Unsurprisingly other large newspapers have picked up the trail.

The most stunning part of the sad idiocy is that the moron writing a scalding review of something he's never read defended his action because he disliked the author on general principle.
We can only sincerely hope he's removed from the opportunity to repeat himself in the future. My confidence in one branch associated with the publishing industry definitely took a dive.

Best of today

I think this safely proves that authors shouldn't take harsh criticism too hard.
Anyway, when reviewing a book, please read it before axing it.

The link is to a Swedish newspaper.

Idiocy taken to a new level. It's one thing when we suspect the reviewer didn't read what they vomited verbally on, but at least I thought they made certain the book was written first.

I'm still cackling with glee.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Why English?

I've had a number of persons ask me why I chose to write in English.

The first answer that came to mind was that the only decent market for fantasy is the US and UK. I have, however, come to the conclusion it is not entirely correct. Not as in there being any other equal market for my preferred genre. It's the part of the answer being the first and foremost that is a lie.
I guess that answer was an excuse, or internal bribe if you prefer, to get me past a rather difficult barrier. There's writing, and there's writing in a non-native language. I needed a reason to dare the second. As excuses go, "there's in no measurable market for fantasy written in Swedish" is a rather good one.

Still, what is the primary reason for me to write in English? It's not that I'm likely to make a fortune no matter what language I prefer to write in, and if I only wanted to get published and read then I could as well have stuck to the language I'm raised with.

The answer, I guess, is much, much simpler. English is in fact my preferred language. Again given that we're referring to fantasy. I don't like fantasy written in Swedish set in an environment Swedish history doesn't mirror.

This is a nation of a vast wilderness, at least by European standards. We have forests you could hide an army in. We have an endless coastline. We have, all in all, the perfect setting for a story where nature and nature's mysteries take a main role. What we don't have is a setting suited for densely populated civilizations, and as far as I am concerned it shows in our language.

We don't have a history of living packed together. We do indeed have a history of invading places where cities and villages lie only a day's walking apart. I guess that would work wonders if I wanted to write about barbarian hordes laying waste to a decadent civilization -- written from the barbarian side. Wonderful story, a bucketful of ideas. Someone should write it, and that someone is not me.

Breaks at lull or action

There are different opinions concerning where you break for the day. Some prefer to come to a natural break and others, me included, try to break in the middle of a scene.
There are benefits to both approaches, I guess. No one method is the best for all writers. My reason for breaking in the thick of combat, so to say, is that there is little to no startup when I return to my writing the next time. There is already a short time direction to the story.

Now, what about a longer break?
Due to my daughter catching a cold, ear problems and another sickness the last three weeks I read November the last time I wrote, and I left it literally in the middle of a battle. It took a lot of rereading to catch up.
It seems when the story picks up a frantic pace the number of unanswered questions, at least in the short time perspective, multiply. Leaving the story in such a state for weeks adds more of a problem than benefits -- at least for this writer.
A lesson learned. Don't be forced to a prolonged break if you chose to leave your story when bullets are flying.

What about today then? 2.2k, which is just a little bit more than I have set up as a goal for one day. By now i can see the end of the novel. A week's worth of writing I think.
The end, well. The end of a first draft at least. After that I have the task of rewriting it into a readable state ahead of me.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


It's time again. Two more days.
I personally think it's a fantastic exercise that anyone aiming to sell fiction to the English speaking market should do.
Now go home and do your homework. These are the instructions.

Rich authors

Not likely.
Ripped right out of The Publishers Lunch mailing list I subscribe to. This is from their weekly lunch, latest issue.

The Key
As usual, the handy key to our Lunch deal categories. While all reports are always welcome, those that include a category will generally receive a higher listing when it comes time to put them all together.
"nice deal" $1 - $49,000
"very nice deal" $50,000 - $99,000
"good deal" $100,000 - $250,000
"significant deal" $251,000 - $499,000
"major deal" $500,000 and up

And that's the gross pay. Even in an American market taxes have to be deducted. As that market also differs from the Swedish one you'll most probably be represented by an agent who wants their 15% share of the amounts above.
In reality a debut in the genre I'm interested in pays about $5000 in advance, and considering that 99% never get as far as a debut and you're not especially welcome with more than one book a year we're in reality talking a month's pay for a year's work.
They say writing is a work of love. It had better be a lot of love. Still want to walk that path?

Lucia part II

And then there's the formal way of celebrating Lucia.
As you can see we start the training for Lucia parades at a tender age.


Gothenburg lights up in the darkness.
As has become tradition lamps, lamps and everywhere lamps adds light to a gloomy December.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Scotsman and VTES, or rather the why not

The games this Monday were close to get canceled.
Gothenburg has had its fair share of rain the last weeks, more than its fair share to be true.
With major roads flooded and trains prevented from running mass transport in Gothenburg collapsed regionally.
Calling a taxi was impossible. In some cases it turned out impossible to reach the switchboard at all.
The largest local newspaper didn't have a functioning website any longer and all the time rain poured down.
Taking a bus from the place we visited to Scotsman should be doable in thirty minutes. Walking the distance takes an hour and a half. We spent over two hours failing to get onto buses that didn't arrive.

