It is almost July! Still no job! Fuck everyone and everything! Burn it all!
Now that’s out of my system, it’s not all bad. I’ve had a couple of interviews, including a second one (although that company hasn’t contacted me yet; I plan to follow up on Monday but I suspect they went with someone else). I also actually DID get hired for a contract job in March, helping Alison Green of Ask A Manager get her pages and pages of December updates sorted.
I took the CompTIA test—AND PASSED IT! I’m Project+ certified! I don’t ever have to take that test again!
Burying the lede; Confluence has been sent to my two beta readers. I still have to do a hard copy edit, but I didn’t want to do that until I received some feedback, in case I have to move or delete anything. I haven’t even looked at it since I sent it. Instead, I had to study for the test.
Since I passed the test and don’t have to study for it anymore, the project activity list in my WBS (jargon, heh) looks like this:
– Conlang (depending on how extra I decide to be and how far I decide to take it, it could be just an artlang or a whole-ass separate thing). – Beta edits. – Hard copy edit. – Trailer: – Video edits. – Audio edits. – Assembly.
A note here: I know the first trailer was laughably amateurish, and the second wasn’t much better except for the fabulous voiceover. I’ve been watching a lot of professionally produced videos on Twitter and elsewhere and I noticed I’m seeing shots now instead of just content. Seriously, there’s nowhere to go from here but up!
– Back cover layout (I’ve got the front cover the way I want it). I can’t do this until I know for sure how many pages the paperback will have, because Amazon templates depend on page count. – Inside layout (easy; I already did it with Tunerville and all three books will be the same). – Set up pre-orders (if I can figure it out) and submit to KDP. – Paperback proofread. – Get a damn job so I can find another distributor because Amazon
I have a world compendium too, but I haven’t decided yet if that’s just for me or if it will be for you too.
I am so, so tired of job hunting, y’all. Even though working again will mean less hours in the day to write/produce, I think having my own space again will help a lot. The current situation is not good for my mental health, and that does affect my creativity. I’m hoping for a change of scenery far away from here, but we’ll have to see what we get.
I’m very anxious about what my betas will say. The extra outside edit with Tunerville has not happened this time. I just want to finish the story, but I want to give you the best version of it. I was hoping to have Confluence out and Book 3 started by now—between the CompTIA class and the Momergency, it’s just been crazy. (Once again, know the signs of a stroke; when in doubt, call 911 immediately.)
But I’ve begun to move into Book 3 headspace. So the machinery is ramping up again.
Although I’ve tried to make Confluence a self-contained story as much as I can, in the vein of The Empire Strikes Back, it’s still a middle bit. Obligatory plug: If you haven’t read Tunerville yet, get it here.
I’m excited about Book 3. I really am. It’s gonna be FUN.
I just realized I forgot ALL ABOUT THIS (see previous post, the Bad section).
My progress will be slow due to the need to study for that exam. But I just opened a new project in my SmartEdit Writer program, and I have 1,961 words already, mostly from jotting down bits of scenes and dialogue here and there.
Plus, I also wrote some that I thought about putting in Confluence but realized they’d fit better in a third book, and I saved them. I wasn’t going to give myself a word count target; however, the program has set it up at 20,000.
That gives me a 645-word target per day. I can probably manage that. Even if I get behind, I should be able to catch up. A good writing session for me can hit 2,000-plus words easily.
This one’s going to take a while, folks. I don’t have a title for Book 3 yet, but we’re off and running! I’ve dropped a small meter in the sidebar at the right of the home page. I’ll post weekly updates (not daily) because I’m busy.
I’m sorry I haven’t been around much lately. I meant to give you an update sooner than this.
2020 has been crap, as you well know. Mostly, it felt like slow torture. Some stuff happened— good, bad, and a mix of both.
– I published Tunerville even though it got lost in the shuffle of COVID and endless garbage from the dumpster fire in DC.
– I met some very cool people online: lots of lovely resisters, performers, and artists.
– I got a free CompTIA Project+ class to help me get a job.
– I watched a lot of good TV, like Superstore(NBC/Hulu; I didn’t think I’d like this one, but I loved it), The Witcher (Netflix), and The Mandalorian (Disney+). I actually subscribed to Disney+ for the upcoming Marvel series blitz, but Din Djarin and his baby son Grogu kept me going all through this hell year.
