Hello everyone! As it says in the title, I’ve got a couple things to do with this blog post. First is to let you all know that the eBook version of Elves Vs. Zombies is up and running, and available on the Amazon Marketplace! Second is to share the playlist that I put together for this project. Thank you all again for going along with me on this writing journey!
The following is a list of songs and tunes I listened to for inspiration while writing Elves Vs. Zombies. Unlike my previous 2 novels in the Horror Vs. Fantasy series, I didn’t have the elves listening to or referencing much human music, so no songs are directly mentioned in this novel. This list is purely for mood-setting (and a few toward the end for story relevance).
Radagast the Brown from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
(Many of these first tunes are selected for their ability to capture the mood and tone of specific locales. This tune best captured the feel of the Underwild, which opens Chapter 1.)
Glow of the Moon by Derek Fiechter
(I searched for a tune that blended the human cultural inspiration of New Asia with the Dawn Elves that inhabit that sector.)
Lothlorien from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
(This one I chose for the High Elf Holds.)
Your Star by Evanescence
Kingsfoil from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
(The Gateway has a more somber tone to it than any other sector, though still dignified by its High Elf roots.)
Wildest Dreams by Taylor Swift
(For the character of Elaura, I needed something that embodied ‘Snooty-Pop-High-Elf,’ which Taylor Swift does well in most of her music, but her vocals in this song in particular showed off a beauty and elegance beside the pomp.)
Dust and Shadows by Adrian Von Ziegler
(When I try thinking of Drow-style music, what comes to mind is something not unlike Arabian music. Adrian Von Ziegler has quite a few tracks like this with a fantasy vibe to them on his YouTube channel. I was most drawn to this style.)
I Won’t Back Down cover by Johnny Cash
(The mantra of the Black Drow is as follows – “Release the gates of doom. We are ready.” This is of course known as a Tom Petty song, but Johnny Cash’s grittiness added the right feel of being old soldiers.)
(From here, the remaining songs are chosen mostly for relevance to particular plot points – primarily action. So to avoid spoilers, I won’t go into further detail on those here. But I’ll close off by saying thanks for reading!)
Drug Lab from The Raid: Redemption
Blood Bag from Mad Max: Fury Road
Grievous Speaks to Lord Sidious from Star Wars: Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith
Spikey Cars from Mad Max: Fury Road
Fallout by Linkin Park
Gollum’s Song from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Dark Energy from One Punch Man
Ash and Smoke from The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
For 200 years after the fall of man, the elves taking residence in our world have laid deep under former Beijing, in the care and dominion of the Drow Empire. For all this time the exits to the surface have been blocked by an unfathomable sea of the undead knocking on their door. Some elves view the zombies as their ultimate doom, some view them as their salvation in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, but most are content to simply live underground indefinitely – that is until an outbreak occurs within their own borders.
When the elves come across an unmapped section of the underground facility, questions are raised not only about the nature of the zombie virus, but what role the elves have been playing in securing their own futures without others knowing. Tili, a Wood Elf of the Underwild, joins the party looking to find answers to these mysteries and more.
A note: As a zombie apocalypse story, this novel contains a lot more disturbing gory violence than my novels typically do. (I’d been watching a lot of zombie apocalypse stories for mood-setting.) I just don’t want that to catch any of my regular readers too off-guard.
Thank you to everyone who followed along on this journey as I went through my NaNoWriMo process to bring this novel to fruition! It’s been great to have your support. I’ve enjoyed doing this Horror Vs. Fantasy series, and I’m already looking forward to next November’s project!
For now, I’ve got a long list of marketing strategies to employ. The Pinterest Board for Elves Vs. Zombies has already been updated to include sections for specific characters by name. I’ve got designs to do and fights to record on Soulcalibur VI for my YouTube channel, and I’ve got a music Playlist to finalize.
I still have the eBook to prepare, which usually doesn’t take long. I’ll do a follow-up post once that’s live, so stay tuned if you’re looking for eBooks only – I will keep you informed!
