Moonblessed, update 3

I have finally finished the first draft of part one of my next novel. I wrote in my last post that I was hoping to release the novel in parts, each part being between 20K and 30K words, before releasing it as a full novel. Part one comes in at 29,300 words. Granted, it’s a first draft, but I don’t expect it to change drastically. I’ve been calling the novel Moonblessed, but I think I’m going to change that now. Moonblessed doesn’t really work for what’s going on in part one, nor is it general enough to work as the series name. I plan to call the series Insane Fantasy, and part one will be Episode 1: The Crater Lands.

The description for this first episode goes something like this:

Thirteen year old Coptivon lives a dull life growing up in a crater in the Crater Lands, apprenticed to a lazy innkeeper. So when a strange owl appears half-dead near a crater’s edge, Coptivon is more than happy to take him in. But he soon learns that the owl is a Spirited one, and he’s on an outlandish quest of his own to end the Storms of Insanity that have been ravaging the lands, stealing people’s sanity and turning them into empty-eyed airheads. Though the owl is adamant about rushing off on his own, Coptivon sees this as an opportunity to escape the doldrums of the Crater Lands once and for all.

Episode one actually follows three characters, but I think it helps to keep story descriptions to the main protagonist. For the sake of this blog post, however, there’s no harm in revealing a bit more, I suppose. Aside from Coptivon, the other two characters are Moonwing the owl (mentioned but unnamed in the description) and Krockallatus, another thirteen year old boy in another part of the world.

Moonwing is an old owl who’s found “the Moonblessed”, a legendary sorceress who he believes has the power to restore sanity to all who lost it. He’s also trying to refound the Night Sages, a small group of people dedicated to finding and fighting the Stormgiver, a mysterious sorcerer thought to be conjuring the Storms of Insanity. Moonwing feels responsible for the deaths of a number of children twelve years ago, after which the Night Sages disbanded, so when Coptivon begins asking questions about his mission, he’s very reluctant to say anything.

Krockallatus is a sort of evil version of Coptivon. He too is an orphan growing up in a dull place he loathes, working in a tavern in the slums of a city called Paraville. But rather than being grateful for any companionship he can find, he kicks puppies. When Krockallatus finds a parchment dropped from the pocket of a mysterious traveler, he becomes convinced that it’s a recipe for a potion that will give him the power to turn into a dragon. Seeing this as a ticket out of his directionless Paravillian life, he sets out to steal the necessary ingredients to make the potion.

I still need to work on a second draft while I create a Kindle cover for the episode. I’m too broke to hire an artist at the moment, so I’m going to try to come up with something myself. I’m not much of an artist, and most self-drawn covers on indie-published books look atrocious, but financial necessity necessitates that this is the road I must take, so we’ll just have to see how it goes.

I hope to have the episode released sometime in the next week or so… but, as I was writing this post, our dishwasher broke and sent hot water spewing across our kitchen floor and raining into the basement. So that’s nice. The great dishwasher disaster of 2016. And our air conditioning is still broken.

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Moonblessed, update 2

It’s been some time since I’ve updated this blog; my job has weird hours which prevent me from getting into a regular writing routine, and so I just haven’t been writing very much at all. (I’ll also admit that I have an addiction to watching movies in my free time, which isn’t helping.) But I’m slowly making progress on my next fantasy novel, tentatively titled Moonblessed. Just yesterday I finished the rough draft of the fifth chapter, bringing the overall word count to about 16,600 words. The pace of the story is certainly slower than that of Son of a Dark Wizard, but I’m having fun with it, and I hope the slower pacing won’t translate into less fun reading.

Because I’m only about a tenth of the way through my list of planned scenes, I’ve been thinking about serializing the novel, releasing it in parts of about 20K to 30K words each. Serializing a longer work of fiction of course has a rich tradition in the novel’s history, with its advantages for both readers and writers, and I’ve been wanting to try it for a while now. My hope is to price each installment at $0.99 for Kindle, but the real purpose would be to try to attract readers on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, which is a bit like Spotify for books, where subscribers could read each installment at no extra cost. (Writers are paid a small amount for each page read.) At the very least, I’m hoping it will help me stay motivated to write as I look forward to being able to release new installments much quicker than having to wait until I finish an entire novel.