Don’t sue me, Disney; I’m giving you free publicity for The Mandalorian. Who could resist that face? Anyway, I love macarons, and I will attempt to make the space ones as soon as I have a kitchen again.
– I learned that I’m pretty good in an emergency (ugh).
My mother had a stroke the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. She got to the hospital well within the three-hour window to receive tPA therapy. They also corrected an underlying condition that caused it in the first place. As a result of the swift treatment, the doctors said she should regain full function.
Before you ask, she’s doing very well and is now home after two weeks of inpatient rehab, continuing with home care OT and PT. Her right side was affected; she can talk and think and walk, but her hand isn’t working very well and she needs a walker for balance. Plus it takes her time to get words out—she said they’re in her head but she can’t always get them out of her mouth.
Thank the gods I was here and understood what was happening. So having no job was providential.
Everyone should know the signs of a stroke, and if you think something is wrong, PLEASE call for help. Better safe than sorry. First responders would probably be the first to tell you that nobody ever died of embarrassment. Their job is to help you, not to judge you. They’ll do that later after they get you out of the tree.
– I have so far managed to steer clear of COVID-19. But our third wave is going strong. So wear your mask, stay home as much as possible, and keep your hands clean and off your face!
And of course,
WE FIRED TRUMP
Whether the slow-moving attempts at a coup (and yes, it is a coup), aided by seditious members of the Greedy Oligarch Pervert party, manage to take hold remains to be seen. I can’t relax until Biden is actually in the White House, and even then, I’ll be holding his and his AG’s feet to the fire until every last one of them pays for what they’ve done.
In other news, Confluence is back from the editor. I had to deal with Mom stuff, plus I’m still trying to study for the certification test, so I just now started reading it again. When I start editing something, it feels like chipping away at the outside wall of an edifice, that I constructed, and I’m not sure how to get in and clean up my first and second draft mess. But I’ve started to feel the building blocks shift. That’s exciting.
I’ve made a kick-ass cover (!!!) and you’ll see it a bit later since I’ll probably do a pre-order blitz for the e-book. I hope to have it out in late spring or early summer depending on how things go on the job front. I usually tweet before I post here, so follow me at @DameWritesalot and @BoomkaartBooks for updates.
November looms yet again, when writers everywhere try to cram 50,000 words into one month!
I am not participating in NaNoWriMo this year. I have a project (Book 3 of the Tunerville trilogy), I’m outlining it, and I even started a rough storyboard for the book trailer. What I don’t have is time.
As you know, I’ve been job hunting for an excruciatingly long period. I still haven’t been hired anywhere, but the state of Missouri did recently offer free CompTIA IT training to workers displaced by COVID-19. I qualified for this due to being a long-term unemployed person whose job hunt was completely derailed by the pandemic.
So now I’m preparing for the Project+ certification exam. I can’t write a book and do that simultaneously. However, this should bode well for the future. Not only will I have a certification to add to job applications, but I’m boosting the rudimentary project management experience I obtained at my last job.
Confluence is with my editor. Deadline: Thanksgiving. Although I doubt we’ll have any guests this year, I need to be ready to hit those revisions in December. I hope to have most of this study and maybe even the exam knocked down by then.
I promised you I would finish the trilogy, and I will. With that in mind, I’m launching my own personal, month-long writing challenge in January, which I will call JaNoWriMo!
Note: this is not an official thing, so don’t go looking for it online (edit: whoops, somebody did it!). It’s just me adapting to a crazy situation and the tendency for the Universe to make me sit here for months and then pile it all on at once.
I doubt I’ll finish in one month, especially if I find employment by then (sooner, please, so I don’t have to move during the coldest, wettest time of the year). Someone could even offer me a job out of state, since remote work is now a legitimate way to start. If so, cross your fingers that this hypothetical company happens to be in the increasingly narrow list of areas where I’d actually want to live.
Weekly updates for JaNoWriMo might work better. I’ll also pop a word count meter up on the blog so you can see how it’s going.
