Editing update #2

Hi everyone!

Two more weeks of editing and things are both ahead of and maybe-kinda-sorta just on schedule.

Let me explain –

Each volume in the series comprises two parts, and each part is a standalone arc with its own themes and conclusion that feed into the broader story. According to my original plan, I’d set aside one month to review each of the parts in the first volume, then another to review the story as a whole. Instead, I made it through both in the very first month, and I now have the remaining two to ensure the details are correct and that everything flows as smoothly as it can.

It’s also made me aware of a host of other things as well. Each pass over the text reveals more areas to tweak or fix up, and through this process, I’ve made two important realisations:

  • Writing a story feels a lot getting the keys to a hidden mansion and opening up the doors. At first, you’re aware of the general dimensions and possibilities of the place, but it’s only when you explore each room that you understand how they’re all laid out. Likewise, it’s only when you’ve explored them all that you understand how the mansion comes together. Even though something might have been staring at you all along, it’s only when you reach this point that you see it’s out of place (or right at home).
  • Some scenes and conversations are easy to re-write or touch up, but others resist all attempts at change. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the latter are often some of the most important in the story. The emotion you felt at the time of writing is so crucial to these scenes that even the smallest changes can set everything off track. With that in mind, it is possible to edit something into oblivion, but sometimes, it takes several days of attempted re-writes and changes to fully understand that fact, update one or two sentences that make everything just right, then leave the rest alone.

Everything’s moving along as fast as it possibly can, but there’s still a great deal more to be done. My wife and I sit around in the late hours of the night after meetings debating logos and symbols, and I’m spending every spare minute in helping it all move ahead.

I’ll provide more updates again soon.

Until then, may the day be yours.

You’re perfect just the way you are

Even today, I can still remember the moment I realised I was different from all the other kids. I must have been about seven, and it was a beautiful spring afternoon during my third year in primary school.

My transgression?

Some kids found an interesting insect in the playground, and I called it a ‘bug’.

If you’re feeling confused, let me explain. I didn’t mean ‘bug’ as in the colloquial word for all insects. I meant ‘bug’ as in a specific order of insects otherwise known as Hemiptera.

You see, my parents were entomologists, and studying insects was part of their profession. Ever since I can remember, they taught me the correct, scientific names for all insects and their species, and I never thought anything about it. A wasp was a Hymenoptera, a stick insect was a phasmid, and that was that.

But not to everyone else.

As I lifted the bug out of the way and placed it in a nearby tree, I can still recall the other children coming around and looking on in interest. I didn’t understand the reason for their shocked and curious faces, but I soon found out.

The very next day, the few other boys I had been friends with refused to play with me anymore, and none of the other kids in my class even wanted to talk to me. I went the rest of the year without any friends, and I never knew why.

As much as I wish I could point to this one incident as some great turning point, it wasn’t the only one. My memories of primary school are of being lonely and having no one to talk to, of making friends only for them to up and leave abruptly one day, and of never fitting in. I tried playing sport, but the others kids never let me on their team. I tried to be nice, but that just gave them a reason to call me names. I tried to stay out of the way, but one afternoon, one of the kids took out their anger and frustration on my with their fists in one of the quieter spaces in the yard.

The teacher called a meeting, the kid was kicked out of school, and everyone knew the reason was me.

I hoped things might change in secondary school, but in the end, this was a trend that would follow me right the way through to graduation. Always, I would make some friends only to see them drift away, and nothing I ever did seemed to stick.

School was lonely.

School was harsh.

School was dark.

It’s only now, almost twenty years later and with a great deal more experience, that I’ve begun to see why. True, many of the kids were mean – some were downright bastards – and I was right to never make friends with them. Most of the time, however, I realise now that I was so focused on their actions that I never thought about my own.

In case it’s not clear, I’ll say this part straight up – you are not responsible for the horrible things others do to you, or the flaws that made them the way they are. You are just as deserving of love and attention as everyone else, and you are perfect the way you are right now. There are all kinds of people in the world, many of whom are different to you. But some – a small, select group – are just like you, you know. You are not alone, but you cannot find these people unless you know who you are.

When you were young, the differences between you and everyone else weren’t as easy to see. You did the same kind of things in the same kind of place, and your teachers and parents wanted you to fit in. They wanted you to be all right, to avoid hardships by being the same. But you weren’t, whether you wanted to be or not. You were different, you were new. Not something wrong, but something that is valuable on its own, something that not everyone else could or had to be.

Look inwards, examine those aspects of yourself that have become so normal to you that you take them for granted.

What do you like, and what do you like about what you like?

Where do people who like that kind of thing go, what do they do and say and enjoy?

How can you refine your message so you can be more comfortable around those like yourself and help others less in the know approach those same subjects?

What can you do to be you?

You don’t have to be lonely.

You don’t have to be scared.

Your people and your place are out there, but you can only find them once you know who they are.

Editing update #1

Hi everyone!

It’s been a few weeks since my first entry, so about time for a quick update on where things are.

