Stolen Skies – the ebook files
Supposing you are some kind of masochist who can handle reading a book that’s barely had spellcheck run over it, let alone edited and proofread, perhaps you’d find it easier to read Stolen Skies as a proper ebook on your ereader of choice. The links below should let you download the files and then you can send them on to your Kindle or whatever as you like. Enjoy! Apologies in advance for the miscellany of errors you’ll discover.
The Story’s Over
I cheerfully breezed through the Nanowrimo minimum of 50,000 words and ended up almost bang on 83,000. It’s been immensely satisfying to bash out a bunch of alphabetic strings over five weeks and discover they mostly tell a coherent story. Not entirely coherent, obviously! The process of working with no plan is going to inevitably generate a little chaos. However, from my pair of dedicated daily readers (thank you Eddie & Benedetta!) apparently it does indeed make sense, and is good in places and interesting to watch unfold. In fact, I’m gonna quote Eddie here because it’s good for my soul:
Ferocious output, inventive and original ideas and a galactic battle to sort everything out. A worthy piece of work.
I’ll take that!
Creative Stuff, Why Bother?
It does feel like it’s been worthwhile. I suspect we all need reminders that we’re creative people who can make a thing, and while most people probably want to make good things, there’s a large number of us who just enjoy the process. Not everyone’s knitting will adorn the queen’s coffin, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. I’ve happily re-inspired myself to do more writing, or at the very least think a lot harder about doing more writing. Half of the battle was reminding myself that I could even do it. The discipline of forcing myself to get up early and write 3-4k words before work (and even at the weekend!) was knackering, but I’ve rarely felt so motivated to drag my lifeless corpse out of bed as when in the midst of a story.
I’ve found it reviving to have this additional thing to occupy my brain with too – literally feeling bits of my mind wake up which have been quiescent for a time. I get a lot of work-thinking done when I’m on my near-daily swim, and that proved an ideal time to think about what on earth could be happening next in the story (sorry work…) I like how stories find their own way, and the feeling of threads I’d tossed out earlier in the story start to draw themselves together – that wonderful feeling of inevitability that I enjoy when I read proper books. Really, writing this thing has been a lot like reading a book by someone else, but with more effort.
Finishing a Story
I’m pleased that I went on to the extra 33k. Even though I’d reached a sort of ending, I hadn’t actually gotten to the original idea that inspired the story. Two ideas got blended together in the end. The original idea was a group of soldiers linked together in some tree-shaped device where they’re all in pods, who experience mostly a virtual realm that they’ve created together. But as they die in combat their world shrinks until it’s just one soldier left alone, and he’s got to figure out what’s happened. We don’t even get close to that until the very end, and even then I haven’t mined that concept for all it’s worth. The other idea I dug out of one of my old writing journals “someone nicks the Earth and takes it somewhere”, which became the beginning of the story. Joining them up was fun, and occasionally stressful as I made some choice or other in the moment that sent us down a different path. I’ve learned that I really like killing characters and other radical character moves that fuck up my own tenuous idea of what’s coming next, forcing me to spend much time digging myself out of a hole. I’m aware that the last third of the book is maybe a bit rushed. In a different reality maybe I’d want to spend more time getting to know the aliens and enjoying the war properly, but I think stories do resolve themselves, or at least they create opportunities to be ended. I had to end somewhere, and did not want to be racing to finish this around Christmas. I wanted it to be complete, and not to stress myself out over a thing that ultimately should not matter that much.
I got in the habit of reading the previous chapter while I waited for caffeine to infest my brain appropriately before writing the next one. I did correct the odd word and added a couple of sentences here and there which had become necessary overnight, but I only deleted one chapter and re-wrote it (Part Twenty-Eight), as I absolutely hated it and needed more “show don’t tell”. That and the first two versions of the opening chapter, neither of which gave me an in for the story. I’d regularly pause while writing and shuffle paragraphs around, which only contributes further to the chaos. A lot of my writing is waffly Evanith thinks stuff, which I enjoy, but easily leads me to totally forget where I was going a few sentences ago because I’ve become distracted and gotten into moaning about something or other, often people.
Otherwise it’s all been knocked out as you’ve (maybe) read it. The ebooks above have had the obscene grace of Word’s spellcheck which picked up far less than I expected – mostly it’s/its, a few missing words and the variety of mis-spellings I achieved for the awkward alien names like Geiliiish, and the made-up character names. Not bad, right? Or, more likely, you really shouldn’t rely on Word to fix your book.
I’ve always found that even if a book cover doesn’t tell you what’s inside, it should set the mood or the tone for the story to come. All the “art” for this one were generated by the fascinating, and fascinatingly shit Dall-E AI art creator. They variously show the results of text prompts like an alien night sky filled with shooting stars and Escher-inspired spaceships, an alien spaceship being chased by a rocket shaped like a giant grasshopper, or oneirocyte: nano parasite that infects the brain, allowing its users to create imaginary worlds – digital art by Hieronymous Bosch. The results are fascinating, but patchy as fuck, and so far below the standard of what a talented human could produce that I feel OK using them for this! The rather random gluing of images together does feel a bit like writing first thing in the morning…