As of this writing, we have no clue who will win the 2020 U.S. election, what will happen in the aftermath, or whether we’ll even have democracy by January. All we know is that it will probably be very unsettled and chaotic for a while. I feel for anyone doing NaNoWriMo this year; the added stress is sure to derail you, but don’t give up. The whole point is to get you working.
Artists and writers are scribes of history, whether or not they include actual events in their work. So keep creating. Keep doing the thing you love. It will get you through these dark times. It will help others who need a breather, or an escape. Your voice is important.
Y’all, I have seriously neglected you, and I’m sorry.
I have pandemic brain. Yes, you understand it. We’re all suffering from it. Time has no meaning. Days blend into one another. If you’re working, you’re either stressed from worrying about contagion or stressed from navigating your job at home, maybe around family members also working from home, kids, pets, etc.
If you’re not working, as I Still! Am! Not!, you’re stressed from that.
Last post, I mentioned I was going to republish a third and final edition of The Shiny Folk and other stories at Amazon. You can read my explanation for that move at Boomkaart Books’ Media page. Honestly, I wish I didn’t have to distribute there, but IngramSpark is too expensive. It costs me nothing to publish with KDP, even for print-on-demand. Of course, that’s by design; Jeff “Greed Dragon” Bezos makes money off me, though God knows I’m not making very much. If it’s free for you, then you’re the product.
Again, sorry my pandemic brain forgot to come over here and tell you I’d launched it, and about the free book promotion.
I’m extremely happy with the new book cover, however. I think it turned out great. It’s miles better than the last one.
I added a couple of stories—one from this blog, one I published previously in a now-defunct literary journal (that I’d put on the blog), and one brand new story, “MathLex.” If you’ve been following me for a while, you know how difficult math is for me, so guess where that one came from? The cover is black because a couple of the stories fall into the horror genre, particularly “Jack and the Bean Sprout,” which I’ve never been able to sell since it’s straight-up disturbing.
Have I been writing more stories? Well, yes and no. Short fiction isn’t my favorite medium; although I like reading it, I’m not so fond of writing it. “MathLex” is new. I started a promising work about werewolves, but honestly, I don’t have the bandwidth for it right now, between revising Confluence and job hunting.
I said January 2021 for the release of Confluence; I may have to push it out a little depending on the timing of editorial feedback. Once it’s out, I can write the final book in the trilogy—it’s all laid out in my head, and I’m toying with the idea of writing it during this year’s NaNoWriMo.
The Catalyst is on hold for now, although it’s completely outlined. I’m not worried about that one. I just don’t want to pull a George R. R. Martin or Patrick Rothfuss on y’all, or leave you with an unfinished trilogy if I should get the ‘Rona or my head explodes from all the stress.
I tend to work better if I have something to work around. Like a job.
And may I just say that if a person goes to all the trouble to prepare for an interview, i.e. looking up the company website and info, setting up a nice space, dressing up, logging into Zoom, etc. etc., they at least deserve a rejection email. If you ghost me, you go on my shit list. FOREVER. And no, an email a month after the date you told me you wanted someone to start doesn’t count.
In the meantime, I’d better get back to it. There is no rest for the self-employed, and that includes writers, who don’t get paid until we actually finish the work. In between bouts of app-centered self care, that is.
The screenplay continues to grind along very slowly. I don’t think a massive online open course where people can proceed at their own pace (i.e. fall behind) is best for beginners learning a very interactive writing process. There are so many people in the class that no one can connect. The platform doesn’t allow you to follow anyone to see their progress. This is massively frustrating, since we’re required to give feedback to other writers. I would have preferred an in-person class with more interaction.
Critique is useful, but I’m tempted to just proceed on my own. I downloaded all the videos and lectures. Although I think it could be shot on a fairly low budget, I highly doubt I’ll ever do anything with it. It’s fine; this screenplay is only for learning anyway. Your first anything will never be your best.
I’ve set a release date of January 2021 for Book 2. And — I have a working title! It’s Confluence.
If I hustle, I should be able to revise and find an editor (and then revise again after that). Setting a deadline will hold me accountable. I really wish I could go somewhere else to work — the library would be good — but Missouri’s caseload keeps going up, so no.
