Taking a break…

There’s so much world-building that I plan to do, but I haven’t gotten around to any of it. Indeed, it’s been weeks since I did anything significant enough to be worth mentioning in my blog (I haven’t even done any writing!)

It’s not that Askamar and its denizens aren’t continually in my thoughts; I just haven’t felt like doing any new work on the world.

Still, maybe it’s helpful to take a break every now and again. When I finally return to writing and world-building, I’ll perhaps do so with fresh inspiration!

In fact, I feel like doing some work on the time-line right now – a task that I’m always putting off, but really does need to be done…

Zakrusepi’s new look

Zakrusepi, Skurmondul and company haven’t appeared on the website yet (my world-building is still stuck in the era of Shekruvaris), but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about them often.

I’ve also been thinking about the ‘races’ of my conworld. For the last several years there have been four races – the Ankaykari, the bantagri, the yuyarni and the humans – but I’ve now decided the combine the yuyarni and the bantagri (my two vaguely draconic races), thus simplifying the setting and the story.

Anyone who knows anything about the yuyarni and the bantagri must be thinking, ‘WHAT? You want to merge a race of lumbering land-dwelling herbivores who hate heights with a race of flying meat-eaters? What will that do to their culture and psychology?’

I know it seems strange, but I’ve been thinking about it these last few months, and I can see how it will work. I’d also rather create one draconic race in detail rather than have two draconic races that seem sketchy when compared with the Ankaykari and the humans.

Most importantly, I can picture Zakrusepi with wings! Jagrothazri has also adapted well to becoming a yuyarni. Skurmondul with wings is a bit harder, but I’m sure he’ll cope…

So, here’s what Zakrusepi used to look like (although I used this picture as the website’s generic bantagri illustration, it is an actual picture of him):Zakrusepi the bantagri

Here are some generic yuyarni:

A picture of some yuyarni

Below, you can see the yuyarni and bantagri combined. I’ve given the female yuyarni the ‘bald’ head of the original yuyarni (which you can see in this post), while the males have bantagri horns. I might decide to give the male yuyarni manes as well, since that was part of the original yuyarni design.

Mountain Yuyarni Male
Male Mountain Yuyarni by Louisa Watson

It’s great to finally have some yuyarni ‘main characters’, as it makes it much easier for me to visualize the yuyarni culture and figure out how it works.

But what will become of the bantagri? I’ve decided to name Zakrusepi’s tribe after them (he can keep his old clan name, of course!), and I’ll incorporate as much of their culture into it as I can – this actually won’t be too hard, since I originally imagined the bantagri as fearsome hunters before I realized they’d be too slow to catch anything! Since Zakrusepi ends up eating Daskesurul’s heart, his whole plot makes a lot more sense now!

I now know the name of my hobby: conworlding

I’ve always loved writing stories, but I also love working on the setting of my stories – even when it isn’t at all relevant to the plot!

Many people would say that this is a sign of failure as a writer. There are a plenty of books out there that tell you how to ‘world-build’, but they almost always say the same thing. Only build as much as you need. Don’t get carried away.

This always frustrated me. It felt as if the world I built didn’t matter, because only the story was important (and presumably, the story itself only had value if other people were willing to buy it!) These books told me that expressing my creativity purely through world-building (a thing I loved doing) was a waste of time.

Well, if you want to become a successful author, they have a point. How can you churn out bestsellers and make money if you’re busy creating an illustrated guide to the different types of tree in your fantasy world?

Anyway, I ignored this advice, which perhaps partly explains why I’ve failed as a professional author.

I’ve drawn maps and written histories of Udarissan kingdoms that my characters never even make reference to in the stories, let alone visit, simply because I want my world to feel complete. I even once created an illustrated guide to the jazhagria species of Askamar (I’ve yet to get around to an illustrated guide to trees, however!)