So if I do this, I only have a few more scenes to finish before releasing the first installment and seeing if anyone actually checks it out, or if I only get demotivated by the sounds of crickets…

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Moonblessed, update 1

So the novel I’m working on (which is the start of a new series, probably a trilogy) is tentatively titled Moonblessed. There’s at least one other title I’m considering, but for now I prefer Moonblessed. I’m not sure what I’ll call the series itself yet. I finished the first draft of the opening chapter today, so that’s one chapter down and forty-seven to go! The wordcount is currently at 3,300 words. I hope I can keep at least some momentum going this week. Balancing my bizarre sleep schedule with my bizarre work hours can sometimes be a hassle, but I should still have free time if I can be disciplined enough to use it wisely.

This will be another middle grade sort of book. (Though, like Son of a Dark Wizard, I hope it will appeal to older readers as well.) Though there is some violence, there’s also a healthy dose of humor, at least if my corny sense of humor counts as humor. It makes it fun to write anyway, and I just have to get through a first draft. If I go too far with the humor, I can always reign it in with the second draft. I sometimes go out of my way to setup a stupid joke that doesn’t move the story forward and only clutters things up. On the other hand, I usually enjoy my own stupid humor a lot when I read back over my work.

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Writing update

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been having lots of trouble getting another writing project started for a variety of reasons. (New job, time management issues, insanity.) 23 Dragon Teeth is on hold for now due to plotting problems. And I’m now cancelling the epic fantasy for which I had only written 6,000 words because I just finished completely re-plotting it (which took a few weeks). Changes are quite drastic. It’s now no longer anywhere near the scope of the previously estimated 400,000 wordcount. It’s 48 scenes. I’m guessing it will end up somewhere between 70,000 and 80,000 words, though that’s tentative. I am not yet sure what the title will be, but definitely not Death of Ash, as the main arc of that plot-line is completely out the window. Anyway, this will be my next writing project. I should start writing sometime this week. Since it’s all plotted and I know where everything is going, only work, fatigue, and the random elements of life itself can get in the way (all of which can be formidable foes). There are only a few little details in the outline that need to be filled in first, but that shouldn’t be too hard.

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How prolific would I have to be to fill a CD with stories?

How prolific would I have to be to fill a CD with stories?

Just yesterday, I was thinking to myself how efficiently text (and the language it symbolizes) can store information. Entire novels can take many hours to read, yet take up so little digital space in computer memory when converted to 1’s and 0’s. High-quality images, movies, and music, by contrast, can take up significant amounts of digital space. But then, the point of these sorts of digital files is to recreate reality, in a sense, whether with an image on a screen or sound through speakers, or both. In other words, the digital information stored in image and sound files is converted into another medium meant to be sensed with the eyes or ears. But text remains a symbolized medium; letters represent a code (symbols to sound to words to language) even before they’re converted to binary. So, in a sense, the compression is innate.

Anyway, I thought it rather wondrous that a writer’s life work could potentially be stored on one CD, or one little thumb drive. So I wondered how prolific I would have to be as a writer to write enough text to fill an entire CD with writing?

To estimate the answer, let us first estimate the ratio of words per byte of computer memory. For this, I shall use the wordcount of my last novel, SON OF A DARK WIZARD, along with how much memory it takes up as a TXT file: (41,920 words : 241,096 bytes) = around 0.1739 words per byte, or around 5.7513 bytes per word.

According to Wikipedia: “A standard 120 mm, 700 MB CD-ROM can actually hold about 737 MB (703 MiB) of data with error correction (or 847 MB total).”

Let us assume 737 MB = 737,000,000 bytes.

So a CD should be able to hold (41,920 word / 241,096 bytes) * 737,000,000 bytes = about 128,144,142 words.

So if I only wrote novels that had the wordcount of SON OF A DARK WIZARD, I’d have to write 128,144,142 words / 41,920 words per book = 3,057 books.

Pffshh! That should be easy! (Granted, SON OF A DARK WIZARD is shorter than the average book, so the book calculations may be skewed slightly higher than usual. But if you imagine an epic fantasy to be roughly ten times as long at, say, 419,200 words, then you only need to divide the results by ten to obtain the number of this epic fantasy books you’d have to write.)

