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Messages - Ransonwrites

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A quote from Michael would be more along the lines of 'I wanna live! I wanna rule the universe! And I wanna consume your life force!'

Nice to find a fellow Stargate fan! Don't seem to be many around, these days. As you mention it, I always thought the SGA episode 'Michael' was pretty good. Asked some deep questions in a compelling way. I wonder what Michael's diary of the whole event would have looked like.

Michael's diary.

Day 1.

Who am I?

Day 2.

Oh God, I own a stetson, and it's not part of a Halloween costume!

Day 3.

Hot martial arts babe came around today and told me she wants to be my 'friend'. Resisted temptation to ask if this 'friendship' came with any 'benefits' because I'm pretty sure she can kick my ass.

Day 4.

Woke up today with those cravings, again. Tried to eat breakfast, but had to resist the temptation to smash the palm of my hand into my fruit cheerios. Still hungry.

Day 5.

Settled down to watch seasons 1 to 9 of Greys. (Apparently I've already seen them, but as I've lost my memory I get to watch them all over again! Yay!)

Day 6.

Stopped watching Greys. Funny thing happened while I was watching season 3. Apparently I've had a species change operation. My new friend-without-benefits tried to tell me I'm better off this way, but how would she know? Honestly? I mean, how can she possibly understand my inner truth? Now I know why I've felt so wrong all this time! I'm a cis-wraith trapped in the body of a heterosexual Texan!

Day 7.

No one likes me any more. Everyone staring at me so I ate my cheerios with my fingers. Made Lorne cry. I liked it!

Day 8.

I want to consume your life force!

Day 9.

Kidnapped friend-without-benefits. Unfortunately, as she lies here before me, unconscious, helpless, tied up, with her heaving bosom bursting from her tight little leather waist coat, her athletic body completely at my mercy, I realise something.

Wraith have no sex drive.

Monkey nuts!

Day 10.

Have returned to the hive. No one likes me here, either. Ate cheerios with spoon. It made a wraith guard cry. Have begun plotting universal downfall of all humanoids who, a. identify with their assigned species and, b. possess a healthy sex drive.

I always write a lean first draft, at least of novel-length stuff ... Novel drafts for me tend to hit about 80K and then the full novel is normally 110-115K.

This is an excellent and highly recommended strategy. David Baboulene recommends a 40k word first attempt, for instance, although preferred lengths will obviously vary. The chief advantage is twofold: you get a good solid rehearsal of your idea to shake the bugs out, and you also get a finished piece of work in the form of a novella or short story. The latter means you don't come away empty-handed in the event that you decide not to proceed with the full length novel.

This is probably a good way to get around the Douglas Adams syndrome I mentioned, above. Write the single good paragraph first, then write the four pages for the novel, later!

I've found I sometimes nearly almost use this technique by accident - I've yet to do it on purpose. I get halfway through a full length novel, then have a forehead-slapping epiphany about the plot that necessitates a complete rewrite of the first three chapters and multiple scene modifications and additions, throughout. If I'd done a 40k word first draft, instead, at least I'd have the satisfaction of finishing something!

But then, would I lose the motivation to write the full length book? Hmm...

Maybe fantasy is just meant to be long!

There are, in fact, unwritten conventions that a great many publishers still generally abide by with regard to the expected word count of different genres. Despite the rise of flash fiction, most commissioning editors will still regard anything less than 80k as a novella (and not accept a novella of less than 70k). Science Fiction and contemporary thrillers are expected to finish at around the 120k word mark, with an upper limit of 150k. Meanwhile, Fantasy epics are only just getting warmed up at 150, and can comfortably exceed 200k words without breaking a sweat.

We are, of course, talking traditional print media and to all rules there are exceptions. However, many of these conventions are so deeply engrained that they are unlikely to change quickly, and many have a firm basis in fact (I can't think of very many extremely long SciFi novels, for example. A quick glance across my shelves reveals that the vast majority are slim 120-150k paperbacks).

