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Tag: writing process (Page 1 of 15)

Work in progress

I’ve been keeping my head (mostly) down on how things are going with The Dragon House. I didn’t want to jinx the progress I’ve been making by crowing out loud. As the old hands among you may remember, it took me years to admit to another human being that yes, I was writing a book, so this tracks, as they say.

A few things have fallen into place with TDH lately. Some of them have been to do with plot, and some have been to do with process, and quite a lot were just to do with me being in a better headspace.

I’d been struggling to achieve what I wanted within the constraints of what my Editor!Brain thought I “should” be doing. According to Editor!Brain I had far too many PoV characters. I was confusing matters with sub-plots. This is the final book in the series, E!B reminded me constantly. I should be bringing it all together by now, dammit! These anxieties were setting my brain hamster-wheeling into the wee small hours.

some of my disquiet was rooted in knowing that these supplementary viewpoints needed to be given voice

It’s never good when I start obsessing over craft instead of, y’know, crafting. The quality and quantity of my output always suffers (ah, overwriting, my old friend). But in the end, I remembered who was supposed to be in charge around here, and told Editor!Brain to take a hike. This was indeed the last book in the series, it was already doing a shit-ton of heavy lifting and therefore the only rule that should apply was the Rule of Cool.

I gave myself permission to add another PoV (justifying it to E!B by re-using bit part characters from the previous book) and you know what? It was freeing. It unlocked something in the narrative and allowed me to play more with a subtle theme that’s been threading through the Wild Hunt Quartet from the start: stories. Specifically, the stories we tell ourselves, and the fuzzy bit at the intersection of history and legend, truth and what we want to be true. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it justice but I’m having fun with it nonetheless.

So much fun, in fact, that I brought back a second minor character as a new PoV. That unlocked a sub-plot that had been left to wither for a book and a half, instantly giving TDH more depth and heft. It feels marvellous. I think some of my disquiet was rooted in knowing that these supplementary viewpoints needed to be given voice in order to add texture and dimension to the whole, and I was struggling to go forward creatively because Story!Brain knew I was missing a step.

It’s never good when I start obsessing over craft instead of, y’know, crafting.

In the process of writing this up I discovered I had accidentally created a trans-dimensional teahouse. Characters went in its front door in Zhiman-dar and later, other characters sneaked through its back yard in El Maqqam, 160 miles away. Whilst this is actually a continuity error in the book that I need to fix, there is a part of me that really wishes I could have made it work in-world, because the wandering shop trope will never not give me hearteyes.

Anyway. All this has brought the wordcount rocking up to



Now before anyone gets too excited, this does not mean I’m done. 173k is not even close to where I expect the final wordcount to be (somewhere north of 200k, most likely). But I am getting there. There’s still some fat to trim, and the final part needs the most work.

Oh, yeah, I didn’t tell you that, did I? It’s structured in parts now. It felt like the best way to handle multiple locations, lots of point of view characters, and all the normal/slow/extra-slow time shenanigans, by treating each group/location as a separate arc. Regular readers of this blog will know I tried that arrangement once before and it didn’t work; this time round I think I have sufficient narrative glue to hold it together. We shall see.

After all, there’s a reason these things are called a work in progress.



Featured image: Photo © Rido | ID 4493461 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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

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