On Creating Baile
Today I want to talk about writing. In particular, I want to talk about what I've been writing for the past few weeks.
Since early June, I've taken a bit of a hiatus from game design. I don't think I lasted a month before the need to create took over in an interesting way. I started looking over my previous writings and was quickly drawn back to the story that I determined last year, when I started writing it, was going to be my first long-form story that I finish. I wrote 5,000 words in it last year. Those were supposed to be the first and third chapters of the book.
Now, a month after picking it back up, there are 52,000 words. Those first parts have been extended, changed from "chapters" to "parts", and are now the first and fifth of twelve. I currently have 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 12 drafted and am on my way through 2.
What's the difference the difference for me this year? Why have I been able to get out so much when last year I got out so little? Well, aside from having some quality, distraction-free time, there are three things that I attribute that to:
It seems so simple, but, if you don't read, you can't write. I have been consuming books all year at a rate that I have never done before. I'm working through The Witcher, His Dark Materials, Discworld, Scythe and various others. I've even gotten to the point where I read multiple books at the same time because I like to read a lot but only a little at a time in each (until I get near the end when I like to buckle down on one until it's finished).
Stephen King said, "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that." A year ago, I didn't read much. I had started on reading more heavily, which always ignites a fire to write. This year, though, I set a goal for myself through Goodreads, and in June, I bought a Kindle so that I could read more heavily without the inconvenience of carrying around a bunch of large books (and also because I had a bunch of reward points saved up). I got through a handful of books within a couple of weeks, and I couldn't handle all the craziness in my head anymore.
Having found a few books that I really enjoy has also given me a better direction on how to pace my story, how to lay out the chapters and how to write believable filler. Which leads me to...
(Caring about my) Characters
I started Baile with the mindset that it wasn't going to be any good. This was really helpful to me as it prevented me from getting stuck on when things weren't any good. I also started the story with the intention of it being more of an overview type of story. The pacing was fairly quick, and there was little character development. Honestly, my characters were just a tool to tell a broader story.
To understand why I did this, you have to understand why I'm writing the story in the first place. I have created a universe in which to fit my board games. Honey, while it was still called that, existed in this universe and so does Floating Islands. I have at least one other game that is shelved that will also exist in this universe. My intention with the book was to tell the story of how everything got to where it is in these games (which all take place a long time after this story).
What happened, though, as I began writing again, is that I started to care about the characters more and more. I started to get to know them and learn interesting things about their personalities, their drive and their past. The major tipping point for me was when I was building up to a difficult scene, and I realized that I didn't know enough about the character and their relationship with others. I had seen hints of it, but I needed to get to know them better. So, I went back and began filling in the blanks by writing a couple of earlier scenes that fleshed out a few of those details.
Before writing that, I didn't even know what was going to happen in the opening pages of the next part. But my newfound understanding of the characters made it clear what I had to do. From there, it became clear that these complexly connected characters had to become the focus. Instead of using these characters as tools to tell the story of the world, I had to use the world as a tool to tell the story of these characters. From there, the words just rolled off my fingers at a pace that I could barely keep up with.
But even then...
This one can be very difficult. No matter how much I much I enjoyed telling the story, it took a long time to tell it all, and there were times when everything I wrote felt derivative and boring. And do you know what I did when that happened? I wrote it anyway and kept going.
It is one of the most common themes I see in blogs about the subject, and it is absolutely critical. You have to accept that half of what you write, at least, is going to be crap on the first pass. There are times when you will be in the zone and writing pure gold, but most of it will be no more than serviceable, and sometimes it will be terrible.
I got to know characters at levels that hadn't been written down. I had characters who had only been mentioned in passing become critical parts of the second half, and I completely forgot about characters that I had been building up earlier on only to never appear in the story again. Regardless, I pressed on.
There were a few moments when there was a interesting conversation going on that I wanted to see expanded, but I had no idea what else to put there. So I marked it and moved on. There are three species in my story. The humans are humans. The main two characters are human, and much of there society resembles our own. The Si are an amazing race with complex cultural and political structures and traditions. The Korr... exist. They have one interesting tradition, and every time I've attempted to write about things that would expand on them, I get stumped.
The combination of numerous people telling me to press on and not let yourself get hung up or attempt to do any editing before you're finished and the fact that I knew the ending but really wanted to see how it would happen, kept me moving forward without looking back for much of anything.
It was frustrating at times, knowing where the road was leading but needing to make various stops along the way. Early on, I wasn't sure how I would ever hit 50,000 words for all 12 parts. Now, I've surpassed that number and am concerned that I won't be able to keep it under 100,000 once all of the side stories are finished.
It has also been quite exhausting, emotionally and mentally (and for that I am quite thankful for the vacation that I took last week which prevented me from doing any creating work). I still have quite a bit more to tell, both in finishing this story and likely in writing more. This story might still not be any good once I finish it, but I'm proud to have finished the first draft of the main storyline and will continue to be proud of everything I accomplish along the way. I've definitely learned a lot from this experience that I expect to carry with me going forward and will hopefully help make my future attempts better.
With that, I would like to also say that I will begin a short story collection in this universe starting with a story I will be posting today called, The Waves of Eire.
The universe is called the Sugarpunk Universe, though many of the stories won't be of a sugarpunk style, as they will cover various parts of the history of the universe. The first story doesn't actually take place in the universe, but rather is a story written by someone in the universe that is a favorite story of one of the main characters in Baile.