The Simple Advice

I’ve been writing stories since I was in the third grade, I think. I started with horror stories and the following year I ventured to my first fantasy story, which was a bland ripoff of some science-fantasy anime I used to watch.

Anime and film had been my inspirations. Books were never a thing for me until I was much older. So in my younger years, I basically skipped the basics, and did a bunch of experiments I thought at that time were brilliant.

In the end, there were not at all that great. Fast forward a few years later, my first books were Harry Potter one to the “Order of the Phoenix.” I had, at that time, also read “A Game of Thrones” and “The Gunslinger.” And I thought I’ve learned a lot from those.

The first ever epic I’ve written was called “Dragon Wars,” I was in my third year high school, and I’ve gone halfway through it before deciding to show chapters to some friends and to my grandma. Of course my friends liked it, of course they did. Grandma liked it too, so, of course she would give me a pat on the back. However, she added, “You should explore more on writing simpler sentences.”

I refused. I wanted to be eloquent and dramatic! I was thinking, she didn’t get it. She hadn’t read the books I’ve read, which were, what exactly? Harry Potter, Thrones, and Gunslinger. Nah. I wanted to write shit sentences like, “The susurrus of thousands of leaves rustling in the cold and violent night allowed him to see through the prestidigitation and blahblah.”

In short, I was a thesaurus whore, thinking the more complicated words I used, the more lyrical and more poetic my words would sound. I only realized I’d look like an asshole. I looked at Rowling’s books and King’s, and found that all they ever used in their stories were simple words. Words that paint images as soon as you read them. George RR Martin’s prose is just as easy to read, he never used words that would make you flip through a dictionary, or make you pause to wonder what the fuck did that word mean.

As my readings expanded, I learned that most authors just use words so simple, the story moves on in a fluid and comprehensive pace. And it’s a wonderful experience to go through that phase. The problem is this, it’s how you construct the sentences, how you piece together these simple words to bring out readers’ imaginations.

Later I started reading a bunch of books about writing. There’s a lot of useful advice out there that can inspire writers. But I found that “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White to be the best source for writers, because they teach you the most basic form of writing from which you can build upon your own voice.

It’s a lesson I’ve learned the hard way as works I’ve been so proud of were crushed or dismantled by beta readers and critics. It’s an experience worth going through and I like to think that my voice has grown over the years. But I’ll never forget that aspect, where you need to write with simple words to build a story that every reader can understand.

Halfway there

Yup. I am halfway there. Almost passed that massive brick wall that had been staggering my progress. Just need to smooth a few things and production speed should soar.

On top of that I’ve been writing something I shouldn’t even be bothering about. I still have Projects Ashes and Sherlock under development, but like I said, I just can never learn. My friend has been pushing me back and stick into completing the Red Whale. I did not make it to my personal deadline so I’m setting another one in April.

Second week of April should be my deadline with a completed manuscript.

The roadblock had been my unconscious way of making things too complicated. The Red Whale story should be straightforward with just enough twists to keep things interesting. It took me almost two months to finally get those chapters right and no amount of rewrite felt good enough. So I removed them. Six long chapters goes to the trash bin. Nope, not shelved to be used later, trashed them. They just weren’t going to work no matter what. The new characters I introduced in the chapters and some backgrounds will be recycled in another form though. After that bloody ordeal, progress started working again and things finally made sense.

I think I owe it to Marie Lu, author of “Legend.” I started reading last week “Young Elites” and was immediately hooked to finish “Rose Society” and “Midnight Star.” Those stories were, pretty much like Pierce Brown’s “Red Rising” trilogy. The stories were straightforward with just enough twists. Not too complicated. Designed for awesomeness. After reading “Midnight Star” and soaked through all the emotion there, I did a quick reread of “Morning Star” and those paved the way.

Now that this mess has been cleared up, as mentioned multiple times already, the Red Whale is on the go!

Innards #13

I promised never to make another “Innards” post unless I’ve actually made some real, solid progress with my stories. Then this means, I just made some real, solid progress!