A few years back, I discovered a fascinating book called Building Imaginary Worlds: The Theory and History of Subcreation by Mark J. P. Wolf, and I realized that there are many others like me – people who build worlds as an artistic creation in their own right.

Calling my hobby world-building never felt quite right, however. World-building is what authors do to create a setting for their stories. It serves a purpose, just like plot-building and character development.

It was only last autumn, when I was thinking about inventing some languages for my world, that I discovered what my hobby is actually called. I found that invented languages are called conlangs (from ‘constructed languages’). I then found that a constructed world – one built as an artistic project for its own sake – is called a conworld.

It seems that, when you’re a conworlder, you don’t build a world for the sake of your stories. You write a story to illustrate / expand upon your imagined world.

That’s exactly what I do!

A Servant of Shekruvaris

Mendaran balanced on a narrow ledge, waiting for his opponent to strike. A lava lake bubbled twenty feet below him, bathing the fire-blackened crags in a ruddy glow. Mendaran grinned. He could have fought this battle in the dueling-pits of the Royal Citadel, but he enjoyed being out in the wasteland.

Mendaran’s step-mother Carashanza regarded him coolly, holding her sword before her. She was one of the immortal Ankaykari, and although she looked like a slender human woman, she was far stronger than him. Carashanza’s skin was ebony-black and her eyes burned like embers. She could have melted into the air, shattered Mendaran’s blade or struck him to the ground. Instead she fought without magic, even though his sword-fighting skills now surpassed hers.

Mendaran felt the ledge crumble slightly. He adjusted his balance.

Read more

Re-arranging the library

After much thought, I’ve managed to re-arrange the library in a way that I like!

Instead of lengthy novellas, I’ll be publishing inter-linked short stories online. These will be arranged in chronological order (rather than publication order) in the library, so that people can either read the whole epic saga as it unfolds, or choose which story thread they find most interesting.

I’ve re-used my book titles for some of the library sections, so that those who have read the first two books and now want to read The Ruler of Ruins can easily find it.

Writing short stories gives me so much more creative freedom! I can work on any part of the series that I want, and include scenes that wouldn’t have fitted into a novel.

For example, I’ll be able to write about what happens in the twenty years between The Scepter of Ice and The Ruler of Ruins. There is no structured narrative that makes these years worthy of a novel, but nevertheless it is an important period in Askamar’s history  – indeed, it makes up the bulk of Ruzenathra’s reign!

This is the advantage of not being a successful self-published author and not having a readership (I talk about people who might want to read The Ruler of Ruins, but there isn’t anyone except Maggie, as far as I know). Rather than worrying about making money, or what will be popular with my readers, I can write whatever I feel like writing and just publish it on my website.

Character Profiles Re-designed

I’ve started doing more world-building, as promised. Unsurprisingly, I’ve been focusing on character profiles again.

When you have so many notes and so much information about a character, it can be hard to know how to organize it! However, I think I might finally have settled on a profile design that I like. I hope I don’t want to change it in a few month’s time…

As usual, I’ve started with Liralian.

When I write too much

I’ve been writing too much again. That’s why I haven’t published any more chapters on my web-fiction – I was too busy writing to take the time!

Since deciding to turn my novels into novellas, I’ve been working on three different stories, struggling to find focus. I want something I can publish on my website (why, when I must have written hundreds of thousands of words over the years, do I have nothing that I feel ready to publish on my website yet!?) I also want to continue the story of Shekruvaris, which means writing something new rather than endlessly revising old chapters.

I hoped my novellas would be quicker and simpler to write than the novels. Now I’ve realized that to tell each story in full (with a satisfying beginning, middle and end), the novellas themselves will probably be about 80,000 words each. So, more like novels. Which probably means no one but Maggie will be bothered to read them, because who wants to read 80,000 words online?

This is what happens when I write too much. I feel stressed and anxious. I feel like there’s never enough time in the day. I feel like life isn’t long enough to write all the Askamar stories. I feel defeated before I even begin. My back hurts from spending too long sitting down.

