Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Before we start, I would like to let you know that this is not a review per se, but more like a breakdown of my thoughts that formed as my reaction to finishing that book. It will be more about my experience of finishing the book and be a self-analysis as to order my thoughts. It will most definitely be biased, probably inconsistent, at times irrational, but above all, it will be my sincere thoughts. I don’t need that whole idea of being critical, unbiased, and unemotional when talking about this book, for the reason I read it was – the reason I read the whole series was – to feel emotions, to laugh and cry and give a half-smile every time there is a witty remark. I don’t need to be a critic every time; sometimes I just wish to be the reader who does not care about all of that, and only cares about the way the book makes you feel. Well folks, this is the time I do that.

I am, undeniably and irreversibly, a sucker for high fantasy, and the Inheritance Cycle is pretty much as archetypal as high fantasy goes. It has all the obvious key elements, and you have to accept that the setting will be similar to most of high fantasy novels. That is the great curse of high fantasy: while the workings of your setting besides the usual fantasy build-up may be rich beyond what most minds can conjure, may be so intricate and vast at the same time, once the reader thinks that “it’s the same with any other fantasy book”, there is no turning back for him. You have no power, none at all, to convince him otherwise once he starts with that assumption. The whole series is very easy to like, and just as easy to dislike. Take this as not a rant, but a simple statement of facts.

So, coming to emotions. The first reaction I could ever give to this series ending was a bitter smile. I had not been overly excited about Inheritance before I started reading it, nor was I particularly in a hurry to read it. In fact, it has been over two months since I have bought it, and during the time it was a low priority due to university and the other waiting books in my shelves. But, amidst going between Murakami and Oğuz Atay, I found myself unable to continue reading anything. For one reason or another, reading them became impossible. I have no answer as to why this has happened, but it was Inheritance that got me out of it. After just a single chapter, I was hooked again to the adventures of Eragon.

Bear with me while I do this rather obvious observation, for I wish to record this here, where I can read again if there comes a time where I forget why I like these in the first place. It is the combination of high fantasy and young adult genres that made this work for me. I don’t remember the exact year I have read the first book of the series, Eragon, but since the film came out in 2006 and I had read the book beforehand, so it has been about 6-7 years since I have read it. And back then, it was easy to identify myself with Eragon, as one might expect. That is kind of the point of the whole young adult genre. It still is the main reason that I enjoy the series; the fact that characters are absolutely human. Even those who are hard to grasp fully (and were intended to be that way) give us enough reason to believe they are real, and for me that seems to be the driving point of this series. It is a delicate balance you have to capture in high fantasy setting, when you are creating races that in a way transcend over mankind. You cannot voice an elf or a dragon the same way you do a human, lest it destroy the aura that they are a race that are powerful beyond men’s reach and lose all credibility. But you also have to give a foothold to the workings of their minds, so that they are not completely unrelated to the reader. You have to create a relation, an understanding between any worthwhile race you have created and mankind. By design, the reader wants the dragons to be mystique and nobler than men, yet if their reactions are not understandable, their power undermines themselves. And Christopher Paolini seems to have enough a grasp on the issue to make the world of Alagaesia more than satisfactory. The characters and the POVs we experience throughout the series are also top-notch in keeping to their personalities, and the changes in their personalities are consistent with the experiences they undergo.

Ahem, I had not wanted to go in that analytical direction. My aim was to show that Inheritance Cycle is very character dependant. The characters are not the instrument to the storyline, but rather, storyline is the experience in which the characters live and grow. There is some distinction between the two.

Another thing that I would like to touch is what I want to call Big Bad syndrome. Too often do we see the main antagonist, said to be all-powerful and capable of destroying the hero if he actually wanted, opt in to ignore the hero as the hero grows in power and becomes powerful enough to challenge the antagonist. Luckily, the antagonist in Inheritance continues to amaze us with his power and knowledge throughout the book, and that kind of counters the Big Bad syndrome. Of course, things would have been different had the King been gracious enough to move his royal backside before the whole story transpired, but he did continue to give us the aura that his reign was absolute, even throughout the final battle.

There is also the fall-off for this character based approach, for the actual character development may not be parallel to the one you imagined in your mind. There are two unanswered romances that were pretty much unsatisfactory for me in Inheritance. While one has been cultivated throughout the books, and had a respectable end to it, I feel it was a misplay by Paolini, for it could have been solved through other means. *Spoilers* I am talking about the relationship between Arya and Eragon of course. After Arya’s dragon hatched, she had all the means to escape being the queen and join Eragon in raising the other dragons. But, she was conveniently “convinced” that she was better off being a queen and a rider, a situation which has been called throughout the series a taboo. There needed not to be immediate romance between the two, but it would have made more sense for Arya to join Eragon. *Spoilers End* The other was hinted at, built on throughout the last book, and was simply forgotten in the end. *Spoilers* Paolini, you throw Murtagh and Nasuada to us, and simply forget it at the end? Not nice. *Spoilers End* Overall, these two smell incomplete, and you do not want to have things unpurposefully incomplete. Paolini himself said that he will be touching the world of Alagaesia, so we will see what he might bring to the table.

