“Rome wasn’t built in a day”
And neither are long literary works. As you might imagine, I have a few projects running around vying for my attention and begging to be finished. Here you can keep track of those ongoing projects.
If you want to have a bit of a say in which project I should prioritize, let me know in the comments!
A Writer’s Guide to Realistic Worldbuilding
A writer is first and foremost a reader. One reads to learn how to write not only from a linguistic point of view, but also from a content point of view and for ideas on how to build, organize and structure one’s stories. And over the course of my own readings I’ve noticed that where a world is created from scratch for the purposes of a story, it often leaves something to be desired with regards to what we know of science and geography.
As it happens, following the publication of my first book, The Edge of Reason, I received feedback on the stories in the book that made me want to expand some of them into their own novels. One of those, “The Visions”, happens to take place in a fantasy world for which I only created very basic elements in the original text. So when I began considering this project I also naturally started to think about how to create that world in detail… How would I go about it? Where should I even start? What made the most sense?
And of course, I had to take into consideration that observation I mentioned two paragraphs ago, that many worlds in fantasy works don’t make much sense with regards to actual science and geography. So building on what I know and a lot of research to fine-tune that, I began to put together what seems to me like a logical sequence of steps for realistic world building, and progressively outlining it all, from its physical geography to its social and societal makeup.
And now it’s on its way to becoming its own publication, together with worksheets and map templates that I still need to finish putting together. Having asked around a bit in the world building community on Reddit, it sounds like there would definitely be a market for it, whether in the writing world or even in the tabletop role-playing games world.
This became my recent NaNoWriMo project, with which I finally won the challenge for the first time in three attempts.
Castles & Monsters
“A child sits on the doorstep of a house that’s not there.”
This prompt is excellent in that it gives so much room for interpretation. In my case, I chose to address a few topics in this novella, everything from social welfare systems to parental responsibility and a child’s maturity and awareness, as well as how children often deal with hardships in their lives and how resourceful they can be.
This novella tells the story of a woman who finds a boy sitting alone on a blank house foundation and sets out on a mission to help return him to his parents with nothing but his memories and his wits to help orient her search. This will take her down a frustrating path with alarming conclusions, but will also allow the boy to prove his worth.
I really like this novella, and the feedback I’ve received so far on it as it stands is very positive, but it does still deserve a bit of fine-tuning for realism and to resolve a few plot holes. I’d originally intended to finalize and release this story around mid-2020, but what with Covid-19, my own personal issues and, in any case, my moving plans, that never got done. But it’s still around, and will get finished!
Crazy by Necessity
It’s no secret to anyone with half a brain that we are all subject to various cognitive biases. But even with a full brain we find it difficult to take that necessary step back outside ourselves and realize what it is exactly we’re up to. But funnily enough, we’re all more than capable of seeing these absurd behaviors when we’re on the outside looking in.
This is what I wish to take advantage of in this next short story collection: illustrate various cognitive biases through short stories in order to help readers gain awareness of them, the reasons for them, the contradictions they raise and their consequences. The idea isn’t to tell people they’re wrong, it’s to highlight a natural and even evolutionary part of our behavior. So natural and evolutionary, in fact, that we would actually be ill advised to give them up in the first place! The point of this anthology would be not to point fingers at anyone, but to help teach people about natural and understandable behavioral trends they inevitably have.
Double standards, confirmation bias, selection bias, the Dunning-Kruger effect, etc. will all be demonstrated and illustrated in this book. And even if you don’t get the lessons, hopefully you’ll at least be entertained by the stories themselves.
This is the first big project that I started on when I embarked on this writing journey, inspired by a simple two-sentence horror story: “I stared at my face in the mirror. I swear I saw my reflection blink”. This gave me an idea for an entire novel, one that plays with a notion of the Multiverse in quantum physics according to Hugh Everett and Max Tegmark.
I even started writing some of the story, and have a first chapter that I’m fairly satisfied with, but things kind of went downhill from there. My second chapter is nowhere near as exciting, and I’m riddled with doubt about how to continue with the rest of it. I wanted to encourage myself to move ahead with it the first time I tried to complete the NaNoWriMo challenge back in 2017, but though I did manage to make some progress, I also happened to be on vacation in such amazing places that it would have been a bummer to miss out on the scenery and the visits, and I eventually dropped the objective.