It’s only been a little over a month, and my current project, titled, “Year of the Red Whale” has built itself a humble 15,000 words. More are still pouring in as I do my best to type as fast and meticulous as I can. I’m rather satisfied with the outcome so far and things are continuing skyward, much to my satisfaction. Before the month ends, I hope to reach 20,000 words and enough to proceed to the book’s “Part 2” segment, which I aim to become my NaNoWriMo entry. Whether I reach the 50,000 goal or not should be awesome. There is a deeper drive now to finish my stories more than ever.

As I continue the Red Whale, I’ve gotten a chance to check out my older projects, “The Conductor” and Project Scar. Each were started in 2010 and 2008 respectively. Both are around 30,000 words and looking at them now, I’m surprised by how different they are from what I’m writing today. Not in a bad way. The prose was a little bit more florid, the pacing was nice, and world was more imaginative and bigger. On a single page, I’ve managed to cram in a lot of information, without feeling like an infodump. I know what I’m saying sounds egocentric and I’m just blowing air into my head. Not really, I’m just saying, if someone like me, who has little to no talent in writing, can come up with something like that. Then anyone can.

The biggest difference I’ve made was spending a lot of time in those two stories. I remember staying up late at night trying to finish a chapter. Always pushing into my head, one more paragraph. I’d spend entire weekends locked in a room, staring at a blank page, trying to cough up the right words that would breathe life into my stories. I wrote a paragraph. I stare at it and I take it out, unsatisfied. It’s a long, damning process that ended up being worth it.

It was also a time when I’ve done nothing but read a lot of books, nonstop. I suppose all those prose bled out into my subconscious. “Year of the Red Whale” begins to pale in comparison against “The Conductor” and Project Scar. Looks like I’ve a lot of thinking and redesigning to do.

The only advice I ever took was from an Aussie writer: “Read, write, and practice.” He said. I took it to heart, kept reading a lot, kept writing a lot, and got a lot of feedback. I never settled on what I’ve written. If I had to cut out entire chapters just because they no longer fit, so be it. It’s a habit that needs to come back.

These days I only get to write three to four hours a day, at night, after getting back from work, where I’ve spent the entire day writing. It gets dull and sickening, but, that’s all part of the challenge.

I never really relied on any other books that thought how to write. Sure, I got a few, read what advice they’ve got to offer, and I’ve only ended up feeling disappointed, wishing I’ve spent my money elsewhere. There are a ton of forums out there who can give the same exact advice from those books, for free. They can be a little harsher though. The only books that I felt were ever really important, were Stephen King’s “On Writing” and Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style.” The first one, was well, because it was about King telling us how he got into writing and it was damn interesting. The second book, King himself had actually suggested in his book I’ve just mentioned, cleaved a path  on how to write better, how to construct concise and clear sentences. If I had to choose between two sentences where one attempts to sound profound and sophisticated, over one that immediately puts an image in my head without disrupting the flow of the story, I’d pick the latter any time. That’s the most important thing, clarity. Writing is a long process. You’d start with a blank page and by the time you hit less than 1,500 words, over an hour has already passed. That’s fine. That’s how good art is crafted. Savor every moment of it.

On other news: The Wife is insisting I should switch jobs. With my income, I could hardly blame her. She believes I can do better. She’s not the only one, truth be told. Many other folks who have grown old within the company are insistent, I should get out while I still can. The inferiority complex in me is trying to cower behind closed sheets, afraid to take on another professional, meet new people, but, but, potentially earn at least twice as more than my current job. I only earn, in US dollars equivalent, around 280. It’s pretty dismal.

Earlier this week Nintendo has finally unveiled the NX console – the Switch. It looks amazing. It’s a console I want to have alongside a PlayStation 4 when I get one. When they announced sometime ago that Nintendo was working on going mobile, I didn’t expect this. It is a brilliant execution, a potential merging between handheld and home consoles – considering handhelds in these past years, had been Nintendo’s strongest selling point. If ever, the Switch will be my first Nintendo console since the SNES, and I’m really looking forward to it.

It’s no mystery that I’ve gotten myself into reading more self-published books. It started with Hugh Howey’s “Wool,” and followed by Anthony Ryan’s “Blood Song.” I wanted to see what all the fuss had been about and how the independent-segment is fairing. And it’s looking quite good. There are lots of talented traditionally unpublished authors out there. Sure, some of them needs a few more polishing, but the quality of fun and stories they deliver remain to be topnotch. My recent read was Will Wight’s “Unsouled” and it’s something that needs more attention.