But what about this 8 GB thumb drive I have sitting here next me? If 8 GB = 8,000,000,000 bytes, then (41,920 word / 241,096 bytes) * 8,000,000,000 bytes = 1,390,981,186 words or 33,182 books.

What about if I had a 128 GB thumb drive? 22,255,698,975 words or 530,909 books.

What about a 2 TB hard drive? 347,745,296,479 words or 8,295,451 books.

I think I can write that many books if I put my mind to it and believe in myself…

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Starting an epic fantasy

So my first draft of 23 Dragon Teeth currently sits at about 7,500 words, but this week I couldn’t resist starting on the epic fantasy idea I mentioned I’d been plotting in my last post. My outline for this epic fantasy is over ten times as long as my outline was for the 40K-word Son of a Dark Wizard, which means I estimate this epic fantasy will wind up reaching at least 400,000 words. Big word counts aren’t really that hard to reach, though; it’s very easy to write loads of bloated crap, it just takes time. The pacing is what’s difficult to get right. I’ve never tried something on this scale before, so we’ll see how it goes. I at least want to see how far into it I can get before my excitement for it fades. I’m currently only 2,000 words in. Not sure what I’ll call it yet, but for now I’ll call it Death of Ash.

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23 Dragon Teeth, update 2

My first draft of 23 Dragon Teeth is now at around 5,800 words, and I’ve just started the catalyst scene. I’m not yet sure if I’m on track for the 45K-ish-word wordcount I’m aiming for or not, but I’m guessing I’ll go over it. Which is fine, I guess. I’m still writing slower than I’d like to be, but my creative energy has, for the last week, been partly stolen by interest in an idea for a long epic fantasy saga, so I spent quite a few hours daydreaming and plotting that out. Still a lot of planning to do on that project, but I may start writing it later this year; it’s been giving me the new-idea-excited-obsession-feel lately.

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23 Dragon Teeth, update 1

I’ve finally started writing the first draft of my next novel, which I just finished plotting last week. It’s not the Son of a Dark Wizard sequel; it’ll still be quite some months before I start that. I’m starting another series, which will be three or four books in all. I’m not sure what the series title will be, but the first book will be called 23 Dragon Teeth. It’s about a teenager who’s descended from a mysterious family who have mind-control power over dragons, which he uses to try to save his village from intruders. Intruders who just happen to be… his family. Or what’s left of his family anyway. So there’s dragon magic, family drama, and sky dragon battles! A great recipe for a thrilling fantasy novel, I hope. I just finished the opening chapter this morning, so the first draft is officially underway.

It took me some four and a half months to finish the 40K-word rough draft for Son of a Dark Wizard. Since I’m officially going the indie-author route at the moment, I’m hoping I can be more disciplined about writing and finish this rough draft within a month. (I’m not going to stress it, though. Quality > Speed.) I’m again aiming for somewhere between 40K and 45K words; that wordcount seemed to work well for Son of a Dark Wizard; I think it’s a nice sweetspot for the sort of stories I want to tell.

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Death of the pure one

I was watching a movie last night which began with a guy meeting a bunch of other characters. One character was clearly younger than the rest. The moment he spoke, I thought to myself, “He’s gonna die.”

And he did.

By the end of the film, he died like storytelling clockwork.

How did I know he would die? Is it because I’m a genius?

Well, I’m sure that’s part of it. 😛 But it’s a trope I’ve noticed over and over again. If there is a supporting character who fulfills the “pure believer” archetype, he usually dies by the end of the film.

Who is the “pure one”? I’m still not quite sure how to define this archetype. Often, he’s the youngest of a group. Or he could be a “less-human” character, simple and closer to nature. He’s not necessarily “pure” in the sense of “innocence”; he maybe criminal or a murderer in a story about mobsters. He’s just the most “pure” out of all the hero’s supporting characters. As far as I’ve observed, he’s always a supporter of and believer in the hero, at least in the sense of supporting what the hero needs to learn. And often the main character supports him in return, perhaps being a mentor to him.