Meanwhile, I took some time yesterday to mock up a layout of Chris’s house from Tunerville, where his maternal grandparents lived. When they died, his mother sold the house to him to keep it in the family, since Chris intended to stay in Martinsburg. Paulette and Alan moved to St. Thomas close to Chris’s brother Adam, his wife Carmen, and their grandchildren Mags and Henry. (Martinsburg and St. Thomas in Missouri are both fictional.) If you haven’t read it yet, you can get it at the title link.
Here’s the ground floor and the basement.
Image: A. Elizabeth West
Here’s the upstairs and the attic. I did these in Word, which sucks. I need to find some cheap (or free) easy-to-use room layout software.
Image: A. Elizabeth West
It helps me to have a representation of the space. When I’m writing, rooms tend to shift around in my head. During Book 1, the living room kept changing places with the dining room and the parlor / study. And the downstairs bath didn’t even exist! Chris’s bedroom also moved from the back to the front. But the kitchen has always been in that spot.
I don’t care if it’s not perfect. This is how it looks in my head. I need a solid image of the space for a pivotal scene.
In June, I attended two online workshops — How to Write Fights and Action Scenes, and Act Like a Writer — with comic book and NYT best-selling novel writer Jonathan Maberry, author of V-Wars and the Joe Ledger series, among others.
He presented scads of useful information and even took questions. Jonathan is very accessible on Twitter and prices his workshops affordably, a great help to little starveling writers like me. The proceeds from both went to an affordable housing organization, so coughing up $50 felt worth it in every way.
The Shiny Folk and other stories
I’ve taken my story collection down from the Boomkaart Books website temporarily. WordPress downgraded my ability to sell it directly from that platform unless I purchase an expensive Business account. I can’t do that presently, so the only alternative is to sell it via Amazon (ugh, I know). To do that, I have to raise the price a little and burn one of my ISBN numbers, so I’m including new content and a brand new cover. This will be the last edition of the collection. When it’s ready, I will let you know.
Conlang / Worldbuilding
Again, plugging away. I finally settled on place names for the world that goes with it. Of course, anything can change at any time as I plunge deeper into grammar, etc.
I also made a map using Inkarnate, an online map maker any Dungeons and Dragons players reading this will probably recognize. I like it despite the free version being somewhat limited. Should I stay on the high fantasy kick, I might pony up for a (very reasonable) Pro account.
Here’s a teaser:
That’s pronounced BETTHH-rah, by the way. In this language, ss is pronounced as the th in them. That’s all you’re getting. I’ve already said more than I probably should.
I’ve never gone this deep into fantasy before, and I’m not sure it will be a success, but it’s fun, so I don’t really care. If you enjoy the story, that’s all that counts.
I’ll leave you now to return to job hunting and revision. Stay safe — wash your hands, wear your masks, and avoid all the germy people (most of them).
I’ll post a word count, etc. every day during NaNoWriMo.
Posts may be short, especially during the first week, since I’m moving and
hopefully at least temping while I continue the job hunt in a bigger market.
It bugs me that I didn’t make more progress on editing Book 2 this year. I got distracted by the conlang and life things. I decided to proceed as if nothing will happen with Pitch Wars and Tunerville. While I will be disappointed I’m not selected, writing New Book will undoubtedly take my mind off it for a bit.
The advice “Write what you want to read” has produced some really amazing works. I mostly read genre fiction. I’ve been struggling to land on a type in which to specialize. When I decided to get serious about my writing, I originally intended to do whatever I wanted, regardless of genre. No restrictive branding slots for me!
Of course, publishing and marketing don’t work that way. Bookstores have categories, and if you do well in one, you tend to get locked into it. Only huge success a la Stephen King allows you to break out and write whatever and still make money, and even then, you’ll have readers who eschew any non-conforming works.
For the record, I’m a die-hard SK fan who really liked Joyland.
While I enjoy literary fiction, I’m not sure it’s best for me as a writer. Secret Book, despite its ignominious end as a trunk novel, taught me how to elevate my writing. It contains some of the best prose I’ve ever produced, even if the premise was cringingly awful. My grad school writing professor, a Mark Twain scholar, told me that no time spent writing is wasted, and she is right.
Neither is time spent reading. Even as an unpublished writer, I get questions from non-writers about craft, and the two things I emphasize most are writing (butt-in-seat!) and reading. Although there really are no new stories, there are as many ways to write them as there are writers, and reading will fill your inspirational well. If you read widely, you’ll see what works and what doesn’t.