Thank you again for your encouragement, and if you have an interest in any of my other books (including more in the Horror Vs. Fantasy series), you can check out my Books By Benjamin T Collier page on this website.
Well, I would say I made it by the skin of my teeth, but I feel like I lost some skin too! I did manage to reach the 50,000 word count, with a few thousand extra, but this year was the most rushed I’d ever felt doing NaNoWriMo.
It’s going to be interesting to analyze the finished product. I feel like the scenes alternate between having way more detail than necessary just so that I could make the daily quota, and having less detail so that I could move the story along. I was at one point worried that I wouldn’t have the space within the 50,000 words to get through the main story. Looking back on the experience now, I’m not sure how warranted that was, because it’s hard to tell how much of the detail I added was excessive. I tend to use extra detail in my default writing style, so if anything I most likely had to rein that in to get the story done in the one month.
Some things I learned this time around…
1. Not all movie weapons are real. Okay, I kind of new this already, but some of these were actually a surprise to me. It turns out those daggers from Chronicles of Riddick don’t have a real-life name because they were actually invented for the films and are not based on real weapons. I had long assumed they were a Chinese weapon design, and various Chinese weapons were on my radar for this story, but if I wanted knives with those specific designs then I had to make some modifications and rename them.
2. Night Owls do better to divide their days. At least this is what I found as a night owl. It was tricky waking up late and then trying to do my full daily quota before midnight. I found it easier to do a thousand words pre-midnight, and then another thousand after midnight (always waking up each day at least a thousand words ahead). This approach significantly reduced stress and made it easier to take breaks when needed.
3. The chaotic nature of zombie stories makes it difficult to write ahead. One of my strategies for meeting daily quota during NaNo has been to jump to scenes that I already had thoroughly thought out in my head and write those early on. I couldn’t do that as much with this story since in many cases I wasn’t necessarily sure which characters would still be alive or what sort of injuries they might have sustained by the time the story actually reached a particular scene. Fortunately, such details didn’t impact the flashback sequences, many of which were thoroughly thought out before NaNo, so that balanced out a bit.
4.Inter-chapter flashbacks are tricky to position. It was an idea that I had shortly before NaNo started, and I felt I could come up with a game plan, pairing 10 flashbacks with the standard 10 chapters that my NaNo books tend to have. But since the primary purpose of a flashback is to reveal information of interest, one has to think carefully about when certain information should be revealed, and pairing each flashback idea that I had with a specific chapter, keeping in mind information already revealed by the end of each chapter, proved tricky, especially since when I want the reader to sit with certain feelings towards certain characters before revealing information that could change that. I ran into this, to a lesser degree, with the pre-chapter quotes in The Final Power: Chronomancer, and most of those were just bits of world-extending trivia, but when deciding which quotes went where, it was very important to keep the tone of each chapter in mind.
5.Mid-month (or mid-project) is definitely the time to start editing. Until then, so much conceptual material was still in a revisable state and I needed to reach a certain point in the story to have a firm decision about certain things – things that would be best changed during editing instead of sooner. Due to circumstances, I ended up not starting editing until a week later, which only gave me half the time, which was stressfully tight.
6.How many different ways I can misspell the word ‘maneuver.’ – That number is 4.
7. Too many main-ish characters can stifle character growth. This doesn’t always have to be the case, when given enough time, but under a time restraint it can certainly be difficult to give each character the level of detail and history that one might like. But even in a larger story, having spotlight on too many characters can cause confusion in the reader over which characters are more important to the plot. Of course a part of how I approached this zombie-apocalypse-type story was to have a higher than normal volume of spotlighted characters so that, hopefully, each death seems surprising, and so that I don’t run out of characters too fast – a staple approach to zombie stories in which death is frequent.
