Guest Post: Writer Angst 101 – Continuity – Richard Parry

I’m really looking forward to today’s guest post and am thrilled to be able to share it with you all!

Author, Richard Parry has popped by to give us a sneak peak into the writing process… specifically, the problem of continuity.

First, let’s have a little look at his new Splintered Land series…

Knight Adept Geneve hunts evil with a skymetal sword.

A wizard rumored to hold the Tome of Lost Souls is on the run. This powerful grimoire can destroy Geneve’s order in an instant. She must capture him–and the Tome.

Geneve finds truth on her path. Monsters brutalize the world, and her leaders are complicit. Geneve damns herself through her choice of companions: a Feybrind who keeps his own counsel, a renegade illusionist, and one of the vile Vhemin.

Her quest to uncover the Tome’s secret remains. If she fails, not even the gods can stop the end of all things. Her armor has never felt so heavy.

Start the epic journey free today with Tomb of the Six!

Now straight over to Richard, to let us in on the secrets of continuity in fiction writing…

You think being a writer is all cocaine parties and cheap tickets to the big game? Or maybe you believe authors seek to live in a state of existential angst (or dread).

These might be true, but the stuff that keeps us up at night is actually: continuity. You don’t even have to be the writer of Tenet to need alcohol as a crutch, either. The big question us authors agonise over are: did Mary have a blue or green sweater in the last chapter?

Steph’s given me this opportunity to share a little bit of a writer’s behind-the-scenes spellbook with you. We’re going to look at three causes for continuity errors and some simple fixes. At the end we’ll look at a small blooper real. Let’s get in there.

AUTHORS ARE MERE MORTALS
Hard to believe, I know. Despite a few cool AI/bot wossits writing news articles and such, most of the fiction you read is written by an actual human. An ambulatory meat sack. It’s difficult to understand how most of us tie shoelaces let alone write a series like Game of Thrones.

And anyone who’s knotted their shoelaces knows that accidents happen. So yeah – the most likely reason Mary’s sweater is purple (…wasn’t it?) is because the author made an error.

TO FIX IT: write a character sheet for your actors. Note on the sheet what they’re wearing. This helps a surprising amount. If they get changed, write it down!

BOOKS TAKE A LONG TIME TO WRITE
Assuming you’re able to turn the crank at about 1,000 words every 30 minutes (which isn’t the best or worst I’ve heard of), a 125,000-word book will take you a little over 62 hours to write.

Not everyone can write 1,000 words in a half hour. Not everyone can write full time. If you can only write in your meagre lunch break because Life is Full™, you’re looking at maybe 3-4 months to finish writing a book.

Memory gets … fuzzy. I mean, I don’t remember what I wore last week, let alone three months ago. Poor Mary has almost no chance of getting her colours coordinated if she’s first seen in chapter 1 and enters again in chapter 34.

TO FIX IT: Aside from writing faster? Make a note of which characters are in which chapters. You can quickly whip back to their last known position in a less creepy way than Find My Friends on iPhone.

THE AWESOME VOICES IN YOUR HEAD SAY WEIRD THINGS
Mary’s aubergine sweater might’ve sounded rad and all back in Chapter 1, but maybe your imagination hooked up with a personal stylist and now you see her in a black leather jacket and mirrored shades.

This isn’t a bad look. It’s a long way from aubergine, that’s for sure.

Over the course of writing your story you might find the original idea for Mary has matured, like a fine wine. She’s more awesome! Maybe she’s packing heat. This is natural scope creep that can make a story reach 11 on the dial, but if you didn’t plan for it – well, you know where this is going. Mary’s wardrobe becomes a confused mess, and it’s tricky to get a matching outfit each morning.

The best/worst example I can think of was the Van Damme movie Double Impact (don’t judge me). VD plays two characters (Alex and Chad). It sounded cool on the outside of the tin, but it’s clear one of these heroes is more epic than the other, so … the flaccid one gets less screen time.

TO FIX IT: Try working out how to make your characters cool before you write ’em. Yeah, I know, it might harm your inner discovery writer’s child, but you’ll thank me for it.

BLOOPER REEL
My latest trilogy took about 18 months to finish. Each book was about 125,000 words (with a 15,000-word prequel for good luck). In 390,000 words there were … one or two errors. My favourites were:

  • A character in two places. Yes, it’s dark fantasy, but they don’t have cloning spells! Our hero was riding 2-up on dragon back, but when the dragon landed, he was already chilling at the destination. The dude in question was definitely cool enough to make it look effortless, but it was slightly embarrassing to have a reader highlight this one.
  • The case of the confusing name. Two characters had a similar name: Barret and Ballast. This is a big writer no-no! I shouldn’t have done it. One of these gets merc’d, the other survives, but mysteriously swaps names with the dead guy. This was harder to iron out than you might think – search and replace is NOT your friend here.
  • Does she have a gun? Or a sword? Or … was it a banana? A hero goes through a great spiritual moment and divests herself of a sword. And a gun. Along with her armour. So far, so good – but the very next chapter she slices some fool in half with the sword, and three chapters later shoots someone else. At no point did she go to Nordstrom for new killing irons.

That’s it from me. I hoped you enjoyed this craft-based post! Thanks to Steph for having me.

Thank you, Richard! That was fascinating – I especially enjoyed the bloopers. It’s so interesting to get an inside look behind the published books.

I can’t wait to bring you all my review of Tomb of the Six and Blade of Glass later on this month!



Richard Parry is a long time listener, first time caller to Bookshine. He’s an author of science fiction and fantasy, but the less polite call him a liar. His latest dark fantasy trilogy features swords, dragons, and heroes saving the world through action scenes and clever dialogue. Find him online at www.mondegreen.co.

You can find my previous reviews of some of Richard’s books on the following links:

Chromed: Delilah The Empire’s Rogues Tyche Forever

Pick up the Splintered Land prequel, Tomb of the Six, free on Amazon here.

Books 1 and 2 in the series have already released and you can purchase them here.

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