• Category Archives Writing
  • Summer Update

    Just wanted to take the time to let people know what’s generally going on, and also why the next installment of Tomorrow Man has yet to be posted.

    Over the past year I’ve found less and less time for writing in my everyday life, and whilst I used to be able to churn out both a few pages of Tomorrow Man and work on other projects every month, I’ve recently had trouble even filling the quota for my monthly blog story. Sufficed to say the first draft of Colossus Part II is “nearly done” and has been so since about August last year.

    So I have decided, since part 24 of Tomorrow Man is up and brings the year’s “section” of the story to a close that I’ll be taking a few months’ break from posting it so that I can focus on other projects. I fully intend to keep writing the story, though I need to work out the direction a bit as it seems to be meandering somewhat.

    In the meantime I’ll be pushing to get Colossus: From the Shadows to a finished first draft so I can send it out to a few alpha readers for feedback.

    I’ll also try to get Tomorrow Man compiled into an eBook format over the next few weeks.

  • Colossus: From Concept to Cover

    It’s time to take a look at the cover of Colossus. I’ll admit that I don’t know a lot about cover design, or specifically what works and what doesn’t, and what little I do know I found out after I had formulated the idea for the cover in my mind.

    The first decision was the format. I wanted to go for a simple artwork-with-text-overlay approach. Although fairly straightforward in concept, it puts emphasis on the artwork as that’s what has to convey the content. A single-word title reveals little, and I’m hardly the sort who can plaster their name in giant letters and be assured of sales. After all, nobody’s heard of me. The artwork then is key, and fortunately I already had the form in mind.

    Colossus Cover: Concept
    Colossus Cover: Concept

    What we see here is the sketch I made to try and convey my idea. The key elements were the idea of darkness, a visual likeness of the character of Colossus, a contrast in size between Colossus and the depiction of Alice. The two lead characters are the core of the story, and I also wanted to show the idea of Colossus appearing protective of Alice, looking out over her. I was also hoping that someone could see the image and the thought would occur to them, a curiosity as to who these characters are, how they are connected.

    What we see here is also about the limit of my artistic ability. Fortunately for myself I had the opportunity to live with a good friend whom I consider to be a skilled artist during my time at University. He was kind enough to transform the crude drawing into something I could put on the front of my story. I’ve waited far too long already to give him the credit he deserves, so you can find Chris’ deviantART profile here and his website here. He’s also listed as illustrator for the Kindle version of Colossus.

    Colossus Cover: Artwork
    Colossus Cover: Artwork

    Here we see the (shrunk down) result of that transformation. The moment I first saw this image the characters, Colossus and Alice, took on a new life in my mind. Until this moment they had only been visualised in my head and, to his credit, what we have here is pretty close to the mark. It was exactly what I needed to put the final touches to Colossus to make it ready for self-publishing.

    All that was left at this point was to add the title and my own name. I elected for a simple white text for maximum contrast with the background and readability. The only point of indecision on my part was exactly how to put my own name on it. For some reason I was apprehensive about pinning my full name to it, perhaps in case it was actually a terrible read and I would be forever shamed. (Which could still happen, admittedly.) I created two variations, one with “Daniel Smedley” and the other with “D J Smedley”, the latter of which I opted for mainly because I preferred how it looked.

    Plus having initials is all mysterious.

    Or something like that.

    Colossus Cover: Final
    Colossus Cover: Final

    And here is the finished article, in all its glory. Nobody could see that and not buy the book.

  • The First Review

    I suppose the journey that an aspiring author undertakes is marked by various milestones. I know that some are moments of accomplishment, like the feeling when you’ve just typed out the last sentence of a story, or when you have finally finished another edit. I would imagine some of these milestones are inevitable yet undesirable, the first rejection letter for example.

    Some of these way-points I would speculate are passed by all aspiring authors, but there will be some that, despite our best efforts, we struggle towards but never achieve. After all, trying to make headway with writing sometimes feels like trying to be heard in a noisy room.

    One of these moments must be the first review. In this case I’m talking about a customer review, a relatively minor thing in the grand scheme of things but it is important nonetheless. Last week I was notified of the first review posted on the Colossus Smashwords page. When I clicked the link and waited the few seconds it took for the page to load it was a moment of apprehension. I had received feedback from friends and family when writing Colossus, but of course such feedback is not without its bias. This was the first response from a stranger, someone who lacks such bias. In those moments I didn’t know whether or not this person had even liked the story. I don’t think I will ever know if what I write is “good” or “bad”, of course such a thing is entirely subjective and there is no absolutely definitive answer. But this was the first data point on the issue.