8. Editing and revision are where ‘coincidences’ become more natural. You might know what I’m talking about – those moments in stories where things come together just a little too neatly, when it seems like the unlikely thing to happen. Coincidences, the writer arranging things a certain way in order to achieve the desired story and results, happen all the time in rough drafts. But during the editing and revision process is where the writer has the opportunity to alter certain details in order to make it look like those outcomes were more likely to happen. With less time spent on revision and editing, a lot more coincidences happened in my story than I would have liked. Normally I would call it lazy writing. Considering the marathon that is NaNoWriMo, I wouldn’t call it lazy in this case, but certainly rushed. And now I have a slightly different attitude toward those plot issues when I see them in other works. What I might previously have labeled as simply ‘lazy’ writing, may in fact have been the result of a tight deadline, which, I’ve heard, is a common occurrence for writers.
And that’s what I’ve learned so far from this experience. There is going to be more, I’m sure, some of which won’t become clear until I have a broader hindsight view. If my guess is correct, I may be able to have this novel out before the end of the year. I’ll be posting updates on this blog as soon as it happens, whether it’s this December or in the new year.
Until then, thank you for sharing this NaNoWriMo journey with me. I hope you’ve had a great experience and learned a lot, as I have. Talk to you guys again soon!
My first video discussing autism is now up on YouTube! A bunch of people sent in questions for me to answer Q&A style, and despite delays from some tech hiccups (and starting a little thing called NaNoWriMo) I finally got the video uploaded!
(I do have more to discuss on my experience in this year’s NaNoWriMo in an upcoming blog, but I just couldn’t wait to talk about this video any longer!)
People sent in some great discussion topics like the emotional impact of my diagnosis, communication challenges, social needs, preferred entertainment, and personal accomplishments. I also got on a tangent describing my formative years and gradually learning what it meant to be an individual in a world that included other minds besides my own.
You can check out the video at this link. And if you have any questions you’d like me to answer in a future video, you can leave a comment under this blog post below, or leave a comment under the video itself on YouTube, or you can even email me directly at email@example.com
Okay, I’ve finally found time to do another blog post journaling my experience doing NaNoWriMo now that it’s… Omigosh – November 30th!
Yeah, I expected to be blogging a lot more this time around, but multitudinal obligations took up a lot of my time, one of them being doing NaNo itself. Even more than in previous years, I found myself just barely managing to make quota on most days.
Has anyone else had that experience?
As suspected, I did come to finish off the essential aspects of the story and clock in at about halfway between 50,000 and 60,000 words, as I did with my previous two NaNo projects, even though this one followed a very different story arc than the last two. At this point, all I’m left with to work on is two and a half chapters to edit, and possibly another scene to add if time permits (saved for last because the story functions without it but I still think it would be fun to include). And there are some last-minute bits of research I should do as well.
As for why this year’s project was more of a challenge for me, I’m not quite sure. Maybe my brain is dealing with Blank Page Syndrome differently than it used to. I know it’s not that my life actually busier (at least not these days). It could be partly due to the fact that I hold elves with a higher reverence than I do any of the groups I’ve done for NaNo before, and wanted to make sure that I did each character concept justice. It could also be that writing zombies is a much deeper foray into the actual Horror genre than what I’ve done before, and it proved to be more of an exercise than expected for my brain to learn the styling for it.
It could also be the juxtaposition I had mentioned before, of putting elves and zombies into the same story and seeing how the two completely opposite tones interact with and play off of each other. The experiment certainly bore some interesting creative results. When I set out to write a story predominantly featuring elves, I didn’t expect the dialogue to turn into such a sassy snark-fest, but that is the direction a lot of it took. Perhaps it’s true what they say, and zombie apocalypses just bring out the worst in people.
How is your NaNoWriMo journey coming along? Are you all finished? Is there more work to do through December or the coming New Year? Do you need a vacation after all of this? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you 🙂
Hello people! How’s your NaNoWriMo project going so far?