When I finally made it down into the pub enough time had passed that the pop-quiz they run Mondays was just about to start. We spent the time quizzing and gaming at the same time. Needless to say neither went very well. Lack of concentration was a main reason for horrid tactical decisions.
For me, well, it's time I ripped my old decks apart and tried my hands at something new, but it seems I'll have to wait until after Christmas when Santa arrives with another box with cards.


A local holiday. Thirteenth of December. It's been used as a rather poor excuse to run a beauty contest for as long as I can recall. I believe that part of the tradition is older than I am by a wide margin.
There's an associated tradition as well. The twelfth of December teenagers all over Sweden compete in who can drink the most alcohol. The result is rather pitiful. Another four hours from now children as young as thirteen will crawl around along the streets puking their guts out. A disgrace to put it mildly.
Tomorrow school classes, hospitals and offices will see lines of young girls and men clad in white, some red and brown, but mostly in white. The lead girl will wear a crown of candles, even though today those candles are more often than not electric. She's the Lucia. And everyone will pretend the excessive drinking never took play only a night earlier.

Poetry on demand

Sometimes one wishes mouth and mind were both wired differently.
In a weak moment I agreed to a request to fix up several poems translated from one language to another. Arrogant, maybe, but I imagined that it should be doable and that I could return the cleaned up poems sometime during the coming spring.
Together with the email containing the horribly translated poems came a deadline. Tuesday. That is today.
I'm doing an exercise in futility. You simply don't produce enjoyable poetry by the dozens in two days. There's a lesson to be learned here I guess.

Be proud, be very proud

I usually feel confident and cosy about being from Sweden, but I seldom feel like I need to cry out my pride of being from here.
Today I am. I've just read some of the most disgusting piece of religious intolerance I hoped never to read.
The awful shite comes from a US publisher living in a commercial reality where "nigger", "jew" and "fag" are just nice labels with which you are allowed to brand your business partners. In this case it happens to be "Christian". Be his kind of Christian or be banned from his business.
I am proud to be Swedish where these kinds of disgusting fanatical statements are prohibited by law no matter what kind of clothes you put them in.
Read and weep.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Sobol Awards

Is apparently a contest the blogging publishing world is going up in flames about. I'm not entirely clear about it, but it seems to be a pay to enter competition, which in other fields than publishing doesn't seem so strange.
Limiting the winner to join a specific agency with a soiled reputation seems to be the thing that most people get upset about. I really can't say I have much of an opinion about it -- after all I'm not inside the industry, merely an aspiring writer. Seen from a purely economic view, at least in the short term the competition should give entering authors a better chance at a shot at the money, but the vehemence the competition is met by bodes ill in the long term. $100 000 is a lot of money, but it's still a far cry from a lifetime's income.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Strange days

Grey skies and temperatures belonging in September rather than December. Anyone dreaming of a white Christmas should either stop dreaming or move from Gothenburg to wherever the snow is likely to fall.

Going out on the streets before darkness falls is depressing to say the least. A steady drizzle has blanketed the city for a few weeks straight now and it feels like the walls are wet through and a chill that has nothing to do with temperature creeps inside the body. Bah, stay in.

Plot is king

Let's repeat: Plot is king.

Even Miss Snark acknowledges this.

Did I forget to state that plot is king?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Incoming crits

I'm slowly getting the input I've asked for. Even though only a short part of the novel went out for verbal axing I got the responses I had guessed, which is just fine.

Lackluster world descriptions, usable characters and enough direction to have the reader continue. For a first draft it is more than I had hoped for.
This is also a major improvement compared to the first novel.

Now I have to fix those last seven thousand words and enter edit mode. A second or third draft should see the WIP reach beta stage -- fun thing that writers use pretty much the same terms as computer people.
That is something I should be able to have done by late February or Mars.

Fantastic statistic

Not only in fantasy land are people imbued with great magic. The ability of extrasensory feats runs rampant among readers of blogs as well.

Setting up the counter I saw how an amazing 50 or so people had rated this very blog in all of an hour. How this corresponded with the grand total of eight pageviews, of which I was responsible for seven, I didn't understand first. At least not until I realized it had to be the magic ability to read the web without resorting to as mundane a tool as a web browser.
Because we wouldn't want to assume anyone guilty of rating anything unseen, would we :D

Day's best laugh for me this far.

Tired daughter

Another week and another infection.

No writing in other words.
Got to feel sorry for the little one though. No friends, just the flat and grey skies to watch through the windows -- when she doesn't sleep of course. A lot of sleeping for a kid with too high a temperature.

More playing along with blog

Added external RSS feed. I'm not clear if the beta version generates a feed automatically, but at least one indexer couldn't find it. Went for Feedburner as per suggestions here. We'll see how it turns out.
Good thing is that the beta, in difference from what is said on documentation about Blogger, supports code that stays on the page.

Some editing here. Seems an explicit pointer to the Atom-feed here works as well. Taking that route instead. The fewer servers involved the happier I am.

Even managed to get a "your blog sucks" -entry during the time it took me to get the indexer to accept it. Oh well -- that's life I guess.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Great games

Playing VTES again. Been a while and I had lots of fun. That doesn't mean I excelled in any way. I just had fun trying out the decks I've built once again.
Tomorrow I plan to continue on the book again. After all I'm not that far away from finishing the first draft, and the tentative response I've had this far encourage me to get the story to an end.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Long week

Kid came down with a cold and so did I. Nothing written for an entire week. Don't really think this qualifies as writing -- more of a reminder that the blog's still up and alive.