Monday, February 6, 2017

A slight detour but the road goes ever on

TL;DR version

-wrote around 1,100 words, all to "beef up" the front of chapter 1 (full text below)
-nursing and self-medicating a hurt elbow
-finished Uprooted by Naomi Novik
-started listening to Brandon Sanderson's lecture series
-started Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Winston Smith was right: "Nothing in the world was so bad as physical pain"

You ever had tennis elbow? I'm pretty sure this is what it feels like, and it stinks.

All of last week, I was careful not to extend myself too much due to said elbow pain, nor to overuse my phone and home laptop. This caused a slight dip in writing productivity. Advil and Voltaren gel were and are stalwarts of my daily self-medicating routine: Advil three to four times per day, and Voltaren in the mornings and evenings. At least things seem to be getting better, and I can now apply deodorant and wash my hair without a pain level of nine out of ten shooting through my right arm. Small victories.

I know this is the result of my overreliance on my phone and my addiction to screens. I'm at least conscious of it, which does make it easier to manage; feeling physical ramifications for technological binging is also sobering and quickly snaps you back to reality. Now, my goal is to be even more disciplined and self-aware. I'd like to avoid zombification. Books help with that.

Fairy tales and killing fields

One of the better-written books I've read of late was Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

It's a dark fairy tale that basically takes place in Poland, called Polnya in the book, and it's a story that is constantly moving forward. I'm usually not a big fan of dark fairy tales, as most of them still feel too clean and shiny. Truth be told, that's more to do with movies than books, though. This is the first book I've read of this ilk outside of Grimm's originals, and it's quite good. Check it out if fairy tales are your thing. FYI, it's written in first person POV.

You can also read a slightly longer review of the book on my Goodreads account. After so many years, I'm still trying to find my voice when it comes to reviewing books. I try to give it my all, but it's usually a one-draft affair when it comes to writing about books, as I just want to get on to the next one, and time isn't my ally in these cases. It's similar with blog posts and writing in general. I don't actually "like" much of what comes onto the page. My goal is to get to a place where I can look at something I've written and be able to legitimately say, "this is good." That's a large part of this personal journey I'm on. I'll get there. Maybe.

Anyway, onto my next book.

This is another first person POV about a young prince who watches his mother and brother get murdered while hanging from a briar patch. Hence, Prince of Thorns. It's gotten pretty good buzz for being darker than many fantasy stories, but while it definitely has a bunch of killing, I don't find it all that shocking or disturbing. The first fifty pages were a bit annoying to get through, as there are a lot of scene and time jumps that are disorienting, and you have a hard time getting a grounded sense of place. This is mostly due to a lack of setting description. The main character, prince Jorg, is also an annoying teen, and is written as such.

I'm around one hundred and forty pages in now, and it's been much better since about page one hundred. The book is now following a much more linear path and doesn't feel as choppy. The writing has also significantly improved since the early pages, and I'm starting to see why it's gotten the buzz that it has. I'll finish this before my next blog post. This is actually helping me with my own writing by assessing its structure and judging my own experience with it as a reader. So yay to that.

Free masterclass - thanks, Sanderson!

So, Brandon Sanderson has put up an entire term's worth of lectures for free online. They're very useful and offer solid instructional training for novice writers such as myself. You can start with lecture one here if you're interested. The audio isn't the greatest, but you just get used to it after a while. Headphones are recommended and almost required.

It's hard to dislike someone who's been so generous with his time when it comes to writing advice and being a torch bearer for fantasy and nerd culture in general. I'm looking forward to reading Warbreaker by him when I finish up with Prince of Thorns.

In addition to discovering this free writing advice, I also found another helpful string of YouTube videos on writing fantasy from The Bottled Imp. The best part of these videos are the resource materials that he recommends. I'll be adding a few of them to my birthday wish list for next month, specifically the first two volumes of this series. Right now, I'm trying to devour as much information as possible, as I'm trying to turn writing advice into habit and instinct. I'm enjoying the immersion.

This week in writing

So, I took some of the advice from the Fantasy Writer's community on reddit and beefed up the opening of my novel. I like the original beginning, but the extra thousand words do add some extra world building, and I think it makes the whole thing a lot more intriguing and complete. Plus, the main goal of doing this was to get to know Lucia and her family a bit more before killing Lucia off at the end of the chapter. I think I've done that. I'm actually pleased with this as a mostly-complete first draft of chapter one. Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments. (especially if you know the answer to my capslocked and underlined questions about medieval food in the heart of the text)

See you in a week!

p.s. I typed this up in an hour or so on Monday morning. 5am wakeups aren't the worst things in the world.

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