writing

The Novel, Slow but Steady Progress by Matthew Marchitto

I’ve been slowly chipping away at what I’ve only referred to as The Novel for a while now. I started writing it way back in 2017, but really it probably started in 2016 with The Book of Jewels. The Novel takes place in the same world, but the technology has been up-jumped to a steampunky version of the early 1900s. The core conceit started as a very self-indulgent “steampunk with orcs!” bellowed from the depths of Wouldn’t That Be Cool. But it’s evolved beyond that, having Hrusk—our half-orc half-gnome main character—butt heads with weapon manufacturers and corrupt authority figures. All while swinging swords and shooting bolters.

The book is tentatively titled A Tusk too Many.

I think it’s getting close to being done. I’m currently rewriting the final chapter, and then I’m going to go through the whole manuscript to make a bunch of little changes here and there. After that I think it’ll be done. Then the question is, what do I do with it?

I’d considered putting it out on submission and trying to get a literary agent, and maybe I still will. But something about the story feels off, I don’t know if it’s the plot or the characters or what. And the thing is that wherever this loose doohickey is that’s messing with the story’s guts, I can’t seem to find it. It might need a total rewrite. Like, start with a new blank page kind-of-rewrite. Ultimately, I think there’s a good chance I’m going to end up trunking it.

So why finish? Why keep writing it if I know it’s tittering on a knife’s edge, likely to end up in the digital equivalent of a dusty attic? Because I believe in the idea of finish your shit. It’s important to go through the whole process from beginning to end, there’s a lot to be learned by simply doing. And I think I’ve already learned a lot writing this book, hopefully that’ll make the next one better.

Gnomes, Big and Small by Matthew Marchitto

I’ve had multiple secondary worlds tumbling around inside my head. One of them is Aftania,* a world that is unashamedly inspired by things like Dungeons & Dragons and Warcraft. It features all manner of monstrous creature as well as the expected “races” like elf, human, orc, and gnome.

Absent from this world are Dwarves and Halflings. Anyone that knows me would think the absence of Dwarves was weird, fantasy dwarves are one of my favourite races (coming in close behind orcs). But I decided to condense them all into gnomes. So, gnomes, in the world of Aftania, can be small three-foot humanoids, slightly larger (halfling-size), or burly and wide shouldered with bushy beards like Dwarves. This makes gnomes more similar to humans in that they can be a whole variety of sizes and shapes as oppose to all being made out of the same mold.

It also gives me more freedom to make certain body types and features more common among certain gnomish cultures. Maybe the mountain gnomes to the north are the burly ones, while the gnomes with deep ancestral roots in urban areas are smaller. It allows for a lot more variance.

It bugs me when all of a race are the same. It doesn’t make sense that elves high in the mountains have the exact same culture as the completely disconnected elves on the other side of the continent. Same goes for physique, though I’m not sure if this is a remnant from Tolkien or the influence of video games/pen and paper RPGs.

I’m trying to keep all the things I love about this kind of high fantasy but with a few twists that make it uniquely mine.

*Aftania is actually the name of the largest territory, and is also where the majority of my current stories/characters reside. The planet is referred to as Mo’den (an orcish word), but particularly arrogant Aftanians insist on calling the planet “Aftania.”

 

5 Things I learned from Self-Publishing by Matthew Marchitto

1. Writing the book is easy

I never thought I’d say that, but it’s true. Writing the book is the most doable part of the process. I know how to write a book, not perfectly or without flaw, but I can do it. Even on those nights when hitting the word count feels like slogging through waist deep sludge, each clicky-clack of the keyboard a stab of self-doubt, I know that ultimately, I can do it. Maybe it’ll take longer than I expected, but it’ll be done.

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Outlining by Matthew Marchitto

*vomits physical rage*

*smears magma filled rage chunks on computer screen*

Outlining. The evil ye-shall-not-say-its-name plot backbone that we all like to ignore. I’ve always been one of those people who ignore outlining. I’m a pantser by nature, waiting until I’m staring at the blank document to start putting down the story as it comes. An outline always feels like a big restriction, like chains holding you to the bottom of a word pool you didn’t want to commit to. But really, that’s not what an outline is. It’s a guideline to help direct the way. 

