Purveyor of fine fantasy adventures

Tag: writing process (Page 1 of 14)

Of fonts, and stuff

Two writing-adjacent topics collided on my Twitter timeline this week, and lo, a post was born.

I’m going to hit them in reverse order. Bear with me; it’ll make sense by the end.

Twitter user Séan Richardson wanted to know what font people used for writing. As you can see, I answered:

I felt like I needed more room than just a tweet to explain a bit further, which is one reason for this post. Before I get into it, what I’m talking about here is me and my process, i.e. what works for me; it won’t necessarily work for anyone else.

I do my writing in Times New Roman, 12 point. Boooooring, right? Well, that’s kind of the point. Times is old. It’s inoffensive, it’s readable (that’s why newspapers use serif fonts, after all), it’s *everywhere*. There’s nothing about it that stands out, so the eye kind of slips over it, sending the words straight into your brain without stopping to admire that stunning capital W or the cute descender on the g.

Times is the visual equivalent of the dialogue tag “said.” I’m sure as kids we all had English teachers who encouraged us to strive for variety in our expostulations and ejaculations; I am equally sure we’ve all had the same conversation with a kindly editor who assured us that yes really, just “said” is fine, and even encouraged because the reader is effectively blind to it. It doesn’t interrupt the eye’s flow over the text the way some of those other ten-dollar words do.

Times New Roman, 12 point. Boooooring, right? Well, that’s kind of the point.

So because Times is so commonplace, it makes the perfect drafting tool for me. What I’m typing just goes straight into my visual cortex without any sightseeing on the way. I don’t want to be distracted by a comely Calibri or tempting Tahoma. Don’t get me wrong, I like those fonts, I do. I sometimes use them for correspondence – they’re pretty! But for the grunt work of getting the words on the page, it’s the staid, reliable Times every time.

There is a corollary to this, of course. Sitting down to choose another, more visually appealing font would be a further excuse to procrastinate, and Lord knows I don’t need any more of them!

And so we come to the second topic: the font Comic Sans.

I have, shall we say, an uneasy relationship with Comic Sans

Someone in the replies to my tweet asked whether I’d ever tried the tip about drafting in Comic Sans. There’s been much chatter on writer-Twitter recently about this idea, which supposedly makes drafting easier/quicker. A few people on my timeline have tried it, and say that it works for them. Naturally, I would be interested in trying this myself (for SCIENCE!) but I have, shall we say, an uneasy relationship with Comic Sans (Story time: way back in the dark ages, when I still had a day job, the managing director decided to launch a sister company and designed new branding for it. Gentle Reader, he chose Comic Sans as the font. It was on our business cards. It was on our company letterhead. That was . . . a dark time. I try not to think about it).

Anyway. People have theories about why drafting-in-Comic works. They say it’s a fun, playful font. It encourages you to write more freely, to take chances. Personally, I think the effectiveness of it is less to do with Comic Sans per se, and more to do with it being a font you don’t normally use.

Let me explain. There’s a piece of writing advice that recommends that you do your final proofread in a different font, because it makes you see the words afresh, allowing you to pick up on errors your eye would otherwise skip over. This is much the same reason I have been proofreading on my Kindle for years: it makes me see what is actually there, instead of what I’m so accustomed to seeing I’ve become blind to it.

So will I be trying “this one weird trick” to see if it improves the drafting process? Possibly, but I very much doubt the font I choose will be Comic Sans. The twitching has only just stopped.

 

Featured image: Free photo 6228716 © Janaka Dharmasena – Dreamstime.com

Frequently Asked Questions, DRAGON HOUSE edition

I’ve been getting a few emails from readers asking what’s happening with THE DRAGON HOUSE, the final volume of the Wild Hunt Quartet. I’m happy to answer these emails individually, as and when they come in, but it occurred to me that it would save a lot of wear and tear on everyone’s typing fingers if I just did a post about it.

So, without further ado, here we go.

I can’t find THE DRAGON HOUSE in the shops

It hasn’t been published yet. I’m still writing it. I am pleased to report that it’s more done than not done, though (see So where are we at? below).

Why is it taking so long?

My health hasn’t been great for a while now. For those that don’t know (*waves to new people*) I have multiple sclerosis, which I’ve been dealing with for over 20 years now. I’ve blogged about this before, but that was a year ago and I realise not everyone will have read that post.

