Sunday, June 24, 2012

Writing Woes

I started a new story today, called “Witch of Ashes.”  It’s a sword and sorcery piece and I liked how the opening section came out.  I wanted to try and “speed” up my process and get the story down faster than I typically do.  It didn’t work. The second section came easy but after rereading it I realized it was more of a “Skyrim” adventure than a Gramlich original.  I had to rip pretty much all of it out.  I think I was able to save a couple of lines.

The problem for me when I “write fast” is that the first image that pops into my head is almost always one I’ve seen before.  And since I’ve been playing so much Skyrim the images that kept popping up were general variations on that theme.  To write fast you have to let the unconscious do most of the work, but when I turn the work fully over to the unconscious I get the commonplace instead of the unusual.  Conscious evaluation of images takes time and, it seems for me, there is no substitute. 
Anyway, here’s the opening to “Witch of Ashes.”

The northern wind was quiet for once. The polished surface of the tarn shown like a black shield beneath the ringed moon. To water’s edge came Krieg, on silent boots with a battle-axe of ebon steel in his fists. He lay flat for a moment, drank his fill, then rose to ghost along the shoreline. It was almost as if he had a purpose.

A shadow jutting into the lake from the shore resolved itself into the fire-ruined hulk of a dragon ship. Krieg paused. He knew what had happened. A great warrior had fallen in battle and been laid atop a bier on his finest warship. The trophies of his greatest victories were placed beside him.  Perhaps his woman was chained alive at his feet; perhaps she went willingly. Soaked with pitch, the ship had then been set adrift and aflame. It had burned to the water-line. The remnant had lodged itself here like a splinter in the flesh of the world.

 Krieg studied the hulk, studied the bleak shore upon which it lay. Someone else had been here before him. Even in the dark his keen gaze identified naked footprints in the soft loam. They were small and slender, such as those made by a woman. There was only one line of prints, coming from the burned ship to the shore.

Intrigued, Krieg turned to follow them.
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37 comments:

Keith said...

Krieg isn't the only one who is intrigued. Looking forward to the rest of it.

Heather said...

If it ain't broke then don't fix it Charles :) You're off to a very interesting start here!

Liane Spicer said...

"...then rose to ghost along the shoreline..."

Lovely. I'm invested in the story already. Great start.

Angie said...

Cool beginning -- keep going. :)

If you're channeling Skyrim too much, maybe you should write a story set in a desert or a rainforest until Skyrim works out of your system. ;D

Angie

Ty Johnston said...

Nice opening. Looking forward to seeing more of it, and to learning about Krieg (solid name, btw).

I know what you mean by writing fast. I wish I could be one of those writers who churns out 10,000 words a day, but even with writing as my day job I find I don't feel comfortable putting out more than 2,000 words most days. I need time to think, to let ideas work around in my mind some. Otherwise I don't quite trust what I'm writing.

David J. West said...

I am loving that begining Charles.

I've been experimenting myself with writing something in a white heat and while I know some of the influences afterward (during I'm like where did that come from?) at least they seem disconnected enough from any one story.

eric1313 said...

I've been busy writing, sometimes high-volume. It works for me, but just barely. Revision is the key; the faster and more I write, the more revision time is required (and sometimes deletion and re-writes), so the jury is still out on whether or not it is actually better to write fast or slow and methodical.

Michelle's Spell said...

Great start! I think it's really good. I go back and forth on the writing fast deal. It's definitely not my nature to write fast. But sometimes I push myself to get away from my brain driving me crazy with its slowness stuff. I go with the Woody Allen dictum -- whatever works!

SQT said...

So the woman got away- or she set him on fire to begin with... I'm already into this one.

Deka Black said...

That's a true sword and sorcery beginning, Charles! i have a couple of theories. And one is truly scary!

Intrigued and asking myself what's doing Krieg in that place...

Kate Sterling said...

Good stuff. Like the others, now I want to follow along.

Aimless Writer said...

Oooo, I'm intrigued too. I want to know who came off that ship and what's going to happen when he finds her. Great start.

ivan said...

Oh, flock it.

Seems to me you become a writer when you throw away your thesaurus and your dictionary-- and even your first drafts. Suddenly you seem to make everything proof copy.
But you're right about the subconscious. Incredible technical problems are somehow fixed in the morning.
And you're doing sine qua non. Proof copy.

Nice draft.

Let the old subconscious work on it.

the walking man said...

I dunno...maybe the second bit that you trashed was the right bit to follow this. I am one for (if I ever write another book of prose) for telling the story from front to finish then edit edit edit edit.

The few whom I have shown what I have done liked 'em well enough I suppose, it's me, I am the one not interested in them.

Maybe it's the same with you, you're not the objective judge only the author of where you go from here. Fast writing has to come from that place of "who cares, this story is going to be told."

To me that whole boards with plots and lines charts and arrows and calendars to graph out what portion of the story the arc gets to on what day just seems to me (no slam on you who do this) overly methodical, overly pre-thought with no chance for the authors surprise to happen.