Apparently I’m still in-love with Hayley Williams. Her weird iTunes Festival getup in 2013 and the green-haired, tight shirt,  skirt, stockings look in Wango Tango 2014, was just, damn.

Out of boredom I went back listening to some bands I haven’t listened to for a long time. It’s just such an amazing treat to go back and relive the songs that defined my era while growing up and how I started getting into music. Green Day gets the most nostalgia in me with their song, Basket Case, and of course, Boulevard of Broken Dreams. This is quickly followed by Yellowcard’s Ocean Avenue, bringing back old memories from my time in California as a wandering, angry, solitary teenager. I also just found out they’re on their very last tour. That hurts. Finally, there’s Foo Fighters. I haven’t been a fan of their newer songs, while still great, I’d still like to dwell on their songs like Monkey Wrench, Learn to Fly, Long Road to Ruin, and yes, Everlong.

The season 7 premiere of “The Walking Dead” blew my brains out. So, spoilers from here. Based from the comics, I knew what was going to happen. But the first shocker had thrown me off guard, it was an attempt from the production crew to mess with the longtime fans of the series. Something worst was bound to happen. It just did.

On films and videogames

Both films and videogames have had important impacts in my life. As an aspiring novelist, I drew my inspirations and influences through the visual medium I saw on screen, cause, I hated reading at that time, I really did until my early adulthood. It was through videogames and film that was I able to experience the worlds shaped by H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Philip K. Dick, J.R.R. Tolkien, among others. To this day, I continue to draw inspirations from the things I see, allowing me to craft things in greater detail—or so I like to believe. In any case, the top 3 films and videogames below hits closer to home more than anything else I’ve experienced.

Film

“Alien”

Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi horror, “Alien,” is and will always be among my top 3 favorite films of all time. I remember my first encounter with it at the tender age of five or six, alone in the living room at night, turning a heavy knob to change the channel, making loud “thud, thud, thud” sounds: First there was some late night news from then RPN 9, and hitting channel 13: A man was screaming as people looked down on him with confused horror in their faces. The man stopped screaming and this dick-shaped thing burst from his chest, all soaked up in blood and gore. It’s the most violent metaphor I have seen on film about sex. Oh, H.R. Giger. You are missed, truly.

“American Graffiti”

The end of high school life means massive mental reconfiguration. Well, of course college years are awesome, the level of freedom someone attains can lead to world-shattering disasters, orgies, or both. In some cases, college life means you’re legal, you can go to bars and have a drink, and think yourself an adult, where you’re soon to start paying bills and the inner struggle to do the responsible thing. But high school life is, how shall we put it, innocent? Pure? It’s a life full of misadventures, an age of ignorance and arrogant. It’s that phase in life where it’s all right to make “some” mistakes and learn from it, a phase where you continue to struggle with the ropes of life until you have a tight grip on it and yank that shit down and hold it in your hands. That’s how “American Graffiti” is to me, the constant search and yearning for that white Ford Thunderbird. When Curt turns the Blonde, the one who he had been desperately searching the entire night, down, because he needed to leave, that’s the responsible thing. No matter how sad that is. It’s a journey where the best of times needs to be settled down as you get on a plane to adulthood, getting ready to embrace newer things ahead.

“Stand by Me”

If you disagree that the greatest films ever shown to mankind, then you can go away, die, and burn in hell, because “Stand by Me” is the greatest film ever. I’m not even being subjective here. It’s just plain fact that this film is the best thing there ever will be in modern and future cinemas. Don’t even say “Citizen Kane” is best god damn film of all time, just because everyone says so, I dare you to explain what made Orson Welles’ magnum opus the best of all in film history? You can’t and you won’t, because “Stand by Me” is a billion times better and I’m just shouting at you like a little kid, ready to get violent just to prove my point!

For reals though, “Stand by Me” is everything what I have ever wanted as a kid: A treehouse, a quest in the wild, misadventures and campfire, getting chased by a dog or a train, having friends that I can stand by with.

