Monthly Archives: July 2013

What can the Sith teach us about becoming better writers?

You came to the wrong neighbourhood, Writer's Block.

You came to the wrong neighbourhood, Writer’s Block.

Today it struck me that I went over to the Dark Side a long time ago. I can’t pretend I’m particularly proud of myself, and nor do I condone my actions, but I do think that sometimes the bitter angst of the Sith has driven me to be a far more prolific writer. Why? Because being a newbie with a misconception that the entire publishing world is against me really opens the door to some hate-fuelled productivity. Here, let me show you;

Sith Tip 1) Go into a bookstore and stare at the thousands and thousands of books published by the thousands and thousand of authors who are better than you. Let the hate flow through you as you consider their success. Swear that one day you will be greater than all of them.

Sith Tip 2) Read books that are worse than yours. No, seriously, just because something’s been published, doesn’t make it a magnificent example of the human capacity for literary success. Nor does the fact  that you haven’t been published yet mean that the ink you print with is just a waste of Earth’s resources. Revel in bitterness as you consider that these people have been published whilst you have not. Yet…

Oh, what's this doing here?

Oh, what’s this doing here?

Sith Tip 3) Every time you complete a chapter that actually follows the prearranged plot, reward yourself by watching this video.

Sith Tip 4) Use your aggressive nature, boy. Never forget that if you aren’t typing, you’re worthless. You will never become an author, let alone a good one. Your family thinks you’re a waster and your girlfriend doesn’t really believe you’ll ever finish that novel. So overcome your writer’s block with stinging self-hatred.

Sith Tip 5) Remember, two there always are, a Master and an Apprentice. Or in this case, plot structure and characterisation, or description and action, or dialogue and beats. You get the idea.

Sith Tip 6) When you actually complete your first draft (preferably in the early hours of the morning, since your hateful conciousness kept you awake all night typing until your fingers bled), reward yourself by watching this video. Then execute Order 66 on that manuscript and get it redrafted a half dozen times.

Disclaimer – following these guidelines may lead to you being decapitated and burned to a crisp, or at the very least becoming excessively pale (like you aren’t already, sitting typing away in your basement). Just remember that now you are the learner, but one day you will be the Master.


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A Writer’s Worst Nightmare

If you’re a writer you should finish reading this post. Someday you’ll thank me, I promise. Image

There is one thing which I fear more than anything else on this planet, one thing that keeps me awake at night in a cold sweat. It haunts anyone who has ever sat down at a keyboard and opened a Word document.

It has happened to the very best of our kind. It has probably happened to you. And even if it has, you’re not safe. It will happen again. Take this as either a helpful reminder or a dire warning, it doesn’t matter – like I said, you’ll thank me one day.

This morning I woke up, rolled out of bed, opened my laptop, and pressed the power button. That process has happened most days in the three and a half years since I first got a laptop. What followed, however, was not what normally happens next.

The power button didn’t work. Nothing. I pressed it again. Again, nothing. No lights. No hum. No bright screen.  

I checked it was plugged in. Yup. Any signs of damage – did I stand on it in the night? Nope. Hit the power again.

Still nothing.

And thus the writer’s worst nightmare was realised.

Now this has happened before. A while back I broke the poor thing’s screen. Suitably horrified, I backed up everything after it was fixed. Thousands of documents and pictures and videos. But over two months and a lot of writing has passed since then, including the two thousand rather excellent words I bashed out and carefully saved last night.

It won’t do you much good if you save your Word files to your hard drive only for your computer to blow up.

I know you hear it all the time but seriously, fellow writers, back your stuff way up. Whether you just email yourself a first draft, or invest in a full separate hard drive (I’m considering it now), your caution will pay off, because I can guarantee you one thing – eventually your laptop or PC or electronic whatever will break. And the pain of losing hundreds of thousands of words will be almost unbearable.

Thankfully this little anecdote has a happy ending. Guided by the mysterious savants on the ‘Yahoo Answers’ (and before you yell “plot inconsistency,” I was using my PC for this bit) I removed the power cable, took out the laptop’s battery, held down the power button for 30 seconds, spun thrice and threw salt over my left shoulder, then reconnected the power and voila. For some tech-head-alone-knows-why reason it now works just fine.

And my inbox is full of a dozen new email attachments from one Robbie MacNiven.