As with all things, I cannot say that my view of how those relationships should have developed is the hands-down best option. But I feel that I know these characters enough so that I could have shaped a better development for them. Only after I finished Inheritance did I realize that the characters had already become irreplaceable for me. That is actually the easiest way to judge whether or not the characters were well done, since if you feel sad that you won’t be seeing them again, they are probably likeable enough. Of course it is harder to feel that way if you read the series in a short period of time, so it is not exactly reliable, but I know these characters will be dearly missed.

There is no way around it; the reason I gave off that bitter smile was the knowledge that I probably won’t be seeing any of them again in the way I have experienced in the series, but also the fact that (as a proud parent would say) they have done well.

There are probably much more to be talked about, but I just wanted to end this post with that sentence.

They have done well.

Word Count Per Day

Posted: February 1, 2011 in writing
Tags: ,

If you’ve ever thought of becoming a writer, and felt inspired enough to read into it, you might’ve noticed many writers try to set you a quota, a certain number of words you have to write, if else you are doomed to fail. Stephen King’s magical number is 2000, NaNoWriMo actually expects us to churn out 50k a month which averages to 1.667 words per day, any many websites actually offer tips for writing more than a thousand words a day. I myself aim to get 500 words down a day, which is not all that hard. The average word count in this blog (without factoring in posts like yesterday’s) should be about 450-500. All in all it takes about an hour with every distraction possible, so if you’ve got time to spare, it shouldn’t be hard, right? Wrong.

The actual reason behind setting a word quota for one day is continuity. Which I absolutely suck at. If you are not working on a novel and simply aim to get x words done by evening purely for self-satisfaction, be my guest. Posting in a blog is easy, you just have to speak your thoughts about something for x words and you’re done. If you’re a novelist, 500 words suddenly become a daunting task. You have to follow a certain plot (or at least, a plot), have to deal with characters, setting, and whatever else comes to your mind (none come to mine at the moment). And no matter how much you have written, you are never done with it, not until you put down the last word of the novel and call it a day. Which simply never comes. Between the time you start your first draft and you, the first time novelist, get published, years pass. The tension is not good for your brain. Writing kills (which is cool enough to be a blog title, and has left me wondering why I haven’t thought about it before).

So if you are demotivated enough now, lets talk about my take on this word per day business. I am trying to write a novel, but haven’t worked on it for months. This post was actually meant to motivate myself into writing, but it’s already out of the question. I now aim to finish a scene in one sitting, without bothering with the word count of that scene. Since some days I can only find time to scribble a sentence or two at most, I simply don’t write those days. I regularly get two free days that I can sit and write a scene in a week, and I try for 3 scenes per week. Scenes are to me the smallest coherent parts of a novel, and you should ideally finish getting them across before you go to sleep. Works fine with smaller scenes (your main character visiting his grandfather), but if you’re in for a climactic showdown between the evil king and the forces good, you have to divide it up further still. The evil king boasting his invulnerability could be one, you protagonist activating the super secret power of love another, and the “No! You cannot win!” speech of the evil king as he dies would be the third. Of course if you’re writing a fast paced action novel you would have to write more than a few scenes per week, but fantasy authors can leisurely write 3 scenes a week and still have something to show at the end of the year.

In the end you just have to continue writing. It’s fine if you have to take a break for a week since you’ve got finals the next week, but don’t turn it to a month-long holiday. Don’t leave your novel hanging until you forget why you started it in the first place. Just like listening to music does improve your drumming skills, reading a good book also improves your writing prowess. But if you don’t write, even if you are a world-renowned writer, you will accomplish nothing. Practise is supposed to make perfect. Make it happen.

[The first sentence is obscured by pen beyond being readable, and as such, we are unable to produce the actual aim of this writing.}

You cannot create something from nothing. It has happened once, for reasons unbeknownst to men, and will never again. That is the fate of the universe, if it can be called that. That’s just how it is.

Writing is akin to forging your thoughts, feelings, and if it is any good, you. You cannot forge that which does not exist in any other form, just like a sword that had once been a simple metal. Thoughts, happenings, and even just the simple act of living may give birth to something elegant, a piece of writing that is, without doubt, you. It is what is carved out of the jungle of inconceivable thoughts, put into words only.

I can never gather my thoughts about anything (recently read books, imminent questions) without first putting it into words, in the means of writing. Perhaps that is the reason why I am writing this in the first place, this being a question of no apparent importance and probably to be answered later in this writing. It will be inevitable since it is the nature of thought to crave for what is unknown, the unknown at this time being the reason to this random selection of words.