In short, it’s been a learning experience.

I knew my writing style and understanding of the characters had evolved over the first few entries in the series, but it was still surprising to come back to the first one. Not so much the major elements, but definitely small things like smoothing out transitions, adding to or removing from descriptions, and making conversations more natural. After running through everything a few times, I’m happy to say a first pass is now complete, and I am moving on to more detailed checks.

There are a few more things in the works as well.

My wife (and collaborating creative) has gone to the drawing board on logos and cover designs, and the number of visual diaries and pens in the house is on the rise. I’ve also made my first foray into the world of Twitter, which you can follow on here for some more frequent updates and thoughts –

Most importantly, I want to extend a very deep and heartfelt thank you to everyone who reached out and took the time to read my first entry in the last few weeks. I had no idea what to expect, and you ended up helping generate more than one hundred views of the article on that first day alone, which was far beyond my wildest dreams.

There’s a great deal more to come, and I hope you can stick around for the ride as I start uploading a few more general posts and details in the weeks to come.

For now, may the day be yours.

I’m writing a book

It’s been a long time coming, but I am both excited and decently terrified share a passion project of mine that I’ve been working on in the background for quite some time.

I’m writing a book.

Not just one of them, either, but five in a series.

And not just writing them – they’re already done.

For the past two-and-a-half years, I’ve used every spare moment I can find to chip away at an immense story that’s been stuck in my mind since I was a teenager. I’ve been writing in the early mornings before work, during lunch times and on the train, writing in the evenings before meetings, and writing on the weekends and public holidays. There’ve been no breaks or reprieves at all throughout this time, but somehow, I’ve managed to get through it all at a pace of almost one new book every six months. At an average of twenty-four thousand new words a month, that’s a total of seven hundred and twenty thousand words, but finally, it’s done.

Those who’ve known me throughout this time might be surprised to hear that I’ve been working on something of this scale. After all, apart from a random comment here or there, I’ve been pretty tight-lipped about what’s been taking up so much of my time. It’s not the only thing I’ve had to deal with, either, this same period coming with a number of disruptive personal life events and at least one traumatic experience whose fallout I’m still coping with in many ways.

Even though it’s been a struggle to find the time and energy to reach this point, one of the reasons I’ve been able to stick with it is because of how personal it is. It’s a story that helped me through some darker days during my youth, that helped me grow and examine a great number of my own feelings, and most of all, it’s a story that represents a key philosophical concept that defines my outlook on life.

In essence, it’s a piece of epic science fiction; one that represents a fresh take on a familiar concept –

It’s the year 1345 Modern Time, and the world is still reeling in the aftermath of a cataclysmic conflict that came within an inch of ending life as we know it. All records and knowledge of the times before then are lost, the technological achievements of the Age of Wonders forgotten, and nobody alive today now knows how it all began or what came before it all began. Now stuck in a centuries-old stalemate against the ever-evolving enemy forces of Factory Prime, the remaining peoples of the world cower above a defensive perimeter about the equator known as the Line. The only thing that stands between their destruction and the enemy hordes that arrive to challenge them twice a year is the constant sacrifice of the men and women in the Reactionary Forces of Central, commonly known as the Souldiers.

When her childhood friend goes missing in the wild lands beyond the Line under mysterious circumstances, young Vivian must make the decision to leave the town of her childhood forever if she wants to find out what really happened. To do so, she’ll need to cast aside everything she knows to be true, summon all the courage she can muster, and face the Line where no step forward can be won without sacrifice. Along the way, she’ll find more than she bargained for and, if she can avoid falling victim herself, come to learn the truth about the world and how it all came to be.

There’s a decent mix of action, mystery, and cruel choices, but the thread that ties it all together is an incredibly human story that touches on a number of themes that are very close to me. It’s not just a chance to set up some epic action sequences – although there are plenty of those as well – but to examine the things I find most important, such as finding your voice, standing up for yourself, and finding your place in the world. If you’re a science fiction fan, an introvert, or someone who just enjoys a good read, I’m confident there’ll be something in there for you.

Even though I’ve completed a rough draft, one of the interesting things about writing an entire series rather than one volume at a time is how aware it makes you of your earlier mistakes. There’s also a great deal more to completing a novel than just the writing, so I’m planning on using the next six months to touch everything up and get the first instalment ready. In the meantime, I’ll be using this space to not only provide updates on progress and a few teasers, but to talk a little about my own background and the themes and ideas that drew me to this story to begin with as well.

It’s an exciting prospect, finally getting to share some of these things with you all, but it’s also a terrifying one, too. After all this time lurking inside my head and taking up precious mental real estate, I’m aware there’s a real chance it might all just fizzle and amount to nothing. Setting up this space and navigating the currents of social media is another scary prospect for someone who isn’t used to self promotion, and I’ll be sharing a number of personal episodes that I’ve never spoken about openly before in support of my message.

Even knowing all that, it’s still something that I want to do, that I have to do, and whatever the outcome, I hope you can share this journey with me as we learn more about it together.