We’re coming close to the mid-point now and, though I can say that I’m managing to keep up with the daily wordcount quota, I’m not sure I can say the same for the story as a whole. The more I look at the amount of detail I’ve been putting into it and the amount of story left to go, next to the amount of time left in the month, this easily looks like a project that could go over the 50,000 word count.
I was more nervous until I finally got to the first big action sequence, and then another action sequence the very next day. With those down I seem to be feeling a bit better. (I seem to orient my sense of story progress around the action scenes for some reason.) A couple of mini/teaser action bits had been mixed into the early chapters to give the audience a sense of what’s to come, but the ‘all hell breaks loose’ moment is saved for later. This is a change of pace for me, who likes to both start and end big on action. Anticipation can be a powerful tool though, if I use it correctly.
But the added scenes, plus the larger number of characters to introduce, meant that Act I takes up a bit more space than my first acts normally do, making me feel for a while like I was behind in terms of the percentage of the story left to go. On the other hand, Act II may be shorter than first thought, and I tend to write final acts pretty quick anyway, so I may be (hopefully) still on track.
Writing a zombie story has a very different feel to it as well, once I researched the genre. (Spoiler alert – a lot of characters are going to die.) One aspect of this is that it requires writing more characters into the story, just so that I’m not running out of characters too fast. As a result, coming up with characters for this story had a very different feel to it. Normally when inventing characters I like to think about their potential in the story, what they may get up to in a sequel, romantic interests – all that exciting and optimistic stuff. For this story, almost every time I invented a character my first thought was “How do I want them to die?” And then I added backstory and personality to them just so that their ends are more tragic. A very different approach than what I’m used to! It’s also the reason I opted not to have pets in this story. Have you been watching The Walking Dead? Pets don’t have a good track record in zombie stories.
As I’ve been doing character inspiration intake, one of the characters I’ve roleplayed as the most in video games is, yep, already dead, barely a third of the way into NaNo. Not that I’m crying about it or anything…
What about you guys? With the project you’re doing now, have you had to make any changes to how you normally approach your stories? Have you had to learn any new techniques this year? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you 🙂
Hey there! How’s everyone’s NaNo project coming along? I’m trying to do on average 2,000 words a day and it’s been a struggle to keep up.
As far as the story, so far I’ve yet to complete the opening scene. I got a late start on November 1st and, just to make the quota, I did what I did last year and focused on scenes I already have pretty clear in my head – mostly dialogue, so very little of what I’ve gotten down so far is actually in sequence. Some paragraphs are likely to get shifted around as well once I start editing and check the flow.
The problem is, compared to last year’s project, it’s less that I have specific dialogue planned out and more that I have a ‘feel’ of certain character dynamics and interactions. So to write those scenes I really need to just start from the beginning of the scene and let the dialogue appear. And the problem with that is that, with zombie apocalypses being so chaotic by nature, I’m not 100% sure who is still going to be alive by certain points in the story! This is an unusual dynamic for me to work with, but is also exciting!
New character concepts have been popping up in my mind as well, even right up to the final days before starting NaNo, and more ideas may come as inspiration does. So plans could get derailed on occasion for the sake of newer and better ideas. I’ll be trying to keep an open mind during this project.
Speaking of which, I’m finally ready to publicly unveil the full title for this year’s Horror Vs Fantasy project.
Elves Vs. Zombies
Having done vampires and werewolves with the first two projects, the next logical horror theme was zombies. But choosing the next fantasy group required a bit more thought. Elves are of course one of my favourite fantasy races, and they come in such a variety of types already. There is a lot of potential, especially for seeing how they would adapt to a post-apocalyptic scenario.
The thought that really stuck out and got me excited about this pairing though is the sheer and stark juxtaposition between the elegant beauty and grace of elves and the cold, merciless horror of zombies – especially when an elf becomes a zombie themselves! The potential for play with this juxtaposition has me intrigued, and I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do with it and what the final product will be.
