Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Better Never Told: day 4

Today was the first really hard day of this challenge.
penne-allarrabiataI was expecting a heavy day, and it was just so. I started writing late, wasted some time due to an unexpected disaster (a small flooding of my kitchen due to a broken bucket) and other engagements (including cooking my killer *penne all’arrabbiata+ for dinner), and basically I started at eight and finished at 2 am, in four sessions of writing.
But it’s all right – I wrote 6100 words, further increasing my extra fund of words.
Today’s part might be deemed somewhat “infodump-y” by some, but after all there is a point in which I must give you a bit of background.
The story currently clocks at 18.700 words, and is going in the right direction.
I have the next plot points laid out clearly in my mind, and tomorrow we’ll go for the 7000 words mark.
It occurred to me that by doing this incremental thing, I’ll be writing more in the next three days than I wrote in the first four so far.
The balance, so to speak, of the story, is about to shift. Tomorrow we pass the halfway-point, and the novel begins finishing.
Or something.51+BO6eijoL

The soundtrack for today’s writing was provided by Renaissance, with their album Scheherazade and other Stories, which is quite good, and it suited the – limited – action of today’s chapters.

Now a cup of tea, and then I’ll try and write a post for tomorrow.
No, better – a mug of chamomile infusion, and  I’ll write a post tomorrow morning, so I won’t risk it disappearing again.


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Better Never Told: day 3

Third day, and five thousand words done, and it was harder than I expected.
In part because all of a sudden I found myself lost, with the classic “where do we go from here?” moment of panic, and in part because my friend Marina (that will be a beta reader when this adventure is over) found a way to distract me at about 500 words from the finish line.
But I made it.

Now Rose, the main character, is fully rounded, and motivated.
We know her background, and know she won’t give in when faced with darkness.
The seeds of future discoveries have been planted, and evil has made its first incursion in the ordered and quiet life of Rose.
Now the dread “first third” of the novel lurks – and tomorrow I’ll have to write 6000 words, and that’s gonna be a true challenge – the first glimpse of the hardships to come.

But I’ll make it.
If I’m not too distracted – because Marina pointed out to me the new Humble Bundle, that for fifteen bucks drops in your hard disk every strip ever published (and a lot never published before from Berkley Breathed’s Bloom County.
And you also help a charity. Isn’t the internet beautiful?
That’s why I wasted half an hour tonight: to get me my share of Bloom County, one of my all-time favorite series. I’ll be downloading digital comics for weeks, but it will be worth the wait.

BloomCountySDCC

As a side note, I wrote today’s 5000 words without a musical background.

Now a short break, and then I’ll prepare a post for tomorrow.


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The Road of Kings: Conan and Italian Opera (probably)

Sometimes good ideas are not.
Foreign-sounding names for characters, for instance.
Apart from the vaguely Welsh/Gaelic/Tolkienoid elves and the alphabet soup of Lovecraftian monsters (of which my favorite, if apocryphal, remains “Shuub-Wankalot”), a name can make or break a character.
A basic trick I was taught long ago when naming secondary characters in my fantasy stories is to select a geographic area that somehow has the same feel of the place from which my character comes, get a map, jot down a few place names, and then tweak them a little, moving vocals around or cutting and pasting names.
Et voilà, instant names for characters.

The method can backfire spectacularly – in the 1959 version of Journey to the Center of the Earth we meet Frau Göteborg, as portrayed by gorgeous Arlene Dahl; the scriptwriters thought that, if London and Washington are legit family names for Brits and Yanks, then Swedish ladies could be called Göteborg, the second largest city in Sweden. They were wrong.
Much hilarity ensued when the movie was distributed in Sweden.

MBDJOTO FE010

The name is Goteborg, Frau Goteborg.

But there’s an even more spectacular example of “foreign” sounding names backfiring. A case in which a fine, no indeed an excellent writer, played fast and loose with naming conventions, and probably having listened to a few opera records too many, created a surreal experience for some of his readers.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Karl Edward Wagner’s Conan and the Road of Kings. Continue reading


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Better Never Told: day 2

Day two is gone, I did my 4000 words, and I also met a little problem.
Nothing technical, really.

Just like on day one, I started at 6 pm, and in half an hour I hammered out a nice 500-words scene. Then I stopped, I took a walk – I had been working at a translation all day long – and then prepared dinner.
CoverI was back at the keyboard at 7.40, with Imelda May’s latest album, Life, Love, Flesh, Blood, going as background.
And I got a call from a friend. I set up her blog about eight months ago, but sometimes in these months she decided she did not like the way it looked anymore, so she tried to change it herself, and basically made a mess.
As a result, I spent until 9 pm doing virtual help desk duty.
For free.

So, rule for survival: when you are writing a novel in seven days, tell your friends and family what you are doing.
They will not care anyway, of course – after all, you are just sitting there and making stuff up, it’s not like a phone call, a chat session, a quick drive to the 7-11 or practicing the Heimlich maneuver to their pet goat is gonna cause you any distraction or waste any of your time.
No, they won’t care, but if you tell them, at least you won’t blame yourself for not telling then.

Anyway, at 9 pm I cracked up Imelda May and got rolling, doing two sessions with an half an hour break, ending at 11.40 with 4200 words in the bag. This brings the total word count of the first two days at 7450, giving me a bonus of 450 words – about half an hour of leisurely writing.

Tomorrow I must hit 5000, and things will start getting serious.
But the morale is good, the story seems to be going in the right direction, and tomorrow I’ll unplug my phone and my web connection, to be on the safe side.


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Better Never Told: Day One

OK, first day done, and it was quite fine – so far so good.

Kitchen egg timerI did not change my routine today: I was able to go to the post office, do some shopping, cook lunch and then take care of my mail and socials.
I translated 3000 words on a project I’ll have to nail shut in two days, I helped my publisher revising a translation I did for him, and then I wrote a post about writing and prostitution for my Italian blog (don’t ask). I even did my Duolingo exercises (and I am now on 8th level in both Spanish and French – great way to dust off old skills, Duolingo).

I set up a file for Better Never Told on Scrivener, creating eight text documents: one for the front matter, and the other seven one for each day.
I plugged in my earphones in the PC, and I started listening to some music, to avoid external interferences.
Today’s choice: Liege & Lief by the Fairport Convention, and Hourglass by Kate Rusby (so maybe this is the reason why she is mentioned in the story). Continue reading


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42K words in 7 days? OK, let’s do it.

It must be an April sort of thing.
In April 2012 I wrote a novel in six days – I started on the 25th of April and finished on the night of the first day on May.
deathisnoobstacleI did it because I wanted to test what Michael Moorcock said in the lengthy interview he did with Colin Greenland, published as Death is no Obstacle.
Moorcock talked about writing a fantasy story in three days – and I planned taking twice as much to be on the safe side.
I was also pretty fed-up with the talk about art, inspiration and the writer being some sort of mutant that taps some unknown source of writing power and blah blah blah.
To me writing is skill, dedication and hard work. It’s a craft, it can be learned. There’s nothing mystical to it.
In 2012 I got a lot of support from the readers of my Italian blog. I was also told I would fail, because I lacked the training.
But I did it, and the 40.000 words novel I wrote in 2012, Beyul Express, became the first part of what was later published as The Ministry of Thunder – writing it was fast, revising and editing it took a lot of time.
Well, now I have the training. And I have the Dean Wesley Smith structure, from Writing a Novel in Seven Days.
So that’s what I’m doing – starting on the night of the 24th (Monday) and finishing on the night of the 30th. Continue reading