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Worldbuilding Part 2 by Matthew Marchitto

A lot of worldbuilding happens on the backstage of the story. The amount that is actually shown to the audience is usually pretty minimal. Maybe that’s the most effective way of communicating aspects of the world. To let there be some mystery, some questions that the reader has to answer themselves. 

That means what they imagine compared to what you imagine won’t always be the same, but that’s okay. It’s for the better.

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Flash Fiction Challenge (Choose Your Title Edition): Showdown at Evermore by Matthew Marchitto

This week Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge was to choose someone else's title and run with it. Last week folks came up with about 400 titles. Sleuthing through all the golden nuggets I came across one that spoke to me. JQ Davis's Showdown at Evermore. This story ended up short, being just under 400 words. Last challenge I felt like The Coralhound Queens had too much story packed into it, now I wonder if Showdown at Evermore doesn't have enough? I'm still trying to figure out the magic flash fiction formula. One day, I'll get it.  

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Showdown at Evermore 

Rognos crawled over the bodies of his companions. I have to find her. The Dreggs swung serrated swords and hurled obsidian spears. Their stony countenance and glowing sapphire eyes showed no emotion as they cut down human after human.  

Rognos couldn’t feel his legs. He couldn’t feel his fingertips digging into the blood soiled earth. 

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The Benefit of Small Steps by Matthew Marchitto

One foot in front of the other, inch by inch, slowly getting closer to that goal post you’ve set. But does it matter how fast you get there, or just that you eventually get there? I don’t know, I guess it’s different for everyone. For me, I think there’s a lot of benefit to valuing the small steps, because each of those small steps push you forward, and if you’re moving forward then you’ll eventually get to that goal.

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Worldbuilding by Matthew Marchitto

Characters always precede the world in my stories. At least they have so far. I’ll get an idea for the characters, some personality traits, maybe imagine how they look or something odd that stands out about them, and that’ll be where the world starts. Then I’ll think of the characters that surround them and where they’d live and work. And then the world starts to form around them.

I haven’t ever created a world and populated it with characters. That prospect actually kind of scares me. To make something so intricate, and then try and find all the little ways you can tell a story within those guidelines. Honestly, it sounds both impressive and daunting. I admire anyone who can build intricate worlds that are extremely detailed from coast to coast of each fantastical continent.

I’m always curious how much of a secondary world has been plotted out and how much is being modified as the story moves forward. For me, there’s a lot that’s a little vague and as the story warrants I’ll focus in on those areas to fill them out. So if there’s a town that’s mentioned offhand, and then eventually the characters have to go there, chances are that town will only become detailed once I realize it has become important. Hopefully, I’ll know a little bit about the region, kingdom, or area that’ll help inform the general society of the town. That’s a simple example of how the general ideas help inform the details, but the details are only filled in as the story warrants. I don’t know if it’s the best method, but it’s the one that feels like it works for me.

Detailing that town, and the surrounding towns, or everything in a kingdom without knowing whether it will ever be seen is a little horrifying. There’s a difference between knowing where town A and town B are on the map, and some general ideas about their trade or something, versus knowing the love affairs of each person and when they muck out the latrines.

For me, the world is always something that is made to serve the characters. Defining so much of it in detail without knowing who the characters are feels like it would force me to work inside constraints. I’d much rather be able to mold and alter the world as the story progresses so it serves the plot and characters as needed, instead of the characters and plot serving the world.

Do you prefer to make the world first and populate it with characters, or make the characters first and build the world around them?

Edit (February 25, 2019): This series is about the things that I've learned, or am learning, about worldbuilding. It's me trying to level up my craft, and documenting the process. These posts represent my personal approach to worldbuilding, and the way I do it might not be right for you. I'm not an authority on writing, and so everything in these posts should be taken with not only a grain of salt, but a heaping bucket of saline.