If you’re a screenwriter, you must watch movies (and read
scripts). It does not matter what kind. Despite what certain directors have
said recently, there is value in all cinema.
Speaking of that, I just want to disavow people of the notion that comic books, horror films, and comic book films can’t be recognized as fine art.
Some of the most beloved classics are fantasy. Peter Pan, The Lord of the Rings, Alice in Wonderland . . . I’m sure you can think of some. Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus is arguably science fiction but I had it twice in college.
When Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Return of the King won 11 Oscars in 2004, including Best Picture, I cried. It was the penultimate film from a book that has set a nearly unsurpassed standard for the high fantasy genre, a film with elves and orcs and hobbits and dwarves and all manner of beasties, with a villain who is nothing more than an immense, ever-open eye. I cried because it was like the opening of the Black Gate in real life, behind which the books and movies we loved were dismissed and imprisoned.
And it’s given us movies like Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame.
Story arcs with iconic and beloved characters like Captain America and Iron
Man, whose actors can play them with depth and nuance because the writers want
us to see them that way and there’s room now to do it.
No longer are comic books a joke; now they’re winning Oscars for costume design and music (Black Panther, in 2019), and even acting. Heath Ledger’s posthumous award for playing the Joker might have seemed a nod toward the tragic cutoff of a promising career, but it absolutely was not. Anyone who saw The Dark Knight knew they were watching a darkly brilliant performance, and it didn’t matter that he played a comic book character.
To be fair, Martin
Scorsese has a point in that Marvel’s dominated the movie house to the
point where indie-style pictures can’t get greenlit easily or at all.
Publishers have behaved similarly in blowing off new and midlist
authors for fiction with mass-market appeal, because publishing is a business,
Looking at my past works, I see speculative elements in every one of them (with the exception of Rose’s Hostage, another trunk novel). Very well then. Tunerville and Book 2 are urban fantasy, with ghosts and portals but set in the real world. It leads to you didn’t think I was actually going to tell you what happens, did you?
Now I shall try my hand at a full-on fantasy.
It may be a complete failure, but as my professor said, it
won’t be a complete waste of time. Since these genres have become commercially
viable, that gives me hope. Writers who enjoy fantastic fiction have a shot. But
we still need to be true to ourselves, even while hoping it hits that sweet
spot leading to publication and even moderate success.
We want to write it, and we want you to be able to read it.
That’s a worthy reason to keep doing this. To everyone participating in
NaNoWriMo, good luck!
Yes, I’m taking a stab at it. This year, it’s going to be a bit harder, as I have a LOT going on.
What’s Going On?
Hallelujah, I’m finally getting out of the town I’ve been
stuck in for-fricking-ever. I’ve been job hunting forever, and there is no
growth here. Plus, I’ve priced myself out of the small market. So what I need
is a bigger market.
My crappy house has sold, and I’ll be able to move anywhere, though it will probably have to be within Nearby BiggerCity for now. I don’t really want to be there, either. However, the universe has been throwing favorable signs at me, and I’ve thrown a bucket of wishes at it, so we’ll see.
Since I won’t make enough profit to move somewhere cool and then get a job, I will be the literal
nerd in her mother’s basement. It’s just temporary, however, until I find
something. If I find work out of state, Oliver and I can just tootle away. I
can come back for my stored stuff later.
Photo: Elizabeth West
Closing is November 7 and I have to move 200 miles and two locations away before then, so this is going to take some organization.
Since I’ve no clue where I’m going to end up or what I’ll need, the new homeowner, a younger person starting out whose grandparents are buying the house for him (aww), is purchasing some of my furniture. I’ve sold a lot of the rest on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. Only a few things are going with me; the rest will be in storage.
Yes, I’ll have to move twice, unless something happens between now and then. The next two weeks will be key. It’s a little difficult to pack while you’re still actually using the things you need to pack.
This may not even happen, but if I’m chosen as a mentee, I
will be revising one book at the same time I’m writing another. Gah!
There’s a new idea floating around in my head, though I might actually write Book 3 just to get it out and done. If nothing comes of Pitch Wars, then I can take my time with the conlang and revision of Books 2 and 3. It’s possible to publish earlier works later after you’ve broken through (please, universe, let me break through).