Is it a failure to think that you cannot even think without first writing about it? Does that sentence even makes sense? Makes a pretty much failure of a human being, who is ubiquitously known for his social needs, I’d say. I know I continue to prove this day by day, during my interactions with other human beings. A shame, that. Nothing to be done about it, seeing I’m still writing just to get my brain straight.

Nonetheless I can feel the emotions a human being feels and if I cannot even experience the rather abundant emotion of love at the moment, I find consolidation in which I can produce an emotion so solemnly warm as love while writing, experiencing its effects on writing without even bothering to experience it firsthand.

Writing is a lonely experience, being a writer, probably more so. If one aspires to be a writer, does one consciously aim to have a lonely heart, to think by his head alone whilst the society operates in groups of two or more? The current basis of this society lies in couples, or rather, groups of two or more. Can one ever be such a simpleton to try to defy a behemoth, created by the collective consciousness of many, including the writer himself? With the hope of victory slim, if even existant, is it even wise to attempt it? Does the fact that hundreds of thousands attempt it a proof otherwise? A man can only guess. This one likes to think the entirety of the writing community is a gather of masochists who seeks to fulfill their desires by the use of a form of conversation named writing.

A form of conversation, is it? Maybe not necessarily a conversation with others, since it would be unwise to consider it for an actual means of having a discussion, the direct talk being the rather easier and universally accepted way. No, it is a means of conversing with your brain, an act that sounds ridiculous at best. No matter the image, the actuality remains that one just cannot hold a decent enough conversation with one’s brain to answer the key questions one has to ask to oneself, who actually am I? What is my purpose here? Why would a concept like right or wrong matter?

Now, if only anybody has tried to think this through, you must ask your brain these questions, and it has to answer you for you to know the answer of it. Only, it doesn’t. Rather stupid of him, but it needs a means of projecting what you need through mediums other than thought itself. Thoughts get distracted easily, appear and disappear as they wish, and are largely unreliable. Writing is just another form of your brain trying to communicate some sense into yourself. More often than not it will be a random clutter of words, unidentifiable in their meanings, but the single hope is that once the clutter of words are complete, it will provide a message to you, that which your brain had been wanting to make you understand all along.

I conclude this writing session as I have run out of paper and can’t be arsed to — [the writer trails off at this point, most probably having run out of paper on a trip and unable to continue it later as the thoughts have already evaporated from the mind.]

Often times we find ourselves in a lack of motivation, finding the time to write only between work and sleep, and even then spending that time on countless insubstantial episodes (blogging comes to mind.) Stephen King’s advice of 2000 words a day probably is  for only the full-time writers, yet it is without doubt that reading and writing a lot will inevitably raise your writing prowess. But, I hear you say, my life is torn between things I have to do, and things I want to do, and I can’t write between all of the havoc? Fear not, friends, for NaNoWriMo will make sure that writing takes your #1 place in things you want to do, and motivate you beyond reason.

The National Novel Writing Month, taking place every November, where people all across the continents gather to share the love and passion of writing.

Pictured: NaNoWriMo contestants

 

OK, that’s a huge lie. It’s a place where some strange people gather to share how crappy they can write when forced to write 1667 words per day for a month. The pain of forcing yourself to write that many words every day is akin to self-mutilation, which more and more people joining in every year. 50000 words in a month is madness unlike any other.

Last year, at my first time in NaNoWriMo, I burned out half-way during the month. Tried too hard, accomplished too little, and eventually scrapped the idea at a rather crappy 23000 words. Only after that I realized my priorities have not been set straight. I tried a delicate balance between writing fast and writing coherently. And that defied every concept this event wanted to achieve.

I do not like to write – I like to have written.” says Gloria Steinem in a quote I’ve decided to shamelessly rip-off from another pep-talk. That’s the spirit of NaNoWriMo (not ripping off, though you are absolutely free to do so), for its inevitable that you’ll feel like you hate writing during the whole month, but once December comes and you are able to look back at what you have produced, you’ll be able to say that you have written a novel. It will be a mass of unintelligible word-dump, yet it will be something, whereas before the month it was nothing.

I’m proud to say that I’ll be including this very blog post in my NaNovel, and whatever essays I write will be going there. You don’t need to hold back, nobody will judge you. It’s the word that counts, not the sentences. Perhaps I could even go into great lenghts in my novel as to why I am including this excerpt and how this blog post can possibly help my hero in his quest to world domination, even though there is no internet in Middle Earth (or whatever my fantasy world is called). The freedom is yours.

Pictured: Your idol for the month.

Be shameless, use whatever you can to achieve 50000 words before clock strikes midnight in November 31. For a single month, don’t live your life, and let your characters live their own. Don’t bother with plot holes, character development, and for this cause, not even with plot development. Let your stereotypical American character struggle to eat with chopsticks for over 3000 words. If it means having written a book, so be it.

Already more than halfway behind,

Xyllan, 13465 words.