And the words will flow.13th March 201613th March 2016Darius Shakor

Hello, everyone.

I figured a little blog would do right about now, and I can share some experiences with the site so far. Not to mention getting some content out at last. Since I want to blog about the whole writing thing to begin with I will start with the shameless plugging.

Around a month back I made a decision to begin releasing the story I had been working on in smaller sections, instead of one huge block of text. On the subject, here is a link to the first part. After making this decision I split what I had currently into separate parts and began the editing and re-write process. This is the first of a new series of stories based on a roleplay session for a game called Apocalypse World, as I detailed in this previous blog.

Getting this first part out was a big relief, as I was beginning to feel I might stall given the length of the story, and might not finish at all. As such the site would remain an empty husk, which would not do at all. One thing I am keenly aware of in writing is that nothing motivates like results. And it was high time for some motivation as I neared the end of the first part of The Skid Journals. Shortly after this, the first part was published. Several weeks later I had completed my editing on the second part and, that too was published.

I had intended to write this blog between the two parts but, as I said, motivation comes from results and I was determined to get the second part done. There is one more part to come before it ends the first chapter of the journal. The chapter is based on the activities in a single session of the game I ran, which always covered one day in the life of the main characters.

Further to the motivation aspect I was aware that the first chapter was becoming rather lengthy. More so than I anticipated while putting together the draft structure from my game session notes. As such it made more sense to me to chop it up into smaller bits to make it easier to digest for readers. Web browsers do not come with bookmarking functions for scrolling, at least not as far as I know, so picking up mid-flow is often difficult. Not like an eBook reader, where you can return to where you left on the page much easier than on your computer’s browser. Which has also put the idea in my head to make eBook formats of the stories as they begin to pile up, and put the link on the site.

For now, though, I will choose to complete the first couple of chapters of The Skid Journals and see where things go from there. Don’t want to get ahead of myself at this point. And the setting of The Skid is not the only work I plan to do over time. So, what lies ahead?

Well, first there is the EVE Works site which saw a new and more recent addition to the catalogue, written to cover the events of my in-game character Darius Shakor, during our corporation’s remembrance of a disaster that occurred in the storyline ten years back. Writing it made me keenly aware that the site still lacks the rest of the back catalogue of stories, as progress formatting them for the site stalled with my commitment to getting some content on Vandeamon. So I will be committing myself to getting a story put up there at regular intervals. I won’t lie when I say getting through the first few chapters of the story was painful given my poor writing style of the past. In fact, that is what I want to talk about next. Editing the old stories I have written, and picking out glaringly obvious typos and basic punctuation errors as well as poorly worded sentences can make you cringe. And the temptation to add in a few more lines to make it read easier, or even change around a couple of items to alter the flow is hard to resist. Eventually, I caved in and rewrote a whole paragraph that read too awkward for my liking. Still, I intend to continue and bring that site up to date with my old backlog of fiction.

So, onto the writing style aspects in general. First I will say I am pretty confident in my ability to write passably these days. Even the recent EVE Online piece I linked above received good praise from friends who’s opinions I respect when it comes to writing and narrative. One of them is also from a professional editing background, so that was heartening and spurred me on with The Skid Journal. I have felt happier with how the two parts for The Skid have turned out, too, and having some historical perspective from my old story backlog made it much clearer to me that my writing has vastly improved. Despite this, I still find myself having to correct old, bad habits. the recent one being picking up some errors with punctuation in direct speech, such as when to use a comma or a period during direct speech. My use of tenses is still an issue I need to watch for. And overall I make a few technical mistakes here and there. Simple stuff like this I have struggled with since school, not having had them sink in as I struggled in my earlier years.

Thankfully, and to my overall betterment, my friend with an editing background spent some of her free time this weekend going over the first part of The Skid Journals with the judicial application of red ink. I might be expected to feel disheartened while looking over the document she returned, covered in red comments and strikethroughs with suggested changes marked everywhere. The thing is, though, when you know you could do better anyway it is pointless to be unhappy when someone takes the time to show you how. Criticism is something most people tend to shun, taking it as an affront to their ability, and forgetting that criticism comes in positive forms as well as negative. Their impact is also different in that regard, and when given with good intentions it should not be cast off. So I will use this to educate myself further and seek to weed out my own writing problems, because in the long run that will certainly help me.

In contrast to receiving actual human feedback, there is one more subject to talk about before I am done. By chance I spotted an app I could install on my browser and tablet, called Grammarly, which claims to not only pick up more errors than conventional spell checkers but also provide some writing style tips and scan for overused words in whole paragraphs and such, though these features turned out to be locked behind a rather pricey monthly paywall so I cannot attest to how good they are. Still, it was picking up a few issues here and there that other grammar checkers did not. And, as it turns out, it failed to pick up others. I return to my earlier example of punctuation in direct speech, which causes me the occasional problem. Grammarly corrected some of them but failed to flag others where a period was used incorrectly during the speech text. Actually, it failed to pick up a fair number of these instances overall.

Speaking with my friend about this, it was noted that you should never allow software to do your editing for you. As it turns out I do prefer to read all my work line by line, if anything for my own benefit of practice. So it is worth noting that letting a piece of software do your checking will only breed lazy habits, and overall I will never get better with basic issues unless I go looking for them myself. Still, that does not mean using such apps or corrective software is a bad thing when you do make so many small mistakes, as they can be a time saver too.

Personally, I prefer to use them in tandem, running down the story I have written line by line while ignoring the software’s highlights further down the page until I reach them. And then I try to figure out not only if the error is correct, as Grammarly also flagged a couple of areas that had no issue, I also try to determine what caused the issue to begin with so I know for later reference. I have done this pretty much all through my writing ‘career’ as such. I also find that I often have better ways to put something that not only removes the error but also reads better to my eyes. I guess what I am rambling on about here is that it is ok to use grammar and spell checkers for your work, but only to a point. It is important to exercise some thought of your own as well without relying on them entirely to make the right corrections.

Anyway, I had some other thoughts but they are starting to turn to rambling in my head as I continue writing this. So, for now, I will leave this blog here and get back to hammering out the next portion of The Skid Journals and the backlog of my older EVE stories. Words wait for no one.

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