Sark & Guernsey

My mistakes fuel these pages.  Every creature, setting element, or plot hook that I create then can’t use, or store for later use, eventually lands here. This page is so blank because this time, everything went into the pie. There are no offcuts. Every section header was planned before the writing began. It was, from the very limited perspective of some people who write about how to freelance, perfect, in that time for dollar, it had the highest possible return.

In my later books, which I can’t discuss yet, I’ve not worked this way. Instead I’ve gone back to a very organic style of writing, which leaves all sorts of scraps and remnants. This is exactly the wrong thing to do, when I compare it with much of the writing advice I receive.

The reasons I’m deliberately working with “bad” freelancer technique are remarkably simple, and I hope, as convincing for you as they are for me.

  • I’m not doing this for a living, and nor will I ever do this for a living. I am, therefore, not a professional, I’m a paid hobbyist. Writing like a professional, beyond the basic good manners of meeting deadlines, is boring. Also, a lot of the guys telling me to emulate them have written less that I have, so I’m not sure on what authority their claims are made.
  • Ars Magica is a game which derives much of its charm, its ability to surprise the reader, from historical trivia becoming central to the resolution of scenes. It’s hard for these little pieces of gold to shine through in inflexibly-structured writing.
  • A piece that’s entirely self-contained leaves you nothing to go on with. Most of the work I’ve done had a smattering of extra bits lying around, and these are often the leaven in the sourdough. I mean, while I was writing this sentence I looked up the spelling of “leven” and apparently it’s an archaic word for lightning.  There’s a story there, right? That happens less in highly-structured writing.
  • If I’m certain of how it is going to end, it is harder for me to write. Mentally the task is “done”.
  • I’m doing a bit of writing for another company that demands you work in a highly episodic way, and so I need a break from it in my Ars writing.

So, none of the usual goodies here, beyond noting that The Magnificent Century Thomas B. Costain, which fuelled a lot of Lords of Men, was also the book which gave me this idea. At some point we need to get serious about going through the Plantagenet series with box cutters, because even though I’ve worked the thin period about 1220, the whole history of that family could, and should, be harvested for the game.


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