Several tasks remain before I’m ready to dive into this year’s project.
Book 3 is already outlined in my head and has plenty of notes. New Idea is currently nothing but a blurb I wrote while practicing query letters. Regardless of which I choose, I should at least hit the high points to keep myself on track.
Music to write by
Last year’s Writing Music playlist will suffice. If I make a new one, I’ll share. I still have loads of albums to pick from.
I don’t mean a schedule, but the way I prepare and how I get
into each session. Since I’m trying to cultivate a better writing habit, I’ve
spent some time thinking about what works best for me.
Sitting in one place at basically the same time
of day (usually evening, especially if I’m working)
Reading a little where I left off (this only
works if I’m writing from start to finish, which, as you know, I don’t always
I want to talk about that last one. Sometimes, when you sit down to write, it’s hard to get started. Long ago, when I was stuck once, I did an email workshop called Daily Writes, created by Shery Arrieta Russ. I discovered that it helped to free-write for a few minutes about what I intended to accomplish that day. After finishing the workshop, I kept the habit as a way to unblock myself when I couldn’t seem to get started. All the blah-de-blah can be deleted later and doesn’t affect my word count.
I don’t expect to get all the way through Book 3 (or whatever) in November, but last year, I finished Book 2 the following month. Since I’ll be in a new city with no money (until I find a job) and no life, I reckon I’ll have lots of time.
Writers get stuck in creative ruts, just like any other artist. The best way to jump-start your brain is to do something new. You can experiment with form or a different point of view. You can try a new genre. Or you can make up a language!
So you know I’ve finished Book 2 in The Trilogy That No One Wants. The first book, Tunerville, is a contemporary fantasy that involves ghosts. I don’t want to spoil (just in case), but I’ve taken my character a little further than his backyard.
I mentioned in the marshmallow post (I need more of those) that I was creating a conlang. Did I confuse you? Do you have questions? I shall answer them.
Conlang is short for constructed language, one in which phonology, grammar, and vocabulary have been created rather than developing naturally.
Famous examples include auxiliary conlangs (auxlangs) like Esperanto and Lingua Franca Nova. Most people consider artistic languages (artlangs) created for fictional universes, such as Dothraki and Valryian (Game of Thrones), Klingon (Star Trek), and the various languages J. R. R. Tolkien created, around which he wrote The Lord of the Rings, as the typical conlang.
A priori languages aren’t based on any others. Most artistic languages fall under this category, as do auxlangs. A posteriori languages, like mine, are borrowed from or based on existing tongues.
How in hell do you do this?
I started with some typos from my music friends chat room that weirdly resembled Scottish Gaelic (no, really) and based the structure on Welsh. The latter has very little in the way of exceptions to its pronunciation and grammar rules, unlike English. I don’t speak it, but I looked into it before a trip to Wales, and it’s not that difficult.
The double-l in Welsh does not have an equivalent sound in English. It’s hissed a little bit — put your tongue on the roof of your mouth and say “L”. Similarly, a conlang that isn’t based on your native language can lack sounds common to yours or contain some yours doesn’t. If you decide that your fictional speakers aren’t human, it definitely will.
My conlang doesn’t have a name currently because I’m still trying to think up place names for its setting. All the phonemes are in place (unless I change them later), and I’ve left out a couple of letters, so it’s not a carbon copy of either Welsh or English. As for syntax, it’s still a bit iffy yet.
Writer Kristin Kieffer points out in this blog post (see Tip #2) that all the things you think about when worldbuilding will apply to your conlang. A future civilization that grows food exclusively via hydroponics probably wouldn’t have a word for plow. A culture who loves elaborate ritual will have long phrases and lots of modifiers.
David J. Peterson has a great book for conlangers called The Art of Language Invention. Another fantastic resource is Mark Rosenfelder’s The Language Construction Kit. I’ve dropped a companion web page below in links. Both are available at Amazon; the Kindle edition of Mark’s book is the full text.
There’s a program called Vulgar that will create a language for you; I’ve held off, but I might end up using it as an assist because making up root words and all their derivations is harrrrrrd.
Why in hell would you do this?