 

Videogames

“Digimon World”

I’ve always had an obsession to Digimon ever since I first heard about it as a youth. I’ve even had distinct dreams, almost a premonition, a poster of which highlighted the next Digimon that will evolve and what it will turn into. So, when I got the “Digimon World” for the PSOne, I was more than thrilled to run around with either an Agumon or a Gabumon trailing after me like a Pikachu in “Pokemon Yellow.” It’s an exciting mix between playing “Monster Rancher” and owning the Digivice-like “Tamagotchi.” In “Digimon World,” you actually get to train a Digimon, coaching it to various exercises to boost up specific stats, feeding them and rationing your food as you travel, and making sure they properly shit in the toilet (seriously), all while roaming around the vast Digimon world, rescuing and recruiting Digimons to populate the city. Only the wonderful exotic sights of Tifa Lockhart can beat that.

“Xenogears”

I got this game almost the same time as “Digimon World,” also for the PSOne. It was the first big game for adults that I’ve played and on my first playthrough, couldn’t exactly quite grasp how deep and sophisticated and heartfelt “Xenogears” has to offer. Also, it has kickass mechas, a unique gameplay mechanic, a frightening boss music, and a bitch slap plot twist (in a good way).

“Breath of Fire III and Street Fighter II”

I’m cheating the system, fuck it, but it’s a tie between these two. In Capcom’s glorious days, when it was a significant games publisher before it went all-out remaking “Resident Evil” time and time again, they put a lot of impressive games. “Breath of Fire III” and “Street Fighter II” among them. The former caught my attention and held onto it with an iron-grip, because it early adventures of Ryu, Rei, and Teepo. How, both Ryu and Teepo were orphans, and turned out to become epic motherfuckers that literally can rule the world. There were also a bunch of mini games and several side quests that all added to spicing up the game. It was also a time when you collect things in-game they actually added value to the gameplay and isn’t just “1 out of 10 notebooks.”

And “Street Fighter II” was the first game I played with my mom when she first came home with a SNES from the states. It was among our first bonding moments, I played between Ryu and Ken, then went on full Guilde (cause, ‘murica) and she played Chun Li. We’d play together after school, on the weekends, we’d also play “Super Mario World,” but we weren’t good at it at that time, so we often switched back to punching each other. It was good, sweet times before she had to leave and it wouldn’t be until several years later that we saw it each other again.

Ashes

It is about time.

The entire Project Dark still has a long way to go. The first book needs more refinement and polishing. I can never not write enough of it.

The first book is designed to have 70,000 words with three parts. However, in this case, I intend to release the first part of the book, which is titled “Ashes” as a free novella in Amazon Kindle Direct and in Smashwords. It contains 30,000 words and has all the elements I wanted to put in a story.

I wanted it to be a short “magic school-ish” type of story, but the thing has taken a life of its own and has fought with me for the longest time about how it should be written. And I am thankful for that struggle, as I did manage to find several loopholes scattered around that I would have missed and mess up the whole story.

Currently, my good friend, Mark, is working on a book cover. We’ll have something to show in the next few days. Most likely, after my wedding on the 23rd.

The novella will be published later this month, which, truthfully, adds some stress into me. I dislike setting personal deadlines, because I tend to break promises. However, it’s nice to have a goal, which is the main purpose of this post.

Parts Two and Three will be completed within the next few months and I intend to publish them, including Part One, as a whole book, with a spanking new cover, also from Mark.

I’ll talk about more details soon. Time to pray and cross my fingers for the best.

Innards of An Erratic Writer #10

It’s 2015 and I feel compelled to write something, anything. Also, because I have this strong urge to write but can’t really start for some damn reason, might as well get warmed up through this.

So, what in the fudging hell have I been up to?

Not much.

Last month, I rummaged through my Box of Old Stuff and found several empty notebooks. Well, not exactly empty, but a page or two filled with attempts to worldbuild. I tore out those pages, stashed them elsewhere, and began writing my story with a good old fashioned pen.

There was no going back once it’s written, and can only be undone by the time I reach the next draft. This is positive progress, I believe. If I came up with something else that I felt was better, I will not write it down. If it’s still in my memory by the next draft, then it’s worth putting it in. Otherwise, I’d scribble a note somewhere. So far, progress had been significant.