    In those moments I reminded myself that, regardless of what this review said, I wrote Colossus for the same reason I write anything: Because I enjoy the act of writing. I self-published it because I felt it was better out there in the world than sitting on my computer gathering proverbial dust. If one person enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it, then going to the trouble of formatting and uploading would have been worth it.

    As you should see from the Smashwords page, the review was positive. As much as I am trying to stop that fact going to my head, the feeling I had when I read that review was not far short of elation. It is, so far, the happiest I have been with regards to my writing since I’ve started out. Even though I’ve not been published, it’s the first moment where I’ve genuinely felt like an author rather than a writer. I hope more people read Colossus, and I hope they post reviews and feedback. I’d love to know what people like, and just as importantly what they don’t like. Where I can focus my efforts and improve, so that the next story I publish is better.

  • Making progress

    So this will be fairly brief as I am writing at 11 p.m.

    I haven’t forgotten this blog! The past few weeks have been pretty hectic, including a lovely holiday to Italy in which I managed to get a lot of writing done. Aside from that and my recent fall sort-of-back in love with the piano, I haven’t had much time to post to the blog.

    So I’ve managed to make headway on both Tomorrow Man (The next part of that will be up on August 1st) and almost half way through the first draft of the second part of the Colossus story, From The Shadows.

    One of the best experiences I have found as a writer has been when I’ve almost felt like I’m merely the first person reading the story. Of course by the very nature of being a writer I will be the first person to read what I write, but there are times when the story seems to flow naturally, and whilst I am aware of what the future holds for the characters, the finer details are not usually filled in until the last minute, so there is a sense of discovery as to how the characters interact and advance their understanding of what is going on around them. I always feel that those are the times, infrequent and precious as they are, when the story can try to get ahead and pull you along with it as a passenger. Of course, when that happens you have to make sure you keep control of where its going, but it can be fun nonetheless.

    I’ve also experienced the tipping-point, where a story becomes “nearly done” enough to encourage you to keep going to just to get to the end. I think that From The Shadows is nearing that point now. Tomorrow Man is still a very open-ended project, but I’ve written a few more parts of that and I think it’s starting to get interesting.

  • Building the World

    It never occurred to me how much can go into building the world in which you set your stories.

    With a story like Colossus, which is set in a contemporary world similar to our own, most of the geography, the people, the history is set. The flip-side is, obviously, that you have to either do the research or establish that whatever differences there are between the world you depict and the world we know is due to some notion of an Alternate Reality. (Which just so happens to be the explanation behind the obvious geographical and other fabrications that go into Colossus, but thus is the nature of fiction.)

    With a pure fantasy story like Tomorrow Man, set in an entirely fictional world, the slate is clean. You have to draw the map, you have to decide where the settlements are, you have to build the towns and cities, fill them with buildings and fill them with people. A world has to live and breathe if it’s to be believable, and the nature of the World is that it is fractal. It can have as much detail as you are willing to pour into it.

    The bigger you make the canvas, the more paint you need to fill the gaps. The Kingdom of Asamor is a large canvas to fill; whilst at the moment only vaguer details are written down and more details held within my mind, there has to be a tapestry of interconnected parts, each growing and changing throughout history. Nothing can truly stand still, with every passing year towns will grow, sons and daughters will be raised and inherit the nation from their parents, knowledge and beliefs will change. Asamor is intended to be large and complex, with generations of history and generations of future yet to happen. It’s not the only nation in the world it inhabits, and even within itself there are numerous dynamics that have to be considered. I have determined what lies in the vicinity of Asamor, but I have not ruled out what lies beyond oceans. There’s an entire planet to wrap.

    Holding an entire world in your mind feels impossible, which is why I have a great respect for authors like George R. R. Martin (Whose Song of Ice and Fire I am still in the process of reading.) The world of the Seven Kingdoms feels large and, more importantly, alive. And, like any nation or world, it lives through its people. The characters come across as well-developed, three-dimensional and real. You can envisage and describe the most beautiful world you want, but it’s only a backdrop to the story at the end of the day.