More recently, I stumbled across a writing prompt that inspired another bit of the story, but a few chapters ahead of where I am already. So at the moment this book is at the stage where I’ve written chapters 1, 2, a bit of 3 and… a piece of 7. And I’m actually glad about that piece of chapter 7, because it ties into the story really well as a useful turning point in the main character’s story. But that moment of inspiration unfortunately didn’t last.
So yeah, this book is still in the works (kind of hard to say you’ve “shelved” a book that doesn’t exist yet), and I’m still fairly confident I can write a full story for it. It’ll be finicky and challenging, but I’ll definitely get back to it and finish it.
UPDATE: I’ve recently had a motivation boost regarding this project, so I’ll be making this my NaNoWriMo 2022 project!
A Warning for History
This book will be much more complicated to finalize because of the new concept I have in mind for it. In fact, I’m not even sure I’ll make it a book. I might actually choose a completely different format for this one.
The idea behind it will be to examine a potential escalation of the world’s modern geopolitical situation across multiple theaters. But the twist is in the presentation: Rather than present a single, linear account that will inevitably influence the readers at the beginning and lead them to root for one party over another, I will provide the reader with various pieces of disconnected material, everything from interview transcripts to military orders to newspaper articles to government declarations and laws to personal letters and diary entries from each theater. The aim will be to expose the reader to various documents written from various perspectives. It will hopefully help raise awareness of the importance of listening and paying attention to various sides of an issue before making up one’s mind, and show people how complicated things are already without people butting in and throwing their own opinions into the food mixer. I’m hoping to stoke a renewed interest in common sense and critical thinking, in order to help people deal more constructively with one another in such situations.
And of course, precisely because I don’t want the beginning of the book to influence the reader’s opinions right off the bat, I’m hoping to find a way to present those various pieces of content in different orders to each reader as they come to it. The aim here would be to sow different seeds in different readers’ minds as regards each theater of the situation, the actors, actions and consequences of each one. This would give each reader a different perspective for when they discuss it with others, and would help them understand what can be gained from having a more nuanced and understanding approach to things in the world in general.
Writing prompts can lead to the most unexpected things. During one of my own writing meetups, I started a story about a folder left abandoned on a park bench, and wrote an embryo of a story that started as just a casual picnic in a park and ends in a spy thriller with an unusual suspect and intricate plot.
I’ve just about finished writing the story, but I’m going to need to do some pretty serious readjusting because of the pacing which I feel isn’t quite right.
I really like what I did in general with this story. I explore several psychological behaviors and how professional responsibility, a sense of duty, the need for secrecy and care for loved ones interact when the situation gets urgent. I go into the sacrifices that may or may not be necessary under some circumstances for the sake of the mission.
This is my longest fiction story to date, slightly longer even than Castles & Monsters already, so these two are an interesting excursion into more novella/short novel territory. I even considered publishing the two together in the same book, but Castles & Monsters is almost done and I’d really like to get that one out soon while this one still needs a lot of work.
Another prompt-based story, shaping up to reach close to 7-8k words. The prompt referred to a family driving out of town and never looking back.
My interpretation of this prompt was that there is a good reason for the family to be moving out, one that is revealed as the story progresses. I also got the idea to explore the events from each of the characters’ perspectives, and am working on structuring the story accordingly. Think “A Song of Ice and Fire”, with short chapters each told from one character’s point of view.
I’m very optimistic about this story so far, I feel it’s impactful and interesting. It’s been fascinating to put myself in the characters’ mindsets to consider the events of that story from all these angles, then convey all of it in writing. I really feel I’m expressing myself on their behalf. And I get emotional, angry, scared, conflicted and stressed out on their behalf even as I write.
I will keep this page updated as these projects advance! In the meantime, if any of these particularly tickle your fancy, feel free to let me know in the comments below which one you think I should work on first! I’ll read your comments and follow your advice!