I haven’t always dealt with my illness in an ideal fashion. When it was still in its relapsing-remitting stages, I coped by largely ignoring it, and trying to bull my way through the limitations it imposed on me. That’s why I stayed in full-time employment longer than I should have. Why I resisted moving to a house without stairs for so long. When we finally did move, in 2015, the process brought a load of new stressors all its own, which did not help my mental health.

Having MS has so thoroughly altered the way I navigate the world. Physically, I can’t do a lot of things I used to enjoy, like travel, or needlecrafts, or tending my garden, but it’s also affected stuff I used to take for granted, simple things like fastening my clothes. Mentally, it affects my concentration and clarity of thought, though not so badly that I can’t see what’s happening to me. Even after 20 years, I get immensely frustrated with it. Frustration becomes rage, which becomes tears, becomes exhaustion, becomes depression and round and round we go.

Lately I’ve been getting better at dealing with that cycle. Though far from perfect,  I’m still here, still trying. I’m still making words, because I can’t not. It’s just not happening as quickly or as easily as any of us would like.

Post it note says "Don't panic"

Will the book ever be finished?

Yes. Absolutely. I owe the story and the characters a fitting ending, something that feels right for them. I also owe it to all the readers who have come along for the ride.

That said, I won’t turn out a piece of crap just to call it done. I won’t put my name to something I’m not proud of.

When?

That I can’t tell you. Yet. Rigid schedules don’t work with a fluctuating condition; that’s why I had to give up my 9-5 office job. Please trust that I’m working as hard as I can, but unfortunately, I can’t predict when I’ll be done. There’s no point in promising a date when I can’t guarantee to meet it, and to get a firm date means plumbing it into the schedules of literally dozens – if not hundreds – of other people in the publishing supply chain, and it’s not fair on them to over-promise and then under-deliver.

But when I hit SEND on that script, y’all will be the first to know.

So where are we at?

The book is about two-thirds done (I think), but there’s the whole final arc to nail down. A series-ender is tricky – many individual arcs to close, lots of moving parts!

As I said in my newsletter:

Last time I made any kind of announcement about THE DRAGON HOUSE, I was at 120,000 words, or about two-thirds of the way through. I’d actually written 169k, but was revisiting the whole manuscript (again) after some tough love from my agent, because, well, it wasn’t in great shape.

Since then, I’ve stopped keeping an eye on the word-count. Instead, I’m measuring my progress by the far more nebulous and instinctive metric of “Does this feel like it’s getting more in focus than it was before?”

You see, I’ve never had a good relationship with daily word-count targets. It’s co-morbid with my dislike of chapter plans, beat-sheets and whatnot. Those things make me feel hemmed in, and if I fail to hit a target e.g. because I’m ill, it sets up a stress spiral of pushing more and falling further short. The quality of my writing always suffers.

Learning that I do this was such a “Well, duh!” for me. I’m still working on recognising it in the moment, though, because it’s hard to see when you’re mired in it. I was raised to be a self-reliant sort, so I tend to just soldier on in the belief that I can wear any problem down with sheer persistence, when what I need to do is not work harder, but work smarter.

So I’ve had to go backwards to go forwards. I’m at about 125k, but there’s a lot more changed than just adding another 5000 words. I think the script is leaner now, more together. There’s new scenes. I’ve made peace with the fact that the POV count (as well as the word count) is going to be higher than the other three books. THE DRAGON HOUSE will be a bit of a monster, but I can see the shape of the beast in the rough cut stone now, and it pleases me. I just have to set it free.

So there you go.

Is Gair going to be OK? Will he end up with Tanith? Do we see Ailric/Ytha/Drwyn get their comeuppance? TELL ME.

You want spoilers, now? No, I’m not telling. Yes, I am a big meaniepants.

So what are we supposed to do while we wait, huh?

If you haven’t already read them, there’s two sample chapters here under ‘Books’ in the top menu. If you have already read them . . . um. Sorry? Please read someone else’s books – there’s lots of great ones to choose from. I’ll still be here when you get back.

And on that note, I want to apologise to everyone for taking so long with this book. It’s not what I wanted to happen. I hope I can repay everyone’s patience with a worthy finale to the series. I want THE DRAGON HOUSE to be the best that I can make it.

And you will get to read it.

 

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