Back at it again

My phone rang this morning and notified me about the upcoming mount Everest I had to start climbing first thing tomorrow morning. It’s been 37 days since the last time I laid eyes on the first draft of my novel’s manuscript and the time has come for me to start editing and revising.

I’m gonna let that sink in for a while. Editing and revising.

The manuscript is 149k words long. I have to trim it down to 110 – 120k, no matter what, and make it more presentable. I also have to rewrite the first 10 or so chapters and condense them to 2 or maybe 3. Then carry on with the actual nit-picking. To be honest, I’m not looking forward to it. Not because I don’t like the book, but because I’m scared.

I’m scared because I think I won’t like anything from it. I’m scared because I’ve never done anything in that scale. Editing short stories somehow seem different now to me (strange, I know; after all it’s the same principle). Most of all I’m scared because I don’t know if my editing skills (which in turn mean my writing skills) are up to the task. In some ways I feel I’m back to square one where I had no work published and I was  uncertain of my ability to produce publishable material. Three publications in so far (fingers crossed to place the rest ones somewhere) and I still feel like a speck of sand that somehow has to reach the top of a mountain the size of Everest.

In those 37 days I wrote 3 short stories and finished translating one of them for a family member who doesn’t speak English, making this past November my most productive month so far. My aim with these stories is to place them all either in semi-pro or professional markets. I probably shouldn’t have high hopes for pro markets as they seem to prefer writers whose writing has something that I still lack. One thing is they have more experience in the craft than me. But I’ll try. If I do manage to get published in any of them (semi-pro or pro) then it will be a TREMENDOUS confidence boost that will reflect in the way I perceive my novel’s worth and my skill as a writer and storyteller. (The stories are now up on Scribophile, so if any of you is a member there and you’re interested in their genres, have a look at them)

Is it strange that I feel so stressed right now? Those of you who made it and traditionally published your books (fiction or non-fiction) did you feel like that as well? Am I experiencing a twisted version of what I should be feeling about the whole process? Or is it that I’m pushing myself too much, in order to prove to myself that I can do it?

And the end came at last

Yes, dear readers. The end of the first part of this journey has come to an end. I’m proud to announce the end of the first draft of my first novel, The Darkening. Allow me a moment for this to sink in with me ’cause I still find it hard to accept. *Chris breathes deeply*

If you’re in the same boat as me and you’ve just started writing or are about to finish your first novel, I can tell you for a fact that the feeling is strange. For me, there was a lot of joy but at the same time, a lot of emptiness, since the thing I had spent 5 months of my life on was now over. I need to find something else to work on for the next 1-2 months, as I intend to leave the story alone and not even think about it. That’s going to be VERY hard ’cause I need to know I finish things as soon as they get my hands on them. I can’t stand knowing I have things undone. That’s something else I have to re-educate myself. In a way one could say I felt like those people who are obsessed with something for many years and when they finally get what they want, afterwards they are left empty inside. I won’t say it’s not daunting. Quite honestly, it’s scares me. What really freaks me out is that feeling of emptiness. Perhaps at a deeper level I saw this project (being the first completed novel-length work) as the dearest of them all. I’m somewhat emotionally attached to it. Perhaps in a deep unconscious way I always thought I’d be working on it, even though I wanted to finish it. It may sound strange to you but it’s like when parents know they have to let their kids fly out of the nest yet they find it very hard to do so.

Yesterday I wrote two alternative endings for the story, one of which will entail changing a great deal of the book and the main character. So, technically, I wrote The End three times in total. The fact however remains: after five months of writing, I finally scribbled down The End. I wrote Scene 1/Chapter 1 on 9 June 2014 and finished it on 8 November. The original plan was to spend 3 months on it, expecting that writing on my cell phone instead of my PC, wouldn’t interfere too much. I was wrong. At that time, as some of you may remember, I could hardly write 1000 words per day. Which meant that the book took 2 more months to finish.

On top of that, the book was supposed to end at no more than 120k words, from which I was hopeful I’d be able to cut around 15k-20k words during revisions. Alas, the book now stands at a whooping 149k words! That’s VERY bad, as I don’t think many agents would invest the time into something as big from a newbie. Even if I do manage to trim it down by 20k words, I’ll be left with 130k words, which is still not good enough. There’s always the possibility that I will need to squeeze the first 10 chapters/scenes into 2 in order to bring the inciting moment of the story closer to the beginning. If that’s the case then I’ll have to condense 30k words into no more than 8k at best. The thought makes me laugh but, make no mistake, it’s a not a happy laughter 😛

One thing’s true: the book is over! I like the characters and the complexity the main character has (madness and everything). I like the world a lot, which is probably what made me so eager to expand the similarly titled short story into a book.