The pure one might die near the beginning of a story to serve as a catalyst for the hero’s journey. (“Noodles, I slipped.” Dominic in Once Upon a Time in America. The kid brother in Road to Perdition. Carl’s wife in Up.) If this happens, there will probably be reminders of him throughout the story to remind the hero of what he lost, such as an old photograph. The pure one might die at the midpoint or somewhere in the second half of a story to raise the stakes and remind the hero what he’s fighting for. (What Blake Snyder would call a “whiff of death”, perhaps?) Lastly, the pure one might take a martyrdom beat right before or as part of the climax. (Or right after the climax. I think that risks making the beat much weaker, but it’s been done.)

And, of course, the pure one’s death might be only symbolic in nature; actual death is too weighty for certain sorts of stories. And the pure one might be “reborn” after his brush with death to continue aiding the hero. For example, in Jurassic Park, the child Tim is resuscitate after he’s electrocuted and stops breathing. In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Samwise almost drowns as he wades out to Frodo to join him on his quest to Mordor, and is saved just in time. (On a side note, it’s also a trope for these sort of rebirths, whether it’s the hero or a supporting character, to involve emerging from something, especially water; it seems to evoke something very primal, the sense of water bringing new life. Baptism, anyone?) In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is shown a potential future in which Tiny Tim dies and decreases the surplus population. In It’s a Wonderful Life, the hero is shown an alternate reality in which his children are never born. These aren’t really “deaths” in the traditional sense, but they serve the same purpose: the hero must internalize (or become, or find, or learn, or whatever) what the pure character represents for him.

As I noticed this trope of the death of the pure one, I was of course reminded of its parallel trope: the death of the mentor. When the character has an older and wiser mentor supporting and believing in him, he often bites the dust as well. Obi Wan, Gandalf, and Dumbledore being some obvious examples. And there are plenty of stories in which the death of a parent or some supportive older character launches the hero on his journey. It seems like mentors and pure ones are kind of two sides of the same coin. They believe in and support the hero, but the hero needs to learn to internalize what they represent before the story’s end.

And I suppose that’s why they need to die. Because the hero has to find them in himself, as cheesy as that might sound.

As a dying pure one once said, “Stay gold, Ponyboy.”

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Another character chemistry archetype

Years ago, I wrote a post about character chemistry archetypes in which I defined the five most prominent character relationship archetypes I could think of. I thought of another one while watching the recently released film Big Hero 6 (which was a good movie, by the way):

The Human and the Inhuman / Less-human

Examples: Baymax and Hiro, Toothless and Hiccup, Stitch and Lilo, ET and Elliott, Terminator 2 and John Connor, The Iron Giant and the kid in that movie, Groot and Peter Quill & company, Ludo and Sarah in Labyrinth

In this relationship, one character is clearly human (or at least more human-like), while the other is less human. The less-human character might be an animal, a robot, an alien, or even a human with, for example, a mental disorder that makes him more difficult to relate to. These characters usually communicate differently; they may have limited vocabularies or be completely mute. They are often closer to nature than the human character; they may have a special relationship with plants or animals (or even rocks in Ludo’s case). They may have a healer’s touch, in the case of E.T. and Baymax. Often the human character will try to teach the corresponding less-human character how to be more human, sometimes with humorous results. On the other hand, the less-human character will often teach the human character something important with his unrelenting loyalty, courage, persistence, and willingness to sacrifice himself for others. In this way, the less-human character, while he may be difficult to relate to and simple and ignorant in many regards, is also closer to the divine. In fact, in stories in which these relationships are at the center of the plot, it’s the less-human character who often gets the “martyr beat” instead of the main character. In Big Hero 6, Terminator 2, The Iron Giant, E.T., and even Guardians of the Galaxy, these less-human characters sacrifice themselves to save the main character (sometimes resurrecting, sometimes not). How to Train Your Dragon is interesting because Toothless and Hiccup actually share the martyr beat.

These human / less-human character relationships can be quite powerful when well-written. I think the reason they can work so well is that the less-human character represents something already inside the main character that the main character must learn to reconnect with. That is, the less-human characters leads the human character to a needed self-discovery.

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