Then, when I finally do publish something, I feel depressed because I’ve worked so hard on the story and no one except my sister is reading it, and / or I find that it’s rubbish when I re-read it myself.

I need to learn from this.

I need to calm down and stop writing so much.

It doesn’t matter if the library is empty or if it only has the first few chapters of an 80,000 word novel in it. There’s loads of other pages on my website that I’m proud of. I should make more time for world-building and drawing.

From EBooks to Web fiction

Having decided to turn my over-sized novels into more readable novellas, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how I’ll present them.

Apparently publishing a short eBook every few months is the key to success for indie authors on Amazon. On the other hand, some readers might feel annoyed when they find that my latest work features the same story written from different points of view – they’ll either think I’m lazy, or that I’m trying to con them into buying the same book over and over again.

In any case, I’m not interested in writing as a career. I’m not even interested in gaining a following for my work (although it would be nice to know that there are others out there who enjoy my writing!)

What I really want is a place to display my writing, where others are able to read it if they choose, and where I can easily make changes to it if I’ve re-read it and decided that it needs another polish.

This is why I’ve decided to publish my novellas here on the Askamar website as web fiction.

I love the thought of having all my Askamar stories, art and reference articles together in one place. I also love the thought of easily being able to edit my work every time I spot another typing error!

I’m not planning to follow a schedule, but I imagine that I’ll be able to publish at least one chapter every week – at least until the tale of Shekruvaris is told, or I decide to do more world-building. Then, of course, I’ll want to start work on other stories from the history of Askamar…

A Change of Plan

Writing The Ruler of Ruins has been difficult for me, and I think I’ve worked out why.

My first book, The Web of War, started out as a collection of short stories that I decided to combine together into a novel. Sadly, I wasn’t able to include all of them, as I had to limit the number of characters with point-of-view, and only include scenes that moved the story forward. I spent a few leisurely years writing and re-writing the book before I decided it was ready for publication.

My second book, The Scepter of Ice, was stressful to write because I put pressure on myself to get it finished as quickly as possible. By the third draft I realized that driving myself into exhaustion was not sensible  (and also, since no-one was clamoring for the sequel, it didn’t matter when the book came out), so I slowed down.

I’d resolved to relax and write The Ruler of Ruins at my own pace, focusing on quality rather than quantity (when I look back at The Web of War now, I can see that it still isn’t as good as I’d like it to be, even after the 2016 re-write). However, this book is more complex than the others, and I’m finding it hard to move between the plot strands.

I’ve realized that it would be much easier to write this story if it was unraveled into several books rather than crammed into one. In fact, The Web of War would also be less of a confusing jumble if it was separated out into shorter stories, as it was originally! Even The Scepter of Ice, the most linear of my books, would be enhanced if I was able to explore its various story-lines in more depth.

So, I’ve decided to turn The Ruler of Ruins into several separate novellas following the journeys of different characters. Later I’ll try to recombine them into one book so that the Shekruvaris Trilogy is complete, but for now I’m just working on Liralian’s story.

I’ll do the same with my other books, giving readers the choice of experiencing the story as a single giant novel or as a group of novellas. Perhaps, once the Shekruvaris books are longer so huge and confusing, people will actually want to read them!

Aspirations for 2017

I thought last year’s aspirations were highly achievable, but I didn’t do very well at them! Still, setting aspirations is fun, and it reminds me of what I wanted to do at the time, so here are some more:

  1. Finish the 1st and 2nd draft of The Ruler of Ruins.
  2. Write some short stories.
  3. Re-write the Ankaykari character profiles.
  4. Paint more landscapes for the website’s header image.

What I most want to do this year is focus on the quality rather than the quantity of my writing, drawing and world-building. I must remember to enjoy the process of creating, as well as taking pride in the finished work.

An epic fantasy saga