Wow! I finished a book… Sometimes I catch myself pondering on that and it seems too overwhelming. I mean, it’s been a year and a half since I started writing. In that time I wrote half of my fantasy book, thought my writing skill was inadequate for the story (and pretty much everything else) and the world I had in mind, put it on hold in order to get more experience, started a new book and now… it’s finished. Even writing these words is hard, as my mind goes back and forth on that. To those of you have finished more than a book these words may read as too corny or too self-centred but to me this is huge. So bear with me please. I think I’ll be alright by next week. I think. I hope.

Some of you will be utilising this month to write as much as you can, thanks to NaNoWriMo. Whatever you do, no matter when you choose to do it (during NaNo or any other time in the year), just make sure you finish your book. That’s all that should matter. If you’re as passionate about it as I am (and most of you have started long before I did, so chances are you’re more passionate), then the rewards you’ll reap will be so many and so overwhelming 🙂

I’m going out to celebrate. I’m taking the day off. On Monday I’ll start working on a new short story and perhaps start outlining the next book 😉 It’s going to have a light cyberpunk theme to it, so it’ll be sci-fi. Too many ideas are floating in my head right now.


Dialogue has been one of the hardest things I have to tackle when I write. When I first started writing, I read somewhere that dialogue is the key to push a story forward. The article said (and that’s what has stayed with me since) that if the writer finds himself in a pickle as to how to proceed in a story, then have two characters talk about it and that should give a way out. Alas, having only days of writing experience back then, I failed to understand the deeper meaning of that. I followed it to the letter and earlier versions of my now-on-hold fantasy novel were plagued with dialogues that served nothing and were woody and lame.

Have I improved as a writer since? In many aspects, the answer is yes. Have I solved the problem with dialogue, improving the way I use it? I say this with the utmost sincerity; NO! It still gives me a very hard time BUT it’s not as bad as it was. Still, it’s my main problem when I write, so much so that sometimes I dread it.

The novel I’m about finish (2 1/2 scenes to go, yay!) takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. There are very few people left and those who have survived, are in hiding in as much dark places as possible (hence the title, The Darkening). Isolation (and its associated mental issues) are a key in the story. As a result, there’s very little dialogue involved, although there are times where that can’t be avoided, especially when the character is talking to the voices in his head. Later in the story, things change and when other characters appear, dialogue is unavoidable, along with my problems to write them convincingly.

So what does dialogue entail?

Virtually every book that is related to teaching us how to write fiction has at least one chapter devoted to dialogue and dialogue tags or non-dialogue tags (for the latter, I’m sure there’s a name but I’m afraid I don’t know it.) Dialogue tags are the little bits that follow (or sometimes precede) whatever a character says in the form of “he/she said.”
“Get off my property,” the old farmer said/ he said.
“Thanks,” she said.
Non-dialogue tags are somewhat longer sentences that are related to what a character says and they usually show to the reader something the character is doing while speaking or emphasize a character’s trait.
She put both hands on her hips and glared at him. “Well? What’s your excuse now?”
“Are you sure it’s safe?” He looked over her shoulder, biting his nail.
One of the main differences in these examples is that they tend to use different punctuation. Dialogue tags use a comma before the “he/she said” tag and “said” acts as a way of linking the two bits, whereas non-dialogue tags often use a full stop. Another difference is that in the case of non-dialogue tags, the sentence that follows or precedes whatever is in the quotation marks is a sentence of its own and is fully capable of standing on its own.

Both kinds are essential because they tell the reader who tells what and in what way.

My earlier writings were terrible because I thought that said was such a boring word, showing so little of each character’s emotional state, so I thought “let’s spice it up a bit, shall we?” So I used words like “replied,” “grated,” “reciprocated,” etc. The problem was (and still is) that English is not my native language. As a result language barrier would soon kick in, leaving me repeating the same words. So I’d run to my bookcase, get my dictionaries, go online to as many online thesauri as possible and find new words. But they were words I had never seen or used before. Which after a while made me think “If I don’t know that word, then there’s bound to be someone else out there who also hasn’t seen or heard this word as well.”