I’ve also started playing Dark Souls 2. They haven’t exaggerated about its challenging difficulty, and they say that this game is tame compared to Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls. Truth is, as I played the game, it wasn’t really that hard. You just got to know how and when to swing a sword, cast a spell, shielding (which is mocked by vets, douches), and learning how to freaking roll away. It’s a game that tests your patience, since it’s pretty much a “trial and error” type of game. I’d give a full blown review, but I’m about 9 or something months late. Heard a new DLC, Scholar of the First Sin, so I might get that – since, we get games here a few hours earlier before the actual release in the US. If not, then not. I’ve had this game since Day One release, which was on March or April and never bothered playing it seriously until last month, thanks for Dragon Age: Inquisition, which, I wasn’t too happy with.

Speaking of games, our indie game development team has finally moved with a half step. Really excited about it, and it goes out soon. I’ve written two stories for two possible games, one of which ended up becoming a new story. More on that later.

We’ve also got to watch a couple of movies the other day. Gone Girl, the Maze Runner, and that final Hobbit movie. The first one mentioned was pretty darn awesome. I have the book before it was even on the big screen, I just never bothered to open it. Big mistake, I guess. Maze Runner and Hobbit 3 – I know it has a title, I’m just too lazy to say it – are good. Yes, that’s all I got to say. They were good, and never get tired of seeing orcs losing their heads.

On other news, my WIP is doing great so far. I’m about halfway there. Just need to tune up the magic system and the world, fix and intentionally plant some inconsistencies – for possible sequels, which are planned all ready. It was supposed to be this giant one tome, and ended up having the magical and charming, three.

Also, on 2014’s final week, I’ve started a new novel, based on the game idea I have. Unlike the rest, this one’s my first YA attempt that had gone over 10k words. Actually, I’m halfway done, which has never happened before, so all sixty-nine pistons are pumping to finish this. It’s massive, yet I’m trying my best to keep it thin. A title exists, for the books and in general, depending how books 2, 3, and 4 plays out, it will either be a ‘quadrology’ or a quintet. For now, this is “Project Abyss” and it’s second set is “Project Super Inferno”. More details someday.

That’s pretty much all. Now I can start writing. Oh, one more thing, I’m a liiiiitle bit heartbroken that Hayley Williams of Paramore is engaged. Ah well.

EDIT: I’ve tagged Brandon Sanderson but forgot to mention anything about him. It’s Hayley’s fault… anyway, I’ve recently checked out his blog and I counted about 13 or so book announcements. It was like Christmas and hearing for the first time all the future Marvel Cinematic Universe’s planned movies. It’s going to be awesome. Having him around just is just inspiring, one day I hope to play a game of Magic with him. Haha

Things on Writing

For the longest time I’ve noticed, the one thing that everyone tells me if I want to be a writer is to simply…

WRITE.

But somehow some of us find reasons, or excuses why we can’t write. I know, I get that, I’m pretty much the same way. But as I look back from time to time, I noticed a couple of things. I’ll list it in bullet form just to quicken things up.

– Busy, we are all. In every possible time, write.
– Write while in the train – use a smartphone or a notebook.
– Write while in the God damned bus – use a smartphone or a notebook.
– Write between lunchtime. This might mean sacrificing some food time.
– Daydream.
– Write before you sleep.
– Keep a pen and paper nearby when you sleep. You won’t know when you’ll suddenly wake up with an awesome dream/idea.
– Write when you wake.
– Daydream. Read. Write more.
– If watching a TV, and couldn’t be helped – ignore your show, write during commercial breaks at least.
– For fuck’s sake, write while in a boring date – use a smartphone or a napkin.
– You don’t need a muse to fuck in order to write.
– Think about electric bills, post it in front of you. Think of your family or the future of starting a family. What more motivation do we need?!
– Don’t stop writing. Important to build a skeleton AKA the first draft first.
– Workout. It helps build discipline.
– Instead of music, come up with ideas, and start cooking them.
– Keep phone or notepad close while working out, just so to jot down the idea.
– Fuck the jotting down, if it’s a fucking good idea you will remember them… most of the time.
– I think it was Neil Gaiman, in a blog post whom said: Write, finish things.