Tons of reasons. Creators of auxlangs generally intend them to be used by real-world speakers. For example, Esperanto was developed to facilitate international communication. Codes are also conlangs; they provide ways of shortening or encrypting language to obscure communication (cryptography), make it faster (shorthand) or make it understandable when speaking isn’t possible (semaphore). They also let people tell machines what to do (computer languages).
Artlangs can lend depth to fictional worlds. For the television adaptation of Game of Thrones, David J. Peterson created the Dothraki and Valyrian languages off the basics in George R.R. Martin’s books.
And for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, they wanted the antagonists to have a full-blown language, so Klingon was developed by Marc Okrand from a few words James Doohan (Scotty) improvised during the original series. It’s comprehensive enough for Treknerds to actually speak it.
As with any kind of research or backstory, you’re better off using it judiciously rather than doing huge expository dumps and risking what I sometimes call the Jean Auel effect (bless her!). Her Earth’s Children series, which began with the Clan of the Cave Bear, had page upon page upon page of explanation of the food, clothing, toolmaking, etc. in the daily life of her prehistoric characters. I personally enjoyed it, but it can bog a story down.
Interestingly, Auel managed to come up with a highly developed sign language for her Neanderthal characters, which authenticated them according to the known research at the time of writing. Novelist Anthony Burgess and anthropologist Desmond Morris collaborated similarly for the largely non-verbal 1981 pre-historic film Quest for Fire.
While this performed splendidly for those works, some writers and critics don’t find a comprehensive conlang necessary for immersion in a fantasy world and claim it can even be distracting. Perhaps, but if you do decide to include it, it should have more consistency than just random gibberish. A smattering of words and phrases can be enough, although that doesn’t count as a true conlang.
Stephen King’s characters in The Dark Tower spoke a dual dialect known as Low Speech, Mid-World’s common tongue, and High Speech, a ritualized and formal language only used by gunslingers. While King didn’t take the trouble to create a whole language, the lexicon enhances the setting quite well. We know we’re not in Keystone Earth (our world) when people are talking both in the ka-tet’s present and Roland’s past.
High Speech also has an alphabet, in a font called Hoefler Text Ornaments Regular, which you can download. If I were to write “Hello my name is Elizabeth” in High Speech, it would look like this:
You don’t have to go this far, although I might because, while complicated, worldbuilding is also FUN.
Will my conlang become a full-blown, usable tongue? Eh, who knows? I’ve never done this before, so it’s a challenge. I’m proud of myself for getting this far. I even invented words for cardinal and ordinal numbers that actually build on themselves and make sense. If nothing else, it forces me to think about setting in a new way, an excellent writing exercise regardless.
If you’re interested in reading more about conlanging, here are a few links.
Okay, remember when I started Book 2 last NaNoWriMo and couldn’t finish it? This graphic shows how far I got.
I’m gonna finish it.
The entire time I’ve been messing around with Invasion, something about it kept poking the back of my brain. I thought this meant I should just write the damn story, which is why I chose it for this year’s challenge.
I’ve been super bummed about NaNoWriMo this year. Prep was
fun (especially making those quinoa patties — yum yum), but I wasn’t excited
Today, while I schlepped around the grocery store, the reason for my malaise finally clarified itself. The problem isn’t one of story but structure. Invasion would work much better as a screenplay. I’ve been flirting with writing one for a while, but I didn’t think I had any ideas that fit.
It makes sense that way. As a book, it just didn’t, at least not in my head. Writing it as prose makes me want to set my hair on fire. Since it’s taken a long growing period and hundreds of dollars to get my hair exactly the way I want it, saving this story for my first screenwriting project makes better fiscal sense.
My head has been in Book 2 for a while — in world-building, in character development, in outlining. Why stop now, especially after I did all! that! work! restructuring Tunerville? I still have a very strong feeling it wasn’t wasted, and not just because I’ve learned a ton about craft.
So, here we go. Finished scenes are in Atomic Scribbler. Notes and outlines are too (another great feature; they open as pages in one window, unlike Wordy McWorderson, which only opens them as annoying separate documents).
I haven’t lost much time, since I already wrote a chunk. I doubt I’ll finish it completely by the end of November, but I’m sure the momentum will carry me through.