    Which is why I am trying to think through my characters more, to find out who and how they fit into the world. To do that, I need to know the shape of the world I’m trying to fit them into. The intended path of Tomorrow Man may well cover a lot of the bigger-picture stuff, the overarching history of Asamor, so I need to work out exactly what that history is. (Or which one, when you consider that there’s more than one path history can take.)

    But one part per month should be slow enough to fill in the details as I go. I intend to start on the next part of Tomorrow Man this weekend, looking at publishing on the 1st of July.

  • Scattered

    So far in my endeavours as a writer I have learned a fair amount. I wouldn’t say I have learned a lot, as I am sure what I have learned pales in comparison to what I am yet to learn. I have a tendency to consider this hobby of mine to have started about one and a half years ago, but that number is not entirely accurate.

    I first had ideas for stories I felt worth writing down years before that, and in fact I had made two attempts at writing a novel which had not gone anywhere. The first lesson I learned was that I needed structure to succeed. My first two tries had failed because I knew the destination, but had not planned the journey. This particular project was somewhat larger and more challenging than Colossus, with a lot of possible distractions along the way. I found myself meandering, to the point where I just stopped because I had got myself lost. When I had planned everything out and broken the story down into chapters, it was much easier to navigate piece-by-piece.

    I assume this lesson is a no-brainer, but I’d like to think that it is something that other writers and authors have discovered, either by being flat-out told it or discovering it for themselves.

    Another thing that became evident to me is the subject of this post, being scattered. I don’t know if others have a similar issue, but I find that I am writing multiple stories simultaneously. It is all too easy for me to spread myself too thin, I only have so much time to spend each week at the keyboard, dividing it over five or six projects would mean I’d never actually get anything finished.

    I’ve always been able to juggle multiple stories in my mind, which for the simpler tasks like planning is excellent, I’ve already got about 20 ideas stowed away on my computer ready to be developed. But when it comes to actually writing them, I will often jump between them. I tend to find myself in different moods, and different moods match different projects. It would be very easy for me to end up with 20 unfinished messes instead of any one coherent thing.

    Again I believe the answer to this is in structure and planning. I wrote Colossus initially in the space of a month or so, in the middle of writing the longer project (currently in draft form and in serious need of revisiting and editing) and I found for those two projects that sitting down and creating a to-do list of which chapters to write in what order made it easier for me to prioritise and focus. I am trying that again, although more ambitiously this time. I’m going to attempt to juggle four projects at once (which I have been doing in an unstructured way for about two months now) and see if I get anywhere. If I manage to do one item on the list a week (which is probably an optimistic estimate) I’ll be going for more than a year. I hope that, after a few months, one of the projects will break away from the others and I will know which one to prioritise a few months down the line.

    Hopefully I’ll let you know how it goes.

  • The Colossus

    So a little about the title character of Colossus.

    The character began life as a simple concept, little more than a physical description and an idea of exactly where he fit in the grand scheme of the Multiverse. But characters are people, and no person just pops into existence fully formed. They have a past, events, conflicts, mistakes and triumphs that each forge some element of the character as you envisaged them. In my limited experience as a writer, I have had characters who I created at the start of their journey, and so I have yet to see how they will develop until I write their stories. But others, like Colossus, I have initially glimpsed quite far into their development. When I had created the initial concept, I began to explore the questions that surrounded him. What was he? Why was he at this place? What had sent him down the path that lead him here?

    The answers to those questions formed the skeleton of his story, and once I had that it was just a matter of putting the flesh on the bones. Colossus is the first part of the story, addressing his origins and the first events that will utlimately lead him to the destination I have in mind. I wrote it purely because I wanted to explore the story of this character myself.

    The main aspect of this character is the fact he is not human. The Colossi have similarities to humans, but they have key differences. The main difference is simply a matter of scale. They are much larger than we are, and they live on a much longer, geologic timescale. They have a sleeping and waking cycle that spans tens of thousands of years, which serves as a mechanism to isolate Colossus from his people, and allow him to emerge into a world that is, by and large, unaware of their existence. It also presents an interesting challenge for me as a writer. The Colossus is still a child by the standards of his people, but he is already in excess of tens of thousands of years old. He remembers the first kindling of human civilization is if it were yesterday because, to him, it was. The challenge is in trying to convey an ancient child character, and I hope that, in Colossus and the parts to follow, I convey that as well as I intend to.