Sunday 26 February 2012

Plotting a Gamebook

I'm now three quarters of the way through working on the big annotation project, about another one hundred and fifty pages to go.  I needed a break so I've spent a couple of hours working on the outline for my next gamebook.

This book is going to be different from the last sci-fi/fantasy thing, and is instead a detective story. Here's the plot being laid out one pencil scribble at a time...

It's only about half done in this picture and of course it's the first draft so there may well be much rubbing-out in the near future.

I'm finding that plotting this genre is significantly more difficult than the fantasy genre. In a fantasy book you can just add a new monster or use magic to provide an exit from any situation, but in a real-world book I don't have magic to fall back on. So instead I have to come up with a more realistic way out.  The plotting continues...

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Getting frustrated

Grrr.  I feel like I'm writing noting at present. What little time I can dedicate to writing I'm using on the "annotation" project.  It doesn't let me set lose the muse, I have to be quite restrained.  It's also a long process that I'm starting to dread.

I look at the file on the computer and let out a wheeze.

It's not that the job is boring, or that the text I'm working with is uninspired. It's just such a long job.  Of course I know, the longest job is the one never started, so that's why I keep working through this thing.  But... sheesh, it's so long!

When I finish the first pass/draft I may have to have a "Creme Egg & Pepsi Max celebration" TM . Now that's something to look forward to, maybe I should keep my eyes on that!

Saturday 18 February 2012


As mentioned in a previous post a KA Cartlidge and myself recently released a gamebook featuring "Tars Tarkas" a secondary character from a book that's in the public domain.  To our disgust and horror we only just discovered the name "Tars Tarkas" has been trademarked!

Although the original book is in the public domain, a company has trademarked the names of pretty much all of the characters. As a couple of hobbiest authors we are not in any position to mount a legal battle over anything, so for the moment have withdrawn the products from sale until we decide what to do.

It's a blow, but not an insurmountable one. It has highlighted the danger and trouble you can run into using someone else's world, even if it's in the public domain.  Whatever we decide to do with this project, I have learnt that I should do a trademark search before starting writing in someone else world.

I'm going to file this one under "Doh!" ... or maybe not, because that word has been trademarked too!

Thursday 16 February 2012

New outlet

I found a new outlet for some of my works today. It's called Drive Thru Fiction which hosts a lot of "genre" fiction, anything from short stories to full novels.  I've had a product or two on DriveThruRPG for a while but for some reason never noticed that they has this sister site.

Never one to miss an opportunity I've already uploaded one short story into their shop and others will follow soon.  

Wednesday 15 February 2012

A sea of Red!

My Lovecraft inspired short story "Incursion" has returned from the editor. Yikes!  It's a sea of red ink. Things crossed out, sentences circled, suggestions edged in round the side and requests for clarification. Oh, and the ending was a bit too quick.

I find it astounding that I write, then I edit, then I double check before anyone else sees it. Then when it comes back looking like its under a red film of ink I am always surprised.  I ask myself, what can I have missed this time!?! Looking through the notes made on the hardcopy it becomes all too obvious what I missed.

I think there must be a better way for me to edit. I did consider submitting it to the "Bookoven" project, but that is only a typo and grammar thing, and it only examines one sentence at a time. My first drafts need "bigger picture" editing than that.

I'll let this edit sit for a while yet, as I'm working on an "annotation" project at the moment and only 120 pages into a total 456. Once I get the draft on that complete, then I'll come back and implement the red text OF DOOM!

Thursday 9 February 2012

Back to work

With all the activity relating to my latest book release, I've been able to spend very little time on other writing projects.

I have two short stories on the go at the moment. One is with my editor, the other in a draw waiting for me to come back to it. That I'll give another week or so, then go back for my first editing pass. Once that's done that too will go on to the editor.

Tonight I'm starting on the outline of another gamebook. That is, a novel split into very small segments each ending with a choice for the reader to make that directs them to the next segment to read.  The Tars book was a collaborative venture, this one will not be. I'm trying a new genre with this little project, "hard-boiled".

I've not written anything in the hard-boiled genre before, so I'm looking forward to the change.  It's a detective story too, so planting clues for the reader to find is going to be a fun part of the challenge.

I've started by plotting the path-to-success.  The is the main and most direct route to the "good" ending. Once that is all laid out I'll start pencilling in the main alternate branches that wont have such good endings or that might even have "bad" endings where the good guys might die!

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Gamebook released in ePUB format

My latest collaborative book project has started to become available via electronic outlets. "What is it?" you ask!

Well, here it is. Tars Tarkas of Mars. This book is based in the "John Carter of Mars" universe and is a prequel of sorts to the first John Carter book, "Princess of Mars".

In this gamebook adventure we follow Tars as he carries out a solo mission to recover a lost treasure.

It's not an ordinary novel, but rather a game in a book. You read the first entry and are given some choices about what you want the protagonist to do, and depending on the choices you make you will read different segments, thereby controlling how the story is told and the eventual outcome.