I think most of us have gone through a similar stage, when we started writing. It happens naturally, in our attempt to be original and to show that we have some potential with this whole thing. Instead of that, we end up making things worse for us. At least I did.

I don’t think dialogue needs anything more than “he/she said” at most cases. I hardly ever use anything other than that nowadays. I had read once an article that said there was no need to write “Fired? What do yo mean?” he/she grated. Instead of the word “grated” it was better to have the same character sitting at the edge of their chair, perhaps holding something on their lap or having them tapping their foot lightly, then having them stand up with such intensity, their chair would fall back, later banging the office door as they left the room. The dialogue mentioned above can be broken down to increase intensity and show the reader all the feelings and emotions within the word “grated.” Here’s an example:
Alan sat on the edge of his seat, his foot tapping slightly with a mind of its own. He had his eyes fixed on Mr. Boss, studying every move he made, while the man read through his file.
“Alan, I’m afraid we’re going to have to lay you off,” Mr Boss said and closed the file slowly. “You see, the company -”
“Fired?” Alan stood up so fast that he sent the chair flying back. “What do you mean? After all these years?”

It’s not the best description of a scene but you get the meaning, right? The first example tells us about the character’s emotions and reactions (grated is a rather descriptive word), whereas the second one (though a miserable attempt at it, I admit) SHOWS us all these things. And you can see both dialogue tags and non-dialogue tags in action.

I hope this helps a bit 🙂

Third short story titled “The Darkening” now published

Just a quick reminder to let you know that my third short story The Darkening is now published by Voluted Tales. The story appears in their special issue called “Darkness Internal” Issue 3. You can find it at

It’s a post apocalyptic horror story and it’s considerably shorter than the previous one, barely exceeding 2100 words, so if you choose to pay for the magazine and read it you should be able to finish it in one sitting.

The story deals with John, one of the few survivors from The Darkening, an event that brought each person’s shadow into life and eradicated the majority of the human race. Ever since then, John had to make some tough choices about life and death, particularly that of other people. In near isolation, he struggles hard to maintain some sort of humanity but his self-preservation instinct often kicks in.

I hope you enjoy it. It’s the one that inspired me to write the novel I’m working on and it should be enough to get you into the setting and mood of living in darkness.


The story I’m currently writing

A few weeks ago I had mentioned that I was working on two novel-length stories; a medieval fantasy and a post apocalyptic one. I had also mentioned that the medieval one was going to be a very long one, since it dealt with 6 different POV characters and a great deal of things happening.

Since then, I’ve read a fair amount of articles written by agents on how easy it is for a newcomer to break into the industry with anything longer than 100k words. I have yet to find one article that says it can happen (if you have read one, though, and you happen to remember it, please send me a link. I’m interested in things like that). The reason is that even if the agent likes the story, they have a hard time convincing a publisher to back it up financially, since the writer isn’t an established one. They fear (and it makes sense, to a certain extent) that without an established audience the book will fail financially.

For this reason, I decided it was time for me to focus on the post apocalyptic story. That doesn’t mean that I have discarded the other one; far from it. I still come up with ideas and take notes whenever I can. When the times is right, I will tackle that behemoth of a story but probably not before I have managed to have some novels under my belt.

So, what’s this post apocalyptic story about?

The title will most likely be “The Darkening” and it will deal with the difficulties one particular survivor faces, his isolation and the madness that creates and hidden secrets from his past that will slowly emerge as the story goes one. So far, there are two twists in the story, one of which is directly related to the main character. Oh yeah, I should probably mention this: the shadow each person casts is alive and it kills the person that created it. So, humans have to live in darkness. Interesting setting, don’t you think? 🙂

The story started off as a short story, no more than 2000 words in length and it’s one I’m still trying to find a home for in a magazine. It’s difficult though, since editors so far insist that it opens too many arcs and it feels to them like the part of a book. I didn’t get the idea to make it into a novel until long after I had finished it. In my eyes, the short story is complete and I’ll be extremely happy to see it published somewhere, since, as far as short stories go, this is my favourite one. It’s also the one I have worked the most on and the one that has gotten the most rejections so far.

So, this is what I’m working on at the moment.

Would you be interested in reading a sci-fi novel like that? Comment below and let me know what you think.