S&S: Oliver Brackenbury – So I’m Writing A Novel Part 3

Listening to Ep. 5 today. Link to my last post in the series:

S&S: Oliver Brackenbury – So I’m Writing A Novel Part 2

Link to So I’m Writing A Novel, Ep. 5:

Ep5 – Outlining My Outline


Brackenbury mentions Scrivener. Here is a link:

Scrivener| Literature & Latte

I’ve looked into sites like Scrivener, Reedsy, World Anvil and others, and while they do have a lot of pluses to them, I’ve found that it’s much easier for me to keep things in a single computer folder. I tend to make a lot of changes and write so fast that my stories switch directions often, too fast for me to do the tedious upkeep on a website. Even the author tools in LibreOffice take too much time to maintain. Here’s how I organize my writing.

In my story folder, I keep my main story file with immediate notes right after the story. I usually create a second file titled Story Notes, that I move older notes into to reduce clutter. And then I write. That’s the most important thing for me: GET THE STORY OUT. I don’t worry about chapters or book stylizing until after I’m done. While I’m writing the story, that’s all I have: story and notes, and I always keep track of Word Count, aiming for 100,000 words as a minimum. When I get close to the end of the story / novel, I’ll go looking for images I want to use on the cover, and I start tinkering with how I’d like my cover to look with fonts and cropping, etc.

If I have to do specialized research for project, I will create a sub-folder in my main story folder. For example, in my current project Guardians Of The Dead, I have sub-folders for Face Shots of my characters, Gems because Moonstone / Feldspar is important in the story, and Weather Tools that has 3 different generators for creating weather. By the way, I tried using online weather generators, but they were either too simple, too complex or the generated file didn’t work on Linux. Here are my weather tools, which you can acquire free or Pay What You Want from Drive Thru RPG.

Surviving And Fighting Cold Weather – a general guide on how to plan for your characters traveling through cold weather


DarkMoore_ 4 Season Weather Table – several tables for climate, great because I can generate the day’s weather by rolling 1d20, I use this one a lot!


Weather Hex Flower – You roll 2d6, and update your weather to the resulting spot on the hex. I used this at the start of my story, but it was difficult keeping track of where I left off the last time, and I don’t have access to a printer at present, and I’m too lazy to reproduce the hex by hand. Also, the hex flower is 1 page and doesn’t allow for climate / geography like the DarkMoore generator does.


5:00 – Like Brackenbury, I also don’t like when ‘authorities’ tell me what the right and wrong way to write are. Brackenbury recommends the book Steering The Craft. Here is a link to the book on Amazon.

POV – Usually, I’ll write from the POV of the main protagonist, or 3rd person limited as Brackenbury calls it. However, I’ve been experimenting with different styles lately. If my main character says home and a supporting character goes off to adventure, my POV changes to that of the supporting character for a time. R.E. Howard does this sometimes in the Conan stories, but by and large everything heroic is done from only Conan’s POV. C.L. Moore never changes perspective in the six Jirel stories, except for once, and that was only because her husband co-wrote a story with her, where two main characters, medieval Jirel and future Mars guy Northwest Smith end up in the same story and share the pages more or less equally.

Trajectory – Brackenbury comments on LeGuin’s idea that the story’s end should be foreshadowed in the story’s beginning. That’s a limitation that I don’t personally care for. You don’t see that in any of the Conan or Jirel stories I’ve read so far. In Howard and Moore’s writing, the main protagonist starts off doing one thing and gets caught up, and ends up doing something that is completely different by the end. In part 1 of his podcasts, Brackenbury gives the 7 basic elements of Sword And Sorcery, including how the protagonists have no great / epic arc but are instead taking jobs to feed themselves and keep going. Even Howard said he wrote the Conan stories because they were fun. In my opinion, if you ignore the seat of your pants roller-coast ride because you want a nice, compact formula to be the spine of your story, all you’re really doing is the wash, rinse and repeat cycle of Joseph Campbell’s Hero Journey.

Brackenbury’s Patreon page.

Plot: Brackenbury mentions LeGuin’s suggestions that the story doesn’t have to move only on conflict. Yeah… That’s not a Conan story anymore. In Howard’s stories, if there is no conflict, there is no story, period. Again, at the start Brackenbury said he was going to stick to the 7 elements of Sword And Sorcery, and now he’s jumping the rails to an opposing track and wants to do things the LeGuin way. That’s cool, things happen, plans change.

Brackenbury cautions about re-writing the same story in a different genre. Yes! This is important, especially if you’ve got a narrow range of characters and plots and you don’t even realize it. He mentioned Game Of Thrones earlier, and how it seems many writers are writing a future TV adaptation more than a novel.

I’ve edited stories for emerging writers who think in formulaic ways, such as one guy who assumed that stories should read like the first person shooter video games he always played. You too will end up repeating your same ideas in different stories. To expand your writing mind, read a lot of diverse genres. I read political dramas, who-dun-its and even contemporary romance sometimes, when I write mainly hard-edged fantasy, horror and science fiction. Also, up until my cyberpunk binge, I always switched up genres, writing fantasy first, sci-fi second, and horror third, and an occasional ‘other’ to keep things rotating and fresh.

Update: In Episode 6, Brackenbury again veers toward Feminism as a way to ‘reinterpret’ Sword And Sorcery. His starting example is LeGuin’s essay about baskets over swords. Keep in mind that Brackenbury initially said he wanted to write a Conan-type story, but all I’m seeing is one excuse after another to Wokify the genre. I’m done with the So I’m Writing A Novel series. If anybody out there knows about a recourse talking about Conan or Sword And Sorcery, without having to cut off a hero’s balls, leave a link and I’ll check it out.

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