I’ve already got a Pinterest board up and running (just made public), though admittedly it contains many more elves than zombies (with some that are potentially both). I try not to put too many dead things on my Pinterest boards, although I may need to make an exception here. Pins won’t be divided into sections for each character by name until I’ve got the book published. Until then it’ll serve as visual inspiration whenever I need it.
November is approaching faster than I thought! I had listed the last half of October as my time to finalize a skeleton plot with minor details for each scene, (as well as finer details for the opening scene, or whichever scene I plan to write first). I don’t always write my scenes in order, and this is definitely a story where certain later scenes are playing out in my mind in more vivid detail than the earlier ones. (I like having a sense of where the story is going!)
As far as outlying the plot though, I’m finding it a bit trickier this time around, and I think it has something to do with the zombie genre. I’ll explain.
My standard approach to NaNo prepping involves having solid ideas of characters, motives, individual roles and overall plot direction. As I research the zombie genre though, what I’m finding is that a key classic feature of these stories is to turn such things on their head. Deliver what’s unexpected. Change character roles on the fly. As they say – people show who they really are when the S#%! hits the fan, and one of the biggest traditions in a zombie apocalypse is events and characters taking unexpected turns.
It is supposed to feel chaotic to the audience. Of course, however, the one telling story should have an idea of what’s going on. I believe I’m there. But I should be open to taking new avenues with this tale if I get inspired mid-journey.
My previous two NaNo novels were 10 chapters each, and that seemed to just happen naturally. I’d like to take a more laid back approach to chapter counting with this one too, but I’ve had the idea of beginning each chapter with a flashback scene, and in order make sure each flashback idea actually gets used I of course need to make sure I’ve got the right number of chapters.
Things can get moved around during editing, I suppose, and that may be the approach I have to take to be open to plans changing along the way. Just to keep the current plot straight in my head I’ve even had to outline a rough map of where all the different settlements are and how each outbreak is likely to spread. This is the first time I’ve had to do that for a NaNo project. Although this is also the first one set deep underground. For my past two NaNo novels I mostly consulted already existing maps to get a sense of location and proximity.
Another shift from the last two NaNo novels is the battle outlines. Vampires Vs. Dragons and Orcs Vs. Wolves used pretty much the same 5-Big Battle system – an Introductory Battle – an Ambush – the First Mission with the New Group – the Pre-Final Battle Set-Up Battle – and then the Super Giant Final Battle with other smaller/individual battles going on simultaneously within it. This was not planned out – they just both naturally flowed that way.
Thus far, this next novel does seem to have the same number of big battles, more or less, but with different roles and orders. That alone is tripping me up a bit as far as trying to establish the story structure based on what is familiar to me and what I already know works. But maybe I need to be embracing that – embracing the chaotic feel of a zombie apocalypse which – by nature – creates a sense of the established order being turned upside down and the survivors having to improvise with what they can find. This could turn out to be me this November. A survivor. That’s assuming I do manage to make it to the 50,000 word count and finish the story. I haven’t failed yet, but wish me luck. I may need it!
What about you? Have you got a skeleton plot worked out yet? Do you use plot outlines prior to writing, or are you more of a ‘pantser’? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you 🙂
It’s Week 1 of October, and what I’ve got listed as the first order of business for this week is to finalize the world-building aspect of this year’s project. That means having a solid understanding of the culture, environment, class-systems, and general geography and history of this story’s world. I still have a few lingering to-do list objectives, such as also finalizing the core cast, and I found that difficult to do without having a more solid idea of the story’s general world as a guide.
This came as a surprise, because normally I would start with characters earlier on, and then built other aspects of the story around them, and I think I still do that to an extent. But I’m forgetting that when it comes to the finer details, like how these characters interact with their own world, that requires having an understanding of that world in the first place – the standards, rules, expectations, and available loop holes. Sometimes new character ideas spawn directly from having an understanding of the solidified world and what interesting things I can do with it.
As some of you know by now, my theme for these NaNoWriMo projects is Horror Vs. Fantasy, which has now become the official name of the series. Each project is something horror-themed verses something fantasy-themed.