I think you'll find on a good edit that you will either cull or add words. Long books tend to cull and shorter ones tend to add. I think it was Joe Abercrombie said that he might write a certain number of words a day and think that's pretty good, but when he edits, he cuts about half of them out, so it's not just a case of how many words, but how many words are actually going to be used.

Douglas Adams said that he wrote four pages then edited it down to a single good paragraph. That seems to be pretty much par for the course, whoever you talk to... with the exception of J.K. Rowling, of course: I've tried to read her stuff and come to the conclusion that she simply doesn't know where the delete key is. But that's a whole new polemic, right there!  8)

As it stands at the moment I think my entry is the shortest and that for me is something amazing. My wife likes to tease me that 1,000 words is really just my opening paragraph.

I hear you. Got the same problem. I have happily written individual chapters of 30k words when all the received wisdom is that one should limit them to 5 or 7k at the most. Naturally, there is no set definition of a chapter. It can be one word or a 100 thousand, but there is an assumption that anything much greater than 5k words in a single chunk will over-face the reader.

My first reaction to publishers and readers who council against high word counts is that this is the literary equivalent of the estate agent who advises you to paint your house beige or pale grey. But then it was put to me that some people like to finish a chapter in one quick sitting because of their busy lives, or because they're reading whilst commuting, or even because they want regular toilet breaks and opportunities to graze in the kitchen in between climaxes!

I think it's all bunk. The only advise I would give is bugger the word count: it will be what it needs to be in order to achieve a worthwhile chunk of story-telling - an episode within the greater tale that moves the plot forward, that develops the characters, that is compelling and either ends in a satisfying way, or finishes on a cliffhanger in preparation for the next chapter.

To return to the original thought, you can no doubt tell that I have trouble expressing an idea in less than three paragraphs!  8)

Writers' Corner / Re: The internet vs writing: a common foe?
« on: May 28, 2014, 06:34:10 PM »
I have a business model laptop that I've stripped down into a word processor. I've disabled the modem. It has a separate onboard hd for backups, but I also keep a tertiary backup on a removable flash drive. I also use the flash drive to transfer files to the desktop machine for submission purposes.

This anally retentive approach is designed to minimise distraction and to maintain integrity. The laptop OS is out of date now and vulnerable to viruses, but it works fine: there's no point wrecking it by trying to update everything. It's lasted over 5 years and probably has another 5 in it so long as I don't strain it too much!

The only disadvantage is, as Laevus has noted, research. But once you're into the text you shouldn't be doing much of that, anyway, or you'd never finish.

Writers' Corner / Re: When does someone who writes become a Writer?
« on: May 28, 2014, 06:27:34 PM »
I wonder if what you're really asking is when you can call yourself an author.

The answer, of course, is when you get paid. The definition of author makes no mention of being paid: you're an author if you've authored something. But there is a general assumption that the title is attributed to people who are good enough to do it for a living. As with everything else, professional status is usually conferred on anyone who performs a service for money, because there is no greater validation of your services than that someone is willing to part with their hard-earned to get them.

So, there are writers and there are professional writers, the latter having the option to be known simply as 'authors'.

Or not. It's all semantics. Just keep doing what you're doing. Who cares what you're called so long as you achieve your ambitions. For my part I've always wondered about being a 'wordsmith'  8)

Writers' Corner / Re: How much did you write today?
« on: May 28, 2014, 06:21:20 PM »
I'm in the red, today. Wrote 1900 plus the other night but today hacked that down to just under 1500 for this months short story competition. So, really, I suspect it doesn't count  :(

Well, I just submitted! And I had a margin of three whole words! I wonder what I could have used them for...  ???

It was fun, though. Don't know why everyone is so down on portal stories!

Howling Jack
by Michael Ranson
Twitter: @Ransonwrites
1497 words

The police came later that night. Jack sat on the couch, blood still staining his face as he told them what had happened. 'He tried to kick my dog,' Jack began, shrugging.

