Behind the Scenes

I have a favourite saying: 90% of research will never make it onto the page. It’s great to bandy about percentages like that, but it seems like an accurate estimation from my experience.

I love the research which is associated with my fiction, because I love learning and acquiring knowledge. It’s easy, too easy, to get caught up in discovering new pockets of the world we live in and delving deep into the detail and minutiae. But, by far the majority of any information I unearth will never translate to prose. It will not be added into the literal text of my story. What that bulk of knowledge will do is build a stable foundation for the written work to rest upon.

Facebook friends will know I’ve been working on a piece of short fiction known only as the unexpected story. It has an asteroid in it. When the flash of unexpected inspiration overtook me, I put in some place holder name for said cosmic rock, because I needed to get the words out of my head as quickly as my fingers would allow, and there was no time for checking into the facts of asteroid naming conventions. Once the first rush had passed, I could hit the internets and find out as much material as possible, and adjust the story accordingly.

Upon discovery of any significant rock hurtling through the vacuum of space, it gets a provisional designation, using a specific system to state the year, which half of the month, and its order of discovery for that time frame. For example, the eighth object found on June 10th, 2015, should receive a provisional designation of 2015 LG. Cool stuff to learn, but not what I wanted to know, no matter how interesting.

I kept looking and read that when the asteroid’s orbit is calculated, it changes to an official sequential number, in order of its discovery in relation to every other astronomical object previously found. They can also get a temporary alpha-numeric code based on when and where they were initially spotted. Well, still neat, but not quite to the point of straight-up naming an important asteroid.

I got to the good stuff and learnt there are some pretty strict guidelines for naming a celestial body of any kind. Follow the specific rules, you can propose a name, and the space committee will have final say over approving the name. But the really fascinating part, and the most important for my story in particular, is that Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) should be given a name from mythology that is not associated with the underworld or creation themes. Now we’re getting somewhere. There are lists published with all the names already used. It runs heavily into Greek and Roman mythos, unsurprisingly, but that isn’t a requirement for an asteroid.

So, I took my new knowledge, and flicked through some of my older research, which extensively covered gods from multiple cultures. In the end, I had to choose a fertility deity who comes from Australian Aboriginal culture, for all the myriad reasons it worked in the story. My asteroid is Anjea.

And without this blog post, no one would especially know, because none of this explanation ever makes it to the page. It’s important to the story, not in it.



Surprise, this is what you’re writing now

I have been absolutely consumed by a new story.

I was doing so well! A strong start on book two of the novella series, getting through a quick edit on book one, then all of a sudden I’m just hit with this idea. It came to me almost fully-formed, ready to go. Characters popped out of nowhere, with flawless interaction, solid personalities and reason for being. I kept interrupting work to write parts of it, and as soon as I arrived home, I got right back into it.

At this stage, from what I can tell, it’s probably another short story. Horror, maybe a little more “typical” than my other horror works, which tend to be very psychological with minimal blood and gore. I don’t know an approximate word count yet, but I’m hoping it won’t take too long to write. I was genuinely enjoying the novellas. The characters in that series are really exciting to write about, and there is so much potential. This, though… this is just stuck in my head, and I’m certainly not going to let it go to waste by working around it, even if I am somewhat torn between my stories.

There’s a good chance that I’ll write part of the story and come to a point where I don’t need to continue right away; there are plenty of others in my project list that have taken that route. Of course, with it already started, I shouldn’t have any trouble coming back to it at a later date to finish it off. On the other hand, I might just be stuck with the idea until I’ve written it all out.

One of the funniest things about this story? The characters came to me with names already, all except the main character. I have no idea what his name is. Maybe it will never be revealed. Maybe he is to remain nameless. We will have to see as it all pans out.


The story of names

To lead off with, I completed the full first draft of my fantasy novella, currently known as TDM, sometime late Sunday. I am super pleased with having it finished, and I’ve jumped straight into writing the draft of its sequel/series-mate because I am so enthusiastic about this collective piece!

[Side note: I haven’t been able to update Facebook at all since Saturday, so that explains my sudden silence/lack of updates!]

If you’ve seen my projects list (found on the Ashlee’s Writing page), you might notice that some of the abbreviated names have changed. This is a large part of why I don’t list the projects by their full titles; when they are a work in progress or even just planning stages, the name of the story can change in a snap. Book two, now AEN, didn’t have a firm title until yesterday, and the name itself will help shape the direction the story goes (it fills in a small but significant detail).

In traditional publishing, it’s pretty commonly known that the author’s chosen title can change. That was always one of the things that concerned me about eventually shopping my work around. They say don’t get too attached to the name, but the name of a thing is a very important aspect of its whole. And frankly, I know of more than enough books which have been printed with pretty terrible names (and worse covers), so I can’t imagine the industry as a whole is that much better at naming than I am.

Character and place names are also significant, and can take a lot of work to get right. Sometimes when I’m writing these fantasy stories, I get really nervous that my naming treads are getting… you know, too “fantasy”. What kind of notion is that! I know that I’m generally very reasonable about creating names, too, but when my main character ends up with something four syllables long, I worry that others might see it and think, “wow, that’s really clichéd”. But it suits her. And after 40,000 words with her, it feels completely natural.

But the concern is there, and I admit that. When you’re creating locations, mythical races, and people who wield magic, some names fit, and some don’t. I’m the kind of person that puts heaps of thought into the naming of things. The spelling, the way it’s pronounced, how the name looks in text, it’s all taken into consideration. This goes for all names. Book titles, people, whatever needs its own proper noun.

I still haven’t settled on a name for the whole series, either!


I didn’t write, because I was writing!

Yesterday is a haze of words and writing and tapping away merrily. Obviously that doesn’t include creating a blog post, but I’ve declared my efforts yesterday a rousing success!

I don’t like the idea of measuring things too much. If I wrote this amount of words, or kept at it for that amount of time. We all know there are days when you slave away for hours, and your pour out thousands of words, then find out that they are part of a scene you scrap entirely. That’s okay! Those hours and those thousands of words were just part of the practice that turns us into better writers. They aren’t a waste! They aren’t really lost! But it puts the achievement scale into a different perspective to me.

Other days, you might jot out a handful of lines, and that be your only writing work for the day. Or the whole week! But those words might be a pivotal point in your story, and the enormity of it all has to stew for a while before you can really put it together.

So instead of making measurements (don’t worry, I still glance at the “words added today” bar when I’ve saving and closing down for the night!), I just celebrate the effort. I’ve been thinking and thinking and thinking about these stories. I tried to plan them a little more thoroughly, but it got to the point where I just needed to get them out from sheer excitement. So I’m back to my usual, “I know where this is going, but how we get there is a bit murky for now”. I guess this is just how I write!

I also happened upon the relieving success of finding the right name for a character. It had been evading me since the beginning, but I have something going here that seems to be pretty awesome. Now I can just charge through the rest of the story with a carefree demeanour, and see how we arrive at our destination!