As I address the fantasy side of this story, I’m going back over notes I had made years ago for my general fantasy world that eventually became Vel Ardon of The Final Power: Chronomancer, which I’ve been using as a template for future fantasy writing. But not all races and cultures were discussed in detail in that novel, and so not everything had been updated from working-version to official-version. Part of that updating means changing names, because back when I started I was still using Tolkien’s elvish languages for a lot of name generation. I had produced my own languages (or at least base words) for anything included in Chronomancer, but some things were left on the drawing board, so to speak.
Before I can finalize certain details in this NaNoWriMo project, I’ll have to finalize background information on a few cultures in my Vel Ardon files first.
Another central thing I’m learning to do, and this is a pretty practical approach to any of my projects, is I’m learning to ask myself, “What are the things that can only be done in this project? – Characters, environments, weapons, combat styles – What can I do here that I can’t do anywhere else?” And I’m making sure to include and emphasize those aspects. Make sure that what is unique about the project is what stands out.
It goes without saying that these NaNo projects are unusual in their concept. That’s intentional. I expect my audience to have seen instances of vampires fighting dragons, or goblins fighting werewolves, in portions of other stories, but never as the focal point of the story, and rarely if ever in a post-apocalyptic setting. There are opportunities inherent in these stories that are not inherent anywhere else. I need to take what is unique about them and run with those. It’s a big part of why the goblin culture in Orcs Vs. Wolves ended up the way it did. I took what I knew about orc mentality and applied it to a post-apocalyptic scenario, with very interesting results. For Vampires Vs. Dragons I had to build a whole class-system for vampires to hunt and take down dragons successfully, and that resulted in a whole new version of vampire combat tactics. There are unique opportunities in this year’s project as well. I need to keep an eye out for them, seize them, and emphasize them.
Have you started your NaNo prep yet? Let me know how you’re doing in the comments below! 🙂
It may be time for me to talk more about Autism again.
It’s been the topic people have been most interested in hearing about, and my autobiography is still the best-selling out of all of my books. I’ve taken some time to discuss more about my passion for storytelling of late, which I plan to continue, but in recent years I’ve all but neglected open discussion on this other part of myself that people seem the most fascinated by.
The way that I communicate with my audience has also been changing. It was just nearly two years ago that I began posting on YouTube, beginning with simple Soulcalibur fights (which still has the largest audience) and slowly progressing into videos where I talk and discuss things while playing, with a particular focus on discussing storytelling.
So far, the video that’s gotten by far the most views, likes, subscriptions, and watch-time hours is simply a video of me talking talking earnestly about something while wondering around in Fallout 4. This is causing me to put a couple of ideas together.
I want to start a series of me talking, and it can be about a variety of topics overall, but at least to start I feel like I should begin with discussing my personal experiences with autism. But in order to do that I need conversation starters. I need some questions to help me going.
So one of the reasons I’ve put this blog post together is to ask around. I want to ask you guys if you have any questions about autism (or other topics) that you’d like to see me answer in an upcoming video. If so, you can post your questions in the comments below. Or, if you’d like to be anonymous for any reason (I know not everyone wants to talk about their own autism openly) you can send private questions to my business email – firstname.lastname@example.org- with the subject line “YouTube Question” and I’ll know that you want me to wait for the video to answer your question.
I’m open to discussing pretty much anything, though I’ll be making these videos kid-friendly, so just keep that in mind. One of the reasons this idea has been on my mind is in case any children on the spectrum need the encouragement of seeing someone like them being open and honest about struggles (or even just open and honest about their favourite dinosaur). I won’t know who (if anyone) needs to see these videos until I actually start the series and get feedback from viewers, but I certainly don’t want to include any material that would make it unavailable for kids.
To see what kind of topics I’ve talked about before, you can check out the following blog posts. (And for a short of me talking about autism, as an example of what I might be doing, you can watch this excerpt I clipped from my playthrough of Battleborn.