Can I ask you Charles what is the fastest you have ever written a full length novel before any edit or rework, just sat and wrote like hell until you put down The End?

sage said...

okay, I'm now intrigued! Nice opening.

Tom Doolan said...

I suffer from the same problem. I will read something, or see something in a movie, and then later, I will subconciously put my own character in that position, and figure out what he/she would do. Sometimes it comes out as original enough to be worthy, and sometimes, not so much.

And that beginning is...ok. And by "ok" I mean "HOLY EFFING BARBARIAN BADASSERY, THAT'S AWESOME!" Yeah, I'm definietly in the "intrigued" camp as well. :)

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

I remember the same ship burning at the beginning of 'The Thirteenth Warrior' when the 'Northmen' sent their dead King on his way. It did occur to me that was a rough ending for the woman sent out with him to be burned alive, although in the movie she was shown to go willingly. Your opening allows for a different mindset. :)

Tom Doolan said...

@Bernard - Actually, in the book, she is ceremoniously slain by the old witch first as part of the ritual. :) But I had the same image in my head as well.

Charles Gramlich said...

Keith, cool, man. Glad to hear it.

Heather, I like the intro myself pretty well.

Liane, thanks, I appreciate it.

Angie, good idea.

Ty, I've got to start spending more hours these summer days writing. I've used the time not so wisely.

David J., they say really good writers borrow widely while lesser writers borrow only from one thing. I think that's true.

Eric1313, that has been true for me too, but I don't know what the net savings in work time is.

Michelle, if I were writing more regularly right now I'd also be faster.

SQT, yeah, that intrigues me too since I don't quite know yet.

Deka, I'm liking this character too. I came up with him years ago but have never completed a story with him.

Kate, thankee, my friend.

Aimless writer, if I can only live up to that opening.

Ivan, the unconscious is at least not as lazy as I am.

Mark, I wrote Swords of Talera in 4 months, but it took long long periods of revision before it was ready for sale. I wrote a 20,000 word novella in about 3 months and it was pretty good at the end.

Sage, glad to hear it!

Tom, I appreciate the kind words, man. I hope I can keep it rolling.

Bernard, the 13th warrior was a great movie, definitely has been an influence on me. I understand historically that not all the women went willingly.

Tom, although I loved the book for the 13th warrior, I have to admit most of the images in my head come from the movie.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Lovely writing, Charles.

eric1313 said...

That was it for me too... It really is just a way of altering routine. If I get too fast (and careless), then it's entirely possible that writing fast takes more time because of the revision process.

laughingwolf said...

i like it... a lot!

am confused here: "The polished surface of the tarn shown like a black shield beneath the ringed moon."

did you mean 'shone'?

Deka Black said...

Then youbhave here a cghance to complete a story with him. Go ahead and don't worry about channeling Skyrim too much. my opinion is this time you should focus on enjoy telling the story. Maybe when is finished is better than you think now.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That is intriguing! Who would've survived the flames?

Charles Gramlich said...

Patti, thanks much.

Eric1313, as witnessed by my having to rip out most of what I did fast yesterday.

Laughingwolf, Yes, shone should have been the word. thanks for the catch!

Deka, probably so. Good point.

Alex, someone not all together human I would guess.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Great opening, Charles. I have never played Skyrim but I was conjuring up all sorts of game images of my own as I read through the opening. I liked the line "He lay flat for a moment, drank his fill, then rose to ghost along the shoreline." Thanks for sharing this.

Charles Gramlich said...

Prashant, thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

The Golden Eagle said...

That's a great opening. I wonder where those prints lead, now.

Oscar said...

Nice start, Charles. I'm certain something unexpected will pop into your subconscious which will surprise us all.

Mimi Lenox said...

"To write fast you have to let the unconscious do most of the work, but when I turn the work fully over to the unconscious I get the commonplace instead of the unusual. Conscious evaluation of images takes time and, it seems for me, there is no substitute."

Thank you, Professor!

I want to follow those prints....excellent beginning.

laughingwolf said...

de nada, amigo...

Steven said...

I am intrigued as well. Very good start. And there's nothing wrong with having a Skyrim influence :) That's a darn good game right there.

Charles Gramlich said...

Golden Eagle, glad you find it intriguing.

Oscar, I had a dream last night that might just help.

Mimi, thank you. Glad you enjoyed.

Laughingwolf, :)

Steven, It is a good game. I was reading some old Lin Carter today and it seemed like Skyrim had picked up some of the tropes he was using back in the day, which he got from Tolkien, Howard, and Burroughs, of course.

Travis Cody said...

Intriguing...makes me interested in what comes next. I particularly like the line, "It was almost as if he had a purpose".

Nice.

Charles Gramlich said...

Travis Cody, I wondered about that line. I kind of like it but I wonder if it means anything to most readers. I'm glad you liked it.

Vesper said...

What an opening!!! Wow! Now I have to know what happens next...

Vesper said...

What an opening!!! Wow! Now I have to know what happens next...