It was long after dark as Jack walked through the park, his dog's tan-coloured hide almost black in the moonlight. Jack's feet ached inside their tight leather shoes after an agonising rush hour train journey home from the office. Arriving home late he had reached through the door to grab Rufus's lead, pausing long enough to call out to Lucy.

'I'm taking Rufus out!' he said, the mongrel's white-tipped tail wagging excitedly against his legs.
'Okay, honey!' his pregnant wife replied from somewhere within.

Now Jack's breath fogged the moonlit air as he stifled a yawn, then smiled when he saw the white tip circling as Rufus investigated something in the darkness ahead. A man stepped out of the bushes: a big man with thick limbs and a hairless dome for a head. Jack saw this head tilt down as the man looked at Rufus, then saw a huge booted foot swing in a vicious kick aimed at the dog's ribs.

'No!' Jack gasped, but the boot missed: Rufus had leapt aside, landing safely a few steps away, his tail still wagging as though it were all a game. Jack didn't think it was a game, and he wasn't tired, any more. Jack was angry.

'What the hell do you think you're doing?' he roared, advancing on the shadowy man. Then something smashed into his face. The world became a blinding riot of pain and colour. He felt hands grasping his collar and then he was flying, his feet lifting clear of the ground, the toes of his shoes bouncing off the grass as he was whirled through the air like a toy. Jack knew he had lost this fight. 'Okay, mate! Okay!' he cried desperately. 'You win!'

The man dropped Jack onto his knees. But it wasn't over yet. The boot that was meant for his dog now connected with Jack's gut, instead and, as he lay helpless, he felt his pockets being emptied. His phone, his wallet, his house keys... then the man got up and left, walking casually away as though nothing were amiss. Then Rufus was there, sniffing at his ear and wagging his tail. 'My hero...' Jack groaned while fresh blood stained his white collar black.

As Jack stopped talking Lucy reached out and touched his arm, her eyes filled with concern. But Jack couldn't look at her: he felt, somehow, that he had failed her. The short blonde policewoman sitting opposite seemed incongruous in their living room, her body made unnaturally bulky by her kevlar vest and equipment pouches. She gave Jack a critical look from beneath her tightly bound yellow hair before making a final note in her little black book. 'And you didn't see his face?' she enquired, her tone almost accusatory.


After the police had gone, the phone calls began. Lucy answered the first one and when she turned to him, her face was white. 'It was just heavy breathing,' she said.

'He's got my phone,' Jack muttered. 'And my house keys,' he whispered.

'Oh, god, Jack!' Lucy breathed, unconsciously cradling the bulge of her pregnancy. 'What are we going to do?' Then, when he didn't answer: 'We should call the police again,' she said.


'What? Why?'

'Just... let me handle this,' Jack insisted, turning away towards the stairs.

But Lucy's hand stopped him. 'Handle this? How?'

The phone rang again. With a growl, Jack shook off her hand and mounted the stairs two at a time, Rufus hot on his heels until they both reached the door to the spare room.

The spare room was Jack's haven. They sometimes called it the study: it had a desk and a book shelf. They sometimes called it the guest bedroom: there was a small bed, and Jack's old dressing gown hanging on a hook. Sometimes it was the dog's room: Rufus had a basket under the curtained window. But it was none of these things. It was, in fact, a portal to another world. Jack had never told Lucy. And so only Jack and Rufus knew that when Jack closed the door and turned the key in the lock, the world changed. And so did Jack.

The key rattled in Jack's shaking, blood-stained fingers and the peeling paint of the door in front of him melted away, replaced by rough-hewn, unpainted wood. The bed was transformed into a mean little cot with a mattress of straw. The desk became a three-legged stool. The curtains of the window were replaced with wooden shutters through which warm afternoon sunlight streamed across the hard clay floor. Only Rufus's wicker basket, and Rufus, remained the same. But not Jack.