Your choices in this game can lead to the successful completion of the mission or even to the death of Tars!  Check out the Kindle link below and take a look at the sample, if you've never seen this sort of thing before you're in for a surprise.

The book is available as a DRM free ePUB from and on the Kindle.  Soon to appear in print as a print-on-demand book, and in the iBook and Nook stores.

WITHDRAWN FROM SALE UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE ( just found out that "Tars Tarkas" is trademarked, what a bummer!)

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Hard copy from the POD for proofing

Today I received a hard copy of the gamebook from the P.O.D. company. It sure does look good, but of course I'm biased!  The cover put together by my collaborator has really popped into life when printed on shiny card. He's done an outstanding job of work.

I'm glad I paid for this copy as it's highlighted a couple of issues that need to addressed and a revision made.  Just like all stories need to be revised and edited before release, print editions all need to be printed and checked before going public.

In this case the bar code on the rear has crossed over some of the blurb text; it's come out significantly larger than I expected. Secondly despite all of the read throughs and double and triple checking, there is a sub heading that is not highlighted as it should be. Drat! and double drat!  You must always check the release before you blurt out and tell the world.  If I hadn't checked I could have been pushing a sub-standard text on an unsuspecting public.  However the joy of POD is that I can just make a minor revision online and it will be good to go!

Sunday 5 February 2012

Editing a short story

With no other new story idea burning in my soul, I took the opportunity today to go through my first edit on a story I call "Incursion".  I finished the first draft of this a week or two ago. On this first edit I was just doing the basics.

  • Checking for spooling mistaks
  • Making sure each sentence actually makes sense.
  • Trying to remove repeated words that I repeat.
  • Adding the odd detail to scenes to increase flavour.
  • Correcting awkwardly worded bad sentences

The story is a tongue in cheek Lovecraftian tale, that I'll be branding as a "Lovecraftian short". the third of my stories in that mould. there may be a collection of these at some date in the future.

And a quote from the story...

"Her name is Georgina." He explained.
"Is that a crystal ball?"
"Oh yes. She's very good with it."
I stared at the professor. "What is this place?"
"We are the governments special research and defence division."
"Special..." I was lost for words. "What sort of government work is Georgina doing with a crystal ball?"

Saturday 4 February 2012

Finished a first draft

I've just finished the first draft of another short story. It's the first in what I hope will pan out to be a series of short stories featuring in the genre of "giant fighty robots".  Here's the stories opening...

Sergeant Karen Nowak lent her chair back from the briefing table, reaching for a cup of coffee as she did so. “No way, Rosco if they start taxing people for windows they’ll be revolution.”
“I know that, you know that, but these” Corporal Orosco pointed to the news article displayed on his tablet. “are career politicians. They’re about as far from real people, from reality as you can get. Not one of them has ever had a real job!”

It's first a draft, so none of your nit picking!  I probably wont edit it for at least a week. This draft is 8824 words and under the provisional title of "AMRAT: the Bank Heist".

Nearing the end

My currently most advanced writing project is a collaboration.  It's the first collaborative writing project I've ever worked on and has been a blast.  It's also the first "game book" or "gamebook" that I've ever written.

Now there is a chance that you kind reader do not know what a gamebook is!

Simply put, it is not a traditional novel but rather a game in the form of a novel. The story is split into  numbered entries, usually a paragraph or two long each. You start reading at the beginning and after a page or two are presented with a story based choice. As an example, you might be informed that if you want the protagonist to take the left hand fork you should turn to entry109 or if you want the protagonist to to take the right, turn to entry 205. Almost every entry ends with a similar choice, thereby giving the reader the chance to guide the narrative.

There have been a number of game books over the years and some very famous brands, the two best known being "Choose your own adventure" and "Fighting Fantasy". Our book follows in the footsteps of the latter in that it is a fantasy adventure style game that actually calls upon the reader to roll a die now and then in certain situations.

The collaborative nature of writing the book has been fun.  We started by devising an overall plot then split the actual task of writing so that we had 2 sections each to write.

I found this style of writing rather different from usual.  For a start, each entry had been plotted out before the actual writing began, it was like have an outline detailed right down to the individual page level. It made the physical writing extremely easy.  Each night as I sat down to compose an entry or two, I didn't have to consider plot, it was already detailed. All I had to do was effectively fill in the blanks.

I had in the region of two hundred entries to write, most of those I wrote at the rate of two or three per evening and then up to as many as ten on Saturdays and Sundays.  It gave me a very simple writing experience.  No planning or plotting each time I sat down to write, no need to reread the last chapter as the story was kept fresh in my mind as I was writing every day. Just writing a couple of entries meant I would only spend at most half an hour at the keyboard before getting on with something else.

I'm currently preparing a P.O.D. version of the finished book to go on sale at LuLu, with luck that might be finished this weekend.  After that my esteemed partner-in-this-crime will be preparing other digital formats which we'll put online as they are completed.