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End of an Era: Robbie MacNiven, JukePop Serials’ most popular author, finishes “Werekynd.”


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5 Fun Facts about Writing and the End of Werekynd

Since my fantasy novel Werekynd ended today (see here for the violins and here for the actual final chapter) I thought I’d celebrate/lament with five brief facts about that last chapter and writing processes in general. They aren’t particularly fun – that was just a hook to get you reading. Gotcha. Image

Also, if you’ve not read the last chapter yet, spoilerz. If you don’t intend to or just don’t give a damn, read away! 

1) Red is one of the very, very few characters I’ve ever written who is based on a real-life person. In this case she’s a University friend who wanted in on all the carnage. The fact that “Little Red Riding Hood” was a perfect abstract-fairytale fit for a fantasy story about werewolf people honestly only occurred to me after the character was written up. Durrr. 

2) General Novo was going to survive the novel. Then, during a long, hot shower just before I finished the chapter, I decided he must die. But when I put fingers to keyboard, I couldn’t do it. Instead of a gutting he just gets a split lip. I’m a total sap. 

3) Roddick was never intended as a relatively major character, and certainly not the owner of the closing PoV. He was written up initially because I wanted a change of pace from the “serious business” types who populated the rest of the story, and because I needed to hit my monthly writing quota and couldn’t come up with anything satisfactory until I wrote his escape scene. If I could change one thing (and if this becomes a self-pubbed novel be damn sure that I can) then it would be going back and developing him further. You have been warned.

4) Vega’s name and personality is very loosely based on Vegeta from Dragonball Z. He was always my favourite, so it’s no surprise that Vega became my favourite character to write for in Werekynd. Unfortunately I’ve watching too much Games of Thrones recently, and someone cool had to die… 

5) My girlfriend came up with Sawtooth’s name. She actually wrote the chapter he first appears in, whilst I dictated like some sort of author-fuhrer. 

It’s really gutting to be leaving these characters behind, but I’ve promised Ulthric I’ll come back for him one day. Until then, it’s on to the next thing in the writing scheduled!

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When the Wolf Comes Home – Ending Werekynd

I first discovered Jukepop Serials on a rather excellent writing forum I still frequent now-and-then. Initially it all sounded too good to be true. Semi-pro pay for serialised novels in any genre? An inbuilt writing platform consisting of votes and feedback? Pull the other one.

But very occasionally you really can have your cake and eat it. And Jukepop has been a truly delicious cake.

After accepting the first chapter of my proposed serial Werekynd – Beasts of the Tanglewild in November 2012, I joined a rapidly growing list of fellow serial authors on the Jukepop site. That first chapter of mine, Crow Valley, had once been a self contained swords n’ sorcery short that had already been rejected by two other publishers. The fact that I made far more money from it and got much better feedback after going to Jukepop shows that one closed door can just turn you towards one that’s easier to break in through.

Werekynd has now run for nine months and accumulated a vast 5000 + votes. On Saturday it finishes with Chapter 34 – Warpwood Dreams and Tangled Destinies. I won’t be cringey and say “it’s been a great adventure.” In truth Werekynd is riddled with faults. I wrote it from month to month, guided only by the vaguest idea of where it was going. I wrote it so each instalment would excite, not follow a prearranged script. I wrote it because, despite what my subconscious likes to think, I’m still young and I’m still a newbie writer. And sometimes I can use those excuses to just kick back and write whatever the heck I want.

Because of this, over the past nine months I may just have become a little attached to Ulthric and Vega, Thomas and Red, Hrothgar and Venneck, Ferdano and Lorenzo, Novo and Roddick. It’ll be sad to say goodbye. But, despite all the inconsistencies and typos, not to mention trying to find new words to describe marshland mud, or lunging fantasy-werewolves, I really have enjoyed following their bloody romps. Damn it, it really has been an adventure.

I’d like to take the completed work and turn it into a self published novel. Whether life will grant me the time to do so remains to be seen – there’d have to be a lot of work done to bring it up to full, non-serialised novel standards. No more making it up each month.

Regardless of what fate befalls it, I’ve loved Werekynd, and I’d like to thank Jukepop for making its publication possible. Final praise, of course, goes to you the reader, for turning it from mere words-on-a-screen to a tangible, personal success. 

The final chapter will be up here on Saturday. Go check it out.


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