Jack took down a woollen cloak and hood that now hung from the hook, the fibres parting slightly as they stretched across his enormous back. With his face and body concealed, he opened the door and stepped outside, Rufus's cheerful tail following along behind. The street outside had changed, too. No longer the row of inner city terraces in early Winter, it had become a busy medieval town in high Summer. Below a late afternoon sky lopsided houses leaned out over muddy streets lined with market stalls and workshops. These streets were trodden by all manner of folk, from fur-clad barbarians to merchants in fine cloth. Butchers hacked at meaty haunches and fish wives cackled loudly, while farmer's carts trundled by, groaning with fresh produce, fresh horse manure mingling with the mud, underfoot. Jack stepped carefully. He was barefoot now: his tight leather shoes were a mere human memory. He skipped lightly through the traffic, hardly noticed despite his height and bulk while Rufus trotted along behind, both of them moving with the same easy agility.

Jack's swift new feet took him down the street towards the wooden bridge at the edge of town. The town boundary was a shallow river in which children played and washerwomen laboured. Beyond it the road was bordered by dense forest. As Jack crossed he paused and looked down. Up to her knees in the cold water was a familiar female figure. Yellow hair was tied tightly behind her head above a body made unnaturally bulky by the rolled up skirts around her waist. Soap suds floated away as she rubbed the dirt from some merchant's doublet. Noticing his quiet scrutiny she glanced up. Her gaze travelled the length of Jack's body, from his clawed toes to his hooded head, and her eyes narrowed with unspoken accusation. Then she spat loudly and returned to her work.

Children frolicked in the water nearby, tossing a pig's bladder ball. Jack jerked his chin towards them. 'Go and play,' he said. As if in perfect understanding Rufus bounded away, leaping into the middle of the game to the children's squealing delight. He would be safe with them until morning, Jack thought. And just as well, for Jack had dark business with the coming night.

With nightfall the town grew quiet. Torchlight flickered from sconces along the bridge. It was patrolled by an elderly night watchman, swinging his lamp. Mugger watched him from the bushes beside the forest road. He stifled a yawn, then heard a sound that made him smile: the sound of footsteps drawing near. By their soft, fast tread he guessed they belonged to a small man in a hurry: a lonely traveller in need of a tavern, and Mugger's first customer of the evening! As the footsteps drew level with his hiding place, he pounced!

Away on the bridge the night watchman heard the man's scream. But what frightened him was the animal roar that followed it. It froze him like a statue as his weak bladder emptied itself into his trousers, and his shaking fingers loosened their grip on his lamp. The crash of it hitting the wooden deck heralded his own scream as he turned and, with the vigour of his forgotten youth, ran back into the town, crying one word over and over again. 'Werewolf!'

Jack got home late again the next night and, again, he opened the door only long enough to grab Rufus's lead and call out to Lucy. But she was there, waiting for him. 'You're going out?' she asked.

'Yes,' he replied, casually.

'But... aren't you... worried? At all?'

'No. Why should I be?'

'Well, the man... the man who mugged you. He might still be about.'

'Oh, I don't think so,' Jack said, confidently. 'Don't worry, Lucy. I think we've seen the last of him.'

In the quiet of a nearby police car the radio buzzed to life, its report interrupted by static. 'Sierra four-five this is Mike Whiskey, over. Shhhkkkkkk. Fatal stabbing in Whitworth Park. Victim white male, late thirties. Krrrrrrkkkkk. Multiple face and neck injuries. Probable I.D. Antony Creacher, also known as Mugger. Grrrrrrrkkk.'

Hi. Thought I'd have a go at this. That was around 5:30pm and now I've got 1900 words to edit, somehow, down to less than 1500! Oh, for another 500 words! Tomorrow the red pain will bring the pain.  :'(

Can someone tell me how the voting works?


Well, Two Out of Three ain't Bad  :P

Hello and allow me to introduce myself by asking a cryptic question: what connects the subject line of this post with the first line, above? Fastest one to google the answer wins a cookie!

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