Taking Stock

I've taken a break from blogging for a while, writing other things (including the sequel to The Silk Mind). Also, there has been a certain amount of politics going on in Scotland, and it's very distracting. I will have more to say on that another time.

I have been trying to get better at writing fiction, and in doing so I have been listening to the Writing Excuses podcasts, and watching various writing-related videos on youtube.  I have come to a happy conclusion: I have been doing it all wrong.

This is great news: I have a hundred new things to try and to experiment with, new words for techniques and phenomena that were nameless and unfocused before. It's like I've been trying to hammer in these weird twisty nails for years with very mixed success, and someone just handed me a screwdriver.


Book of Lenses for Books - #17

Continuing my series of posts where I try to apply the perspectives of the superb  The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses to the process of writing fiction. Part 1 is here.

Lens #17 - Pleasure
  • What pleasures does your game book give to players? Can these be improved?
  • What pleasures are missing from your experience? Why? Can they be added?
What are the pleasures of reading? Escapism, the tension and closure of storytelling, humour, insight, food for conversation with like-minded friends, the rhythm and flavour of words themselves.  There are probably twice as many I haven't thought of; reading is awesome.

And I know people can enjoy reading things that don't push all of those buttons, perhaps more than they enjoy works that try to. So when considering the second question, it's OK to identify pleasures that your story doesn't give, but which are not exactly missing. The perfect example (see previous post) being erotica wisely omitted from a book that is already barely managing humour, horror and rationality advocacy.

Some quotes from The Silk Mind, where I consciously tried to provide one of the above-named kinds of pleasure:
[...] such badger-surveying equipment as: oilskin-bound notebooks, a spring balance for weighing anything up to a medium sized badger in a sack, and dark pencils, and bandages for anyone stupid enough to try to put a medium sized badger in sack [...]
 * * *
"Demanding that something be done is how people who fear change open the door to it."
* * *
 “That is not the point. She has most likely not been slapped enough anyway, what with being a queen.”
“Let’s not get arrested just yet for treason or regislap or whatever."
I am officially declaring the existence of the word "regislap". I care little for how many people buy my book, as long as that word gets some lively use.

Next time, #18 - Flow.

Book of Lenses for Books - #16

Continuing my series of posts where I try to apply the perspectives of the really excellent The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses to the process of writing fiction. Part 1 is here.

I took a break from doing this series while I was frantically editing The Silk Mind for release.  Job done; by the time I get to lens #100 or whatever, I'll see whether I've sold any.

Lens #16 - The Reader
   Ask yourself these questions about the people who will play read your game book:
  • In general, what do they like?
  • What don’t they like? Why?
  • What do they expect to see in a game book?
  • If I were in their place, what would I want to see in a game book?
  • What would they like or dislike about my book game in particular?
It's well worth asking yourself these things, although if you are writing more because of a need to write than a need to be read, maybe some aren't applicable. Most of the answers will be "I don't know".

If I had to answer, I'd say people likely to read my book want some light entertainment, come from a slightly geeky background (e.g. liked AD&D or computer RPGs, don't like stories to insult their intelligence too much). They have read enough shit with orcs and dragons and spells and magic swords though.

In their place, I'd probably want to see more sex in the story, but that's tough, because there isn't any to speak of. I was taking enough chances trying to include a bit of humour and a bit of horror on my first attempt at a novel. Adding erotica to the mix would have been a disturbing and guaranteed fail. Also, people who know me are likely to be the main audience, and that feels awkward.

What will people like about the book? Many people will be glad I left out the erotica.

Next time, Lens #17 - Pleasure.

Seriously, no, not erotica. 


The Silk Mind - out now on Smashwords (and GumRoad)

Well, shit. I just accidentally wrote a book.

I finally pushed the button on The Silk Mind, and it's available DRM-free at Smashwords for $3.99.

Update: it's pay what you like now. Some people like to pay $0, which is fair if I am honest with myself.

It's EPUB-only on Smashwords just now, because my workflow is LyX -> XHTML -> EPUB / Mobi, but Smashwords only allows upload of EPUB or .doc (and it's way too much hassle to try and get a .doc looking as good as the output of LyX).

Note: it was temporarily marked as having adult content. Don't get your hopes up: the characters say fuck a couple of times.

Update 2: OK, now it's up on GumRoad for $2, and for that generous price you get both the EPUB and MOBI versions.

Update 3: Or you can read it serialised on Wattpad for free.